it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken
matociquala

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all the cool kids are doing it.

truepenny on why revision is a good idea

pbray on keeping the reader's trust.




Okay, I'm really going to humiliate myself here, because we're reaching back into the rankest of rank juvenilia for my exhibits in the Revision Parade. I wrote the first bits of Blood & Iron(then called Daoine, later called Shadowhand, eventually called Bridge of Blood & Iron, before settling down at last to the nicely euphonious Blood & Iron) when I was in high school.

Thankfully, those version no longer exist.

Since I started writing everything on a computer, however, it's become my habit to save every day to a new, dated file. So I have very comprehensive backups.

This one, is from a text file dated 10/21/1994. I'm reasonably certain it's an extract of the LEWP file that contained the second word-processed version of the story, the first having been done on a Macintosh circa 1992. So this one should be the oldest extant version.

They all start the same way, mind you, except the last one:

Like this:

'I am half-sick of shadows,'
said The Lady of Shalott

--Alfred, Lord Tennyson




For as long as men have been, men have dreamt of dragons; great, bleak beasts, fanged and clawed with horror; drenched in blood, in hunger; with the lust for all that glitters and is bright... as if they believe it might conceal their own darkness. As if bejeweling the dark... could destroy it.

Men, of old, were wiser. They lived in terror of the night, and feared the cruel and wondrous things that hide there. They fled the dragon and hid from the merciless dark.

Now, they flock to live in the belly of the beast, believing it their own creation... believing it under control. And the dragon feeds on their hunger, their need, their fear and their rage and their barely recognized betrayal. Every age has its dragon, every society- most are simply more perceptive than we.

I stalk through the open maw of the city, glancing upward now and again at its ragged teeth arrayed against the sky. Slime splashes my boots: a foulness from the gutter. The breath of the beast moans from the subway tunnels, and I prowl past a pack of shadows in a doorway. One dares to taunt me, to reach out as if to touch the shoulder of a lone woman in the night. As if being a woman on business after nightfall were an invitation.

He snatches his hand back before it reaches me, and I see from the shadows behind him, without turning, his outreached paw turned momentarily shriveled and diseased. Don't touch that, boy. You don't know where it has been.

I feel a hard smile curve my lips. I have grown into the night.

I pause in the puddle of hope beneath a streetlamp, reaching out into the darkness through the shadowed eyes in a thousand doorways. I hear the voice of a girl, a whore too young to know death truly, pleading with her "manager." She begs him to let her explain, and he strikes her, draws a knife. Is she the one? Shall I act to save, and then to damn her? Or shall I let her die or be disfigured, as useless to me as she is to him?

The eyes in the shadows clamor for my attention. The girl falls to the ground as he strikes her again. Faces move into the subway tunnel, blank, mesmerized, horrible. The hypodermic pierces flesh. Unutterable ecstacy ensues: for the moment, only for the moment, unreal as glamours. A woman huddles into her rags for warmth, shaking her fist at the stars.

The stars will not pity you, woman. Be glad in your wretchedness, for you are not one of mine.

I cannot blame the blind denizens of the dragon's belly. So recently, I was the same: unaware of the trueness of the world that I now see from the shadows, the presence of the black demonic shadow who watches from the top of Liberty's torch, the curiousity of the walking willow who observes the rape in progress in the park, the cold, final sorrow of the unicorn who bends her silver, tragic beauty in mourning to the panther caged in the heart of the city.

Ah, the unicorn. I could not lay a hand on that cold silver neck without taking back a charred obscenity. I could not stroke that purity without leaving a smear of tarnish in my wake. We are inimical, the unicorn and I. She is no devil.

I was like these somnambulists once: asleep but not dreaming, I drudges through my days. I was a sheep... until I was made a wolf to come among them... until I was made Daoine - Faerie-The Seeker of the Changed.

Now, I move in a different world, a place of shadows and lights, of names and glamours, of knotted hairs and deadly magics. I see the pimp bending over the girl, his knife flicking out from his fist like a snake's quick tongue. He holds it to terrify, not to fight. He shudders out of clarity as if a stone were tossed into his image, and the girl emerges brightly from the ripples of the night. Act, the shadows taunt me- act, act, act.

The pimp looks up from the girl, a jackal glancing up from its prey. His gaze travels up my black boots to my legs, and then flicks up to my face. He sees my long, dark hair, and the angular femininity of my face, and relaxes. Just a woman, he is thinking. "Leave her, leech," he hears me say. "The child is mine now."

He snarls like the small fierce creature I know him to be. "You wanna die too, bitch?"

I smile at him, a very little smile that hurts the corners of my mouth. "You are out of your depth, mortal. I warn you twice."

Then again, I may be mad.

After all, I am hearing voices... and seeing things.

He lunges for me, and I step away. He overreaches, and I do not move to injure him. He turns back to me, his clumsy reach having brought him past. I speak a name.

"Gharne!"

I lean back as he slashes for my face, a feint at my vanity. As if one more scar could hurt. I hear the wings beating from behind my shoulder, and my assailant's eyes widen in fear. He throws up his arms to protect his own pretty face.

In Faerie, you are granted three chances. Thus it is that Gharne takes him in the chest. His balance is bad, and he falls sprawling across the girl, who still whimpers on the pavement. She might have had the sense to run...

Those voices tell me to do terrible things.

Gharne is feeding now, his black beak bloody as he gouges for the heart. The girl drags herself away, wearing the pimp's blood like a sash across her chest. Gharne looks up at me across the dying bubbles of the chest wound. "Good hunting, Seeker. Feed well."

I squat beside him, and lay a gentling hand on his neck. "Your meal, small friend."

His beak dips again, and I turn to collect the girl. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

At last, she has run. I follow at an easy pace. Her trail is not convoluted, and my footsteps come fast and comfortably as I run. The shadow that paces me is that of a running doe, her four footsteps meeting my two, poor bound creature.

The girl fled in blind panic. So, I must find her quickly, as many things can smell fear. She bolted toward the ocean... and I am not the only fey predator who haunts this night.

So few of the denizens of this great city realize that they live in the belly of a monster. Old gods unworshipped do not die. They nerely find new ways to feed, new idolatries to exploit... and thus, old gods become young demons. Their city is a beast, a living thing, a breathing thing...

It hungers.

The shadow of an owl floats up the wall by me as I ascend the fire escape. My footsteps are light and level across the rooftops: I see as the owl does, and when I leap the twenty feet from rooftop to rooftop without straining, it is the bound soul of the doe who leaps for me. I come to a halt at the edge of a warehouse roof, overlooking the quay.

I arch my face up, hair thrown back, my muscles tensing as I scent the wind. Of a sudden, my eyes open and I am hurtling down toward the pavement before I even really think of moving. The girl is below. I can smell her. And another...

I feel my body striving, and the steel burn of the city in my bones. I feel the intentness of the hunt upon me, predatory tunnel vision leaching away the edges of my awareness. My feet know only to run, and the doe has deserted me, exausted by the chase. The shadows show me his footsteps, long, delicate black feet, pearly bare toenails, water dripping from the ragged white cuff of his pants. A slow puddle spreads out where he has passed, his pacing steps leaving wet prints on the stone. I see his image in the reflection: tall, thin, and graceful, he is shown in both his forms. I pelt toward him, and he paces toward my prey.

The girl is huddled in a doorway. I see the back of her head, from out the shadows behind her, and past her, the stalking form of my competition. He is tall, thin: black of skin and long of face, clad in the rags of white pants and shirt of archaic cut. His hands and feet are naked. He moves with grace. He walks past the doorway...

I come into sight in time to see his sure steps hesitate. He pauses, turns back. Delight marks his face, if you can call it that...

She cringes from him, and cowers. From my shadows, I see him smiling. It is a kind smile. His teeth are large, white, and very even. he reaches out to her.

"Are you hurt, child? Can I help you?"



Okay, I feel dirty now.

Somewhere in here there was a comic-book script version, which I will not subject anybody to. Because I am a good and generous bear. However, somewhere along the line I got the idea that it would be really cool if I could integrate the thing I was trying to do with the graphic novel script, which is to say, show the unreliable narrator--show the contradictions in what Seeker said and what actually happened--and I went for third person.

Unfortunately, my skills were not up to the task of what I was attempting.



"For as long as men have been, men have dreamt of dragons: great, bleak beasts, fanged and clawed with horror; drenched in blood, in hunger, in the lust for all that glitters and is bright... as if they believe a glistening coverlet might conceal their own darkness. As if bejeweling the dark... could destroy it.

"Dragons. Wise, cthonic beings, they deck the covers of cheap novels, arrayed in crimson and green and glittering black, in gold and bronze and silver. And men ... and teenage girls... adore them.

"Men, of old, were wiser. They lived in terror of the night, and feared the cruel and wondrous things that hide there. They fled the dragon and hid from the merciless dark.

"Now, they flock to live in the belly of the beast, believing it their own creation... believing it under control. And the dragon feeds on their hunger, their need, their fear and their rage and their barely recognized betrayal. Every age has its dragon, every society- most are simply more perceptive than we."

From the Diary of Elaine Andraste


She stalked through the open maw of the city, glancing upward now and again at its ragged teeth arrayed against the sky. The breath of the beast moaned from subway tunnels. Slime splashed her boots with some foulness from the gutter.

She prowled past a pack of shadowed figures in a doorway. One dared to taunt her, to reach out as if to touch the shoulder of a lone woman in the night. As if being a woman on business after nightfall were an invitation.

He snatched back his hand back with a cry. From the shadows behind him, without turning, she saw his outreached paw turned momentarily shriveled and diseased, writhing with grubs, falling to pieces. Don't touch that, boy. You don't know where it has been.

She felt a hard smile curve into her lips. She had grown into the night.

She paused in the puddle of hope beneath a streetlamp, reaching out into the darkness through the shadowed eyes in a thousand doorways. She heard the voice of a girl, a whore, too young, pleading with her manager. She begged and he struck her, drawing a knife. Is she the one? Shall I act to save, and then to damn her? Or shall I let her die or be disfigured, as useless to me as she is to him?

***

The eyes in the shadows clamor for her attention. The girl falls to the ground as he strikes her again. Faces move into the subway tunnel, blank, mesmerized, horrible. The hypodermic pierces flesh. Unutterable ecstacy ensues: for the moment, only for the moment, unreal as glamours. A woman huddles into her rags for warmth, shaking her fist at the stars.

The stars will not pity you, woman. Be glad in your wretchedness, for you are not one of mine.

I cannot blame the blind denizens of the dragon's belly. So recently, I was the same: unaware of the trueness of the world that I see now, from the shadows. A black demonic shape crouches on the top of Liberty's torch. Gaunt and curious, a walking willow observes two men in beat a middle aged woman down on the grass, tearing her clothes in their haste to rape her body. Cold and final is the sorrow of the unicorn who bends her silver, tragic beauty in mourning to the panther caged in the heart of the city.

Ah, the unicorn. I could not lay a hand on that cold silver neck without taking back a charred obscenity. I could not stroke that purity without leaving a smear of tarnish in my wake. We are inimical, the unicorn and I. She is no devil.

I was like these somnambulists once: asleep but not dreaming, I drudged through my days. I was a sheep... until I was made a wolf to come among them...

She moves in a place of shadows and lights, of names and glamours, of knotted hairs and deadly magics. She sees the Wampyr, slipping along a filth -encrusted alleyway, who stops and smiles into the shadows. He whispers: I see you, too... She sees the long ripple of water, curling white foam and black, that flickers up against the wharves. She sees the pimp bending over the girl, his knife flicking out from his fist like a snake's quick tongue. He holds it to terrify, not to fight. He shudders out of clarity as if a stone were tossed into his image, and the girl emerges brightly from the ripples of the night. Act, the shadows taunt her- act, act, act.

The pimp looks up from the girl, a jackal glancing up from its prey. His gaze travels up the stalker's black boots to her legs, and then flicks up to her face. He sees her long, dark hair, and the angular femininity of my face, and relaxes. Just a woman. "Leave her, leech," he hears her say. "The child is mine now."

He snarls like the small fierce creature she knows him to be. "You wanna die too, bitch?"

She smiles at him, a very little smile that hurts the corners of her mouth. "You are out of your depth, mortal. I warn you twice."

Then again, I may be mad.

After all, I am hearing voices... and seeing things. And the voices tell me to do terrible things...

He lunges for her, and she steps away. He overreaches, and she does not move to injure him. He turns back to her, his clumsy reach having brought him past. She speaks a name.

"Gharne!"

She lean back as he slashes for her face. A feint at my vanity. As if one more scar could harm me. She hears the wings beating from behind her shoulder, and her assailant's eyes widen in fear. He throws up his arms to protect his own pretty face.

In Faerie, you are granted three chances. Thus it is that Gharne takes him in the chest. His balance is bad, and he falls sprawling across the girl, who still whimpers on the pavement. She might have had the sense to run...

Gharne is feeding now, his black beak bloody as he gouges for the heart. The girl drags herself away, wearing the pimp's blood like a sash across her chest. Gharne looks up at the woman in black across the dying bubbles of the chest wound. "Good hunting, Seeker. Feed well."

She squats beside him, and lays a gentling hand on his neck. "Your meal, small friend."

His beak dips again, and she turns to collect the girl. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

At last, she has run. Seeker follows at an easy pace. The girl's trail is not convoluted, and Seeker's footsteps come fast and comfortably as she runs. The shadow that paces me is that of a running doe, her four footsteps meeting my two, poor bound creature.

The girl fled in blind panic. I must find her quickly. Many things can smell fear. She bolted toward the ocean... and I am not the only fey predator who haunts this night.

So few of the denizens of this great city realize that they live in the belly of a monster. Old gods unworshipped do not die. They merely find new ways to feed, new idolatries to exploit... and thus, old gods become young demons. Their city is a beast, a living thing, a breathing thing...

It hungers.

The shadow of an owl floats up the wall by Seeker as she ascends the fire escape. Her footsteps are light and level across the rooftops: she sees as the owl does, and when she leaps the twenty feet from rooftop to rooftop without straining, it is the doe who leaps for her. She comes to a halt at the edge of a warehouse roof, overlooking the quay.

She arches her face up, hair thrown back, muscles tensing as she scents the wind. Of a sudden, her eyes open and she is hurtling down toward the pavement before she even really thinks of moving. The girl is below. I can smell her. And another...

She feels her body striving, and the steel burn of the city in my bones. The intentness of the hunt is upon her, predatory tunnel vision leaching away the edges of her awareness. Her feet know only to run, and the doe has deserted her, exausted by the chase. Silent, padding, the shadow of a cat runs beside her, hunter, leaper, stalker of prey.

The shadows show her his footsteps, long, delicate black feet, pearly bare toenails, water dripping from the ragged white cuff of his pants. A slow puddle spreads out where he has passed, his pacing steps leaving wet prints on the stone. She sees his image in the reflection: tall, thin, and graceful, he is shown in all of his forms. She pelts toward him, and he paces toward his prey.

The girl is huddled in a doorway. Seeker sees the back of her head, from out the shadows behind her, and past her, the stalking form of the competition. He is tall, thin: black of skin and long of face, clad in the rags of white pants and shirt of archaic cut. His hands and feet are naked. He moves with grace. He walks past the doorway...

Seeker comes into sight in time to see his sure steps hesitate. He pauses, turns back. Delight marks his face, if you can call it that...

The girl cringes from him, and cowers. From her shadows, Seeker sees him smiling kindly. His teeth are large, white, and very even. He reaches out to her.

"Are you hurt, child? Can I help you?"



Would you believe I'm actually cutting these before the action gets really confusing and overwritten? I know. Sad, isn't it? You might say I went through a stage of unrestrained purpuritue here.

And believe it or not, by 1997 I had already made several paying sales, and actually thought I was pretty good at this writing thing.

Oh, the innocence of the young. :-P

And then, when I started rewriting this--after the I had written four other complete novels, including the first draft of Hammered--in 2003, I hadn't yet really learned to look at what I'd written and see what was wrong with it. So all the line of direction problems remained the same, and the flaws got painted over, but not actually straightened out.


For as long as men have been, men have dreamed of dragons. Great, bleak beasts, fanged and clawed with horror; drenched in blood, in hunger; crimson with the lust for all that glitters and is bright. As if bejeweling the dark could destroy it.

Dragons. They deck the covers of cheap novels, arrayed in crimson and green and glittering black, in gold and bronze and silver. And men--and teenage girls--adore them.

Men, of old, were wiser. They lived in terror of the night, and feared the cruel and wondrous things that hide there. They fled the dragon and hid from the merciless dark. Now, they flock to live in the belly of the beast, believing it their own creation. Believing it under control.

And the dragon feeds on their hunger, their need, their fear and their rage and their barely recognized betrayal.

Every age has its dragon, every society--most are simply more perceptive than we.

--From the Diary of Elaine Andraste


#

The Seeker of the Daoine Sidhe stalked through the open maw of the city, glancing upward now and again at its ragged teeth, arrayed against the sky. Slime splashed her boots, foulness from the gutter; the breath of the beast moaned from the subway tunnels. She prowled past a pack of lean young men in a doorway. One dared to taunt her, to reach out to touch the shoulder of a woman alone in the night.

As if being a woman on business after nightfall were an invitation.

He snatched his hand back before it brushed her. The shadows behind him showed her his outreached paw turned momentarily shriveled and diseased. Glamourie.

Don't touch that, boy. You don't know where it has been. A hard smile curved her lips. I have grown into the night.

Seeker paused in the puddle of hope beneath a streetlamp, reaching out into the city night through her other eyes: the eyes in all those shadows. She rubbed aching hands together as if chafing warmth into them, although the late summer night was anything but chill. One thread of insight burned strong among all the others--the voice of a girl, a whore, too young, pleading with her pimp. She begged him and he struck her, drawing a knife.

Seeker saw her fall, one crystalline image among dozens of more shadowy ones. Is she the one? Shall I act to save and then to damn her? Or shall I let her die or be disfigured, as useless to me as she is to him?

A hundred shadow-visions tugged at the fringes of her awareness, too many to track all at once. Blank, mesmerized, horrible: silhouettes moved into that subway tunnel. Half a city block away, a hypodermic pierced flesh. Unutterable ecstasy followed: for the moment, only for the moment, unreal as glamours. Around the corner, a woman huddled into her rags for warmth, shaking her fist at the stars.

The stars will not pity you. Be glad in your wretchedness, for you are not one of mine. Seeker winced at the thought, and then cursed herself for weakness. I cannot blame them. So recently, I was the same: unaware of the trueness of the world that I see now, from the shadows.

Shattered images taunted Seeker: a demonic silhouette settled on Liberty's torch; a walking willow (gaunt and curious) followed a jogger; the sorrow of a unicorn bending her cold and final beauty to a caged, savage-eyed panther.

I could not lay a hand on that cold silver neck without taking back a charred obscenity. I could not stroke that purity without leaving a smear of tarnish in my wake.

Seeker moved in a place of names and glamours, of knotted hairs and deadly magics. She saw the a human Mage, black-eyed and wearing a jacket of army camouflage he'd no doubt chosen for symbolism over fashion, slipping along a filth-encrusted alleyway, who stopped and smiled into the shadows--I see you too. Seeker bit her lip, seeing the sorceries hung around him on threads of cold iron and brass.

I won't be getting too close to him if I can help it. His smile was assured, mocking... and the mortal Magi had a long and unpleasant rivalry with Seeker's own folk. She turned away, riffling shadows faster, like the pages of a book. She glimpsed long ripples, curling white foam and black, flickered up against the wharves, that unicorn turning away and flickering silver through the night, the whole magical reality unseen by the mortals even as they walked through it.

The pimp bent over his girl, his knife flicking out from his fist like a snake's quick tongue. He held the blade to terrify, not to fight; contempt informed his every gesture. Seeker focused on him: his visage shuddered out of clarity like a clear-water reflection split by a stone, while the girl emerged brightly from the ripples of the night. Act, the shadows taunted--act, act, act.

Seeker stepped forward, shadow to shadow and then out into the night. She waited while the pimp looked up from the girl, a jackal glancing from its prey. His gaze traveled up Seeker's black boots to her legs, and then flicked across her face. She saw his tension turn to disgust when he glimpsed dark, straight hair and the angular femininity of her jawline. Just a woman, she read on his face.

"Leave her, leech," Seeker said. "She's mine now."

He snarled like the small fierce creature he was. "You wanna die too, bitch?"

"You are out of your depth, mortal. I warn you twice." She smiled at him, a very little smile that hurt the corners of her mouth. It's madness. All madness. Hellfire: I may be mad indeed.

After all, I am hearing voices... and seeing things. And the voices tell me to do terrible things....

He swiped at her with the blade. She stepped aside, a blur of subtle movement, her shadow lashing a tail on the concrete behind her. He overreached. Her left hand came up and touched one of the several thin braids binding sections of her hair.

She spoke a word.

A Name.

"Gharne!"

The pimp slashed contemptuously for her face, casual with the blade as a butcher. A feint at my vanity. As if one more scar could harm me. She simply leaned out of the way, fearless as the cat whose shadow she wore. Wingbeats sounded over her shoulder; her assailant's eyes widened in fear. He threw up his arms to protect his own pretty face.

In Faerie, you are granted three chances only. Never less. Never, never more. A winged black silhouette like an inkstain with teeth took him high on the chest. He fell sprawling across the girl, who still whimpered on the pavement. She might have had the sense to run....

Gharne fed, his black beak bloody as he gouged for the heart. The girl dragged herself away, wearing the pimp's blood like a sash across her chest. Gharne looked up across the dying bubbles of the chest wound, his hell-lit eyes focused on the woman. "Good hunting, Seeker. Feed well."

She squatted beside the demonthing, laying a gentling hand on his neck. "Your meal, small friend. Thank you."

His beak dipped as she turned to collect the girl. "Don't mention it."

The girl had vanished as if she had never been, into warrenlike alleys. Sure. Now, she runs. Seeker followed at an easy pace. The girl's trail was convoluted, but Seeker's footsteps came fast and comfortably and the scent of her quarry hung on the reeking air. The shadow that paced her was that of a running doe, four footsteps meeting the Seeker's two. Poor shadowbound beast.

The girl had fled cannily for all her panic. I must find her quickly. She bolted toward the ocean... and many things can smell fear. Still, Seeker was not overly concerned. She runs well for a mortal girl. Faster than I can, if not so craftily. Of course, she's not precisely a mortal girl, is she?

Still. Old gods unworshipped do not die. They merely find new ways to feed, new idolatries to exploit. Old gods become new monsters. Their city is a beast, a living thing, a breathing thing... It hungered. And that hunger called to--older things.

"Seeker!" A voice like the crack of a gun, ringing from the wall behind her. She stopped, spun, checked herself midmotion.

The human Mage grinned at her from the shadows. "I know your Name," he said.

Seeker turned her head and spat on the stone. "Much good may it do you. It's already claimed."

"Ah," he said. "What if it wasn't?" He came a step forward, extending his hand.

"Can you do that?"

"No." His hair was brown, a short slick ponytail revealing iron rings spiraling the rim of his left ear. He wore spectacles, little round ones that glittered in the darkness and hid his eyes behind reflected lights.

"Then why ask?" Seeker turned her head and spat. "This isn't a fucking fairy tale. Even somebody like you should know it's not safe to talk to fey things."

"Really?" That extended hand came down on her wrist. Something burned, searing her flesh. Cold iron rings on his fingers. "It looks like a fairy tale to me. What are you hunting tonight?"

She swore and jerked back hard, hissing. "Seeker," she reminded him. "It would take more than blood and iron to wound me."

He shrugged. "It was worth a try." His hand slid under his jacket. He has a knife, she thought. A gun. Some ensorcelled weapon or another.B

Before he could pull the weapon from its hiding place, Seeker crouched and leaped, over his head and away. The shadow of an owl floated up the wall by Seeker as she ascended the fire escape. I can't blame him one bit, she thought. Really, I should be put a stop to. Pity my orders don't allow for that. Her footsteps fell light and level across the rooftops; she saw as the owl sees; she leaped the twenty feet from rooftop to rooftop as the doe leaps until the cliff-edge of a warehouse brought her to a halt overlooking the quay.

Seeker arched her face up, hair thrown back, tensing as she scented the wind and sent her awareness into the shadows. Until her eyes opened, and she leaped the roof-edge parapet into nothingness. The girl was below. Seeker smelled her. And another.... Damn that Mage for delaying me.

Her body striving, the steel burn of the city in her bones, she spread the owl's soft wings and floated down beside sootstained brick. Predatory tunnel vision leached the edges of her awareness; she touched pavement. Her feet knew only to run, and then the doe deserted her, exhausted by the chase. Silent, padding, the shadow of the cat ran beside her: hunter, leaper, stalker of prey.

Someone else was also coming for the girl. The shadows showed her his footsteps: long black feet, pearly bare toenails, water dripping from the tattered white cuff of his trousers. A slow puddle spread where he passed, wet prints following him across the pavement. His image hung reflected in the water.

Seeker pelted toward him, and he paced toward his prey.

The girl huddled in a doorway. Seeker glimpsed as much from the shadows behind her, and past her the stalking form of the enemy. Black of skin and long of face, clad in the rags of white pants and a shirt of archaic cut--and the very shadows seemed to recoil from his presence. He walked past the doorway and the girl.

Seeker came around the corner in time to see with her own eyes that his sure steps hesitated. He paused, turned back. Delight, or something like it, showed in his smile.

The girl cringed from him, cowering. From her shadows, Seeker saw the thin man smiling kindly. His teeth were large, white squares, and very even.

He reached out to the girl. "Are you hurt, child? Can I help you?"



Oh look at that, cute ickle baby Matthew. I didn't remember he had ever been a brunette. Go figure.

And then, some headpounding about why the book was broken later, the idea of using more than one POV emerged. And thus--



#

For as long as men have been, men have dreamed of dragons. Mortal men are remarkably stupid that way.

Matthew leaned against soot-stained brick, idly picking at the edges of his ten iron rings, and listened to his city breathe the air of a warm September night. A quiet night, as such nights went in the belly of the dragon called New York: he chuckled to himself. And all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

Until his hands grew cold under the rings, and he raised his eyes to the night. Trip trap, trip trap. Who's that tripping across my bridge, Brer Fox?

Well, well, well. I wondered when you'd be back to trouble me, my lady. I wondered when you'd be back.

He tugged the placket of his camouflage coat together and stepped out of the shadows, into the dapples and patterns of light that were the substance of New York City at night. The cold in his bones gave him direction; he followed it cautiously, although he could tell his targets were not close. And not together--which gave him pause. The stronger chill, the one that sank into the bones of his left hand, had the flavor of age and wildness about it. Ancient hunger, and the musk of a predator.

But the right-hand one was closer, and it had a blood-sharp sweetness to it that he knew very well. Besides, he told himself practically, whatever it was hunting the waterfront was too old and too deep for one lone warding Mage to brace. He dug his cellphone from his pocket as he moved, and called the Fae sensings in.

Matthew picked up the trail of the Faerie huntress just off Broadway, and followed her toward Times Square. She moved quickly, erratically, as obviously on a scent as Matthew himself--and, as obviously, she had not yet noticed that she had grown a tail. He kept to the shadows, running when he had to, his hands balled into fists around the pain like ice in his palms. She flitted ahead of him, moving shadow to shadow, and he finally caught sight of her silhouetted against the lights, a slender figure in black stalking through the open maw of the city, glancing upward now and again at ragged teeth arrayed against the sky. Only tourists look up in New York, he thought, and noticed that she, too, was rubbing her hands as if they hurt her. She limped as if her bones ached.

Slime splashed Matthew's boots as he followed; the breath of the beast moaned from the subway tunnels. She prowled past a pack of lean young men on a streetcorner, and one of them reached out to grab her shoulder. She didn't turn, but Matthew--trotting to catch up--saw the shadows writhe around the man who reached, and saw him recoil, staring at his own hand in horror.

Glamourie, Matthew diagnosed, before the jab of ice in his hands, and ran faster. Don't touch that, boy. You don't know where it's been.

That's the Seeker of the Daoine Sidhe. You're outclassed--

Honesty made him admit, so am I.

A blur, another chill on the air made Matthew turn. He felt the cold of Faerie magic pierce the warmth of the night, felt the Seeker reaching out for her quarry as she paused in the puddle of hope under a streetlight, still chafing her hands. He drew his own awareness tight as the coiled life inside an acorn shell and slowed his pace from a trot to a fast walk, side-stepping through the crowds, hoping the Magecraft in his rings would hide him from her otherwise senses--what the uninitiated might call the second sight.

And then she raised her chin, exactly like a hound scenting the wind, and turned on the ball of one booted foot. Matthew forced himself to keep walking, moving steadily, watching his quarry from the corner of his eye as she raised one hand and stepped out of the light and into a shadow--

--Gone.

Dammit.

He felt her reappearance, three blocks distant, a twinge of cold in his bones as she stepped from one shadow to the next. Pretenses be damned.

Oh, no, you don't, my lady. Whatever you're after is mine.

Matthew dropped his head and ran.

#

He's lighted aff his milk-white steed,
An' set this fair maid on,
"Noo ca' your herds, good lady," he said;
"Ye'll ne'er see them again.

--The Broom of the Cowdenknowes, Traditional

#

She hated stepping out of the shadows almost as much as she hated the cold ache of the iron city in her bones. Shattered images taunted her: an inkblot silhouette settling on Liberty's torch; a gaunt and curious willow following a jogger through Central park; demonlings leaping among the flashing LEDs of Times Square; a unicorn bending her cold and final beauty to a savage, cage-eyed panther in the Central Park Zoo. She could not lay a hand on that cold silver neck without taking back a charred obscenity; could not have stroked that purity without leaving a smear of tarnish in her wake.

Seeker moved in a place of names and glamours, of knotted hairs and deadly magics. Reaching into a dark spot, a silent space among the images that surrounded her, she caught a glimpse of a human Mage, sloe-eyed and golden-haired and wearing a jacket of army camouflage he'd no doubt chosen for symbolism over fashion, slipping along a filth-encrusted alleyway. He snarled into the shadows without stopping--I see you too. Seeker bit her lip, noticing sorceries hung around him on threads of cold iron and brass.

I won't be getting too close to him if I can help it. His glance was assured, mocking... and the mortal Magi had a long and unpleasant rivalry with the fair folk. She riffled shadows faster, glimpsing long ripples, curling white foam and black against the wharves; witnessing that unicorn turning away and flickering silver through the night: the whole otherwise reality magical and unseen by mortals. Seeker tossed her hair, braids moving among the strands as she found her target again, a girl who huddled away from a man whose blade lashed out like a snake's quick tongue. His image shuddered like a reflection split by a stone; the girl emerged brightly from the ripples of the night.

Seeker stepped forward, shadow between shadow again and then out. She waited while the jackal bent over the girl noticed her and glanced from its prey. His gaze traveled up Seeker's black boots and raked her face, his tension turning to dismissal when he glimpsed dark, straight hair and her angular jawline. Just a woman, she read on his face.

"Leave her," Seeker said. "She's mine now."

He snarled, and lifted the knife.

"You are out of your depth. I warn you twice." She smiled at him, a very little smile that hurt the corners of her mouth.

He swiped with the blade. She stepped smoothly aside, her shadow lashing a tail on the concrete. As he overreached, her left hand came up and touched one of the several thin braids binding sections of her hair.

She spoke a word.

A Name.

The pimp slashed for her face, casual with the blade as a butcher. A feint at my vanity. As if one more scar could harm me. She leaned away, fearless as the cat whose shadow she wore. Wingbeats sounded over her shoulder; her assailant's eyes widened. He threw up arms to protect his own pretty face.

In Faerie, you are granted three chances only.

Never, never more. A winged black silhouette like an inkstain with teeth took him high on the chest. He fell sprawling across the girl, who still whimpered on the pavement, and Seeker reached out quickly, looking once more for the shadow of the Mage. She might have had the sense to run....

Black beak bloody, the inky thing gouged for the heart. The girl dragged herself away, blood like a sash across her chest. Gharne looked up across dying bubbles, hell-lit eyes focused on Seeker. "Good hunting," he said.

She squatted beside him, laying a gentling hand on his neck. "Enjoy your meal, Gharne. Thank you."

His beak dipped as she turned to collect the girl. "Don't mention it."

The girl, who had vanished into warrenlike alleys as if she had never been. Sure. Now, she runs. Seeker's footsteps came comfortably; the scent of her quarry hung on the reeking air. The shadow that paced her was a running doe, four footsteps meeting Seeker's two. Poor shadowbound beast.

The quarry fled cannily for all her panic. Still, Seeker was not overly concerned. She runs well for a mortal girl. Faster than I can, if not so craftily. Of course, she's not precisely a mortal girl, is she?

"Seeker!" A voice like the crack of a whip. She stopped, midmotion spin on cat's-paws.

The human Mage grinned at her from a doorway. "I know your Name," he said.

Seeker turned her head and spat on the stone. How? she thought, but she couldn't spare the weakness to pretend it mattered. "Much good may it do you. It's claimed."

"Ah," he said. "What if it wasn't?" He came a step forward, extending his hand.

"Since when do Magi have any power over bindings?"

"We don't." His hair was a short slick yellow ponytail revealing iron rings spiraling his ear. He wore spectacles: little round ones that hid his eyes in reflected twinkle.

"Then why ask? This isn't a fucking fairy tale. You should know it's not safe to talk to fey things."

"Really?" That extended hand came down on her wrist. Something burned, searing her flesh. Cold iron rings on his fingers. "My name's Matthew. Szczegielniak. I'll give you that for free, not that it will do you any good: I'm a mortal man. And this looks like a fairy tale to me. What are you hunting tonight?"

She swore and jerked back, hissing. "Seeker," she reminded him. "It takes more than blood and iron to wound me."

He shrugged. "It was worth a try. I have other allies." His hand slid under his jacket. He has a knife, she thought. A gun.

Before he could pull the weapon from its hiding place, Seeker crouched and leaped, over his head and away. "My city, Seeker!" he yelled after her. "Szczegielniak! I'm in the book! Come talk to us if you think better of what you do!"

The shadow of an owl floated up the wall. I can't blame him one bit, she thought. I should be put a stop to. Pity my orders don't allow for that. Her footsteps fell light and level across the rooftops; she saw as the owl sees; she leaped the twenty feet from rooftop to rooftop as the doe leaps--until the cliff-edge of a warehouse brought her to a halt overlooking the quays.

Us? she wondered for a moment, then lost the thought: lifting her face and tensing as she sniffed the wind and sent her awareness otherwise. Her eyes opened; she leaped the roof-edge parapet into emptiness. The girl was below. Seeker smelled her. And another.... Damn that Mage for delaying me.

Which was worth a wry grin. The Mage was less likely damned than she. She spread the owl's soft wings and floated down beside sootstained brick. She touched pavement. Predatory tunnel vision leached the edges of her awareness. She ran until the doe deserted her, exhausted, and the shadow of the cat ran beside her: hunter, leaper, stalker of prey.

Someone else stalked the same prey. The shadows showed her his footsteps: long black feet, pearly bare toenails, water dripping from his tattered cuff. A slow puddle spread where he passed, wet prints following him across the pavement.

Seeker pelted toward him, and he paced toward his prey.

The girl huddled in a doorway. Seeker glimpsed as much otherwise, and past her quarry saw the stalking enemy. Black of skin and long of face, clad in the rags of white pants and a shirt of archaic cut--and the very shadows seemed to recoil from his presence. He strode past the doorway and the girl.

Seeker turned the corner in time to see his sure steps hesitate. He paused, turned back. Delight or something passing for it creased his face as he smiled at the cringing girl with square white teeth that were very even. He reached for the girl. "Are you hurt, child? Can I help you?"



Still wedded to that stupid trying-too-hard opening line, though, I see. And still not actually pausing to explain the action. But the writing, mercifully, has improved. Line of direction still sucked, though; I was editing paragraph-by-paragraph, rather than actually watching the flow of the action.

And I really was screwing up those internalizations something fierce.

This is actually a really good example of why it's not good for one's learning process to rework the same manuscripts over and over again, because you can see very plainly the problems that persisted from one draft to the next, even though my *new* work was improving. One tends to be blind to one's own stupidities.

I think I got away with it in this case chiefly because I *was* walking away and working on other projects in the meantime. Specifically, between the first draft and the last draft of B&I on this page, there are 12 other complete novels and a bushel basket of short stories--and a lot of editorial and critique and rewriting work. It's a bit different to walk back to an old story after a rest than it is to keep working on the same damned thing.

Here's the version that will see print next year, minus some twiddling on the manuscript--



Chapter One:


Matthew the Magician leaned against the wrought iron lamp posts on 42nd Street, idly picking at the edges of his ten iron rings and listening to his city breathe into the warm September night. That breath rippled up from underground, a hot draft exhaled in time with the harsh pulse of subway trains. A quiet night, as nights went in the belly of the beast.

Until his hands grew cold under the rings that focused his otherwise senses, and he raised his eyes to the night. Trip trap, trip trap. Who's that tripping across my bridge, Brer Fox?

Even before the sensation of cold resolved into something more defined, he had an idea who might have come to trouble him.

He tugged the placket of his camouflage coat together and stepped out of the shadows, into the dapples and patterns of light that were the substance of New York City at night. The coldness gave him direction; he followed it cautiously, although he could tell his targets were not close. And not together--which gave him pause. The stronger chill, the one that sank into the bones of his left hand, had the flavor of age and wildness about it. Ancient hunger, and the musk of a predator.

But the right-hand one was closer, and carried the blood-sharp sweetness he had expected. Besides, whatever was hunting the waterfront was too old and too deep for one lone Mage to brace. Instead, he dug his cellphone from his pocket as he moved, and called it in.

Then he picked up the trail of the Faerie huntress just off Broadway, and followed her toward Times Square. She moved quickly, erratically, as obviously on a scent as Matthew himself--and, as obviously, she had not yet noticed him. He kept to the shadows, running when he had to, his hands balled into fists around the ice in his palms.

She flitted shadow to shadow, but he finally caught sight of her silhouetted against the lights in the eye-shattering cacophony of Times Square. She was big-boned, too thin for her frame in a green peacoat and blue jeans, her dark hair falling loose except for a few seemingly random braids swinging among the uncut tresses. Her nose was a stubborn, Grecian thing, her chin notched as if by a thumb. She walked quickly, boots clicking, glancing up now and then at the buildings arrayed like broken teeth against the sky.

Only tourists look up in New York City, he thought, and noticed that she, too, drew her large long-fingered hands from the pockets of her peacoat to rub them as if they hurt. That wouldn't be from any iron rings. The city itself would pain her.

Slime splashed Matthew's boots as he followed. His quarry prowled past a pack of lean young men on a streetcorner and one grabbed at her shoulder. She didn't turn, but Matthew--trotting to catch up--saw the shadows writhe around the man who reached, and saw him recoil, staring at his own hand.

Glamourie, Matthew diagnosed, before the jab of ice from his rings, and ran faster. Don't touch that, boy. You don't know where it's been.

That's the Seeker of the Daoine Sidhe. You're outclassed--

Honesty made him admit, so am I.

A blur, another chill on the air made Matthew turn. The cold of Faerie magic pierced the warmth of the night; the Seeker's will cast a chill shadow as she paused under a streetlight, still chafing her hands. He drew his own awareness tight as the coiled life inside an acorn, slowing to a trot as he side-stepped through crowds, hoping the Magecraft in his rings would hide him from her otherwise senses--what the uninitiated might call the second sight.

She raised her chin, exactly like a hound scenting the wind, and turned on the ball of one booted foot. Matthew forced himself to keep walking, moving steadily, watching his quarry from the corner of his eye as she raised a hand and stepped from the light into a shadow--

--Gone.

Dammit.

Her reappearance, three blocks distant, sent a twinge of cold through his bones. Oh, no, you don't, my lady. Whatever you're after is mine.

Matthew ran.

#

Seeker hated stepping out of the shadows almost as much as she hated the cold ache of the iron city in her bones. Shattered images taunted her: an inkblot silhouette settling on Liberty's torch; a gaunt and curious willow following a jogger through Central Park; demonlings leaping among the flashing LEDs of Times Square; a unicorn bending its cold and final beauty to a savage, cage-eyed panther in the Central Park Zoo. She could not lay a hand on that cold silver neck without taking back a charred obscenity; could not have stroked that purity without leaving a smear of tarnish in her wake.

Seeker moved in a place of names and glamours, of knotted hairs and deadly magics. Reaching into a silent blankness among the images that surrounded her, she found a Mage, dark-eyed and golden-haired and as human as she once was, wearing a jacket of army camouflage he'd no doubt chosen for symbolism over fashion, slipping along a filth-encrusted alleyway. He snarled into the shadows without stopping--I see you too. Sorceries hung around him on threads of cold iron and brass.

His glance was assured, mocking... and the mortal Magi had a long and unpleasant rivalry with the fair folk. She riffled shadows faster: long ripples curled white foam and black against the wharves; that unicorn turned away, flickering silver through the night: the whole otherwise reality, magical and unseen by mortals, except a lucky--or unlucky--few. Seeker tossed her hair, braids moving among the strands. A man with a blade lashed out at a huddled girl. His image shuddered, a reflection split by a stone. His victim emerged brightly from the ripples.

Seeker stepped forward, shadow between shadow again and then out. She waited while he noticed her and glanced from his prey. His gaze traveled up Seeker's boots and raked her face, tension becoming dismissal when he glimpsed dark, straight hair and her angular jaw. Just a woman, she read on his face.

"Leave her," Seeker said. "She's mine now."

He snarled, and lifted the knife.

"You are out of your depth. I warn you twice." She smiled at him, a very little smile that hurt the corners of her mouth.

He swiped. She stepped aside, her shadow lashing a tail on the concrete. As he overreached, her left hand stroked one of the braids binding thin sections of her hair.

She spoke a word.

A Name.

"Gharne!" Casual with the blade as a butcher, the pimp slashed for Seeker's face. A feint at her vanity. She leaned away, fearless as the cat whose shadow she wore. Wingbeats sounded over her shoulder; her assailant's eyes widened. He threw up arms to protect his own pretty face.

In Faerie, you are granted three chances only. Never, never more. A winged black silhouette like an inkstain with teeth took him high on the chest. He sprawled across the girl still crying on the pavement. Seeker clawed after the shadow of that Mage, for safety's sake, and didn't find him.

Black beak bloody, the inky thing gouged for the pimp's heart. The girl dragged herself away, the pimp's blood like a sash across her chest. Seeker's familiar demon hunkered over dying bubbles, hell-lit eyes focused on his mistress.

"Good hunting," he said.

She squatted and laid a gentling hand on his neck. "Enjoy your meal, Gharne. Thank you."

"Don't mention it." His beak dipped as she turned to collect the girl.

The girl, who had vanished into warrenlike alleys as if she had never been. Sure. Now, she ran.

Seeker's footsteps followed comfortably; the scent of her quarry hung on the reeking air. The shadow that paced her was a running doe, four footsteps meeting Seeker's two.

"Seeker!" A voice like the crack of a whip. She stopped, midmotion spin on cat's-paws.

The human Mage grinned at her. "I know your Name," he said.

"Much good may it do you. It's claimed."

"Ah," he said. "What if it wasn't?" He stepped forward, extending his hand.

"Since when do Magi have any power over bindings?"

"We don't." His hair was a slick, yellow ponytail revealing iron rings spiraling his ear. He wore round spectacles that hid his eyes in reflected twinkle.

"Then why ask? You exist to destroy Faerie, Magus, and I exist to defend it."

"That's not what we want."

"Don't lie to me, Magis," she snapped. "Trust me, I see no wrong in destroying Faerie. But you--you should know it's not safe to talk to fey things. This isn't a fucking fairy tale."

"Really?" That extended hand came down on her wrist. Something burned, searing her flesh. Cold iron rings on his fingers. "My name's Matthew. Szczegielniak. I'll give you that for free, not that it will help you: I'm a mortal man. And this looks like a fairy tale to me. What are you hunting tonight?"

She swore and jerked back. "Seeker," she reminded him. "It takes more than blood and iron to wound me."

He shrugged. "It was worth a try. I have other allies." His hand slid under his jacket. He has a knife, she thought. A gun.

Before he could pull the weapon, Seeker crouched and leaped, over his head and away. "Look me up!" he yelled after her. "Szczegielniak! I'm in the book! We can help!"

#

Matthew watched her rise, his cell phone warm, winking in the palm of his hand. The number was on speed dial, even if he didn't have it memorized, and he was out of time--he could dial, or he could follow her up the fire escape and, as likely as not, he could lose her on the rooftops.

He pressed the button with his thumb. It rang one time.

"Matthew?"

"I lost her, Jane," he said, as the chill in his hands ebbed and eased. "I'm sorry."

"Her?"

"Yes. Elaine."

"Damn--" A pause, a whisper of breath he could picture, Jane's silver-black hair blown from her eyes. "That's the closest in some time. Did you speak to her, at least?"

"I gave her my name," Matthew said, unzipping his jacket one-handed as he walked out of the alley and toward the lights. "There's always the hope that she'll call."

"She can't," the transmitted voice of his archmage answered. "She would if she could. She's forbidden."

#

The shadow of an owl floated up the wall. He was right. She should be put a stop to. Her footsteps fell light and level across the rooftop. She saw as the owl sees; she leaped the twenty feet from rooftop to rooftop as the doe leaps--until the cliff-edge of a warehouse brought her to a halt near the river.

Lifting her face, she sniffed the wind and sent her awareness otherwise, then leaped the roof-edge parapet into emptiness. The girl was below. Seeker smelled her. And another.... Damn that Mage for delaying me.

Which was worth a wry grin. The Mage was less likely damned than she. She spread the owl's soft wings and floated down beside brick. She touched pavement. Predatory tunnel vision leached the edges of her awareness. She ran until her companion doe deserted her, exhausted, and the shadow of the cat ran beside her: hunter, leaper, stalker of prey.

Someone else stalked the same prey. The shadows showed her his footsteps: long black feet, pearly bare toenails, water dripping from his tattered cuff. A slow puddle spread where he passed, wet prints following him across the pavement.

Seeker pelted toward him, and he paced toward his prey.

The girl huddled in a doorway. Seeker glimpsed as much otherwise, and past her quarry saw the stalking enemy. Black of skin and long of face, clad in the rags of white pants and a shirt of archaic cut--and the very shadows seemed to recoil from his presence. He strode past the doorway and the girl.

Seeker turned the corner in time to see his sure steps hesitate. He paused, turned back. Delight or something passing for it creased his face as he smiled with square white teeth. "Are you hurt, child? Can I help you?"



So, you see, it is possible to learn. Sometimes it just takes ~12 or 13 years.
Tags: writing craft wank
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