#NaNoWriMo day 11

NaNo2013 Day 11

I am an idiot.

Je suis un idiot

Ich bin ein idiot

Soy un idiota.

You get the idea. I am a very foolish writer indeed. I ignored my own advice, and my own blog entry, and did not back up my writing for today. I had left my USB drive home whilst writing in a book store and could not connect to their wireless internet to send copies to Google drive. And then, thanks to the way Toshiba attach their power supply ports to their laptops, my laptop lost power. “No problem,” I think, “at least Word does the AutoSave thing, so I shouldn’t lose much.”

Apparently, the universe decided I was to be punished for such hubris, as Word didn’t AutoSave any of the 3,130 words I had written, leaving Veteran’s Day as a 0-word day, my 2nd of November 2013 even though I wrote plenty. Fortunately, I guess, I’m still just slightly ahead of par at 20,018 words, but it was demoralizing, to say the least. I just didn’t want to write, which is probably why this blog carries the “belated posts” tag and isn’t appearing until close to 9:00PM on the  12th (which is currently also shaping up to be a 0-word day, just can’t get re-energized enough to get the story done.) Still, have an excerpt from a scene I wrote on the 10th. It’s not a particularly happy section, which seems appropriate.

———

When he looked back, the first thing Nikolai would remember about that day was the emptiness. For what was ostensibly a public spectacle, there were very few people in the plaza. In truth, if it hadn’t been for duty, Nikolai wouldn’t have been here either. Anna would have understood his absence. There were more people on the raised dais participating than were there to watch. Nikolai took that to mean that the people had grown tired of such public displays of barbarism in the name of justice.

The chief justice read the charges aloud. Even now, having heard them a dozen times, Nikolai wasn’t sure exactly what Anna had been accused of. Everyone he had asked had told him the same thing. The charges were meaningless. Anna had incurred the wrath of the king by refusing to violate her oath of marriage and bed him. Nikolai loved her more for that one simple act of defiance. Neither one of them had thought that Egbert was as despotic as to order this.

As the justice finished up reading the litany of charges with a final “and conduct unbecoming of a subject of Egbert’s nation,” two guards, their faces hooded in navy shrouds marched Anna around the dais, before leading her to the block and placing her head upon it.

The executioner drew forth the great sword, and in accordance with the protocol of such affairs, brandished it skywards before bringing it across the whetstone three times. Anna did not resist her guards or turn to look upon the executioner’s blade. If anything, Nikolai judged her countenance to be a mixture of weariness and resignation. He would have done anything to rescue Anna from the fate that now befell her. Egbert and his household troops must have known this, for they had chained him to the great stone bench. All he could do was watch, and pray that Anna be reprieved.

Regardless of the reality of his predicament, Nikolai surged forwards as far as the chains would let him. He called out Anna’s name and was rewarded with the general murmur of the small crowd taking an angrier tone and condemning him to the same fate as his wife if it were up to them. Thankfully, Egbert was less bloodthirsty than his subjects nd w no need to add Nikolai’s name to the tally of the condemned.

Anna answered Nikolai’s cry by shouting his name “Nikolai! I will always, always love you.”

Nikolai wept. The executioner raised the great sword and brought it down on Anna’s neck in a single arcing stroke. The blade cut through sinew, flesh and bone and so, Anna’s severed head dropped from the block and bounced on the dais twice, leaving ugly claret blood stains wherever it touched the ground.

#NaNoWriMo Day 10

NaNo2013 Day 10

 

As you can (hopefully) see from the picture above, I achieved the goal I stated yesterday of breaking through the 20,000 word barrier, even if just barely. As you can probably imagine, I am absolutely delighted with that, and despite the lateness of the hour, it’s inspiring me to just keep on writing more this night. that should mean that tomorrow, I will at least have 1,667 words added to tonight’s total.

What surprised me about today’s word count was that it was nearly all based on flash back scenes, two of which I’m including as excerpts below. In the present, one character I had conceived as a lifelong singleton has been reminded of a lost love that I never knew he had. So, he’s taken to reminiscing about this relationship. I’m just writing what the characters tell me, not creating it at this point. Not entirely sure where these’ll fit in the structure of the novel, but that’s what December and editing is for…

—–

Excerpt 1

Nikolai had been young then, barely through his fourteenth summer. He had lived on the family farm with his mother. His father had been drafted into the king’s service as a militia man, and was fighting for an inconsequential strip of grassland that the king’s seers had deemed vital. That was the old king, Cenwalh, who had been the first to spread the Faith of Satiada beyond the great steppes of Harmel.

It had been early in the morning, and Nikolai was sent to the lower field to collect well water for the cook pot. As he drew the bucket from within the deep well , and transferred the pail to carry it forth, he had seen the girl leaning against the well, crying.

“What’s your name?” he asked her.

“Anna,” the girl answered.

“Well, Anna, this well belongs to the Milton farmstead. Why are you here?”

“I wanted to surprise my Momma. She’s very sick. I think she might die.”

“And you think water will help?”

“I don’t know. But she says she’s so thirsty, and I didn’t want to go to the river, that water’s filthy and muddy. The water in the well here is clean, and you can see through it.”

Nikolai knew he’d catch serious trouble from his own mother for what he did next, but he didn’t care. “Well, I can’t let your Momma go thirsty, Anna. Show me the way, and I’ll bring her the water.”

“Thank you, Mr-“

“Nikolai. My name is Nikolai.”

True to his word, Nikolai took the water to Anna’s mother, who lay abed. Her skin was grey and sickly, and her eyes had the glazed look of someone more than halfway into the next world. The woman burned to the touch, and was only able to croak, rather than speak. Still, when she heard Anna’s voice telling her that she had brought water, her mother’s ashen face broke out into a grin.

Nikolai filled a wooden cup by dipping it into the pail of water. He handed it to Anna, who gently poured the liquid between her mother’s lips. The older woman’s face transformed into a mask of tranquility, and she whispered “Thank you,” to Anna.

“Anything for you,” Anna said, softly.

“Who’s your friend?” her mother asked.

“Nikolai’s a boy who works at the Milton farm. He helped me bring you the water.”

“Actually, I’m the Milton’s son; it’ll be my farm one day,” Nikolai said.

“He seems nice,”  Anna’s mother said.

“He does,” Anna said, and flashed Nikolai a smile. Nikolai reddened and looked away.

“No need to start getting shy now, boy,” Anna said.

Nikolai stammered “I, I need to get back to my mother with water for the cook pot.”

“You do that. Oh, and Nikolai?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t be a stranger.”

Excerpt 2

Nikolai never knew how it started. He had snuck off to spend some time with Anna, and the two of them had spent a wonderful afternoon together. They had been doing that more and more lately, and Nikolai had felt a little guilty about neglecting his duties upon the farm. After giving Anna a farewell kiss, he jogged back towards the farmstead when he saw smoke.

It was a lot of smoke, more than would be produced from a fireplace. Nikolai picked up his pace and broke into a run. The thatched roof was aflame, and black smoke was billowing to the spring sky. The fire crackled loudly as Nikolai’s home burned. The fire had spread to the cornfields, and the dry stalks ignited instantly. The few animals that were on the farm were panicking, and running away from the flames. Nikolai ran to the well and quickly filled a bucket of water. He knew it was a futile effort, that his home was now gone, but he had to try and do something.

He threw the water at the fire, and there was a hiss of steam. The water did dampen some of the flame’s ardor, but it was barely enough to matter. All that Nikolai could do know, was pray that the fire burned itself out before spreading to neighboring building and fields. He was grateful that he had spent much of the last summer building stone walls to denote the boundaries of the Milton farm, rather than the dry, flammable bracken hedges that had served that purpose in year’s past.

The commotion and roaring flames had drawn the attention of the community, and a small cluster of townsfolk had watched as Nikolai’s life and livelihood blackened and crumbled to embers. They had half-heartedly started a bucket chain to quench the flames, but it was readily apparent to all present that such measures were not going to work.

One person Nikolai didn’t see in the knot of townsfolk was his mother. Nikolai looked at the smoking ruin that had been his family home, and could not bring himself to look. Fortunately, old Vlad Melburn, who claimed to have served several kings in battle, and had seen towns razed by marauding soldiery went and looked for Nikolai.

“Is she in there?” Nikolai asked Vlad.

The old man nodded.

“Did she suffer?” Nikolai asked.

“I’m sorry, lad,” was all Vlad would say. “So very sorry.”

Nikolai bit his tongue to keep from crying. He was almost a man now, and men did not cry, no matter how much they might want to. He surreptitiously ran a hand across his eyes to wipe away any tears before they had a chance to fall. The only person who seemed to notice was Anna, who came to him and squeezed his shoulders. She leaned in to whisper in his ear, and he felt her hot breath against the side of his neck and face. He never wanted it to go away.

“I’m sorry, Nik,” she said, “but you can stay with mother and me for now.”

“You don’t havea room for me.”

“You can share my room.”

Nikolai liked the sound of that. “Thank you so much,” he said. He embraced Anna and pulled her to him, and then he surprised himself by leaning down to kiss her. She surprised him more by kissing him back, her tongue parting his lips and her arms pulling them closer. Nikolai never wanted the moment to end, but it end it did.

“About bloody time,” Anna said, and flashed him the ever-so-slightly crooked smile that made his heart melt every time.

#NaNoWriMo Day 9

NaNo2013 Day 9

 

As I mentioned on day 2 of NaNoWriMo, Saturdays are typically my weakest days for word count, thanks to prior commitments, mostly of a church Sabbath service and travel related nature. The 9th of November proved to be of no exception to that trend, though I’m still ahead of the prescribed “par” pace. I did miss either of my goals for the day, failing to hit 1,667 daily words or a grand total of 18,333 words for the piece. I am just resolved to make my major goal for tomorrow to be breaking the 20,000 word barrier. I guess we’ll see how I did in tomorrow’s blog entry.

And while today’s output was the merest shade over 600 words, I did enjoy the scene below tremendously.

———

“Now?” the cleric said, “do you still wish to go through with the ceremony?”

“Yes. I fear that unless I purge my mind and purify my spirit then any return to Laurspoint would be a fool’s errand.”

“Very well. The first stage of the rite of exorcism is to scourge the body. Please disrobe yourself and kneel.”

Nikolai followed the instructions. As he knelt, he began mumbling a litany of benediction. The cleric disappeared into an alcove at the back of the chapel and returned brandishing a spiked censer half-filled with holy water, and a ceremonial dagger with an ivory hilt carved with the moon symbols of Satiada. The cleric sliced the tip of his thumb with the dagger and let nine drops of blood fall into the censer, where they mingled with the blessed liquid within. “The lifeblood of your servants and the power of your lunar spirit are stronger than any bonds forged by man” he intoned.

“Stronger than any bonds,” Nikolai said. He gritted his teeth; sure of what must come next.

The cleric swung the censer hard at Nikolai’s back. The spikes tore into the exposed flesh, drawing blood. Nikolai screamed at the force of the blow. Even as he did, he could feel the other presence within his mind shrivel up like a tortoise within its shell.

“As the essence of your adherent splashes upon this ground we consecrate to you, sainted Satiada, we ask that you allow the impurities within him to leave this fleshly vessel behind,” the cleric prayed. He swung the censer again, and once more the jagged spikes bit deep into Nikolai’s flesh. The cleric pulled the censer upwards, opening a series of dark red welts on the old knight’s back.

This time, Nikolai’s screams came through a series of thick, nasal sobs. He could still feel the dark presence within him, though his connection with it had started to fade. “Leave me!” he cried.

“As the pain purifies your follower’s body and purges his tainted blood, so let the way of your spirit purify his soul and purge the taint from within him,” the cleric said. He pulled the spiked censer from Nikolai’s back and poured the holy water and blood from inside it into a plain wooden goblet. “Drink in the blessing of Satiada, sir knight, so that the pain of this rite is but a memory.”

Nikolai drank deeply from the goblet. Curiously, the liquid inside had no taste, though it burned his throat as he swallowed it. While Nikolai greedily lapped up the concoction, tendrils of purple steam began billowing forth from the welts in his back and rising to the temple’s ceiling. As the smoke rose it began to coalesce into a humanoid shape. The smoke took the form of a human girl, no older than fifteen. The shape in the smoke was screaming, at first a single wailing note of frustration, but eventually Nikolai could hear words within the anguished cry.

“I was so close! Why couldn’t you have waited and let me see her die?” the smoke-girl said in her screams.

“I need my body for me,” Nikolai said.

“I was going to give it back when I was done,” the smoke-girl said. Her form rose to the ceiling of the chapel and then abruptly stopped. The smoke continued to rise, but the image of the girl started to fall. There was a soft thump against the floor, and where the smoke and blood had been, there was the girl made flesh. She was nude and she was crying great streams of tears.

“My name’s Erica,” the girl said, “and I think I used to be dead.”

#NaNoWrimo day 8

NaNo2013 Day 8

 

As you can (hopefully) see from the picture above, I managed to make up for yesterday’s cero-word effort with a vengeance today, and am back to being two full days above par. This was managed by splitting my writing time into three 90-minute sessions. Not much else to say there aside from the customary extract.

——–

Wychwood town market was in full force, with mobile vendors bustling up and down between the fixed stalls selling their wares. Most of what was for sale was produce, although there were a couple of darkened booths that trafficked in rather less savor items. Nikolai saw that Gytha’s was packed with younger women buying something that the old, toothless woman called “penny-royal preventatives.” Nikolai smirked at that, remembering the time twenty years ago when he’d availed himself of Gytha’s wares, and more… intimate services. He’d have to catch up with her after the market closed at sundown. If he did, he was going to make absolutely certain that Sofya wasn’t around. He didn’t need that story circulating at the Last Drop, or the less savory quarters in the Tower of Satiada.

The other darkened booth was a mystery to Nikolai, and the clientele didn’t provide any clues as to what the merchandise might be. It was mostly male, but there didn’t seem to be any particular age group or social status that comprised a majority. The old knight marked the location, and tried to identify the stallholder.  Such investigations would have to wait until later, though. As Nikolai’s priority was a horse. He headed to a stall, which was daubed in the yellow and red stripes that denoted a livery stable, figuring that if they didn’t have a horse, they could at least put him in contact with someone who could.

Sofya, in the meantime, had decided that the two of them needed accommodations for the night. Quite when he had agreed that the two of them were going to stay in Wychwood eluded him, but Sofya had kept reassuring him that it had been his decision. Nikolai had been shocked at the level of giddiness the serving maid brought out in him. She made him feel at least ten years younger and like he’d had a pint of fine ale every time she was around. He knew it was foolish, after all, it was part of her job as a serving girl to put the customers at their ease, and clearly Sofya was a natural at it.

The old knight snapped out of his reverie and headed to the livery stall. There were a couple of patrons ahead of him, a young woman buying a leather riding saddle that Nikolai was sure she couldn’t pay for and a man with the scent of wine-sinks clinging to him even more strongly than it clung to Nikolai. From the somewhat haphazard way this latter was negotiating with the stall holder, it seemed that he was dissatisfied with the horse he had purchased. The man kept complaining that the horse he had purchased only had four legs. Since this was the normal complement of limbs for such a beast in Nikolai’s experience, he began to understand the somewhat exasperated expression and voice the stallholder had.

After what seemed like an eternity, the stallholder gave up on explaining to her deluded patron that four was a fine number of legs for a filly and nodded almost imperceptibly to her left. On that signal, two burly enforcers clad in boiled leather armor and carrying bastard swords stepped forwards. Using these blades, they made it clear that the livery stall had a very strict “no returns” policy. As the enforcers dragged the unconscious man away, presumably to the pillory, Nikolai found himself face-to-face with the stallholder.

“What can I do you for, good sir knight?” the woman asked.

“I’m looking for a trained riding horse capable of great distances,” Nikolai said, and then though of Sofya, “actually, better make that two.”

The stallholder sucked in air through her teeth, the universal signal for something having a high price. “That’ll cost you, sir-“ she stared intently at Nikolai’s throat, “woodneck.” The stallholder signaled her enforcers, who returned and stood just far enough away from Nikolai to be respectful while still appearing imposing. Both men had their hands on their swords.

“I can pay,” Nikolai said.

The enforcers relaxed their grips slightly, and the taller of the two stepped back.

“Exile I may be,” Nikolai said, “but I am not yet destitute.”  He kept his voice low, aware that less scrupulous individuals about the market would view such a declaration as a challenge and set about to render it a falsehood. He plucked the large onyx gem from his surcoat, removing the window from the blue tower emblazoned thereon. “I believe this could pay for a half dozen mounts anywhere along the steppes. It’s yours if you find me but two.” He placed it on the wooden table in front of the stallholder.

Almost faster than Nikolai could follow, the woman had grabbed the gemstone. She placed it between her teeth and bit down upon it. This action caused a wooden tooth to crack, fall from her mouth and drop into the muddy ground with a wet splatter.

“It’s authentic,” Nikolai said. “I told you that I could pay.”

“You can. It will take some time for me to procure and ready the mounts that you seek. How long do you intend being here in Wychwood?”

Nikolai glanced over at Gytha’s shadowed booth. “At least one night, maybe more.”

“Then be at the Northwest gatehouse one hour after dawn tomorrow, and I shall have you horsed. Bring whoever your companion might be so that we can make them ready also.”

“We’ll be there.”

The stallholder spat into her hand and proffered it for shaking. Nikolai reluctantly clasped it and reciprocated.

“Pleasure doing business with you woodnec- sir knight.” She said.

#NaNoWrimo day 7: Oh dear, oh dear.

NaNo2013 Day 7

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later. I had my first (and I hope last) zero-word day of the 2013 National Novel Writing Month season. Because I was lucky enough to hit my gold level goal yesterday,I’m still technically an entire day ahead of the minimum needed pace (represented by that grey bar above). Hopefully on the eighth, I can hit 3,333 words (a platinum goal, if you will) to resume being ahead of pace. I have a visualization of a lot of scenes in the town that Sir Nikolai is about to visit that should rise to that level. I’m also going to use the remainder of the “Word Count Pub Crawl” to boost the word counts up.

So, what led to that zero day? Well,the biggest thing was depression for personal reasons and memories (neither of which I’m going to discuss further on this blog). The next biggest thing was reading back what I had so far (something which you should never do during NaNoWriMo) and noticing that aside from the inconsistencies of detail and timeline stuff inherent to a speedy first draft (fix it in December…) is that I’ve deviated so far from my outline as discussed in my prior blogs about the snowflake method and three-act structure that my planned climax just would not work. I spent plenty of the day redoing the general outline, but as those words don’t count to the story, I didn’t include them in the count. I think I have a newly-minted ending that works. Technically it’s two parallel endings, on different planes of existence.

Another reason, and one far less insidious is the nefarious cellphone game that is Candy Crush Saga, specifically the 86th level of that game (I’m sure you are all far ahead of that, I’ve never been a gamer.) The other reason, and one that seems especially common during NaNoWriMo time is that a whole fistful of other ideas appeal more to me than the story I’m writing. Apparently, I prefer alternate history or semi-realistic earthbound stories to fantasy when I write, which is the exact opposite of what I tend to read. I will put them aside and stick to the constraints of the NaNoWriMo rules. I may rebel next year or during a Camp NaNo and write a bunch of different things under the umbrella word count.

#NaNoWriMo Day 6

NaNo2013 Day 6

 

Coming into today’s writing efforts for the ongoing project/slog that is National Novel Writing Month, I had three different goals I wanted to meet so that I could call the day a success. They were

Bronze Goal: Get the standard 1,667 daily word count covered,

Silver Goal: Have over 2,000 words written

Gold Goal: Have enough total word count to be two days ahead of ‘par.’ I needed to finish with 13,333 total words for that goal to be met.

As you can tell from the picture above, I made it through to gold level. I think breaking my writing time into a couple of discrete blocks instead of having a panicky “I’ve got 90 minutes to get 1,667 words down NOW” approach at 10:30 every night has helped.

As did switching up the writing environs. Spending the morning writing at Einstein Brothers rather than in my regular writing nook helped open my mind up more.

As ever, there now follows an excerpt. This happens to back up a friend’s theory that in my fantasy world the leading cause of death is entering temples.

————————–

The other mind retreated into the back of Nikolai’s skull as the pain in his hand intensified. The bronze dagger had bit deeply and rivulets of blood were pouring from the palm of his left hand and flowing down his arm, staining the burnished copper of his mail hauberk with a deep, ugly red. Apparently this avenging spirit that was using Nikolai as her instrument had very little tolerance for pain compared to the old knight. While the presence was in the descent, he had control, and Nikolai wasn’t going to waste it.

First, he tore a ragged strip off of the hem of his surcoat and wrapped it around the bleeding incision of his left hand, tying it tightly in an effort to staunch the blood’s flow. What he wouldn’t give for some of Boling’s finest to sterilize the wound and minimize the pain. A draught of it in his belly certainly wouldn’t go amiss either. From the way his head and body felt, the animating spirit had denied his body any food or drink. His stomach punctuated this thought with a long bass rumble.

Nikolai looked around, trying to see if there was a source of food present. As he did so, the true nature of his surrounding hit him with overwhelming force. This was a holy temple, though he had no idea to what power or deity it might be dedicated to. There was a white marble altar with veins of pink running through it. As Nikolai looked, he could see the veins flowing through the altar as though they were somehow alive. Carved atop the altar were strangely curved runic forms unfamiliar to Nikolai. The runes had been inlaid with either copper or brass.

None of that registered compared to what else lay atop the altar. It was the corpse of a grotesquely fat man with a shaven head and a long red beard braided into two forks that jutted a foot beyond his chin. The fat man was wearing priestly vestments of burgundy , trimmed with brocade of ivory and gold. The man’s eyes were glassy and empty; probably due to the fact that Nikolai’s sword was buried hilt deep into the priests swollen belly. The wound was deep and wide, and the preacher’s entrails had been dragged from him onto the altar and twisted to match the coppery runes beneath.

There was no charnel smell of blood or death clinging to the dead preacher. Instead the entire temple smelled of frankincense, though Nikolai could see no censer or brazier that might account for such an odor.

Nikolai pulled his sword free of the fat priests body and wiped the blood from it on the man’s burgundy robe. The old knight sheathed his sword within its scabbard. He made the sign of Satiada’s moon and knelt before this strange altar and offered a prayer of benediction for the fallen priest. Whoever this dark presence within his soul was, she had made a murderer of him. He swore a vow upon the body of the ruined priest that he would be rid of her forever. Nikolai had killed before, in battle, and even then never with any great relish. He was too attached to his own life to want to rob others of theirs, and he hoped that any enemies the kingdom, the Order or he himself had felt the same way.

But this, this was truly beyond the pale. The priest looked harmless, and certainly hadn’t been in any fit shape to defend himself from an attack, even if it come from a form as old as slovenly as Nikolai. The old knight was sure the reason that the fat cleric had been killed was connected to the strange runes that pervaded this place. He cursed his illiteracy and wished that the oily Inigo was here to tell him what it all meant. He’d even put up with the man’s jewelry and its incessant clanging together.

Nikolai’s first order of business was trying to figure out who this temple was dedicated to. It clearly was of different form to the ones used in the Satiadan rites that he was used to, and from what he remembered of Aethelred’s Lenusite practices, it wasn’t dedicated to the creator sun goddess. None of the runes suggested a shape he was familiar with, and the roughly triangular shape of this vaulted room meant nothing.

#NaNoWriMo Day 5

NaNo2013 Day 5

A singularly uninspired day today, as I just felt blocked and the words would not come. this wasn’t helped by having a scene that was heavy on exposition that I know is going to be ruthlessly altered when i’m out of NaNoWriMo’s word count at all costs way of thinking and am actually trying to edit into coherency. Incidentally, that scene is the excerpt below. And in my pre-NaNo notes, the character of Inigo is described thusly – “Inigo: Mr Exposition. Looks like a renaissance version of douchebag Guy Fieri, which is rather mean to a certain celebrity chef. Also, I still managed enough word count to be above par for the day, if barely.

————

Inigo turned out to be a great deal more foppish than Nikolai was used to finding in priests and preachers. The man wore so many rings, bracelets and necklaces of clashing colors and metals that every time he moved, it sounded like the bells clanging to announce a royal betrothal. On top of that, the man seemed incapable of stillness. Nikolai fancied that if you cut inigo’s hands off, you would render him mute.

In contrast to the preacher’s ostentation, the temple was austere. There were no icons of religious figures, or gilded symbols of office, or even the stained glass that Nikolai had come to associate with worship. The walls and floors were all of a slate grey tile with only an offering pool less than three feet around hinting at the building’s spiritual nature. The vast shelves of bound parchments made it seem more library than temple. Perhaps the priest’s bold claims to be the keeper of a house of knowledge were accurate after all.

“Revered one, I come here to seek wisdom,” Nikolai said.

Inigo grinned and rubbed his hands together in a gleeful manner. “Then, I believe I can help you in that quest. What do you seek to understand?”

“I would have knowledge of the Judgment of Andraste, both here and in the realm above.”

“Andraste, Andraste…” Inigo said, licking his fingers and sliding various scroll cases aside as he sought to answer Nikolai. After a few moments, the preacher found the scroll he wanted and passed it to Nikolai.

Nikolai dutifully unrolled the scroll and squinted at the spidery text thereon. It meant nothing to him. “Revered one, though it pains me to admit to such weakness, I cannot read these writings.”

“There are few who can, but prophecy says that such a one will find this temple soon.”

“I am not he, I am a seeker of knowledge, not a provider.”

“So I understand. Tell me, venerable knight, what do you know of Andraste?”

“I know they were judged, and found wanting.”

“All in the realm no that, even babes at their mother’s breasts. What do you know?”

“I know nothing of Andraste. I am of the faith of Satiada.” Nikolai said. In truth, he was of no faith at all, but one didn’t get to move in knightly orders or royal households professing such apathy to spiritual matters.

“Then let me begin by telling you this. Andraste was the third Creator. Lenus was of the Sun, Satiada was of the Moon and Andraste was of the firmament that both sun and moon are suspended within. He was the guider of the in between spaces, of the border between sky and ground, between day and night and some say, between gods and mankind.”

“That’s absurd. The sky gives way to the ground and the day eventually surrenders to the night but there is no transition between gods and men. We do not become gods, and they certainly wouldn’t accept being humbled into such spare forms as our own,” Nikolai said.

“Spoken like a true Satiadan,” Inigo said “though there has never been a crossing over between gods and men, who are we to say that such things are beyond the power of the heavenly inhabitants?”

“Okay. So Andraste was another Creator.”

“Yes, and He was the one who bound together the creators and that which they created. Andraste proclaimed to the other gods that the creatures that inhabit this world had wisdom greater than of the gods. And that they should grant their power to one creature to prove him right or wrong.”

The preacher stared at Nikolai, who kept his face carefully neutral. This is dangerously close to heresy he thought. I am already exiled as a traitor, and if I’m found cavorting with heretics, I am thrice damned.

“You don’t look well, sir knight.” Inigo said.

“I’ll be fine, preacher. I’m just struggling with the wine.”

“You haven’t had any wine.”

“And that is why I am struggling.”

The priest ignored him. “Naturally, the other gods dismissed Andraste for a fool and told him to watch how petty, ugly and small-minded the creatures of this world were.”

“And are,” Nikolai interjected.

“I, personally, like to think that we are better now than we were then.”

“How long ago was this?”

“As ever is the case in the divine realms, time is something nebulous, but at least seven centuries ago.”

“How does this godly curiosity tie in to the burning skies that were the Judgment?”

“All in good time, sir knight. All in good time. Suffice to say that Andraste never lost his conviction that we mortal men were as worthy as his fellow gods of power and to rule. It is written that after two hundred years, Andraste found a human woman, Lauren, that he knew to be better than all the gods. He desired her as His consort.”

Nikolai looked to the heavens. Surely the workings of mere mortal man was far beneath the notice of gods, he thought.

“Of course, the other gods mocked Andraste for this affectation. They said that his championing if this world had clouded his mind from the truths. And the harshest truth of all was that the lifespan of this Lauren was as tiny to the scale of a god as the mayfly’s life is tiny to the scale of ours.”

“Andraste would not hear of it,” Inigo continued, “and he made the mistake that would bring his Judgment down on this world and upon the very heavens themselves. He brought this Lauren into Shnyheim, the realm of the gods themselves.”

“How?” Nikolai asked

“The scrolls and texts do not tell us of the method Andraste used, though I’m sure it was trivial for a being with the power the gods had then.” Inigo said.

The priest gestured skyward, his bangles clashing together in a cacophony of noise. “Mortal minds aren’t meant to inhabit Shnyheim, and it broke Lauren, driving her to madness as her mind cracked in two. Andraste was devastated as the fragile soul spirit departed from Lauren. In his grief, he tried something that the other gods declared as anathema. He imbued Lauren with a portion of his divine essence.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad…”

“It diminished a portion of his godhood, and Andraste’s fellow deities understood that if he could lose his power to mortals, then so could they. Of course, now that Lauren contained an infinitesimal portion of Andraste’s essence, she was no longer mortal, but something more.”

“Did she get her mind back?”

“No, though it did not die. In truth, the fractured shards of Lauren’s sanity were cast from the heavens by Lenus and Satiada. Lauren’s thoughts were given the forms of fine jewels and scattered about the world.”

“But the Creators are noble deities with honor, why would they do such a thing?”

“As punishment for Andraste. The sharing of divine essence with lesser lives was, to them, a crime and so they convened all the inhabitants of Shnyheim and held a trial for Andraste. We know not what form that trial took, only that it lasted twenty days and twenty nights. We only know that because the sun and moon were absent from the skies for that time.”

Nikolai remembered a time from the histories his masters at the Order had taught him “The Long Dark.”

“Yes, the Long Dark was the tie of Andraste’s trial. And at the end it came time for his Judgment. The verdict was unanimous: guilty. The sentence was swift and carried out the same instance guilt was rendered. Like yourself, wooden-necked knight, Andraste was punished with exile, never to cross the threshold of Shnyheim again. Lenus bound Andraste in chains crafted from the celestial rays of the sun and drove her chariot from the heavens to the land, with Andraste and his chains of sunlight in tow. The exiled god was thrown to the ground and his cosmic bindings  came down with him in the form of fiery rains that altered this world permanently.”

“Thank you, preacher.” Nikolai said, and prostrated himself before Inigo.

“I thank you, sir knight. It is always a pleasant duty to share the truths of the heavens with the unenlightened and in so doing bring them to understanding.”

“I confess that I don’t know if you have brought me understanding,” Nikolai said, “but I now have clarity on Andraste’s Judgment and I name it harsh.”

“I would not dispute the ways of the gods, exiled one, they are often quick to anger.”

“Indeed, revered one. I will pray forgiveness.”