What’s New Wednesday

November is just a week away. Not sure how that happened! I’m starting to feel like those old ladies from the wedding scene in Muppets Take Manhattan. A little group of babies sings, “days go passing into years,” to which a group of old ladies responds, “years go passing day by day…” It can’t just be me, right?

Anyway, November means NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Authors are challenged to write 50,000 words over just 30 days. I’ll never make anything close to that in a month–I have too many other obligations between work and family, not to mention I’m more of a slow, deliberate writer by nature. The closest I’ve ever gotten is I think 35,000.

But that doesn’t mean the opportunity isn’t worthwhile. It’s a good motivator to set aside time alongside many thousands of my fellow authors to make my work-in-progress come alive, one word at a time!

Right now that work-in-progress is a novella I’m writing about Broguean the Bard, a character who appears in Ancient Voices, Visions of Light and Shadow, and in one of my short stories called “A Bard’s Tale.” I’ve got about a third of it done already, so I wouldn’t even need 50k to finish it off. My cover artist has nearly completed the artwork for it as well, which is very exciting. With any luck, I’ll be able to get this novella done in 2018 and have it ready to publish in early 2019. Read an excerpt from the first chapter below. Want to read the entire first chapter? It’s at the end of the Visions of Light and Shadow ebook.


The sun hadn’t quite gone down yet, but the tavern at Westfalle was nearly full and Broguean’s head was starting to spin. With some satisfaction, he noted that it was getting harder for him to tell if there was one mug or two on the table in front of him. So long as he aimed for the middle, his hand managed to find the handle easily enough. The truth was, he had learned to function quite normally in such a state. It was as comfortable and familiar to him as a good pair of walking shoes—not to mention it usually made everyone around him a fair bit more interesting. He took a long, deep draught from his mug, draining it until he could see the bottom.

He had traveled extensively over the years, sampling many different brews from throughout the realm, but the uniqueness of this tavern’s ale was by far his favorite. He savored the sweetness and the spices, encouraging them to linger on his tongue as the warmth coursed through him like liquid joy. He wasn’t the only one who appreciated this tavern’s signature flavor. The establishment was overflowing with both travelers and men coming in off the fields, which made it a good place for barding. He hadn’t paid for a drink yet, and his coin purse was actually heavier than it had been when he’d walked through the door. He sighed with contentment, then raised his hand to signal the tavern maid for another.

The poor woman was more harried than usual as she weaved through the crowded room wielding a heavy pitcher of ale. She made an art of refilling empty cups with one hand, while sliding coins off the table into a pouch with the other. Languid strands of her dark hair had slipped from their covering, causing her to frequently brush them back in annoyance. Her cheeks were flushed with heat, and perhaps a bit of indignation as well. The boisterous fellow several tables over couldn’t seem to keep his hands on his mug when she came by to refill it. But if the tavern maid didn’t decide to poison his drink, there were plenty of others in the room who just might. He’d been boasting all night of his adventures in the depths of the Crevasse. He had just made his way from that wretched place, he said, having bested many Beasts, and trolls, and demons in forms too grotesque to describe.

“And then suddenly a scaly creature rose up from the pit, with two heads and snakes for tongues that spit poison,” Broguean heard the man bellow to those around him. By now he was too inebriated to realize how loud he’d become. “I cut off one of its heads with a single stroke, but then two more grew back in its place. I knew I was in for a tough fight, but then the Crevasse is no place for the faint-hearted.” He took a long drink while keeping his eye on the tavern maid, who made a wide circle around him to serve another table. “If you ever encounter such a creature,” he advised, raising an unsteady finger to signal he wanted more ale, “aim for the snakes.” Broguean rolled his eyes. He doubted such a creature existed beyond the confines of the man’s imagination. Though he’d hoped the story was finally concluded, the man droned on. “Mind you, this was after I’d already bested two ogres and a lich—nasty things those are…”

Why not throw in a wyvern or two for good measure, Broguean thought with irritation. Or perhaps the Shadow himself. The ridiculousness of it aside, his person showed no signs of recent battle. There were no lingering stains of blood or sweat. No bruises, scratches, or flecks of mud from the road marred his perfectly groomed appearance. Not even a hint of fatigue haunted his expression. This man was no hero fresh from the depths of the Crevasse. Broguean had known real heroes, real warriors. He had seen what such men looked like after battle, and he knew the toll it took on them well afterward. This braggart’s lies belittled their very real sacrifices, made with pain, and with blood. The man was begging to be cut down a bit, and Broguean didn’t need a blade to do it.

Through his inebriated haze the words began to form. Some of his best work was done on such nights, when the ale had successfully removed all of his cares, leaving just he and his craft to wrestle with one another. As the words came, the tune did also, blending together in his mind as one perfect and inseparable being. His fingers strummed a few cautious notes on his lute, then grew stronger in confidence with the encouragement of the tavern’s patrons. It was a bold and powerful tune, one befitting the epic ballads of ancient heroes. He was quite familiar with the style, though he did not often use it. The people wanted entertainment—they would get it. More of it than they expected by the time he was through, he imagined. Broguean smiled wryly and moved close to the boastful man’s table, looking him square in the eye and nodding. The man steadily returned his gaze, sure that the bard’s attention had been sufficiently captured by his impressive tales of glory.

Broguean continued to strum, adding more complex harmonies to the tune as he cleared his voice and began to sing with all the seriousness he could muster.

“To the Crevasse our champion went,
With might and strength of heroes old;
Fierce through the Shadow Wood he rent,
To fight the ancient evils bold.

“Thanks to the Ancients for our fierce champion,
to whom belongs the victory.”

The man was now nodding and beaming, raising a glass, not to the song, but to himself, for of course, who else could such a song be about? Broguean could barely contain his amusement to maintain the somber and haunting lilt of the song. Had his head not been so full of ale, he might have thought better of what he was about to do. But all were expectant now, and some rolling their eyes at him, wondering how he could enshrine such a fool in song. Broguean gave them a quick wink that said, just wait, and kept singing.

“Forward he charged, with sword raised high,
The challenge raised so all could hear;
‘For Glory!’ was his battle cry,
His foes before him fled in fear.

“Thanks to the Ancients for our fierce champion,
to whom belongs the victory.”

The man was really getting into it now, his chest expanded well beyond its due. Broguean had to strum an extra refrain to maintain his composure as the next lines slipped into his mind, and laughter threatened to spill past his lips.

“Down he plunged, but something was wrong,
Or else he’d made an error steep;
T’was not the wicked place from song,
This mighty Crevasse was but knee deep!

“Thanks to the Ancients for our fierce champion,
to whom belongs the victory.”

Broguean could hear low chuckles and cautious snickering lifting up all around the room, while the man’s chest deflated somewhat and his face flushed with confusion. Something was definitely amiss, but too much drink was making him slow to grasp precisely what.

“No stench of death for him to meet,
Nor grotesque monsters he did find;
Fleeing the crack before his feet,
Were vermin of the rodent kind.

“Thanks to the Ancients for our fierce champion,
to whom belongs the victory.”

Light chuckles erupted into more pronounced laughter, and the man’s red face began to harden with anger. He stood to his feet, placing his fists on the table and glaring at Broguean threateningly. Broguean made sure he was well out of reach, but he had one more verse to unleash upon the arrogant fool.

“Across his path the Shadow rose,
A foe most worthy to dethrone;
Alas, despite his forceful throes,
The shadow was his very own…”

The arrogant warrior snarled with rage. He clambered over the table to get at Broguean, knocking over drinks and shoving patrons out of the way as he went. Broguean, now laughing heartily and barely in control of his own limbs, stumbled backwards and fell just as the man’s fist whistled through the air where his head had been. It found an unfortunate target instead—the face of another man seated on the bench behind him. He too was laughing, and so didn’t see the swing coming until it was too late. Knocked down and bleeding, his three drinking friends rose from their places at the table, none too pleased. From there chaos ensued as a lively brawl began. Broguean, still laughing, held tight to his lute and crouched below the fray, working his way across the room and out the door.

He stumbled into the shadows of a narrow alley beside the tavern. The only light left now was a deep crimson rim around the edge of the sky. The moon was still young overhead, and the stars had only just begun to peek out. Through the walls he could hear the uproar in the tavern. His only regret was that he’d left a full mug of ale sitting on the table, but he dared not go back for it. He shook with laughter as he recalled the range of expressions on the man’s face, from boastful, to baffled, and finally to boiling rage. He laughed so hard that tears rolled down from the corners of his eyes. He deserved it, that conceited cox-comb, Broguean thought. Crevasse indeed! If he holds his own in that tavern brawl it’ll be more than I expect of him…

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s