“Who are you?”

An author friend wrote this a while ago, and it resonated so much with me that I saved it. Having cleared out some of my files (had to de-clutter!), I found it again … and again, it resonated. I’m sharing it because I feel this is what happens when reading my lore – the reader begins to ask questions, and that is always a good state.

The Legend Mountains

From The Kinfire Tree:

DESPITE HIGH SUMMER elsewhere, it was bitterly cold in the far north.

Icy winds came off the towering Legend Mountains in the distance. The giant slopes were covered in snow almost to the point where rock met land, capped with dark, threatening clouds. A storm brewed there and it boded ill for the two travellers. They were not dressed for it.

In sharp contrast to the whiteness, the wasteland they crossed was ochre in colour. Loose dust puffed up with every step as if they walked in low gravity and it blew up into their faces with every gust of icy wind. Already they were barely distinguishable from their surroundings.

It was an empty land, abandoned, lonely, and frighteningly different. There were no trees. There was no water. The only tangible objects on that vast plain were edged, black pebbles hidden in powdery dust that served to trip.

Averroes could not believe she was born here, that someone took her across this to the south.

They had been walking for hours. Vannis said she would instinctively know where to go, but she felt nothing other than burning thirst. They had not brought enough water; she had one swallow left, as did Kylan.

Would this never end? The barren ochre plain stretched in every direction. Only the mountains to the north relieved the disheartening vista. Now that stirred something within her. Did it mean they needed to walk all that way?

She groaned aloud.

“Averroes?” Kylan said hoarsely behind her. He was a wonderful companion, ever uncomplaining.

“I’m fine; just wishing I knew where to go.” Her voice, she found, was equally gruff.

“Wait, Averroes, I see … what is that?”

Kylan, when she turned, pointed at a patch of black growing in size as they walked. It was on the ground directly ahead, and she had not even seen it.

“I don’t know.” Her heart commenced an uneven rhythm.

As they drew closer, the black patch materialised into a perfect circle, recessed, about three feet in diameter.

“It’s not natural. Do you recognise it?” Kylan queried as they halted at the edge of the sphere. It was smooth like stone eroded by the ceaseless movement of water.

She shook her head and knelt to touch. It was warm and there was a minor vibration under her fingers. She placed her hand flat on the surface, and it moved. Snatching her hand back, she stumbled away from the edge and pulled Kylan with her.

“It’s moving!”

A circular tube rose perpendicular to the ground and halted at about seven feet, still attached to the earth.

“What is that?” Kylan asked, passing a hand before his eyes to check his sight.

“No idea.”

They heard a whooshing sound. What appeared to be doors retracted into the sides of the cylinder.

“I have read something about this. I don’t know what you call it, but I think one travels in it, up and down. I think we’re supposed to get in.” Kylan was clearly uncertain.

“This is technology, then? Can we trust it?”

“Unless we want to walk to nowhere without water, we have no choice. Vannis did say the half-Valleur were underground. Come, take my hand, we will do it together.”

They linked hands and approached.

Tristan and Alusin

From EURUE: The Forgotten World:

KNEELING in the mud with tears streaking over bloodied cheeks, ignoring the body behind him, Tristan understood how it felt to finally lose hope.

What life was there without Caballa? Killing her murderer would not bring her back.

Pushing himself to his feet, he swayed drunkenly. He had no more to give. Throwing his head back, he screamed his grief.

He tossed Halon’s blade into the water. As it splashed in, other swords were revealed. Many. By all gods, how many had died in this place?

Tristan then convulsively fiddled at his waist.

When he had his sword belt loose, he gripped the whole, drew his arm back and threw it with all his might into the lake, screaming again. It splashed briefly as it landed and wallowed there in mute accusation, the depth too shallow for it to disappear.

For a long time Tristan stared at it, his blood dripping into his soaked tunic.

Finally he turned away, uncaring. He strode into the trees. Fuck everything. No one would ever again mistake him for Torrullin, his illustrious grandfather, not with the new scars he now wore upon his face.

For those he would never seek healing.

FROM beyond the shallow body of water a man stepped to the lapping edge. White hair lifted in the breeze and dark blue eyes tracked the form vanishing into the trees.

This image reminds me of Alusin

He sighed and waded into the water to retrieve the discarded sword and scabbard. Holding it, he wrapped the belt around it, and then unhurriedly set off after.

The forging of Tristan Skyler Valla was over.

It was time to introduce him to a different future.

The Lake of Swords vanished.

A dog barks

These are the last excerpts about animals in Lore of Arcana, this time from The Dragon Circle. Don’t know if I have the gumption to find similar excerpts in Reaume and Sanctum … reading these, knowing the situations surrounding each, well, it can stir up emotions.

  1. Two, three months ago, Galilan’s population housed in this manner would have spread over the countryside for many sals. Now he noticed empty lots where children amused themselves.

He smiled upon hearing a dog bark – kids rescued their pets first. There were bound to be a number of cats and hamsters, canaries … and you are now rambling.

2. Together they made their way through massive snowdrifts up to the longhouse. It was the logical place to find survivors. Closer, they heard at last the sounds of civilisation; children crying, the murmur of voices and, incongruously, a cow mooing, and a dog barked and it was the most beautiful sound.

They reached the door. Snow packed up against it, trapping within the survivors. Vannis waved a hand and cleared the powdery obstacle aside while Torrullin concentrated on the weight above; it appeared particularly unsafe.

When Vannis grabbed the rough wooden handles, he prayed as he never prayed before. He loved Raken and he could not imagine the empty years ahead if she was not inside this building. If anything happened to her, Torrullin needed to stand in line. No quarter whatsoever. He drew breath, with Torrullin tense beside him, and pulled the door wide.

The smell of stale air and human and animal waste sent him reeling backward, gagging.

Torrullin stepped past him into the gloomy interior as voices rose in relief.

There were several people inside, but the gloom and noise made it impossible to judge who and how many. Torrullin brought forth a globe and sent it into the rafters, the glow illuminating the interior. He noted the rafters held up to the weight of the snow; the building would hold up to another onslaught.

Then none of that mattered as the reality of human suffering confronted him. Silence had fallen, other than for a child’s fearful sobs and the incessant barking of the dog.

3. In the glow, a crowd of faces young and old confronted Torrullin and Vannis, their faces pinched blue and drawn with hunger. There were far more than they expected to find, but far less than the number in Linmoor. They were also too many for the small space. Some took huge breaths of the freshening air.

“Can we take at least some of them to the Palace?” Raken begged, eyes bright with tears as she watched with aching heart how Torrullin made food for the solitary cow and dog.

The dog licked his hand and he stroked it before moving on to a group of chickens in another corner. He waved a hand and a bag of chicken feed materialised for them, some of which he scattered. A raggedy cat slunk out from behind crates and he called it over, lifted it to a high place above the chickens where he gave it food and let it eat there in peace.

The Pathos of the Abandoned

Finding mention of animals (particularly dogs and cats) in my Lore has made me quite tearful in the reading. Considering that much goes wrong in the story, animals showcase the desperation here and there. Below are a few excerpts from The Drowned Throne.

  1. THEY WALKED ALL day, dodging deluges and rotten missiles, skirting dogs and rats and unnamed piles of fur and other matter, turning ever away from mean-spirited people.

Only once did they see a cat, the feline mangy and filthy, but well fed on the rat population. For the most part Silas inhabitants ignored them. Where trouble appeared imminent, they simply walked away.

It rained without cease.

2. “On the contrary, father, I sensed something of you there. A trace of goodness, and that made me sad. I also found a trace of ambition, and that made me angry.”

They continued walking. A skeletal dog yapped at their heels, giving up when it elicited no reaction.

Torrullin said, “It wasn’t your fault. I don’t need to hurt you further.”

“I want to know. How else will I understand?”

“Tell me about you and my mother, please. She spoke of you with love always. She explained why she left. I would like to hear you speak of her.”

Taranis opened his heart and mind to the memories. He put aside pain and guilt, spoke to his son with the same love and awe Torrullin heard in his mother’s voice long ago.

“It was in Moor that I met her, the day I arrived …”

Torrullin smiled. Millanu would always begin with the first day she laid eyes on the handsome man on the inn roof.

3. An hour after they set out they came across the first ruined village, blackened and partly razed, the enclosure in tatters. Chickens scratched hopefully among the ruins and a skeletal dog barked pitifully. It was a small place, a family not long ago embarked on the task of starting a new clan.

Saska burst into tears and Lanto breathed a shocked, “Oh no, terrible …”

Torrullin’s mouth set in a grim line. This was direct evidence of Margus’ malicious plans.

Saska emptied her pack of food for the dog as they skirted the village; looking back, she saw the poor creature approach the bounty warily, before wolfing it down in a flash, its tail wagging. She burst into tears again.

Lanto’s mouth also set into a resolute line and he did not look back. They never heard him mutter ‘crazy’ again.

4. Eventually Torrullin said, “We must look to the living now and do what we can tonight, or more will join Mordan in the realms of death. Come, both of you, come away.”

They found the meeting hall half-above and half-below ground. Nature had commenced the reclamation process; birds burst noisily into flight as they came down the stairs into the chamber, and clumps of weeds grew sturdily in the patchy sunlight of the broken roof.

Phet set about clearing away the birds, chasing them out with respect. In one corner, a thin grey cat nursed two tiny kittens, keeping a wary eye on the intruders. This time Lanto scratched in his pack and offered the little mother food and water. She ate as she lay, unwilling to disturb her little ones, and purred when Lanto stroked her.

“What’s the plan?” Saska asked. Her voice echoed in the empty chamber, briefly startling the cat. Lanto calmed her with gentle hands.

Phet returned to perch unobtrusively in a corner. He ignored the feline and, after a brief bristle, she ignored him.

“We have to get into the lion’s den; it is the only way,” Torrullin said. “Luring his soltakin out will bring only a small number, and darklings will probably not take the bait. If we can get inside and let it be known we have penetrated his stronghold, he will pit his might against us to answer the arrogance of our trespass with his own.”

A sign of life

Animals in the Lore series: I have mentioned Jess, but this time it’s a lone dog and his appearance is a sign of that maybe, just maybe, someone still lives …

Breathless, she stopped. She wanted to scream at him, but he was right again. She needed to find someone, anyone. Please, let there be someone.

They moved forward, creeping up the steps that linked the terraces, stopping often to listen. They neared the hut, crept around to the rear to peer through a window and fell back in fright, but it was only the dog inside that put up frantic barking at faces peering through the window.

Unless the dog was not frightened of whatever may yet be in the area, they could probably assume it was safe. They peered again and this time the animal watched them with wagging tail. There was no one inside. Flies buzzed around half-made dough on the kitchen table.

They crept from hut to hut, the dog trailing them, and grew bolder as they went. They found nothing, no one, except evidence of hasty departure everywhere. They began talking loudly, making a noise, preferring it to the unnatural silence, and hoped the sound of their voices would lure out of hiding any frightened person. Dogs started barking and that, too, they found good, but no one came to them; nobody was left to come out.

On the fourth terrace, near the gate into the second enclosure, Kisha stopped. “I can’t take any more.” The Kinfire Tree