The Art of Mirriam Neal

Kenna

tumblr_m05vffc3bs1rpzt87o1_400You may have heard me talk about Kenna, my inspiration project. I’ve been aching to write a high fantasy (not urban fantasy or steampunk fantasy or modern fantasy, but real high fantasy with elves and castles and magic and heroes and quests and whatnot) but a high fantasy is a large undertaking, and I didn’t want to begin it with no map. In the middle of the night a couple weeks ago, I was lying awake wondering how I was supposed to write an Epic without using the Tolkien Model, thus turning my unborn book into a sad copy before it took a first breath.

An idea tickled my brain with the whisper, Moses was an Epic. David was an Epic. And I realized that I could pull everything I needed from the Book next to my bed. Thus, Kenna was born – although she’s currently only five thousand words, she’s already become something I’m proud of. (I think one of my favorite things is the elven culture. Gone are the beautiful, infallible, graceful elves of Tolkien; in their place is a weathered, rough race similar to old Icelandic warriors, ‘more inclined to shape the blade of a sword than turn the pages of a book.’) That being so, I’m excited to share a few pieces of it with you!

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The Crown fell silent for a long time; the only sound was the distant whistling of wind through cracks in the stone, and the breathing of the room’s three inhabitants.

            Then he said brusquely, “Then I shall kill them.”

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            It was as though Elah was watching him from the heavens, and the weight of His disappointment was crushing him, a man made of paper and regret and things he couldn’t change.

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It was not easy for a five-year-old boy of any breed or birth to understand that his life was going to end in ten years, and indeed Farrien was not supposed to learn of it. Morougha told him the next afternoon, as they played in the nursery, attacking one another with soldiers carved exquisitely from livewood by the best craftsmen in Alacros.

            Farrien stared at the urscummig boy, a horse-warrior clutched suffocating in his hand. “Really?” was the only word his young mind could scramble together.

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It was a two-day journey to the edge of the woods, and another half day’s ride beyond that, through the secret paths to Hallbjörn, the last refuge of the elves and Einar’s home. The child in his arms never slept, and never cried. She simply remained staring up at the strange, rough figure, as if trying to figure out what he could possibly want with her.

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  The big elf waved a hand dismissively. “I’m not much one for children myself, especially ones as can’t form words yet.”

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Eldar-marks were rare, and unpredictable. If they had a purpose, it was not certain; but those that bore them were the figures of history. It was as though the mark was the hand of Elah; a seal that set them aside for greater things than most would ever know. Most children weren’t born with the mark; it would appear sometime before they reached the middle years, before full adulthood.

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For now, there were more important things to consider, such as what to call the child. He could not simply call her ‘the baby’ – every living thing deserved a name to know itself by. It could not be too long; she was a small thing, and a long name would only weigh her down. Besides, he did not possess an abundance of imagination.

            He watched the baby’s eyes closed, her mouth still firmly clamped around his fingertip even as her fists curled and tiny snores drifted from her peaceful face. Yes, she deserved a good name. Something simple, but meaningful.

            The sun had risen in the sky above the Longwood, shedding pale beams of light through the canopy, when the name came to him. In his mother language, it meant both learn and teach – something for the babe to aspire to.

            Not a sleepy child, she opened her eyes in time to hear her name spoken for the first time.

            “Kenna.”

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