Piece 7 – The Soothsayer, The Crow, and the Truth

“That does present a problem,” Sophia repeated for what must have, Curian thought, been the hundredth or so time. She paused, tapping a finger against her chin. “I don’t suppose you’re familiar with where the pieces of the Prognosticarium landed, are you?”

Curian raised her gaze to meet Sophia, fingers still pressed hard against her temples.

“I caught glimpses of where the pieces landed,” Curian said, jaw clenched. “I don’t know the name of any of the places, and I didn’t see much of what was around.”

“Giving Dullahan a clear advantage, certainly,” Sophia replied. She nodded along to her thoughts for a moment, mouthing words too quickly for Curian to follow the internal conversation.

“Aha!” Sophia cried out, snapping her fingers for emphasis.

Curian raised an eyebrow. “Care to share your breakthrough?”

“The Soothsayer! He’ll be able to help!” Sophia replied. Before Curian could respond, Sophia grabbed her by the arm and lead her to the door. She stopped at the edge of the beach and stared skywards, a hand held up to the stars. She took off sprinting again, disappearing from view as she ran around the Astrarium.

“I’ll just wait here,” Curian said, sitting down in the sand. She stared out at the inky blackness of the ocean, its gentle waves distorting the night sky’s reflection. There was a brief flash of something just beneath the surface, but it vanished as quickly as it appeared. The brief, unclear vision was enough to make Curian leap to her feet and step back closer to the Astrarium.

After several moments of only the soft notes of the ocean and the occasional seabird’s caw from high overhead as her company, Curian heard something being dragged along the sand. She looked toward the direction of the sound and spotted Sophia dragging a small wooden boat along the beach.

Sophia paused, hunched over briefly before offering Curian a polite smile. “Could you help?” she asked. “It’s heavier than it looks.”

“Oh Gods,” Curian said, warmth spreading around her cheeks. She hurried over and grabbed hold of the length of rope Sophia was using to pull the boat. They made it to the water’s edge and stopped. Sophia looked around the night sky once again before returning her attention to Curian.

“The Soothsayer is the only source of wisdom greater than the Astrarium,” she explained. “Some say he’s as old as the day before the world was born. With some luck and what you can recall of where the pieces landed we may get an edge over Dullahan in collecting them.”

Curian nodded along as she listened. “If Dullahan gets all of the pieces…” she said, pausing. “Bad things happen?”

Sophia pursed her lips. “I don’t have the entire answer,” she conceded. “Nothing I’ve read indicated a particularly cheerful outcome if you must know.” She sighed, shaking away whatever thoughts had crept in, and forced a smile.

“Ready to set sail?”

Curian shrugged. “I don’t suppose there’s any other way?” she asked, helping push the modest vessel into the sea.

“I see you know the answer,” Sophia replied, stepping aboard. Curian did the same, and gently pushed the boat away from the shore. The water parted gently around the small boat, ripples displacing mirrored images of the starry sky above.

Sophia focused on the stars, occasionally shifting the boat’s rudder with a mechanism at the helm. Curian fixed her gaze first on the horizon, and when that proved to be too difficult she then raised her eyes to the sky. There were so many stars, and if she watched long enough she caught one as it streaked across the blackness and out of sight.

“Beautiful,” Curian muttered.

“It is, isn’t it?” Sophia replied, still focused on guiding the boat. “Only rarely do I get chances to leave the Astrarium.”

Curian glanced at Sophia, who returned her gaze briefly. “Let’s make the best of this trip. For you.”

Sophia chuckled. “Very kind of you,” she said. “I suspect there will be many trials along the way, however.”

Curian frowned. Dullahan crept into her thoughts again, and she found herself wondering about the eel she promised to deal with eventually. She was no hero, only a lowly thief who happened to occasionally come into a few silvers here and there.

“Sure,” Curian replied absentmindedly.

A wide, long wisp of a cloud glided swiftly overhead, briefly blotting out a vast swath of night where it roamed. Curian shivered, pulling her cloak tighter around herself. She opened her mouth to speak again, but stopped short as something appeared on the horizon. It was small at first, very easy to miss against the backdrop of inky black sea and star-riddled sky.

A quaint cottage on a sprawling island, surrounded by trees.

“Our destination,” Sophia confirmed, offering Curian a smile.

The boat gently glided from sea to sand, and then it stopped. Another wide, vast cloud blotted out the night, moving opposite the previous one. Sophia tensed visibly.

“We appear to have been followed,” Sophia murmured so quietly Curian could barely hear. “We need to walk swiftly, but not run, along the path. Do as I do.”

Sophia moved along, melting into the shadows of the many trees flanking the path. This was, of course, something Curian excelled at, and so she followed suit. A sudden rush of air from above struck the ground, throwing sand up from the path. Curian shielded her eyes for a moment, and that was all it took to lose sight of Sophia.

“Gods damn it,” Curian muttered. She stared into the shadows ahead, but even with her acute Dwarven vision she still couldn’t spot Sophia.

The hair stood up on the back of Curian’s neck. Something was most certainly watching her. Another rush of air–this one hot, and right behind her. Curian hazarded a glance over her shoulder. Her face reflected in the one colossal crimson eye housed in a head easily twice her size, a gigantic, sharp beak passing by her left side.

Before Curian could react, a hand wrapped around hers. She heard a familiar voice command her to run, and before she could process what was going on she had taken off in a sprint towards the cottage. Sophia held her hand tightly, pulling her along.

Another swift burst of air followed immediately by a world-shaking caw was more than enough to let Curian know the bird had taken to the sky.

“Gods, my legs could fall off” Sophia cursed under her breath as she pulled Curian along. The door was a short distance ahead, and as Curian felt the dread giving way to a feeling of relief her foot found a root that had emerged at just the right angle. Her speed was enough to both stop her sprint and take her down hard, her hand slipping from Sophia’s as she fell to the ground. Curian threw her arms up in enough time to shield herself, and felt the warm sting of fresh woulds where the stones on the path had cleaved through her sleeves.

“Key! Give us the key!” the gigantic bird called out as it swooped downwards. Sophia grabbed hold of both of Curian’s hands and hauled her to her feet. They ran, not a word exchanged between them as the deafening roar of wings crashed through the air behind them.

The door to the cottage opened abruptly, a frail old man backlit by lanternlight suddenly visible. He held a gnarled tree branch straight ahead of himself, one eye shut and the other eye being used to line up the end of the branch with something.

Sophia shoved Curian to the side, leaping the opposite way. A jet of painfully bright light issued forth from the branch and met its mark. The great bird reeled, its course disrupted. It sneered, shrieking something older than words and twice as foul as any curse Curian had ever heard, and then suddenly, with a thunderous flap of its mighty wings, the creature shot upwards and out of sight.

Sophia reached the doorway and old man first, stopping to catch her breath.

“You have our endless thanks, kindly sir,” she said.

“Thanks nothin’,” the old man spat. “My bones had said you would be getting her sooner. They’re never wrong.”

Curian smiled. “You must be the Soothsayer,” she said.

“And you’re a regular world-wrecker,” the Soothsayer replied. “Get your asses inside before Badb circles back or my bones will have been way off. Can’t very well have that now.”

Curian and Sophia did as instructed. As the door shut, Curian was sure she heard the beating of immense wings growing closer again.

Self-induced madness

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to celebrate and damn the progress I’ve made! This week feels like it has been an eternity, which is unfortunate. Has that prevented me from getting writing done? Nope. Am I particularly excited about how much I did get done? Also nope.

In Progress

A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders (working title) – It’s also waiting to be approved for posting on Authonomy. I’m also still actively adding to the page count, enjoying suggestions and edits as beta-readers provide them.

Cordelia’s (short story) – Still screwing around with plot details so this doesn’t turn into pointless rambling

Woman Seeks Vampire for Dinner and a Movie (short story) – The title exists, and the basic plot is sort of there

One Hundred Days of Blogging 2.0 – because that should be mentioned since it is taking up fair bits of time

Authonomy stuff – Presently this only consists of A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders (working title), but has the potential to turn into a means of getting more attention for other works as well, such as things that will be mentioned in the next section. This is what happened to my HarperCollins goal, by the way, as it’s the most likely way I’ll ever get published by them (even if the odds aren’t exactly in my favor)

Backburner Projects

A picture is worth a thousand of my terrible jokes.

A picture is worth a thousand of my terrible jokes.

Warpt Factor (the novel) – At some point, this means I will have to remove the existing material and use it for source bits. Sorry! However, a certain aunt has requested/demanded this happen, and since I’ve lost the original notebook full of information from Warpt Factor (the series) and I wasn’t about to just let this die, I figured “Why the Hell not?”. Keeping in mind, of course, that this isn’t going to be happening too soon. Probably. We’ll see how thin I can stretch myself before I go completely crazy.

The Lodgers (novel) – Yes, this still exists. Yes, it’s going to happen eventually. No, I’m not going to scrap it. However, even if I were to choose to work on two novels at a time (something I’m on the fence about)…this wouldn’t be one of them. It’s not really in the forefront of my thoughts, even if it is a fun bit of fiction to write. It’s also far more of a shift towards purely adult reading, what with the characters and their tendencies toward expletive-heavy speech.

The Devil Sort of Made Me Do It (or whatever the Hell I titled this) – I haven’t forgotten this one either. A good friend of mine has made forgetting it impossible, in fact. Hah.

Submitting more short stories for publication – Most certainly needs to happen. Strongly considering Cordelia’s as a possible submission for The Literary Hatchet.

These posts are actually very therapeutic, as they help put things into perspective for me. Especially on days like today, when I feel like I’m accomplishing so little. One book published, and onward towards getting a book published by HarperCollins. To that last end, if any of you have an Authonomy account and would be so kind as to read, critique, and support my novel (if you like it, of course) once it’s available, I would be immensely grateful and most assuredly return the favor.

Ninety days remaining.

The question of NaNoWriMo revisited

I hesitate to admit this, but apparently it’s almost November already. I’m fairly certain it was mid-July just last week, but perhaps time has gotten away from me. At least I didn’t somehow miss Halloween. Yet.

November means NaNoWriMo, which I’ve brought up relatively recently(ish). It’s that special kind of self-inflicted torture writers endure/enjoy for one full month, attempting to produce a 50k word novel before November wraps up. This is only appropriate as The Thanksgiving Food Coma usually spells doom for writers who have failed to maintain a moderate to intense level of daily writing discipline throughout the month. Nothing about NaNoWriMo is easy, from balancing writing against other obligations to fighting against the madness-inducing 50k final word count.

This begs the following question: why in the Hell am I thinking about throwing all caution (and reasonable thought) to the wind and giving it yet another go? It would be in the shadow of the ass-kicking, brain-draining Hundred Days of Blogging (which is so close to being over but still so far away). The holiday shopping season will be upon us too soon, and I still happen to work in a retail setting that is going to get absolutely stampeded. There’s also the small matter of my birthday happening at some point next month, which I imagine will involve plenty of its own distractions as well. I’m still considering it, though. Not a damn clue why. Brianne posed a reasonable question in response to me voicing my interest in tackling NaNoWriMo: “Do you want to torture yourself?”

Perhaps? On one hand, it could be a good way to really kick-start my currently-unnamed novel project. On the other hand, I know too well that working under pressure usually doesn’t make for my best creative moments (although, to be fair, it’s hit or miss because sometimes it lends to me producing my best work). I think the answer will have to wait until November. Around midnight, November 1st. We’ll see where this ends up from there and then.