Ok. We’re gonna jump forward to story 2, here: “The Bloodied Land”. And even then, we’re jumping WAAAAAAAYYY forward, to a point where a snippet of dialogue in the old became a crucial, tense, bloody climatic scene in the new.
So, the short snippet from the old, Ross pleading with Elena to save Neal’s life:
“Your Majesty,” Ross said. “Please. To repay that blood-debt. Vicari’s caused enough pain. Don’t cause more. There’s no point to it. For honor’s sake, don’t kill him. Don’t let Darkwater get his claws on him.”
“Perhaps,” Elena said, “I should have the Blood Guard question you to find the real truth of this tale.”
Oh god… “Darkwater knows the truth of my story,” Ross said as evenly as he could.
“Indeed we do,” Aisling said quietly. “That is why the mage pays the teind in the morn. Your idea of truth is most twisted from ours.”
“I,” Ross said, “know the whole story. That’s all.”
“And if I demand that you take your friend’s place for the teind?” Elena’s gaze bored into him. “Already the Council screams for war with Guilder, in revenge for the king’s death, for no matter what you have claimed, you have been linked to Guilder and Vicari. Your death would silence those screams,” a pause, “Ambassador.”
Ross went still. His mouth was numb, dry. “If…” He swallowed hard. “If that’s what it would take to free an innocent man.”
Jeez. I’d almost forgotten that “Chulain” used to be “Guilder”, in homage to The Princess Bride in the original fanfic. The original fanfics were crack-fics, written off-the-cuff and on-the-fly and just for the amusement of the Journey Digest folks — but somewhere in the middle of this one and the writing of the third, they grew into a far larger, extensive, complex world of tales, with the characters taking real offense at being called “Journey”.
Anyway, that bit of dialogue percolated, and simmered, and then burst out in the 2010 NaNoWriMo into this. Again, Dyl is the expy for Ross, Rafe for Neal, Vao for Steve P.; the only bit of backstory needed is that Dylan has been pretending to be a “prince” from our world and Vao/Faolan has been shot down by assassins:
“It was her,” Rafe snarled, lunging towards Elena, held fast. “It was her — that bitch wanted him dead, she hired me —” He was silenced with a fist.
“He tells true,” said the ciall flatly. “He tells truth as he knows it.” His voice changed, somehow more, somehow less. “And beware the truth unknowing, Realm Guardian. Unknowing brings ruin, unwitting brings death, and the land will never recover from the blow you are about to deliver —”
“Since he tells true,” Gareth said, “then I give a truth back. Teind him. And her —” that, snarled, barely civil, “ — confined, below. Until her time delivers.”
“There is miodha all through the king,” Trevor said from where he knelt, beside Vão; he lifted his gaze to Jonathan. “His.”
“He,” Gareth snarled, “is fuadir. And Faol lies dead because of it.” (author’s note: “fuadir” = “repudiated, damned”)
Jonathan fought the men holding him, his gaze on Vão’s body, his mouth moving, no sound, as if choking. One of the guards backhanded him; Jonathan went to his knees, but lifted his head, staring from Vão to Rafe, his eyes wild, panicking.
Dylan couldn’t move, frozen in shock, grief.
“Faolán lies dead because of those,” Trevor nodded to the bloodied bolts, “and this man is no more fuadir than I. I see no crossbow on either of these men, Realm Guardian.”
Gareth moved swiftly, tore the front of Jonathan’s tunic open, baring the scars and the brand, ugly and livid. “You deny the proof?”
“I deny what Donn did,” Trevor said. “This man is Ayoan, as I am. Not knowing of his Gift, untrained, not even aware that such was possible, and overwhelmed by abuse and torture? The land can only act so far, Gareth, and all its tools have their breaking points.”
“You claim him of the land?”
“No,” Trevor said. “I only claim him miodhach.” (author’s note: “healer”)
“Then,” Gareth said, “we try him again.”
Jonathan cried out, lunging against the hands holding him, was held fast.
“You fuckin’ bastards —” Rafe fought, biting, snarling, and the club fell, caught him hard across the shoulders; Rafe sprawled in the dirt, spitting the words out, begging, pleading. “It wasn’t him — it wasn’t — it was all me — let him go —”
Oh god, Jay, no —
Gareth gestured sharply at the men on Rafe; they dragged him forward, pulled him to his knees. “We try them both. The land will judge this whole lie of theirs. The land will show the truth of the matter.” Gareth pulled his sword, laid the bare blade against Rafe’s throat. “A death blow, here —”
Rafe inhaled sharply, his eyes tightly shut, visibly trembling.
“— let the fuadir heal that.”
“No!” It burst from Jonathan; he lunged again, nearly broke free. “He didn’t — Vão’s not —” His voice choked off in a gasp at a hard fist across his face; he went to his knees, struggled back up, wild and fighting, mouth moving, no sound —
“When he fails,” Gareth paused, got visible control of himself, “then one of Faol’s killers is dead and this fuadir will be put to teind on the morn for complicity.”
“And if he succeeds?” Trevor said.
Gareth’s voice was cold. “Then the matter is done.”
But the land won’t allow a cro-skradh to be healed! (author’s note: blood-magicuser)
Deathly white, Rafe stared at the sky, not seeming to see anything around him. “The great vein only, Realm Guardian,” Trevor said calmly. “That will bleed him out swift enough. No miodhach can manage a beheading, and Jonathan is already drained from attempting the king.”
“Do not,” Gareth snapped, “ask mercy for them, Trevor.”
“I do not. I ask for reality, not the impossible.”
Jonathan had been forced to his knees, the men on him fighting to hold him down. He raised his head, his gaze on Rafe, pleading. “Brother —”
“Hermano,” Rafe whispered.
God…Jay’s innocent, no matter what Rafe tried. Without Rafe, we can’t get home. But Jay’s innocent…he’s… Then Dylan went still, his breath short, his lips numb, as the next thought followed, relentless, clear…
…what his Majesty did for that protection you claim…
Somehow Dylan found his voice. “Stop.” He stepped away from the comfortable anonymity of the crowd, into the center. His gaze was on Jonathan; Jonathan stared back, stricken, pale, as if he’d suddenly guessed…
“You have no say in this,” Gareth said.
Even he’s not sure. “I have every say.” Dylan held Jonathan’s gaze for a long moment, then stared down at Rafe. “I offer myself. In this man’s place.”
Silence, complete, total. Only the wind, the whispering of leaves, distant birdsong.
“Do you, now,” Gareth said.
“Faolán offered himself,” Dylan said — god, how the hell can I sound so calm? — “He was to stand teind for me. I return that.” His voice broke; he swallowed, tried again. “My blood for his. My life for Faolán’s. Royal blood pays for royal blood.”
“And when you fall?”
Dylan closed his eyes, breathed deep. He was shaking, cold, alone. “Then my death ends it. Full payment. For both of them.”
“No,” Rafe breathed. “Dyl, no!”
“You offer for two, then,” Gareth said. “You are only one.”
“I offer for a cro-skradh and one you call fuadir,” Dylan said. “A prince’s life is worth both of theirs.”
“A prince,” Gareth said. “Fine. The land will judge the truth of that claim, as well.”
Someone shoved Dylan from behind, pressure on his shoulders pushing him to his knees, even as Rafe was dragged back and held firm despite his struggling. Dylan didn’t resist, kept his head up, his gaze fixed on Jonathan.
“Dyl,” Jonathan said, his voice shaking, “don’t do this.”
…already drained from attempting the king…
Dylan straightened. “I,” he said regally, “stand surety for my subjects.”
“Dammit, Dyl, you’re not—”
“Jonathan.” Dylan cut him off, firmly. Then, quieter, to Jonathan’s stricken face, “I trust you, Jay.”
He kept his gaze focused on Jonathan, even as he felt the cold metal against his neck, his pulse against the edge.
The slice, the sudden sharp pain, cold wet spreading —
Falling, endless falling…
Alright. Consider THAT a teaser for book two.