Tossing and turning the page

I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently. I go to bed and I toss and I turn, and I think about Multiversed. As a result, I’ve made a lot of progress in figuring out the chapter storylines. The prologue and chapter 1 still need some work, but chapters 2, 3, n-1, and n are more-or-less planned out in my head (where n is the magical chapter when shit goes down, yo). I even have chapter titles for some of them. It’s an exhilarating feeling, having solid plot to work with.

And, if you check my Multiversed references page, you’ll see that I’ve posted an update with Damien’s character sheet. I’d hoped to have Valerie’s revised character sheet done by today as well, but… see for yourself :

Heh heh. To misquote “Bend It Like Beckham,” when drawing, I tend to make even mosquito bites look like juicy juicy mangoes. ^^;;

Sleeplessness led to another awesome turn of events besides Multiversed progress. One night I stumbled back out of bed, and went back to my computer. I was looking for a couple of documents in which I keep spare ideas (for incorporating into a Multiversed storyline, say). But instead I ended up reading the beginning of Strength of the Fallen. Then, amazed, I read bits of Areopagus. Then Spyder, Spyder.

They were actually good.

It’s been long enough since I wrote these projects that I don’t remember anything but the barest details of them. It was as though someone else had written them, some writer who knew what she was doing.

For the first time in my life, I agree with my mother that I should try to get these things published. …Which means I should probably finish writing them. 😛

Therefore I’m proud to announce that I will be doing National Novel Writing Month again this year. This time, I will be writing the ends to the drafts from my previous three NaNo’s. This month, my prep reading will be the drafts; my homework to brainstorm endings. I’m incredibly excited for this. NaNo is the most hectic but brilliant time. I feel so alive (if tired) during it, and I’m sure this time won’t be an exception.

(And look at those pep talk guests! Holly Black, Dave Eggers and Lemony Snicket. SQUEE. :3 )

Last but not least, I’m including an excerpt of Strength of the Fallen. There are a few things I’ll change in a later draft, of course, but it reminded me of all the intrigue that’s at the heart of this story. Click to read the excerpt.

Minrei had never actually been inside the Inspectors’ lair; she only guarded its deep secrets along with another of the S’riel veterans, a grim-faced woman named Natcha, whose knee-length hair was beginning to go silver in their tightly woven braids. As far as Minrei knew, no one except shadowy, cloaked figures went in or out, flashing their azure badges as if they had practiced the flashy gesture for hours in front of the mirror. For all anyone knew, that could have been the case. No one knew exactly what the Inspectors did behind closed doors, or what implications their actions might have for the rest of the world.

It was said that the Inspectors took a regular percentage of new foundlings for study and experimentation. It was also said that the Inspectors regulated the black market trade of food and weaponry; that they were spies and inventors; that they were members of a cult that had seized power over the throne sometime after King Hiew’s death.

Whatever the Inspectors did, it was apparently enough to warrant the use of the highest room, securely placed over the precipice that marked the end of the elves’ world and the beginning of the starry lake, guarded by two of the most loyal, experienced S’riellan soldiers in the history of Tirandon. Today, Minrei was one of them.

As she reached the top of the winding staircase, she felt the air change, from the crisp air of the main hall to the stale atmosphere that reeked of books, papyrus scrolls and strong, indelible ink. And beyond that… Minrei could not help wrinkling her nose a bit at the iron-spell of protection set in the area. It smelled of rust, unnaturally sharp and disturbing if you concentrated on it, but barely noticeable to any civilian elf.

Natcha had been at the same post for so long that she had begun to smell as the platform did. Even when out in the plaza, surrounded by the winds and the arboreal scents, Minrei had always been able to smell the effects of the books lingering around her comrade’s body. Still, Natcha was a good companion – steady nerves coupled with an unusually gentle heart and a complete mastery of the heavy battleaxe.

Good morning,” Minrei greeted her superior as she rounded the corner to take her place on the other side of the heavy oaken door. Natcha looked up from shining her axe, which was already wickedly sharp, intimidating with the number of notches and fearsome paintings adorning the steel blade.

Cheerful as usual,” Natcha replied, her smile fleeting and genuine, before being buried in the careful mask of the warrioress. She bent her head to rub vigorously at a nonexistent spot, then raised the blade for Minrei’s inspection. “Isn’t she a beauty? I still can’t believe they just let me have her at the end of my service. That’s practically theft! No one makes these kinds of axes anymore, Minrei, and I think I’m the only one who has a strength blessing with such functionality.”

Still, it’s better than letting some wet-behind-the-ears lamu sauna wield her. The blessing is only as good as the strength of its user’s soul, remember?” Minrei ran an appreciative finger along the edge of the blade, nicking her finger in the process. A drop of blood swelled on her fingertip, but by the time Minrei had licked it off, the wound had already been healed – another benefit to her race. “And believe me, Natcha, they – no, we all – owe you much for all the years you spent fighting the enemies of Tirandon.”

Natcha gave a short laugh. “Don’t you start! I’ve had more than enough speeches when all I did was what I was told and what I needed to survive. Nothing more, nothing less. You should know, Minrei, you get the same treatment.”

Of course I know, Natch. And one of these days maybe they’ll give us a parade and let us retire off in the highlands instead of speeches.”

I bet that day never comes,” Natcha said, her voice serious. Minrei noticed that Natcha’s shoulders were tenser than usual, her eyes hovering nervously around the direction of the stairway. She paused, then said quietly, “We’re not at war here, Minrei.”

Yes.” Minrei kept her voice neutral, noncommittal.

So why are all the other veterans around my age gone?” Natcha raised her axe to stare contemplatively at its shiny surface. “By all accounts, we should still be alive for another few decades. But all the others just disappeared one day. They were replaced quickly; no one could tell me where they went. I just can’t help wondering…” Natcha stole a glance at the door between them. Minrei understood perfectly, and reached out to put a hand on her friend’s shoulder.

Then she drew it back and stood at attention. On the other side of the door, Nacha did the same, scrambling up from her seat on the floor to stand up straight, battleaxe at hand. The presence both had felt soon revealed itself as a shadow moving along the curved platform, then as a cloaked figure of the usual sort. Whoever it was skulked toward them, keeping to the shadows in a poor mimicry of a cloak-and-dagger participant. Before it reached the doors, it pulled the blue official card from the folds of cloth and swept past, swiftly closing the door behind it. The door creaked and then shut with a resound click. Both Natcha and Minrei breathed a sigh of relief, exchanging glances that told each other how scared they had been to be caught talking of such doubts – beside the Inspectors’ door no less! After a short silence, both women began talking again, tentatively speaking of other things – gossip and the less painful memories. The subject of the disappearing veterans was not brought up again, although it weighed heavily on Minrei’s mind all throughout their shift. During their lunch hour, Minrei stared at her ration of soup and nut cheese, unable to voice her thoughts, afraid that the wrong person would overhear and they would both disappear into the Inspectors’ laboratory, never to be seen again. If none of the other veterans came back, what chance did they have to survive?

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