Sunday, February 24, 2013

How and Why I Write a Story Outline

Geekwif was kind enough to give me an idea for a blog post a few days ago, and rather than run the risk of forgetting to actually write that post, I thought I would do it now - there's no better time than the present.

As many have said or written before me, there seem to be two kinds of writers in the world: those who outline, and those who don't.  The ones who don't outline are often said to "write by the seat of their pants", and as the Geekwif mentioned, she is one of those "pantsers". On the other end of the spectrum there are those who outline their story before they actually start writing. Now clearly this a spectrum, not just an on/off switch. Some writers will use a very loose outline, or one that is not very detailed, and they probably lean toward being pantsers. The writers who create a very detailed outline, and/or who structure their story and then stick very closely to that structure, obviously lean toward being "outliners" - like me.

I'm not going to claim to be a hardcore outliner, but I definitely fall in the outliner camp. I have tried writing by the seat of my pants, especially during National Novel Writing Month (which I've successfully completed several times), but I have to admit that I don't really like doing it. Even when I'm writing this way, I generally have a bare outline in my head, and an idea of how the story will end. In other words, even when I'm pantsing, I cheat a little bit. And when I'm writing a longer work, such as the current novel about Balfrith, I depend heavily on an outline.

Before I get too much further into this, I need to define an outline. Many of you may recall from school that an outline is a skeletal structure for a written work such as a research paper or essay. It looks something like this:
  1. Introduction
  2. Body
    1. Point #1
      1. Supporting fact #1
      2. Supporting fact #2
    2. Point #2

But this isn't anything like the outline I'm talking about for a novel. Or rather, it's nothing like the final outline that I then turn into a novel. Instead, the kind of outline I'm talking about is really more of a detailed plot synopsis, written in the form of an essay, with section headers marking off the approximate chapter breaks. So whenever you hear me say "outline," just think of an essay that lays out the plot, with copious notes scattered throughout, indicating special points that I want to emphasize, character quirks, plot hooks, and whatnot. Now, backing up a step, I often do start with a skeletal outline like the one above. But that's just to get me started in laying out some of the major steps of the plot. After it's done, I may play around with it a little bit until I have it just right, and then I will begin writing the synopsis - the plot outline that I actually use during the novel writing process.

Now, back to the point of this post - why do I outline? Well, I get several advantages from it. First, it lets me flesh out my story in a detailed manner, without actually being locked into anything before I start writing. In other words, I may have a detailed plot synopsis, but I retain the freedom to make changes as I go, ignore entire scenes, add new scenes, and effectively make improvements to the story as I'm writing it. The outline gives me the structure and main plot and character points, but if I find that something's not working, I either figure out a better solution, or I just rip it right out of the story.

I realize that some pantsers are reading this and thinking, "But why would I want to plan it out at all? Half the fun is finding out what the characters will do when I throw them into a crazy situation." All I can say to that is, you may prefer to write that way, but I do not. I like to have the story planned out, so that I can focus on the act of writing without having to make up the story as I go along. And that's the second advantage that I get from outlining: the actual writing of the story becomes much easier for me because I have already done a lot of the creative work in the making of the outline. I don't have the stress of trying to come up with interesting or exciting situations, since they are already baked into the outline, and I know when, how and why they are there.

Which brings me to my third advantage: outlining lets me establish an internal logic and flow to the story, so that each event flows from the previous one and into the next one, and I don't have unanswered questions or loose threads by the end, unless I specifically want to leave them there. Then, when I'm writing the story, once again I don't need to worry about making sure my scenes flow logically from one to the next - it's all there in the outline, and the work has already been done.

I will admit that there are times when I'm writing, that I find that one scene does NOT flow easily into another, and I am struggling to make any progress at all. In fact, I am at such a point right now in my Balfrith story. But the solution is fairly simple: I take that piece of the outline, and I give it even more detail than it already has. So, for example, since I'm going on a business trip this week, I have printed a few pages of the story outline, reflecting the current part that I'm struggling with. While I'm in the air, I'll pull out those pages and start adding hand-written notes to them, asking questions that need answers, or making suggestions to myself. Or if I get really inspired, I might even write whole paragraphs in the margins, describing how I think the story should flow. And once that's all done, I will re-type it into my outline document, so that I have it available for easy reference as I'm writing. And that will, almost every time, help me overcome my writer's block. I fully expect it to do so for me this week.

And that brings me to the last outlining advantage I want to mention: having a detailed outline helps me to avoid writer's block entirely. And when I can't avoid it, I dig into the outline and add in even more details, and like magic, my writer's block will go away. So the outline is a powerful tool for both avoiding and overcoming writer's block.

And that's about all I wanted to say about outlining today. I hope this helps some other writers out there - I'd love to hear from you if it does!

Saturday, February 23, 2013


The Dwerden city of Stonedeep is built deep underneath the Dwerdenhome mountains, which form the geographical border between Nifflgarde in the north and Danannsidhe in the south, and end where they finally descend down into the Bay of Thror (or the Bay of Thunder, as it is more generally known). The city’s only known entrance (known to Men, that is) is at the far western foot of those mountains, a day’s easy ride from the village of Stone’s Throw, a Dwerden settlement and port on the bay, and the primary friendly face that they present to the rest of the world. The main entrance of Stonedeep is heavily fortified, and the city has never been successfully invaded from without by any force of goblins, trolls, or Men. There are other entrances to the city scattered throughout the Dwerdenhome mountains, however they are known only to the Dwerden themselves, and even among them, only a few know all of the ways into and out of the great city.

While the term “city” tends to bring certain images to mind, of houses and businesses, roads and walkways, public parks and markets, the city of Stonedeep is quite different. It is like cities of Men in that there is a dense population of people living there, those people do business and make their living in various crafts and trades, and they require outlying settlements such as farms and mines to supply most of their food and raw materials for many of their crafts. However it is much different than surface-based cities in its architecture and overall layout. For example, a surface city is built upon the surface of the earth as is most obvious, but one thing not so obvious is that this provides a limiting factor to its overall layout: it must be relatively flat. To be sure, some structures can rise several stories above the ground, and many other structures are built one or a few stories underground. But even so, most people conduct their daily lives upon the surface of the earth, where the main thoroughfares and markets sit.

Stonedeep, on the other hand, is built upon multiple levels, and in fact it isn’t so much built as it is hollowed out of the mountains, with hundreds of natural and constructed caverns connected by thousands of tunnels, many of which started as natural pathways but were widened out over time. There are a few areas where a massive natural cavern was enlarged even further, and in those places, Stonedeep most resembles a city of Men, with structures built up from the floor of the cavern, some only a single story tall but others rising several stories. And in those, it is also likely that each of the visible structures has one or more stories dug into the stone, “underground” as it were. But in other areas of the city, and this is probably true for most of it, the caverns are smaller and are simply carved out as individual chambers that serve a specific function, rather than containers for other structures which must be built.

A typical Dwerden home is composed of several inter-connected rooms, some of which may only have a single door opening between them (and thus a thin stone wall) while others may have short connecting tunnels and much solid rock separating them. Settlements of homes, like small villages, often cluster together around a slightly larger cavern that serves as a sort of local marketplace and town square. From that cavern, tunnels will go to the main entrance of each of the homes, and there may also be some tunnels connecting homes to each other, if the families have close ties through blood or friendship.

Water and air are precious commodities among the Dwerden, and as such they have several idiomatic phrases relating to the value of such things. So it is that the Dwerden will say something like “Blood is thicker than water,” when speaking of familial ties and their supreme importance, even over life and death. Offering a person water is a standard part of Dwerden hospitality, and not following this rule is seen as extremely rude, or at least extremely inhospitable, which can be then used as an insult if one wishes for an unwanted guest to leave. To say “My air is your air,” or “My water is your water,” is to offer everything one has, without exception. Clearly, only the best of friends or relations would say such a thing.

In addition to water and air, food is a basic concern. The Dwerden are able to make a thick bread-like food out of many mushrooms and lichens, and they also raise several types of food animals which are native to caves and the underground. They raise a type of cave-dwelling salamander for its eggs, and they also have farms where they raise fish and crustaceans native to the subterranean lakes and rivers. The Dwerden have also, over many years, come to appreciate the foods of the surface dwellers, and so they often stock their larders with salted meats, dried fruits and vegetables, cheeses and other foodstuffs. As such, it is not uncommon for a Dwerden meal to contain a mix of foods both imported and native. The poorer Dwerden, of course, are more likely to subsist purely on native foods, which the wealthy have occasionally been known to swear off their local foods completely, dining only upon imported meats, dairy and grain products, and fruits and vegetables.

Many Dwerden are agoraphobic, having dwelled all their lives in Stonedeep and never seen the open sky. Upon their first experience of it, they may go into a panic, ranging from mild to extreme, and their first desire will be to return to the safety of Stonedeep. As such, all Dwerden soldiers, called wardens, train under the open sky for a period of time. This allows those with an extreme phobia to be detected early on and moved to service elsewhere within the city, while those who prove they can handle it are directed to serve as guardians at the main gate, and their names are listed among those who would be called up in case of an invasion from without.

Outside invasion is not their only concern, nor even their primary one. For there are other subterranean dwellers in Aerde, and those creatures compete with the Dwerden for scarce resources. Goblins and trolls are the most common, for goblins are true underground dwellers just as the Dwerden are, and trolls, though they are cave dwellers who do not fear the open sky, are pained by the light of the sun and must travel either at night, or underground. In addition to these, there are darker things that live in the depths of the earth, nameless, mysterious, and rightly feared by the Dwerden. It is because of these that their wardens are scattered throughout Stonedeep, and not just clustered near the outside entrance.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Future Posting Plans

I've been giving some thought to my pattern of blog posting of late, and decided to actually put up a brief post on those thoughts.

First, I plan to slow down on the number and frequency of story sample posts. I hope you're all enjoying them, but as I have pointed out before, they are only rough draft versions and need lots of work before the story as a whole is a polished and complete novel. I never intended to publish the entire rough draft in samples, but just enough to whet your appetites for more.

Second, I will begin posting more about writing itself, some of the writing habits that I have developed, how I get ideas, and other topics of a more meta-writing nature. Hopefully for those who also write, or are interested in writing, these will be both informative and entertaining.

Third, after I have finished the rough draft and begun polishing the scenes, one by one, I will begin posting samples of them as well. And I intend to do some kind of comparisons, before/after kind of samples, so that you can see how the story evolved over time. Personally I think that's going to be a lot of fun.

So that's about it. You'll keep seeing posts from me once or twice a week, but the number of samples will drop off as I focus on writing the rough draft itself and blogging about writing-related topics.

Thanks for reading! Also, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them. I have seen the web traffic to my site growing steadily over time, so I know you're out there, even if you are keeping quiet.

- Dave

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Writing of Drafts and Revisions

I think I've mentioned before that these samples I'm posting are merely the rough-draft work for my novel in progress. As such, they don't have the polish you might expect to find in a finished novel. As I write the rough draft, I'm writing the straightforward events of the story as they unfold, following the plot synopsis that I wrote a couple of years ago. That synopsis itself is fairly detailed, though it's only a plot summary, merely the skeleton of the story. This rough draft represents me adding the muscles, blood and guts to the skeleton that will help to bring the story to life. But to continue the metaphor, we're still a long way from having a complete human being. It's the additional drafting process, re-writing and editing scenes, changing things around, cutting out whole sections and potentially adding new ones, that will result in skin, hair, and some degree of beauty being given to the final form of this person called a novel.

Now setting aside the metaphor, let's look at the drafting process. The rough draft represents a fairly large piece of work, spread over many months or years. For me as a writer, it is probably the hardest part of the entire process. Writing the plot synopsis takes a bit of work, but it's at a high enough level that I can usually map out a working plot in a matter of a few months. Thinking back, I believe it took me about two months, maybe three, to write the synopsis for my current work in progress.

Turning that same plot outline into a complete first draft has taken me two years, and it's still not done. I'm not a full-time writer, of course, and my general goal is to write 2,000 words per week. If I were writing full-time, I would really expect to write those same 2,000 words every day, or even more. But since I have a greater-than full time job, I only get to write as a hobby, in my spare time on weekends and evenings, and sometimes early in the morning. And as I've said before, I expect this draft to take several more months, probably about eight, which will put us into mid-September.

But the next step can be almost as difficult, though it generally takes less time. I will first read the entire novel, printed on ordinary paper, writing copious notes in red pen wherever I have a question, or idea, or suggestion for improvement. I will also ask two or three other people, maybe more, to do the same thing for me. It always helps to have an outsider's point of view, and by "outsider" I simply mean someone not me, someone who isn't in my head who knows exactly how I write and what I mean when I say a certain thing, or have a character say a certain thing.

So that part of the process, the first revision, will likely take a few months as I read, and take notes, and others do the same with me, and then I collate everyone's notes and go back to the drawing board, as it were, to actually write those revisions. I usually do this chapter by chapter, though I will also tend to jump around a bit as later ideas come that might impact earlier parts of the story, and I need to edit or re-write certain scenes or sections in order to ensure that the story keeps its continuity. But in the end, I will have a revised story.

And then we go back and do it again, reading it and looking for the revisions, making more notes, asking more questions, pointing out weaknesses and sometimes strengths (it pays to acknowledge those, too, so I don't accidentally delete something that's really good). And again I go back and revise again, though hopefully on the second round there will be fewer changes to make.

Depending on how things are going, it may take a few more revisions before I and my "beta testers" are all happy with the story. And this is the part where I am heading into unknown territory, as I'm not actually a published writer. Where to go from there, with a complete and revised novel in my hands? I have read a few books on getting published, and I've also considered self-publishing the book. I don't have any specific plans right now, and to be honest I'll be quite happy just to get to that point. Not that I intend to stop there - I do intend to publish this book in some way, I'm just not sure which way I'll go, and probably won't really know until I'm a lot closer to that point.

But that's all a topic for another essay. For now, I'll just stay focused on the drafting and revision process.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chapter Eleven, Scene 3

Fifteen days later, deacon Diarmid greeted them one evening at the guild, holding a sealed message for Balfrith. It was a brief note from Adradomir, asking them to come to his house on the following Moonday, the second day of Thror’s Hammer.

It was a good thing that the summons came, for Balfrith was beginning to grow weary of waiting, and their supply of coin was running low. They hadn’t managed to find much work in that two weeks, only a few nights as bodyguards for a traveling merchant who thought his life was in danger whenever he came to Castor. Whether it really was threatened or not, Balfrith couldn’t say - but they were paid to keep an eye on the wealthy merchant and his wife, and never did see any dangers to their client.

Other than that, they had continued living in the same cheap inn, for Balfrith wasn’t willing to relocate until he had significantly more coin in his pouch, or a steady job bringing a good income. Eldamir, for his part, didn’t seem to care where they lived or what they did. It was as if he had never needed to make his own living in the world. And Balfrith admitted to himself that perhaps this was exactly the case. Though he knew his Elefdar friend had made previous excursions into the world of Men, it was entirely possible that he had only ever traveled with his father, or at least had always had someone with him to cover whatever traveling expenses he might have incurred. Whatever the case, Balfrith found himself in charge of their collective purse, and it was a good thing, for Eldamir seemed ready to spend coin whenever and wherever his fancy led him, regardless of the cost.

So now here they were on a Freyasday evening at the end of Rialla’s moon, ready to enjoy a bit of drink with their free-lancer guild peers, and the note from Adradomir finally arrived. Balfrith took it gladly from Diarmid, breaking the seal and reading the Elefdar merchant’s flowing script. Balfrith was half-way through the note before he realized it had been written in Elefdar and not Common, and he smiled at the thought. No one will be breaking this code any time soon, he thought. He read:

My dear master Balfrith,

I hope this note finds you and Eldamir in good health. I offer my apologies for the delay in summoning you, but it took me longer to prepare the letter for my associate than I had thought it would.

The good news is, I have found one who will be able to help you in your journey to the Draugeborg. He is a Man of Nifflgarde, and a free-lancer in your very guild. I have not told him of your quest, only that you may need some help in locating the place. He has agreed to travel with you from here to Drakenmount, and offer his guidance to your final destination. You may give him whatever reasons you wish, to explain why you want to go there.

I will not say more in this brief letter. Please come to my home on Moonday, the second of Thror’s Hammer, in the morning. Roidh knows to expect you.

Best regards,

Balfrith looked up from the note at Eldamir, who raised his brow. He’d been reading over Balfrith’s shoulder, so they both knew what was written there.

“That’s interesting,” said Eldamir.

“Aye, indeed it is,” agreed Balfrith. “And apparently we have a couple of days to prepare for the journey - good of him to give us some advance notice.”

“Agreed. And tonight, we shall enjoy the company of our friends.”

Balfrith turned to Diarmid then, while folding the letter to put it away in his tunic. “You have our thanks, Diarmid. This is exactly what we’ve been waiting for these past days, and it brings the news we’d hoped for.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear it, Balfrith,” he replied. “Will you stay long this evening?”

“Oh, I imagine we’ll be here for a few hours,” Balfrith said. “We need to prepare for travel starting tomorrow, but we aren’t in a great hurry.”

“Then I shall join you later, perhaps, after I’ve finished a bit of work here.”

They nodded to him, and proceeded toward the back room, where they could already hear a bawdy song being alternately sung and shouted by many laughing voices.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chapter Eleven, Scene 2

Summer’s high heat followed them the remaining two and a half weeks back to Castor, and it got so bad near the end that Balfrith found himself wishing for the rain to return, even remembering how miserable that had been. They had to make frequent stops for water, both for themselves and for the horses, which took additional time and meant that they had to march for longer in the day than they might otherwise have done in order to cover the same distance.

Roidh was determined to arrive at Castor on schedule - there was no arguing with him about it, and Balfrith watched Calunoth try again and again to get him to slow down their pace, all to no avail. Roidh wouldn’t say why he was so hard-set to stay on pace, but he also refused to argue about it. He simply kept driving the wagon, and if they wanted to keep pace with it, they were forced to keep marching until Roidh called a halt.

In the end, they arrived at Castor on the twelfth of Rialla, Throrsday, and on schedule according to Roidh. In fact, Balfrith was pleasantly surprised when Roidh praised their performance to their employer, Adradomir. And another surprise came when Adradomir gave them all a small bonus: a half-dozen silver double-eagles for each of them.

As Balfrith and Eldamir were preparing to return to the inn where they’d been staying before, Adradomir called them aside to his dining/meeting room. Calunoth waved goodbye to them as he departed, noting that he’d not been invited to the discussion. Balfrith had to give him that: he had a sense for when he was wanted, and when there were private matters to attend where he was not needed. Roidh was also noticeably absent.

As they sat down at the table, Adradomir said, “Tell me, how fared your search for knowledge at the school?”

Balfrith hesitated, then asked, “My lord? I don’t recall telling you that we were going in search of knowledge.”

Adradomir smiled, spread his hands and asked, “But why else would you be going to such a place? If the repairs that you spoke of could be done by any craftsman, surely you would have found such within the walls of this great city. Forgive me if I presume too much - I merely deduced what you were likely doing there, based on what I did know.”

Balfrith nodded and said, “No, my lord, I should apologize to you. For you have proven yourself to be a friend of my lord Felaranthir, and an ally to us. In fact, I daresay that Felaranthir would have wanted me to tell you the full tale of why we are here and what we seek to do.”

“If you wish,” said Adradomir. “I do not seek more than you will give, but am happy to listen if you desire to tell me the story.”

“I do. Let me begin then by saying that our search for knowledge was not as fruitful as I had hoped it would be, but we do have a plan for the next stage of our quest. For the man that we went to the school to meet, named Gregorius, had departed the school some ten years ago and moved himself to Nifflgarde. So now, we must take a ship north to the city of Drakenmount, and thence we will travel over-land to the place where he dwells. And then, hopefully, he shall be able to help us in our search. Which now brings me to our quest, and the reason for our journeys.

“Perhaps you may have noticed, but I carry two swords with me at all times: I have one slung behind my back, in a baldric over my shoulder; and I have one here at my side. Both are of similar type, an Elefdar longsword. I try not to draw attention to the sword on my back, and in fact I often have it covered in a cloth or light blanket so as to camouflage it from casual view. An observant watcher would certainly notice it, and wonder why I have a second sword hidden on my back. But to the casual viewer, it simply fades from view along with my other gear - or so I hope.

“Anyway, that is not the point of the story. The point is that I have this sword on my back that I never use, and never even unsheathe - except in the presence of a trusted few. I will do so now.” Balfrith unslung the baldric from his shoulder, and drew Branulf from the scabbard, laying it out on the table between them.

“Behold Branulf, the sword of my ancestor Aethelred, gifted to him by the master smith Sørkell over seven hundred fifty years ago. And Sørkell received the elements of this blade from the Elefdar some years before that, when he studied under their smiths as a young man.

“This sword brought great honor and fame to Aethelred during his life, but it was cursed by his own dying words, when he was murdered by his wife and her lover. At that time he said, ‘Branulf, may you never be wielded by murderer or liar, troth-breaker or thief. May you twist in the hands of the ignoble. May you forever be a burden and a curse to them, never to be lost or discarded, a reminder of their guilt this day.’

“These words had been long lost to my family, not recorded in our own chronicles. We knew there was some sort of curse on the blade, but the words that we thought had been spoken were not, in fact, correct. But when Eldamir and I visited the University of the Arts in Nûmidëa, a professor there helped us in searching out the history of the blade. He discovered a memoir written by Aethelred’s seneschal, which recorded these words that the seneschal himself had heard his lord speak.

“After that, knowing something more of the curse upon the blade, or at least the words spoken by Aethelred, we tried in vain to determine whether there was an actual magical curse upon it. The same professor there tried a spell that he thought might help, but unfortunately he could not detect any enchantment upon the blade, for good or ill. And yet, lord Felaranthir himself did not discount the possibility of there being a curse upon it, and in fact it was he that placed this geas upon me, to remove the curse.”

Adradomir said, “Indeed, that would seem to imply that he believed there was a real curse upon the sword.”

Balfrith smiled. “You have the right of it, my lord. And professor Ducca believed the same thing, which is why he referred us to a professor Gregorius at the School for Learned Studies in Westmere. He said at the time that he wasn’t sure that Gregorius would be able to help us, but they shared areas of similar knowledge, and perhaps Gregorius would have other ideas that he’d not thought of. Anyway, he was simply trying to help us in what way he could.

“And now, as you know, we did not find Gregorius at the school, for he has gone north to study some ruins in Nifflgarde, a place called Draugeborg, which is reputed to be haunted by wailing spirits and an ancient evil. According to his peers at the school, he went there in order to test out some theories that he had developed with regard to hauntings, and the calming of restless spirits. Apparently, he believed that he might be able to cleanse the place of those spirits, and that evil, and bring peace to the place.”

They sat in silence for a moment, Adradomir digesting what he had heard, and Balfrith trying to think of anything relevant that he might have missed.

Finally Adradomir said, “I know it may be too soon to ask, but do you have a plan for your journey to Nifflgarde?”

“Only that we will take a ship from here to Drakenmount, and then march over land to the Draugeborg. We have been told that it is some days’ march north of that city, not far from the ancient highway. We are hoping that the locals will be able to direct us when we get closer to the place.”

Adradomir nodded and said, “Undoubtedly, if it has gained such notoriety, someone will know of it and be able to direct you there. And hopefully Gregorius will still be there.”

Eldamir said, “Aye, that is one concern - he may have moved on, whether successful or not. But if he has done so, we shall do what we can to determine where he went after that, and continue tracking him.”

Adradomir, rubbing his chin, said, “I do not normally have any business in Drakenmount, but I do have an associate there I’ve not spoken with him in some time - this may be a good opportunity for me to renew my ties with him, and remind him of our long friendship.”

Balfrith said, “My lord Adradomir, you have already done so much for us. I know it is done out of friendship with my lord Felaranthir, but even so, I would rather not be so far in your debt.”

“Nonsense,” interrupted Adradomir. “I hired you at standard guild rates for the journey to and from Westmere, something I would have done regardless of whether it was you or someone else. It was mutually beneficial, and so you owe me nothing. And in this matter as well, I will hire you to deliver a letter for me. I should have done so some time ago anyway, so again, this is a cost I would have borne regardless of who I hired as my courier. It is, once again, a happy coincidence that our purposes are so closely aligned. And so once again, you will owe me nothing when the delivery of my letter is completed. Unless, of course, you intend to refuse this offer of employment?”

Balfrith shook his head, embarrassed. “Nay, my lord, I’ll not turn down the offer of real employment. As you say, we both gain from the transaction.”

“Good. Now, in thinking about it, I can see that it will take me some time to compose this letter. Can you suffer a delay of a few weeks?”

Weeks?” exclaimed Balfrith.

“Weeks. As I said, it has been a long time since I’ve spoken with my friend, and I must ponder how best to address him after all these years. I care not to explain myself further. Will you wait, or not?”

Balfrith looked at Eldamir, who said, “I don’t see that we’re in any real hurry.”

Balfrith sighed. “We will wait for your summons, Adradomir. I guess we’ll just have to find temporary employment here in the city, perhaps guarding a warehouse.”

Adradomir said, “On that, I cannot help you. I already have Roidh, and do not need another at this time. But if you will wait, I will pay the guild rate and also cover your travel expenses by ship to Drakenmount. After you have discharged your duty to me, of course, you’re on your own. Is that acceptable?”

“More than fair,” replied Balfrith.

“Then I will send for you, at the free-lancers guild, when all is in order and my letter is prepared.”

And with that, they said their goodbyes and left. Roidh, as always, saw them to the door, and bid them his own farewell before closing the door.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chapter Eleven, Scene 1

Going back and re-reading the scenes of road travel keeps reminding me, that I plan to change things around and put the characters on horses. I don't recall exactly why it was that I originally had them going on foot, but it no longer makes any sense to me (if it ever did). Aside from that, there's not much to say about this scene. It's really kind of a bridge, to get the characters moving out of Westmere and on their way back to Castor.

* * *

They departed for Castor on Freyasday, after spending the evening loading the wagon with supplies and other items that Roidh had purchased, apparently at the direction of his master, Adradomir. The next morning after breakfast, all they had to do was harness the horses and depart, since everything else was already packed and ready to go.

Balfrith took the point position that day, with Eldamir in the rear and Calunoth remaining with the wagon. As Balfrith walked, he realized they’d hardly seen any sign of Calunoth the few days they were in town, and thought he would ask about the man’s whereabouts. Not that I really care, he thought. But it pays to know if my peer is staying out of trouble.

They ate lunch on the move that day, as the skies were growing dark with clouds in the west, and they wanted to make as much distance as they could before it rained. By about mid-afternoon, the clouds had moved in and the rain began, a steady drizzle that wasn’t enough to slow them down yet, but it did make the walking a lot less enjoyable. Balfrith had taken his water-proofed cloak from the wagon at one point earlier in the day, so at least he was able to stay mostly dry. But the rain still ran down his face and neck, soaking further down into his tunic, and bringing a slight chill even on that warm summer day.

They made camp that night in a copse of trees at the edge of the road, for the ground was so soft that Roidh feared taking the wagon any further from the road than was absolutely necessary, lest it get stuck in the mud. From their campsite in the trees they could still keep an eye on it, and of course one of them was assigned to stand watch near it all night, so it was never unattended.

The horses were picketed in the trees, close to the camp. In camp at least, they were able to get mostly out of the rain, for the trees provided some protection from it. They even got a fire going, from dry wood that they’d found laying on the ground under the same tree cover.

With the rain, no one gave any thought to sword-play, so they sat around the camp fire for a while after supper, then went to bed early. Calunoth pointed out, sensibly, that if they went to bed early and the rain stopped over night, they could be on the road that much earlier and make better progress the next day.

Unfortunately, the next day was full of rain, as was the day after that. By the time the rain stopped, it was Moonday, and most of their things were fully soaked through. But that morning dawned sunny and hot, more like a typical late summer day, and so everyone took out their clothes and draped them all over the wagon, hanging them from whatever hooks or straps that they could, in an effort to let them get some sun and dry off. Balfrith, walking in the rear, would have sworn that he saw steam rising from the wagon around mid-morning, and he smiled at the thought, even while he was sweating through his layers of clothing and leather armor. At least tomorrow I’ll have dry clothes.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Word Count, 7-Feb-2013

Broke past 100,000 words this morning. That means I'm about two-thirds done with the rough draft. Feels good.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chapter Ten, Scene 7

This is the final scene of chapter ten, and in it, Balfrith gets another clue that leads him on in his quest to remove the curse from Branulf.

* * *

They returned the next day after breakfast, as agreed, and the secretary was waiting for them in his office. He welcomed them in, and as they sat down in the same chairs as before, he said, “I have some good news for you. We found the treatise that Gregorius wrote, On the Haunting of Various Places, and it does mention the ruins in Nifflgarde.”

“That is good news,” said Balfrith.

Caorall continued, “The place is called Draugeborg, and the ruins are reputed to be haunted by an ancient evil, though no one remembers when or how that evil appeared. As to exactly where they are, we do not have a map. But his writings suggest that if you sail into Drakenmount, then follow the ancient highway north out of that city for about two weeks, you should be within a day’s walk from there. I do not know if there is any sort of landmark to tell you where to go from there, but perhaps there will be local folk who can tell you.”

Eldamir asked, “Did Gregorius ever write anything else, besides the treatise on haunting?”

Caorall shook his head. “Alas, he left no notes or other writings behind when he departed. It seems that he planned to be gone for some time, perhaps permanently, and so he took all of his work with him when he left.”

Balfrith stood then, and asked, “Well, secretary Caorall, you have our thanks. Is there anything else you have for us? If not, we have some other business to attend, and will not be in Westmere for much longer, for we depart for Castor tomorrow morning.”

“I have no other knowledge of Gregorius’ whereabouts, or indeed anything else of his. But you are welcome for what small aid I was able to provide.”

Balfrith said, “We’re staying at the Double Yolk Inn, near the docks. If you think of anything else that may be of value, we’ll be there until tomorrow morning. Otherwise, again, you have our thanks. Even this little bit may help, at least insofar as it gets us closer to Gregorius, and some answers to my larger questions.”

“You never did tell me what, exactly, you were hoping to learn from him. Might I ask what that is?”

Balfrith shrugged. “It’s no secret, really. I have an old family heirloom that has gained a rather evil reputation over the years. People think it has brought us bad luck, as if it were cursed. I hope to determine whether it is even possible that the thing in question could be cursed, and if it really is, try to remove that curse. But first, I need to understand the nature of the thing. At the university in Nûmidëa, professor Ducca could find no evidence of a curse on the thing, nor indeed of any enchantment at all. But he did not rule out the possibility, for he said that they are forbidden the research of curses or any black magic, so their knowledge of such things is very limited.”

Caorall nodded, slowly. “I see. Well, I wish you the best of luck in your quest. If I learn anything else about Gregorius, or if I think of anything that might help in your search for knowledge of curses, I will make note of it. Perhaps you will return this way in the future. If you do, please stop by and let me know how you fare. And if I have anything for you at that time, I’ll be happy to give it to you then.”

“You’ve been most helpful, Caorall. Thanks again. And now, we really must be going. I will leave your name with our innkeeper, so that if you send any messages there, he will at least recognize the source of the message and know that it is important to us.”

“Well, I hope to see you again in the future, whatever may come of your quest. Until then, I wish you fare well, and gods’ speed, my friends. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” Balfrith bowed slightly, as did Eldamir, and they turned and left.