So, my blog has been conspicuously quiet, and not just this particular part of my social media network. My tumblr blog is silent, Twitter only has a few tweets, and my Author Facebook page is mostly made up of shares. Yes, it’s been a quiet November, but you may ask…..why? Well…
Yes, my second year of attempting the National Novel Writing Month challenge saw success, unlike last year where I didn’t even crack 10,000. For those unfamiliar with the NaNoWriMo challenge, one has 30 days to produce a 50,000 novel. I will admit that it came down to the wire for me (finished on the 29th), however, I was pleased with the very rough draft and plan on spending the winter in rewrites and edits for a spring release date.
The project is called, The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach, it is the fourth book in a series of short story anthologies collectively called, The Scarlet Bastards. What makes this fourth book unique is that it is neither an anthology nor a novella (the third book, Tongs, Tartan and Tin Pot Battleships was a novel but still an anthology of short stories) This is my first full length novel with this series and it is a bridge to the next full length novel that I’ve been working on currently labeled, Samsara.
The plot of The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach follows on to the end of Tongs, Tartan and Tin Pot Battleships which sees the protagonist, Alexander ‘Sikunder’ Armstrong, a 17 year old runaway from his home in Naramata, British Columbia who has joined the United Nations Off-World Legion, arrive in the fishing town of Agarum on the Seleucus Lacus in the colony of Samsara. Located some 20 light years from Earth, the colony is the dumping ground of UN refugees, roughnecks, criminals and the adventurous poor and downtrodden from Earth, and thousands of Gliesiuns from the world of Gliesium in orbit around Gliese 581. His decuria – some 50 or more jawan soldiers – are posted to a new castrum (fort) in the Aebbas Saltus, a UN settlement that has grown too rough to handle by the small force of Samsara Constables. Sikunder is quickly involved in a minor skirmish with a local band of broekn criminals called the Cheung; a skirmish that the UN was unwilling to initiate. For his pains of unwilling involvement, Sikunder is sent out the following day on an uncomfortable winter patrol with a column of 50 constables and hired guns to the village of Svarga and back. It should have been a cold, uncomfortable yet safe mission, yet hours into, the column is decimated by a band of Glisieun refugees from the Athand’u clan. Sikunder survives the slaughter and wakes up in a nearby monastery under the ministrations of Sister Mary Coulthard, called the Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach by the local wags. She leads over 100 nuns – mostly broken women she has collected from slavery, prostitution and poverty whom she ministers then sends out into the colony to help the needy. They are not your everyday nuns, however, for the help they can offer is often violent, and they are a well armed force for good in a valley that is pregnant with evil.
In the days that follow the massacre, some of Sikunder’s decuria arrive to investigate the scene and retrieve him. The weather closes in, however, and the Legion soon learns that Athand’u were put up to the massacre by a dreaded clan of Gliesiuns that were thought to be well south and hundreds of kilometers away. The Et’moru clan are a truly evil collection of creatures looking to establish a homeland in Gleann Ceallach and disposing of first the constabulary then followed by the Athand’u themselves is the beginning of their Machiavellian plan. Leaving only the monastery and its force of nuns, the jawans of the Legion under the leadership of its towering and colourful leader, Subedar Angus Motshwega, a Scottish raised Capetown Zulu affectionately called, MacShaka the Tartan Zulu, decided that they will stand with the nuns and against the orders of the UN who are uninterested in a fight under lands they are not responsible for.
Sikunder digs deep to find his courage, and in the end, stands with the Cardinal in the final attack by the Et’moru.
Nana Armstrong had died seven months before I fled Earth. She’d had a stroke and lay in the baking sun in beneath her apple trees for a couple of days before succumbing. It had been an horrible death, I thought, lying there alone with the knowledge that death was coming – maybe not fast enough, but coming. I looked down upon Coulthard, tight lipped and focused, yet afraid; so very afraid. She was surrounded by her nuns, but for a moment, I could see that was very along.
“No one should die alone,” I heard myself say as I stalked over to the stairs and went down. I ignored the shouts of Usman as I rushed through the common room and out into the courtyard. I found myself standing before Coulthard who seemed oblivious until she seemed to catch sight of me from the corner of her eye.
“What are you doing here, jawan?” she asked as she returned her gaze upon the gate. The shrieks of the Et’moru had begun. They were coming.
“I’m here to fight,” I said as I took a place beside her. I pulled my pistol out, powered it up, heard the ‘snick’ as a round was chambered, then placed it back in its holster. I loosened my Khyber knife and hatchet, planted my feet and tapped the button on the side of my rifle that released the 30 centimetre serrated bayonet.
“You should be with your own kind, jawan,” she said through clenched teeth.
“I am,” I replied.
“Nonsense,” she replied, though with less asperity.
“Sacrifice,” I replied. “You said to not question it. Generosity and sacrifice do not exist, you said, if no one benefits from it.”
A small wintry smile crossed her lips. “Jawan, you have bested me.”
The constables suddenly opened fire through the holes in the gate and I brought my rifle to the ready. “They come,” Coulthard cried. “Glorious Archangel St. Michael, by thy protection, enable my soul to be so enriched by grace as to be worthy to be presented by thee to Jesus Christ, my Judge, at the hour of my death!” she cried. A few of the nuns around us were weeping but Coutlhard’s voice drowned their fear away. “As thou hast conquered Satan and expelled him from Heaven, conquer him again, and drive him far away from me at the hour of my death.“
The gates shuddered beneath a mighty blow, and this time they bowed inwards while the six constables pushed back.
“Be ready!” she roared.