Friday, 12 November 2010

Cleïs, Beyond Elaionas

This is not about Cleïs, reputed daughter of our world's Sappho, but about Cleïs of my own Kateverse's antiquity, the Incomparable and Fairest.

Cleïs, Beyond Elaionas


White, they call her now! By death washed white,
Marmoreal of she who weightless bore
The world down with a feather?

Or by light
Of cities burned to please her? Tides of gore
And tears have flowed to bear her name to heaven,
And will she bear the wyte?

- My hair was white,
And white my bones through parchment. Tall kings came,
Each olive in our grove a separate flame
To light their way to glory.

White in ash they lie,
And white my love beside them. Deathless, I
Will follow - not to heaven.

Ask no more,
But since you too must die, call out my name,
And I will blaze your banner in the Night.



White Cleopatra.  Marble bust of Cleopatra VII of Egypt, Altes Museum Berlin - public domain - via Louis Le Grand at Wikimedia Commons


Cleïs is greatly praised in song for her wit and beauty, and greatly blamed for being this sort of person:

Cassander having conquered all the world,
His Cleïs wept, that he might win no more.
"What, love?" said he. "Behind thine azure eyes
A thousand worlds are born with each sunrise,
And by thy hands before my feet unfurled.
There let us walk, nor dream again of war!"

Cassander, needless to say, gets only the praise. There are various stories of what happened to them after that, but all agree on their abruptly dropping out of the picture. In one legend of Morgander, where my tales are set, they are depicted as vanishing to grow old and obscure together in their secluded olive-grove at Elaionas. They are rediscovered by Cassander's warring successors under dramatically convenient circumstances, ending in Morgan the Man's getting told off to found a kingdom which Cleïs prophesies will one day exceed even her lover's empire in honour and glory, and generally the way things usually end up when a minstrel is catting for a patron's attention.

But the improbable retirement to Elaionas - if not the Manifest Destiny of Morgander - seems to have struck a poetic chord, and has become widely attached to the imperial mythos across at least a continent and a half.

Its heroine is sometimes poetically named 'white Cleïs'; contemporary depictions of her suggest that this is rather like carrying on about 'white Cleopatra', and no-one really knows any more how or why that got started. The in-world author of this piece seems to have taken this as his inspiration.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Time Out

Time Out

Got me born, got to school,
Knuckles whacked with a pointless rule.
Got me mates, got a job,
Raised some Cain and I played some hob.
Learned the truth of my mind and hand
Was the one true faith I could understand.
Met my only Laura Lee -
And the time was running away with me!

Best of friends, better soon,
Loved long weeks in an afternoon.
Married in June, baby in May,
Worser work and a wedge more pay.
Played up hard, earned some more,
Earned the keys to our own front door.
King of a castle in Bermondsey -
But the time was ticking away from me!

More kids came, first kid grew,
Turned me grey and my language blue.
Made more bread, made my name,
Hardly at home but to catch the blame.
Worked all week, drank weekends,
Separate lives and separate friends.
Missed our anniversary
While the good times rattled away from me!

Gold or girl? Laura won.
Leaner times but some time for fun.
Kids grew up, grew up well.
Rat race over! Time to sell!
Time to ramble and time to ride!
Time for me and my young heart's bride!
Bought a bungalow by the sea,
And our tide was rolling away with me!

Got me sick, got me bulk,
Got to live in a riddled hulk.
Got to hear my doom was nigh.
Got to see my Laura cry.
Got to throw one last big feast
To spit in the wind and to spite the Beast.
Ten thousand things I've still to see -
And the time is taken away from me!

Monday, 8 November 2010

He Jumped From Koshtra Belorn's Peak Without a Feather Fall

I've been distinctly dyspectic and wakeful this past weekend. In consequence, my progress with what is supposed to be a powerful, scary, and romantic scene in the novel has been... not great. On the other hand, stuff like this is sliding out of my system as if my darling Muse had just administered me a great big plate of fig rolls...

The Tragical History of Wally the Wizard

or,

He Jumped From Koshtra Belorn's Peak Without a Feather Fall,

to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic

with apologies to generations of campfire-singers everywhere.




Now Wally was a wizard of the second-ratey kind.
He couldn’t score with Tailor-Tash, and tried to charm her blind,
But Tash the Shears resisted - what she did then, never mind,
But he ain’t gonna charm no more!

Wally, Wally, what a wizard!
Wally, Wally, what a wizard!
Tailor-Tash, she docked yer lizard,
And you ain’t gonna score no more!


He conjured up an ifrit from the City made of Brass
To take a fearful vengeance on the ticked-off tailor lass.
The ifrit broke his magic wand and rammed it up his ass,
And he ain't gonna rant no more!

Wally, Wally, consternation!
Wally, Wally, consternation!
Ifrit give yer constipation,
And you ain't gonna call no more!


He prenticed with a ghoul to learn the necromancer's art
Till he could haunt young Tailor-Tash, and freeze her fiery heart.
The ghoul gnawed both his legs off, boys, which jinxed it from the start,
And he ain’t gonna stalk no more!

Wally, Wally, got the wind up?
Wally, Wally, got the wind up?
Ghoul is chewing both yer shins up,
And you ain't gonna stalk no more!


He died and out of peevishness he rose a dwimmerlaik,
And studied spells six hundred years, the maiden’s soul to take,
Till Tash looked down from heaven - sniggered, "Pass the angel cake,
'Cos I can't bloody take no more!"

Wally, Wally, fell and frightening!
Wally, Wally, fell and frightening!
Saint just struck yer down with lightning,
And you ain’t gonna rise no more!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

"Marrow of My Marrow"

Et in Arcadia Ego, saith the Great Leveller - Nicolas Poussin, 1637-8 - public domain, via Yorck Project and Wikimedia CommonsFinished another chapter and got Kate's party to Garcastle. All three main antagonists here sprung major surprises on me, putting both me and my characters very much on our mettle. The Young Duke especially is coming alive much earlier than I'd expected him to, which will make the end of the Rising arc work a deal better - unless he manages to prang my whole plan. We'll see.

Less happy with the excess of archaic fustian at this juncture, and I'll need structural change to get rid of it - there are just too many diplomatic introductions and official positionings for the dialogue to get much more natural. The obvious least-cost way to prune it is to tell some of the less important preliminaries in summary, rather than showing them outright. I'm not sure how desirable this will be otherwise, or how likely it is to be sufficient. One for the redraft, that!

The good part is that all the formal posing is out of the way now, and that I can rack down the tone to natural human speech again.

Two more chapters before the arc climax, I think.

The most unexpected aspect of this whole telling was discovering how - just as the endemic wrongs visited upon the helpless small-folk of the Dales are sending Fiery Younger Sister off into heroic and terrible orbit - they are bringing my harsh old battlecrow Kate down to earth. I've known since the latter chapters of Katy Elflocks how much pinched and denied compassion she's always had in her; known since the middle of this yarn how extravagantly it can burst forth, in these last days when she has found her compass at last.

But always on a slant - higher to lower, hero to victim, and with action at the end of it. To feel it on a level, fellow to fellow, though there is nothing to do about it but laying a stone on her nameless dead countryman's cairn? I didn't even know she could feel that way, until she brushed my opinions aside and did it anyway.

Never half-measures, never foreseeable, always more herself than ever...

About the three-quarter mark of the tale, now. My Golden Kate is still not, even by mediaevaloid standards, a nice person. But by the Sun, Moon, and Stars, I think I'm going to miss her when we're through!