Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Doorstop Fantasy Preview

Just for fun, and bearing in mind this is only a draft, I thought I'd post a little bit of the ongoing fantasy collaboration that Reaves and I are writing. We're not even through the first draft yet, probably be the first of the year before we get there, but I've been talking about it so much ...

The series is called -- working title -- The Chronicles of Eilandia, and the first volume is: The Dreadnaught. We have eleven players who will be the viewpoint characters in this one. The prologue introduces a couple, and the steam warship around which the book is cast. The first chapter takes us to the tropics and into the head of another player ...


The Tropics of Jalimatra

Djani dodged -- and the watered-steel ensorceled dagger that would have pierced his liver missed his belly by no more than the width of a hair.
Feke -- !
Djani whipped his own dagger in and up and thrust at his attacker's throat, but even as he did, he knew it was too slow --
Guru had already slid to his left, a quarter-span out of range. Not even close.
The old man lowered his blade, and shook his head.
"Pitiful!" Guru Bruj said. "Execrable! My dead grandfather in his grave moves more lively when the worms crawl through his bones!"
Guru touched the steel to his forehead, then sheathed his formal dueling dagger in the boat-prow wooden scabbard tucked into his sash. The weapon's carved tulgywood handle was a seven-plane "fever" man, so stylized it was almost not recognizable as a human figure. The blade, as long as a tall man's forearm, was of pattern-welded steel, the pamor of it being buntel mayit -- the death shroud. The twisted and angled white-metal whorl in the black steel was the most powerful of all warrior designs, having come from a giant sky stone that had fallen more than five hundred years past. Any man less adept than Guru would be corroded and corrupted by the energies trapped in that blade; indeed, should a lesser man somehow manage to touch Guru's knife -- unlikely in the extreme while Guru lived, save by the razored edge slicing open his flesh or by being skewered upon its point -- that touch would burn like lava. It took a master empu a year to make such a weapon, since he could only work on it during the dark of the moon.
Even as Djani thought this, Guru stepped in, and slapped him upside the head. Not hard, just enough to knock a bit of the sour-smelling sweat from his face -- and the ideas from his skull. An hour short of midmorning, and already the air was as hot as a man's skin, even with the shore of the Sulh Sea a mere league away and the wind from that direction. When the sun was up in east Jalimatra, sweat was a given -- at least until it rained, which it generally did at least once a day in the summer season.
"Put your blade away," Guru said, "before you hurt yourself. Because you certainly aren't going to do anybody else harm with it."
Djani did the ritual forehead touch, catching a whiff of the pungent bindlewood oil coating the dagger, then sheathed his steel. The magic in his blade was much less than that of Guru's, the pattern of unthuk banyu -- foam bubbles -- and also five-waves. It was more than sufficient for the needs of a man who was neither a soldier nor a bodyguard.
Djani stared at the tops of his sandals and shook his head slowly. "I am sorry, Guru."
"That you are, boy. I have seen few sorrier." Guru paced for a moment, his bare feet leaving hardly any imprints in the red clay before his house. "I have promised your father that I would teach you enough to keep you alive, and I may end my days in the executioner's chair for lying. You won't be around to see that, more's the pity; but if you are the cause, I hope it gives you pain in the Long Cold."
Djani nodded. There was no excuse; he had been web-gathering, his mind a thousand spans away. Something was happening in the Crimson Palace; there was much excitement vibrating the perfumed air of the many patios, courtyards and sahns -- but as yet, none of his spies had been able to ascertain the cause. Djani was most curious about this.
Guru Bruj continued his excoriation. "It is fortunate indeed that the Rajheem has four other sons who can defend themselves, because if the Kingdom of Maluz depended on your abilities, it would fall faster than a dead sparrow tied to a big rock."
"Yes, Guru."
The old man leveled a wizened finger at him. "How old are you now? Twenty-two? Only a miracle will allow you to see twenty-three, and I don't expect you've attended well enough to your prayers to merit that."
Djani suppressed an urge to grin, which he knew would earn him another slap -- but a single moment of inattention did not mean that he was completely helpless when he did pay proper attention. The old man -- Guru Bruj was at least forty-seven summers of age, some said forty-eight -- did dearly love to rant and carry on; he had done so as long as Djani could remember, and he'd never let Djani start to feel even a little puffed up about his abilities. Truth be told, the fifth and youngest in-line son of the Rajeem of Maluz was able to keep up with any of his brothers, with bare hands, daggers, or sticks -- well, save for Tarmani the Eldest, who was, in these parts, second only to Guru in fighting skill. Even so, he could give his older brother a few lumps even when he lost, and in a serious contests with steel, Tarmani would bleed enough to remember it a long time. In a serious fight with two well-trained men, the loser would be ashes -- but even the winner would be charcoal.
Without being immodest, Djani knew he could best, or at worst hold his ground, with any man his age, and do equally well against many older fighters who came to dance in the gelanggangs. At least he had been able to so far. Of course, Jalimatra was not the world; still ...
A dead sparrow tied to a big rock? Such an image.
Guru was fond of these colorful sayings. It seemed that he had one for every instance. "The stake that stands tall gets hammered down." Or, "The fattest worm attracts the hungriest bird." Or "The slowest tiger beats the fastest man." Or any of nine hundred and ninety-nine others Djani had heard more than nine hundred and ninety-nine times each ...
Guru gave him another quick slap on the other side, producing another fine spray of sweat.
"What was that for?"
"Thinking," Guru said. "You think too much, Djani, that is your problem. You need to stop that -- especially in combat."
"Yes, Guru."
"'Yes, Guru,'" the old man mocked. "So you say, but where is the evidence that you understand anything?" He shrugged, as if acknowledging the utter and total futility of all this. "All right. Let's go back to Djuru One, since Djuru Eighteen is apparently entirely too advanced for you."
But before they could begin the sparring sequence, a flash of iridescent azure and purple hurtled by them. Ljees, the blue-crowned parrot who carried the Rajeem's summons, landed on the roof of Guru's wattle-and-daub hut. Both men stopped, for when the messenger bird came, attention had best be paid.
"Aal's Blessings," the bird said. It scuttled back and forth, turning its head from side to side so as to view them with both eyes.
"Aal's Blessings to you as well," Guru said.
"Come at once, milord Prince. Come at once." The bird preened for a moment.
"Lucky for you," Guru said to Djani. "Else you would be spending your afternoon applying balur to your many bruises. Even if I gave you one for every hundred sins, you would be black and blue from hair to toes." He made a dismissive gesture. "Go. We will continue this another -- "
"Guru comes too," the bird said, its voice eerily reminiscent of its trainer, the shapannon Arrinjes Darvet. Ljees repeated the message, then took to the air again, quickly disappearing over the trees.
The two men watched it vanish into the bronze sky, toward the bright morning sun. Then Guru Bruj looked at the Prince and said, "All right, let's go. The day is not growing any cooler, nor I any younger."
Or any more even-tempered, Djani thought, suppressing another smile.


Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

I'd know that was _your_ writing even if I found it on the floor of a room with a million typewriting chimpanzees...

Steve Perry said...

Uh ... thanks.

I think ...

Irene said...

Well, flipping through a collection titled 'Shadows over Baker Street', which I bought and read years ago and was just inclined to reread, I noticed one of the stories titled 'The Case of the Wavy Black Dagger', and thought, "Huh, that sounds like something Steve should have written." Funny...

Rory said...

You mentioned coffee after Orycon. I'll be in PTLD Saturday and free after 1600. Is there a good time/place?

steve-vh said...

Again with the booktease!

Steve Perry said...

Rory --

Saturday won't work for me -- I'm booked solid, including a birthday party for my grandson. We'll have to try again later.

Steve --

Well, that's part of what the blog is for -- to whet the appetite and have legions of folks waiting to buy the next book when it -- finally -- appears.

Assuming the folks waiting all haven't died while waiting, of course ...

steve-vh said...

Oh, I'm not complaining!