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Numinous World -- Winter's Child

Hopefully I'll have some very exciting news about the Numinous World to share soon, but not quite yet! So in the meantime, while we're waiting for the Numinous World anthology The Ravens of Falkenau and Other Stories to come out in the next couple of weeks, a little preview from it!

This story, Winter's Child, is one of my favorites. Often there are stories that don't quite fit into the narrative of the novels because they're not from the point of view of our main character, Gull/Lydias/Charmian. This is one of those, about our main character and her choices and her life, but told by someone who doesn't come into her story until fairly late. So with no further ado, this is the beginning of Natia's story in Poland in 1821.




The first thing Natia remembers is cold, cold and her mother’s arms around her, almost as cold as the rest of the world. In her childhood she was always cold and it was always winter. Now that she is a grown girl eight years old, she knows it’s not always winter. She can remember last summer. It was warm some of those days, and she helped in the gardens at the abbey. Some of the sisters were kind to her and wanted to teach her about plants. Weeding and tending the herbs in the abbey’s garden was a chore, but it seemed like a game to her.

She was out in the garden when her mother died. She was working among the stones, carefully rearranging the edging of the beds where the birds had disarranged it, when it seemed that suddenly a huge hush came over the world. The birds stopped singing. The soft rustles in the grass were stilled. Even the clouds stopped moving. Natia knew. She knew in that moment that everything was different, that a strange peace turned on a still point.

One of the sisters came to get her. She washed her hands and they took her in. Her mother lay still and silent in the only occupied bed in the infirmary, her hands clasped around the rosary on her breast, her pale blond hair loose around her shoulders like a girl’s, the oil still glistening on her forehead. Natia knelt beside her. It was all still quiet. She had known her mother was dying for years. She was seven and a bit, and entirely alone in the world.

In her childhood it was always cold. She wonders, now that she is eight, if it felt like that when her father died. She does not know. Perhaps he died before she was born. Probably. That’s what her mother told her, what her mother wanted to believe. Natia doesn’t entirely believe it, but she has always pretended that she did. He froze to death, her mother said, on his way back to us. He never saw you, but he loved you before you were born. Never forget, she said, whatever came afterwards, that you were the child of love.

Natia has no picture of him. Her mother never had one. She has no memory. Sometimes she looks at her reflection in the glass windows of the convent when the light is behind her and her features reflect, remembers her mother and tries to see what is different.

Her mother’s face was rounder. Even though Natia is a child there is a sharpness to her chin, to her nose that isn’t like her mother. Her eyes are a different shade, not pale blue-gray, but dark blue, the color of shadowed pools. Her hair is not ice blond, but darker, like warm honey. Someone else has stamped themselves on her, someone else is there in her bones. Her mother was short and deceptively fragile looking. Natia is tall for her age, and her hands and feet are long. Who had these eyes like wildflowers? Who had these big hands?

He must have been tall, she thinks. He was tall and good looking, and still so young. Her mother said that he was eighteen and she was seventeen that glorious summer of 1812.

Natia is the child of war. Everyone hates the Russians, even the priests. Everyone hates that Poland is no more, that they are not free. Everyone remembers that for a little while they were.

Your father was a hero, the sisters said to her soon after her mother began coughing blood, soon after they came here. They were all heroes, the brave young men who died for Poland, whether or not they were Polish. Her father was Dutch, and he served the French Emperor, they said, but he died for Poland.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
cypherindigo
May. 13th, 2011 01:48 pm (UTC)
That gave me shivers....
jo_graham
May. 14th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad!
paratti
May. 13th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
Loved it.
jo_graham
May. 14th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
_illumina_
May. 13th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
Gripping, as always! You manage to convey so much with such simple phrases.
jo_graham
May. 14th, 2011 06:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you so very much!
ashabardon
May. 13th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
Oh I do hope this means you've sold another book .... /crossesfingers.

A shame the anthology is going to be a couple of weeks yet... I'm dying to read it! Do you have an actual date for us?
jo_graham
May. 14th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
:) I'll be able to say something about it very soon! It's good news!

I don't have a date on the anthology. The book is at the proofreader's, but he's in Alabama and has been affected by recent weather. So it's taking a little while. But it's a matter of a couple of weeks here, probably next week or the week after!
cat_eyed_fox
May. 14th, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
That was heartbreaking. I love the little girl, being a big girl now, because she's 8, not because she's now alone in the world.
Also now I want to reread Black ships. :D Can't wait!!!
jo_graham
May. 14th, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I love Natia too! Her life is about to change entirely....
cat_eyed_fox
May. 14th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
I can't wait to see how to you work the Multiple Deities thing in the very monotheism world.
jo_graham
May. 16th, 2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
It's really interesting. I think you'll like it!
cat_eyed_fox
May. 17th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC)
Does a happy dance of excitement.
I'm rereading Black Ships as a pallet cleanser during my Finals week and I think I'm going to try to work some of your ideas and phrases into my paper for constructive theology (with credit of course). In fact I would love to use the deleted scene from Hand of Isis of the council of Gods. I don't know what I'd do with it, but it so beautifully illustrates this idea of Numinous.
Would that be okay?
jo_graham
May. 17th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! You are very welcome to quote me! Thanks for asking.
cat_eyed_fox
May. 17th, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!
linneasr
May. 15th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
Ah, this is good.

I'm very much looking forward to the Anthology's release, and the possibility that you may have sold another Numinous World MS is very exciting!
jo_graham
May. 16th, 2011 02:18 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping the anthology will be out in the next couple of weeks! And yes, good news about the Numinous World very soon! I'm very, very excited!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )