Work in Progress: The Lady and the Sword, week 13

It’s Mother’s Day, so I spent a good part of today away from my computer. There was Disney mini-golf (Fantasia themed), and really good food, and way too much traffic.

And words. There were words. There were a lot of words this week, too.

The Lady and the Sword
Swords of Charlemagne, Book 2

70646 / 100000 (70.65%)

It’s hard to believe that this is almost done, but it’s almost done. I’m in the “wrapping up all the loose ends that get wrapped up in this book” stage.  Hard to say how much more there will be to this — at least another two chapters, maybe three. I should adjust that total word count. Next week, probably. Once I have an idea as to how many chapters.

We’ve reached the point where almost any excerpt I post is going to be wildly spoilery. So let’s have some ancient history that gives some backstory on Roland and Olivier. The parts from Roland’s side are actually part of his legend. Olivier’s backstory is original to me.


“You,” Roland said. “How do you do that?”

“Do… do what?”

“You have all that knowledge. All that education. I’d love to know what you know.” Roland grinned. “I’m jealous.”

“You? Are jealous of me?” Olivier burst out laughing. “You?”

Roland looked quizzically at him. “Why is that funny?”

“Because you’re perfect, that’s why,” Olivier answered. “Because you’re the best at everything you set your hand to, and everyone knows it.”

Roland blinked. “I… I’m not perfect. I’m not as good as every thinks I am.”

“You’re better,” Olivier said, his voice firm. “And I’m not the only one who wishes they were you. You should have heard Ganelon—”

“I’d rather not hear him, thank you,” Roland interrupted. “And no. You don’t want to be me. I’d rather have been you. You had a family that loved you. You had book learning. You had proper training. You didn’t live in a cave and steal to eat.” He stopped. “You’re looking at me as if I have six heads. You didn’t know that?”

“No!” Oliver gasped. “Roland—”

“My mother was exiled from court for marrying my father. My real father. Milon. You knew that, I think?” Roland didn’t wait for an answer. “He died when I was very small. I don’t remember him. What I do remember is being hungry all the time. Hungry and dirty. Mother did her best, but she was never in good health after Father died. We took care of each other, the best we could. But I was a little animal from the time I could walk. What you saw of me today, out there?” he nodded toward the woods. “That was my childhood, until Uncle Charles found us. I stole food, from the Frankish camp. I didn’t know who they were. I just saw all the colors, and all the people, and I thought they’d never miss that basket. Only Charles followed me back to the cave.” Roland paused. “Everything changed after that.”

“How old were you?” Olivier asked.

“I was ten, I think, when we came to live in court. I had to learn how to be civilized, and quickly. Mother married Ganelon that same year. And she died the next year, with the baby that would have been my sister. Ganelon remarried when I was twelve, and I came to court to be fostered with my uncle.” Roland looked at him. “You didn’t know that? You weren’t at court yet? You were… what, eighteen?”

“Seventeen,” Olivier answered. “You’re five years younger than I am. And when I was seventeen, I had been a novice in a monastery for four years.”

“You were where?” Roland gasped.

“I was just about to take my orders,” Olivier said. “I was the third son, Roland. My brother Wulfram was supposed to inherit Viennes, with Jocelin behind him. I was a distant third, and I was sent off so I wouldn’t be in the way.”

“That’s why you know so much?” Roland asked. “I had no idea.”

“Turpin knows.” Olivier sighed. “That year was madness for me. On the Feast of the Epiphany, I was a novice, preparing to take my vows at Easter. Then both Wulf and Joss died in battle. All at once, I was called home. I was invested as heir to Viennes. By Pentecost, I was married. And by the following Pentecost, I was a father. Gismonda… she was very patient with me. Is very patient with me. It’s hard, to put aside knowing that I was always the least. That if Wulf or Joss had lived, I’d have had none of this.”

Roland blinked. “That’s it, isn’t it? You think I’ve made you least again?”

Olivier didn’t look up. He hadn’t said anything about this to anyone. Not even Turpin knew the whole of it. At least, he didn’t think his master knew. He nodded. “I thought I was going to be put aside again. I didn’t want to go to the monastery, Roland. I didn’t have a calling. I didn’t want to be a priest. But my Father told me I’d no choice — I was never going to be like my brothers, so I had to be out of their way.” He swallowed and looked up to see Roland looking at him, a rare anger in his face.

“Is your father still alive?”

“No. He died before Turpin found me,” Olivier answered. “It’s been five years now.”

Roland nodded slowly. “When this is done, do you mind terribly if I go spit on his grave?”



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