Fractal Myth

The Moth's Footprints: Episode Two.

[Michelle Whitehead ©2004]

'The Moth's Footprints' is a classic fantasy adventure in the style of David Eddings. These monthly episodes were written between May and September, 2004. They include comments and suggestions from my sister, who is helping me in the creation of this story.

Comments by Michelle (me).

Comments by Stephanie (my sister).

1 June 2004

So Creatures she might encounter are you normal worldwide earth kind...Cows,sheep etc - no platypus or panthers... What creatures does she interact with in her world?

I'm just going to make myself write on this topic for the next ten minutes, regardless, and apologize for the awful quality in advance. I am sure there are a lot of creatures in Moth's world. I don't want to limit her future discoveries. In an alternate reality earth she may yet meet a platyther or a hungry panpus. For the moment my creativity seems to have crumpled. (Yes, it did take me ten minutes to write those 5 sentences and I didn't really answer your question. At least I got something written.) Maybe I'll improve as the month goes on...

PS. Mlala are grazing herd beasts, a kind of alternative reality Llama. Now I'm really worried about what her husband's going to turn up riding!

Moth sat on a garden bench, wrapped in Ma's waterproof cloak. She had been there for over an hour, watching a silver spider weave an intricate net between two bare twigs. Tiny diamonds of dew gathered on the silk. It reminded Moth of her wedding veil. The lace had been handed down from her great grandmother, hand spun from the fine soft hair of the gentle Mlala.

2 June 2004.

I'm just forcing you to think :) I didn't say it would be easy - we just write and who knows what questions will inspire you and which won't - Im just working on the world... now I'll move to Moth. What is the social / economical / political background? Is she a surf? Lady of the manor, is there a king? Mayor? Is she rich/poor? etc. etc.

I wrote for way too long tonight - will have to try to keep it short and sweet until my exams are over - maybe if I get a lot to say I can opt to spread it over two nights rather than answering a new question the next day...

I stopped tonight having asked a question that I don't actually know the answer to. It is up to you where we go tomorrow : ) Do we finish this scene... do we explore the inner Moth... or do we go somewhere else entirely?

PS. I enjoy it when you write questions in a hurry... (sorry!)

"Moth pounded against the beach for the umpteenth time that day, slowly grinding shell and rock into sand. A pod of dolphins gambolled along her back. It was a hard life being a surf, but Moth never complained..."

Moth's family were neither rich nor poor. They were comfortable, and they were content. Life on the farm was not hard. In the summer the Mlala looked after themselves, peacefully roaming the green hillsides in rock-fenced pastures. In the winter they were penned in the large warm barns surrounding the farmhouse. The busy times were in the spring, when the newborns arrived and the flock could double in size overnight, with many of the females giving birth to twins, and the autumn, when the soft fine fleece was shorn. The silky wool was extremely valuable, and at the start of each winter, Moth's father, Jhadn, and his offsider, Ree, loaded the heavy bales into a huge, lumbering wagon and transported them to the market at Mirryval, where the river Zalhi widened. There the bales were sold and loaded onto the paddle steamers that would carry them to larger markets where they would fetch even higher prices. Jhadn had often spoken of taking the whole journey himself, but he was essentially a lazy, jovial man who enjoyed the company of his family too much to care for chasing a profit beyond his needs. The merchants at Mirryval paid him a good price, and he was always happy to bring back the wagon loaded high with supplies and presents, boasting of the magnificent bargains he'd made.

There was only one bargain he still wasn't sure about. The young man had been handsome and well-built, that was for sure. Wealthy, too, from the cut of his clothes and the freedom with which he shouted the bar - but not stuck up. Jahdn couldn't stand people who gave themselves airs. Nobody was better than anyone else, in his philosophy. Ree was as important to the household as Jahdn's own children. His inarticulate ugliness was barely noticed by those who appreciated his strength and reliability. But this stranger? He was a puzzle. He had introduced himself as Grawell Blissen, and then waited as if the name should mean something to Jahdn. It didn't. Then he sat himself at their table, and proved to be an interesting conversationalist, able to talk easily on all aspects of Mlala husbandry.

Jahdn was deep in an explanation of why Mlala wouldn't thrive anywhere but in their native hills when he realised how late it had become. Ree had long ago fallen asleep in a corner and the Inn was practically deserted. Grawell glanced around, then leaned towards him. "You have a daughter," he whispered. Jahdn nodded. He had two daughters and a young son, but what business was it of this stranger's? Grawell continued. "Your eldest daughter has a mark on her arm, just here." He touched his own arm, just above the elbow. Jahdn was startled, but he nodded again. His mind was racing. Moth hated her birthmark and always kept it covered. He felt groggy and blinked, trying to clear his head. Perhaps he had drunk too much and was hallucinating. It had never happened to him before, but he had heard it was possible. Grawell spoke again. "I would like your permission to marry your daughter. I will give you this in exchange." Arranged marriages were a common matter in the Regdrass hills, where strangers rarely visited and inbreeding was becoming a problem. Jahdn's own wife was also the daughter of his father's sister, his first cousin. They had anxiously watched their children for signs of weakness, but apart from the mark on Moth's arm, their babies grew healthy and strong. Jahdn remembered then, something he had long forgotten. When Moth was born, the midwife had placed her forefinger over the burgundy stain on the baby's skin. "What ha'e we here?" she muttered. Jahdn's mother suddenly snatched the newborn to her breast and wrapped her gently in a silky Mlala-wool blanket, making sure both arms were covered. Only then did she place the baby in its father's arms. "T's a good sign," she whispered to him. "T'will bring her great luck, glorious fortune and a good husband." But Jahdn was not satisfied. He knew his mother had the gift, and he knew she wasn't telling him everything. "What else?" he demanded urgently, wondering at the tiny bundle of perfection he carried, and determined to protect it at all costs. "T'is nothing... just... a feeling." Jahdn never discovered what that feeling was, for the midwife interrupted. "Gi'e the babe to its mammy. T'won't get nothing good to eat suckin' on yon muddy finger!" Jahdn laughingly extracted his finger from his daughter's mouth and followed the midwife's instructions. In the joy of watching his wife with their firstborn, he swept his mother's premonition from his mind. Until now.

The object Grawell held glowed gently in his cupped hands. Jahdn was fascinated. "What is it?"

3 June 2004.

Giggles :) We all know I can't spell and if the spellchecker doesn't pick it up I've no hope :P Let's leave the question. We will come back but I liked that bit - It started being a story :)

Short one for exams - what is Moths favorite thing?

Short? ... SHORT??? Tell that to the muse!!! Glad you're liking it... exams or no exams the story wants to get moving... keep asking your questions... the plot will work itself around them... (couldn't seem to get Ma's accent to work tonight... but you get the general idea.)

Moth woke before dawn to feel Ma Blissen urgently shaking her shoulder. "Quick, girrl. Git up. H'ry now." The coals glowing in the hearth provided the only light. Moth reached out to stir the fire into life, but Ma's hand on her elbow prevented her. "Leave 't. Here, git these on." She shoved a bundle into Moth's arms, thick winter clothes that Moth had never seen before. She pulled on the knitted stockings and undershirt without speaking, then puzzled over the skirt. It was full, but divided down the middle like a man's breeches, and it did up with a complicated arrangement of loops and ties. Ma took the cords from her and quickly laced them around Moth's waist. "What is it?" Moth asked, worried by the old woman's urgency. Ma shook her head and put a finger to her lips. "Ye'll need this," she whispered, tucking a small packet into the pocket of Moth's skirt.

"Now, list'n to me, and list'n close. There be danger comin', and it best not find ye when it gets here." She swung a heavy wool jacket around Moth's shoulders and followed that with the waterproof cape. Moth felt like a child being dressed for her first experience playing in the snow. Her cheeks glowed with the warmth of her clothing and an unusual sense of excitement. "Mabbe 'tis nuthin. Mabbe I'm jest n' ol' wom'n with a flea in 'er ear. But Garwell warn'd me, 'e did, 'n I promis'd 'im. I promis'd 'im I'd keep ye safe." Moth put her arms around Ma. "You've been wonderful," she said. "But what's going on? What do you need me to do?" Ma looked around the cottage as though she'd never seen it before. Then she sighed. "Ah well, 'twas nice while 't lasted. Couldn't expect t' mist t' hide us f'rever. T'was a struggle keepin' 't up as 'twas." Moth had no idea what the old woman was talking about. She vaguely suspected that her mother-in-law had gone mad. She murmured something soothing, smelling the lavender and smoke scents mingled in Ma's hair. "'Nuff now," Ma said brusquely, brushing Moth away.

With a strength Moth hadn't guessed she possessed, Ma shoved the tall wooden dresser away from the wall. Her gnarled fingers searched delicately along the wooden beam behind it and she gave a tiny grunt of satisfaction. "Builds t'ings well, ma son do. Gi' him me love when ye see him. Tell him I kept me promise." There was a soft grinding noise and a section of the floor fell away, revealing a small opening, a few steps and a dark tunnel beyond. Ma gripped Moth's face between her rough hands and peered anxiously at her. "Ye've got to go down there. If'm wrong 'n nothin' 'appens, I'll let ye out when t' sun rises, and we'll both laugh on an old woman's fancies. If 'm right..." her voice faltered, but her hands held Moth tighter. "If'm right, ye'll know. Keep yeself silent, 'n stay here 'till ye hear them leave. Whatever happ'ns, don't come back here. No matter what. Do not come back to this room. Follow th' tunnel t' th' end. Summin'll be there t' meet ye. Ye c'n trust em. Ye'll know I sent 'em. Now git." With a quick hard hug, Ma shoved Moth down into the hole. The last thing Moth saw as the trapdoor ground shut above her was Ma's finger pressed firmly to her lips in warning.

Alone in the darkness, Moth carefully explored the feel of her surroundings. She was in some kind of cellar or storeroom, surrounded by bags of flour, a barrel of dried apples and several flagons of what was probably oil. A full waterskin hung from the beam above her head. Taking several apples for breakfast, Moth settled herself comfortably on the flour bags and thought about the situation. She had no idea what had made Ma so upset, or what kind of danger might threaten them. Why would anyone want to hurt her? She wasn't anything special, and apart from a few good clothes she hardly had any possessions worth stealing. Except... with a start, Moth realised something was missing. Her most treasured possession. The one thing she would rather die than part with. If Ma was right and something bad was about to happen then she wasn't going anywhere without it. She looked at the huge wooden beams above her, wondering whether Ma would hear her if she banged on them hard enough. It was doubtful. Then she remembered the tiny package Ma had given her. She pulled it from her pocket and breathed a sigh of relief. Wrapped securely in pieces of soft cotton was an antique mirror, its reflective surface marred and spotted with age. The gold frame had once been jewelled, but now only a single tiny ruby remained.

It had been given to Moth by her grandmother, her father's mother, on the night before she died. "Keep it with you always," she had instructed the young girl. "Look in it often." "What do I look for?" Moth had asked, somehow certain that there was something more than her own reflection to be seen. "When you see it, you will know. Don't show anyone else." The dying woman had closed Moth's hand around the gift and then raised her own hand to touch the mark on Moth's arm. Remembering that moment, Moth realised that Ma Blissen had touched her in exactly the same way, to stop her stirring the fire. But Moth had never shown Ma her birthmark. Then she gasped in surprise. She had never shown Ma the mirror either, keeping it hidden in a corner of her trunk. Out of all the jewels and trinkets amongst her belongings, how had Ma known so exactly what she would need? She would have to ask Ma in the morning, when she let her out. Until then... it was cool and dry in the cellar, though Moth was warm in her travelling clothes. They were better quality than any she had owned before. Wrapping the thick jacket tighter around her, she bit through the sweet wrinkled skin of a dried apple and waited to see what would happen next.

4 June 2004.

I like being your inspiration - that's all you needed I think - some direction - Oh it's a weekend so I'm only giving you one question - study study study!! What is Moth's most extraordinary trait or ability?

I've been asking her all day, but so far she has refused to reply. It's rather an important consideration, so I won't rush her! Perhaps she'll let me know tomorrow. Now back to... you said it... study study study :)

5 June 2004.

I had a breakthrough last night and glimpsed most of the story, but I'm in a bad mood just now, so forgive me if this doesn't flow as well as it might. I'm writing here anyway in the hope that it might dispel the grumps so I can go back to studying with a fresh attitude. This is really badly written by my standards - worse than usual! - but it's better than giving you a 'what happens next' list. At least it keeps the story moving and can always be rewritten : ) Some details need to be fixed when I get time too... I got Grawell's name wrong last post... and in Wednesday's post I said Jahdn married the daughter of his father's sister... I'm changing that to his mother's sister... you'll see why : ) when Mara (father's mother) explains...

I don't know if seeing things in a mirror is an extraordinary trait or ability... but it'll have to do... I'm out of time :)

Moth woke to the sound of something breaking. She had no idea how long she had slept for. The arm she'd been leaning on was numb. She rubbed it and stared into the darkness above her, trying to hear what was going on. It was hopeless. She could just hear what sounded like shouting, but the words were muffled by the thick beams and floorboards. In frustration she pulled out her mirror and stared into it. Her surroundings were too dark for her to even see her own reflection. As she had done many times before, she ran her finger around the frame counting the gaps which had once held gems. There had originally been twenty stones, five on each side. Now only one remained, in the centre, at the bottom. Moth touched it gently. Something happened then that had never happened before. A layer of mist seemed to move across the surface of the glass. Moth thought that she'd been staring into the blackness for so long that her eyes were playing tricks on her. Then the mist cleared and she found herself looking into the kitchen above. She could hear no sound, but she could see the intruders, three men in green armour. One waited by the door, holding the reins of three horses and watching both the windows of the cottage and the path from the forest. The second had an axe in his hand and was testing the sharpness of its edge. The third seemed to be the leader. As Moth watched, his hand flicked out and slapped Ma Blissel, the movement quick and cold as a snake. Ma whimpered and crouched down in her chair. Moth was instantly ready to leap to the old woman's defence, but the mirror somehow zoomed in on Ma's face. Incredulously, Moth saw her wink. Ma knew she was watching! The leader moved in again, obviously demanding to know Moth's whereabouts. Ma groaned and pointed to the locked door of the parlour. The leader smiled thinly and motioned to the second soldier with the axe. He stepped forward and swung the axe at the door, obviously expecting it to cave in immediately. The blow rang resoundingly, echoing so loudly Moth heard it clearly in her cellar. She had noticed that door when Ma showed her the parlour. It was made of two massive slabs of wood with a thick iron plate sandwiched between them. Ma was right, Grawell did build things well!

The instant she thought of her husband, the image in the mirror swam back into mist. Before Moth had time to feel disappointment the mists cleared again. This time the scene was one she had never seen before, five men standing around a table in a tent. Two of them she recognised, Grawell, and next to him, Lerrall. The tall lanky blonde had stood beside Grawell at the wedding, and been a constant source of amusement on the journey back to Grawell's home. She was glad they were still together. The other three men were much older, but they seemed to look to Grawell as their leader. On the table was a large map, held flat by various objects, including a mug and a dagger. Moth couldn't make out the details, but all five men were involved in a heated discussion which involved much pointing at various locations.

The sound of the axe clanging against the parlour door brought Moth back to the present. She tried to will the mirror to show her the scene above once more. It's surface swam mistily as it had before, but this time failed to clear. Moth shook it, cursing. "That won't help." The mist was still there, but it had taken shape, a face. Peering into its depths, Moth recognised her grandmother Mara, the previous owner of the mirror, dead these past twelve years. "You don't need to see that again," Mara said. "Ma knows what she's doing. You have to get out of here, now!"

"No," Moth said, amazed at her courage. "I'm not going anywhere until someone tells me what's going on. I put up with being sold like a prize Mlala. I didn't complain about being carted half-way across the country. I haven't said a word about being dumped on a mother-in-law without even one night in a bed with my husband. There's no way I'm moving until I know what this is all about." The misty face in the mirror looked grim. Moth went on. "Look, this is all about me, somehow, isn't it? I need to know! Ma said to stay here until they left, whoever they are. They aren't going anywhere until they break down that door, so we've got time. Please!" she pleaded. Mara seemed to study her in the glow of the mirror.

"All right," she agreed.

7 June 2004.

Had another thought last night. Am working on the background story/history etc in my head, getting the plot a bit more organised, finding out where she's going next. In the meantime... a few snippety details that might come in handy... Moth's most extraordinary trait is her ability to go unnoticed. All her life she has been able to drift around without attracting attention. Adults talk without realising she is in the room. She was christened Mallita, but earned the nickname Moth by the time she was 5, because she was so small, plain and insignificant. She has a talent for being ignored.

I was going to change Grawell's name to something more interesting. I thought maybe the german or russian word for flame could give me a starting point. German is 'flamme' which isn't very exotic. Candle in German is 'kerze' which is better but still doesn't sound right. Flame is Russian is extremely exotic, but also unpronouncable: "?????". Maybe I can find out how that's said, and create a name from its phonetics? No time today though...

PS. having surveyed the options of dragons and aliens and all other fantasy genres, I think we're heading into a fairy story... there's going to be a war... there's always a war... actually, there are at least two wars... I'm just working out who fought them and when and why... got some lovely ideas to go on with that I'm looking forward to sharing but don't want to spoil by trotting them out at the wrong moment.

9 June 2004.

I like how the story is going - sorry I've been thin on the ground - here's a new question - What are Moth's major deficiencies?

I'm not ready to write it properly yet, but let's put down the basic outline of what Maea (that was a typo, but I like it better... let's change Mara to Maea) is going to tell Moth... feel free to suggest details/changes etc with this bit... it's all kind of fuzzy : ) I'm calling Moth's husband 'whatsisname' until I get one (a name) I'm happier with...

Maea is going to start by asking Moth about the game she and her sister were always playing as kids. Moth replies, something like "Princess Jaylia in the Hall of the Storm King". Maea says "Tell me the story." Moth replies "You ought to know, it was the bedtime story you used to tell me every night." Maea says she needs to make sure Moth remembers it.

"Princess Jaylia in the Hall of the Storm King"

OK. Here's where I get all mixed up, which order details get told in the story... so I'll put a rough idea in sort-of chronological order... expect some confusion!!!

(there's lots of ideas here for retrospective novels... exploring the history of the world... maybe not all of this needs to go into Moth, but I need to have it worked out, more or less...)

2000 years ago: in the beginning... the little people... the faerie folk... rule over the humans? human hero & faerie hero band together to end human slavery? romance between human and faerie? (irrelevant for this story... just notes for the future)

1500 years ago: time goes by... humans and faeries live harmoniously

1000 years ago: more time goes by... humans forget about faeries; faeries retreat into the places humans don't go

600 years ago: war breaks out between humans

When Maea explains the history, the mirror will show Moth the map that whatsisname was looking at. She will see there are two continents separated by an ocean and fanning out from each other like a butterfly's wings. There is a long island between them, forming the butterfly's body. For some reason yet to be determined, war breaks out between the rulers of the two continents (the island is uninhabited & shrouded in myth and legend).

Maybe war is over who will control the island... possibly rumoured to be the entrance to faerie land? or the site of the faerie's treasure chamber?... or just the most strategically positioned bit of unclaimed land around?

War lasts for 60 years at which stage thousands are dead, huge cities are laid waste, environmental destruction etc. Royal Family A has a daughter; Royal Family B has a son. The faeries have seen that their feud will destroy both human kingdoms & take out their (the faeries) hidden realm as well.

540 years ago: Faeries lure the royal children away from the palaces, one on each side of the ocean.

The royal families accuse each other of kidnap, but it is soon obvious that they are both equally bemused & bereft. The war fizzles into nothing.

The legends Moth knows make no mention of what happens to the prince; she lives on the continent that had the princess. This bit following is the game she used to play with her sister; the story her Grandmother used to send her to sleep with.

I haven't worked this bit out properly yet... Jaylia sleepwalks to the base of a huge mountain. Finds a door behind a thornbush, enters the Hall of the Storm King... makes friends there? Learns about the faeries and the interconnectedness of everything... maybe she offends someone; maybe she is lonely and wants to go home but they won't let her; maybe she fulfils a challenge and meets the wisest and oldest, who tells her how to bring peace to her land... probably the last one (with elements of all 3)... if she just goes home the war will start again... she understands she must make sacrifice for good of her world... oldest faerie gives her a mirror, surrounded by 20 small rubies. Prophecies that Jaylia must go out into the world and live as a commoner, never mentioning her royal heritage; she must find a good man, strong & intelligent; a man who works with his hands and his body; a man with a quick mind; she must marry him and have children. Her firstborn will be a girl. On her deathbed she will notice one of the rubies has dissolved; she is then to hand the mirror on to her daughter... probably without explaining its significance?

Blah blah blah details needed... the mirror gets handed down through 18 women, all Jaylia's descendants & Moth's ancestors... no idea yet whether mirror has magic powers along the way (maybe material for future novels???????) Eventually we get to Maea... up in the hills with her handsome Mlala herder...

Maea's daughter dies as a baby. She is devastated; thinks she has failed & broken the prophecy; especially when her next child is a son, Moth's father. However, Maea has a sister who lives in a distant city. On the day Moth's father is born, Maea's sister gives birth to a daughter. The two young people are raised without knowledge of each other; they meet somehow... somewhere... fall instantly in love... being told they are cousins makes no difference to them... they marry and Moth is born... Maea gives Moth the mirror, as the old woman lies dying...

Moth is the last descendant, the one the oldest faerie foretold, who will unite the warring kingdoms and bring peace to the land.

In the same way whatisname is either directly descended from the lost prince, or possibly IS the lost prince, having lived with the faeries on his side of the sea for the last 2000 years without growing old... he has come to Moth's continent to claim his bride & fulfil the prophecy of peace

(the glowing thing he showed Moth's father was a large moonstone... Moth's wedding ring is a band carved from moonstone...)

No happy ever after, though... another war? Probably a tyrant has gained power during the long years without rulers... no centralised government, communities look after themselves... but larger market towns have expanded... merchants extremely wealthy... they prefer the isolation of the communities as it means they (the merchants) are necessary to transport goods etc; if both continents were united under peaceful rule as foretold, then there would be no way for the merchants to maintain their dominance and monopoly over the world's wealth... so they create war to prevent the prophecy coming true

That kind of works; the merchants would have connections to research/find Moth... maybe they have an alliance with an evil group of faeries... ones who crave power in the faerie world and are prepared to destroy the human world in order to rule the faeries... that's how they managed to find Moth... and who whatsisname is worried about fighting... I guess they probably want to bring back human slavery... so there's a war in the faerie world between those who want to live in peace with humans and those who want to dominate the lesser species... the latter would want to destroy the prophecy too... maybe they are responsible for killing Maea's baby daughter???... don't know how much of this last lot Maea can tall Moth... she probably knows about the merchants and that they have faerie allies... but I suspect Moth will rock up at the faerie Hall expecting to find powerful help for whatsisname's battle against the merchant army, and instead finds the place in chaos... nothing like heaping on the responsibility - she has to save, not only the human world, but the faerie world as well...

Anyway, that's the background so far...

For your question...

Moth feels that the way this plot is going, her most extraordinary trait is likely to be her greatest deficiency. It's fine to be mousy and ignorable when you're the daughter of a Mlala farmer, who is expected to be shy and a bit rough around the edges... but when you've just been told you are going to be queen of the known world, and that you have to unite two continents who have been bitter enemies for thousands of years, AND that you have to defeat a megalomaniac tyrant and his army of wicked faeries, then being insignificant and unnoticeable is probably going to make the whole thing an awful lot more difficult... which is not to say impossible .................

Moth's other extraordinary trait is that she never willingly gives up. She is determined, even stubborn. If this is what she has to do, then SHE WILL DO IT (gritted teeth and all). This leads to her other major deficiency... she tends to act first and think later...

10 June 2004.

I like Meae - sort of like Gaea - maybe you could bastardise one of the other "Gods" names - mars - war, chronos - time, thanatos - death, lachese, atropos, clotho - Fate, Nyx - Night, ummmm can't think of any other.

Nice Fantasy outline - there is a prophecy, a magical item - though usually it's a quest to get a magical item or make it work... Though you have a quest, you've got good and evil - now you just need a fellowship - in every fantasy there is a bunch of friends who help our hero through. You need some more people who can do magic. You need evil minions.

11 June 2004.

I like Maea too. For whatsisname, I am looking into Gaelic names... as the original home of the little people... seems appropriate... I'm quite happy with the outline... as you noticed, it has most of the required fantasy elements... the fellowship... exists in imagination... two members have introduced themselves to me so far and I can't wait to introduce them to you. I want to do a good job of it, though... maybe by Monday! I'm working on it :)

17 June 2004.

I've written part of the next installment on paper... should have a lovely long bit of story for you on Tuesday night...

Found watsisname's name... 'tis Gaelic... and a name I've always liked but not too common... "Aiden" pronounced AY-dan... or "Aedan" pronounced EH-thahn... or even "Aodhan" pronounced OOGH an!!! They are all versions of "Aodh" (pronounced OOGH... "Hugh" in English) which means "fire"... other spellings include Aodan, Aodhan, Aodhagan (don't ask me about pronunciation of them...)

I think I like Aedan best.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to name the three landmasses. I thought "Isle of Shadows" for the bit in the middle, but I guess that's a bit overused!!! I guess we shall have to get out our David Eddingsessssss and practice drawing maps, 'cause we're going to need one... I tried last night but it was pretty hopeless... that's when I realised I needed one to copy the style from... Eddings' are usually pretty simple - mountains, rivers, coastline - anyway, I have drawn a complete blank, both on the map and the names for the two continents and the island... don't really need them yet, but would feel better to know what they are, so thought I'd see what your creative mind suggested :)

Ahh, well, that's the end of my study break... back to environment impact assessment...

24 June 2004

OK, when we last saw Moth she was crouched in a cellar discovering the fantastic history of her family via her magic mirror. I'll skip that bit for now, since we know roughly what she will be told, but we don't know exactly how much she needs to know at this stage... we know she gets to look at a map & gets a potted history of the region... we know there's a war on & that Moth & Aedan are in danger & somehow the story has to bring them back together...

I've tried several times to write the tunnel... but it keeps getting out of control, so we shall rejoin Moth just as she reaches the end. To remind me when I write the tunnel in later... I'll just jot this down :)

~ the tunnel is very long. It takes Moth many hours to fight her way through long passages of dust and cobwebs. Very claustrophobic, at times the tunnel narrows, so small she has to crawl, shining the mirror's light ahead of her, but all she can see is swirling dust and the walls of the tunnel stretching on forever. At other times the tunnel twists and turns, curling back on itself until she loses all sense of direction. About three quarters of the way along, she is surprised to find herself at a T-intersection. The tunnel she is travelling through continues straight ahead, but another tunnel joins it. That tunnel looks like it has had even less use than the one she's in, though it is much better built, lined with blocks of heavy stone. A tree's roots have wormed their way through cracks in the stone and now form a grate across the entrance. She couldn't enter that tunnel if she wanted to. (I think she sees something on the floor of the other tunnel, something glinting through the dust. She kneels and reaches through the gaps in the barrier, but the tree's roots are too closely tangled for her to get her shoulder through, and the object remains just out of reach. I don't know what the object is yet, but that tunnel leads to the old, abandoned palace... it is the tunnel Jaylia used when she wandered from the palace, sound asleep. Maea has told Moth that she is to track Jaylia's path ~ her guide will know the way ~ to that door behind the thornbush... the entrance to the Storm King's Hall... and ask him to send help for Aedan's army... there's probably some sort of prophecy involved in all of this?)

Anyway... let's see what Moth is up to?

Moth staggered on through the thick, powdery dust. She was coated in it. Dust clogged her ears and her nose. It crusted the corners of her eyes and choked her throat, despite the thick scarf she had tied across her mouth. She felt that if she fell, the dust would simply settle over her, leaving no mark of her existence. She would drown in dust. She had started counting her steps when she left the blocked tunnel that branched from her own. Two thousand, three hundred and fifty four. Two thousand, three hundred and fifty five. She was very tired now, and grateful for the longer numbers which gave her an excuse to take slower steps. Her feet were dragging, raising even more dust. Step and count, step and count. There was no reason to it, just a monotonous rhythm to keep her moving. Suddenly she realised the light from the mirror was dimming. She had no idea what sort of power source it used and was petrified of being stranded in the dark and the dust after struggling for so long. Her feet kept moving forward as her mind despaired. When the light was gone, she would turn around and count her steps back to the tunnel with the tree roots. It had been comforting to think of them transporting nutrients up, up, up into the open air. She would lie down and die by its side and eventually she too would be siphoned up through longer narrower tunnels, eventually reaching the glory of those green leaves.

Wrapt in her thoughts and exhaustion, Moth did not notice the fresher air mixing with the dustclouds around her, or the gradual lightening as her surroundings changed from pitch black to deep grey. Then she blundered face first into something strong and sticky that tied itself around her as she struggled. She fought with all the energy she had left, striking out blindly in every direction. Then just as suddenly she was free, falling through the massive spider-web that veiled the tunnel's entrance, finding herself sprawling on soft grass in a small green clearing. The sky was pearly grey, just before sunrise, and as she lay there coughing the trees above her erupted into song. Hundreds of birds began their dawn chorus. Moth felt like singing too, she was so happy to be above ground once more.

A flash of scarlet flew by, and Moth watched a delicate robin splashing in a jewel-like pond, inset in the turf to one side of the clearing. Water! The leather bag she had filled from the barrel in the cellar was long since empty. The robin fluttered off to groom itself in the undergrowth and Moth quickly took its place. The water was icy cold and deliciously sweet. She drank deeply and washed the dust from her skin. Invigorated, she stood to survey her surroundings. There was no sign of any living creature, other than the birds. Where was the friend Ma had promised to send her?

Looking around the clearing, Moth spied something unusual. Perched on a rock near the tunnel's entrance was a small carved wooden bear. She had seen it before, on the shelf above the fireplace in Ma's kitchen. Moth ran over and picked it up, searching all around it for a message. There was nothing. Only the little figure of the bear. Moth turned it over, her fingers desperately trying to find a hidden panel or secret compartment. Nothing. The bear had been carved from a solid block of wood and no amount of probing could make it give up its secrets. It was so exasperating. Through all the long miles of tunnels she had consoled herself with the thought of company at the far end. Someone real to talk to, who would help her accept that this fantasy was also real, and advise her on what to do next. She had done everything Ma and Maea had asked of her and now they had let her down. She felt like throwing the bear and the mirror into the darkness of the forest and building a little hut for herself in the clearing. Then she remembered that the soldiers who had ransacked Ma's house would soon widen their search. Eventually they would find her and then... she didn't know what would happen after that. Nor did she want to find out.

She looked around again. There were three paths leading out from the clearing in different directions, with nothing to distinguish one from another. With the dense forest all around her, Moth couldn't even catch a glimpse of the rising sun. She normally had a good sense of direction, but she felt like she'd been turned inside out in the tunnels. She wasn't even sure about up and down anymore! Perhaps the mirror...? No. Even after she'd washed the dust from its surface, the only thing reflected there was her own anxious face. She tried to will Maea's reflection to appear, but the mirror stubbornly stayed a mirror. That only left the little bear. The wood was warm and comforting to her touch. He felt so solid and strong against her palm.

"What am I supposed to do with you?" she sighed. "This is stupid. What help can you be?"

"Put me down."

Moth jumped to her feet, scanning the clearing for the source of the sound. 'About time!' she thought, preparing to meet her rescuer. There was no-one there, except the little scarlet robin, who was darting after insects on the edge of the pool.

"Where are you?" Moth demanded. "I'm not in the mood to play games."

"Neither am I," the voice replied. "I am in your hand. Put me down."

Moth started. The only thing she had in her hand was the carved wooden bear. She dropped it like a hot coal onto the thick grass. It lay there for a moment and she wondered whether she was actually insane. Then it started to grow. Slowly at first, then faster, and as it grew, it changed. The wood rippled into fur. Thick, luxurious bear fur. The wood sharpened into claws. Strong, curved bear claws. The wood growled into life. Roaring, snarling bear life. Moth stood, too stunned to move, as the massive bear thrust its snout close to her face. Its small, fierce eyes were angry. "You'd better count your blessings, girl," the bear rumbled. "If Ma hadn't ordered me to protect you..." he stopped, and Moth noticed a huge tear rolling from the corner of his eye and vanishing in the luxurious fur.

"What about Ma?" she asked.

"Ma's dead." the bear replied bluntly, staring at her with those small, sad, angry eyes. Moth stared back, her own eyes wide with shock.

"When?" Perhaps she shouldn't have left the cellar. There must have been something there she could have used as a weapon. The bear snorted, seeming to read her thoughts.

"She wouldn't let me save her," he said. "She knew what was going to happen and she made me promise. I was to wait here for you and to give you the same loyalty I have always given her. How can I do that? She carved me with her own hands. Her breath gave me life. You got her killed. How am I supposed to serve you?"

Moth's knees turned to jelly and she sank to the ground, retching violently. She hadn't asked for any of this, and yet, the bear was right. It was her fault if Ma was dead. A whole lot more people were going to be dead soon, and she would be responsible for all of them. This was her fabulous destiny, getting Ma killed and being yelled at by a wooden bear. It was almost funny. She stifled a hysterical giggle. Aedan's image filled her mind. He was still bending over the map table, just as she'd seen him in the mirror so many hours ago, but now he was alone. He looked incredibly sad and tired. How could he know about Ma so quickly? Moth wondered, swallowing another wave of guilt. Then she realised. He didn't. He was carrying the same weight she had buckled under and he had been carrying it for years. Those far away glances she had interrupted, on the journey from her home to Ma's, where he would drag his gaze back from the distance and force a cheerful smile for her benefi. She had wondered then what he was thinking. Now she thought she knew. He was a commander, and he was fighting a war. Thousands of people were being killed on both sides, all because of him. Here she was collapsing under her own emotions because one very intelligent and capable old woman had voluntarily sacrificed her life for them and their cause. How much harder must it be for Aedan, forced to make decisions which would cost many innocent lives. She couldn't afford to be weak, whatever she might feel inside. He needed her much more than she needed him. The realisation filled her with determination.

"Come on." Rising to her feet, Moth gathered together the bags she had carried through the tunnel. She splashed her face and refilled the waterbag at the pool. The bear watched her, resting its sorrowful snout on its paws. Moth looked at the three paths, shouldering her bags. "Which way?" The bear sighed and rose to his feet. The sun had been creeping skywards and was almost peeking over the high horizon of the forest edge.

"Climb up," he said.


"We've got a long way to go, and we've got to travel quickly. You've been walking most of the night. You're exhausted. Climb up and hang on tight."

"Oh." Moth did as she was told, only then realising how truly tired she was. She had been running on adrenaline for so long, she was beginning to feel invincible. The bear bent down and she clambered on to his back, burying her hands in fur as thick and soft as her father's best Mlala. "What do I call you?" she whispered into his fuzzy ear as her head drooped against his neck.

"Ma called me Bruin," he grunted shortly. "Tie yourself on with that scarf. I don't want you tumbling off when you fall asleep."

Moth opened her mouth to argue, then shut it again. She took the scarf and wrapped it around her waist. The ends she knotted into the long, stiff bristles of Bruin's ruff. The moment she was secure he took off, quickly settling into a sloping canter that soon left the clearing far behind them. With her hands buried deep in Bruin's silky undercoat, Moth felt warm and safe. The movement reminded her of Maea's old rocking chair. As she sank into a dreamless sleep, Moth felt a memory tugging at her consciousness. The arms and legs of that rocking chair had been carved into bear paws. She was tempted to believe that she had dreamed the whole marriage and everything that had followed from it. Perhaps even now she was sleeping in her Grandmother's chair. Any moment her mother would call her to help with carding the Mlala wool. "In a minute, Mama," she muttered, sliding her arms deeper under Bruin's pelt.

25 June 2004

Wow - looks like it's powering along well - at times it feels a bit "adventure gamey - bit of King's Quest, bit of Space Quest - but it's a quest she's on so... forge ahead - I thought of a name for the Island - I think you should call it Araluen. The names of the continenets not sure but they should end in A :)

I've discovered I like Bulgarian as a language for names.

Bear = mechka
Buterfly = peperuda
wing = krilo
blackbird = vrabche
Memory = pamete
north = sever
south = yug
east = iztok (I like that one)
west = zapad

lol ... love the Bulgarian :)

Bulgarian for 'at home' = vkqshti! How do you pronounce that???

My suggestions, using your translator :)

Island = Ailha (island in Portuguese)
Moth land = Mariposa (butterfly in Spanish)
other land = Zanzara (mosquito in Italian)

PS. I must admit I like yug. I can see Moth travelling yug-iztok for a while :)

28 June 2004

Ooh they sound good!! I likey!! Do you still want me to throw questions at you - you seem to be doing well yugging along :)

Questions! more questions! Can't do anything without your inspiration :P

29 June 2004

Ok I have lots of questions for Moth's friends and enemies - If you want you can either pick one and work through it till the end or answer the question for all the main characters - may not be useful in the story but it will help you work out who they are. You've done this for Moth; let's do it for them...What is their favorite thing?

The Moth's Footprints: Episode One
~ The Moth's Footprints: Episode Two
The Moth's Footprints: Episode Three
The Moth's Footprints: Episode Four

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