That Night

There were fairies, before that night.

They zipped over every pond in the summertime, like sparkling, rainbow stars, and left glittery dust on everything they touched. Unicorns stood sentinel in the glens, waiting unwearied for their true, untouched loves. The land’s brass-bold knights went questing, and found lovely maidens to rescue and monsters aplenty for the slaying: trolls and giants, manticores and griffins, cockatrices, and the sly, whispering ghosts of drowned girls. A dryad tended every oak, and dragons guarded the secret places in the earth. Of adventure there was no lack, if one only looked for it.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, it’s probably clear that the monsters weren’t the half of it. They were just one of the more obvious signs magic had gone out of Rothganar. The applications of magic in Rothganar went well beyond the typical combat/adventuring spellcasters such as the ones discussed in my series of posts about them. Magic was an important part of everyday life, especially in the cities, which sanitation and industry made simpler and, as a matter of fact, possible.

In smaller towns, there was often at least a circuit healer serving, and magical vaccinations were common, as well as treatment for injuries and disease. Refrigeration was available in richer homes even far out into the countryside, and nearly every dwelling was magically heated. As a matter of fact, Rothganar was generally modernized wherever the traveler went, bearing all the hallmarks of an industrial society with clean water, clean air, and indoor plumbing available for most residents.

All of that ended in a single night. Vandis’s generation, and the one before it, have borne most of the brunt of reconstructing some sort of life from the ashes of the world. I’ve been calling the magic time Before and the time afterward — well, After. Capitalized, like that. Now you know (if you didn’t before now) what I mean by it. A pat distinction for what must’ve seemed like the end of the world at the time, but there you are.

Snippet Sunday #16

A little of (yet another) short this week. I’m calling this one “Crossbow Wedding,” and it’s about Dingus’s parents.


The first one Daddy hadn’t chased off, and he was lying to her. Lying! Sweet Rose had no patience for liars, and never mind Daddy had taught her that, Mama too: not to get mixed up with no low-down liar. “You can be sure they’re more trouble than they’re worth,” Daddy would say, and go off on a story about Silent Owl, dead now, who Rhiada remembered as an okay guy basically, even if she didn’t understand all what went on between him and Daddy.

Mama usually rolled her eyes and patted Daddy’s shoulder, and later in the kitchen she’d tell Sweet Rose what she thought: “Baby, half what he says is a lie and don’t let him tell you different.”

“Which half?” Sweet Rose would say back, like always, but she never really got an answer, and it had got to be a joke between them.

Now here was this big boy—in a man’s body, but a boy—lying to her and yelling “Wait, wait!” and Sweet Rose had had enough. She couldn’t get away from him, though, not with his legs so long and hers so short.

“Wait,” he said again, walking easy beside her. He didn’t try touching her. Just as well for him. Mama and Daddy had taught her a trick or two. She didn’t use them, didn’t have to, but she knew how to make him regret it. “Look, I know how you feel. My dad is Marcus Xavier.”

She stopped, blinking. “You mean that Marcus Xavier? Like those Xaviers?”


“That don’t change it. You lied,” she said, shook her head, and walked on.

“I’m sorry. I won’t do it again, okay?”

“How am I supposed to believe one word you say?”

“You can’t, I don’t guess. All you can do is give me a chance.” He whipped in front of her then, and did she ever think about wrecking his hopeful smile! But she didn’t. It was a nice enough smile she didn’t want to wreck it, liar or no. He had a big old beard no tulon could ever grow, and it split around his white teeth that shone in the starlight.

Wallace MacNair

Wallace is one of my favorite characters in Menyoral. He began as sort of an offhand thing, but now he’s turned into a really important figure. He first appears in The Service as Evan Grady’s friendly, overweight Squire, and as a young Knight in Live Free or Die. (Yeah, yeah, spoiler, but you’d sort of know looking at him anyway.)

The thing about Wallace (a.k.a. Wally, but only if you’re Evan) you might not have considered is that he’s actually several months younger than Dingus is. He doesn’t look it, because his adoptive family is Bearded (Rothganar dwarves), and has encouraged him since he was small to grow a beard — not that it’s come in until recently. They’re terribly insular, but when the matriarch of clan MacNair found a blond baby on a hillside, they couldn’t leave him to die. Instead they brought him underground, and when eleven years later a passing Knight took shelter in one of their caves, let him go again.

Wallace is much loved at home, and much missed, but he never really fit in, and that’s why Dingus starts to trust him — but the two don’t know each other very well. Both are in for a surprise when I finally finish Hard Time.

(If you’re a regular reader of the blog you might remember a previous Snippet Sunday on the subject, and you can find that here. If you want to see a piece of Live Free or Die, take a look here.)

Tour Guide Tuesday: The Bleeding Wall

This plain stretch of crumbling coquina wall is near city center on Brightwater’s mainland. It’s the last weathered remnant of the wall that once protected the Semoul dwelling of Brightwater from the land, thousands of years ago, and the same wall that, once repaired, protected the human city after the Semoul were conquered.

As the settlement changed hands again and again, the wall remained, first maintained, then piecemeal, until all that was left was this fifty-three-foot span. Before the death of magic, the wall had seen so much blood and pain that after being the subject of a hotly-contested sorcerous duel, it began to spontaneously bleed.

In legend, the wall bled whenever there was a serious threat to Brightwater. It’s difficult to ascertain whether this is truth or merely legend, but some reported blood on the wall the night Before magic died. Whatever the fact of the matter may be, there are certainly some strange rusty stains on the Bleeding Wall and the cobbles since added around it, and these will not be scrubbed off. In addition, the wall sits in the center of a busy crossroads and has never yet been struck.

Sir Dingus P. Xavier

People laugh at Dingus’s name, in story and out of it.

They’re supposed to.

You’re supposed to underestimate him until it’s too late.

Dingus began life as my husband’s first Dungeons and Dragons character. He used to be shorter, he was a ranger/barbarian, and he had my husband’s snarky charm. I looked at him and said to myself, I must torture him. Because, honestly, I have always been a writer.

I started out with a short story, meant as a gift, and I guess I didn’t think of stopping until it was too late. I wrote part of what I thought it would eventually be as my senior thesis, and if you know who I am, please, please do not look it up. It was terrible. Present tense? What was I thinking?

Slowly, but also before I’d turned around, Rothganar grew up around Dingus. Really, after a little while, you don’t even notice the name, or at least, I don’t. Objectively I know it’s silly, but I love him so well it doesn’t matter anymore.

I could go on a lot about what Dingus is supposed to mean, supposed to be. I could spend at least six thousand more words about where he comes from. I could talk about my future plans and rub my hands together, cackling evilly. So far he’s gone from scared, sad boy to bad-ass protector of adorable monkey babies. We’ll see how far he can go. ❤

Oh. And the “P” stands for Parsifal.