A Winter’s Tale


Can’t… do… more… stupid … *thump*

I can’t do it. Not tonight. I found myself merely skimming my usual haunts, passing over the outrage for the silly stuff. And then I gave up and played on YouTube for a couple of hours. You’ll see the fruit of that labor tomorrow.

One day, just one single freaking day, I want to leave the Mayberry Machiavellis to their own devices. I want them out of my house, off of my mind, and I want to play.

This does not, alas, lead to fruitful blogging.

I offer you instead a fragment from the first book in my series, which I shall be plunging back in to after some thorny backstory issues have been worked out. I know excerpts can be maddeningly confusing, plucked from context as they are, but I like the point Baa’raaman makes and so hopefully it won’t get lost in the sea of the unknown.

Philosophy, Winter’s Gate


“Give over, Jorvaa. You Southlanders never do find warmth here.”

Silahnova gathered his cloak in tighter and tucked his hands under his armpits. He thought that he would not be so cold, and give Baa’raaman less chance to laugh, if he turned away from the windows, but he managed less than a quarter-pivot before the view arrested him.

Baa’raaman Kiinsheo stepped up beside him as he stared and stood without speech for a moment. The windows stretched ceiling-to-floor, with no ledge beyond, giving the uneasy sensation that the room had no fourth wall, and that one misstep would send them plunging into the chasm below. The depths of that chasm were lost in mist today. Opposite, sheets of ice cascaded down the sheer mountainside, so deep and cold against the gray rock that it looked now blue, now clear green, more than white. Ages of trickling water had created thick ropes and undulations in the sheet. It looked as if billions of candles had melted, spilling their drippings down from the peak.

Silahnova wished he had another cloak. And wings, just in case.

Baa’raaman tilted his head. In a moment, the stone walls creaked under a sudden influx of heat, and the floor made Silahnova’s feet sweat in their boots. He started shivering in earnest now. Baa’raaman threw back his head and laughed, the sound bounding off the thick glass windows that seemed to radiate winter into the room despite the soraan’s efforts. “I could dip you by your ankles in a magma chamber right now and you would still shiver. Why you insisted on coming up here, I will never know.”

He clapped Silahnova on the shoulder, hard enough to make his torso lurch forward and put the panic of a thousand-foot fall into his spine. Once, a thousand feet of sheer mountainside would not have concerned him, but he had no hooves now, and regardless, he had never tested those against such implacable ice. “I wanted to see Winter’s Gate,” he mumbled through jaws clenched tight against queasiness.

“From what I hear of you, you want to see everything.” Baa’raaman patted him more gently this time and swung away. His stride was flat, fast, the walk of a man with too much to do and not enough time to do it, or perhaps the stride of a man used to having to move swiftly so as not to freeze in place. Silahnova turned in increments and watched him swoop on the drinks tray on the one clear space on his bleakwood desk. “You should have become a professional Traveller instead of a military man.”

Traveller. He was that, at least. In many ways. “Xtalea needs defenders more than rhapsodizers,” he said.

Baa’raaman shook his head over the decanter and cups he was filling. Frosted glass, of course. Everything was frosty about the Winter’s Gate but her people. “Most people can be taught to kill. Fewer can be taught to really see the world they walk through, and show others what it is. I think you may be one of those last, but maybe not.” He turned, cups in hand, one sending off more steam than the other. “I see a part of you wanting to throw yourself over that edge and take all of it into yourself, and another part of you dragging that one back. That is what tragedy is, my thin-blooded friend.”

Silahnova took the extended cup. It was hot enough he had to wrap it in his cloak to keep from burning himself, but still too cold. “Is doing what you must do such a tragedy, then?”

“Oh, yes.” Baa’raaman chuckled, and shot a look at his chaotic desk. The shelves behind it were little better, with books jumbled and papers spilling over, barely held from a fall to the floor by chunks of odd rock and other idiosyncratic treasures. “Especially when you know you must clean and organize, but doing so would take so much precious time away from better things.”

Silahnova’s lips resisted his efforts to keep them straight. Impossible not to smile, with that chuckle filling the room, and he wanted to grin. “How much of that precious time do you waste looking for things you need? You could gain more time with a little organization.”

“Yes, you military types like it all neat.” Baa’raaman snorted, nose buried in his cup for a moment. That cup was sweating, Silahnova noticed: the man’s steam had been from cold, not heat. But he would suffer a hot room for a guest. “I waste no time. If I had all of this just so, do you think I could lose myself for hours rediscovering things I had forgotten? Order is the enemy of discovery, my dear silly soldier: never forget that.” He pointed a stern finger alongside the cup. “Lose yourself just once, Jorvaa. Get away from everything, release all ties, and just be. Immerse yourself in the world instead of merely looking at it.” The finger rapped against the cup. “Obligation will be the death of you.”

Silahnova burst out laughing. Obligation had been the death of him, would be thousands of times over, and Baa’raaman would see that joke someday. “Obligations are too hard to set aside, but I appreciate the advice.”

“Stiff, stiff, stiff.” Baa’raaman shook his head. “All of you Southland soldiers, stiff as the blades you carry, but remember that soraani can bend those blades like meadow grass. If I had no kaataan, I would bend you myself.”

Silahnova nodded somberly as he could manage. “Then it is a very good thing you have a kaataan.”

“Such a loss for you.” Baa’raaman closed his eyes for a moment in mock sorrow. “You need bending, Jorvaa. I should find you the one who will do it.”

“Best not.” Silahnova shifted his grip on his cup.

“Oh, that upsets you.” Baa’raaman searched him. “Even soldiers get married. Even they are allowed such gifts, and I think for them it is more important than for anyone else. Fighting for someone you love gives back meaning. Even Ticaal believes that, for all he has no one. He fills himself with Xtalea herself. You, on the other hand, fill yourself with duty, and that is not so lasting.”

Silahnova shook his head, then had to shake the hair out of his eyes. “You are an insightful man, but you missed your strike.”

“What do you love, then, Jorvaa? Who?”

He shrugged, shifting one foot beneath him and dipping his chin down in a twisting motion. The Drusav gesture tensed his neck uncomfortably. “I am full,” he said. “Leave it at that.”

“If you a
re full, why are you walking the world searching?” Baa’raaman waited a moment. “Full men hardly drink as frantically as you do, Jorvaa.”

This ground was far more dangerous than that sheer, slick drop one breath outside the windows. Silahnova shifted back. “The curious do. You have your kaataan, but you still drink philosophy as deep as you can. We can have more than one thirst.”

“And so you bury your blade to the hilt.” Baa’raaman laugh bounded through the room again. “All right, then, we should drink. You drink from that cup, and then I will take you to have a draught from mine.”