Thursday, February 22, 2007

Something Completely Different

I've been experimenting with writing a different kind of fiction, something more popular and plot-driven and LDS mainsteam than what I usually do. Following is the first chapter I've come up with so far on my new speculative near-future latter-latter-days novel project:

Wrapping his blood-red, gold-trimmed alpaca fleece around his shoulders, Moriantum emerged from his cave at midnight. It was the appointed hour for his minions to return with more . . . people.
     A half-full moon cast silvery light upon the rocks and trees. But the heavenly light only made Moriantum angrier, seeming almost to taunt him. Deep in his lair, the delicate white-glass globe over which he had been laboring for weeks still refused to give any light.
     In visions, he had seen numerous fist-sized globes glow steadily bright like the moon, without any effort or attention by the personages lounging nearby. In fact, he had seen an entire valley—perhaps this same valley now stretching below him—lit up with numberless clean, constant lights, a mind-boggling panoply densely brighter than the starriest sky.
     Clenching his fist as he stood in the cleansing breeze, Moriantum imagined crushing the globe in his hand. Its surface smoother and more delicate than an eggshell, the translucent globe was actually pear-shaped, with a glass neck capped by a finely wrought metal button. Barely visible through the milky-white glass, a slender reed rose up from within the neck.
     Moriantum had already sacrificed three lives trying to make the globe glow, but he had not yet coaxed forth so much as a glimmer. After leading him to the globe and helping him bring it back unbroken through the aperture—three earlier attempts had resulted in shattered glass—the magical beings had grown coy about how to make it work.
     More blood. That was all the voices would say. More of the right blood.
     He knew what they meant. Christian blood.
     Before getting serious about the globe, Moriantum had spent months trying to conjure mysterious images upon the smooth, dark surface of a curiously wrought, flat, rectangular box. That is a window into the great and spacious building, one of the magical beings had whispered into his mind when he first saw the box in a vision. However, after opening the cleverly secured box and discovering a bewildering tangle of multicolored filigree, he turned his attention back to the much simpler globe. But even that was proving beyond his reach.
     Moriantum let out a tense, frustrated sigh as he climbed to his accustomed rock perch. Christian blood was getting harder to find.

His clothing and hair ruffling in the cool midnight breeze, Moriantum scanned the valley below, wondering which competing chieftain now controlled what territory. Within and between the whitewashed cement dwellings, a few nighttime fires still burned, ungainly orange smudges that writhed like animals trying to free themselves from traps.
     Always hungering for raw fuel and spouting noxious smoke, fire was such a primitive source of heat and light. The people deserved something superior, something so sublime they couldn’t even imagine it—and he was the one who would bring it to them, reuniting them under its power. It was better that a few dozen Christians should die—perhaps even a few hundred—than that a whole civilization should dwindle in unenlightened anarchy.
     Moriantum’s minions had been gone for three days now, forced to wander farther afield in the search for increasingly elusive Christians. And then there was the matter of the queer emblem that the Christians had begun fastening over their doors and windows. Engraved on small squares of beaten gold or brass, the emblem was unlike anything Moriantum had ever seen, some kind of strange rune whose meaning he could not fathom. By some sort of counter-magical force, the emblem blocked all sorcerous slipperiness. Not even the magical beings could help Moriantum or his minions spirit anything out of such a protected dwelling, whether inanimate object or living person.
     He heard the snuffling and stamping of the cureloms before he saw them. When the cart came into view, he saw that his minions had taken only three people. The prisoners sat gagged and bound together in the back, evidently sedated by the durian-melon dust that Norihah or Corianmer would have blown into their faces.
     At one time, watching his two henchmen approach would have made Moriantum’s loins churn with anticipation. In the manner of the Order of Zoraniah, the three of them had bound themselves together with an oath of what the Christian prophets disrespectfully called “unnatural affection.” However, in recent times Moriantum had begun to tire of them both. They seemed to be somehow holding back his progress.
     As the cart slowed to a stop below him, Moriantum climbed down from his perch. Norihah stepped forward, giving the frothy-mouthed curelom a wide berth. Moonlight shone on his shaved scalp, which was scored and inked after the manner of a Zoraniah acolyte. Similar marks still existed under Moriantum’s own shoulder-length black hair.
     “Any Christians?” Moriantum asked.
     Norihah hung his head and let out a sniveling sound.
     Moriantum’s curved dagger sprang into his hand as if by magical means. “Then you will be first to sacrifice,” he heard himself growl.
     Even as he lunged, he knew that Norihah’s blood would not suffice.

So, if you've made it this far, is this something that would keep you reading in a book?


Alb said...

Anything you write keeps me reading and not just because I'm your wife. I love your writing style.

C. L. Hanson said...

I'm not so keen on the first paragraph. This will sound stupid, but the first line evokes a mail-order clothing catalog. Maybe it's just because Beanie Cap Guy keeps blogging about alpaca...

Aside from that, it looks interesting. Speculating about how ancient people would react to modern technology and modern society is always fun. I would guess it's tricky to do well, though. Clearly the technological advances would astonish them and seem like magic, but after they get used to those surprises, there may be other aspects of modern society they would find surprising, and it's not necessarily easy to guess precisely what. That's part of the fun of speculative fiction I guess. :D

Montgomery Q said...

I would definitely keep reading. It's like an episode of're making me feel really curious and confused at the same time. Didn't Homer Simpson say that?

Preston McConkie said...

I'm surprised at how interesting this is. I've recently learned a new concept: basic ideas for stories can be good or bad based on how well they're fleshed out by the writer. An idea that sounds iffy is suddenly a great idea in the hands of a gifted writer.

So while a story about an ancient American evil priest sounds dangerous -- because it would be very easy to write badly -- this is interesting because there's a lot of thought put into every paragraph, there's backstory as well as premise. Thumbs up for me.