(and thank you so much for insisting…)
Okay, here’s the deal.
I talked a lot about ‘Goddess Stories’ in the first book–and not at all in the second. I did this on purpose. I wanted to prep everybody for ‘Triane’s Son’ and ‘Oueant’s Son’ to be in their own Goddess story, so to speak.
And then I wondered how many people would see that, and how many people would think I was just being REALLY inconsistent.
So I decided on a narrative overlay–starting with a prologue, of about five pages, in which we see our characters ‘Oueant’s Son’ and ‘Triane’s Son’ thirty years after their adventures in Clough have concluded, surrounded by their children and grandchildren, telling the story of ‘Triane’s Son Reigning’.
I like the idea–my problem is,
A. Will people freak out because I basically give away some of the ending in the first 5 pages
B. I give away that even the ‘happy ending’ shown at the end of the book is not ‘happy ever after’, but that one of the characters dies between the end of the book and the beginning of the prologue. There’s a reason for this (in fact, several, if after the LG series concludes people seem to want a BMoonIII) but I’m just wondering if it will put people off too much, and
C. How much of the narrative overlay is good storytelling, and how much will just be precious, obvious foreshadowing.
Okay, granted, C is my own baby to feed, and I’m hoping my editors (Ceri, Roxie, Eric, Bonnie, are we still on? Ceri, I know you’ll be back from Fiji by then, happy and tan from fun in the sand!) will kick me in the pants if it gets to sappy, but the other thing…it’s a good idea right?
Wait… do you guys want to see it in action?
Okay then… here:
The Healer sat in the waning twilit hours of the Beltane Faire, watching the couples dancing in front of the bonfire in preparation for the wilding. His wife—his second, the mother of his youngest two adult children—came and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, touching her cheek to his.
“They’re all waiting,” she murmured, not wanting to look into his eyes. The pain was there, all of it, as fresh as it must have been thirty years before, when he’d first left her, as bloody as it had been, five years after that, when she’d left him for the dark beyond the stars. Goddess, how she hated Beltane—not because he thought of her, because she’d never begrudge him memories of his first beloved, his moon destined, whom he’d loved since childhood. No, she hated it because on this day of renewal, of spring and of life, he unearthed all that pain, and lived the whole thing again.
He wiped his mouth with his hand and stood, his hazel eyes assuming that artificial brightness that she always associated with this moment, on this evening.
“You don’t have to do it again this year,” she said, taking his hand. He touched her cheek and smiled again, this one almost reaching his eyes.
“Of course I do,” he murmured. “It’s important. Besides—the little ones expect it.”
“The little ones just want a story and a song from their Pa-pa,” she snapped with bitterness that surprised them both. “This hurts you!”
“It should hurt me.” He ran a hand through his short hair, the salting of gray obscuring but not hiding the white crest at his temple. He’d wondered lately, watching himself age easily through the years, if he would have to dye his hair brown in order to show that mark of magic like the badge of honor it was. This morning he’d decided that just the fact that he’d never have to hide it again would be enough.
“That pain bought something important,” he continued, when she looked away and refused to answer.
“Well then,” she turned away sharply, angry at him for doing this to himself. Hadn’t he given enough?
“Hey!” He caught up to her and took her hand. “You knew this when you stayed.”
She eyed him sourly. “I’m not giving up twenty good years for this rotten tradition,” she said at last. “But I can’t watch you do it again. I can’t. Ellyot’s youngest isn’t feeling well…”
“All that sugar,” he smiled and she rolled her eyes in agreement.
“And Betsy’s baby is teething. I’ll take them to the house while you do this. I’ve heard it before.” Her mouth, which was usually wide and smiling in a narrow, pale face, was pinched together, but he thought he’d try one more time.
“It changes every year,” he said lightly, and her look grew even darker.
“No it doesn’t!” She hissed. “It never changes. ‘Oueant’s Son’, ‘Dueant’s Son’,
‘Triane’s Son’—none of it matters. What matters is that it was real, and that you lived, and that you and Aylan and Yarri and Aldam—everybody! You all did this. What matters is that you shed blood, not a little of it your own, to make this world a better place, and that you shed more of it every year when you go out and tell this story, and I’m sick of it!”
He smiled, the grooves in his mouth deepening, his dimple popping, and his lip curling up on one side. It was an absolutely lethal smile, and it had taken him a while to learn its power, but many women still fantasized about the lead Healer of Eiran.
He had only ever cared about two of them.
“Twenty years, my heart’s peace, twenty years you’ve heard this story, and you still don’t understand why it’s important that I tell it?”
She looked away. “You tell me then!”
“It needs to be remembered. That’s what’s important. We need to make sure that no one ever has to go out and live this story again.” His voice hardened, and his eyes flashed a glacial blue, terrible and at odds with the warmth that he practically radiated.
“Right,” she replied, her green eyes wide. She rarely saw that color anymore. “The little ones will be fine. I’ll stay and listen.”
That smile came back, and he swung it around to greet the family, all of them, gathered around the Moon’s traditional table. He had to wade his way through grandchildren in order to perch on the top of the table, and shoo a couple of the smaller ones off his lap.
Aylan did his own wading and handed him his old lute, and the Healer took it gratefully. It was old—it had belonged to Lane before him—and the wood was mellow and sweet with age and oil, and years of melancholy songs dancing across the strings.
“Thank you, Aylan.” For the first time a hint of uncertainty crossed the Healer’s face. “You’re staying, right?” There had been a few years, after Yarri’s death, and before Starren’s first wilding when the story hurt Aylan too much to stay. But he’d made his peace with it since then, and his and Starry’s children loved it almost more than Solstice gifts.
“Of course,” he said, with a killer smile of his own. Aylan’s smile had improved with time as well—the bitterness that had possessed it in his youth was completely gone now. “If I’m not here, you don’t tell it right.”
“Ha!” The Healer guffawed, secure now that Aylan would be there to see him through this. “If you’re not here, no one whines when the son of Oueant gets his due!”
Aylan’s look of disgust was enough to pull the last of the tears from Torrant’s heart, and he smiled at the older children for their approval. For the older three, Yarri’s children, this story, among others, was their best, most heart-full link to their mother. He wouldn’t give up this story, not for all the tears in the world.
Lane hobbled up, much of his weight on the pair of canes in his hand. He had been seated with the other elders, watching the sunset, but he too was faithful to the story as it was told at Beltane. Ellyot ran up with a stool for his Great Uncle Lane, and the older man sank onto it gratefully.
“Have you started yet, boy-o?” He asked. His voice had aged, and his beard was long and full and white now, but his eyes still twinkled their merry blue, nearly as sharp in what they saw as they had been in Torrant’s youth.
“Not yet, Uncle Lane. You know we can’t tell the story without you.” Torrant tuned a couple of strings then, and played a chord that proved his ear was still sound. Almost to himself he murmured, “I wish Aunt Bethen was here.”
“Oh she is, but she’s getting impatient. Now start!”
The rest of the family laughed, and Aylan’s youngest, a scant and scandalous six years old, piped up. “You’re going to tell the story of the Sons of the Three Moons, right Uncle Torrant?” The little boy’s hand was firmly entrenched in the hand of Ellyot’s youngest, as they had been since the little girl had been born. The sight of the two of them, so easily moon destined, so beautifully meant, made Torrant’s heart constrict with pain and joy.
“Absolutely, Djali,” he murmured. “Are we all ready? Do we all remember how it starts?”
His five children started the first verse, their voices falling in and out of harmony, but still strong. And when they were done singing, he began the story itself, the words changing as details sharpened and faded with the passage of years, but always, always, starting with the same image.
“A ruthless ruler, mad and powerful, had been persecuting Triane’s children for many years. One day, Triane’s Son, and his best friend, the son of Oueant, the moon of Honor, rode into the cursed city, to stop him.
They bore between the two of them, a terrible secret…”
Comments? Questions? What do you think?