Another fabulous afternoon at the Minneapolis Central Library write-in, and I scored over 3000 words. That’s still slow (some of my companions cracked 10,000) but I’m really happy with the scenes I wrote. I’ve stepped over the threshold into my fictional world, after much careful working-out of structure and plot.
So, without further ado, the rearguard of the extremely syncretic Midsummer parade in the city of Karisalay-Prime.
Drums and trumpets sounded, and they craned to see the temple dancers, riding above the level of the crowd on platforms that seemed to float, whether with soundless hover-engines or some other trickery; they were all masked, with likenesses of the Goddess or the Daughter, or the skull-masks of Zamdi and Virghita.
The crowd swayed and clapped, their hands over their heads. From the last platform of the procession, the dancers threw sparkling necklaces to the crowd, so that the air seemed alive with flying crystal, sun shivering in it. Timur, to his astonishment, caught three of them. Hernan helped him drape them around his neck, and caught another for himself.
Skulls-and-crows, the sign of the Regent.
“What Luck gives, we don’t refuse,” he intoned, and put on the necklace.
He shivered nonetheless. The parade passed, its scent and sound trailing behind in a synesthetic glory of glittering music. Hernan betook himself to the sweet-vendors, Melisand and the others trailing behind, to buy a sugar-knife.
“What’s that? A knife made of glass?”
“Propitiatory,” Hernan said. He smashed the knife on the vendor’s black-mirror counter, and distributed the fragments of sugar-glass to his companions. “Careful, it’ll cut your mouth if you’re not careful. Just let it melt in your mouth.”
“You people eat knives?” Timur asked, but gingerly put his knife-fragment in his mouth.
They stood for a bit, mouths closed around the sharp-edged candy. Hernan tasted the searing mint of the knife-fragment, let its fumes rise into his sinuses. He crossed his arms on his chest, bowed, and offered the silent prayer that the Regent of Crows favor his perilous enterprise, whatever it might prove to be.
“What was that about?” Xue asked.
“The flung necklaces are divination. What you catch, that’s your fate till the next Midsummer.”
Timur frowned and stared down at his three necklaces: snowflakes, horses, and fish.
“The trinity in perfect balance,” Hernan said, “All things in heaven, sea, and earth. Very auspicious.”
“What’s yours mean, then? You didn’t look happy about it,” Mattei said.
“Sign of the Regent,” he said. “Danger. The knife’s propitiatory, to say I accept my fate and wish only for courage to face it, and companions to help me.”
“So that gesture,” Melisand said, “the one they call the Flying Crow, you know, with the middle finger out … does that have to do with the Regent?”
“Oh yes, and it’s not nice,” Hernan said. “You flip the Flying Crow at someone, you’re basically asking the Regent of Crows to roost on them so her crows can eat their eyes and chew their bones.”
Melisand shivered. “Well, I’m glad I never did that one, however much provoked,” she said. “Must say Tikhon tempted me, but I thought it was something to do with sex, and I sure didn’t want her thinking I wanted to sleep with her.”
“She’d have been set back if you’d done it,” Hernan said, “though not in a good way. Like as not challenged you to a duel.”
“Like as not I’d have thrown her.”
“Oh no, you don’t understand. Not grappling. A dagger-duel to the death.”
“That’s not even legal anymore, is it?”
“No, but that doesn’t mean Astokka and Iskri don’t do it.”