Writing

Following Orders: A Proposal

King Baldwin does not appear in Following Orders until late in the book, but his actions are crucial from the very beginning. Particularly in a proposal he writes to King Arthur of Camelot.

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Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

“Edgar! Do write faster, please.” King Baldwin stopped his pacing to huff at the scribe. “By the time you’ve finished, the war will be over and I’ll have lost my chance at a bride.”

“I’ve just finished, sire. And did you mean to say you’ll have lost your chance at the Princess Elaine?” The short man pretended to suppress his smile.

King Baldwin scowled. “I could have you hanged for that.”

“But we both know you won’t. How would you like to continue the letter?”

“What have I just said?” The king turned to the window, stroking his chin. His ridiculously fashionable noblemen pranced through his lavish gardens, many of them with a foolish woman clinging to his arm.

Edgar cleared his throat. “I ask only the hand of your daughter, Princess Elaine, in exchange.”

“And how long is it?”

“About half a page, sire.”

“Best to conclude it, then, do you think?”

Edgar chuckled.

King Baldwin spun to face him. “And what is it about my current plight that you find so amusing, Edgar? Is it the war? Or perhaps Essetir’s need for an heir – a competent one?”

“I believe it is your anxiety over the situation which I find so humorous, sire. Never have I seen a letter proposing marriage so agonized over.”

“Likely because you are not attractive enough to women to know any.”

Edgar laughed again as the king turned back to his window.

“And how would you like to conclude this desperate proposal, sire?”

The king’s brow creased. “Does it indeed sound desperate?” He relaxed at Edgar’s smirk. “I really could have you thrown in the dungeon. Tortured, even.”

“Let us not distract ourselves from the business at hand, sire.”

King Baldwin sighed. “Conclude it thusly: I shall expect your decision within a fortnight. If I receive none – or if I receive it in the negative – I shall take what action I must. Mercia seeks an alliance with me as well. Sincerely yours, His Royal Majesty, King Baldwin Edward Godefroy of Essetir.”

The king looked to his scribe when he heard no scratching of the quill. Edgar stared back at him with a crestfallen expression.

“Don’t do this, sire,” he whispered. “Please do not.”

King Baldwin turned his back on the man. “I must. It is what is best for Essetir.”

“No. It is what will secure the princess for you. I thought we had discussed the matter.”

“It is what will produce an heir! Look at the state of the surrounding kingdoms. Deira is the next closest with a princess eligible to marry and they hold no power. A marriage with the Princess Muriel would hardly garner the respect and loyalty of the people. Not to mention our other allies and enemies. I must act before Princess Elaine is given to someone else. This is how I intend to do it.”

Edgar dropped his quill in the ink pot and stood to place a hand on the king’s shoulder. “I know that you have affections for Princess Elaine. But you can show her that. You don’t have to force her to return them. I may not know much about women, as you say, but I do know that genuineness is always appreciated over shows of authority and power.”

King Baldwin hardened his face. “It is what must be done. For an-”

“Yes, for an heir! I heard you the first time. You can always name one of your cousin’s children your heir. Or anyone else for that matter. You are the king of Essetir!”

“And what do you know of the ways of kings?” King Baldwin shouted at his scribe and pulled away. “Write the words and send it.” He returned to the window.

“Sire…”

“I am ready to place my seal when you have finished.”

Edgar hesitated. Finally, his shoulders dropped. “Yes, your majesty.”

King Baldwin clenched his fists. It must be done.

Kira

Following Orders: Blood on My Hands

Today’s post is a combination of a short story and look into the pre-novel life of one of my characters in Following Orders.

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Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

I gazed out at the courtyard as panic swarmed in my chest. Those arrow wounds were not from a crossbow and they all knew it. How long did I have before they reported to King Artimus and he made the connection to me? Not long.

What to do, though, what to do? I pulled myself away from the window and paced the room, cape billowing behind me.

“Glen, dear. Do calm down. It was only the first battle. At this rate, you’ll be in a frenzy before the war is over.” My mother sat with her embroidery across her lap, stitching tiny red flowers in a field.

I paused in front of her. “Yes, but how many have died already?” And because of me, I wanted to add. But I couldn’t bring myself to say that to my own mother.

“And many more will die. That is war. We must choose to be grateful that we are still here and still together. The king hasn’t sent your brother out yet and that is something which we must appreciate.”

I paced back to the window sill and clenched it so that my knuckles whitened. King Artimus had gone down to meet his men in the courtyard. The captain spoke with him, holding an arrow. A desert tribe arrow. King Artimus glanced up to where I stood in the window and I jumped back, wanting to be sick. He knew.

I had thought to bring peace between Aronway and the desert tribes. They had received me royally and I had convinced King Artimus’s court to welcome them as well. Treaties were outlined. I spent my days glowing with pride and pleasure. Then the chieftains had returned to their people, supposedly to help their land through the harvest season. They were to return at first frost. But they had returned much earlier and with weapons in their hands. I had no doubt the blame for this war would lay directly at my feet.

I had minutes at most. What to do? If I stayed, execution likely awaited me. If not that, then exile at least.

My mind settled on a quick decision. I didn’t take the time to question it, but swiftly bent to kiss my mother and strode out of the room.

Every soldier I passed on the stairs or in the corridors made my heart pound harder. Were they the ones sent to arrest me? But I made it to the kitchen door and out to the stables.

It was quick work to saddle my mare, despite my shaking hands, and I led her by the bridle to the side gate. The guards there didn’t move as I passed through and I mounted only once I was out of their view. I had to keep a steady trot through the city. It was too crowded to gallop and I didn’t need to attract any suspicion.

But once I was in the bright country, I kicked my horse into a gallop, my tears flying from my face in the wind. As I rode, I couldn’t help it: I looked back.

Kira

Following Orders: Homecoming Snippet

The main character of my current project is named Will. Will lives in Camelot under the rule of the royal Penndragon family. This week’s post is a piece of Will’s history – part of why he is the way he is.

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Photo by George Becker from Pexels

I had been eight years old, half my age now. Even then, I had chores around the castle and our small home inside the walls. I was sweeping dirt out the front door when they came.

No one moved as the men trickled in. Seventy, maybe eighty. Of more than two hundred. They walked slowly, supporting one another and weighed down under armor and packs. A few stumbled and were helped up by their comrades. Bystanders eventually began helping, taking over the support of the wounded so the exhausted could have a break.

I and a few other children dropped whatever we had been doing and ran to the group as they went to the Great Hall. We darted through the men, each looking for a different face. A few gave cries of delight and hugged their fathers in a grip that said they wouldn’t let go. When they were strong enough, the men smiled and picked up their children. Others winced from the pain and carefully pushed their children away, tears on their faces, but joy in their eyes.

The last of us kept looking. Every face, every soldier. Some of the men shook their heads when they saw me. Others looked away and some smiled faintly.

I searched the whole group. Where was he? Where was he? I started running through them, looking at everyone twice, three times.

The last of them shut the door to the castle and I stared up at the wall of wood. No. I had just missed him. There wasn’t any other explanation. There couldn’t be.

I tried to convince myself of that, but I couldn’t quite do it. So I ran to my secret cave, a crevice in the outer wall of the castle that I believed was all my own. Once wedged inside, it was difficult for anyone outside to see me. Those who did ignored me, unconcerned with what a little boy was doing.

When I woke up, Sir Manchmal sat just outside my cave, back against the wall. His eyes were closed, but I could tell he wasn’t sleeping. Something seemed different about my uncle though. He didn’t look happy any more and he cradled his right hand against his chest.

He opened his eyes at my movement. “Will.”

The gentleness in his voice was too much and I looked away, swiping the tears from my eyes.

“When is he getting home?” I asked in a flat voice.

Sir Manchmal ran his left hand over his face, sighing hard. “We both know he won’t, Will. I’m sorry.”

I curled up into a tight ball on the ground and didn’t answer.

“He fought like a man, just like he taught you to be. The officers made sure he was buried with honor.” We both knew the words didn’t matter.

A half hour passed and I cried silently. The tears slid down my nose and dropped into the dirt. I wouldn’t let Sir Manchmal see me like that though, so I stayed in my cave.

“Your mother needs you, Will. She’s sad too.”

I sniffed.

“Now that your father is gone, you’re the man of the house. Can you be that?”

I sat up. “Yes.”

“Good. Then I also want you to be my squire. I’ll train you up to be a great knight and a great man, just like your father. Alright?”

“He wasn’t a knight.”

“No, but he lived like one.”

Kira

Breath Stopped

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It had come down to this moment as I knew it would. And here I was, unable to do it. I had assured the captain I was capable of this mission. This would be my chance to rise above the common man in our band. I would become one of the heads, inferior in status only to the captain himself.

About time too, after seven bloody years of service and measly portions of the riches. I remembered stroking the finger that would bear my new gold ring as proof of my position as I spoke with the captain, telling him that I would not fail him, not in this imperitive moment. So he sent me off, alone, to complete the dreadful task.

I had killed before, certainly. Seven years in a band of thieves doesn’t come without a price of human blood. But it had always been a price I was willing to pay. The men I fought with and removed from this life were always giving just as much effort to my death as I was to theirs. And I couldn’t let that happen. So I killed and I ran. Later, I pushed the memories of their faces from my head with the help of a deck of cards and a jug of ale.

My assignment was simple: eliminate the captain of the King’s Guard without a fuss. We knew he would be home on leave this weekend, sent to spend a few days with his wife and children and take some time off from the stress of being constantly personally responsible for the king’s physical well-being. He was given a holiday such as this one in a regular cycle – every three months came with its promise of three days of leave – and my own captain had reason to want him dead. As did we all. The man had been nothing but trouble for our well established band since his appointment to his current position.

So it was my job to get rid of him while he was at his ease, taking a few days break from his professional vigil. That’s why I had crept into his house in the dead of night, opening the door without a creak and stepping softly through each room of the grand home that the man shared with his family. Though the city was a busy one, no one raised the hue and cry at this time of night. All were asleep besides the gutter rats and the watchman. No gutter rats lived in this sector and the watchman had turned the corner just before I stepped into the street.

I’d never thought of myself as an honest man or a good one. No need to lie to myself like that, as some of my comrades did. It would be hard to continue to tell myself that I was doing it for the greater good or some other such nonsense as I unclasped a bracelet from a sobbing lady’s wrist, so I didn’t bother. It was enough that I did it for my own good.That was probably why the captain was finally considering promoting me to be one of the heads, his leaders who never hesitated to be sure that his will was carried out by those beneath them.

The captain of the King’s Guard had become a rather wealthy man through his own seven years of service to a different master. His home was full of beautiful things which I kept from touching as I went. It was not the time for collecting trinkets.

It wasn’t hard to find the bedroom he shared with his wife and come up next to his sleeping form. My shadow blocked the moonlight through the window from illuminating his wife’s face and she shifted slightly. In the morning, the kingdom would be one beautiful widow richer.

I slid a short dagger from a sheath at my belt and held it a breath away from the clean-shaven throat I was prepared to cut. Breathe in, breathe out, and slice. That was the best way. I took my breath in.

“Dadda?”

I snapped around and raised the knife at the intruder.

A girl of about seven stared back at me, mouth wide open. She had been rubbing her eyes, but now they were frozen on me. The girl had blonde hair in waves to her shoulders and shivered in the thin nightgown that was her only garment. Her barefeet must have been ice on the floor.

I stepped closer to the girl, refusing to wake her father and my target. “Go back to bed,” I hissed. “Unless you want me to hurt you too.” I held my blade before her eyes, bending close to her.

“Are you going to hurt my dadda?” Tears began to well in her eyes, but she spoke softly, not rousing her parents. She brought her hands to her mouth, covering it, and let the tears fall.

I recoiled at the girl’s reaction. I had expected her either to flee or scream, but she stood fast, shaking from cold and fear. I shook my head and moved back to her father’s side. If I killed her father before she could wake him, I would have only her mother to deal with when she did cry out. I could handle a terrified woman.

I put the knife back to his throat, taking my breath once more. But my hand did not complete the sliding motion that would complete the man’s life. I tried again. I couldn’t do it.

“Please, sir, don’t hurt him.” The girl had lowered her hands a moment to make her soft plea before replacing them and resuming her position as a trembling statue.

I turned back to my target, frozen with indecision. I must do this if I wanted to be a head. But I made the mistake of glancing back to the girl. One of her tears fell to the floor. I shook my head and looked back to her father. Do it. Just finish it.

I bit my tongue and pulled the knife away. As I slid it into the sheath, I knew I sealed my fate. I paused next to the girl on my way out the door. “Not a word of this to anyone,” I breathed.

She stood shaking, giving me no reply, and I disappeared back into the dark.

Kira

Following Orders: Princess Elaine Penndragon

 

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Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Today, I thought we’d do something a little bit different and meet one of the main characters of the novel I’m currently working on, Following Orders.

Now I’ll be interviewing Her Highness, the Princess Elaine Penndragon of Camelot about herself and some of her background. Please enjoy.

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Good day, Your Highness. Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me.

It is my pleasure. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak with a scribe for any purpose other than a lesson on history or politics.

I’m sure those are very dull indeed. Today, I thought you might be willing to answer a few questions about yourself? For your subjects’ sake?

My subjects? I don’t know what they think so interesting about palace life, but I suppose so.

Wonderful! My first question is about all of the balls and dinners your father hosts as king. What is your part in them and do you enjoy them?

Ah, yes. All of the fancy events. You asked about my part in them? Well, as the king’s only child and heir, it is my task to learn the names and interests of every diplomat, nobleman, and ambassador in Camelot. If they are to be my court one day, I must know their strengths and weaknesses, know them as people. And, of course, know their loyalties.

Besides that, as I am of marriageable age, I must dance with every eligible bachelor in attendance. Most of them are of no interest to either me or my father, but we mustn’t offend anyone. You never know who may end up as the future king of Camelot. It is my job to be the most beautiful and charming woman there to every single guest.

As to whether I enjoy such things, I don’t mind them. They do become tiring, especially when too many are held in a row. But I suppose that’s to be expected.

You mentioned that most of the young men are of no interest to you or your father. What do the two of you look for in the next king – and your husband?

All the usual traits I suppose. He must be strong and brave and all that, but he must also have a brain in his head. My father is not going to hand over Camelot to some halfwit. He would not send me or his people to such destruction. Other than that, he must have all the general qualities that make a king beloved by his people.

And what about you? Don’t you want to marry someone who will love you?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Who I marry is not up to me, ultimately. As part of the royal family, I have a duty to Camelot before myself. I would like a kind man who loves and whom I love, but that is not nearly as important as what is best for the kingdom. Besides, I’m told that people sometimes grow to love each other. We’ll have a whole lifetime to become fond of one another, whoever this man turns out to be.

Didn’t your father and mother marry for love?

Ah, yes. The famous story of Arthur and Guenivere. Has that become popular again? Nevermind. It was a different time back then. My father was free to marry as he chose because he had Camelot so firmly secure as one of the strongest kingdoms around. And he chose my mother – a commoner – endearing himself to the people practically overnight.

You don’t seem to hold much love for you mother. Is there a story behind that?

What impudence! That is none of your concern and I do hope you don’t speak to everyone you meet in such a rude manner. As it is, I am feeling gracious today and will give you a partial answer. I know that it is no secret that there is very little love between my mother and me.

Between just the two of us, I believe she is jealous of me. I hear from some of the older women that after my birth, my father devoted far more attention to his new daughter than to his wife. She wasn’t used to the relative drought of his affection and, as his doting on me continued, her bitterness toward me grew as the years moved on. We don’t speak often.

Now, are we through? I have one of those dances you were speaking of to prepare for tonight and my hair takes a dreadfully long time to complete.

Thank you for your time, my lady. I hope you enjoy your evening!

Kira

Why I Write

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Writing is my passion. That’s easy enough to see (and if you can’t see it, I will gladly tell you about it for a full three hours). I’ve loved to write for longer than I can remember, though some of my earlier ventures barely qualify as actual “writing.” I’ve poured a lot of hours into studying and practicing my craft, striving to become better and better. And there’s a reason for that. I want to share with you why I write and why I feel that it is such an important thing.

I’m sure that everyone has been to a library or bookstore at least once. Did you visit the teen section while you were there? Let me describe it for you.

Most every teen section in every library and bookstore is the same. As soon as you enter it, the books become darker – the covers are black, often with spidery silver lettering across them. There are lots of depictions of aliens, vampires, and “hot” teenagers locked in each other’s arms. If you open the books, you will get exactly what you bargained for. Dramatic betrayals, hopeless depression, and endless love triangles (or squares) fill hundreds of pages. All of them are gripping and keep readers turning page after page. But none of them are redeeming.

The Bible teaches that the things we think about are what will shape our hearts and, thus, our lives. Millions (if not billions) of people are consuming these sad excuses for books every day and having their minds conformed to the ideas and beliefs threaded through them. And every day more and more are being written, printed, and released to the population.

I write to fight against that.

It is my goal to create masterpieces that glorify God and present good stories. Stories that don’t end in tragedy and promote sin. I want my books to be of high quality and of high moral value. In a world that is so depraved and lost, I write to offer light and hope because I know the only true Source of that hope.

My explanation for why I write is not a long or fancy one. It is simply a desire to bring light to the shelves of libraries and bookstores so that teenagers are reading better literature than Twilight and thinking about things more redeeming than The Fault in Our Stars.

I believe that Christians who write have a responsibility to do that – to bring that light to readers through their work. And I pray that I do that with every word that I put on a page.

Kira

Why do you do what you do?
What keeps you going in the face of obstacles?