Sunday, December 28, 2014

Heroes and Villains

Just Who Can They Be?

The conflict between a hero and villain is a common core of a good story plot. It's not essential to have a villain, of course, for the main character, the protagonist, might face other kinds of conflict in a good story.  If you've ever taken a literature class, you might find struggles against nature, society, or even the hero against himself as a source of conflict. But, more often than not, especially in fantasy, there's a good villain determined to take over the world and an equally good hero determined to stop him.

Read or watch any superhero story and both hero and villain are clearly defined. The hero is a master of virtue, with superhuman powers he/she uses for the good of mankind. The villain might be equally as powerful with clearly evil, destructive intent and very few, if any redeeming qualities. Good and evil a clearly defined and there's never much of a question that it's the hero's duty to make things right.

None of that is quite the same as real life where people's motivations are not always so clear cut. While fantasy authors do want readers to be able to step into their novels and out of the real world, it's important to keep some of the truth of the real world intact in the fantasy. Creating characters, both good and evil, the reader can relate to on a human level is a good part of that.

It helps if characters have emotions readers can relate to--love, hate, anger, joy, fear, confusion. They need to have challenges to overcome and the skills to overcome them without being totally invulnerable. Even Superman has his Kryptonite. In classic literature, the tragic hero always has a fatal flaw. We want our heroes to survive the story, but not without some trouble along the way.
sitting devil by johnny_automatic - a sitting devil playing with fire from a pre-1920s magician's program. From the Library of Congress

And the villains? Well they need their fatal flaws as well. Sometimes it's just their own overwhelming belief that they really are unconquerable. The villain's evil nature somehow has to balance out the hero's need to destroy him. The hero's stature is diminished if the reader isn't quite convinced the villain is really worthy of meeting his end at the hero's hand. Unless the story is intended to blur the lines of good and evil to pose moral issues, most villains shouldn't really earn too much admiration as the story progresses.

Creating effective characters on both sides of morality is a tricky balancing act. Writers need to be keen observers of the real world and learn all they can about real people. Learning what motivates people, what moves people, and what drives people to choices and actions is a skill authors need to develop. Only then by using that knowledge to develop effective characters can they bring a fantasy world to life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays!

A Bit Under the Weather

Sorry I haven't blogged the last few days. I've been a bit ill with a cold or something and haven't felt too well.

Hopefully, Christmas will bring me some extra energy.

In the meantime, wishing you all the happiest of holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

And What About the Horses?

Personality Plus

Several readers of my novels have commented on the horses in the books. If you've read Kingdom Beyond the Rim or The Wall Between, you will know that horses play a prominent role in the stories.

I was one of those little girls who always dreamed of having a horse of my own. My parents, wiser than many, never did get me a pony, no matter how many times I looked for one under the Christmas Tree.  They actually did me a favor because the deal was, if I wanted a horse, I would have to earn it myself. For ten long years I scrimped and saved every penny I earned, starting a bank account for my horse. Only after college graduation and landing a job teaching was I able to meet than dream and buy my horse. My mother had supported me for riding lessons before that, and I was able to learn a lot about caring for horses through 4-H and a school riding club, so when I did get Russell R., I was pretty well prepared.

Owning him was sheer magic. Ask any equestrian and you will probably hear something similar. There is something simply magnificent, breathtaking, and incredibly beautiful about a horse, especially if its yours.

The very first novel I penned as a teenager--pre-horse ownership--featured a beautiful white stallion. (I've learned since that on a practical level, dark colored horses are much easier to keep clean)  Horses often danced in my dreams, and every time I saw a live horse anywhere, I was drawn to it as if it were a "me" magnet.

Horses are like that. Mystical, magic creatures.  Watch TV for a while and over and over you will see horses in commercials as if their very existence has some power to sell a product or simply mesmerize buyers into falling in love with whatever's being advertised.

The horses in my novels are there to capture the imagination, and accent the Magic. Whim, of course, is the very embodiment of Magic. But he is not totally a mythical creature caught in the realm of enchantment. He has a personality and as the novels progress, he has no trouble expressing it.

Real horses are like that. If you think your dog or cat has personality, just multiply that by at least ten times--after all a horse like Whim might weigh in at 1400 pounds or so--and you will have a horse with attitude. They are extremely intelligent creatures, ready, willing and able to do our bidding, and just a ready, willing and able to do just the opposite.

Nearly all the horses featured in my novels are based on real horses I have known. Whim is my first horse, Russell R, in many ways. Bright, mischievous and yet totally connected to his owner, heart, mind and soul.

Magic bred, Magic born? Whim is real, trust me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


What Sells and What Doesn't

Those of you familiar with the television show, Shark Tank, know that it centers around aspiring inventors trying to sell their products to wealthy investors.  The investors watch a demonstration of each invention and decide whether or not they wish to risk their money on the inventor and the product.

Some of the inventions are fascinating and offer interesting glimpses into people's minds. Once in a while the investor "shark" will actually battle over a product that looks as if it has a future. More often than not, the prospective inventor goes away empty handed to search for a new way to finance his/her project.

A Facebook post I recently saw showed some sixteen failed inventions from the show. Some of them were rather strange, to say the least.  Squeeky Knees was rompers for children with squeaky toys in the knees so when the child crawled across the floor, parents could hear him. I guess that was a kind of tracking device?  Pet Paint, and the name says it all, is for pet owners who want to decorate their pets. SquirrelBoss is a device designed to electrocute squirrels who climbed on it to get bait. Of course, aside from being barbaric would electrocute any birds as well creating a "death feeder" for all comers. And then, one of my favorites:  Throx which is a package of socks coming not in pairs, but in threes so if you lost one sock you would have a replacement.

One wonders what kind of thinking leads to such creations. What traumatic event in a person's life would lead to the need to spend hours of time and often money to invent and manufacture something like the above? I too have found my socks disappearing into the Land of Lost Socks, but I never would have considered buying three as a solution. (Now, gloves are another matter, since I seem to have a rather large collection of left hand only gloves, so a set of three with an extra right hand might be a good option for me.)

Writers are inventors as well, but our creations are made of words, easily typed, not so easily chosen, and more often than we care to think about, Shark Tank failures. Trying to find the product that sells, one our readers want to invest in can be a frustrating journey.

Some writers, like the inventors of Throx, write out of a  need to say something, anything that expresses their own personal voices.  Some write as a pure experiment testing theories and ideas to see if they have any merit.  Some write to tell the world of important opinions, information, stories they feel need to be told. Some write to sell, studying the market, assessing its needs and desires and then adjusting content and technique to suit.

I write because I like to tell stories. If the world likes them, so be it. But if the sharks don't bite, at least I've had the pleasure of getting all the words flying around in my head on paper.

Why do we write? Because that's what we need to do.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Writing on Whatever Scale

The Hands No Longer Have It

Keyboards have replaced the human hand and the consequences reach in to the strangest places.

I substitute teach fairly often at a high tech academy high school. The students there are very intelligent and scientifically oriented. I have a great day every time I go in mostly because the kids are so great to work with.

And yet, as well educated as they are, their reliance on technology has some curious consequences. The most alarming one to me is their inability to use or read cursive writing. Now, this is not all the students in the school, but more than once, I have handwritten a set of directions on the board only to have a student raise a hand to say, "Can you print that. I can't read cursive."

Apparently the trend in modern education at the elementary level is to drop cursive handwriting from the curriculum.  Students type essays on their laptops, text message their teachers, email in their assignments and, when faced with paper and pen, they print.

Now deciphering student handwriting has always been a challenge and I often spent extra hours trying to figure out what my students wrote on their papers when their penmanship was not exactly up to standard. But at least they could write in script.

And, they could read it.

Not so today. More and more students are hand printing everything. Of course, it's easier to read, and I must admit they can travel pretty quickly across the page, but the soft fluid flow of cursive is gone, soon to be a lost art.

I still have pages and pages of drafts for my novels and stories written in script on memo pads. That was the only way I could write.  My typing skills were poor, despite a class in "personal typing," in high school and I certainly didn't have a digital companion to carry around with me whenever the urge to jot something down hit my brain. Instead, I carried a steno pad and a pen.

What's going to happen to all those pages of historic masterpieces like mine--well maybe mine don't fit into the same masterpiece category as the Declaration of  Independence---years from now when cursive script becomes extinct as the dinosaurs?

I can see the future now. There will be college degrees in translating old texts into digital English for the masses who will then download them on 3D Kindle Flames that will probably read them aloud for them. It will be Dragon Naturally Speaking in reverse.  That technology already exists, but not for the lowly users yet---

Wait, I take that back. Kindle offers Whispersyc for some books already. Who knows what lurks on the horizon.

If handwriting is destined to become a thing of the past, will reading soon follow?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Whatever Happened to Books?

The Digital Age

Now that I have published several novels, I have begun to realize that the digital age has impacted the writing world more than I realized.

I have sold a fair number of books and for a new author, that's pretty good. But what has surprised me is that my primary market has been Kindle.  The novels are available for other eReaders and I've sold a few copies in those formats too.

Amazon's website, however offers the best high profile advertising for books with easy to navigate genre search listings and a number of ways for the book covers to be seen by potential readers. Nook, iBooks, and other websites do not quite do the same job. As a result, if the sales are going to be there, Kindle seems to be the platform.

But what about the paperbacks?  I have sold a few, but the numbers pale in comparison to digital versions.

Personally, I like paper books. I like to hold them in my hands and read, turning real pages as I go along. Just yesterday, I was faced with having to read a short novel for the class I will be substitute teaching. The full text is available on-line in several different places.

I tried reading the electronic version. Honestly, I did. Somehow it just didn't do the job. I found a real book copy and sat down to read that instead. Problem solved. I finished the book in an hour or so--Anthem, by Ayn Rand.

It was a fast read, and I was in control of those physical pages, the words darting into my brain and settling there. The physicality of holding that book in my hands seemed to make all the difference in the world.

Is it because I learned to read and write long before computers were even invented? I am of the generation who experienced the Apple IIGS as the first personal computer I was able to use. I borrowed it from school for the summer so I could teach a computer class the following year.

I learned to use a PC playing role playing games and doing a bit of word processing. I didn't have a printer back then, so heaven knows what happened to the files I created.  I moved over to PC's soon after, so whatever existed on that Apple platform is lost forever.

Despite that, simply reading via electronic images still doesn't inspire me.

That is not so with a large portion of the reading public. One of the other teachers here at school has at least eight books loaded on her eReader/phone, all ready to be read whenever the mood strikes her. She hasn't yet read most of the books she's downloaded. They just sit there as if they are on library shelves, waiting for her finger to swipe them open.

Handy, convenient, and space saving electronic reading devices seem to be the way of the world nowadays.

More to come.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Book Covers

And Here's the New One

One of the best sales pitches for a book, especially on the Internet, is a good cover.  I am so lucky to have a good friend, David Melanson, who designs my covers for me. I select a scene from the novel and Dave renders it using a computer graphics program.

Once we had the first cover, Jamus and Whim were "invented" so it became easier to decide on the next cover graphics.

Selecting the scene is my job.  For the second book, since it is about Jamus' and Salene's marriage, I decided on an "engagement" pose for the two of them. Jamus was invented, and Dave had to design Salene for this one. He picked the background.

The third cover for The Wall Between reflects the new relationship Jamus has with a very special character.

Now I am pleased to introduce a brand new cover for the fourth book. The title was originally Cave of Shadows, and we had a nifty cover for that:

The cover suited one story perfectly, but the book is a collection of stories. When I reexamined the stories involved, I realized that cover did not quite tell the idea of all the plots. The stories all involve  the Way of Mirrors and how Reflections, distorted by the forces of Darkness, can twist their way into the real world. Dave and I  reconsidered and came up with the title Silvrin Shards. "Silvrin" is the material mirrors are made of in the novels and "Shards" refers to broken pieces which suggests the idea that the reflections are somehow broken or disrupted.

That led to one of the significant and dramatic scenes in one of the stories as a much more attractive cover.

So, here it is, in all its beauty:
Thanks, Dave. You are a master cover designer!

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Does The Character Have a History?

Now that some of you have read "Class Dismissed," posted on this blog, you know a bit more about Jamus' past experiences in Magiskeep.

The fact is, nearly all characters in novels have backstories, or histories the reader may never know. Sometimes, not even the author knows for sure. Yet, as the character develops in the new novel, elements and events from his/her past certainly impact the story.

I know one stage director who insists her actors write up an autobiography of the characters they are going to play in a production as part of their preparation for mastering the role. The idea is for the actors to study the text of the play and analyze the characters motivations, desires, inspirations and possible past histories that make them who they are in the play.

A good playwright will craft enough "character" into his/her characters to make them seem to be real people so that perceptive actors can really "get into their heads" to portray them effectively on stage.

While the novelist never has an actor performing his/her book, as a good writer, he/she needs to have characters as well-developed. That means that somewhere, even if it's never on paper, the characters have backstories.

Often these histories play a role in the story. Jamus' childhood, for instance has a vital role in the nightmare that haunts him and keeps him from discovering the full extent of his power when he is still an apprentice.  Mention of his loving parents also accents the isolation he suffers with an uncaring Sagari as an adoptive father. Too, his childhood in the Rim sets him apart from the other students causing much of the novel's early conflict.

As the novels progress, readers will learn more of his past and begin to see how the pieces of his life fit together to drive him to become the Rivermaster.

Other characters too have backstories revealed as time goes on. Although the reader may never quite know their full stories, the parts of their lives that impact the larger story reveal themselves in the larger plot.

A writer succeeds in creating believable characters if readers can "write" their backstories in their heads as they read.

I''m working hard to make that happen in The Saga of Magiskeep. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Magiskeep Story

Class Dismissed


Jamus replied weakly, “I have learned my lessons…I can do all the exercises…I just, I just can’t say any of the words. I never needed them, so…so, I never learned them.”
“Arrogant little rimhawk,” Jorn grumbled. “There he goes again, claiming he doesn’t need words to work Magic. Everyone knows PrePrentices must rely on chants when they begin to weave. This is unheard of. I said it once, and I’ll say it again, the boy’s just too lazy to ever master anything, much less the River.”
“Jamus,” Sarena said kindly, sensitive to Jamus’ hidden terror, “I have seen you work Magic in silence. If you could show us here…a new spell, perhaps, so you have no idea of the words to utter, then the skeptics might believe some of what you say.”
Sagari agreed, “A test is called for. Joria, your Art is one of the simpler for children to handle. Can you devise a worthy test here?”
“Why not simply ask Jamus to weave the net for us?  If he can, without words, then we can try him further. Jamus?”
Jamus shook his head, “I cannot weave the net, Mistress. I’ve never seen it. I cannot create what I cannot understand. If you show me, I’m sure I could do it.”
“Convenient excuse,” Jorn said. “If this keeps up, we’ll need a Seer to judge who’s telling the truth.”
Joria waved her hand once and the green book floated from Sagari’s hand to hers, “Here is the full chant. Use it and weave, Jamus.”
Again Jamus shook his head, “I can’t. I don’t understand the net.”
“This is a simple Prentice rote. Why even Sovin can accomplish it,” Joria said. “Here, Sur,” she extended the volume to Sovin, “would you be so kind as to show Jamus exactly what to do?  He seems to be a poor student in need of some assistance from someone with a wiser head.”
Proudly, Sovin strode forward, his confidence bolstered by Joria’s praise, “I will try, Mistress.” Then he took the book and began to read,
“Thread of silver, thread of gold,
pattern ever made to hold.
Under, over, side to side,
warp and woof be knotted wide.
Thus the thread is ever tied,
net to trap the prey inside.”
Tentatively at first, and then with more conviction, the boy waved his hand. Slowly, a net began to appear in the center of the room. Barely three feet high, it shimmered with a faint silver glow, visible only because of the sunlight streaming in from the skylight above. Had the room been darker, or had it been early morning as it was when Sorra died, the threads would have been virtually invisible to the unwary eye.
Joria looked at the net for a long time. Then she said, “Jamus, can you make a net like this, now?”
Jamus shrugged, “If you want me to. It’s a mess, though, and the threads would never hold a person or even a fish from the looks of it. Do you See how the Weave is not tied off?  I can fix it when I make mine, if you want me to.”
This time, Joria smiled, “There’s no need, Jamus.” She went back to her seat, and settled down tiredly, “There is no need because you have nothing more to prove to me. The net I see from Sovin’s hand is nearly an exact match to the one I Perceived on the stairs when Sorra fell. Ask Jamus to weave one if you must, but as soon as he does you will see his Magic cannot weave so unskillfully unless he tries. He said so himself.”
“I’d like to see for myself,” Sagari said, obviously intrigued by the display.
Sovin had not yet recognized the mistake he’d made. He was still standing beside his creation, smiling when Sovath took him by the arm. “You’ve a lot to answer for, boy. I think your little partner does too.” Jinda, obviously more clever than her friend, was crying, tears streaming down her face.
Jamus, however, was restored, “Shall I weave as Sovin has, or shall I make it right, My Lord?”
“One of each,” Sagari said offhandedly, “if it’s so easy for you, it should be a small matter to make two.”
Jamus raised his hand.
Had there ever been a question, that one gesture was enough to erase it entirely. The River itself stirred, heaving violently below, shaking every Master’s heart in a moment. The air about grew thick, heavy with Power—a great weight pressing down on them all. Silently, Jamus’ fingers moved and with eager assurance, Magic answered.

In the deep silence, a silver light twisted about itself. And then, two nets shimmered side by side in the hall. One matched Sovin’s thread for thread, in mirrored duplication. The other hung apart, perfectly formed, each thread meticulously tied. Jamus sighed, “I hope that’s what you wanted.”
Sagari drew a deep breath, disguising his surprise and his fear. This boy, unschooled in any of the Arts had touched the River with a Master’s hand. Magiskeep’s Lord did not know if any of the other Masters recognized the significance of the moment, but he did, and for now, it was enough. Unless this had been a freak event, Jamus was destined for greatness to rival his own. Sagari cleared his throat. “What I wanted….it is. But you had better learn to use a gentler touch on the River, boy. There’s no need to call so deep for such a small weave. Temperance is a discipline I see you need to practice. I shall have to do something about this.”
Jamus bowed meekly as was appropriate, “Yes, My Lord.”
“Sovath, after you have taken those two to the Judgment Chamber,” he pointed at Jinda and Sovin who was now shaking after finally realizing the mistake he’d made, “I want you to escort Jamus to the Great Library where he will wait for me until I am ready to instruct him on the proper behavior of a PrePrentice here in Magiskeep.”
Sovath was about to respond when Joria interrupted, “I will be glad to take Jamus for you, Sur Sovath. There’s no point in your making so many trips back and forth.
Sovath smiled gratefully and pulled the two squirming criminals from the Council Chamber. No one heard another word from or about them from that time forward.
In the Library, Jamus asked before Joria left, “Sovin and Jinda, Mistress, what will happen to them?”
“They took a life, Jamus. Often there is only one possible payment for that.”
“They’re just children. Sorra was very cruel to them. I can understand why they’d want her dead.”
“Few things can ever justify murder, lad.”
Jamus sighed, “I could never kill anyone.”
Joria shivered as the door opened and Sagari stepped through. She looked at the Great Master’s sharp features and read the hardness in his cold blue eyes and then looked back at Jamus. The boy was going to pay dearly for his Magic. “Jamus,” she said quietly, “promise me you will always remember what you just said.”
“Because one day I think you will need those words.” Then, she ruffled his dark hair affectionately with her slender hand, and walked away.
It was the last kindness Jamus would feel for many winds to come.

This story precedes Kingdom Beyond the Rim, as readers will recognize. It offers the first hints of Jamus' extraordinary skills in Magic.  It plants the seeds of the rivalry that will develop between Sagari and him.  Already too, are the indications of Jamus' alienation from his classmates and explains some of their animosity. 

I hope you enjoyed it as a short and simple prelude to the novel series. 

In case you haven't noticed, the third book in the Saga, The Wall Between has been published. It is available for Kindle and in paperback at Amazon: The Wall Between at Amazon  and for other epub formats at Smashwords:  The Wall Between at Smashwords

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Magiskeep Story

Class Dismissed 

Part 5

Sovath escorted Jinda and Sovin to the center of the room. The girl cast a sidelong glance at Jamus, shied away when he met her gaze and then cowered into Sovath’s side. The Master soothed her and gently pushed her forward, “Go on, girl, tell the Masters what you know.”
“I already did,” Jinda whispered, trying to hide behind him again.
“They need to hear it now,” Sovath said, again pushing her forward.
Sagari leaned forward and said with uncharacteristic kindness, “Come on, child. Truth is always an easy thing to say. Tell us what you know.”
Reluctantly, Jinda stepped up to the platform, “Jamus hated Sorra. She was mean to him all the time. He told me he wished she was dead. I said, hah, what good is a wish?   Then he said Magicians make wishes true. That was when he got the Spell book from Master Jorn’s shelf. He copied down some words. I heard him reading them over and over in his room one night. He didn’t have his lessons ready for Mistress Joria because he was practicing those words instead.”
“When was this?”  Sagari asked.
Jinda furrowed her brow, thinking, “The second day of the Sevenstin two ago, I think.”
“That would be about right,” Joria said, remembering a day when Jamus was completely unprepared for her class. She had thought it unusual until he told her afterward how several of the other students had taken his lesson notebook and dropped it into the well. Now she wondered.
“Which book did Jamus copy from?”  Jorn asked.
Again Jinda’s brow furrowed, “The big green one you keep by the study tabe, Master.”
“The Book of Sogol’s Defense, the very one we talked about before.”
Jinda nodded, “I think so. Jamus said something about spells working both ways.
I didn’t know what he meant.”
Sagari looked at the other Masters, “Do any of you have anything more to ask?”

When they shook their heads, he nodded to Sovath, who promptly urged Sovin forward.

The boy was far more self-assured than either Jamus or Jinda in the presence of The Masters. He spoke without hesitation, “Jamus asked me to tell him the story ofSogol’s Defense the way I understood it. He said he wanted to be sure he was right about something.   I told him Sogol’s Spell was a net, like he thought. That’s all. Later, Jinda told me she heard him chanting. I never did, but I did find this under his desk one day. I thought it was mine, so I picked it up. It’s Jamus’ writing…”   Sovin handed a scrap of parchment up to the platform.
Joria peered over Sagari’s shoulder at the document while the Master of Masters read it aloud, “….thus the thread is ever tied, net to trap the prey inside.”   Sagari looked over to Jorn, “Is this the spell from Sogol’s Defense?”
Jorn nodded, “Part of it, My Lord. Those do seem to be the last few words.”
“It is, unfortunately, in Jamus’ hand,” Joria said. “I recognize his writing.”
Sagari studied the parchment. Indeed it was a childish scrawl, mostly printed and ink blotched as if an unaccustomed hand were wielding the quill. He extended the incriminating writing for Jamus to see. “Jamus, is this yours?”
Jamus gulped and nodded, “It is, My Lord.”
“Why did you write these words, then, if you are innocent of casting the spell?”
“That looks like a page from my notes, Master….the ones I took in Master Jorn’s class. He had warned us…me especially, how we had to be careful with words in weaving any spell. I copied the spell down twice, as he told it to us; changing some of the words….he…gave it to us as an example of the things that can go wrong when a word is out of place.”
“Master Jorn?”  Sagari asked.
“Indeed, My Lord. On that point, the boy is telling the truth.” Jorn picked up a green covered tome from the floor under the hem of his robe and held forward. “I have the text in question here if you need to read it.”
Sagari grunted, took the book, read quickly, compared the scrap of parchment and looked up at Jamus, “Then, Jamus, you can produce the rest of your notes to show us where exactly this part was torn.”
Jamus swallowed again, panic rising in his eyes. He glanced hopefully at Joria, “My notebook, Sur Sagari, was…it was taken…I mean, I don’t have it. It fell into the courtyard well.”
Sagari scowled, his face reddening, “A pathetic lie or a foolish truth, boy. Either way you’ve condemned yourself with no proof to back up your claim. We have two witnesses who heard you practicing the spell, and now this,” he waved the parchment about. “More than enough to pass a judgment, I should think.”
Visibly shaken, Jamus’ started to fall and Sovath propped him up quickly.
“Steady, lad, you mustn’t faint,” he whispered urgently in the boy’s ear. “It wouldn’t be proper here and will make your father angry to see you weak like that. Here now, brace against me so he can’t see.” When Jamus had done so, Sovath spoke aloud, “My Lord, I will vouch for this child. He is a fine charge under my care who has never said me a cross word.”
“You and the handling of your charges is another matter we’ll contend with, Master Sovath. We cannot have unsupervised children running around the Keep chanting dangerous spells….”
Joria bolted upright to interrupt, “That’s it!  My Lord, you said it all!  The chant…Masters, think about it. The chant…”
Sarena was next to brighten, “Madame, you are right. And every one of the Masters here assembled who has ever had the experience of young Jamus in class will realize, the last thing the boy would ever do to weave a spell is use a chant.”
Jorn grunted now, “The ladies speak true, My Lord. I’ve kept the lad many a wind after class to learn rote or even a basic chant of Comprehension.”

When several of the other Masters admitted to the same, Sagari reconsidered, “If this is so, then we must suspect this evidence and….” He fixed his eyes on Sovin and then Jinda, “…the witnesses.” The pair flinched under his scrutiny, but managed to stay planted by hold on to each other.  Now he looked at Jamus, “Boy, what do you say about this?  Have you so neglected your studies and learned none of your lessons?  Speak up. Scholarly failure is a grievous fault, but certainly better than murder.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Magiskeep Story

Class Dismissed

Part 4  

Joria stood alone in the hall for a while herself, considering and reconsidering all that had happened. She knew Jamus had suffered constantly under Sorra’s stern hand, but she could not picture him seeking revenge. For all his rashness in Magic, she had never seen him lose his temper or rage in defiance. His adopted father was far too fiery a man himself to tolerate a hot-blooded son. Rather Sagari chose meek and Will-less people to surround him.  Everyone in the Keep had witnessed battles between the Lord and his quick tempered and headstrong natural daughter. Why would he adopt a son like her to make himself even more miserable?  Still, Jamus was a quiet boy, and like the River itself, often the greatest danger lay in the calmest waters. She knew he had an extraordinary talent for Magic and was quite capable of weaving the kind of Spell that killed Sorra. 
Joria sighed heavily, the burden of death and its consequences as great as the weight of Magic from a Master’s Call.  She would witness Jamus’ questioning before Sagari and make up her mind then. Idle speculation was worthless for now.

Jamus was brought before the assembled Masters by Sovath, Master of Prentices. A kindly old man who had worn the robes of Mastery for nearly two hundred circles, Sovath had led only seven other children before the group under similar accusations, and only once before because a Master had died. That time, the charges proved false when the Council discovered the spell the child had woven had been under supervision with the Master at full fault for daring too much with his untrained pupil.  With Jamus, though, there was no such evidence, and Sovath was worried. He had a special fondness for the boy and had often invited him into his own chambers when some of the other children were being especially cruel.  A hearing like this, no matter what the outcome, might well ruin what little contentment Jamus could find.
For his part, Jamus seemed more confused than anything. He had heard about Sorra’s death and even caught a few rumors of Prentice weaving, but he acted as if he had no idea at all why he had been brought before the Council. Still, he remembered his manners, to Sovath’s relief, bowed appropriately and then greeted the Masters in proper fashion, “Master Sagari, Lord of Magiskeep, to your judgment I freely come. Masters of the Arts, I honor your presence. I am ready for the Touch of your Will.”
Sagari straightened a bit in his chair as the boy spoke, a slight smile curling his lips as if he were proud of Jamus’ courage. Then he spoke, “Jamus of the Rim, you have been accused of killing the Mistress of Beginnings. The evidence is small as it often is in charges of the Magic, but evidence there is.”
Sovath had no doubt now about the boy, and neither did Joria, for Jamus’ face registered such shock there was no possible way he could have been pretending. Sovath propped him up under the elbow when he began to sway as his knees buckled, “Easy, lad,” the old man whispered, “the Masters are just. The truth will be discovered.”
Unlike Sovath, Sagari seemed to harden at the boy’s reaction, his voice growing harsher as he continued, “To use Magic for injury breaks Rule and Vow, dishonoring not only the Keep but the River itself. To kill the innocent with it defies Turan’s Way and the Hand of the God. If you are found guilty here, you will be forced to die in payment and your name will be wiped from the Keep. What have you to say in your defense?”
Jamus shook his head, his body trembling in Sovath’s grasp.
“Say something, lad,” Sovath whispered tensely. “You have to speak for yourself.”
“I…I,” Jamus began. Words failed behind the tears welling in the boy’s eyes. Then he felt the heat of Sagari’s anger at his failure as tendrils of the Master’s Magic curled about him, unnoticed by the others. At first, he thought his father was trying to offer support, but soon he recognized the threat of punishment for being weak and feminine in the face of the accusation. Sagari had often lashed him with Magic for some misdeed or another and Jamus knew he would suffer now if he failed to reply. Biting his lip, the boy stiffened his shoulders and tried again, “I did not kill Mistress Sorra. I do not even know a spell to make a weaving to trip her.”
“That’s not quite true,” Master Jorn remarked from his seat to the left of Sagari. “My lessons on historical precepts included several examples of Magic’s use for ill. I do recall a similar spell in the lecture on Sogol’s Defense of Toria.”
Jamus seemed on firmer ground now as he replied, “Yes, Sur, there was a spell there. I remember the story. Still, it was more of a net to catch something, rather than make someone fall.”
“Adaptable,” Jorn said thoughtfully, “by a clever Magician, I think.”
Sagari interrupted, “And does this boy meet such criteria, Jorn?  Is he clever enough?  I don’t recall his having a high reputation for the Art among the lot of you.”
“He is willful,” Jorn said.
“And careless,” Mistress Jiala said abruptly. Mistress of Manipulation, and mistress of a lusty reputation for taking any many she fancied, she and Jamus had often clashed--especially when she tried to lure him into her bedroom and he managed to slip away. Boy or not he was far too attractive, even at this young age.
“He is kind and concerned, though,” Sarena said. “He has a rare Compassion for those who suffer. I cannot believe him capable of murder.”
“A defense demands proof, not opinion,” Sagari replied more harshly than necessary. Like Jiala, he too had a healthy appetite for the opposite sex and Sarena had often eluded him. Now he glared challengingly at the gentle Mistress hoping to humiliate her at least a little. It was a pleasure to be able to attack her publicly in return for all the frustration she’d caused him in private.
Sarena smiled serenely, “My Art proves itself, My Lord, and stands in defense of the boy. He is too talented in Healing to cause harm.”
Sagari snorted disapproval, “Let the records show your claim, Madame, but I will hold it of no credence. Proof is more solid than sentiment.”
Joria was frowning and shaking her head all the while. Then, she spoke, “This accusation is grave, Masters, and we argue it well. Yet, what evidence has been offered to prove Jamus’ guilt?  It seems to me it should be as firm as his defense.”
“The girl,” Jorn said, “….Jinda. She heard the boy practicing a chant for weaving the spell. She also knew how he hated Sorra for tormenting him and had heard him make threats.”
“So, one accuser is enough to condemn the lad?” Joria asked sharply, “Why?  Because he is an Outworlder?  Because we fear the strength of his Will against our discipline?  Because he does not abide by the expectations we have of children?  Do we fear this child because he defies normal convention and demands a different kind of teaching than we are comfortable with?  Do you really believe he is guilty, or do you simply wish to be rid of all his questions?” 
“Why such a passionate defense, My Lady?”  Sagari asked casually. “One would think you had a fondness for the boy.”
Joria had already heard the rumors in the Keep of her liking Jamus too much. She had always been ready to counsel him and often welcomed him to her rooms when he needed to escape some cruel prank or torment from the other children. “I am fond of him, My Lord,” she said with an ease equaling Sagari’s. “If you had not adopted him, I might well have myself. He deserves a kind parent’s support from time to time.”
Sagari glared at her, “He has a father. Why should he need a mother too?  I grew up perfectly well without one myself.”
Joria prudently decided not to reply to that, “I should like, Master of Magiskeep, for Jamus’ accuser to face him here and tell her story.”
“A reasonable request,” Jorn said, nodding. “Unless I am mistaken, another witness has stepped forward as well—a boy?”
Sovath replied, “Young Sovin has supported the girl’s statement and added some more testimony of his own. I expected you to wish to hear from them. My Apprentice has the children waiting in the hall.”
“Get them,” Sagari ordered, sinking back into his chair. “Two accusers, Jamus. One voice confirms another. I am disappointed to hear this.”
With Sovath no longer at his side, Jamus swayed a little as he stood before the Council, “I am innocent. A hundred voices can lie as easily as one.”
Sagari laughed, “Jorn is right about one thing, you have learned lessons here. Is that the moral of Wizardchase I hear on your lips?”
Jamus remembered well the story of the Sorcerers’ being driven from the mortal world by the Disbelief of thousands who had used the denial of Magic as a weapon against the River. Only the few Magicians whose Will was strong enough to battle the overwhelming power of massed Disbelief survived, and they had fled to Magiskeep to continue on in the Art. Sogol had built the enchanted mountains of the Rim as a defense and since that time, Magic had remained largely isolated in Magiskeep. “Wizardchase’s lesson does apply, I suppose,” Jamus agreed. “And those whose Magic lived after the denials of so many could testify for me now. They would agree more voices do not make something true.”
Sagari nodded approvingly now. Jamus never failed to please him with his intelligence. The boy was far advanced for his age in so many ways. It was too bad he was so childish in others. “May it be so in this case…for your sake,” he said.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Magiskeep Story

Class Dismissed

Part 3

The next turn of Easwin, as the sun rose to light the Halls, Sorra was making her way down from the upper chambers. At the top of the landing nearest the North Tower, she tripped. Jomel, the upper houseman found her lying on the marble floor below, her neck broken. Hers was only the second death in the Keep in the present memory.
Sagari, the Keep’s Master, was called to witness her passing at once. His presence was essential since the body of any Sorcerer vanished into the mist within a wind of death, and any evidence would disappear nearly as quickly. However, it took no time at all for him and the rest of the assembled Masters to figure out what had happened.

He gathered them together on the landing where Sorra had fallen. There, he took the central position to examine the scene. Wearing a formal turquoise tunic emblazoned with the white crest of a stallion, Sagari presided with the pure presence of his bearing and personal charisma. Tall and golden haired, with cold blue eyes and an unmistakable aura of power in every word and gesture, Magic seemed to hold its breath in his company. When he spoke, the room fell into an absolute silence of respect and awe. And he was a man to be feared, for he had a quick temper, and little patience with disobedience or foolishness. Sorra’s death had the potential of both to evoke his rage.
“This is a pure instance of murder,” Sagari said, shaking his head disapprovingly. “Why even a Prentice can sense the threads of a weave right here on the landing.”
“True,” Joria agreed. The Mistress of Illusion was still gowned in her night dress and quickly waved a more modest grey robe to cover her. “Someone has spelled a barrier here just at the height to trip someone hurrying to the staircase. Anyone might have fallen. Poor Sorra was just the unfortunate victim this time.”
Sarena, Mistress of Healing rose from her knees beside the body, “I wonder. Not many use these stairs, at least this time of day. Sorra, however, was more steady in her habits than anyone in the Keep.”
“So,” Sagari said, “you are suggesting she was the deliberate victim.”
Sarena brushed the dust from the skirt of her pale blue robe, “I am, My Lord. The problem is whose?”
“It’s a child’s spell,” Master Jorn said, as he studied the space between the stairs. Master of Comprehension, his talent lay in the ability to sift the Truth of weaves. “There’s little sophistication in the thread, though it did prove effective. I’m surprised it held at all. As soon as Sorra’s foot struck it, the pattern was broken.”
“More than likely what sealed her fate,” Joria said sadly. “When it gave way, she fell through too quickly to make a move to save herself. Had the weave been stronger, she might have had more time to react.”
“A child,” Sarena muttered, “a child. What a horrible idea.”
“Why?”  Sagari replied easily, “A child’s mind is often less cluttered with morality than yours or mine, My Lady. When I was a boy, I contemplated more than one murder myself. Surely you must have wanted someone in your life to die for having treated you badly.”
Sarena’s fair face reddened. Known throughout the Keep for her gentle Compassion, any thought of violence usually distressed her, but Sagari’s words seemed unusually upsetting, “I never thought of killing anyone, My Lord. Yet, I must admit, I often pictured my mother dying of guilt after she had punished me for misbehaving. I suppose that is a kind of murder.”
Sagari grinned gleefully, always delighted to prod Sarena to admit to some fault or another.  “It is the common fate of childhood, you see. This time, however, the child acted upon his fantasy—the danger of Magic in the hand of the unschooled.”
Joria rubbed her chin thoughtfully, “Had Sorra crossed any of her pupils of late?  I grant she was a hard taskmistress…”
Jorn grunted, “Was there any day she didn’t cross one?  To her credit, she stressed discipline above all else.”
“This was an act of haste, quickly provoked,” Joria replied. “Children do not often hold grudges for very long.”
“I agree,” Sarena said. “Something must have happened recently to provoke the attack. If we work our way from there…”
“Then question Jamus,” a small voice said from the crowd gathering in the hall.
Sagari stiffened at the mention of Jamus’ name, readying himself to defend his ward, not so much because he liked the boy but more because his judgment was being questioned, “Who said that?”
Quickly, a small, redheaded little girl was pushed to the front. Though clearly frightened by the gathering, she stared up, wide-eyed, at Sagari and said, “I did, Master. Sorra was always picking on Jamus. He hated her. I heard him practicing a chant whenever she wasn't around, too. He said he was going to curse her with it.”
“Indeed,” Sagari replied, not bothering to crouch down to look into the girl’s eyes.  Instead, his own blue eyes hardened as his jaw set, “Bring the boy to my Council Chamber as soon as the Parting Ceremony for Sur Sorra is complete. I will be waiting for him and the Masters who wish to present testimony.” Then he turned on his heel and strode down the Hall, leaving the rest of them slack jawed and murmuring at his brusque and inappropriate departure.
To send a Mistress of Magic to the end of her circle without the Lord of the Keep present was not proper by any standard. Still, Sorra’s body would not wait on custom and was already beginning to waver as its substance started to dissolve into nothingness. Joria, as eldest of the remaining Masters, stepped up to Sagari’s place and raised her hand over the dead Sorceress, “To the River go, free of the bonds of Turan’s earth. May the waters take you, the River carry you, and the Circle remain in the Light. The name of Sorra, Mistress of Beginnings is surrendered now into the Books of the Elders. May it ever be spoken in reverence and honor. None shall own it, none shall it possess, for it is the name of the one and no other. Sorra shall ever be Sorra and no other. Blessings upon her remembering.”
As if Joria’s words held some power over it, Sorra’s body seemed to melt and fade more with each phrase until, at the last word, it simply vanished from sight. The gathered each whispered an individual amen to the ceremony, stood silently for a respectful interval and then moved apart, heading back to lives in a Keep where death was rare and unexpected.