"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Misty Forest

My NAPIRE students, Steve, Aliah and Briana.
All three are working with Piper ant-plants. 

The field season at Las Cruces is quickly drawing to a close, which means busy times in the tropics.  My students are pushing hard to analyze their data and prepare their final papers and presentations before the program ends this week.  In addition to giving them all the support I can, I've been trying to finish up projects of my own, moving things off the desk in preparation for jumping into fall semester as soon as I return home.  It has been a wonderful field season in Costa Rica, and I love the peace and wonder of this cloudy montane forest, but a part of me is now ready to start the journey home.

I've been talking a lot these past weeks about my adventures in Las Cruces.  Today, I want to share a little about my adventures with the written word.  When I haven't been hiking through the forests, watching the rain come down in torrents, meeting with my students, or contemplating ants and spiders in the lab, I've spent my time this summer with Eolyn and the new host of characters that comprise the novel High Maga.  They have moved me, inspired me, made me very happy, and even, on occasion, brought me to tears. Their story is quickly drawing to a close, which makes me at once excited, proud and, sad.  I've spent over two years now following the lives of these characters, and it's going to be hard to let them go when the time comes. 

With fall semester just around the corner, I've been dedicating every spare moment to High Maga, either rewriting early chapters or producing new material.  Yesterday I was thinking, what should I put on my blog this week?  And in truth, I didn't want to write anything for the blog.  I just wanted to keep working on High Maga.  So it occurred to me that since High Maga is the most important thing on my mind right now, maybe that's what I should be sharing with all of you. 

Here it is then:  The synopsis for High Maga, and a sneak preview of Chapter One of the manuscript.  I'm posting this with the disclaimer that the scene may not appear in the final version of the novel; and even if it does, it will almost certainly be altered.  After all, the manuscript has yet to undergo an editor's redpen.  But at least this brief excerpt will give you a chance to spend some time with the characters of Eolyn's world, and to have a glimpse of what is to come. 

The Talamanca Mountain Range of Costa Rica -- an endless
source of inspiration for scientists and writers alike.

Synopsis: High Maga

Eolyn, the last of the High Magas, founds a new coven in the isolated province of Moehn. The young girls she trains will, she hopes, revive a millennial tradition of women's magic.

Akmael, the new Mage King of Moisehén and Eolyn's erstwhile love, must defend his land against invasion by the Syrnte, whose witch-queen has summoned long-banished creatures of the netherworld to aid her conquest.

When the Syrnte army descends upon Moehn, Eolyn's school is burned and her students killed, captured or scattered. Aided by Borten, a loyal knight of the king to whom she is increasingly drawn, and the devious and untrustworthy Mage Corey, Eolyn must escape the occupied province and deliver to Akmael the weapon that might secure his victory. 

Their collective journey will test the limits of love and endurance, until Eolyn comes to understand -- perhaps too late -- that she also carries the shadow that could unleash Akmael’s doom.

Chapter 1 (excerpt)
*Those of you who read Eolyn will be happy to know this scene includes Eolyn and the Mage King Akmael, who after several years of separation have come together for a brief encounter in the highlands of Moehn.

Eolyn had taken her stance on the other side of the room, behind a small polished oak table that served as her desk. It was disconcerting, being alone with Akmael like this. She drew a deliberate breath, and forced her hands to be still by setting her fingers upon the table.

A trace of annoyance flitted across Akmael's features, but vanished before Eolyn could be certain of what she had seen. He strode forward, stopping just short of the desk.

“You look well, Eolyn.”

The maga saw more than these words reflected in his eyes. She saw admiration, desire, the acknowledgement of extraordinary beauty. A tightness filled her belly then extended its provocative grip toward more intimate places, bringing a flush to her cheeks.  

“Thank you, my Lord King. I am most glad to see you and the Queen in good health, and your daughter, the Princess Eliasara…” The thought that his child could have been hers surfaced, making her blink and glance away. “She is lovely. She must bring you great happiness.”

“She will be entrusted to you when she is of age.”

“My Lord King?” The announcement surprised her.

“I want her to learn the ways of magic.”

“Don’t you think…?” Eolyn bit her lip. One did not simply accept students at the will of their parents. Eliasara would have to prove her abilities and disposition, and even if she had an aptitude, the decision to take her on would be complicated. There were still many in Moisehén who did not wish to see magic wielded by members of the Royal House of Vortingen, and Eolyn still struggled with the question of whether their concerns were well-founded. “The Queen has no knowledge of our traditions. She might not approve.”

“It does not matter whether she approves. It is my will that Eliasara become a maga.”

“I see.” Eolyn frowned in confusion. How could Taesara’s opinion not matter in decisions regarding the education of their daughter?

There was a knock at the door, followed by Sir Drostan’s muffled baritone. Akmael bade the knight to enter, yet kept his gaze steady upon Eolyn as Drostan crossed the room and laid a long package wrapped in well-oiled leather on the table. The knight paused and cleared his throat, looking from High Maga to Mage King as if to say something, but then merely bowed and took his leave.

Akmael removed the leather wrapping, unsheathed the sword therein and set it before Eolyn. The hilt was inlaid with ivory, the blade shone silver-white. Her throat went dry when she recognized it.

“This? Where did you get this?”

“I have had it since the Battle of Aerunden.”

She sat down, so great was her shock. “Kel’Barú. My brother’s sword. All this time you have had it?”

“I wanted to keep it,” he confessed. “It is a fine weapon, and you seemed to have little use for tools of war. But the Galian wizards gave this sword a will of its own, and it has done nothing these past four years but weep for you.”

She stood and lifted the sword, one hand sustaining the ivory hilt, the flat of the blade resting on her long fingers.

Eolyn, it sang in the quiet hum of metals. Eolyn, Eolyn, Eolyn.

“I want you to learn how to use it,” Akmael said.

At once she set it down. “No.”

“I will not argue this with you.”

“Stop it!” Every fiber of her body ignited with resentment. “Stop it, Akmael. Why are you doing this?”

A moment passed before she realized her transgression. She lowered her eyes, trembling with anger. “Forgive me, my Lord King. I didn’t intend-”

“Do not apologize. It pleases me, to hear you say my name. I would have you say it more often.”

There was such unexpected kindness to his tone that her rage slipped through her fingers. She managed a hesitant smile. “Thank you. I mean no insult by questioning your gift, but you know my feelings on this matter. Three years ago, you sent Borten along with his knights to guard this school, and despite all my letters of protest you insist on keeping them here. Last summer you ordered him to begin building that accursed wall, and now on your first visit to Moehn, you give me a sword? This is an Aekelahr, not a military outpost.”

“This is a fragile community of Magas cultivating seeds of great power. You are not to go unprotected.”

“Moehn is a peaceful province. That is why I chose it. We are well received here. No one wishes us harm.”

“It is not Moehn I worry about.”

“Who, then? There won’t be any armies emerging from the South Woods, and no one can get through the Pass of Aerunden without crossing the kingdom and defeating you first.”

Akmael let go a slow breath. The turmoil that stirred behind his dark eyes disturbed her; as if there were something of importance he could not bring himself to reveal. He picked up Kel’Baru and proffered it to her.

Eolyn shook her head, hands clenched stubbornly at her sides. “We tried this, a long time ago. You know I have no gift for weaponry.”

 “You are not the frightened girl you were then. You have strength, balance and speed. And you have a sword that loves you. Borten can teach you how to use it.”

“I’ve seen how your men fight, Akmael. I could never hope to--”

“No, you could not!” He struck his fist against the table and gestured toward the courtyard outside where his guards waited. “Any one of those men - trained from the time they were children – any of them could kill you in a heartbeat. But with this blade in your hand, it might take them two heartbeats. Or three. Or fifteen. And that might be enough for someone to come to your aid before it is too late.”

“I am not without my defenses. I have my magic, and my staff. I can invoke almost every manner of flame known to our people. I have even cast the curse of Ahmad-kupt, though I hope never to use it again.”

“Your magic will not be enough.”

“For what?”

He glanced away, set his jaw. “I want you to have every tool at your disposal, for whatever may come.”