Monday, October 23, 2006

Lore Goes to Mâvarin, Part Three

This is the last of the already-typed draft for this prequel, at least in the main Word document. A week from now the real work begins.

To Rule Mâvarin

Fragments from a Work in Progress

by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2006 by KFB

Part Three

The carriage ride from Linmar to Odamas was both tedious and eye-opening. Lore had always known that Mâvarin was bigger than Mâton, but she was not prepared for the kinds of distances the Mâvarinû took for granted. It took three days just to reach the main northbound road, the same amount of time it took to cross Mâton on horseback—not that people used such mundane methods on Mâton very often. The selmûn carriage passed over a seemingly endless succession of rolling hills, broken only by the distant view of blue-grey mountains to the west.

Lore wished that their itinerary would take them somewhere half as interesting as those mountains looked. It did not. The northbound road that the one from Linmar dead-ended into was broader and better traveled, but not especially intriguing. It ran alongside a broad, rather muddy river, intermittently covered with barges. On both sides of the river were more hills and more valleys, covered with forests of maple and beech and sycamore, with cherry and later apple orchards, with cotton and later corn, with cows and with sheep. Occasionally the travelers came to a town or village, but mostly the land was rather empty of people, and very green. Lore wasn’t accustomed to seeing so few people in the course of a day, so many growing things and so few outcroppings of bare rock.

“Is all of Mâvarin like this?” she asked Genva one afternoon. They were riding past a small forest that lay to the west of the river Misis, and acre after acre of wheat fields to the east of it.

Genva looked puzzled. “Is all of Mâvarin like what?”

“Green and growing and empty. Your country seems to have an abundance of food, and hardly anyone to eat it. I doubt that we’ve seen a dozen people all day.”

“Oh! If that is what you mean, then the answer is no. Except for the outskirts of Linmar, you have not seen a real Mâvarin city yet; but we do have some. There are plenty of people to eat the food, I assure you.”

“Is all of your land this conducive to farming and ranching?” Lore asked. “Mâton is mostly rock.”

Genva shrugged. “Well, there are mountains, of course. Nothing grows on those but trees and grasses, and in some places it is bare rock. Even the land elsewhere in Mâvarin is not as good for crops as you may think. The soil to the west is largely clay, and near the sea it is mostly sand. Up around Odamas, the soil is full of stones. Our farmers work very hard to make things grow.”

“No charms?” Jere asked. “No selmûn magic?”

“Selmûn magic can only encourage growth, not make it possible,” Genva said. “The land must still be plowed and seeded, or nothing will happen. Plows do not cut through rock, and charms do not haul away the stones. However, some farmers do use charms to prevent frost damage, or to help a horse and plow cut into the soil more easily.”

“Most farmers cannot afford such things,” Gavin Cados said. Genva’s father had been relatively quiet during the journey, but he spoke up now. “Many would not use magic of any sort, regardless of the cost.”

“Why not?” Jere asked.

“People in this country tend not to trust magic or magicians,” Genva said, “particularly from Mâton.”

“That is especially true when crops and livestock are involved,” Gavin said. “They fear to eat enchanted food, lest they become enchanted themselves.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Lore said. “The enchantment on a plow or a field, or even a bag of seeds, wouldn’t carry over to the harvested crop, let alone the people who ate it.”

“Perhaps not, under normal circumstances,” Gavin said. “Can you swear to me, however, that no mage can, if he or she wishes, place a spell on a farmer’s field that will indeed affect the people who eat the resulting crop?”

Lore had no intention of admitting this was possible—which it was—but Jere was less circumspect. “I suppose it could be done,” she said doubtfully, “but it would be difficult to set up, and impossible to determine ahead of time exactly who the final subjects of the spell would be. Well, maybe if it was a small family garden you’d know, but it would be equally obvious who cast the spell. I can’t see anyone bothering with anything so impractical.”

“I can,” Genva said, “if the magician does not care who gets hurt. You all should know, if you do not know already, that there is great mistrust among the people of Mâvarin toward all magic and its practitioners. Their concerns are somewhat justified,” she added, raising one eyebrow slightly, “given past conflicts and present abuses, but they do not always have a rational basis.”

“In other words, ordinary people fear what they don’t understand,” Lore said. “That doesn’t surprise me. But you said they distrust all magic and magicians. Does that mean they don’t trust selmûnen, either?”

“Not all selmûnen do magic, and all of our magic is benign,” Genva’s father said. “Nevertheless, many of the King’s People do not trust us. We are considered meddlers, even spies. In many communities our people are barely tolerated.”

Lore was surprised by the candid admission. “Then I can see why you might seek an alliance with Mâton,” she said. “You have much to gain politically if this alliance works out.”

Gavin shook his head. “I think you misunderstand. The alliance is to be between Mâton and Mâvarin as a whole, not between Mâton and the selmûnen. We do not seed political gain for ourselves, but peace and security for the country.”

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lore Goes to Mâvarin, Part Two

I probably should have posted this last weekend, but you folks know how busy I was. I have a few more installments to post of scenes already written before I have to start adding to them.

To Rule Mâvarin

Fragments from a Work in Progress

by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2006 by KFB

Part Two

As the Mâvarin naval galleon Azure plowed through the last hundred yards of foaming blue water to its dock in Linmar harbor, Lore got her first look at the delegation from Odamas.

Lore leaned forward at the wooden rail, trying to get a better view of the people she had spotted, the ones who didn’t look like sailors or military officers. There were five of them, standing quietly on the wooden planks, watching intently as the Azure slid into its berth: two middle-aged men, a woman of the same vintage, and a girl and a boy on the edge of adulthood. Their faces were impassive. Their tunics and cloaks were grey, and so was their hair, even the teenagers’.

Lore already didn’t like them. Such dour, colorless people made even grumpy Master Morilon seem fun by comparison.

“Is that the selmûn welcoming party?” Jere asked, pointing.

Lore was startled. She hadn’t heard her sister’s arrival beside her. Before she could answer, a series of creaks and groans announced the ship’s arrival at the dock. Sailors jumped from the ship to the dock, and tied half a dozen ropes to half a dozen poles. The Azure came to a sudden halt. Lore and Jere grabbed the rail more tightly to regain their balance. The sailors scurried about, finishing the securing of the ship, reporting to officers on shore, and folding down two gangplanks: a wide one for cargo, and a narrower one for officers and passengers.

The grey delegation didn’t move.

“Yes, that’s them,” Lore said disgustedly. “A duller group of people would be hard to imagine.”

“You haven’t even met them yet,” Jere said. “Give them a chance.”

Sunestri came toward them on his long legs, his curly blond hair and beard waving in the harbor breeze. “They’re ready for us,” he said. “Are you two ready to be diplomatic?”

“Of course,” Jere said.

“As I’ll ever be,” Lore said.

The sisters followed Sunestri down the gangplank. The teenaged selmûn girl started toward them, her face lit with a sudden smile, but was halted by a one-word warning from one of the men. The word was “Genva.” As sunlight caught the girl’s hair, Lore saw that it was actually more blonde than grey.

Time to go be diplomatic, Lore thought. Sidestepping Sunestri, she stood before the selmûn delegation and bowed formally. As she came up, she made eye contact with the blonde girl, and flashed her a friendly smile. The girl smiled back.

“Greetings to you all,” Lore said. “I am Lore Cheneli, eldest daughter of Archmage Marnestri of Mâton. This is my sister, Jere.”

“And I am Sunestri, journeyman adept to Archmage Marnestri,” Sunestri added. “We are honored to meet you all.”

The selmûnen bowed simultaneously—well, almost. The blonde girl was a fraction of a second behind the rest in starting her bow, a fraction of a second ahead of them in finishing it.

“Welcome to Mâvarin,” said the eldest of the men. “I am Lord Arlin Cados, Lord of Odamas by lineage and acclamation. Please allow me to present my wife, Shada (the older woman bowed again), my son Shari (the teenaged boy bobbed his head), my brother Gavin Cados and his daughter Genva.” Genva smiled at Lore. Lore smiled back.

“As Sunestri said, we’re honored and pleased to meet you all,” Jere said.

“How soon are we leaving for Odamas?” Lore asked.

“We shall depart from Linmar immediately,” Lord Arlin said. “We have two coaches waiting.”

“Excellent,” Sunestri said.

“Just let us collect our luggage, first,” Jere said. Lore could hear her sister’s nervousness, and was surprised that she’d spoken at all. Jere didn’t talk to strangers very often, except to say whatever propriety demanded.

“We will help you,” Shari said. He turned back toward the dock, and Lore saw that their luggage was already piled near the cargo plank. Shari and Gavin picked up Lore’s trunk, and Genva helped Jere with hers. Lord Arlin went to speak to the coach drivers. A few minutes later, they were on their way through the city of Linmar. Sunestri rode with Lord Arlin and his wife and son, leaving Lore and Jere to travel in the second coach with Genva and her father.

“How long does it take to get from Linmar to Odamas?” Lore asked.

“It takes five days if you take the Sea Road and don’t make daylight stops,” Genva said. Her father raised one grey eyebrow at her use of a contraction instead of whole words. “Stopping at Mâshelamar or Liftlabeth can add as much as another day.”

“We shall not be stopping at either of those places,” Gavin Cados said.

“Is there any reason we would want to do so?” Lore asked.

“I do not think you would want to visit Liftlabeth,” Genva said. “There is absolutely nothing of interest in that village. Mâshelamar is rather nice, though. It is historically important, of course, and a haven for the arts. My mother grew up there.”

“Where is she now?” Jere asked. “Back in Odamas?“

“No. She is dead,” Genva said. She said it matter-of-factly, as if reporting the demise of a rat or wild bird.

“She died of a fever three years ago,” Gavin added. “Not even our best healers could save her.”

“Oh!” Jere said. “I’m very sorry to hear that.”

Lore was curious about Genva’s mother, but under the circumstances it seemed a bad idea to question Genva directly about her parentage. Instead Lore asked, “Are there many selmûnen in Mâshelamar?”

Genva shook her head. “Hardly any, I think. My mother was not a selmûn, as you may have guessed. She was Lida Percal, a noblewoman of the Twelve Families.”

Lore knew then that she had been right to cultivate Genva’s acquaintance. “I’ve heard of the Percal familty. As I understand it, there is no finer lineage in Mâvarin.”

“The name Selevar is currently far more prominent than the names Percal and Cados,” Lord Arlin said.

“True,” Gavin Cados said. “Furthermore, every name is less important than the character and actions of the person to whom it refers.”

“Meaning that I have a lot to live up to,” Genva said with a smile.

“As do I,” Lore said sincerely. “Nearly every Archmage of Mâton since the Founding was an ancestor of mine. I must be proficient in both magic and politics to follow in their footsteps.”

Lord Arlin frowned. “It is our hope that you and your family embark now on a different path from that of your ancestors. Theirs led to centuries of strife between Mâton and Mâvarin. Yours may well lead to a new era, one in which our countries are finally united in the common cause of peace and understanding.”

Lore wanted to laugh aloud at the selmûn lord’s naïve idealism, but she kept her composure. “Yes, of course,” she said. Unlike her father, Lore had no illusions about the best way to restore peace between Mâton and Mâvarin. The Mâvarinû needed to be taught, by any means necessary, that their country was by rights a colony of Mâton, just as its non-magical inhabitants were meant to serve people of talent. It was a lesson Lore looked forward to teaching.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lore Goes to Mâvarin, Part One

The following is the beginning of To Rule Mâvarin, the prequel to Heirs of Mâvarin. I've only written about eleven pages of it so far, plus notes and possibly some handwritten scenes...somewhere. I'm not going to try to write the whole book online, but I should be able to get a nice little serial out of the opening section of the novel.

I posted this first scene over two years ago, but I'm rerunning it here as a set-up for the weeks to follow.

To Rule Mâvarin

Fragments from a Work in Progress

by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2006 by KFB

Part One

The voyage from Sûtelmar to Linmar took three days. Lore and Jere spent most of it on the aft deck, looking back toward Mâton (not that they could see it, after the first morning) and practicing spells.

“I feel like a hostage,” Lore complained the second afternoon, as she and her sister worked on the final definitions for their illusory dragon. Six feet long, the creature of air and colored light looked almost exactly like the illustration of Londer’s mythical predatory reptile, except that it was three-dimensional and in motion; but they were having trouble adding the right sounds and smells, not to mention the flaming breath. “Look at this thing,” Lore continued. “By the time we’re finished, it will be as good as any illusion Sunestri or Jonono, or even Master Calavica could produce. We should be home getting Robed and Named. Instead we’re going into exile among Mâvarinû singers and sheep ranchers. It’s just not fair. We deserve better, both by birth and by what we’ve accomplished.“

“You’re not a hostage; you’re an emissary, and so am I,” Jere said reasonably. A year younger than Lore and less talented magically, Jere had a tendency to adapt to circumstances rather than try to reshape them, as Lore did. Lore never knew whether to be admiring or infuriated by her sister’s cheerful acceptance of whatever came her way. Usually, Lore was both. “This is an honor, not a punishment,” Jere said. “The future of both Mâton and Mâvarin may be shaped by what we do at Odamas.”

“I doubt that very much,” Lore said. “If we’re emissaries, then why are we being sent to Odamas instead of Thâlemar? Mâvarin isn’t ruled by the selmûnen. It’s ruled by the Selevars, and the rest of the Twelve Families.”

“The selmûnen have blood ties to the Twelve Families, and political power of their own,” Jere pointed out. “They’re also extremely influential all over Mâvarin because of the songs and stories their Wanderers spread throughout the country. If we can win them over, Mâton will have powerful allies.”

“Then we should just mindpush the selmûnen and be done with it,” Lore said. “Why waste time pretending friendship toward normals?”

“It’s not supposed to be a pretense,” Jere scolded. “Father wants Mâton and Mâvarin to be true friends, as they were at the founding, starting with us and the selmûnen. He specifically said no mindpushing. He wants allies, not slaves.”

“I think that’s incredibly soft-hearted of him, not to mention weak-minded. They’re only normals, after all.”

“They’re not all normals. I hear there are nearly as many magicians in this country, of some sort or another, as there are on Mâton. And that’s not counting the mages in their country who are loyal to Mâton, or the selmûnen, who have their own system of magic.”

“It’s not much of a system,” Lore scoffed. “Master Calavica says it’s all healing and protective spells, nothing interesting or useful.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you were sick or injured,” Jere said. She looked over at the dragon, lying neglected and half-forgotten as the sisters argued. “Look at that,” Jere said. “We’re been talking for so long that our dragon’s gone to sleep.”

“That means our third set of definitions is working,” Lore said.

“The dragon was only supposed to go to sleep if we stopped paying attention to the spell—which we did,” Jere said. “So, are we going to keep arguing, or and we going to finish the fourth set of definitions?”

Jere laughed. “Let’s get back to the magic. It’s the only thing that makes this trip bearable for me, and we’re never going to agree about the Mâvarinû, anyway.”

“Fine. How about this for a flame?” The dragon opened its emerald eyes, and spat a nine inch plume of yellow fire.

Lore nodded. “Not bad. Let’s see if we can improve on it, though. I want a good three foot flame at least, by the time we’re finished.”

To be continued...

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