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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Longing for Shadows V

**Continued from part IV**

The moment before he replied, confirming or denying what she had said, seemed infinitely long. She did not think until after she had uttered that name that perhaps it was not him after all.

“The last time anyone recognized me,” he intoned at last, “she was already dead.”

“So it is you…” Rowan breathed. “Peter Steele.”

“Part of the problem of being famous,” he said, somewhere between a sigh and a grumble, “is being recognized even in a place like this.”

“But– how…”

Peter shrugged.  “No idea.”

Rowan gazed at him for a long time, her mind pondering why this, of all people, was the one to meet her at the edge of Karabala.  She remembered the book, the chapter about the realm of the afterworld– it referred to it as Karabala– but she had not completely understood some aspects of it.  Could the music he had been listening to have anything to do with Peter being there now?

“But you’re my guide?” she asked, breathless in her struggle to understand what was going on.

Another shrug.  “Where are trying to go?”

“I…”  She took a deep breath, upset that she was having to repeat herself.  “Komala died so young.  I just…”

“Everyone wants to see someone who’s dead,” Peter said in a tone of sincere disinterest.

“Please,” Rowan replied, trying not to beg.

He stared at her for a moment before finally saying anything.  “We’ll have to ask in the Necropolis.  Are you sure you want to go that far into this place?”

Rowan nodded.  “Of course,” she assured him.

Peter shrugged.  “I’d say it’s your funeral, but…”

“In a place like this, it’s everyone else’s funeral,” she finished for him.

“And you’re not even dead,” he sighed.  “All right, let’s go, then.  Stay close; I want to be able to say that I got you back out of here later.”

Peter did not wait for a response before began to move along the the path at his feet.  Rowan found that it was somewhat like a dirt path, but of a somewhat otherworldly soil, and far darker.  She could hardly see a thing around her, and worried that it would be far worse to see what hid in that darkness.  She kept her eyes on Peter, whose outline seemed to glow with an eerie shade of green.  Now and then a firefly– or should she call it a will-o’-the-wisp?– flitted by, carrying with it the same green light that felt so unnatural.

But unnatural was what this place was.  The Karabala, the Underworld, the place where the dead awaited their next fate, some for eons, and some for a span of time hardly longer than a thought. And at the center of it all, the Necropolis.  The living were not meant to go there, Rowan had read, and the closer she got, the greater the danger that she was putting herself in.

None of that mattered to her, though.  She was there for one purpose, and one purpose only: to see her best friend once again.

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Longing for Shadows IV

**Continued from Part III**

When she had said the final word, the magic words echoed through Rowan’s mind. She could hardly believe that she had said all of them, but they had rolled off her tongue with such ease. She’d never said anything like that before. The room darkened around her, as though the candles had gone out, yet she could see their light right in front of her. They were like anchors, while the rest of her drifted off, as though to another realm.

She began to realize that perhaps that was the very intent of the spell. She was trying to contact the dead, after all, and what better way to do that than to visit their world? She felt wrapped in shadows, caught up in their embrace, a feeling at once velvety and cold. It frightened her as much as it comforted her.

As she looked up from the candlelight, she had a very strong sense that she was somewhere that she oughtn’t to be. All she could do was remind herself that she wasn’t trying to intrude, that all she wanted to do was talk to her friend one more time.

“Karabala….” she whispered, her voice trembling, both from the cold and from the vastness of the darkness that surrounded her.  “Please be kind to me.”

“A could place like this doesn’t understand kindness.”

This– the voice that boomed as though from the deepest of places– nearly made Rowan scream.  She covered her mouth just to keep herself quiet.

“You’re not dead,” the voice went on.  At first, it had sounded like it was all around her.  Now, it seemed to come from one direction: right in front of her, and getting closer.  “What are you doing here?”

If a voice could cross its arms, surely this one just had.  Rowan dared not refuse to answer it.

“I- I’m just here to see my friend,” she stammered out.

“Is she playing around with black magic, too?” the voice demanded.  It was far worse than her parents yelling at her.

“N-no…”  She hesitated, wondering whether she should be saying ‘sir’ whenever she spoke.  “She died recently, you see.”

“There are more dead every day,” the voice replied.  “That’s the thing about the Necropolis: the dead just keep coming.  In Life, you’re born, and then you die.”

“None of the dead move on?” she asked it, for a moment forgetting her fear.

“It depends,” the voice replied.  Rowan had the distinct feeling that he had shrugged.  “I’m more curious about why you thought coming here would be a good idea.”

“I just want to see my friend,” Rowan repeated.

At last, the figure that encompassed that voice, that terribly deep voice, stepped out of the shadows.  His frame was immense; he stood at least six feet tall, and his arms were more muscle than anything else.  He stared down at her with arms shrouded in darkness, only the faintest hint of green shining through. Rowan could hardly tell his hair from the darkness, the way it was so black and so long.

He watched her for a long moment, making her wonder whether he was glaring at her or just looking her over.

Then she gasped, realization coming over her like a flood.

“Peter…” She gasped, her voice hardly more than a whisper.

**Continued in Part V**

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Longing for Shadows III

**Continued from Part II**

Rowan was out of Johnny’s house within thirty minutes.  She hurried down the street, her new candles and book safely tucked into her messenger bag, and took the steps up to her porch as quickly as she could.  She opened the front door and was greeted with the smell of garlic and tomatoes.  She knew immediately that she had taken too long, that dinner was ready, and she was late.

“I’m home,” Rowan called as she dropped her bag on the couch and hurried across the house to the kitchen. She entered just as her mother was pulling a loaf of garlic bread out of the oven.  “I’m sorry I’m late.”

Her mother looked over at her as she set the pan on the counter.  “It’s all right, Rowan.  Your brother set the table.”  She began to transfer the bread to a serving plate as she added, “I hope you had a nice time at your friend’s house.”

Rowan nodded earnestly.  “Yes, mom,” she replied.  “Thank you for saying that I could go.  Do you want any help, mom?  I could carry the spaghetti…”

“You’re such a sweet girl,” her mother said.  “Don’t worry about a thing, darling.  Just wash your hands and meet us in the dining room.”

Her mother was already walking away with the platter, leaving her standing there, unsure what to say.  It took her a moment to get over the fact that she was not in trouble, that her mother was still being overly lenient with her, but once that wore off, she shook her head and hurried over to the sink.

The rest of dinner was uneventful.  It was one of her favorites, with salad and grilled vegetables– and lots of pasta.  Her older brother and little cleared the table afterwards, and Rowan was free to head to her room.  It was strange to not have her mother checking in on her homework, or insisting that she get to bed early, or any of the myriad of other things that her mother usually did to ensure that she was a top-notch student.

It had been like that ever since the news came that Komala had only a couple of days left Rowan wondered whether he mother really knew how to react to someone so young dying.   Maybe she’d lost a friend in a similar way, maybe it was because she worried about Rowan, but nobody knew; She wouldn’t talk about it.

Rowan didn’t like the candles that night.  She couldn’t really.  Instead, she put in the next Type O Negative album that Johnny had lent her, hurried through her math and social studies homework, and then laid on her bed to read The Book of Samhain and Spirits. She fell asleep with the book on her chest.

Her dream that night was of the wind.  It blew the autumn leaves around her, and ran through her hair like fingers reaching out from the darkness.  As eerie as that should have felt it was comforting to her.  The rest of her dream was her walking down a long, winding path at night, light only by an occasional light. dim and soft and just barely in the periphery of her vision.  She would look up now and then, and sometimes find herself in the city, sometimes in a wooded area, and sometimes on a sprawling grassy hill.  The one constant was the wind, ever blowing, and cool but not quite cold.

She woke up to droplets on her cheeks and realized that they were her own tears.  The last few moments of her dream were quickly fading away, and the more she grasped at them, the more slippery they became.  Had a voice come been calling her name, or was that just the moaning of the wind?

Rowan wiped the tears away, and pushed herself to sit up.  The book tumbled down to rest beside her, and she stared at the cover.  It looked at though Johnny head read it very closely, even several times.

“‘Samhain…'” she whispered, reading the word again.  Then she sighed heavily.  “Oh Komala… Why did this happen in October, of all months?”

It was another minute before she was able to push herself out of the bed and walk out of her room.  By the time she returned, she could hardly remember how she had managed to get through her morning routine.  Auto-pilot seemed to take over whenever the pangs of sadness returned to her heart, and she rarely remembered making it through some moments.

Rowan packed the book and CDs back into her bag, but pulled out the candles and placed them in a safe drawer of her dresser.  Downstairs, her parents greeted her warmly.  They seemed surprised every morning that she made it down, as though they never expected her to carry on after losing her friend.  Still, when she insisted that she was fine to go to school, she was given breakfast, and was off on her way in no time at all.

The crisp autumn air was her favorite way of clearing her mind and starting the day off fresh.  She walked all on her own, enjoying the quiet, not being fussed over, not being interrupted from her thoughts.

Johnny was waiting for her by her locker.  She replied to his wide grin with a weak smile.

“Are you going to be here every morning from now on?” she asked him as she turned the knob on her locker.

“Well…” he began, his smile fading as his mind rushed to decipher what she had just said.  “Not if you don’t want me to.”

Rowan realized that she must have sounded annoyed, and quickly softened her tone. “Sorry,” she told him as she pulled out the things that she would need her her first two classes. “I’m just not used to this, I guess.”

“That’s okay. So how was the book?”

“It’s pretty interesting,” she replied, closing her locker and spinning the knob. “I think it will be a while before I try anything goes in it, though.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” he agreed as they began walking.

He walked with her all the way to her first class, and rushed off to his own as soon as the first bell rang. They didn’t see each other again until lunch, when she was invited by Johnny to sit with his friends and get to know them. As infinitely shy as she felt, she was glad to be so welcomed into their group.

Her next few days passed in a sort of haze. She read into the night, falling asleep with the book time and again (and with a Type O Negative CD playing in the background), and spending her days listening to Johnny and his friends talk about music, movies, and math homework.

It was late October before she finally felt ready to try out what she had been studying in. She’d had to collect a few more items in order to truly be prepared, and it wasn’t until the 30th that she was able to find just the right candle holders.

Her mother was out that night, a special date for her and Rowan’s father, her siblings at various friends houses, so she ended up having the house to herself. Rowan made a brief phone call to Johnny comma and he wished her the best of luck.

With the sun now down, she stepped into her room and knelt down before the altar she had made on her small coffee table. The book laid open to the special word that she would read. Smell the incense that she had been burning from the moment that she’d been alone in the house. Taking a deep breath, suddenly shaking with nervousness, Rowan lit a match and held it up to the first black candle.

**Continued in Part IV**

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