Monday, April 27, 2009

Author's Note

Just to let everyone know... I will be posting later on today and it will be more from Minis's point of view. I am, however, getting interested in doing a quick story on what is happening 'Below Stairs', with Minis starting to act like a real human being instead of an ignorant, dangerous annoyance. Let me know if you'd like to see that.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Aside: A Different Book

Hey Folks! Today I took a sideways turn and re-created the opening for another book that starts 65 days after the Sack of Arko.

Tomorrow we will be going back to our regularly scheduled Minis as he tries not to commit treason.


The Hero’s Whoreson

Chapter 1: The Day My Life Changed

The day my life changed, Sera Inneas was scolding me. I sat on our front step holding the cool cloth over my right eye. “You, young Kallijas need to listen to your mother and not get into –“

“ – any more fights.” I said with her. “Yes, Sera. But you don’t understand!” She sniffed and handed me a fresh cloth before taking the old one. Sword Street had been lucky a couple of times. During the sack of Arko this part of the solas quarter hadn’t been touched by fire. Not like the greater solas family houses closer to the aitzas quarter. Some of those had been looted and burned. And then the second lucky thing was that the water got cleaned up and fixed in the first moon after. But the air was still full of the stink of mucky smoke with no rain to knock it down.

Sera Inneas, whom I called Auntie Sisi, looked after me when my mom and Oras had to go out so mom could work. I glared down the stone street with its tiny knee-high fences and paned glass windows with newly cleaned lace curtains blowing in the breeze. Foras and Risas both capered at the end of the street slapping their behinds at me. If they called my mama names again, I’d STILL fight them even if they were bigger than me. They didn’t say anything about my da any more but my mama was there all the time.

“Sera… they said nasty things about my mom! I couldn’t let them! And Foras needed to hit me with a rock to blacken my eye!” I wasn’t going to tell her that my head hurt and one of my teeth was loose. I thought it might be one of my baby teeth so it wasn’t important. Oras sometimes loosened my teeth when he got drunk and slapped me.

I didn’t care that they yelled ‘traitor’s get’ at me. Everyone knew my dad didn’t acknowledge me… and if they were polite they didn’t say anything about the work Oras made my mom do. Those were the names that hurt and would make me fight every time.

Besides. Foras and Risas were enrolled at Indirian’s School over on Rosethorn Lane. And I would never be. Even if mama were still solas… no matter what Oras made her do… and my father was Kallijas Itrean, solas, the great champion, the great traitor depending on who you talked to… he didn’t acknowledge me, so I had no one to enroll me in a solas school. That was something only fathers or grandfathers could do.

“Well. You hold that cloth there a while longer. I have my father’s dinner to make.” She went off across the street, leaving me sitting on the stoop. Her kitchen was in the front of the house right under her window, her cook stove right there, so she could see me. Auntie Sisi had never married – she wasn’t really my aunt but I called her that -- and when her father retired, kept house for him.

I sat on the warm stone and held the cloth over my eye. I wasn’t sure if I hated my father more or wanted him to come and sweep my mother away from Oras. My father had lost the most important duels of his career and been taken prisoner by the Durakis -- or Foreign Ruler -- who had conquered Arko and was now our Imperator. The Yeoli Durakis, Shefen-kas was black-haired, a wool-headed barbarian. Everyone said my father was in love with him… Foras said my father was like my mama, spreading himself for the conqueror savage.

That was a bad fight and I knocked one of his teeth and had to apologize to him and his ma. But mama and I saw the new Imperator do the Ten Tens… and mama pointed to the shining man in armour behind him. She said that was my father. I could see he was tall and I could see his hair but we were far enough away from him that I couldn’t see if I looked like him.

I looked down at the busy line of vinegar ants all along a crack of street mortar, put out my toe and squished a few of them. My mama tried to take me to father’s family when I was a baby, but they wouldn’t take me. I took the cloth down from my face, ignoring the people going up and down the street and squished a few more ants.

I closed my eyes and dreamed of the day my father would realize he loved my mother madly and came to fetch her away from Oras, who was just her guardian anyway, and made her… um… well he lived with us and he didn’t work. But I dreamed of Kallijas Itrean riding up on a big white horse… or skating up on a fabulously expensive pair of faibalitz skates and picking her up and carrying her and me off.

I wasn’t always mad at my father. Sometimes I was just sorry. “Excuse me, lad.” I looked up at the big man standing just in front of our house. He was a solas with his hair clubbed back into a fight-queue, very blond and his eyes were very very blue. “I’m looking for Trissa Eanas. Is this the house?” He had a blue shirt that was plain but the colour was expensive and his cloak was pale gray linen.

“Yes, ser.” I looked at the sword hilt he carried and it was as plain as his clothes. Wrapped black shark-skin, with a worn brass pommel, too old and worn to show any kind of pattern.

“Could you get her, lad?” I looked back up. He had a really deep voice.

“She’s at work, ser.” I scuffed at the stone with my toe. “Oras took her to the foreign barracks, and he’s staying there to protect her.”

“Truly.” He looked angry but not at me.

“Yeah. But he doesn’t train anymore since he lives with us.” He bent his knees to bring his face closer to me, dark blue gloves crossed on his knees, feet flat on the stone, crouched in front of me. He moved like Auntie Sisi’s hooped cat. “Oras lives with you?”

“Yeah.” He nodded.

“May I ask, young ser, where you got the coloured eye?” I looked at him, trying to figure out if he was laughing at me. He was very serious. He had a tiny little scar under his right eye that looked a little like a tear. I wondered how he got it. I guessed he wasn’t going to laugh.

“Foras called my mama a filthy name, so I punched him.” He took that in without his face changing, then he nodded solemnly.

“So you were fighting to defend your mama. A very brave thing to do.”

“Thank you, ser. But I have to. My da isn’t here to do it.” Auntie Sisi came bustling out with her hands under her apron.

“Ser, can I help you? I’m looking after the youngster… Kallijas… go into your house, would you?” He got up as she came up, nodded politely, but when she said my name he looked more intently at me. I flinched a little. Sometimes I wished mama hadn’t named me after my da.

“Aw, Sera…” I whined a little but got up and gave her back the nearly dry cloth. I didn’t know why but I didn’t want to look too much like a baby in front of a strange man.

“Nice to talk to you, ser,” I said. He blinked and smiled at me. I liked that smile. It didn’t show too many teeth.

“And to you, lad. I’ll speak to you again.”

He would? I went inside, looking over my shoulder, wondering why he wanted to talk to my mama, hoping he wasn’t a customer who had found the house.
Behind me I could hear the man asking Auntie Sisi. “Sera, have you any idea when she might be home?”

“I’m not sure, Ser. It could be quite late, especially on paydays, but today’s not one. You might try at the barracks.”

“I shall have to. Thank you for your time, Sera. Oh… did I hear correctly? The boy’s name is Kallijas?”

Auntie Sisi sighed sharply. “Yes it is, Ser. Kallijas… Itrean. Junior. It’s such a shame, really. I sometimes wonder if she’d done better to keep it secret. The man’s parents spurned her.”

For a moment the man didn’t answer. I peeked over our front-room windowsill. I couldn’t see his face the way he was standing, facing Auntie Sisi. “Well, she is an honest woman, is she not.” It wasn’t a question.

“That she is, Ser. Sometimes too much if you ask me. If you like, Ser, I can tell her you came by… in case you have no luck at the barracks.” She looked at him expectantly, getting a little protective of mama, I guess. Because the man hesitated again a moment before he took a deep breath.

“Yes. Please do. I need to speak to her, quite urgently it seems. She might be late but still home tonight? If I miss her on Iron Street, I will be back this evening. Please tell her that Kallijas Itrean, solas, um… Senior, it seems, called.”

That was my da? He was my da? And he wanted to speak to mama? To keep myself quiet I bit the edge of the windowsill, tasting the dusty wood in my mouth. It dried it right out and I wasn’t sure what to think. He wasn’t wearing the bright red armour or ride up on a white horse or skates. He was pretty plain but he was bigger than I thought. And I liked his eyes… and his smile. Um… And he didn’t smell bad... Oras kind of smelled like sweat and sour wine and kind of like he was sick all the time.

I was so excited I was shaking all over my body. Was he here to rescue us? Did he want us? I could hear Sera Inneas gasp as she threw a hand over her mouth. “Ohh. I didn’t mean, Ser Itrean –“

“No, please do not apologize, Sera. You could not know. I was remiss and intend to correct things… I did not know about the boy myself…”

“Ser. I will most definitely tell her you called, Sera… How may she call upon you?” Auntie Sisi was suddenly very, very polite. Her words were more carefully spoken.

“Thank you, Sera. You are most gracious.” He was treating her like she was one of the great solas… like him, completely ignoring her earlier suspicion of him. “If she and the boy come to the Marble Palace, should I miss her… then the Chamberlain there will see they are looked after. Skorsas Trinisas, his name is.”

“I will remember… Skorsas Trinisas… Thank you, Ser… Itrean, and I will most certainly tell her that, Ser.”

He nodded and turned to glance at the window where I was peeking. “I think it would be best if I spoke to Kallijas’s mother before I speak to him again. As much as I wish to.” He had a little smile on his face and I wasn’t sure what it meant. “He might – rightfully – thrash me.”

The Marble Palace? He said the Marble Palace? I peeked down to the street to see if Foras and Risas were still there fooling around but couldn’t see them.

“Kallijas!” Auntie Sisi was stern. “You know spying on grown-ups is rude!” I ducked down out of sight, blushing, giggling, wanting to laugh and dance and sing and shout to the whole world that my da was there! See! See? But I didn’t know really what was happening. Why didn’t he just call me out to him? Why didn’t we just go and get mama and leave?

“I suspect he heard us, and knows, Ser.” My da sighed.

“I’d best find his mother quickly then. Good day, Sera.”

“Good day… and good luck, Ser Itrean.” I peeked up again just in time to catch his eye as he turned to stride down our street, making it seem little and pokey, and I ducked down again, my fingertips still on the windowsill. I could feel myself start to blush having been caught looking and listening again when I shouldn’t. I waited until I couldn’t hear his boot heels on the stone any more and scrambled out the front door.

Auntie Sisi was standing, looking up toward where Sword turns onto Copper Fountain Rd. I could see Sera Klaras leaning all the way out of her third-storey window, her hand cupped to her ear trying to hear. Sera Firian had her baby in one arm, calling their cat in, looking over at us, as if she just happened to have to open the door and see what was happening.

Foras or Risas or any of the older kids weren’t anywhere in sight but a couple of the babies… only five or six… were playing along the street, with old Ser Teveas propping his stump on his front wall, keeping an eye on them. Everyone was looking without looking… except Sera Klaras who was always nosy.

Sera Inneas had both hands on her hips looking very severe. “You were being rude, young man!”

“Sera… um…Auntie Sisi, please please please… that was my da wasn’t it? That was him that was him that was him????” I wasn’t supposed to call her auntie anymore I was just past my first threshold, too old but…

She heaved a very heavy sigh. “YES.” Then she dropped her voice so the rest of the street didn’t hear us. “That was Ser Itrean.”

“And he’s my da?”

“Yes, he’s your da.”

“But but but but… he went away again.”

”He’s planning to speak with your mother… and take you to the Marble Palace which you probably overheard anyway.”

I bounced up and down where I stood. “I didn’t just dream that? I wished really hard today.” She reached out to ruffle my hair that was still loose like a kid.

“No, you did not just dream that. But it will take some time for your father to speak to your mother, once he finds her. And I don’t know what it means or what he intends to do, so I can promise you nothing.”

I wanted to go rub my father’s visit in Foras’s face and Auntie Sisi must have seen it on my face and she knew me well enough.

“You are going to stay right here with me and not say a word to a soul. You shouldn’t even have heard as much as you did.”

I held up my fist over my heart to swear. “Sera Inneas I promise solemn and to the Gods I won’t say a word to anyone!”

She sniffed. “Good. And you concern yourself too much with the opinions of small-minded scamps like Risas or Foras.” She looked where I stood, jittering on the spot, not knowing what to do with myself. “I need you to help me in the kitchen… the fuel pots need to be carried in, my water carried and once its heated poured into the basin. And I have a lot of potatoes for you to peel and chop.”

“All right.” I didn’t want to but I had no other idea of what I should do. My chest was full to bursting and I felt as though I’d been hoisted up to the Rim edge and dangled by my ankles for a while. Not sure if I was thrilled or angry or terrified.