I scored a job! It cuts into my writing though. And my job search a little. I am editing three text books for a high school level curriculum. That has its challenges.
In writing, we finished the second draft of Graces and added a couple thousand words in the process. Colonel Pen doubled in size being about 2/3rds finished. It is now 71K I had gotten to a point where we still were not on the continent fighting the French, realizing this is a great deal of back story without action, so I began to put some action in. Going back a hundred pages, and then will do so again.
While this activity took place, my work on Colonel Pen, I thought of a new idea for a story: KoTohLan. Here are the first bits
Between them, the board with its Gold and Silver lines crossing, eleven by a eleven times, made the distance as great a divide as the social class that restricted them. Magnus, his true name, and that which he tutored under, thought of what to say. He had managed, a bow worthy of a prince, and had been effusive with praises that the Duchess had heard from many mouths many times.
“Show me.” Again she said it. Not a command, and not a request. Somewhere in between. Her blue eyes, Magnus could tell the color, was that of the sky at dawn, before the last rays of a straining sky fully burst with light from the sun. Flecks of indigo, the color of rays that reflected from a cloud during those dawns, swam around her irises. He dared not think of her any more poetically.
“Grace, you are familiar with the three tiers of the game.” For only the Ko board was between them. The simplest of the three games, but as all of them complex and difficult to master. Four years Magnus had played in tournaments. He did not feel a master of any of the three despite the success that he had achieved.
“Yes, and you have been hired to teach my step son only that of Ko.” Magnus nodded, his eyes were blue also, he reflected. Lighter then hers, and often remarked on. For his name, common in the kingdom of his birth, suggested that his eyes should be of the color of the Haltorians. The breadbasket of the empire it had been called, when men held the empire was powerful and in need of just such a country.
The Duchess Celeste had not been a nobel long, Magnus smiled as he took the two cups of stones and gently shook them, so that there rattle eviscerated the room. He found it pleasant. The Duchess smiled, and this touched her lips. She did not find the sound unpleasant. “Ko is the easiest to learn for we only have two stones, ours and the enemies. There is advantage in every part of the game, a master will tell you, and nothing is random. Including the selection of stones. Would you like to hear the philosophy of this, or shall I cut to an example of play?”
Generally, for his nine other students, he never asked, but told them of how even masters gave away something when they held the stones in their fist, beckoning their opponent to pick the left or right hand and reveal which side they would take. Gold always played first. That was an advantage, to be tempered it was held, by playing only on the even apexes.
Celeste shook her head, and her golden locks, Magnus had learned that it was near the same color as Duke Korman’s last Duchess, moved gently about her face. Celeste had been married three months, Magnus had been told, and had been warned that seeing her would be a blessing he would remember all his life. For a girl that had been a Novice to the Goddess Nuln but six months before, destine to be a holy sister and lead a life a celibacy, the road to marrying Duke Korman must have been strewn with obstructions. Magnus knew of obstructions in ones path. He presumed the Gods would have more for him.
“Then for this example, we are concerned with only the color of the center of the stone. The rim colors are important in KoToh, and the little triangles that point inward are part of KoTohLan.” She nodded.
“Yes, just the color of the stone. My son says he has learned much in the two lessons you have had.” Hired just five days before, this was his third visit to the Palace and he had been brought to her room. He though perhaps he had seen her once from a distance, looking into the courtyard where he instructed young Joran from a mezzanie above. He thought his eyes had betrayed him. Men had said that the Duchess was a beauty while a novice, but few men were to know this. Once the Duke found her, she blossomed even more.
Duke Mikal Korman might be the second most powerful man in the kingdom, or the third, or the fourth. Certainly he was one of those, Magnus’ father had told him. The Emperor of course potentially was the most powerful. Potentially was a term Magnus had come to appreciate. The previous emperor had ruled the seven kingdoms. As had his father, and that one’s father had before. The Dynasty of Larstier.
Since the overthrow of the Despot, that was what the new Emperor and his support like Duke Korman called the previous emperor, the Dynasty of Krache with Joss the first had seen five of the seven kingdoms that comprised the empire revert to their own autonomy. Include Magnus’ native Haltoria.
“We place the stones and try to surround each other. When two players are matched or close enough, we clench a stone of Gold in one fist and a stone of Bronze in the other. Yes, you know this.”
“The sisters and novices play in the temple a smaller game on a board with five lines crossing.” Called KoLan and dismissed as a woman’s game, it involved getting a line vertical, horizontal, or diagonal of all your color. Magnus knew it had nuance and its own difficulty.
“So Gold always places first and on even lines. Which means in terms of strategy that they are denied the safety of the border on the first move.” Magnus did not want to talk. He wanted to gaze upon the duchess and be unobserved. Magnus had known women, some. His uncle was a rich merchant. A large servant staff with several young girls of an age who had found Magnus good looking enough to bed. He suspected that he had more partners then the Duchess ever had. By law she was to have been a virgin if a novice of Nuln.
“Are there no exceptions?”
“Ah, in private games for the purpose of handicapping, or for trying out variations of rules to add dimension to the game. Otherwise, no. In tournament play the rules are sacrosanct.”
She laughed, gently, a little huskiness there, but ever soft as feathers. The laughter did not touch her eyes and Magnus now understood the phrase. This was the first person he had ever met whose face was not engaged with their voice. Either she had the ability within her to be a great player of Ko, never revealing her thoughts, or there was some deep gulf that kept her feelings from her eyes.
Magnus was sixteen. He felt older, but his uncle and aunt through him and their children day of birth affairs. Thus he knew this to be the years he numbered. The Duchess was not yet twenty if what his friends had told was true. She seemed either much older, or lost. “A game is not played quickly…” she began and lost her thought it seemed to Magnus. As she looked at board he looked upon her. He believed she knew he studied her, and that she enjoyed that. Perhaps she was not so lost or old after all. So many girls, and Magnus, part of a very wealthy mercantile house, and making a name and fortune as a KoTohLan master, knew pretty girls of higher class and status who encouraged men to look at them.
It was not an action of men drowning in their beauty, he had come to realize but that these women would drown if men did not worship them with their eyes, or their words. Rich men, strong men, and powerful men all desired companions of a wondrous look. Few were the women in society who showed their minds. His aunt and cousins, in the safety of their Emporium, and the women of the many merchants who worked for the family, did show their minds to those who wanted to observe. But only when strangers were absent. Only amongst the trusted.
Perhaps the Duches Celeste was the same. “A game may be played quickly, and may end before every stone is played for there is a point when the board favors one player. At that point the game may end, and the players may ask that a time limit, a round of speed be used to place stones. There are games that are played this very instant where a player has but seconds to place his stone. In tournament play this is not done. It is felt that speed play does not allow the strongest strategies to develop. Playing quickly in KoToh, or KoTohLan only results in disaster for each player.”
Where we stand after all this is said and done, 45K words for the last four weeks (I didn’t write the first week so about 15K a week.) A yearly pace of nearly 600K. 2 and half books finished this year. 5K in KoTohLan, 71K in Col Pen., Graces is 112K and Space Mine is 98K. I am editing the draft of Space Mine now and will also start on Cautions Heir. It is now time this month to send out my querry letters.