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Marieke's Midwinter Blogfest

Saturday, 11 December 2010

It's time for Marieke's Midwinter Blogfest, the idea being to write a piece on what your MC does for midwinter. If you've come here from there, greetings! If you haven't, greetings anyway! Warm your hands by the fire.

I have several MCs buzzing around in my head but one obvious one stuck out. What follows is a passage from an as-yet unwritten book : Lyche King, the third and concluding part of the fantasy trilogy that starts with a book I have written : Hedge Witch.

In this passage, Fer, a young witch from Andar is visiting the great city of Guilden for the first time. In years when the great river An freezes, an ice-fair is held at Guilden in the week "between the years". It's a time of joyful and riotous celebration, when everyone sets aside their normal cares. But Fer is in no mood for celebration. She knows that Andar's peace is coming to an end. The winter is unnaturally severe and the vast river is going to freeze right across, an unprecedented event. And on the other side of the "uncrossable" river is Angere, a land of mythical horrors  ...

Fer stood on the bank of the An. In normal times, the wooden steps led down to a jetty where wherries and skiffs jostled for mooring space. Now, with the river stilled by the cold, the boats had all been hauled up and the steps led directly out onto the great expanse of shining ice. A thousand lamps flared and flickered, filling the air with the smell of pine-resin and honey, the smoke hanging low in great threads through the frozen air.

A hubbub of voices from the throngs came to her : shouts, laughter, the occasional scream. She wondered if they were screams of delight or terror. Anything was permitted during an Ice Fair, of course; the only law was the goodwill of the passer-by. The midwinter week was outside of time, a break between old and new years. And the river was a non-place too : temporary land, outside the jurisdiction of city. For one week of the year the good people of Guilden put down their tools and books and, as the saying went, tried to drink the river dry.

Fer strode out on the ice, feeling the vast, sucking cold of it coming up through her boots, seeping up the bones of her legs. She walked past a fire-breather, billowing great clouds of red flame into the night sky from his mouth to roars of appreciation. The brief warmth on her face was very welcome. She wished she could stop, enjoy the entertainers, the sideshows, the games of fireball and stone-curling. She envied those around her, the laughing faces, the children skating after each other, the couples huddled together in their private worlds. This was her first Ice Fair; she was barely older than the whooping, laughing children. Still, she couldn’t stop. There were things that had to be done and she had to do them.

She allowed herself a beaker of hot, spiced ale from one of the traders and then, sipping at it as she walked, set off through the fair. She passed pitches and arenas and stages, past musicians and magicians and merchants. She was alone, not a part of the crowd.

She reached the line of ropes, strung out between posts spiked into the ice, more torches flaring from them. The edge of the ice. Yet it wasn’t the edge. She could see the frozen water stretching farther out into the river, torches reflecting on it before the greater darkness out there engulfed them. A chill wind had picked up, sharp on her cheeks. She must be nearly beyond Guilden Bay, out on the river proper, its vast waters surging somewhere beneath her feet. The question was how far? How thick was the ice, how far out did it reach? Was the end imminent, were the undain crossing even now? She imagined them : a vast, wide army marching across the ice. And, from Andar, just herself, walking out to meet them ...


  1. "the vast, sucking cold of it coming up through her boots, seeping up the bones of her legs" = nice.

  2. I enjoyed reading this, thanks heaps for sharing :)


  3. OH wow!!!! This is great - I want to read some more!! I so had the image of walking along the banks of the thames - I don't know why - but I just felt I was walking along southbank!!! What a terrific piece of writing - thank you for sharing - I'm all warmed up now!! Take care

  4. Milo and Rachael,

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. I really enjoyed this. The ending grabbed me and made me want to keep reading :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi,

    Chill factor here in more ways than one: walking on iced waterway!

    Good sense of place, festive atmosphere and danger in the offing. Nicely done. ;)


  7. So, are the other two books published? Because this was awesome and I loved the setting and description...I was hoping it was available.....

  8. Simon, is this from Hedge Witch? It's great stuff!

  9. Hints of danger, but a creative piece...kind of magical. well done and written. i enjoyed the read.

  10. It was great reading your entry!

    I love the writing.

  11. Absolutely brilliant! I was there with her waiting for the horde.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  12. Nice job! The Ice Fair reminds me a bit of Kristkindlmarkt here in Chicago.

  13. Milo,

    Thanks. Easy to write that : that's just how it's been in the UK for the past couple of weeks!

  14. Rachael,

    You're most welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

  15. Old Kitty,

    Excellent - hopefully more will be available soon!

  16. Kristina,

    Great; glad it hoooked you in!

  17. Words Crafter,

    Ah, I wish. The first book is written but unpublished, the second not yet written. I'm toying with the idea of maybe putting the first one out on the Kindle or similar. Not sure but I'll let you all know if and when it becomes available.

  18. Thomas,

    I thought you were offline? Great to hear from you. This is from the 3rd book in the Hedge Witch series. It's mostly just a series of notes and scraps like this at the moment ...

  19. Summer,

    Great - delighted you enjoyed it.

  20. Golden Eagle,

    Thanks - really pleased you enjoyed it.

  21. N.R.,

    Many thanks - I'm really pleased you enjoyed it.

  22. Sandra,

    Yes, there's definitely a bit of that in there. Also the London Ice Fair when the Thames froze over and various other end-of-year celebrations. Thanks for dropping by!

  23. I'm mostly back now.

    I very much like the idea of an uncrossable, protecting river that freezes entirely, allowing all sorts of dark things to creep across. C.S.Lewis should have used that in Narnia.

  24. Thomas,

    Glad you like that idea! It's kind of the central conceit in the books.

  25. Ooh, some wonderful descriptions here! Beautiful! :)

  26. Your descriptions are so great here that I got lost in the world you created. Loved it! :D


I'd love to know what you think.