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.