New Author Note

I’ve written a new author note at the beginning of Larkspur. It has a few calls to action as well as my warm regards. At the end of the book I’ve also added the opening scene to Delphinium – read it here

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

Hello, dear reader. Thank you for picking up Larkspur, my first story out of many planned. I hope you enjoy it and I’d truly appreciate a review after you finish.

This is a dark story, with equal displays of affection and violence. The tenants and practices of the magic are strictly fictional. But I hope you see the love as real.

Volume two of The Larkspur Series, Delphinium, or A Necromancer’s Home, is being written and will be out soon. It expanded from a short sequel to a 100K+ novel, so it is taking me a bit longer than I’d planned to finish. In the meantime, I am writing short scenes, vignettes, from Clandestina and other realms, on my website – vmjaskiernia.com

If you would like upcoming information, tidbits, and promotional days, please sign up for the Noctuinad Mailing list – www.eepurl.com/P2FIT

In addition to the current series, many other stories that take place in Clandestina (and in other realms of Noctuina) are in the works.

You may also contact me personally by:

Email:  vmjaskiernia@gmail.com

Twitter:  @vmjaskiernia

Happy reading,

Victoria M. Jaskiernia

Wolf Girl (Astrarctia)

She should return to the woods. She’d lived in this town for five full moons, longer than she usually stayed in one human place, but she had been comfortable. Another like her lived here and though she had not met with him he felt like family. It was more than she usually had and she had not wished to give it up.

But they knew. She did not think it was her that was caught, but it was a warning she could not ignore. If a ringian had not already been sent for one would be soon.

The full moon had been last night, and unlike months before many had hid in their homes from late afternoon, when the moon first appeared in the day-sky. As a born werewolf she could change shape whenever she wanted and was not even forced to by the moon, so she had not dared shift. She had wanted it, desperately, and felt dizzy and on edge all night, but she sat with the other urchins and homeless of the town in the meeting hall and tried not to bring attention to herself. They were told they had been brought to the hall for their own safety, but more likely it was to make sure they were human. She stole a cap to wear over her white hair and did not look up, hoping her amber eyes would seem hazel in the shadows. She had not slept at all.

Now it was dawn and she felt safe enough to leave. She would eat, hide things she could not take, and disappear. Once she was far enough in the forests she would shift and find a place to curl up and sleep. If she was lucky she would run into a pack that could take her in for a time, but she had been a lone wolf before.

She had caches all over the town and she went from one to another. Most had food, meat she had caught or stolen and then packed in snow, and some had clothes. One had a knife she had found in the woods. She ate the food and left the clothes- maybe some of the other urchins would find them and use them. She would not need them with her fur. The knife she wished she could take, it was a good quality, but would be useless with her teeth and claws.

Every moment she stayed was another moment she was in danger. Some of the shops were opening for the day, people were beginning to leave the safety of their homes, and all would be wary and on the lookout for a werewolf in their midst. She decided she had eaten enough and abandoned the last few caches, heading towards the woods. It would be best if she was not seen, even though she had ‘proven’ her humanity. It would be foolish to be seen going into the forests the day after a full moon.

Voices stopped her. She froze behind the thick trunk of a tree and listened. They were speaking to each other and it did not seem they were looking for her.

“Go!” a woman sobbed.

“Quick, son.” A man’s voice, gruff with emotion.

“But if I leave they will know!” The third voice was of a boy.

“If you stay you will die.” The man again.

The wind picked up and blew towards her, bringing her a wealth of information. The man and woman were married, and the boy was their son. He also had the scent of wolf and blood on him.

She peered around from her hiding spot. The boy had a hand wrapped in bloody bandage, and his clothes were torn and ragged. This was not the werewolf she had scented before, though, this werewolf seemed to have shifted for the first time last night, not even aware enough about what was happening to take his clothes off.

She began to walk to them slowly, but the boy turned to her as the wind changed direction again, and now gave him information about her. The parents looked at her too and the mother’s eyes widened in fear. The father moved towards her, as if he could silence her and protect his son. If she was a human girl who heard what was being spoken, and then told the town it could be death for all of them.

“She’s one too,” the boy said, figuring out what her scent meant, moving to stop his father.

“Was she the one—”

“No,” the boy said quickly. “It was a male, a man, that..” He moved his hurt arm. His father took a step back, but did not look away from her.

“I’m Inisaira,” she said, reaching them. “Aira. I was leaving after last night.”

“Ander,” the boy replied when his father said nothing. “I was too, I guess. I… changed last night.”

“We want him safe!” his mother said. “Please, help us. Take him far away!”

How could she turn him away? He was was taller than her by a few inches, older than her,but she had certainly been a werewolf longer. She had felt safe enough just knowing a werewolf was in the same town (even though she now thought horrible things about the wolf that had bitten a child). This could be the start of her own real pack.

She began to take her clothes off. The man turned away, but the mother and boy did not. She was still young enough that it was not unusual to be naked in the summer months. Of course this was winter.

“Hurry,” she urged Ander, throwing her shirt on to the ground. “We will run faster as wolves. Your parents want you safe, that is more than I’ve seen in some other places.”

Once they were both naked, the boy looking more uncomfortable than her, she nodded to him. Good, he was listening to her. “You were bit, but you can still turn into a wolf if it isn’t a full moon. You need to mean it- say a prayer to Luna and picture yourself shifting.”

It took him a few minutes to change. Aira was a wolf in only a moment, and she observed the boy while he concentrated. Finally his limbs began to move and fur sprouted from his body. The mother gasped and she hid in her husband’s arms, but the father did not look away. Ander crouched and then fell in the snow, but quickly his new form appeared, one accustom to snow and the forest.

He stood, shaking off the snow that clung to his golden fur, the same color as his hair. He was an older puppy, like Aira, neither yet adults as people or beasts but needing to act without guidance from adults.

They regarded each other in this second form. Their scents filled the air and both knew even more about each other than when they had scented each other in human form. Ander knew she was a born werewolf, the alpha, and that she was tired and worried, even if she tried to hide it. She knew he was bitten a few days ago, the bite tearing when he shifted last night and reopening wounds. He was worried too, even afraid, but was determined.

She took a step to him and looked up into his eyes. He tilted his head in confusion, and then slowly bent his head in understanding. He licked her snout, crouching before her.

Brother, she said, nudging him. Beta.

Sister, he agreed, nuzzling her face. Alpha.

She looked to his front paw. He had taken off his clothes but had forgotten about the bandage. It was now lose and twisted up in his fur. She bent over and grabbed an end in her mouth, pulling and shaking her head until it came loose and she dropped it. When his wound began to bleed and he whined she licked at it until it stopped.

She glanced to the parents and gave a nod so they would understand. The father nodded back, and then mother tried to hide her tears by picking up their clothes. With a meaningful look to Ander she dashed off into the underbrush. He followed.

 

Scene 7

Working on Scene 7, ‘Wolf Girl.’ The main character is Inisaira, one of my first characters from way back when I was 13. Her story has been a constant in my mind for years, and I’m glad to be getting back to that realm (and werewolves, I love werewolves). Charting the timeline is helping me sort through 13 years of memories, old ideas, and plots that no longer work. Like with Clandestina I have several generations of stories there (I love a family saga).

I’m thinking Inisaira’s story might be the second series I begin properly (alongside Pierre and Lizzy’s), but much of that is still in the air. Plus I want to write the short-story ‘Dear Friend’ (which is in yet another, third, realm) which seems too long for a Scene, but shouldn’t break 10K. I might put it up for 99cents or even free from the start. I have six or seven main realms where many of my stories take place, and many many more minor realms that I don’t know enough about yet, but plan to work in. Remember, Noctuina has 256 different magical realms, with different cræfts, bestia, and histories.

Delphinium is coming along well too, I’ve been at the beach this last week and that helped with a lot of thinking and plotting. I’ve actually updated Larkspur with the opening scene of Delphinium, and an author’s note near the start.

‘Wolf Girl’ should be up tonight 🙂

Hanging (Clandestina)

The professor was not in the classroom as the students walked in to Anatomy. There were instructions written on the board in large letters (each student was to pair up with two others, choose one of the corpses laid out, and disassemble as much as possible, labeling each organ and its function. For extra credit they could find out the cause of death) but that was all. They had done this, or similar, exercises several times before under the watchful eye of their teacher, but today it seemed to be a test of how well they could work on their own.

Pierre Salvador stood by himself while most of the group paired with friends. Piers had finished his studies already, leaving for home a few weeks before, not needing the extra time in surgical schooling. The princeling therefor found himself alone more often than not now that his only true friend here was gone. It did not bother him much, he preferred working alone, but it was not pleasant. Possibly his status was scaring others away, or perhaps something about him radiated with Mora’s cræft? He had never looked into the problem.

At the end there weren’t enough students for an even number of triads and Pierre stayed alone. He noted that one group had four students, and he should have at least been paired with one of them, but it let it go. There were also not enough bodies either so another group would be useless. He could make a fuss, or join one of the groups to observe, but he had better things to do. This was something he knew well already, and Mora has asked he kill a man for her.

He made to leave, minding to tell the professor later that he was feeling ill and to either get the assignment dropped or allowed time to remake it, but the door opened as he was walking towards it.

Two men in guard uniforms entered,  a covered tray between them. They saw Pierre, apart from the others and the eldest, and addressed him.

“Monsieur! We are here to bring a body for the students. He was just hanged and sent here immediately for their observation.”

“Merci,” Pierre said, taking the wheeled slab and flipping over the white sheet. Beside the angry blue bruises around his throat he seemed asleep. His skin was still warm.
The prison guards said something and left a moment later after receiving no reply, the princeling having stopped paying attention to them. The corpse took his whole attention. The man was still in tattered rags.

He did not feel like a corpse, not in the same way the others had, but he had not spent extensive time with very many bodies. Perhaps they felt different based on their type of death?

Most of the others had abandoned their chosen body to come observe him now. A fresh corpse was rare, and never this fresh. Those unlucky enough to get the last body often had to deal with the stench of decay.

Pierre held out a hand and someone obliged him by handing a scalpel over. He cut into the torso only for blood to spurt onto his hands and clothes.

“Merde!”

“He’s still alive!”

If the bright lively blood had not confirmed it, a moan from the man and his eyes opening did. One of the youngest boys fainted. A few turned to help him, even more turned away entirely, but Pierre continued to watch in silence. He had seen men die before but every experience was new. Had he been dead and come back through a miracle, or had the doctor on staff at the prison merely not done his job?

Someone finally yelled out that they would run and get a professor and the door slammed on his way out. Pierre bent over the body and touched his pulse. The neck was bruised and swollen, presumably by the hanging that hadn’t managed to snap the spine, but it throbbed a slow heartbeat. He wrapped a the rest of his hand around the windpipe. No one was looking at him, no one dared looked up to see the eyes of a man who had been pronounced dead. He squeezed, and there was a gargling noise before the heartbeat stopped.

The door burst open and their professor had returned.

“Away, away,” the surgeon called, shooing his way near the body opposite Pierre.

“Your Graceful Highness,” he addressed Pierre respectfully. “What seems to have happened?”

“Monsieur, he still seemed alive when I started to cut. His blood flowed and his eyes snapped open. He made a noise as well.”

The professor was nodding, placing a stereoscope to the man’s chest, then neck. After a minute though he shook his head.

“Well he is not alive now. Do not worry, it is nothing you did, merely a dead man hanging on to life as tightly as he could until no more. See, he is malnourished, dehydrated, and was through a trauma. Let us merely call it a delayed hanging and leave it at that.”

Done with the analysis he nodded to himself again, wrapped the stethoscope around his neck and looked to the student.

“Well?” the professor prompted. “Back to your stations, there is still an hour and a half left in the course.”

Students shuffled back to their chosen bodies, one group’s left alone as the two boys who were paired with the one who fainted helped him to the side.

“I will go check on Raoul,” the professor said to Pierre. “You may continue with this body but I understand if you wish to skip this class.”

“Non, merci professor, I will be fine.”

He lined the slab up in the back of the room with the others, on the leftmost side with his back to everyone else. He finished taking off the man’s clothes.

“He would have lived.”

The voice in his ear was female, and Mora suddenly stood by him wearing what only could be called a women’s uniform in the style of his own, though the students were all male at this University. Her hair was tied back in a deep crimson ribbon, and his wings were furled close to her back, but still there.

“With medical attention,” Pierre agreed. Attention a class full of students could have begun to provide until someone with more knowledge arrived. But the man was a prisoner sent to death. He would have only been executed once more. This was in a way kinder.

Mora looked to him and made to say something, but stopped instead. She smiled and then disappeared, off to greet the dead man’s soul in her plane.

Pierre had the feeling she had been about to inform him of the man’s innocence, a mistake in the roi’s judgement (for the roi was the duc in this land as well). But even if that were true it would no change the sentence. The roi had spoken. Pierre merely complied.

 

Eglė (Clandestina)

I’d like to mention before you read on that this is a graphic piece involving gore and death.

——-

Ophion stopped to set up camp. After tending his horse and starting a small fire amid a circle of stones he walked around the clearing to stretch his legs. He had been riding for three days with little sleep and both he and his horse were exhausted. Today would be an early night and tomorrow likely a late morning, but they needed to rest. It would do no good to his patients if he could not take care of them.

Mora, The Lady of Death, had been visiting him ever since this plague began. She spoke to him of power he could gain, power she would give, to turn the tide against the illness that ravished the land now for months. The spirits were angry, she told him, restless and in need of discipline. There was only so much she on her own could do, but if he helped her…
A hiss broke through his thoughts. Looking down he saw a small garden snake amid the dead branches. It was late winter, almost spring, but perhaps he had woken the animal from its rest, or it wanted to move closer to his fire. He stepped aside to let the serpent pass, but it only stared at him.

He could kill the snake.

Not that he had anything against it, he was fond of snakes in fact. But to begin practicing necrocræft one chose, killed, and resurrected a creature to become their Familiar. Mora had told him before he left the last town that he was ready if he desired.

The last few weeks have been difficult. He had lost more patients than he saved, and it was no guarantee the stable patients would stay that way after he left to yet another town, another tragedy. It was a dark magic, this necrocræft, one punishable by death in the kingdom of Triumphe. But there was already so much death here. If there was any way to prevent some of it, even if at the end it cost him his own life, would he not do it?

Mind made up he went to rummage through his bags. No point in delaying this. He would sleep after, letting himself rest after the journey and the magic he was about to try and perform.

He wanted to kill the animal with as little suffering as possible. He had medical tools in his bag, but they were either small knives or a large saw, and trying to cut the head off a serpent with something used to cut through bone was overly harsh. Finally he settled on a cooking knife. He would have preferred something a bit larger, but it was the closest thing he could find that would do minimal damage.

The snake had only moved a few inches during this time, crawling over towards the fire. It did not seem to mind him, and did not even turn its head when he knelt down on the cold ground beside it. His horse, several feet away, was not paying him any attention, probably already sleeping while standing.

Ophion took a deep breath. It was just a small garden snake, barely as long as his arm. It could bite him and slither away if he was not careful, maybe spook his horse if she woke, but it was not much of a threat. He put his left hand before the snake’s head and waited. Still no alarm from the creature. He moved his hand closer, then touched the top of the head. Its tail flicked but nothing more.

He raised the knife and placed it close to where his thumb rested over the snake, just above touching the neck. At least at this angle he was not looking the animal in the eye, and maybe the snake did not see the blade. Would it matter? Did snakes have any concept of knives or how they could kill?

Another deep breath. He pulled his hand back and then slowly let it descend so that it would be in the same place. He did this two more times, making sure his aim lined up. The forth time he chopped through the animal.

Blood. The tail seemed to jump away, twisting and writhing while what seemed like a never-ending stream of blood poured from it. The head just sat there under his hand. He backed away, falling into a sitting position in the grass. The blood quickly flowed up to him and began to stain his clothes. He was used to blood, especially during this plague, but this was too much. This was the amount you would find in a person, though perhaps someone young..

The body of the snake stopped moving only to begin growing. Scales became skin, the tail split in two. The head changed as well, growing larger and with hair so soaked in crimson that you could not tell what color it was supposed to be.

A child. The snake that he had beheaded had transformed into a young girl right before his eyes. She lay in a pool of her own blood, eyes open and staring straight at him.

“Oh, God.”

Mora appeared, already kneeling in the blood. The Lady of Death looked kindly to the child and took off a large shawl to cover her body.

“Ah, dear Ophion,” The Lady said softly. She took the head onto her lap, stroking back the girl’s hair. She made no move to close her eyes.

“I killed a child,” he whispered. Shock had frozen him to his spot and he watched the display like it was a performance. If he allowed himself to grasp the reality he would go mad.

“A fay child,” Mora corrected. “Living in these lands outside of Triumphe, but still within Clandestina. There is wild magic in the air here. She is not fée, but perhaps her parents are.”

“What do I do?”

At this the Lady looked up at him, puzzled. “You bring her back, of course.”

The Lady placed down the girl’s head and moved her body so she cradled the child. Her dark clothes were stained even darker, and the blood shone on her pale skin. Taking the severed head she placed it back on to the neck. With a finger she drew a circle around the girl’s throat, where the severing had taken place, drawing in the blood.

Once she pulled her hand away there was still a corpse, but at least it was in one piece.

“Here,” she said, laying out the child.

Though it was said as a suggestion he obeyed as if it were a command. He crawled through the blood and looked over the girl. The shawl covered her from collar down. She was ten, eleven years old at most. It was hardly the first time he had seen a dead body, but never had he caused it. Even losing a patient after doing all he could was nothing to compare to this.

But he hadn’t known. It was a snake, just a snake. Some other realms had shifters of form, but not this one!

Wild magic, Mora had said. Untamed spirits that probably leaked from Faery into these lands.

“How?” he asked, as if he could harm her further. She was dead, what else could he do to her? But he did not want to hurt her any more. God, oh, God, why had he done this.

“Take your own blood,” Mora said. “Have her consume it.”

“But, but you said I needed an animal, My Lady. This is a child!”

“So you will leave her like this?”

He turned around to pick up the knife he had used to kill the child. The child. He did not even know her name. He did not even know her hair color, so stained was her body. He needed to wash the blood out of her hair. He needed to clean her up, give her some clothes. He needed to return her to life and never again do anything this sinful.

The kitchen knife was covered in blood, none of it his own. He found a clean patch on his attire and tried to wipe it away.

His own blood. Blood for blood. If he slit his own throat would that be enough? What did he have to give to bring this child back from the dead when he had been the one to put her there?

“A severe injury,” Mora said in reply. Had he spoken aloud or was the Lady more knowing than he thought. “One that may, without proper care, risk your life.”

He raised the blade to his throat, but changed his mind and lowered it again. If he did not live long enough to even try the cræft it would be useless. Instead he moved the knife to his wrist. He was not a surgeon, but he understood the body. If he cut deep enough this might kill him, but it would take some time.

He cut again. More blood. He put his wrist above the girl and blood dripped around and into her lips.

Before he could ask what next he felt her. It was like his body housed a second soul, filling his chest and making him light and dizzy. A heartbeat that should not exist began to thump in his ears. He reached out, with both his mind and his hand, and through the planes of existence found the girl’s soul in the land of the dead. She waited for him, smiling, and so very curious about the magic he was doing. Without hesitation she placed her hand in his and suddenly reality was around them again.

The soft thump of her heartbeat still filled his body as his own began to slow. He was still bleeding from the wrist, adding even more red to this clearing that looked as if a massacre had taken place. Before he lost consciousness he saw the girl open her eyes and smile.

 

Scenes

I’m working on the first scene that I plan to put online. It’s short, shouldn’t be more than 1000 words, about how Pierre and Lizzy met for the first time. I didn’t know that’s how they met when I started the scene. I just started writing and it.. happened.

I used to RP (roleplay) online- write a paragraph with my characters, someone else replies with their own paragraph, and so on. An interactive story. I learned to write those afternoons making up stories with friends. Pierre was actually a character that I made specifically to rp with so his story didn’t get muddled with my ‘just my story’ stuff. Ironic how he’s the protagonist in my first published work.

So I can see how it’s easier for me to write out a short scene and then stand back, assuming someone else will then come in and give me something to reply to. It’s how I thought I’d publish my work actually- short scenes that were out of order and stacked together to form a chapter-book of sorts.

(Larkspur was originally a scene called Lady of Death. The only two characters to make an appearance were Pierre and Mora, with mentions of Lizzy).

You can see how I then thought Larkspur, at 15K, was fleshed out. There were subplots and characters I didn’t intend to introduce at all showing up. Wolfram’s love even got a name-change between Larkspur and Delphinium (her name isn’t in the first book though, so there aren’t any limited edition versions with that in it. There are though versions where I call Mora’s realm Plwto, then Thanatos, and finally Akhlys ).

Delphinium went even further. What was supposed to be a sequel at a bit over twice the length grew into a tome that’ll be at least 6 times as long as Larkspur. There’s at least three strong subplots and I can’t tell if that’s too much.

In a way I’m worried about going ‘back’ to scenes. What if I get used to just writing random bits and pieces, but forget to put them all together to make a real story later?

Well, there is nothing saying I have to leave the scene after it’s done. If there’s something there for me to use I can let it grow into a book or a series. You’ll have seen a part, probably an important part, but it won’t be the whole story.

(That’s exactly my current ‘problem’ with Delphinium. I wrote a few scenes that happened around the same time, started to connect them together, and -poof- I made a real book. Something something green fairy joke).

Even if it is just backstory that doesn’t come up but in passing, with writing it out I’ll have the extra that I wouldn’t have. You’ll have it too. And not just as a reply in an interview or an explanation given after the fact, but an actual slice of story.

 

Not writing alone

Writing is lonely. There’s a reason we crave reviews and thoughts from our readers- while it’s all in our own heads and on our computers it’s not as real as when others get at it. It’s more than affirmation that the work is good, it’s just the plain enthusiasm and shared love. It’s the same reason you find subreddits or forums for your favorite shows and talk about it- it’s community.

I just finished listening to episode #129 of the self-publishing podcast (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y8-IjSWMgM) and they talk about reasons for writing. I find myself identifying strongly with Dave- who says he likes writing, likes having written, but doesn’t like having to write. It’s a weird thought process where I know I like doing what I’m doing, and I even like doing it as I’m doing it… but making myself start is like pulling teeth.

They then go and theorize how/why Dave is like this. They mention a situation that happened to me- kids at school reading what I wrote and passing it around wanting more. It’s such an amazing feeling to get the praise and desire for your work from others. I looked forward to writing and handing it off to friends, knowing that even a teacher or two got a hold of the work and liked it. I went to different classes as fast as I could so I could sit and talk to friends about characters and story- both mine and theirs if they were writers too. It was a little personal fandom and it was so fun.

Now I’m in my mid-20s, out of college, with little to no social circle to speak of. So I write my work and I like it, I’m proud of it, but who do I have to share this with? I’ve tried to find ‘writer-friends’ online but it doesn’t seem to work that well anymore. Writers just end up talking about their own work, wanting to push it to others. I get that, hell I’ve done the exact same- but it’s more of a business/work deal than a sharing-with-friends.

Oh there’s lots of general encouraging writer-stuff everywhere, but who is going to be excited that I worked through a plot problem? That I found out the specific name I gave a character has a deeper meaning that ties into the story?

For instance: I learned that ‘Spade’, the Italian suit that corresponds to our Spades, means literally Swords (plural). It’s also a feminine noun (most languages give a gender to things while English does not). Given that the Italian suits in Clandestina signify the Margrave station (which I used instead of the French Marquis on purpose because it signifies border-lands, and it has ‘grave’ in the name) I took this more literally. So in Piques there isn’t just the Margrave Spade and his wife, but several women who are known as the Ladies of Swords.

It’s a small thing, and while the characters play important parts, figuring out that background and working from it is trivia-y. But it’s cool! It’s something a fan would smile about. It’s something I want to tell people and get a ‘Oh, awesome!’ reply, instead of adding it into the book to read like an etymology lesson.

I had this idea last evening that I would start talking about my work, writing short scenes that may or may not end up in the books proper, talk inspiration and background information on my blog. The scenes I might put up on deviantART as well. I don’t know if this sort of thing will ruin or enhance the books, I’d hope the latter. People do seem to like spoilers and trailers for that reason- getting a taste is tempting.

I’m still not entirely sure I’ll do it, but it does seem like a good way to start up the friendly-community chatter that I used to like. Maybe someone’ll will Like something, or comment, and connections will grow from there.