*For those who are interested in my process — this was late because I’m now between 2/3 and 3/4 into the book. Since I’m not on a word limit, I don’t actually know where, precisely, but I’m now on the rising action towards the climax, where all the characters face problems at the same time. My own problem is that this is suffering from what happens when I’m writing something slowly (which has happened in the past.) I know I can’t keep every detail that has gone before in my head, and therefore some of the threads I’m trying to tie simply aren’t there. The normal thing for me to do at this stage is to print the thing out and go over it, then map out the rest of of the book in terms of what needs to be tied up/fixed and how every character meets his/her challenge. Unfortunately when I tried to do this yesterday, I found my printer had judged this a wonderful time to go belly up. It might still be under warranty, and we shall deal. However this is late, because I keep feeling I’m walking on… nothing. I’ll get this fixed before the next post. See, though my chapters get REALLY short at this point, I should be posting more than one… Well… Next week.*
*This is the Fantasy novel I’m posting here for free, one chapter every Friday. If your conscience troubles you getting something for free, do hit the donate button on the right side. Anyone donating more than $6 will get a non-drm electronic copy of Witchfinder in its final version, when it’s published.
There is a compilation of previous chapters here all in one big lump, which makes it easier to read and I will compile each new chapter there, a week after I post. When the novel is completed and about to be edited the compilation page will probably be deleted.
Oh, this is in pre-arc format, meaning you’ll find the occasional spelling mistake and sentence that makes no sense. It’s not exactly first draft, but it’s not at the level I’d send to a publisher, yet. *
The Princess And The Precipice
Running in fairyland, Nell thought, was perhaps not the brightest of ideas. Not that she knew much about Fairyland, but what Avalon knew – or thought they knew – it had occurred to her often that they were sure in knowledge they couldn’t possibly have acquired in any rational way. Thus far, they were just like Earth.
In Avalon they said that fairyland was a parasite universe. Somehow spawned when the universe had split due to some cataclysm at the dawn of time, it drifted in a time and place of its own, now touching this high-magic universe, now another, and vampirizing energy, magic and emotion wherever it went.
Of itself, it was too low energy to have a coherent organization or internal structure. Its only power, its only existence, came from the minds of men. That meant that it was a crisscrossing of ideas and thoughts, of legends and beliefs.
But before she could think, before she could realize the dangers of her location, Nell had run into the fog. Her mind was quick enough, and it had put together the voice and the circumstances of Gabriel Penn. Perhaps it was too much to be certain of this on so little, but she knew, she could feel that Gabriel Penn had ended in fairyland and that he was facing a relative of great power.
She ran, feeling hilly terrain beneath her feet and moss-slippery covering on that terrain. The cold fog seemed to sting her throat as she ran, but she knew she must help this poor man. If it was true – and she could not doubt it – that she was the crown princess of Avalon, then all of this, somehow, gyrated around her. Had she never existed, this would never have happened.
It took a few moments to realize that she didn’t even know if she was running in the right direction. The scream had stopped abruptly, and around her there was only silence, like being enveloped in cotton wool or wrapped in nothing. A doubt assailed her, suddenly: did she even have existence here?
And then she dropped.
There was no other way to describe it. Like in a dream of falling, it wasn’t so much that the ground gave out under her, as it was as if there had never been a ground – as though she were one of those cartoon characters, running perfectly fine along ground that didn’t exist, until they suddenly looked down and saw that there was no ground at all. And then they fell. And she fell.
Just as the image appeared, she banished it. Fairyland was shaped by men’s thoughts, men’s beliefs, men’s fears. And women’s too at that. And though she’d enjoyed the vintage cartoons as much as any other kid, on a Saturday afternoon, with a pack of dvds, she had no intention of being caught in a world that expressed itself through dumb coyotes and acme inventions.
She groped madly for something that would make sense of her situation and give her more than darkness and the sense of endless falling.
Stories ran through her mind – the princess and the pea, the herder of geese, but all of them were tainted with blood and pain at the heart and she thrust them away. Besides, she’d never learned them very well. They weren’t in the weave of childhood on Earth. Not anymore.
And then she thought she had fallen through a rabbit hole.
Suddenly her fall had texture. There were earthen walls on either side, and here and there roots that had grown in from above. Before she had time to blink at it, she’d fallen into a little cave. No. A little room – with an earthen roof, but a wooden floor polished and covered by a Persian rug. There was a grandfather clock in the corner, a comfortable armchair in the other, and – over the armchair – a portrait of a white rabbit dressed in Victorian attire.
Her brain rattled from the suddenness of her fall, Nell blinked at the portrait thinking that now she had gone definitely mad. Then she looked at the table, where there was a plate with something that looked like pancakes, and a little metal flask. The pancakes had a note card in front of them, of the type that was used for fancy dinner parties, but this one, instead of a name was inscribed with two words, the words she knew would be there “Eat me.” And the flask had one of those chains around its neck that liquor bottles had, and a little plaque inscribed with “Drink me.”
Okay, she knew how this story went, and she got up and approached the table, and reached for the pancake. Then stopped. From somewhere at the back of her mind came a confused recollection of things she had heard and read. Something about fairies not being able to bake, or use yeast, so all they ate was pancakes. In the story of Alice she had read as a little girl, what Alice ate was a cookie, but this was definite a pancake, looking like the unappetising buckwheat pancakes grandma had forced on her when she was going through that health food phase years ago.
In fact, there was a theory that the ufo sightings on Earth were actually sightings of fairy denizens, under heavy disguise, and probably a little maddened by Earth’s iron content. They also, inexplicably, had given the humans they wished to beguile, some form of whole grain pancakes.
Nell’s hand was almost touching the pancake, and she glared at it. Alice, after all, had been led a merry dance through her adventures, and though she supposedly woke up at the end, was it true? The multi universe had truncated legends and confused, many-world stories. In some worlds things ended one way, in some another. She would never, ever, be able to think of the ending of Little Red Riding Hood in Avalon without stomach-churning disgust.
Persephone on one grain of pomegranate had been condemned to spend half her life in Hades. What if what the stories never told was that Alice kept getting pulled into fairyland, into the mad world of upside down riddles, for the rest of her life? And… forced to marry the king of fairy?
The idea came out of nowhere, but it put a chill up her spine. She was the Princess of Avalon. The heir to the throne of a kingdom where the throne meant more than state power, and land meant more than a lot of soil where you could grow things.
She barely understood how things worked, but she knew that there had been a ritual marriage between the mythical Arthur and the land. In Avalon Arthur was not mythical and the marriage might have been more than ritual. She didn’t presume to understand it – she doubted anyone did. Like particle physics on Earth, it was the domain of a few, rarified intellects, but it still affected how everything worked. And the kings and princes of Avalon – and to an extent every relative of the Royal line, like even Seraphim Darkwater – would have some of the land mixed into their very being, influencing every breath they took, every thought they had.
In the same way, the king – or princess – affected the land. If she ate this and belonged, even part time to fairy land; if she were married to the king of fairy, wouldn’t that make Avalon a dependency of fairyland? Fairyland could attach to it as a leech to an animal, and drink its fill, till either it killed Avalon or… Or burst.
She looked at the pancake, and then said, with bright malice. “I am a princess, after all. Alice wasn’t. Shouldn’t the offering be more suited to my status?”
And before her eyes, before she could even blink, the cookie changed into the reddest, most appetizing apple she’d ever seen.
Even knowing what happened to princesses in fairytales who went about biting beautiful apples; even never having been the type of person who longed for a good, crisp apple, Nell couldn’t help feeling her mouth water.
Fortunately, she also felt a surge of anger: strong, blinding anger, affront that they thought she would be so easily tricked, and a blank rage that they dared – they dared do this to Avalon. She had never thought of it as her world before, and perhaps it wasn’t, perhaps she was just its princess. But one way or another, she belonged – and she might be their last defense.
“Ah, no you don’t,” She said. Her voice echoed, unhinged and high in the small, proper, Victorian chamber and it seemed to her that the rabbit portrait raised its eyebrows. Nell grabbed the apple, and threw it at it, hard, dead center.
The portrait exploded, bits of apple – far more than a single fruit could contain – and earthen wall flew at her, giving her barely the time to cower on the Persian rug, her hands over her head.
When she rose, shaking off dirt and pieces of apple, she was looking at a white, marbled hallway. From somewhere down it, came the sound of working machines and a voice she thought she recognized said, “No, no. It is not supposed to work that way.”