Monday, May 26, 2014

Story Progress

First of all, happy Memorial Day! In the USA, today is the day where we remember the fallen soldiers of past and present wars, and honor their sacrifice. My family has had several men serve our country in times of war, but we are fortunate that none were called to give their lives in that service. They made their own sacrifices of course - no military service is without it - but in the end they returned home to their families, and we are grateful for that fact.

Now, let's talk about the story. I'm still making progress through my to-do list. Today I split a scene in half, and did some needed cleanup on it so that it makes more sense. I was thinking of posting a sample, but I realized that somewhere in the middle of chapter twelve, and almost exactly two years ago, I had stopped posting samples on a regular basis. The story as it stands now is twenty-two chapters, so you've had a chance to read roughly half of it. And the chapter I was working on today is in that latter half, so posting the scenes wouldn't make much sense.

I still have half a dozen scenes to edit, re-write or just plain write. And then I will need to do a read-through of the entire story and probably some additional editing. At that point, I hope, I will be able to make it available to "beta testers", a small group of readers who will help me with the final polishing. I'll be looking for volunteers at that point, so please let me know if you'd be interested in reading an advance copy of the story, still in semi-rough draft. I like to think of it like beta-testing software: it is fully functional, but there may be a few bugs that I haven't found and fixed yet. And that's where you can help me out, in exchange for the opportunity to enjoy the new version of the software before anyone else does.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chapter Twenty-One, Scene 10

The minstrel was ushered quickly and quietly into the great hall, where Osric sat waiting. Rumor had reached the duke of a commotion among the people in the village, of roars and cheers at the local inn. The town guard quickly discovered that the source was this minstrel, who had recently arrived and performed a new song for the people. He claimed it had come from across the Sea, from a traveler out of Sildara, and was a true song based on recent events in Nifflgarde.

As the minstrel approached, Osric said in his clear baritone, “You are the minstrel of whom we have heard, singing the song about my son?”

The minstrel, visibly nervous, bowed and said, “My lord duke, I know not if this song is about your son, though the hero’s name seems to match - and it is not a Nifflgarder name. But I can only say that I heard it from a fellow performer out of Sildara some months ago. I added the song to my repertoire, and have been singing it throughout the land since then.”

“Very well, performer. Sing it for me, and I shall judge if it be about my son, or not.”

The performer nodded. “Aye, m’lord. It is called the Lay of Balfrith and the Draugeborg, and is sung, or rather chanted, in the mode of the songs of Nifflgarde. Please excuse some of the poetic forms, for they are a bit rough - but then, so are the men of that land.” He smiled at the last comment, but the duke did not respond, and he quickly became serious again.

Taking his lute, he quickly tuned it with a few experimental strums, then cleared his throat and began:

Out of the west                             across oceans unending,
Came the companions                 and Balfrith their leader.
Highest of thanes,                        son of a jarl,
Clothed in the promise                of honor to come.

Balfrith, young master,               his youth would betray him,
Men lacking wisdom                   would judge him unfair.
But those who came with him     acknowledged him captain,
They saw in him strength,           and the wisdom to lead.

Sought he the mad-sage,             Gregori ghost-man, 
Friend of the spirits,                    the curs├ęd of Draugeborg.
Sung he the songs                        of the heroes of old,
Peace to the spirits,                     and rest, he would bring.

Met they three days                     ere the eve of Vetrnacht,
Gregori readying                        his hall for the coming
Of spirits and rev’nants,              the curs’d from the city,
That ruin of old,                          of the ancients forgotten.

Osric listened as the Lay continued, noting the syllabic structure common to the songs of the men of Nifflgarde, but otherwise paying it little regard. What was important was the story being sung. There can be no doubt that this is about my son, he thought, gazing into the shadows of the room as his mind wandered. His last letter indicated that he was in Sildara and going thence to Nifflgarde, and he even mentioned the place by name, Draugeborg. Therefore it must be about him - but what adventures, or misadventures, has he gotten himself into?

Balfrith, the hero,                         laid sword on the table,
And sat himself down                   on the floor for to rest,
To quit of his labors                      so mighty, and terrible,
To quit of the fight                        and sleep it did find him.

Duke Osric leaned forward in his seat as the Lay came to an end, the minstrel chanting the final words and ending his strumming simultaneously.  Then he bowed, and asked, “Well, my lord duke, what is your judgment? Could this song be about your son? If you think so, I shall make mention of the fact at every performance henceforth.” He said the last in an obvious attempt to curry favor with the duke, who took no visible notice of it.

Instead, Osric merely said, “It is, indeed, about my son. His most recent letter to me indicated that he was in Sildara, and about to travel north into Nifflgarde to the very place of which this song speaks, the Draugeborg. I have heard nothing from him since that letter, and I know not what might have happened there, or in the months since. But I have no doubt that the story tells some truth of what happened to him there.”

The minstrel smiled broadly and bowed again. “Then I shall certainly sing this Lay as being about Balfrith of house Aethelred henceforth, my lord. And I sincerely hope that I may one day meet your son, the hero of the north-men, in the future.”

Osric smiled tightly, allowing his approval to show only slightly, then nodded his dismissal of the minstrel. The guard who has escorted him there, now accompanied him back out of the hall, and the duke was once again left to his thoughts.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sample - The Lay of Balfrith and the Draugeborg

This is something I've been planning to write for a while. Actually, to be more precise, I was planning to write snippets of the beginning and the end, but not necessarily the entire thing. Below is the end of the Lay - well, the rough draft of it anyway. It's written in the same form used in Beowulf, which is also similar to the Norse poetic sagas which I'm trying to emulate.

Also, this is my two-hundredth post!

Since I'll be traveling again this week (Europe this time), I might have some time to work further on the Lay. At least I hope so. This was actually quite fun to write.

* * *

In marching formation          they came to the hall-door,
The four wester-men            brave, battle-weary.
And lord of those men          marched he among them;
Proud with retainers              he came ’cross the fields.

That prince of thanes            then entered the hall,
Brave in his deed,                 honored in fame,
A man battle-tested,              he greeted Gregorius.
Then sword of draug-king    he carried o’er the hall.

Balfrith, the hero,                  laid sword on the table,
And sat himself down           on the floor for to rest,
To quit of his labors              so mighty, and terrible,

To quit of the fight                and sleep it did find him.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Travel

I have had the good fortune to get into a job that requires about 20-25% travel. And even more fortunate for me, that travel is mostly international. Here are the countries which I have visited over the past four years:

  • Mexico
  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • United Kingdom
  • The Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • China
  • Singapore
This year, I plan to add Japan and India to the above list. I may also get a chance to visit Kenya, which would also add another whole continent to the scope of my travels.

Why do I mention this? Because I'm currently in Latin America, having spent the previous two days in Argentina and then flew into Brazil last night. I'll fly home from Brazil on Friday, get some rest over the weekend, and then I fly out to Amsterdam on Monday to spend the next week in the Netherlands.

And that's why I haven't posted (or written) much recently.