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Foreworld Saga Authors > Shouting Down the Well [Long, so apologies for all the echoes]

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message 1: by Mike, Vor Dweeb (last edited Jul 19, 2016 10:24AM) (new)

Mike Voss | 60 comments Mod
Answering a Twitter request for a Crux Passages update:

Happy to oblige, as excitement mounts at the prospect of wrapping a complete draft Real Soon Now (really, though!)

The current draft of the story has 19 chapters and an Epilogue, and a few moments ago 70,508 words. After finishing the run-through I am presently hoping to wrap up this week and next, I expect more chapters and fewer words to emerge as the beta-read draft. Today I am working on Chapter 19 :-) Hence the excitement!

Michael Lussier read a draft of the first chapter recently, and made approving noises. My ego swelled :-)

I hope to gain more beta readers when the time comes, either to swell it more or counter that a bit. Or both :-)

Michael had some suggestions for improvement, however, that I haven't had a chance to try and implement. Christopher Matson was interested in seeing an excerpt posted here, so look below for about half of Chapter One, (1361 of 2644 words) with a few wording changes and a tiny but important addition to bring it in line with a later plot development.

Comments and criticism welcome, with the caveat that some of the opening sentences are a bit long, and are likely to stay that way as long as nobody complains that they are incomprehensible or don't flow well. I'll be working to reduce the number of really long sentences throughout the ms as part of the next editing passes. Anything over 30-35 words will get a good looking at, and probable trim, with few exceptions.

"Chapter One

April 19, 1296

Sir Merrill had never believed in the vor. Not really. He’d thought it an imaginative exaggeration of the ingrained training, experience, and muscle memory that most veteran fighters displayed. Time slowing to a crawl? Knowing a blow was coming from behind you? Knowing not just the enemy’s next move but one or two more beyond that? All sounded to him like the same things any well-trained and blooded warrior might boast of after one of those battles where everything went just right for you - and wrong for your opponents. The kind of swaggering that added to the warmth of the company’s spirit around the fire after a hard-fought campaign. Among the most far-fetched were the accounts - from otherwise sensible and well-grounded warriors who commanded the respect of the finest fighters England or the Continent had to offer - of vor-inspired visions into the future, or even a past that person could never have known. Campfire stories, indeed.

At this very moment in time, however, as Merrill took into his ungloved right hand a beautiful and lovingly constructed sword that had lain hidden for as long as nearly two hundred years, whose protector for over twenty of those years had just proclaimed Merrill the object of the blade’s “destiny”, the vor had come to him. Indisputably, in a dizzying rush that left him awed and stunned.

The sound of a breeze stirring the leaves of the tree whose hollow had concealed the artifact faded from his hearing, without altering his background awareness of it. So did the sounds of birds and small animals scurrying a bit deeper into the tree-line where he and farmer Elam stood. As he raised the blade, looking as though freshly quenched after the forge despite its age and years in hiding, a piece of parchment wrapped around the blade fell away in slow motion, revealing runic lettering along either side of the blade’s runnels. The bright white carved hilt, sporting the carving of a bird’s likeness, was almost half again the breadth of his grasp, a white scrap of cloth tied just under the guard and just as amazingly preserved. In his peripheral vision he saw Elam’s eyes widen slowly, as though he somehow sensed Merrill’s wonder at the blade and the senses awakening in him. He could see that word Elam liked so much forming on his lips again: “Destiny.”

The parchment finally settled to the ground, and Merrill became aware of new sounds issuing from deeper in the forest - behind him. Three horses, one ahead of the others by several lengths, the others paired side by side. He knew he was hearing the actual hoof beats on the forest floor, some hundreds of yards away yet, but it seemed as though he was hearing them in his mind also.

“Run!” he barked at Elam, pointing into the trees away from the approaching riders, where he might hide from view before they arrived. The farmer’s eyes seemed to widen even farther and, ignoring Merrill’s pointing left hand, he turned and fled back toward the farmhouse, which Merrill knew would leave him at the mercy of the riders. There was nothing to be done about it.

Stepping back from the tree hollow and the pile of rocks that had once filled it atop the leather-wrapped blade, Merrill set himself between the riders and Elam’s ill-chosen retreat, knowing it would do no good if they chose to skirt him and ride Elam down. Judging the distances and angles even ahead of their arrival, thanks to the unasked-for help of the vor-sense, Merrill plucked his throwing dagger from his boot, holding it pointed downward in his left hand. The sword he also held point down, the better to lend momentum to his first thrust, and an underhand angle to use against a mounted enemy.

The world still muted and slowed by the vor, the first rider’s voice came to him, again as much in his thoughts as in his ears. “Take the knight, he has the blade!” Good eyes on that one, but Merrill saw the wisdom of drawing the dagger as the rider, sword already in hand, swung to his right too far for the sword, and headed for Elam. The coward would run down his unarmed friend. Again measuring the timing and angle with the vor’s help, Merrill twirled completely around to lend momentum to his dagger thrust at the brigand flying past him. He knew he’d be lucky to hit anything, man or horse, but the blade’s flight ended in the man’s kidney, just puncturing the thick boiled leather he wore as protection. Astounded, and only having time to reflect because time had seemed so slow, he credited the vor and not himself.

Merrill heard the man’s grunt and sighed that it wouldn’t keep him from killing Elam. Threats to his own person were bearing down on him now, so he drew his own arming sword, a blade about the same length as the old artifact in his other hand. Falling to one knee as he saw the paired riders separating to take him together from either side, he thrust both blades up to parry those bearing down on him. The clang of steel on steel echoed in his head as he stood to complete the disarming of the riders flaring past. One of the attacker’s blades struck Merrill’s knee as it fell, fortunately the pommel and not the blade. Pain flared in the knee, and lesser pain in his bare hands from the impact of his own blades against the guards of the others. Experience had taught him how to block the distractions of such pain to continue fighting, but in addition the vor seemed to tuck the sting away somewhere, muting the pain as it had muted the sounds around him.

Just as the now empty-handed pair of brigands had flared past, his vor-assisted hearing had brought him the sound of steel grating against bone as the first rider ended Elam’s life, completing the destruction of a family at the hands of these cowardly men. Elam had told him it was the blade they were after, less than a fortnight after he’d drunkenly bragged to taverners in Alberough village about the “magical sword” that was his wife’s inheritance, the sword that must be kept hidden until it’s “destiny” revealed it’s place and purpose in the world. He hadn’t expected anyone to believe him - they already teased him about his wife and daughters, who could fight off drunken men better than he could protect the girls himself. But two strangers equipped with bows had perked up at his claims and, looking at one another with a sparkle in their eyes, gotten up to leave without finishing the ales they’d just ordered. The owner of the tavern had confirmed the story, in more sober detail than Elam remembered it. For Elam's part, when nothing had happened within a couple of days, he had dismissed his fears and forgotten them, not realizing they might bring help instead of coming after the blade themselves.

Turning his attention again to the three attackers, Merrill realized that the sights and sounds of his world had suddenly reverted back to normal. Coldly furious over Elam’s murder, he stormed past the first of the paired riders, hiding behind his horse to Merrill’s left, to pursue the other, who had chosen to retreat toward the only armed man left in their party. Sheathing his arming sword, Merrill drew his belt dagger and, with a precision whose origin lie in his anger at his friend’s murder, put it straight into the still-mounted brigand’s eye. The man died so quickly that he only slumped forward on his mount, still grasping the murder weapon in death. The slight movement failed to spook his horse, so the unarmed fellow seeking his leader’s protection now went for the blade hanging down from his dead hand. He must have tightened his grip just as he was struck though - the blade would not come loose, raising the brigand’s cringing fear to wild panic as Merrill strode ever nearer. " [Copyright 2016 Michael F Voss.]

message 2: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Matson Can't wait to read this one in its entirety. Yes, please, please put me on your "street team."

message 3: by Mike, Vor Dweeb (new)

Mike Voss | 60 comments Mod
C.B. Matson wrote: "Can't wait to read this one in its entirety. Yes, please, please put me on your "street team.""

Thank you, sir, you will be, notified upon completion of the beta !

message 4: by Michael (new)

Michael Lussier | 22 comments Mod
Myself as well. Reporting for street team! Team Crux!

message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Lussier | 22 comments Mod
Not to bogart Mike's discussion, but a few days ago I did promise to post a brief plot update on my two active stories.

I’m currently working on two adventure stories. The first takes place in 1885, the second in 1894. Both tales contain the same core of characters:

Sir Richard Francis Burton (orientalist, adventurer, explorer, master swordsman, linguist, author, and translator) is fast approaching the end of his life. Beset by illness and old age, his powerful body has begun to betray him. Yet Burton, even in his dotage, is a force to be reckoned with; an extremely clever man who is still occasionally capable of herculean feats. When the remnants of O. M. V. I. turn to him for help, Burton is flattered and eager to discover more about this mysterious Order. He will later die and return from the dead.

2nd Lieutenant Edmund Brunswick Bastable, formerly of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot. Edmund is the second son of a social-climbing Hanoverian peer. A dedicated military man, Edmund spent his youth striving to become the ultimate soldier. His ambitions are dealt a cruel blow when he loses his leg at the battle of Maiwand. Upon returning home, Edmund learns that his father and older brother have died of cirrhosis and a broken heart (respectively) and that he is now Baron Bastable. He is also handed the reigns of his family firm. The Birmingham Consolidated Small Arms Company has been mass-producing military-grade swords and firearms since the Napoleonic war. Edmund uses his inheritance to build himself an ingenious steel-alloy prosthetic. Edmund quickly becomes the public face of the BCSAC, a swashbuckling romantic anachronism.

Viktor Karl Sigismund is Edmund Bastable’s only living relative, an elderly third cousin once removed. Vic is the 9th Margrave of the (now nonexistent) Grand Duchy of Braunschweig-Ochsenbrücke. We will later discover that Viktor is a master swordsman with an international circle of powerful friends and an enormous library of materials that trace back to O.M.V.I. Because Edmund is now Viktor’s heir apparent, the crafty Margrave begins to encircle his cousin with the shield brethren who will transform him into a worthy beneficiary.

Oscar Monkhouse is a very tough, roguish fellow. A cockney ruffian of German ancestry, he looks somewhat like a shaved gorilla (albeit a quiet one, who carries himself with great dignity). Recruited as Edmund’s valet, bodyguard and wrestling coach, Monkhouse seems to be a strange amalgam of Jeeves and Karl Gotch.

Merula Hastings was the daughter, secretary and collaborator of the late Christopher George Hastings (a Professor of Medieval History at All Souls College, Oxford). After the early death of her mother, Merula was essentially raised in a communal fashion by a small circle of insane academics. As a result, she has a number of very unusual talents and skills at her command. Merula is adept at fencing, archery and Andalusian knife-fighting. She can explain the Duke of Marlborough's strategy at the Battle of Malplaquet and intelligently debate the foreign policies of Constantius Chlorus. She can recite the Poetic Edda in the original Old Norse. Merula retreated to Switzerland after her father’s death, working as a nanny for the eccentric Margrave of Braunschweig-Ochsenbrücke.

The Boswell sisters (Moski, Pobba, Bora Tovver, Bitta Tovver, Chong, Pawney and Kawley) are a larcenous tribe of female Romanichals (British gypsies).

The stories themselves are Zulfiqar and The Butcher's Tower.

Zulfiqar takes place in 1885. Shihab al-Din Shah, the heir to Aga Khan II, has decided to exacerbate the rift between Islam and Hinduism in British India.

Shah is tired of his father’s pro-British attitude, and his casual approach to religion. The young heir has secretly been recruiting soldier-spies, a modern variation on his ancestor’s Order of Assassins, to carry out his plans.

Shah has decided to eliminate his chief political rival. His men will assassinate the heir to the British throne, using the legendary sword Zulfiqar – a weapon with intense symbolic and religious significance. He hopes that this event will inspire his followers to throw off the British yoke through revolution, and establish a mystical Shia caliphate in Sind, with Shihab al-Din Shah himself as it’s leader.

Naturally, things don’t go quite as planned. Before all is said and done, the reader will experience much sword-play and skullduggery, a train-robbery in Marseille, dueling Assassins, a Binder in peril, the clever machinations of Her Majesty’s Secret Agent Sir Richard Francis Burton, and a royal assassination attempt in a Parisian brothel.

The Butcher’s Tower:

The second story takes place in 1894.

The villains are a fin de siècle secret society which dabbles in politics and Satanism. As monarchists, politicians, propagandists and magicians, the villains understand how myth and legend can imbue certain artifacts (and, by extension, those who wield them) with great power. They hope to leverage their possession of the mythical Scepter-Sword of Clovis to gain a toehold in the coming republic. To this end, they are negotiating with the three pretenders to the French throne: Prince Philippe d’Orléans, Henri d’Artois (Count of Chambord) and Victor (Prince Napoléon). The group’s aim is to (essentially, inadvertently) launch the first world war twenty years ahead of schedule.

At this point, I think I can safely guarantee that this story will contain:

- Aristocratic Belle Époque Satanism. (Blood sacrifice. Hircine black masses. Costumed orgies. The works.)

- A terrifying pursuit through the pitch-black Parisian catacombs.

- A discussion of nationalist myths, modern propaganda and the way that “relics” can blur the lines of reality ala Borges’ Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

- A few clever (?) inside references to Foreworld people and events.

- The burglary of a treasure-house in a creepy fortress-like gothic tower.

message 6: by Mike, Vor Dweeb (new)

Mike Voss | 60 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "Not to bogart Mike's discussion, but a few days ago I did promise to post a brief plot update on my two active stories.

I’m currently working on two adventure stories. The first takes place in 18..."

Okay, I'm worn out just reading these character snips and synopses.

A number of the events you include here might easily make for a lengthy story in and of themselves. That you plan to fit *all* of them into just two narratives makes a couple of things abundantly clear:

1) You, sir, are as beautifully insane as I always suspected.

2) We are in for the two most action-packed and intricately plotted Foreworld stories we have ever known.

I am proud to call you friend. I bow deeply in the "I'm not worthy" fashion.

Wait - 3) How the hell do you come up with this stuff?!

If I could throw Crux Passages right down this here well, never to be seen again, and have both of these completed tales magically appear on my Kindle, I'd do it right now!

Forge on, my friend! This is what the Foreworld was made for, even if it doesn't realize that yet. Realization of this interconnected pair of tales cannot come too soon. I dare not hold my breath, or I'll perish before having the chance to read them. That would be a terrible shame.

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