Idun Verdandi, an Ísigstān Slave: A Character Development Draft

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Idun Verdandi was born in the Ísigstān kingdom. Idun was born a slave in the house of the Vetr Sun, living in the very same castle as the hēahcyning himself. This knowledge was no comfort. Idun had once been told the story of her beginning. Her mother, also a slave, had tried to first hide Idun, then to smuggle her from the castle. Although Idun’s father wasn’t complicit in this act, both he and Idun’s mother were killed. A warning to any who would try to deprive the hēahcyning of his property.

Idun hugged her knees to her chest and leaned her back against the ice-flecked stone wall of her chamber. The other slave girls slept. She could not. The night fevers often interfered with her sleep. Idun raised a thin hand perched atop a thinner arm and brushed her long hair toward the front of her face, making a vail. The silver-white strands making up the first foot of hair from scalp to shoulder looked dull, stringy. The other foot and a half, from shoulder to waist was in worse shape. The black dye, which marked slaves, dried her hair. Turned it brittle.

Ísigstān natives were born with three distinctive traits. The silver-white hair, pale skin, and black irises. These traits were adaptations to the frost-bitten land. The paleness of hair and skin to better hide from natural predators, and expanded pupils with dominantly black irises (more night hours). The slaves were made to dye their hair. The more valuable slaves could keep half of the growth—and only half—their natural silver-white. It wouldn’t be long before Idun would have to add more dye.

Another, more permanent demarcation was inflicted on slaves in early childhood. This was the brand that ran from one cheek to the other, curving over the nasal bridge in a turned down crescent shape. Many of the slave children died from the brand.

Idun touched the rough, raised skin before letting her hand fall away. Sleep would take her soon.

She grabbed the piece of cloth she had ripped from her bedding and placed it in her mouth. She let a corner piece of the cloth stay pressed between her lips so that once she awoke, she could yank the rag out. For almost a month, she slept that way. If her night screams ever woke the hēahcyning again, she was told, she’d pay with her flesh.

Idun lay back, almost curling in on herself. As she began to drift, she felt the skin of her arms start to burn, handprint shapes glowing along her biceps.

Every night, this is how it began.

Music is the Muse

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I took a break from writing a blog for which I’d need to indulge in research. I started today off doing something I had zero desire in ever doing. Or, rather, it began last night.

I was driving home, listening to an album. Every time I listen to this album, I feel it building a story. Maybe not the one the musicians are trying to tell, sure, but a story that won’t go untold. It refuses. For months, I’ve resisted. Never, ever, have I had the desire to write anything on the same plane as a work that could be called epic, nor have I had interest in world building. But, what do I know?

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Language, Please…

I see why Tolkien was so keen on using dead languages. Particularly Old English. It’s beautiful, it’s melodic (an educated guess, on account of it being a… well, a dead language), and it feels epic. So, as I sat down to outline the first few chapters for the first book in this tale, I realized I needed to brush off my Norse sagas, my Old English texts, and my Celtic mythology. I realized this mostly after I spent three hours coming up with a couple of character names and the name of the land the protagonist is from. I must have taken a severe linguistic inflection dump after college.

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Sweet, Sweet Resolution

So, I rounded up my linguistics sources, settled on character and (one) place names, and jotted the outline of the first nine chapters for this first installment. It feels great. It feels daunting. It feels terrifying. And boy, I can’t wait until I really get to dig in. I’ve set a happy pace I can keep, because once the outline is done, there’s no stopping the creative juices.

While writing (and editing and touching base with fifty people a day) for a magazine as my day (read: paying) job and writing blogs eat up time, there is an hour per day somewhere in all that for which I can spare a moment of world building, one sentence in a hybrid dead/new language, one action scene or touching moment.

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