Yesterday, we explored the narrative technique of in media res and what inspired the character of Kora Porteg and her brother, Zacry.
One fun aspect of that technique is that it allows for flashback scenes: such as when protagonist Kora, seventeen years old, reflects on the moment when she first learned that sorcerer Zalski Forzythe had taken over the kingdom of Herezoth:
A trip to the general store, about two years ago, was when Kora first had noticed the number of soldiers in the region had tripled. The increase had come gradually, so she hadn’t marked it right away. The walk took ten minutes, and usually she ran into one, maybe two, men in uniform. That day she’d met a group of four and found two more in the store itself. Mr. Baylor, the proprietor, failed to smile as he usually did when Kora paid for a pair of sandals, and he threw anxious glances at the window. His manner made Kora jumpy too, but she asked no questions. The guardsmen stood in range to overhear.
Soon after Kora reached home, her father rushed in. His graying beard looked as though he’d been tugging on it, and his eyes searched the kitchen where Kora and her mother were chopping carrots and onions and sorting beans for soup. He demanded, “Where’s Zacry?”
“Taking a nap.” Ilana’s slice down the center of a carrot went crooked. “Why are you home? Honey, what—”
“Do you have black cloth?”
Ilana shook her head. “Not on hand.”
He said, “We need something black, a belt or—”
Kora looked up from her onion. “I have a black scarf.”
“We must hang it out the window.” Her father put an arm around Ilana. “The king is dead. The entire royal family. A nobleman, some sorcerer nobleman had them murdered, and he’s taken control of the army. They made a public announcement in the village, this Zalski’s soldiers.” That was the first time Kora had heard that name. She squeezed her eyes shut, horrified, and her father’s hand moved to her shoulder. “He’s not to be toyed with. He knows what he’s doing if he moved the army in little by little, without us suspecting. We’re to acknowledge Zalski Forzythe’s rule with black cloth on the door. We should . . . we’ll consider it mourning for the king. Kora, please put that scarf out. The soldiers will be down this way soon. I’ll take over here.”
He wanted to speak with her mother. Kora gave her father her knife and left without a word, but she flattened herself by the door, her ear to the crack above the ground. Her parents’ voices were just audible over the chopping.
“Walten, what does this mean?”
“Take your best guess. I intend to take no chances with this man. He’s slaughtered a fair part of the nobility—his own peers—if reports are true. Let’s pray they’re not. That’s all we can do, pray and not draw notice.”
“The kids, Walten!”
“I’ll talk to them. We’ll adapt to whatever we must. If nothing else, my father built this house with his own hands, and no one can force us out of it.”
“If this Zalski slaughtered his peers, he won’t think twice about taxing commoners out of house and home. What does he want, Walten? No one takes down royals without a cause.”
“A cause and a plan. He had a plan all right, and he’s got a brain, to get this far. He’s gotten far enough that I don’t see anyone stopping him. What his cause is I don’t know yet, but this conjurer has me worried. It’s black he chose to symbolize submission. That’s fitting. Mold is black as ink, and nothing molds the heart like magic.”
Ilana spoke hesitantly. “I’ve told you a million times, you shouldn’t say such things. You’ve never known a soul with magic.”
Kora’s father’s voice hardened. “You weren’t in the market this morning. I don’t want my daughter hearing this.”
“She won’t from me.”
“That conjurer’s army arrested six men who’d snuck down from the capital to incite rebellion. They slit their throats like pigs in the square. Without proof, without a trial, simply an exhibition to send a message. One victim was pleading that he had five children.”
Ilana gasped. “Our children! What’ll happen to—”
Walten’s voice turned comforting. “Kora’s nothing if not responsible. And Zacry’s obedient.” Ilana harrumphed. “Zac obeys me,” Walten qualified. “I’ll tell him what not to talk about at school. He’ll understand it’s important. The four of us should be all right. They’ve no reason to come after me because I’ve never been political. We each shoulder our part already. Each’ll have to bear a heavier load, that’s all.”
“But how heavy? How much more weight?”
“I’m inclined to think a great deal. The burden will come on gradually if we’re lucky, and we’ll get time to build up strength. But what I watched today . . . Ilana, not a soul in Herezoth is safe.”
There was a moment’s pause, and Ilana then spoke with resolution. “Then we’ll have to shelter one another.”
“There it is,” said Walten. “That pluck you have. It’s why I married you, you know.”
“It’s why you fell in love with me,” Ilana corrected. “You married me for my cherry tarts. Me, now, I couldn’t imagine life without that crinkle you get between your eyes when you try not to smile . . . Here it comes.”
I hope you enjoyed the passage!
“The Crimson League: The Fight for Hope” is a sword and sorcery fantasy action/adventure story soon to be available in paperback or kindle.
Launch date is June 15! Visit here for the blurb and more info about exclusives on the blog as release day approaches!
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