This marks 300 posts on this blog, so here’s a bit of a celebration:
Last night after work, I spent my entire evening working on an art project.
Like many writers, I have a world in my head, full of people that seem (to me) to take on a life of their own. Voices that want to be heard, dreams that want to be fulfilled, destinies awaiting their moment to shape history. It only happens when fingers go to keyboard and words become sentences, then paragraphs, then chapters.
And so many other distractions vie for those moments I want to spend tapping keys, documenting the history of other worlds and their people.
It’s easy to get off focus.
My teenage daughter never seems to have that problem with what she loves. “Can I watch Merlin? What about watching Merlin, can I do that now? How about we watch an episode of Merlin together? Here’s this picture of Morgana I drew. She’s in Merlin. You should watch it.”
She has become the dreaded Rabid Fangirl, who speaks in Meme and consumes all things Hiddleston, Sherlock, Divergent, Potter, Fault in Our Stars, Cumberbatch, and Capaldi.
(ok, maybe not ALL things Capaldi – the “definitive Malcolm Tucker” on YouTube is a 14-minute art exhibition of what my Scottish friend called being “sweary.”)
I looked at some of what the fans produce, the stories they tell that go beyond the bounds of the “canon” the authors actually write. Characters take on an enduring quality in the hearts of these fans, who come up with some quite touching and poignant wordplay and imagery to capture the power of relationships between fictitious people.
Elsa reaching over to touch her fingers to the sleeping Anna’s wrist, only content once she feels a pulse proving a heart is still beating.
George Weasley, who lost his twin Fred at Hogwarts, coloring his hair in some outlandish manner, then whispering, “It’s because every time I looked in the mirror, I kept seeing him…”
Scenes from Freeman and Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, with grieving John being given medicine to help his nightmares since Sherlock’s demise. And he answers that the reason he won’t take the medicine is because the nightmares are the only time he can see the face of his friend.
It struck me that I should “fangirl” as much about my own characters as my daughter does about these others. If I don’t care about my characters so much that they take on a life of their own, why should a reader? If I don’t believe it is worth reading, why should anyone else?
I decided to do some “fanboy” art of my own, focused on the central relationship of the novel I’m writing.
Lyllithe is the adopted daughter of the Eldest in the Abbey, the friar who runs the village church. Lyllithe is being groomed to fill a role as a servant of the Light, but the lure of a shadowy form of magic has drawn her away from her father’s intended path. And Josephine is a Soulforged, a warrior imbued with divine power, capable of searching out evil, delivering swift justice, and defeating creatures of darkness.
Lyllithe is darkness; Josephine is light. In many ways, through a number of growing conflicts, they’ll clash and debate. But the bond of loyalty and love may prove stronger than their differences.
Here’s the as-yet-uncolored “Sisters” image.
Happy 300th post, me.
But thanks go to you, my readers. Thanks for the views along the way, and for sharing this blogging journey with me.
This post is already longer than I intended. But I’ve included an excerpt of Chapter 10 that captures a bit of Josephine and Lyllithe’s relationship:
Lyllithe sat in her favorite tree perch near the Woodwall but far from the gate. Fresh air blew through the tree, rustling leaves and rocking her branch. Wet soot covered her pale arms and stained her shirt. I stink of smoke and sweat. And I don’t even care.
Even obscured by the ash, her Gracemark glowed enough to cast a hue over her. She studied its shape, tracing it with a finger.
So do I lose you now? Does it hurt to become Scarred?
Words resounded in her mind like punches in the stomach. Light-veiled. Once-devoted. Cut off. She felt like crying but ran out of tears an hour ago.
Lyllithe of Northridge. Who did that name belong to? What sort of woman had no family name, no ties, no bonds, no Order?
The Gracemark’s glow tugged at her attention. And why do I still have this thing? Can I be Marked and declared Light-veiled at the same time?
An old question from her studies came to mind. “How far must one turn away from their Aspect in order to become Scarred?” Seems like the answer depended on whichever Devoted was teaching at the time.
I still believe. More than ever, I believe in the Light. Lyllithe looked up to the stars, half praying, half persuading herself. I believe it has the power to change the world. And I believe we can’t keep that to ourselves.
She looked back at the town. Lanterns in homes lit windows with an inviting glow. Yes, the Light can draw those in darkness to itself. But we also bring lanterns with us to shine in places where no light reaches.
She contemplated her arguments with Marten about the Order over the years. Or at least we should.
Another gust stung Lyllithe’s nose with her own odor. She considered heading home, and paused.
Do I still have a home?
Lyllithe glanced about, using her innate connection to the elements. With each rush of wind, poofy tangles of aera fluttered past. She Bound a large mass and twisted it into aqua, Loosing it before any discomfort.
Refocused water pattered on the tree leaves like fresh rain. The drops swept away the soot, ash and sweat. Though the water had no scent, Lyllithe breathed deep and sighed with contentment.
At least I have this.
Master Hachi’s words from the night of the Calling echoed in Lyllithe’s mind. I said I am not an Arcanist, and he answered ‘not yet.’
Perhaps the Hall is my best option now.
She sat in silence and watched puffs of aera float on the winds. In that distant corner of her awareness, she felt the other-ness once again.
Lyllithe explored the sensation. I can’t focus on it directly, or I lose ‘sight’ of it. But I can look at where it’s not, to guess at where it is.
Elements flowed and swirled all around her–terros in the ground and even the tree, aera on the breeze, aqua dripping off leaves and soaking the earth below where Lyllithe Refocused earlier. Even weak glimmers of lux streamed through the moonlit night.
No flagros around, but after the fires in town, I’m alright with that.
Lyllithe sat in awe of the sensation. I’m connected to everything. Energy everywhere, stirring and shifting in rhythms and patterns, a tapestry of life.
The picture of fabric hanging beyond sight over the visible world sparked an idea. Lyllithe reached out figurative fingers and drew the curtain of reality wide.
There you are.
Her grip on the visible world lurched and her insides churned as if an Arcanist tried to twist her lunch into acid.
I won’t come too close, she told the stagnant mass, backing away in her mind. I just want to watch you for a while.
Despite all that happened earlier, Lyllithe found a place of peace near the unknown power. She leaned back against the tree trunk and clasped her hands in her lap.
And she smiled.
* * * * *
“Should’ve known,” Josephine muttered. She started across the field, heading for Lyllithe’s tree.
What do I say to her? A smart fighter knew both her strengths and weaknesses. Compassion’s not really my thing.
A Glimpse of sorts came unbidden. Josephine shivered, but dismissed the thought. Of course something feels wrong. She just got kicked out of her family and her Order.
Josephine grinned. Maybe I’m not as bad at empathy as I thought.
“Lyl? Want to talk?”
Josephine took out her hammer and rapped the tree twice. “You awake?”
Up in the branches, hidden in the darkness, someone gasped like waking from slumber.
“Yeah, it’s me. Come down, let’s chat.”
Josephine talked while Lyllithe picked her way through the branches. “I’m leaving Northridge tomorrow. Yesterday, before the bandits attacked, I spoke with Master Falsted. He wants to hire on a Soulforged for his caravans. Too many lost to Deviols lately,” she said, then added, “and other dangers out beyond the Wall.”
Lyllithe dropped to the ground. “So this is goodbye?”
“Actually quite the opposite.” Josephine smiled. “There’s a job he wants done first.”
Lyllithe shrugged. “And?”
“And I thought you could be really useful.” Josephine sat down in the damp grass, and Lyllithe followed suit. “I saw what you did in town, Lyl.”
“I had to do something,” Lyllithe said. She bowed her head and the white points of her ears poked up through her drooping black hair. “It was all my fault.”
Lyllithe shot Josephine a glare. “Thanks.”
“You can’t change that. But you were awesome back there, putting out fires, putting down bandits. It was like we really had an Arcanist in our town.”
“So,” Josephine said, “come with me.”
Lyllithe looked away.
“What do you have here? I heard what your dad said, Lyl. Everyone heard. There’s nothing left for you in Northridge, a life of isolation as ‘the Ghostskin.’ Come with me.”
Lyllithe turned red eyes back to face Josephine. “And what will I be then?”
Josephine clasped a hand on Lyllithe’s shoulder. “My friend.” She pulled Lyllithe into a tight embrace. “My sister.”
They sat in silence until a streak of orange kissed the horizon.
Lyllithe giggled. “When do we leave, little sister?”
“What?” Josephine sputtered. “I’m clearly the big sister here.”
“I’ve been Marked for years! You only got yours last Markday.”
Lyllithe shook her head. “Nuh-uh, that doesn’t matter.” She held up her hand. “I win, ’cause I’ve got two.”
Josephine shifted to a crouch. “I win ’cause I can pound you!” She pounced, tackling Lyllithe, who screamed in delighted terror.
After a few minutes of wrestling with no clear victor, they lay in the long grass panting, staring up at the sky.
“It’s decided, then.” Josephine chuckled. “We’re twins.”
Lyllithe cackled. “That’s scarring ridiculous!”
“Yup.” Josephine gave her a solemn nod. “So it’s perfect.”
Lyllithe let out a long breath and gazed at the sunrise.
Josephine watched and smiled. Good to see you laugh, my friend. She rose to her feet and extended Lyllithe a hand.
“Joram’s associates should be arriving before noon. We’re to set out tonight, so we should head back and get ready.”
“You still haven’t told me what this job we’re on is about.”
“You’ll like it,” Josephine said. They started back toward the village, which seemed far too peaceful given the night’s events. “Kal is running a huge organization across the Bordermarches. Those men who attacked us are connected to other bandits and highwaymen who steal Joram’s goods and take hostages of his workers. They took a few last week, on the road to Aulivar.”
“So we’re to rescue his men from Kal’s bandits?”
“Well, yes, as a start. But that’s not the job.”
“Then what is?”
Josephine turned back to grin at Lyllithe.
“We’re going to take down Kal.”