It’s Sample Sunday again so in light of this amazing event, I am offering for your perusal a sampling of my newest prequel novella, Diridan’s Daughter:
My mother died when I was twelve years old. During the winter, she had become ill with a cough that would not go away. Always she was coughing; sometimes so violently she could no longer stand on her feet. She would collapse in a chair or even on the sidewalk, her face turning blue as she fought for a breath.
At first she refused to see the village doctor. She would wave away my father when he suggested such a thing. Later, she went to the clinic and returned with some tinctures and potions, none of which did anything to quiet her spasms. When blood began to spurt from her mouth, or seep down her lips after each episode, my father went to the King and begged for passage to Mishnah. They had fine hospitals there and more advanced medicine than the strengthening herbs, Old Lorak our doctor could provide. The King held my dad, Diridan in high esteem for he was once a great warrior. He had also been a friend of the King’s son, Prince Lot who had been killed in battle long before I was born. My father had said he was the last to see Lot alive.
“I would have given my life for his in an instant. I should have taken that bullet in my own heart. It was meant for me, not for him.” Such was his sorrow as the two were the best of friends. The Prince’s oldest brother, Sorkan, my father despised. He blamed Sorkan for Lot’s death though I wasn’t certain why. Sometimes, if Father was in a particularly sad mood, he would speak of the battles and what he called Sorkan’s mistakes.
“Arrogant, cocky!” My father raged. “He could have gotten every one of us killed. As it was, poor Lot paid the price for his pompous brother’s miscalculations.”
“Hush, Diridan.” My mother tried to soothe my father’s ire. “You can’t bring anyone back from the dead, and you were all so very willful and young then.” My father would shout a bit more, perhaps even shed a tear until he grew tired and would let my mother lead him off to bed.
The King mourned his lost son as well, and replaced him with my father who was now treated as a great chief. The King would take him hunting, a twosome instead of three and on holidays, we sat in the Temple behind the Royal Row. Afterward, we were the first to follow them out. During banquets in the Great Hall, only the King and Princes were served before us and always we were given the choicest cuts of meat.
“Let’s ask Diridan his opinion,” the King was often heard to say. “I value his wise counsel on many things.” My father was never a chief of any sort but merely a carpenter and maker of chairs. All he owned was a shop of the furniture he crafted and his memories of carrying a sword a dozen years ago. The King loved him a little bit, so he offered my mother passage to anywhere. He would provide the transport himself for he had a limousine which he rarely used. We, of Karupatani only rode our horses or sat in carts. We walked on our own feet or travelled upon the water in a boat. Only the evil Mishaks flew speeders or planes that crossed the stars. We lived simply off our land and desired nothing else. This is what I was taught and always had believed.
“I refuse to go to Mishnah,” my mother declared when my father shared this news. “I don’t care if the King himself orders me. If I can’t be cured in Karupatani, then I am not meant to live.” My father tried everything he could to convince her otherwise, but my mother was steadfast in her refusal to go.
“We are at peace now,” my father begged. “Even the younger princes have gone there to school. Do not die now out of stubbornness to accept treatment from them.”
“No,” my mother insisted before breaking into a fit of coughs. “This is my choice, my decision. You will respect my wishes or I will go home.” Home for my mother was her mother’s house in Kirkut which was far across the hills. With snow on the ground even here, the voyage on horseback, she would certainly not survive. My father had no choice but to watch her waste away. She was buried the first week of spring when the ground was still frozen hard. The men had a difficult time digging, so the hole was only half the normal depth. This is what I learned from the whisperings of the people who gathered on the hill to watch us mourn.
“I hope she does not rise to haunt us.” The loud voice of Prince Tuman’s wife carried across the icicle grass and echoed in the canyon above the river. I shivered in my sheep skin cloak, the curly pelt more bothersome than comforting and one I would forever after hate. I prayed with my mouth though my mind and heart were elsewhere, and when it was my turn to pour dirt upon the casket, my hand froze and couldn’t move.
We walked back to our house and sat about our living room while the women of our village brought us food. The men came and stood around with nothing to say, shuffling their feet and clearing their throats. When the night fell, my father and I were alone staring at untouched food and our cold hearth.
“Go up to bed, Cinda,” he said, rising to his feet and heading to the door. “I’m going to go out for a walk to clear my head.”
I headed up the stairs which creaked as my feet crossed each one. “I was supposed to repair them,” my father cried, his voice a plaintive wail that followed him outside on to our porch. “I had promised her so many times to mend the stairs. Why haven’t I fixed them before now?” I shut the door to my room and sat upon my bed which was dressed in the blanket my mother had sewn. In my closet, all my clothes were crafted by her hand and my cupboard held the necklaces she had beaded. I gazed at each of these things, looking for something of my mother in them, but they were just things, empty things with no life. I shut my eyes and lay down upon my bed to stare at the ceiling, my heart cold and hard like a stone.
I had never been a good student. I could add a list of numbers and subtract well enough, but anything beyond that sent my mind into a tizzy. The tongue of my people, Karupatani was once a great language as our nation was once a fierce power. After the war that devastated the mother planet, Rozari, both our words and our nation became simple. I could speak well enough and memorize the stories and songs that had been passed down, though learning them bored me to tears. My passion was drawing and sketching which I did every afternoon when freed from the school. I would take my sketchbook and pencils out to the fields and spend entire days capturing my village on the paper. I had sketches of all the seasons both in the day time and at night. I had portraits of every animal we raised. I drew the valley in the snow, the fields with new green shoots, the sheaves of wheat as they bent in the harsh summer sun. In the autumn, I captured the rain as it fell upon the river, swelling her over the banks of her shores. I drew the sky as it darkened to portend the winter, and I sketched the nights alight with the two golden moons. I recorded my entire life between the pages of my book until the night when I drew my last picture. It was my mother’s face as she had smiled at me, the colors in my memory already fading into gray. Then, I put my book aside and burned my pencils in the fire, for every picture afterward would only be colored black.
Of course, the story continues in the other novellas and The Boy who Lit up the Sky which is still and only temporarily on sale for 99 cents.