*Yes, I know it’s another short chapter, and I promise to speed this up after the New Year’s. I have the entire book in my head, but I can only spare so much time to it just now because deadlines.”
*You guys know we talked about doing a shared world. We went with a whole continent so that Dave can have his jungle and I can have my big city with diners. We’re working on a contract which we should have in a week or two (and yes, we’ll post it for your enlightenment although we haven’t decided yet if anyone not in the group can play. OTOH if it’s very successful, we’ll inevitably enlarge it. For now, here’s the eighth chapter of Elf Blood, book one of Risen Atlantis. And for now it is ©Sarah A. Hoyt 2013. All rights reserved. Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page. You do not have the right to alter it. You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, email Goldportpress@gmail.com. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is assuredly imaginary.*
For previous chapters, see here.
“A month ago,” Ardghal Parthlan looked up and I could see him clenching his teeth together. “I found my wife with Flaith– With my brother.”
I opened my mouth to say something clever, but the words wouldn’t come. “Found how?” I said at last. “I mean—”
He shook his head and took a vicious bite of his sandwich. It looked like he was doing it to relieve his spleen as much as as anything else. “Trust me,” he said. “There was no– No doubt. I came home from a business trip my father had sent me on, and I found him and her in—” He swallowed, and seemed rather like someone rather nerving himself to run through a patch of flames. He knows it will hurt, but if he runs fast enough, he will survive, and something at the end is worth is—or he needs to get to the other side. Like that he looked all elf, all cold and glinting determination.
But then he looked all elf anyway, and even his glimmer of power was untouched. Had his mom, herself, been Un’uruh?
If I were going to take this case much further – and no one had yet convinced me I should – I would want to look into his mother’s antecedents. How to do that was something else.
“I came home from a business trip, and found him and her, naked, in my room… our room. Chara’s and my room. It was—” he stopped and his face showed, in quick succession what it was, shock and revulsion and an unbelievable sense of betrayal, like a child who approaches his mother for a treat and is instead given a slap. He might not be able to put it into words, but then he didn’t need to put it into words. It was all there, in that naked, unguarded look. I asked, “You had no idea anything was going on between them?” but it wasn’t needed, and when he shook his head, it wasn’t a surprise.
“What are your relations with your siblings? I assume,” I remembered Tessa blond and lank beauty. No wood-elf blood there. “That your sister is your full sister and Flaithri your half brother?”
He nodded. “My mother, I presume, was given the … You know, the food that makes you part of the hill, and as such, she could have gone on living in the hill, pretty much forever, barring accident or injury. At least I assume so, because she ran away with my father when she was in her twenties, and lived twenty or thirty years with him here – I’m not absolutely sure on the chronology. We… Elves don’t talk about time.”
I knew that well enough, the permanent glittering summer was in part a decision not to talk about the world as it existed and as it went on. It was worse among wood elves. They didn’t want to admit any time had passed, or that Atlantis had once been submerged fathom deep in the waters, leaving the world almost without magic. In fact, if you referred to that time, or asked how they’d survived – which human scientists had long ago determined had been through the creation and maintenance of a magic bubble – they would look at you blankly, and then talk again as though their magic groves had remained through the centuries, giving the impression of un-passing time.
“Anyway, she had me when for a mortal she would be quite old, and then three years later she had Tessa and—” He twirled a piece of bread in his long, well-manicured fingers, until it became a tiny, hard, round pellet. “And she died from it. I remember her only very hazily. She looked a lot like Tessa, but she was… softer? Or perhaps– I don’t know how to put this, but the word that comes to mind is stronger. More solid. Anyway, Father knew there would be problems, and so he sent to the forest elves for a midwife. One who specialized in cross breeds. But it didn’t work, and mother died, and then the midwife stayed on to look after Tessa, and my father married the… midwife, within six months.” Ardghal bit his lower lip, suddenly. I got the impression he was about to say something else about his step mother or his family, but nothing came out. He shrugged. “She had Flaithri three years later, when I was six, and I think– But no, I have no right to say that.”
I let it pass. There really was no point prodding his sore spot. The more I heard about the Parthlans, the less I wanted to be involved with them. Instead I said, “This is all fascinating, but I fail to see what I can do in the matter.”
“Please,” he said. It was the first time I’d heard an elf say that word, and even knowing he was only half-elf it struck me as shocking. “Please. I need you to find out how to– I need you to find out who killed Chara. I’m afraid for Tessa’s life. And… and my own.”
The frustrating thing about these once a week tastes is that it seems like we’re deeper into the book than we really are, and still floundering about. Or perhaps we’ve forgotten crucial details about this sacrifice. Obviously it must be done ritually, on a certain date, and possibly a certain place, since Chara’s bloody end doesn’t count, or at any rate hasn’t removed Ardgargle’s anxiety.
If you are finding the fiction difficult next week, I wouldn’t mind if you just posted a data dump on the ritual, which you might fit in elsewhere, in the final draft.
The problem is that the snippets have been too short. I’d like to finish this in six months. BUT not while trying to finish the SF for Baen.