I'm now officially about 10000 words behind. Unofficially 15K behind according to my personal schedule. Ah ha ha. I write so sloooowly. I looked at what I wrote the rest of the year (4 novellas) and it came out to about 57K in total (approx. from Feb to Sept.). So yeah. I suck! And I'm wondering why the heck I chose to do this story I'm doing now where I've pretty much lost the plot...hm. Well, here's another excerpt to create the illusion that I'm actually going somewhere with this! (No, it wasn't the plot that died, it was one of the characters!)
Dreams. A wake. Seven of us gathered to remember her.
We stand in a chamber of stone, underground, but it is brightly lit by the lamp on the marble altar. The white, vaulted ceiling creates the illusion of spaciousness. Behind the altar, a brightly tiled mosaic fills the wall. I recognize the branching form of the tree at the heart of the world, the eagles and the well. I know without having to think that this is a temple of the Eternal Flame.
"So she was Ellismere Elua, eh?" says Sviar. "I knew her, once."
"You were bloody married to her!" says Brack. "For at least one season."
"A long time ago," says Sviar. "Was she wearing the black gloves with the silver dog design on the cuffs?"
"Yes," I say, seeing her again.
"I made those for her. A bride gift. A long time ago. As I recall, they were imbued with the virtue of catching. Crossbow bolts, lightning bolts, sunbeams, or smiles; whatever she turned her hands to." Sviar sighs. "A knight of the Eternal Flame. Well, well. And she was the third. That'll be the last. Three of us dead, three tries to avenge us."
"We don't need no stinking knights," grumbles Brack. This is Josef, not Yuri, but ever since his brother died, he goes by only the one name. "I'll take care of my own bloody vengeance."
"We're dead," says Faiza, turning away from her examination of the mosaic. "Or hadn't you noticed?"
"There's dead," says Sviar. "And dead dead. Which we aren't, but Elua is, eh? Adurven, it's time to show us."
"All right." I take the golden chalice from the altar, the one that appeared under my hands in the way that things do in dreams. I glance inside. It's empty. Then I realize that my palm is bleeding again, from where the Queen's bird impaled me. The blood fills the chalice to the halfway point before the wound closes itself. I lift it in both hands, ignoring the smears of red I leave on the outside of the chalice. "Friends, we are gathered here this night in memory of Ellismere Elua. In the name of the All-father, drink and remember!"
I pass the chalice smoothly to my right, where Sviar stands waiting. In the dream, there is no awkward stiffness in my movements, no sudden clumsiness. Sviar takes the chalice and sips from it before passing it to Brack.
One by one, each of the others sips from the chalice, even Rhasqu, who has taken vows in another faith than that of the All-father.
"The rituals of the dwarves," she sighs. "All blood and fire. But I, too, will remember Ellismere Elua. May her soul find peace."
No-tail is last to drink. For a moment, just long enough, she is a woman with a wolf's head, dipping her muzzle to lap at the blood.
The chalice returns to my hands. Looking into its red-washed depths, I see again the last hour of Elua's life. Everything I remember, we all share now.
A long silence.
"You!" Brack's harsh shout startles me into dropping the chalice. The metallic clatter underlines his next words. "It's your fault she's dead!"
Before I can even blink, he closes the space between us and his sword is...
...is held a fraction of an inch from my neck by another sword.
Faiza's. She holds Brack in her gaze. "Stop! The Queen is to blame. Not Adurven. She's trying to help us. Would you repay good with evil?" Faiza extends her gaze to include Sviar. "Would you?"
Sviar watches. Not moving. That's answer enough to her question. If he wanted to oppose Brack, he would already have acted. I shut my eyes, not wanting to see the blame in his face.
"Neh, this is stupid. If ye want a fight, before ye was dead was time to do it, ya not now," says Derghu, moving up to try to disentangle Brack and Faiza, while at the same time inserting himself between the swords and my neck. "Done is done. If ye want ya girl she dead, then let her death be gain not loss."
Not exactly a vote of confidence, but I'll take it.
The wolf adds her opinion with a growl and a snort before turning her back on us.
Sviar frowns deeply, then bows his head, dropping his silent accusations.
"She was trying to save Caith," says Rhasqu. "Adurven saved a life. The Queen took one. Which would you be?"
"She didn't save /our/ lives. THAT might have done us some good." Even so, Brack slides his sword free and resheathes it with a hiss.
A breath later, Faiza does the same with hers. "As our goblin friend says, done is done. The Queen did seem weaker than she once was. Her power is diminished enough that Ellismere Elua was able to penetrate her defenses."
"The well's running dry." Sviar lifts his head and looks at me. Maybe he forgives me. Maybe. /Married/? Neither of them ever said a word about it before. I wonder just how long ago is "a long time ago"? "Moving the Ark between worlds took a lot out of her. And now there's the strain of keeping her people alive and breathing."
"So her power will run out soon and we'll all die anyway. Why bother with elaborate plans against her?" asks Faiza.
"She won't let it get that far," says Sviar. "She'll try to summon a fresh source of power and bind it as she did the old."
"You think we can put our hands in? That Adurven can?" says Faiza.
"I know we can. Think about what we just saw."
"You've already done the bloody thinking," says Brack. "Skip the theatrics. This ain't the goddamn Sviar show."