Today was a frustrating day, with much potential wasted thanks to a lingering writing funk. The writing funk made a peculiar transition to a different issue, in which I had three short stories fighting for my attention at once. I’ve had this happen before, but I could never quite sort it out on my own. I either let it sort itself out, or I just went without writing for a while.
Forgive the moment of fanboying, but I instead took this opportunity to tweet C. Robert Cargill (best-selling author of Dreams and Shadows and Queen of the Dark Things) and ask him for advice. He’s an author, so I figured 1) he would have some pretty solid wisdom he could impart, and 2) he wouldn’t respond because best-selling authors have more important things to do. And then he responded, and I melted into a shrieking jelly-like blob of star-struck dumbness.
He suggested I write the story most ready to be worked on, and let the other two wait. This story, a mini-series just for this project, happened while I was taking a short drive earlier to try clearing my head a little. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope it proves fun to read as it was a little out of my comfort zone (the humor is more subdued compared to the fantasy aspects of this piece). It’s only the beginning so far, but I promise there will be more before long.
Day Ten – Once Upon a Time In a Village Near the Schwarzwald, part one
Once upon a time, in a little village nestled just at the edge of the Schwarzwald and beyond the reach of machine-maker’s progress, a little girl named Katja dreamed of slaying dragons. In her dreams, she was strong, her body whole and unbroken, and the monsters she battled fell as frequently as the harsh winter snows.
The dreams meant little for her, however. Each morning, when she woke, her left arm was still withered and weak, useless for even the most simple of tasks.
Katja sat on her bed, awake before she had to be, and reflected on the previous night’s battles she fought in a world where her strength was real. Her adversary had been a noxious blighter, a sort of greenish-purple dragon anyone could identify by its foul odors. The beast had been blighting crops all around Germany, and the King and Queen had called upon her to slay it.
“Not a problem,” Katja said to the King and Queen. She hoisted her mighty zweihander over her head and let out a primal roar.
Back in reality, in the present, Katja sighed. “Yes, Vati?” Katja said, her eyes still closed.
“Up and dressed, my little angel,” Katja’s father said. “Today is an exciting day. We have been chosen to house knights. Knights on a heroic quest.”
Katja leapt from her bed, a tremendous smile on her face. “I can aid them in their quest! Learn some new techniques, as well,” Katja said. “Oh, this is wonderful. I have always dreamed this day would arrive, when I could stand up and protect our village.” She watched her father, whose warm expression grew cold as she spoke.
“Perhaps you could be of other service to the knights, daughter,” Katja’s father said, frowning.
Katja let out a tremendous harrumph, one that she channeled from the spirits of despair and misery deep in the underworld, and she plopped to a sitting position on the floor.
“I am no little maiden for these men to woo!” Katja said, her cheeks a delicate red. She placed her right arm across her chest, taking a moment to glare at her left arm.
“You are a woman now, and we must provide what the knights need,” her father said. “Your mother knew this, as do I.”
Katja shook her head, her short-cropped hair swishing quietly as she did. “I will allow them bed and food here, but no knight will treat me as their prize.” Trumpets sounded from the village center, halting whatever response Katja’s father held just behind his teeth.
“We will discuss this no further,” her father said. He turned, leaving the room. Katja stood up, perhaps too quickly, and followed her father. All royal addresses were to be attended by all the trumpet-sound could reach, and so she slowly made her way outside of their spacious cottage. It was a gift, her father told her, from some duke or another who had known Katja’s mother since childhood. Inscriptions of grief and loss outlined the fireplace, and Katja hated them. The words cheapened her mother’s unexpected death by reducing it to flowery somethings to be whispered to simpler people.
Five knights stood atop the makeshift stage in the very heart of the village, the most decorated one a few steps ahead of the others. He was slender, fair-skinned, and stood with great purpose. The knights standing on either side of him, Katja thought, were far more worthy of their calling than this fool.
“Good day, fair villagers. I am Ser Ulrich of the King’s Wyrmbreakers, and we are here to liberate you from the devilish witch of the Schwarzwald!”