Monday, November 29, 2010

50039!

That's my official word count according to the NaNoWriMo web site. Well, it's over 50K, and that's good enough for now. It coincides with the end of the scene I was working on, so it's a convenient place to take a break.

Ha ha!

A winner is I! Let's see...that's...the sixth year now? Gah, what a thought. All right. I'm going to go eat lunch (I vowed not to eat lunch until I hit 50K today), then go on a wild shopping spree (I promised myself rewards) then waste some more time.

Yeah. I'll finish the novel in January, or at least that's my plan. Out of NaNo, I don't have the willpower to force myself to do 2000 words a day, but 1000 is easy enough. I do know more or less where the story goes (Lady Bloodless luvs Chola! She made him promise to run off with her back to hell if she helped him "rescue" Nyima! Lady Bloodless has to give up the body again when it turns out the manacles are keyed to her name, not Dawa's! Masidi powder usage causes lipodystrophy!) so I'd better get it all down before I forget and get distracted with a new story.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

48K, and the first kiss!

Unfortunately, it's to the wrong person. *headdesks* Taking a break, and then I'll get back to writing about how she runs away and jumps off a cliff when he pursues her.

Luckily, she's a demon and easily survives stupid stunts like that.

I'm slightly optimistic again. Last break I took, I thought about the storyline and got a bit more of the plot hashed out. It turns out Chola and Lady Bloodless are going to kidnap Nyima in order to save her from Prince Senge. First Nyima stops Chola from killing Senge. Maybe she'll do that cool sword-grabbing thing. (How can I write that? I get squeamish just thinking about the times I cut myself while chopping onions.) Anyway, after that we have the runaround, then they all get captured. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Norbu and Dawa have their shocking reunion (dum dum DUM!). Meanwhile, Senge, Chola, and Nyima do their thing. After that, Chola and Nyima are on the run again. Oh yeah. Don't forget the Guru Achamo's staff in all this.

The end is in sight?

Well, not really. Yeah, I'm past 46K, but I just finished chapter 7 last night, and I'll be lucky to get to the end of chapter 8 by 50K. There's at least 30K more to go to finish the story (guess I'll be writing in January!) After I reach 50K, I think I'll redo my outline so it bears some resemblance to the actual novel. I need to figure out how to get to the ending so it ends where I need it to end. I have a problem, too, in that I've been alternating "THEN" and "NOW" chapters, and the "THEN" story is about over. (One more to go, maybe.) Am I going to end up adding gratuitous "THEN" chapters? Possibly some historical bit that is only related by theme to the main story. (Theme! Ha ha ha ha ha!)

Ok, I want to get it done...even if it is just escapist fluff that fails to capture the complexities of the real world. It's impossible for me to keep everything in my head. Anyway...I estimate I'll reach 50K tomorrow. I could do it today if I really tried, but I probably won't.

Friday, November 26, 2010

43K, and the origin of the DLF

That would be the "Demon Liberation Front", which may get a new, improved name in the second draft. Meanwhile, I'm at 43.5K and taking a break. I'm figuring on 2K a day for the next 3 days. All 3 of my kids are now asking me "Are you writing yet? Why aren't you working on your novel?" Yeah. I did tell them to "encourage" me. Ha ha ha ha!

I've downloaded a few more songs to add to my writing soundtrack. But I still hate the actual bit where you have to, you know, sit there and write (type) words in the actual story. (The songs are nice, but gibberish as far as I'm concerned. I have enough trouble trying to understand Cantonese, much less sung Cantonese. I rely on subtitles a lot for someone who's basically illiterate.) (It's supposed to inspire me to write my novel wuxia style...the best I've been able to manage is to think of some cliched Chinese dialogue now and then and kinda sorta translate it.) (Though if I "win" NaNo, I'm going to buy that "Dark Tales" DVD I've been watching on youtube.)

Here's another excerpt:

Dawa climbed out the other side and unloaded her folding stall from the back of the van, setting up her "AUTHENTIC BLESSING SPICE! VIRTUE GUARANTEED!" shop next to Yiping.

But even as they started chatting to their prospective customers, an outcry arose at the edge of the crowd. As quickly as they had gathered, they were gone.

"What? What's going on?" Yiping couldn't follow the hurried, excited yells of the villagers.

Dawa frowned. "A demon hunter, they said. Here?"

"Really? Let's go see!" Yiping slung his small camera around his neck, locked the van again and tugged at Dawa's hand. "What does a demon hunter look like?"

Dawa held back. "It depends. I wonder why they're here?" It must be a coincidence, she thought. No one had any reason to suspect her. Still, she was wary of attracting the attention of a demon hunter.

"Go and we'll find out," said Yiping.

Dawa sighed and nodded. She made sure to lag behind him as they made their way to the other end of the village, and this time found themselves at the back edge of the gawping crowd rather than front and center as the main attraction.

The demon hunter was a man. He rode in at a leisurely walk astride one of the rugged hill ponies. He was dressed in leather and furs, with a whip coiled at his side and a short sword in a scabbard hanging from the saddle. He wore a wide-brimmed straw hat which shaded his eyes but did not hide the oval tattoo on his face.

"What's that mark under his left eye?" whispered Yiping.

"They call it a 'Buddha's Tear.' It means he's a demon himself."

"Really!" Yiping studied the man with even more interest.

"Shhh," warned Dawa. She suppressed an impulse to duck down and hide behind Yiping.

She needn't have worried. The villagers around her were pointing and chattering with far less restraint than Yiping. Only when Yiping lifted his camera and took a picture did the demon hunter's head turn, sharply, at the sound of the click. Even so, after one assessing look, he paid them no further heed.

"Where is the one called 'Old Man Gyalt'?" asked the demon hunter, pitching his voice to be heard over the crowd.

Another wave of speculation rippled through the villagers.

"Old Man Gyalt?" "Did he send for a demon hunter?" "I didn't know he was demon plagued!"

"No, he's fine, I saw him just yesterday." "But his goat. Tell him about the goat." "Shut up, it's not for the likes of us to tell him anything." "Is there really a demon?"

But enough of them said, "Old Man Gyalt lives over there," and pointed the way for the demon hunter. He nodded and urged his pony towards the outskirts of the village, as directed, picking his way carefully through the horde of bystanders.

Gyalt's house was a run-down affair, a two story farm cottage much like the others in the valley. A white plaster wall surrounded his yard, which was just beginning to fill with rows of pea plants, radishes, and leafy cabbages. The demon hunter dismounted at the front gate, muttering a command to his pony.

"Is there really a demon here?" The foremost villager looked over the hunter's shoulder at the house.

"What else am I here for?" said the demon hunter irritably. Two wooden dogs, guardian figures, flanked the gate. The demon hunter scowled and pointed at them. "See? Iron nails through the eyes."

The villager's eyes went round. "You're right! Hey everybody, take a look at this! How come we never noticed before?"

Another one pointed a chin at the house, "But the prayer flags...wouldn't they cry out if there was a demon inside?"

"Stay back," the demon hunter grunted. He pushed through the front gate and stood on the raised dirt path that cut through the vegetable garden to the door of the house. He lifted his head to survey the lines of colorful squares strung up from the roof to a pole in the ground. Then, without apparent transition, he held a whip in his right hand. It uncurled with a crack, the end licking towards the flags and returning to the demon hunter with a pale orange cloth caught in its coil. He took the flag with his left hand and held it to his face, tasted it. "It's been brined."

"Brined!" Everyone knew what that meant, except for Yiping, who made it a question.

"Brined?"

"Soaked in salt water," Dawa explained in Chinese, keeping her voice down. The language already made them too conspicuous. "The salt breaks the binding on the spirits. Without a spirit in it, the flag won't give any warning even if a demon is near."

The demon hunter opened his hand, letting the cloth fall. He stared at the the house for a moment. There was no sound or motion inside. No smoke came out the chimney.

"Where /is/ his goat?" muttered one of the villagers in front of Dawa. "Has anyone seen the goat?"

The demon hunter cracked his whip once more, this time in empty air, then called out loudly, "Old Man Gyalt! It's no use hiding, Old Man Gyalt! If you have the guts, come out and face me!"

Nothing.

The demon hunter called a third time, "Old Man Gyalt!"

This time the front door creaked open. A stooped figure stood in the frame, hobbled out. As old as his name suggested, the man was stooped and withered, blinking in the sunlight with an arm over his face to shade his eyes. He hawked and spat on the dirt outside his door.

Then he said in a voice thin with age, "Here I am. What do you want?"

The demon hunter said coldly, "Steal a goat, steal a man. You know why I'm here."

The old man hobbled a few steps closer, then stopped. He straightened his back, dropped his arm to his side. "So. I thought I got them all, but one of the spirits escaped."

"Escaped, yes, and brought its message to the Muruk Gar Tower of Silence. I was sent for."

The old man pointed at the demon hunter. "You. I know that mark on your face."

"I tell you, I was sent. The mark is veiled. Don't bother trying to read it."

"I don't need to read it to know you've sold out your own kind."

"Enough!" The whip flew out again, this time coiling around the old man's torso, pinning his arms to his sides.

Old Man Gyalt, or the demon in his body, offered no resistance. He allowed himself to be jerked forward, falling to his knees in front of the demon hunter. He shook his head. "You know I'm right."

"I know you're a murderer." The demon hunter, still holding the whip in his right hand, used his left hand to draw his short sword from the sheath on his back. With one swift motion, he plunged the blade up into the old man's throat, all the way through the neck.

The old man twitched and gurgled, but the whip held him fast.

The demon hunter muttered an incantation under his breath.

"What's he doing?" whispered Yiping to Dawa, not taking his eyes from the scene he watched through the viewfinder of his camera. Click.

"It's a spell to extract the demon's name," said Dawa. "I hope the hunter doesn't mind you taking his picture."

"Why would he mind? This is all perfectly legal here, isn't it?"

"Yes, but you know that doesn't mean he wants pictures." She put a hand on Yiping's arm.

Reluctantly, he lowered the camera. "All right."

Minutes later: "He's dead?" "He's dead." Question and answer flew through the crowd. "Then why is he still standing there?"

The demon hunter was still standing there, as if in a stupor. Then he jerked his sword free, simultaneously loosening his whip and coiling it back into his hand. The corpse flopped to the ground. The demon hunter spoke aloud into the blank air, "Why didn't he fight? I thought he'd fight me for his life."

"Come on! Time to go," said Dawa. She tightened her grip on Yiping's arm and pulled him away with her, threading a way through the crowd. she broke into a jog, and didn't stop until they were back at their van. She rested there with her head on her arms.

"Dawa? What's wrong?" Yiping held her around the shoulders. "You're shaking."

"Sorry," said Dawa, her voice muffled through her arms. "It's just seeing that..."

"I know," said Yiping. "I didn't expect it to be like that. And it was strange. Neither of them looked like demons to me. They looked like humans."

At this, Dawa whirled, reversing their positions to grab Yiping by the wrists. "Of course they do. /I/ look human, don't I?"

"Yes, but..." Yiping looked at her blankly. "What are you saying?"

"My father was a demon. That was the scandal, not only that my mother had a lover. The Guru Achamo told me. /I'm/ illegal, here. And someday maybe some demon hunter will track me down and slaughter me in the middle of the street, with no judge, no trial."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy (American) Thanksgiving!

Whee. At about 41000 words and I don't feel like writing (I know, when do I ever?) but looking at last year's blog, I only got to 40K on about Nov 27, which makes me feel (foolishly, I'm sure) that I have plenty of time left, why rush? Ha. Ok, ok, I'll go write something anyway. I know. Must keep going. The story's only about halfway, I think.

Starting chapter 7 today. Dawa and Yiping are driving around Shambhala in a breadloaf van ("mian bao che"). I dunno. It just seemed more likely than them having one of those big tricycles or an animal cart. Where do they get their fuel? Does Shambhala use vegetable oil in diesel engines? I just can't see big gas pipelines running into a supposedly secret mythical fantasy kingdom. So anyway. Moving on.

They're driving around Shambhala...the remoter villages...when...something...happens. Ugh. Obviously if I'm starting this chapter here, I must intend for something important to happen to them. Or they see something. Or they do something.

When in doubt, add a demon attack. Oh yeah. That was it! Random demon attack number...what are we on now, number three? (Not counting the one on the Guru Achamo.)

Ok. I'm going to spend Thanksgiving thinking about a demon attack. Go me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finally got to 40K...

You'd think I could come up with a better name for the demon advocacy group than the "Demon Liberation Front", but apparently I can't. So DLF it is for the first draft. I'm going to have to explain all that in the next chapter...not really looking forward to it, since the whole thing is a complete muddle in my mind.

And now in this chapter, I decided that Chola T'hom is looking for them. Now that he's sucked into the evil plot of evilness, I guess he needs whatever help he can find, and the DLF is his best bet right now. How he's going to find them, I don't know. Maybe he can go munch on some dead person. A victim of a DLF attack? That would do it. But how to get there without raising the alarm? Erm. Dunno. Thinking about it.

So yeah. I hope I can figure all this out sometime between now and my next writing session.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

3 pm, 36K, end of Chapter 5

There's probably something wrong with Chapter 5. It's the shortest one yet. I suspect I'm missing a scene. But I can't think of anything I want to put in there right now. I'll get back to it all in chapter 7. I think. Maybe my outline will help me.

*checks outline* HA HA HA HA HA! Whose idea of a joke was this outline? Um. So the novel isn't exactly following it.

I want to get to 40K before I go to sleep tonight. That means I need to go write chapter 6 real soon now. Gonna take a break first. I'm one of those people who visualizes their story as a movie in their head before writing it down. Well, maybe not a movie, but maybe an audio drama, or just running through the words mentally until it sounds (more or less) right.

Someday I will think of a better name for the town/city than "XXX".


"Kundun Goba!" An old woman's voice shouted a name that, in his dream, Chola mistook for his own. Then he woke up.

Two days after he had left XXX, Chola woke up in confusion, thinking that a spirit was gnawing at his ear again. Then he remembered that he was stretched out uncomfortably along the back seat of the Land Rover. The knocking and rattling came from the window, not his skull. He blinked up, seeing a head silhouetted against the brightness of the morning sky.

He sat up cautiously and rolled the window halfway down. "Excuse me?"

"It is you! Kundan! I knew you'd come back." The speaker pressed in closer, and Chola saw that it was a woman dressed in the thick layers of a typical mountain villager. The clothes were old, faded and frayed at the edges. The woman herself was perhaps not as old as he first took her for, though her face was clearly weathered by age. Not a demon, ghost, or a demon hunter, he determined after a moment's observation.

Chola opened the door gently, forcing the woman to back away. He stepped down and shut the door behind him. What was she doing here? He had parked a mile away outside the outskirts of the nearest village, and that after taking a less frequented road than the one he had used in going to XXX. "I'm sorry, but you must be mistaken."

"No mistake." The old woman grinned with unsuppressible glee. She looked up in his face, then looked away again, as if shy. "You don't look a day older. Not like me. All those years...but you found it after all, just like I knew you would."

"Found what?" Chola thought about jumping back in the Land Rover and driving away, but something nagged at the back of his mind.

"The Buddha's Ear, of course! I know I laughed at you for wasting your time for hunting the fungus of immortality, but I didn't really mean it. Kundan Goba, tell me you forgive me. Tell me you won't leave me behind again!" This time, when the old woman stole a glance at him, Chola saw tears in her eyes.

Kundan Goba?

Why, in his dream, had he thought that was his name?

Then he remembered.

Chola T'hom reached out with both hands, grasped the old woman by the arms. He said quietly, "Didn't they tell you? Kundan Goba was killed by a demon thirty years ago."

"No!" The old woman shook her head. A tremor ran through her body. "No. That's a lie."

"It's the truth," said Chola.

"No. No, don't say that. My love, you've come back to me. I...I understand if you don't want to stay. You're still young, you don't belong with an old woman like me." The old woman tried to shake free of Chola's grip, but he held onto her.

Was this madness his fault? Were human minds so fragile? He had to make her understand. He threaded truth into the weave of her memories, but her thoughts rejected his name, his voice, and heard only her husband. If I am your husband, he thought, then you have to hear my words. If she was deluded, then let her delusion force her to believe him. "Would your husband lie to you? Listen to me. Kundan Goba is dead. You won't meet him again in this life. You have to let him go."

The woman began to weep. She dropped her head and twisted away, shoulders shaking.

Chola put his arms around her and held her as best he could. "You mustn't blame him. He loved you very much. I know. And don't blame yourself."

"We have a daughter. You would be proud to see how she's grown."

"I know," whispered Chola. He stroked her hair as gently as he could. "Hush. I know."

The memories came back to him in a flash. Memories, and new understanding. The Guru Achamo must have been on her way between her mountain and her school when she encountered a wild demon newly arrived in the world. The villagers had been lucky to have her protection. He thought he had only taken one life. Now he realized that perhaps he had taken two.

"Mother!"

Startled, Chola and the old woman each turned at the voice.

A woman strode quickly towards them, coming down the village road. She shouted again as she came. She, like the old woman, was dressed like a villager, but her clothes were less worn and her coat flapped open in the wind as if she had run outside in too much of a hurry to fasten the buttons. "Mother! There you are!"

The old woman wiped at her eyes, then turned a smiling face at the younger woman. "Ah, daughter, you worry too much. Look who's come to see us! Greet your father, my dear."

If anything, the younger woman's forehead creased into even deeper worry lines. She nodded to Chola without really looking at him. "I'm sorry, sir, but these fits take her, and she wanders away before we can stop her. She doesn't mean to disturb anyone." She took the older woman by the hand. "Come on, mother. Let's get back home before you catch a chill."

"It's all right," muttered Chola. He patted the old woman on the shoulder. "Look, here's your daughter. She's right. You should be getting home."

"/Our/ daughter," insisted the old woman. She dug in her heels, refusing to be dragged away. "Daughter, you still haven't greeted your father!"

The younger woman darted an embarrassed glance at Chola. "Yes, yes. Ever since my father passed away, my mother sees his face in everyone." Then she blinked. "But...you /do/ look like...I mean...I'm sorry. It's just that you do look a little like my father. I mean no offense."

"None taken," said Chola. He wanted suddenly to hide his face from their scrutiny, but resisted the urge.

The younger woman dropped her gaze to the Land Rover behind him. She recognized Achamo's crest painted on the door. "Oh, is that a school car? I used to go to the Chancemet Friends School when I was a child. You're on school business? They don't usually pass through this village, we're pretty far out of the way."

"I was driving two guests of the Guru Achamo to the school," said Chola neutrally, as if that answered her question.

"Ah!" said the younger woman. She tried again to steer her mother back to the village.

"Then won't you come in with us? Have some tea, some breakfast? It would be our honor."

"No," said Chola softly. "I thank you for your hospitality, but I need to be on the road."

"Of course. Good bye! Thank you for humoring an old madwoman." The younger woman tugged more insistently at her mother's arm, and this time the old woman followed her.

"He's not coming? He's leaving again?" The old woman asked plaintively.

"No. No, mother. Now come on, let's go home."

Chola watched them leave. Only after they were long out of sight did he climb back into the Land Rover and drive away.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I hate precogs

I hate prophecies, too. Naturally that's why I always have them. Argh! Well, once one character had the ability, I had to give it to an opposing character to balance things out, right? Bah.

Incidentally, my names are getting worse. (Also the plot and the pace of writing, but never mind all that. I will get more words done tonight. Yes. Truly. I will listen to this album five more times and have no more clue of the lyrics than when I started. 'hong coi nan tian ning nan hai...mon tian mo dui wu blah blah blah I have no f***ing clue' and why can't I type as fast as he sings, anyway?)

And the demons...what is the point of having these demons pop in, threaten someone, then get defeated? It's not as if my characters are getting XP and leveling up from random encounters here, dammit. Also, can you spend a drama point to make the GM run a flashback scene in which you gain enough XP to be a higher level in your current scene? I don't think so! *kicks the novel*

(flashback excerpt for the win!)

"I will have your name if I have to read it from your stinking flesh!"

Nyima felt the demon's name being drawn away, ground between Chola's teeth. To destroy the name was to destroy the demon. The demon panicked. "Stop! If you kill me, you kill your sister!"

The demon took her name and knotted it into his own, gripped it with all his strength.

But Chola did not relent. Bit by bit, he pulled the demon's name free. Bit by bit, he devoured the name as he devoured the demon's flesh. Nyima felt his teeth as clearly as if it were her own life being inexorably chewed away. Together, they were helpless. Together, they were consumed by pain and fear.

"Stop! Have mercy, master," came the demon's agonized plea, indistinguishable from Nyima's agonized plea, so tightly were their names tangled.

Chola said nothing. Nyima saw him through the demon's mind, a ravening, implacable presence. As well ask mercy of a forest fire. A horror of their impending death filled her mind. The demon's horror, her horror, there was no difference. Their senses dimmed. Only their tormentor remained, and the only retreat was the infinite darkness.

"Mercy," croaked the demon, choking on his last breath. "I beg you."

"The Blind Frogmaker begs for mercy!" The new voice cut through the darkness like a bolt of lightning. "I never thought to meet such a day."

The Guru Achamo.

"...Heartless...Killer...Achamo," gasped the demon, gasped Nyima. The pressure on the demon's name slackened, just enough for him to draw a few desperate breaths.

"I'm retired now," said the Guru Achamo. "Why are you here, Frogmaker?"

"You...killed...my son," said the demon.

"Ah. I remember. The Gatherer of Leaves." The old woman sighed. "I did kill him. After he killed how many humans?"

"Nevertheless," grated the demon, "He was my son."

"And your vengeance has brought you to this."

"My death..." The demon struggled again to free himself, but Chola's teeth were still clenched around his name. "In the jaws...of the...Carrion Bear." The demon let out a strangled laugh. "How was I...to know? You have no...no right. How was I...to know?"

"Let her go," said the Guru Achamo. "Release her name from yours. Then leave here and never return."

Nyima felt the demon's shock. A tremor of hope ran through them both. "You...would let me...go?"

"Didn't I say I was retired?" The old woman's voice was serene. "T'hom. If he frees her, let him go. Do you hear me?"

Chola growled. The sound was a knife scraping along the demon's name, but he endured, understanding that it was the last blow struck before the peace. And the demon leaped at that chance of peace, of escape. Nyima felt the demon's name slide away from her.

The world went black.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Picking my way through a minefield of flashbacks...

Or at least that's what it feels like. There I am, going along, then BOOM! My characters are sent back in time again for yet another crucial memory. Ah well.

I'm at about 31K. Only got 1000 words done today. I can see I have to do another 10K weekend if I ever want to get to 50K. And I can see it will take more than 50K to finish the novel, too. I have to finish this one, though. I have an extra incentive in that I need these characters to appear in a future story, so I have to find out how it all turned out! (Yeah, I really wish I knew. My outline is full of lies. I knew when I wrote it that I'd need to fix it.)

Ok, things to remember for now:

  • The normal usage of the Blood Attunement Sutra is to attune yourself to a rock or some such, making it impossible for a demon to possess you. You're not supposed to attune yourself to someone else...but a demon is vulnerable because they lack grounding in this reality (lack 'earth essence'). This is the same weakness that makes it possible to summon them. It's a difficult defense developed by the Guru Achamo. Other demon hunters used other forms of defense, but Achamo says her way is the strongest.
  • There's a weak spirit bound in Achamo's staff. It witnessed her last moments. That's why Nyima tossed it into Snake's Cradle Gorge when she decided to cover up for Chola. Later when she gets it back, she will find it also knows the Blood Attunement Sutra. Nyima can't directly learn it, but she can figure out how to counter it. Remember the Prince used it on her as a means of tracing her.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

28K and the end of clarity...

A bit behind on writing in the last two days, but I did get some words done. Now I'm on the last part of my outline that actually makes sense. After this, it's all rather fuzzy and "I'll figure it out when I get around to writing it." Well, that time is rapidly approaching...

Um. So my next flashback chapter will have to explain and motivate all these characters so that they will be where I need them to be now and do what I need them to do for the scenes I had planned. Argh. Life has to get a lot more unfair for them. I was never much good at that. Anyway, I'll try to get back on schedule today with the writing 2000-3000 words every day.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chapter 4! (in which I dream of teleportation)

Another excerpt, in celebration of my reaching 25000 words. While you might think I got my love of short-hop teleportation from "Sapphire and Steel" (they did it with such style), actually it does appear now and then in wuxia fantasies. (Remember that awful movie "(Tian Long Ba Bu) The Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountains"? Yeah. Actually, it wasn't that bad. It had Brigitte Lin in it!) Oh yeah, and another thing Sapphire and Steel has in common with wuxia movies: insta-costume changes! Ha ha! I haven't had any of those in my novel yet, but who knows...someday...

Now:

Rosecrown Abbey:

Nyima couldn't move.

She couldn't move, and the air was running out. The ghost's recitation of her name held her in herself.

Stupid, thought Nyima dizzily. Stupid and pointless. Damn the old fool. When they had first met, the abbess had pitied her. When had pity turned into unreasoning fear? I should have tried to talk to her sooner.

The dizziness grew worse. Nyima slid helplessly down to the ground, back against the rock.

She couldn't see, she couldn't breathe, and she couldn't move. She felt the darkness closing in.

She tried to remember air, tried to imagine it into existence as she had once done to spin silk for Tenzin's family. She could remember the sweet feel of fresh air, could remember drawing it into her lungs, but she couldn't remember what gave it its life-sustaining properties. Her memory failed in capturing the essence of breath. She had taken it too much for granted ever to /know/ it.

She tried to remember herself, to preserve herself by remembering it perfectly in every detail.

But it only hampered her thoughts. To think human thoughts in a human mind, was to change the state of the instrument that did the thinking. If she succeeded, she would be frozen in a single moment forever.

No. She would rather let fate take its course. If there was no way out, then here she would stay, just like one of the rocks lying around her. Did the rocks complain? She, too, could lie here for a thousand years, ten thousand.

Then, from the bottom of her mind, dreamlike, a thought: /There is a way out./

She didn't believe the thought. How can I get out? I can't even move.

/You don't have to move./ It felt like a memory. She remembered...

/You are here, but you are also there./

Where? Where am I?

/Where you are, your name is. Where your name is, you are./

She struggled through the dizziness to make sense of the thought. My name. My name is here.

Where else? It's in the voice of that ghost. The ghost is inside the rock. How will that help me?

/But where did the ghost get your name?/

Then Nyima remembered. The abbess! The abbess had spoken her name. Held it in her mind.

/She is thinking of you even now./

Was she? Nyima could only feel her own desperate wish to be elsewhere. She struggled again to break free of the ghost's voice.

/Don't move. Concentrate,/ admonished the voice of her memory. /Concentrate. You are not this sack of meat rotting in the darkness. You are yourself. Your name contains you. Let go. Someone is thinking of you. You are that thought./

I am that thought. Nyima let go of consciousness. In a dream, she could shift from thought to thought without ever moving.

/Someone is thinking your name./

Nyima fell into her name. It felt like suddenly turning her head to find herself in a new house with no memory of how she arrived.

It was raining.

That was the first thing she noticed about her new house. She hadn't known it was raining, but now the steady beating of raindrops against the roof was unavoidable. Rain. Rain, and cold. Sweet air in her nostrils. Light.

She opened her eyes, though she found her eyelids strangely stiff. They cracked like a layer off a thousand layer pancake. She was in the abbess's room. She looked down at her hands, causing more skin to crumble and flake off. The left hand held a rosary. The abbess's rosary. She recognized the sleeve of the abbess's robe.

She was inside the abbess's robe.

No.

She was inside the abbess's skin.

Then where was the abbess herself?

The abbess was screaming. Inside her mind, Nyima heard her voice, crying for her lost reality. Two people in the same place could not coexist in any sane or stable way. One more push, and Nyima could send the abbess irrevocably over the edge. On the other hand, if she eased away, gently disentangled herself, the abbess might still recover. Nyima trembled with the strain of keeping them both balanced inside one skin.

Carefully...carefully...she forced herself to think through each tiny step before moving.

Her own finger lifted a fraction of an inch. The abbess's finger stayed behind. Another adjustment...another...

"Abbess!" The shout from the corridor outside the room jolted Nyima's meticulous focus.

Concentration lost, she froze. She didn't dare speak. She hoped the intruder would give up and go away.

"Abbess! It's me, Dolma. Please, I need to speak to you."

Dolma! What did the little novice want with the abbess? Nyima clutched herself tightly inside her limited space. A drop of sweat burned on her brow, and she suppressed the urge to wipe it away. She couldn't afford to move.

"It's about...about Sister Nyima. Please. I know you're in there. Abbess! Novice Dolma begs you!" The door rattled. "Abbess?"

Did you come to beg mercy for me? wondered Nyima, touched by her loyalty. But she won't, not now, there's no chance. Brave Dolma. Don't you know when you can't win?

25K happy dance!

Ok, so I didn't make it to 25K yesterday, but I did manage it today! That means I just have to do another 1000 words for my 10K weekend, and I'm at -3000 words from my personal goal (2000/day->28000 by today.) I got to the end of chapter 3 (finally) and started chapter 4. It's a bit annoying to write with the alternating flashbacks/now chapters, because if something unexpected happens in the flashback part, it may mess up what was planned for the present-day part. Still, it does let me go around through different characters and so on and pretend that it all makes sense. I don't get quite as blocked this way (though naturally I still don't feel like writing.)

So yeah. I'm gonna take a break, then write some more later.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

20K...5000 more to go today

Or at least that's my plan. Sadly, my novel has degenerated into a bunch of "As you know, Bob" passages where people explain their backgrounds to each other. ARGH! Another damn thing to fix later. Very annoying. Also, I simply don't know enough about the life of a shepherd (Tibetan or otherwise), so that whole section is never going to be convincing. I'm just going to make it as short as I can, and tell it as if it were a fairy tale.

That's chapter 3. I hope to finish it this morning and then move on to Chapter 4 by noon. I don't think chapter 3 goes as far as Tenzin's death. Probably just ends with the baby dying.

Then in chapter 4, Nyima (last seen trapped motionless in a cave-in), magically escapes. Gah! I hate this. Fantasy! People keep developing random new powers to save their butts. In this case, she was always supposed to have the teleport power (come on! One of the reasons I'm writing this is to indulge in my teleportation fetish!), but it's awfully conveeeeeenient here, isn't it? Ok, so she's not that great at it. In fact, she kills the Abbess when she teleports into her body. Nasty. Nyima's only friend in the Abbey witnesses it, then runs screaming her head off (not literally). Cue demon wangst! Anyway, that's my plan for today. We'll see how it goes. In the second half of chapter 4, Nyima and Chola T'hom meet again over a dead body. Those sure are piling up. I think Chola is eating the liver at the time. Livers are good. Mmmm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Most pathetic excuses yet...

Uh... why am I so behind? Was I super-busy? Did I have the flu? What? No, not really.

It was my dog's birthday!

Then I had to unlock the hidden level in Gemcraft Chapter 0!

Then I had to dig some holes in the yard with my daughter!

Then I had to go buy my own personal leaf-blower! It has steel blades!

Then I had to think about what the deal is with Dawa Gephel and how she is connected to Nyima. It's because Dawa's mother was the last King's Demon-hunter before poor Lord Pema, and she was also the Guru Achamo's student, and Achamo was the King's Demon-hunter before Dawa's mother (Achamo retired when the old king died 50 years ago) and that makes Achamo Dawa's grandmother (sort of). Achamo also has to be the Gandalf and explain blah blah blah Dawa is a half-demon blah blah blah her mother is a murderer blah blah blah to her.

So yeah.

I came down with a case of the "Week Two Blahs" and basically, felt tired and didn't feel like writing. Guess it's gonna have to be a 10K weekend now. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Week 2, 15K, let's get that to 25K, shall we?

Day 9, and damn, I'm so tired. I have to start doing my daily writing earlier. If I wait until after the kids go to sleep, it means I stay up too late, and as I have to get up at least 30 minutes EARLIER than they do, this isn't really working. Plus, I don't use an alarm clock, which means I tend not to sleep very solidly the hour before I do get up (unless I oversleep). (But I do like being awake before I HAVE to get up and lying there for awhile to gather my thoughts before rushing about doing morning stuff.) Gah. I suppose I should get a working alarm clock. I just hate being woken up by an alarm (though it's better than being woken up by a phone ring).

Still, I'm at 15K this morning, which isn't too bad.

Consider that the first year I did NaNo, I didn't even START until the 9th (because that was when I happened to find out about it) and I still made it to 50K without too much trouble. (When I say "without too much trouble", I mean, not any worse than any other year has been.) Of course, that means I'm not getting any faster at writing. Ha ha ha. I can only hope the quality is improving. Um. Yeah, right.

So today I hope to start....*dramatic drumbeat* Chapter 3! In which we jump back seven years again and figure out what happened with everyone back then. Too many things are fuzzy in my head. The Bastard isn't supposed to be some kind of slacker, damn it. Um. Yeah. Let's write.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 6: Stupid Demon King...you are NOT helping!

Bleargh. Still behind. At least I'm not more behind. Yet. Not in the "writing mood". Then again, I'm only in the "writing mood" maybe 1 in 100 days. That's why I love NaNoWriMo. Being "in the mood" has nothing to do with it. So yeah.

Today I find that it's the Demon King who tells my FMC all about the whole sorry reincarnated lovers/soulmates business. I mean, that's ever so romantic, right? You'd believe it if some demon started babbling about how you and so-and-so used to be such a famous couple in Hell... *headdesks* Ok, but they were famous, she did use her signature Special Attack, and he did want to piss her off, and...

I still have to think up a decent side-story for the MMC. One of those "Enemy Mine" plots or something. Or maybe a fairy tale. Fairy tales are my friends! Truly. (But not that one about the mouse, the bird, and the sausage. Or is my subconscious trying to tell me something?)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mother issues? Why do you ask?

Day 5, and I'm already 1000 words behind on my personal word count goal (well, it's better than -2000, which is where I was yesterday). At least someone finally did something evil in my novel! Woo hoo!

Then (7 years ago)
Snowbell Valley (The southern ridge)

On the rocks on the opposite wall of the valley, another set of eyes watched the wedding festivities.

Prince Senge. Lurking discreetly a few lengths behind him, a handful of men in royal livery waited for their master. However many hours it took, they were accustomed to such duties.

Only after dusk had overtaken them did the Prince turn away from the cliff's edge. His eyes hid fury behind a rigidly calm face. "Damn her. Who does she think she is? What is she? A nobody born out of a nameless hell. Nothing at all."

His guards knew better than to react. One and all, they stood blankly to attention.

Senge surveyed them, laughed shortly. "Come on, then. Time to go home."

***

The royal palace in Kalapa:

Home held little welcome for the Prince.

Senge was soon summoned to his mother's chambers. He gathered his resolve and obeyed, knowing that he was likely in for another tongue-lashing. He had been due back at the palace days ago, and had missed any number of ceremonial duties, mostly concerned with appeasing the guardian spirits of the royal palace. Even though his years under Achamo's tutelege had left him with little awe of the spirits, the others at court were less sanguine at the prospect of causing offense to the unseen.

Her quarters were in the same wing as his own, and it was only a short walk along the verandas lining the buildings of the palace to reach the Queen. Senge left his guards outside her door and passed through the antechamber to the richly furnished inner room, where the Queen of Shambhala sat crosslegged on her bed. Gauzy drapes hung from the bedframe, hiding the Queen's features behind the rippling phoenix stitched onto the cloth.

"Senge greets his mother the queen," said the Prince.

"Back at last," snorted his mother. "What kept you?"

"I had...other business," said Senge.

"Ha! Pining after that little apprentice sister of yours again?" His mother sat up straighter. Senge could feel her eyes boring into his thoughts. He had long ago learned to shield his mind from her prying, but the very act of shielding betrayed him. "So! It's true, then. What is wrong with you, my son?"

Senge had no answer. What could he say to that? "Your son begs forgiveness for his error."

"Forgiveness? Is that the best you can do?" The curtains parted and the Queen lifted herself out of the bed. "Let me look at you. So. I spend a fortune and all my heart's blood convincing that old hag to teach you, because she's the best, because she's the most respected, retired or not..."

"Your son is grateful," said Senge, dropping his gaze to the carpet. A mistake. The carpet was woven with designs that compelled submission and truth. His tongue slipped and the words fell out, "But she is the past. The future, my future, is with Nyima..."

"That demonic whore!" *THWACK*! His mother slapped him brutally across the mouth. "Don't speak her name ever again in my presence. I sent you there to learn, not to play at love!"

Senge felt the blood drain from his face. He touched his lips, feeling the sting of her slap, his fingers trembling with fury. Closing his eyes, he said with forced calm, "Your son is no longer a child. Please trust that you have taught him to judge his own path."

"I see. You think you don't need me anymore, is that it?" The queen paced a slow circle around him. "Ungrateful brat! You think you'd be here today if it weren't for all I've done for you?"

"Yes, Mother. And a fine job you've done of pruning the tree." Senge paused to lend weight to his next words. "And what would the king my father think if he knew why his junior wives all fail to produce any healthy heirs?"

The queen stopped. Her voice came straight into his right ear. "What's this? Now you think you can threaten me?"

"I think you can't stop me," said Senge with deliberate rudeness. A thought glittered at the bottom of his mind. It was an old thought, but this time he let it rise to the surface rather than trying to bury it. Yes. Perhaps it was time. He opened his eyes and looked coldly at his mother. "So please. Just leave me alone."

"Alone! I should have left you alone when you were but a sickly infant and borne a more filial son. Tell the king! Then we'll both be shorter by a head. He has plenty of years in him yet to bring up a..." Her words faded in silence. She raised a bejewelled hand to touch her lips in question.

/Enough, Mother./ Senge needed no sound when he had already tuned himself to the beat of her blood. Without warning, he struck straight at her face with his right hand.

The queen's response was instant. She needed no forewarning to block him with the edge of her own arm.

Then Senge's left hand struck, and this time his mother was too slow, too weak, to deflect him. He jabbed once, twice, at the acupoints below her collarbone, left and right, drilling her with enough energy to paralyze her for twenty minutes or more. Plenty of time. With a twisted smile, the prince eased his mother into a sitting position on her bed.

/You see, Mother, I did learn from the old woman. But she is a short-sighted fool and afraid of true power. I am not. That, Mother, you taught me./ Senge drew from inside his robe a glass vial, no bigger than the palm of his hand, filled with a thick red liquid. With his other hand, he held a syringe. He began muttering, the sound swallowed by the silence, but the pattern of the rolling chant hung in the air between mother and son.

He filled the syringe. The queen's eyes pleaded with him, cursed him, but her body was helpless to move.

/Power,/ said Senge. /Isn't that what you schemed for me? But you were mistaken about who would be the puppet and who would pull the strings./

The needle plunged through layers of royal brocade, through skin, and into her side beneath her ribs. Fluid seeped in, diffused through her body.

/We are of one blood,/ said Senge, his eyes avid for the final consummation. He focused his thoughts on the incantation, threaded his thoughts through blood.

The queen began to tremble. Her inner energy flared in chaotic waves, resisted the taming influence of Senge's spell, burst through her sealed acupoints. The tremble became a violent shuddering. All her limbs spasmed uncontrollably, and her head tilted back, the cords of her neck drawn tight, and her mouth opened in a voiceless shriek.

/No!/ Senge struggled to maintain control, but the pattern of his incantation dissolved. The threads of his power tangled, broken and clotted. He groped for the remaining pieces, but the ends were beyond his reach.

The queen's head flopped forward, an abrupt and unnatural motion. Then, without lifting it, her head shook back and forth, faster and faster. Her hands rose, clawed off her golden hairpiece, scattered pins like darts.

Senge staggered back, blocking most of the pins, but one of them drew a line of blood under his left eye. Worse, he had lost his attunement with the blood he had injected. If she recovered... she would never forgive him. She, too, was preserved by her arts, and had time to bear another child.

All or nothing. It was too late to take back his gamble. Senge drew the dagger from his belt. In this frenzy, she had no defense. He calculated his aim with cold care. One strike, under the bone and into the heart. Decision made, he moved forward...

...to find his wrists seized by impossibly long strands of hair. More hair lashed out, curled around his neck. They were tightening, tightening, choking his cry of shock. Hair cut into his skin, denied him breath, denied him blood. Senge couldn't move. Every hair was thick with power. He couldn't break free. His own energy was fatally disrupted.

He was lost. His mother was going to kill him. Literally. He wanted to laugh, at how badly he had failed. He wanted to beg for mercy.

But he stared into eyes blind with madness, immune to any appeal.

Darkness blurred his vision. The world receded.

And then the doors opened. A confusion of feet and arms, shouts and flashing blades, prayer beads and ribbons, all burst into the queen's chamber in a cloud of incense.

Someone pulled the queen away from him, cut him free of the strangling hair.

Senge gasped for breath, massaged his wrists, ignoring the questions pelted at him by the guards. Then he remembered, and groped behind him. Lucky. He had fallen on the evidence of his misdeeds. He slipped the empty syringe and vial into his sleeve while waving a distracting hand towards the window. "A demon! We..." He coughed, gathering his wits. "We were attacked. In the queen's own chamber... how is my mother the queen?"

He straightened. One of his guards moved quickly to support him.

"She is taken by some fit. She does not hear us," said the guard.

Senge peered over towards the queen's bed, forcing his eyes to focus. Two more of the guards restrained his mother, while a gaggle of her attendents entreated her to peace. He couldn't see her face: her head was canted forward, rolling against her chest, while straggles of hair still writhed and lashed at the empty air. "She was possessed. I strove to expel the demon, but...its power was too great for me."

The queen howled a spine-shattering cry. It went on and on.

Unable to endure the wordless accusation, Senge struggled to his feet and with the help of his guard, hobbled towards the door. "Quick! Where is Lord Pema? Why isn't he here already?"

Lord Pema was the King's Demon-Hunter.

He was also incompetent, uneasy in his office, and addicted to /masidi/ powder. The queen knew of his addiction and helped him conceal it from the king. He owed them. He would not dare challenge Senge's version of events.

Lord Pema was on his way into the queen's wing of the palace when Senge met him. All due credit to the demon-hunter's young apprentice's long ears.

"Lord Pema!" shouted Senge. "You are late. The queen my mother is in dire need, and due to your negligence. A demon slipped through your net and attacked her."

Spirits wailed soft protests that only Senge, Pema, and the apprentice had any inkling of.

"I d-d-didn't know, your highness," stammered Lord Pema. He was a small man, as emaciated as any wandering monk, and cringed when the prince loomed over him. "The spirits beg a thousand pardons, but they...the demon must have slipped through. They promise it will not happen again."

"See that it doesn't!" snapped Senge.

They returned to the queen's chamber to find the royal physician there as well, sitting by the queen and frowning over her pulse.

"How is she?" asked Senge from the doorway.

Lord Pema hurried inside, lighting sticks of demon-repelling incense and mumbling prayers, while ordering his assistant to stick thin sheets of holy scriptures on all the windows.

The royal physician shook his head. He gave Senge a grave look. "I fear...I fear for her mind."

"And her recovery?"

The royal physician shook his head again, looking even graver. "I can promise nothing."

Senge bit back hysterical glee. /Good/, he didn't say. Feeling his legs weak and shaky in delayed reaction, he retreated to a chair from which he could maintain both distance and an appearance of concern. He /was/ concerned. Why hadn't it worked? He had tested the procedure on goats, pigs, and a handful of beggars until he had perfected it. Then he realized: none of them had any training in internal energy techniques, whereas his mother was an adept. Of course she had been able to resist, and the resulting conflict had burned out her mind.

Senge sighed inwardly. He would have to think about it. Find a way to overcome any resistance. Next time...

Next time he wouldn't fail.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3...and still on chapter 1

About 4000 words in, and I'm still on chapter one. Which is a bit absurd, considering that I managed to fit entire short stories into 2500 words before (and one of them was EPIC, dammit! In my head, anyway.) So it seems like nothing's happening...and more nothing's happening... perhaps I did start at the wrong point after all. I don't care. It's NaNo. So since I have to get the second batch of kids ready for school in 10 minutes, I may as well post the next bit continuing on from my previous excerpt.

Hmm. Yeah. I can see I've been reading too much Stephen R. Donaldson again. The weird influence on my word choices comes and goes. Bah. Better to be consistent. Fix later.

Chapter 1, continued

"It's no bigger than my wine bowl!" Chola scowled down at the stairs. "Stupid ghosts! A book like that, the words must be too small to see. How can he even read it?"

"Not with a giant magnifying glass, if that's what you're thinking," said Senge.

"There's a machine," Nyima explained. "From Outside. A 'lightning brain'."

"Just so!" Chola slapped the railing in emphasis. "If he can't read it with his own brain, he can't read it at all. And if he can't read it, it's not a book."

"Yet the information exists in it. It is written. His illiteracy is irrelevant. That, my brother, is the law." Senge smiled. "But my opinion is also irrelevant. Take it up with the Guru if you wish to contest the point."

"It makes a mockery of all tradition."

"Say that to the Guru's face if you dare," said Senge.

"Your teacher, not mine!" Chola shook his head and turned to glare at the prince. "You're a student. /I/ am a prisoner. I owe her nothing."

"Chola, don't say that," whispered Nyima. "You know that's not true..."

Chola's eyes burned into Nyima, denying all appeal. "In your heart you know I'm right. How much can untested love be worth? You cheat yourself in this."

"Love is not a bag of wool," said Nyima. "We give it to each other freely."

"What? To that...that milkdrinking boy down there? That sheepheaded fool?" Chola growled in wordless outrage, turning his gaze back onto the figure scaling the
cliff. "He'll slip and fall to his death. What then?"

Nyima tried to speak, couldn't. Why did he have to ruin things for her?

Suddenly, Senge burst out laughing. "Give it up, Chola! Even if all the shepherds in the world dropped dead at our feet, she still wouldn't have a beast like you. Isn't that right, Nyima?"

Nyima flinched at the venom in his tone. She grasped at the fraying threads of her happiness. "Stop it. Both of you. Please."

"Maybe she won't have me, but at least I don't hide a knife in my smile." Chola turned to the stone table and slumped back onto his stool, reaching down for another jar of wine. Finding it empty, he flung it onto the rocks with a muttered curse. He heaved himself back onto his feet and stomped off along the path to the temple where their teacher, or jailor, waited. "This show isn't worth watching. See you two later."

A morose silence hung inside the pavilion while the wind hissed bleak nothings around them.

"Well," said Senge at last. "He does have a point. You're wasting yourself on that poor fool down there. And he seems an innocent. Does he know what he's in for, fastening his fate to a demon?"

Nyima flushed. Her hand rose to cover the red and black spiral design tattooed under her left eye. Buddha's Tear, the commoners called it. "I bear the mark. I'm no danger to anyone. I'm no different than any human."

"No? Then he's not the only innocent. But I trust you'll come to your senses someday. I've always been very fond of you, you know. My offer still stands."

"No. No, thank you. Your highness." Nyima's hand dropped to her side. Once, she remembered, the prince had been a frightened child. Now she was the one who found him unnerving. She sensed a coldness in him. In that, she /did/ agree with Chola's judgement. But that was unfair of her, so she added as gently as she could, "You have been a good brother to me. But not...I mean, not in the way of a man and a woman."

"What do you truly know of men and women?"

"I've watched them for a hundred years."

"Watching isn't the same as knowing." Senge smiled, but his eyes were cynical. "And you don't know what you want. Until then... I've no more interest in this show than Chola. Later, Nyima."

Alone now in the pavilion, Nyima let out a relieved sigh. Having had their say, Chola and Senge dared do no more to hinder her. The Guru's law wouldn't permit it, and the Guru held all their names in her hand. Soon now, Tenzin would reach the top. Then would come the third ordeal. A mere formality, and then she would be freed to go with him. Down the mountain and into the mortal world. Nyima smiled at the thought. Mortal life. It was what she had always wanted, and ever since she had first seen Tenzin riding down the valley road, driving his sheep to the market, she had recognized him as the key to that life.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The first 500 words or so...

Well, it's a start, isn't it? Yeah, I've fallen victim to N'ame A'postrophitis. Grrr. Stupid alphabet doesn't work the way I want it to. Just pretend it's Wade-Giles or something (even though it ain't.) Here it is:

Then (7 years ago)

Stone Monkey Mountain:

Two thousand haunted steps, some wide and shallow, others narrow and steep, but each inhabited by a hungry ghost, are carved into the western face of the peak. At the bottom, Monkey's Gate marks the entrance: three arches of weathered stone, with the words "Stone Monkey Mountain" written on the plaque over the central arch. A sculpted rhesus leers eternally down from the top of the third pillar. At the far end of the two thousand steps, a small round pavilion clings to a granite outcrop.

Inside the pavilion, Nyima Khandro leaned against the railing and squinted down at a distant figure trudging along the path towards the gate. Behind her, T'hom Chola and Prince Senge sat drinking grape wine and playing go.

One of them set down a stone with a decisive clack. "Is he there yet, this shepherd of yours?" Chola's words were precise, showing no hint that half a dozen empty jars lay scattered by his feet.

"Yes," said Nyima. Tenzin must have started before sunrise, she thought proudly. "He made it through the Forest of Uncountable Paths. That's the first ordeal."

"Not much of an ordeal, now that there's a line of telephone poles marking the easiest road," said Senge.

"And whose fault is that? Highness?" Chola's teeth ground shut on the honorific.

Senge laughed. "You can't blame my father for wanting to be able to contact me. How many other sons does he have?"

Chola grunted. "The boy still has to climb the stairs. Without the word of the Guru Achamo, the spirits won't let him pass."

"He's through the gate," reported Nyima. Laughter bubbled up within her. "He's up to the first landing."

"Impossible!"

Nyima heard stones clattering to the floor behind her.

"The game ---" began Senge reproachfully.

"It's yours," snarled Chola. He was a bear of a man, and when he hurtled himself at the railing, she feared briefly that he would plunge through it and over the cliff. But the wood held. His shadow loomed over Nyima, his aura fierce as a summer storm.

But on this day of all days, she would back away from no one. She pointed down with her chin. "See? There he is."

"Huh," snorted Chola. "I don't believe it! What's that he's holding? There's no talisman you could give him... the spirits wouldn't regard your word any more than they would mine."

"They'd regard the Mapbook of the Lawgiver of Ancient Shambhala," said Senge, who had not stirred from his stone stool.

"It's not a book," said Chola. The man on the stairs crept steadily upwards. Sunlight flashed from the disk hanging around his neck. "It looks like a mirror."

"It is a book," said Nyima. "The Mapbook of the Lawgiver."

"What? All seven volumes?" Disbelief dripped from every word. "A thousand pages per volume, at last count."

"It's a /CD-ROM/," said Nyima, pronouncing the foreign word carefully.

"It's the latest thing," said Senge, yawning pointedly. "As you would know if you ever set foot off this mountain. Available in temple shops all over the capital this year."

So much for the early start...

"Agh! Stop biting my skirt!"

"WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!"

"name redacted is pulling my hair!"

"I need new pants!"

And, of course, me writing about five words per minute didn't help... I had to do last minute research, meaning Google and distraction. Bah! Ok. Goal for the day: 2000+ words. It would be nice if I could manage 5000 each day and finish in under 2 weeks. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!