Work in Progress: Ashes and Light, week seven

Ashes and Light
Swords of Charlemagne, Book 3

43796 / 85000 (51.52%)

Half a book! Woohoo!

Things have been going really well on all fronts. I made my weekly words last night, so there was no writing done today. I made my monthly goals in the FFPRWA Monthly Challenge. It’s been a successful week all around.

In Ashes and Light, we now have a villain. Well, we’ve always had a villain, but now he’s on-screen, as it were. Here’s the grand entrance, with a little explanation. A church grim is a black dog that heralds a death, and it was not invented by JK Rowling.  They’re part of old English folklore.

We’re once again at the place in the story where it’s going to get harder to post excerpts without also posting spoilers.  I think I’ve avoided major ones in this week’s excerpt, though.


They made their way through the dark streets, listening for any sound that might be another church grim, and testing at crossings for the right path. It felt to Douglas as if they’d been walking for hours when Gerald stumbled and nearly fell.


“I’m sorry, Doctor,” Gerald said. He shook his head. “I’m knackered. I can’t remember ever being this tired before.” He reached into his pocket and took out his pocket-watch, tipping it to try and read it by the light from Hauteclere’s emerald. He blinked, raised the watch to his ear, then looked at Douglas. “Doctor? What time did we come up here?”

“Around seven. Why?”

“Because it’s past two.” Gerald listened to the watch once more. “And this is ticking, so it’s not run down.”

“Wind it again,” Douglas said, looking around. “I’m a fool, Gerald. You warned me about the confusions spells, and I should have taken precautions. We’ve been blundering around like drunkards for hours.” He looked at the sword. “And you couldn’t have done something about that?” he asked, and the emerald dimmed in response.

“Doctor?” Gerald said slowly. “Are you talking to your sword?”

“And I’ve apparently embarrassed it.” Douglas looked around. “I’ve no idea if we’re close to Mrs. Keith or not. And I don’t want to shout. In this place, it would sound like a riot.” He sighed and looked at Hauteclere again. “Let’s try this again, shall we? And this time, let’s do something about the spells, hm?”

The emerald flickered, flared alarmingly bright, then went dark. Magic flared all around them, leaving Douglas dazzled for a moment. A moment too long.


Gerald’s voice trailed off as growling came from all around them. Douglas swore softly and threw shields up around himself and Gerald, then set a mage-light floating overhead. It revealed what Hauteclere had tried to warn him of — they were surrounded by church grims. There were five of them, and as Douglas watched, a sixth one appeared out of nowhere.

“Well, now,” a familiar voice crooned. “Visitors. How nice.”


I still haven’t decided on the final order of the chapters. I have time — the book is only half done!

In Heir to the Firstborn, the words didn’t come quite as fast as last week. Instead of 8K words, I wrote just over 4K. I’m into chapter 13 now, and Owyn’s backstory. Aven and Aria have been sheltered. Owyn has not.  This starts in the middle of one of his lines.


“…So… that’s me. Orphan, thief, whore, slave.”

“Smith. Smoke Dancer,” Aven said.

“Companion,” Aria added, her voice firm. “In case you were thinking I’d change my mind about that last, once I knew.”

“You’re serious?” Owyn asked. “You really mean that? You still want me? After everything? I mean, I’m a marked criminal, and a slave. Mem, he treats me like his son, but I’m not, and I know it. I’m his slave.”

Aven slid his arm around Owyn and pulled him tight to his side. “Owyn, do you know what the Water tribe says about success and failure?”

Owyn’s brow furrowed. “No, I don’t think I’ve seen that in any of my books.”

“My mother says that the Mother has a ledger where she makes note of all of the deeds of all of her children. The successes, the times we come out ahead, she writes in ink.”

Owyn nodded. “And the failures?”

“She writes in water.”

Aria blinked. Then she smiled. “I like that.”

“I don’t understand,” Owyn protested. “If you write them in water, then when the paper dries, the marks… oh.” He stopped. “Oh. Really?”

“Really.” Aven turned, and found himself nose to nose with Owyn once more. “It’s written in water, Owyn.”

Owyn smiled slightly. “And all over the skin of my back.”

“You’re being obtuse,” Aven protested. “Your past is written in water. It happened, we know. It was written in the Mother’s ledger. But knowing it doesn’t mean we want you any less.”


The theme of failures being written in water will be coming up again in Heir to the Firstborn, and it’s all because of Van Canto. I own this album, but I hadn’t listened to this one song until it came up on Spotify. And it immediately became Aven’s song.

Tomorrow is the First of Halloween. A new month, with new goals.  I’ll be a guest at Necronomicon the weekend of October 19-21st, which means there will be very little writing done that weekend. If you’re in the area, I’ll be on several panels that weekend, and will be signing books on Saturday morning at 11AM. Come see me!

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