The House of the Seventh Minuet IV

I ate at a diner that overlooked the river that ran along Highway 90, then found the Eagle Cliff Store.  They had enough provisions for me to get through a few more days in the house, but I knew that if I wanted all of my favorite things, I would have to head into town.  I was not yet ready for the hour-long drive, however; I was still tired from moving, so I decided to put it off for a couple more days.

Once I was back at the house and had all of my things put away, the sun was starting to set.  Dinner was scrimp and fettuccine noddles with alfredo sauce, plus salad and grilled squash.  I knew how to make the sauce on my own, and over the years I had figured out how to portion things down so that there only enough for me.  After all, I hardly ever had anyone over, even in my suburban apartment.

After dinner it was time to have a bath, then sit down and write.  I had another week to get a certain article done, so I decided to focus on some creative write for that evening.  My new office had me curled up in the biggest rolling chair that I could find a little at eight, a mug of jasmine tea close by.

About an hour into writing, I was really on a roll and had no interest in stopping.  I kept on writing, the night falling deeper and deeper round my forested house.  Like many other writers, I do a lot more writing at night, when things are quiet and I have no distractions.  It’s just me and the keyboard, no interferences.  My story at the time involved several elves and the dragons that they were trying to make peace with, so being in the forest gave me a lot of ideas.

I didn’t know what time it was when I started to feel weary.  I’m pretty much a night owl, and staying up late could all too easily take me all the way to dawn.  Sometimes it was a choice between staying up to get my ideas down so that they didn’t get lost, or getting some sleep so that I would be able to write the next day as well.  Not having anywhere in particular to be the next day really made it tempting to simply keep writing.

It was time for a bathroom break.  That, at least, was a surefire way to get me off of the computer.  I could hear the clock chiming out that it was midnight as I finished washing my hands and shut off the bathroom light.  Well, it wasn’t one or two yet; maybe I could write a little bit more…

I stopped in the hallway, standing completely still.  There was music playing.  To a lot of people, that wouldn’t be a problem at all, but I hadn’t played anything on the computer or anywhere else.  All of my writing had been done while listening to the gentle rustle of the wind in the trees.  Where in the world could the violin have been?  Well, I assumed it was a violin, anyhow.

My first idea was that perhaps the grandfather clock had a special twelve o’clock song that I hadn’t heard before.  Deciding to head downstairs and check it out more closely, I switched on the stairwell light.  I never made it down the stairs.

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The House of the Seventh Minuet III

A lot of movies and books have a certain pattern that they follow when there is a house in the woods.  It’s more of a trope, really.  Usually, someone’s first night in a house like this involves a thunderstorm and lots of howling wind.  I even remember little Heidi being afraid of the wind in the trees when she went to her grandfather’s house.

I can say with great certainty that my first night in my new home was nothing of the sort.  There was no rain, and the wind didn’t howl.  It hardly even whispered.  The trees rustled now and then in a gentle breeze, but other than that it was the sort of peace and quiet that I had longed for back in the city.  I could hear the pulse of nature outside, the owls, small mammals, things like that.  It was almost too bad, because I love the sound of rain.  At the very least, I was relieved that the evening was restful.

Once I had gotten all of my keys, I had gone back outside to empty out my car.  The third floor seemed like a great place to find a room, and I had chosen one with a window that looked out onto the front of the property.  There was indeed a four-poster bed inside, and I flopped down onto it in sheer joy.  Then I had brought my personal things up to the room and the bathroom nearest to it.

The trailer was a little more work.  I had a few boxes of books in there, some albums, and various framed pictures.  I set those down in the hallway; I could unpack them formally the next day.  As for my computer, I debated whether it should go into my new bedroom or another room nearby.  I would have to look for a study later, but for now I could keep the tower and monitor in my room.

There were a few other boxes outside of my essentials; various gaming consoles, some of my favorite DVDs, and whatnot.  I brought in everything just so that the car and trailer would be empty, and then drive around to the garage.  It took a little work to get the trailer unhitched, but I managed; my uncle would be by in a few days to get it back from me.  The garage had ample space, and it looked like it had been tidied up before I had gotten there.  I decided to grab all of the wrappers and snack containers out of my car so that it would be as nice as everything else before I headed back inside.

Dinner that night was lasagna.  Thankfully, Great Aunt Lydia had been thoughtful enough to keep it in the refrigerator; I did not have the patience for a frozen one to bake.  It tasted homemade, as a matter if fact, and I relished every bite of it.  I had brought a couple of cases of soda with me, and those went into the fridge.

By the time I was done eating– and yes, I had taken advantage of the long table in the dining room– I was exhausted.  What was it about sitting that makes us so suddenly tired?  I decided that I would take Lydia’s advice and get some good sleep.

After a warm bath, of course.  I couldn’t resist pouring my scented Epsom salts into the lion-footed tub and having a good soak.  It was so relaxing to be able to have a bath and read a book without having to listen to arguing neighbors or the people upstairs stomping around.  Once that was done, I was ready to close my eyes and get some rest so that I would be ready to face the next day.


 

If you’ve ever moved, you know the feeling of waking up in a new place.  It’s nor frightening, per se, but you know it’s different, that you have to get your bearings first.  That must be why it took me a few minutes to remember where the bathroom was.

I unpacked my bathroom-related boxes while I went about my usual morning routine.  Then I went back to my room and changed into some comfortable pants and my favorite Doctor Who T-shirt.  I didn’t need to look fancy that day, since it would be more settling in than anything.

Down in the kitchen, I got together some cereal and fruit and sat all of that down with my Citrus Drop.  I have always preferred store-label soda, and Big K made them really well, so I usually started off my mornings with my Citrus Drop.  Eating in the dining room at such a long table was an interesting experience, and I could really savor it now that I wasn’t quite so exhausted.  It wasn’t all that lonely, either, since I am more of a lone wolf anyway.

The day went in like that, pretty mundanely.  I made some phone calls, listened to the hallway clock chime away the hours, and took my time unpacking.  I had all the time in the world to do so, really.  There was a suitable office a couple doors down from my room, with an old mahogany desk where I could set up my computer.  Much of the room was lined with shelves of books, old hardbacks with gold or silver lettering along the spine.

Once I had my computer set up, I took a couple hours to get the network configured throughout the house.  It was a tricky task getting things to work, but I found the hardware to do it, so I put my networking skills to work.  Once it was working, I took a break on the computer, checking my e-mail, letting my online friends know that I was settling in, and even playing a couple of games.

I’m a writer by nature.  I took up networking and computer-building just so that I would have some marketable skills in between writing jobs, and it’s had the added bonus of saving me from having to pay someone to do those things for me.  I tended to have a few jobs going at once, with various deadlines, plus my own creative writing projects.  Now that I lived so far out, I would have plenty of peace and quiet for getting my work done.

Most of that rest of that day ended up being spent on the computer.  granted, I had meant to get up and do some more unpacking, but between the knowledge that I had plenty of time and the fatigue of moving, I simply decided to stay at my desk.

Turning in early that evening made for an early morning the next day.  I hadn’t been an early riser since my college days, when some of the classes that I needed for my degree were only offered first thing in the morning.  Who does that to writers, anyway?  Oh well, at least that was in the past, and now I had a chance to make myself an omelet.

After a little more unpacking, I decided to explore the house.  The first floor was mostly living rooms; parlors, tea rooms, even a sun room just off the backyard.  The second floor had five bedrooms, two of which had their own bathrooms.  There were also a couple of offices, with books and tables and even a fireplace.  My own office was directly above one of them, I was able to discern.

The thirst floor was the most interesting level.  There were two bedrooms beside my own, and one of them had its own bathroom.  I didn’t mind not having it en suite, because at least I had the four-poster bed.  There was a much larger library that took the place of the other office and bedrooms.  It could have doubled as a small ballroom  because it had a wide, open span of floor in the middle.  There were two long tables on the far end of the room, which would have been perfect for buffets or even large study groups.

It was interesting to know that I had so much room for guests.  I could host family gatherings, have friends stay over, or whatever else I imagined.  With so many books, I would hardly even need to visit the public library in order to find something to read when I needed a break from writing.  There was no bookshelf in my own room, but the shelves in this large room still had plenty of room, so I decided that i would some of the books around.  Then I would be able to have an entire shelf that was just my own personal books.

That was how I found the old tome.  It was bigger than any other the other books in the library, the cover thicker.  It looked like it was made of actual leather, and even had the little buckle that ancient books were known for.  There was a coat of arms on the cover, but no words at all.

I opened the buckles as I sat down at one of the tables, forgetting for a while about my project.  The pages were made of vellum, the ink on them old, hard to read in some places.  Instead of a title page, there was another copy of the coat of arms.  The first page of text was difficult to read, the ink partially blurred by time, the handwriting terribly stylized.

Flipping through the pages, I saw the the handwriting changed now and then.  So did the ink and its apparent age.  I had discerned five or six distinct styles by the time I got to the last page of text.  It was hardly more than halfway through the book, leaving room for a lot more writing to be added.  The handwriting on that last page was a lot more legible, even modern.  It reminded me of how the older generations write, taking care to make their cursive just write, so different from my own cursive, which only followed standard form when in made sense for me.

What I had never expected to see on that time-worn vellum, however, was my own name written.  I could feel my eyes growing wide as I went a few pages back, finding that my name had been mentioned several times, as as though someone was discussing me, writing about me.  I found the first mention of my name, about halfway through this section of handwriting, and read a few lines.

She is a small and sweet girl, so much like her own mother.  It was good to have her visit the house, to have its halls fill with her laughter…

I blinked, looking up from the book, trying to figure out what it meant.  Who had written all of these pages?  Why had my name made it into the book?  I was determined to find out, to read as much as I could in order to figure it out.  It would have to wait, though, because my stomach was growling, and I needed to head into town to stock up on groceries, and I did not want to drive through the forest after dark just yet.  I decided to take a break from the book, calm myself down before I came back to it, so I closed it and fastened the clasps before getting up and leaving the library.

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The House of the Seventh Minuet II

I was glad that the hallway light had been left on for me.  I had told my great aunt that I had no idea when I’d be arriving, so it would be nice if things were set up for the possibility that I would get there well after sunset.  As it was, it was late afternoon.  I pulled my keys out of the lock and slipped them back into my coat as I looked around.

The house had been very well cared for by my… what was he again?  The grandfather of my great uncle?  Or had it been the other way around?  He had been the oldest member of my extended family, but I had not seen him since I was very young.  My great aunt, whom he had selected to manage his estate, could not explain why he had selected me of all people to receive this house.

The entry hall was wide and open.  It reminded me of some of the movies I had seen where at least one of the characters lives in a fancy house, but you know you could never afford it, no matter how dreamy it is.  Most of the furnishings were still there; only a few things had been removed to be given to specific inheritors.  There was a sturdy coat-rack  with a sort of umbrella basket at its base (which still had a couple of umbrellas in it), several tables, some with picture frames on them, and the paintings that hung in ornate frames on the walls.

I had been wondering about wealth lately.  I had so little of it, yet some people had so much.  It had occurred to me that some people are able to amass nice things over a lifetime, bit by bit.  When I looked at their wealth, I imagined how it would be buying it all at once.  There was such a difference in those ways of thinking…

I turned to the left and passed through a door– how often do I get to say this?– into the kitchen.  The granite counter tops were worn with age but still shone with care.  I looked around, found the light switch to turn up the lights, and then found the note on the island counter that my great aunt said I should look for.  It had her careful and elegant handwriting on it, and I took several moments to read it over.

She had left me her phone number, and a few others that I could call in case I needed help with the house.  There was some basic information about the house, and instructions on a few things.  At the end, she had written, “you’ve had a long drive, my dear.  I left you some dinner in the refrigerator; eat up, and be sure to get plenty of sleep tonight.”

I chuckled at her last words; how was I supposed to get to sleep when I had a three-story house to explore?  She had also asked me to call her when I got in, so I puled my cell phone out of my pocket and slid over to the phone call screen.

“No signal,” I sighed.  “I might have to change my plan.”

There was a land-line phone hung on the wall near one of the doors, so I picked it up and dial my great aunt’s number.

“It’s corded,” I said to myself as it rang, “but at least it’s not rotary.”

The line rang several times before she picked up.

“Lydia?” I asked when I heard her voice.  “Yeah, it’s me.  I’m at the house now…  Yeah, I just got in…  It’s beautiful!  I’m thrilled that he left it to me…  No, I haven’t eaten yet.  Well, I had some snacks in the car…  Yes, I have your note right here.  There was a map next to it; I can see the stores right on it.”

Great Aunt Lydia went on asking me questions for a few more minutes, making sure that I was okay, that I had everything I needed.  I had plenty of money from selling off the stuff I would no longer need from my apartment,  There was enough food in the fridge and pantry for a few days, and then I could shop for the things that I liked when I was more settled in.  I didn’t have anything too heavy to carry in from the car, and I was fine being on my own.  I have lived in my apartment on my own, after all.

Once she let me off the line, I went back to the island counter.  There was a box there; it was wooden, carved ages ago judging by the way it was so smooth and worn.  It was large enough to hold a large stack of papers, which was pretty much what I found when I opened the lid.  Floor plans, maintenance information, amenities.  It looked as though the house had been upgraded as technology developed, so that it had some of the better things available.

I also found information about the power company, the phone account and– thank goodness!  They had thought well enough to set up internet and a wi-fi router.  Judging by the paperwork, those were new, probably set up just for me.  That came as a huge relief.  Once I got my computer set up and configured the network, I should be able to at least make wi-fi calls from my cell phone.

The lid of the box also had several clips that held keys.  Some were extra house keys, and others were labeled for other things, including the shed and the garage.  There were at least two copies of each key, so I pulled out my key chain and began stringing keys onto it.  I was nearly done when my elbow bumped the box and I heard something rattling at the bottom of it.

“What’s this?” I asked as I lifted up the stack of papers.

Down at the bottom of the box was another key.  It was all on its own at the bottom.  I picked it up and looked it over closely.  A numeral 7 had been painted on it in black, and when I looked back to the keys on the lid, none of the others had the same label.  I even held it up to several of the keys, but none of them had the same cuts as this one.

“You’re a little different, aren’t you?” I said.  I took the 7 key and put it onto the ring attached to my angel feather key chain– I have several rings and items on my keys– and headed back out to my car to start bringing things inside.

 

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The House of the Seventh Minuet

It was the kind of house that gets left to you when a distant relative leaves the mortal coil.  It was big and old and distant.  Maybe great things had happened there decades ago– could I even reckon it in terms of centuries?  I would have to ask my realtor friend later.  Maybe it had been home to extravagant parties, the kind where someone announces your name when you arrive in your finest clothing.  Maybe it was the kind of house that, over the years, grew dark and dangerous, like in the horror movies where all but one character dies by the end.

Let’s be clear about things: there were the maybes, and there were the definitelies.  I could imagine a hundred different things about the house, but it was definitely far from where I was living at the time.  It was definitely in a rural location, further out than even Silver Star Mountain.  It was definitely more than I could have ever afforded, and it was definitely badly needed.

I left my 700 square foot apartment, packing all of my things into my car and the small trailer that I attached to it, and headed and headed north.  I got lost a few times, but the roads in southern Washington are too green to begrudge in the least.  I had to head east once I got to Northwoods, and kept on driving.  The Elevation wrecked havoc on my ears, but once I got used to that, the green, the fresh air, and the quiet were all I needed to be happy.

The house just the icing on the cake.  Important icing, because as good as cake is without it, I needed a place to live, and the apartment I have been in for nearly two years was no longer working out.  The owners were raising everyone’s rent with their next waves of leases, and I had held off on signing so that I could search for something cheaper.  Well, a great big house in the mountains was clearly an improvement, and free as an inheritance was cheaper than anything else I had found!

I imagined, on my way there, picking out a room and holing up in there to do my writing.  Would there be four-poster beds?  Old tapestries and oil paintings that had been collected over the years?  I spent a lot of the drive wondering.

By the time I finally pulled onto the private road that led to the house, my heart was pounding.  The road was shaded by trees, which also surrounded the grounds and hid them from the main road.  Once they gave way, and I could see the driveway, I gaped.  I was a three-story house.  I hadn’t ever been in a three-story house; even the one I had grown up in had been a single level, and my friends had had two levels at best.  This was going to be quite a change.

I pulled my car up close to the door– I could figure out a better parking routine later– and parked.  As I turned off the engine, I stared out the window at the sign above the double doors.  “Silverthread Manor,” the words read.  They were carved in stone.  It seemed line a curious name for the home, but I wasn’t about to criticize anything just then.  I got out of the car and climbed the old stone steps towards the door.

I had already traded my apartment keys for the keys to this house.  All I had left to do was flip through my key ring and slide the right one into the lock.  I was trembling as I searched for it, wondering what sights would await me once I opened the doors.

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Worldly Words

Not only do I love writing about stars and dragons, but also studying foreign languages.  I started off with French back in high school, and kept on learning.  There was Japanese, Latin, German, and even Spanish.  Learning these languages, as well as studying linguistics from an anthropological perspective, have helped me better understand what to consider when designing the languages for Lorata.

For now here is a look at how my series title, Legends of Lorata, would look in other Terran languages:

German: Legenden von Lorata

Japanese: ロラタの伝説  Rorata no Densetsu

French: Légendes de Lorata

Latin: Fabulae Loratam

Russian: Легенды Лораты Legendy Loraty

Spanish: Leyendas de Lorata

Welch: Chwedlau o Lorata


I am currently working on Book Three: The Misty Shores of Cioria.  It is going through a bit of editing for the parts already written, then I will add to it.  I am looking into whether or not I will be able to do Camp NaNoWriMo, so that my sci-fi can get a little more attention.  I found a way to use an idea that I have been toying with for quite a while, so that will be exciting!  Until next time, happy reading!

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Excerpt from Legends of Lorata Book Three: The Misty Shores of Cioria

Chapter One Year 4758

Dragons in the Mist

“Promise me.” The words echoed in his mind. “Promise me that you will leave, and only return when it is safe! Even if it means that you may never return, just stay alive. Promise me, Samuel.”

Dawn had not yet brought its light upon the misty hills of the four thousand-year-old kingdom. The nights had only begun to lengthen for the autumn, but the cold did not mind an early arrival. The chill in the air did not bode well for the elvan populace, who were already unsettled by their empty stomachs. Now that their harvest was complete, they could sleep through the dawn. Even the creatures of the woodlands were sleeping still. In the shadows, only stillness roamed.

Nothing wanted to move. It was more than hunger that brought about this stillness. In the air hung a sense of foreboding, a premonition of approaching peril. Nobody was awake to sense it. Those who were indeed awake were not of the sort to sense and fend against impending danger. They preferred things as they were at that moment; outwardly calm whilst inwardly devious. The dragon, it was said among elves, seemed most quieted just before it dove into the air to strike and claim its meal. Even though no creature wanted to be the dragon’s meal, and they hid themselves well, he had already chosen it. How keen the dragon was, to choose that which least expected the attack.

On the hills that rolled through the east of the kingdom, fog curled away from a heavy foot as it came forcefully to the ground. Long claws sank into the soil before lifting again to continue along the washed-out road. Somewhere above that clawed, scaly foot, a voice cursed. It was like thunder in both depth and temper. The man scowled and reined his beast away from the mud that slowed it down. He inspired obedience through his sharp, regal features as much as from his tone. The dragon that he rode moved easily under his command, hardly in need of urging.

“Even the road to the castle is allowed to rot.” Another rider, his beast a wingless dragon, remarked as he came up beside the first. “Yet they wonder why they have lost much of their crop.”zarrek-edit2

The other man, older and far angrier in demeanor, glanced only slightly at the long-haired rider beside him. Through thick ebon lashes, his hazel eyes shone bitterly. “That no longer matters. After today, there will be no need for roads to this castle.”

His brief words brought no response.

Without warning, the dragon that he rode stopped. Pushing a lock of coal-black hair behind his long ear, he peered down through the mist. Stone cobbles gazed back at him through the mud, jagged and uneven, threatening to render great discomfort to any foot that should come along, and to stop any wheels that turned along that road. Passing on either side of the path would not offer any improvement; it was too burdened with rocks scattered from the surrounding mountains, debris left by travelers long past, and weeds. Gathering his velvet cloak close around him, the unpleasant rider turned his beast round to face the line of soldiers who followed his lead.

“Listen to me, loyal nobles and warriors! The rains have worsened the road’s condition. I will fly ahead to the castle,” he shouted commandingly, his voice rich with regal airs. “Make what path you can, and I shall await you there.” He did not await their reply before turning to the younger man, hardly more than a boy, beside him. “You come with me. Have our squires follow us.”

“Aye, father,” came his deep, smooth voice iloreiii-smn reply.

The dragon took to the air with great flaps of its sky-spanning wings. It flew low, gliding just above the mist whilst the other beast jumped agilely among the broken stones of the path. The fog swirled in fine tendrils as the dragons disturbed its stillness. Once the two elvan riders were sufficiently ahead of their followers, the only sounds were those of the dragon’s wings and heavy clawed feet falling onto muddy stone.

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Mikawayama Preview

This year, my story for National Novel Writing Month is a historical fiction set in Heian-era Japan.  My main character is a young lady who lives in a high-up mountain village on the island of Shikoku.  It has been an interesting couple of weeks already, researching various yokai, looking up various specifics of Heian life, and building a balanced character. I have also been sprinkling in Japanese onomatopeia and terms, and some Japanese-style poetry.  Happy reading.  If you are a fellow NaNo writer, happy writing!


Hear the mountain’s call,

Walk along the rocky path.

forested and cold,

even as the summer sun shines,

and not a cloud can be seen.

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