Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Belated Political Post and a brief story excerpt

So, I'm a bit of a blog delinquent. And I kept thinking: all this stuff going on in the country... I should blog about it. But then I didn't.

So all I can say right now is that I am ridiculously happy that Barack Obama won. That all the hard work I and all the other people who volunteered and called and persuaded and cajoled and raised money and so on and so forth has finally paid off. Now I'm just hoping that he will continue to be the intelligent, thoughtful, forward-thinking person he has shown himself to be all throughout this campaign, and that the cabinet he chooses for himself will be a similarly intelligent, thoughtful, and forward-thinking one. His choice of Vice President, of course, was awesome. I liked Joe Biden back when he was running in the primaries and I think he's a terribly good choice.

The damper on all this is Florida's and California's marriage bans. I don't know. I thought that this country, riding the wave of progressivism, would stomp all bigotry and intolerance underfoot. Or something similarly idealistic. I don't know what I was expecting from Florida. But California, at least! I thought that Proposition 8 would be hit with a resounding slap and then torn into little pieces from which it could never re-awaken. The result disappointed me. I'm terribly disappointed, but also not quite believing that it's happened. Riding on the wave of joy from Obama's election, this sudden plunge downwards is so shocking I don't quite feel it.

And also, I'm still hopeful. I do believe, most sincerely, that America is on the right path. That we can make the right decisions that will lead to
more equality and more tolerance and acceptance. And gay marriage is on the way to that. I do believe that.


In other news, I am doing NaNoWriMo this month and this is an excerpt from my prologue.

Three hundred twenty seven years prior to the events laid out in the previous section, Ayala Manasdaughter and Sarrkhan Yanasson, antelope Astartians sick of being hunted when in their animal form and shunned in their human form, left their homeland in the country of Marren and went looking for a place to call their own. They traveled on main highways and country roads, through forests and plains, eventually leaving Marren and entering Ancaria. In the holy city of Ci Seii (so called because of all the temples within its walls), they left offerings to the goddess Time and the antelope god Colven, and continued traveling.

It is not known what path they took, but it is known that after two and a half years of traveling, burdened by exhaustion and Ayala’s swelling belly, they came very suddenly upon a valley surrounded entirely by mountains. On one side of the valley was a sheer cliff wall; on the other, a few hillocks and a mountain pass. There were two creeks, one on each side, in the valley. The hillocks were entirely forested, though the rest of the valley was not. There was man sign in the valley, but it was more than a month old. It was perfect. Sarrkhan and Ayala decided to make their homestead there.

Over the years, other shapeshifters fleeing the same kind of trouble that the couple had fled found out about their discovery and followed in their footsteps. The homestead became two homesteads, then three. Then it became a village. The village needed a name. They named it Ci Zarna in the Ancarian style. Ci Zarna was a village of shapeshifters; there was not a single person in the entire village who kept one shape the entire time.

Here a note about shapeshifters would not be amiss. No one knows how shapeshifting works. The trait seems to be hereditary. Shapeshifters of different species can interbreed if they are in a similar form, but not enough studies have been done on what kind of children they produce. There are shapeshifters whose primary form is human and who can change into a single other creature. There are Astartians, whose primary form is that of an animal and who can change into human form. And then, there are those shifters who can change into many different creatures and whose primary form is unknown. There are also shapeshifters who can change into inanimate objects, though these are rare. The one form all these shapeshifters have in common is the humanoid one, so the Ci Zarna villagers spent roughly equal amounts of time in human and animal form.

It is noteworthy that predator and prey animals lived peacefully in Ci Zarna, though the first several years of the village’s existence there were incidents that caused some worry about whether or not they could live together. Nowadays, the children of the Ci Zarnans play hunting games with each other. These games help to improve their instincts and their capabilities, but are not taken seriously. Those shifters whose forms required the consumption of meat were very careful about communicating their hunting intentions so that no shapeshifters were in the area where they would hunt in their animal forms. It is true that shapeshifters have a distinct scent from either humans or animals, but when the bloodlust is upon the hunters, they are susceptoble to mistakes. Other shapeshifters learned to stay out of the way on those occasions.

After many years, Ci Zarna was almost completely forgotten by the outside. The villagers traded infrequently with people on the outside, but they were largely self-sufficient, surrounded as they were by fertile and bountiful land. The first few generations of Ci Zarnans were wary of attack and kept their weapons knowledge and their battle skills well-honed. As the years passed and the world seemed content to leave them alone, the worries of the older generations were forgotten. New people trickled in every once in a while, bringing their skills and whatever supplies they could bring; these assimilated into the culture of the village.

Ayala Manasdaughter and Sarrkhan Yanasson spoke Marrenan. Others of the first settlers spoke other languages, Ancarian Common, and dialects of smaller locales. The first settlers spoke to each other in an argot comprised of different aspects of all the different languages. In time, it became a language of its own, similar to its parent languages, but different in many ways as well. By the time of the events related in the previous section, Ci Zarnan was its own language, and those who came to live there had to learn it as though they were moving to another country. They could communicate without language barriers in animal forms, but Ci Zarnans lived in both human and animal forms. In humanoid form, language became necessary, so the newcomers learned.


It was a massacre.

Too few people remembered how to fight in humanoid form. The skills that the wildcat shapeshifters used to hunt their prey did not translate into fighting human raiders who rode horses and used weapons. The wolf shifters fought in pack formation and did the most damage to the raiders, bringing down their animals (with murmured apologies in their own tongue) and tearing into their throats. It wasn’t enough, though the whole village turned out to fight them. There were more than the fifteen that Guillette had seen on her mad dash back to the village. There were more even than thirty. It was less like a band of raiders and more like a small company. They were attracted by the fertility and prosperity of the village and could tell that the village had known peace for many generations. They slaughtered those who stayed to fight and looted the whole village. Then, they fanned out into the forest and went looking for those who had escaped. They were very thorough, but they did not know the land as well as the Ci Zarnans did and they did not find most of the survivors. Unfortunately, most of the survivors did not find each other, either. They survived in small, separate groups, scattered by the sudden horror.

What is surprising and strange about the story of Ci Zarna is that each of the small groups of survivors returned to the village at least once, each time staying very briefly. This is known because over a period of a few weeks they ate the bodies of their deceased and buried the bones in individual graves, leaving markers identifying whom each body belonged to. They did this separately, without ever seeing each other, and without ever banding together. When the business of burying the dead was complete, they departed from the village without attempting to rebuild, deciding to attempt to survive in an outside world whose language and culture they did not know.

The reason for this is unknown.

Jasper and Eilidhe Laine returned to the village, buried their parents, and ate a few parts of the bodies lying in the square. Jasper saw Gidion’s large black body, horse-shaped at the end and reverently tore large chunks out of one of his legs. Gidion had fought as a human, but when he lost his sword he must have changed into his horse shape. His hooves were brown with dried blood. Jasper brought a few of the chunks to Eilidhe and offered them to her. Thus they honoured their dead. Then, they gathered what supplies they could find and departed that fertile valley, never to return.

Four weeks to the day after the massacre there was not a single body left aboveground in the village. The houses stood abandoned; the wheat grew unharvested; the village was dotted with grave markers.


So that's that. I realize the quality is not so good, since the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to finish the whole thing and then edit it in the year that follows. Still, I'm happy that I'm doing it.

Love and hugs,

1 comment:

Norman said...

Penny, that is a great story! How long will it be? Novelette? Novel? Long short story? Please let me know when there is more to read.