Naheel Queen of Heaven

Naheel is the Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Gods. She reigns from her Golden Throne in a palace of the Garden of Paradise and keeps the sun on its course through the sky. Her consort is the ascended mortal Ciregor, who was killed in Her service and elevated to stand at Her side.

Though She’s the Queen, Naheel isn’t regarded or worshiped as a mother goddess. She’s most strongly associated with purity and cleansing, with sanctification and holiness. Young virgins make offerings to Her. Traditionally She’s most popular in Muscoda (in conjuction with Reeda, the goddess of earth), where there are endless fields for Her to beat down upon, but humans call Her name wherever sunlight touches.

Her association with clean souls and bodies tends to lead Naheel’s churches into doctrinal rigidity and legalism. Many of Her religious orders lean toward the ascetic, and Her official church places an emphasis on maintaining a clear slate of sins. Atonement and penance are important throughout Her teachings.

She appears as a tall, beautiful woman, usually blonde, on a throne of gold, though some interpretations have Her as a redhead. She is almost always depicted in lush, fire-colored robes, sometimes wearing a wimple beneath Her crown, which is gold.

Father Krakus Bartowsky

Krakus is a major character in Saga of Menyoral. He’s one of the co-heads of the Order of Aurelius, and he’s provided the reader’s eyes and ears on Fort Rule, the seat of military power in Muscoda.

Originally, I’d planned for Krakus’s death in Hard Luck, but he kept shouting at me from the bench, tempting me with everything he could do. I’ve never been more pleased about deciding not to kill someone. Not only is Krakus charming, but his character arc has enriched the story of Menyoral as a whole, and he provides an excellent brake on his brother in the cloth, Lech Valitchka.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but when we first meet Krakus, he’s the very picture of a venal monk. He’s meant to be a warrior, but spends more time eating than training. Krakus starts out over fifty, overweight, and has to have his ceremonial armor constantly adjusted or remade to fit his gut. He doesn’t follow the proscriptions of his order’s Rule at all, and even has a mistress in spite of the celibacy requirement. When he begins to see Lech more honestly, he takes his first steps on a better path. I find his struggle for redemption immensely rewarding to write about.

Krakus is the first son of a farming family. He was born Before magic’s fall, but in the famines that followed soon After, the Bartowskys were faced with a choice. They took twelve-year-old Krakus to the Order of Aurelius, where he would at least be assured of food. He was immediately paired with orphaned Lech, and the rest is history.

No, literally his story. I’ve begun one about Krakus and Lech. It’ll probably be a little meatier, the length of Live Free or Die or longer, and I think I’ll have it ready early next year. In the meantime, if you haven’t met Krakus, I hope you will, and I hope you’ll love him like I do.

See you tomorrow!


Tour Guide Tuesday: The Royal Menagerie of Brightwater

Tour Guide Tuesday is pretty self-explanatory. On Tuesdays I’m going to take you to a place inside my head playground, which is Rothganar, and let you climb around in it and get comfortable. Welcome to the column and welcome, this week, to the Royal Menagerie of Brightwater.


It’s bigger on the inside. Try to remember that when you’re crawling the halls, gazing through windows at the manticores and tigers. It’s bigger on the inside, and what seems to make sense from the outside doesn’t apply here. The entire Menagerie is housed within a fold in the Real, and if you’re expecting the layout of the place to make Real Sense, you’re out of luck. That said, if you can put up with a little nonsense and follow the signs, the Menagerie is well worth the visit.

Set in a square marble building on what appears to be a tiny island, the Menagerie is actually composed of the glade of Galbatorix the unicorn. Owing to an ancient pact with the royal family, Galbatorix will allow non-virgins to enter his glade; however, it is strongly advised that they do not attempt to approach the delicate, cloven-hoofed creature lying proudly on his crimson cushions in the very last hall. He is lit perfectly with mage-lanterns, as befits a fittingly vain fellow like he is, and white as snow except for his hooves and horn, which are purest gold.

The collection of magical creatures in the halls of Galbatorix’s glade is second to none. The more dangerous creatures must be viewed through magically-treated glass, and the intelligent ones are provided with black velvet curtains, which they may use to preserve their privacy. Cyprian the faun has not drawn his curtain back in eighty-eight years, and he would be presumed dead if not for the fact that his food disappears every day. The glade plays host to herds of fairies of many sorts, and they may often be seen swirling about the halls. Some may attempt to waylay visitors, but follow the untamperable signs and you’ll be perfectly fine.

The architecture within the glade is classic and lovely, featuring porticoes and porches open to the weather, which is always utterly perfect no matter the conditions outside; fine statuary donated by famous artists, the subject of which always somehow includes Galbatorix; and several well-appointed bedrooms in a price range best described as “out of your league.”


Snippet Sunday #2

Is it Snippet Sunday again? Already?

This week I’m going to inflict more abuse on your poor eyeballs in the form of a chunk of an untitled, unfinished story about Lukas Kalt, who appears in Menyoral as both older Squire and newly-minted Junior. He’s in Hard Time, and I really wanted to find out more about him. I liked this scene, in which a thirteen-year-old Lukas reveals something about himself to Vandis, and I liked it a lot because I feel I caught Vandis’s character well: rough, but well-spoken and preachy (it is his job, after all).

As always with Vandis, here lie dirty words.


He ducked through the shaggy pines to get into Vandis’s camp. There was a stewpot on the fire, giving off an unholy stink, sour with burning garlic.

“Excuse me,” Lukas began, but Vandis had gestured him toward a folding stool with faded stripes of blue and green on the seat.

“Sit,” Vandis said, but it was too close to the fire, to the smell of the pot. Lukas felt sick already.

Shakily, he said, “I’ll stand, thank you.”

“If you want to.” Eyes the color of a storm pierced him from under thick salt-and-pepper brows. “It’s Lukas, right? Lukas Kalt.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Vandis.” And he stuffed his mouth with a huge bite of stew.

“Yes, Vandis.”

Vandis nodded and lifted those brows at Lukas: go on.

Faced with a man who seemed much bigger face-to-face than he ought—a short hard wall of muscle and a granite face, shadow and light playing with the nostrils in his big hooked nose—Lukas felt his tongue cling to the roof of his dry mouth. He couldn’t look masculine, grizzled Vandis Vail in the eye and say he wanted to sleep with other boys.

It was forever before Vandis finished chewing. Lukas was on the point of flight when he swallowed and said, “Whatever it is you have to tell me, I’ve heard a hell of a lot worse. Spill it so we can both get back to our lives.”

“I’m a faggot,” Lukas said, now or never.

“No you’re not.”

He blinked. “Yes I am. I don’t like girls.”

“You aren’t attracted to girls. There’s a difference.”

“You just said I’m not a faggot.”

“That is correct.”

“But I am! I’m—attracted to boys. Like you said.” Lukas spread his arms. “I don’t understand what you want from me!”

Vandis set down his bowl and propped his forearms on his thighs. “I want you to watch your fucking language. That’s an ugly word used by ugly people to try to distract from their own ugliness. You will not use it to describe yourself, or anyone else, in my presence.”

“But you just—” Lukas cut himself off and sat down hard, clasping his head in both hands. He couldn’t possibly work this out standing.

“I know. I said a rude word.” Vandis grinned hugely. “‘Fucking.’ Got your attention, didn’t it? But there’s a difference, a whole world. ‘Faggot,’ that’s a hate word. Do you hate yourself?”


“I don’t see anything to hate.”

Try it from the inside, Lukas thought, but he looked at the ground instead of saying it.

“Yeah, I know. I’ve been thirteen.” The Head of the Knights waved it aside. “Point I’m trying to make is, the more you talk hate, the easier it is to think hate. Don’t fuck yourself over with your words.”

His mouth shaped ‘oh,’ but no sound came out.


I hope you’ll let me know what you think! Fair winds to you.

Adventure Time

I said to myself, “I’m going to write a novella.”

It was going to be sword-and-sorcery set in my own (at least to me!) highly entertaining world, and there was going to be a quest for a magical piece of jewelry. It’d be fast and fun and violent, I said to myself, and I’d fill it with dirty jokes and sex and—since I’m a dirty birdy and I have a real fondness for well-done yaoi—pretty elf boys kissing.

Thirty thousand words, I said, and I’ll slam it out in a month and send it to my beta-readers. Well, it’s been a month. I have about thirty thousand words. What I don’t have is a complete manuscript, and I’ll tell you why.

I sat down to write it, and it turned out to have people in it. Messy, broken, miserable, healing people. It got away from me. And now it’s a big pile of story and I’m digging deeper and deeper. They haven’t even left to go after the Clear Descrier yet. But you know what? I think it’s going to be a great book.

This is a big step away from my comfort zone in a lot of ways. One is that this fantasy is a lot “higher” than I usually write, filled with royals and nobles, and bar a few characters, most of the people I write aren’t high-class. Another is that there are love scenes—some of the most difficult fiction I’ve ever worked on. Yet another is the single narrator: I haven’t, and don’t intend to, deviate from Eagle Eye’s point of view. The world is different; it’s set Before the fairies died. The players are different. It’s just different.

I think every writer, at some point, should let a story run away with him or her. There’s a lot to be said for plotting, planning minutiae, controlling your words—but this experience is stretching me in so many ways that I can’t begin to list or explain them. And even if you’re a dedicated outliner, sometimes you need a new outline—or to throw it away entirely.

Let it run. Run with it. Run away, quest for magic, have an adventure.

The space in which you have adventures is not, cannot be, your comfort zone. Adventure and comfort are mutually exclusive. Don’t get so entrenched that you can’t have those adventures. Walk out of your mind’s front door. Go.