Work in Progress: The Lady and the Sword, week 12

A very good word week indeed.

The Lady and the Sword
Swords of Charlemagne, Book 2

64806 / 100000 (64.81%)

I can see the end from here. There are maybe five chapters left. The book won’t be a full 100K words, I don’t think.  I’m thinking something between 80K and 90K at this point.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say draft by mid-June.

I wrote one scene this past week that I’d been waiting to write since I started the book. Not going to give that one to you, though. Not yet.  Instead, I’ll give you the fruits of my research into the macabre — the Paris Catacombs.

This was something I put on Twitter this week:

There are estimated to be six million sets of bones in the tunnels below Paris. And Douglas gets to go down there in search of (spoilers):


He’d keep going until full dark, he decided, and cast the spell again. It swirled around him for a moment, then led him on across the intersection, and up to a building. Douglas blinked, peered up at the sign over the door.

Entree des Catacombes

“Catacombs,” Douglas murmured. “Oh, that’s just lovely.” He shuddered, then tried the door. To his surprise, it opened easily. He stepped inside, and conjured a light, passing by a desk that he assumed usually was occupied by a clerk of some kind. At the far end of the room was a staircase leading down. He stopped, and looked around. “Map. I need a map. If these are anything like the catacombs in Rome, they go on for miles.” He searched the room until he found what he wanted — a leaflet with a rough map. He studied it and whistled. “Just like Rome,” he murmured, folding the map and slipping it into his coat. He swallowed, then started down the stone stairs, sending the light on ahead. He started counting stairs, but quickly lost count as he descended deeper and deeper underneath the streets of Paris. Finally, he reached the gallery at the bottom. There was only one way to go, and he took a deep breath before setting off down the dark tunnel. It was eerily quiet — only his footsteps and a soft, distant dripping sound. The air was damp, and cold, and there was a sickly draft. In places on the walls, there were signs set into the walls, marked with names. Street names, he realized, and wondered if the passages marked the names of the streets above him. There were others signs, these marked with numbers and letters that made no sense to him. The passage ended at a junction, and Douglas cast his seeking spell once more, taking the right turn and following the path written in dust and magic. Another long, dark tunnel, with only echoing footsteps to keep him company. There was no signs of any other living being in the tunnels, and he wondered if he’d been sent astray. No. No, this spell had never failed. And as far as he knew, there was no way to fool it, no false trail that would circumvent his ability to find who and what he wanted to find. So he kept walking, passing through a series of rooms full of the most glorious an fanciful carvings of elaborate buildings, then passing a stair that seemed to end at a well of some sort. Finally, he reached a pair of columns that flanked a door. The columns were decorated to look like crenellated towers. He passed between them, and stopped outside the door that they framed. There was a sign: Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort!

“The empire of the dead,” Douglas murmured, his voice seeming unnaturally loud in the silence. “How bloody romantic.” Slowly, he passed through the door, finding another gallery on the far side, with stone pillars and a large stone carved with a long inscription. He didn’t stop to read it, but kept walking. Only to stop short as he suddenly identified the the odd pattern of the walls in the tunnels ahead of him.

The catacombs beneath Rome were orderly things. Long tunnels with niches carved along the sides, two or three high in places, and each niche occupied by at least one former Roman. Here, though… the bodies were no longer bodies. The walls here were made up of stacked bones and skulls. They were very neatly stacked, but there were no complete skeletons. No signs of which bones belonged to which skulls, or of who any of these bones had been in life.

Douglas stared in creeping horror, trying to calculate how many bodies were just in this section. There was no way to know. He swallowed and started walking again, trying not to think too hard about Parisians of the past who might have objected to having their eternal rest as being part of a wall. He knew a little about unquiet ghosts, but not nearly enough to deal with one. Nor did he have the time.


I’m trying to decide now if I want to take the Catacomb tour, should I ever have the chance to visit Paris. It’s supposed to be 45 minutes and cover about a mile of the I’m-not-sure-how-many-miles of catacombs.  I’m not sure though — given how much research I had to do for the chapter and a half, I might have already seen the entire tour!

I’ve decided that once this book is done, I’m going to do two things. Proofread Morrigan’s Heir, and start worldbuilding on the Elemental project. My book-plan doesn’t have me starting Ashes and Light (Swords of Charlemagne 3) until August. Given the calendar, I was thinking I’d wait until after Indie Bookfest to start.  I might just follow that schedule.

Think I can keep from working on this world for that long?

In other news, the rerelease of Tales from the Arena is in June. I don’t have a date yet. As soon as I do, I’ll let you all know!

What do you think?

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