Posts Tagged ‘Brother Jan’

Brother Jan dropped in for a chat.
‘Miss you.’
‘Miss you.’
‘What are you doing at the moment?’ I asked. ‘Still viceroy-ing?’
He nodded. ‘Probably forever.’ He paused. ‘At least — until this body wears out.’ He sighed heavily. ‘There’s no peace for the efficient.’
‘I know,’ I said. ‘Any fool can wield a sword, but hardly anyone can run a government department efficiently.’
He nodded. ‘I always thought that fame and glory went to the warrior. Now I find — what everyone needs is managers who can manage.’ (Another pause.) ‘Apparently I’m good at it.’
‘What a waste of a glorious knight!’ I said, smiling in sympathy.
He almost managed a Jan-ish mischievous grin. ‘The only sword I’m allowed to wield now is the ceremonial one. And that’s blunt — so even when I’d love to slice the Sved envoy in two, I can’t.’
‘You could bewitch him,’ I suggested.
This time he managed the grin. ‘His horse tripped and he fell off.’
‘So what is going on in Our Lady’s Land?’ I asked.
He sighed. ‘No doubt Adelheide will fill you in soon. Let’s not talk about it. What are you writing now?’
I showed him the current Just Woman story, and he shrugged: ‘Light-weight stuff. Not worthy of your pen, Helen.’
‘I needed something light-weight after the Retrogradus.’
‘It was pretty grim, wasn’t it?’ He sighed. ‘Too late, now.’
‘You got Karlot back.’
‘Yes — eventually.’ He shook his head as if to shake the thought away. ‘I’m still recovering. How’s the day job?’
‘Pretty grim. As you say — the glory and honour goes one way, but what everyone actually wants is managers who can manage. So I get the managing when my real skills are in wielding a pen.’
‘When you’ve finished with young Mirabelle’s current adventure,’ said Jan, ‘you must come back to us. We miss you and Adelheide wants you to see how well Jurgis is growing. And we’ve got plenty to report on the Rus and our other neighbours.’
‘I promise,’ I said. ‘Meanwhile: sing us a song, Jan. Something to hum when I’m far away.’
So he sang me a song, but it was too sad to write it down here. Poor Jan. He does hate being viceroy.
‘Even if you can’t get yourself out of the managing,’ I said, ‘you could see what you can do for me.’
He gave me a very Jan-ish look. ‘You be careful! You’ll end up as a “viceroy” too!’
Please, no …


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It’s about time that this blog featured some pictures of the characters in The Star, as pictures do exist — so here they are. Appropriately for something set long-ago-and-far-away, these are really old: sketches of Brother Karlot the Chronicler (she’s a woman really) on the left and of Brother Jan and Brother Berthol on the right; originally scanned on to the Atari Mega 4 computer on which the stories were first typed. That, dear reader, will tell you how old the typed version of The Star is — and of course the manuscript is much older that that. So old that the paper is biodegrading!

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The end is in sight on this year’s NaNoWriMo, and I have almost finalised a full draft of  Book Six of A Sword, A Star, A Flame. As I originally wrote it before 2000 (I can date it from an incident in Book 7, which obviously I wrote after Book 6!) — it has been quite long enough in the writing.

The problem with Book 6, as Adelheide complained when she offered to write it up, is that it was a mess. Jan, Berthol and Karlot were going in different directions. New people were dragged into their circle: Dietrich the Draper, Berthol’s squires, Jan and Karlot’s pet sorcerer and Karlot’s Italian boyfriend. Adelheide has firmly cut out the pet sorcerer and Karlot’s Italian boyfriend; she’s cut the squires right down and reduced Dietrich to what she says is his proper place. He would have taken over the book if she’d let him, but now he’s pushed out at the end of part four and after that he gets only an incidental part.

Adelheide brought Gunhild back in (Jan is apt to leave her to one side, as he says she and baby Jorgie almost belong to a different story) and sorted out what was going on in Rusland. Book six is now a narrative rather than a series of scandals.

At the end of the book everyone is back in Our Lady’s Land, and Adelheide is about to start writing everything up. There is still book seven to come, which Karlot, Jan and Berthol devised with some help from Oglive to amuse Adelheide and Oglive while they were in their last weeks of pregnancy. Jan calls it the ‘Retrogradus’, because it involved the Twins and Karlot going back and rewriting their history to try to make things come out more positively (e.g., without the Great Revolt and the conquest by the Rus). Oglive had a few thoughts too. But let’s get book six finished first.


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‘That crazy husband of mine has been trying to get himself ordained. How can a demon be a priest? Will someone please explain it to him — it’s just not possible!
‘Anyway, he had a vision of Our Lady and She told him not to, so that seems to be off the agenda for the moment. I’m very relieved. I don’t want to wake up one morning and find I’m married to a priest, instead of a valiant knight.
‘As Karlot says: sometimes my husband really is the end!
‘Right, rant over — back to the writing again. I’m getting near to the end now, thank goodness.’

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I had to fly across the Atlantic for a work-related event last weekend, and as I find flying very stressful I asked Brother Jan for a relaxing song to sing there and back. Being Jan, he’s confused America with the Shees’ legend of the ‘summer-land’ or ‘sunnyland’ away in the West, where it’s always summer and where the dead go; a sort of heaven-on-earth like the country that Saint Brendan found when he and his monks crossed the Atlantic. (It’s not hard to understand why people living in cold, damp northern climes think that heaven should be sunny and warm.) So the song has a macabre twist, but anyway:

We shall be flying / over the sea/
Over the sea to the sunnyland;
Over the sea / over the sky/
Over the sky and beyond;/

Far to the land where the flowers grow /
Far to the land where the dead will go;/
Over the sea / over the sky/
Over the sky and beyond …

Simplistic words, but very sing-able. Additional verses were added as required, and it’s easy to change the words to be slightly less redolent of Jan’s land of the dead. There is a tune, but I can’t write music … but perhaps some of you have already heard me humming it in an airport or on the plane.


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