Apologies to my followers. You’re about to see a lot more posts from me as I do the WordPress Blogging 101 and Writing 101 courses simultaneously. I’m trying to multitask, so today’s assignment is also going to count for my 1000 words for the September Writing Challenge. How many challenges can I do at once while keeping the tattered remnants of my sanity?
The first Writing 101 assignment is to freewrite for 20 minutes. I don’t know if this qualifies, exactly. It’s a very rough draft of the beginning of Chapter 21. I write my first drafts pretty fast- maybe not exactly stream-of-consciousness, but pretty close- and there’s usually a lot of unnecessary dialogue and backing and forthing until I finally get to the point. Eventually, I”ll edit ruthlessly. This probably won’t make any sense to anyone but me, since those of you following along with the snippets are only on chapter four. Suffice it to say, a lot of stuff has happened, and Prince Kendryk has gotten himself into a real pickle. Now he has to figure out how to defend his country without an army.
Rambling excerpt ahead:
Kendryk rode out early, with as many men as he felt he could spare. He didn’t like leaving Birkenhof undefended, but the danger was on his borders- not here at home. Ellyna had cried when he said she couldn’t come. First they’d gone to Kronfels without the children, and now he was leaving without her again. “I have to leave Mama here, too,” he explained.
“But you are always gone, Papa,” she said, the tears still running over her chubby cheeks.
“Not always,” he said, feeling guilty because he had hardly spent any time with her, even when he was here.”I need you to be a big girl and help your mother.” Not that Gwynneth ever needed help with anything.
Ellyna nodded and hugged him one more time.
Gwynneth saw him off in the courtyard. She looked pale and tired, like she always did these days.
“If good news comes from Zastwar, you can stop writing letters for a day or two,” he smiled at her. “And if Arian Orland gets here before I return, don’t let him leave.”
“Can I give him a piece of my mind at least?”
“All right. But don’t frighten him too terribly.”
“I’ll try not to,” she lifted her face for a kiss. “Please be careful, and hurry back.”
They headed south at a brisk walk. It would take all day to reach the nearest frontier outpost and much as Kendryk wanted to gallop,they couldn’t tire the horses.
There was nothing he liked about this situation. All the time spent poring over the Scrolls had yielded nothing that could help him, not even a single clue. He knew that Father Landrus understood more, and was probably impatient with his dithering, but Kendryk couldn’t help but feel he must have read some of the signs incorrectly. The ruler that was spoken of seemed much more sure of himself and quite a glamorous figure. Gwynneth had assured him that he was, reminding him of the swooning girls on the streets of Kronfels, but he was sure that was only because he wore the blue hat every day. Besides, they were excited about the trial, and it had been warm. Under normal circumstances, anyone could see that he didn’t cut quite the dashing figure he ought. He was too short and his nose wasn’t very manly. His brother would have been better at this.
He really needed someone to talk to. He never went on a long trip without Gwynneth or Count Faris at his side. He called for one of his officers and had him repeat the defensive dispositions at Kronfels. That didn’t make him feel better. If there was someone working for the Empress he didn’t know about, and they attacked while he was gone, his family didn’t stand a chance. What if Arian Orland really wasn’t operating on his behalf? After all, he’d attacked Kronlanders as well as Olvysians. Kendryk let the man talk as they rode. It was better than silence and his own thoughts.
They reached the first outpost within a day. Karrebad was a town of some size on the border with Podoska. The castle was held by an old baron who’d been there since before Kendryk was born. “No one’s bothered us here since my brother had that fight with Prince Martinek over the girl,” he said, before dissolving into a fit of wheezing. Kendryk wondered if he’d die on the spot. The famous feud over the girl had happened at least sixty years ago.
“We have other problems now,” Kendryk said, and quickly explained what had happened in Kronfels. He knew that Gwynneth had written the Baron at least one letter, but he appeared to be nearly blind, and clearly hadn’t read it.
The old fellow clucked and shook his head. “What in the name of the Father were you thinking, young man? No good can come of this. Back in my father’s day, when the old Duchess Benda had a feud with the Emperor, he put an end to it so fast, her family still hasn’t found her headt. Though they did get the body back after a time . . . “
“Yes, yes,” Kendryk said, rather uncomfortable with the talk of heads being separated from bodies. “This is quite different, I assure you. I have the support of everyone in Kronland this time.” The lie was out before he could stop himself. But maybe it wasn’t a lie, if Gwynneth’s letters had had any effect at all. “In any event, we’re just taking precautions. We have reason to believe that the Empress will be forced to deal with Zastwar when the treaty expires, and no one will bother us here. I just want to fortify the border, out to Sanova.”
The old man frowned. “Princess Martinek won’t take kindly to Imperial troops marching through her lands.”
“I’m sure she won’t. But I also doubt she has enough soldiers to stop a force of any size. We don’t either, but I need your help to at least slow them down, should the worst happen and we’re attacked.”
“I can do that,” the baron brightened. “Wouldn’t mind putting on the old armor one more time, though I doubt I could sit a horse.”
“Perhaps you could lead the castle defenses,” Kendryk said diplomatically. “I’ll leave a few of my men to man the town walls and train up the city watch. Please also call up your militia for training. They don’t need to be mobilized just yet, but I need them to be ready.”
“Very well, Your Grace. I can’t say I approve of all of this troublemaking, but things are awful dull around here these days. “
“I hope there won’t be any trouble,” Kendryk said.
“Begging your pardon, but for someone who feels that way, you’ve sure done your bit to stir some up. And here I thought when your brother died, we were in for a long, boring, peaceful time. Well, you just never know how these young fellows are going to turn out. When I was your age, I never even dreamed of starting a fight, except maybe in a tavern. Once, when I was nineteen, my cousin Elfred and I . . . .”
“Yes, yes,” Kendryk said. “Everyone keeps reminding me what an awful thing I’ve done. I appreciate your help all the same. It’s time we moved on to the next fortress.”