Tag Archive: weekly word count


Week 2, Chapter 2

Chapter Two

He handed me into the carriage and settled down beside me. The driver was a young soldier, maybe two years older than me, and he set off the moment we were seated.

I ignored the passerby and turned my attention to Kam. “When did you get back, my lord?”

“Seven days ago. You weren’t at the ziggurat yesterday,” he said.

Kam went to the royal ziggurat. Usually mama went, too, always on Father’s arm. The priest couldn’t deny Father, but he was a prissy idiot and glowered at me every time I went with him. I had no idea if he objected to me because I was Father’s bastard daughter or because I was an entertainer apprentice. I never went because of him and if Father asked, that’s what I would say. “I had studying to do.”

Kam curled his lip. “Of course you did.”

“You -” I started, but another carriage rolled up beside ours and my heart sank. My step-mother.

Our carriage came to a stop. The driver recognized her, too.

Two of her daughters were inside with her. She wore a cream and gold dress. It set off her dusky skin beautifully. Her gold and ruby crown gleamed in the morning sun. She always wore the crown, as if she needed its reassurance she really was Father’s wife. I suspected she even wore it to bed. She eyed me like I was the dirtiest mongrel she had ever seen.

“Kam, what are you doing with this – this -”

“Taking her somewhere, mother,” he said, voice mild. “I would appreciate if you didn’t stop us.”

“You must not -”

“I must do my duty, mother. Now, driver, if you please.”

Our carriage started again and I breathed a sigh of relief. She was another reason I avoided the ziggurat. The woman practically lived there.

I studied Kam and wondered at how short he had been with his mother. Only now did I see tension in the lines of his body. His face, too, his usual mask was less causal than I remembered.

“You’ve never spoken that way to your mother before.”

He snorted. “I doubt you have ever heard me speak to my mother before.”

I had, always in public. Kam was unfailingly polite, even when his mother was throwing a screaming fit.

Kam felt no need to make conversion and I was very aware of the silence between us. I didn’t say anything else, just watched the palace come closer.

The palace was large enough to see from almost anywhere; at least its walls are. Good luck trying to see past them or get beyond them.

One of the guards was always a magician. This time she was an upper journeyman; I knew because she had a gold half-moon pinned to her uniform. A lower journeyman would have had a silver moon.

She examined both the driver and Kam, to make sure they were both really real. Everyone is examined, even the Queen, so it is no insult. But higher ranking people usually get higher ranking magicians to test them, but Kam was not bothered by having a mere journeyman test him. He’d told me once that his military rank was more important than his noble rank.

She examined me too. Her fingers were cool on my brow and and I had to keep from tensing. My breath was slow and deep, like they’d taught us to relax and make the body look as natural as possible.

Her magic trailed down my body. It felt like icy drizzles of rain. I willed my stone not to respond. It became a cold hard lump between my breasts. No way to tell if it was responding to her magic or to me.

She nodded to Kam and stepped away, signaling. I slumped in my cushioned seat in relief. Thank god.

The palace was large and imposing. Made of an ugly gray stone, it gave the impression of a squatting, growling wolf.

The driver dropped us at the front steps and went back to wherever carriage drivers go.

The stairs were wide enough for only one person and a guard stood next to each step. Kam motioned for me to go first. So I lifted my terribly wrinkled rose silk dress and climbed. I ignored the guards as thoroughly as I could.

The inside of the palace wasn’t any more reassuring, filled as it was with dour stone statues and paintings of battles. Kam took firm hold of my elbow – I suppose he didn’t want me wandering around – and led me forward.

He took me up to the second floor, past filigreed balconies, the throne room, the grand ballroom and the smaller receiving room. The second floor had smaller versions of everything on the first floor and a few studies besides for the use of Father’s ministers.

Father waited for me in the small sitting room adjacent to his personal library. I don’t know if he ever used the library. Father’s wasn’t really the scholarly type and the library probably suffered because of it. But I did know he used this sitting room for informal, yet official meetings.

The room was wooden. Wooden table, wooden carvings decorated the walls, wooden slats covered the glass windows. It had pale green silk curtains, too, but the covered the slats.

Breakfast covered the table. Father looked up from a plate of sweet cakes and smiled. His smile lit up his face and I couldn’t help but smile back.

“Isi,” he said, holding out an arm.

I hugged him and his solid bulk was still reassuring, for all that I wasn’t a child anymore.

He let go and surveyed me. “Has that guild of yours feeding you right? You are too thin. Sit, eat. I had the kitchen make your favorite egg pastry and spicy bread.”

I laughed. “They do well enough.”

Now that Father had pointed them put, I saw a whole platter of egg pastries. My mouth watered.

“Kam, you – ah, my lord magician, excellent timing.”

My heart stopped and my mouth dried up. Hell and damnation. I hadn’t expected to deal with magicions. Not beyond the gates.

I looked up and found myself staring at the full crimson robes of an adept. The symbol of his rank, a large gold circle crossed by a sword, was pinned to his chest. A heartbeat later I recognized his craggy seamed face. He was the Magician Minister. I’d seen him eating through a window last night.

Oh, this was bad.

Father patted my hand. “He’s harmless, Isi. Sit. Eat. You, too, Kam.”

I realized that Kam had been watching the magician warily, like a man watching a serpent someone had told him was harmless.

“Yes, sir,” he said and dutifully took the chair beside me. Calmly, he filled a plate with spicy bread and the pepper spread.

I decided to follow his example.

When the magician decided to sit with us, I kept my eyes on my own plate and prayed no one would notice me. No such luck.

“Isi,” said Father.

I looked up. “Father?”

“This is Adept Belay. Adept Belay, my daughter Ising, my step-son Kam.”

I nodded at him, not trusting myself to speak. Tam gave one short, brisk nod.

“Such verbose children you have, sire,” he said.

Father snorted. “There is no need to be afraid,” he said to us.

I looked down at my plate.

“Yes, sir,” Kam said.

“You shall see,” said Father.

I hoped I never would.

“Isi, how much do you know about Outain?”

I blinked. Outain was a northern province, nestled inside the mountains and the way there wasn’t easy. They were an odd people and for all that they belonged to this country, their ways were supposed to be very different. Sometimes I dreamed I’d been born there, because the children of their nobility had all the freedoms of the peasants. Even their bastards. Maybe especially their bastards, because they were counted among the peasants. Here, bastards weren’t. But we weren’t nobility either. We didn’t have the freedom of the peasants or the privilege of the nobility. Most of us ended up either in the army or working as an entertainer; both places could have people from any class.

“Just that their ways are different, Father. I’ve never met one,” I said.

“Kam?”

“Their soldiers are among the best. They have no peer with the bow, the sword and the staff. They are as disciplined any officer can ask for. They lack education and are rather provincial.  In addition, they are very willful and stubborn.” Kam’s voice was cold and precise.

Adept  Belay brows rose. “You have Outain soldiers under you?”

“I have commanded Outain soldiers, yes,” said Kam.

I wondered at the differences in how they said that.

Week 1, Day 7: 267 words

I am on schedule! 267 words today! Luckily, it even seems like a good place to end a chapter.

This week’s total word count comes out to 1745. My weekly goal was around 1,400 so I am ahead. Yah for me! 🙂 Only 68000 words to go. That’s a large number and a little depressing. I am not thinking about it. I will not think about it. I will not think about it. I will not think about it.

I chose Ising for the girl’s name. Isi for short. Isi sounds vaguely Egyptian to me, which is not what I intended. But I like the name, so I am sticking with it. Ising is a combo of Lisimba and Delling. Isi from Lisimba and ing from Delling. But Isi since it does sound vaguely Egyptian to me, I suspect I will take Egypt’s landscape and modify it for my purposes. That is, to make the land fit the plot (what there is of it so far). But I don’t think I will use Egyptian culture, mostly because I know nothing of it and at present I can up make up whatever I feel will suit best. Because it is the still the beginning I am not really locked into any particular type or style of mythology. I will figure that out as I go along. I might use some modified form of Egypt’s ancient myths, though.