“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Novels, as I’ve said before, are my true home as a writer. There is a magic to watching a novel unfold that I have yet to experience with shorter fiction.
The New Mabinogion
I have long been a lover of celtic myth and legend. The problem with this particular mythology is that due to both a strong oral tradition, and various wars, there is almost none of the lore left in written format. The Mabinogion is one of the only books left intact that details some of this legend, and it’s absolutely fascinating. However, it’s also (for obvious reasons) really dated in language. The result is a great set of stories that you have to wade through some not very accessible reading to glean. This, then, is my response. A set of retellings of the stories in the Mabinogion in more modern language, but also in more modern form. In the grand tradition of historical fiction, I’ve turned perspective around and created narrators to give the stories my own feel.
Once there was a time when the earth was yet green and brown and lovely to behold, and man was only one of the races who trod upon the rolling hills of the Isle of the Mighty and Eriu. When the men of the world were only babes in swaddling, yet to take their first uncertain steps, the hills sang with the unearthly music of the fair folk and echoed with their silvery laughter.
Verily, fair folk is not the most seeming of names, as those who carry it are not all fair, nor do many bear the semblance of any folk who have been seen upon this plane for many a century, but they were both the heart of this world, and the essence of that which belongs else, in the land to which they have almost entirely retreated, the Summer Country.
They once danced upon the standing stones and amused themselves with the fates of men, and yet have they left their mark upon our world. The pixies and leprechauns, hobgoblins, and brownies; the will ‘o the wisps and selkies have ridden throughout the pages of children’s tales so that even we, the far removed inheritors of this world will recognize their names.
The fair folk were so named in honor of the Shining Ones, the kings and queens among their kind. Ethereal and lovely, cunning and clever, terrible in their great power, the Aes Sidhe were yet no match for the greed and power-lust of man, and they have long since deserted this place.
The Aes Sidhe once populated all of the lands of this world, before they retreated to the Sidhe mounds, once portals to the Otherworld in which they sought peace from the noisome quarrelings of man. They danced on the islands of Greece, resting their fair heads on a Mountain called Olympus. They walked the lands to the far west, Great Spirits to the men who abided there. They navigated the Nile, Isis and Osiris among their number. Nearer to the histories I tell, the Island of Eriu was once their sole possession, and they called themselves the Tuatha de Danaan; and nearest to this wandering heart, they made their homes among men right here, known as the Fae on the Isle of the Mighty, now named Britannia.
Cold and lonely is the night for a wandering bard, most especially in these days, when the stories have lost their power over men, and men have lost the power that the stories lend them. Come now and gather round the fire, and if you’ve the time to sit and listen and perhaps a flagon of mead to offer, I will show you what men have left behind them. I will take you to a time of heroes, a time of great evils, and above all a time that belonged not to fledgling men, but to the highest of the fair folk, the Aes Sidhe. And if you should hear some sly sidling noise just shy of the corner of sight, or feel some whispering presence over your shoulder, it is to your fortune, for the Aes Sidhe bear a great fondness for stories.
The Elencaer saga is my first novel, and it reflects my first love – that of high fantasy. It’s a story of disparate races coming together to save the world beneath a cast of heroes against great evil. In this first volume, one of the main protagonists, a young girl orphaned and left in the woods under mysterious circumstances is vaulted to a position of power. Her quest for the truth sets her on a path toward uniting her people against a dark an ancient threat.
The girl woke to the smell of smoke, the crackling of fire, the chill of near autumn in the air and not the slightest clue of who she was or where she might be. She opened her eyes cautiously, for even in the absence of any recollections, she recognized the cold touch of fear along her spine.
Leaves and pine needles littered the earth around her and dangled from her hair, despite the tattered cloak that had been carefully folded beneath her head. Fading light illuminated the clearing that she lay in, though she couldn’t tell if the day was beginning or ending. Overhead, trees leaned close, twining together to form a sort of shelter from the open sky that caused panic to leap in the girl’s heart for no reason she could name.
Among the crowding trees, a horse was tethered. It whickered softly, head lowered as it grazed contentedly. The girl could count its ribs along the dull matte of its coat.
In the center of the clearing knelt a spindly figure in front of a pitiful, sputtering fire. She saw only his back, a collection of painfully sharp angles beneath a threadbare tunic, wisps of brittle white hair along an age spotted scalp. Aside from opening her eyes, the girl had not moved a muscle, but feeling her wakefulness, he spoke to her, his voice scarcely more substantial than the autumn breeze. “So then, you still live after all.”
She wasn’t sure how to respond, but she sat up, brushing pine needles from her face and chafing the exposed skin of her arms. The fire seemed to be emitting more smoke than heat, despite the efforts of the man, who was prodding at the embers with a charred stick.
A long silence passed with no sound but the chattering of the girl’s teeth and the hissing of the embers. The man seemed little inclined to offer any further comment, so finally the girl found her voice. “Pardon me, but who are you?”
Rather than answer right away, the man turned to look at her. The skin on his face was paper thin, stretched taut over fine bones. His eyes were a watery blue beneath the film that likely obscured the better part of his vision. His ears were elongated, curled to delicate points at the tips. He breathed a sigh, a long slow breath that rattled out of his emaciated frame before he spoke. “It’s true, then. They’ve broken your mind.”
The girl shook her head, a sharp movement as though she tried to shake her confusion away. “I don’t feel broken.” She paused, searching, “just empty.”
The man ducked his head too late to hide the moisture welling from his ruined eyes. “I’m sorry child, I’m too weary to speak of it tonight. Tomorrow. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
The girl, barely older than ten summers, just nodded her head and watched as he folded himself onto the ground, no cloak beneath him, and closed his eyes.
She laid her head back onto the roughspun cloak, its weave oddly comforting against her cheek. She yawned, stretching her arms over her head as she shifted on the hard ground. Her eyes grew heavy, despite the fact that she had only just awoken. Rubbing her eyes like the exhausted child she was, she glanced over at the old man, his breath already rising and falling with the slow rhythm of sleep. “Tomorrow then.” She hesitated. “But, if it isn’t too much trouble, do you know my name?”
For a long moment the old man’s breathing stopped, as though he considered, but in truth, the girl didn’t know if he was even awake to hear her request. Finally, he spoke, though she couldn’t tell whether the trembling in his voice was emotion, or advanced age. “Elys. You are Elysandra.”
The girl waited for more, but after a span of breaths, the old man began to snore. She let her eyes drift closed as well, the name filling her thoughts. It felt right, like it belonged to her and she clutched it to her heart as she fell away into sleep again. She had a name; one small piece of her self, shining like a jewel in the emptiness where her memories should be. Elysandra.
Children of the Exodus
Children of the Exodus started out as a novella, called ‘Shades of Grey,’ but the girl from the story, a child named Cairi, seemed to call out for a story of her own. The result tied beautifully in with the novella, and became a novel in its own rite. This is the story of Cairi, a Shade, and the story of humanity and its struggle for continued existence as the Shades, altered humans who make faster than light travel possible, try to find their place in a suddenly war torn world.
Long away, in the days before the greatships filled the skies, our ancestors shared the homeworld with the winged ones. Beneath the light of our star, the ancestors grew their crops and mined the fruits of the homeworld, just like the landbound do today. But they were not the only ones with need of the light, and as their learning grew, so did their mistakes, until the cloudseas grew dark, choking out the light that the winged ones depended on for survival.
Our ancestors decided to make amends for the mistakes they had wrought, and for Firstclan of the winged ones, they built the first of the great motherships, their finest work. As more of the clans came forth, suppressing their pride to ask for motherships of their own, our ancestors, in their hubris, thought to teach the winged ones the ways of peace, and when they built the colony ship, to incubate the young who could not survive in the motherships as they had in the cloudseas, they built only one.
By forcing the clans to share in their greatest resource, our ancestors hoped to begin the long slow process of building new ways. But when the colony ship failed beneath the harsh light of our star, the winged ones began to lose the threads of trust they had placed in us. Even when we found the star at Tau Ceti that would light the colony ship such that the young could thrive, the damage could not be repaired.
When the motherships were complete, our ancestors began their last great mistake. They tried to alter the winged ones, to grant them the gifts that allow our kind to navigate the motherships, but it could not be done.
In the winged ones, the gift showed itself in a different guise, and while they could not guide their ships through the air, they discovered that they had gained the power to use their voices against us, in the Shaping.
What little trust the clans had placed in us was shattered, and yet they could not survive without the great motherships and the ability to traverse the distance between the homeworld, from which our nourishment and resources come even this day, and the breeding ground, where the great colony ship orbits the star Tau Ceti. What else could they do but take us into servitude? How else could they know that we would not fail them, as we had done so many times before.
So we cast aside our prideful ways, our histories and even the name we once carried, the Dathuri, and we became who we are today, Those Who Serve. If we never forget our shame, then we will never repeat it. So it has been spoken.
Spoken History of the Dathuri