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The Birth of a Novel - Proverbs and Destiny 8 - breaking waters

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camel shadows for blog 8 by m bartosch fdphotos

Sahara - Courtesy of M Bartosch at free Digital Photos

The Birth of a Novel – Proverbs and Destiny 8


8 If God were not forgiving, heaven would be empty – Berber proverb


Characters in novels must have ‘arcs’: as in life, we change - moulded by events, and those people who influence us. Characters that don’t respond to the plot and the other characters, become static and cardboard. The character traits with which you imbue them at the beginning determines how they respond, and how they are likely to change and develop. They must also have aims, fears and hopes just as real people do.

My writing is a little ahead of my blog, and I have just introduced a character called Erin. She is named, with her permission, for the very helpful lady at the Independent Author Network who sorts all my publicity requests. Thank you, Erin. I hope you like your character.

Anyway, Erin, the fictional one, is a healer. This gives caring for the plight of others as an innate character-trait. She is just bereaved, so she’s also emotional and vulnerable. Born into a culture that glorifies war, she is sickened by the killing. This makes her ripe for sedition. She has proved her courage in the line of duty, so she is brave. She will make a stalwart addition to the fight for Kiya and Raphel’s freedom. Thus she begins her part in the story, around chapter eight, so we've jumped quite a chunk. I shall go back to chapter two, later.


The moon still hung low in the western sky as the sun rose on a scene of devastation. Erin wiped a bloodied hand across her brow. Charred hulks of fishing vessels smouldered on the wet sand in the harbour. Even the sea seemed to have abandoned them. Smoke rose from blackened dwellings and the stench of charred flesh lingered as people wandered the streets in the early light with their few possessions in their arms. Some had only the clothes they stood in.

Bodies lay on streets sticky with blood. Not all were the enemy; there were people here she recognised. A warrior raised his sword in a sign of respect and then helped load his comrades’ bodies onto carts. The invaders’ bodies would be burnt on a huge pyre, their ashes cast into the sea as offerings to Okeanos and Wrohe.

The slain warriors would be taken to the temple and laid out in their armour with their weapons arrayed beside them: accorded honour as befitted their courage. Their bodies would be taken to a chamber on the hill and buried with comrades who’d fallen in other battles over the years. The chamber was large, the fallen many.

She searched the faces of the warriors around her. ‘Jakob…’ He’d have gone down to his boat. He was a fisherman first, a warrior second: the people had to eat.

She left the body of the youth she had been tending: someone’s son. She closed his eyes gently and moved on. There were so many afraid and in pain, so few she could help. They had wounds and burns beyond her skill. A young girl had cuts and burns. The burns were small and would heal; the cut on her head was deep. This she could treat, this child would live.

A hand touched her shoulder. ‘Jakob?’ She turned and looked into the face of a stranger.

‘You are Erin?’ The man was tall and fair, his clothing dark with blood.

She nodded as she stitched the girl’s wound.

‘I’m Daniel. I fought beside Jakob. He saved my life.’

‘He’s safe?’

‘He asked me to give you this.’ Jakob pressed a brooch in the shape of a seabird into her palm. ‘It was to be a gift for your birthday… I’m sorry.’

‘He’s dead?’ More a statement than a question, yes, of course he was dead, so many were dead. She turned back to the girl to dress the wound. There would be time enough for tears.

Next day, Velik himself cast the ashes into the sea. He gave thanks to Wrohe for the signs that warned of the invasion, alerting him to danger and saving many from being slaughtered as they slept. He asked Okeanos for calm seas while they repaired the boats upon which they depended for their livelihood, and assured the people that the priests of the order of Okeanos would to make daily offerings to their god.

The enemy wounded had been killed without compassion, their bodies added to a pyre large enough to burn for three days. It had taken a whole day to carry the fallen warriors to the chamber to join their ancestors. Velik had praised their courage in battle and acknowledged their sacrifice. Their comrades had raised their swords in salute, and she had wept for her man as women have wept since the dawn of time.

She walked down the hill alone, not wanting the company of the other women. She stopped and looked out to sea. The sun shone, the tide still ebbed and flowed, the gulls still shrieked in argument around the jagged top of The Tower of Wrohe. Nothing had changed. Nothing showed that the light had gone out of her heart.

Everything had changed, everything. She had no home to go to now, just an empty house, an empty life, an empty future.

She didn’t believe, as the men did, in Wrohe, God of War. War, death… She was sick of it, sick of the stench of blood, sick of the stench of burnt flesh, sick of seeing the fear in the eyes of children, the tears in the eyes of women. Sick of holding the hands of young men while they died, beseeching her for help she couldn’t give, watching the light go out of their eyes. Her tears were salt on her lips. She wanted Jakob, but she’d never taste the sea on his lips again.

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