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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

CARAVAN OF ENEMIES_WEP Entry



 The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
Who lives sees much, who travels sees more.
 - St. Augustine

As writers, we set out on journeys limited only by our imaginations.  

And any journey is enriched by the traveling companions we choose.  

So I spiced my exotic travel fantasies with the most diverse, colorful companions I could.
 ***
FROM

THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT 



The desert sands glowed like melting butter under the brooding scrutiny of the dying sun.  Meilori had ordered Nikola Tesla to stop his Flying Carpet.  

 The huge air boat rested securely, its weight depressing deep into the sands. 


“Stay close, everyone,” I said.  “Empress Theodora is out there somewhere and probably Princess Shert Nebti as well.”


Lucy skittered next to Abigail Adams who wrapped a strong arm around the girl.  No, woman.  Lucy Wentworth was a lovely woman

 I still saw her as the girl I had protected all across India.  Winston Churchill’s eyes strayed over to her.  His expression said he saw her all too much a woman.


Ada Byron saddled up beside me.  “Samuel, the young lieutenant is smitten with her.  Do try and restrain your parental jealousy.”


I saw Howard Carter’s lovelorn expression as he looked our way and smiled drily, “You, too, have an admirer.”


Ada laughed lightly, “Only until we reach Amarna.  I know antiquarians all too well.  I will be promptly forgotten when he first spies the outlines of a buried tomb.”


She pointed to Clara Clemens leaning in to listen to Oscar Wilde regaling her with some outrageous story.  “Look at her, Samuel.  She is captivated.”


“Who wouldn’t be?” I said.  “Oscar has the way about him, and that is for sure.  The blood of the Celts flow deep in that man.”


I watched Susy Clemens giggling near uncontrollably as her father spun his own tale to the delight of his beloved daughter.  I smiled bitter-sweetly.   

There were many kinds of family and not all of them of blood.  The ones we made with like spirits and the intelligent minds we met in our travels were the best of them all.


Hayato and Tesla were busily breaking out the one giant tent that would be the sleeping quarters for us all.  The sun struck fire from its various metal attachments shaped in jackal heads and falcons.  

 I smiled drily.  How scandalized Clara would be when she discovered our sleeping arrangements.


Meilori was ordering the bodyguards about like a born general, which being an empress for thousands of years, was only natural. 

 Her servants listened intently to her words, watching her gesturing hands as if their lives depended upon it – which they probably did.   

They spread out in intricate patterns in lazy, flowing motions seeming like two-legged panthers.  I felt Ada tap me gently on the sleeve.


Her voice was low.  “Samuel, observe how keenly our Abigail Adams is watching Meilori and her men.”


I smiled crooked, “She said she wanted to study the Sphinx, and so she is.”


 “The better to wage war against her,” glowered Ada.


“Of course,” I whispered back.  “Power does not share.”


Ada grumbled, “Why does Meilori allow this?”


I laughed without humor.  “Because such scrutiny is a two-way street.”


Ada shook her head.  “How can you love such a one so?”


“The heart is not the head, Ada.  Feelings are more patient than thoughts and much more deaf to reason.  The heart sees what the mind is often blind to.”


A sudden hush settled heavy on the sands.  I almost felt it weigh down upon my shoulders.  A physical silence like a roaring wind enveloped all of us.   

The Ningyo bodyguards proved to be more than killers.   

They were as adept at desert clearing as much as Meilori’s diggers.  Particles of shimmering sand rode the Ningyo-made winds, looking nothing so much as mourning ghosts of some lost, accursed antiquity.


Abigail Adam’s fingers went to her open mouth.  In fact, everyone stood stunned, looking at the desert sand being scoured in front of us to make a level plain large enough to contain some haunted mansion like the House of Usher.


Nikola Tesla stood death-still with some glittering machine in his large hands.  He aimed it at the heap of scarlet material that was our tent. 

 It slowly fluttered and fluffed as if it were some strange creature out of nightmare just awakening.  Tesla raised the machine, and the enormous tent spread out and up, its fabric wings flaring out with a leathery rustling.


Sammy Clemens’s daughters cried out and stumbled backwards.  Howard Carter made a sound much like them and followed their example.   

Winston Churchill, his fist on the hilt of his sword, stepped towards Lucy.  Abigail noticed his movements with a grim smile.  She led Lucy back slowly a few steps. 

 Oscar Wilde and Sammy, long grown used to Tesla’s marvels, just stepped back prudently, their eyes admiring the crimson fabric sweeping out and around.  

 The burnished, sharp stakes jutted abruptly from its bottom like a netherworld raptor preparing to strike.


Meilori flowed beside me, her Sphinx face glowing, “Is not my Wizard a wonder, Samuel?”


“Yes, he certainly is.”


But I was filled with wonder myself over something else entirely.  Why had Meilori chosen this site to set up our tent?  We could have gone on for an hour more.


It was remote in the desert wastes this nameless ruin, crumbling and inarticulate with pillars wind-scoured of inscription, its low walls nearly hidden by the sands of uncounted ages. 

It must have been like this before the first stones of Memphis were laid, and while the bricks of Babylon were yet unbaked.


There was no legend so old as to give these ruins a name, or to recall that they were ever alive; 

but these ruins were spoken of in whispers around campfires and muttered about by Bedouins in their tents, praying softly to Allah for protection.


I have always known that I was an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. 

 But these ruins whispered to me that mankind was a stranger to the times when they were first shaped by hands that were not hands.



“All of us have a path to follow, and that path begins in the heart.”
- Samuel McCord


Nikola Tesla entertaining Mark Twain in his lab
(Image in Public Domain)


32 comments:

  1. Some complex journeys are contained in this extract. A myriad of possiblities...

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    1. Plots and counter-plots, hearts blinded with love or stained with hate -- they make for a most interesting expedition into mystery. Thanks for liking my little snippet. :-)

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  2. Hi, Roland.

    Beautiful opening and stunning imagery as always. Fun to read about characters so familiar to us all...

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    1. Thanks, Michael. Openings are crucial-- you have 10 seconds at most to snare the interest of readers these days if not less! Ouch.

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  3. Wow, talk about Spectacular Settings, and incredible characters. You never fail to amaze Roland. You know no limitations! Your first sentence is so beautiful, and the mystery you've established enticing.

    Thank you for such a thrilling entry to the WEP's Spectacular Settings Challenge!

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    1. Thank you for helping Denise keep this Challenge going. I have missed it and my friends!

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  4. Hi Roland! Lovely to meet familiar characters in spectacular settings. Winston Churchill with a sword. Interesting. Your deserts are so well described I can almost taste the sand and feel the wind. Here's my pick:
    'The sun struck fire from its various metal attachments shaped in jackal heads and falcons.'

    Wonderful.

    Thanks as always for posting to the WEP challenge. Your lyrical prose always captures hearts.

    Denise :-)

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    1. Actually, Churchill was in Egypt at the time as a young lieutenant and part of the dress uniform then included a sword.

      Thanks for the nice words about my prose and highlighting your favorite sentence.

      I have always tried to support your challenges. Friends do that for friends, you know. :-)

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  5. Hi,
    Indeed your manuscript is very complex. Many of the characters, I recognised and your placement of them in another world and time intrigued me.
    I like the way you rounded off your theme in the last two sentences. I had pictures in my mind after reading your script of mankind never learning from their historical past.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

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    1. I like to play with history in my fantasies, while staying true to the personality of the people of which I write.

      You're right: Mankind never learns. As Mark Twain wrote: "History does not repeat itself ... but it does rhyme!"
      Shalom, Roland

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  6. You had me at the mention of Tesla! Amazing cast of characters.

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    1. I am totally taken with Nikola Tesla, who appears in my DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE & THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT (1895) and HER BONES ARE IN THE BADLANDS (1927) and RETURN OF THE LAST SHAMAN (2012 -- and, yes, it does deal with the Mayan Prophesy)!

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  7. Evocative and intriguing. Makes me long to be a princess is a land, far far away.

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    1. Yes, but princesses more often than not had to marry someone not of their own choosing! Thanks for the kind words.

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  8. Of course this novel is on my to-read list (I wish I could get to it now, but I'm so backed up!). The imagery is stunning and the characters captivating, but then like you I'm a history nerd and understand just how extraordinary these people were.

    And yes, so often our real families are people we meet on our journey through life.

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    1. Thanks, Helena. I hope to get both DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE and THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT published in paperback in the coming months.

      First though, THE LAST SHAMAN TRILOGY will come out sometime next month. Cross your fingers. :-) (And Nikola Tesla is in that one as well!)

      At least my real family is like that since I am the last of my line.

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  9. Hey, Roland. I thoroughly enjoyed this. You have a way with character. A writer could learn a lot from you. I love your Winston Churchill. Fantastic.

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    1. Thanks, Robyn. I am off to see your entry. :-)

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  10. Nice! An interesting collection of personages here. Well done.

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    1. Thanks, M. I like to throw interesting personalities together and then shake them up a bit. :-)

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  11. Now you've got me thinking in a whole new way about people I'd slotted into history as I learned it. Love that you've shaken up my established worldview and given me a new perspective. My favorite line: The desert sands glowed like melting butter

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    1. I do a lot of reading of private journals and personal letters of historical personages, and I've found what history teaches is often way off the mark of the real people. I'm glad you enjoyed this snippet. :-)

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  12. "There were many kinds of family and not all of them of blood. The ones we made with like spirits and the intelligent minds we met in our travels were the best of them all."

    So true! And I always love how you take personalities that we think of as serious and solid citizens and reshape them into vulnerable humans again through your writing.

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    1. Like I wrote Lee above, I've found the truer personalities of historical figures from their own words to shine from letters they thought none but a few would ever see. And I love to weave them together. Thanks so much for enjoying my prose play. :-)

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  13. Loved this book, Roland. The setting is definitely a character in this tale.

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    1. I wrote THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT basically for you and Inger, you know. :-) I'm just glad you enjoyed it.

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  14. The imagery is poetic, apt and very lovely. I'm fascinated by the story and would love to know more. It seems to b a book you wrote. I must try and get hold of it somehow.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words And yes, I did write it. :-)

      If my debit card had not been stolen, along with my wallet, I would send you a Kindle copy myself.

      You can look at the LOOK INSIDE feature of my book on its Amazon page. If you like it, it is only $2.99 --

      http://www.amazon.com/STARS-BLEED-AT-MIDNIGHT-ebook/dp/B00N758R96/

      Thanks again for the kind words.

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  15. Hi Roland!
    The opening lines of your piece sucked me in.

    You mentioned above, that you do a lot of reading of private journals and personal letters of historical personages.
    Have you heard of Letters Of Note? It's an eclectic collection of 125 of the world's most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters. You probably have...

    I enjoyed reading your work again. Your writing never disappoints.

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    1. I tucked LETTERS OF NOTE in the back of my mind, and I promptly covered over it with daily worries! Thank you for mentioning it and reminding. As soon as the bank re-issues my debit card (my wallet was stolen) I will get it.

      Thank you for the very kind words. :-)

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  16. So good to read your work again, Roland! The imagery, adventure, cast of characters and intrigue flow throughout this excerpt effortlessly. I'd love to read more!!

    The Weight of Wonder

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    1. Your own entry was evocative and mystical. :) As soon as the bank re-issues my stolen debit card, I will send you the Kindle version of THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT. At least the interior images are lovely.

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