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Author Topic: Child of Spring: Chapter 1A - for Shab! Features Hildula Hauntwell.  (Read 3158 times)
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Coren FrozenZephyr
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« on: 22 August 2013, 05:38:09 »

I revised the opening in line with comments I received on an online writers' forum. Broadly speaking, the reviewers praised the prose, but asked for action and character development to be delivered upfront. I realised I needed to dive into the heart of the story sooner, so I wrote a new scene. This is to go in-between the "Prologue" and the ex-"Chapter 1".

Let me know what you think. =)

Shab's work is always such a source of inspiration!

Note to Shab: I know that Dula usually appears as a young girl, but could perhaps attribute this version to artistic license? Or maybe she wanted to hide her appearance? ;)



CHILD OF SPRING

This is the story of Winter and the Way of Wind and Water. He is one of the Gifted, those rare individuals born with natural magical ability. He has lived the life of a Krean monk since he entered the monastery at age six, but his heart is in Nybelmarasa, the last place in the world where the magic of the Ancient Krean still lives. In a year he will leave White Mountain, a place which has been home for seventeen years, and make the long journey to the Academy. Here he will learn the ways of magic from the mages of Nybelmarasa as they have been passed from the legendary emperor Dearan Asaen himself. Or so he hopes. It is said that our gifts define us, make us who we are. What would you do if you lost yours and how far would you go to get it back?



CHAPTER SUMMARIES

Chapter 1: The Songs of Wind
In which we meet Winter. Into the peace of the mountain, a new song has come on the Wind.

Chapter 2: Meditating on the Breath
On his way to the monastery, Winter runs into a friend. Why is Orange out of breath and what is he searching for?

Chapter 3: Song of the Family
In which Winter remembers. The two monks discuss the change that looms over White Mountain.

Chapter 4: War and Peace
Winter and Orange disagree about the coming war. Winter is troubled by the change that has come over his friend.

Chapter 5: The Virtues of a Balanced Diet
War is coming to the Port of Nor, and on the Mountain, Winter is locked in a battle of his own, trying to get twelve novice monks ranging from six to ten years of age through the morning practice. But first he must reason with Ker, who has a penchant for (mis)-quoting Master Kao and is very fond of daisies, as a source of nourishment.

Chapter 6: Swimming Dragon
In which we discover the connection between Swimming Dragon and Stormblade complexion. Swimming Dragon, Sinking in Prayer Position, Stand Like a Tree: Three more exercises and Winter can hand the novice monks over to Master Coldstream - and Winter has a secret weapon in a curious looking clay jar to make sure the children pay attention...

Chapter 7: Tamarind
In which we meet Pebble, novice monk and potential high priest, from whom we learn that Tamarind will regrettably not be joining Swimming Dragon practice, on account of his back.

Chapter 8: Practice is its own reward
In which Winter and the boys practice Swimming Dragon, finally. An hour later disaster strikes.

Chapter 9: Ebb and Flow
Winter deals with the brownie poo induced consequences of a loss of mindfulness.

Chapter 10: Stand Like a Tree
The last exercise of the morning practice and Master Coldstream can take over from Winter. But Ker seems to have misinterpreted the instructions.

Chapter 11: Nettle
Nettle confronts Winter after Ker fell down a tree during the morning practice. Winter is summoned before the masters.

Chapter 12: Acorn and Riverstone
Nettle and Winter appear before the masters of the monastery.

Chapter 12(B): Lost at Sea
In which Nettle attains her heart's desire.

Chapter 13: Love and Affection
[...]
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Coren FrozenZephyr
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« Reply #1 on: 22 August 2013, 05:39:37 »

CHAPTER 1A
Snowpuff

I crouched among the rocks, perched like a seagull on a ledge, and contemplated the sea. My body felt powerful, fresh and obedient. And my mind, following the waves, became itself a wave, unresisting, submissive to the rhythms of the sea. The world stretched before me - free and wild and full of light and life.

I heard footsteps and the sibilance of grass and leaves parting then rising in their wake.

"Sirrah! Sirrah! Help!" The voice belonged to a small girl no older than eight summers, who was covered in not-quite-dried mud, as if she had, repeatedly, lost her footing and fallen onto wet ground on her way up the Mountain. Her clothes were tattered and torn where they had snagged on the underbrush.

"I can see you."

"I should hope so, sirrah!" With her tunic and trousers, a simple affair of Gondolwain cotton, she wore a puzzled expression. Clearly she found my words peculiar. But if she thought me strange, she was polite enough to try to hide it. "Help me. Please. I am lost and cannot find the way home."

"I can see you."

The girl sighed, smoothed her dress, and transformed, swapping the tight, crowded form of child for the loose-fitting comfort of old hag. She stood before me in all her glory, warts and all. Her hands were gnarled branches covered in toad-skin, and she smelled vaguely of nightshade and cat poo.

"No, the real you."

She sighed more loudly this time, with a touch of exasperation she made no effort to hide. Within moments, gone was the old hag with the shrivelled skin dressed entirely in black tattered rags. In her place stood a middle-aged woman who was exceedingly... ordinary-looking. Her only distinguishing feature was a shock of curly, shoulder-lengthy hair the colour of glowing embers, which she quickly pulled into a make-shift knot. She wore sharply-tailored trousers tucked into sensible leather boots, and a maroon shirt under a sleeveless leather vest. The witch looked remarkably business-like, more the captain of a merchant vessel than a rover. She wore no jewellery.

"What gave me away?" she asked. I noticed that she was twirling a lock of her hair around her fore-finger without paying it any attention.

"I always get nervous when people start calling one another 'sirrah'." There was a pause in which I winked at her, and she made a point of not seeing it. "And I have a friend who says one should never trust a person who wears maroon."

"I should have stuck with the Maiden in Distress." She sighed and stretched the ache out of her joints. Then she tucked her shirt back in and pulled the belt so tight that I feared for her heart. "It's a classic."

"Might have been a bit obvious," I said.

"Works like a charm every time."

"Well, it is a charm."

She gave me The Look. She sighed again; clearly she was not having a good day. "This is what you get for creativity. Mud on your shoes and smart ass commentary."

"What shall I call you?" I said, choosing my words. Asking for her name seemed a wasted effort; presumably someone who had gone into such trouble to hide her appearance would not be very forthcoming with her real name.

"I am Hildula Hauntwell."

"Do you?"

"Do I what?"

"Haunt well?" I kept a straight face.

"Very."

There was a pause. Neither of us made any overt attempt to strangle the silence with a belt of words. It felt like a very competitive  brand of silence.

"Well then, aren't you going to tell me your name?"

"I was told never to give a witch your name," I said, without exerting myself in the slightest to suppress the mischievous smile which had peeked its head out and refused to go back into hiding.

"Fair enough, Winter."

I broke into laughter. It came in a tolling sound, uninhibited and free like the waterfall that plunges down the mountain. I decided that I liked this woman.

A slight movement in the trees behind her caught my eye. "I thought you were lost and could not find your way home?" I said with a raised eyebrow. I stared pointedly at a small wooden hut that walked on spider legs. It was making a frightful effort to crest the hill, and evidently, struggling. Finally, with a creak and a clatter, and the jangling of cooking pots from within, it triumphed over the wicked slope and stopped a stone's throw away from us.

Hildula was trying very hard to ignore it. She also pretended not to have heard my question, so I repeated myself for her benefit.

"I thought you were lost?"

"I was. And now I am not."

The hut shrank away from the rebuke in her voice and desperately tried to hide its bulk behind the trunk of a young tree. It was not a very effective method of camouflage. I walked over, motioned for it to come out of hiding, and patted it on the door.

"Nice house." There was a polite pause in which I found myself searching for words. "Cozy."

"It's a lot larger on the inside. Maybe I'll give you a tour next time."

The hut tried to do something cute, like a monster dog playing at puppy, and settled for crossing two of its front legs.

"Why are you here, Dula?"

"To help you."

"You have an interesting way of offering assistance."

"I am an interesting woman."

"Without doubt," I said. It was time to sample a different approach. "Forgive me, but I thought I just heard you asking for my help?"

She shrugged, tossed a wayward curl of hair out of the way, and said in a very matter-of-fact fashion, "Sometimes the only way to get someone to accept help is to make them think you need theirs."

"That's rather manipulative!" I said with mock admonishment.

"People management." She shrugged again and inspected her nails. They were trimmed short, very sensible like her footwear. "I'm good at managing people. And expectations."

"Why are you really here?"

"How many times are you going to ask the same question before it sinks in?" Miss Hauntwell looked annoyed. She calmed herself by squeezing her belt one notch tighter. "I am here to help you."

"Why?"

She wheezed, and puffed, and then settled into a sigh as she muttered under her breath, "Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, are we?"

"I have good hearing, Dula."

In her exasperation, strands of her hair had escaped their make-shift prison and curled down her face. Miss Hauntwell exacted vengeance on the miscreants who had taken advantage of her, and her momentary lapse in control, by wrenching them into a tighter knot and then skewing them through the heart with a hairpin.

"All right. I'll play," I said. "Why do you want to help me then?"

"Why, out of the goodness of my heart, of course!" She managed to sound offended. "Do they teach you nothing at that monastery? We witches are charitable creatures."

I wrestled with a grin until it pinned me to the ground and raised a chuckle to declare its victory. "Come now, Dula! I've had enough of Master Tribell's Miraculous Narrations read to me as a child to remember that a witch's aid always comes with a price."

"Those writers!"

"Should we be worried about a sudden increase in the population of frogs in the valley?"

"No need," she said with a dismissive flutter of the hand. "I don't have time to give cockroaches a make-over."

I watched with horror as the belt climbed one nick tighter. That she did not die of the malefic grip right there and then ought to provide conclusive evidence for all interested parties that witches do not, indeed, have hearts. Having heard her high opinion of scholars, I briefly wondered what she thought of politicians. But I had more pressing matters to attend to, chief among them the well-being of yours truly, who wanted to get back to the safety of the monastery as swiftly as practicable without causing offence to a powerful witch. After all, she did, by her own admission, haunt well.

"Very well then, Miss Hauntwell. Thank... erhm... you for your generosity. Eherm... Much and deeply..."

My breath kept catching in my throat. Was there a cat somewhere? I glanced around frenetically but could not locate the offender. Had she put a curse on me? No, that was not possible. I would have sense a change in the flow patterns. For a moment, I was very confused, but determined nonetheless to talk through my confusion:

"Ehhhhrrrrm... appreciated. I fear I shall.... hrrrr... now.... ehhhherrrr... have to take my leave... erher... of you - "

I was growing a wee bit light headed. Miss Hauntwell walked to her hut, went in, kicked the door shut with the heel of her boot, and after some clattering of pots came out holding a wooden cup. I reached for it instinctively like a dying man in the desert and grabbed it with both hands. It was filled with a clear liquid which looked suspiciously like... water. It had no scent.

Clever woman! Almost had me there. Did I look gullible enough to accept a drink from a witch? Much less one prepared out of sight in her hut? A hut that walked on eight, furry, arachnid legs? I think not.

Only one problem remained: How to decline it politely without rubbing her the wrong way? I probably couldn't. I needed an excuse. I rummaged through the halls, and the corners, and the nooks and crannies of my mind to find plausible justification. Fortunately, I did not have to search long. The breeze picked up and drove a snowpuff through the air between us. The flower whirled around our hands, and sat its dainty head on the water. Excuse me, "water". A few stray filaments danced around the clearing.

"Ah! The offender comes to surrender!" I said, disproportionately grateful for the contamination of my water supply. "Nasty little things... always make me cough."

I took a few steps away from the witch and her hut, gazed out towards the sea, and closed my eyes. The world stilled. I turned my attention inward to the breath and guided it back into alignment.

"Never turn your back to a witch," Hildula whispered. "Or were you not cautioned against it along with giving a witch your name and accepting refreshments from her? The high literature of bedtime stories leaves something to be desired, it seems."

Her voice lit up with humour. Would it be too much to expect the belt to come one notch looser now?

"I can see you well enough with my eyes closed that I need not fear a knife in the back, Miss Hauntwell."

"Come now," she said, echoing me, "Dula a moment ago, and Miss Hauntwell now?"

"As I was saying Miss Hauntwell, I fear shall now have to take my leave of you - but I promise to let you know the moment any matter comes to my attention, which calls for your... unique skill set."

I threw the shawl over one shoulder and out of the way, secured the prayer beads around my wrist, put my hands together and bowed in turn to the witch and her roaming home. The hut bowed back until its roof touched the ground. The sound of furniture crashing came from within. Hildula did not look pleased. The hut scuttled back a few palmspans as surreptitously as its spider legs allowed.

Hildula Hauntwell sighed. She tapped her foot a few times to the rhythm of her thinking and said, "Very well. Very well. Ask me again and I shall tell you the truth."

"Why do you want to help me, Dula?"

"Because that is what witches do. We help one another."

"I am not a witch."

"Not yet."

I pointed to the shawl and robe. "Not ever, I think." I couldn't help but chuckle at the absurdity. I decided that I definitely liked this woman for she made me laugh.

"We are not that different, you and I."

"There are some monks who believe witches are as different from us as can be - to the point of being almost antithetical. They would say witchcraft is to flowmancy what a mullog must be to a hobbit."

"I can teach you," she said. "You would make a powerful witch."

"Power does not necessarily bring happiness, Miss Hauntwell."

"It's easy to turn your nose down on power when you have never been powerless." Her eyes looked past me, into her own life perhaps, and her voice grew wistful and quiet.  

Then without warning she snapped out of a brown study. Light and vigour returned to her face.

"Anyway! I must get going now," she exclaimed. "You won't take water from me, but at least accept this. A small gift to remember me by. I shall be very offended if you turn it down!" She wagged a forefinger threateningly in my direction whilst ferreting around in a pocket with her other hand. After some digging, she pulled out several pieces of cloth; each was dyed a different colour. They came in all the shades of the rainbow, and more. I noticed that the strip with my favourite colour, turquoise, had the figure of a small bird sewn into it.

Dula leaned forward, grabbed my hand, wrapped the strips around my left wrist and tied them into a knot. I did not protest.

"A keepsake," I said, trying to match her cheer. I waved my hand about, watching the short, colourful strands of cloth trail after it.   She inspected her handiwork and as I far as I could tell seemed to be pleased with it.

"Until we meet again!"

She strode past me and headed out toward the valley. The spider-hut clambered down after her.

After a dozen or so steps, her voice and accompanying laughter rang across the clearing, scaring a few birds out of their tree-nests. The sound had such a generous touch of mirth and liveliness in it that it was at all odds with her captive hair, tyrannical belt, and sensible shoes.

"Remember, Winter: Life is trouble! And the spider that catches us liberates us. It is only by becoming entangled in the web of life that we become free."

She cried out these things without stopping or looking back. And soon, the witch and her hut disappeared from view amidst the trees.

Three things you must not forget should you come across a strange woman (or indeed: a strange man) in your travels: Never turn your back to a witch. Never give a witch your name. And never take food or drink from her.

Apparently, you should not accept a gift from a witch either.

But of course hindsight is a marksman.
« Last Edit: 22 August 2013, 05:41:09 by Coren FrozenZephyr » Logged

"Everything should be as simple as possible and not simpler." Albert Einstein

"Is he allowed to do that?"
"I think that comes under the rule of Quia Ego Sic Dico."
"Yes, what does that mean?"
"'Because I say so', I think."
"That doesn't sound like much of a rule!"
"Actually, it's the only one he needs." (Making Money by Terry Pratchett)
Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang
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« Reply #2 on: 24 August 2013, 06:22:40 »

Haha! Very enjoyable, Coren! I love the beginning (I can see you! No, the real you!) in particular. Sounds like you've got plans for old Hildula in the future; I'll be watching with interest.

Oh, and I have no objections as far as Dula lore is concerned. Of course not!

(Aura, as usual for a new chapter ...)

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Coren FrozenZephyr
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« Reply #3 on: 24 August 2013, 06:31:34 »

Well, Hildula was always going to feature in the book. I just decided to introduce her much earlier.




SPOILER

One of the themes of novel is the choice Winter has to make between the path of wisdom and the path of power after he has lost the Gift. I thought Dula would be the perfect person to represent "the Call to the Dark Side". I don't like to paint characters in black and white. Which, of course, makes witches the perfect villain here: They are not immoral, but a-moral - not evil, but beyond good and evil in a sense. (I don't really mean that in a Nietzschian sense. Best to keep him as far away from witchcraft as possible ;) )
« Last Edit: 24 August 2013, 06:34:17 by Coren FrozenZephyr » Logged

"Everything should be as simple as possible and not simpler." Albert Einstein

"Is he allowed to do that?"
"I think that comes under the rule of Quia Ego Sic Dico."
"Yes, what does that mean?"
"'Because I say so', I think."
"That doesn't sound like much of a rule!"
"Actually, it's the only one he needs." (Making Money by Terry Pratchett)
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« Reply #4 on: 24 August 2013, 06:43:05 »

Reliable reports suggest that Mrs Hauntwell is pleased to have such an illustrious career to look forward to in her old age.
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Coren FrozenZephyr
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« Reply #5 on: 24 August 2013, 06:43:47 »

She is married!?
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"Everything should be as simple as possible and not simpler." Albert Einstein

"Is he allowed to do that?"
"I think that comes under the rule of Quia Ego Sic Dico."
"Yes, what does that mean?"
"'Because I say so', I think."
"That doesn't sound like much of a rule!"
"Actually, it's the only one he needs." (Making Money by Terry Pratchett)
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« Reply #6 on: 24 August 2013, 06:45:38 »

Yes, whenever she wants to be.
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« Reply #7 on: 24 August 2013, 23:00:20 »

Things are getting a bit confusing with the chapters here, Coren... 1A, 12B etc. Also, 1A isn't mentioned in the Overview up there. So how and where should this be added?
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« Reply #8 on: 25 August 2013, 07:19:31 »

Things are getting a bit confusing with the chapters here, Coren... 1A, 12B etc. Also, 1A isn't mentioned in the Overview up there. So how and where should this be added?

I revised the opening in line with comments I received on an online writers' forum. Broadly speaking, the reviewers praised the prose, but asked for action and character development to be delivered upfront. I realised I needed to dive into the heart of the story sooner, so I wrote a new scene. This is to go in-between the "Prologue" and the ex-"Chapter 1".

That would seem to say where this chapter goes, Artimidor.
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« Reply #9 on: 25 August 2013, 14:38:04 »

Well, am I supposed to integrate it into Chapter 1? Will the summary change? Unless I know these things precisely I can't integrate it.
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« Reply #10 on: 03 September 2013, 04:33:30 »

Let's not upload any further chapters. I'll finish Act I, then go back and do a structural revision. I might end up adding/deleting scenes so uploading now would only double your workload. Hope that works for you :)
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"Everything should be as simple as possible and not simpler." Albert Einstein

"Is he allowed to do that?"
"I think that comes under the rule of Quia Ego Sic Dico."
"Yes, what does that mean?"
"'Because I say so', I think."
"That doesn't sound like much of a rule!"
"Actually, it's the only one he needs." (Making Money by Terry Pratchett)
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