April 20, 2011

Loki on Chapter 4

I almost pity Aleta. She really is a kid; as a 14-year-old myself, the thought of being sworn to marry someone freaks me out entirely. I guess this is an aspect sort of addressed later in the book, the whole gender equality thing, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

One thing I sort of would like about Aleta is the mix of childishness and maturity that the narration states her to have, but I don’t see that claim represented in her actions. She seems almost rigid all the time. Like I just said, she’s a kid, though this society assumes her to be more adult than anything, really. Some of that quirky playfulness demonstrated in earlier rewrites would be nice here.

I found the detailed descriptions of clothing rather tedious, personally, but that’s just me.

It seems as though the way nobody seems to take Aleta seriously is supposed to build our sympathy towards her. Instead, with Liara in particular, it just makes me sort of annoyed. Not with any one character in particular, I just find it annoying to read.

I somewhat enjoyed Aleta’s awe at the ball and such. It’s nice to be looking through the eyes of someone naïve. But that damn precog… Ugh. Ugh. UGH. I love Rainald and Gilden’s little relationship so much! I don’t want it to… -grumble- Other than my personal bias against this plot point, it cut the scene off somewhat awkwardly. The time lapses, again, could use a bit of work. Once it gets into the narrative lull, it’s all right, but the in-between sentences are jolting.

Is it supposed to be “wedded” or “wed”? Either?

I like the Ichari. I like this Ichara girl. Fun and ominous. That bit might have been slightly more enjoyable without Aleta butting in on occasion. I sort of wanted her to just shut UP.

The death of Rainald’s mother was better received than that of his father, when it comes to realistic emotions. Not great, but a certainly better – I think it’s fine for it not to impact Rainald quite as much as the loss of his father would have, as it seems that the mother is a slightly less influential figure in this society.

The entire last section was a tad bit jarring. Abrupt, you know. But knowing that the REAL story starts soon after here inspires no shortage of anticipation.

 

April 11, 2011

Zach on Chapter 4

Towards the beginning the chapter goes on a bit of a tangent about a mother
feeling downhearted by the marriage of Rainald to Aleta, this text may
be unnecessary.

The conversation between Aleta and Mirella is hilarious, I’m not really sure
why though, may have something to do with the phrase “if I can corner him.”
Depicts more of a hunt than a ball. The thank you at the end of the
conversation seems to hang in the air somewhat awkwardly. Why are Rainald
and Mirella whispering to each other before the enter the ball? Can they not
speak to each other via contact?

The comment “naturally everyone invite accepted with alacrity” contradicts
the previous statement about the Ichari.

Aleta “surveying” the ball gives a more formal tone to her perspective than
should be permitted for such a night in this young woman’s life. Later on in
the chapter her excitement is clearly shown, so changing that
isn’t necessary.

The conversation are realistic which is a great plus, they not only tell you
what the individual is saying at a given time but in a way what they are
doing while saying it. For instance “and that bald man talking to lord
carlin?”
“Where? oh tthat is….” as compared to Rainald instantly knowing the man
she was indicating at such a large event. I’ll keep that in mind when
writing.

When Rainald and Gilden are discussing their partners they say “picked” a
lot. “That’s why I picked her” and such. This seems rather rude of them, as
if they’re speaking of fruit rather than their femal companions.

I like Rimmuz, his “don’t worry about what you can’t change or will on it’s
own” attitude is enjoyable.

Tensity rather than tenseness?

As a final note, the entire “their first child was born…” really came out
of the blue and punched me harder than a cheese lover would hit a cheese
destroyer. Did not see that coming. Thanks for the chapter.

April 1, 2011

We’re in VOYA!

A two-page spread in one of the preeminent publications of the YA world – go here:

http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?referral=other&refresh=M1r76yL00Q5x&PBID=ec089b39-ceea-45d5-845d-c16b50f72843&skip=

and flip forward to page 32

and enjoy!

March 21, 2011

Courtney on Chapter 4

Overall I enjoyed this fourth chapter. It still seems as if
this beginning is rushed but I now see that it was done that way in order to
get to the real story which comes into play after Aleta and Rainald have been
married and matured and their children born. This chapter gives a good bridge
between the start of the book and what is surely coming up next, though I am
sad to hear that Rainald and Gilden are going to become enemies.

 

I really like that Rainald can’t just turn the ‘link’ on and
off between him and Aleta and that you explored the repercussions that would
come both from having the link and from trying to hold it back. It makes the
whole thing much more approachable and much as I have had problems with Aleta
in the past this chapter helped me understand her better and even has me liking
her.

 

I don’t really have any suggestions of changes for this
chapter, some of the bits at the end got a mite confusing but I’m sure that
will be cleared up in the revisions.

March 11, 2011

Chapter 4 – original

(Yes, yes, my Teen Council. I know it’s Aleta-heavy…)

4.

Somehow that council passed; after the starship announcement even the banns of Rainald’s betrothal fell a little flat, and drew no more than a couple of scowls amongst the mothers who had daughters of marriageable age. There was one, especially, who had seven daughters and wanted the very best for them. Her two eldest were already wed, one into Clan Catallin and one into Clan D’Alleara – but neither of those sons-in-law were anywhere near to the Lordship of their respective Clan. The third was betrothed to a youth from Clan Carlin, one of the many sons of the Lord of that Clan, but unfortunately with little prospect of gaining his place. And now, there had been this prime opportunity, a young and eligible Lord, unattached… and then her hopes for her fourth daughter were dashed by a little nobody, a girl of fourteen… But even this worthy dame found her attention riveted elsewhere after a mandatory period of the sulks. It was left to the daughter, power hungry like her mama had taught her and all her sisters to be, to make sheep’s eyes at Rainald for a while and then she, too, gave up.
Although Aleta was fourteen, and not the stipulated fifteen required to attend any aspect of Council including the Summer Solstice Festival Ball, Rainald wrangled permission from Dow, who was still her Guardian, for her to attend the Ball anyway. Mirella agreed to act as chaperone, and so Aleta got to see a Summer Solstice Festival a full year earlier than her peers. She was ‘older’ than them, much more serious, and could therefore appreciate the privilege; but she was young enough to be wildly excited at the prospect of her first ball. It had been made known to her that, now she was betrothed into Clan Avigor, she could make use of their Colors and also her own, those of Rimmuz, which was her Ranking Clan, in her attire. She decided on a flame red gown, using the Primary of Rimmuz, and the skirt of which she had embroidered with silver thread so that it caught the light as she moved. Her sister Liara braided up her hair in an adult style for the first time, wearing black velvet ribbons into it and catching the whole with a silver pin which Mirella had sent her. Around her neck she hung the slender chain on which she wore the ch’ia wrought carnelian that was her Pattern-stone. Staring at it for a moment before she put it on, she realized with a shiver that her betrothal meant another visit to the Ichari, for she needed her Pattern wrought again, in Diamond this time, which was the Gem of Avigor.
And, thinking of Avigor, she frowned in the polished silver mirror into which she gazed as she fastened the carnelian necklace around her neck. Rainald had been troubled these past few days. He had tried very hard to keep the cause from her, and had almost succeeded; but although she knew the reason by virtue of their link, he had not spoken of it to her and she realized that she would do best to wait until he breached the subject himself. The Legend whose truthcoming he dreaded had been the foundation of her own life and learning. The Clan ruled, she had been taught, because the Gods themselves set them up in that exalted position. Yet… she shared Rainald’s insight; if she had known it was false, she would have broken the silence, she would have told Rainald and set his mind at rest. And even with this knowledge, with the knowledge that Clan were no more divine than the fishermen who eked out living on some forgotten cliff, that they were set above ordinary people by virtue of their Gifts above, even then she could not but pity the bringers of the message that could shatter Castala forever. Those who had crashed in their starship probably lost much. They may have lost belongings, or those they loved – but, more than this, they lost a future, and were stuck on what must seem a barbaric world to them, speaking languages unknown to them, and living by different laws. They did not know what they signified. Neither, yet, did the rest of Castalan society, which was bought time, because they would do so sooner or later. And Aleta pitied them. They could no doubt become more than outcasts when the idea stuck those in power; they would become fugitives. And Aleta was sure that, had they had a choice in the matter, they would much rather have been elsewhere anyway. Wherever it was they had been heading before their disaster.
Liara passed a hand in front of her sister’s eyes, and Aleta started back, blinking furiously. Had she been staring into the mirror all this time?
“What ails you?” asked Liara with a mixture of irritation and worry. “You sat there like a rag doll. Were you in trance, or what?” She made a deprecating gesture. “Whatever. Come on, sieri, get the ch’ia around your neck, and then we ought to call Jessna and have her escort us to the Rimmuz chambers. If we don’t start soon, we’ll be late.”
“No need,” said Aleta absentmindedly, fastening her necklace with fingers that seemed to have become all thumbs. “We are to be fetched.”
“Oh?”
“Rainald… that is, Lord Avigor and Senya Mirella, his sister, will come by for us.” She peered into the mirror, gave her hair a final pat, and rose from her little rosewood chair. “Thank you for doing my braids, Liara,” she said, “they look lovely. How beautiful you look!”
Liara, who took after her mother and thus bore little resemblance to her half-sister, was tall and thin with hair the color of jet and incongruous dark blue eyes. She had twisted her own black mane with flame red ribbons, one of which, winding around her brow, bore the carnelian ch’ia she wore. Her gown was the palest grey, and embroideries like tongues of fine danced around the hem of her skirt. She looked thoroughly striking. Aleta felt humble and pain beside her, and then smiled, a little, introspective smile – it was only right she should be lesser, since, after all, she was stealing her sister’s First Ball, or at least sharing it, a full year before she was due. But she wasn’t ugly, although she could never match Liara’s own graceful brand of beauty.
Liara preened under Aleta’s compliment, and threw another look into the mirror, adjusting the carnelian slightly. When she turned, her eyes were shining in anticipation. She danced around the room, her skirts swirling after.
“Oh! I can hardly wait!” she caught herself on the back of a high chair, breathless, laughing. “Just think, to face one’s first Ball already betrothed! Why, some very high-ranking daughters will be playing second fiddle! I heard,” she said conspiratorially, lowering her voice, “that many a maid and many a mama fancied your Lord for themselves, sieri. However did you manage to catch that catch?”
Aleta, her eyes downcast, was saved from having to reply by a footman who appeared at the door.
“My ladies, your escort has arrived,” he announced.
“Are you ready, Aleta? Come now, child!” Liara sailed through the doorway without looking back. Aleta followed. As they entered the Reception room of the Rimmuz chambers, which in where they were staying, Rainald Avigor’s head came up sharply and he smiled – a smile that seemed to be directed at both sisters but which Aleta knew to be for her.
“Senya Liara, Lord Rimmuz has entrusted you to my care and that of his Foster-sister, Senya Aelia Carlin. My own sister is to stand chaperone for Senya Aleta.” Still they were forced at formality, and had to watch their spoken words lest they come out as their thoughts. Aelia Carlin, a married lady in her thirties, smiled pleasantly at her charge, and Mirella, once they had all started towards the Festival Hall, beckoned Aleta to walk at her side.
“Did you know I also went to my first Ball at fourteen?” she said. “Then it was better guarded then now; I do not know how my father managed to wrangle it. But I think he felt that since I was at Colgarma at Summer Solstice, I might ad well join the festival here, as I would have done at home.”
“Do you also have a Ball there at Summer Solstice?” asked Aleta.
“No. Not exactly a Ball. But we do celebrate it, and we do make it a festival; and as such there always is dance. And to those I have went since I was a little girl.”
“I usually stay with Clan Dow, since Lord Dow stands as my Guardian. They do not have a festival.”
“No. But their affiliated Major Clan, Rimmuz, does. All Major Clans do, despite the fact that their Lords are usually in Council at that time. The Lady of the Clan usually sees to it.”
“You mean, one day I would have to…” stammered Aleta, her eyes wide.
Mirella turned kind eyes on her young companion. “Yes, my dear. One day, you.”
Aleta considered this for a moment and then nodded. “Maybe I would like that.”
Mirella chuckled, amused. “My own mother, who is the Lady now, often said it is the duty she enjoyed most. She liked the idea of bringing pleasure to people. So it ought not to intimidate you, little one, not in itself. But there is a lot to being Lady of a Clan… Maybe I should mention to your Guardian that you ought to be fostered for a year with a Lady who’s willing to spare time to teach you the ropes. Would you like that?”
Aleta gazed at her with eyes too serious for a fourteen-year-old face. “Yes. There is a lot of things I must learn now.”
“Then I shall speak to Lord Dow… tonight, if I can corner him.”
“Thank you.”
By this time they had reached the doors of the Festival Hall. Rainald, who had been tangled in a conversational web by Lord Rimmuz’s worth Foster-sister, now excused himself and dropped back to walk between his sister and his promised lady. He was wearing a boyish smile that prompted Mirella to whisper,
“No escapades now, Rainald, you have a position to uphold!”
“Never fear, sieri, I shall be on model behavior,” he whispered back, and then they were being announced.
“Lord Avigor, Senya Mirella Avigor, Senya Aelia Carlin, Senya Liara and Senya Aleta Rimmuz-De Skari!” The footman called out, and Aleta shivered in pleasurable excitement.
The Summer Solstice Festival was a big date in Castala’s calendar. The day on which the Summer Solstice fell was a Festival celebrated in the name of Arella, Lady of Light, the Goddess who was said to have been ancestress to Clan. But as a Goddess she was worshipped amongst all of Castala, and all social strata celebrated that day, down to the lowest peasants of the land. The actual Festival Ball, held in Colgarma every year on the eve of the solstice day, was one of the very few occasions when folk other than Clan set foot in Colgarma keep. The Ichari had a standing invitation, of course, but they rarely came – they were amongst the most sensitive of the sensitive, and they could not stand too much of a crowd, especially not one as open and unbarriered as most Festival Balls were. But the guildmasters and their families were invited, as well as some – a very few! – of the more distinguished traders and citizens of Colgarma City. Naturally, everyone invited accepted with alacrity, and came to the most glittering social occasion of the year.
It was also a chance for the outsiders to actually set eyes on the Clan women who, if need carried them abroad into the common folk, were usually veiled against their eyes. On Festival Ball none were. They were fairly ogled by those who had no occasion to see them otherwise, and most of them rather reveled in it. The younger ones especially would flirt without danger because there was no way their kinsmen would give them to someone below their rank. Alas, many a Guildsman had been tempted in his time, had forsaken wife and family only to break on the icy cliffs of Clan rejection.
Aleta, clinging with both hands to Rainald’s arm, surveyed the glittering scene. Clan, traditionally, wore their colors to the ball; sometimes Foster-kin, or betrothed couples, would ‘borrow’ color, or exchange them for the night, but mostly they clung their own. To someone born of Clan, those clad in Clan colors were the background, because those colors were so well known; but the others present stood out like birds of paradise. The women wore bright colors, yellow and pink and orange, and a strange fabric that glimmered in all the colors of the rainbow as the women wearing it moved. Aleta stared at it.
“That is lovely!” she exclaimed. “What is it? Why do Clan not wear that?”
“They do, love,” laughed Rainald. “Of course they do, but off-duty. How would you ever tell which Clan the wearer belonged to with his mantle all colors at once?”
True, came the acknowledgement, with a quick smile. And then, aloud again, “Who are they? Do you know any of them?”
“That old gentleman there is Smithcraft Guildmaster; I know him because from him I got my first blade. I know his lady, too – the tall one in the dark brown gown, yonder – because Father and I were once invited to their home, and he scorned not the invitation because it came from someone not Clan. I believe the youth at his side is his son, although I have not been introduced to him.”
“And that bald man talking to Lord Carlin?”
“Where? Oh, that is Guildmaster of the weaving craft. And that lady there is the wife of shipwright Guildmaster, whom I don’t see here. It may be he is ill. I heard that he was ailing when I was last in Colgarma.” Rainald looked around again, and noticed the tall, blue-clad form of his Foster-brother Gilden, again surrounded by ladies of every age, Clan and description. He could see Rialle leaning still on Gilden’s arm. “Have you ever met Gilden Lammuir?” Rainald asked Aleta.
She shook her head. “I met Shellana, his half-sister, when she came to Foster at Clan Rimmuz, but not him.”
“I Fostered for four years at Clan Lammuir,” said Rainald. “Gilden is my own foster-brother. Come, I’ll introduce you.”
Gilden caught his eye as they approached, and immediately his gaze snapped to the girl at his Foster-brother’s side. His eyebrows lifted; he excused himself to his female circle and, guiding Rialle, came towards them.
Rainald still pursued his advantage.
“Aleta, this is my Foster-brother, Gilden Lammuir. Gilden, this is my betrothed, Aleta Rimmuz- De Skari. Do you know Rialle Catallin, Aleta?”
But this time Gilden was prepared. With the charm that always drew such throngs of females upon him, he smiled and bowed over Aleta’s hand.
“Honored, my lady. My Foster-brother has made a lovely choice, if I may say so. I did not know until a few days ago that he had pledged troth, but I offer you both my congratulations, and best wishes.” He turned to Rainald, his eyes glimmering with a suppressed smile. I approve, he said, in Contact, after the preliminary but fleeting Patter search. She is beautiful.
The Foster-brothers were close, but they lacked the link that bound Rainald and Aleta together.
The players struck up a dance tune, and Gilden grinned irresistibly. “Rainald, let us exchange our ladies for one dance… if you agree, of course, my lady?” the last to Aleta, with a slight bow.
One dance. She looked at Rainald. No more.
Then she dropped Gilden a graceful little curtsey. “I do not object, my Lord.”
“Call me Gilden, please,” he said, quickly, “since when you are wed to my foster-brother, you too become foster-kin to me.”
“Then you must call me Aleta,” she murmured, cheeks flushed.
“With pleasure! Come, they are starting.”
They walked off towards the dance floor, and Rainald and Rialle followed them. Rialle wore an enigmatic little smile.
“He does tend to want to run every show, doesn’t he?” she said softly.
“He does it rather well.” agreed Rainald wryly.
They exchanged all-too-knowing looks. They both knew Gilden well, shortcomings and all. Then they took their places in the guereda, a short and fast dance with which the Ball traditionally opened.
At the end of the lightly stylized dance, the people mingled on the floor for some more music, and Gilden brought Aleta back to where Rainald and Rialle stood, having withdrawn from the throng on the floor.
“A true Lady, Rainald, she dances exquisitely,” he said appreciatively. A gem, Rainald! he added silently.
I know. That’s why I picked her. “So does your own Lady, Foster-brother.”
Gilden beamed. Aleta went over to Rainald and leaned on his arm again. “Thank you, Gilden. You dance well, too,” she said softly. Gilden made a courtly bow, accepting the compliment.
After some further chat they parted, wishing each other a joyous festival. Gilden and Rialle were immediately swallowed by the crowd, which seemed to grow bigger every moment.
“He is very courtly and charming, your foster-brother,” said Aleta thoughtfully, “but I get the feeling he would not hesitate to destroy anything that stood in his way once he has chosen a direction.”
“Nice, but ruthless?”
“Yes, right.”
“I know,” sighed Rainald. “I’ve felt it. He’ll be a terrible enemy, once sworn to it. But right now he’s a friend.”
Aleta turned her great eyes to his. “He loves you,” she said, slowly. “He loves you very much. And you love him dearly as well, don’t you?… I know you do… and yet one day you will be enemies…”
Rainald felt ice chilling his spine.
He turned her to face him. “Was that precog?” he asked, in a strained voice.
“I think so…” she gasped. “I should have said it, not now… I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I think I spoiled the whole festival…”
She looked ready to burst into tears. Rainald drew her in his arms like the child that she was.
“No. No, you haven’t, you haven’t, it’s all right…”
But it had palled. And it was no longer so bright and promising. And the scene he saw as he stared over Aleta’s head seemed like a parody of the one he saw when he had entered; like a caricature; he was no longer seeing it through Aleta’s eager eyes.
Somehow they managed to retain a measure of gaiety; they danced, and people wished Rainald and Aleta well, and paid Aleta fulsome compliments which restored her spirits at least in part. Rainald, aware of the link, kept a tight hold on his thoughts, and locked his sorrow at Aleta’s seeing into a deeper level of his mind. But the link was already a greater part of him than he realized. The result of his withholding something from it, of keeping himself apart, was a blinding headache that stuck without warning – luckily, after they had left the Ball, it left him sick and dizzy, and abed for most of the next day.
Mirella had, true to her word, spoken with Dow on the subject of Aleta’s fostering to ‘learn the trade,’ and he had agreed that this was a good idea, especially since she was to be wedded reasonably young. He had sought out the Lady of Clan Acharmi, and she had agreed to take her. But the Acharmi delegation was leaving immediately, and so Aleta had to leave with them. What with Rainald’s sickness and the frantic flurry of preparation for departure, the pair did not manage to see each other to even say goodbye. But the link held, and even as he slept the sleep of the exhausted, Rainald was aware of Aleta and her doings, and knew when she left, where she went and why. He was glad they had chosen Clan Acharmi, since he tended to look upon Lord Acharmi as a last link with his own father. Now that he stood as Foster-father to Aleta, the connection would be strengthened. And he slept, a deep and dreamless sleep; he was fully recovered only on the second day. It was then that most of the Clan Avigor set out for Macha, for home; Rainald had to stay behind, together with some of his Clan, to tie up loose business threads in Colgarma. With intermittent headaches, remnants of the one which had kept him abed at Aleta’s departure, it took him a few days longer to achieve what he had planned to do. But by that time the link was back; Rainald had realized that what he had kept hidden must come out or it would kill him; literally. So he had opened his mind; and Aleta, although many miles away now in the Acharmi House, soothed him with that soft brush of her mental voice which he loved. The bruising was fading, for the cause was removed; out the consequences, or at least the tail end of the consequences, remaining, and it was a still sick Lord who set out for his domain just a week after his household had departed.
Lord Rimmuz rode with him. The road that turned over the bridge at Eman carried on straight as well, and led to Zimril, the Keep of Clan Rimmuz. After parting from his kinsman at the Bridge, Rimmuz intended to take that road home. So it was a large part with left Colgarma one gray and overcast morning. A cold wind was blowing from the sea, and the waves broke in sprays of foam over the wet quays. The Catallin ship was still in harbor; that Clan was still in Colgarma. The sails were all down and the bare masts looked depressing to Rainald, who was not in the best of spirits. He wore a warm cloak with a thin fur collar, and he twitched this up around his neck now and turned away from the sea, which ordinarily he loved.
“Why so morose, kinsman?” asked the jovial Rimmuz. He, being what he was, could not bear to see anyone in his vicinity who was not in the happiest of moods. Now he brought his steed closer to Imril, whom Rainald rode as usual, and clapped the younger man companionably on the back. “Surely there isn’t anything to keep your spirits so low? You’ve got a lot from life!”
“It must be the weather,” said Rainald shortly. “Also, I think I’ll come to grips with yet another headache soon.”
“Well, it isn’t here yet, so why worry about it?” responded Rimmuz with a wide grin. “As for the weather, what will change, so don’t dwell on it. Come, let us ride; it will be enjoyable to share this trip with someone, I so often go alone.”
Rainald looked grim in the protecting folds of his cloak. He wasn’t in the mood for much chatter, and it looked like Lord Rimmuz very much was. Well, so be it; let him talk. Rainald would listen, nod when he deemed it necessary to show some reaction to prove he was still awake, and think his own thoughts elsewhere.
There was an inn by the wayside about a day’s ride from Colgarma where the Clan and their kin broke journey whenever they passed that way. The innkeeper, professing to be honored, as usual, by the arrival of the Lords of Rimmuz and Avigor, couldn’t help sounding a little mechanical – he had said those words so many times to so many people. Clan, even their Lords, held little novelty for him. If he had dared he would have left the tending of them to inferiors; but they were still Clan, and he dared not. He showed them up to their rooms, and he oversaw the tending of their horses, and he sent his own wife up with their supper and not some serving wench as he would have done otherwise.
This particular night he had his hands more than full. Just before the two Lords had arrived, the innkeeper had had to cope with the thoroughly unexpected and intimidating arrival of two Ichari, an old man and a young girl who seemed to travel as his companion and provider. He would have sent his wife there also with the supper, but the offer was firmly, if politely, rejected and it was the young Ichara herself who came down to fetch the food. It was a very flustered innkeeper that awaited the Lords. They noticed it, of course.
I have ridden this way many times, said Rimmuz in Contact, after the preliminary Pattern search. I have never seen the innkeeper in such a state of agitation. Something is happening here.
I don’t… began Rainald in the same manner when his attention was drawn by the opening of a door further along the corridor which they had now reached. His eyes snapped in the direction, and met those of the Ichara who had just come out of the room. He recognized her instantly – the girl who had watched him with that queer knowing smile from the Galleries on the first day of Council, when the news about the starship was announced. The same smile touched her lips now as she looked at him – she had obviously recognized him, too. She bowed lightly to the two Lords and then turned to the innkeeper, asking imperiously for an extra blanket to be brought in for someone inside the room. Incredibly, at the same time, without even looking in his direction and without any Pattern search at all, she was speaking to Rainald, in a whisper-soft Contact.
You are going along the right paths, she said, and her words, for some reason, soother the seething thoughts that troubled Rainald’s mind. You shall be enlightened in due time. For now, hold your peace. And she looked up briefly, her blue eyes smiling at him, then withdrew into the room, closing the door softly behind her.
The Innkeeper stayed staring at it for another moment before he snapped back to reality and fully fell over himself trying to get the two Lords to their rooms so that he might be free to run the errand that the Ichara had laid upon him. Once he had delivered them safely, he vanished. Rainald closed the door and leaned on it wearily.
What was happening?
For something certainly was afoot. His high empathy ‘feel’ for things told him so. There was tenseness in the very air around him… and there had been a Presence inside the Ichara’s room, a presence carefully blanketed but nevertheless existent. Too carefully blanketed. No Lord traveled with Ichari handmaidens, so it must be a high-ranking member of the Ichari – but why hide them?
His perturbance communicated itself. The link snapped on.
What is it? Came Aleta’s worried response. You are troubled. You are anxious. What is it?
Nothing. It is nothing. I… it is something I must think about. I will tell you, once I do so.
Are you…
Aleta. It was half a plea, half a remonstrance. Please. Not yet.
All right. Her response was acquiescing, but there were overtones there that Rainald, resigned, heard. Aleta would take up the burden, whether he would or no. The link would see to that.
She withdrew; the next moment Rimmuz was banging on the door. Rainald, who had still been leaning on it, stepped back and opened it.
“Yes?” he said, with a quizzical half-smile.
“I felt… trouble,” said Rimmuz dubiously. Rainald rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. If he’d been so strong that even the relatively low-level gift of Rimmuz had picked him up, well, by now even the Ichari must know of his state of mind. Broadcasting on a wide mental band seemed to be Rainald’s personal curse.
“Come in,” he said, opening the door wider. “I… there was disturbance. I’m sorry. I shall try to control my problems.”
Rimmuz entered, shutting the door behind him, and installed himself in a wider chair by the window from which he watched the younger man suspiciously for a while. Rainald chatted for a time, amiably enough, but if Rimmuz tried to bring the subject round to the Ichara whom he suspected – rightly, as things here – of being at the root of Rainald’s troubles, Rainald turned aside neatly and circumvented it. After about half an hour Rimmuz gave up and retired, leaving Rainald to get what sleep he could.
Interestingly enough, he slept like a log, after having felt when he law down in his bed that he would never get to sleep. His dreams were strange, but clean; he woke refreshed, and the problem of the people from the starship seemed to have been shelved in his mind for the time being. They did not see the Ichari when they left the inn; and they saw no more of them from then on. And it was with real joy that Rainald greeted the White Bridge of Eman when he saw it. More than ever before in his life he felt like he was coming home. Even the cold wind blowing down from the snow-capped mountains that dominated the background of Macha and which plagued the holding summer and winter alike now seemed friendly and welcoming. Rainald bade a hasty farewell to his travelling companion and his retinue, then turned Imril sharply and urged him into a gallop. Horse and rider, they thundered across the bridge and raced on through the old trees that flanked the road from that point without waiting for anyone to catch up.
The Bridge could be seen from the Watch Tower in Macha estate, where always someone kept a lookout; Rainald could hear the sound of the Guardman’s Horn, always blown to announce any arrival at the bridge. This had a special call for acknowledging the return of the Clan Lord from a journey, and it was this that was caught by the wind and carried down to the road and the rider it bore. The Lord was coming home.
Macha, as always, lightened Rainald’s mind and his spirits soared. The few months after a Council were legitimately semi-idle, and Rainald used this to the hilt. He was replenishing his energies. He and Imril were often out, sometimes on their own, sometimes in the company of Alleth or Mirella, sometimes in a bigger company in hunts and hawkings.
Bit it wasn’t all fun and games. Rainald’s mother was fading, slowly wilting, and the physician helplessly diagnosed nothing physically wrong with her. He gave her healing droughts, but they seemed to have no effect, and he didn’t appear to expect them to.
“Your Lady mother has simply lost the will to stay alive,” he told Rainald one day. “And I am very much afraid that this will kill her sooner than any organic disease she might have had. At least there I might have helped. I am sorry, my Lord.”
There was nothing to be done, except to watch; watch and mourn.
And then one night that winter Rainald woke with a start. He had been dreaming; dreaming of his parents, his sisters and himself – they’d all been sitting in front of the fire, when suddenly his father had got up and offered a hand to his mother to rise. She did; and his father had leaned down and touched Rainald’s forehead with a hand that was cold, so cold… he woke at that touch, and yet in his mind’s eye he could still see the room, his parents walking away while the three children were forced to stay behind. He woke, and he knew.
Rising, he thrust his feet into fur-lined slippers and wrapped himself in his house-coat; he let himself out of his room and walked soundlessly across to his mother’s. She was lying in her bed and on her face there remained a gentle little smile. One of her hands was dangling by the side of her bed. Rainald lifted it and folded both her hands upon the coverlet. He lit two candles and placed one on each side of her bed, onto the bedposts above her head. In their gentle glow she was beautiful… as beautiful as ever she had been.
Rainald stooped to kiss her gently on the brow, and went out again, closing the door behind him. He roused his mother’s maid and told her to take care of her Lady. Then he went, heavy-hearted, to his sisters.
It was almost exactly a year since their father had died.
They grieved. But even at the depths of his grief, Rainald found himself recalling with a shiver Aleta’s precog of the previous summer… there will be death… For now he was forced to make fast and hard decisions. It had been acceptable for him to act as proxy foster-father while his mother was still alive, for she had been the widow of the previous Lord, and Rainald was still unmarried. It was not acceptable for one of his sisters to take on the role of proxy foster-mother while he waited out the time before his marriage. And since the Clan had accepted Annica Dow for fostering, there had been two other foster-children, all of whom down needed Foster parents and who could not exactly be sent back to their families now. So Rainald wrote to Down and Rimmuz, explaining the situation. Aleta was just under half a year shy of sixteen; she would make a foster mother only a few years older than her Fosterlings, but she would make a foster-mother.
The wedding was set for the spring, not quite a year since the betrothal. It was to be without much ceremony and ‘trims.’ Only those immediately concerned – family, and maybe a few very close friends – would be asked to attend; and the formal announcement would only be made during Summer Council.
Things were set in motion. Ichari were commissioned to cut Patterns into new stones, and these then had to be set in proper settings for the wedding gifts. There were arrangements to be made for those who were to stay at Macha, where the marriage would take place; that, thankfully, was not on Rainald’s shoulders, for in the short-term absence of the Clan Lady it was Mirella and Alleth who took up the domestic burden.
The rest of the winter dragged itself to a close, and towards the end of the first month of spring the people began to trickle in. The first to arrive was Lord Dow, who was given a rapturous welcome by his daughter who was fostering at Macha. Holding the exuberant, flushed youngster at an arm’s length, Dow smiled somewhat crookedly at his young host, who was watching the proceedings, grinning widely.
“It has only just occurred to me,” said Dow, “that my Ward shall be foster-mother to my daughter. My line needed only that. Now it has the distinction of being impossible to unravel.”
He came in, with his daughter still clinging to his sleeve, and looked around appreciatively. He’d never been to Macha before, and he now requested, and obtained, the permission of its Lord to explore it. Annica volunteered breathlessly for his guide, and the two of them were not seen again for some hours.
The next few days brought intermittent arrivals, notably Lord Rimmuz who, as the Lord Aleta’s Major Clan, was to perform the actual ceremony, and Gilden Lammuir, who arrived with his Lady. He and Rialle had been wed only just over a month previously, and they very much looked newlywed. But Gilden’s boyish exuberance had been much tempered – some by marriage, and some by the fact that his father, after having had recovered somewhat from the illness that had precluded him from attending the Summer Council in Colgarma, had relapsed badly and was walking the narrow edge of life and death at that moment. Gilden told Rainald all this while the two of them were out on an early-morning gallop by themselves on the second day of his stay. There were lines on the young Lammuir’s face that had not been there before; he looked a great deal older than his twenty one years.
“Do you remember my Father appointed you Guardian over me at the Council?” he asked Rainald. When the other nodded, Gilden shook his hear morosely. “I had thought then that he was under the impression that your Father, and not you, held the Lordship here. Will, I don’t know about then, but it’s certainly the case now. He actually told me to give his greetings to Lord Avigor… and mentioned your father by name.” He sighed, staring fixedly at a point midway between the ears of his horse. “They tell me he is not expected to last the summer.”
They were riding close enough and slowly enough for Rainald to place a mutely understanding hand on his Foster-brother’s shoulder. Gilden looked up at that, smiling a little sadly.
“Thank you,” he said briefly, then tossed his hair back with an impatient gesture of his head. “I haven’t even offered either condolences on the death of your mother, or congratulations of your wedding. I’m afraid my courtesy has been sadly lacking.”
“Yours? Never. But thank you anyway, for both. How is married life agreeing with you?”
Gilden made a face, and Rainald laughed. “Not so many ladies flocking around you these days?” he teased.
“I’ve my hands full!” said Gilden, laughing himself, then pointed to a huge old oak standing by itself in a clearing in the forest. “I’ll race you to there!” he was away before the words here properly out of his mouth. Imril leapt forward at his master’s bidding and the two horses passed the oak neck and neck before disappearing into the forest.

Aleta arrived at Macha, escorted by Lord Acharmi and his Lady, a day before the ceremony was due to take place. She was the last to arrive; everyone else had already assembled before, some being there for over a week now. She was promptly whisked into seclusion for the rest of the period before the wedding, retaining at least the custom that a bride should not be seen by her prospective husband on the day preceding their union; of course, the link between the two betrothed ones in this case made much of that a superfluous arrangement, but people were not widely aware of its existence and so they were left to enjoy their togetherness in peace.
The bride emerged the next day in a silver-grey gown which seemed to blend the colors of Rimmuz and Avigor and a fine shimmering silvery veil which seemed to enhance and not hide he crown of golden braids on her hair. For once Rainald instinctively did the right thing – he stepped up to her and offered his arm; barely a year ago his reaction would have been to stand and stare until Alleth or Mirella gave him a gentle push in the right direction. The Lord of Avigor had grown up to his station well, and quickly.
The ceremony was conducted once again by Rimmuz; it was over very quickly, for it wasn’t all that complicated a ritual, and then the whole of Macha was given over to rejoicing, down to the furthest village under its jurisdiction. For a moment the mourning for the old Lady was alleged; they had a new, young and beautiful one again. They’d also gleaned a day’s holiday, which, in the busy spring season, was a boon. And the two main protagonists in the whole celebration were to be seen sitting in the room filled with guests, staring at each other, somehow managing to exclude everyone from their personal little circle and to seem totally alone.
Their first child was born on the day that Aleta turned seventeen. It was a girl, whom they named Arawn; she came into the world with a tuft of hair that stuck at an angle so similar to her father’s hair would assume on occasions of stress that quite soon the given name was corrupted into Araina, a combination of her and her own father’s names. The formal Arawn was only remembered in the book where the Avigor children where noted; and later, when she grew, it was only used in the most formal of formal occasions, when there was no getting out of it. Otherwise she was Araina, and Araina she remained.
Annica Dow, the fosterling of the longest standing at Macha, absolutely fell in love with the baby. Whenever Aleta was busy elsewhere she was pestering the baby’s nurse to allow her to help to care for the child. The youngest Avigor seemed to have no objection, even gurgling happily whenever Annica approached, so Aleta acquiesced, as long as there was adequate supervision of both the children. The two were, after all, foster-kin – and, although it could have been deemed early for Araina to do so, they might as well start to get to know each other.
The next child, Corian, made her appearance over two years later. Araina was already toddling and talking, both of which disciplines she tried to teach the new child immediately. Annica, now eleven, was due to leave Macha the following year, but she took on the new baby as well. She loved children, and she could without doubt exact things from them and control them admirably well for one so young. So, if effect, during the first few years of her foster-sisters’ lives, it was she who was their nurse and companion. Although they were both too young to remember her then, she came back often, admittedly more like an aunt than a foster-sister, but that did not prevent the two Avigor girls to love her best in the world… after Mama, and Papa… and…., nor Annica from loving them as her own, despite the age gap of only nine years between her and Araina.
During this time, the people from the starship had been settling down. They had learnt the language, the customs, the background of their new world. The women, who had stopped wearing trousers and let their hair grow, were looked upon with favor by the local inhabitants; some even married them, although most of the women actually preferred to stay with their own kind. But they had soon reached a stage where they began scattering from the nucleus of the village that had originally sheltered them. They filtered through into the other Clan holdings, into Colgarma, even out amongst the Ichari there were some to be found. They became insidious during the years, the more so since now that they’d adopted the costume and language of Castala they were often difficult to recognize for what they were, unless by the strange accent with which they sometimes spoke their new tongue.
By the time Rainald and Aleta had been married two years, there was one man from the starship that worked in their fields. Over the years that followed, there came other of the same ilk, men and women. Before long the first man who had come to Macha asked permission of his Lord, as was done by those serving the Clan keeps, to take as wife a girl from a later group, that had arrived on the Holding after he himself had done so. Rainald gave him leave.
By early autumn of that year, those two had wed, Aleta turned twenty-four, and before too much time had passed after that she informed her husband that she was once again with child.
Nobody bothered to take too much notice, but so was Chall, the girl from the Starcrashed who had been married at Macha that spring.
So were a great many other women all over Castala, Clan, servant, and Starcrashed. It was a perfectly normal thing, for a woman to be, except that the waiting generation this time carried an as yet unborn secret that had the potential to split the world apart. But nobody knew that. Not yet.

February 24, 2011

Loki on Chapter 3 Rewrite

The first paragraph, I must admit, had my creeper senses tingling a bit. As someone living in the modern world, I constantly see examples of over-infatuation in media as well as real life, and while I realize that that isn’t what’s going on here, that was my gut reaction to the way it was phrased. Or maybe it’s just the concept, I’m not entirely clear.

I like Lord Dow quite a bit in this scene, come to think of it. He’s become entertaining, if not distinct in his own personality. And that’s really all you can ask for a character playing a minor role such as his,
I think.

I’m feeling like one thing that bugs me about Aleta is the descriptions used around her. I’m not too fond of reading about her “lithe” figure or  “thick”, “honey-colored” hair – I feel as though some difference in adjectives would be nice… maybe even a few less?

The speed of the whole Rainald/Aleta thing still catches me off guard. I agree with what Courtney says – it seems like two kids who don’t really know what they’re talking about. The only thing backing their relationship up is a premonition, and, while enough on the side of logic, I suppose, it doesn’t quite do enough to persuade the reader’s emotional senses. I was mostly down with it until he started calling her “love”, implying deep emotional connection rather than the precognition of deep emotional connection.

The plot development! The starship! The Ichari! It’s all getting me awfully excited, and I’ve READ the darn thing already.

I might have already said this, but I like that little moment of disquiet between Rainald and Gilden.

“High Council business, eh?” repeated Gilden with a touch of belligerence. Rainald, winced at the tone and turned his eyes on his Foster-brother. Gilden was staring at him with dark eyes.

“Ill chosen words, Foster-brother,” said Rainald. “I’m sorry. Still, it was aired in High Council, the same one my Lordship over Avigor was confirmed at, so I suppose it does make it High Council business. So don’t look at me like that, Gilden Lammuir, you know damned well it was none of it of my doing!”

Gilden cast his eyes down, rebuked. “Sorry, Rainald.”

Gives both of them personality, gives their relationship dimension – foreshadows a bit, shall I dare to say?

Also, Rainald dropping the bomb on Gilden. Hell YES. I just find them adorable.

I like where the end of the last portion landed. It was nice. Looking forward to more!

February 22, 2011

Zach on Chapter 3 Rewrite

Early on in the rewrite the only problems seem to be trivial at best, mostly grammatical. A “ facing the wrong direction, “Rainald walked back to his own quarters with wearing a broad grin….” The with or wearing needs to be removed, and own isn’t necessary though no harm is being done by its presence. It may be my ninth grade social studies teacher’s influence, but the use of the word thing in the sentence: “This whole thing would be a veritable thunderclap from a blue sky…” bugs me. There seems to be other uses of the word, changing it would be suggested.

“In that case, would you care to present yourself and anyone you might wish present at my chambers within the hour? I shall take it upon myself to ensure your bride-to-be will be in attendance….”

The second present doesn’t seem like it belongs there.

Lord Dow as already there

I’m assuming the as was meant to be a was.

They had extensive knowledge of Patters

Patterns instead of patters. I enjoy the doubt Rainald experiences when questioning the Ichari’s wisdom. It seems to be a foreshadow of a future conflict, though whether or not my guess will prove fruitful, only time will tell. In general all of my qualms were met in this rewrite, I enjoyed it greatly.

February 12, 2011

Courtney on Chapter 3 Rewrite

Okay, first off, a quick note: “He clapped Rainald, sitting silent, on the shoulder, smiling.” That sentence is just…wow. I know that it’s supposed to mean that Dow is clapping Rainald on the shoulder and smiling whilst Rainald is sitting silent, but it looks like…well it looks like a mess.

 

I don’t think I have mentioned this yet but I quite enjoy the fact that each clan has their own colors and gemstones. It seems so well-thought out and organized, hardly something I would have thought a 14 year old capable of in their first writings. I guess I just haven’t met the right 14
year olds.

 

All in all, I like the rewrite, though the sudden close bond between Rainald and Aleta still bothers me a little. Rather than seeming like a love that will last through the ages as it should be, it seems more like two high school kids going “oh we’ve only been dating for a week but I love her, I know I do. We’re gonna get married,” even though everyone knows they will hate each other in a week. It seems empty. I don’t know, perhaps it’s just this chapter and I will grow to understand it as the story progresses but that is how I feel about it for now.

February 2, 2011

Chapter 3 Rewrite

Chapter 3

1.

Rainald was fully intent on letting things develop at their own pace, at least for a few days, but he spent a restless night haunted by dreams of Aleta’s face. Disturbingly, it was not the child’s face that she still wore – this was, he knew, what she would look like when she was thirty. When she was forty. And he woke knowing beyond any further doubt that he would be at her side to see her grow into those adult features.

Without quite knowing how he had got there, he found himself before the doors of the Dow apartments shortly after finishing his breakfast, and asked the footman to announce him. He was ushered into a set of chambers remarkably similar to his own except for the view out of the large window. Dow rose from behind his desk to greet him.

“Trouble?” Dow inquired. “Did you get to see Gilden Lammuir yet?”

“We’ve sorted that out,” Rainald said. “We can deal with the situation. No – it isn’t that. It’s about something else entirely.”

Dow gave him a long, apprising look, and then crossed the office to where a small cabinet contained a bottle filled with a honey-coloured liquid and a brace of goblets.

“Brandy,” he said, pouring a drink for his guest, and then another for himself. “The best. It’s from the D’Alleara cellars, and their people know how to make this.” He handed Rainald his goblet and raised his slightly, in salute. “From the expression on your face, one way or another, we will need this. Now. Tell me. What is it?”

Rainald took a sip of the brandy, gingerly, and it scalded its way down his throat. He shook his head, making a grimace. “Powerful stuff, this,” he said, and put the glass down, turning to face his companion. “Dow… last night, when your daughter came to us…”

“Is this about Liara?” asked the older man shrewdly.

“No,” said Rainald softly. “Her sister.”

Aleta?” Down repeated, surprised. “She’s still a child… well, no, I suppose she isn’t, not really…”

Rainald hesitated, just for a moment, but there was no easy way around this – so he just said what was on his mind.“ Who is her Guardian, Dow? Who must I speak to?”

Dow paused just long enough to make a dramatic impact. “As it happens, I am,” he said. “I am her Guardian, and you appear to have just spoken. And I give my consent, willingly; Rimmuz, as the head of her Ranking Clan, will have to perform the ceremony, though. I shall speak to him tomorrow. If all goes well, you shall have a betrothed by Summer Solstice Ball.” He clapped Rainald, sitting silent, on the shoulder, smiling. “Congratulations. What is it, why so silent?”

“In shock, I think,” said Rainald. “Somehow I didn’t expect it to end like this. I thought that I’d be sent from one responsible person to another, with a possible eventual refusal owing to the fact that she had an as yet unbetrothed sister. I was even thinking of asking a kinsman of mine who is here with me, Sever Avigor, to offer for Liara, if it came to that – which is an underhand way of doing it, I grant you, but…” he shrugged, and then smiled.

Dow widened his own grin. Rainald’s smiles were usually infectious. “Life never quite turns out as one expects or indeed wants it to.” He rose. “Except if you are as strong a precog as Aleta herself is – I shall have a word with my Ward, to see if she has had any precognitions lately. And you should be hearing from Rimmuz himself concerning the rest of it.”

Rainald walked back to his own quarters with wearing a broad grin he simply could not conceal. Tomorrow – or the day after – would be quite a day for the entire Clan. This whole thing would be a veritable thunderclap from a blue sky – he had not so much as breathed of an intention to marry. The thought of the effect on the clan of the announcement made him almost skip with anticipation, as though he was still a child. Why, he was more like his Foster-brother Gilden Lammuir every day. Gilden, too, enjoyed springing news onto people. Rainald suddenly recalled the way he had been told of Gilden’s own betrothal – recalled, and planned retaliation.

The Lord of Clan Rimmuz came calling on Rainald Avigor towards evening of the next day. He was a round-faced, rotund little man with small, pudgy hands and several cascading chins; but within this unprepossessing exterior lurked a mind that was every bit as sharp as Rainald’s own. Rainald had come to realize this during his first three months as Avigor’s Lord – the Rimmuz Lands bordered on Avigor’s, and the two lords had had dealings over a tract of land given as dowry for an Avigor Bride. The betrothal had been performed by Rainald’s father, but the actual nuptial arrangements had remained after his death to roost firmly upon the shoulders of his heir. The thing had been resolved satisfactorily for both sides; the wedding was due to take place during this Council session, and in the interim period each Lord had judged the other worthy of his friendship and had given of it freely.

After the greetings and formalities, Rimmuz smiled at the younger man, his eyes twinkling.

“So!” he said. “It transpires that we are to become related, my young friend.”

“Indeed. Although I seem to have bypassed protocol somewhat.”

The older Lord shook his head, still smiling. “But you haven’t! There’s the beauty of it. Dow isn’t Liara’s guardian, so of course he wouldn’t know yet; but the truth of the matter is that I betrothed Liara not a sevenday ago, in fact, just before we came here, to a youth from my own Clan. So,” he said, clapping his hands together, “I’ll be more than glad to welcome you as a kinsman as well as friend. I shall make the necessary arrangements. Council starts tomorrow; when do you wish the ceremony to be performed?”

“Today. Tonight. Now, if possible.”

Rimmuz laughed. “In that case, would you care to present yourself and anyone you might wish present at my chambers within the hour? I shall take it upon myself to ensure your bride-to-be will be in attendance….”

He took his leave, to prepare for the occasion, and Rainald sent a footman for Mirella. He wanted to be the one to break the news to her, and ask for her to come with him. After all, she was his nearest relative in Colgarma at this time. She glided into his study, soundless as always, a few moments after his summons.

Rainald had thought of a gentle way to tell her, and had been rehearsing it in his head in the short interval before she arrived. But when he saw her come in, the words spilled from him without any preamble.

“Mirella… I am to be betrothed in an hour’s time.”

She took it better than he expected. Very pale, but in control, she even managed a smile. “To one of the sisters who brought Annica to us the other day?” she asked.

“How did you know?” Rainald asked, surprised.

“Your face gives you away, my brother. It did yesterday. Which one is it?”

“Aleta.”

“The younger?”

“Yes, Mirella… will you come and be present at it?”

“I…” she bit her lip. She had avoided occasions such as this for many years. In fact, the last betrothal she had seen had been her own, and that had left scars. Then she raised her face to this, and smiled bravely. “It isn’t every day my only brother gets betrothed. Yes, I will come.”

Rainald hugged her with deep affection, moved. He knew how much this had cost her. She extricated herself after a moment, and squeezed his arm lovingly. “Congratulations. Where is it to be held?”

“The Rimmuz chambers.”

“All right. Let me just change into something appropriate. And so should you, by the way, it is quite a formal occasion.” She looked towards the desk. “Have you got the ring?”

The betrothal vows were symbolized by the exchange of rings by the couple. These rings, bearing the stones of the respective Clan, or affiliated Clan, were exchanged at the wedding ceremony for two plain gold bands which then indicated the wedded state. Rainald, characteristically, had quite neglected to remember this formality, and now looked blankly at his sister.

“I know Father had two rings in here,” Mirella said, hesitating. “Is there anything locked you haven’t opened yet?”

“A drawer in the desk,” said Rainald, and dashed off into his bedchamber to retrieve the key to the desk. In the locked drawer they found a neat stack of papers and a flat box covered in black velvet with a Unicorn’s head embroidered in silver thread on the top. Rainald took this and opened it gingerly. The inside was black velvet-lines, and on a cushion there lay two rings bearing the diamond of their clan.

Rainald sighed in relief.

“Do you know, I would really have gone without taking…” he stopped at the sight of Mirella’s frozen gaze resting in the box.

I remember this… the last time it was taken out was…

Rainald put out a hand, and touched her gently on the shoulder. She shuddered, as if woken from a nightmare, then slowly got to her feet from where she’d been crouching by the desk.

“I’ll just change,” she said quietly.

“Mirella…” said Rainald, also rising; then lapsed into Contact. Mirella, I don’t…

I will forget. It is time. The ring passes on. Mirella interrupted him, and then she was gone.
Rainald stared at the rings, his mind awash with memories not his own. Mirella, usually in flawless control of her feelings and her thoughts, had let the barrier slip a little during the intense moment in which she had seen the rings. Rainald had picked up a few scattered images that had escaped her tight control – he ‘saw’ a tall and spare youth, with a ready smile and dark, dreamy eyes; the betrothal ring on a slender, girlish finger; foaming waves and an upturned boat; the stern and white-browed face of the old Lord of Avigor, eyes flashing in anger. All that had been Mirella’s burden, to bear alone; and alone she had borne it by choice.

Rainald sighed, took one of the rings from its box, and slipped it on the little finger of his own hand for security. On his way out of the study he paused beside the wall on which hung the portraits of Avigor’s brides, his mother’s the last portrait on the wall. Soon another would hang there, just below hers.

His mother. He still had to tell his mother.

Rainald drew his hand through his hair, leaving it standing on end. His life was suddenly moving too fast for him.

The door opened behind him, and he turned. Mirella had chosen a gown that shimmered silver, and around his throat a black ribbon bearing a small ch’ia-incised diamond seemed to accentuate her long, graceful neck and the firm line of the jaw.

“You look beautiful,” said Rainald, and meant it.

She smiled. “What have you done with your hair?” she asked him. “Could it be nerves?”

“No. I was just thinking… of something else.” Rainald smoothed his unruly locks as best he could, and cast a critical eye on his clothing. Whether by accident or design he now forgot, but he found that he, too, was wearing the Colors of his Clan, although, unlike his sister, he had chosen predominantly black. He cocked a questioning eye at Mirella.

“Will I do?” he asked.

“I suppose,” she said. “Black has always suited you. I don’t know what you would have done to yourself if you had been born into a Clan such as Carlin, with their green and white.”

“Probably worn black,” chuckled Rainald. “And you, you who are inseparable from the Avigor diamond, don’t even start with me. What would you have done with an emerald or a sapphire?”

“Ah,” said Mirella, lifting a wryly admonishing finger, “but you forget – things are easier for a woman. I would marry into the Clan who holds the Gem of my choice. What is she, your girl – affiliated to Rimmuz? Carnellian?”

“Yes.”

“She will suit Diamond.”

“Yes,” agreed Rainald firmly.

Mirella reached up to smooth out an obstinate lock of her brother’s hair which insisted on sticking out at an angle alien even to itself. Then she turned away.

“Maybe it’s time we started,” she suggested softly.

They weren’t the first arrivals at Lord Rimmuz’s. Lord Dow as already there, as were Lord Acharmi, who Rimmuz knew to be a friend of Clan Avigor, and Lord De Skari, who had to be present because of the young bride’s affiliation to that Clan as well. The three rose from their seats when Rainald and Mirella entered, offering greetings and congratulations. De Skari was the only one in the room who had not had an occasion to get to know the young Lord Avigor at all; Acharmi and Dow both embraced Rainald under the beaming eye of Rimmuz, and then remained standing, talking to the young Avigor while De Skari reseated himself in silence.

“I wish your father was still here to see this,” said Acharmi, patting his young friend on the shoulder.
“Believe me, so do I,” said Rainald softly, with feeling.

Any further conversation was precluded by the entrance of the rest of the betrothal party. Aleta, slight and lithe, walked in front, dressed in a gown the color of flame, which was the primary of her affiliated Ranking Clan. Her thick honey-colored hair had been caught in a demure dove-gray net, and her eyes were modestly downcast. Her mother was right behind her, and after her came Aleta’s half-sister, Liara. Aleta’s father had not come to this Council, and was therefore absent, as was Rainald’s mother, for that matter. The three women arranged themselves on the available seating.
Rainald stared at the bent head of his future Lady, unable to tear his eyes away. He was seeking for an echo of what she had called precog, that wash of sudden conviction… but it was gone, and in its place was nothing more than a quiet certainty. Aleta herself made no move, no gesture, her hands serenely folded in her lap. But he knew all too well how aware she was of his scrutiny.

Rimmuz had risen to his feet, and Rainald tore his gaze away from Aleta to look at him at the same time she raised her eyes. Rimmuz gestured them both to rise and approach him, and they did.
“Join hands,” Rimmuz instructed.

Rainald’s world had gone curiously silent all of a sudden; he could hardly hear Rimmuz’s intoning words. He understood when he was being asked for the ring more by the gesture than by word; he placed it on the middle finger of Aleta’s right hand, where it fit perfectly, as if by magic. He received his own from her, on the middle finger of his right hand. And then, as if someone had pricked the bubble of silence that had surrounded him with a pin, the world rushed back and he suddenly heard Rimmuz say in a voice as clear as a bell,

“…pledged to one another, in front of family and friends, witnesses all, and the Gods that watch over us. They are pledged to one another, in truth and in honor, until the promise is fulfilled and they become truly one in the sight of the Gods.” He paused, and then smiled at the pair who stood before him. “Time enough for that,” he said jovially.“In the meantime, congratulations, to both my kinsfolk!”

He embraced them both at the same time and then waddled off, calling for all his guests to follow for the refreshments provided in the next chamber. Only now did Aleta meet Rainald’s gaze, her eyes bright with joy. Their hands were still joined, and Rainald squeezed the small hand he held as if to make sure the whole thing was real.

It is real. I am here. Aleta winced at the pressure, but smiled while she was doing it.

It did not occur to Rainald to question the fact that they had this kind of instant connection in Contact, as though they had known one another all their lives. They would never need the channel of the Pattern stones to initiate communication even when they were far from one another. The link was just… there. It had always been there. It always would be. It lingered as they were swamped by the congratulations of everyone present, swept apart and then together, and then apart again. Rainald knew this was not the case with his own parents; his father’s had been a powerful Gift, but his mother had relied on the ch’ia stone a lot. She still did. He himself always required it when trying to come into Contact with her. Without that key, her mind was closed. Rainald knew that to be the case with many of the Clan kinsfolk, and did not like the implications of it – that the Clan Gifts were failing, and the ch’ia stones were serving as crutches.

2.

The gathering of the Council began early the next morning. Ceremonial colors and gems flashed and mixed, the Lammuir Blue complementing the crimson of Catallin, the soft gray of D’Alleara setting off the dazzling green and white of Carlin.

Few of the Ichari, the ch’ia wrights, ever showed up at Council. They had their own dwelling on the tip of Claw Point, the most westerly point of the mainland, and they seldom traveled far afield, content to wait in their stronghold until they were actually sought out by Clansfolk needing new Pattern-stones for themselves or for their children. They had made it their life’s work to study the mind of the Clan, and the way it worked; they had extensive knowledge of Patters, and therefore of the finer points of communication in Contact. So much so, in fact, that they used Contact almost exclusively in communication with one another, a custom that did not altogether endear them to the rest of the Clan – even for Clan, used to such things, there was something distinctly unnerving to be present while two telepaths carried on a mental conversation that excludes one entirely.

Clan did not like the Ichari, but they respected them, and usually the Clan children with the strongest Gifts were tithed for Ichari training at an early age. When they went, they more or less completely renounced their Clan, and held allegiance only to the Ichari. They even had their own color, a lilac-purple shade tempered with gray, the dye for which they obtained in some mysterious manner from a source that thrived only on Claw Point and nowhere else in all Castala. They wore garments of this color whenever they went abroad in the land, and were recognized by it as well as revered for it.
Although the Clans, who ruled in Council and not though one person only, had no overlord or High King amongst them, the Lord of the Ichari was the nearest to that office they accepted. If a matter was referred to the Lord at Claw Point, it was too far gone for Clan to solve by themselves – and the judgment he handed down was a command, and was obeyed. Even the High Council would accept his final word on any matter – by very virtue of his position, in a society graded by the power of the mind, he was by far the superior of anyone who held a High Council seat.

This submission was hardly ever called for, in practice. The Lord of the Ichari kept to his rocky peninsula, and ventured rarely out into the world. Very few people, other than the Ichari themselves, knew his actual identity.

An unusually high number of Ichari had turned up for this particular Council session, Rainald noted as he approached the Full Council Chamber on the morning it was due to formally open. Their purple, unadorned as it was by precious jewels worn by everyone else present, made them stand out from the crowd. Rainald wondered what it was that brought them here in such numbers – Ichari were renowned for being quite ascetic in their habits, and so that face of Colgarma, the middens and warrens of the Lower City which many Clan visited secretly and in disguise during Council, savoring the forbidden pleasures, could hold no appeal for them. So it must be something else, something that had happened…

The middens and warrens of the Lower city…

The starship! Rainald had heard of it in the very middens and warrens the Ichari would scorn, but they, they had access to Patterns and to vision, and key people might have revealed the knowledge even without realizing it. After so many generations of practice, the mental touch of Ichari must be very soft and subtle.

Rainald did not know if the Lords had intended bringing the subject up at all at Full Council; the High Council had not committed itself to anything of that sort when it had met on the issue. But if they did not do so, and Rainald knew now with the same surety that had yielded Aleta to him, then the Ichari would.

Shocked by the strength of his own reaction to this, Rainald, found himself questioning the readiness of the hodge-podge Clan gathering that usually constituted Full Council to accept the news with impunity. The High Council had decreed that the people from the fallen ship were to be left severely alone – to blend as best they could into the tapestry that was Castala’s way of life. Rainald himself had accepted that as a wise decision, since, to anyone’s best knowledge, they were not Gifted and thus were not, could not be, Clan. But they would find it extremely hard to learn to blend into the background if the entire Clan, their imaginations fired, rushed into the Carlin village where now the castaways made their abode and began staring at them and prodding at them as if they were on exhibition. Was that what the Ichari wanted?

But could he, a youth not yet twenty, really question the wisdom of the wise of the wisest that Castala had?

“Why the long face, Avigor? What bothers you?” the good-natured voice of Lord Dow broke Rainald’s reverie. He hadn’t been aware of it, but he caught himself scowling darkly, and he dissolved his features into a smile as he looked up at Dow.

“Oh, it’s nothing, it’s just… I was worried about something …” His smile slipped and fled, and he gazed seriously at the older Lord, who sobered up in sympathy. “Tell me,” said Rainald softly so that they should not be overheard, “was High Council intending to announce the crash of that starship that fell on Carlin lands?”

“To the best of my knowledge, no,” said Dow. “Personally, I would not advise doing so. Those people are hardly our concern now… I mean, as a group, as a Clan. Their misfortunes would be met by boredom from some, which is not a good thing to plant in any Council, and by unhealthy interest from others, which is not to be hoped for either.” He gave the younger man a beady look. “Why?”

“I think we’re in trouble,” muttered Rainald.

“What?”

“If we don’t announce it,” said Rainald, “the Ichari will. They mean to query.”

“How did you… oh. Another precog?”

“Sort of,” said Rainald, and scowled again, knowing he sounded less than convincing but constrained by too many conventions. “I was about to ask you to call Lammuir, and then I remembered that only Gilden was here, and you and I stood in Guardianship. We would be asking only ourselves for counsel, then.” He paused. “Who, then? Who can we ask? Who comes after Lammuir in… rank?” He had almost said ‘age,’ but hated to think of it like that.

Dow seemed to share his thoughts, for he shifted uneasily.

“Avigor was,” he muttered, “but they would hardly accept you now as… no offense, kinsman,” he added, hurriedly. Rainald shook his head impatiently. “Catallin,” said Dow finally, after a pause, “Catallin and Acharmi are the eldest… I shall call Catallin and find Acharmi… you look up Gilden Lammuir… his Clan does, after all, still hold the High Chair in High Council… and get Carlin also, if you can find him. Bring them to the High Council Chamber. We had better have a small council of war on this.”

Rainald nodded, and wheeled away, leaving Dow to hail Catallin, waving his hands like windmills above the heads of the crowd to attract that Lord’s attention. Almost immediately he spotted his Foster-brother, in conversation with three young and pretty girls, two wearing D’Alleara and one Catallin colors. The Catallin girl Rainald recognized immediately – she really had the most incredible color of hair, and could be none other than Gilden’s betrothed, Rialle Catallin. Rainald approached, hoping he was not in line for long introductions.

Gilden saw him coming, and waved to him. “Foster-brother!” he called, unmindful of the breach in protocol. Rainald was supposed to be in Guardianship over him, and most Clan knew that. “Come, you have not met my promised Lady!”

“Ay, but I know her. Greetings, Senya Rialle, and my congratulations – they would have come sooner had your betrothed told me of this when it actually occurred…”

She smiled, offering her hand, and Rainald took it reflexively and bent over it – but he was not here for small talk. “Gilden,” said Rainald, giving Rialle an apologetic grimace, “I hate to pull you away from such charming company, but I’ve been charged with collecting you – Council business,” he said, smiling, down to Rialle’s fallen face. “I am sorry, Lady.”

Gilden frowned, but took his leave of his lady-friends and fell into step beside Rainald. “Could it not have waited?” he grumbled. “Council is due to start in half an hour, and surely there…”

“Gilden,” said Rainald, his eyes still darting about for Carlin, “Did your father mention the starship to you?”

“Starship?” Gilden repeated blankly.

Rainald glanced at his puzzled face, and sighed. “No, I suppose not. High Council business and all that. I suppose I’d better fill you in before we get to the others…”

“High Council business, eh?” repeated Gilden with a touch of belligerence. Rainald, winced at the tone and turned his eyes on his Foster-brother. Gilden was staring at him with dark eyes.

“Ill chosen words, Foster-brother,” said Rainald. “I’m sorry. Still, it was aired in High Council, the same one my Lordship over Avigor was confirmed at, so I suppose it does make it High Council business. So don’t look at me like that, Gilden Lammuir, you know damned well it was none of it of my doing!”

Gilden cast his eyes down, rebuked. “Sorry, Rainald.”

“We’d better get to the others before Council proper starts.” Rainald said, sidestepping the apology. And then he turned to his companion, smiling wryly. “What are you complaining about? You’re the only Heir to Clan I know who will see the High Council chamber before his confirmation!”

Gilden flicked his gaze up, but his eyes were still guarded. “The starship?” he prompted.

For the few minutes to took them to walk to the High Council Chamber, Rainald gave Gilden an edited version of the happenings at Cavaril, the Keep of Clan Carlin.

“I do not believe the Lords meant to make it public,” Rainald was saying as they approached the doors, “but they may have to, if they wish to avoid being forestalled by the Ichari. I am perfectly certain that they mean to do this if we do not. So what we are having here is, in effect, a ‘council of war,’ as Dow puts it. You are here because Lammuir holds the Chair; Clan Lammuir’s opinion is to be taken into account.”

“What do you think?” asked Gilden.

“Me? Arella’s light, if the Ichari weren’t forcing our hand, I would not dream of it.”

“But why ever not? This is something that affects Clan…”

“How?” asked Rainald. They were now standing at the Chamber doors, facing one another. Rainald drew a hand through his hair, his usual gesture when he was nervous or agitated. Now he was both. The move played its usual havoc with his hair, setting it all awry like a young child’s. He caught Gilden’s grin, and snatched his hand back down again, conscious of a pang of wounded dignity. “How? So far as we know, the star people are not Gifted – so they do not touch Clan.”

“So far as we know.” Gilden underlined Rainald’s words. “Shall we go in?”

Inside, Lords Catallin, Acharmi, Dow and D’Alleara were deep in a heated discussion.

“…I believe the Ichari, as always, know what they are doing,” said D’Alleara, with a smug smile. Rainald glared at him. Why had they brought him? They ought to have known that the man would take the side with more power, and that, undeniably and traditionally, the Ichari held.

The four Lords all looked up at the opening and closing of the door; Rainald surprised a grimace of sick relief on Dow’s face when he entered, and wondered what losing cause the man had espoused this time. Catallin looked stern, and Acharmi troubled; it seemed that the Ichari had indeed been one jump ahead.

“Ah, our oracle,” said D’Alleara smoothly. Rainald wasn’t sure whether this was meant as an insult or not, but suspected it was; D’Alleara’s own Gifts were said to be vestigial. But he did not rise to the bait.

“Oracle indeed,” he agreed blandly, “if by that you mean that I have found out the intention of the Gem-wrights. But no more than that, my lord. Now we must decide which way to jump from here..”
D’Alleara’s barb had been turned firmly against his own hide; he scowled at Rainald for a moment, and then smiled again. Rainald turned away, choosing to ignore him. “Well?What are we doing, if anything?”

“The way I look at it,” began Acharmi slowly,” the Clan will be told anyway. And if it is not we who bear the word, well, you know as well as I do, my Lords, that there is always some discontented elements…”

“I think,” said Catallin, his face stony, “we have no real choice. That was taken away the moment the Ichari stepped in. And right now, it’s either they say it, or we do, and I’d prefer we do, and not just for your discontented elements, Acharmi. The others will not be happy about our going over their heads, but they will have to see it was the only road open to us.”

Acharmi was nodding. Rainald met Dow’s eyes, and then, sighing, nodded as well. So did Dow, once, sharply. Only now did D’Alleara widen his smile and say clearly,

“Yes, I think that is a good idea.”

You would have thought the opposite was a good idea, too, if we all agreed on it, thought Rainald savagely. Oh, to have that man away from Council! But he was Lord of a Major House, Rainald’s equal in rank; despite his shortcomings he was stuck in his place until such time as they needed to choose a new Lord.

Gilden, worrying at his lower lip, nodded too; and Rainald caught some of his surprise at his own audacity.

Catallin noticed the nod, and followed it with one of his own.

“Senyor Lammuir,” she said, using the courtesy title, “would Clan Lammuir agree?”

“Yes,” said Gilden. “I do not know all the details. But from what I’ve heard here, today…”

“With the consent of everyone here present, then, Acharmi, who holds the chair by proxy since Lord Lammuir is not with us, shall begin the Council with this news. That way we are sure to forestall the Ichari.” He looked around for his consent, and, receiving it from everyone, he nodded once again. “All right. We’d had better get back – they cannot start Council with so many Clan Lords absent, and they are like to get impatient.” He turned to Gilden. “Since you are under my Guardianship, Senyor Lammuir, would you sit with me in Council this day?”

Gilden smiled, and made a slight bow. “I would be honored to.” Then he cast an eye at Rainald behind Catallin’s departing back. “What luck!” he whispered conspiratorially. “Now I can talk to my Lady Rialle if the chatter on the Council floor gets boring!”

Now!

Rainald returned the gaze as innocently as he could, but he could not prevent his eves dancing in suppressed mirth. “I quite envy you. You see, my own betrothed will not be here this day. Otherwise I too would avail myself of her company.”

He had the pleasure of seeing Gilden’s mouth fall open in stunned surprise before he bade the speechless youth a calm and serene farewell, and excused himself to go after the four departed Lords.
There was a lilt in Rainald’s step, and a great big grin wreathed his face. How he had longed for this day! Gilden, who was forever springing shocks and surprises on people, himself always seemed unshockable; he would take everything anyone flung at him in his stride. But now, now Rainald had neatly turned the tables – Rainald, who had been the butt of many of his ‘announcements.’ Now it was Rainald’s turn to shine out, however briefly, and he reveled in it. He touched the ring he wore, which Aleta had given him and which he had deliberately turned inwards so that Gilden would not notice the stone… was it really only the night before? They seemed to have been together for years.

Well, Foster-brother, now we are even, thought Rainald with a good deal of smugness. Now you can start plotting again – I’ll be ready for anything.

And then he thought of Gilden and Rialle cooing together all Council, and peevishly wondered why he couldn’t bring his own promised Lady to sit at his side. And then his smile grew wide again.

But I am always with you.

It was Aleta, her touch already well known and loved. Yes, she was always with him. And, from his encounter with the Lammuir-Catallin couple earlier, Rainald would have been prepared to swear the highest oath, on his own ch’ia, that, although they seemed fond enough of one another, Gilden and Rialle did not share the bond that bound him, Rainald, and his Aleta so closely.

No. They do not, you are right. They talk; we have no need, came the soft agreement.

Aleta, love, I wish you could be with me, in person as well as in spirit! Councils…

Go, and have a good Council. Don’t you know I can see through your eyes?

And then he was in the Council Chamber, taking his place in the seat of the Lord of Clan Avigor. Those present of his Clan, led by Mirella and Sever, were seated in the gallery behind and around him. Rainald sought out the purple of the Ichari; most of them were sitting in their own special enclosure, which overflowed with purple. Some had scattered around the Clan galleries, taking their seats amongst their own Clans, where they might have owed allegiance before they had become part of the Ichari. A quick look was all he had time for, because already Lord Acharmi was on his feet and speaking. He declared the Council open, and welcomed all present; then, before anyone had a chance to claim to floor, he took a deep breath and went on.

“The High Council,” he said, “has an announcement to make, to begin the Full Council sitting.” He paused, and Rainald could see the sharp turns of the unconsulted Lords towards the speaker. Catallin stared straight ahead, and Dow was gazing intently into his lap, his face dubious. He still wasn’t sure… well, for that matter, neither was Rainald, and he had acquiesced. “A few months ago,” Acharmi carried on slowly, “a great vessel, a starship, crashed from the sky on the outskirts of Cavaril. There were survivors…”

A murmur began, which grew steadily louder. Rainald saw in some faces the inquisitiveness he had feared; on others, he saw the beginnings of an unease which could in itself turn into fear.
As he looked up again towards Acharmi, he caught the eye of a lovely young Ichara who sat in the galleries not far from his own seat. His gaze passed on after a moment – and then snapped back swiftly. He was already too late, though. Her expression was as serious and decorous as anyone might have wished… but he had seen it, he knew he had seen it, that small knowing smile that had played about her lips only an instant before. He had known their intent – he had gone to the High Council – but now… he had an uneasy feeling that he had been pushed where the Ichari believed he should go, and he had taken others on the road with him.

Why? Why this way? Were they and the starcrashed connected in some way?

And then it came to him. The legend of the Clans. The legend was what connected them. And the legend told how the Gods came down to the world from the stars. There were four of them: Eos, the Lord of Dreams and Power; Arella, the Lady of the Stars and Light; Aldra, the Earth-Mother, Lady of Birth and Lifeforce; Zarog, Lord of Darkness and Death. They came down from their high places in the heavens, and they begot children, and the children became Clan.

All the big Clan families claimed descent directly from Eos and Arella; Avigor itself was no exception. The Clan arose from Gods, who came down to the world from the stars… was it blasphemy to think that this was a reenactment, and the people from the starship were the forerunners of a new Clan?
Rainald shivered, clutching the arms of his seat. Somehow, turning everything he thought he knew on its head, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that the Clan’s own ancestors had not been Gods. They had been people, who had fallen from the sky much like the people in this starship had done. But he shied from the thought of what this meant.

Was a new Clan about to rise…?

And if so, oh Gods, whether they had ever been that or not, then what was to become of the Clan that existed already…?

January 27, 2011

Rewrite of Chapter 3 – watch for it in a few days!

In the meantime, because it’s been a while since you’ve read the original, you might want to revisit it here:

http://heritageofclan.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/chapter-3-original-version/

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