I Typed a Thing
Here’s a first for me. I’ve only recently been aware of how little writing I actually put up on what’s ostensibly a writing blog. Je m’excuse. Also, after our spate of related technological and logistical issues I don’t really have anything super special to publish.
So, instead, here’s a rare look into the writing process! As I’ve been without Internet over the last few days and didn’t back up my work on a physical drive while I was travelling, I’ve had to just plug away at something small and new instead of continuing the editing of my third novel.
Now, I’ve had a number of people ask my about “The Writing Process.” Outside of the stock explanation that it’s different for everyone, I explain that I’m not really a planner. I have an idea of what I’d like to cover in a story or maybe a general theme or interesting character. Then I just sit down and see where things go from there. The magic doesn’t really happen for me until I do an edit on that first draft. Then I have massive overhaul of plot and structure, rewriting of characters and events and often cut half or more of the original work. Seriously.
Perhaps I have more skill at editing than not. I’ve tried using a more structured format for organising my work and while I’ve had some success, there’s still that element of discovery and exciting in not know what’s going to happen next that I love. It’s sort of the enjoyment of reading a book. You learn about your characters while the pages unfold.
I don’t really know if this style is more work or not and I’ve certainly learned a few tricks to cut back on wasted pages but it’s what works for me. Besides, I do get a perverse pleasure from editing because I’m an enormous weirdo.
Anyway, no one’s here to listen to my ramblings so this is the start of… something. It’s not even titled and I have no idea what it’s about yet.
“The site lies approximately fourteen days travel hence across the Thorselkin Hinterlands and nestled in the Alfather’s Cradle – a stretch of foothills beneath the Twin Pike Mountains and the traditional hunting grounds of the Walden Sabreclaws. These ferocious critters are nearly the size of two full grown men and capable of splitting a thick cord of wood in half with just one swipe.”
His hand slashed the air, dirty nails catching flickering candlelight in their cracked and stained shell. One such nail landed upon the crinkled and faded map filled with jutting trees shaped more like spears beneath a mountain range as jagged and sharp as the maw of a Low River wingless drake.
“Some of the hills are said to not be mere dirt but ancient burial mounds. Beneath the thin soil jut the remnants of some bygone settlement. Travellers speak of riches lying a mere spoon’s worth of earth beneath one’s foot. Who these ancient people are none can agree. I’ve heard talk that they are lost Pitmen, their cyclopean monoliths and gaping cavern entrances to underground dwellings left untouched for generations. Others swear that it’s the site of the mythical Alfr and the last of the Vaenir’s kinsmen. So ancient are these forgotten hallways that the very land itself has wrapped them in an eternal blanket to shelter them from the ever vigilant eyes of the vengeful Aenir.
“Then there is talk that it is the Forbidden Trelleborg of the High King hidden away near the teeth of the world and the final resting place of the Virgil King’s spirit until the Final Days whence he will rise to strike down the Sunderer of Worlds in the War of Wars.
“Either way, it’s supposed to be really old, really untouched and really ready for some adventuresome spirits to come and plunder. What say you? Are you such a spirit who wishes to hear the bards and skald sing your name in the greatest feast halls until the final nights? Shall you grab fate and fortune by the neck and seize upon your destiny? Will you dare to achieve that from which all others balk? Will you turn the fanciest dreams into the greatest realities?
“What say you?”
Silence greeted him. He looked at each soul gathered about the edges of the round table as shadows played across their faces. He seized upon each in turn, searching for a response to his proposition.
With a crack of ambergum, one spoke.
“Aren’t you a little old for this?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You know, the whole travel two weeks bit. Digging in the ground bit. Fighting wild creatures bit. Hauling supposed treasure bit. Really, all of it. Isn’t it a little… you know.”
“No.” Teeth ground audibly. “No, I don’t think I am.”
“You sure? You kind of look it.”
His shadow drew long across the table as he stood erect. The others appeared unperturbed.
“You do have a bit of gray up there,” another spoke, raising a hand to her own hair.
“I am more than capable. Look, do any of you want to get filthy rich or not?”
“It kind of sounds like the ramblings of a crazy old man if you ask me.”
“Lors has the right of it,” a third spoke, reaching across to pull the daggers pinning the corners of the map free. “You’d probably have difficulty with the trek. Or break something while there. Like a hip.”
“I can assure you my hips are just fine.” A hand crashed down on the table, preventing the map from being rolled. “I’ve made worse treks than this and in less time. The fourteen nights was to not exhaust you before the real work began.”
“Are you certain? Or do you mostly need us to carry your prune juice?” Her hand plucked the plain wood cup from the table’s edge and gave the liquid on its bottom a gentle slosh.
Dark eyes fluttered amongst the cowls at the edge of the candlelight. This wasn’t a pleading look now but one of cold calculation.
“You’re making a mistake,” came the low growl.
From cloaks emerged the leather garbed hands to wrench his arm from the table. He was pulled back into the shadows, his spine striking hard the central post. He strained against his captors while frayed rope wound around his wrist.
“You’re washed up, old man. You’re outdated. You’re just as much a relic as those you wish to retrieve.” The rolled up map was waved in the candle’s fading glow. “Search him.”
One of their number moved to check his pockets. He pried an arm free, striking knuckle against unsuspecting cheek. Boots stumbled upon the stained wood. A fist greeted his stomach, freeing the wind from his lungs. As he hunched beneath the blow, his arms were wrestled behind the pole. A rope bound them tightly together.
He lashed with knee and boot but several more strikes to his ribs quelled further resistance. Gloves patted down shirt and pant alike while removing a thin leather purse from his belt and two worn but tarnished rings from his fingers. A blunted dagger was also liberated and held up as spoils before the flickering light.
“You will rue this decision.”
Laughter assaulted him.
“Go home, grandpa. Leave the adventures to those capable of them. This rusty junk won’t even fetch a few copper scrapes on the market. Best take his boots too. They look like they have good soles.”
One conspirator turned to the other. “You’re already forgotten to us. What was his name again?”
She said, “Keirn. I think.”
“Fare-thee-well Keirn, I think.”
The lantern was retrieved and only the haunting echo of their laughter stayed for company as the darkness filled in their wake.
Keirn sighed against the post.
Was this to be his morrow? To be found by the tavern keeper bound to his hearth post by cheap rope with not even a copper shave to his name?
“I’m not that old. Am I?”
The question hung about the dark rafters and rattled in the empty fire pit. It kicked about the overturned chairs resting on tables. It hounded the faded footsteps of the brigands and his dearly departed footwear.
When last it bounded back it was with a dry, chthonic chortle. “You’re not as young as you used to be.”
“Who asked you anyway?”
“You’re still a mere mewling babe to me.” The earthy chuckle skittered in the dark. “Not half as cute as one though.”
Keirn thumped his head against the wood with a grimace. His arms worked in pained revolutions, turning muscles too sore and protesting to properly slip his bonds.
“I knew this was a mistake.”
“You still went through with it.”
“What choice had I?” Keirn hissed. His wrist skinned against the coarse fibres. “I alone can only handle one cart.”
“Considering rations for the trip there and back, not accounting the actual excavation, plus tools, tent and supplies – most of which would be needed for the return – I would hardly have any room for transporting a profit in relics. I need two extra carts for a good return in the investment at a bare minimum. And the fewer hands I have at the site, the longer I must invest in renting said supplies.”
“If only you had three dependable souls.”
Keirn cried as he twisted his wrist. He heard a distinct pop as joint slipped from proper alignment. The familiar streaks of pain tickled his arm as he twisted to gauge the damage. Darkness clutched his eyes so only a faint outline of a limb was perceptible against its atramental backdrop. Even with such hindrances the unnatural angle of hand to forearm made distinct the separation between the pair. Such damage should have produced a crippling pain to all but the most shock drunk victims. But even still, he felt little more than the slight sparking beneath his flesh.
With a sickening grind of bone and muscle, he wrenched his hand free. Absolved of half its duty, the rope fell limp against his remaining wrist and Keirn stumbled from the post and slumped against the round table. His skin brushed against the wood’s fresh splinters from the many traitorous points of his departed knives. At last elbow tapped against wooden vessel and with his good hand he lifted the cup.
His nostrils flared at the smell.
“It has great restorative properties.”
“You needn’t tell me.”
“Helps keep a healthy lustre to the skin,” Keirn said before shutting his eyes and letting the thick liquid wash down his throat. He then immediately raised the cup in the dark and blindly pounded it against his raised wrist. Each strike stoked a rising fire within his flesh and his heart beat a terrible rhythm while he chewed on his voice. After several violent swings, he finally felt a cracking of realignment and he raised his limb before his unseeing eyes and turned it on the weathered tendons.
He dabbed at the skin. It felt puffy and bloated. But the swelling would certainly be down by the time the sun dared peek the horizon.
“You wouldn’t need such drastic measures if you treated yourself better.”
“It’s not my fault good help is hard to find these days.”
“I meant the drink. I half suspect you do this to torture me.”
“You wished to live again.”
“You needn’t try and make me regret that desire. I bear enough of your pain.”
“I know you relish it,” Keirn said, rolling up his shirt. He prodded at the tender spots no doubt sporting rather garish bruising. His skin was a canvas of horror etched as it were with scars, cuts and contusions. It was more than any corpse would carry on its thin frame. Keirn tucked in his shirt and adjusted his cloak.
He made no effort to navigate the gloom on his way out. Several stubbed toes and banged knees later and he eased the door into the dying twilight.
The air was cold and tinged with regret. It clawed against his bare feet and Keirn wiggled his toes attempting to ward it off. The steps nipped his skin as he stepped down unto the unyielding ground. He searched the abandoned road but no signs of opportunistic turncoats betrayed their path. Only deep gouges of departed carts carved their way through the frozen mud leaving mighty furrows which tripped at the traveller’s steps.
“You know where they are headed.”
“Assuming they decide to act immediately.”
“You say that with certainty.”
“Wouldn’t you?” Keirn did not reply. “They left you alive. They will go in comfortable haste.”
Keirn sucked on the bitter air. It scratched his throat as it scraped its way down to his lungs. He exhaled a long breath. The fog of chill air was a bundle of tiny needles as it climbed his pinking face.
It was as much as he had deduced. It had been hard enough cajoling a group to entertain him in the first place. They were invested enough to investigate his claim. Those that had no interest – those not full of deceit – had already laughed him off. That they had not slain and dumped him suggested they were as inexperienced as they were young. He had hoped to harness that youthful energy.
He had not accounted for youthful foolishness.