Chapter 7 and ‘Cafeteria’ (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Li-Estl led the three humans back down darkened stairs to the crude lift, locking doors behind her as they went. Descending the vertical cliff face, Anna looked out across the dual-moon-lit ocean, the myriad of stars reflected below as shining above, and lifted her gaze skyward. She searched for that one faint moving star, the one she briefly saw from the observatory, but it had passed on from her view.

Once back at the main residential level of the cliff community, they passed through rocky corridors dimly lit by the occasional oil lantern, seeing few other Kwakitl along the way. Anna expected Li-Estl to lead them back to her schoolroom, but instead they followed a different path. More stairs and twisting hallways challenged Anna’s sense of direction, but she felt they were heading much deeper into the interior of the mountain. After about fifteen minutes of this, she noticed a gradual increase in ambient noise level, and ahead the corridor appeared more brightly lit. The noise, she came to understand, was the sound of many Kwakitl voices, all talking at once, and moments later they came to its source.

The corridor opened into the largest chamber they had seen yet, and it was filled with dozens, perhaps well over a hundred, Kwakitl, seated in circular clusters around low tables. Smoky lantern light lit the chamber, and the smell of frying fish and salty kelp pervaded the air. Anna’s stomach rumbled, and she realized in all the excitement she had conveniently ignored how hungry she had become. Even the cooking kelp smelled good to her now.

“We eat,” Li-Estl told them through Jaci’s translator, “then I show where you sleep. Tomorrow, much more talk, yes? Also, tomorrow big day. But now, eat.”

Read more at

Cafeteria

(2,057 words; 8 min 13 sec reading time)


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Some enterprising regular readers have already found this latest scene available online a full twenty-four hours earlier than this announcement post, so if there’s a lesson here, it’s… check back often! Ok, I might have placed a hint or two on Twitter.

More dropped hints in this scene, a bit of mounting mystery and tension. If you’re eager for what happens next, all I can say is, enjoy the slow burn!

Is it really another spacecraft, another starship, arriving in orbit over Kepler 62f? And if so, who is it? Could it be rescue for our marooned astronauts? Did Earth send a second mission only a few months after the first?

Or is it someone else?

Many questions to ponder over fried fish and stewed kelp.

This scene also marks the beginning of Chapter 7, as you will note from the website menu, or from the overview page for the novel. It also marks another 2,000-word scene in a string of them. Am I getting wordier? It’s still not the longest scene, and the overall average remains just above 1,500, so I think we’re good there.

Here’s a question for you to ponder. What is it that Anna could observe from the ground that makes her think the arriving object is on a path for orbital insertion? Think on that, and comment below. Otherwise, until next time!


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Telescope (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The ship was not huge in the telescope view, but her shape stood out clearly. Anna could see the double ring structure of the Alcubierre drive, one ring forward and one aft, both tethered to the central fuselage much like the orbital ring was to the planet. She could almost, but not quite, make out the blister of the observatory on the nose of the ship, and the bay windows of the cockpit just above. She could see the hangar doors from which she had launched the shuttle, open wide in the belly of the larger ship, awaiting the return of the smaller craft, a return which now would never come. That shuttle lay smashed and abandoned in the lagoon of a forbidden island.

A sense of loss and of longing came over Anna, and her vision blurred a little. She wiped the moisture from her eyes, upset at her own emotional reaction when she knew she needed to remain laser-focused on survival, dedicated to the task of getting her crew and herself back to that starship, more than forty-one thousand kilometers away, no matter how close the telescope made her seem.

Read more at

Telescope

(2,000 words; 8 min reading time)


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Did I say last week that this chapter was a little slower? Well, it’s not slower anymore. We’re going to end the chapter on a cliffhanger, one that makes it obvious that the tension is about to ramp right back up again as we head into Chapter 7. Of course, you’ll have to go read the scene to see what I mean!

Seriously, it will take just 8 minutes of your Sunday afternoon. Go read it!

Are you done yet? Because I want to discuss what you just read! What do you think the ending of the scene signifies?

You may have noticed a few devices I’ve been using all along to ratchet up the narrative tension. Almost from the beginning, there has been a time lock, a deadline by which Anna and her crew need to figure out their own rescue, and in this scene I gently remind the reader that this deadline is approaching. Many stories use either a time lock or an option lock to introduce tension, but in SoAL I’ve opted to do both. As the scenes progress, our heroes have their choices gradually narrowed down to fewer and fewer options, and there are plenty of hints that later there will be fewer options still. Remember how many space suits they have with them? Hmm, yeah, future problem brewing there.

If you were Anna, what would you do next?


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Taboos and Discoveries (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The sun passed its zenith and shadows lengthened outside, but inside the cavern the changing hue from the light ducts provided the only hint of passing time. Anna and Laxmi continued to interrogate Li-Estl about her world, with Jaci acting as interpreter and filling in what he had already discerned, but Li-Estl was equally curious about their own origins.

“I’ve tried to explain about Earth and how far away it is,” Jaci said, “but I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of it. Li-Estl understands that she lives on a planet, that it’s a sphere, and that it revolves around their sun. They don’t seem to be hampered by any flat-earth kinds of fallacies here, or at least she isn’t. She knows that there are other planets also revolving around the sun, because she has observed the difference in their motion compared to regular stars in the night sky, and because she has texts from earlier astronomers that describe their motion. She gets that.”

“Wait, so they have astronomers here?” Anna asked.

Read more at

Taboos and Discoveries

(2,087 words; 8 min 20 sec reading time)


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Clearly I did not maintain the NanoWrimo momentum of a week ago, but I’m still pretty happy with publishing another scene in only a week’s time. My average scene length does seem to be creeping up, however, with a handful of 2000-word scenes within the past several, including this one. Still not my longest yet, though.

You’ve probably noticed that Chapter 6 is a bit slower, overall, than the preceding chapters. Is it too slow? Too much exposition and explanatory dialogue? Too much telling, not enough showing? I admit, I was almost as exhausted as my characters must have been after the harrowing ride of the previous chapters, when they lurched from one emergency to the next, so I sort of felt like they needed a bit of a break.

Not to worry, however. They aren’t out of the frying pan yet, and out of the frying pan leads to… you guessed it… the fire. There’s plenty of danger still, and things are definitely going to ramp up another notch in intensity. I’ve slowed down on the pace of killing off characters, too, after knocking off nearly half of them almost right away, but don’t let that lull you into complacency. One wrong move, and your favorite gets it! Don’t make me go all GRRM on you!

Of course, his works are international bestsellers and have been made into the most highly rated and watched show in all of HBO history, so perhaps a little GRRM isn’t a bad model to emulate.

So, if these scenes seem slower, you should also pay attention to a fair bit of foreshadowing for coming tension and conflict. Tell me, reader, what do you think is going to happen next?

Leave me a comment and let’s discuss it!


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Where Are They Now? (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Anna handed the tablet to Laxmi when she finished reading it and looked at Li-Estl, then Jaci.

“Orta?”

Several of the young students in the chamber heard the word and looked at Anna with heads cocked to one side in what she presumed was a quizzical expression. Jaci, on the other hand, grinned and nodded vigorously.

“So you think the Orta are… were… another space-faring species?”

Read more at

Where Are They Now?

(1,534 words; 6 min 8 sec reading time)


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Two scenes in two days! I guess NanoWrimo is having an effect, even if I am far, far behind their suggested word count for day 3 of the month. No matter, I’m happy with the progress, and I hope you are, too.

Please DO follow the link above to read the entire scene. I promise the link does not take you anywhere except to another page within this same website. You can also always find each scene in the website menu, under Works in Progress / Alpha Reads -> The Silence of Ancient Light.

Nano word counts notwithstanding, with this scene the novel has passed the mystical, mysterious, elusive 50,000 word mark! We’re perhaps just a little over halfway done, so even if that would be enough for Nano, it’s not enough for Silence. No, I don’t really have a word count target, but I do have a scene count target, and that is in the neighborhood of 60 scenes. We’re now at 33.

Will I publish a new scene every day this week? Doubtful. But I may publish one or two more before the week is done.

As always, comments are welcome!


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Classroom (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The cave stretched back toward the interior of the mountain, but Anna quickly adjusted her perception of it. Cave was the wrong word, as it had clearly been excavated and enlarged by some form of avian industry. Kwakitl industry. Anna tried the avians’ word for themselves out in her mind as she looked about the spacious cavern.

The floor was smooth and level, well adapted for the passage of many feet. No rocks or cracks to trip on here. To either side of the chamber, the floor joined the walls in a gentle chamfer, sloping up and curving inward to a rounded, domelike ceiling. The walls and ceiling were not as smooth as the floor, showing some evidence of natural formation left mostly to itself, yet still they remained relatively even. Side passages with similarly rounded aspects led away from the main chamber, and rather than appearing dark, they were lit with natural sunlight. The light came from small circular openings in the ceiling, tubular ducts leading at an upward angle back toward the cliff, apparently cut for this purpose. With a start, Anna realized the light ducts were enclosed with round glass or crystal caps nearly identical to those she had seen in the abandoned mountain temple on her jungle island, and the caps served to diffuse and amplify the light.

For all that Kwakitl society seemed primitive, nevertheless they were capable of forging glass and machining lenses. What other surprises might be held in store?

Read more at

Classroom

(2,030 words; 8 min 7 sec reading time)


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We now know what the avian denizens of Kepler 62f call themselves: Kwakitl. No, I didn’t actually know about the historical Kwakiutl, the First Nations people of British Columbia, when I came up with that name, though I hope both peoples, historic and fictional, will be ok with the similarity. I had in my mind Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god associated with the divine wind who appears as a feathered serpent, except I misremembered the name. As I live in the Pacific Northwest, almost certainly I had encountered the Kwakiutl name before, but there any intentional similarity or relationship ends.

Yes, I’ll probably have to change that name in the rewrite. The similarity is too close.

For now, though, Jaci has been living among the Kwakitl for a few weeks, and he has not been idle. In that time he has learned how to communicate with them, and now he is leading Anna and Laxmi to meet his “breakthrough,” as he termed her at the end of the last scene. His teacher, and more formally the teacher for the young juvenile Kwakitl who otherwise seem to spend their time running around the docks and taking alien visitors by the hand.

Welcome to the classroom of Li-Estl, venerable teacher, mentor, and historian of Kepler 62f.

Before the lesson is done, another surprise is in store for our lost explorers when they learn…

Well, you’ll have to read the scene to find out what they learn, won’t you? And when you do, let’s discuss it in the comments!


header image credit: user:PhotoVision / pixabay.com under Pixabay License