WHY RHYTHM AND PACE ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS CHARACTER. THE RISE AND FALL OF A NOVEL.

Haute Tension

Haute Tension (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tap, tipetty, tap, tippetty, tap, go my feet along to my favorite songs on the MP3 player. Easy as pie, my head hears the beat and my feet they automatically know what to do. Oh dear fates now I am singing along and I have a voice that the local foxes and tomcat would be proud of.

When it involves music, its instinctive, you hear the beat and something in you knows what to do, connects on that cellular level that we are all instinctively looking for when we write. Music moves us, and we don’t have to do a thing……

Writing is different, it takes a lot of shitty firsts just to get the language right and once we’ve completed that and it’s readable we then look to structure. How long is this bad boy? Do I really need 120,000 words to say this or could I use fifty grand instead?

Where do I show? Start as close to the end as possible you say okay, “The End”, doesn’t seem that effective, begging your pardon. Use a hook for every paragraph? Are you fecking kidding me?

Okay, now I am exhausted reading it, so that doesn’t work.

This is my nemesis now, the rise and fall. I am not writing a thriller. So having my characters fall from one calamity to the next every paragraph doesn’t quite suit, I want drama and tension to come through, but I don’t want to manufacture nasty stuff to happen just because everyone tells you that you must have your character in deep doo-doo all the time. I am not sure it’s right.

Tension,is what I am trying to create and then resolution and then further tension, my novel should rise and fall like the ocean, sweeping the reader along with it. Disaster, then climax then build again. I want it believable and musical. I want my readers emotions to travel with them on the journey and whilst some of this is achieved by likeability and hateability of the central characters. A lot of this will happen via the structure and flow.

My perfect reader will be on a journey with my characters towards realisation. Not all my characters make it. In fact many that start the journey will fall and their friends and family will be irrevocably altered by their loss. Some for good and some for ill.

It’s creating that wave-like structure that I am finding the most challenging (along with everything else.) I seem to either have too much happening or too little, it’s such a fine balance.

I’d welcome suggestions from others who’ve struggled with the topic of pacing?

Are there any great craft books, you know of that deal essentially with this topic rather than anything else?

Why it is not so hot to find out you’re a plotter 6,000 words from “The End”

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Oh dear, TTWI has just gone and done it again. I was six thousand words give or take some dialogue away from writing those two little words  “the end”. When my inner editor thought it would be a great idea, no, the best idea ever to have a look at the structure. Maybe even do some cork-boarding on Scrivener.

 

This was not a good idea, in fact in the history of bright ideas I’ve had recently this is in the bottom two.

 

I’ve just cut my darling to shreds, so we’ve gone from 73,456 words to 32,245 words in my still unfinished novel. It gets worse. I have to do some research and some plotting as well. The story in its original form wasn’t working, happy coincidences abounded and I hate these in other work. Person A just happens to be in the right place at the right time to intersect with Person B y’know the sort of stuff. My geography was all over the place and even worse people’s names were changing? How did I manage that?

 

So the current state of play is that I have a still unfinished novel…..

 

The upside to this is that the novel is one I’m happy with and I guess being happy and content with the 32,000 words I’ve got is better than having a steaming pile of finished.

 

There’s some real work to do. As easy as it would be to throw the net-book in a drawer and cry myself to sleep, it’s not happening. I always knew this was gonna be hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and that’s okay.

 

40,000 to go….

 

I’m doing it. I am not giving up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction, mine – From the book first draft.

The Queen fingers the fine brocade drapes hanging from the windows in her private reception room. Beautiful – if illegal, the embroidery created by slave children their fingers the only ones capable of creating such finery. The Chantry had a fit when they were first displayed. Of course, she said she’d found the fabric and felt that such suffering and sacrifice should be displayed, that not to comment on such awfulness would be a betrayal of the tiny hands that made it. A reminder that suffering was taking place.

The reception room is beautiful and decadent. The finest Cherrywoods, Ashes and Elms make every stick of furniture. Everything adorned with ivory inlays and great clawed carved feet touching the boards. Her fathers house shield is above the fireplace, a castle and a great horned stag stands at the top of a hill. In the old tongue, a motto “Strong in Faith and War” curls on a golden scroll at the bottom.

Her quarters are seperate to the Kings, a necessity it was said as she was such a light sleeper and the King often worked late. His quarters just down the hall should she wish to join him which is seldom these days. The reception room was added so she can work on all her many charitable chantry projects without interruption. He still loved her the idiot. How easy these fragile men are to manipulate.

The Queen sighs and seats herself at the central desk. Her willful son has gone into the City with the Royal Guard, the Prince will have his way. He is singular in his purpose and she is proud of his strength and lack of mercy. He will need to be strong for the journey ahead.

A small cough catches her attention and without raising her head,

“So, spectre what have you found out?” She shuffles through some of the parchments, she does not need to look up to see the grey hooded man standing in front of her. It is not an appointed time for a visit.

“The hermit wants to bring the plans forward Mistress, the King still lives. The hermit has given his word. It is time for you to keep yours. If you still wish the crown”

“I asked you a question” Her face is tight,

“Very well, your Son killed the beggar and then beat the boy half to death. Houses Passery, Clando, Jiant, and Fontain are all involved as witnesses and they all beat the boy.”

She rubs at her temple, she suspected as much Varkand had been difficult and sullen. “Thank you Spectre, this information is most useful.” Her face composed, she pauses stroking a gold letter opener. She cuts her finger and the coppery taste as she licks the wound thrills her. “Have you passed on this information to the Hermit?”

“No Queen, This information came to me but an hour ago. I have yet to report back.”

“So my problem remains. How am I to kill a well guarded King with a Physicka such as Lord Ranaya.”

The man shrugs, “That is not the Orders problem, mistress. You must find a way to ease him off the throne and into the beyond. The Hermit is not known for his patience and could become fractious if left too long.”

The Queen rises from the table and walks slowly towards the hooded figure. Grasping the hood in both hands she throws it back, the handsome man grins broadly. He places his hands at her waist and pulls her close before nuzzling into her neck.

“Is the door locked?” she asks.

“No” he replies, roughly lifting her from her feet and backing her towards the desk. He kisses her tenderly and begins to kneel as his kisses lead past the top of the bodice and down towards her belly. These dalliances have been fun, she’s enjoyed the Spectre these past months.

“Ohh yes, that’s so nice.” She croons, the letter opener concealed in her sleeve and as he lowers his head and begins to lift her skirts, it slithers into her hand. There have been so many assassination attempts, her fighting off an attacker will make calling for martial law when the King is dead far easier. Witnesses are for fools.

She grips the letter opener and raises her arm, the Spectre busy with her skirts, there is an opening at the shoulder on his leather breastplate under the soft grey fabric of the robe. She tenses the muscles in her arms and brings the letter opener down. He is ready for her, a dagger is in his hand and she topples backwards over the desk.

Jumping to her feet, her stance accomplished from years of sword training as a child in her fathers yard. The Spectre looks at his dagger, it glints dangerously and is twice the size of the gold letter opener held tightly in her fist.

“Did you think me so stupid? That dress is coming off and I’ll be getting what I’m due. I always thought your pleasure sounded false. I prefer my women quiet and subservient. Silent and dead should be jus’ fine.”

First Draft – Scene.

Bear summarily dismisses the nurse and takes a seat at the head of the bed. The chair he pulls up is small for his frame and he shuffles to get comfortable. Keela, has marked out the head of the bed as Hawk territory and opens her beak and beats her wings as the hulk of his form disturbs her. There are deep grooves in the headboard from her formidable claws, laid down over the past five days.

“Don’t suppose asking you nicely to leave would have much effect?”

Keela squawks and the sound of the tightening claws in the already ruined headboard, grates in his ear.

Bear sighs, “Didn’t think so..”

He reaches out for Mordins hand, the boy lays motionless except for the gentle rising and falling of his chest, the only sign that life still lingers. The silent days since the event have seen most of the bruises and swelling go down, leaving a rainbow of yellow-green marks in their wake. He’ll have a small scar near his eye and Bear feels proud of his wifes handiwork. It could’ve been much worse, stitched badly and he might have lost the eye.

He squeezes the fingers and takes comfort in their warmth, waiting for movement, his eyes moisten and he chides himself for expecting. He blinks at the wetness, afraid to let a single drop fall in case he can’t stop. At his feet a book lies open on the page he stopped at last night. The spine proclaims in gold leaf “Hevensgate – a scholars musing”

“Mordin, can you hear me?” the silence echoes.

“I’ll read for you when I’m finished. You’ll have to wait for the great Master Zaphis Brigsaimum to impart his wisdom. As I need to tell you something and time is running out.” He shakes his head, “I’m not making much sense am I?”

He looks to the open window where the light in the sky is dying outside. The smell of lavender and herbs drifts up from his garden carried on soft warm breezes. Golds, reds and oranges illuminate the castle; a perfect sunset lighting the world.

He restarts hesitantly, “There’s so much more this” He stops and exhales, his voice raspy and broken.

“I’ve written you a letter and it explains everything. Easier written down and I was going to be a coward and just leave it at that.. I’ve sent it on to Gadrial at the Gypsy capital, the old bastard will know when it’s right to pass on.”

“I always wanted to tell you in my own words but the time never seemed right… This doesn’t change anything between us and I am proud both of the man you’ll become and the boy you are now.”

“You’re my son and you’ll always have my name. The name of Ranaya. Keep it safe and honour it. We are not the richest house, and we’re sure as fates – not the grandest, but there’s good men doing what’s right all the way back to the cataclysm and that has to count for something.”

Bear looks over, his eyes have been fixed on a small crack in the boards during his speech. The boy is pale and he keeps hoping for a flicker of an eyelid, some sign that he can hear what he’s saying and will remember.

He pulls the chair closer to the bed, leans in and unsettles the hawk, Keela squawks angrily.

“This is between me and the boy. Go sit on the nurses chair over there..”

Keela hops down from the headboard and waddled across to the vacated chair. Hopping, first on the seat and then perching on the back, trying to find the balance lest it tip.

He leans in close and begins to whisper. These are secrets he hasn’t spoken aloud in twelve years. He hopes Marianne will forgive him, he needs to tell the boy before death silences him and the Arbiter makes his judgement.

The Flower Market Tree is coming into bloom, the blue flowers exactly as they are in his vision, it won’t be long now. This is the fate he could not alter and he has loved and been loved, it has been a good life. He counts himself lucky that the only talent the Gods ever gave was knowing the time and place of his own death. He’ll go to greet them, safe in the knowledge that Mordin will live and thrive,  a perfect moment captured of the boy laughing as a grown man, a small babe in his arms. Bear hopes it is his grandchild, the second part of his gift.

Ten minutes pass, the only sound the soft whispering of a father to his son and when finished, Bear leans back on the chair.

“I pray to the Gods what I am about to do will save you from pain and shield your heart”

Bear gently turns the boy over and removes a small wooden pot and horsehair brush from his jerkin. He opens the nondescript wooden box and a brilliant blue flash drenched the room in light for just a moment. Keela chirrups in recognition of the light and as Bear paints on Mordins naked back in the silvery substance contained within his expression is unreadable.

“This could have bought your mother and I our very own Kingdom. Perhaps that’s what I should have done. Fates be damned I saved it.”

It takes a long time for him to finish, with long sweeping brush strokes and intricate detailed close work. As he lays each stroke down, the silver disappears into the skin. With the pot empty and no visible marks remaining on Mordin; he turns his son back over slowly and places a kiss on his forehead before picking the book up from the floor.

He begins to read aloud, “The debate about whether Hevensgate during the first age……” and continues until the oil lamps begin to fail.

IT.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The words have stopped being heard, it’s just a wall of sound with past indiscretions and minor infractions building into slow steady bricks. She plays her part, each of them batting in turn. Insults bouncing off or being traded. There are no tears, they died along with the simple things, a long time ago. No more gentle words or kind smiles.

A thousand things irritate her, things that used to make her light up when she saw them. They never tell you that love can die. He knits his brows and three distinct creases appear in his forehead. It makes her angry and she digs her nails into her palms – arms straight, sweaty fists forming. The anger and the frustration has nowhere to go, her shoulders hunching and she hears the distant drumbeat of the blood rushing through her ears.

How can she look at someone who used to mean everything and see a slightly older stranger, at once consumed with avarice and self-pity. How did they get to this? Broken promises and once golden dreams, falling like confetti around her feet.

Then she says it. She’s not sure where it came from pouring into the air, treacherous yet true. He stops, his mouth hanging open, the wall has solidified into silence. He open and closes his mouth and it reminds her of the fish you see in tanks at aquariums.

“I’m sorry – what did you say?” He is trying to pretend he didn’t hear, the hope in his face is too much and the air feels heavy.

“You heard me.” she says softly.

It’s out now, the words, the secret thought that she was never going to say. She’s said it and she can’t and won’t – take it back.

You know how I love to mix it up. This came to me laying in bed last night. Hope you like it or even hate it. Opinions of any sort – welcome.

My Urban Myth. The Naked Truth.

Meh.

Meh. (Photo credit: Patrick Haney)

You’ve heard it all before. My brothers cousins friend, knows a man who knows a man, who swears – Insert particularly gruesome hilarious story here…. Are there ever occasions that in these myths or allegorical tales or lessons,  there is some small shred of truth, a nugget of reality?

Yes there are. – Here’s my urban not so myth!

I used to work for an international airline with a very famous owner and a red uniform. I did this for the early part of my twenties and like any type of job, there were always the stories. Ghost stories that kept you awake on long night flights, crash tales that were complete baloney, usually involving some element of fate and the pranks and naughty stories that get more and more exaggerated.

Recently I was on the tube in London and two young women with their suitcases are discussing an airline urban myth, the one about the woman who slept-walked naked in a New York Hotel on Lexington Avenue on the 12th floor and is caught on security camera’s.

“Oh, I’ve heard that story before” – Air Hostess one said

“I am sure half these stories are made up” – Air Hostess Two said.

They were completely oblivious to the middle-aged woman sat next to them with her kindle upside down and a bright red face and whilst the security camera bit and the tape being handed to the Captain is false, the sleepwalker and the naked bit are most definitely true.

I remember getting off the flight and feeling dog tired after landing in Newark. The coach dropped us off and in NYC, we only got a single night layover. I got into my room, had a shower, wrapped myself in a towel and sat on the bed to watch some cable. The next thing I knew I was on the twelfth floor wearing nothing but a confused expression and minus the towel. I ended up finding a security guard who lent me his jacket so I could go down to reception and  get a new key card. I told a friend of mine what had happened on the flight back to Heathrow the next day and the story has gone into legend, with multiple versions and some quite intriguing embellishments.

So next time you hear, one of those, y’know stories…. Don’t automatically write it off…..

It’s rough and ready and a shitty first draft…. It’s chapter one.

Its only a first draft and it is chapter one. I  know there are grammatical errors, spelling mistakes etc. I just wanted to get it out there…

 

Kicking a foot against the crumbling brickwork of the tower, Mordin watches the dust and debris spiral in the wind until finally coming to rest on the stone cobbles below. From this height, the streets resemble the military model he has often admired in the castles garrison. The artisan who built it has seen fit not to incorporate all the sights which are landmarks to a small boy, such as the bawdy paintings honouring old pagan gods of fruitfulness and wealth on various warehouse roofs by the docks. These are missing on the castles version.

A perfect view of Hevensar with its deep sapphire sea and a near cloudless sky is worth any future recriminations heading his way; although the formidable Lady Ranaya, his mother, is going to be seriously displeased if he gets caught up here again.

Perched astride the turret he picks out the structures he has conquered – the Chantries Prayer tower (estimated at three hundred feet), the West Wall turret (close to four hundred or so the scholars have told him) and the Flower Square Market tree (his first big conquest). He currently sits admiring the city from the north boundary wall tower, his most recent conquest.

Dominating the skyline to the east, the red rock face shining in the sun, lies Heavens Gate. It was already here when man arrived in the ruins five thousand years ago and whilst mortal castles and kings have fallen, the tower remains resolutely steadfast. It is the only structure of substance that Mordin has yet to climb.

You’ll never meet a Bard or a Gypsy Teller who can’t weave you a contradictory tale of myth or magic describing its origins. Heated arguments can arise when the two forces meet and they seldom agree on how it was built or on its purpose and definitely not on why it was mysteriously left untouched by the devastation that cleared out the first races.

Intimidating in its dimensions and simultaneously a vaunted work of art. The educated leave the mysterious to bards and choose a different area to wrangle their thoughts. The height – one school of science is seven hundred and fifty feet, whilst another says it must be nearer a thousand. Whoever is right, it is by far the tallest structure within the city walls and covered from base to top with a beautiful red sandstone carved relief. Many sculpters and artists travel to Hevensar hoping to be inspired by the beauty of the craftmanship. The intertwined trees and runes so wonderfully captured the locals joke you can see the branches sway in summer winds.

There is no discernible entrance at ground level and the scholars that argue on its height, similarly disagree on whether it is a solid structure. The ones who believe it is close to a thousand feet tall, believe the dark archway visible from the harbour is nothing more than a folly. Others believe that somehow the first races must have been able to get up there. Nobody but the gods knows the answer and so the archway was nick-named “Gods Doorway” as common sense said they would be the only beings ever able to use it.

Every few centuries, men with power and resources take an interest in the tower. Intricate building projects are started but curiously, anything of substance built within thirty feet of the base simply falls apart. Strong sturdy blocks of Easenter oak shipped in for the purpose become little more than wood shaped piles of sawdust.

There was one particularly determined man, a few centuries ago, who even had Granite shipped in (at considerable expense) he was said to have been drunk for a week when the stones mysteriously turned to sand.

A few brave souls from the Knights Academy bouyed by Brandy and the arrogance of youth take a more physical approach each year. Waking the morning after with wounded pride or still half soaked having fallen into the harbour they have a story to tell in their dotage. Mordin has heard one of the old tin plates himself, the man with runny eyes and a sniffle remarked, “When I was a training as man of arms, we got awful drunk one night, me and the boys, got as far as the second branch of one of them damn stone trees and I swear as the gods are my witness that damn tower shook as off like a mutt with fleas on it”.

The sound of the midday bell calling believers to prayer breaks Mordins reverie of the city. The son of a Kings Chief Physicka has his responsibilities waiting. Resigning himself to afternoon lessons, he begins the slow climb down, fingers holding firm in the tiniest of cracks, feet placed surely and carefully. People often think it is the way up that is the most dangerous but Mordin knows the real peril is which way you come down, and with the down, slower is always better.

The wind creeps up in strength and requires him to adjust his movements, a fall from the Flower Market tree at six has taught him a healthy reverence for the conditions. He remembers his mother had been so angry when he’d fallen, that she didn’t speak to him for a week. His father had simply ensured the broken arm was set properly.

Mordin had learnt two things. First, never climb something without also working out how to come down again and second, climbing isn’t just about brawny skill; it takes intelligence too. These days, he studies the objects of his obsession very carefully before placing a single hand or foot upon their surface.

Starting back across the rooftops towards the keep, his mind is on the first set of lessons with the latest in a long line of tutors. His father whilst loving and kind is losing patience with the sharp minded Mordin. He can read and write well enough and it is certainly not a lack of intelligence that keeps him from being a scholarly student. The histories of banners, pennants and long lists of dead people, simply do not hold his attention the same way as the dream of reaching “Gods Doorway”.

Reaching the keep, the two royal guards at the Gatehouse tip a helmet and chuckle as he sprints through, they know the boy well, his fathers villa with medicine gardens sitting in the shadow of the castle. He’s at full tilt as he passes the stables, then the courtyard buildings and on reaching home is dusty, out of breath and late. Straightening his clothes and brushing himself down, the lightly laughing voice of Tibs startles him.

“You have twigs in your hair.” She pulls one from a tangle of black curls and passes it to him, “Go on get in there. This must be the last tutor to agree to teach you in the whole of the continent, ya father will be sending out ships next.”

He pushes the door open for her and bows, she is two years older and already a beauty, Mordin doesn’t yet notice that she has lumps and bumps in all the right places. Tibs walks in with the basket of flowers on her hip and moves out of his eye-line towards the kitchen to dress the stems. Stood in the centre of the hall is the Lady Ranaya with her arms folded neatly across her chest. She is wearing a look that signals any conversation is unlikely to be pleasant.

“Mordin Albero Ranaya, it is a quarter past the hour and your studies were to begin, as discussed at breakfast, at a quarter too.”

The use of both his first, middle and last name is very concerning and he does the only thing a boy of twelve faced with an angry mother can do. He blushes and looks at his feet.

Lady Ranaya, softens slightly, “You’re still late, your tutors waiting” he looks up with big green eyes, “This conversation hasn’t finished Mordin, now get.”

He runs up the spiral staircase towards the study, taking the steps two at a time and bursts through the door. He is expecting an old man, slightly stooped and smelling of moth balls to be scribbling on the blackboard. This is not the first time he has been late for a tutor and he has a thousand ready apologies and an arrogant sneer on his lips. The vision that greets him is as unexpected as it is terrifying.

A Black Warden sits behind the central desk picking at his nails with a dagger. The black leather boots he wears are in sharp contrast to the Cherrywood desk they rest on – a prized possession of Mordins fathers, and he is whistling a sea shanty. A long thin scar runs from chin to scalp on the left side of his face.

Despite his brash entrance into the fairly small tutelage room, the man makes no sign of acknowledging his presence. Mordin has heard many a tale of the Swords of the Church – the Black Wardens. He wonders how you should address one as this is his first? He thinks he should probably include the word Sir. Where is his tutor? Has the warden killed him?

A strange noise alerts him to the presence of the large black hawk on the windowsill. Cocking its head, the eyes transfix with their bright yellow irises and cobalt centres. It feels like the bird is somehow assessing him. He estimates it stands about a meter tall and the folded wings must be twice that. Claws two inches thick scrabble for purchase on the stone sill. The light outlining the bird makes the feathers shine with a gentle opalescence, they look silk-soft and he wonders what it would feel like to stroke them.

As the seconds pass, the wardens lack of attention towards him is becoming uncomfortable and he shuffles from foot to foot. The warden continues to whistle. Checking his impromptu manicure, the man holds his fingers up to a patch of sunlight wending around the eagle. Mordin notices how long and slender they are, more suited to a gypsy fiddler or one of the kings famous portrait artists than the man sat at the tutors desk.

The warden is wearing a deep blue cloak over the iconic black uniform and is well kept and clean which suggests to Mordin that he has entered the city before today, as the trade route roads become dustpans during summer months. If he arrived via boat the nearest other port is two weeks away and he doesn’t smell like he has spent two weeks at sea, so he has had the chance to wash and brush up first. The villa is made from sandstone, so it would have been difficult for the man to scale the walls without even the slightest red smudge on his clothing.

This leads Mordin to the scarier conclusion that his mother and father must know this man and be aware of his presence in their house. He wonders if he will be threatened into study? A warning that if he continues to fail this warden has his name and gods forbid, also seems to know where he lives?

The warden starts a new song, the whistle is skillful and precisely in tune, Mordin recognises it from the dockside taverns where he often listens to the Bards and Gypsy tellers hoping to catch some mention of Heavens Gate. It is from across the sea, he tries to place it, Samarka perhaps? Laying on the roof of the Ship and Sails, late at night, looking up at the stars, he loves to listen to tales from far away lands. He has also picked up an impressive knowledge of sailors songs and now knows how to swear in ten languages.

The eagle flexes its wings, distracting his focus and being unable to open them fully in the confined space, tumbles backwards and soars away. Did that bird just nod at the Warden, Mordin shakes his head to try and clear it. The stress of this mans presence must be affecting him.

“Well Mordin, she is happy with you. I am as yet – unsure. Her eyesight is sharper than mine as are her instincts” the voice is loud, rich and deep.

“Sir?” Mordin squeaks, pleased he remembered to use the sir.

“If I were a gambling man, which I am. I would wager that you would be thinking the following. Why is there a Black Warden in my study room when I was expecting a tutor of history and dead languages?”

“Yes, Sir”

“I could answer that question but your father is outside listening, so hows about I welcome him in and we’ll see what’s about shall we?” the Warden chuckles and rises from the desk, the dagger disappearing smoothly under the cloak, “Bear, your skills at sneaking have not improved.”

Standing at six foot five, his father is impressive, next to the Warden as they clasp hands, he looks smaller.

“Well, I’ll be. You received my letter then. We weren’t sure you would show. We were wondering where we’d get another tutor. You will be the twelfth in two years” said his father. “You must dine with us this evening, Lady Ranaya, will demand it.”

“I do not know if I am staying in Hevensar. I have yet to decide. The terms remain, friend, no interference, you know better than most how this works.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll try to keep out of it.” His father mischievously grins, “I happen to have a bottle of Davinta brandy somewhere, perhaps by the docks later…”

“We’ll see, Bear. Although I am certain your good lady will not approve”

Mordin is sure he hasn’t become invisible yet the aura of the two men fills the space. How does his father know a Black Warden? He had heard tales that he was once something of an adventurer before settling in Hevensar. The legends surrounding how he had become the Kings Physicka were wildly exaggerated by the local folk or so he had thought. Who was this Bear? He considered these men whilst his small world view shifted permanently yet lightly on its axis.

Nodding, “I’ll leave you to todays lesson.” His father pauses at the doorway, “He is the best of me. Stay, Old friend.” The door closes softly behind him leaving them alone and Mordin decides to sit down, his legs feeling a little unsteady.

He takes a place at the table and when he looks up the warden is staring directly at him. The mans eyes bore into him, their clear firm blue growing in size until they fill Mordins vision reminding him of vast open oceans and bottomless seas, he involuntarily flinches a little and finally he can’t help but look away. Now this won’t do he thinks, squaring his shoulders and putting all the courage he possesses into the gesture, he puffs out his chest slightly and looks up again.

The Warden roars, a deep throaty sound, the laughter warm and infectious, Mordin can’t help himself as he starts to giggle although not really sure what he is laughing at. They continue good-naturedly for a time and as the merriment dies away, the warden looks thoughtful.

“Jarant is my name and I am a Black Warden. The fact that you just tried to hold my stare does you credit. The hawk seems to like you and as we have already discussed her opinion is no small matter. Your father thinks you worthy and loves you as a father should. What do you think, are you worthy of receiving Akin training?”

Mordin drops his gaze. The Akin training? You were supposed to be fourteen before even commencing it. Even more unusual was those who were trained usually sought out the Wardens. There were nearly as many songs of what aspirational students did to get taken on by a Warden as there were tales of actual deeds by the wardens themselves. Mordin had never heard of students failing the training or at least any that had lived to pass the information on.

“It is unwise to keep a warden waiting on your answer.”

“Sir, I would be honoured to be considered worthy.”

“You haven’t answered the question.”

“I meant no offence, I am only twelve and apart from climbing things my mother tells me not too, I don’t know I have shown any particular worth.”

The warden considers this, stroking his chin, Mordin sneaks a look at the scar. It is deep, yet even and appears to have been healed with some skill.

“This scar would have been deeper without your fathers axe being in the way. Answer me this as you feel you have no worth. What one wish would you ask the Gods? Consider this well, some thought would be appropriate, its answer will decide your fate and mine.” Said the Warden.

Mordin reflects that here he is asked if he would like to begin training on one of the most difficult paths of the Gods. He searches deep inside himself for the answer; a response designed to flatter will be seen for what it is. It is said you never lie to a warden twice.

“I would find out if Gods Doorway is a folly by climbing Heavens Gate and seeing if there is anything inside.”

“You wouldn’t just ask to be transported inside by the Gods?”

“No, I would wish to be skillful enough to climb and find out for myself.”

“Even if no one could ever know that you had? Nothing sung in those bawdy taverns by the docks where you lie listening to tales of heroes?”

How did he know about that, thought Mordin.

“It is the only thing I haven’t climbed yet and I would know even if no one else ever did. There is one person, I would need to tell.”

“Who is so important to you?”

“When I was a little boy” the warden raises an eyebrow, Mordin continues “My father would tell me tales of the tower to help get me off to sleep. He would tell every story he could think of and a few I think he made up. Even, when he set my arm after I had a fall he told me a tale about the tower.”

“When I asked him what was inside he told me that he didn’t know and that in fact nobody in the whole provinces or even alive knew if it even had an inside. At the end of every story he would tell me that nobody knows the truth of it.”

“So, you wish to tell your father the answer?”, Mordin nods and smiles, “I’d also like to know the answer and be famous! But if I couldn’t have a tale or a song about me then maybe just knowing would be okay.”

“Hmmphhh” said the warden concealing a smirk, “We start tomorrow at Noon. I would advise against any further tardiness on your part. Please give your mother my apologies for my absence at dinner” with that the Warden rises and crosses to the door.

As he hears the wardens footsteps die away, Mordin feels slightly disappointed and was expecting something more dramatic as an exit, maybe a puff of smoke or disappearing in a flash of light.

“Even Wardens use stairs, boy!”, The voice makes him jump as it sounds as if the warden is still in the room,

He stays seated at the table for a long time, his hand absently stroking the varnish as he considers todays confusing events, in the distance he hears a hawk scream as it circles high above the city and he breaks into a smile. He is still there in a world of his own some hours later when finally located by a frustrated footman for dinner.