Cross-posted from my Nano Journal, to let folks know I'm still at it. Readers are always welcome, especially if you've already finished your novel. I'm going to be happy for some constructive criticism pretty soon...
This 2522 word chapter was a bear and a half to write. I know I'm leaving out description of the scenes in an effort to write the bare bones, and rather than pad this chapter, I opted to just get the story line moved to the point where I can get to the big battle. Because Beline isn't going to be there, (or is she?), the tale will be told from the perspective of Lightfather Rand'l in a journal he kept.
It's the first time I'm doing a major switching of point of view (POV), and while it's probably awkward, I'm still going to use it because this whole book is being written by Beline as an old, old woman, and so she is going to depend upon other sources than her own memories to tell as much as the tale as possible.
Only 11,417 words to go. I wrote nearly that much in the first incredibly long chapter that took two days to write, so if you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I'm on a roll.
So here it is, folks,
SWORDBOUND IN THE LIGHT
For once in my life I had to sit back and let others do for me. I’d like to be able to say that I realized that the Lord was teaching me humility and reigning in my pigheaded stubbornness to do everything myself, but it wasn’t until much later that I thanked Him for guiding me thusly. At the moment I cursed my body for not healing fast enough, and my sword arm ached to heft my blade in the Gilrand Hills, to the point where I would sob myself to sleep night after night in frustration and worry for my son. My mother, wise in all things, gently guided me toward recovery, ignoring my outbursts and encouraging me to heal in both body and spirit. My little daughter took part in my healing by visiting every morning, and when a passing band of musicians left behind a puppy, Luxia brought him with her on an ironweed leash that she had crocheted herself. It was difficult to know whether she was prouder of that leash or the pup, who followed her with adoring enthusiasm and tail a-wagging.
Within a tenday I was up and about once again, only this time with some strength restored and my faith renewed. I started each day on my knees, lighting the braziers in the chapel, and even officiated at morning services as I was able, but only when I felt up to it. Jack’l had reminded me that even warriors pace themselves and conserve energy, and it was with true gratitude that I thanked him for his advice.
And by the time nine riders from the marches arrived with word of the initial battles two tendays later, I was nearly my old self again. But my father and husband had both written to tell me that I served better at home, protecting the two princesses and Castle Griffin. As the Swordbound left my chamber I broke the seal on the first letter, which bore the sun disk imprint of Lightfather Rand’l’s signet.
My dearest wife,
The Light Incarnate bless and keep you Beline. The Army of Light has at last reached the Gilrand hills and are encamped at the base of Mount Rand. Thus far we have engaged the enemy twice, and from one of the demonspawn prisoners we learned of a secret passage into the mountain. To our amazement and eternal thanks to the Lord of Light, we stumbled upon but were surely guided to a secret chapel, which had been sealed for millennia. It was untouched by the Dark, for it did not reek of evil as did the other passages we had traversed. Your father and I knelt in thanks and lighted the braziers we found, with incense as strong and fresh as if it had just been perfumed and compounded.
When I laid my blade on the altar with your father’s, it floated into the air and came to rest, upright with point down on a marble tile in the center of the altar, then vibrated softly in a sweet tone. We were, of course, quite amazed and when I removed the sword from its place, the tile sank downward and slid under the top of the altar, revealing a hiding place. In there I found a book, bound in azure milkweed cloth, with a silver sun emblazoned on it.
The Light guides us, Beline. The book has revealed complete maps of the warrens and passages under the mountain, as well as spells and abjurations that can be used to sanctify those who have been defiled by the Dark Lord. Your father says that older priests used to tell of a lost grimoire of Mount Rand which told how it had once been a volcano from which had belched the evil of the world, and how it had fallen upon the worldly brother of the Light Incarnate, making of him an incarnation of the Dark itself.
When this happened, the Dark Lord took his followers into hiding within the cooling volcano, and they built an underground fortress. As you know, we’ve always known that there was such a place, but the location was lost in time, and scholars had guessed that it was far away in the northern mountains, not here where an insignificantly sized mountain stands among lesser hills.
So now we have a guide, and Light be praised, we also have the lost spells and incantations which will allow us to redeem the darkspawn where it is possible to do so and turn them once again toward the Light. This means, of course, that when we find Herb’t we can undo any damage that has been done to him, Light willing.
I pray that this information, these blessings bestowed upon us, will assuage your grief over the abduction of our son. The Defiler will keep him safe, for he hopes to use him against us. They do not know we can reverse any harm they do to Herb’t, body and soul.
Worry not, Beline. Your father and I remain surrounded by the best and noblest souls in the Empire. We are empowered by the Lord of Light Himself, and Light willing, we will shortly be victorious in our quest to scour out the evil in Mount Rand, and rescue our boy. Pray for us Lightmother. We will be victorious, and the Dark Lord shall most assuredly be returned to the hell he has carved out for himself in the deepest bowels of the earth. And we shall once again begin the work of entombing him and sealing his powers so that he cannot again see the light of day or tread upon the lands of those who love the Light Incarnate.
You serve the Light far better at home guarding Castle Griffin, for surely the Darkspawn will attempt to distract us by attacking those places within the nine kingdoms that have been left by the warriors who serve the Emperor here in Gilrand. The nine who bear these letters from your father and me have orders to stay at Griffin. There is one noble Lightsworn Swordbound from each kingdom. They have all asked for the privilege of serving under your command, Lightmother.
Be safe. May the Light Effulgent shine upon you and all at Castle Griffin. Know that we will save our son and heal him. When next you see your father and I, we will have Herb’t with us, Light willing. Pray for us, and be wary of all who come your way, lest the Dark gain entry and do damage to life and limb.
My love everlasting to you, your mother and our daughter. In the Light Eternal, I remain,
Lightfather Rand’l Dawnstrider Halftruthslayer
The relief I felt as I folded up Rand’l’s missive was nearly palpable. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I set aside my father’s letter without reading it and sank to my knees, giving thanks to the Lord of Light for blessing me and my family, and renewing my pledge to do all within my power to serve Him in all things.
That was the autumn I learned not only patience but trust, under the guiding hand of the Light Effulgent. The nine warriors who had come to Griffin from Gilrand were a pious band, all of them dedicated to the Light and well experienced in the way of the sword, as the Swordbound always are. Luxia and Perrit, her constant canine companion, managed to make it down to the arena at least once a day where she would cheer on her new friends among the nine Swordbound as we exercised our sword-arms and practiced varied tactics of infighting and hand-to-hand combat. Luxia asked for and was given a small wooden practice blade, and the youngest of the nine, Lilana of Masory, took an instant liking to my daughter and vice versa. By tradition, all children are encouraged to learn sword-craft whenever they professed an interest in it, no matter how young they might be, for it is not up to us, but the Light’s will that they might come to be sworn and bound by the magic of Light to a blade. I had the sense that my daughter only did so out of a desire to be with Lilana rather than to walk the warrior’s path, but time would tell if she were to take up the sword. But she was a quick study, my daughter, and Lilana a patient teacher, so it was with no little pride that I watched as Luxia learned the basic attack blows, parries and ripostes with a natural grace and timing that had come from her love of dancing.
At least once a tenday a rider came from the front and returned with our missives and reports of the status of the nine kingdoms. Shortly before the last war, my father had recommended the Empire use pigeons to send messages between kingdoms and demesnes, and the system worked very well indeed. Each castle had a rookery; we sent frequent reports to the front and to each other so we knew reports from pigeons and riders matched and hadn’t been intercepted and altered.
As the battles raged, and slowed down to smaller incursions underground, with hand to hand combat in tight spaces the order of the day, I ached to be there, searching for my child. Ache turned to pain and frustration to tears as patience was slowly ground into my soul. I knew that my place was here at Castle Griffin on a conscious level, but my soul ached to be there. Lilana, wise beyond her years in the way of the natural born Swordbound, came upon me in tears one day.
Instead of turning away, as I might have done, not wanting to intrude, she followed her instincts and sidled up to me, putting an arm around my shoulders. “Lightmother, you weep for your son?”
I resisted the urge to scrub away my tears in annoyance at having been interrupted, and sighed loudly. “Yes and no. I worry as always, but some days I cannot stand the urge to be there, using my Sword of Light to rescue him instead of training warriors here.”
She nodded in understanding. “Sometimes we must go where the Light directs, Lightmother Beline, even if it is not where we wish to be. Would the mother’s instinct to go through anything to regain her child perhaps make you do foolish things?”
“No. I don’t…I mean…” I stopped and thought about it. I hadn’t considered the possibility that I would let mothering instincts overtake my warrior’s training. “You know, Lilana, I hadn’t considered that, truth be told. You’re right. There’s a real possibility that I might simply go forward in blind instinct rather than choose the warrior’s way. Light preserve us, you’re right dear girl.”
“And…” She prompted me to continue the line of thought.
“And I might do more harm than good in my present state of mind and emotion. It’s why I haven’t healed more quickly. It’s why all the signs, situations and prayers have practically forced me to stay here.”
I pulled the girl to me and hugged her hard. “The Light Eternal has given you this insight, my daughter, in order to calm my spirit, my stubborn spirit.”
She blushed and smiled. It just came to me, seeing you leaning against the pillar, quietly weeping. Tears won’t bring him back any more than you can. You’re not supposed to bring him back. Leave this to your husband and father, your uncle and the Emperor. Trust them to accomplish Herb’t’s rescue and be here when and if you are needed to defend home and kingdom.”
“Are you always this wise, young Lilana?”
“One little bit of insight doesn’t make me a priestess, Lady of Light. Just a tiny tool in the hand of the Light Eternal.” She grinned. “Most of the time I’m dim as an early morning torch. I guess when I ask the Lord of Light to use me for good, sometimes He really does use me.”
“And bless you for asking and acting upon the promptings of the spirit, Swordbound. You’ve helped lift a huge weight from my shoulders.” I patted her arm then wiped my damp face. “What do you say to a little late morning tea and apple-bread?”
We were drinking our tea and picking at crumbs on our plates when Lilana cleared her throat and said, “Lightmother, it is said that after the war, you and Lightfather Rand’l will stay in the Gilrand hills and build an abbey to oversee the binding of the Dark One.”
I nodded. “Yes, the Archbishop has been wanting this for some time, and we would have already left to begin the building of the new abbey if the Dark hadn’t made this final incursion on the Empire.”
“Well, it’s a worthy task. You’ll be a martial abbey, won’t you? I mean, with lightsworn as well as lifesworn Swordbounds.”
“Yes. And there is an orphanage still there which we will incorporate into the abbey with a school so that we can train not only the foundlings but the sons and daughters of the nine kingdoms to be warriors of the Light.”
“And you’ll have need of weapons masters and teachers of swordsmanship and general arms as well as teaching priests and priestesses?”
“Of course. Are you volunteering? We’d love to have you.”
“I’ve been considering it. Seeing how quickly the little princess learns, and watching the joy in her eyes has touched my soul. It is a reward that money cannot buy, this passing on of what one knows to another. Since my sword-binding I have prayed for a path to follow. I thought it was going to be to fight with the army of Light at Mount Rand, but then my kinsman, King Renal’d, ordered me to come here and all the way here I fumed at the task and wondered why I had been sent away when I so wanted to use my blade for the battles. It seems that the Light had a little patience to teach me as well. Now I think I know why I’m here, and where I’m going.”
“Me as well. Nothing happens by chance. We were meant to have this morning’s chat so that we can help each other find our way. I thank you for speaking when the spirit moved you. Not everyone listens to the promptings when they come, or even recognizes them as such.” I reached across the narrow plank table and laid my right palm against her forehead in blessing. “The Lord of Light be with you now and ever,” I chanted.
She bowed her head and replied, “And with you Mother of Light. Be it ever so.”
My daughter ran into the kitchen, dragging an exhausted puppy behind her. “There you are!” she scolded, with one fist on her hip, “we’ve been looking for you just everywhere!”
And that is how the Lady Lilana came to the Abbey of the Sword.
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