NP8: Chapter 8 of The Healer of Istagun – Gesu’s Blood

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This is chapter 8 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella. I hope you enjoy! =) Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

“Dahlia.”

The voice, stern yet gentle, murmured in my ear.

I opened my bleary eyes and found myself wrapped in warm comforters. I looked up to see Tarquin, who was on his knees beside my pallet, his hand on my arm. Concern shone through his intense dark eyes. When he saw I was awake, he removed his hand. Strangely, I missed the warmth of his fingers.

I quivered inside, my body feeling like a block of ice despite the pile of blankets on top of me and the fire that flickered steadily nearby. “W-where are we?”

A woman appeared, with wrinkled skin and beautiful white hair cut short at her shoulders. She smiled at me. “I am Tiana, and this is my home. Welcome.”

She had seen everything. The truth poured into me, and I was amazed. These old folks had lived full lives, in all four lands.

I gazed at my surroundings. Everything was white, just like it had been minutes before I’d fallen asleep in the glade with Hollis in my arms. We were enclosed by sheer whiteness, as pure and flawless as the Summer clouds.

“Thank you, Tiana. But I… I don’t see a home.”

Amused, the old woman tapped the whiteness, and I realized it was a solid. I looked up and around me, as I realized the walls and ceiling were made of ice. An ice home. I had never imagined such a thing.

“Dahlia, I have to go,” Tarquin said hoarsely. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay before I left.”

He turned away, but I grabbed his hand to stop him. “Where are you going?”

“Dahlia, you can’t come with me, you’re too sick…” He looked away, but didn’t let go of my hand. “We need…” He shook his head, as if I wouldn’t be able to bear the news.

“What do we need, Tarquin?” I asked, exasperated at his silence.

“We need Gesu’s blood,” he said slowly. “His body is on Medfuna island. I have to go there.”

I sat up in bed, ignoring the sharp pain in my back. “I have to come with you.”

He sank to his knees and massaged my fingers, looking gently in my eyes. “Dahlia, the plague has affected you.”

“But not yourself?” I observed his spotless skin in amazement. How had he avoided the sickness?

“Long ago Gesu gave me the power to resist certain poison spells,” Tarquin said. “Then, I didn’t know how it would help me, but now it’s all clear.” He grinned, his eyes searching my face in earnest. “I’m going to be King, Dahlia. As soon as Queen Hazina’s out of the way, I’m going to rule Istagun.”

I stared at him steadily, taking in his confident words. I fingered his ragged beard, deciding to not take him seriously, at least for now. “A King, eh?” I smiled. “That doesn’t mean you can order me around, you know.”

“Dahlia, how could you feel well enough to do anything?”

As his eyes flickered with unease, I let my hand fall from his chin.

“I don’t…” The pain still gripped me, and nausea filled my stomach. “I’m just determined, that’s all. Will you carry me across the sea?”

As soon as he laughed, I realized how flirtatious I must have sounded. Oops. I folded my hands together in my lap.

“Turns out I won’t have to get my fancy miner pants wet in that ocean,” he said, a glint of mirth in his eyes. “Prima and the healthy Summer people sailed here in my boat. Don’t know how they got the thing out of my basement, but, hey—it’s here!”

Relief flooded through me. “And Kari is here, too?”

“Yeah, somewhere. Probably finding his brothers. Prima’s taking good care of him—even soothed a deer and fed venison to him along with the whole village while she was at it.”

“Good,” I said thoughtfully. “So we will sail to Midfuna island on that boat of yours?”

Tarquin nodded. “So it’s ‘we’ now, eh?”

I just laughed, but I hoped desperately he’d get the thought of us-together-forever out of his head this minute. It was ridiculous. If only he’d understand that I could never have children!

Yet, somehow, his calm nature and good humor had filled me with a peace I’d not felt in a long time.

***

After I drank a hot bowl of Tiana’s soup, Tarquin carried me out into the village, his strong arms easily bearing my weight. Soon he rounded up the Gesu-following fairies. I bade farewell to Prima who had to stay and take care of Kari. Midfuna Island was where every human and fairy alike was buried, and it was no place for children.

But Hollis is there.

The realization spread through me as horrifically as the plague inside me. Tarquin had informed me that all the dead sick ones in the glade were gone by the time he found me and took me to Tiana’s house. Hollis would be buried along with Gesu, with no funeral to celebrate her little life.

The boat did indeed float. Tarquin and the fairies pushed through the water with wooden sticks that were flat at the end, which somehow heaved the vessel forward into the enormous sea. I watched in amazement at the steady pattern of motion and listened attentively to the rhythm of the waves.

Dolphins shot out of the water now and then, showing of their beautiful figures that gleamed in the sunlight. Yet it was cold out here, and I wrapped Tiana’s blankets around me, thankful for the warmth they provided.

We steadily approached the island that sat faintly in the distance.

I watched Tarquin paddle with the wooden stick. Hollis was dead. I could hardly believe it. I was too shocked to cry again, at least for now.

“How are you doing?” Tarquin asked as he strained against the waves.

His earnest words revealed his genuine concern for me, but I wanted to hide away my scarred soul, too overcome by pain to know how to express it.

Hollis was the sweetest sister, always smiling, and wise beyond her years. She couldn’t be gone. How had I let her just die like that? I could have done something—if only I’d listened to Prima when we hadn’t found my sister in Spring and believed her when she insisted Hollis was in Winter. If we’d gone straight to Winter instead of back to Summer, I could have saved her.

“Dahlia,” Tarquin said firmly. “It’s okay to cry.”

I hugged my knees to my chest. “I’m fine.”

“Just fine?” He searched my eyes, then paddled again, his face worn and full of sorrow. He must be exhausted. He cared about me. Did he understand my pain?

“Fairies are awful,” I moaned.

At that, he hushed me, for we were surrounded by kind, Gesu-following fairies.

“Yeah,” I laughed shortly. “Prima would be offended.”

Tarquin chuckled. “Well, yeah, I get what you mean. Queen Hazina is awful. She had us fooled for a long time, except for me. The docile spells didn’t work on me, so I had to live knowing full well how mistreated we all were. No one believed me. I guess when Gesu gives you the power to rule Istagun, you have to face some hardship along the way.”

My eyes widened. “Tarquin… are you really going to be King?”

“Gesu said I’d be, and his word hasn’t failed thus far.”

I ached at the mention of Gesu. He was gone: his love, his healing, his redeeming the bad for the good, as he had done to the fairies who now followed him. “How is his blood going to meet all our needs?”

Tarquin gripped the paddle tightly, staring out at the horizon. “The fairies say we’ll have to drink it.”

“What!?” The thought was sickening, to say the least.

He shrugged. “Without intaking his mercy, how will we breathe in new life and health?”
I narrowed my eyes, yet I believed him nonetheless. Gesu had power beyond the queen. Last night his love had spoken to my heart in unbelievable ways. It didn’t make sense until you experienced it. His power was real, more real than anything I’d known before.

As we approached the shore, we saw the Hazina-following fairies ready to sail back to Istagun in their own ship after their day’s work of burying the dead. The boat bumped into the sand and we scrambled out, making sure to curve in the opposite direction of the grave-digging pixies.

Yet a sharp yell erupted. Tarquin, holding me in his arms, ran with the fairies deep into the forest, away from the chaos. But the Hazina-followers were chasing us. Our fairy friends were soon out of sight, for their wings were faster than Tarquin’s legs.

“Can you run any faster?” I clung to him, fear racing through my heart.

He quickened his pace, without speaking a word. I felt his heart pounding as I leaned my head against his broad chest. It only comforted me that his arms held me secure.
We reached the open glade where stones marked the deaths of thousands. Fresh sadness washed over me. Hollis was here, under the ground, with not a breath left in her lungs.

I shuddered as Tarquin rushed to the Gesu-following fairies who had found a stone. It was only a pebble, but it marked Gesu’s grave, according to a pixie who had a spell that found what was lost.

The Hazina-following fairies were nowhere in sight. We could only hope they too didn’t have a finding spell in one of their pockets.

The fairies dug through the fertile earth quickly. Soon they revealed Gesu’s corpse, the smell reeking through the air. A smile played on the man’s lips, yet his eyes looked full of a deep sorrow.

“Here he is!” one exclaimed in wonder.

“Hurry, everyone!” another declared.

I looked away, hurt knotting a rope inside my stomach. “Why, Tarquin? If he’s so powerful, why didn’t he just save himself?”

Tarquin lowered me to the ground to let me rest. “He loved us more than his own life.” His voice choked with emotion. “And his blood was our only cure.”

One of the fairies had brought a glass bottle, which they proceeded to fill with Gesu’s blood. I closed my eyes and lay on the dirt ground, straining against the nauseous feeling in my stomach.

“Who goes there!?” a voice roared in the distance, but it quickly approached, along with the sound of rapid fluttering wings.

“It is only us!” cried a fairy. “We are making sure Gesu is dead.”

I cringed at the stupid lie.

“What do you mean—making sure?” The Hazina follower smirked. “Of course we’re sure! We stabbed him three times to be doubly sure!”

“But Gesu claimed to have untold power—greater than even Hazina!” Tarquin declared, and I was both amazed and terrified at his bold words. “What if he is undefeatable?”

The angry fairy yelled to the surrounding throng of Hazina followers. “Charge!”

Soon a battle erupted. Pain flooded through me as I lay there while Tarquin covering me with his body to protect me from the spells. At first I smelled his soiled shirt against my nose, but then the pungent odor of blood grew stronger, permeating the forest air. I tried not to vomit. Shouts rang out as spells were cast one after another.

I imagined the Gesu-follower fairies falling one after another in the face of Hazina’s more powerful fairies. It was no secret that Hazina collected the strongest spells in existence. Could Gesu save us now?

“Dahlia, I have to leave you for a moment—don’t be afraid.”

As soon as Tarquin rose to his feet, his voice bellowed through the air: “Stop, in the name of Gesu!”

All heads turn toward him in astonishment.

“No more of this, I tell you! I will be the new King, and you all must obey me now or you’ll regret it when I sit upon that throne.”

“Ha! The new king? You think you’re more powerful than—”

Silence fell, and I knew Tarquin caused it. Gesu must have truly given him more powers than just being immune to poison.

Soon Tarquin and the Gesu-following fairies returned to the boat. We set off, rushing back to Winter with our precious bottle of Gesu’s blood.

The Hazina-following fairies on Midfuna Island were all dead, and not a single one was buried with the humans.

Tarquin paddled against the current, his arms straining harder than ever. Yet he was calm, his eyes gazing out at the vast ocean as if his thoughts wandered across the sea.

“You did nothing,” I said simply. “It was all Gesu.”

He smiled thoughtfully. “Isn’t he amazing?”

As we approached Winter, shouts filled the air. Fairies were overwhelming humans one by one with their various spells.

Tarquin ordered everyone to paddle faster, desperation in his voice. I wrapped the blanket around me, as the temperature of Winter grew its hold on me. How would we ever defeat Hazina?

I was tormented at the thought of Prima and Kari dying. I almost screamed at Tarquin to hurry up, but then I realized that he was doing all he could. He was trying with all the strength he had and more… Gesu’s strength.

I found a passion deep within me for love and for truth. We didn’t need to be afraid. So instead of complaining to Tarquin, I yelled above the splash of the paddles in the sea, “Let’s fight for Gesu!”

And I knew I would never be the same again.

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J14: 3 Tips on How to Write Powerful Fiction

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I’m far from being a bestselling author, but I have been working on a book for three years, along with writing stories, poetry, and articles on this blog during that time span. Through those things, I’ve gathered some ideas about how to write well. When it comes down to it, if you want to write well, you probably want to write powerfully, making an impact on your readers’ life long after they’ve read your words. I could write on and on about how to write in general, but I thought these were the most important tips I have learned for how to write the most inspiring, long-lasting writing that fills both a reader’s mind and heart.

1. Write for a purpose. Writing with a purpose in mind is so needed in this age of useless, even harmful stories, that eagerly step in time with the culture of depravity. The most meaningful pieces I’ve written have not only meant the most to me, but have meant the most to those who read them. When you write for a Reason other than applause, a Purpose other than man’s approval, that’s when God steps in and moves people’s hearts. It’s not what you write that changes people, it’s how you write. If you only write beautiful sentences without any meaning, your reader may enjoy your writing, but they won’t learn from it—it will just go in one ear and out the other. If you want to impact people with your writing, you not only need to write beautifully, you need to write purposefully.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” — 1 Corinthians 10:31

2. Write from your heart. Along with writing for a higher purpose than simply pleasure, most writers long to draw their readers into their story, feeling the same way they do. Unfortunately, this emotional method if gone to far can have dire consequences, such as exciting sinful thoughts, so this aspect of writing must be carefully balanced. This might seem odd for me to say this, but I really think if you want to write for the glory of God, you must write as both His child and as a human being—as a Christian actually living out their faith, yet also as a human who has emotions they have to deal with. Because in order to create meaningful writing, there must be deep emotions that readers can relate with. If you express your emotions on paper, you’re drawing the reader into very real emotions that you yourself have experienced. Yet after shedding light on this darkness, if you reveal the Light of lights, the Lord of Lords, who overcomes all the fear, anguish, and despair we’ve ever felt, we allow the reader to hopefully experience true confidence in the gospel of Christ. Without darkness, the light seems normal, but with it, its anything but normal—its your last chance, your forever love, your absolute desire. So don’t write blandly. Pour out your heart on paper your crippling feelings, but balance it out by passionately writing about the gospel that pulls us through trials, allowing the reader to both relate and learn from your writing, especially helping them if they ever go through a similar hardship.

“Lessons of wisdom have the most power over us when they capture the heart through the groundwork of a story, which engages the passions.” — Laurence Sterne

3. Create dynamics in characters, scenes, and plots. Although this one’s a bit more on the practical side of things, I think it fits in well with this article because it is, I believe, a main part of how to write powerfully. So, what do I mean by dynamics? You need to create opposing forces, such as an extravert versus an introvert, a mouse blinking up at a lion, a bad guy dangling a little girl off a cliff. Simple, right? Now think further. Irony, the presentation of something that is the opposite of what we’d expect, is also a huge part of creating dynamics. For creating dynamic characters, think of the character Reepacheep in Narnia who thinks of himself as an honorable fighter, which catches us by surprise, because it’s the opposite of what we expect from a mouse (Usually when I think mouse, I think timid, weak, and afraid.)

When it comes to creating dynamics in scenes, think contrast. You don’t want the same thing happening, or the same feelings going on all the time. This one’s hard to explain, so here’s an example from a book I’m writing:

“Early the next morning, I awoke with a feeling of peacefulness, until the sharp odor of death filled my nostrils. Suddenly, I was hit by the horrific memories of the day before.”

Instead of the character waking up immediately terrified, she wakes up feeling at peace, only moments later to remember everything and grow afraid. This contrast in feelings within a scene creates dynamics and tension, making the reader much more in tune with the characters’ emotions.

For fun, here’s a picture of what I imagine the main character, Sigrid, to look like in my book, The Thrall’s Sword, which you can read about here.

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Finally, you can create dynamics within the plot by having both moments of success and failures, both happiness and despair. You especially want to create that high climax, truly putting your characters at their wits’ end, so the grand beautiful happy ending (if you choose to have one) is much more realistic and satisfying.

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Overall, I’ve learned that writing powerfully has to do not with what you write, but with how you write. Are you writing for yourself or for something Higher than yourself? Are you writing mere words or are you writing from your heart? And are you simply writing a mild story with hardly any contrasting elements, or are you creating dynamics through characters, scenes, and the plot?

These are the questions I think every fiction writer needs to think about, and they can be applied to nonfiction, too. I hope you benefit from what I’ve learned. Now, fellow writer, the pages are waiting for you to shake things up a bit!

Do you have any writing advice you’ve learned? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

J6: God’s Love – An Ever-Fixed Mark

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Today we will be exploring true love and commitment, through Scripture and even Shakespeare…

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.” – William Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXVI
This poem always brings a stirring to my heart, awaking that longing that lies within each of us for an affection that lasts forever.

Too often, we humans fail to meet Shakespeare’s idealistic standard of love. We are shifting, changing creatures who one moment give sacrificially to a person and the next moment glare or yell at them for not taking out the trash.

Sometimes, when we see a flaw in a person, we’re shaken with frustration. Other times, maybe we’re simply tired of seeing that same old face, however beautiful, and we just search for that adventure and excitement we used to feel in those good old days.

But that isn’t love, according to Shakespeare. And yes, my friends, that isn’t love according to God either. God doesn’t intend to stop loving us, His plan isn’t to leave us as soon as He looks on the tempests’ of our wavering hearts:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

Our Creator’s plan for us has always been for us to consistently be in a loving relationship with Him. When we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection has made that possible, we truly are “more than conquerors.” We can grow in Christ and follow Him to the ends of the earth, because of what He has so graciously done for us.

With eternal love in our hearts, we don’t need short-term bursts of infatuation or excitement to keep us alive. God’s “love alters not with [its] brief hours and weeks.” If we trust in Him, God keeps us alive with His unfailing love, no matter what season of life we’re in and no matter how we’re feeling.

So when you’re staring straight at disaster in a God-ordained relationship, don’t run away. Plunge through it with the armor of God and “[bear] it out even to the edge of doom.”

Because isn’t that what true love is all about?

An Excerpt from The Thrall’s Sword

Here’s the excerpt, as promised!

The following day, he caught me crying as we hiked up a cliff.
“Sigrid, are ye doin’ all right?” he said from behind me.
I brushed back tears. “I’m doing wonderful,” I said as I stumbled over a protruding rock. Every memory of Mum lay trapped in the center of my mind. Today the thought of her had entered my head when I had picked her favorite flowers, lavender primroses, and now I could not push my grief out of my mind.
I kept walking, faster now, trying to draw closer to Lars who strode through the thick pines in the distance, energized by his morning breakfast. The last thing I wanted was this pathetic boy discovering my own weakness.
“Did ye find those purple flowers ye was lookin’ for?”
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t eat them, so there’s no point in having them.”
The truth was, I’d looked everywhere for them, but couldn’t find them. I was as if the gods themselves were ruining everything I tried to do.
“Are ye… are ye not enjoying yerself on this noble adventure of ours?” he asked gently.
I shot a glance at him. “I don’t even know why I came on your ‘noble adventure’ in the first place. To ruin a friendship and become a burden? To defend a country I have no reason to love?”
“Ye didn’t have to—”
“—I didn’t have a choice, really. It was the only way to do it.” I walked faster, but Erik drew alongside me.
“The only way for ye to do what, lass?” he asked, his forehead creased with anxiety.
We stared at each other, motionless, my heart trembling at his gaze. I wanted to cry again, but I withheld my tears. I could never tell him why I was truly going to Ireland. “I… I just want to go home.” Not to Bergen, but to my mother, my real home.
I turned away and hurried to catch up with Lars, feeling Erik’s eyes locked on me the whole way. He would never understand.

And I was beginning to fear I would never be able to go home.

Introducing The Thrall’s Sword

 

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I am writing a novel. Well, I wrote it! And now I am editing and revising it, to the best of my ability, until I can hopefully publish it. Set in the Viking Age, it is Christian historical fiction… with a bit of romance. 😉 In my next post I will give you a short excerpt. You may find this post interesting as well, but it is an excerpt that won’t be in my book anymore, since I have made dramatic changes since. Also, to anyone out there who loves to read, my book is open for constructive criticism from trustworthy people! So, please, don’t hesitate to ask me about it if you’re interested! 🙂

Here is a short synopsis below:

Sigrid, a seventeen-year-old Norse slave, loves the ocean as she does a friend. But the ocean will consume her if she meets her doom of serving Lord Valdemar in the after-life. And after a cruel Viking destroys her mother’s hope, the girl realizes more is at risk than drowning in the sea–and she knows what she must do. However, when a strange boy enters her life, she’s hindered with a torrent of doubts about her secret quest. Which is better: death or pride?

A Way that Prevails

Why is this world so intent on promoting sincerity, tolerance, and open-mindedness? I don’t want to speak sincerely, I want to speak truthfully. I don’t want to be tolerated, I want to be cherished. I don’t want to open my mind to both the right and the wrong things, I want to close my mind on the right things and not let any of the wrong things in.

Jesus is the only Way any of this truth prevails. Even though this world shuns Him, Jesus sacrificed himself in the world’s place, so whoever believes in Him may have His Way inside them for a blessed eternity. The Lord’s Way helps us understand that He is more than a helpless babe in a stable; that He is the Savior of our loss, hurt, and failings, and He is the Giver of redemption, healing, and forgiveness. His Way helps us see that everyday people are dying away, but the Emmanuel has already come, the Herald angels have already sang, and the infant has already rocked away in a manger.

When we choose His Way, we move through a lifelong cycle of accepting His Way, exposing His Way, and learning through His Way about how extravagantly He loves us. Through that cycle we may speak the truth, not based on how strongly we feel, but based on Himself; and we may be cherished by the Lord of the Universe, which leads to cherishing others in return, rather than simply accepting them. His Way also guides us to pursue only godly desires, rather than mingling them with the worldly desires that war within us. And, most importantly, His Way is the only way that will last forever.

So may God have His Way in you this Christmas, friend. And let us each remember what Christ is all about.

As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.” – Psalm 18:30 (NIV)

Then, Now, and Forever

What do goals do? Move you through or out of something? Do they confound you in the present or do they promise a place of wonder in the near future?

The process is arduous at times. So often do we long for the end, for that better place, for that ideal perfection and unity that we envision to be the only way to be satisfied.

Yet does it not exist now? Doesn’t fulfillment come when we fall on our knees before Jesus, who saves us from our persistence to do what we ought not to do?

We cannot complain that life doesn’t please us. The precious end exists, somewhere in the near future, but now we ought to live for the One who is worthy of our undivided attention. We as believers should stand side by side for the One who can fill us with peace, if we fully believe it–a peace which no one can experience without the Lord. Continue reading

Love and Fear

When I used to ask God to tell me something—anything—most every time I’d hear Him say, “I love you”—as if those three little words were all that mattered. I believe He loves me, but what’s so important about that? I wondered. When is He going to tell me something that will significantly benefit me in life?

But when I think about it now, I realize that believing in God’s love truly does affect a person’s life in profound ways. Continue reading