Fractal Myth

The Moth's Footprints: Episode Three.

[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).

4 July 2004

Gotta go... stopping mid-sentence, so to speak, but better than nothing I guess :)

All day Bruin ran, slowing only for obstacles, never for fatigue. His long loping strides carried them far from the cottage. All day Moth slept soundly, nestled in his thick, soft fur. She woke once, with icy water splashing around her legs. They were midway across a wildly foaming river. Instinctively, Moth tightened her grip around Bruin's neck.

"Don't choke me," he growled.

"Get off," he said, once they were safely on the far shore. Moth dismounted, silently thanking Ma for the waterproof clothes she was wearing. Her legs were dry, but sore from straddling the bear's broad back. She giggled at the thought ~ she had been riding a bear! A bear who was now showering her in a rainbow of sparkling drops as he shook himself dry.

Once they were underway again, Moth tried to engage her companion in conversation.

"Go back to sleep," he grunted. "I can't talk and run, and if we don't get there by sundown, we'll miss them."

Moth resisted the temptation to ask where 'there' was, or even who 'they' were. Bruin seemed to know what he was doing and what choice did she have? Besides, she was surprised to discover that she was still very tired. Bruin's pace was hypnotic and before she realised it, she had involuntarily obeyed his instructions.

The next time Moth awoke, it was to find herself lying on a bank of sweet grass, in a small clearing. Bruin was nowhere to be seen and it was close to sunset. For a moment Moth wondered whether she had been bitten by that spider at the tunnel's exit and had dreamed the day's journey, but then Bruin backed into the clearing, dragging a large branch. Moth had a small sheathed axe in her bag and before long she was roasting dried apples over a little fire.

Just as she was licking the last sticky drips of juice from her wrist, Moth heard a sound outside the wavering ring of light. She turned to Bruin who growled softly but didn't move. Seconds later a ragged boy appeared, two heavy fish swung on twine over his shoulder.

"Hello, Princess!" he said, with a cheeky grin. "Looks like we're running on schedule then."

"Who are you?" Moth asked, wondering whether she was more startled by his words or his appearance.

"M'name's 'Arry, Princess. 'Arry Gould. M'Gran's tole me all about you 'n' your mission. 'M 'ere ta help."

Moth surveyed his skinny frame. Bare feet, torn trousers, a rough leather vest, and a shock of rusty hair. He looked strong and resilient, but...

"How old are you?"

" 'M seventeen, Princess." She looked at him and his freckles ran together into a blush. "Fifteen?" he tried hopefully. She shook her head. "Alright, so 'm thirteen. But where I'm from, thirteen's a man, tried 'n' true."

"Are you alone? And don't call me Princess."

"Yes, Pri... miss. Juss me."

"Liar." Bruin's voice was loud from the shadows. "I have asked your friend to join us in the light. If you are going to travel with us, I suggest you don't try to deceive us again."

The boy strained his eyes into the darkness, trying to see who had spoken. "That's you, Sir Bruin. M'Gran tole me 'bout you, too. But it's no use you tellin' my friend what to do. She don' listen to no-one but me." He threw his chest out proudly, and ostentatiously brought his fingers up to whistle. Before he could make a sound, however, a silver hound separated herself from the surrounding forest and slunk to his side. His lungs deflated, crestfallen, and he looked at her accusingly. She looked back with a quizzical, toothy smile.

"Sorry, m'dear," she said. Her voice was sad and gentle. "You can't expect me to ignore a full-grown bear!"

Harry's eyes were wide and he stepped back suddenly, almost dropping his fish. "Y... you talked!"

"Of course, dear. I've always been able to talk. There just wasn't much point at home with all your sisters around. You'd never have heard me. Now, be a good boy and start cooking those fish. If you don't show the Princess and Sir Bruin how useful you are, they won't agree to take us along."

Bruin chuckled. "I don't think we get a say in it, do we? You two seem to be familiar with the prophecy. I guess you've been chosen by all the usual portents?"

"Yup," Harry grinned, spearing the fish on a sharp green stick. "Fifteen chickens, the headman sacrificed, and each one read the same. Silver and gold. The headman was furious. He wanted to send his son."

5 July 2004.

that was good :)

6 July 2004.

I have three pages of notes scribbled in pencil here, but no time to turn them into type... turned out Myth had more memories than I expected :) so I'll scribble some more tonight, and tomorrow you can have 5 or 6 pages... or maybe more... MWAAHHHAAAAHHHAAAAAAAAAAAA

7 July 2004.

Drumroll please.... And now something we have all been waiting for... THE MAP!

Moth's map

Hubby has been helping me with it :) so it makes sense in the real world too! Zanzara and Ailha have not been filled in yet... will wait to see what the plot requires... here's a close-up of Mariposa...

Closeup of Moth's map

The green lumpy things are the mountains, the squiggly green things are forests.

Key to Moth's map

Blue lines are rivers, purple lines are roads. Purple curves are bridges.

Large fuschia dots are major towns. Small red dots are minor towns. Small red crosses are villages.

The large peach dot is the ruined remains of the capital city destroyed in the war between Mariposa and Zanzara (600-540 years ago).

There are rocks in the water between Mariposa and Ailha, so boats can't get through that way.

So much for the environment. Now to the plot.

1 = the mlala pastures where Moth grew up. These are scattered amongst the hills, in a number of communities. See the red dot in the middle of the road which divides the island? That's the market town where Moth's father sells his fleece. It's also the place where he met Aedan (Moth's husband).

2 = Ma Blissel's cottage hidden in the forest

3 = the campfire where Moth & Bruin meet Harry & Darina (the dog)

4 = Harry's village

5 = Where Aedan & his army are camped (in the village).

6 = the entrance to the Hall of the Storm King (gotta change that name!)... anyway, the place where the companions must travel next...

7 = the enemy armies

The enemy controls the west half of the island. The mlala herding communities have been garrisoned, and they are preventing the armies crossing through the hills. Aedan is keeping the enemy from crossing the big bridge across the harbour, and their fear of ghosts in the ruins has stopped them coming through the only remaining gap... make sense?

Next... back to the story :)

8 July 2004.

ooooohhh ahhhhhhh the lost map of Mariposa - are you going to build a 3d scaled map so you can work out terrain? lol... looks good but where did the army come from? they are at the bottom of the world invading?? I suppose it will all come to light as the story progresses...

lol... let's see about that army... in my previous rambling I had suggested that

"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..."

Those mountains to the west are no good for Mlala farming, but they are rich in minerals, and there is a lot of other industy in the area - the west is more developed than the east, which is mainly forest... so the tyrant merchant army has conquered the west & is now attacking the east... if they kill either Aedan or Moth, the prophecy fails & they win...

I don't think I'm going to get time to type more story tonight... what I've got scribbled down mainly involves Bruin explaining the map and what's going to happen next :) Sorry not to have reams of reading for you today... but I should make up for that over the weekend!

11 July 2004.

Where we were up to...

"Yup," Harry grinned, spearing the fish on a sharp green stick. "Fifteen chickens, the headman sacrificed, and each one read the same. Silver and gold. The headman was furious. He wanted to send his son."

Now read on... (sorry some of it's real sappy, but hey, at least the story's moving forward :)

The boy's eyes glazed over for a second and his lips moved. He was obviously trying to remember something. When he spoke again, his voice had a haunting quality that sent shivers down Moth's spine.

"When two sisters glow between sunrise and moonrise
and grandmother knits on the crest of Stonehill,
a pair will be chosen by natural portents:
a two-leg and four-leg who work with one will.

"The headman argued that 'cause he was the richest man in the village, the 'silver and gold' portents obviously referred to his son, and his horse. You shoulda seen Tom Jarney prancing back and forth like a peacock on his dadda's plough-horse. He looked ridiculous but I was sure they'd choose him. Then suddenly this sunbeam shone through a hole in the clouds. It was right in front of me, so I just stepped into the brightness with Darine at my side. Gran pointed, 'n' that was that. 'Course, pa didn't want me t' go. He don't set much store in prophecies, 'cept for seasons, 'n' when t' plant. Ma 'n' Gran said diff'rent tho', 'n' here we are."

"Yes," said Moth. "Here you are. But where is here? It would be really helpful if someone could give me some idea of where we're going, and what's expected of me when we get there!" She was more than a little upset, feeling that she had been carted from place to place with everyone knowing more than she did about why she was there. Harry looked confused and opened his mouth, but Bruin got in first.

"You're right. We need to talk strategy." He shot a look at Harry and Darine, sprawled comfortably together. "Some of us have the sense to admit we don't know everything." A huge paw cleared a patch of dirt by the fire and Bruin sketched a rough map with a claw that looked far too large for the task. Moth recognised the butterfly-shaped land masses she'd seen Aedan studying. Was it only the night before? It seemed like aeons.

Bruin growled to make sure he had everyone's attention. "This is Zanzara," he announced, pointing to the topmost continent. "That's Aedan's homeland." He looked at Moth and she could have sworn he smiled at her, but when he went on, the bear's voice was as rough as ever. "My homeland too, and..." he stopped, midsentence. Moth could hear the name he couldn't say. Ma. She put her hand awkwardly on his paw. He shook it off brusquely and went on with his explanation.

"Ailha is the island in the middle. That's where the prophecy says you and Aedan will build your palace, once you succeed in uniting the two continents."

"The prophecy again." Moth was still annoyed. "This thing that's controlling my life. How come I'm the only one that knows nothing about it?"

"But you do!" Moth stared at Bruin, ready to argue, but he didn't give her the chance. "The prophecy exists only in the fairytales of the people. Think. You learnt it so well, it's a part of you!" Moth considered the implications of that statement. It was true, Harry's fragment of poetry had struck a chord in her. Something she couldn't quite get a grip on, though she knew it had not been in verse. What was it? The stories Maea told always had one of two beginnings. Every story began either "Once upon a time, a long time ago..." or "Once upon a time, in a time yet to come..." The story she was trying to remember belonged in the latter category.

"Once upon a time, in a time yet to come, twin stars will be seen ashining through sunlight and a third star will rock on the crest of a hill. 'Tis then the companions will leave their small village, chosen by mystic portents and signs. Two days they will travel to meet the lost princess, where she waits, with her protector, roasting apples on a fire."

Harry looked impressed. "Wow, sounds better without all the rhyming. That's us, Darine, the companions!"

"But..." Moth stopped and everyone looked at her expectantly. "But that story's about the return of Princess Jaylia!"

"And?" Bruin looked at her. "Don't tell me your parents christened you Moth! What's your real name?" Moth blushed. No-one ever called her by her real name. She'd almost forgotten what Maea had insisted she be called.

"Jaylia," she admitted grudgingly. "But if you call me anything but Moth I'll roast you until you burn, like those fish Harry's supposed to be watching!" Harry jumped. He had been so engrossed in the conversation he had neglected his cooking duties. He hastily transferred the charred fish to a large, clean leaf and apologetically offered them to the party. They ate as they talked. Once the distraction had passed, Moth tried again. "I'm still not a princess!"

"'fraid you are, m'dear," Bruin said, in a fair imitation of the condescending tone Darine used with Harry. "Your husband's official title is Crown Prince Aedan, Overlord of Zanzara in exile. You married him so that makes you a Princess."

Moth was insulted. "Excuse me? For a start, the marriage has yet to be consummated, and if that weren't enough, I believe I outrank him in Mariposa already. I am Princess Jaylia of the Dream Lake, Holder of the Key and the People's Beloved." She had pronounced that same title so often in games with Talyn (her sister), that it sounded natural to claim it as her own.

"You said it!" Bruin winked and Moth realised he'd tricked her. Fiction and reality swam confusingly together, but she had no time to think. What Bruin was saying was important.

"Here is your castle. It has been in ruins for 500 years. The first Jaylia's parents exhausted the royal fortune searching for her and after they died, the government they left behind couldn't function." Moth, Harry and Darine watched intently as Bruin filled in his map, controlling his immense claws with surprising delicacy. "We are in the forests of Mariposa, here. These are the Dividing Ranges, with the Mlala pastures to the west and mainly mining in the east. In front of the castle ruins is the Dream Lake, which is actually an inlet. The mountains are practically impassable, so the only way to get from the east to the west, or vice versa, is through the ruins or across the Dream Bridge. In 500 years, no-one has achieved it. All those who try come wandering back the way they came, with their wits scrambled. There weren't many. No-one had much desire to travel in the early days. Most people were happy simply to have survived the wars.

"Once the dust settled, the two halves of the continent developed along separate lines. The west was mainly peaceful and democratic, maintaining the traditional patterns of herding and farming. The east, however, has known nothing but turmoil. Warlord after warlord has fought for control of the rich mineral deposits and fertile floodplains. For hundreds of years the land was divided into perpetually fighting feudal holdings. The constant war between themselves stopped any attempts from making contact with the east. Recently, however, things have changed. One man has managed to unite these petty kingdoms under his control. He is a tyrant who dreams of domination. His name is Inimigo Vrag.

"The prophecy is just as strong in people's stories in the west as in the east. Different versions, different dialects but underneath it all, the same. Vrag does not believe in the prophecy, or rather, he believes he can twist it to his own ends. That's why he has been trying to kill you, and that's why Aedan has garrisoned the Mlala communities, to guard the mountain passes. The bulk of his army, and Aedan himself, are currently encamped here, in the village of Calleja. There they can watch both the Dream Bridge and the ruins. Apart from large groups constantly scouting for a passage through the mountains, Vrag's army are based here, on the shores of the Dream Lake." Bruin looked up. His deep eyes were serious under his shaggy eyebrows. He placed his claw on a spot equidistant from the ruins and Vrag's army. "Somewhere here in the foothills of the mountains is a small thornbush and behind that, the entrance to Burya Quemar, the Hall of the Storm King. That is where we must go." Moth swallowed and tried to force herself to think. The spot Bruin had marked was clearly behind enemy lines, but that was a minor detail just now. She had more pressing worries.

"My family?" she asked. Bruin looked concerned.

"Your father's pastures are here, in the narrowest section of the mountains. The community is well-protected, but of all the herders, they are the most at risk."

Moth nodded. "I've met people from the west. Miners who ventured too deep into the mountains, explorers who lost their way. My father always gave them hospitality and helped them retrace their steps in the spring. I can't imagine any of them turning against the family that saved their lives, but if they could find a way through, so can others."

"Don't worry. Aedan and your father know the risks. They have the situation under control, for the moment."

"Under control?" Moth's voice rose in a disbelieving wail. "Under control? What about Ma? If the mountain passes are guarded and there is no way to get past Aedan, then how could those three murderers come after me?"

Bruin winced. "They had a boat. Just a small fishing vessel, but large enough to circle out to sea and come in behind Aedan's lines. The villages along the shore had been warned, but apparently the assassins had pouches of gold and were able to buy their way ashore."

"What's to stop the rest of the army coming that way and avoiding Aedan entirely?"

"They don't have the wood. Forests in the west are mainly swamplands. They grow softwoods and saplings, not hardwood like this. That's why Vrag is intent on conquering the west. He plans to fell the forests and build himself a fleet of battleships capable of launching an attack on Zanzara."

"That's sick," Harry exclaimed. Moth looked at him curiously. "These trees aren't just wood! They're living creatures." Moth smiled tolerantly, but he could tell she still didn't get it. "You've lived in the Mlala pastures. How do you honour the little people?"

Moth still couldn't see where he was going, but there was no harm in answering his question. "At dawn and dusk, every day, each household in the community places a saucer of milk and honey on their doorstep. We close the doors and everyone waits inside until the bells ring. If someone forgets, or if anyone in the house tries to sneak a peek, things in that house will go wrong for the next month. Nothing major, just lots of little things, but everyone will know the reason."

"So they don't trust you enough to show themselves. Gran always said the mountain pixies were stand-offish. Down here in the farmlands we have a closer relationship. Especially with the trees. I don't suppose you've ever seen a dryad?" Moth shook her head.

"Stop showing off, dear," Darine's voice was gentle as always. "And don't forget to ask nicely! Your manners leave a lot to be desired."

Harry stepped outside the ring of firelight and pressed his hands against the bark of a large tree.

12 July 2004.

looks like you're on a bit of a roll - more more - just make sure your prophecy in the end isn't too obvious - once it's happened you should be able to read it and go 'yeah now it makes sense' but before it happens it should be fairly obscure :) don't want the bad guys to be able to decipher it and know too much - rules of prophecy writing - taken from what I remember Belgareth telling Garion!

lol... I can see I am going to have to get my Narnia books out and get some more ideas about dryads... I'm getting a bit bogged down here! That's what I mean about rewriting... a lot of this will probably be cut in the end (unless we're writing even thicker books than Mr Eddings!) hmmm can see i need to get some more ideas on paper again... last night I took a sidetrack, trying to work out how the silver & gold fitted in with the sacrificed chickens!!! I think Harry's gran will tell that story! *sigh* I keep wishing Sparhawk would ride through :) I love that tall, rusty knight & his big, bad-tempered horse...

"Jenna? Jenna, are you in there?" he sounded like he was calling another child out to play. Moth was astounded to see a slender green arm reach out from the tree and rap its knuckles on top of Harry's head.

"Are you in there! What sort of a stupid question is that? Where else would I be? And you don't listen, do you? What did Darine just say? Or is that your definition of nicely? You horrible little boy. I'd ask my tree to throw nuts at you, but you'd only gather them up and eat them, like you did last time." The scolding continued as the dryad detached herself from her home. Her arms and upper torso were soft shades of green, while her legs were tanned like mottled bark. It was her toes which Moth found most interesting. They were extremely elongated and curled into the thick mossy ground as though they were trying to take root. Her voice was also unusual, high and shrill as a bird's. Moth was relieved when she stopped talking, but she'd only paused to draw breath. "You! You big brute!" she shrieked, pointing at Bruin. "You should know better as well, trying to burn my tree down without so much as a by-your-leave or if-you-please." Bruin hung his head, pretending to be ashamed. "Oh no! The old days are gone and no-one cares for the little folk anymore!" Moth couldn't help giggling. The dryad was several heads taller than she was and seemed well able to take care of herself. "Think that's funny, do you?" the creature continued, turning on Moth. "Great princess you're going to make. Beloved of the people, indeed. Hmph."

Harry laughed and threw his arms around the dryad, hugging her tight. Her long green arms wrapped almost twice around him as she hugged back. "Jenna, these are my new friends. I'm going to have to go away for a while, so I won't be able to play with you."

"I know. You'd think trees were deaf and blind the way you talk in front of us and expect us not to hear. It's very rude, you know."

"Yes, it is," Moth said. "I'm sorry. I've never met anyone like you before."

13 July 2004.

Sparhawk was lovely - your bear is a little gruff like Sparhawk - ok info about dryads from my store of memories:

1. They can't go very far from their tree
2. Whatever happens to their tree happens to them
3. They live as long as their tree
4. Personality links with the tree - weeping willows are sad etc
5. A dryad either lives in a tree, in which case she is called a hamadryad, or close to it. So I guess yours is technically a hamadryad
6. Dryads will punish anyone who injures their trees.

16 July 2004.

Once she started chattering, Jenna was unstoppable. "I am 250 years old this spring. How often do you think I get company, here in this forest? If it wasn't for Harry's family, I'd have gone insane. The others all stay in their trees. They don't believe in talking to humans." She laughed gaily. "Harry's Grandmother used to visit me when she was younger, and her Grandfather before that. If I didn't talk to humans, I wouldn't know anything about goblins and giants and pixies and elves and fairies and gnomes and ..."

Moth wasn't sure exactly when she fell asleep, with her head pillowed on Bruin's paw. She woke in the cold light before dawn to find a leaf tickling her ear. Jenna put her finger to her lips and beckoned. Bruin, Harry and Darine were all snoring harmoniously. Moth stifled a giggle and carefully got to her feet. Jenna's whisper was a rustle of dried leaves.

"I can't go far from my tree, but others will guide you. The trees want to give you their blessing." In contrast to giggling girl Moth had met the night before, Jenna now seemed sombre and alien. There was a strange serenity about her and she held her head constantly to one side as though she were listening to voices in the leaves far above. "Come, they are ready. Follow my sisters, but keep your silence with them. This is not a time for words."

A white mist had crept along the ground as they waited. Moth looked back at her sleeping companions.

"It's all right," Jenna reassured her. "There are only friends in this forest." Moth took Jenna's outstretched green hand, feeling bones that were light and birdlike but surprisingly strong. A few minutes later they had covered the distance to the next large tree. Jenna's rough lips touched Moth's cheek. "Silence," she whispered.

The hamadryad who peeled herself from the tree scowled and shook her head at Jenna. Brusquely taking Moth's hand, she led her on into the forest. As she was handed from tree-dweller to tree-dweller, Moth began to feel increasingly surreal. The mist confused her sense of direction. She had the feeling she was walking in a slowly decreasing spiral. The hamadryads were all tall and slender, but there the resemblance ended. They were all the colours and textures of the forest.

Moth found herself looking ahead to each large tree, trying to guess what the creature inside would look like. She became so engrossed in her game that she ws surprised when her guide finally stopped in a clearing in the centre of the forest. The mist clung to the base of the trees and a small round pond in the middle of the clearing glittered in the morning light. The hamadryad by her side melted back into the forest and Moth realised she was alone. She wasn't frightened. Jenna had said she was among friends and there was nothing threatening about this peaceful spot. She sat on a large rock where she could look into the pool, and waited for something to happen.

Although there was an opening of pearly dawn sky above her, the still surface of the pond seemed to reflect a thousand fluttering leaves. Moth could hear them whispering all around her, wishing her well, talking of what had been and what was to come, until the whispering filled her head and flooded her body. She was entranced by it, unable to do anything but watch as an emerald serpent, a tree python the thickness of her finger, came gliding from the forest towards her. It slithered over her boot and wound delicately up her leg, beneath the waistband of her short jacket, and between the buttons of her shirt. She didn't even shiver when its small, pointed head pushed through the armhole of her vest and slid along her skin, around her neck. She could feel the dry length of its tail between her breasts and a forked tongue flickered at her earlobe.

"I am Ssaniss," the snake hissed. "I am a gift from the treess. I am your ssecret."

The spell that had been holding Moth still was broken. Wonderingly, she held her arm up. In one, smooth movement, Ssaniss coiled herself around Moth's wrist, rearing her arrow-shaped head up to face Moth. Her eyes were black and emotionless. She had needle-sharp fangs.

"Yess," she said. "I am venemouss. But you are ssafe with me. We are friendss. Yess?"

Moth looked into the snake's blank eyes and instinctively liked and trusted the animal.

"Yes."

"You musst tell no-one."

"But..." Moth hesitated. "Bruin?"

"He already knowss. He lisstenss to the treess."

"... and Aedan, my husband. I don't know him very well yet, but our partnership will not go well if I begin by keeping secrets from him."

Ssaniss considered this. "Perhapss. I will deccide when I ssee him."

Moth was satisfied. Looking up, she realised that the hamadryad had reappeared at the edge of the clearing, but she wasn't quite ready to leave. The trees had given her a valuable gift. What had she to give in return? Her glance fell on the moonstone glowing in her wedding ring. Not that. Nestled on the little finger next to it was a plain ring of silver wire. Her sister had made it for her, weaving strands of hair from all the family through it. Other than Jaylia's mirror, it was the possession she valued most. She slipped it from her finger and dropped it in the pool.

Ssaniss vanished inside her clothing as she stood up, and together they went to meet the waiting hamadryad. Her hair was pale green, but her skin was powdery white with brown rings and spots. Moth remembered her tree, a gigantic Birch. As they approached it, she focussed, trying to single its voice out from the rustle of the surrounding forest. When they arrived at its base, she did not immediately take the outstretched hand of the next guide. Instead, she turned and placed both hands against the tree's broad trunk. She thought words in her head and let them thrill through her body, pushing them out through her palms and fingertips into the tree. "Thank you!"

The tree shook and for a moment her hands sank into and became one with the tree. Too quickly, she was herself again, taking the next hamadryad's hand and following her back to her living home. At each changeover she repeated her gesture of gratitude and one by one each tree accepted her into itself for just a moment. By the time she finally found herself holding Jenna's hand once more, she was exhausted. She pressed her hands into the rough bark of Jenna's tree, pouring out her gratitude for the strength and courage the forest had given her. When the tree released her Moth was totally drained. If Harry hadn't caught her and lowered her to the ground, she would have fallen like a log. As she drifted out of consciousness she could feel Ssaniss settling comfortably across her waist and hear Jenna chirping about the impression she had made. Apparently, there hadn't been so much conversation amongst the forest dwellers since Harry's great-grandparents had descended from the mountains and stopped to pay their respects.

"They're all accusing me of telling her what to do," Jenna complained, "but I didn't. I swear."

"Of course you didn't," Bruin's reassuring voice was soft. Moth strained to stay awake long enough to hear what he was saying. "The trees know that. The trees understand how important this is."

21 July 2004.

The snake is a little David Eddingsie - how about a spider that sits in her hair as a "decorative comb"? I can think of 101 uses for silk that can be spun to whatever design is needed :) otherwise good...

A spider? hmmm... *mentally deletes several items from the next installment... sees how that looks* I agree about the snake being too familiar *sigh* but a spider? much harder to write... Moth's already had a run-in with a spider's web, at the exit from the tunnel... interesting... let's see how it sounds... & what am I going to name it??? *goes to look up spider in the translation dictionary... arana (spanish)? aranha (portuguese)? not bad...

Ok, you've convinced me :) Moth's new friend will be a Martinique Pinktoe Tarantula!!! spiderlings are pretty metallic blue; they are lovely and hairy; as they get older & moult they turn red, and they build heavy webs; they eat crickets and are docile but flighty; they go through gorgeous colour stages & are really lovely! I'll call her ARANHA. What dost thou think??? Will she do? :D

Although there was an opening of pearly dawn sky above her, the still surface of the pond seemed to reflect a thousand fluttering leaves. Moth could hear them whispering all around her, wishing her well, talking of what had been and what was to come, until the whispering filled her head and flooded her body. She was entranced by it, frozen, unable to do anything but watch as a metallic blue-green spider came gliding down a strand of silk towards her. It spread its hairy feet to land delicately on her knee, then crept with careful movements across the leather of her short jacket. She didn't even shiver when it made the transition to her skin and sauntered around the base of her neck. She could feel the soft tickle of its almost weightless body as it settled near her earlobe.

"I am Aranha," the spider said, in a soft, clicking voice. "I come from the trees. I am their gift."

The spell that had been holding Moth still was broken. Wonderingly, she held her arm up. In a lightning fast leap, Aranha landed on Moth's wrist, a strand of silk still anchoring her to Moth's shoulder. Her multi-faceted eyes were black and glittering. Small sharp fangs nestled behind the thick fur that covered her thorax, round abdomen and stumpy legs.

"Yes," she said. "I am venemous. But you are safe with me. We are friends. Yes?"

Moth looked into the spider's many eyes and instinctively liked and trusted the animal.

"Yes."

"You must tell no-one."

"But..." Moth hesitated. "Bruin?"

"He already knows. He listens to the trees."

"... and Aedan, my husband. I don't know him very well yet, but our partnership will not go well if I begin by keeping secrets from him."

Aranha considered this. "Perhaps. I will decide when I see him."

Moth was satisfied. Looking up, she realised that the hamadryad had reappeared at the edge of the clearing, but she wasn't quite ready to leave. The trees had given her a valuable gift. What had she to give in return? Her glance fell on the moonstone glowing in her wedding ring. Not that. Nestled on the little finger next to it was a plain ring of silver wire. Her sister had made it for her, weaving strands of hair from all the family through it. Other than Jaylia's mirror, it was the possession she valued most. She slipped it from her finger and dropped it in the pool.

Aranha vanished inside her clothing as she stood up, and together they went to meet the waiting hamadryad. Her hair was pale green, but her skin was powdery white with brown rings and spots. Moth remembered her tree, a gigantic Birch. As they approached it, she focussed, trying to single its voice out from the rustle of the surrounding forest. When they arrived at its base, she did not immediately take the outstretched hand of the next guide. Instead, she turned and placed both hands against the tree's broad trunk. She thought words in her head and let them thrill through her body, pushing them out through her palms and fingertips into the tree. "Thank you!"

The tree shook and for a moment her hands sank into and became one with the tree. Too quickly, she was herself again, taking the next hamadryad's hand and following her back to her living home. At each changeover she repeated her gesture of gratitude and one by one each tree accepted her into itself for just a moment. By the time she finally found herself holding Jenna's hand once more, she was exhausted. She pressed her hands into the rough bark of Jenna's tree, pouring out her gratitude for the strength and courage the forest had given her. When the tree released her Moth was totally drained. If Harry hadn't caught her and lowered her to the ground, she would have fallen like a log. As she drifted out of consciousness she could feel Aranha moving underneath her clothing and hear Jenna chirping about the impression she had made. Apparently, there hadn't been so much conversation amongst the forest dwellers since Harry's great-grandparents had descended from the mountains and stopped to pay their respects.

22 July 2004

much better

27 July 2004

lol... ummm, yeah :) slight change of direction??? or perchance, have I just been reading too much science-fiction lately??? well, this is an hour's worth... methinks I'd better do some more plot planning... it's going to be hard work stretching this forest episode out any longer :D lol... hope you think it's worth the read... ;P

Moth leaned back, peeling the delicate array of the neural-net from her hair. She flung it down on the table in front of her and stared accusingly at Jol.

"Come off it," she said. "You asked me to test your new game. I agreed. But you promised me excitement and adventure, and all this character ever seems to do is fall asleep! This is stupid. And what's with the spider? I hate spiders! Couldn't it have been a pet snake? Now that would be really cool..."

Jol grinned and began untangling the neural net. "You give up too easy," he drawled. "Start's supposed to be slow. Ease you into it... get you up to speed. If I just threw you in straight into a goblin battle or something, there'd be no context. You'd never believe it. So tell me... what you're experiencing... does it feel real?"

Moth nodded in spite of herself. She could still feel the fuzzy weight of Aranha snuggled against her breast. She caught herself peering suspiciously inside her shirt but there was nothing there. She tried to concentrate on the rest of the story & ignore that detail. "That bit with the bear... after the river... you know, the shower of sparkling rainbows. I really liked that bit. The stuff in the cellar with Ma wasn't frightening enough, and the tunnels... yawn! You're going to have to do better than this, my friend. Stop sending your heroine to sleep at every opportunity... you're going to lose your audience. Look, you almost lost me, and I like your work... the mainstream'd chew you up and spit you out. And what made you think it'd be a good idea to introduce me to that hunk of a husband and then send him off to war without so much as a wedding night?"

Jol's grin widened and he tapped faster at his keyboard. "Gotta give ya something ta look forward too," he grunted. "Guess I did get under ya skin after all, huh? Had enough or d'ya wanna see what happens next?"

Moth sighed and picked up the neural net. Several strands of the shimmering fibre were still twisted together. She teased them apart and pulled the net across her dark curls. "It better be worth it," she mock-threatened. "I'm sure there are thousands of things I could be doing instead of playing guinea-pig for you and your stupid fantasies."

"Yeah, like starving on the street, or zoning out in some club somewhere like the rest of that gang of zombies I rescued you from."

"Rescued, my arse," Moth snarled, poking her tongue out at him. "I simply decided they were even more boring than you are." She sniffed and settled back into the soft vinyl of her chair. "C'mon then, what are you waiting for? Your princess Jaylia may be boring, but at least her story's more interesting than mine. Just... ugggh... do I have to sleep with the spider?"

Jol's chuckle faded and became the sound of the breeze in the trees. Moth's vision swam and she found herself suddenly back in the clearing. A bear, a dog, a young boy and a green-armed girl were staring anxiously down at her.

"Finally!" Harry exclaimed. "We thought you'd never wake up. It's nearly sunset and I promised m'Gran we'd be there before first moonlight. We have to hurry. Come on."

Moth rubbed her eyes. "Where's...?" She stopped short, suddenly noticing an immense web in the tree above her. Several well-wrapped silk packages suggested that Aranha had already breakfasted on a number of beetles.

"Where's what?" Harry asked curiously.

"My mirror," she answered, pulling it from her clothes and pretending to fix her hair.

"Girls!" Harry muttered in disgust and slouched off to wait with Darine at the edge of the clearing. Jenna winked at her and in the mirror's reflection, Moth could see Aranha descending on a long thread. The spider sidled into the leather bag that she carried and Moth breathed a sigh of relief. She liked the little creature and was grateful to the trees for their gift, but she just wasn't sure how much skin-to-spider contact she could stand. She had a strange feeling that she should be grateful to someone but she couldn't fathom who. She gave Jenna a quick hug and slung the bag over her shoulder.

"You'll walk with Harry and Darine," Bruin growled. "I'll be watching." He vanished into the forest and Moth was left wondering what hidden dangers he suspected.

"I thought there were only friends in the forest?" she asked, turning to Jenna, but the hamadryad had already returned to her tree. Harry and Darine set off on a narrow track that serpentined through the forest, moving so quickly that Moth had to run to catch up with them.

28 July 2004

Wow what a direction change - I'm waiting for the twist where the two worlds fall together :)

If you're sick of Moth, take a break for a while... leave her in the forest and go see what your villain is doing - can't have a hero without a villain and we know nothing about him/her/it

29 July 2004

I'm not much good with villains. I don't know where to start... oh well, I guess I just leap in blindly like always :)

lol... been sittin here thinking for half an hour... all I've written so far is... Vrag

Inimigo Vrag was bored. That was nothing new. Vrag was always bored, or at least, he carefully cultured that impression. His generals found it frustrating, but the soldiers of his army loved him for it. He gave them confidence, simply by seeming not to care, and after two months camped on the shores of the Dream Lake, confidence was a quality in short supply. Vrag spat into the calm waters of the inlet, idly noting the swarm of small fish that rushed to consume his phlegm.

"Have we another volunteer?" he drawled. A scrawny man wearing the remains of a military uniform was shoved forward. He cowered on one knee before his glorious leader, who flourished his black silk cloak for dramatic effect. "Name?" he inquired, wrinkling his nose. What a feeble specimen. When he had first called for volunteers to find a way through the ruins or across the Dream Bridge, nearly a thousand men had stepped forward. He had sent them off with his blessing, at first in small groups and then singly, but not one had returned with his wits intact. Some screamed, some wailed, some sat silently rocking with tears running down their cheeks, some fought with all their strength attacking anyone who came within reach. Vrag packed them back to his capital, assuring his army that they were receiving the best medical care, but in reality turning them over to his interrogators. So far nothing coherent had emerged from their testimony. Nothing he could use.

Vrag ground his teeth and glared across the water. In the far distance he could see the wide expanse of the hardwood forests. More than anything else he wanted those trees. Conquering the west had been easy. The people were sick of the constant civil wars and flocked to unite behind a strong leader who promised stability and a common goal, especially once he had defeated his major rivals. Some trickery here, some guile there, a betrayal or two. Easy. Humans were no challenge. Talk to them for a while and sooner or later he could find which button to push to get what he wanted.

Bleeurgh... I'm scared to even read that back and see how weak it is... oh well, at least I kept writing... that's something :) and hubby just showed me the prettiest picture of a ruined castle...

30 July 2004

That was ok really - some things to think about - we did this for your hero lets do it for your villain - lets get into his mind - make notes as you go along of the first answer that pops into your head - take the good, throw the bad and see what you get (or since he is a villain should be keep the bad and throw the good? :D )

1. His favorite thing
2. His most extrodinnary trait or ability
3. His major deficiencies
4. Things he likes to do most
5. Physical Attributes
6. Unusual Mannerisms
7. mode of speech
8. what does he wish for?
9. what does he fear?

lol... I had your list from Moth open while I was trying to write him, but he just wouldn't gel... then hubby said something about a Napoleon Complex last night and the ideas started flowing... I know what Moth does next...and I had a good spider idea... and I know what happens to the guy Vrag is talking to... and I know how I need to rewrite that scene so Vrag shows his true colours... should have a purple cloak instead of a black one for a start... maybe with green lining? and definitely a crowd of cronies...

BUT... we need to do some research... I don't have the knowledge to get some of this right...

- the psychological effect of the ruined castle - stripping away illusions, leaving you feeling utterly worthless, exposing, magnifying & twisting your doubts, fears & weaknesses...

- Vrag's Napoleon Complex - character traits... small man with shrivelled mind, manipulative, detailed, excessive

- if we are going to use the metafiction bit - virtual reality... I tried to describe the plot twist to hubby & he reckons I just lost all my geek readers... a neural net is apparently a kind of artificial intelligence, not something you can put on your head... but that raises some interesting possibilities... if Vrag is an AI... he might not find the real world so boring??? but in order to be imaginative & avoid cliche I must know more...

Good books are ALWAYS well-researched, even if they don't look it :)

When you are bored you might like to discover some interesting facts about these questions... and about

- bears
- little folk of all kinds - what am I dealing with here? traditions? characters? who are the non-human population & what are they like?
- anything else you come across that you think might be useful :)

You get the picture, I think...

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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