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."


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."

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