Leaves are falling, wind is blowing, grocery-store candy shelves are being cleared faster than Gimli drank that tankard of ale, and a miserable Sarah Baran is once again entombed in blankets and wailing about the oncoming cold.
Ah, October. How I hate thee.
(For those who aren’t aware, I am part lizard. Cold and I do not agree with each other.)
In light of my current hibernation and the fast approach of NaNoWriMo (which I no longer have time to participate in but shhhhhh let’s not talk about that), I present a fun thing: A commentary on my first book. The one I started when I was fourteen or fifteen. The one whose nightmarish depths I’m still embarrassed to explore.
Quick history lesson: The Silvershaw of Glenborn is a story I created shortly after discovering The Lord of the Rings for the first time and is the *cough* captivating *cough cough* tale of a fair elf maiden with radiant scarlet hair and lustrous purple eyes and incomparable skill with a bow and–
Yeah, you get the point. Fair elf maid finds a shiny in the woods, shiny turns out to be the fated Object of Destiny™, fair elf maid is the fated Prophecy Child of Destiny™ and promptly embarks upon a long and boring quest to murder the fated Monster of Destiny™. Along the way, pointless villains are met and vanquished, random children kidnapped, bow-and-arrows are a thing, sugar is replaced with salt and ruins a kettle of tea, a lunatic names herself Chocolate, gnome assassins are a thing, Lotch falls down a chimney, Liriel shuns coffee, Emolas spouts poetic jargon, Sley exists and that’s apparently all he does, Fairy racism must be stopped at all cost, Emolas falls out of a tree, some guy named Noyarc is a terrible example for young children because he smokes a pipe, and LOGIC DOES NOT EXIST.
*deep breath* Whew.
Let’s proceed, shall we?
This story is about a Fairy. But not just any old Fairy; this Fairy is a Sprite.
A+ opening right there, folks. Can’t get any better than that.
Fun fact! The term “sprite,” which was originally the name for Liriel’s people group, has since evolved into a racial slur for Aeterna. So the next time you hear me calling my characters sprites, be aware: I am mocking them.
As you probably know, trees do not glow.
Actually, I wasn’t aware of this fact. Thank you for teaching me such a wise and profound truth about trees.
“Alas!” the king cried. “For we of the Fairy folk knew there was such a beast, but had not thought it would leave the dark vileness of the Armothin for some time yet.”
Every good dialogue needs to start with a soppy king screaming “ALAS!!!”
“Did you not hear a thing the Lord Senduid has said?” cried the king’s son, a Sprite named Emolas.
Fun fact: Emolas was originally created for a different story, so his appearance in this book was meant to be nothing more than a quick cameo.
See how well that turned out.
He also happens to be my oldest surviving character to date, having come from a story idea I created long before The Silvershaw of Glenborn was birthed. The other characters of that story were eventually discarded, but he managed to hang on to my heartstrings and is now one of my favorites.
“Alas, alas!” he cried, distressed.
Yep, there it is again.
I don’t think a single thing is spoken normally in this story. Everyone is either shrieking or wailing.
“Farewell, Liriel Willowtree,” he wailed. “May the Light of the Evening Star shine down upon you and guide your footsteps.”
Yes. I said that.
“Well bless me,” she cried, “if Lotch isn’t going and dumping a drink in the fireplace!”
I take comfort in the fact that Lotch has literally never changed.
Liriel rose early the next morning. She was rather annoyed to find the stable boy had saddled her horse for her, and even more annoyed when he made the comment, “Quite a heavy pack for one person,” because she had hardly taken anything with her.
This is a rather unassuming paragraph when you take it at face value, but fast-forward a couple pages and you’ll learn that Liriel’s pack was literally big enough for a human child to hide inside and Liriel didn’t even notice.
Like, girl. So much for having hardly taken anything with you.
(Also, yes, the human child was Lotch.)
“Blimey,” the girl croaked. “What are you trying to do, drown me?!”
Lotch, honey, you shouldn’t tempt her.
Her face was guant and pail.
A personal favorite of mine. Spelling was clearly not my strong point.
“Come come,” Liriel said, trying her hand at cheerfulness. “These trees are old, that is true, but they have not seen near as many years as the trees of Glenborn have. It is said that these trees were planted by the hand of Padiamet himself. Think of that, Lotch!”
Lotch’s shrill, puzzled voice pierced the blackness. “Who’s Padiamet?”
Liriel gave up on being cheerful.
Poor Liriel. The one moment in her life when she tried not to be such a drip, and she still failed.
“Why didn’t you shoot him? It? That… that thing?” Lotch demanded.
“I cannot shoot someone who is unaware and unchallenged!” Liriel cried sharply.
Ah, Liriel, the paragon of virtue. But only moments later…
There was heard in the forest a sharp twang, and the dark creature dropped dead with Liriel’s arrow in its throat.
“I thought you couldn’t shoot things unaware and unchallenged,” Lotch said.
Liriel marveled at the girl’s stupidity.
The entire ground was covered in ferny thingies.
I had a spectacular grasp on botany.
FYI, I named a certain type of plant “Evotsdew,” which is loosely translated from “evotsdoow,” which when read backwards becomes “woodstove.”
Lotch, who was greatly vexed by the loss of her dinner, said, “Hey Liriel, look at this chicken we can eat!”
She was, in fact, referring to a gryphon.
Flying on the back of a gryphon is an experience one does not soon forget. Soaring through the air with the wind tangling her hair and the great feathered wings of the creature pumping around her, Liriel felt awed and inspired and courageous.
All Lotch could think about was that she kept getting Liriel’s hair in her mouth from the wind.
I’m… just… gonna leave this one here…
“Behold!” spoke the king gryphon. “I give to you the fireflies of the Meramerak forest. Bear them well! may they bring light when darkness finds you, and all other light is lost.”
Channeling the inner Galadriel.
A sudden thought struck Liriel. “I hope the trogs do not find Sley,” she said aloud.
Lotch looked up in surprise. “Why? I hope they eat him.”
By some trick, Liriel was surrounded by dwarves before she could move three feet.
Ah yes, the dwarves. I’d almost forgotten about them. Their names were Menerlorn, Fogginmuff, Hiverbloom, Nekernone, Nikagrill, Guindleguine, and — my personal favorite — Jiffleduffle.
Truly a stunning example of Sarah’s naming brilliance.
Liriel was sure the dwarves could be reasoned with.
Yet only a page later…
Dwarves cannot be reasoned with.
I coulda told her that.
Liriel calmly tried to explain that she had not meant to asphyxiate them, she was not a spy, she carried no plans for the end of the world, and she was merely an innocent traveler.
A likely story…
“Innocent traveler indeed!” snorted Nekernone.
Channeling the inner Faramir.
No, Reader, Lotch was not crazy or reckless.
“You can’t change our minds, Mister Noyarc, sir,” Nekernone insisted.
“Indeed, I am beginning to see I cannot. Curse the stubbornness of dwarves! I don’t know why I bother with you at all.” He sat puffing on his pipe in moody silence for a moment.
Channeling the inner Gandalf.
Lotch turned around in her seat and narrowly avoided breaking Liriel’s neck by accidentally pushing her off, but that is a rabbit trail hardly worth mentioning.
“While I was on my way to Govanstowe, I came upon a man, walking. He was a shiftless fellow, big, hulking, with snake eyes.”
My early descriptions of Sley are so ridiculously funny because I’d created him on a whim and had zero clue what he was even doing in my story. One minute he’s gangly and goggle-eyed, the next minute hulking and snakey. Then you skip to the following chapter, where adorable little me thought, “Gee, y’know what would spice this story up? WEREWOLVES!!”
And thus, Sley becomes a werewolf.
“Why the child?”
Liriel stared musingly at the strange old man called Noyarc. “I don’t know. Maybe because I feel there is more to her that we don’t yet see. Maybe because she gives me courage.”
It’s frightening how much plagiarism goes on in this story. You definitely *cough cough choke wheeze* can’t tell how obsessed I was with LotR and the Hobbit.
Noyarc smiled. “It was not chance that led you to the Silvershaw, nor by chance were you chosen to bear it, Liriel Willowtree. There is greatness in you.”
Awwww, look at the wise little Gandalf rip-off! Little did he know his character would reincarnate as a freakishly silly and somewhat tipsy individual whose only wisdom is in his swindling capabilities.
And was then promptly deleted from my story.
Riding toward them on a fiery white horse was a Sprite. He sat tall in the saddle, his golden hair blowing back from his face, and in his hand he held a bow. To Lotch he was a stranger, but Liriel knew him well. “Emolas!” she cried joyfully.
Awwww, look at the noble little Legolas rip-off! Little did he know his character would reincarnate as an awkward, klutzy, soft-spoken social-outcast with humanitarian tendencies and a shockingly vulgar vocabulary.
(His favorite expression is “frogs and fiddlesticks,” guys. The Aeterna are scandalized.)
So, um, yeah. Lesson learned: I am not Tolkien.
This isn’t nearly the end of it, and maybe some day I’ll do a Part 2 with the second half of the book. But at the moment, I think 1,300 words of this horror is QUITE enough for one blog post. I can hear Tolkien crying out in anguish from his grave.
‘Tis strange to think I wrote this stuff only four years ago.
So children, let this be a comfort to you in your distress: No matter how bad you think you are, no matter how terrible your start is — you will grow. It happens to all of us, if we try hard enough.
And hey, Sley actually has a personality now, so that has to count for something.