Tags

,

Because I’m involved in Camp NaNoWriMo, I haven’t had much time for other writing. Below is a segment from the first chapter of a sword and sorcery fantasy series I am working on. This is the beginning of the first book in the trilogy although I am currently working on the second book.

The drawing below is something I did while in college (I don’t profess to be an artist!), but that character later inspired the character of the same name in Near to Far.

Jabberwock

Near to Far

 

And for a long time yet, led by some wondrous power, I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life, to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone.

-Nicolai Gogol
Dead Souls

 

Part One

“Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Call her moonchild
Dancing in the shallow of a river
Lonely moonchild
Dreaming in the shadow of the willow.

Talking to the trees of the cobweb strange
Sleeping on the steps of a fountain
Waving silver wands to the night-birds song
Waiting for the sun on the mountain.

-King Crimson
Moonchild from In The Court Of The Crimson King

 

 

I

“Now, you’re sure this is going to work?” King Uriel and Jabberwock the Bandersnatch were standing next to each other, surveying a map spread out upon the table in front of them. Well, actually, the king was standing upon the tiled floor; Jabberwock was poised on the table itself.

“Of course,” the Bandersnatch replied.

“Well, if it doesn’t,” Uriel groused, “then there is absolutely no way in the universe she’ll marry me, despite the fact we’re betrothed.”

“Uriel, I have known Eluned for eleven years; seen and conversed with her nearly every day for the past eleven years, I might add. We agreed when you were a mere child that refusing to meet her would alone instill you with some mystery. Not actually showing up for the betrothal ceremony just sealed that. I know the Princess. She thrives on adventure, the enigmatic. If she meets you when you’re not ‘you,’ she’s guaranteed to fall in love with you, just as we have always planned.

“Guaranteed, hmm? I don’t actually see how you can guarantee something like that, but at this point I am willing to take your word for it.”

Jabberwock rolled his eyes and bared his crooked teeth. “Eluned’s eighteenth birthday is just a few days away . . . “

“Fine, fine,” Uriel grimaced, “let’s get on with it.”

“Now this is what I expect you to do . . .”

The sun was breaking over the horizon when the tip-tap of Jabberwock’s claws could be heard leaving Uriel’s palace behind. After years in the making, it seemed as if all their planning might finally come to fruition. The real question was, of course, would the Princess actually fall in love with Uriel or was she, perhaps, hiding facets of her self from the Bandersnatch? It was never beyond reason that a monkey wrench might be thrown into their plans; but should that happen could they overcome it? In his heart, Jabberwock knew that love would win but what or who might intercede? If the Bandersnatch had learned anything in his eternity of a lifetime, he had learned that you could not completely predict the future. Free will, importunate circumstance . . . hang it all . . . chaos theory. It reigned freely, much to his disgust. Wasn’t he a living memorial to chaos theory? Sure, at this point, all had gone according to plan, but the Princess was still confined to her father’s kingdom.

Uriel, a trifle older than the Princess, had already escaped the bounds of his kingdom. His father had died when he was thirteen and he had reigned with the help of his Protectors until he was eighteen. Fortunately, during those five years, Uriel was of such strong mind that he was not taken advantage of, although there had been rumblings from other kingdoms, particularly from the Kingdom of Adamah, which bordered Uriel’s kingdom, Aden, to the southeast. Those threats had died an abrupt and mysterious death as far as Uriel and Jabberwock were concerned. They felt in their bones that a larger threat was looming on the horizon.

So, Uriel had spent the past three years visiting the Thirteen Kingdoms and continuing to educate himself, both politically and in the art of war. Though personally, he despised the thought of battle. Why couldn’t people just discuss things rationally; work things out that way? The traveling had done him a world of good, and he felt he had a pretty clear view of where loyalties lay with the various rulers. Certainly, the Kingdom of Zion, ruled by Eluned’s father and mother, was his greatest ally. The fact that he had been betrothed to their daughter at such a young age and the recent “official” betrothal ceremony (which he had missed on purpose) were both testament to the fact that the alliance was still strong. But, who else could they count on if it came to war? He was certain about the Kingdoms of Draconia, Favonia and Dyfed. But, the Kingdoms of Naphtali and Tarshish were apparently remaining neutral until pushed one way or the other. Unfortunately, King Arawn of Annewven and King Hamartia and Queen Foehn of Simoon were as strongly united as his kingdom with Zion, and not only did they wish to increase greatly the size of their kingdoms, but they had managed to pull the rulers of Dziron, Adamah and Kamartha into their evil schemes. How long would it be before they started attacking the non-allied kingdoms at their borders?

Regardless of the politics, Uriel had come to realize, at twenty-one, that Eluned was the one for him despite the fact that his father’s wishes to make a powerful alliance with King Seraphim had at first made him resent the Princess. Regular reports over the years from the Princess’s tutors, or Jabberwock, had allowed him to fall slowly in love with her. Those feelings had made it easy for Jabberwock to talk the King into missing their betrothal ceremony, not to mention his spurning actually meeting her. So Eluned thought Uriel a milksop, so much the better.

Jabberwock recalled the final moments of his visit with Uriel. The Princess had no idea! And a good thing, too. He wasn’t sure how the Kingdom of Aden had ended up with the Mantle of Arthur. No doubt a bride from Annewven had brought it over the mountains in a past too dim for mortals to remember. He knew with absolute conviction that there was absolutely no way it had knowingly left that ever-evil kingdom. It was too great a treasure. One of the thirteen hallowed treasures, for that matter. The treasures, once confined to Annewven, were now scattered to the four winds. Jabberwock suspected that the majority remained in Annewven and Simoon, which had been linked for as long as he could remember—centuries and centuries.

On his twenty-first birthday, Uriel had finally been able to open the ironbound and incredibly plain chest that had belonged to his father. He had imagined that it would contain family papers and maybe a last letter from his father reminding him of his duties as king (and of his love for his only son). But, what he had found when the chest creaked open was a slightly moth-eaten woolen cloak of an indeterminate color. Perhaps it had once been grey? As he had pulled it from the chest, the odor of cedar and sandalwood followed. He had held it up, questioningly, to Jabberwock.

“Put it on,” the Bandersnatch had commanded. Uriel had swung the soft wool around his shoulders.

“Fasten it.” An ornate breastpin of gold fashioned in the shape of a phoenix, the sigil of his kingdom, was attached to the cloak. Uriel had done as he was told.

“Now look in the mirror.” Uriel had turned to face the long mirror that was suspended from the molding that topped the marble wall in his father’s former bedchamber. The new king had yet to feel comfortable enough to take over the royal compartments—still too many memories of his mother, who had preceded his father in death by a year; Uriel was sure that his father’s death a year later was in part due to the loss of his beloved wife. Uriel had stared into the mirror for several minutes.

“What do you see?” the Bandersnatch had finally barked.

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Is it . . .?” Uriel hadn’t been able to go on. He swallowed, hard, and tried again. “Is it the Mantle of Arthur?”

“Indeed.”

Uriel had chuckled, ruefully. “Oh how I could have used this in the past three years! Talk about being a fly on the wall!”

“Well, it’s not too late,” Jabberwock had replied. “I have a strong feeling you will be needing it in the not-too-distant future.”

Uriel had raised an eyebrow, “This is going to be more of a quest than a journey, I suspect.”

Jabberwock only smiled, mysteriously, in reply, and had suggested that the King return the cloak to its chest until he set out for the predetermined rendezvous point.

This very morning before he had left, Jabberwock had reminded him, “Please do not forget the cloak! I imagine it will come in handy in more ways than one. I have no doubt the King will be presenting Eluned with her treasure before we leave tomorrow. Unfortunately, she will have to discover what it does on her own.”

Uriel had raised an eyebrow, yet again, but this time more sardonically, as if he had little faith in that ever coming to pass.

“You’re still underestimating her!” Jabberwock had laughed.

“What was it the Apostle Thomas said? ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands’ . . . sorry, guess I am a Thomas.”

The Princess. Jabberwock had felt his spirits beginning to lift while thinking of Uriel. But Eluned. His mood suddenly plummeted. She was perfect for Uriel. They complemented each other beautifully, and they hadn’t even met yet and they were both fighting it. And notwithstanding his eleven years of work with her, he had been unable to do anything with that will of hers. That strong will. Sometimes she did things just to irritate him. He knew it but could do nothing about it. And though he hated to admit it, well, he wasn’t perfect. There, he thought it.

“I’m not perfect!” He shouted to the barren hayfields on either side of him. He felt a slight weight lift from his heart. “I’m not PERFECT!” There. Well, he could just do the best he could do, by Omni. He was just His pawn after all. Well, he looked heavenward, maybe that was a bit harsh. But, the truth was, he could only do the best he could do.

“And that’s all I expect.” The words weren’t as much heard as felt.

“Yes, and we both know what happens to those like me.”

Silence. A chill breeze laden with the scent of impending rain ruffled his wiry gray fur.

Advertisements