Tanei and the Deadly Decadent Court, continued

Continued from “It was well she had come quickly.”

But the men, drunk as they were, were still too numerous for her to be sure of getting past them in an assault, especially if she had no weapons. The guards were armed with swords and daggers, and there were enough of the others to simply pile on her until she was subdued. But if she could just get a sword and dagger from one of the guards – especially if she could get that guard away from his fellows first – then she might have a chance of fighting her way through them.

She had only seen one other door leading away from the room, and it had the markings of a royal chamber. The princess must be imprisoned within. The serving maid would have entered from Tanei’s hallway.

She waited. When the maids came around the corner she quickly took the girl’s pitcher and pulled her back against the wall with one hand covering the girl’s mouth. She whispered in the maid’s ear, and after a moment the girl nodded and relaxed.

Shortly after, Tanei walked into the lighted room, her bearing meek, wearing the maid’s uniform over her own clothing and carrying the serving pitcher filled with cider. She no longer missed her sword, as she would have been forced to leave it behind in any case: there would have been no way to hide it properly under the skirt and apron, especially if one of the revelers were to grab her. As she approached the table, the men looked up at her.

“Well, now, here’s a new one!”

“Friendlier than that other one, I hope!” The voices were slurred.

“Ah! Where did you come from, wench?”

Tanei gritted her teeth and sidled up to the table, making sure to position herself between two of the armed guards. As she poured to fill one of the flagons, one of the guards put his arm around her waist.

Tanei did her best to smile and raise her eyebrows in a fetching way. It must have worked, for the men roared with approval, and the guardsman at her elbow rose to his feet. He held Tanei by the shoulders and gave her a kiss.

Tanei worked to keep the disgust from her face. She crooked her finger and led the man by the hand to the door leading to the royal chamber. He followed her with a sly grin, and the other men called and whistled after them.

The guard fumbled with his ring of keys, and Tanei was afraid for a moment that the man was too drunk to manage them. But finally he turned the key in the lock and opened the door. Tanei followed him into the room and shut the door behind them.

She felt the guard’s hand on her, and she whirled on him. There was a loud snap, and the man’s arm was broken in her hands, at the elbow. She knocked him to the ground and followed him down, her knees landing on his shoulders. His eyes and mouth widened in surprise, and Tanei slammed his jaw shut with her palm before he could shout out his pain. She pulled the knife from the guard’s belt in one practiced motion, and a moment later the man lay dead.

Panting slightly, Tanei look up and around the room. Princess Kandinei was there, seated on a wooden chair, her hands and feet bound to it.

“Well, sister,” Kandinei said, “and just when I was thinking you had decided not to attend. Might we leave now?”

Fin.

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Prompt: Tanei and the Deadly Decadent Court

As I let the first draft manuscript of the book cool down (perhaps for a while) before editing, I’ll post some replies to prompts I find online. Here’s one in installments.

Prompt from Absolute WriteYour MC is transported to a Deadly Decadent Court and have to play by their rules! How do they fare? Feel free to prompt.

Part 1:

Tanei came to herself slowly. She was leaning up against a stone wall in a hallway of some fortress or another – she knew she had never been here before, but other than that she knew nothing of her whereabouts. Around a corner came a warm light and the sounds of revelry. Tanei shook her head to clear it, and glanced quickly in both directions to make sure she was alone in the corridor. Then she checked for her weapons, and she cursed silently when she discovered they were missing. It seemed the enchanted portal allowed only clothing.

Tanei peered around the corner, toward the light and noise. Beyond was a room lit by lanterns. In the center of the room was a heavy wooden table, and around this table were assembled all manner of dandies of whatever court ruled this place, as well as three or four men who, by their armament, were apparently supposed to be guards. If so, they were delinquent in their duty: all the men drank cider or perry from large flagons, and joked with each other. The hall roared with laughter. They were all drunk.

A serving maid moved around the group. She obviously attempted to keep her distance, as the drunken men at the table leered at her and occasionally reached out to grab a skirt or an elbow. Periodically the poor girl was forced to dart in to refill a cup of cider, and each time she risked being grabbed around the waist and subjected to a wet kiss from one the lechers. She backed away again as quickly as she was able.

Tanei pulled back from the corner and leaned her head back against the stone wall. She sneered. So this was where they had taken the princess. It was well she had come quickly.

To be continued…

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First draft finished!

I finished the first draft of the novel! Woo-hoo!

And: Holy cow, it’s over a hundred thousand words! I was aiming for 65,000. No kidding, this beast is over half again as long as I was trying for (and would have been completely happy with).

So, what comes next? Well, first it’s going to sit and pickle in a virtual drawer for at least a few weeks. Then begins the long process of editing. And editing. And… yeah, more editing. There are some things I can already see that need to be changed in the story, but others I won’t even know about until I print the thing up and give it a good read with a big red pencil. Maybe more than once.

After I’ve edited the manuscript however many times I need to get it as good as I can get it, then I’ll be looking for beta readers. I’ll post an all points when I’m ready for that, and see if I can get any volunteers.

Then more edits based on feedback from the beta readers.

Then I’ll shop around for a good professional story editor, and do another round of edits with her.

Then a copy editor, and a final round of edits.

Ho-lee crap.

Maybe by the time all these edits are out of the way, the manuscript will be back down to 65k again. Then I get to try to find a publisher!

That’s it for now, except to repeat: Woo-hoo!

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Origins: Tanei, part 2

Continued from the last post:

The midwife Ensanee returned to the mother holding her child. Another infant, older by a few minutes, lay wrapped in green silk next to them, fast asleep: Princess Kandinei.

“Your Highness, if you please: I must take her from here.”

The empress, who was well familiar with palace protocol, sighed. “I understand. It is sad, though, is it not?”

“Indeed it is, Highness. I am sorry.”

The mother handed the crying baby wrapped in white to the midwife, and reached over to stroke the brow of the other, wrapped in green, still sleeping soundly.

“I must give my spirit’s energy to the first. My princess. Pretty Kandinei…”

The midwife looked at the elder physician, who nodded to her. She carried the baby from the room, using a partially-hidden back portal, where she and the child would not be seen by the men awaiting official word of the birth in the royal chamber.

Once in the dim hallway, she crooned softly to to the child. “Little one, do not cry. You are in every way as pretty as your sister. It was your misfortune to be a little late, and that is all that separates you from her.”

She wound her way through hallways and down stairways, ever lower, toward one of the servant’s entrances to the palace – where she knew one who, for a few bronze coins delivered once every year, would take this one to live with a family who would raise her as their own, with no explanations expected. Perhaps one of the tribes of the horse people who rode the great steppes, to get the child far away from the Lynx Palace and her twin sister.

“You will live an ordinary life, little one, and that is surely the best kind.” Ensanee spoke to fill the darkness of the corridors. “But before I let you go, perhaps I will name you. Yes, I will name you… Tanei. For the little mink who hunts at night. A good name, I think, for one who leaves her home in the dark, seeking the thread of a new life. Tanei.”

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Origins: Tanei, part 1

This may or may not appear in a later book:

The girl appeared some time after her elder sister, causing the assembled women to gasp – some with consternation, some with delight, some merely with surprise.

“Oh,” cried the midwife. “Here comes another.”

“Twins!” cried the midwife’s young assistant, clapping her hand together.

“Twins,” said the elder physician, altogether less enthused. “Pray, are there any others?”

“No,” said the midwife, peering. “I believe we will have no more surprises tonight.”

“Well, perhaps one more surprise,” said the elder physician, reaching over the midwife’s shoulder and wiping at the newborn girl’s face. The little girl began to cry. “Unless my fading eyes lie, these two are a match.”

“Identical twins!” cried the midwife’s assistant, clapping her hands again. The elder physician looked at her sourly.

“Please,” spoke the mother. “Allow me to see.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” replied the midwife. She swaddled the baby in a plain white cloth, and handed her to her mother.

The empress gave the infant a tired smile. “Ah, they look just the same! It is uncanny.”

As the mother held the crying baby, the elder physician pulled the midwife aside. “Ensanee, I trust you know what this means. With this mother only one of the two sisters may remain.”

The midwife’s brow furrowed. “But, elder, surely the appearance of an identical twin is a good omen – she can act as the other’s protector.”

“Not so good, midwife, not so good after all. If the new princess were Her Highness’s eldest child, and bound for the throne, then yes, it would be very good indeed. But she is not: there are at the least two others who would become empress before Princess Kandinei. Kandinei will become a court figure, another jewel for the palace, and no more. Do you see? This princess has no need for a double, and such a one would only cause strife within the royal family.”

“Yes, I… I see now. But it will not be necessary to… will it?”

“Just make her disappear, that is all that concerns me. Now go and tell Her Highness.”

To be continued…

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Tanei: Initial sketches

Here are some (very) initial sketches of my main character Tanei, in pen and ink. I’m a bit out of my element (and possibly my league) here: I’ve never done character concepting before. I’ll have to study up and see if I can learn how some of the big boys and girls do it.

Most of these are from imagination, so be kind to me. Thank goodness I’ve done at least some figure quicksketch through the years, or I wouldn’t be able to invent these at all. I used reference for the figures on one of the pages. One drawing is not of Tanei, but of her sister, the Princess Kandinei. I bet you can figure out which one it is.

These are just playing around with some different ideas on clothing and weaponry – and only those few I bothered to slap on some ink outlines. I’ve done page after page of sketching and concepting in pencil. I will be doing some more detailed sketches soon, probably sticking with ink for now. Thanks for looking! – L.

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Character sketch: Tanei

Fantasy novel: the main character’s name is Tanei. Tanei is a captain of the Princess Guard, and Princess Kandinei’s identical twin sister and guardswoman. As is customary in Anei, from which the two sisters hail, Kandinei, as the older of the twins, became a princess at birth, while Tanei became a lesser court official and warrior.

Tanei is a girl in her late teens, of Central Asian descent. She wears her black hair in a topknot and pony tail to keep it out of the way. Tanei and her sister look remarkably similar except that Tanei is more tanned and muscular from physical activity, and has a scar along her jawline. Because of their resemblance, Tanei is sometimes used as a security double for the princess.

Tanei is smart and strong, and is an expert martial artist, having trained hard for years with the Princess Guard. She has a good mind for military tactics, but she sometimes has trouble understanding other people, especially when subtle signals are given. She can be led astray by a well-placed lie. She is fiercely protective of the princess, but she is quite young for a captain, and prone to making mistakes (sometimes bad ones) in her eagerness to succeed. She is also deeply romantic, and lonelier than she realizes. She is distrustful of men because of something that once happened to her old friend and mentor Nuanee.

Tanei was first raised among the horse people of the steppe, learning to ride and hunt at a young age, before being brought back to the palace to train as a guardswoman. Her preferred weapon is the long staff, which is the primary weapon of the Princess Guard, but when she rides she switches to a bronze short sword or composite bow, the weapons of the horse people (and the War Guard). She wears a simple, sensible kurta and trousers when on duty, but generally no armor – other than, occasionally, bronze shoulder protection or shield. Her hobbies include horseback riding, sparring with the other guards, and hunting with Princess Kandinei.

Inspirations: Olivia Dunham, “Fringe”; Xiao Mei, “House of Flying Daggers”; Dara, “Golden Cane Warrior”; Dr. Julia Walker, “Helix”; Trinity, “The Matrix”.

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