Stakes 10/11 (The Three Lands: Breached Boundaries #3) [Patreon fiction]

http://duskpeterson.insanejournal.com/279759.html

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As war thunders forth, a fleeing slave-princess discovers that all is not as she thought.

Endangered by her cousin the Prince, Serva must take refuge with a protector, for despite being the King's bastard daughter, she was long ago condemned to slavery. She has little power of her own.

But when she loses her best hope for protection, she must draw upon her strength to protect herself. Soon she will realize that others need her protection as well.


"I had not heard many words before I forgot all my scruples."

Rated T. Boilerplate warning for all my stories + my rating system.

All chapters in this novel. The first chapter is free. By donating as little as one dollar a month, you can receive a weekly serialization of my fiction, as well as all my new e-books.

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PREVIEW

The palace was silent. Sounds echoed throughout the dungeon, where I stood: groans from the wounded soldiers, the clatter of bowls being washed, chatter from the guards standing nearby. But nowhere was there music. The last of the wounded Daxions had been sent back over the border; the Spirit's power had disappeared from this land.

There was only one place where I could go to seek the healing song I required, and it was too late in the night for that. Although the Jackal appeared to be above such human necessities as sleep – he spent most nights in the hospital, helping the other doctors – Perry would be asleep by now, perhaps dreaming songs as Daxions do. I looked with longing for a moment at the lightly guarded entrance to the royal residence, then turned and began walking down the corridor that ran alongside it.

It took me some time to realize that this corridor was unlit. Then I found myself turning with astonishment to stare at the golden blocks that marked what had once been the exterior of the Koretian Council Hall. I had noticed on the first occasion I saw them how they seemed to glow in the shadows; now I realized that the glow arose, not from any reflection, but from some inner light. I reached out my hand to touch one of the blocks, and at that moment I heard singing.

It came, very faintly, from behind the wall. I had been able to hear it, I realized in the next moment, because the block I was standing next to was loose in the wall.

With my heart pumping hard, I looked back down the corridor. The guards had been standing inside the entrance to the royal residence when I left; from here, I could not see them. Touching the block, I found it to be both cool and soft, as though it were covered in moss. With a swiftness that came from long experience with these matters, I worked the block loose until I was able to grab hold of its edges and pull it out. There was no mortar to hinder me; this part of the palace seemed to be built without mortar. The next block was loose as well, and the next . . . After a few minutes' work, I had taken out enough blocks that I could pull myself through the waist-high hole I had just created.

There was no way for me to pull the blocks back in afterwards. I could only pray that the guards did not notice the luminous pile in the corridor and come to investigate. The gap in the wall, though, gave me just enough light to see that I was standing in a narrow corridor, barely wide enough for me to pass, and extending up into darkness beyond my sight. Directly in front of me was a ladder against the wall. All around me the winds sang their song.

This was too much for me; I felt as though the breath of the Spirit was heavy upon me. I had to remind myself forcefully that the King's palace was built in the year that Daxis was founded, that the Three Lands were all founded in the same year, and that the Koretian Council Hall might therefore have been built around the same time, perhaps even by the same architect. If so, the builder had taken care that both his designs should contain the same hidden passage.

As I scrambled up the ladder, I tried to remember the layout of the royal residence. The underground area, I knew, was where the servants' quarters were located, while the Jackal's quarters, the Council Chamber, and a few small guest chambers were on the topmost floor of the residence. The ground floor was the one I could not remember visiting. And so, more out of curiosity than anything else, when I reached the gap underneath the floorboards to this level, I squeezed myself into it.

The passage was quite cold and also very dusty, but to my relief I encountered no rats or other beastly defenders of their territory, just an occasional spider who scuttled away as my head broke its web. I could no longer see where I was going. After a while, I began to feel uneasy at crawling blindly into a passage I did not know; I no longer had the fearlessness of my childhood. In any case, the room above me was evidently empty, for I could hear no sound. I remembered now that it was the presentation chamber, used by the Jackal to receive his guests; it was unlikely to be in use at this time of night. Besides, I reminded myself forcefully, I had no business sneaking around the Jackal's palace. I was a guest here and was enjoying the Jackal's protection. It was time to leave.

So I thought, but in the next moment I heard a thump and then the sound of voices above me as two men walked into the room. And I had not heard many words before I had forgotten all my scruples and lay still on my stomach, listening to the men above with as much enthrallment as I had once listened to the Prince and his subcaptain.

Stakes 9/11 (The Three Lands: Breached Boundaries #3) [Patreon fiction]

http://duskpeterson.insanejournal.com/279265.html

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As war thunders forth, a fleeing slave-princess discovers that all is not as she thought.

Endangered by her cousin the Prince, Serva must take refuge with a protector, for despite being the King's bastard daughter, she was long ago condemned to slavery. She has little power of her own.

But when she loses her best hope for protection, she must draw upon her strength to protect herself. Soon she will realize that others need her protection as well.


"Occasionally his cool glance would rest on me, but never for long."

Rated T. Boilerplate warning for all my stories + my rating system.

All chapters in this novel. The first chapter is free. By donating as little as one dollar a month, you can receive a weekly serialization of my fiction, as well as all my new e-books.

Permalink.


PREVIEW

I looked around at the nearly empty table. "Is this the size of your council?"

"There is an official list of lords," said a voice behind me, "but in practice the council consists of whomever I can drag into this chamber at any given time to help me with the unrewarding work of running a government."

I looked back; the Jackal was standing in the doorway, smiling at me. Though even Hollis had taken the trouble to wear more than his usual work clothes, John was not wearing the free-man's weapon demanded by formal dress, nor had I ever seen him carry a blade except in the hospital. On reflection, I decided that for the hunting god to carry a weapon would be superfluous.

Dangling from his left hand was something made of stiff black cloth. A warm breeze made its way through the large window opposite; we were in the royal residence, which had Koretian-style windows. The breeze turned the object slightly so that I caught a glimpse of silver and gold paint.

This, then, was the Jackal's mask, the concealment that the ruler donned when he spoke with the voice of the god.

Early writings: "A Matter of Principle" (fantasy narrative poem, 1980)

http://duskpeterson.insanejournal.com/279436.html

The poem below was published in the 1980 issue of my high school literary magazine. It was one of a handful of fantasy narrative poems that I wrote in my mid-teens.

I wrote this poem at age sixteen or seventeen. By then, I'd fallen under the influence of the poems of Stephen Crane, about which I'd prepared a long report for my American Literature class. You can see me imitating in this poem the classic structure of a Crane poem.

I probably would have been better off during high school writing more poems like this. Not only did they help make me aware of my sentence rhythms, but they allowed me to actually complete the stories I was writing, something I was singularly poor at until my thirties. However, I was enamored with prose, so most of my writing during high school consisted of incomplete stories of fantasy or science fiction.

Here's the poem:

A Matter of Principle

The War of 1305
(As everyone says)
Is a remarkable one
In the history of Kleiku and Juid.
These two countries had been warring
For five centuries at least,
And who won
Depended on whether
The year was odd or even.

In N1305
It was Kleiku who won,
But instead of asking the usual tribute,
The king,
In an announcement that stunned the world,
Told the Juidans
They must give up their freedom
And become Kleikus.
Both countries were scandalized.

"It's not just a matter of tradition,"
Said a fellow Kleiku to his friend,
"Though of course both countries,
By common consent,
Have only asked tribute
Throughout the centuries.
It's a matter of principle.
We can demand their goods,
But not their loyalty.
No man has the right
To take another man's freedom.
It's against human rights.
Surely, even the king
Can see that."

So saying, he gestured,
And his slave brought more food.

Writing life: "Writers, we hide in the dark"

http://duskpeterson.insanejournal.com/279036.html

"There was a bit of a to-do yesterday on the ol’ Twitters about how artists and writers should follow their dreams with reckless abandon because life is short and you don’t have to play it safe so go quit your day job, so on and so forth. And I think there’s reason to see some value and truth there: life is short, and as the old saying goes, get busy living, or get busy dying. If you want to be an artist, or a writer, or a maker of any kind, the best time to begin that journey is *checks watch* now. Not tomorrow. And yesterday’s already gone. So: now.

"Great.

"Fine.

"Coolcoolcool.

"But also, you understand that you can be safe when you do that, right? Like, to learn how to skydive, you don’t need to actually construct a parachute on the way down. If you wanna learn to play the piano, you don’t quit your job and buy a baby grand and expect that you can tickle the ivories right into stardom on day fucking one, right? Like, there’s buildup. There’s an arc. A smart, savvy, and dare I say that boring-ass word again, safe rise to learning how to do the thing you wanna do before you expect for that thing to be able to support you. Actors wait tables. Artists sling coffee. Writers, we hide in the dark, hunting roaches for our vampire masters."

--Chuck Wendig: On Day-Jobs and Starving Artists.

The silence on my end has because I've been busy hunting roaches writing my first work-for-hire book. My assignment was to research and write a 2,000-word children's history book at four reading levels.

In seventeen days.

Hoo boy. This was like auditioning for a school play and being offered a job on an Off-Broadway production that's opening in seventeen nights.

It went fine! I'd do it again! And I didn't even have to sacrifice much of my blood!

(Actually, my editorial director is an absolute angel. This has been the best editorial experience I've had in my life.)

As you might imagine, I haven't had a lot of time for anything besides my day job and basic housework and eating and sleeping (and not as much of the last as I would have liked). But since I couldn't write or take research notes during meals, I got fiction proofreading done during some of those meals. So this is what I've done since you last saw me:

  • I proofread my holiday gift fic. (Yes, it was already written. I'm ahead of myself, for once.)
  • I proofread The Night Watch (The Three Lands).
  • I began the proofreading of the immensely long Empty Dagger Hand (The Three Lands).

Up next is the online editing of Death Mask (The Three Lands) and Hell's Messenger (Life Prison). Then I'll be into the final stretches of getting those novels completed. I'll also be working to finish the Darkling Plain omnibus ebook.

I give fair warning that, now that I'm actually picking up day-job assignments (I'm optimistic enough to believe there will be more than one), I'll have less time than I've had in recent months for blogging, other than announcing fic. If I only have five hours free in a week, I'm going to be spending all five of those hours working on a story, rather than spend a good chunk of them writing a blog entry. I'm sure some of you would prefer that. :) But I'll still be able to get the occasional blog entry out (*points to this entry*).