Sunday, October 31, 2010

Novel in Progress: The Fey Kingdom

This beautiful image, titled "Pool of Potential", was created by Michael Orwick, and is posted at

I have started work on a fantasy novel. The plot elements come to me in snatches and spurts.

The first chapter introduces a brother and sister in their teens. They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of "the tale-spinners", who are wandering bands of storytellers from the four points of the compass.

It is considered an honor to be selected to join a band of these storytellers. Merilbeth, who loves to listen to, as well as tell, stories, dreams of joining their ranks one day...

Chapter 1: The Tale-Spinners of the North

Every spring they came down from the mountains, striding along like lofty, proud trees. Some carried harps on their backs, to accompany their storytelling. Others, of a more practical bent, carried bows and quivers full of arrows, although game was scarce in the higher ridges at that time of year. All of them used walking staffs, as the wizards did when they deigned to venture forth among mere mortals.

It was the spring of my seventeenth year in the world when at last they arrived in our valley.

Erik was the first to see them, from his dangerous perch on the tallest tree, far from the outskirts of our village. We could hear his excited shouts as he ran toward us, we who sat, patiently – and, in my case, not so patiently – washing and drying clothes on the riverbanks.

“The tale-spinners are coming!” His voice, strong and sure for a lad just turned thirteen, flew across the distance, echoing, it seemed, throughout the valley.

I had to stifle a sudden rush of envy, and was unsurprised by it. Pulling irritably on the long skirts that had inexplicably snagged on a dry branch, I plunged my hands yet again into the cold river water, scrubbing until the pain lanced up my arms, all the way up to my shoulders.

“Merilbeth!” His voice was much closer now.

“Merilbeth!” My irritation grew as he repeated my name, his voice dancing like pinpricks along my nerves. It was not often that my brother affected me thus.   I glanced up in his direction with what I hoped would be a studiously bored look.


His excitement was, I had to admit, infectious. I tried to stifle a grin as I looked down again and continued scrubbing, pretending to be totally engrossed in my work.

“Didn't you hear me?” He panted, trying to recover his breath.

I said nothing. Not to be discouraged, as was his wont, he leaned down over me, and shook my shoulder.

“What, are you not excited? The tale-spinners are here! I saw them myself! You’ve been waiting for the news for months, have you not?”

I remained silent, although I could no longer hide my grin.

With an exasperated sigh, my younger brother sat down next to me.

“I see your smile, “ he announced triumphantly. Then he frowned as he went on. “And yet, you do not seem happy at the news.”

Sighing, I stopped my scrubbing, and turned to look at him. My arms ached, and I welcomed a rest.

“I heard you, Erik,” I said finally.

“Then why….?” He pressed, but stopped as I abruptly glowered at him.

“Don't you see?” I hissed at him, my poor, gentle brother.   He took no offense, laughing as he cuffed me playfully on the shoulder.

“It is not your fault, of course,” I continued, regretting my behavior at once. "You don’t have to wash and dry clothes at the river every week, instead of looking out for tale-spinners.”

“Oh,” he replied, laughing once more. “Were I a female, I think I would detest this chore, also.”

I joined in his laughter. He certainly understood far more than our parents did. They held traditional expectations for their only daughter.

“But are you not happy that they have arrived at last?” His voice rose once more, and he pulled on my arm, gently. “You always used to ask and ask when they would appear, when I was smaller. Don't you remember how you would tell me some of their tales, at night, in the rafters, when you thought no one would hear?”

I had a sharp intake of breath, and my eyes widened in alarm. “And did they?”

He smiled. “No, f do not believe they ever did. But I have always wondered how you were able to store as many tales as you did in your memory. You never forgot a detail, either.”

I shrugged, blushing a little. I was so unaccustomed to praise of any sort.

“I don’t know…the tales were all so wonderful, so full of adventure, that I could not help but remember them.”

He grinned suddenly, and started to pull me to my feet.

“Come, let us go meet them before they enter the village!” he cried out.

“Oh, but I have yet more clothes to wash!” I exclaimed in alarm, fearing to hear Mother’s sharp tongue if I left my dreary work.

“Forget them!” he cried out with unchecked enthusiasm. “Were you not complaining about having to do this stupid chore? Come! If we hurry, we shall catch them before they turn the bend in the river!”

I was on my feet now, excitement rising. I was also ignoring the amused stares of the other girls who lined the riverbanks.

“But my skirts…” I mumbled, feeling uncomfortable even though I was not acknowledging the tittering of even my best friend, Caitlin.   I was going to receive a horrible scolding, not to mention the unending teasing of the village girls and women.

“Here, let me help you hitch them up so,” Erik said, fairly dancing around me. As he spoke, he began expertly tucking my voluminous skirts in, all the way about my waist.

I stood there, laughing, all my boredom forgotten. My brother always had this effect on me. He had always been this way – completely carefree, and yet, always mindful of others. He was, as my father always said, a lad with a good heart.

Erik tugged on my arm again, and I felt no more misgivings. We ran away from the river, and I ignored several cries of “There she flees, the lazy one!” and “Scolding tonight!” Caitlin’s voice joined them, too: “You can hide at my house!”

I put all my heart into the running. It was when I ran, which wasn’t often now, that I felt most free. It was totally exhilarating. My skirts forgotten, I ran and ran, trying to outstrip my brother, while he, laughing, also put his best into what had turned into a race.   I was proud of the fact that I was the fastest girl in the village. Long ago, I had warned them all of a coming horde of Southern trolls, whom I had seen from the top of one of the hills that ringed the valley.   The village elders had praised my courage, but had warned my father that I could not be allowed to roam the hills and woodlands like a boy any longer, lest any harm befall me.

That meant no more rambles with Erik, pretending to fight against the warriors of the tribe of Perelgan.   I had been fourteen at the time, and, in that summer, became a woman, as my mother put it, when the flow began…

I pushed all such thoughts out of my mind as I ran, free as the wind, light as the deer my father hunted, much to my eternal dismay.   I was the fleetest of maidens, I assured myself smugly. I was also the fiercest of warrior princesses.

We came upon them just as they rounded the bend of the river. The slanting rays of the sun sliced through the tall oaks bordering the bend. Birds flapped off the treetops in alarm as the strangers wove through the dense bushes, stepping onto the well-trodden trail that bordered the river.   They splashed, unheeding, through the shallow water by the bend. The river ran deeper as it meandered close to the village.   There were five of them. Three looked to be men beginning their middle years, one looked older than that, and the fifth was, I calculated, about my age, or slightly older.

It was the fifth tale-spinner that I found beautiful. He was quite tall, broad of shoulder, and his gleaming hair, black as the depths of a moonless night, hung clear to his shoulders.   His eyes pinned me to the ground, and I stopped in mid-flight, all the breath knocked out of me. Those eyes were the color of night, as well, and gazed steadily at me, unblinking.

They were still splashing across the river as we approached them. Erik turned back to look at me, since I had stopped, and he had not, racing all the way to the river’s edge.   I could not move, for some reason. My cheeks felt very warm, and I did not know why. My whole body, too, suddenly felt quite warm, then cold, then warm again. My breathing felt constrained, yet agitated.

“How fare you?” Erik courteously called out to the strangers, temporarily putting me aside, although I knew he was puzzled by my behavior.

“Well, my lad,” the oldest called out, “glad we are to find you. We were not sure our map would steer us true, but, thanks to our good friend Alden, we have found your village.”

He gestured to the youngest of them, he whose eyes had already enthralled me. My heart jumped, and I bit my lip in exasperation. Too late, I remembered my hitched-up skirts, as the warmth flooded my face. It would be too obvious if I were to pull them down now. So I stood there, mortified, unable to move.

Perhaps he was the one who had been prophesied for me at the time of my birth.

It could not be! I was going to grow up to be a tale-spinner myself. Free as the wind and the elements, I would let no one bind me in marriage. I would roam the face of the earth, traveling from village to village, from township to township, spinning my tales. No one and nothing would own me. I had sworn it upon the yew tree I had found in the forest, the summer after I became a woman. Such oaths were binding, our seer, Magda,  had always said. Of course, she could not know that I was defying her prophecy. I was determined to outwit it at any cost. I was even prepared to defy the gods.   I would be ever free…

They were across the river now, and drawing closer to me.

“I am Erik”, my brother proclaimed, then turning to me, shyly, yet proudly, added, “and this is my sister, Merilbeth.”

My eyes were riveted on Alden, as his were locked on mine. He smiled then, and that smile was my undoing. I smiled at him in return, only at him, as if his companions did not exist. Somehow I managed to forget my skirts, still bunched up around my waist.

“Is your village prepared for our stay?” The eldest man, whose short, black beard had glints of silver, glanced briefly at Alden, and then at me, a smile playing about his lips.

“Oh, yes!” My brother could not contain his excitement. “We have been ready since the first thaws began!”

The whole group laughed at this, and I liked them all at once, but, I must admit, most especially Alden.   They all came forward, and the eldest man laid a kind hand on my brother’s shoulder.

“Well, my lad, lead us on to your village, then.”

I turned away with a shy smile, my heart humming as we set off for the village. I swiftly straightened my skirts as I walked.


  1. Maria, I just love your taste in books... I just had a flick through your blog and these are just the type of books I would buy!

    Anyway, I love this snippet of your work, and from what I have just read, I would definitely want to read it when it's complete.
    I am already very curious about the destiny of the band of 'tale-spinners' ....

  2. Hi, Cathriona!

    Thank you so much for your lovely comments!!

    I'm so glad you like the books I have featured. I'm also happy you have enjoyed this, the first chapter of my novel, which alas, I haven't been working on... But now that I have some encouragement, I'll have to continue!

    It's really nice to find a kindred spirit! I have already followed you back, and will stop by later on to comment. Thanks again for your encouraging words!! <3


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