I had a migraine today.
I don’t get them often, not more than two, maybe three times a year. But they really mess with me.
Sometimes they hurt, sometimes they make me physically sick, but mostly they just make me feel weird (one hand or half my face goes numb) or stupid. I can’t make connections or speak as coherently. I sometimes have blind spots, and don’t trust myself to drive.
If I had the option, I don’t think I’d choose the pain instead, but my version of a migraine is still *really* lame for me.
Anyway, the silver lining is that Jay essentially gave me the afternoon “off.” I didn’t make lunch for anyone but me, and sat at my computer for a long time. I played at starting NaNo and strung together 1,367 words for a first chapter and another 600 or so on the concept.
You wonder what a first chapter first-draft looks like? Here it is, with no editing beyond spell-check.
And, no, I really don’t know what comes next. If I were to continue writing on this story tomorrow or this month (which I *doubt* — this next week is nuts) I wouldn’t do the next scene, I’d do the next scene I know, which I estimate to be about chapter 4. After that I’m only sure about chapters ~18 and 20/21.
The upside is that this book (whenever I do get around to writing it) should be signifcantly shorter than the first– if complexity is an accurate measure.
Crying with somebody-especially two somebodies- is an odd experience. Especially when you’ve never seen them cry before.
I tried not to resent their grief. After all, he’s the father of us all.
But at least one of them will inherit a throne when the man dies, and I imagine that might offer some measure of comfort. There’s no chance I will have a velvet cushion to soffen my hurts.
Our father is far too modern and advanced in his thinking to just hand the kingdom to his oldest, though Char has a reasonably good chance of being chosen-as the most organized among us. And the youngest- good-looking and charming by anyone’s standards-has increased expectations from hearing our father’s less-than-subtle reminders that appearances mean a great deal to followers who prefer not to think.
But even with his high ideals, if it weren’t for the fact the king has no son, I doubt the people-thinking or not-would be willing to let him chose from among us.
Not that I should mind if the people let him choose or not, as I know unequivicably that I will not be chosen.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re about to say: I’m telling this story from the end of it, and there’d be no point in remembering it in front of you if it weren’t somehow marvelous, probably involving some unexpected twist in fortune. You would be right, and perhaps there is such a twist. But if there is, being chosen over my sisters certainly couldn’t be a surprise, for you’ve already anticipated it.
The story starts with crying, so it’s already drab, and lonely too, for I had no way of knowing if my sisters’ tears spoke the same words of grief mine did.
I was just growing used to their presence when an old man entered the garden, not even trying to minimize the creak of the old gate. It was good I was not alone, because Char had the sense to speak respectfully to the fellow, who proved (as I should have expected) to be just what he appeared: a man of power. Who else would have dared approach the royal daughters in their grief?
“Is there something you need of us, Uncle?” said Char, her voice not quite steady, but certainly controlled.
This, apparently was enough for the old man, and he smiled. It made my skin crawl, but that could have been the wind. I was forever forgetting to dress properly for the weather [let this come back when she changes clothes with the woodsman toward the end], and Char had sat straight to speak-exposing my bare shoulder to the indifferent wind.
“I was sorry to hear your father was failing,” the man whispered. “I came to see if there was any son of his brave enough to attempt the impossible quest that would save his life.”
“No,” said Britt, on my right. “He hasn’t any.”
“How would an impossible quest save him?” asked Char. “It is the attempt itself that is efficacious, or is it only nearly impossible, requiring both attempt and success?”
I only just resisted rolling my eyes. I was not nearly done with my cry, and the artificial intimacy created by shared misery was dissolving like a magical snare from a dangling hare. I hadn’t felt safe, but at least I wasn’t about to be broken by a fall.
I stood, the wind making me instantly regret the movement.
“Are you hungry, Sir? I was about to request some lunch.”
He barely looked at me, regarding me, no doubt, as the rest of the kingdom: an unfortunate necessity to create the perfect older and younger princesses in a set of three. Ceratinly Britt, if not Char, would never disappoint.
As expected, he did not accept my invitation or attempt to prevent my departure.
Not until an hour later, when I was summoned to join my sisters in my father’s sickroom did I think the old magician’s appearance would have any affect on me.
With the help of the squires on either side our father the King sat up against the headboard. He looked between us with watery eyes, the color drained out by long sickness and the continued demands of administering a kingdom. I resisted urging yet again that he give more responsibility to Char. It wouldn’t be an abdication of the throne, or even a promise to her, but he’d stopped listening to my arguments too long ago.
“Brittany tells me you ladies had a visitor in the garden this afternoon.”
He did not ask what to me was the obvious question of what we were all doing in the garden together. I would have liked to hear my sisters’ answer to that, as I couldn’t think how it happened.
We all nodded in answer to his question, and waited to hear what our father the King planned to make of this information.
“Britt would like to make trial of his plan.” The king’s face smiled weakly. “But I have told her that it is poor form for a youngest of three to be the first to attempt a quest.” He smiled again, looking at Char.
She stared back, unflinching.
“The magician declared the task ‘impossible’ and refused to clarify under direct questioning–”
“Of course he refused!” snapped the king, and even I felt my core freeze as I watched his face go grey with the effort. “Do you think a true enchanter would let himself be so humbled as to explain oracles to the belligerent daughters of a sonless king?”
Char never flinched. She always was the strongest.
“My king and father,” she said, her voice perfectly modulated between humility and rebuke, “If you have any lack that I may remedy, we both know you need only ask for what you need.”
The king sat straighter, though the effort forced the grey in his face to white.
“Go,” he whispered. “If you have not returned in a month’s time I will send your next sister, and if she too fails to return Brittany will have the chance to save her king’s life.”
Char nodded, only slightly more pale than usual. Brittany looked scared, but determined to have her chance. All I could think was that my own father had again neglected to call me by my Christian name, and that, yet again, I was nothing but a step between the important pieces of my Father’s plan.
Before I realized what I was doing I found I had stepped forward.
“Will your illness wait as long as all that, O King, my father?”
It took a moment before he seemed to realized I was speaking to him.
“Yes,” he said at last. “The signs and surgeons indicate I should have at least that.” I was just beginning to allow his smile to warm me when he said, “Brittany should not allow such concerns to mute her anticipation at serving her king.”
I dropped my chin and nearly choked on the sudden tightness in my throat. A look sideways at each of my sisters revealed they each were ready to do as he demanded.
Truly, I was as well. I had nothing better or worse to look forward to than being someone’s tool, and I was more than a little certain if anybody could do the impossible it was Char-protecting me in obscurity. But in the attempting of the impossible, surely…
“O King, my father,” I said, forcing the words through numb lips, “What if all your daughters traveled together for three months? Could not the energy of one combine with the experience of the other to the better fulfilling of your goal?”
“Are you trying to avoid serving your father?” Char asked, her voice dangerous.
The King smiled and I fought to control the screaming sense of unfairness.
“My sister,” I said in as stony a voice as I could manage. “I am confessing only that an involuntary service of necessity would be both less onerous and more likely to succeed if attempted in concert with like-minded and equally-motivated individuals.”
Britt stared, Char laughed, slapping me on the back, and I breathed again.