These last several weeks, life has been crazy. (Which is putting it mildly.) Between an amazing vacation, a nasty cold, and a…tumultuous election, writing has been slow. But slow progress is still progress, and I’m moving forward on a project that’s been hanging over me for some time: Catalyst Moon: Exile. (Title subject to change.)
Exile features Atanar, a Canderi warrior who first appeared in an early draft of Incursion. Atanar’s story arc didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the book, so I cut him out and set him aside to bring back later. As it turns out, later is now. 😉
Catalyst Moon: Exile is a novella, sort of a prequel to Incursion.
Here’s a snippet:
Atanar soon found himself in the midst of another Canderi camp, a place he’d never thought he’d stand again. Several dozen men and women bustled about with evening tasks: cooking food over several scattered fires; grooming horses and herding children; securing the rounded tents made from animal hides. Despite the approaching storm, laughter and conversation rippled through the camp.
Kulkri, the lot of them, but for one moment, Atanar could have been back home.
Or it might have, had each kulkri’s eyes not marked Atanar for what he was, then narrowed to dagger-points.
The boy – Corvac – led Atanar through the others without a word to anyone, instead trotting toward one of the fur-lined tents in the middle of the camp. There, he paused and listened beside the entrance for a few moments before giving Atanar a look that was almost concerned. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
Before Atanar could ask what was going on, Corvac disappeared within the tent, leaving Atanar alone in a camp full of people giving him dark looks. Well, he could return the favor, particularly to a bunch of thieving kulkri such as these. Perhaps he was vorunn, but he had some measure of respect for tradition.
So Atanar stood straight and met each glare with one of his own, until movement to his right caught his eye. A young woman strode toward him; she was a few years younger than Atanar, perhaps in her twentieth summer. Her hair was neatly braided in the Aredian fashion; it was darker than most other Canderi but still streaked with pale gold, and, like the others, she wore a sash of red, yellow, green, blue and white, all woven together.
“Who are you?” she called as she approached.
Your name will be forgotten. As it should be. But he had no other to give. He shook his head. “No one.”
The moment she registered what he was, her stance turned even more hostile as her body became strung taut with tension. “Vorunn, then,” she murmured, halting just over an arm’s length away, one hand reaching for the claymore strapped to her back. “What, in Nox’s void, are you doing here?”
Atanar frowned over the strange word, Nox. The woman’s speech was Canderi, but was that word Aredian slang? Is that what happened to Canderi who left their home: they lost themselves and turned into those soft, weak folk? Ancestors strike me dead before that happens to me, he thought with a shudder.
He shook his head once. “Corvac brought me.” She scowled up at him and he could not help but add, “For supper.”
Her scowl deepened. “Corvac is a child. He has no say in who or,” she wrinkled her nose, “what comes into our home.”
“And you do?”
“Aye, as far as you’re concerned.” She pointed the general direction he had come, where he could now see a rudimentary sort of passage that wound through the tents and cooking fires. Beyond these, in addition to the large elk-like atsuula, there were a dozen or so scraggly Aredian horses, outfitted with Aredian saddles, bridles and other gear. In fact, most of the gear he saw was Aredian in make.
Atanar frowned. A sloppy affair, this kulkri camp.
“Leave, now,” she said, lifting her pointed chin. “Save me the trouble of dirtying my sword with your blood.”
“Quiet, Sivoy.” An elderly man slipped out of the tent, Corvac on his heels. Like the rest, the older man wore thick furs, though he leaned heavily on a staff and on the elbow of the boy at his side as he regarded Atanar curiously.
“He’s vorunn,” Sivoy said. “Corvac never should have brought him here. I’m within my rights to cast him out, Utu.”
“So you are,” her grandfather replied. “And so you may. But your word is not the only law. We are not like them.” He nodded in the vague direction of Cander, and Atanar bristled despite everything. “I advise you to learn a little more before you toss this warrior back into the storm.”
There was greater meaning in those words than Atanar could glean. Indeed, Sivoy frowned, but regarded Atanar with a new sort of speculation. “Very well, stranger,” she said at last. “I will allow you a chance to explain why we should not cast you away.”
Atanar frowned. Vorunn, he may have been, but these vagabonds did not deserve even his respect. He straightened and regarded Sivoy from his full height – considerable, even among the Canderi. “Your graciousness humbles me.”
Sivoy glared back, but her words were honey-sweet. “Corvac, please tend to our guest while I gather the others. I suppose supper will be delayed tonight.”
With that, she spun on her heels and marched away, disappearing within one of the other tents. Atanar looked back at Corvac and the older man, presumably the boy’s grandfather as well, given the resemblance between Corvac and Sivoy. “I have no need of your charity…”
The older man leaned on his staff and regarded Atanar with a shrewd gaze before he smiled; the expression shone through his white beard.. “That remains to be seen, my friend.” He nodded to the tent behind him. “Come, sit. My name is Tikaani. Rest easy, warrior, and eat your fill, for now you are among kin.”
Tikaani spoke the benediction with a familiar, musical cadence that Atanar had heard more times than he could count. But even so gently said, the words struck Atanar in the chest as would a thrown spear or a stray atsuula hoof. At once he was overtaken by an ache so deep and powerful, he could not speak. Beyond the camp, the sky darkened further still, and each gust of wind cut more bitterly than the last, adding to the ache. Vorunn. So it had taken almost everything from him – almost. It would eventually take his life. It should take his life. Very likely it would, if he tried to weather the storm without proper supplies.
Perhaps sensing his indecision, Tikaani said, “Outcast or not, cursed or not, you have no home. Share ours – even if only for a night.”
Kindness…perhaps. In all likelihood the old man had an ulterior motive. Nevertheless, Atanar nodded once. “I may as well get out of the wind.”
Apologies for any typos, grammatical errors, poor wording, etc. This is a rough draft, as-yet unseen by anyone else. I realize there are a few words that don’t make sense, and I’m okay with that for right now, though I think this novella will need a glossary of terms!
It’s been great fun to write a Canderi warrior; I’m proud of the culture I’ve created with these fierce people, and I hope you enjoy them, too!
Thanks for reading, and stay awesome. 🙂