Saturday, November 12, 2005

Fiction: Heirs of Mâvarin, Chapter One, Part One

The real deal!
Here it is: Chapter One, Scene One, Part One of the "final final" draft of Heirs of Mâvarin. Over the next couple of months I'll be posting two full chapters of this first novel of mine, 83 double-spaced pages.  I decided to do this for three reasons:

1. I want to give myself a break from writing new fiction every week, so I'll be free to concentrate on Heirs and/or Mages. The first has been almost ready for submission for several years now, and just needs a final tweaking.  The second one is a magnificent mess, but I've been making intermittent progress.

2. I want to promote the books themselves, even though I haven't actually sold them to a publisher yet. Hence the need for Reason #1.  

3. I want to show you my best work, as opposed to the flawed serials and the cryptic first person entries.

I'm a little nervous about this, to be honest.  If you don't care for it, I don't have the excuse, "Well, it's not my best writing!" to fall back on.  This is my life's work.  I started writing Heirs of Mâvarin nearly half a lifetime ago, under the title The Tengrim Sword [sic].  I have not worked on it every year since then, but I have worked on it every decade.  Heirs and I have come a very long way together, from high school student with a potpourri of mostly bad ideas to a mildly insecure writer with, I hope, a publishable manuscript.

I hope you like it.  A lot.

Oh, one more thing.  Being a novel instead of a serial per se, it has a somewhat leisurely opening, and doesn't necessarily have a cliffhanger every couple of pages.  If the ending of a particular installment seems a bit lame, that's why.

Karen

Heirs of Mâvarin
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2005 by KFB


Chapter One: The Tengrem


Moneldu, 5th Day of Dortem, 896 MMY

Rani FostHalf-hidden among the serrated green leaves of the beech tree, Rani Fost watched and listened as the tanner and the blacksmith rode by on the River Road below.

“We barely get there, and they send us back this way,” Bil Gorben grumbled.  “What a waste of time.”  Looking down at him, Rani was surprised how small his master looked, compared to the barrel-chested blacksmith.  Jord Baret had a taller horse, which made him seem even bigger.  The one feature the two men had in common was their scarred, leathery skin, a result of their respective trades.

“What’s a waste of time?” Jord asked.  “The backtracking?” 

Bil shook his head.  “Hunting the tengrem at all is a waste of time.  Tengremen have been seen before, although not usually this far north.  A few pilfered sheep, and they go away again.”

“You’re crazy, Bil,” Jord said.  “The creatures are murderous when they go wild, which is often.  My sister lives down south near Gathmak.  She’s told me of times when tengremen were spotted, and whole families disappeared.”

“Disappeared, eh?  How does she know they didn’t just move away?”  Rani couldn’t see Bil’s face any longer, but could well imagine the tanner’s sardonic smile.

“I’m serious.  Ameth told me of that time about twelve years back....”  Rani listened in silence as Jord Baret’s voice faded beyond the bend in the road downstream.  Had they been different villagers, he might have called out to them, but Bil wouldn’t approve of his lurking in trees, only an hour after being sent home from the tannery.  Like Rani’s mom, Bil wouldn’t want Rani to be outside at all today, not with a tengrem around.

Rani had come here anyway, because the ancient beech tree seemed like a great place from which to track the progress of the hunt.  As a child he had spent many hours here, usually with his friend Del, watching for invaders or marauders or bandits.  No such persons had ever appeared, and the days of pretending they might were long behind him.  But today, Rani’s old lookout post was an ideal place from which to actually see something.  It was the largest of the trees that lined the river, dwarfing the young maples and willows around it; and the long grey branch he sat upon was as sturdy as the day he had first climbed up to it.  From here he had a good view over the brambles and black raspberry vines to the broad, quiet waters of the River Misis as it made its way toward Liftlabeth from the great city of Thâlemar.  More to the point, he could see a fair distance along the River Road as it followed the Misis through the woods where the hunt was going on.

Rani’s view downstream was not nearly as good, due to a bend in the road around several large trees, but it hardly mattered.  That way was the village of Liftlabeth, its market square half empty today as the craftsmen and farmers either joined the hunt or went about their work at home.  Nothing interesting was likely to come from that direction.

“Waste of time” or not, Rani wished he could have participated in the hunt.  His mother had become distraught at the suggestion, so Rani had reluctantly agreed to be left behind.  She had also warned him to stay inside, but Rani had ignored this request.  It was bad enough that the hunters faced the tengrem without him.  If Rani chose to sit up here out of harm’s way, and watch for passersby, surely at fifteen he was old enough to do so.

His mom wouldn’t agree with that, of course.  Rani was still a year and a half away from his sword and his independence.  Even then, Rani knew, his mother would keep him safe at home if she could, or at the tannery.  Why couldn’t she treat Rani like the adult he almost was?

Rani looked at his arm, nearly a man’s arm after his recent spurt of growth, and fairly well-muscled.  Its skin, in stark contrast to his mom’s paleness, was as brown in winter as it was now in midsummer.  Rani frequently wondered who his father had been, and what had happened to him that would make his mother attempt such a tight hold on the son that remained.  He had asked all the questions in many different ways, but her answer was always the same: “He was a Southerner, and a good man, but he’s gone.  That’s all you need to know.”

 She never answered his questions about tengremen, either, despite Rani’s suspicion that she had once lived near Gathmak, the forest wheremost tengremen lived.  When he asked, she always changed the subject.  So Rani sought his information elsewhere. This is not the same tengrem.He had memorized both of the selmûn songs about tengremen that Shela knew, and analyzed every detail of tengrem lore his friends Del and Crel had picked up from their uncle.  Tengremen had first appeared just a few years before Rani’s birth, probably the result of some mage’s experiments.  Now the kingdom held hundreds of the creatures, mostly at the southern end of the country. They were said to be the most dangerous predators alive, heavier than draft horses, more temperamental than half-starved bears.  Their lower bodies were horse-like, but a second, almost human torso rose from the equine shoulder.  This upper body was furred like a bear, its hands had claws, and its wolflike head bore a single yellow horn centered above the eyes. The strangest thing that Rani had heard about tengremen was that they were more than just animals.  They were reputed to be almost as intelligent as human beings, even capable of human speech at times. 

The tengrem that the villagers were hunting today was the first one seen this far north in nearly a decade.  Suri Pelch had caught it chasing his sheep two days before, and had shot three arrows at it.  The tengrem had retreated, but further sightings in and around Liftlabeth had led Jamek Barst—the village mayor, and Del’s uncle—to organize the hunt.

Rani’s brief glimpse of the tengrem that morning had mostly confirmed what he had heard, but provided few additional details.  A distant roar, and the sound of people yelling, had told Rani that the hunters and their quarry were passing nearby.  He had sneaked out of the leather shop, and joined Del in the pasture behind his uncle’s stable.  Even from there, the tengrem was too far away for a good look.  Rani saw little more than its general shape, the four equine legs that ended in shiny black hooves, and the two great hairy arms that ended in pink-clawed, five fingered hands.  The head and torso were brown and furry, like a mountain man’s coat; the dirty yellow horn in the forehead was long and slightly curved, and the mouth (or perhaps the lupine nose) spouted fire as it ran. 

The tengrem had turned once to face its pursuers,and a horse shied as flame touched its legs.  Then the tengrem bolted for the woods at the village’s edge, and the hunters plunged in after it.



All art by Sherlock, copyright 2004.

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Related entry:

A Letter from Rithe Fost

1 comment:

ryanagi said...

Have you thought about writing a forward? A little something to explain the government, religion and political climate of Mavarin? I've been curious all through the first book and into the second about what things like "Moneldu, 5th Day of Dortem, 896 MMY" really mean? This is just one of many comments and questions I have. As soon as I'm done reading, I'll compile them all. LOL I'm on page 91 of the second book right now. 'Tis been slow going as my reading time is scarce.