Monday, February 08, 2010

Box and fox: an update (finally)

The story as it stands is now at 23.5K. It used to be a bit longer, but in editing some bits for the writing group I ended up re-reading it to date and realizing one character could not show up when she did. Why not? Honestly, I don't even know now but scenes were deleted and attempts to move her reunion with Boy worked on. All told, I wrote ~5K new words and lost about 7K during two weeks and change. OTOH, I have a better idea of where it is going from here than I did before and the next few scenes are sitting about in my head waiting to be written.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Of grass and empire

The grass growing through his ribs was tall enough to hide his bones. They were all there, I was told, but felt no need to count. The supernatural being had not been touched after he fell, or so my guide assured me, stumbling over the words. English it a hard enough second language to speak when one is not afraid, I thought, and just listened. He didn't want to be here, of course, but he dared not disobey.

"Fresleven," I said, not meaning to speak aloud, but the bones did not stir. A foolish fancy, but such things strike us more easily out here than in England. This is the very edge of the Empire, at least metaphorically, and things are different here. They believe in magic and they make us magic. And why not? We are capable of things they can barely dream of, holding an Empire that stretches around the entire world. Even Rome fails in comparison to what we are, though we still use their roads.

And here, without roman roads, there are other paths, of stone and bone. "All we do is build on the ruins of the past," I said to myself and shook my head. I drew the cross over his bones and looked over at my guide, who saluted me nervously.

Morituri te salutant, I thought, surprisingly myself.: the guide looked healthy enough. Even so, I did not salute back. "The body must be buried."

He froze. "We dare not move the Being. The villagers fled, and dare not return. To disturb the remains would free it to hunt them."

I raised my eyebrows. Our family is not that far removed from the King, and we have lands and titles aplenty. The guide drew back (perhaps he paled, I can never tell with them) but shook his head again.

"You are in my service," I said, and he squirmed and nodded jerkily. He wanted to run, but my words held him in place.

I do not know why. They thing us supernatural begins, and perhaps engender it. I can order the common rabble and servants with ease, but even the King, I think, cannot command in the way my voice has here.

"Would you die, if I asked?" I hadn't meant to speak, but I couldn't help but do so.

"Yes," the guide said, not hesitating a moment, his eyes clear and flesh willing.

I hesitate in turn, taken aback. I was to ask if we are gods or demons, we supernatural beings, but I am almost -- ah, almost -- certain he would lie to save my honour at the cost of his own. I feel strangely heavy as I turn away from the corpse. 'The gentlest of men', Fresleven was called, and it lead to attempted murder over two black hens.

And they know we die as they do, supernatural or not, I thought, but tried to keep the thought from showing on my face.. I wanted to ask what the guide thought of us, of Britain, but the building I had been housed in this morning was a chief's home, once, and I imagine it was built on older ruins still.

"There will come empires after ours," I said, half to the guide, trying to be only the man I was for a moment, in this solitude. "I imagine we will feel towards them as you do to us, angry over what they have, what we lost, marvelling at their arrogance, secure in our condemnation."

For a moment I thought nothing had changed, that my attempt had failed, when the guide favoured men with a slow, sad smile. "They will speak of rights," he said, "as you do now. But we have only responsibilities."

To whom? I opened my mouth to ask. And for what? I closed it and smiled in return. My children would know, or their children's children, when all they would have is quiet pride devoid of arrogance and clothing of the lost dreams of empire to chase them to sleep each night.

I turned away, heading back towards the ocean. "If I stay, I will die like Fresleven. I will make his mistakes, demand things, wish for things that are not mine to have."

"All men do that," the guide said.

"You would have an Empire again?"

"All men learn as well," the guide said smoothly, but did not quite meet my gaze.

I walked away, leaving the supernatural being behind me to be food for worms and a story for villagers. Our empire would end in time, but Fresleven might live on, destroy of villages and seeker of hens, to become a story told to children long after even Britannia is forget. The thought was, strangely, almost cheering, but I shared it with no one, and even less to be a supernatural being and bind and loose what I could not contain nor understand.

I fled from power to safety, and maybe that -- and people like me -- are why the Empire will fall. I don't know. I don't think I want to.