Archive for ‘New Chapter’

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!

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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

Elyse on Chapter 2 rewrite

– The chapters are drawing out emotions and the world is being created. Only thing I have to complain about is When Rainald and Gilden are talking -“Cone now, what’s wrong with that?”

Love how it’s going so far 😀

January 21, 2011

Loki on Chapter 2 Rewrite

I really, really like this rewrite. A lot. The way the original ideas were morphed into something more or less the same but far more fun to read is pretty impressive. I actually liked the scene with Rainald and
Alleth a lot more this time. It’s nice to be able to experience the dynamic between the two of them without being distracted by little odds and evens in word choice and such.

I’m not sure how fond I am of where the chapter cut off. It just seemed a bit random, as well as too highly emphasized, especially for how short-term the reader’s knowledge of Gilden is. It also, I think, implies that the scene to follow will be far more crucial than I feel it actually is. It was just a tad bit anticlimactic.

That said, I adore the largely untouched dialogue between Rainald and Gilden as much as I did when I first read it, and was biting back laughter. The thing I like about Gilden (well, one of the many) is the way he speaks what you’re thinking, such as re: Rainald’s remark about Rialle’s hair being “the color of Asturias’ light.” Personally, I’ve found that he tends to say exactly what the reader is thinking while reading – it’s nice, it gives you the feeling that you’re somehow represented, that the writer understands you enough to give you that link.

I appreciate the insights into Rainald’s grieving – or reasons to avoid grieving, at any rate. Not only does him being busy and tired build the empathy level, it doesn’t leave you wondering what he’s thinking, which is nice, seeing as he’s the main character and all.

Small likes:

[+] Rainald’s dislike for Full Council. I don’t know why I enjoy this so much, I just do.

[+] Clueless!Rainald at his first precog experience. Remarkable improvement.

[+] Oh, Mirella, I enjoy your character so.

[+]“Mirella! Gods, I haven’t seen you since you were my age!” Oh, Gilden. Never change.

[+] One thing I do appreciate about Aleta is that we haven’t been hearing  about her since the
beginning – as in, Rainald was originally supposed to be set up with her sister.

[+] I actually like Aleta a lot more in general in this version. The way she talks about her precog helps – gives her some sort of humanity, makes her sound a bit weird. It’s great.

[/] One thing that I would say needs a tad more work – a lot of the lords seem to have quite similar personalities, and they sort of blur together in my memory. It would be nice to have a few more definitive characteristics on a few of these guys.

January 19, 2011

Zach on Chapter 2 Rewrite

There seem to be some superfluous words, for instance “the very next day” or, “he suddenly could not wait to see it again” “…had been truly given to him” the words being, very, suddenly, and truly. They seem to make the sentences slightly choppy. Removing them would be suggested, though leaving
them there wouldn’t do any harm. Maybe a little bit more of a transition from happy Rainald to sad Rainald as far as “charging at full speed on horse of awesome” to “contemplating life without father” though it isn’t necessary. I enjoy how his thoughts are sort of swapping back and forth between topics at points, like when he is crossing the bridge to Macha. As far as the all at once event pointed out by Courtney, I stress the importance of rectifying that mistake as well, as well as keeping an eye out for others similar to it.

The planting of the seed that will grow into Aleta’s and Rainald’s relationship was quite a bit more subtle in the re-write, which is a nice improvement. Yet again I find myself struggling to find errors.

This story is beginning to wrap around my mind which I hope to be a good sign as far as how the reading may go for other teens. Thank you for the new chapter.

December 13, 2010

Courtney on Chapter 2 rewrite

The people who stared knew who Rainald was, what he was… and all at once he was struck all at once by… – All at once was used twice in the same sentence here.

Also, consider changing either the sister or the betrothed’s name. I realize that it was intentional but they are almost too much alike, I found myself getting confused as to whom he was talking about or to.

The Avigor estate was bordered on two sides by the Eman, a deep and swiftly flowing river whose treacherous currents had been the subject of dire childhood warnings for every Avigor child. – Unnecessary repetition of the word “child”. Perhaps just “dire warnings for every Avigor child”.

I really like the way you have described his time spent between Colgarma visits. It is a much less abrupt transition and gives us a good view of the type of Clan leader that Rainald is and hopes to be. Not to mention showing us how clever he is by knowing he will be watched and trying to act accordingly.

Thank goodness! The whole Rainald/Aleta deal is so much easier to swallow now. I am much happier with him having no inclination that what he experienced was precog and having her tell him that’s what it was. It makes much more sense and flows a bit more naturally. Thank you! I am much more content with how things are turning out now. I like Aleta a bit more now too, before she seemed too young and unsure of herself. In the rewrite however, she has now become Rainald’s teacher in this precog business and proven herself to be a smart and capable woman.  I am quite happy with the new chapter two.

December 13, 2010

Chapter 2 – rewrite

CHAPTER 2

 

1.

 

There seemed to be little to linger for in Colgarma.

The Unicorn banner was rolled carefully up by a brace of footmen the very next morning, signifying that the Avigor apartments in the Keep were now empty. Even while this was being done, the new Lord Avigor and his sister were riding out of the main gates, onto the wide avenue which eventually led to the Great North Road… and home.

Rainald rode Imril, a glossy black stallion bred in Macha, destined for the Avigor heir as soon as both horse and boy became mature enough to appreciate one another. Rainald had watched the colt grow up even as he himself had been doing so, but Imril had been truly given to him, a gift from his father’s hand, only a few weeks before the old Lord had died. Imril had been an early birthday present, prepared for Rainald to take south to Colgarma when he left to do his Father’s bidding there. The stallion was a raw reminder of his father, now – every step it made reminded Rainald painfully of the first ride they’d had together, under his father’s eye, to show off Imril’s abilities.

He had been excited and proud, sitting the great black horse, and he could feel the power in Imril’s muscles beneath his own. It was an exhibition, and both horse and youth had known what had been expected of them, and had dutifully shown off Imril’s fine training and Rainald’s own horsemanship. But what they both wanted to do, more than anything, was simply… run. Rainald could feel it as the stallion’s muscles bunched against his leg, saw it in the impatient toss of the great head, in the gleam of the dark eye. His father, who was not unobservant, finally laughed and waved a regal hand in dismissal.

“Go, take him, take him,” he had said to his son. “Neither of you belong in the exercise yard today. Go, run.”

And they had, the two of them racing the wind, Imril fairly flying with his feet barely touching the ground, until they slowed to a breathless halt at last, horse and man, bonded, friends forever under the open skies.

Rainald was all too aware of the attention they were getting now – him on Imril, Alleth on her white mare. There were unmistakable insignia on their baggage, following in their wake; nobody who saw them passing by could fail to know who they were, and the sudden passing of Avigor’s Lord and the passing of the title to his young son were common knowledge in the streets by now. The people who stared knew who Rainald was, what he was… and all at once he was struck all at once by a returning stab of vivid grief and a sudden and blazing pride – pride to be Avigor and to bear his name and his lineage and his heraldry, pride in the regal dignity of his sister there beside him, proud of his house and his kin and his name.

A life’s work stretched ahead of him – and the place to begin it, to take it into his hand, was his ancestral home. Macha.

He suddenly could not wait to see it again.

He could not help turning to look back at Colgarma Keep once more as they left it in their wake, the brooding stone castle where he had left his youth on the doorstep of the High Council chamber. His thoughts were too chaotic to be coherent, but the sense of defiance and the fading glow of that pride were enough for Alleth to pick up on.

She tilted her head slightly, so that she could look at him through the light veil she wore on her hat.

Race you, she said, in Contact.

What, here? In the city?

As soon as we shake its dust off. You pick the target.

He made no response to that, except for a small smile that turned up just the corners of his mouth. But that, and the sudden snort from Imril, was all the answer Alleth needed. 

As Colgarma fell away behind them,  Rainald barely paused to point to a huge old tree by the side of the road, some distance away, before Imril leapt forward at the slight pressure of his master’s knees upon his flank; the thunder of hooves behind him signified that his sister’s mount, too, had surged into a gallop. They raced side by side, two blurs of speed, and then Rainald, in a sudden charitable impulse, reined in Imril ever so slightly. The horse responded, slackening the gallop imperceptibly, and before she could realize she had been allowed to, Alleth crossed the imaginary finish line first. She knew it immediately, though, and turned on her brother, flushed and laughing, tucking back the veil that had come undone.

“What did you do that for?” she demanded. “You let me win! That’s not fair!”

“I didn’t need to win this one,” he said, grinning. “But… thank you. I needed that.”

Alleth’s eyes filled with unexpected tears as she gazed on him.

“Let’s go home,” she said.

“It’s going to be so different,” Rainald said slowly. “So… empty.”

Wordlessly she reached out a hand and they sat there for a moment, sharing memories tinged with pain. Then Alleth sighed deeply.

“Come on,” said Rainald, shaking the dream loose, “we ought to get moving. Days are still short, and we have to be far away from Colgarma by nightfall.”

She nodded, and they set off again at a brisk trot.

 

Macha, the country Keep of Clan Avigor, lay a week’s ride from Colgarma at a leisurely pace. Rainald and his little company arrived at the borders of the domain in the evening of the sixth day after they had set out from the city; Rainald had not driven the horses hard, but neither had he tarried on the road.

The Avigor estate was bordered on two sides by the Eman, a deep and swiftly flowing river whose treacherous currents had been the subject of dire childhood warnings for every Avigor child. The only entrance to the Domain from the south, across the river, was a high, narrow bridge – a slim arch of white stone, barely wide enough to allow two people to pass one another if they met on the span. Alleth and Rainald walked onto it, leading their horses, while the retinue waited for them to cross before they followed. Rainald stopped for a moment on the highest point and gazed down at the foaming torrent below.

“The snows must be melting late this year,” he commented absently. “It is higher than it should be.”

With every step that he took, time fled backwards for him. He saw, not the present, but… a boy exploring the mountains at Macha’s back, searching for the source of Eman… never getting very far… an older boy, riding with a white-haired man, flying falcons from gloved wrists, hunting deer in the Forest of Liscar… chai at the hearthside,  when all the cousins had left, just the boy with his parents and his sisters… Alleth and Mirella… Mirella, older and haughtier, slapping him when he dared to pull her braids… Macha, Macha itself, the beloved old house that was really a true Keep, full of turrets and false walls and secret passages, enough to fire a boy’s imagination… the old oak at the northeast corner… Macha.

Macha was now…

Take over, my son. I am leaving…

was now his own.

Rainald lifted his head and saw the familiar stars he had once studied in astronomy lessons. His vision was blurred with a sudden film of tears, but he blinked them away, squared his shoulders, and offered his arm to his sister. In that moment he threw away his eighteen years and watched Eman carry his childhood away. Rainald Avigor had stepped onto the bridge with the remnants of his boyhood still clinging to him –  but that was gone, shed like a butterfly’s chrysalis, and he stepped forward a man, a Lord, a Leader.

“Let’s go home,” he said quietly, echoing his sister’s words from the road just outside Colgarma. Then, they had been an invitation, a spur, a push to turn his back on the city and his face to the north. Now, here, they were no more than themselves – shorn of any other meaning but the last and plainest one. They were standing on the threshold.

They crossed the bridge in silence, remounted their horses on Avigor soil and, by the light of torches held by two of their retinue, rode on into the last stretch of their journey.

Macha Keep stood an hour’s easy ride from the Bridge on the Eman. As they approached closer to the main house, the road became an avenue, flanked on both sides with ancient gnarled trees that arched into one another overhead, making the road into a tunnel. The night became darker as they entered into this living gateway, and the torches cast flickering shadows on boughs and twigs and dancing leaves. And then they rounded the last bend, passed the last pair of trees, and before them rose Macha, ancestral home of Clan Avigor, ablaze with lights to welcome home its Lord.

Lady Avigor, Rainald’s mother, stood alone, a little apart from the rest of the gathered people. Rainald dismounted and stood in front of her, his hair tangling in the cool breeze that blew down from the mountains. His mother tilted her head back to look at his face, and there was something in her expression – half pride in her son and half sorrow that it was no longer her husband whom she hailed as Avigor’s Lord – that made Rainald’s heart lurch painfully. She was only forty three, young to be a widow; she had been married to her Lord at nineteen, his second bride, and knew no other life and no other happiness. She could remarry, but Rainald knew that she never would.

“Long life and fair reign, my son,” she said in a clear voice that nevertheless trembled slightly.

Rainald embraced her lovingly, felt her tremble in his arms; she gasped, bit her lip, and regained control. Stepping back and gently disengaging herself from his arms, she allowed Mirella, his other sister, to approach and wish him another long life and fair reign.

“How you have changed in only a few weeks,” Lady Avigor murmured, gazing at her son. Her voice was very soft, her words uttered more to herself than aloud, but Rainald heard her, looked her way and smiled with a gentle sorrow.

You know why.

She managed a smile. “Come on in, come inside,” she said. “Welcome home.”

Alleth, who had hung back during all of this and allowed Rainald his moment with the family, now came up and hugged her step-mother and her sister. They murmured softly to each other and then moved towards the inviting open door of Macha. Rainald paused only long enough to pat Imril on the neck and give his reins into the hands of the groom who had cared for the horse since the day that he  had been foaled, and then he followed the three women into the house.

A Household of women! he thought, amused. And once I bring a bride…

That thought had almost ambushed him. He knew that this would be his duty now, to find a suitable woman who would stand at his side as Avigor’s new Lady. But he had put the idea from his mind, had not even begun to consider the realities of that situation – not even after Lord Dow had spoken to him about a prospect. Not yet.  But now, here, on the doorstep of his home, it suddenly rose to haunt him, the future which he would have to grasp and shape.  He shook his head wryly as the door of Macha shut behind him.

 

His home.

His responsibility.

And he was not given the time to mourn, or to make detailed plans for the future of the Clan – he could not do the latter until he had a firm grasp on its present, and his father’s sudden death had left a lot of loose ends for his heir to deal with. Full Council – a gathering of all Clan, not just the Clan Lords – loomed in less than three months’ time, and Rainald knew that he would have to return to Colgarma for that. He was very keenly aware that those short months that he had had in between assuming the leadership of his Clan and the Full Council would be closely watched by the other Lords, by the Clan themselves. It was not as though this was a trial period in which he had to prove himself – but he knew that all his doings would be discussed at Council, at least behind closed doors.  The older Lords were probably less than convinced of the ability of an eighteen-year-old to rule a Clan wisely, despite the fact that he was his father’s chosen successor, and were bound to find fault with whatever he was doing, however tiny or insignificant.

So Rainald set himself a stern schedule. He found the time to visit the households of all the important branches of the Clan, as the new Lord, and listen to everyone’s problems and try to find solutions to them. He received the delegations from the Avigor fiefs, the village elders and township mayors and guildsmen, and held meetings with them all, smiling, being pleasant, being fair, being firm, aware that he was being scrutinized and evaluated and compared to his father.

It was exhausting, taking almost every waking hour of his life, and he treasured the breaks he had – the occasional wild ride on Imril when he couldn’t bear to be cooped up one moment longer inside a room with a dozen people who all needed something from him, a game of cards every now and then with Alleth by the fire, even (although these times were sometimes hard) taking his mother out for long walks on days when the shadows came and would not leave her alone.

The three months he had were somehow gone before he knew it, and it was with a sense of sincere astonishment that Rainald realized that it was time to travel back to Colgarma for Council.

He had never particularly enjoyed these gatherings. At best, they were a distracting social whirl; at their absolute worst, they were forums at which more often than not it was the petty things that were aired and judgments passed by people who were usually in no position to offer them. It would be the third Full Council he had attended, and already he had learned to actively dread them. And he had a lifetime of them to sit through.

Rainald’s mother, not suprisingly, elected not to make the journey to Colgarma that year – and Alleth told Rainald that she’d be just as happy to stay behind and keep his mother company. Rainald told her he envied her, and meant it. But Mirella had come, his older sister, and also Sever Avigor, the son of one of Rainald’s uncles and Rainald’s senior by five years. Accompanying these three were a ragtag band of cousins who had made Macha their permanent or temporary abode.

It took this large group of people almost ten days to reach the city. Word had gone ahead – their banner had already been unfurled, at the doors of the Avigor apartments. These, for the duration of the Council, would house the senior members of the family – Sever, Mirella, and the young Lord Avigor himself – together with such sundry kin as could be fitted into the apartments. The rest would be quartered with other lesser Clan kin, sharing quarters in otherwise unoccupied wings of the Keep.

In the Avigor chambers, tired and distracted, Rainald walked almost mechanically towards the room he usually occupied when in the city. He started at Mirella’s touch on his arm, and turned to look down at her.

“That way, Lord Avigor,” she said, and pointed to the chambers that the Clan head always stayed in.

Rainald flushed darkly. “If it takes me this long to get used to being Lord Avigor, I really cannot blame the High Council!”

He entered what had until only recently been his Father’s private sanctum and looked around him. He had been in this room only a handful of times in his life, and he had forgotten or had never noticed some of the details – just how big the huge hardwood desk was, the double doors to the private balcony, and the wall devoted to miniatures of Avigor’s Ladies. He went closer. The best picture was of his own mother, painted when she had been a new bride.  There was a happiness in her eyes then that was now quenched, and would never quite relight. He touched it lightly with his fingertips, grieving for both his parents.

There was a knock at the door and he turned, starting quickly as though he’d been caught doing something he was not allowed to. He smothered a wry grin at the stab of unwarranted guilt. Three months at the helm of the Clan, three hard and dedicated months, and he was still starting at shadows, expecting his father to step out, shaking his head at his son and heir. Would he never snap out of it?

“Come in,” Rainald called out after a moment, collecting himself.

A footman pushed open the door to the study.

“My Lord,” the man said, “Lord Dow is in the anteroom. He sends his compliments and asks if you will receive him.”

Rainald hesitated, but only for a moment. Then he nodded at the footman.

“Show him in,” he said.

“Yes, my Lord,” the footman said, offering a small bow, and retreated, closing the doors behind him. He was back after a few moments, holding the door of the study open for the visitor.

Lord Dow entered as he was announced, slipping his cloak from his shoulders as he did so.

“I am sorry to barge in just about the minute you arrived,” he began, after only the most cursory of greetings, settling into the chair that Rainald offered. “But there were things you had to know that could not wait. Brace yourself, my young friend, it’s going to be a tough Council.”

“What is it?”

“Lord Lammuir is quite ill, it appears, and he has sent his son Gilden as his representative.”

“Gilden is my foster-brother, I spent four years fostering with the Lammuir Clan,” said Rainald, smiling. “I shall be more than happy to see him again. I think I only saw him twice, and that only for a few days at a time, in this last year.”

“Well, there’s more to it than that,” said Dow. “Since he is only the Heir, Lord Lammuir has deemed it necessary that Gilden be placed under Guardianship for the duration of the Council. The Guardians Lord Lammuir has named are Lord Catallin, myself, and,” he squirmed, “you.”

“Me? That is ridiculous! Gilden is two years older than me!”

“You’re right, of course – I can’t see Gilden as your ward – I believe he said much the same thing you did when he heard. Somewhat intemperately, by all accounts. But you can’t wriggle out of this one. When a Lord is appointed Guardian, he cannot turn his back on it. With you and Gilden – well – I think you can be counted on to provide,” he smiled, “shall we say, an ‘experienced’ friend. I just thought I would warn you before your ‘ward’ descends on you unawares.”

“I do appreciate it,” Rainald said.

Dow rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and then stood up from the chair where he’d subsided and walked to the doors leading to the balcony. “Isn’t it cold in these rooms in winter? I should think that facing the sea…”

“They are primarily summer rooms. There’s hardly anyone here in the winter months. But they are equipped with shutters and fireplaces, just in case someone takes up residence, like I had at the end of this winter. They are comfortable.”

“We look out over Colgarma,” said Dow with a grimace. And then, turning back into the room abruptly changed the subject again. “Tell me, have you thought about Fostering my daughter at Macha? If you recall our talk after High Council…”

“Yes, indeed. And Macha will be happy to have her. When did you plan on getting her there?”

“I have her with me, here.”

Rainald raised his eyebrow. “Isn’t that a tender age for Colgarma?”

“She’s under strict supervision, and it is only for two weeks at the outside. I presume you will be going back after Summer Solstice?”

“No, but my sister, Lady Mirella, will. If you wish, I will talk to her, and you can start the girl with us now. What is her name?”

“Annica,” said Dow. “With your leave, I shall speak to your sister on my way out. Oh, and incidentally, I remember my ‘candidate’ for you?” Rainald nodded, and Dow smiled conspiratorially. “Well, it is her first Council. She is staying with her De Skari kin. I’ll contrive to have her visiting when you do, if you will.”

“I may as well offer you my opinion!” laughed Rainald lightly. “I’ll let you know.”

“All right.” Dow gathered his cloak and prepared to leave. “Once again, I do apologize for barging in here like this….”

“On the contrary, thank you. At least now I can face my foster-brother with excuses and not a blank stare. Any helpful hints on how to sweeten Catallin’s temper?”

“Just one: don’t try. He’s in no mood to be placated. Do videnya, Avigor.”

“Do videnya.”

Dow took his leave, leaving Rainald to digest this latest piece of news. What was Lammuir trying to do? If he was trying to build up young Avigor’s standing in the greybeard’s Council, he was going about it in precisely the wrong way. This choice of Guardian would alienate everyone, from the other Lords to the Ward himself. Rainald, who knew his Foster-brother Gilden Lammuir well, could guess that he had been affronted, possibly outraged, at the situation;  Gilden, being Gilden, would not much care being put into the charge of someone close to two years younger than himself. They were foster-brothers, and friends – but Gilden, Heir as he was to one of the most powerful Clans in the Council, could be a tough enemy once he got control of Lammuir if Rainald botched this situation…

He shook his head in chagrin. Diplomacy on a foster brother? Planning for the future of the Clan? What was it he said to Alleth about growing old sooner than he would have liked to? And Gilden…

As if magicked up by the thought, the footman appeared at the door again, clearing his throat diffidently before inquiring if his Lordship would receive Gilden Lammuir. Rainald hesitated a fraction of a second before nodding. He wasn’t ready for Gilden, not yet, but, under the circumstances it seemed better to receive him unready than to put him off with an excuse.

And then Gilden was inside. And it was his Foster-brother, whom he hadn’t seen for a long, long time. Both youths moved towards one another with open arms and embraced warmly before saying a word. And then they stood apart.

 

2.

 

Rainald spoke first, suddenly serious.

“I didn’t ask for it, Gilden. Either of it; I would much rather my Father was still alive. If it makes you any happier, the other Lords aren’t too happy about me either. If they’ll let me, I’ll keep out of your way… as a Guardian, I mean.”

Gilden let out a sharp bark of a laugh – and Rainald let himself relax a little. T least Gilden had gone far enough past being upset to have the grace to be amused by the whole thing. “Gods, I know,” Gilden said. “I know you. But I truly do not understand what my father was hoping to do. Although he really is ill – he went from bad to worse in these last two months – I think it’s his heart. Quite frankly, I’m almost prepared to believe he might have forgotten that you were Lord Avigor now, and gave me into Guardianship of your father. Still, I would have thought I didn’t really need Guardianship, seeing as I’m of age, hardly still a child any more – or  maybe he’s forgotten that, too. But I’m talking too much. Tell me, Foster-brother, what awaits me one day.”

“It won’t be so bad for you. I’ll have paved the way,” Rainald said, and shrugged at his foster-brother’s raised eyebrow. “High Council is having problems trying to digest the fact of my presence there. But you’ll be a reasonably respectable age. They’ve never had to swallow an eighteen-year-old Lord before.”

“Problems with digestion, eh. Must be the age.” Gilden nodded sagely, with a completely straight face. Rainald stared at him incredulously for a moment, and then they both laughed.

“You haven’t changed,” Rainald said. “Sit down, will you? Would you like some wine, to toast the reunion?”

“With pleasure.” Gilden seated himself in the wide armchair which Lord Dow had recently vacated as Rainald gave the necessary instructions to a footman he had summoned. Gilden watched him critically. “Quite the young lord, aren’t we?”

“More than you know. They’re already sending fosterlings to Macha.”

“What! Are you wed?” yelped Gilden, shooting forward out of his chair.

“No! But I daresay the Council will hound me to provide an heir…”

That shouldn’t be too much of a problem!” said Gilden with a grin.  “I’m sure that there are willing ladies enough…” he ducked a cushion from the second armchair, laughing. “Cone now, what’s wrong with that? Both our fathers did it, several times; and throwing cushions is unbecoming to a Clan Lord.”

“You deserved that.”

“Okay. Quits. But if you aren’t, I am betrothed!”

“I don’t think… I beg your pardon?”

Gilden was clearly enjoying this. “Yes. Have you by any chance met Lady Rialle of Clan Catallin?”

“No, I don’t think I… no, wait. She’s a tiny thing, isn’t she, with that incredible hair the color of Asturias’ light?”

“Ha! You’re a romantic after all! But yes, that’s right. We’ve now been betrothed for about seven months, although the official announcement is due at Council, later. The wedding is probably planned for this winter.”

“Couldn’t you have told me gently?” protested Rainald. “Couldn’t you have told me back when it happened? On the other hand, you always did enjoy the surprise game. Well, now. We have both branched out, haven’t we?”

The wine arrived, and the footman withdrew. An instant later, the door opened again. Rainald glanced up disinterestedly. He had planned this, and knew who it was. “Oh, by the way,” he said to Gilden, whose back was to the door, “you’ve got a visitor.”

Gilden put his wine down and twisted in his seat; then, in one fluid movement, he was up and smiling. “Mirella! Gods, I haven’t seen you since you were my age!”

Mirella entered, smiling back. “Always the gallant,” she said. “But all too unfortunately, it’s true. How are you, Foster-brother?”

“He’s betrothed,” threw in Rainald. “Come and join us for some wine.”

“Oh?” said Mirella, accepting a glass. “Who to?”

Gilden cuffed Rainald playfully on the wrist. “She’s taken it better than you  have!” He turned to Mirella again. “To Rialle Catallin, Mirella. You should know her. Your…”

There was suddenly a silence in the room. Mirella had gone pale, and the hand holding the wineglass trembled slightly.

Gilden swore softly. “I’m sorry. I should have thought.”

“It’s all right. It’s been… a long time.” Mirella had also been betrothed into the House of Catallin; she and her betrothed had known each other since a very young age, and even the betrothal had taken place when he was fifteen and she twelve. It was too young an age to marry, and they were obliged to wait at least three to four years before they could fulfill their pledge. But, before the due date arrived, the young Catallin drowned in a freak storm in the Ariath sea. Mirella had turned sixteen on the day that she heard the news; she barely left her bed for almost a year until her father had taken matters into his own hands. He had spoken long to her, alone, behind closed doors; nobody ever knew what it was that he had said, but Mirella had taken her place again in Clan society, as his oldest child – but she had never released the aura of her loss. She never mentioned the drowned youth’s name again, and tried not to flinch at every mention of even his Clan. And she hated the sea. She had never even considered the thought of another betrothal.

And still, after all that time, it was still alive in her.

She smiled at her foster-brother who was gazing at her apologetically. “It’s all right,” she repeated. “Best of luck, Gilden. When is it to be?”
“Soon. Probably this winter.”

“Lord Dow happened to mention a certain young lady to me, Rainald,” said Mirella mysteriously.

“Annica or…”

“Both,” interrupted his sister. “One is bringing the other. I’ll probably ask her to stay for refreshment.”

“Mirella, sieri, I shall be the object of matrimonial squabbles on the part of everyone with a female of marriageable age in the family. Please don’t put me though it from the inside of my own Clan!”

They were trying to relax the tension in the room; and, little by little, the succeeded. It was near twilight when Gilden decided it could just be time for him to leave just as Liara Rimmuz-De Skari brought Avigor’s new Fosterling, Annica Dow, to them.

Accompanying them was another girl, of some fourteen years of age; she was the first one who drew Rainald’s eye. Liara was, as Dow has said, “pretty as a picture”; but the other girl wasn’t even that. She was… well, striking would be the word, with a cloud of wavy, dark-blonde hair and large dark eyes in a face which seemed too small to contain them.

“My sister, Aleta, Lord Avigor,” said Liara with a little curtsy when she introduced her.

A shiver ran down Rainald’s spine. She shared the same name as his sister, Alleth, whose own was but a variation. His belly contracted as a sudden and sure wave of foreknowledge swept through him. With difficulty he managed to regain control of himself and was a charming and courteous host at the refreshments that Mirella, true to her word, had prepared. But every time his eyes fell on Aleta Rimmuz-De Skari, the impulse that had touched him just a moment before would rear up and clamor in his mind.

This girl will be your Lady!

Rainald knew he was being, at best, less than polite with the visitors. Social niceties, learned or instinctive, appeared to have slipped entirely from his grasp; he could barely manage a few gruff words of welcome to the new fosterling, greeting her companions in a manner which might have been interpreted by someone who did not know him as a cold and indifferent dismissal. Mirella, who did know him, frowned as she stared at her brother, so uncharacteristically at a loss, and finally offered him an escape by pretending to remind him about some meeting he had forgotten he had to attend. He snatched at the spar, giving her a long and grateful look, and made his awkward farewells before leaving with an almost insulting haste.

Mirella apologized for him with all the grace that Rainald had lacked, murmuring something about his first Full Council as the Clan’s leader and pressure of work. Liara inclined her head, accepting the apology, and, gathering up her young sister, departed.

Aleta, on her way out of the Avigor chambers, turned briefly as she paused in the doorway and gave Mirella a brilliant and disconcerting smile – as though she was perfectly aware of all the undercurrents that had been going on, and was merely keeping silent by way of being an unspoken accomplice.

Rainald had gone out into the corridors of Colgarma Keep without a plan or a destination in mind. He had needed to get out of the room which had Aleta in it, and he had done so, but then he found himself wandering down the less frequented corridors of the Keep with the overwhelming impulse having been to escape and to hide. But after a little while his common sense reasserted itself and he began to be wryly amused at his own reactions – and, also, to think that it might be time to go back and reclaim his own chambers.

He had tried, and to a large extent succeeded, in pushing that disconcerting knowledge of Aleta and their shared future from his mind – but even though he was thinking about anything but the girl it took less than the blink of an eye between his suddenly noticing a slight figure wrapped in a dark cloak tucked back into a shadow and knowing precisely who it was that waited there.

He spoke without thinking, simply knowing.

“Why are you here?” and then, more softly, “Let me see you.”

The concealing hood fell back, after a brief hesitation, with a brief toss of the head, and the lights suddenly picked out soft highlights in the loose, tumbled hair of Aleta Rimmuz-De Skari.

“I saw it,” she said haltingly, her hands twisted into a tight knot before her. “I saw it in your face, when we walked in. You knew, too.”

“I knew what?” Rainald said.

“The precog,” Aleta said. “I could tell when it crossed your mind…”

Precog? But I am not – is that what it – ” Rainald shook his head, as though to clear it. “Was that what it was?”

Aleta was looking at him with her head tilted a little to the side. “You’ve never had one before?”

Rainald shook his head, running a hand through his hair. “No,” he said. “My sister is a precog. I never have been. It feels… almost like…”

She smiled. “I’ve been one,” she said. “All my life.”

“How do you live with it…?” Rainald muttered.

“It’s still the same journey if you know exactly how you are going to be getting to where you’re going,” Aleta said. “I’m used to it. To knowing.”

“Maybe mine was a fluke,” Rainald said. “I don’t know that I can get used to it.”

“I’ll help,” she said serenely.

Rainald had accepted this situation, unlikely as it was, without giving it a second thought – it was natural, inevitable, that Aleta should be in his world. But now he suddenly woke up to the real circumstances of the matter – a lonely corridor in the Keep but one which anyone could be coming down at any minute, the lateness of the hour, the complete ludicrousness that she had managed to be in the precise place where she could waylay him on his way back to his quarters…

“Your sister must be wondering where you are,” he said, suddenly awkward again. “I’d better make sure you get back safely.”

She laughed, a bright, joyous sound; Rainald could not help an answering grin spreading across his own features.

“No need,” she said. “I can find my way.” She paused for a long moment, and then dropped her gaze, veiling her eyes with her long lashes. “Are you…?”

Rainald dreached out, took one of her hands in his own, kissed it lightly, and then pulled the cloak closer around her. “I’ll speak to your Guardian tomorrow,” he said softly. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

They walked side by side, decorously, not touching, and bade one another good night at her door; Rainald waited until it opened to her knock, watched her slip inside, and waited until the door was closed again before he moved.

All this was going to make one interesting Council over the next few days… assuming Aleta was right and his instinct had been a true precog.

The footman on duty in the Avigor anteroom was nodding sleepily when Rainald came in; but he was instantly alert when the door closed with a gentle thud behind Rainald’s back. He bowed respectfully; Rainald, passing, nodded to him in return and passed into the dark and empty reception Hall beyond. The curtains here were drawn back, and the two moons drew a faint shimmer from the polished floor. The window faced the sea; Rainald walked over, his soft-soled boots making no sound. The green-tinged Argones dominated the smaller moon, Asturias, and the light that bathed the night sky bore a corresponding hue. But Argones was waning, and once it reached the New Moon stage, dark and absent from the sky, gentle Asturias would take over with its cream and silver nuances of light. Traditionally, this, the time of Asturias’s sovereignty over the night and the Summer Solstice, was a good time for promises, especially betrothals. There was always a spate of them around Council time.

The young Lord of Avigor was under no illusion but that his own – if all things fell into place quickly enough for it to be announced here – was going to be the talk of the Council. He drew the curtains closed, and the darkness hid the amused twinkle in his eyes.

By the Gods, he thought, I’m actually beginning to enjoy this.

He entered the corridor of the sleeping chambers. No lights showed under doors; Clan Avigor was asleep. No… there was one light. Mirella’s. She was still awake. Rainald hesitated briefly before her door, and then picked up a wave of ancient and melancholy grief what made him actually take a step back. So. It was still alive in her heart, the sorrow of her betrothed’s passing. Gilden, unwittingly, had stirred it up. And he, Rainald, might well do his part to aggravate it further over the next few days.

He would have liked to have talked to her about the whole unexpected chain of events – perhaps even ask her advice – but instinct, and something deeper, made him refrain from it. He left her alone, walking away with soft steps and a bowed head. And the light glowed softly into the night.

September 29, 2010

Elyse on Chapter 1 rewrite

Oh man, hectic time at the moment, just graduated high school and having bridesmaid dress fitting for my sisters wedding 🙂

Sorry x

?The death of Rainald’s father had me crying, maybe because I’m a sook but mostly because I felt the emotions behind it this time.

?“Do videnya, Lord Dow.” It sounds Russian, is it supposed to be like that? Is it made up language, like “I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Russian”?

Umm, apart from that, everything is really good. 😀

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