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ConnieWhitmer

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    Hi Everyone. I live in the beautiful rolling hills of upstate NY, where my husband and I breed Thoroughbred race horses. We raised three sons and a daughter - Champions and warriors all. I have a deep love for anything willful, wild, and with a big courageous heart. I love history, horses, great films, this beautiful earth, and wonderful stories, that make you laugh and cry, and inspire. Good luck with all your projects! Connie Whitmer cwcwhitmer@aol.com

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    Hello, I went through your Algonkian Program a couple of years ago. It was amazing! Finishing up my first book of Series. Wanted to reconnect with Program.

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  1. STORY STATEMENT: Book 1 INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND After Danes slaughter his family and brutalize a little girl, he promised to keep safe; an orphaned boy must find a way to save her from a burning tower, escape capture, avenge his family, find her again, and make it back home. STORY STATEMENT: 6 Book Series: HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE n 10th century Ireland, as all others cower, an insignificant orphan becomes: rebel, outlaw, warrior, Chief of his Clan, King of the South, King of North and South, and the only Ard Ri – High King, over a free and united Ireland in peace. Yet the forces of envy, betrayal and greed, lead him to an all or nothing battle for the fate of his people, and the destiny of homeland. Brian wins, but pays the ultimate price, with the lives of his three sons, and his own. Only to have the greatest Liar Thief in history, steal his life story – to fabricate the most famous, and beloved Imposter of all time – King Arthur of England. HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE Series – is two true stories, one within the othe – The life of Brian Boru: Insignificant orphan – to greatest High King – Geoffrey of Monmouth plagiarizing Brian’s life: Cleric – to Bishop and famous Author ANTAGONISTIC FORCES: Events are true and Characters real GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH – Antagonist of Series Mystery Lowly cleric is commissioned by King Henry 1st, to come up with an historical Hero for Britain. Henry needs gold to pay for his wars; and therefore, precedent to invade, sack, and kill fellow Catholics in Ireland – to steal theirs. The problem – there isn’t one. Until Geoffrey is given “a certain most ancient book”. We watch over his shoulder as he steals Brian’s life to fabricate a Hero for Henry. He is rewarded with fame, fortune, the company of Kings, and 886 years of reprints – pulling off the most successful fraud in history. Indeed, Geoffrey’s 1136, “true” account of, Imposter 5th century King Arthur, is for sale on amazon.com/books. today. Geoffrey – The Liar Thief Antagonists of Main Story – NORSE VIKINGS – Gofraid, Olaf and Ivar, descendants of Ivar the Boneless, have Ireland surrounded, and are closing in. Their goal – finish what the Boneless started – the rapine and plunder of Ireland. And most lucrative – the selling of her women and children for slaves. Gofraid, sets out to attack Killaloe, slaughter Brian’s family, and claim the only cattle crossing of the River Shannon for 240 miles. He kills all but two of his brothers. At every turn of his life, Brian must fight the Danes. Gofraid will die of leprosy from shagging sheep, Ivar is killed by Brian, and Olaf will marry Gormlaith, spawn Sigtrigg Silkbeard. These three, forgiven thrice by Brian, for coming against him; will conspire and recruit, the largest Norse army ever assembled, to bring war against Brian, for Ireland, her treasure, and his head. Danes – Insatiables MALACHY II – Possessed it all. Next in line to the 600 years of Ui Neill Dynastic High Kings – Represents the entitled, rich and self-serving. A schemer, only too willing to sacrifice honor, for lying, cheating, stealing. He might have been great, but shaped by his father, turned out narcissistic, weak, obsessed with jealousy. All his life he shadows Brian, becoming ever more desperate – unprovoked, cuts down his 1000-year-old, sacred oak tree, tries to kill him, passes his poisonous ex-wife onto him, breaks his oath, betrays him, refusing to take his place on the field, in the Final Battle; and after Brian and his boys are killed, takes his place as High King. Ironically, this ultimate traitor is admiringly recorded in history as Malachy Mor – “Malachy the Great”. Malachy – Duplicitous Political Snake 5 IRISH PROVINCIAL KINGS – Sycophants, dogs in the manger, who will betray anyone, for any advantage. Cronies of Malachy, they have no loyalty, betraying their own people for crumbs of the High King – and betraying the High King, for table scraps of the Danes. They conspire and collude, giving an oath to join Brian and his brother Mahon, in battle against Ivar the Dane. Once the battle begins, Irish, Donovan, Donald, and Molloy, in league with Ivar, abandon the field, lure and kill Brian’s brother, and try to kill him. Brian escapes, goes back and takes revenge, killing Ivar, and hunting down all three traitor Kings – one after the other. It is not Brian’s ambition that makes him King of Munster, as often reported – but these cowards’ conspiracy, and dastardly betrayal. The eejits have just slaughtered themselves, and made Brian, King of the Dal Cass, King of Munster – one 5th of Ireland. Provincial Kings – Treacherous Bottom Feeders MURCHUADA IRISH PROVINCIAL KING of Leinster – next to Norse held Dublin, the most lucrative slave port in Europe. He is the brains and Puppet Master of the viper pit. He uses his daughter as a Pawn, to manipulate the Kings of Ireland into self-annihilation. He toys with the Danes, and controls with abject terror, of what he might do next. And molds Gormlaith in his own image –controlling her in every possible way. Until out-played by his “line-bred” daughter. Sick Control Freak. Sins of the father. Murchuada – Deviant Chess Master GORMLAITH– a legend in her own lifetime, in the sagas of the Norse, for her beauty, brains and cunning. Her father’s little pawn, and apt pupil, makes it across the board to become the most infamous Queen in history. (Her true story has thus far been under-reported). The strategy learned from her father – You make them choose – between what they want most – and what they love most. “Tis the choosing, that breeds the undoing.” You – Pin, Fork, Skewer. Until the field is cleared, and you are the last one standing. In a Chess match, cage fight, or in battle – that is winning. Gormlaith, looking for love in all the wrong places, is torn between conscience and winning. Life has taught her – beating the boys, feels best of all. She becomes – wife and “poison cup” to the three most powerful Kings in Ireland, Olaf, Malachy, and Brian. Gormlaith – Instigator and Prize of the Final Battle for Freedom for Ireland – and “The Last one Standing” BREAKOUT TITLES: up to three Series Titles: HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE THE TRUE AND RIGHTFUL KING GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS Book 1 ~ BLOOD GAMBIT INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND THE RAVENING Book 2 ~ CLEARANCE SACRIFICE STRIPLING WARRIOR DRAKKAR-SLAYER Book 3 ~ PIN, FORK, SKEWER YOUNG STAG IN VALOR RECOMPENCE Book 4 ~ ENTOMBED EAGLE UPON THE ROCK HAWK-FELL OF MY HAND Book 5 ~ SMOTHERMATE GAUNTLET OF SLAUGHTER RUINS OF RAGNAROK Book 6 ~ GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS HELL-VORM WOLVES AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT COMPARABLES – GENRE: HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE – The Life of Brian Boru High King of Ireland – Based on a True Story High Concept, Commercial Fiction – History, Biography, Adventure, Intrigue, Mystery, Romance, War Braveheart of Ireland, meets Uhtred of The Last Kingdom Solving mysteries of: Da Vinci Code’s – The True Grail And the Real King Arthur Concerning ~ A boy who would never be King, A “certain most ancient book” that would never be found, A thief in the night who would never be caught, The most compelling mystery never solved, The most successful and perfidious fraud ever committed, The two most famous, enduring, and beloved, imposters of all time, King Arthur of Britain, and the Holy Grail, And the truth. Book 1 ~ INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND ~ The Twelfth Son (loss of innocence, coming of age) 10-13 Book 2 ~ BLOOD GAMBIT ~ Rebel, Outlaw, Warrior (lone rebel without a cause, finds one )17-26 Book 3 ~ ENTOMBED ~ King of the South (gladiator becomes beloved hero of people) 26-35 Book 4 ~ WOLVES AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT ~ King of the North (dude with big problem) 35- 45 Book 5 ~ SMOTHERMATE ~ High King of Ireland (monster in the house - and bed) 45-60 Book 6 ~ GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS ~ Last Ard Ri of Erin (war – Destiny of Ireland) 73 Premise: Any of us, no matter how unlikely, can achieve the impossible – if we possess: Hunger enough to Dream it – Courage enough fight for it – Heart enough to never give up – and Guts enough to pay the price! This Series – based on a true story, and real life – is meant to Inspire, those who read it, to have: a worthy, Impossible Dream, Courage enough, and Never Surrender! High Concept – Braveheart of Ireland meets Uhtred of the Last Kingdom THE SAXON TALES Series – the LAST KINGDOM - WAR LORD – Cornwell’s number 13, in the tales of Uhtred, is recently published, and testament to commercial interest of a similar Series: the Viking Age in history, the true story of an orphan turned Warrior, who must find his way amidst: Viking savagery, treacherous Lords, and scheming Kings, to take back his home, in the face of impossible odds, worthy quest of Freedom against Savagery, and a ripping cage fight for the Throne of King, destiny of people and homeland. All 13, books in Series – best sellers. With a huge fan base, and by demand, there is currently a film in production to finish the Series. Uhtred is missed already. Secret to success: Dreymon’s well-loved Uhtred is the only truly lovable, funny, and relatable Hero, with great buddy and love stories as well, and heart wrenching – to the end of limits – acting and emotions, since Braveheart, (what all the others are missing). This is my goal, as well. BRAVEHEART (the first and best – characters against archetype, sense of humor) – of Ireland, Similar Hero and quest - unlikely orphan becomes beloved Hero of people, uniting the Clans, against tyranny, sacrificing himself in the cause of Freedom. And true story. Same Subject Success – LION OF IRELAND, EMPEROR OF IRELAND YA, PRIDE OF LIONS, and 1014 – BATTLE OF CLONTARF – the Life of Brian Boru in 4 books Morgan Llywelyn’s books on Brian Boru’s life, have sold over 40 million copies. At the 1000-year celebration of the Battle of Clontarf, (the climax of Brian's Series} in Dublin, 60,000 people showed up. Love for Brian’s story endures. HSCF is more specifically – Brian’s life story - The Irish Version: anti-archetypical characters, tone, slightly wicked sense of humor, themes of Freedom and Loyalty, endearing Buddy and Love stories, with a goal to inspire, use of screenwriting techniques, and unique - the Irish telling. THE VIKINGS – VIKINGS VALHALLA – Series Similar setting and characters: Antagonists, familiar to readers - All true contemporaries of Brian: In HSCF – The real Uhtred, Lord of Northumbia (16 years younger), makes several appearances, along with: Ibn Fadlan, Eric the Red, Harald Hardrada, Olaf and Ivar, great-grandsons of Ivar the Boneless, Sitric Silkbeard, Cnut, Harold Bluetooth, Wulf the Quarrelsome, and others. DA VINCI CODE – Starting with Historical Facts: the same mystery Solved – The true Nature and Location of the Grail. Which was first mentioned in connection with Arthur in 1190 – As well as the true Identity of the Real King Arthur. However very different conclusions, style, and delivery, and genre than Dan Brown’s. TIMELINE – EATERS OF THE DEAD – Same: starting with historical facts, like Crichton, then recreating true events, bringing historical characters to life. Unique: THE HAMMERED STEEL and CRIMSON FIRE Series is unique, from the only other fictional account of Brian’s life – Llewellyn’s, “Lion of Ireland”, which is beautifully written – in English King’s, English grammar and English vernacular. HSCF–The Irish Version – is committed to: mischief, mayhem and mangling, of all things English. And deservedly so, after 800 long years of subjugation and stealing Brian's story for themselves. I offer proof: My Nonfiction companion book, “The True and Rightful King” will make the case for Fraud by proving Geoffrey’s plagiarism, to the highest standard of the Law – Perpetrator, Means, Motive, Opportunity, Preponderance of the Evidence, Smoking gun, Bloody glove, beyond a Reasonable Doubt, and Beyond the Shadow of Doubt, meaning there can be no other. Commercial value: According to IMDB - Llewellyn’s “LION OF IRELAND”, the life of Brian Boru, is currently in development for a TV Series 2019. the Same amazing subject, but there is absolutely no similarity between her Brian's life, and mine. The TV Series, THE LAST KINGDOM, based on Cornwell’s Saxon Tales of Uhtred, is the highest-ranking Series in Great Britain, one of the highest rankings in the US. Well loved, and well done, with a huge fan base. There is a much-anticipated film in production, finishing up, to complete the Series. Fans are saddened. Everyone is going to miss Uhtred the Godless! Dan Brown’s DA VINCI CODE, theory of the Grail – sold over 60 million copies, fueled by HUGE CONTROVERSY, rattling the cages of the Vatican which claims to possess the True Grail, Catholics, and Christianity, in general, with his theory – the Grail being the womb of Mary Magdalene, and the Holy Grail, Mary Magdalene herself. (Ironically, Mary Magdalene has been classified as a prostitute since the Middle Ages, by an early Pope – not to be confused with Mary the virgin Mother of Christ). I remember well – on Nightly News, Dan Brown, at the top of the NYT Best seller list forever; “verbally scourged” by the Christians and castigated down to Hell by Catholics – is videoed, lamenting in self-defense, “Its only Fiction!” His beautifully crafted novel, and ingenious original Theory, became the object of crazed condemnation, boycotting, and slander. Result – The Da Vinci Code has become the world’s all-time best seller. ~ The take-away – the greater the outrage, the crazier the controversy, the more spectacular the sales I think it is fair to assume; HAMMERED STEEL and CRIMSON FIRE Series, proving: – All this time: the experts have been looking in the wrong time and place, for the 5th century English Hero, King Arthur – that he is really Irish – that Brian Boru’s life was stolen, to create the IMPOSTER – by Geoffrey of Monmouth – as well as the theory, then proof, that the Grail, is not a womb, but quite the most scandalous opposite imaginable – well connected to the Real Irish Hero – “The True and Rightful King” – and I can prove it . . . Is most certain to rattle, then spontaneously combust a few cages as well. Inciting Controversy: There is nothing the British love more than a Royal scandal, as does the world’s media. What will the reaction be when they find out: Deliciously Scandalous: ~ Queen Elizabeth II– the longest reigning English Monarch, the best, and most beloved; Is the 35th Great Granddaughter of the – Irish Rebel, Outlaw, Instigator, Brian, orphan of Beal Boru? ~ Making her heirs, Charles, William, and George – who all bear the name Arthur – the Imposter – direct descendants of the Real King Arthur. Anyone who has followed Queen Elizabeth’s life, can decidedly see that she is far more like Brian: a brave, uniter, forgiving, devoted to, God and country, and beloved by her people, than any of her subjugating, beheading disemboweling, despoiling, abdicating, ancestors since him. ~ The Queen’s great 35th grandmother, was Brian’s second wife, who gave him one son – murdered by his half-brother, Gormlaith’s son. In my story, she is a wonderful character, anti-archetypical, rescuer of the fallen in battle, chariot mechanic, fantastic rider and horse lover – as was the Queen herself. (This portrayal is my humble tribute to a wonderful, Lady, Mother, and Veteran, who would have much rather been riding her horse, in forest and field, with the sun on her face and wind in her hair – but instead, hopped on the grenade in stockings and heels for 70 years . . .) I believed she would have liked Brian's Story. ~ Deliciously scandalous, as well; Harry the lovable, Rebel, Outlaw, Outcast, Fomenter of chaos, Instigator of outrage, and his beautiful children, all have Brian’s red hair. Proof positive of the pesky, Irish, rebellious, rapscallion strain, in the stodgy, rather shallow, Royal gene pool. These revelations, together along with the “Irish Version”, should be enough to give the entire British Empire the vapors. ~ But then – perhaps – the greater the vapors, the crazier the controversy, the more the sales . . . LOGLINE WITH CONFLICT AND CORE WOUND: Book 1 – INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND In 10th century Ireland, when Danish Vikings attack, young Brian promises to watch over a little girl. Beaten nearly to death, he is forced to watch helplessly, as she is savagely raped and burned, and his family slaughtered. He vows he will, never be powerless again to protect those he loves, avenge their deaths, and drive the Danes back into the Sea, and drown them in their own blood. LAYERS OF CONFLICT: Inner Conflict – Brian’s inner conflict – the wound that he carries all his life, and the secret he keeps, is the stuff that rips his, and our heart out: guilt, regret, the wrong choice, shame, sadness, helplessness. When Brian 10, and a little girl 8, are caught in a Dane attack; he promises to keep her safe, by running to the 100 ft round tower. They make it to the top, but Olaf and Ivar follow them. As Danes are ax-cleaving the trap door apart – Brian must decide – take her to the window and jump to their quick deaths – or try to hide her and fight the Danes himself. Though he has her by the hand, and they stand upon the sill, with the slaughter going on below them – he cannot do it. Seeing her dead mother on the grass below, he hides her in some rags and baskets. Tells the Danes she jumped. They are beating, and kicking him to death, when he sees her come out of hiding, to beg them to stop. Though he is powerless to move; he witnesses her, to save him, being brutalized in every possible way, as flaming arrows set the tower ablaze. External Conflict –Sea-Eagle, Danes, Traitor Irish, High King, 11 brothers, and two pups Just a boy like any other, Brian dreams only of one thing – to catch the biggest fish in all the world, to flaunt it before his eleven older brothers, and take his place around the campfire this night, with the best tale to tell, his Da proud, and his brothers green with envy. His biggest torment, thus far – his two pups, that sabotage him at every turn, and his brothers who have one goal in life – use him for their hurling practice dummy, at every opportunity Brian has the biggest salmon in the world, by the tail, and is being dragged naked through the Shannon River; when he is attacked by a giant Sea-Eagle and must fight for his fish. Winning, though mutilated, he fights unsuccessfully, his two Lucifer-spawn pups for his clothes. And consequently, is caught celebrating, dancing around, bare-arsed, toes pointed spritely, his nether-parts flogging him to keep up, like a soused fairy under a Rowan tree – by a little red-headed girl hiding in the tall grass. And so, he dives into the only cover – a thicket of thornapple, thistle, and stinging nettles – with the high pitched, girly scream, of a neck rung stoat! Only to be late for school, again, God help him, with his eleven brothers, lying in wait, to make him to run the “gauntlet of slaughter”, to his seat in the front of the Chapel. Fairly demolished already, he is picked up, passed along, and slung from the window to the chants of “Runt! Runt!! Runt!! Dal Cass scores – One! Against the langers of Ulster – None! Brian gives, thanks to God, for the tender mercy of the flinging. And runs to the shore. His new goal in life now, is to put the flames of Satan’s, every class of a Hellfire out, by plunging arse first, into the cool waters of the Shannon; hidden from the eyes of God, man, and the little girl, and finally get a good scratch where it itches, without touching anything, he’d have to confess for, after. His goal in life changes again, when the Danes attack – trying to survive. Social and Interpersonal Conflicts –. Clonmacnoise Monastery –Brian is sent away to school. A name and blessing from the Abbot The fires of hell licked at the top of his head. The talons of Baal clamped to his scalp, wrenching hair out by the roots! Brian 13, yelped in pain, “Please Father, not the tower again. Anything but the tower,” and unleashed his most pathetic howl, long and drawn out, “I’ll repent. I’ll be good, I swear . . . I’ll die if ye lock me in the tower again!” “One can only hope!” The Abbot growled through sanctimoniously clenched teeth. “Please Father, if I must suffer,” Brian pleaded most mournfully, “don’t lock me in the tower again with the old geezer Plutarch, and all his whinin’ about the Thracians, and the ruttin’ Spartacus,” he sniffled, “Anything but the Plutarch.” The Abbot pondered his last wish . . . “Get me the Plutarch!” he bellowed to the crowd of boys, sniggering sadistically, “It’s to the tower with ye, and no food nor water until ye’ve memorized the Plutarch entirely!” Brian wailed louder, “Please, Father, I’m beggin’ ye, instead, of the Plutarch, may I have the Book of Saints? Oh, how I love the Saints! Ah, the blessed virgins. I love the one who, sacrificed herself, refusin’ offers of marriage and all, and shavin’ her radiant hair off, and scaldin’ her lovely face, with the boilin’ water, so’s that no man would want to have carnal knowledge of her.” The Abbot, red-faced and teeth barred like a trap-strangled ferret, yanked the young orphan of the Clan Dal Cass, up, glaring into his eyes, “The blessed Saint would roll in her grave, to know her sacred virginity was on the mind of the likes of ye! Ye, vermin from the South, and the son of Cennetig to boot, with the foul tongue, and the filthy mind!” And he shook Brian by the hair on his head until, what was left of his own teeth rattled. “Ye’re a wart of the arse of the sainted Lady,” he hissed, and yanked him viciously towards the isolation and imprisonment of the tower. Brian, wincing through the pain, couldn’t help but conjure the image of the lovely young woman bare-pelted, from behind. . . “Have ye seen her arse then, Father? I mean the wart and all?” The novitiates clamped their hands to their mouths, to stifle the giggles, and the boys roared and hooted, doubled over with the laughter, “She’s a Saint, and been dead for 600 years, you goat’s spore!” Father Alphonsus, holding him arm’s length, by the hair, stopped and tried to kick him in the soft parts, and then the buttocks, alternating – bollocks, buttocks, bollocks, buttocks, but Brian dodged the blows, hurtling himself, front and back, and side to side, like when his brothers had him up against the wall and all trying to pummel him in the goolies with the sliotar, practicing their hurley swings. And all the while Brian trying to explain, “It’s just that, when I’m on me knees in prayer, Father, I’ve often thought fondly of her Holy Relics, and such. I know her lovely head is in Rome, her little foot is in Venice, and her finger, her sacred finger, in Ravenna – with a ring made from the foreskin of the baby Jesus” . . .. And he wondered how that worked, exactly. For one thing it sounded painful for the sweet little babe, and for another, it seemed unlikely a Jewish Rabbi would place such a thing on the finger of a Catholic nun . . . and then he couldn’t help it, his mind ran to the bit about shavin’ her hair off, and he wondered if they meant all her hair . . . and even if Saint’s had a place for hair other than the top of their head . . . and then there was the part about scaldin’ her face off, and he thought she might have done it so’s no one would notice the wart and all on her arse . . . but still . . . she might have looked lovely, naked, from the front . . . with a sack over her head . . .. “Do you suppose her breasts are with the rest of her then, Father? . . . I’d like to think so,” he grinned. “Ye little rabble rouser! Fomenter of chaos! Instigator! of Erin!” Wailed Father Alphonsus, responsible for the edification of souls, of the young Princes of the Isle . . . “I’ll feckin’ kill ye!” SETTINGS IN DETAIL, SCENE BY SCENE: The settings in 10th century Ireland are simple – a stone chamber, a tower, the forest. It’s the situation, characterization, humor, that makes a scene interesting, and impossible to convey without illustration. Setting: Craig Lia – Is a rocky crag above the ancient ring fort of Beal Boru, where the jagged stones from the beginning of time, protrude from blankets of moss and bracken. It is a matter of historical record, that Brian believed in the pagan myth passed down in his Clan, that a Shee – Avril, the fairy Queen, who lived in the crag, was a: guardian for the children, companion for a lonely warrior, on a cold night before battle, gift of memory for the old ones, and of prophesy for the King. Narrator – Beginning and end of each book to recap and foreshadow hook, Hero, Avril, Attack, Brian’s journey to come. And Series Title. And so, it was . . . That all of Killaloe lay smoldering in embers and ashes, And the Shannon ran red, with blood of the sons of Cennetig, And blood red, the hills, and meadows of Erin. In years to come, the old ones would say, looking back at the time of dragonships, That was the day the Banshee of Craig Lia, who loved the boy who would never be King, The last, and least of twelve sons, found him trembling, burned, and broken, And drenched in his mother’s blood, Then Avril, of the high crag – guardian of the crumbling ringfort of Beal Boru, Shee of the ancient ones – riders of the white horse, mound builders, chariot racers, Raisers of Lia Fail stone – and the child of the last Thracian King, Issued forth a keening wail . . . an oath of reckoning . . . a vow, to the enemies of Erin, Then raging in wild and savage fury, Scored their fates, into the face of her cliffs, By thunder, of Hammered Steel! And lightening, of Crimson Fire! For the courage in the heart of the boy, Destined – him to be the one . . . The Instigator of Freedom for Ireland! Setting: The Hill of Tara – The Hill of Tara is the jewel in the crown of Ireland, today, and in Brian’s story. It begins and ends on this Hill and is the setting of several of the most poignant scenes in his life. There is a single standing stone, for thousands of years it has been known as the Lia Fail, or The Stone of Destiny. It is where, Brian is crowned High King, and Ard Ri, and when he is lost, prays on his knees to God, to show him the way. And finally, after the final battle, jumps over the setting sun, with his lifelong friend, on their way to take their place – where only true stories of real Heroes are told . . . ‘round the campfires in the sky. Prologue: The Saga-teller – delivers Theme: Truth vs Lie/fairytale – Courage vs Cowardice “Tell us a tale,” the people called out, and drew back like the tides of the Red Sea, “Of myths and monsters . . . of demons and dragons.” The old man, gnarled and weathered as a druid oak, made his way to the top of the windswept hill, drawing near to the fire. Then placed his hand upon the ancient standing stone, gently as a grandfather caresses the face of a child. “I have no fairy tales,” he said, and bent his head so that his tears fell at the base of the Stone. ~ ~ ~ When the old man spoke again, ‘twas a fearsome thing – a rumbling, come from way down deep in the heart of Erin, up through the hill and the stone. The growling of a feral beast, to scold, and score, and shake the earth from its slumber. And the wind swirled all around them, in a fury of waves and torrents, up and over the cliffs at the edge of the world. And tumbled over the Hill, hurling his voice like rolling thunder, across the plains, over the mountains, and beyond the seas. “Oh, you foolish children, who seek what is not there, and never was – a reflection in the pool, a shadow upon the meadow, an echo in the hills – has no beating heart! Don’t you know, there can be no courage, nor valor, nor Hero, nor deeds worth remembering, nor story worth telling without truth! All else is chaff in the wind.” And the breath of Erin whispered all around them, quickening every blade of grass, ruffling the leaves silver, and tumbling the clouds in moon-glow. . . Setting: Ireland – Hook, Mystery, Intrigue, Suspense to come (metaphors no fantasy) “Listen well!” The old man roared, a mighty stag upon the mount. “For, I will tell you of a myth that is true, and of the monster who fed upon it, Of a boy who became a giant, and of the serpent who dragged him down to Hel, Of a light, a brilliant light, as bright as a blood-ember, glowing, And of a demon in the darkness, black as a tomb in a new moon, And of the shadow he conjured, that grew upon the wall, Twisting and writhing, and slithering through the cracks, Until it spread o’er the land, extinguishing the light, And with it came a pestilence, a poison, a plague, on the children of Eiru, To scorch and shrivel every meadow and flower, and dream and dawning, For every dew drop in Erin, turned to blood! And The most sacred of all fell on this hill, on this stone, on this very night . . . And it all began – the day the dragons came!” Setting: Geoffrey’s Chamber –Thief in the Night – From lowly cleric to, rich and successful Author Geoffrey of Monmouth, cleric to Walter, the Archdeacon of Oxford, perched on his stool like a plague raven gargoyle, casting a loathsome eye back and forth between the piles of musty manuscripts, and the trencher of spitted piglet carcass on the table before him. The corners of his right eye and mouth ticked spasmodically, like the twitching of a maggot flicked onto hot embers. And rightly so, for he drew nearer to a spit-scorching himself, every day. He’d exceeded his deadline for the King. There by, reneged on his contract, betrayed the trust, and spat in the face of the King’s generosity. Ah yes, and how had the First Henry put it? Coyly, with one arm about his shoulder, and his dagger in his other hand, the tip of the blade, darting about his face like a poison-fanged adder, as he walked him to window gesticulating East, over Wales to England. His broad sword and small mace jingling; and compliment of soldiers with all the aforesaid, as well as battle-ax, boar-spear, neck-cuffs, chains, and gaffing hook, helped to make his point. “You, Geoffrey, hold not only the outcome of my war with France – in your right hand – but my very life, and the future of all Britain, as well!” His eyes narrow-slitted, and glinting, “Do you think you can manage?” Geoffrey, his right hand usually occupied with himself, let go to wipe the sweat from his upper lip, and flap at his gown to fan the water running down his legs and moth-eaten stockings, into his scuff-worn sandals. Indeed, Henry 1st, King of England had decked the Tower of London, for Yule – with bowels and bollocks – for far less disappointment, than this. How his entrails would be removed to garland the Great Hall, and his cods to roast with the chestnuts, during the hymn singing, evoked in Geoffrey intolerable pain and a constant sweating, so that he wondered if he might be bleeding from every pore. He quickly crossed himself over the blasphemous thought, turning his gaze away from the waning sun’s rays, palely illuminating the three crucifixes hanging upon the stone chamber wall above the fireplace before him. A thief on each side, and Christ in the middle, who loved scabby lepers, filthy Samaritans, and poxied prostitutes, diverted His gaze from Geoffrey as well. Setting: Geoffrey’s motive – what he is giving up With a pang of self-pity, Geoffrey acknowledged he’d seen horse stalls bigger and more congenial than this, and far less foul smelling. His chamber, a flue for the kitchen below, cow-pen, pigsty and stable just outside and up-wind, possessed stone walls stained with several hundred years of smoke and greasy soot, and infused with the smells of rotting rubbish heap, rancid swine slop, and pungent horse dung. In one corner, the stone floor opened to a steep and winding staircase down, contrived so that one Kingsman, with a sword in his right hand, could defend the tower against an upcoming horde of Saxons. Perhaps left-handed, he’d obviously failed his task, the filthy drunken Saxons having used his chamber for a privy for three hundred years, and the stench remained. In the other corner – a rudely constructed cot, lumpy with infested horse-hair mattress, home to bed lice, and other small vermin, attracting certain barn foul, which in turn deposited defecated remnants of said vermin, all over the contents of the chamber. Next to the bed, a small chest contained everything shabbily made and thread bare, he owned. And beside it, a wicker basket with his only other set of grimy linens, which the Archdeacon’s cat, following the Saxons lead, befouled on a regular basis as well. Setting: Geoffrey’s chamber on the West Coast of Wales He, Geoffrey, lowly cleric from Monmouth, who would otherwise be trapped in the cave-infested, midden-heap of Anglesey, in the farthest foul dregs of west Wales, beyond the outer edge of the Roman Empire and civilization, and the closest landfall to the barbaric Irish. Even mighty Caesar, though he conquered the rest of the world – loathed to go to Ireland. And if he refused? His future loomed bleak. Nothing had ever come from puking Wales, beset with superstitions, ghosts of ghoulish Danes skulking in the mists, and wailings echoing throughout the hills of evil otherworldly demons. The last of the headless Celts, festering in tombs, and bansheeing about in vile winds, forever blowing over from the Irish Sea, with the fetid breath and blustering bowels of the Irish! Setting: Clontarf –Flashback in media res. Latean brings severely wounded Brian, news of his sons Young Latean, attendant to the High King, thrust his foot up and down with all his might into the mutilated face of a youth not much older than himself, but the mass of gutted wound-slurry would not let loose of his ankle. A ghastly claw, white and bloodless, tethered him to the battlefield of blood and gore – the specter of death haunting the corpse’s eyes, plotting to drag them both down to hell. He swiped at his eyes with a blood-soaked sleeve, and kicked frantically until his shoe slid off, talon and all, then staggered on up the battlefield, towards the tent at the top of the hill. He bore a message for the Ard Ri, he’d sooner cut out his heart than deliver – but deliver it he would. The gory dead conspired to trip him up, their severed heads and limbs scattered among their own entrails. The dying moaned out to him and tore at his clothes. He slipped and fell, again and again, crawling on his hands and knees, retching, and gasping for air. Blood, warm and cold and clotted as blood pudding, oozed through his fingers. Smoke and ashes seared his lungs. Scarlet spurted from sword slashings and dripped in stringy rivulets down from tree branches overhead, upon his face. The salt from the blood, mixing with the salt in his sweat-soaked tears, ran into his eyes, stinging and blinding him so that he could not see. All around him, the great oaks of Tomar Wood grew black with ravens, as the fallen twitched and writhed from hill to sea. He struggled to stand, and clinging to a sapling, looked back down the battlefield, his stomach revolting at the sickening stench of burning flesh and ruptured bowels. Setting: The view towards the sea The pallor of death had spread over the land, gray and bloodless. For it was all on the field – all the blood in the world, oozed and gushed, and seeped onto the mud and trampled flowers of Clontarf meadow. To the West, the last of the sun, blazed like a dying ember in a windblown fire. To the South, black smoke churned, and carcass-flames leapt up from the walls of Dublin Castle into a scarlet sky. To the East on the seashore, Danes, drowning in chainmail thrashed at water’s edge, flickering silver and blue, in scarlet foam, like a bucket of bait-herring. Their dragonships, born out and away by the high tide and offshore wind, drifted empty and rudderless. All around him, the edges of the earth, had burst into flames. And all the while, Erin’s treasure, in a river of crimson, flowed down the battlefield, across the strand, and into the Irish Sea, staining the dark green, like red wine spilled onto a silken gown. For bestowed over all, meadow, man and beast, a blessing – an Irish blessing of blood – borne on a crimson, rain-soaked wind, up from the frothing sea. Latean wiped at his eyes with a blood-soaked sleeve, and looked up to the Heavens, wondering at the hand, that could offer such a benediction over the end of all dreams. Setting – outside the King’s Tent At the top of the hill, wound-ravaged warriors encircled the High King’s tent. The last of the original Dal Cassians, Brian’s boys from the beginning, now gray with age, scarred, and wounded. They listed back and forth, shivering and blood soaked, against the gusting wind, leaning upon gore-slurried spears – splintered shields locked together, dulled swords encrusted in blood-clotted scabbards. Still, they stood bravely at the ready, loyal to their Chief until the end, their silhouettes, etched in torrents of red rain, lashed sideways upon the outside walls of the tent. Ghosts, and blood of ghosts born over the battlefield, on banshee winds hurled up from the wild Irish Sea. In front of the tent, a terrible pain stabbed at his heart – a scene more sorrowful than bearing. “Amergin,” he whispered. Three battle weary warriors struggled at the ends of ropes, around the neck of an enfrenzied gray war-horse – the King’s stallion – his valiant battle companion for more than thirty years of warring. The beast, crazed with pain, thrashed between them, dragging, and tossing them like wet rags, desperate to be free. Oblivious to his war wounds, he skittered and reared, trying to bolt. Broken shafts of spears pierced his shoulders and flanks. Deep slashes laced his powerful chest. Arrows pierced his heaving belly as streams of blood trailed down over his legs, strafed with sword cuts. The aging stallion screamed, fierce and blood-curdling, charging towards the tent. The whites of his eyes shot with blood, as he tossed his proud head. His thick muscular neck, flexing and twisting, snake like. His massive rump bunched and coiled to bolt, rearing, and pawing the air. A profuse white mane and tail, blood-drenched and muddied, churned about him like the fury of tempest-tossed waves, spraying spirals of blood over his restrainers. Even as scarlet foam blew from his nostrils – barbed arrow tips twisting in his lungs. Still his great heart would not give in, he too, fighting to get to his beloved master. Setting – Inside King Brian’s Tent – Battle of Clontarf, as the slaughter closes in A single candle flame flickered . . . then sputtered . . . then glowed . . . first tentatively, then defiantly, in the darkness and drafts surrounding it. Though the battle raged ever closer. The screams of men, and the spear-gored war horse, shattered the coming twilight, together with the clang, and sparks of steel on steel, and flames of fiery torches, seething, and writhing upward in twisted funnels, to the blackening sky. Latean reached out his trembling and bloodied hand, and lit another . . . and another . . . and another, blinking away blurry haloes of light. The honeyed scent of bee’s wax wafted aloft, mingling with smells of smoke, and battle-sweat and charring flesh. Candlelight suffused the tent with a soft amber glow, casting molten shadows upon the walls, and illuminating the tokens of a Warrior’s lifetime of battle. In the center, of the tent, a roughhewn table, about which all of King Brian’s brave generals had sat. Lucifer’s minions – snakes in the grass, lying in wait . . . rabid dogs in the manger . . . wrist-claspers, and oath-givers, and vow breakers . . . Judases all! ”Now it stood soaked and dripping with hero’s blood, of their beloved Chief and King. Setting: Brian’s sword, his battle companion, carries his blood to the "book." (MacGuffin) . . . And in the hand, that still wielded it, a great double-edged sword – woven and forged in steel, tempered in the blood of murderers, and burnished with the blood of cherished ones, bearing his father’s name, his grandsire’s, and his father before him. The hilt and pommel filigreed with gold. The hand grip – stag horn wrapped in silver wire. Once, gleaming in the sun, held high before the Army of the Dal Cass, in battle-charge; or hilt up to make a cross, over a King’s blessing of his men, on bended knee, before waging war; or glistening in the prow of the lead war ship of, the Navy of Erin – Now, it lay cold and chipped, and darkly smeared – and still wet . . . As blood flowed from the mighty heart, along the scarred and sinewed arm, down the blade . . . and onto the tip, a pool of scarlet collected, then dripped down onto the page . . . of a book. Settings: The Shannon River - Gofraid’s dragonships on their way to attack Dead-eyed and soulless the dragons came. Preening black swans – their fine boned, worm-whorled prows and arched necks, skimmed the water, caressing their breasts, barely stirring a wake. Crimson sails billowed in the wind, from yew masts, like blood-eagled lungs from cloven-ribs of corpses, floating on the river Styx. They came without sound, without warning – reivers from Hell, in the dawning. And in each belly, Lucifer’s seed – One hundred mail-clad, pointed-helmed, steel-bladed Danes – engorged with mead, and bloodlust for rapine and ax-slaughter. On their arms, rings of silver and gold, filthy lucre for the children of Erin, sold as slaves to the harems of the Moor and Persian Kings. Atop each mast, a saffron banner thrashed in the wind – a tusked black boar, eviscerating a great horned stag – the banner of Gofriad, master of all, standing in the prow of the Long Dreki. Gofraid, defiler of children, and desecrator of Christian altars with innocent blood, throughout Angland, Frankland, Scotland, and Irland. Gofraid, son of Sigtrigg Gale, son of Sigtrigg Ivarsson, son of Ivar the Boneless, son of Ragnar Lodbrok – King of the Norse, and scourge of all Christendom. He had decimated Killaloe, and the Irish Tribal King of Thomond before, in his youth with his father. But enough time had passed for the boar-tough, Cennetig, of the Clann Dal Cais, to build up his stores of cattle, pigs, lamb and horses, and a round tower with treasures of precious gems and metals, forged steel blades, crosiers and crosses, silver reliquaries, horse-trappings, and bejeweled covers of their sacred books, illuminated in gold – And his stores of sons . . . Twelve he had now. None in all Norseland, could claim such a gift. Setting: The Nursery His crib, and then cot, being the one farthest in the corner of twelve, had made his life challenging from the get-go. At bedtime, before his Mam arrived to hear her boys’ prayers, as a babe he was tossed from one brother to the next like a chunk of turf . . . as a small boy, slung like a sheaf of goat turds . . . and more recently, hoisted aloft and jettisoned along over their heads, as they chanted “Who will score! Who will score! Until building up momentum . . . launched him like tossing the caber . . as close as they could get him to the piss-bucket in the corner. It took a few years, and although he was always accused of stinking the place up, by wetting the bed, to their mam, and the brunt of all manner of smirking, verbal castigation, facial contortion, and obscene gesticulations his way, while his Mam’s eyes were closed during the prayers . . . he never ratted them out. For which he earned their respect, if not mercy. As the mighty Bebinn, would have flogged their bowels out, for tormenting her. . . favorite one, her changeling babe, with the lovely red curls, left by the faeries, and not related a’tall to the rest of Cennetig’s hooligans . . . so they all mimicked. As time passed, he learned quickly, he could duck, tuck and roll, twist in midair like a cat, and land on his feet straddlin’ the bucket, without spillin’ a drop. With his brothers cheering him on, “The Runt holds, against the langers of Ulster!” Firbolg one! To Ui Neill pissers, none! Hie! Let’s hear for the Runt! Runt! Runt! And in their Mam would come, eyes a twinkle trying to keep a straight face with their Da’s hurl, flailing the air, and boys jumping up and down like fleas in a hot pot, sliotars whizzing, pillows, and feather beds, flying around the chamber, in a flurry of goose down and horsehair. And finally, Mam tuckin’ him in as she did all her boys and givin’ each a kiss, she’d bend low so only he could hear her, “I know ’twasn’t ye’r fault Bri. Did ye know, each of ye’r brothers was the Firbolg in his turn, your Da, and Grand Da, as well? Never ye mind, the day will come when ye’ll be as big as they are, and they’ll have to face ye in the Tourney for the wrestlin’ and all. And ye can show them then. Then she would bend close to his ear, and whisper, “Never forget . . . the finest steel, is hammered the most, and forged in the fieriest furnace!” Then she’d wink, eyes sparklin’ and full of the mischief, and kiss him on the forehead. “One day the Runt will rise!” She’d say . . . and I’ll be lookin’ down on ye with a smile on me face . . . me own little Bri . . . the bravest and fiercest Firbolg of all.” Setting: Family campfire in the graveyard, under the ancient oak of Mag Adair But . . . whatever it would cost him in the class of torment . . . he could conger up this very night, already. All his brothers gathered ‘round, a wink and a nod of affirmation from Father Maelsuthain, and his Da’s face all aglow with firelight and pride, at the telling of the battle of Brian and the great white sea-eagle for the most glorious salmon in all the world! . . . Well, young Brian, ye’ve got a warrior’s heart in ye, right enough, he’d say. No, Da could ask more of his son. . . All the rest of ye boys look to ye’r young brother . . . and remember this day . . . and his Da would grab him under his chin in the crook of his elbow, plunging his face into his rank hairy oxer, and rub his knuckles on the top of his head, the closest thing Cennetig ever gave to a hug . . . The grandest fish goes to the biggest heart, and the smallest cods, eh, lad! . . . . And there would be laughter and teasin’ for the Runt, the manky little Firbolg, and pride in the eyes of his Mam, and laughter and glowing faces all around – a cheer from the boys. A grand moment not soon forgotten . . .. Brian could feel the rush of devil-mongerin’ pride, risin’ up in him. There would be no weaslin’ out – ‘twould be runnin’ the gauntlet of slaughter – or die tryin’! Besides . . . he’d fought this battle before. Setting: The Chapel – In front of the door. Brian gestured with his hand up, casting an evil eye, and grunted for Chulainn and Lug to stay! And shush! Which they protested with a pitiful whining, Lug laying down with the long puss of the hang-dog look, and Chulainn panting, and whining, eyes on fire with mischief, like the wanton harlot, Queen Maeve of the North, looking for a quick bend-over the altar, so says his Da, in the tomb of Newgrange. And Brian had always wondered why she would bend over the altar to pray, instead of on her knees in front, like the rest of the world. . . but then she was the “wanton,” one, his Da always said, with a sly wink to him . . . and then, he’d always wondered what she was wantin’ for . . . her bein’ a Queen and all? She could have anything she wanted. He moved towards the door, crossing himself, as best he could with his hands full, and whispering a prayer, of thanks, like his Mam had taught him, for small blessings – like no piss bucket, and old Patrick’s Prayer . . . “Christ be before me” . . . he whispered, “Christ behind me . . . on me right hand, and on me left . . . “Which he always followed by a whispering of the battle cry of the Dal Cass, as he always heard his Da call out after a few too many ales – Here’s to singin’ the short and curlies, lads! May the flames of ye’r fires be short – and the arms of ye’r women be long! He wasn’t really sure of the meaning of it all, but he thrilled to the tears it brought to the old warrior’s eyes, as they nodded, and swilled in affirmation, to rid themselves of the lump in their throat, and banged their cups down upon the table, chanting, Dal Cais! . . . Dal Cais! . . . Dal Cais! He reached out, and with his dirty big toe – pushed ever so gently at the door . . . Setting: The door of Lachtna The thick Irish oak door, heavy as a cart of rocks, and hewn by Lachtna himself, to not only keep out the fustering Danes, but the hordes of godless Angles, and the odd Saxon, sniffin’ about for the south end of a ripe ewe. Not to mention, scarred with nearly two hundred years of ax, sword, and spear blade mutilations. Pissed on by more than a few drunken Danes, before they set fire to it – and pissed on, by more than a few drunken Dal Cass, to put the fires out . . . swung slowly open . . . The rusted-out, bog-iron hinges, forged in the time of Methuselah, let loose with a never-ending, banshee-screeching creak, to raise the headless bog sacrifices of the Fomorians. The clatter of the boys ceased, silence filled the void, save for the shrieking wail of the rusty door . . . As one by one, every head, every shade of red in the world, and slathered with freckles, face filled with a wonder, turned to him. Every satanic, mischievous green eye in the chapel gawking at his fish. Not a murmur, not a whisper, not a flutter of an eyelash filled the void, only . . . pure and utter reverence for the grandest, most glorious salmon in all this world! Setting: The Lay of the Land – Maelsuthain’s chapel Father Maelsuthain’s school, a small rectangular stone chapel, built in commemoration of when the first of the wild Pagan Clan Dal Cais, had stopped severing and collecting of the heads of other Clans’ men, for the decorating of their chariots. Long enough to be baptized by Patrick himself, with the first Priest-blessed water drops, ever taken from the Shannon. The oak table in front, now serving as an altar, still bore the ax-cleaving by his great, great, grand Da. Who, deafer than a yew post, took offence, mistaking Patrick’s odd speech of the North, and Roman ways to boot . . . splashing water on him, and waving his ram-headed crozier about, thought it to be an invoking of the banshees of black pools – to shag his mother – almost ended Christianity in Killaloe, before it began. But the gouge in the table, bore witness to the miracle – the staying of the blade of the old pagan – as all knew the fearsome old King never missed, when hewin’ off a head – ‘twas blessed by Patrick, still sportin’ a head, as a proof of the true Christian God’s, power. And so, the altar remained revered down through the ages. All subsequent children of the Clan, when baptized as a babe, had their tiny hand placed in the very spot where Patrick’s had been, for good luck, and long life in God’s blessing. Upon the altar stood a simple roughhewn cross, singed black on the top, and bottom, made from a branch of the ancient Druid Oak upon the hill of Mag Adair. When lightning struck and cleft the trunk down the middle, the tree survived; but the old King Lachtna with his sword in his hand, lit up like the shooting star named after the long arm of Lugh, sparks flying, eyes glowing red, smoke shooting from both his ears, and cursing like an Ulster goat-shagger – didn’t. So, the cross, stained with blood and singed hair, and declared sacred by Maelsuthain, his childhood friend – stood as a token of his oath to a dying King, that he would uphold the Clann, until his last stifled breath. And laid down the law, that all Princes of the Dal Cass must attend school, develop their minds, and be in their seats by the time the bell stopped ringing or pay what’s due. This vow insured Father Maelsuthain, would invoke God’s blessing, upon his pupils if he was in a good mood – and Lachtna’s, of the fiery temper, armed with the ashen hurl, he kept by the altar leg, if they were late. The good Father was a man of his oath, and the twelve sons of Cennetig had the splinters in their arses, to prove it. Narrator - Setting Ireland – Saga-teller – Hill of Tara – Foreshadowing, Intrigue, Suspense And so, the young cub, the sky-jewel of Irland, who burned brighter than all the rest . . . Would one day, consume the traitors, oath-breakers, snakes in the grass, Descending like an eagle, hurtling down from the sky, His shadow passed over moor, and meadow, and mountain, First to the South, and then to the East, and West and Northward, The breath of Erin, whispering his name before him, Mists through ancient stones, A shiver in the trees, A rustle of leaves, A ripple of quiet waters, Demon, they murmured . . . Drakkar-Slayer . . . And the cowards and murderers, and brokers of children, trembled behind bolted doors, Shivering in the dark, Their armies, in chainmail, with ramparts and moats, and murder holes surrounding them – A shield wall of cobweb, against the steel blade of a mighty Warrior’s heart, They hid and drank, and laughed aloud, Boasting in the company of their slaughter mongers, As if, when alone in the dark, they did not piss in their trews, And always, in their nightmares, they saw his specter, Wild and ruddy – Cennetig’s cub, The young lion in valor, Eyes gleaming, mouth agape, fangs bared, dripping with the blood of traitors, Coming for them . . . And all the while, One-Eye’s ravens, hovered – circling – biding their time – Until they slaked their thirst on coward’s blood . . . End Book I
  2. Hi Coryn! Glad to see a friend again in the trenches. I love your story. It was my favorite. I'm going to the Pitch again in December. All the very best!!! ps. I'm probably submitting the wrong thing in the wrong spot again, but I wanted to say Hi!
  3. HAMMERED STEEL CRIMSON FIRE – is two stories. One within the other. The true story of Brian Boru’s life from insignificant orphan to the only True and Rightful High King of Ireland, united in peace – book-ended, as you watch over Geoffrey of Monmouth’s shoulder, as he steals Brian’s life – His dreams, deeds, and glory; to fabricate a Hero for King Henry Ist – King Arthur of England. HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE ~ 6 Book Series The Life of Brian Boru High King of Ireland 951-1014 Based on a true story High Concept, Commercial Fiction History, Biography, Adventure, Romance, Intrigue, Mystery, War (No fantasy) Braveheart of Ireland meets Uhtred of the Last Kingdom, and the Da Vinci Code (Solving the mysteries of the Real, King Arthur, and the nature and location of the original Grail) Concerning ~ A boy who would never be King, A “certain most ancient book” that would never be found, A thief in the night who would never be caught, The most compelling mystery never solved, The most successful and perfidious fraud ever committed, The two most famous, enduring, and beloved, imposters of all time, King Arthur of Britain, and the Holy Grail, And the truth. Fact: - Geoffrey, cleric, of Monmouth Wales, in 1136, penned the first account of 5th century King Arthur of England. Despite what 800 years of historians, nonfiction books, documentaries, and scholars, claim – there is absolutely no mention of 5th century King Arthur, Hero, Defender, Uniter of Britain, before Geoffrey – not one. - Though, for centuries, historians and archeologists have searched England, for any evidence, the real King Arthur lived; or of Camelot, his castle; Avalon, the place of his burial; or Camlann, the site of his great final Battle – though some has been, speculated or fabricated – nothing has ever been found. - To date, experts have declared Geoffrey’s account of King Arthur of Britain, a king who: united his people, defended, won, restored his country, for a period of peace and prosperity, and finally gave his life in a final battle for the homeland he loved – a figment of Geoffrey’s imagination, a literary device, a myth, or compilation of several men. They adamantly claim – there never was a real man behind the larger-than-life legend, nor could there have been. - However, Geoffrey states quite clearly in his introduction, his source for King Arthur of Britain – “a certain most ancient book”, given to him by Walter, Archbishop of Oxford. - Norse, Njal’s and Thorstein’s Sagas, with accounts of the Battle of Clontarf, known as King Brian’s War, reference a book for their recounting, called – Brjans Saga – Brian’s Story. One of the great mysteries of Norse Literature, is what became of it. Although many Sagas of this period survived – Brjans Saga was “lost.” - Scholar, Einar Olafur Sveinsson, and academic Donnchadh O. Corrain, experts on Norse Literature and History, claim there must have been such a book, referenced by Njal’s and Thorstein’s Sagas, based on their accounting of events, from the Irish perspective, leading up to the battle of Clontarf. They hope one day it will be found. - The few Norse and their allies that barely survived the apocalyptic battle for Ireland, King Brian’s War, on Clontarf field, Dublin, Ireland, Good Friday, April 23rd, 1014, and made it to their ships, headed for the closest landfall – the Norse longphort, just across the Irish Sea from Dublin and the battlefield – Anglesey Wales. Book 1 ~ INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND ~ The Twelfth Son ~ And so, it was . . . That all of Killaloe lay smoldering in embers and ashes, And the Shannon ran red with blood of the sons of Cennetig, And blood red, the hills, and meadows of Erin. In years to come, the old ones would say, looking back at the time of dragonships, That was the day the Banshee of Craig Lia, who loved the boy, The last, and least of twelve sons, found him trembling, burned, and broken, And drenched in his mother’s blood, And she drew him to her breast, and wiping his tears away, blessed him with her own, For she could see the days to come – the evil, the horror – the seas of blood rising! And vowed she would be with him – even unto the end. Then Avril, of the high crag – guardian of the crumbling ring fort of Beal Boru, Shee of the ancient ones – riders of the white horse, mound builders, chariot racers, Raisers of stones – and the child of the last Thracian King, Issued forth a keening wail . . . an oath of reckoning . . . a vow, Even as the thinnest veil of moss, covers the ancient bones of Erin, So too, the sprinkling of a priest, binds the Warrior’s heart, All that is needed – a single thorn, borne on the wind . . . Then she placed her mark upon, The heads of his enemies, The soul of a priest, And in the hearts of three women. Then raging in wild and savage fury, Scored their fates, into the face of her cliffs, By thunder, of hammered steel! And lightening, of crimson fire! For the courage in the heart of the boy, Destined – him to be the one . . . The Instigator of freedom for Ireland! Part ~1 The Boy, The Book, and the Thief in the Night ~ The Saga-teller ~ Hill of Tara, Ireland April 23rd, 1137 “Tell us a tale,” the people called out in the night, and drew back like the tides of the Red Sea, “Of myths and monsters . . . of demons and dragons!” The old man, gnarled and weathered as a druid oak, made his way to the top of the windswept hill, drawing near to the fire. Then placed his hand upon the ancient pillar stone, gently as a grandfather caresses the face of a child. “I have no fairy tales,” he said. So, the people turned away, and went down from the hill. And the old man bent his head, so that his tears fell at the base of the Stone. But Eireann was listening . . .. And she summoned the wind and the waves from the edge of the world, over the Western Sea, and flung them into the cliffs, and hurtled her breath up and over the hills and valleys, tumbling in fits and torrents, and blew in their faces, and tore at their clothes, and fanned the flames of the fire, till sparks flew up into the night sky, to dance with the stars. Just then . . . The old man felt a tugging at his gown. A thorn in the wind, he thought, and tugged back. But the pesky thorn would not be denied and yanked harder still. So, he set his jaw, to give it a righteous thrashing – but . . . when he looked down, he saw, not a thorn bush but . . . a boy . . . a small boy, a thin and grimy and raggedy child, hair standing on end, eyes bright with longing. “Have, ye a true tale then, Sir?” the boy asked, “Of a real hero?” But he hesitated then, shivering in his thread bare rags, and looked down at his dirty feet, ashamed for he had no shoes. When he looked up again – ‘twas with eyes bright with tears . . . “Who was once an orphan child, that no one wanted . . . but, because he was brave, became something else, entirely?” The old man looked around the hill, but the child was alone, neglected and forgotten as the old stone. The strings of his heart tightened, even as his eyes stung. Fingertips traced along a scar upon his cheek, as if a touchstone to his memory, “Ah so,” he smiled, “I have a tale, of a boy who was brave. . .” He squinted then, and looked up into the night sky, searching the stars, and hesitating, as if he might have forgotten something – then, remembered. And looking down with a sly wink and a nod, “And a girl.” Then the old man looked out from Tara’s hill, to where moon shadows of clouds, raced in rippling waves over shimmering seas of grass. His rime-frothed hair, and cloak, and gown whipped madly about him, as sparks burst and swirled, blazing, but not as wild and brightly as his deep blue eyes. As though what he saw, belonged not to this night – but to another long ago. “The truest of tales,” he murmured, searching the stars, for just the right one, “The only kind told, by real heroes ‘round campfires in the sky.” But the people had gone down from the hill and turned their backs on the boy, the stone, and the stars. When the old man spoke again, ‘twas a fearsome thing – a rumbling, come from way down deep in the earth, up through the hill and the stone. The growling of a feral beast, to scold, and score, and shake the earth from its slumber, and wind blew over Hill of Tara, hurling his voice like rolling thunder, across the plains, over the mountains, and beyond the seas. “Oh, you foolish children, who seek what is not there, and never was – a reflection in the pool, a shadow upon the meadow, an echo in the hills – has no beating heart! Don’t you know, there can be no courage, nor valor, nor Hero, nor deeds worth remembering, nor story worth telling without truth. All else is chaff in the wind.” And Eireann’s breath whispered all around them, quickening every blade of grass, ruffling the leaves silver, and tumbling the clouds in moon-glow. . . “Listen well!” The old man roared, a mighty stag upon the mount. “For, I will tell you of a myth that is true, and of the monster who fed upon it, Of a boy who became a giant, and of the serpent who dragged him down to Hel, Of a light, a brilliant light, as bright as a blood-ember, glowing, And of a demon in the darkness, black as a tomb in a new moon, And of the shadow he conjured, that grew upon the wall, Twisting and writhing, and slithering through the cracks, Until it spread o’er the land, extinguishing the light, And with it came a pestilence, a poison, a plague, on the children of Eireann, To scorch and shrivel every meadow and flower, and dream and dawning, For every dew drop in Erin, turned to blood! And the most sacred of all fell on this hill, on this stone, on this very night . . . And it all began – the day the dragons came.” So, the people gathered once again around the Lia Fail Stone, the Stone of Destiny, upon the Hill of Tara. The crowning place of the ancient High Kings of Erin. The high hill between the Seas, where more blood and tears, lay shed, and dreams born and shattered, than any other. The old man put his arm around the shivering child and drew him into the folds of his gown. Then, borne up by the rushing wind, and the longing of a boy, he drew himself tall and straight as a yew mast, arms outstretched, cloak beating around him like billowed sails. His hoar-frost hair, a glowing banner of moonlight, whipped about like sea-frothed surf in the fury of a winter storm. Voyagers all – a ship in the offing – bound for the stars . . .. And the old man stirred the dying embers of their cold and empty hearts, searching for a Hero, as all men do. And set them ablaze with forgotten memories, and abandoned dreams, as his voice shattered the night, and shuddered the earth, even as thunder waves pounded the sea-cliffs to sand. . . “O’r the lap of the land, o’r Sea-kings’ road, From sea-eagles’ nest, on cragged mount, To fen of troll, in Hel-fires below, Dwell many thieves, Ring thieves, who steal a man’s silver and gold, Fiend thieves, who ravage homeland and savage loved ones. Demon thieves, who lie in wait to blood-eagle his soul, No matter, These treasures belong to the man and will fade soon enough. But – the most craven of all – are the Liar Thieves! Robbers of treasure that belongs to all men, for all time. Cowards, who claim another man’s glory, His courage, And his dreams, And the deeds that were his life, And call them their own. This I know. I saw. And I tell you now, the truth of it. For I, Sword-Dane, and Spear-Dane, and brother to God’s dastard, Was there in the beginning . . . the middle . . . and the end . . . I knew the boy, the young Rebel and Outlaw, the Warrior and the King, I held the book in my hands, I touched the blood-smeared names . . . And, I saw the Coward, thieving in the night!” Chapter 1 ~ PLAGUE RAVEN 1134 ~ Anglesey, West Coast of Wales ~ 3 years earlier Geoffrey of Monmouth, cleric to Walter, the Archdeacon of Oxford, perched on his stool like a plague raven gargoyle, casting a loathsome eye back and forth between the piles of musty manuscripts, and the trencher of spitted piglet carcass on the table before him. The corners of his right eye and mouth ticked spasmodically, like the twitching of maggots flicked onto red embers. And rightly so, for he drew nearer to a spit-scorching himself, every day. He’d exceeded his deadline for the King. There by, reneged on his contract, betrayed the trust, and spat in the face of the King’s generosity. Ah yes, and how had the First Henry put it? Coyly, with one arm about his shoulder, and his dagger in his other hand, the tip of the blade, darting about his face like a poison-fanged adder, as he walked him to window gesticulating East, over Wales to England. His broad sword and small mace jingling; and compliment of soldiers with all the aforesaid, as well as battle-ax, boar-spear, neck-cuffs, chains, and gaffing hook, helped to make his point. “You, Geoffrey, hold not only the outcome of my war with France – in your right hand – but my very life, and the future of all Britain, as well.” His eyes narrow-slitted, and glinting, “Do you think you can manage?” Geoffrey, his right hand usually occupied with himself, let go to wipe the sweat from his upper lip, and flap at his gown to fan the water running down his legs and moth-eaten stockings, into his scuff-worn sandals. Indeed, Henry 1st, King of England had decked the Tower of London, for Yule – with bowels and bollocks – for far less disappointment, than this. How his entrails would be removed to garland the Great Hall, and his cods to roast with the chestnuts, during the hymn singing, evoked in Geoffrey intolerable pain and a constant sweating, so that he wondered if he might be bleeding from every pore. He quickly crossed himself over the blasphemous thought, turning his gaze away from the waning sun’s rays, palely illuminating the three crucifixes hanging upon the stone chamber wall, above the fireplace before him. A thief on each side, and Christ in the middle, who loved scabby lepers, filthy Samaritans, and poxied prostitutes, diverted His gaze from Geoffrey as well. Glistening like a freshly boiled tripe, bald as a bladder and mottled as mange – pocked as a sea sponge, and as white and dimpled as a leavened loaf, needing to be punched – Geoffrey possessed the sweaty sheen about him of a cooling corpse, and the odor of a rancid sausage casings. His eyes bulged, black and bloodshot as festering buboes. Jowls hung swollen and hairless as milch cow udders. Nose inflamed and purple-veined, as a cankered teat with mastitis, he tended well with copious amounts of Sacramental red wine – the pilfered blood of Christ, meant for the poor. Pouring from a large pewter pitcher, he filled his Rhineland glass goblet, a parting gift from the King to the brim, and gulped greedily. Balm for his tormenting physical incarceration and mental self-flagellation, within the piddling tower chamber. With a pang of self-pity, Geoffrey acknowledged he’d seen horse stalls bigger and more congenial than this, and far less foul smelling. His chamber, a flue for the kitchen below, cow-pen, pigsty and stable just outside and up-wind, possessed stone walls stained with several hundred years of smoke and greasy soot, and infused with the smells of rotting rubbish heap, rancid swine slop, and pungent horse dung. In one corner, the stone floor opened to a steep and winding staircase down, contrived so that one Kingsman, with a sword in his right hand, could defend the tower against an upcoming horde of Saxons. Perhaps left-handed, he’d obviously failed his task, the filthy drunken Saxons having used his chamber for a privy for three hundred years, and the stench remained. In the other corner – a rudely constructed cot, lumpy with infested horse-hair mattress, home to bed lice, and other small vermin, attracting certain barn foul, which in turn deposited defecated remnants of said vermin, all over the contents of the chamber. Next to the bed, a small chest contained everything shabbily made and thread bare, he owned. And beside it, a wicker basket with his only other set of grimy linens, which the Archdeacon’s cat, following the Saxons lead, befouled on a regular basis as well. No, he’d had one thing and one thing only, of any value, his entire life – his mother’s little copper pot, he kept on the windowsill. Geoffrey sniffled. Every meal she had ever made for him, simmered in that pot, from nettle soup to mealy-worm gruel, and frog-broth when he burned with fever. She would cradle him in her arm while she stirred at it, telling him he possessed a poet’s heart and one day, he would be a great man, important to the King. And after she was gone, her cherished copper pot would be his, to remind him of her forever. Up until the day the King’s men burned the hovel down about her. She would not leave her only gift for him behind. And although she managed to fling it out to him, from the window, she succumbed to the flames. He scraped up what was left of her, after, with a scorched wooden spoon, and carried it with him in her pot, always placing her gently upon the windowsill, so she could see the hills of the west-lands, she loved. Geoffrey snorted, then poured liberally, raising his goblet, and toasted the barren sill. Then sloshed down another draught. All in all, his world – up until Henry Rex had trodged up the Saxon stairs, stood perusing his realm, took a piss out the window, and deposited the rancid eel he ate in France, into his mother’s little copper pot, could be summed up in two words – awful and offal. A tear rolled down his cheek, at least he had been blessed with the poet’s heart she longed for. But that was two years ago. And after Henry had trodged back down the stairs, Geoffrey vowed to rid himself of the pot, its contents, and all sentimentality with it. No more copper in his life – shimmering, pale green, Rhineland glass, silver chalices and golden adornments, crimson silk and finely laced-linens hovered on the horizon before him. Even, as odious as the task of extracting a credible history had become, the plethora of manuscripts piled high around him, lay upon a beautifully carved and highly polished table of English oak. The King’s Oak. And everyone in England knew to pluck even a branch of the King’s Oak, meant being skinned alive and boiled in oil. The table, yet another gift from Henry, to grease the skids, he said, of the project, along with a silver ring inlaid with a large sapphire and engraved with the King’s initials, HR – Henry Rex. And no one doubted Henry’s ability at . . . skid-greasing . . .. He’d the reputation of procuring whomever, and whatever he wanted, in the class of human, flora or fauna, Abbess, novitiate, or mutton, in several kingdoms. Lucky Geoffrey, he reminisced, dabbing at his forehead with his sleeve, and pulling on the chaffing neck of his gown, receiving a commission from the racking, and disemboweling King, Henry I, to write a History of the Kings of Britain from the Trojan horse, to time remembered. “A gift to his people, from their beloved Monarch”. Henry gloated, displaying brown teeth, and purulent gums, “A beacon of inspiration for the ages! Something for them to revere me by!” But Henry lied. For his “Historia” was to be a scheming far more insidious than that – and he, Geoffrey – complicit. His innards grumbling, and outards shriveling, he considered what would happen if he failed to deliver the wherewithal for the King’s intrigue . . . "Concerning Geoffrey of Monmouth – Oath-breaker! Procrastinator! Renegar! Of the King’s good grace! Shall be taken to the Tower, forthwith. To be mutilated, drawn, and quartered! Each limb to the four corners of the Realm! Head on a pike, cods on a skewer, what is left, interred in an iron basket, to dangle above the castle gate, until his maggot-ridden flesh should rot, and bones fall to the ground to be eaten by worm-infested dogs, carried away, buried, and pissed on by drunkers and scabied crones, from this day, and henceforth!" Geoffrey poured another goblet full, the translucent pale green, shimmering in the firelight, his eyes stinging, a knot rising in his throat. What else could he do? Thanks to Walter, the Archdeacon, his superior and benefactor – from whom all moldy porridge, runty-piglets, and slatternly necessities in life flowed – The King of flogging England had promised him, upon completion of his task: The Priesthood, an anointing in Westminster Abby to Bishop, consecration to Archdeacon, with a position at Aslaf, and – his pending missive, Historia of the Kings of Britain to be published, to the far reaches of Christendom, ad infinitum. Not to mention, recognition and acceptance in the courts of Kings, with good food, fine robes, a feather bed, no doubt his choice of belly-warmers, and everyone genuflecting before him, and kissing his right hand all the time, bearing the bejeweled ring from the King. He, Geoffrey, lowly cleric from Monmouth, who would otherwise be trapped in the cave-infested, midden-heap of Anglesey, in the farthest foul dregs of west Wales, beyond the outer edge of the Roman Empire and civilization, and the closest landfall to the barbaric Irish. Even mighty Caesar, though he conquered the rest of the world – loathed to go to Ireland. And if he refused? His future loomed bleak. Nothing had ever come from puking Wales, beset with superstitions, ghosts of ghoulish Danes skulking in the mists, and wailings echoing throughout the hills of evil otherworldly demons. The last of the headless Celts, festering in tombs, and bansheeing about in vile winds, forever blowing over from the Irish Sea, with the fetid breath and blustering bowels of the Irish! Geoffrey sloshed himself another glassful, consumed with melancholy, tipped, and guzzled. And why should he alone, bear the burden of the fate of Britain? The fact of the matter – Henry 1st, King of England, Scotland, Wales, and Duke of Normandy – 4th son to bastard, William the Conqueror, and some whispered, father to at least 22 ill-conceived gammy get out of bowlegged sheep on both sides of the Channel. Though over-sexed and nonselective, remained incapable of producing, even one living legitimate son. Geoffrey grunted – that made Henry, 0 for 22 – an astounding feat in any wager hall in all of Christendom. And with a new wife, pronounced, pox-free, womb-worthy, sluice-sanctified, younger, and ever more virginal than her predecessor. And although, with everything considered, and the odds favorable for his success upon his return from war; many of his subjects lined up to accept the wager – against their King. In fact, Geoffrey mused blurrily, jokes aplenty were chortled in the shadows of every castle, ale house, and sacristy. And written on privy walls from Cardiff to Whitehall, inspiring him to wax poetic – a ditty concerning the new odds of the King managing a legitimate son, in his own bed. He sneered sadistically. A hymn of sorts, from the soon to be Archbishop, to his beloved benefactor – Henry Rex. Refilling and swilling, abandoning for a moment his besotted melancholy, and normally dour and petulant demeanor, he raised his goblet to the Crucified, jowls aquiver, and broke into an unholy, hand slapping, foot stomping, slurry of tone-death, song . . . “Whilst Henry was off fighting his wars and tending his wounds, His nobles, guards, and grooms of the stool tended his wombs, So, by the time he returned in the spring, His odds had taken an insufferable swing, His fields – over tilled – and amply slung, Well seeded – and deeply plumbed . . . Possessed a far greater square acreage, Then his entire Kingdom!” “Ha!” Geoffrey smirked wickedly at the poetic irony, tinging the glass goblet with his crusty brown, rat-gnawed, third fingernail. Thus, Henry’s once favorable odds for success – Now, down the privy – floating with Mum!” The fact of the matter – the King of England, brutally successful in all things base or unconscionable, waxed undisciplined in all things kingly or sanctified. Simply put, Henry I, the rutting old whore-hound, lived to run trash – in the hunt, and out. And now out of money for his wars, sporting a raging brothel disease, with only one legitimate daughter, and in dire need of his people accepting his eldest bastard son, Robert 1st Earl of Gloucester, as heir – he expected Geoffrey to rectify the rat's nest, of all his many bastards – in his family tree, buried in the roots, and stinking up the place. And he expected him to accomplish this feat, a fortnight ago, before he returned to England from France. . . any minute now, still steaming from battle, sword bloodied, pissed off, broke again, with a full bladder, itchy crotch, empty bollocks – the apparent curse of his Viking forefather, Ivar the Boneless – and a frustrated yearning to mutilate something! Geoffrey swiped at his tears and sweat, mixed with pigeon dung, dripping down his barren pate with a malodorous sleeve. Then deposited it again with two swipes across both cheeks. All the while, his stomach howling from hunger, and bowels convulsing in terror Hazily drawn back to the moment, sniffling, he remained wretchedly racked by two pressing problems. The first – the didn’t know whether to eat or shite. And the second – Geoffrey concealed a secret of his own . . .. As if on cue, a spasmodic coughing echoed through the tower, from the adjoining chamber, a croaking, huffing, gaging, hurling fit of what he knew to be a greenish slurry, of phlegm, a congealant, looking considerably like moldy bread pudding, spraying the walls, oozing from the pustules of fetid rot in the occupant’s lungs. Hocked up, and spit everywhere, except into the spittle pot. Followed by an intense wheezing and choking as air was sucked in, along with whatever congealed, yet un-hocked. Just when he thought his plight couldn’t get worse – the grunting of a wild boar rooting for truffles, combined with the wheezing of a heevy horse, filtered up the stair-well. Walter, the Archdeacon, with the paunch of a pregnant palfrey, flatulent and stiff with gout, lumbered up the winding stone stairs of the keep, bracing himself against the wall at the top, scarlet faced and puffing like a blacksmith’s bellows. In one corpulent fist he pressed a lace-embellished handkerchief to his copse of sprouting nose-hair, bearing the embroidered emblem of Pope Innocent II. In the other – an item of dubious origin, and malodorous construction, he dangled as far away as possible from his person. Geoffrey sucked his tongue against the back of his teeth, waggling his own itchy ballast against the stool, resentful for the piling on of his other piles – yet another manky missive, from the puffing little pisspot. Needing fortification, he funneled more of the sacramental red wine, first into his goblet, swigged it, and then sloshed it around in his mouth and through his sparse teeth. Puffing out first one cheek, then the other, and finally down his gullet, belching loud and long, with great satisfaction at the perceived quavering Crucifixes. Even by candlelight, and brined in wine, Geoffrey discerned the hideous thing could never have been any sort of a book, as might have been passed down by a family of nobles. Newborn calf-vellum meticulously tied into folio and bound with fine leather, in any reasonable way. Nor a manuscript of venerable worth, scrolled and wrapped in velvet, and embroidered with silver thread, as one would find in the collection of the Holy Church. Nor was it finely rendered in unborn translucent lambskin, illuminated in gold-leaf, embellished with silver trappings, and ensconced in a bejeweled reliquary from the library of the King. To the contrary, it appeared more like the hideous saddle bag collection of used privy papers, belonging to a vile Visigoth in the sacking of Rome. Sneezing convulsively, Walter waddled and wheezed over to the desk, dropping the repugnant midden heap, in front of Geoffrey, in a puff of dust, and other indistinguishable flotsam. Then snorted into his linen and lace handkerchief, blowing like a trumpeter swan, the congealant from each nostril. Inspecting it thoroughly, he continued, “Some foul relic of a waesucks, looking as though he’d been tossed from a godforsaken dragon ship, a century ago, showed up at the door. Had the manner of the churlish Irish about him, mumbling codswallup about a High King . . . as if there’s anything higher than a King! . . . soused old sarder, lying on the front steps like a worm-infested dog. Had him doused with a bucket of cold water . . . then hot piss, and sicked the hounds on him, but he refused to leave until you were given this . . . this . . . sheer bloody evil . . . Heard you’re compiling a record of Kings.” Walter sneezed, spasmodically, beflummoxed by vapors in the air. . . “As if that old boothahler would know anything of Kings! I was afraid he’d die on the doorstep, let loose of his pesty bowels, and spread the plague . . . Anything to get rid of him . . . the filthy, pribbling old stank!” He turned and fled the chamber, groaning and wheezing, his slack rear sally-port flapping like wet laundry, in a stiff March breeze. At the top of the stairs, he called back to Geoffrey, “The crazed old laggard kept mumbling something about . . . the grayest . . . or gravest . . . rubbish like that . . . King that ever lived! . . . Can you imagine that . . . by Satan’s hairy ass! . . . If he’s ever been close to a real King, I’ll drink the piss pot next time . . . the gorbellied old gudgeon.” And with that, the dried-up old chitterlings, puffing and grunting, lumbered his gout-oozing legs, and dying bagpipe effluvium back down the Saxon stairs. Geoffrey sighed heavily, closing his eyes, and bowed his head, sanctimoniously, feigning prayer. Then with a momentary air of abject concentration – heaved a rancid belch, before reluctantly studying the loathsome pile of middlings upon his desk, nose twitching, striving to separate the fetid reek of the bundle, from the fomenting dregs of Walter. His entire face puckered in disgust, ultimately deeming his latest acquisition far worse – reeking as a kilted Celt’s saddle blanket, and rank and worn as the womb, of the brothel-bred, third wife of Claudius. Whatever would he want with a grayest or gravest King? Just what he needed, an account from one half-dead old scrote, to another half-deaf! Requiring further sustenance, he poured another brim full, sucking greedily, until breathless, eyes watering, belching like a bloated toad. Well, he had to admit, it would be original . . . an old and dignified King. If there was one thing, that the piles of manuscripts in front of him, and the piles in his ass, for the last two years, bore witness – in the entire privy-porridge before him – old kings, as well as dignified kings, didn’t exist. And for good reason; they were a miserable, sadistic, gold-grubbing, mank-mongering, brutish bunch. In fact, all Kings, he had found so far, waxed more of the: brutal-torturing, limb-quartering, treacherous-poisoning, eye-gouging, bowel-extracting, tongue-lopping, burning at the stake types. Hated by not only their enemies, and own people, but by kith and kin as well. And deservedly so, all of them tormenting him now with their tediously unremarkable lives. Apparently unworthy of any sort of a mention at all – the boring, abysmally inconsequential bastards! . . . What’s he supposed to do, make the rubbish heap up? He fought to swallow the lump in his throat, a fuzzy moment of melancholia, washing over him. Casting a furtive glance towards the wall, he wondered if he were being condemned to Purgatory by the all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful Crucified Christ. In all the stacks of manuscripts and books on his desk, and four centuries of dredging up every old geezer: Gildas, the Venerable Bede, Nennius, Welsh Annals, Anglo Saxon Chronicles, and God help him – the fomenter – Ireland’s Patrick! . . . even flogging Beowulf! – Who all claimed to make record of the history of Britain, after the Romans fled; none of them mentioned a King of Britain by name, who rose to defend against the barbarians, won battles, restored peace, and united the Kingdom – not fetching one! Henry’s command: “I need a King! A great Warrior! Defender against invading Saxons, and Franks, Sacker of Ireland, Guardian of Christendom, a Uniter and Protector of his people, and Bestower of Peace and Prosperity! A Hero among men – a shining light upon the hill against the black plague of filthy Barbarians!” Then, affably placing his arm around Geoffrey’s shoulder, he slid it further along, until locking his head in his clenched elbow, just at his throat. He squeezed, teeth grinding, voice growing ever more menacing and thunderous – “What I need now, cleric – succinctly . . . is Precedent . . . to invade Ireland! . . . the ignorant little pissants would rather give their gold and silver to God, then to their King, and stubborn too . . . I’ll have to slaughter them all, to get it. And to butcher fellow Catholics – which I might add, has never been done before – even Irish Catholics – I need a Papal Bull . . . and that I need, that before my doddering, moldering, bribable, English Pope, is supplanted by the German anti Pope. He growled menacingly, “Which means you’ll have to hurry, or we’ll all be gagging on head cheese, and sauerkraut!” Henry Rex, wild-eyed, red in the face and raging, bellowed into his ear. . . “No one seems to understand the stress I am under – the bloody bastards! It costs, to make war on everyone, in this country and out, and on both sides of two seas. Do you see my predicament now – Geoffrey – hopelessly insignificant, smelly little flea-infested cleric of Monmouth?” King Henry the 1st, pressed his cold wet lips, and putrid hot breath against his ear, snarling like a baited bear – “Precedent Geoffrey. He’s in your piles somewhere – find him!” Geoffrey swayed on his stool, his face puckering to fight the tears, and raised his blurry glass, delivering a swaggering toast, to the eminent specter of the King, who would soon appear at top of the stairs. “Well, come on up Harry, you boneless little bastard, and have a good and close looksee at my piles, why don’t you” . . . he garbled, gulping and welling up with melancholy, eyes brimming, throat tightening even as visions of flames engulfed him . . . the sounds of his fat crackling, the smell of his own searing flesh and singeing hair, what was left around his ears – his carcass, and little stunted pink and hairless chestnuts, crackling on a stick over the brassier of some cankered toothless hag, gummed to death, hawked out, and frog-gulped by a filthy mongrel dog, and cast off as a hairy, toothy turd. Gasping for air he slammed the goblet down on the table. It shattered in his hand. A drop of blood oozed from a tiny, imperceptible sliver of glass in his palm. Sniveling, his breath catching, he held his hand up for the three wavering Crucifixes to see, lower lip quivering, “As if any of you give a rat’s ass!” Well, he’d checked his piles. There was no such beloved British King, Defender, Uniter, Protector, Sacker of Ireland, named in all bloody Britain . . . not bloody flogging one! Geoffrey sniveled and wiped again. First his nose, then his eyes on his threadbare crusty-sodden sleeve, smearing pigeon dung anew, from cheek to crevasses of jowl. He could see it now . . . Henry’s ghost clanking up the stone stairs in his bloodied armor, spurs clinking across the wooden floor. He hovered at his shoulder with his steel-studded mace, swinging in a calculated arc, that if moved the width of a ferret’s fanny, would crush his skull . . .. “Well, let the fusty-lugging Henry come.” He drooled. If he was to be carried away to the Tower of Whitehall. any moment upon the Rex’s return, he might as well enjoy himself. He raised the pitcher, in toast, to the three blurry crucifixes – “To imposters and thieves all – and last suppers!” Then swilled his well-deserved draught to the dregs, just to spite them, wine running in rivulets down the corners of his flaccid lips. With soused and reckless abandon, he would deny himself no longer. He cast all thought of deadline and disembowelment out of his mind and pulled the wooden trencher closer. He studied the roasted little corpse before him from every angle. . . the sheen of grease, the curling of the rind around the edges, the shimmer of seeping fat. De-spitting it, his mouth watered at the bloody oozing of juice, from the gash along the belly, as he rubbed his thighs together tingling in anticipation. Tucking the white linen tablecloth into the crusty neck of his frayed woolen gown and pushing up his sleeves; he commenced the only thing that felt good all day – tearing limb from ribs, skin from breast, popping joints, excoriating bones with his teeth and tongue, his cheeks twitching like a toad-stuffed weasel. A teeth-sucking, fingernail-tooth plucking, messy business. When he realized, rather stuporously, bits of flesh, and juice splashing around the trencher upon his own ink-blotched, scratched-through, pigeon-dunged, manuscript. His bowels convulsed again, clenching in spasm, at the reminder of his own work. Two years’ worth of heartburn and bowel-bloat, a hodge-podge of wizards and dragons, Trojan Horse to Vortigern hog-swill. In a drunken quandary, he surveyed the table covered with antiquated lore, on loan from some stogy self-righteous Venerable or another. All of whom he had to bow on his knees and kiss their rings, and pimpled, hairy asses, in return for their sacred manuscripts. Always on the right hand . . . well he knew where their right hand had been, the same place he kept his! A flood of self-pity washed over him – strangely followed by something else . . .. He spied the only missive, whose mutilation wouldn’t mean his own fat, bursting and oozing in runnels of grease, into the fire. Reaching out, he stabbed his greasy knife tip into the pile of grimy rags and gaffed the Visigoth’s privy-papers closer. Upon blurry-eyed inspection, he thought it was quite possibly the most befouled pile of scat he had ever seen. It appeared to be slovenly wrapped in tatters of squalid linen, begrimed with sard knows what, and carelessly leather bound in tough old cow hide. As if a child had fashioned it from a sharp rock, a dull blade, and cured it in reechy curds. Black as pitch from smoke, green with mold, and rodent chewed along the edges; it appeared to be warped from sea water and cured with salt-scum. And for a moment . . . he could almost see . . .not blurry like everything else in the chamber . . . but clearly . . . the image of it . . . the old book washed up on a distant shore, mixed with flotsam of pink foam, and the blood and gore of mutilated bodies . . . the waves tugging and flipping the pages . . . and running the ink . . .transforming the words . . .. He rubbed at his eyes, just as quickly, the image went away. A drunken belligerence followed. He would show Walter, the King, and the old scutters on the steps, just what he thought of his newest acquisition. His brain wallowing in wine, and the room swaying, he roughly sheared the tattered covering away with his grease smeared blade. Then sliding the tip underneath, severed the layers of contracted thin leather thong, wrapped around it, binding the leaves of calfskin together. As he did, the roar of wind from over the Irish Sea throttled through the window, blowing open the shutters, banging them against the stone wall, and careening through the chamber, fanning the flames of the brasier, sparks flying, all around him, whipping loose velums from the Venerables, around the chamber, in a maelstrom, swirling in a vortex of ancient texts. Geoffrey grabbed at them, trying to keep them from igniting, or being sucked out the window. Geoffrey froze . . . He heard something . . . a voice? A wave of dread washed over him, and even – guilt, as if he were somehow – trespassing . . . or worse – violating . . . and even more than that, before the scowling crucifixes – profaning. He quickly crossed himself, sloppily missing each intended mark. Then let the pages loose. Rattled, and wild-eyed, he reached for the pitcher again, raised, tilted, and swilled long and hard, sucking at the empty brim, until slamming it down on the table, swiping at the crimson dribbling down his chin. This time, he would be master of his own destiny, rejecting the prompting to leave the book intact. He stood over it, inspecting it with all the cunning of a drunken butcher and grunting like a lusty bull; he thrust the tip of his knife into the heart of the book. He stabbed, and gouged viciously, piercing deeply, and in increasing rapid succession, as if slaughtering a tough old sow, that wouldn’t fall to her knees. The vellum pages, brown with age and welded together, seemed unwilling to give up their secrets, clinging to the leather covers, as if bound and sealed by some unfathomed covenant. Then standing to gain leverage, he put his full weight into it, prying the lacerated calf skin, open, until he had enough to grip. Flopping his weight upon it, he wrenched the covers down, splintering the spine apart. The sinew binding the leaves together ruptured. Until it lay, like a deboned chicken, filleted and flattened, a broken thing. The vellum, stiff and crusted together with what appeared some sort of mold, muddied, and darkly stained, quivered in shreds, so that various strips of flayed skin lay in mess of disparate layers, indiscernible as pages in form or content. The mutilation left him breathless, heart pounding and exhilarated, for once in his life, he reigned as the only Master and subjugator of his realm. The brutality serving to whet his appetite even more. He slid the eviscerated carcass under his trencher of piglet, so that its insignificance, might further serve his appetite. It felt good to let the bits of torn flesh and ruptured tendon fly, and the juice splatter, and the grease run all over the grimy old pages – the one bit of flotsam in his life, no one would miss. He belched, cheeks puffing, lips flapping, spitting out the bones, once slurped and sucked of marrow, upon the old book. He let the fat drip, and bloody juice ooze off the trencher on to it. The thickest grease, salty and sweet, running down through his fingers, he savored before it could get away, plunging each appendage into his mouth, one after the other. Circumventing each joint, he licked, working his way down to the fist and finally backing out, while sucking it clean. His lips pursed around each one, as pink and puckered as the tail-end of a winking she-goat in heat. Then wiped, first the front and then back of his slimy fingers, off on the pages, smudging charcoal, and soot, and foraged on, until the last, canted beam of setting sunlight withdrew from the arrow-slitted window. There! The goose flesh rising, like a plucked chicken, on his hairless arms, in mid-mastication of the suckling creature’s heart. He strained to see in the dimming light, his mouth slack and gaping, like the wanton lips of the Sheela-na-gig of Rattoo. With a taper, he lit a candle and moved it closer, straining to see in the darkening chamber, struggling to find again, the melding and morphing phrase of words that had caught his eye – now illusive . . . He pushed his trencher and assorted bones, and the worst of the bloody juice off the dismembered pages, carelessly onto the rest of the Venerables’ manuscripts. Then moved the candlestick closer, until the incandescent light, illuminated the scourged and bloody skin before him. With grease-slicked fingers, he tried frantically, to smooth out the mutilated vellum, to make sense of it. Upon closer inspection, he found it to be a muddle of mismatched drawings, words, and images, faces and places, creating a riddle of sorts, in a jumble of bits and ragged pieces. Utterly sloshed, eyes blood-shot and blurry, he thought he had seen a phrase, a run of words that intrigued him. But try as he might, he could not get them back. He licked his corpulent thumb with a thick tongue, again and again, and shoved the tattered, pieces back and forth, smudging the inked words and images, desperate to find the right combination to patch together an entire page . . . Dragon heads with tongues extended . . . mouths dripping with blood . . . flames leaping high, consuming cots of a ringfort . . . shooting out from a round tower windows . . . enfrenzied horses, eyes wild with fear . . . hideous monsters, bearded, with fangs . . . a chariot flying through the air, one wheel landing . . . the face of a beautiful little girl . . . a small boat with oars and mast . . . swords dripping with blood! He flipped down a strip of tattered vellum – not dragons but Dragonships! And the monsters – Northmen in pointed helms and chainmail, with battle-ax, and broad-sword – all rendered in the primitive hand of a child. There . . . from the fractured spine of the book, protruded the tip of a quill, feathered in variegated stripes of white and dark gray, and stained a faded and rusty pink. He tugged at it, and out it came, along with a legion of – wispy milk-weed seedlings – of all things. Hovering around his head, on his face, in his eyes. He swatted at them. To no avail, as they swirled around him, floating on the drafts, luminous in the quavering candlelight of the chamber. The tip of the quill, darkly stained, had been carved into a point. Inspecting it for sharpness, he tapped it against the vellum, a fine dark-rust colored powder fell upon the page, the pungent odor – moldering blood. Distracted, he sucked at the back of a broken tooth, spit on the tip, of the quill, wiped it on the page, then used it to pluck a stubborn bit of bowel sheath out, from between his festering gums and blackened teeth, all the while inspecting the page before him. Then slurped the bit of sheath, off the tip, fondling it with the tip of his tongue, savoring, and swallowed. Strangely, the rust-colored powder had fallen into a pool of grease, upon the aged manuscript before him. There . . . beneath the grease . . . words he could barely make out. He wiped at the pool, smearing it with a large suety thumb. It immediately turned to a bright crimson streak of what appeared to be fresh blood. He swiped again, and beneath the bloody smear – words appeared – still illegible. He reached for the pitcher – empty, save for a few drops, and frantically shook the last of the Sacramental wine upon the letters. It pooled over the stain on the page, stripping away grease and grime, time, and ages until – there they were . . . Again, came the wind, blasting the shutters open, hurting them into the wall, rupturing the hingers, in an explosion of wooden splinters, and whirling around the chamber, sweeping the pages of the Venerable ones up and hurtling them around, the flying sparks igniting them into flames! As they flew up, swirling around the tower, and out the window. But Geoffrey, paid no mind. For upon the flayed calf skin before him, streaked with crimson blood – lay the fragment of words that had eluded him, in all the venerated piles of manuscripts. Words of the pleading old scutters on the doorstep, Words the stone-deaf Walter didn’t hear, Words for which he had been searching desperately, for two years, Words that might just keep his fat from sizzling in Henry’s fire, The very words to seal his future, filled with gold and silver, crimson and lace, and Kings kneeling before him, to kiss his ring . . . Written in blood . . . Bound and sealed in blood . . . And redeemed only – by the blood of Christ . . . “. . . the greatest High King who ever lived . . ..” (Geoffrey continued bookend for end of book I) Geoffrey froze . . . mind racing in reckless abandon . . .. He began to pace back and forth, across the chamber, eyes locked upon the blood-stained, wine-blurred words, his besotted brain, sloshing around inside his skull, with him. Is it possible, he possessed the only book in the world with a record of, “The greatest High King that ever lived!” He savored the words slowly. It was true, that on the West Coast of Wales, rumors were heard in drunken ale halls, and scratched on the walls of privies, and murmured in the cobwebs and shadows of the superstitious Welsh. He’d heard tall tales of an Irish King, that all the people loved, who fought great battles, against Sea-raiders, and Irish traitors, to achieve what all knew to be impossible – peace in a united Ireland. “Ha!” He sneered, “As if anyone would ever believe that!” Only to be betrayed by his very own his wife, and stepson, enticing a huge Viking army to come and sack the Isle, steal the treasure, kill the King, and all for the very hand, of his cuckolding wife of astounding beauty! What was it the Sagas called her . . . the “balm in bed for her many Kings!” Rubbish! But they were just tales, murmurings, gossip, who would believe that an Irish King accomplished what no British King or Roman Emperor had? Ridiculous! Still . . . he could drop the High – sounded too Irish . . . The Greatest King who ever lived?” “Well,” smirked Geoffrey . . ." I’ll give old Henry Rex what he wants . . . a Hero for Britain, who invaded Ireland. and every place else!" Once the British had a Hero of their own, who would give a ferret’s fart, about an extinct Irish Hero? Certainly not England, and France, and the rest of the world! Geofrey giggled -" I'll give Henry his Hero - a bloody Emperor of all Britian! Geoffrey grabbed up the hem of his moth-eaten gown, and diddling a tone death tune, began to dance around, like a princess in anticipation of the ball. He dipped and whirled, toes pointed, lifting his skirts, in a dance for joy. As the shutter’s blew open again, and the wind hurtled in, sparks flying from the nearly dead brazier, igniting the flying pages, and the smoke and ashes and sparks flew out into the night. Geoffrey, giggled, and pranced about, in wild and reckless abandon . . . Twas then the voice came again . . . murmuring . . . “Geoffrey . . . Geoffrey. . . What profit it a man . . . if he gain the world – but lose his soul?” Geoffrey wheezed and grinned coyly. This time he knew the answer . . . and he picked up the pitcher of red-wine and tipped it sucking at the brim . . . but it was dry. And he looked at the words of the page of the old book, where the last of the Sacramental wine, pooled across the words, that would give him all. . .. And he took his knife and spearing the page of vellum, ripped it out of the book, and holding it up so that the Crucifixes might witness, licked the page, the last drop of Sacramental wine, the ink, and the words, until they could barely be seen. Then grinning and drooling at the Crucifixes, eyes glinting black and empty and red as coals, For he knew the answer to the riddle . . . And he queried . . . “What does it profit a man, to gain the world – but loose his soul? . . . . . . “Why 30 pieces of” . . .. and he hesitated then, for he knew the scripture well – 30 pieces of Silver, was the price Judas received, for betraying Christ to the Romans. Then, feigning piety, he stood at attention, and saluted the image of Christ on the wall . . . and the two beside him, thieves, nailed to a cross for stealing a bit of bread, who would, before the end of the day, be with Christ in Heaven. Then sweeping his arm across the table, hurling the Venerable’s manuscripts around the chamber, pages igniting in the brazier, then snatched up by the wind, swirling, in a vortex of smoke and ash, sparks and flames – he reached for the only thing left on the table . . . a strange looking pouch, of indistinguishable material, shabby, and slightly hairy, and warty looking. Yet when Geoffrey shook it, it jingled like the bells, of the Sacrament in Winchester Cathedral. Because he had already chosen – crimson silks, lace, silver and gold, the company of Kings, fame, fortune, glory, and copies of his Epistle read round the world – ad infinitum. Geoffrey grinned, with his darkly, ink stained, slack lipped, lips and drooling, as he held the strange bag up to the Crucifixes . . . eyes lit up, red and glinting, as the handmaiden of Lucifer . . . “Why” . . . he giggled – “It profit me . . . 30 pieces of . . . Gold!” Chapter 2 ~ WOLVES AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT King Brian’s War ~ Clontarf Battlefield ~ Dublin Ireland ~ Good Friday April 23rd, 1014 124 years earlier Young Latean, attendant to the High King, thrust his foot up and down with all his might into the mutilated face of a youth not much older than himself, but the mass of gutted wound-slurry would not let loose of his ankle. A ghastly claw, white and bloodless, tethered him to the battlefield of blood and gore – the specter of death haunting the corpse’s eyes, plotting to drag them both down to hell. He swiped at his eyes with a blood-soaked sleeve, and kicked frantically until his shoe slid off, talon and all, then staggered on up the battlefield, towards the tent at the top of the hill. He bore a message for the Ard Ri, he’d sooner cut out his heart than deliver – but deliver it he would. The gory dead conspired to trip him up, their severed heads and limbs scattered among their own entrails. The dying moaned out to him and tore at his clothes. He slipped and fell, again and again, crawling on his hands and knees, retching, and gasping for air. Blood, warm and cold and clotted as blood pudding, oozed through his fingers. Smoke and ashes seared his lungs. Scarlet spurted from sword slashings and dripped in stringy rivulets down from tree branches overhead, upon his face. The salt from the blood, mixing with the salt in his sweat-soaked tears, ran into his eyes, stinging and blinding him so that he could not see. All around him, the great oaks of Tomar Wood grew black with ravens, as corpses twitched and writhed from hill to sea. He struggled to stand, and clinging to a sapling, looked back down the battlefield, his stomach revolting at the sickening stench of burning flesh and ruptured bowels. The pallor of death had spread over the land, strewn with corpses, gray and bloodless. For it was all on the field – all the blood in the world, oozed and gushed, and seeped onto the mud and trampled flowers of Clontarf meadow. To the West, the last of the sun, blazed like a dying ember in a windblown fire. To the South, black smoke churned, and carcass-flames leapt up from the walls of Dublin Castle into a scarlet sky. To the East on the seashore, Danes, drowning in chainmail thrashed at water’s edge, flickering silver and blue, in scarlet foam, like a bucket of bait-herring. Their dragon ships, born out and away by the high tide and offshore wind, drifted empty and rudderless. All around him, the edges of the earth, burst into flames. And all the while, Erin’s treasure, in a river of crimson, flowed down the battlefield, across the strand, and into the Irish Sea, staining the dark green, like red wine spilled onto a silken gown. For bestowed overall, meadow, man and beast, a blessing – an Irish blessing of blood, borne, on a crimson, rain-soaked wind, up from the frothing sea. Latean wiped at his eyes with a blood-soaked sleeve, looking up to the Heavens, wondering at the hand, that could offer such a benediction over the end of all dreams. At the top of the hill, wound-ravaged warriors encircled the High King’s tent. The last of the original Dal Cassians, Brian’s boys from the beginning, now gray with age, scarred, and battle battered. They listed back and forth against the gusting wind, leaning upon gore-slurried spears – splintered shields locked together, dulled swords encrusted in blood-clotted scabbards. Still, they stood bravely at the ready, loyal to their Chief until the end, their silhouettes, etched in torrents of red rain, lashed sideways upon the outside walls of the tent. Ghosts, and blood of ghosts born over the battlefield, on banshee winds hurled up from the wild Irish Sea. In front of the tent, a terrible pain stabbed at his heart – a scene more sorrowful than bearing. “Amergin,” he whispered. Three battle weary warriors struggled at the ends of ropes, around the neck of an enfrenzied gray war-horse – the King’s stallion – his valiant battle companion for more than thirty years of warring. The beast, crazed with pain, thrashed between them, dragging, and tossing them like wet rags, desperate to be free. Oblivious to his war wounds, he skittered and reared, trying to bolt. Broken shafts of spears pierced his shoulders and flanks. Deep slashes laced his powerful chest. Arrows pierced his heaving belly as streams of blood trailed down over his legs, strafed with sword cuts. The aging stallion screamed, fierce and blood-curdling, charging towards the tent. The whites of his eyes shot with blood, as he tossed his proud head. His thick muscular neck, flexing and twisting, snake like. His massive rump bunched and coiled to bolt, rearing, and pawing the air. A profuse white mane and tail, blood-drenched and muddied, churned about him like the fury of tempest-tossed waves, spraying spirals of blood over his restrainers. Even as scarlet foam blew from his nostrils – barbed arrow tips twisting in his lungs. Still his great heart would not give in, he too, fighting to get to his beloved master.
  4. STORY STATEMENT: Book 1 INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND After Danes slaughter his family and brutalize a little girl, he promised to keep safe; an orphaned boy must find a way to save her from a burning tower, escape capture, avenge his family, find her again, and make it back home. STORY STATEMENT: 6 Book Series: HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE In 10th century Ireland, as all others cower, an insignificant orphan becomes rebel, outlaw, warrior, Chief of his Clan, King of the South, King of North and South, and the only Ard Ri – High King, over a free and united Ireland in peace. Yet the forces of envy, betrayal and greed, lead him to an all or nothing battle for the fate of his people, and the destiny of homeland. Brian wins, but pays the ultimate price, with the lives of his three sons, and his own. Only to have the greatest Liar Thief in history, steal his life story – to fabricate the most famous, and beloved Imposter of all time – King Arthur of England. HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE Series – is two true stories, one within the other – The life of Brian Boru: Insignificant orphan – to greatest High King – Geoffrey of Monmouth plagiarizing Brian’s life: Cleric – to Bishop and famous Author ANTAGONISTIC FORCES: Events are true and Characters real GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH – Antagonist of Series Mystery Lowly cleric, is commissioned by King Henry 1st, to come up with an historical Hero for Britain. Henry needs gold to pay for his wars; and therefore, precedent to invade, sack, and kill fellow Catholics in Ireland – to steal theirs. The problem – there isn’t one. Until Geoffrey is given “a certain most ancient book”. We watch over his shoulder as he steals Brian’s life to fabricate a Hero for Henry. He is rewarded with fame, fortune, the company of Kings, and 886 years of reprints – pulling off the most successful fraud in history. Indeed, Geoffrey’s 1136, “true” account of, Imposter 5th century King Arthur, is for sale on amazon.com/books. today. Geoffrey – The Liar Thief Antagonists of Main Story – NORSE VIKINGS – Gofraid, Olaf and Ivar, descendants of Ivar the Boneless, have Ireland surrounded, and are closing in. Their goal – finish what the Boneless started – the rapine and plunder of Ireland. And most lucrative – the selling of her women and children for slaves. Gofraid, sets out to attack Killaloe, slaughter Brian’s family, and claim the only cattle crossing of the river Shannon for 240 miles. He kills all but two of his brothers. At every turn of his life, Brian must fight the Danes. Gofraid will die of leprosy from shagging sheep, Ivar is killed by Brian, and Olaf will marry Gormlaith, spawn Sigtrigg Silkbeard. These three, forgiven thrice by Brian, for coming against him; will conspire and recruit, the largest Norse army ever assembled, to bring war against Brian, for Ireland, her treasure, and his head. Danes – Nonselective Insatiables MALACHY II – Possessed it all. Next in line to the 600 years of Ui Neill Dynastic High Kings – Represents the entitled, rich and self-serving. A schemer, only too willing to sacrifice honor, for lying, cheating, stealing. He might have been great, but shaped by his father, turned out narcissistic, weak, obsessed with jealousy. All his life he shadows Brian, becoming ever more desperate – unprovoked, cuts down his 1000-year-old, sacred oak tree, tries to kill him, passes his poisonous ex-wife onto him, breaks his oath, betrays him, refusing to take his place on the field, in the Final Battle; and after Brian and his boys are killed, takes his place as High King. Ironically, this ultimate traitor is admiringly recorded in history as Malachy Mor –“Malachy the Great”. Malachy – Duplicitous Political Snake 5 IRISH PROVINCIAL KINGS – Sycophants, dogs in the manger, who will betray anyone, for any advantage. Cronies of Malachy, they have no loyalty, betraying their own people for crumbs of the High King – and betraying the High King, for table scraps of the Danes. They conspire and collude, giving an oath to join Brian and his brother Mahon, in battle against Ivar the Dane. Once the battle begins, Irish, Donovan, Donald, and Molloy, in league with Ivar, abandon the field, lure and kill Brian’s brother, and try to kill him. Brian escapes, goes back and takes revenge, killing Ivar, and hunting down all three traitor Kings – one after the other. It is not Brian’s ambition that makes him King of Munster, as often reported – but these cowards’ conspiracy, and dastardly betrayal. The eejits have just slaughtered themselves, and made Brian, King of the Dal Cass, King of Munster – one 5th of Ireland. Provincial Kings – Treacherous Bottom Feeders MURCHUADA IRISH PROVINCIAL KING of Leinster – next to Norse held Dublin, the most lucrative slave port in Europe. He is the brains and Puppet Master of the viper pit. He uses his daughter as a Pawn, to manipulate the Kings of Ireland into self-annihilation. He toys with the Danes, and controls with abject terror, of what he might do next. And molds Gormlaith in his own image –controlling her in every possible way. Until out-played by his “line-bred” daughter. Sick Control Freak. Sins of the father. Murchuada – Deviant Chess Master GORMLAITH– a legend in her own lifetime, in the sagas of the Norse, for her beauty, brains and cunning. Her father’s little pawn, and apt pupil, makes it across the board to become the most infamous Queen in history. (Her true story has thus far been under-reported). The strategy learned from her father – You make them choose – between what they want most – and what they love most. “Tis the choosing, that breeds the undoing.” You – Pin, Fork, Skewer. Until the field is cleared, and you are the last one standing. In a Chess match, cage fight, or in battle – that is winning. Gormlaith, looking for love in all the wrong places, is torn between conscience and winning. Life has taught her – beating the boys, feels best of all. She becomes – wife and “poison cup” to the three most powerful Kings in Ireland, Olaf, Malachy, and Brian. Gormlaith – Instigator and Prize of Battle – and “The Last one Standing” BREAKOUT TITLES: up to three Series Titles: HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE THE TRUE AND RIGHTFUL KING GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS Book 1 ~ BLOOD GAMBIT INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND THE RAVENING Book 2 ~ CLEARANCE SACRIFICE STRIPLING WARRIOR DRAKKAR-SLAYER Book 3 ~ PIN, FORK, SKEWER YOUNG STAG IN VALOR RECOMPENCE Book 4 ~ ENTOMBED EAGLE UPON THE ROCK HAWK-FELL OF MY HAND Book 5 ~ SMOTHERMATE GAUNTLET OF SLAUGHTER RUINS OF RAGNAROK Book 6 ~GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS HELL-VORM WOLVES AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT COMPARABLES – GENRE: HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE – The Life of Brian Boru High King of Ireland – Based on a True Story High Concept, Commercial Fiction – History, Biography, Adventure, Intrigue, Mystery, Romance, War (no fantasy) Braveheart of Ireland, meets Uhtred of The Last Kingdom Solving mysteries of: Da Vinci Code’s – The True Grail And the Real King Arthur Concerning ~ A boy who would never be King, A “certain most ancient book” that would never be found, A thief in the night who would never be caught, The most compelling mystery never solved, The most successful and perfidious fraud ever committed, The two most famous, enduring, and beloved, imposters of all time, King Arthur of Britain, and the Holy Grail, And the truth. Book 1 ~ INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND ~ The Twelfth Son (loss of innocence, coming of age) 10-13 Book 2 ~ BLOOD GAMBIT ~ Rebel, Outlaw, Warrior (lone rebel without a cause, finds one )17-26 Book 3 ~ ENTOMBED ~ King of the South (gladiator becomes beloved hero of people) 26-35 Book 4 ~ WOLVES AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT ~ King of the North (dude with big problem) 35- 45 Book 5 ~ SMOTHERMATE ~ High King of Ireland (monster in the house - and bed) 45-60 Book 6 ~ GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS ~ Last Ard Ri of Erin (war – Destiny of Ireland) 73 Premise: The least likely of us can achieve the impossible – if we Dare to dream it – have Courage enough to fight for it – Heart enough to never give up – and Guts enough to pay the price! High Concept – Braveheart of Ireland meets Uhtred of the Last Kingdom THE SAXON TALES Series – the LAST KINGDOM - WAR LORD – Cornwell’s number 13, in the tales of Uhtred, is recently published, and testament to commercial interest of a similar Series: the Viking Age in history, the true story of an orphan turned Warrior, who must find his way amidst: Viking savagery, treacherous Lords, and scheming Kings, to take back his home, in the face of impossible odds, worthy quest of Freedom against Savagery, and a ripping cage fight for the Throne of King, destiny of people and homeland. All 13, books in Series – best sellers. With a huge fan base, and by demand, there is currently a film in production to finish the Series. Uhtred is missed already. Secret to success: Dreymon’s well-loved Uhtred is the only truly lovable, funny, and relatable Hero, with great buddy and love stories as well, and heart wrenching – to the end of limits – acting and emotions, since Braveheart, (what all the others are missing). BRAVEHEART (the first and best – characters against archetype, sense of humor) – of Ireland, Similar Hero and quest - unlikely orphan becomes beloved Hero of people, uniting the Clans, against tyranny, sacrificing himself in the cause of Freedom. And true story. Same Subject Success – LION OF IRELAND, EMPEROR OF IRELAND YA, PRIDE OF LIONS, and 1014 – BATTLE OF CLONTARF – the Life of Brian Boru in 4 books Morgan Llywelyn’s books on Brian Boru’s life, have sold over 40 million copies. At the 1000 year celebration of the Battle of Clontarf, in Dublin, 60,000 people showed up. Love for Brian’s story endures. HSCF is more specifically – Brian’s life story - The Irish Version: anti-archetypical characters, tone, slightly wicked sense of humor, themes of Freedom and Loyalty, endearing Buddy and Love stories, with a goal to inspire, and use of screenwriting techniques. THE VIKINGS – VIKINGS VALHALLA – Series Similar setting and characters: Antagonists, familiar to readers - All true contemporaries of Brian: In HSCF – The real Uhtred, Lord of Northumbia (16 years younger), makes several appearances, along with: Ibn Fadlan, Eric the Red, Harald Hardrada, Olaf and Ivar, great-grandsons of Ivar the Boneless, Sitric Silkbeard, Cnut, Harold Bluetooth, Wulf the Quarrelsome, and others. DA VINCI CODE – Starting with Historical Facts: the same mystery Solved – The true Nature and Location of the Grail. Which was first mentioned in connection with Arthur in 1190 – As well as the true Identity of the Real King Arthur. However very different conclusions, style, and delivery, and genre than Dan Brown’s. TIMELINE – EATERS OF THE DEAD – Same: starting with historical facts, like Crichton, then recreating true events, bringing historical characters to life. Unique: THE HAMMERED STEEL and CRIMSON FIRE Series is unique, from the only other fictional account of Brian’s life – Llewellyn’s, “Lion of Ireland”, which is beautifully written – in English King’s, English grammar and vernacular. HSCF–The Irish Version – is committed to mischief, mayhem and mangling, of all things English. I offer proof. My Nonfiction companion book, “The True and Rightful King” will make the case for Fraud by proving Geoffrey’s plagiarism, to the highest standard of the Law – Perpetrator, Means, Motive, Opportunity, Preponderance of the Evidence, Smoking gun, Bloody glove, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, and Beyond the Shadow of Doubt, meaning there can be no other. Commercial value: According to IMDB - Llewellyn’s “LION OF IRELAND”, the life of Brian Boru, is currently in development for a TV Series 2019. The TV Series, THE LAST KINGDOM, based on Cornwell’s Saxon Tales of Uhtred, is the highest-ranking Series in Great Britain, one of the highest ranking in the US. Well loved, and well done, with a huge fan base. There is a much anticipated film in production, finishing up, to complete the Series. Fans are saddened. Everyone is going to miss Uhtred the Godless! Dan Brown’s DA VINCI CODE, theory of the Grail – sold over 60 million copies, fueled by HUGE CONTROVERSY, rattling the cages of, the Vatican which claims to possess the True Grail, Catholics, and Christianity, in general, with his theory – the Grail being the womb of Mary Magdalene, and the Holy Grail, Mary Magdalene herself. (Ironically, Mary Magdalene has been classified as a prostitute since the Middle Ages, by an early Pope – not to be confused with Mary the virgin Mother of Christ). I remember well – on Nightly News, Dan Brown, at the top of the NYT Best seller list forever; “verbally scourged” by the Christians and castigated down to Hell by Catholics – is videoed, lamenting in self-defense, “Its only Fiction!” His beautifully crafted novel, and ingenious original Theory, became the object of crazed condemnation, boycotting, and slander. Result – The Da Vinci Code has become the world’s all-time best seller. ~ The take-away – the greater the outrage, the crazier the controversy, the more spectacular the sales I think it is fair to assume; HAMMERED STEEL and CRIMSON FIRE Series, proving : All this time: the experts have been looking in the wrong time and place, for the 5th century English Hero, King Arthur – that he is really Irish – that Brian Boru’s life was stolen, to create the IMPOSTER – by Geoffrey of Monmouth – as well as the theory, then proof, that the Grail, is not a womb, but quite the most scandalous opposite imaginable – well connected to the Real Irish Hero – “The True and Rightful King” – and I can prove it . . . Is most certain to rattle, then spontaneously combust a few cages as well. Inciting Controversy: There is nothing the British love more than a Royal scandal, as does the world’s media. What will the reaction be when they find out: Deliciously Scandalous: ~ Queen Elizabeth II– the longest reigning English Monarch, the best, and most beloved; Is the 35th Great Granddaughter of the – Irish Rebel, Outlaw, Instigator, Brian, orphan of Beal Boru? ~ Making her heirs, Charles, William, and George – who all bear the name Arthur – the Imposter – direct descendants of the Real King Arthur. Anyone who has followed Queen Elizabeth’s life, can decidedly see that she is far more like Brian: a brave, uniter, forgiving, devoted to, God and country, and beloved by her people, than any of her subjugating, beheading disemboweling, despoiling, abdicating, ancestors since him. ~ The Queen’s great 35th grandmother, was Brian’s second wife, who gave him one son – murdered by his half-brother, Gormlaith’s son. In my story, she is a wonderful character, anti-archetypical, rescuer of the fallen in battle, chariot mechanic, fantastic rider and horse lover – as was the Queen herself. (This portrayal is my humble tribute to a wonderful, Lady, Mother, and Veteran, whowho would have much rather been riding her horse, in forest and field, with the sun on her face and wind in her hair – but instead, hopped on the grenade in stockings and heels for 70 years . . .) ~ Deliciously scandalous, as well; Harry the lovable, Rebel, Outlaw, Outcast, Fomenter of chaos, Instigator of outrage, and his beautiful children, all have Brian’s red hair. Proof positive of the pesky, Irish, rebellious, rapscallion strain, in the stodgy, rather shallow, Royal gene pool. These revelations, together along with the “Irish Version”, should be enough to give the entire British Empire the vapors. ~ But then – perhaps – the greater the vapors, the crazier the controversy, the more the sales . LOGLINE WITH CONFLICT AND CORE WOUND: Book 1 – INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND In 10th century Ireland, when Danish Vikings attack, young Brian promises to watch over a little girl. Beaten nearly to death, he is forced to watch helplessly, as she is savagely raped and burned, and his family slaughtered. He vows he will, never be powerless again to protect those he loves, avenge their deaths, and drive the Danes back into the Sea, and drown them in their own blood. LAYERS OF CONFLICT: Inner Conflict – Brian’s inner conflict – the wound that he carries all his life, and the secret he keeps, is the stuff that rips his, and our heart out: guilt, regret, the wrong choice, shame, sadness, helplessness. When Brian 10, and a little girl 8, are caught in a Dane attack; he promises to keep her safe, by running to the 100 ft round tower. They make it to the top, but Olaf and Ivar follow them. As Danes are ax-cleaving the trap door apart – Brian must decide – take her to the window and jump to their quick deaths – or try to hide her and fight the Danes himself. Though he has her by the hand, and they stand upon the sill, with the slaughter going on below them – he cannot do it. Seeing her dead mother on the grass below, he hides her in some rags and baskets. Tells the Danes she jumped. They are beating, and kicking him to death, when he sees her come out of hiding, to beg them to stop. Though he is powerless to move; he witnesses her, to save him, being brutalized in every possible way, as flaming arrows set the tower ablaze. External Conflict –Sea-Eagle, Danes, Traitor Irish, High King, 11 brothers, and two pups Just a boy like any other, Brian dreams only of one thing – to catch the biggest fish in all the world, to flaunt it before his eleven older brothers, and take his place around the campfire this night, with the best tale to tell, his Da proud, and his brothers green with envy. His biggest torment, thus far – his two pups, that sabotage him at every turn, and his brothers who have one goal in life – use him for their hurling practice dummy, at every opportunity Brian has the biggest salmon in the world, by the tail, and is being dragged naked through the Shannon River; when he is attacked by a giant Sea-Eagle and must fight for his fish. Winning, though mutilated, he fights unsuccessfully, his two Lucifer-spawn pups for his clothes. And consequently, is caught celebrating, dancing around, bare-arsed, toes pointed spritely, his nether-parts flogging him to keep up, like a soused fairy under a Rowan tree – by a little red-headed girl hiding in the tall grass. And so, he dives into the only cover – a thicket of thornapple, thistle, and stinging nettles – with the high pitched, girly scream, of a neck rung stoat! Only to be late for school, again, God help him, with his eleven brothers, lying in wait, to make him to run the “gauntlet of slaughter”, to his seat in the front of the Chapel. Fairly demolished already, he is picked up, passed along, and slung from the window to the chants of “Runt! Runt!! Runt!! Dal Cass scores – One! Against the langers of Ulster – None! Brian gives, thanks to God, for the tender mercy of the flinging. And runs to the shore. His new goal in life now, is to put the flames of Satan’s, every class of a Hellfire out, by plunging arse first, into the cool waters of the Shannon; hidden from the eyes of God, man, and the little girl, and finally get a good scratch where it itches, without touching anything, he’d have to confess for, after. His goal in life changes again, when the Danes attack – trying to survive. Social and Interpersonal Conflicts – Clonmacnoise Monastery –Brian is sent away to school. A name and blessing from the Abbot The fires of hell licked at the top of his head. The talons of Baal clamped to his scalp, wrenching hair out by the roots! Brian 13, yelped in pain, “Please Father, not the tower again. Anything but the tower,” and unleashed his most pathetic howl, long and drawn out, “I’ll repent. I’ll be good, I swear . . . I’ll die if ye lock me in the tower again!” “One can only hope!” The Abbot growled through sanctimoniously clenched teeth. “Please Father, if I must suffer,” Brian pleaded most mournfully, “don’t lock me in the tower again with the old geezer Plutarch, and all his whinin’ about the Thracians, and the ruttin’ Spartacus,” he sniffled, “Anything but the Plutarch.” The Abbot pondered his last wish . . . “Get me the Plutarch!” he bellowed to the crowd of boys, sniggering sadistically, “It’s to the tower with ye, and no food nor water until ye’ve memorized the Plutarch entirely!” Brian wailed louder, “Please, Father, I’m beggin’ ye, instead, of the Plutarch, may I have the Book of Saints? Oh, how I love the Saints! Ah, the blessed virgins. I love the one who, sacrificed herself, refusin’ offers of marriage and all, and shavin’ her radiant hair off, and scaldin’ her lovely face, with the boilin’ water, so’s that no man would want to have carnal knowledge of her.” The Abbot, red-faced and teeth barred like a trap-strangled ferret, yanked the young orphan of the Clan Dal Cass, up, glaring into his eyes, “The blessed Saint would roll in her grave, to know her sacred virginity was on the mind of the likes of ye! Ye, vermin from the South, and the son of Cennitig to boot, with the foul tongue, and the filthy mind!” And he shook Brian by the hair on his head until, what was left of his own teeth rattled. “Ye’re a wart of the arse of the sainted Lady,” he hissed, and yanked him viciously towards the isolation and imprisonment of the tower. Brian, wincing through the pain, couldn’t help but conjure the image of the lovely young woman bare-pelted, from behind. . . “Have ye seen her arse then, Father? I mean the wart and all?” The novitiates clamped their hands to their mouths, to stifle the giggles, and the boys roared and hooted, doubled over with the laughter, “She’s a Saint, and been dead for 600 years, you goat’s spore!” Father Alphonsus, holding him arm’s length, by the hair, stopped and tried to kick him in the soft parts, and then the buttocks, alternating – bollocks, buttocks, bollocks, buttocks, but Brian dodged the blows, hurtling himself, front and back, and side to side, like when his brothers had him up against the wall and all trying to pummel him in the goolies with the sliotar, practicing their hurley swings. And all the while Brian trying to explain, “It’s just that, when I’m on me knees in prayer, Father, I’ve often thought fondly of her Holy Relics, and such. I know her lovely head is in Rome, her little foot is in Venice, and her finger, her sacred finger, in Ravenna – with a ring made from the foreskin of the baby Jesus” . . .. And he wondered how that worked, exactly. For one thing it sounded painful for the sweet little babe, and for another, it seemed unlikely a Jewish Rabbi would place such a thing on the finger of a Catholic nun . . . and then he couldn’t help it, his mind ran to the bit about shavin’ her hair off, and he wondered if they meant all her hair . . . and even if Saint’s had a place for hair other than the top of their head . . . and then there was the part about scaldin’ her face off, and he thought she might have done it so’s no one would notice the wart and all on her arse . . . but still . . . she might have looked lovely, naked, from the front . . . with a sack over her head . . .. “Do you suppose her breasts are with the rest of her then, Father? . . . I’d like to think so,” he grinned. “Ye little rabble rouser! Fomenter of chaos! Instigator!” Wailed Father Alphonsus, responsible for the edification of souls, of the young Princes of the Isle . . . “I’ll feckin’ kill ye!” SETTINGS IN DETAIL, SCENE BY SCENE: The settings in 10th century Ireland are simple – a stone chamber, a tower, the forest. It’s the situation, characterization, humor, that makes a scene interesting, and impossible to convey without illustration. Setting: Craig Lia - a rocky crag above the ancient ring fort of Beal Boru, where the jagged stones from the beginning of time, protrude from blankets of moss and bracken. It is a matter of historical record, that Brian believed in the pagan myth passed down in his Clan, that a Shee – Avril, the fairy Queen, who lived in the crag, was a: guardian for the children, companion for a lonely warrior, on a cold night before battle, gift of memory for the old ones, and of prophesy for the King. Narrator – Beginning and end of each book, to recap and foreshadow And so, it was . . . That all of Killaloe lay smoldering in embers and ashes, And the Shannon ran red, with blood of the sons of Cennetig, And blood red, the hills, and meadows of Erin. In years to come, the old ones would say, looking back at the time of dragon ships, That was the day the Banshee of Craig Lia, who loved the boy who would never be King, The last, and least of twelve sons, found him trembling, burned, and broken, And drenched in his mother’s blood, Then Avril, of the high crag – guardian of the crumbling ringfort of Beal Boru, Shee of the ancient ones – riders of the white horse, mound builders, chariot racers, Raisers of Lia Fail stone – and the child of the last Thracian King, Issued forth a keening wail . . . an oath of reckoning . . . a vow . . . To the enemies of Erin . . . Then raging in wild and savage fury, scored their fates, into the face of her cliffs, By thunder, of Hammered Steel! And lightening, of Crimson Fire! For the courage in the heart of the boy, destined – him to be the one . . . The Instigator of Freedom for Ireland! Setting: The Hill of Tara – The Hill of Tara is the jewel in the crown of Ireland, today, and in Brian’s story. It begins and ends on this Hill and is the setting of several of the most poignant scenes in his life. There is a single standing stone, for thousands of years it has been known as the Lia Fail, or The Stone of Destiny. It is where, Brian is crowned High King, and Ard Ri, and when he is lost, prays on his knees to God, to show him the way. And finally, after the final battle, jumps over the setting sun, with his lifelong friend, on their way to take their place – where only true stories of real Heroes are told . . . ‘round the campfires in the sky. Prologue: The Saga-teller – delivers Theme: Truth vs Lie/fairytale – Courage vs Cowardice “Tell us a tale,” the people called out, and drew back like the tides of the Red Sea, “Of myths and monsters . . . of demons and dragons.” The old man, gnarled and weathered as a druid oak, made his way to the top of the windswept hill, drawing near to the fire. Then placed his hand upon the ancient standing stone, gently as a grandfather caresses the face of a child. “I have no fairy tales,” he said, and bent his head so that his tears fell at the base of the Stone. When the old man spoke again, ‘twas a fearsome thing – a rumbling, come from way down deep in the heart of Erin, up through the hill and the stone. The growling of a feral beast, to scold, and score, and shake the earth from its slumber. And the wind swirled all around them, in a fury of waves and torrents, up and over the cliffs at the edge of the world. And tumbled over the Hill, hurling his voice like rolling thunder, across the plains, over the mountains, and beyond the seas. “Oh, you foolish children, who seek what is not there, and never was – a reflection in the pool, a shadow upon the meadow, an echo in the hills – has no beating heart! Don’t you know, there can be no courage, nor valor, nor Hero, nor deeds worth remembering, nor story worth telling without truth! All else is chaff in the wind.” And the breath of Erin whispered all around them, quickening every blade of grass, ruffling the leaves silver, and tumbling the clouds in moon-glow. . . Setting: Ireland – Hook, Mystery, Intrigue, Suspense to come (metaphors no fantasy) “Listen well!” The old man roared, a mighty stag upon the mount. “For, I will tell you of a myth that is true, and of the monster who fed upon it, Of a boy who became a giant, and of the serpent who dragged him down to Hel, Of a light, a brilliant light, as bright as a blood-ember, glowing, And of a demon in the darkness, black as a tomb in a new moon, And of the shadow he conjured, that grew upon the wall, Twisting and writhing, and slithering through the cracks, Until it spread o’er the land, extinguishing the light, And with it came a pestilence, a poison, a plague, on the children of Eiru, To scorch and shrivel every meadow and flower, and dream and dawning, For every dew drop in Erin, turned to blood! And the most sacred of all fell on this hill, on this stone, on this very night . . . And it all began – the day the dragons came!” Setting: Geoffrey’s Chamber –Thief in the Night – lowly cleric to, rich and successful Author Geoffrey of Monmouth, cleric to Walter, the Archdeacon of Oxford, perched on his stool like a plague raven gargoyle, casting a loathsome eye back and forth between the piles of musty manuscripts, and the trencher of spitted piglet carcass on the table before him. The corners of his right eye and mouth ticked spasmodically, like the twitching of a maggot flicked onto hot embers. And rightly so, for he drew nearer to a spit-scorching himself, every day. He’d exceeded his deadline for the King. There by, reneged on his contract, betrayed the trust, and spat in the face of the King’s generosity. Ah yes, and how had the First Henry put it? Coyly, with one arm about his shoulder, and his dagger in his other hand, the tip of the blade, darting about his face like a poison-fanged adder, as he walked him to window gesticulating East, over Wales to England. His broad sword and small mace jingling; and compliment of soldiers with all the aforesaid, as well as battle-ax, boar-spear, neck-cuffs, chains, and gaffing hook, helped to make his point. “You, Geoffrey, hold not only the outcome of my war with France – in your right hand – but my very life, and the future of all Britain, as well!” His eyes narrow-slitted, and glinting, “Do you think you can manage?” Geoffrey, his right hand usually occupied with himself, let go to wipe the sweat from his upper lip, and flap at his gown to fan the water running down his legs and moth-eaten stockings, into his scuff-worn sandals. Indeed, Henry 1st, King of England had decked the Tower of London, for Yule – with bowels and bollocks – for far less disappointment, than this. How his entrails would be removed to garland the Great Hall, and his cods to roast with the chestnuts, during the hymn singing, evoked in Geoffrey intolerable pain and a constant sweating, so that he wondered if he might be bleeding from every pore. He quickly crossed himself over the blasphemous thought, turning his gaze away from the waning sun’s rays, palely illuminating the three crucifixes hanging upon the stone chamber wall above the fireplace before him. A thief on each side, and Christ in the middle, who loved scabby lepers, filthy Samaritans, and poxied prostitutes, diverted His gaze from Geoffrey as well. Setting: Geoffrey’s motive – what he is giving up With a pang of self-pity, Geoffrey acknowledged he’d seen horse stalls bigger and more congenial than this, and far less foul smelling. His chamber, a flue for the kitchen below, cow-pen, pigsty and stable just outside and up-wind, possessed stone walls stained with several hundred years of smoke and greasy soot, and infused with the smells of rotting rubbish heap, rancid swine slop, and pungent horse dung. In one corner, the stone floor opened to a steep and winding staircase down, contrived so that one Kingsman, with a sword in his right hand, could defend the tower against an upcoming horde of Saxons. Perhaps left-handed, he’d obviously failed his task, the filthy drunken Saxons having used his chamber for a privy for three hundred years, and the stench remained. In the other corner – a rudely constructed cot, lumpy with infested horse-hair mattress, home to bed lice, and other small vermin, attracting certain barn foul, which in turn deposited defecated remnants of said vermin, all over the contents of the chamber. Next to the bed, a small chest contained everything shabbily made and thread bare, he owned. And beside it, a wicker basket with his only other set of grimy linens, which the Archdeacon’s cat, following the Saxons lead, befouled on a regular basis as well. Setting: Geoffrey’s chamber on the West Coast of Wales He, Geoffrey, lowly cleric from Monmouth, who would otherwise be trapped in the cave-infested, midden-heap of Anglesey, in the farthest foul dregs of west Wales, beyond the outer edge of the Roman Empire and civilization, and the closest landfall to the barbaric Irish. Even mighty Caesar, though he conquered the rest of the world – loathed to go to Ireland. And if he refused? His future loomed bleak. Nothing had ever come from puking Wales, beset with superstitions, ghosts of ghoulish Danes skulking in the mists, and wailings echoing throughout the hills of evil otherworldly demons. The last of the headless Celts, festering in tombs, and bansheeing about in vile winds, forever blowing over from the Irish Sea, with the fetid breath and blustering bowels of the Irish! Setting: Clontarf –Flashback in media res. Latean brings severely wounded Brian, news of his sons Young Latean, attendant to the High King, thrust his foot up and down with all his might into the mutilated face of a youth not much older than himself, but the mass of gutted wound-slurry would not let loose of his ankle. A ghastly claw, white and bloodless, tethered him to the battlefield of blood and gore – the specter of death haunting the corpse’s eyes, plotting to drag them both down to hell. He swiped at his eyes with a blood-soaked sleeve, and kicked frantically until his shoe slid off, talon and all, then staggered on up the battlefield, towards the tent at the top of the hill. He bore a message for the Ard Ri, he’d sooner cut out his heart than deliver – but deliver it he would. The gory dead conspired to trip him up, their severed heads and limbs scattered among their own entrails. The dying moaned out to him and tore at his clothes. He slipped and fell, again and again, crawling on his hands and knees, retching, and gasping for air. Blood, warm and cold and clotted as blood pudding, oozed through his fingers. Smoke and ashes seared his lungs. Scarlet spurted from sword slashings and dripped in stringy rivulets down from tree branches overhead, upon his face. The salt from the blood, mixing with the salt in his sweat-soaked tears, ran into his eyes, stinging and blinding him so that he could not see. All around him, the great oaks of Tomar Wood grew black with ravens, as the fallen twitched and writhed from hill to sea. He struggled to stand, and clinging to a sapling, looked back down the battlefield, his stomach revolting at the sickening stench of burning flesh and ruptured bowels. Setting: The view towards the sea The pallor of death had spread over the land, gray and bloodless. For it was all on the field – all the blood in the world, oozed and gushed, and seeped onto the mud and trampled flowers of Clontarf meadow. To the West, the last of the sun, blazed like a dying ember in a windblown fire. To the South, black smoke churned, and carcass-flames leapt up from the walls of Dublin Castle into a scarlet sky. To the East on the seashore, Danes, drowning in chainmail thrashed at water’s edge, flickering silver and blue, in scarlet foam, like a bucket of bait-herring. Their dragon ships, born out and away by the high tide and offshore wind, drifted empty and rudderless. All around him, the edges of the earth, had burst into flames. And all the while, Erin’s treasure, in a river of crimson, flowed down the battlefield, across the strand, and into the Irish Sea, staining the dark green, like red wine spilled onto a silken gown. For bestowed overall, meadow, man and beast, a blessing – an Irish blessing of blood rne on a crimson, rain-soaked wind, up from the frothing sea Latean wiped at his eyes with a blood-soaked sleeve, and looked up to the Heavens, wondering at the hand, that could offer such a benediction over the end of all dreams. Setting – outside the King’s Tent At the top of the hill, wound-ravaged warriors encircled the High King’s tent. The last of the original Dal Cassians, Brian’s boys from the beginning, now gray with age, scarred, and wounded. They listed back and forth, shivering and blood soaked, against the gusting wind, leaning upon gore-slurried spears – splintered shields locked together, dulled swords encrusted in blood-clotted scabbards. Still, they stood bravely at the ready, loyal to their Chief until the end, their silhouettes, etched in torrents of red rain, lashed sideways upon the outside walls of the tent. Ghosts, and blood of ghosts born over the battlefield, on banshee winds hurled up from the wild Irish Sea. In front of the tent, a terrible pain stabbed at his heart – a scene more sorrowful than bearing. “Amergin,” he whispered. Three battle weary warriors struggled at the ends of ropes, around the neck of an enfrenzied gray war-horse – the King’s stallion – his valiant battle companion for more than thirty years of warring. The beast, crazed with pain, thrashed between them, dragging, and tossing them like wet rags, desperate to be free. Oblivious to his war wounds, he skittered and reared, trying to bolt. Broken shafts of spears pierced his shoulders and flanks. Deep slashes laced his powerful chest. Arrows pierced his heaving belly as streams of blood trailed down over his legs, strafed with sword cuts. The aging stallion screamed, fierce and blood-curdling, charging towards the tent. The whites of his eyes shot with blood, as he tossed his proud head. His thick muscular neck, flexing and twisting, snake like. His massive rump bunched and coiled to bolt, rearing, and pawing the air. A profuse white mane and tail, blood-drenched and muddied, churned about him like the fury of tempest-tossed waves, spraying spirals of blood over his restrainers. Even as scarlet foam blew from his nostrils – barbed arrow tips twisting in his lungs. Still his great heart would not give in, he too, fighting to get to his beloved master. Setting – Inside King Brian’s Tent – Battle of Clontarf, as the slaughter closes in A single candle flame flickered . . . then sputtered . . . then glowed . . . first tentatively, then defiantly, in the darkness and drafts surrounding it. Though the battle raged ever closer. The screams of men, and the spear-gored war horse, shattered the coming twilight, together with the clang, and sparks of steel on steel, and flames of fiery torches, seething, and writhing upward in twisted funnels, to the blackening sky. Latean reached out his trembling and bloodied hand, and lit another . . . and another . . . and another, blinking away blurry haloes of light. The honeyed scent of bee’s wax wafted aloft, mingling with smells of smoke, and battle-sweat and charring flesh. Candlelight suffused the tent with a soft amber glow, casting molten shadows upon the walls, and illuminating the tokens of a Warrior’s lifetime of battle. In the center, of the tent, a roughhewn table, about which all of King Brian’s brave generals had sat. Lucifer’s minions – snakes in the grass, lying in wait . . . rabid dogs in the manger . . . wrist-claspers, and oath-givers, and vow breakers . . . Judases all! ” Now, it stood awash and dripping with hero’s blood, their beloved Chief and King. Setting: Brian’s sword, his battle companion, carries his blood to the “book”. (MacGuffin) . . . And in the hand, that still wielded it, a great double-edged sword – woven and forged in steel, tempered in the blood of murderers, and burnished with the blood of cherished ones, bearing his father’s name, his grandsire’s, and his father before him. The hilt and pommel filigreed with gold. The hand grip – stag horn wrapped in silver wire. Once, gleaming in the sun, held high before the Army of the Dal Cass, in battle-charge; or hilt up to make a cross, over a King’s blessing of his men, on bended knee, before waging war; or glistening in the prow of the lead war ship of, the Navy of Erin – Now, it lay cold and chipped, and darkly smeared – and still wet . . . As blood flowed from the mighty heart, along the scarred and sinewed arm, down the blade . . . and onto the tip, a pool of scarlet collected, then dripped down onto the page . . . of a book. Settings: The Shannon River - Gofraid’s dragon ships on their way to attack Dead-eyed and soulless the dragons came. Preening black swans – their fine boned, worm-whorled prows and arched necks, skimmed the water, caressing their breasts, barely stirring a wake. Crimson sails billowed in the wind, from yew masts, like blood-eagled lungs from cloven-ribs of corpses, floating on the river Styx. They came without sound, without warning – reivers from Hell, in the dawning. And in each belly, Lucifer’s seed – One hundred mail-clad, pointed-helmed, steel-bladed Danes – engorged with mead, and bloodlust for rapine and ax-slaughter. On their arms, rings of silver and gold, filthy lucre for the children of Erin, sold as slaves to the harems of the Moor and Persian Kings. Atop each mast, a saffron banner thrashed in the wind – a tusked black boar, eviscerating a great horned stag – the banner of Gofriad, master of all, standing in the prow of the Long Dreki. Gofraid, defiler of children, and desecrator of Christian altars with innocent blood, throughout Angland, Frankland, Scotland, and Irland. Gofraid, son of Sigtrigg Gale, son of Sigtrigg Ivarsson, son of Ivar the Boneless, son of Ragnar Lothbrok – King of the Norse, and scourge of all Christendom. He had decimated Killaloe, and the Irish Tribal King of Thomond before, in his youth with his father. But enough time had passed for the boar-tough, Cennetig, of the Clan Dal Cais, to build up his stores of cattle, pigs, lamb and horses, and a round tower with treasures of precious gems and metals, forged steel blades, crosiers and crosses, silver reliquaries, horse-trappings, and bejeweled covers of their sacred books, illuminated in gold – And his stores of sons . . . Twelve he had now. None in all Norseland, could claim such a gift. Setting: The Nursery His crib, and then cot, being the one farthest in the corner of twelve, had made his life challenging from the get-go. At bedtime, before his Mam arrived to hear her boys’ prayers, as a babe he was tossed from one brother to the next like a chunk of turf . . . as a small boy, slung like a sheaf of goat turds . . . and more recently, hoisted aloft and jettisoned along over their heads, as they chanted “Who will score! Who will score! Until building up momentum . . . launched him like tossing the caber, as close as they could get him to the piss-bucket in the corner. It took a few years, and although he was always accused of stinking the place up, by wetting the bed, to their mam, and the brunt of all manner of smirking, verbal castigation, facial contortion, and obscene gesticulations his way, while his Mam’s eyes were closed during the prayers . . . he never ratted them out. For which he earned their respect, if not mercy. As the mighty Bebinn, would have flogged their bowels out, for tormenting her. . . favorite one, her changeling babe, with the lovely red curls, left by the faeries, and not related a’tall to the rest of Cennetig’s hooligans . . . so they all mimicked. As time passed, he learned quickly, he could duck, tuck and roll, twist in midair like a cat, and land on his feet straddlin’ the bucket, without spillin’ a drop. With his brothers cheering him on, “The Runt holds, against the langers of Ulster!” Firbolg one! To Ui Neill pissers, none! Hie! Let’s hear for the Runt! Runt! Runt! And in their Mam would come, eyes a twinkle trying to keep a straight face with their Da’s hurl, flailing the air, and boys jumping up and down like fleas in a hot pot, sliotars whizzing, pillows, and feather beds, flying around the chamber, in a flurry of goose down and horsehair. And finally, Mam tuckin’ him in as she did all her boys and givin’ each a kiss, she’d bend low so only he could hear her, “I know ’twasn’t ye’r fault Bri. Did ye know, each of ye’r brothers was the Firbolg in his turn, your Da, and Grand Da, as well? Never ye mind, the day will come when ye’ll be as big as they are, and they’ll have to face ye in the Tourney for the wrestlin’ and all. And ye can show them then. Then she would bend close to his ear, and whisper, “Never forget . . . the finest steel, is hammered the most, and forged in the fieriest furnace!” Then she’d wink, eyes sparklin’ and full of the mischief, and kiss him on the forehead. “One day the Runt will rise!” She’d say . . . and I’ll be lookin’ down on ye with a smile on me face . . . me own little Bri . . . the bravest and fiercest Firbolg of all.” Setting: Family campfire in the graveyard, under the ancient oak of Mag Adair But . . . whatever it would cost him in the class of torment . . . he could conger up this very night, already. All his brothers gathered ‘round, a wink and a nod of affirmation from Father Maelsuthain, and his Da’s face all aglow with firelight and pride, at the telling of the battle of Brian and the great white sea-eagle for the most glorious salmon in all the world! . . . Well, young Brian, ye’ve got a warrior’s heart in ye, right enough, he’d say. No, Da could ask more of his son. . . All the rest of ye boys look to ye’r young brother . . . and remember this day . . . and his Da would grab him under his chin in the crook of his elbow, plunging his face into his rank hairy oxer, and rub his knuckles on the top of his head, the closest thing Cennetig ever gave to a hug . . . The grandest fish goes to the biggest heart, and the smallest cods, eh, lad! . . . . And there would be laughter and teasin’ for the Runt, the manky little Firbolg, and pride in the eyes of his Mam, and laughter and glowing faces all around – a cheer from the boys. A grand moment not soon forgotten . . .. Brian could feel the rush of devil-mongerin’ pride, risin’ up in him. There would be no weaslin’ out – ‘twould be runnin’ the gauntlet of slaughter – or die tryin’! Besides . . . he’d fought this battle before. Setting: The Chapel – In front of the door. Brian gestured with his hand up, casting an evil eye, and grunted for Chulainn and Lug to stay! And shush! Which they protested with a pitiful whining, Lug laying down with the long puss of the hang-dog look, and Chulainn panting, and whining, eyes on fire with mischief, like the wanton harlot, Queen Maeve of the North, looking for a quick bend-over the altar, so says his Da, in the tomb of Newgrange. And Brian had always wondered why she would bend over the altar to pray, instead of on her knees in front, like the rest of the world. . . but then she was the “wanton,” one, his Da always said, with a sly wink to him . . . and then, he’d always wondered what she was wantin’ for . . . her bein’ a Queen and all? He moved towards the door, crossing himself, as best he could with his hands full, and whispering a prayer, of thanks, like his Mam had taught him, for small blessings – like no piss bucket, and old Patrick’s Prayer . . . “Christ be before me” . . . he whispered, “Christ behind me . . . on me right hand, and on me left . . . “Which he always followed by a whispering of the battle cry of the Dal Cass, as he always heard his Da call out after a few too many ales – Here’s to singin’ the short and curlies, lads! May the flames of ye’r fires be short – and the arms of ye’r women be long! He wasn’t really sure of the meaning of it all, but he thrilled to the tears it brought to the old warrior’s eyes, as they nodded, and swilled in affirmation, to rid themselves of the lump in their throat, and banged their cups down upon the table, chanting, Dal Cais! . . . Dal Cais! . . . Dal Cais! He reached out, and with his dirty big toe – pushed ever so gently at the door . . . Setting: The door of Lachtna The thick Irish oak door, heavy as a cart of rocks, and hewn by Lachtna himself, to not only keep out the fustering Danes, but the hordes of godless Angles, and the odd Saxon, sniffin’ about for the south end of a ripe ewe. Not to mention, scarred with nearly two hundred years of ax, sword, and spear blade mutilations. Pissed on by more than a few drunken Danes, before they set fire to it – and pissed on, by more than a few drunken Dal Cass, to put the fires out . . . swung slowly open . . . The rusted-out, bog-iron hinges, forged in the time of Methuselah, let loose with a never-ending, banshee-screeching creak, to raise the headless bog sacrifices of the Fomorians. The clatter of the boys ceased, silence filled the void, save for the shrieking wail of the rusty door . . . As one by one, every head, every shade of red in the world, and slathered with freckles, face filled with a wonder, turned to him. Every satanic, mischievous green eye in the chapel gawking at his fish. Not a murmur, not a whisper, not a flutter of an eyelash filled the void, only . . . pure and utter reverence for the grandest, most glorious salmon in all this world! Setting: The Lay of the Land – Maelsuthain’s chapel Father Maelsuthain’s school, a small rectangular stone chapel, built in commemoration of when the first of the wild Pagan Clan Dal Cais, had stopped severing and collecting of the heads of other Clans’ men, for the decorating of their chariots. Long enough to be baptized by Patrick himself, with the first Priest-blessed water drops, ever taken from the Shannon. The oak table in front, now serving as an altar, still bore the ax-cleaving by his great, great, grand Da. Who, deafer than a yew post, took offence, mistaking Patrick’s odd speech of the North, and Roman ways to boot . . . splashing water on him, and waving his ram-headed crozier about, thought it to be an invoking of the banshees of black pools – to shag his mother – almost ended Christianity in Killaloe, before it began. But the gouge in the table, bore witness to the miracle – the staying of the blade of the old pagan – as all knew the fearsome old King never missed, when hewin’ off a head – ‘twas blessed by Patrick, still sportin’ a head, as a proof of the true Christian God’s, power. And so, the altar remained revered down through the ages. All subsequent children of the Clan, when baptized as a babe, had their tiny hand placed in the very spot where Patrick’s had been, for good luck, and long life in God’s blessing. Upon the altar stood a simple roughhewn cross, singed black on the top, and bottom, made from a branch of the ancient Druid Oak upon the hill of Mag Adair. When lightning struck and cleft the trunk down the middle, the tree survived; but the old King Lachtna with his sword in his hand, lit up like the shooting star named after the long arm of Lugh, sparks flying, eyes glowing red, smoke shooting from both his ears, and cursing like an Ulster goat-shagger – didn’t. So, the cross, stained with blood and singed hair, and declared sacred by Maelsuthain, his childhood friend – stood as a token of his oath to a dying King, that he would uphold the Clan, until his last stifled breath. And laid down the law, that all Princes of the Dal Cass must attend school, develop their minds, and be in their seats by the time the bell stopped ringing or pay what’s due. This vow insured Father Maelsuthain, would invoke God’s blessing, upon his pupils if he was in a good mood – and Lachtna’s, of the fiery temper, armed with the ashen hurl, he kept by the altar leg, if they were late. The good Father was a man of his oath, and the twelve sons of Cennetig had the splinters in their arses, to prove it. Narrator - Setting Ireland – Saga-teller – Hill of Tara – Foreshadowing, Intrigue, Suspense And so the young cub, the sky-jewel of Irland, who burned brighter than all the rest . . . Would one day, consume the traitors, oath-breakers, snakes in the grass, Descending like an eagle, hurtling down from the sky, His shadow passed over moor, and meadow, and mountain, First to the South, and then to the East, and West and Northward, The breath of Erin, whispering his name before him, Mists through ancient stones, A shiver in the trees, A rustle of leaves, A ripple of quiet waters, Demon, they murmured . . . Drakkar-Slayer . . . And the cowards and murderers, and brokers of children, trembled behind bolted doors, Shivering in the dark, Their armies, in chainmail, with ramparts and moats, and murder holes surrounding them – A shield wall of cob web, against the steel blade of a mighty Warrior’s heart, They hid and drank, and laughed aloud, Boasting in the company of their slaughter mongers, As if, when alone in the dark, they did not piss in their trews, And always, in their nightmares, they saw his specter, Wild and ruddy – Cennetig’s cub, The young lion in valor, Eyes gleaming, mouth agape, fangs bared, dripping with the blood of traitors, Coming for them . . . And all the while, One-Eye’s ravens, hovered – circling – biding their time – Until they slaked their thirst on coward’s blood. End Book I
  5. Book Reports Connie Whitmer WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL Donald Maass I found Donald Maass’s book empowering, and invaluable as a writing craft reference, in general, and for my project in particular. “If I write an amazing story, well – they will come!” His advice improved every paragraph, page and chapter, knowing what to cut, and what to leave in. And affirmed the passion I feel for the importance of my story, and my need to tell it. And, most exciting, he reaffirmed exactly what I am trying to do. “To write a Break out Novel is to run free of the pack – To go beyond what has been done before - delve deeper, more original, unexplored realms of setting, character, dilemma, crisis, climax, theme, meaning, significance.” Most successful Break Out Novels are cross genre. Both Maass and Gardner agree on this. TTRK is cross genre. I was having difficulty finding comparables. Now I am confident in my choices, if I do something original – and it’s good enough – they will come. Deepening characters will affect plot. Deepening layers of plot will intensify your theme. Break out novels are highly detailed and generally complex. Authors do not stint on material if it deepens the impact of the story. Many break out novels are long, and sprawl. But you need conflict on every page - I love this. It’s all about conflicting deepest desires. !!!! This has actually made a big difference in my writing. My goal to make every chapter, page, paragraph, not about conflict – but about conflict based in conflicting deepest desires. (which are really my deepest desires . . . ) This is one of my favorites: My motivation exactly ~ Break out Novels are written from the author’s passionate need to make you understand, to expose you to someone special, or to take you somewhere you need to see. It confronts, rattles and illuminates! It is real. It is the truth! These novels change us, because the author is willing to draw upon their deepest selves without flinching. They hold nothing back, making their novels the deepest possible expression of their own experience and beliefs. There is purpose to their prose. 1. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? Maass’ template for writing a Premise is the best template and explanation I have seen for a Break out Premise. Breakout novel Premise – 91 words, three sentences: Hero, flaw, complication, problem, the key, a flawed mentor, multiple barriers to worthy goal. To write a Premise you need: 1. Plausibility, 2. Inherent Conflict, 3. Originality, 4. Gut emotion. It’s the grain of truth that makes us care: strange, off center, unexpected, intriguing, provokes us, draws us in. What If? ~ Every Hero needs: Tortuous need, consuming fear, aching regret, visible dream, passionate longing, in escapable ambition, exquisite lust, tragic flaw, deep wound, fatal weakness, unavoidable obligation, iron instinct, irresistible plan, and noble ideal, undying hope. We care, because he does so deeply, fanatically, desperately. ~ Make days even more hellish! Crucible, crushing, choking, collapsing, denigrating, conflagrating, excoriating, ~ It’s all about escalation towards the edge! Chapter, sequence, act. ~ Have great first lines – first 10 words of paragraph/conflict drawing you in. It’s all about strength of Convictions – what you will always do no matter what. And what you will never do! VS. Do anything you have to, to get the outcome you want. ~ Do not get the wrong agent. Find someone who is excited, and passionate about your project. This is so important to me. TTRK is about righting a wrong, getting back at bullies, telling the Truth. Having the world fall in love with these real people . . . Gives you feed back before you send it to publisher! ~ I loved this book so much, I bought Maass’ Workbook as well, and recommend it highly. I have 10 pages of what I call Donald Maass Gems, a list of techniques I read at least once a week, so as to incorporate all into my writing. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? I found nothing that conflicted with the writing program. To the contrary, Maass confirms the methods, philosophy and enthusiasm for new writers, of your great program. I am extremely grateful for his book being a required read, as he answered all my most frustrating quandaries. THE ART OF FICTION John Gardner How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? The day I decided I would try and write the story of Bran Boru, the first book I bought was the Art of Fiction. Not having any idea where to start I found a passage in this book, I copied and taped it to my computer. This was my inspiration for my opening of TTRK. The Tale teller, omniscient POV, a setting remote in time and place . . . “Tell us a tale,” the people said, and drew back like the tides of the Red Sea, “Of myths and monsters . . . of demons and dragons . . . .” The Old Dane, gnarled and weathered as a druid oak, made his way to the top of the windswept hill, drawing near to the fire. He stood before the ancient standing stone and put his hand upon the Lia Fail, gently as a grandfather caresses the cheek of a child. “I have no fairy tales.” he sighed wearily, bent and buffeted by the wind, as if a great sadness upon him. Though much has evolved in crafting my story – this opening has remained the same Events are those scenes by which the character comes to know himself. I love this one. If you read any of my writing, even the MOD 1 exercises, you will see I always use this. This coming to an understanding, a moment of realization is the best part for me. Genre crossing is behind most of the great literature. Epic and Romance. I’ve got that covered. Fiction is an instrument to come to understanding. Make the world of characters come alive! Again I love the moment of Character’s realization, which is the reader’s moment of the same realization as well. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? Other craft techniques, I have employed: Every chapter should open with Characters who want something desperately. A great work asks questions and then gives answers to the questions it raises. Show both sides of an argument – this gets to the heart of the matter – and proves Theme, by telling the Truth. In serious fiction the highest form of delay or suspense is – AGONY OVER DECISION – CHOICE! I try to deepen my dilemmas, by always having a grinding crucible, unexpected complications, and nightmare choices, going on at the same time. Treat passages individually – Description – Dialogue – Action. Develop separately. This is great clarification I needed. Define action first, need, tension, conflict, then dialogue if relevant, then description. Resist temptation to explain. A good writer can get anything across with action, dialogue – Never say what character is thinking. This is a tricky balance between interesting interior monologue, and not explaining. My favorite writer who does this well is Cormac McCarthy in his Cities of the Plains trilogy. I try hard to enrich the character, add to emotion or suspense of dilemma, in interior monologues. But leaving subtext, so although you get into their minds, something is hidden, from the reader or the character himself. Great subtext, or that which is hidden is what makes a scene, and characters most interesting to me. I have found that most historical fiction books I have read, to not do this. Watching and listening to Characters to find out what is really going on, what they are hiding – is so much more interesting, and endearing, that being told what they are thinking. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? There was one discrepancy: between Gardner and your Program. I’ll never forget how I felt, having just decided that I would do whatever needed to be done, to write Brian story, and bought Gardner’s book first, and read on page 12, his criticizing the potential of writers without University Creative Writing, and Literature Degrees. My BS was in the medical field, with no creative writing - only technical. Gardner: - “A self-educated” writer is sure to bear the mark of his limitation.” - “One notices the spottiness and awkwardness of their knowledge which makes their work less than it might have been.” - “One finds that their interpretations, suffer by comparison with what the myths really say and mean.” - (I have an interpretation of the trials of Beowulf in TTRK, as Gardner has in Grendel which differs from his – looking forward to comparison and critique) - “No one can hope to write really well without a University Education.” Of course telling Brian . . . and me, that we can’t possibly accomplish something . . . is throwing down the gauntlet. I vowed that day . . . that I would prove him wrong . . . I love the NY Pitch philosophy, in contrast to Gardner’s. If you are willing to work hard, learn, take advice, as long as it takes, you can achieve a Break Out Novel. And Michael and his team will do everything they can to help you. Also, offering the Author Salon, a successful plan to get there, and a short cut to agents and editors, as well. An entire package for success, with no prejudice. WRITE AWAY ~ Elizabeth George 1.How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? This book is very helpful, and gave me the following new incite. It is the character in jeopardy keeps you reading. Dialogue is Character. Show don’t tell. The greater significance of setting, not just magical . . . but seducing, threatening, prejudiced, nurturing. Give the Scene’s setting a name – Seducer, Threat, Lover, Guardian, Banshee, Mother, Loyal Friend, Evil. Every scene starts with a Character’s longing. Think of events of Dominoes, building to unexpected end. Work- Delusions, Obsessions, Compulsions, Addictions, Denial, Hysterical Ailments, Hypochondria, Illnesses, irrational Behavior, Destructive, Manias, and Phobias, Sexuality – Use anecdotes to illustrate all the above. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? Decisions under pressure – is who they are. Show don’t tell. Describe from a pov under pressure. No need to be obnoxiously explicit. Use Step Outline. Subtext is what is going on underneath – the best part. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Nothing conflicted with the writing program, only reinforced it. THE WRITING LIFE Annie Dillard 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? Very interesting. Lovely prose – I found myself swept away to another time and place – a week long, Women’s Writers Free Verse Conference. Looking back on my life . . . Only the pain of am impacted wisdom tooth extraction, and breech birth, without anesthesia, compares. I found the complete randomness of it, the rubric’s cube concentration it required, the constant motion, the swaying back and forth between nuanced observation and illuminating metaphor, exhilarating. Like free-balling in a kilt, on a windy day, must feel. A freedom and sensation, sadly, I am incapable of experiencing, (Sorry, I’m still far and away with my soul mate Maass). One excruciatingly beautiful and descriptive slice of verbiage, after another, never-ending . . . Wonderful metaphors, descriptions, Easy to see why it is a prize winning piece of literature, and to be admired. And sadly foreign to me – a world without story. I think I read someplace, only the Dunkards and the Caliphate of Isis are worlds without story . . . . Long ago, after reading several blistering critiques of some of my favorite authors; I vowed I would never criticize a fellow writer's writing. . As we are all in the trenches together. However, I also felt that any unfair criticism of another's efforts - fair game. I would take issue with two things, however, since Annie drew first blood. First: Dillard’s utter distain for writings, she deems “striving to be film worthy”, “have a faint but unmistakable, and ruinous odor. I cannot name what . . .” My story started out as a screenplay, and one of the things that separates it from other writing; is the cinematic imagery, action, use of subtext, pacing, building of sequence to excruciating dilemma, moment of realization and decision. Comparing my efforts to - a pathetically confused, dry-humping butterfly – seems a bit choleric. Indeed, a Dillard world would be devoid of the treasures of all great films – Images of: deep morally conflicted characters, that rip your heart out with their yearnings, dilemmas and choices, crucibles, triumph and tragedies, subtext, dialogue to die for, (James Goldman – Lion in Winter, Robin and Marion – my favorites) Story-telling . . . that makes you laugh, and cry, wrenches your guts out, and changes your heart forever – theme written with blood, and excruciatingly beautiful images, upon your soul . . . . Dillard: “In my view, the more literary the book – the more purely verbal, crafted sentence by sentence, the more imaginative, reasoned, and deep.” This explains everything. Second: Her utter distain for a poor inchworm, bullying more like it, of a little fellow, 1.426 millionth her body weight, doing his best to get through the day with the gifts God gave him – who might be perceived as being obviously trapped in the nightmare, of a literary writer, without an outline, she so eloquently recounts in her opening paragraph. Dillard: “When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick . . . it digs a path and you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end . . . You will know tomorrow, or this time next year. You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go were the path leads. At the end of the path you find a box canyon. The writing has changed . . . The new place interests you because it is not clear . . . I hope the tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.” Lovely metaphor . . . With all due respect, if Dillard were an artist, with all her gifts, and by her own words – she would intrepidly start at one corner, and process her art on canvass, like an inkjet printer, diagonally from one border to the other. expecting to create: a mountain or seascape. . . the face of child . . . a dying warrior . . . not by planning out: light against shadow, and shadow against light, nuance of tone, warm or cool, pattern against simplicity and simplicity against pattern, perspective, fore, mid, distance, layer after exquisite layer, guiding your mind’s eye, and a theme, and focal point, saving the very last strokes, after all others, the symbol overlaid, echoes from the beginning – adding the luminescence of,sun, moon and star light, shining through: cloud, leaves, the tangled hair of a lover . . . playing upon shadow, drawing in your eye, and heart with it . . . breathing in life . . . All the most beautiful art – is images - and tells a story. Dillard - an abridged excerpt, page 6-7. My favorite passage, and her most enlightening metaphor, onwriting. “Few sights are so abused as that of an inchworm leading its dimwit life . . . pale and thin, an inch long, and apparently unfit for life in this world. It wears out its days in constant panic. Every inchworm I have seen was stuck in long grasses. The wretched inchworm hangs from the side of a grass blade and throws its head around from side to side, seeming to wail . . . he rears back and flails in the air, apparently searching for a footing. What! No further? It searches everywhere in the wide world for the rest of the grass, which is right under its nose. By dumb luck it touches the grass. I’s body makes a loop. All it has to do is slide up the grass stem. Instead it gets lost. . . . Its davening, apocalyptic prayers . . . bump it into something. The blind and frantic numbskull makes it off one grass blade and onto another one, which it will climb in virtual hysteria for several hours. Every step brings you to the universe’s rim. And now – What! What! No further?Yike!” “Why don’t you just jump?” I tell it, disgusted, “Put yourself out of your misery.” Dillard must be from Bakersfield, perhaps Bisbee . . . There is nothing much cuter than a little green inch worm . . . to call him dimwit, unfit for life in this world, in constant panic, wretched, dumb luck, blind frantic numbskull, in virtual hysteria, disgusting - "Why don't you just jump. Put yourself out of your misery" . . . . I say, is looking through the glass, harshly. Have you never walked barefooted, out in tall grassy meadow in spring, still dew laded, and lain on your back looking up at the clouds floating by, wishing you were on one. When you spy . . . pure unadulterated yearning, desire against all odds, infatigable try, a worthy quest, a warrior's heart (all the stuff of story) - a little green friend . . . reaching . . . believing . . . there is no chasm too wide . . . And you extend a friendly finger . . . a conduit to his dreams . . . and in that moment, you are transformed, through his eyes into – God’s miracle . . . a part of his most worthy life’s journey . . . . “In the habitation of dragons . . . a highway, shall there be . . . and you are his way.” Isaiah Dillard did however, elicit emotion – she move me to tears – for the poor maligned inch worm, intrepid, striking out into unknown, relentless, valorous, trusting in fate. . . inch by inch, if his courage carries him far enough - he will find his way home. Pithy as well, her statement, she does not care if her readers die, before she finishes her book. I cannot relate to this at all. If I don’t get Brian’s story out there . . . and his life remains stolen, defamed and forgotten, forever . . . I’m going to self-immolate! Perhaps MS Dillard could use a little cheering up, a rose colored glass, a smidgen of a sense of humor. May I suggest . . . Mark Twain’s (one of my heroes, also maligned by the literary writers of his day) opinion on the subject: “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Twain I loved the film . . . . 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? ~ Not outlining, makes you a cranky. ~ Not being able to tell a story . . . makes you verbose. ~ Denigrating inchworms for fame and fortune, makes you a bully, and a coward . . . and a Pulitzer Prize winner! I just happen to have the criteria for winning a Pulitzer Prize taped to my laptop – eye level: “Up ending stories express the optimism, hopes and dreams of mankind, a positively charged vision of the human spirit; life as we wish it to be.” Ironically, of all the how to write books reference books I have in my library . . . I have read, dog-eared and highlighted, hundreds . . . Annie Dillard provided me with what I yearned for above all else, and for this I shall always be grateful – One single IMAGE that illustrates, without words, the Theme of the entire incredible story of Brian Boru's life: ~ The most insignificant among us, can achieve the impossible, if he has desire enough to dream it, courage enough to fight for it, heart enough to never give up, and guts enough to pay the price . . . Now and forevermore I shall think – inch worm. Yah, baby . . . You go little inch worm! . . . That’s why they call it – a leap of faith . . . Oh Ye, who gaze through the looking glass darkly - with your cup half empty . . . You just keep on . . . keepin’ on, with your mighty warrior’s heart . . . and believe . . . . Ooo Rah . . . little stud . . . Ooooooooo . . . Raaaaaaaaaah! 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? Yes. The writing program, I have come to love – is all about telling a great story - with unforgettable characters that make you laugh and cry - touch your heart and inspire your soul forever.
  6. I finally got in with a new password. Thank you

  7. I don't know what is going on. I have been using my Commercial Novel writing access every day, now it won't let me in. The last password I used does not work. Thank you

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