Plots? Your choice of genre can sometimes define the complexity. I would never try a mystery or thriller they seem to require an attention to detail and structure which are beyond my capabilities. Fantasy seems to beg a complexity of its own, mirroring the apparent political interactions of our own previous historical eras. Maybe it was my own innate impatience coupled with an intolerance of the machinations seen in some series that had me veering off in other directions. Historically there were no perfect plans, everyone came unstuck at some stage and not by some dogged hero acting alone. In fact historically Humanity has been prone to chaotic dealings, lurching from crisis through aggression, complacency or error. That seemed a better backdrop for me, along with a few bits of grit in the machinery (in my case the Three central characters, who in turn would be shoved off course by events not directly involving them).
Thus the plots as such were fairly basic, really. Three young women pitchforked into a set of circumstances, the ramifications of which led to another, which in turn caused a big ruckus across local realms of Time and Space. They bonded in differing ways and prevailed. They had their varying times on stage, and matters were left with them looking to their respective futures undiminished and confident. ‘And that took three volumes of 650,000 words????‘ you might well ask. Actually yes, because the challenges, adventures and developing they experienced were taking places against various backdrops.
There never was, nor intended to be an epic linear storyline. Arketre, Karlyn and Trelli were never going to save The Empire, defeat the entire cast of villains, make the whole world a better place or one of them rule an entire nation. They were always frontline sloggers, albeit rising through the ranks, they didn’t even achieve imperial-wide fame or rushed from one crisis to another because only they could do the job. Their tales were all about adapting, surviving and growing closer in varying ways. And of course ending these episodes well.
This was about the various bondings of the three main characters, how their paths crossed with their first challenge and the ramifications thereupon, leaving the ground open to Volume 2. As with most Fantasy works things are not just left with one book, therefore there were plenty of loose ends to carry into Volume 2. The villains were fairly weak but that was a deliberate satire on the hordes grinning, monologuing perfect-plot-until-the-last-chapter characters that stalk books, comics, tv shows and films and quite frankly are boringly predictable. The main threats coming more from accidents, forces of Nature, incompetence of various folk and the command structure of Arketre’s own LifeGuard. The survival and triumph of the trio of women was thus one over Circumstances, The Unforeseen and their own fears, rages or misjudgements. The romance just grew out of the narrative and was actually the last piece to fit into the book. And the ending was more of a pause for the three to catch their breath and evaluate just how far their had come. Why not? What’s wrong with having three folk journey through a mire of confusion and come out the other end intact, and growing. You might even call it a ‘Road Trip’ book.
Volume 2 ‘Skirmishers’
This started where ‘Patchwork’ left off. Arketre and Karlyn in one place, Trelli in another and other folk propelling them into situations. This time there were not so much ‘villains’ but more emphasis on groups with their own agendas, and the complex, sometimes unintended interactions of these. This created a turbulent environment which the three women were obliged to navigate, embrace, survive in and sometimes influence. Each had their own new set of challenges. Karlyn, her heritage, Arketre the conflicting emotions of war and Trelli keeping the potential of her Ethereal abilities under her control and not vice-versa. Another theme I brought in was an age old-one in Military History, a seemingly superior force coming unstuck because the defenders were adaptable and motivated, while the invaders were faced with a difficult environment and the front-line troops were uncertain of why they were there. The demonic Zerstorung were a constant but as a malevolent opportunistic force. However the theme was ‘No one is ever has complete control of a situation. There are no perfect schemes. There are no constantly overwhelming forces. All is variable‘ . In the final pages up pops a twist, a piece of satire on the double standards men employ when dealing with women and how Arketre in particular takes a moral advantage of this.
This coalesced out of three ideas. Firstly the fearful battles around Stalingrad in 1942/43 the allegory would be Arketre’s . Secondly Karlyn’s heritage and reason for her being ‘here’. Thirdly Trelli’s involvement in the politics of the Silc family of Elinid, which stemmed from her concern over Wigran, arguably the one who gave cause to the whole companionship. My interest in the military and political aspects of various wars played heavily here, since the narrative moved around several locations and involved a number of groupings. Overall the picture was meant to look chaotic and at times the decisions quite incomprehensible; a reading of any history of any conflict will show this to be true reality. Since most of the narrative was seen from each woman’s standpoint it was difficult not to make them out as omnipotent saviours or as ‘wise’, while balancing out their strengths and virtues; thus they were never truly in charge of any big picture, constantly reacting and often getting the better of folk but equally being shunted around until eventually they are able to find their own stable, respected places.
The journey was long, thanks to the characters bother major and supporting it was completed on high notes and the deserving folk intact. Of course there was no grand finale in which everything was wrapped up; there were loose ends, for there may be other tales.
Outline: Karlyn has a variable link with the Reality of the World of these books. This turns out to be literal. She would like to be the trickster, thief, jester, free-spirit and commentator of the group, only as we all know what we want to be and who we turn out to be are often quite different things.
Preamble: The following action takes place in a run-down town of Yermetz. It has come to the attention of the local normally easy-going Translator Pastoral (think senior priest of the town) ClnMyla that something very untoward has been going on and could lead to a Zerstroung (think demonic) incursion. Reluctantly he calls in a long-term associate Custodian (ie Inquisitor) Meradat, a solid, independently minded fearsome fellow to assist. As they approach the building suspected as being the point of possible incursion, they find it in flames. From out of an alley behind them appears a figure who is pleased with the event:
ClnMyla was first to the conversation, he did not want Meradat causing this possibly unusual person to go all skittish and run.
‘Pardon me for appearing slow. But would you be after claiming the responsibility for this conflagration?’
This caused the person to rise from their slouch and frown, arms unfolding and straying down to a sheathed blade.
‘Just said, didn’t I?’ they leant forward, light from the blaze revealing high cheekbones, teeth slightly bared ‘I set fire to that nasty place. Just like I’ve done with others before,’
Closer inspection revealed soot stains upon her face, hands and clothing and a stronger cloying aroma of smoke than you would expect from a simple background conflagration. ClnMyla felt there may be something to her claim.
‘So, you’d be making a career of this then?’
‘Yeah,’ she waved a hand at them ‘Like you holies, it’s my vo-err-voc—’
‘Vocation,’ intoned Meradat, she nodded in response ‘And by your accent am I correct to assume you have journeyed northwards all the way from the Blaggatinia in the Southern Peninsula, burning down places along the way?’
‘S’right. Right up from Elinid,’ she spat, quite profusely, narrowly missing clerical shoes ‘Rot-it-to the-Fifth-Hell,’ a pause to scratch their scalp ‘I’ll go back there one day an’ burn the whole damn place down,’
Meradat was normally a man given to action, either physical or verbal on the basis assault took the foe off of their guard, however this person presented a collection of questions which he felt, just this time, might be better dealt by his colleague. ClnMyla was of course all for talking.
‘Well now Miss, I take it, it is Miss,’ the new arrival nodded, sniffed and followed up by a wiping of nose on sleeve, which he took as a perverse sort of defiance on being identified as a girl. ‘Just what would be bringing you on such a task?’
The girl raised her head, a feral smirk about her face.
‘Told ya. My mission. I can smell nasty business I can,’ a quick shrug ‘Not the robbing and cheating sorts, but that dirty creepin’ Whychie stuff, the stormhiggle,’
‘Stommigheid,’ Meradat corrected and only being able to restrain himself from interrogation or accusation for very short interludes, loomed in asking ‘And just how do you burn things?’
ClnMyla winced, one odd answer here and the girl could be on the wrong end of an official Stommigheidate accusation. She patted her back pack.
‘I got all I needs in here. All the natural stuff wot will burn anywhere and anyhow. I can set fire to a riverbank if I fancies,’
After a hasty glance to Meradat, ClnMyla put on his most disarming smile.
‘This scenting of things?’ and he let the question deliberately hang there, letting her have her say.
‘I just do. It’s a gift and I makes the best use of it. Soon as I got the chance to get out of the sproggle hole Elinid and into the open where I could think and smell straight, everything became very clear, an’ since then,’ she shrugged, to look back to the fire, losing herself in the sight, one hand idly tugging at her shirt.
ClnMyla moved between her and the flames, his attention determinedly fixed in a kindly manner, time to calm her down and learn more about the wheres and the whys.
‘Well this is good news to our stretched and tired hearts. Another to the fight. My new cook, she’s fine at her calling and a most devout lady, will be only too glad to prepare you a decent meal and a hot brew. Would you be caring to accept the invitation?’
At the mention of food there was a low gurgling noise from the girl’s midriff and a swift lick of her lips, although her expression was guarded.
‘No funny-bunny business?’ she asked, eye narrowing and hand settling on the sheath ‘No having me take off all my clothes to check for sinful marks? No creeping up to me at night with your trousers off and nightshirt up?’
ClnMyla was fair certain Meradat’s nasal inhalation and subsequent exhalation of anger at such accusations had caused two attendant drafts. These being a precursor to a combination of tirade and apology against the ways of lax, unworthy and thrice-wretched members of The Ecclesiastes who indulged so and how he had dealt with those he had apprehended.
‘Ah, now you’ve started him off,’ explained ClnMyla ‘He’ll be going on about his colourful notions on how to cleanse our wayward brothers-in-faith and what’s wrong with the ruling councils. This will likely be the background to the short journey to my abode and the decent meal I assured you of. For certain of the Good Lord God you’re looking as if you need one,’
The girl considered her feet.
‘Yeah,’ she rubbed her stomach ‘Am a bit empty. I’ll chance it,’
‘Grand. I’m Translator Pastoral ClnMyla, this fellow with the formidable vocal chords is Custodian Meradat, and you’d be calling yourself?’
‘Karlyn, Karlyn Nahtinee,’
Before ClnMyla could make further comment, the burning roof fell in, Meradat announced there was no more to be done as the blaze had accomplished The Lord God’s work, and Karlyn Nahtinee was shepherded away.
The translator pastoral was interested to recognise in his associate, concern as opposed to the usual Custodianal displeasure. Firstly, on returning to ClnMyla’s abode Meradat had merely dismissed the three translators with the curt observation they had work to do amongst their communities, so they were obliged to leave the light supper and scuttle out into the night. Secondly, he had been quite willing for Widow Darroe to see the girl into the kitchen and had not even bothered to ask ClnMyla if the arrangement between Widow Darroe and Servant Harrdel was a ‘correct one’. Instead he had ushered the translator pastoral into the man’s own reading room, where he at least allowed ClnMyla to sit down before he started.
‘Let us ignore your previous mistakes in this matter,’ Meradat did not wait for any other opinion on the matter ‘And look at the issues to hand. We have a man who in his vanity has peered into places far beyond his capacity to handle, thus panicked and fled. Then, appears a strange young woman claiming an ability to trace such practices. The initial evidence suggests her close affinity to fire,’ ClnMyla had to agree thus far ‘This affinity itself raises issues which will need to be addressed as will her other claim to burn places at her whim,’ at this juncture he stopped ClnMyla reckoned there was an internal argument taking place. Meradat paced, hands firmly clasped behind his back. The Custodian stopped at the window and stared out into the damp and dirty night.
‘So, if she is as she claims, although the risks are great and the weaponry to be handled very carefully there is no doubt The Lord God has delivered unto me the means to do battle,’
Problems and issues assailed ClnMyla. Still out of breath he only half-rose.
‘Now Meradat my long-time associate in perils. You’ll not be thinking of taking a possibly unhinged young girl on one of your steely and messy jaunts? I was nice enough with her to her face, particularly with all that hardware she’d be carrying. But between ourselves. Sweet Mercy of The Good Lord God. For all we know she might be a little runaway dreamer who latches onto any event and claims it for her own doings. I’ll even wager she believes she can hold conversations with flowers, trees and the more pleasant of insects,’ ClnMyla felt inclined to add a warning to the next part ‘And how can you be certain she’s not been sent to discredit you? You’re not the most popular of fellows amongst your own ranks, upsetting your superiors and equals with your assertions of corruption, nepotism and laziness. You’ve seen off five assassination attempts to my knowledge. So, they try the discrediting. What could be worse than a middle-aged experienced Custodian being made a fool of by a waif of a girl. It’s happened before, mind you from what I be hearing those were for more natural reasons,’
Meradat’s face grew taught and flint sharp, winter grey eyes became hooded.
‘I am aware of all their potential tricks. And I have already started to observe the girl,’
‘observe the girl….???’
ClnMyla knew from experience as far as Meradat was concerned there was the end of this part of the argument. The man fought his war on more than one front. And ClnMyla had to admit Meradat really did have a certain perception for these Stommigheid matters. Meanwhile the Custodian was continuing.
‘Let’s return to whatever this absent fool saw. Did his dabbling offer a pathway to those from The Zerstorung who would destroy this world and replace it with a Hell? This is one in a line of recent indications I have encountered,’ he settled into a very grave expression. ‘Ideal for some clutch of degenerates daring to move beyond their own debauched covens. And yet although the Stommigheid is a bane, it is capricious in its unpredictable tydes and tempests, thus the girl could well have been swept here for a purpose. I must speak with her now. You may rest,’
‘Meradat can be fearfully accurate in his summations… the man has been walking very strange paths for many years, undergoing the facing of the most peculiar of information and experiences. Small wonder he leaves confusions in his wake. I don’t know. I’ll have enough to be doing with the authorities and gangs being a nervy as frogs about a fire; and neither wanting to be useful, while suspecting each other. I think this role is getting to be more than one man’s work; pastoral indeed. Mind you, he has a point about resting; it will do no harm to be resting my eyes for just a fifty or so….
Meradat watched the man drift into a doze. For all his imperfect inclinations to Compassion and Tolerance, Translator Pastoral ClnMyla was as best as could be hoped for in a declining Ecclesiastes. You could never predict the allies and soldiers The Lord God would send in the ongoing struggle with The Zerstorung. Another battle to thwart the unceasing attempts to break into the World Physical and bring its hideous domination.
With her noteworthy gear piled into a corner Karlyn was perched upon a kitchen stool working her way through a meal of stew and extra portions of vegetables. Widow Darroe managed the feat of wrinkling her nose at Meradat in a respectful fashion.
‘The young woman should have the comfort of a bath and bed too, Your Revered Sir,’
‘Sadly, good woman, there is little time. The requirements to be of service to the Lord God are pressing. Now then, Maid Karlyn,’ who looked up from her meal, briefly scratching her short dark hair.
And possessed of a full mouth.
‘Very well. Eat. But with all dignity. Now listen well, and bear in mind I will expect an answer,’
‘Mumphh-huhmph,’ she said still attending to the stew.
He drew from his large and pocket rich coat a slender black leather book; the custodial axe inscribed in gilded lettering. Sitting opposite her, he skimmed the tome across the table to her.
‘Pick up the volume, maiden,’
The need to shovel another spoonful of stew took precedence, but following she did pick up the volume, sniffed at it and having looked admiringly at the cover put down her spoon. While she chewed in a very demonstrative manner, Karlyn thumbed through the pages, ending her survey with a very obvious swallow and a wide grin.
‘Hey. I like these prayers about burning wicked folk!’
‘Encouraging,’ he picked up the book and waved it at her, she followed the progress as a cat watching a jewelled necklace ‘This is a copy of The Ministrations of the Obliteration. Written in sacred ways, passages formed with invention to confront doubts and aberrations, set in inks pure. The tainted, the foolish and the evil become most agitated reading its pages.’
He was one to strongly deny there was even the slightest hint of Stommigheid in its construction.
Widow Darroe passed a comment which she kept wisely inaudible and excused herself. To her mind, The Official Custodianal idea of sacred and pure could be mistaken by ordinary folk as the determination to wreak havoc and terror; but the girl seemed most casual.
‘Recite unto me a maiden’s prayer,’
Karlyn pulled a long face, the stew was beckoning.
‘Dunno much. Where I lived they never encouraged ‘em,’
Meradat glowered, not so much at her, but at a place many leagues distant and many years passed.
‘Yeah. Told you. Where I lived, we weren’t encouraged,’
‘Even with a vulgarity inserted, it was sincere enough,’ he had had enough experience of the panic and haste of the other sort. He had met many types in his long and turbulent career trying to weave, worm or scuttle their ways out of the Justice of The Lord God. This young woman did not seem the least bit troubled by his office. She did not use the official address which was as interesting as it was refreshing. ‘So, are you ready to work for The Lord God?’
‘Yumf,’ stew again.
The response was quite emphatic; just the style you’d expect from the rare irreverent yet direct sort. He continued, while observing, carefully. It was interesting to note although she consumed her meal with all the speed and indelicacy of a beast of prey, she did so with an accompanying feral grace. All the while maintaining a casual composure, as if being interviewed by a Custodian was a mere commonplace.
He pressed on.
‘How long have you had this gift to scent out evil?’
‘’Bout three years. Just came to me, it did,’
‘How did your family react?’
‘Haven’t got one,’
‘An orphan then?’
‘Dunno. I was washed up near Elinid in a ship wreck. Forgot stuff,’
Another Preamble : This takes place a little later when Custodian Meradat endeavours to escort Karlyn out through a curious crowd in what is usually an acceptable manner of The Cowed and Frightened or (defiant) suspect- Karlyn makes much more of it:
‘Look. Could we not have the young girl there disguised as a heretic and you’ll be taking her, looking as a Him for interrogation,’
Karlyn much refreshed by food clapped her hands and did a little jig.
‘Oooh playtime. I loves playtime and dress-up. Can I have a moustache and a beard and swagger,’ she stuck out her midriff and puffed out her cheeks and was about to demonstrate her vocal abilities, when Meradat pointed out, very sonorously heretics did not swagger in a clownish fashion. Karlyn, mused and agreed. ‘Alright then I’ll be a noodley-hutch,’ twirling her right index finger near to the side of her head.
ClnMyla and his servant exchanged unhappy and fatalistic glances.
Meradat rolled his eyes.
The door of the abode swung inwards and there in the lamplight stood The Custodian, in his full imposing height and an iron badge in the shape of an axe of justice hung ominously about his neck. In his firm grip upon one shoulder a small hooded figure who twitched and seemed to cackle.
Meradat did not normally care for this sort of theatricality but he did have a sense of duty, bordering on friendship to ClnMyla and so once more was going along with one of the Pastoral Translator’s whimsical schemes. This one did have a measure of economy and plausibility.
‘One side,’ he boomed ‘A heretic hast been apprehended in your town,’
At this point Karlyn squeaked and waved her fingers in flapping motions about her head.
‘Oooh All praise the…’ she stopped, suddenly stuck for a suitable heretical statement, luckily for her the febrile imaginings of the crowd were rich in possibilities.
‘All the burning. He’s got one of them Gervalons.’ screeched a woman ‘Oh Good Lord God help us, there’s Gervalons here. Come to burn us all in our beds!’
And a flurry of cries went up demanding all manner of very painful and bloody executions at once, fuelled by Karlyn cackling and announcing they were all going to suffer Wraths.
At this stage ClnMyla and his servant wisely made their appearances; the latter to run around to the attached stables and bring out the horses, ClnMyla to interpose himself between two forces of nature, maybe three for he was not sure about the girl.
‘Please. All of you. Be calm for, he, the Custodian must take this wretch,’ Karlyn made a rude noise and stuck out her tongue, which caused some puzzled silences for as far as folk knew mad heretics did not resort to street urchin tricks. ClnMyla took advantage of the lessening of the hub-bub. ‘He must take them for interrogation. They are obviously not having enough wits of their own to plan anything,’ Karlyn seemed attracted to this notion and began to babble the word ‘Burn’ ‘There are others at work here,’ he concluded in some desperation; the girl was not helping.
At the appearance two conveniently saddled, bridled and gear stowed horses Meradat boomed once more for all to stand aside and dragged the girl to the mounts. His, a large roan was naturally waiting patiently.
‘You’re all gonna burn.’ she chanted and pointed randomly at folk squeaking ‘’Specially you!’
And from some place in her jack brought out wood the size of a toothpick but for the small blue bulbous end, against which she scratched her thumb, then flicked the now flaring object towards the crowd. Naturally there was panic, there were howls, there were ructions, there was the girl’s high-pitched giggle. ClnMyla made a brief but very strong request for divine intercession, thoughts of which were distracted by the sight of Meradat’s expression which instead of the expected rage was one of serious assessment.
Meradat’s air of apparent detachment did not stop him picking her up and slinging her over the saddle of a fatalistic mount.
‘Cease your blasphemous babbling,’ he warned as he tied her hands and legs. ClnMyla had known him previously put more venom and threat into such words. On this occasion and by his standards Meradat sounded almost conversational, while the girl undeterred by the chaos and treatment appeared to be indulging in her role.
‘Can’t stop me,’ she trilled very off-key
‘Can’t stop me,
You’re all gonna roast at the burning tree,’
Her ditty ended in a ‘mmph’ when Meradat shoved a rag into her mouth followed by a swift expert securing of her to the saddle. This done he set up upon his own mount and grasped the reins of the other, it was time to leave. To the crowd his seeming prompt action had turned the tide and so caused cheering, calls of approval, with the occasional ‘Good Lord God Bless You’ thrown in by those anxious not be seen to offend a Custodian. But Meradat did not care to rely on the emotional goodwill of even such a small number.