Mailvox: If this is failure

I suspect success might go to my head.

I actually put off reading the Throne of Bones series because I figured your fiction couldn’t possibly be any good. Why? Well, nobody can do everything well! You’re a clear political writer and superb thinker, you even had a band at one point. You’re an immensely creative organizer, you started your own publishing house… “What are the odds for this guy also being a good epic fantasy writer?” I asked myself. Also, the title, Throne of Bones kind of put me off. I thought you were referencing G.R.R. Martin. Well, I finally read it, and was delighted. Sea and Summa followed in due course. Your writing has the key characteristics that I value in excellent fantasy: resonance and novelty. There is a sense of familiar mythic themes, but rendered in a new and surprising way. Elves and orcs and dwarves and Romans! Oh my!

I noticed a mention that you will come out with a revised book (Sea?) soon. I’m wondering, why revise? Why not write another one? (Please?) Will the revision be an expansion where I can just start reading the new stuff, or will I need to read the whole thing again to find the additions? (Not that this would be a dreadful fate!)

Now that F&SF has become a loathsome wasteland of Social Justice and Abused Pronouns, we need more writing like this.

Actually, it’s not a revision, but an extended edition. By Amazon’s reckoning, A Sea of Skulls will go from 430 pages to 924 pages. I don’t quite see how that is even possible, since by my count, it will go from 165,000 words to 297,500. None of the existing story will be excised or even modified; I have no reason to change anything, and besides, I don’t have the time.

And don’t forget, The Last Witchking & Other Stories is now available in audiobook. I waited years to put any of this out in audio because I was waiting for the right narrator, and Jeremy Daw is just that.

An excerpt from “The Last Witchking”.

In the eyes of the villagers of Pretigny, Speer Gnasor was a boy not terribly unlike any other. He was taller than the other boys his age, but someone has to be the tallest in every village, and no one ever appeared to think it odd that at nearly thirteen years of age, the top of his father’s head barely cleared his shoulder. Speer was quick-witted but not remarkably so, although he was both envied and mocked by the other boys for his ability to read.

He participated in their games, albeit in a desultory manner. He was not unpopular, and if he had exerted himself even a little, he might well have made himself a leader of one of the little packs that divided the children of the town on lines roughly conforming with their fathers’ occupations.

Per Gnasor, his father, raised bees and made candles, and his mother raised the small flock of geese and chickens that provided him with his daily egg, and on feast days, the fowl for their little family. His two passions were fishing and books, and it was said that he had read every one of the twenty-eight books in the village at least twice.

The Gnasors themselves were said to possess seven books. By Pretigny standards, this amounted to a family library of almost mythic proportions. He dutifully attended the small church of the Immaculate twice each week, and if he ate the wafer and drank the wine given to him by the priest with little thought for what it represented, in this he was no different than any other boy in the village.

He was not an unhappy lad, and he was entirely content with his life as he found it. He did not, like some of his youthful acquaintances, chafe at the smallness of their familiar surroundings or dream of one day seeking his fortune in what, from the perspective of Pretigny, was considered to be the great city of Niederholen. Even the rumors of the riches of distant Stalchwil on the banks of the Ghlêne more than a ten-day journey away held little fascination for him. He learned to tend his father’s bees, to twist wicks and shape wax, and slowly, but surely, he even began to take notice of the butcher’s daughter. She was a tall, slender girl with a wide mouth and pale blue eyes who was nearly of a height and an age with him.

Left to his own devices, allowed to pursue his homely dreams, it was likely that Speer Gnasor would have married the butcher’s daughter, learned the butcher’s trade, and eventually become a fine, upstanding pillar of the local church and community.

But on his thirteenth birthday, everything he knew about himself and the world around him was forever transformed by a letter from his father.

After a dinner that featured rare treats such as Valoyan sausages and the sweet cheese called Niederholt, Per Gnasor sent him into the forest armed with nothing more than his warmest coat and a small shovel and told him to unearth his birthday present one hundred paces north of his favorite tree.
Both excited and confused, he lost little time in finding the peculiar oak with a thick lower branch that twisted over its leftmost neighbor, and paced off the distance. He had to dig a hole that was deeper than his knees before he struck something hard. With a little more work he saw it was a small wooden chest. His heart beating faster, he extricated it from the ground and opened it.

The first thing he saw was a letter written in an unfamiliar hand. Despite the shadows cast by the looming trees, there was just enough light breaking through the leaves to permit him to read it.

To my son and my heir,

You are not what you think you are. You are more, so much more. Kings and princes would tremble and scour the earth in search of you were they to hear even a rumor of your existence. It was to save you from their wrath that your mother sacrificed herself. It was to protect you from their vengeance that you were hidden away even from yourself. The man and woman you believe to be your parents are my true and loyal servants, and they have raised you at my command, even as they release you now to your destiny as they have been instructed.

You will be told many lies about your true kind, we whom the vulgar and the frightened wrongly named witchkings. But this is nothing more than fear. It is the shameless perversion of history by the vicious little minds of its victors.

As you will learn, we Wahrkönigen were simply dedicated to the truth and only the truth, regardless of its consequences and heedless of its costs. And what was this fearful truth, this dark god that struck such terror into the hearts of Men and Elves, Orcs, and Dwarves? Only this: There is no Good and there is no Evil. There is only what Is. Nothing more. Have the courage to grasp this fearful truth, and you shall be a worthy successor to the long line of kings before you.

I have prepared the means that you will require to learn both the Lesser and the Greater Arts. Master them well. An arduous task lies before you, but I know you will succeed, for you are my son and you will surpass me. And in the place that has been prepared for you, you will also find the answers to your inevitable questions, including your true lineage.

You are a phoenix raised by sparrows, my son. Now it is time for you to fly. When you have grown into your strength and become worthy of your heritage, you will set the world on fire.

These are the three charges that I lay upon you, my son. Instruct the Elves. Break them of their ancient pride and shatter the remnants of their kingdoms. Humble the Northmen. They must pay a tithe of blood for their treachery. Harry them throughout their islands and drive them into the sea. Preserve the Blood. You must not be the last of your line. Father many children, on many women, but instruct only the most worthy in the Wahrkunst. The Blood will tell.

You are young and you are alone in a harsh and unforgiving world, but never doubt that you were loved as few sons have ever been loved. For your mother and your father so loved you that they died for you, not once, but twice. We allowed ourselves to perish and we erased ourselves from the minds of mortals, so that you might live.

Your enemies, and they are many, will not find you until you are ready to be found. Be brave, my son, be strong, and never permit yourself fear. For you are a true Wahrkönig, and in your veins flows the pure blood of the greatest and most powerful sorcerers the world has ever known. Embrace your greatness, my son, embrace the Blood, embrace the challenges I have set before you, and one day, you will teach the world that you are harsher and more unforgiving than it could ever dare to be.

Avenge me, my son. Avenge your loving mother. Avenge your noble race,

Mauragh, son of Thauragh
King of Thauron, Nordandir, and the Wolf Isles