Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Membrane

Lake freezing into a blue mirror
reflects me swimming.
The I in the dank drink
reaches for the revenant
shuffling on thin ice.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chapter Thirty-Nine of Okeanus

A sibilant sound shattered his concentration. He turned and caught a glimpse of a slight figure silently moving in the shadows of the deck. He screwed his eyes into a squint to see. He was sure the shadow was not one of the sailors; it was too small and thin. Unconsciously his right hand wrapped around the bone handle of his curved dagger. His fear awakened a sense of the bear; his nostrils flared as the spirit of the baresark rose into his conscious mind.

The figure stopped, sensing his presence. The wind changed direction and he detected a faint musky perfume. He knew then it was the woman, the Xipponese diplomate, who walked in the deck’s shadows. He moved away from her, searching for a darker shadow in which to hide. He suspected his attempt to hide was futile, because he sensed she knew intuitively that a baresark lurked in the shadows.

She slowly approached him, granting him a few moments to relax. She stopped a few feet away from him, waiting in a beam of the moon’s light that was now spreading over the waters. Although the light was faint he could clearly see her thin figure, her pale white face, and her long black hair pulled back and elaborately braided in a thick cord that hung to her waist. She wore a dark purple robe and flat leather shoes. A silver pendant dangled around her neck; she wore two rings: a large silver ring on her left hand and a ruby ring on her right. She had a prominent nose, thin lips and heavy brows.

As she drew closer, he noted her teeth were white, strong and straight and her eyes pale blue, like cornflowers. Finally, he decided, somewhat subjectively, that although her expression was feral, she exuded an extreme intelligence.

“You are a Keltoi?”

He cleared his throat. “I don’t know that to be true, although the Keltoi accepted me as one of them. I suspect I am related to them, especially after the things I have experienced over the last few weeks.”

She took a step forward and reached out her hand to touch his cheek. Her fingers were long and well shaped. At first he pulled back but when she reached toward him a second time, he let her touch him.

“Where are you from?”

“I am a Frenchman. I live in Paris.”

“Where is this place?”

“The Keltoi called it middangeard.”

“Yes, I have heard stories of this place. There is an ancient poem-√©ala √©arendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended. However, I have never really believed it existed.”

“What does it mean?”

“Hail Earendel, brightest angel, above middle earth sent to men.”

“So you are from this mythic world, the home of Earendel?”

Her hand held his jaw and he suspected she used touch as a sort of lie detector.

“Yes, I am from middangeard.”

She stepped back and he let out a breath.

“How did you come here?”

“Through a portal opened by a witch.”

“A witch?”

“What witch?” Her voice rose.

“Her name is Jacqueline Le Tourneau.”

“Where does she live?”

“In France like me.” Now it was her turn to breathe a sigh of relief. He suspected she feared a witch from Okeanus, the watery realm, was opening portals to middangeard.

“Does anyone on board know what you are?”

“No.”

“Good. If they did they would throw you overboard. I sensed your presence from the start but you have been asleep and it was difficult to see you. I have a lot of questions but we have little time now. I have agreed to dine with the Captain and I will soon be summoned.”

“I have also been invited.”

“You must never reveal who or what you are.”

He noted for the first time some sympathy in her pale eyes.

“Of course.”

“What do they call you baresark?”

"The Captain knows me as the sellsword-Tatyx.”

“What is your real name?”

"Oiseau.”

“Oiseau, I am Sor Michaelsdottir. My friends called me Mikk. I am a diplomate for the Xipponese. Do you know what that means?”

"Not really.”

“It means power, power in all its forms, and it means magic.”

“What were you doing on the Island? I heard that the King hates witches.”

“The King desires power so he is forced to deal with the Xipponese. But he hates all forms of magic, which makes his intercourse with us particularly distasteful. Nevertheless, we supported him in his war against Brasilika because it was in our interest to do so but now that the war is over, the relations between our two countries is strained. I came to the Island to tr y and smooth the King’s ruffled feathers.”

“Did it work?”

“A little. He lost the war with Brasilika and decimated his mercenary army in the process. He is now weak and needs his allies more than ever. Although it offends him to admit it, he knows he needs us. Imagine Oiseau, being afraid of witches, dragons and daemons in our world. It is like being afraid of life itself.”

“You are right Sor Michaelsdottir. We do have many things to discuss because dragons are the reason I left middangeard.”

She cocked her head to the right and Oiseau knew he had her attention: however, at that moment, the botswain rang the time and Roby called for them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Prologue to Okeanus

I am editing my fantasy novel Okenaus. Here is the Prologue.


On October 31, La Toussaint, Benoit Kohlbert leaned against a brass street lamp on a corner of an intersection near the Bois de Boulogne, a large park in Paris. His shadow stretched across the street until it penetrated the boundaries of a dense wood.

He whispered, “I shouldn’t go. It’s not fair.”

He gazed into the woods with such longing, however, that a stranger stopped and asked if he needed help.


Benoit waved him away and as soon as the man turned the corner, he argued, “but it is really better for my wife if I do this. I need it and it calms my nerves and makes me a better husband.”


A figure emerged from the woods, a shadow really, an outline of a man or a woman.
Benoit gave a faint wave. The figure waved back and then lit a cigarette, which illuminated delicate olive features, long black hair, and a slight frame.


Benoit made up his mind. He straightened his jacket, looked both ways and then hurried across the street, dodging the nighttime traffic.


As he approached, the figure, dressed in a black dress and stiletto heels, reached out to take his hand. Benoit smiled because the prostitute, in honor of All Saints Eve, wore a Venetian mask of pink porcelain, leaving only eyes and full red lips exposed. The two turned away from the streetlights and entered the autumn woods like Hansel and Gretel.

Benoit had been here before and he knew the routine. They walked silently to a clearing deep within the park where the young man spoke for the first time, telling him the fee and asking what he wanted.


Benoit fished a wad of euros from his pocket and handed them to the prostitute, who sat down on a tuft of brown grass and multi-colored leaves to count the bills.


While waiting, Benoit heard two things, which distracted his attention. The first was a distance rumble of thunder from the north, somewhere over Sacre Coeur. Because of global warming, Paris was undergoing a drought and rain was a rare and unexpected event. Even though France desperately needed it, rain tonight, he thought, was a bad omen. The second thing, he heard, was a soft hollow thump coming from his right, just above the trees; the sound repeated regularly like a runner’s heart at rest.


The young prostitute, ignoring the sounds, reached for his hand to pull him down onto the grass, but Benoit, unnerved and distracted by the eery sounds of thunder and thumping, pushed the hand away and looked up through a break in the limbs of the trees, where a deeper, darker blue shadow separated from the rain filled clouds. The shadow hung in the air like a hummingbird, its great wings filling with air and then propelling downward with a mighty push that made the bothersome thump that had first caught his attention.


The shadowy creature descended, close enough for him to see its yellow eyes. Benoit deflected his gaze, hoping not to attract its attention. The beast sniffed and turned its wolf-like maw toward the prostitute, who was pulling the dress off to reveal a flat hairy stomach beneath a red padded bra. He still wore the mask.


Benoit, now no longer interested in the young Brasilian and his taut body, watched entranced, as drops of saliva fell from the beast’s fangs and ignited into yellow flames. With a moist cough, the beast, like a snake before a strike, recoiled. A heartbeat passed before yellowish flames spewed in a concerted thrust downward and engulfed the young man, melting his flesh in a private inferno, and burning a silhouette of the prostitute into the grass.


Benoit paralysed with fright, his nostrils blistered by the acrid smoke of the burning flesh, watched the beast recoil a second time. In awe he crossed himself and whispered: “Sweet Mary, holy Mother of God, a blue dragon.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Okeanus

I have finished the first draft of my new novel Okeanus. Here is the synopsis.

Jacques Oiseau, a French psychologist, trained in Uppsala, Sweden, and a Capitaine of the Police Judiciare in Paris, profiles and tracks serial killers. Shortly after the death of his Swedish wife, Birgit, the Commissioner orders the grieving Oiseau to investigate a series of murders, involving arson and cannibalism.

Oiseau summons his team and throws himself into the investigation, which soon produces a witness. The witness warns Oiseau that he is not tracking a man but a Drac, a mythic creature from Celtic mythology.

With this bizarre information, Oiseau follows his leads and interviews witches, wizards, alchemists, and a beautiful representative of an ancient people called the Keltoi, the hidden ones.

The Keltoi directs Oiseau to an alchemist, who informs him that only a dragon hunter, who possesses and integrates a darkened soul shard, can rid the world of the Drac. The problem, he says, is that a darkened soul shard can only be obtained from a magus residing on one of the four elemental planes. Since, according to alchemical principles, the Drac comes from the watery plane, Okeanus, Oiseau must seek help from a magus there.


In exchange for a favor from the police, a witch creates a tear in the membrane separating the worlds and Oiseau falls, naked and unarmed, into an unbalanced watery world inhabited by a multitude of species, arising from or kin to dragons, and the humanoids that oppose them.

He does not speak the languages; he has no map or compass; and, once he arrives, Focalor, a denizen of the fiery plane, who knows of his quest and is determined to stop him, hunts him.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Vogel and the White Bull

Murder of Crow Books will be issuing a new edition of Vogel and the White Bull next year and I am currently working on the editor's changes and suggestions.

Below is another section concerning the function of images-one of the major themes of the book.

Elisa sipped on her beer.

“When I left Germany, I was working on a study of Heinrich’s head. It’s realistic, but with the usual tricks of Expressionism. For some reason now, I feel I could paint the same study with a new resonance. I think I understand a little more about the resonance of life. Before, I was painting what I saw physically; but now, I want to capture some of the mystery of what it is to be a Vogel or a Harding. I want to see beyond the skull into the psyche and beyond it to the spirit that animates the skull.”

“What does that mean?” asked Tracey. “I don’t get it.”

At that moment the waiter arrived with Vogel’s drink and Jonathan ordered another round for the table.

“It means, Tracey,” said Elisa, looking at her closely, “I’ve discovered something inside me that makes my vision of others numinous or mysterious. I’ve tapped into some new lode of energy that wants to get out through me and my art.”

“I still don’t get it,” reiterated Tracey sipping her margarita.

“We understand or are led by images. Sometimes the images are flat and inanimate. At other times, they are alive and electric, magical and mysterious, mystical or ineffable. Something out here in New Mexico has touched me and I have a sense of wonder I didn’t use to have. The other day, I met an Indian who told me a story and I could see the characters of the story. But I also felt there was something behind the story, the people were archetypes, expressing some greater meaning. I know these feelings emanate from me, but that doesn’t lessen the excitement or the beauty of the image. I also realize that certain images, because of cultural and personal reasons, are imbued with emotion or energy. I think I can reproduce those images in my art that will touch the observers in the same way.”

“Can you give me an example?” asked Jonathan who was very interested in Elisa and her new approach to her art.

Elisa thought for a moment and then said, “Suppose I paint a very realistic painting of a nude woman with a large snake across her body.”

“Well,” said Jonathan smiling, “it would be symbolic.”

“Yes,” she answered. “All of a sudden there would be all types of mythic, sexual, and religious associations from the image of the snake juxtaposed on to the nude woman.”

They were silent for a moment, thinking about the image, making their own associations, and painting their own picture in their imaginations.