The Lindworm and Livli

Livli’s Gift begins with Livli searching the library for a fairy tale she remembers hearing as a child. She has difficulty finding it, because the scroll has been shelved incorrectly.

When she at last succeeds, we learn that the title of the story is The Lindworm and the Queen.

Its first few words read thusly: Once upon a time there was a queen who longed for a child. As she sat in her garden weeping, an old crone approached her and asked her what the matter was. “Oh, no one can help me,” sobbed the queen.

Livli does not relay the entirety of the tale, but it clearly has roots in the Norse folk tale “Prince Lindworm,” as presented in East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Was I thinking of the folk tale when I wrote the opening to Livli’s Gift?

Yes, I was, but I didn’t imagine the Hammarleeding fairy tale to be identical to the Norse one. I didn’t even re-read the Norse tale to refresh my memory, because I preferred my memory of it to be as faded as was Livli’s!

Here is the start of the Norse version for your enjoyment, however. 😀

Prince Lindworm

Once upon a time, there was a fine young King who was married to the loveliest of Queens. They were exceedingly happy, all but for one thing—they had no children. And this often made them both sad, because the Queen wanted a dear little child to play with, and the King wanted an heir to the kingdom.

One day the Queen went out for a walk by herself, and she met an ugly old woman. The old woman was just like a witch: but she was a nice kind of witch, not the cantankerous sort. She said, “Why do you look so doleful, pretty lady?”

“It’s no use my telling you,” answered the Queen, “nobody in the world can help me.”

“Oh, you never know,” said the old woman. “Just you let me hear what your trouble is, and maybe I can put things right.”

“My dear woman, how can you?” said the Queen: and she told her, “The King and I have no children: that’s why I am so distressed.”

“Well, you needn’t be,” said the old witch. “I can set that right in a twinkling, if only you will do exactly as I tell you. Listen. To-night, at sunset, take a little drinking-cup with two ears,” (that is, handles), “and put it bottom upwards on the ground in the north-west corner of your garden. Then go and lift it up to-morrow morning at sunrise, and you will find two roses underneath it, one red and one white. If you eat the red rose, a little boy will be born to you: if you eat the white rose, a little girl will be sent. But, whatever you do, you mustn’t eat both the roses, or you’ll be sorry,—that I warn you! Only one: remember that!”

“Thank you a thousand times,” said the Queen, “this is good news, indeed!” And she wanted to give the old woman her gold ring; but the old woman wouldn’t take it.

So the Queen went home and did as she had been told: and the next morning at sunrise she stole out into the garden and lifted up the little drinking-cup. She was surprised, for indeed she hardly expected to see anything. But there were two roses underneath it, one red and one white. And now she was dreadfully puzzled, for she did not know which to choose.

The queen’s dilemma is quite different from Livli’s. The queen doesn’t know whether to hope for a girl or a boy. Livli knows quite clearly that she wants a girl.

The ritual recommended by the helpful old woman is also different. The Norse queen must merely place a cup upside down at a certain spot in her garden. Livli requires “two blown-glass cloches and a few seeds of aegis-rockfoil.”

So, given that my Lindworm and the Queen was inspired by “Prince Lindworm,” was Livli’s Gift itself inspired by the Norse folk tale?

No, actually.

The sprout that became Livli’s Gift first appeared in my novel Troll-magic, when Livli’s mother Sarvet made a cameo appearance there.

Lorelin, the heroine of Troll-magic, encounters an older Hammarleeding woman who is returning home after visiting her daughter upon the birth of a new grandbaby.

I was moved to tell the Hammarleeding woman’s story in Sarvet’s Wanderyar. Her daughter’s story became Livli’s Gift.

For more about the Hammarleedings, see:
What Is a Bednook?
Hammarleeding Fete-days
Pickled Greens, a Hammarleeding Delicacy
The Kaunis Clan Home

 

Share

The Troll’s Belt vs. The Blue Belt

Given that The Troll’s Belt is essentially a retelling of Hansel and Gretel—albeit with a good, strong twist—you might imagine that the fairy tale was my inspiration. Oddly enough, it wasn’t!

My starting point was a blue belt featured in one of the Norse Folk tales collected in East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

I could see that blue strap of leather with its ornate buckle so clearly in my mind’s eye, along with the young lad who found it, picked it, and put it on.

Here’s the opening of the folk tale.

The Blue Belt

Once on a time there was an old beggar-woman, who had gone out to beg. She had a little lad with her, and when she had got her bag full she struck across the hills towards her own home. So when they had gone a bit up the hill-side they came upon a little Blue Belt which lay where two paths met, and the lad asked his mother’s leave to pick it up.

“No,” said she, “maybe there’s witchcraft in it;” and so with threats she forced him to follow her. But when they had gone a bit further, the lad said he must turn aside a moment out of the road; and meanwhile his mother sat down on a tree-stump. But the lad was a long time gone, for as soon as he got so far into the wood that the old dame could not see him, he ran off to where the Belt lay, took it up, tied it round his waist, and lo! he felt as strong as if he could lift the whole hill.

The folk tale continues from there in an elaborate sequence of events featuring betrayal, lions and man-eating horses, a princess, a dancing bear, and the King of Arabia.

My own story goes in an entirely different direction. I didn’t want to simply retell The Blue Belt. The Blue Belt is a cool narrative, but I was getting to know my character Brys Arnsson, and I wanted to tell his story.

Brys lives in my North-lands, so it seemed clear trolls—or, a troll—would be involved. From there, my muse swept me away.

I’m not going to say much more, just in case you are reading this post before reading The Troll’s Belt instead of after. But I’d love to chat more about it in the comments. That way any spoilers can be easily avoided by those who wish to.

I will note that the belt of the folk tale is described as “little,” whereas the belt of my story possesses quite a thick strap of leather. Additionally, the folk tale’s belt is tied about the waist; mine has an ornate buckle. And, of course, Brys’s sole parent is his father rather than his mother.

So there are differences from the get-go. The Blue Belt inspired me, but didn’t constrain me.

Have you read The Blue Belt? What did you make of it? It’s the only story in East of the Sun and West of the Moon that names a specific geographic region of our world—Arabia—which seems an anomaly to me. All the others simply speak of the King and his kingdom. Why is The Blue Belt more specific?

I do find the quaint use of capitalization and italics in the folk tales to be quite charming—the King, the Belt, the Horse, the Troll, and so on. It would drive me wild in a novel (or even a novella), but as part of the authentic voice of the Norske Folkeeventyr, I love it.

For more about The Troll’s Belt, see:
The Writing of the Belt

For more about the magic of the North-lands, see:
Magic in the North-lands
Radices and Arcs

 

Share

From Navarys to Imsterfeldt

When I conceived of this post, I envisioned it as a tour of Imsterfeldt, the great port city where Liliyah and Mago make landfall after their journey by airship across the great ocean.

But when I went seeking images for the post, I discovered a sequence so perfect for the air voyage itself that I could not resist. I went with it!

The train station in Antwerp looks and feels a lot like the aerodrome from which Liliyah and Mago set sail in the airship Subindo.

Of course, the Subindo is much more colorful—royal blue and gold—and its cabin is snugged up tight to the balloon envelope, not suspended on scaffolding below it, but the overall shape and size of the airship depicted above is right.

The countryside as Liliyah and Mago approach Imsterfeldt is very flat.

And then Imsterfeldt itself comes into view, a city interwoven with a webwork of canals. The photo above (of Amsterdam) has just the feeling of the scene when the residents of Imsterfeldt applaud the safe arrival of the Subindo.

Imagine this tower of Rhodes Castle as taller and festooned with a gridiron platform ring around the top, and you have the mooring tower at Imsterfeldt where the Subindo made anchor.

For many years. Imsterfeldt owned four such towers, but as one airship and then another was decommissioned, so too were the mooring towers.

Liliyah’s father purchased the first tower to be decommissioned, and it became their family home. Liliyah’s sanctum is located near the top of the structure.

When Liliyah and Mago walk (or boat) through their new home city, these are the scenes that meet their eyes.

Excursions out into the countryside encounter more canals, farmland, and windmills.

The meadows on the outskirts of Imsterfeldt, spreading out around the mooring towers, are usually dry. But the land is very flat, and the winter rains do bring flooding at times.

For more about the world of Skies of Navarys, see:
A Tour of Navarys
Lodestones

 

Share

Lodestones

So, what is a lodestone?

In the real world, it’s a magnet. But in my North-lands, it’s a magical artifact that intensifies the magical powers of a mage.

Different cultures in different time periods and different locations of my North-lands possess different names for mages.

In the Steam Age, the people of Silmaren call them keyholders, the denizens of Fiorish use the term seer, while the citizens of Auberon say patternmaster or enigmologist. There are more variations, but I’m not going to list them all here. 😉

The five lodestones rattling around the “modern”-day North-lands came out of ancient Navarys. So for the duration of this post, I’ll use the term favored by the ancient Navareans: fabrimancer.

The Navareans called their magic energea and their magical focus stones were energea-stones, not lodestones. The lodestones were created at the end of Navarean history, not its beginning, and I’ll get there soon. Promise. But first I must talk about energea-stones.

Energea-stones were crafted from the remains of a meteor fragment lodged in the mountainside of the isle of Navarys. To the ordinary eye, they look like small black pebbles—about the size your thumb-tip—with a shiny finish. (A few were made at larger sizes, but the vast majority were small.)

Energea-stones have been around for almost as long as the Navareans themselves (from pre-history and the age of reed huts). The Navareans learned about fabrimancy (magery) from the energea-stones, rather than fashioning the stones after they developed fabrimancy.

To a fabrimancer’s eye (if he or she is a visual practitioner, not an aural one or a kinesthetic one), the stones hold spiraling patterns of silvery light. This light is the visual manifestation of energea, of magic.

But more important than what energea-stones look like is what they do and how they do it.

In Navarys, an energea-stone would be shaped by a specialist to do a specific task, such as spinning a spinning wheel or a grain mill, tossing a shuttle across a weaver’s loom, or winding the rope of well bucket around a spool. Or the stone might be formed to simply magnify a fabrimancer’s power.

Different stones performed different tasks, but the Navareans especially liked to use them for semi-automating the tasks of craftsmanship. And they wished the stones could be fashioned to permit full automation. It was a sort of holy grail with them.

Energea-stones required the presence of a fabrimancer channeling his or her energea through the stone, almost as though the fabrimancer were a sort of living battery funneling electricity through an engine.

The lodestones were the breakthrough Navareans had been hoping for.

A lodestone looks a lot like an ordinary energea-stone—a small black pebble—except its surface finish is a velvet matte, not shiny. Like energea-stones they can be fashioned in different sizes for different purposes.

But a lodestone draws energea from its surroundings at large, not just from the fabrimancer wielding it. And thus a lodestone permits true automation. It must be forged so as to direct the energea flowing through it to perform the task desired. But once the fabrimancer sets it going, the lodestone does its work until the fabrimancer halts it. The fabrimancer can actually walk away from the work in progress.

Unfortunately, the lodestones embody one serious danger not possessed by ordinary energea-stones.

When an energea-stone is used by a fabrimancer to magnify and concentrate his magical powers, the stone also acts as a sort of overflow valve. If the fabrimancer loses control and summons too much energea—a potentially destructive amount—the excess is channeled away through the stone without doing damage to the fabrimancer.

Lodestones don’t possess this safety feature. Instead, they always carry exactly half of the energea summoned by the fabrimancer. Which means that if the fabrimancer summons a damaging amount, it does damage. Specifically, it tears the energetic structures that underlie the fabrimancer’s physical being.

That damage manifests as the troll-disease that appears in so many of my North-lands stories.

Only six lodestones were originally created. One of them—the largest—sank to the bottom of the great ocean. The other five are loose in the world, creating trouble when they are found.

Skies of Navarys tells the story of the creation of the lodestones, through the eyes of a pair of teenagers.

The Tally Master follows one of the lodestones into the hands of a troll warlord, where an honorable accountant and his assistant determine the outcome of the encounter.

Resonant Bronze shows how a lodestone might turn the tables on the troll horde.

Rainbow’s Lodestone and Star-drake recount the fate of a lodestone used to commit an evil deed.

And To Thread the Labyrinth, due out in March 2019, sees a lodestone returned to a place of proper oversight, although the larger story focuses on a troll-witch hiding her troll-disease.

For more about ancient Navarys, see:
A Tour of Navarys
From Navarys to Imsterfeldt

For more about the magic of the North-lands, see:
Magic in the North-lands
Magic in Silmaren
Radices and Arcs

 

Share

A Tour of Navarys

A few weeks ago, I took a virtual tour of the castle that features so largely in my novel Caught in Amber. Finding images that fit the mood of the many and varied wings of that vast pile was so much fun that I decided to embark on another such tour, this time to the isle of Navarys.

Navarys is the setting for my novella, Skies of Navarys. It lies far out in the great ocean to the east of the continent hosting the Empire of Giralliya. I think of Navarys as the Atlantis of my North-lands, because the story transpires during ancient times.

The island of Navarys possesses a central mountain, and it’s about the same size as the Greek island Lefkada located in the Ionian Sea south of Corfu. (Lefkada measures 22 miles north-south, and 9 miles east-west.)

This painting by John Glover of Mount Wellington in Australia has the right look and the right feeling, although… If it did depict Navarys, the flat lands in the foreground would need to be ocean waves.

Liliyah, when she sees Navarys from an airship, is amazed by the view.

The ocean surged vast and blue-gray from horizon to horizon. The island of Navarys, stretching away under the noon sun, showed so many textures of green: dark of pine, bright of meadow, and cool of orchard.

The majority of the people living on Navarys dwell in its capital city, located above a harbor on the slopes of the central mountain.

And the city tumbled down the western slopes of Mount Sohlon like an infant’s set of playing blocks: pierced cubes of colored marble and stucco roofed by verdigris copper or olive tile.

Some of the city clings to a very steep slope, as depicted above, but a slim crescent of flatter terrain curls around the the harbor area. Nor does the mountainside climb to its peak in one fell swoop. The king’s royal palace occupies the crest of a foothill.

The beacons at the harbor’s outlet, brilliant like evening stars against the green and orange of the horizon, brought it all back.

One of the modern caravels, powered by energea stones, not sails and wind, passed between the beacons, headed out to sea.

Liliyah’s own home is located well up the mountain slope, but is by no means neighboring to the royal palace. Her friend, Mago, lives nearby.

“I’m up,” Liliyah announced, slithering out from under the net canopy that sheltered her bed.

The gauze of the window curtains tinted her room golden. It must be well past breakfast, if the sun had moved around the corner of the house that typically shaded her windows. She started scrambling out of her nightdress, rifling through the gowns on the wall pegs for something casual and comfortable.

Liliyah and Mago both do a considerable bit of running through the city allées over the course of the story. Mago in particular ventures high on the slope, although not all the way to the royal palace.

Mago paused, panting and puffing, feeling droplets of sweat trickling along his temples. He leaned against the stucco of the lemon house.

Must. Keep. On.

No one paid him any heed. Three couriers dashed by him, undeterred by the hill, headed for the palace. They met and sidestepped a gang of wild-looking young men tramping down. One thrust out a foot to trip the rearmost courier, who simply bounded over it.

The allée depicted in the photo below features very golden hues, but the stone and stucco of the city’s buildings is varied. Some allées share these golden tones, where others boast sparkling white or even pastel colors.

Mago climbed two flights of stairs, feeling the pull in his thighs from their tall risers, to a little-travelled lane cutting across the slope of the mountain. Ranks of flowering almond trees generated a speckled shade, pleasantly aromatic, but the usual quietude was missing. Pageboys carrying messages, porters transporting luggage, families locking their front gates and departing, a bachelor delaying to help an elderly relative make sure the curling tongs really were packed at the bottom of a valise: the scene was busy. Although not panicked, or even hectic, Mago noted.

The view from the front of the palace would take in the whole of the city, stretching down the mountainside and curling around the harbor. Because the palace occupies the crest of a foothill, it also possesses vistas displaying more rural stretches of coastline.

The breeze gusted strongly for an instant. Spray from the fountain misted his face, evaporating and cooling, then drying as the warmth of the sun prevailed.

Mago stared at the horizon where sea met sky. Their house, just like its neighbors, fronted on a sloping allée punctuated by steps at the steepest stretches. But the walled courtyard behind the domicile occupied a slight bluff, giving him a more expansive view of the shore cliffs, rows of palms, and the tumble of mansions climbing this reach of Mount Sohlon.

The interior of the island is largely wild. Vineyards, olive groves, farm fields, and a few hamlets, as well as country estates for the wealthy remain within close reach of the city or the coast.

For more virtual tours of my book worlds, see:
Landscapes of Auberon
A Castle That Might be Amber
Bazinthiad, a Quick Tour

For more about Navarys, see:
Lodestones
From Navarys to Imsterfeldt

 

Share

Arriving at the Finish

If you’ve been watching the progress indicator in the side bar, you’ll have noticed it creeping upward over the last few weeks. 500 words here, 800 there, and during the last seven days, frequent spurts up into 1,700+ territory.

The novel I’ve been working on is tentatively titled To Thread the Labyrinth, and I’ve been fully immersed in its setting, the characters, and the story.

Indeed, some part of me feels as though I should be able to go to Gate Nine-and-Three-Quarters at the airport and catch a plane to the small “French” country of Pavelle. Once there, I’d hire a carriage to take me from its capital city out into the countryside, where I would find the charming town of Claireau. That’s how real it all seems. 😉

When I first started developing the concept for To Thread the Labyrinth, I’d imagined that it might be a short story that would accompany my coloring book. There would be mention of magic, perhaps a young protagonist learning antiphony, and the intricate designs I’d been drawing for the coloring book would represent the complex patterns required for the antiphonic energy that powers magic in my North-lands.

Naturally, my story grew considerably from there, acquiring an older protagonist in addition to the young one, as well as an annoying little brother, a crowd of bullies, civil disorder, a troll executioner (sort of), and more. By the time I was done brainstorming, I retained no illusions about the supposed shortness of my story. Not only would it not be short, it wouldn’t even squeeze into a novella. This was a full-fledged novel!

Today was my longest sprint of writing in a long time. I wrote fully 3,500 words at my top speed. The scenes were flowing out of mind and through my fingertips on the keyboard as though I were a stream in flood. And when I finally stopped, I’d reached the finish of my story.

I was so excited, I wanted to run to the top of a mountain, yelling, “I did it! I did it!” I suspect that the long hiatus that occurred in the middle of this novel (from October through December I wrote nothing; and from January through May I wrote Blood Silver) made completing To Thread the Labyrinth extra special.

So…how long is the story? I’d estimated it would be 60,000 words. But as I approached the end, I kept having to add a few thousand more to my estimate. 62,000. No, 65,000. No, 70,000. The final count was 77,697.

What happens next?

I clean up a few little odds and ends (like making up a name for that armiger—a policeman—who needs one, but that I skipped over because I was too intent on the scene to stop for him). Then I send the manuscript off to my first reader for her discerning feedback.

You must understand…my revisions usually add words to my stories, because I am far more likely to leave-things-out-that need-to-go-in than I am to put-things-in-that-shouldn’t-be-there. That’s just how I roll. But given that my readers usually say, “Oh! I wish it were longer!” when they finish one of my books, I suspect how I roll is fine.

Did I say I that I’m excited about To Thread the Labyrinth?

I’m excited! 😉

 

Share

Weep No More

A few days ago, I found myself thinking of the film Sense & Sensibility, the one with the screenplay written by Emma Thompson.

I love Jane Austen’s novels, and find this particular film adaptation to be very much to my taste. I re-read the book nearly every year, and re-watch the film with a similar frequency. Gorgeous work, both.

But the element surfacing in my mind this time was the song that Marianne sings near the middle of the film. The actress portraying Marianne is Kate Winslet, and it is her voice we hear.

Isn’t that lovely?

In my search for the clip, I learned more about the origins of the lyrics and and the melody. Patrick Doyle composed the score for the film, but borrowed a poem from Elizabethan times for the words that the actress would sing.

The authorship of the poem is a little uncertain, but it’s attributed to John Dowland, a court lute player for King James I from 1612 through 1626.

Weep you no more, sad fountains;
What need you flow so fast?
Look how the snowy mountains
Heaven’s sun doth gently waste.
But my sun’s heavenly eyes
View not your weeping,
That now lie sleeping
Softly, now softly lies
Sleeping.

Sleep is a reconciling,
A rest that peace begets.
Doth not the sun rise smiling
When fair at even he sets?
Rest you then, rest, sad eyes,
Melt not in weeping
While she lies sleeping
Softly, now softly lies
Sleeping.

Other composers in addition to Doyle have been inspired by the verses, among them Gustav Holst, who included “Weep You No More” in his lieder, Six Songs Op. 16. Modern singer songwriter Sting composed a version (performed with lutenist Edin Karamazov) which I also found beautiful.

 

Share

Blood Silver Is Here!

I’m so excited about this!

Somehow the pre-publication tasks for this book felt a little more complex than usual, no doubt because I’ve been trying a few new things. But they are all done now! (Or most of them.)

One of the new things has been the use of an advance review service. I chose Hidden Gems. (Love it that my book is one of the hidden gems they showcase.)

The way the process works is:

1Upload the book’s file to the Hidden Gems website—in three different formats: epub, mobi, and pdf—along with some information about the book

2Await results as they solicit interest from their reviewers from amongst those who enjoy the book’s genre

3Pay the Hidden Gems fee

4Following the date when Hidden Gems distributes the book to its reviewers, watch in wonder while reviews accumulate on the book’s Amazon page 😀

The idea is that these reviews give prospective buyers more information on which to judge whether or not the book is something said buyer might like.

As I write this post, Blood Silver has 23 reviews! It’s been a bit of a thrill to watch them appear. And it’s been lovely to read so much praise for one of my books!

Of course, not every Hidden Gems reviewer loved Blood Silver. But a lot of them did. Here’s a sampling from a handful of the reviews:

“…a nice quick little read. Great characters, interesting story line, good pacing, and well written.” JMD

“…I couldn’t put it down. It reminded me of Le Morte d’Arthur and Mists of Avalon even though it has nothing to do with the King Arthur legend. This author just brought back those feelings…” Tricia Schiro

“…simple and thought-provoking in a beautiful way. …smart and wise. It’s peaceful and otherworldly. I felt like a new fairy tale had been written and that gave me a lot of joy.” Ambrose Crotts

“The characters felt real, like they could step out of the pages…” Stephanie Wachter

“It felt familiar like an old fairy tale, but was also very fresh and new.” Erin K.

So what’s Blood Silver about?

Faie knight Tahaern loves the bright world of mortals, but the darkness of the faie realm under the knowe relinquishes its denizens but rarely.

To learn more, check out the book’s webpage on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, or Books2Read.

Blood Silver currently has the low price of 99 cents especially for its release. After the weekend, this will go up to its normal list price of $3.99.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the deal and immerse yourself in a story of knightly chivalry, faie trickery, and the beguiling beauty of the bright world.

Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords I Universal Link

Note: The promotion with its sale price is over now, but many, many of you snapped up a copy for 99 cents. May the story bring you delight! 😀

 

Share

Kaunis Clan Saga at a Discount

One young woman challenges the shibboleths that threaten her particular bright dream. Two others follow in her daring footsteps…

Edited to add: The sale is over now. I hope those of you who purchased books enjoy reading them! 😀

I’m running a quick sale on my Kaunis Clan trilogy this weekend. If you’ve been toying with the notion of giving the books a read, you can pick up your copies at a lower-than-usual price today and tomorrow.

Sarvet’s Wanderyar is marked down from $3.99 to $0.99, and Livli’s Gift is down from $4.99 to $2.99.

Winter Glory is free on Kobo, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon won’t let me make it free on their site (and has declined to price-match the other sites), but it is only $0.99.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the deal and dive into the Hammarleeding saga with its remote mountain people, tribal magic, and determined protagonists.

The links below will guide you to your preferred e-tailer.
Sarvet’s Wanderyar
Livli’s Gift
Winter Glory

 

Share

Brother Kings

Fairy tales have always been amongst my favorite stories to read and to think about and to dream up sequels or alternate endings for. Immersed in them from an early age as I was, to me they seem an essential part of my foundations. So much so that I sometimes don’t recognize when I am drawing on the heritage of these archetypal narratives.

For example, take the following scene, an early flashback from The Tally Master. I’m pretty sure the reconciliation scene from “The Widow’s Son” in East of the Sun and West of the Moon must have come to mind when I wrote it, but I’d forgotten that connection completely until a few days ago when I stumbled upon an illustration by Kay Nielsen.

Blood dripping down one temple, Erastys wilted against the tree, his brother’s sword at his throat.

“Do you yield?” growled Heiroc, his sword arm tense.

Erastys paled, but shook his head. “No,” he whispered.

Heiroc’s sword arm tightened, and they hung there an instant: the dark brother pinned to the tree, garbed in silver and red, wet with blood; the light brother clothed in bronze and aqua, drenched in river water.

Gael’s vision pulsed in and out as he lay stunned, watching.

Heiroc’s voice an edged hiss, the king commanded, “You shall yield!”

Erastys grew more pale yet, but his eyes narrowed.

“You must yield!” Was Heiroc begging?

Gael suspected his hearing was as injured as his sight and the rest of him. What had happened, there at the end, when something ripped inside him? He feared the answer.

Heiroc cast his sword to the ground, where it clattered against the tree’s roots. “I cannot kill you.”

Swift triumph gleamed in Erastys’ eyes, and Gael would have cried out, had he been able. My king! My king! No!

As Heiroc turned away, Erastys shed his drooping stance—suddenly powerful—and seized his brother by the neck, thrusting him against the bloody bark where, a moment ago, Erastys had languished.

Erastys lifted his sword.

“Do you yield? Brother?” he exulted.

“No,” breathed Heiroc.

“You shall,” gloated Erastys.

“Never.”

“But, yes, my brother. Oh, yes!” Erastys’ teeth gleamed.

“You trade upon my mercy,” snarled Heiroc.

Erastys’ nostrils flared. “I had not surrendered.”

“No. You had not. Nonetheless.” Heiroc’s spurt of temper calmed.

“I shall not be so weak as you. I can kill,” Erastys said.

“I do not doubt it. Brother. Nonetheless. You trade upon my strength, not my weakness.” Heiroc’s tone was stern, and yet something lay under that sternness. What was it, thusly concealed?

“Does that mean you trade upon my weakness, since I trade upon your strength?” mocked Erastys.

Heiroc laughed. Gaelan’s tears!

Erastys tensed his sword arm; and then cast his sword after his brother’s—to the ground—and fell upon Heiroc’s neck in a weeping embrace. Heiroc’s arms went hesitantly around his brother’s shoulders and then snugged him in tight.

It had been love, Gael realized, love beneath Heiroc’s sternness. Even after a year of war, a year of bloodshed, a year of battle after battle. Dastard’s hells!

I must admit that this scene between the brother kings Heiroc and Erastys is one that pleases me greatly.

But now compare it to the excerpt below from “The Widow’s Son.” The provenance seems pretty clear to me. What do you think? Is there a connection?

…but when he went down to the stable where his horse was on the day the wedding was to be, there it stood so dull and heavy, and hung its ears down, and wouldn’t eat its corn. So when the young King—for he was now a king, and had got half the kingdom—spoke to him, and asked what ailed him, the Horse said:

“Now I have helped you on, and now I won’t live any longer. So just take the sword , and cut my head off.”

“No, I’ll do nothing of the kind,” said the young King; “but you shall have all you want, and rest all your life.”

“Well,” said the Horse, “if you won’t do as I tell you, see if I don’t take your life somehow.”

“So the King had to do what he asked; but when he swung the sword and was to cut his head off, he was so sorry he turned away his face, for he would not see the stroke fall. But as soon as ever he had cut off the head, there stood the loveliest Prince on the spot where the horse had stood.

“Why, where in all the world did you come from?” asked the King.

“It was I who was the horse,” said the Prince; “for I was the king of that land whose king you slew yesterday. He it was who threw this Troll’s shape over me, and sold me to the Troll. But now he is slain I get my own again, and you and I will be neighbor kings, but war we will never make on one another.”

And they didn’t either; for they were friends as long as they lived, and each paid the other very many visits.

Of course, the young King and his Horse were never enemies as were Heiroc and Erastys. Nor does the earlier portion of the tale “The Widow’s Son” resemble the story told in The Tally Master. But my scene seems to hold echoes from the end of the fairy tale, don’t you think?

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Gael’s Tally Chamber in Belzetarn
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
The Fortress of Belzetarn
The Dark Tower
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Belzetarn’s Great Halls
Bronze Age Swords

 

Share