2. Nameless, Newly Homed

At length, I was brought to a small oak door, and the Lordess stopped dragging me long enough to knock. She didn’t wait for an answer before opening the door. I could hear someone scratching out a letter at the desk on the other side of the room. I smelled the ink, and the heard the writer’s tapping foot. “Lordess?” the letter-writer asked. She had a woman’s voice. “Is that you?”

Lan and Wil started after me, but before they crossed the threshold, the Lordess shouted, “Stay! Stay right there! I’ll be back in a moment.”

They started to protest, but before they could get a word in, edgewise, she closed the door after me. I could hear them fidgeting, shifting from foot to foot on the other side. Exchanging nervous whispers.

The Lordess dumped on the floor between the letter-writer’s desk and the fire the crackled in the hearth. It bathed me in an orange gloom, and chased the cold from me with stinging pains.

The room inside was cramped. Each wall was smothered in shelf upon shelf of books. The whole place reeked of their yellowed pages.

That was new.

I didn’t like it.

“I told you to tell me who was knocking,” the letter-writer said. I could still hear her scratching out her note. “I said nothing about bringing me whatever wretch they brought with them.

I heard the one who brought me here shuffling her skirts, nervously. “Majesty,” the woman addressed to the letter-writer. “You don’t understand–”

“Lordess,” the Majesty interrupted the woman who had carried me here. “Just tell me who this is.” Every word was quick and resolute. Like an owling biting through bone. “Another child dumped on our doorstep? I’m busy. I thought I told you to–”

“He was nearly a Feral, Majesty,” the Lordess said. “If this one shows as much raw potential as the other– ”

The Majesty inhaled sharply, in surprise. “Is that so?” she mused. Her chair scraped back against the stone floor as she stood. Within two paces she was crouching over me. She was younger than the Lordess, and her long black hair tickled my nose as she bent over to get a better look at me. Her fingers whispered across my cheek. Then she tucked them between two fingers and turned my head. “Pieces of his mind are still tangled in the hound’s dead consciousness,” she muttered. “This one will be a handful. And you have your own duties to attend to, Lordess.”

“You cannot mean to leave him, Majesty!” the Lordess said.

“No,” the Majesty replied. “I do not. But we’ll need to make sure he can wake up before we pay for him. She turned my face to look into her eyes. “It should be a simple matter…” I saw something silver flash in her brown eyes. She was telling me something with that look. She just wasn’t using words. It was a reminder to me. A suggestion of something I was forgetting to do. I felt my mind falling up and into her irises with every silver swirl. “…to remind him he’s alive.”

That’s it. That was the command: Be.

The silver of her eyes dominated my vision, and then seeped past my pupils. It yawned through my veins, as warm as heated milk. I felt my fingers twitching. I flexed my hands, just to remind myself that I could.

And as soon as my hands were mine again, I seized the Majesty’s hand and bit, blood welling into my mouth.

She cursed, and pressed my forehead to the floor as I thrashed. Her hand slipped from my jaw.

I was distantly aware of the watchmen knocking. Calling for information as I kicked, uselessly.

I was clawing at her arm, drawing thin streaks of dead skin with my nails. She was wincing at this as she drew my close. Not close enough to bite, but close enough that I couldn’t turn my head away from her eyes.

The silver flashed in them again. I tried to shut my eyes, but she had anticipated that. Something in her wordless command convinced me that I couldn’t blind.

No. That’s not right. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could blink. Imagine forgetting the very concept of blinking. The idea of blinking even being something I could do just didn’t occur to me.

I would not appreciate her power until some years later, when I had a proper grasp on how it difficult was to wield the Silver to such totality. Just as I had forgotten what blinking was, the very concept of moving was soon wiped from me. My jaw and head fell back and I slumped, as useless as a ball of dough, into her arms.

The Lordess had her back against the door. Her eyes were wide. “What did you do?”

“What does it look like I did?” she spat. “I had to restrain him.”

The Lordess gave situation a once-over. I was dimly aware that Wil and Lan were shouting and banging on the door. “I don’t think they’re going to go away until we pay them. Should I…?” I heard her draw her long sword about three inches from its sheath. An indication of her meaning.

“Yes,” the Majesty hissed. “But give them a warning, first. No use being uncivilized about this.”

The Lordess nodded once. She bowed and then turned to leave. When her hand was on the doorknob, the Majesty added, “Fetch Val for me on your way back. This boy needs someone to clean the detritus of that hound’s consciousness from him. And be quick about it. I don’t want my construct to fall apart before she gets here.”

I stared for hours at the ceiling, listening to the fire in the hearth. To the Majesty’s ragged breathing. To Lan and Wil’s demands for payments, silenced abruptly by the Lordess’s unsheathing blade.

Lan and Wil made wet sounds, then. Like buckets falling into a well. The silence that came after was disquieting.

“Let’s hope that Val can repair you, little one,” she said. “For your sake, at least.”

I can’t say how long I lay there. But after some silence, my head fell sideways towards the Majesty. I saw she sat, crumpled against the wall. It’s hard to say whether I did this on my own, or if it was merely some chance twitch. Regardless, when she saw, her mouth quirked up into a grin.

“You’d better be worth it, boy.”

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C. M. Perry writer and lifetime sword enthusiast. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.  If you enjoy his content, you can buy him a coffee through Ko-fi to support his work and help him buy sandwiches.

1. Nameless, Memories

“Get the boy on his feet. We’re selling him at sunrise.”

I held those words in my mind as I lay strewn in the garbage, fighting for consciousness.

I cycled through all the ways I would take my revenge when this was over. Only they had broken the bond I’d forged with my hound that had been strengthening for years as a result of the New Gift. She and I had been throwing our minds into each others’ bodies for as long as I could remember.

So when the watchmen had plunged their daggers into her, I couldn’t extradite myself from her dying consciousness in time.

I imagine I must’ve had a life before then. How else would I have known what they were saying? But if I did those memories elude me.

The bigger man prodded my ribs with the toe of his boot. When I didn’t move, he said, “He’s not in any shape to walk.” He bunched my tunic in his fist, the fabric straining when he hauled me up. I could hear the fat, black flies swirling around my head as he lifted me out of the garbage. My neck craned back as the watchman raised me. He held me out at arms length, dangling there like a dead rat. “You sure he’s alive, Lan?

“O’course I’m sure,” Lan answered. “The kid was bound up in that dog. Probably had the New Gift. Must’ve been seven spells of a shock to sever their connection.”

“How do you know he’s not Feral?” Wil asked. “There’s no use selling him if he is.”

“Check his eyes, then.” Lan said.

Wil draped me over his forearm, and then leaned in close to pry one of my eyes open between two fingers. His breath was hot and stinking of braised flamingo tongues. “They’re gray. He’s fine.”

“See? You worry too much, Wil,” Lan said.

Wil tossed me over his shoulders as if I were a sack of flour. My breath caught on the impact. “So what? We take him with us until our watch ends, then sell him to the Magisterium?”

“And split the profit between us.”

“What about the hound?” Wil asked.

“What about it?” Lan answered. “Leave her. She’ll be a feast for the carrions.”

I struggled to remind my flesh that it wasn’t dead. My hound and I had spent ten years tangled up in my untrained magic. We’d grown up living in each other’s’ skins and minds, existing only from moment to moment. I have few memories of these years. They exist only as a thousand contextless images floating behind my eyes.

Stooping over the collapsed corpse of an emaciated beast, hands plunging towards its hide.

A filmy tongue sliding up my face.

Scratching paws against smooth cobblestones.

Weaving through towering adults smothered in cloaks trimmed with ermine fur.

 

My consciousness had been steeped halfway in her body when she died. I felt the daggers as they breached her skin, and though I was unharmed, my body had gone into shock all the same. I knew I was alive, but my flesh had yet to understand this. So I dangled there, carried by Wil the watchmen, waiting for the paralysis to end.

I was nearly catatonic as I jostled against Wil’s expansive back. I’d just lived through my first Death, but I would not forget those words. They were proof that I could become more myself. Get the boy on his feet. We’re selling him at sunrise. I held them like a precious bauble, sifting through every syllable.

I held my hatred, too. Clutched close my anger and grasped tight to my venoms. These were not good things, but at least they were mine.

* * *

The sun didn’t rise.

Rather, I didn’t see it rise. It was trapped behind bruised, purple storm clouds. But they didn’t let this stop them from selling me. The rain was spilling down by the time their watch was over. Their boots sliced the puddles apart in sheets.

The gates to the Magisterium were banded in burnished bronze that let out a bloody wail as they parted for Wil and Lan. “You see any sentries?” Wil asked.

“Does it matter?” Lan grumbled.

“Well, no but–but who opened the gates, then?”

Lan stopped walking. Wil made it three paces before he stopped and turned around. I imagine Lan was blinking astonishment at him. “Wil,” he said, “It’s the Magisterium. Why would they need sentries to open their gates?”

I’m not sure if Lan had meant that to clear things up. Wil only tightened his grip on me and answer, “Oh. Right.” Absently. I don’t get the sense he’d understood what that meant.

I still jostled against the watchman’s back. I was wet and cold and shivering as I dangled from Wil’s shoulders, unable to see the castle’s architectural wonder. I heard them speak in hushed voices, wondering at the scrollwork chased into the stone. Even as they wound down the path to the front gate, I could hear the muffled wails resounding in their bestiaries. Giant, trumpeting things like nothing else I’d heard in my life.

Wil must’ve heard it, too. “Let’s be quick about this,” he said, and in a moment I was slamming into Wil’s back in wider arcs as his strides stretched even longer.

I heard Lan hammered his fist against the entrance three times. “Open up!” he rasped. “We’re going to catch a chill out here!”

There was no sound. He pounded again. “Open this door!” he shouted.

“Lan,” Wil said. “Try the knocker.”

Lan’s leather gloves squealed over the brass ring set into the door. He rammed it down so hard that I thought I heard the echo on the other side. Then the muffled sound of scuttling boots. A piece of me had wanted to panic, but I was too busy fumbling for my hound’s nonexistent consciousness. My senses grasped at the world uncertainly.

The door shrieked open. Wil and Lan stared at the figure in the entryway. Nobody spoke. Then Lan realized she’d been waiting for him to speak. “Lordess,” he addressed her, “We–we heard the Magisterium accepts children with the New Gift?” He had meant it like a statement, but his voice raised uncertainly toward the end.

“Yes,” the Lordess said.  

Another beat of silence passed before Lan realized she didn’t have anything more to say. He elbowed his partner. “Show her, Wil.”

Wil dumped me carelessly onto the floor, face up. Arrows of rain fell onto my face.

The woman frowning over me had deep-set wrinkles on her brow. She had a long blade sheathed in a leather scabbard hanging at her belt. She rearranged her skirts so that she could crouch over me. She looked like a collapsing tower as she knelt, knees popping. “Where did you find him?”

“On the street,” Lan answered. “He was connected to a hound. Only the New Gift could do something like that.”

I wanted to rage and scream. I strained to bite the nearest scrap of flesh and run. But my limbs would not obey me. Her callused hand scraped across my cheek. “How do you know that?” she asked.

“He was close to Feral when we found him. He’d stolen rations off a nearby merchant’s cart.”

“The hound,” the woman said. “Where is it now?”

“Dead,” Lan answered, frowning. “That shouldn’t matter, though.” There was an angry edge to his voice. “The Magisterium has no use for dogs.”

The woman’s eyebrows travelled up into her bangs. “Our needs are not known to the likes of you,” she said. She lifted me up enough to get a good grip on me before she dragged me through the threshold. Her fingers dug into my armpits as she hauled. Breathless, she said to the watchmen, “Are you coming? I assume you’re wanting compensation!”

They exchanged a look, and scurried inside. The two trailed behind me as I was dragged through dim corridors lit with crystal chandeliers, and reinforced with flying buttresses. They seemed to shrink from the fear of their own echoes as they travelled with me into the depths of the Magisterium.

Table of Contents

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C. M. Perry writer and lifetime sword enthusiast. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.  If you enjoy his content, you can buy him a coffee through Ko-fi to support his work and help him buy sandwiches.

How to Write an Arthurian Urban Fantasy in 800 Words or Less

THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING
Pictured: Louis Ashbourne Serkis (Alex) Hugging Patrick Stewart (Merlin) in the upcoming film, The Kid Who Would Be King (2019). To be fair, that would be my reaction if I got to hug Patrick Stewart.

Happy 2019, folks!

I’m doing something different this year. As some of you may be aware, I wrote 100K words of fiction over the past two months, and learned the value of planning that kind of stuff out. I’ve been a fairly prolific writer since Middle School, and I’m always looking to improve myself.

And after doing some thinking, I’ve decided that this year I’d like to help others get more prolific. To that end, I’m going to be walking you through my process to generate new ideas. Feel free to use any of them. If they work for you, great! If not, there will be another one up on Wednesday!

I’m here, I’ve got my morning coffee, and I’m ready to come up with some ideas. One problem: where do we start?

Well, I’d like to start today with just a concept. I was recently directed towards the trailer for an upcoming film: The Kid Who Would Be King. And while the trailer referencing Night at the Museum and Percy Jackson and the Olympians doesn’t reassure me about that film’s quality, I do like the central conceit: a child from the modern day as a neo-King Arthur.

Side note: neo-King sounds like a really cool title. Someone write a book with that title, stat.

So what can we do with this?

Well we can tweak it a bit to make it our own for a start. (Because as we all know, no writer has ever stolen an idea from another writer….right?)

We can start by aging up the character a bit. It’s one thing for a child actor to portray our neo-King (Queen?). It’s quite another to live in that character’s head. And I can remember being sixteen or seventeen better than I can anything from Middle School.

But hey, if it worked for Harry Potter, I suppose you can make your character younger if you think you can pull it off.

Next, I want to extrapolate on that family theme we see here and there in the trailer. Can we pull from the Da Vinci Code and weave an Arthurian bloodline into this story? Can we have a Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Pendragon? Family has always been an important theme in Arthurian literature. Almost all the knights are somewhat related. There are few among the ranks of the Round Table who can’t also find a cousin or two amongst them. How can we reflect that.

Hell, we’ve got enough conceptual material already for a short story: what does Thanksgiving dinner look like at the House of Pendragon?

How many other knights and/or characters from Arthurian literature survived to the modern day? How messy does that Thanksgiving dinner get? Could that be our opening scene–or somewhere close to the opening. George R. R. Martin began his story with a King dropping by his main characters’ home for a feast. Would we be able to pull off the YA equivalent of that?

I imagine it must be YA. How can draw attention to this as a family drama by-way-of-fantasy that hasn’t been done before? What can we say with this story that hasn’t been said before? The YA genre is infamous for its portrayal of hapless adults. From Gilderoy Lockhart to the districts in the Hunger Games, it’s often teens who take center stage.

Can we subvert this with this story? How long has our main character known about their heritage? Are they next door neighbors with the ancestors of Morgana Le Fay? Or perhaps there are descendants of some more obscure Arthurian villain like King Vortigern or the giant Ysbaddaden?

And finally, how do we approach our villains? For my money, too much modern Arthurian media paints characters like Morgana and other villains with too little sympathy. I’m not a fan of easy answers, and while imagery of skeletons on horseback riding into battle absolutely rocks, it may not make for the most compelling story. It’s an easy way out. How can we make our villains feed into the nature of the familial aspect of this story?

Which isn’t to say you can’t have imagery of skeletons on horseback and moral complexity. In fact you should do that. You should absolutely do that.

What do you think? Am I copying too much from the trailer? Have I made it sufficiently original? Have you written anything Arthurian? Got any ideas from this article? Let me know in the comments below!

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C. M. Perry writer and lifetime sword enthusiast. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.  If you enjoy his content, you can buy him a coffee through Ko-fi to support his work and help him buy sandwiches.

How I Wrote 100K Words in 2 Months and Why It’ll Never See the Light of Day

2018 was far from my most productive year, all told.

This is due in part to my attempt to taper off some medication I’ve been since I was in grade school. I had wanted to see how I functioned without them back in May, but in the process I spent an entire summer with severe hypochondria where most of my time was dedicated to Urgent Care visits instead of the things I loved. It took until September for a friend to convince me that I wasn’t going to improve without the aid of medication, and at that point it took only a few weeks to stabilize onto that.

You’ll some of that reflected in early chapters of Between Death and Dreams. Early suggestions of “tapering through this” were meant to be a shot at suggested a wrong-headed mentality that Peter would have to grow out of.

The problem was, I realized I wasn’t getting my work out fast enough. I didn’t know if he would have a chance to get stuff done. I’ve always had a tough time sticking to one project, as anyone who’s taking a look at this website’s archive over the past three years can surely attest.

Going into November, I knew I needed to shake things up. I knew there needed to be some way that I could get more material on the page. Someone suggested that I outline my work. This immediately terrified me. As I’d been told all my life that outlines “stifle creativity” or “make the work feel inauthentic.

Curiously, I’d never before noticed that the same people who told me this also never really wound up finishing their stories, either. I decided I would plan out the next week of material for Between Death and Dreams. One problem:

I didn’t know what constituted “a week of material.”

To solve this, I checked my schedule for the next week. This would be the last week of October, and I had more free time than usual due to some cancelled classes. By the end of the day I had a decent amount of the story outlined, and I proceeded to block a certain number of scenes for myself over the course of the next week.

I told myself that I would have twenty four hours to write every scene I had blocked out for each day, and when those twenty four hours were up I had to move on to the scenes that were schedules for the next day, regardless of if I was finished or not.

I got every scene written inside those twenty four hours. And I wrote so much more than I had since before May that over the course of a weekend I plotted everything out up to the end of Between Death and Dreams.

This allowed me to win Nanowrimo in November, and I won my own personal unofficial version in December. It was then that I finished writing the 100K word first draft of Between Death and Dreams.

I realized two things.

One: although I’m currently good at putting scenes together, without an outline, I’m not yet great at making them coherent. A lot of my early material clashed heavily with the latter material. These were problems that I could not untangle from the story, and were crucial to the development of early plot points. The stakes of the story became muddled, and tension in places was almost nonexistent due to the sheer unclarity of it all. I’d written myself into a corner with the unplanned early chapters, so even when I planned things out, there were unclear scenes, stakes, magic systems and worldbuilding that I was horribly dissatisfied with even after I finished.

I am sure that this was the cost of the lack of outlining in the beginning. I just clashed so much with myself, and never looked for the bigger picture until the moment came. I hadn’t seeded anything correctly, so some options were not available to me due to the serialized nature of the stuff I put on this website. I wasn’t sure if I could salvage it.

It was bad, you guys. And I knew I could do better. I knew you guys deserved better. I’m glad I wrote it, I’m glad I discovered how productive knowing what happens next can be. But trust me, you don’t want to see what a mess it turned out to be.

Between Death and dreamed will be going on something of a hiatus on here. I can’t say for how long. I’ll probably take another shot at writing it someday, but for now, unless I’m ready to completely overhaul the entire story to the point that it’s unrecognizable, I doubt I’ll be doing much with it. I wanted to apply these lessons, though. And I wanted to take the time to do it right.

So I put the Mythlings on hiatus for the past few weeks. And I’ve spent that time outlining something new. I want to have an outline for the entire project, and my plan is to be as thorough as possible with the worldbuilding for this story. I know everything that’s going to happen so I can correctly seed the right information. I know how the story is going to end.

I hope you all had some happy holidays, wishing you a fantastic new year–and I hope to see you again in 2019!

 

 

 

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