One of the truly brilliant parts of being a novelist is that you can make the world work in precisely the way you think it should work. You can take two mismatched people, place them in an impossibly difficult situation, and dare them to succeed. And, depending on your world view, their success or failure is up to you. It is not a godhood, not exactly. Or at least I don’t believe it to be, because I don’t believe that a higher being would act so impulsively or prescriptively.
One of my favorite things to do is watch two characters fall in love. It happens in that manner, despite what you may think. The characters, good ones, have their own traits, their own way of doing things. Even if you know they will fall, it never seems to happen in the way you expect. My favorite couple is still my 1st, Robin LeBeaux and Charlie Patterson, the heroes of The Stream Trilogy. They are my favorites because it happened slowly, over the course of 3 books and 5 of their universe’s years. In my favorite bit from the books, Robin and Charlie find themselves in a marvelous underwater world, that only one of them embraces. This is when they fall. And, as any of you who has ever fallen in love knows, there is only one way to go: close your eyes and let the waves engulf you.
What I like most about this chapter is that although my outline for this book was 13 pages and 5300+ words long, this wasn’t in it. I present you with Chapter 21 of Emprise – “Falling.” Since the entire chapter is 3400 words, I’ll post it in several parts. I hope you like it. The music isn’t what I wrote it to, but it should get you in the proper frame of mind.
Standing in front of the two teenagers was … a thing. It appeared, from the shoulders down, to be a man, in robust health. His body was rotund, with skin the color of caramel. The eyes were human: small and gray, with long lashes and black mascara that added a feminine intensity. Instead of a human nose, he had an elephant’s trunk and small tusks, one broken, all perfectly proportioned for his face. His ears, likewise, were elephantine. Robin thought he was, in a word, beautiful.
Whereas the old woman from whom he transformed had beauty born of time-weathered grace, the elephant-man was flawless. They were as different from each other as night is from day, and yet, metamorphosed as they were, old to young, human to not, there was a profound sameness. The being – for what else does one call a human who is not – was dressed in loose pants and a robe. All manner of gems – necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and a jewel-encrusted crown – adorned him from head to toe. He was marked, forehead and trunk, with writing the teens could not discern, and sat, with great ceremony, on a throne made from a jeweled pillow. As he did, two more arms appeared with such seamlessness that Robin was uncertain whether they had been there all along.
The elephant-man sat silently, his eyes never leaving Robin’s. Try as she might, she could not refuse his gaze, though she felt no sense of alarm. There was a soft rhythm to those eyes. They would bob and sway, dip and dive, almost imperceptibly. It was as if they were … floating.
Ohmigod! We’re standing on water.
Robin, the hypnotic spell of his eyes broken upon realizing the ground on which she was standing was not ground at all, began to grin, and pull at her boots. The water would be cool, and her feet were not. She wanted to squeeze the liquid between her toes, as small children do on cool, wet sand. She turned toward Charlie, delighting in sharing the experience with him.
Charlie was, at the moment, pinwheeling his arms, his body jerking hither and yon while he attempted to master the rolling waves and maintain his balance. “I can’t swim,” he reminded her, his eyes wide with burgeoning panic.
“Don’t swim, silly,” Robin answered, “just stand still.”
Ahead of her, the elephant-man nodded. He remained silent, his visage serene. Robin, however, was certain that he had smiled at her.
“How am I supposed to stand still when the ground keeps moving?” he said.
Robin looked at the elephant-man, Lord Heffalump, she decided he was called, and smiled. “Look at him, Dimple Boy. He controls the waves simply by not being in control of them.”
Charlie, as always, stopped and listened to her. No matter how alien her ideas were to him, Robin was awed by the graciousness with which her best friend invited them in. He looked at Lord Heffalump, who was sitting on his floating throne, and leaning in whichever direction the water moved him. Behind him, the waves were intolerably high, but in front, where the kids stood, they were but ripples.
“I’m trying to control an ocean,” Charlie said, “instead of controlling myself.” He looked toward Lord Heffalump and frowned. “You look really familiar,” he said.
Lord Heffalump gestured for Robin to come near. She did, without hesitation, her feet splashing in the waves with the abandon of a toddler on her first beach trip. As she reached him, Lord Heffalump handed her a rope, which he had been carrying.
“What should I do with this?” Robin asked.
In a soft voice, from his very small mouth, he answered, “You will know when the time is right.”
From behind her, came Charlie’s frustrated voice. “Great. More gifts. If you’re through having a bazaar, we actually came here for a reason.”
“Dimple Boy, you’re being rude again.”
“I have a gift for you as well, boy,” said Lord Heffalump.
Charlie grumbled under his breath, but approached obediently, aided, no doubt, by Robin’s attempt to squeeze the most green from her eyes she could muster. After four years, Charlie had been known to get nervous when she so much as wore a green shirt. The elephant Lord handed Charlie an axe. It was simple, made of ebony wood and steel, with a crescent-shaped blade. Charlie took it and muttered an obligatory, if insincere thank you.
Lord Heffalump closed his eyes, lifting three hands and speaking in an unknown language. It was ancient, of that Robin was certain. She did not know how she knew, but the words were a blessing. That was another certainty. She bowed her head and poked Charlie into mirroring her behavior. They had begun a journey, one of utmost importance, and gathering bits of spirituality, from all those whom would give it, was a bounty that Robin intended to accept.
As the elephant Lord finished his benediction, Charlie re-opened his eyes, his lips drawing taut. He was staring at Lord Heffalump’s open hand.
“Ohmigod,” he gasped,” that’s a freaking swastika. We just prayed to Hitler or somebody.”
“Charlie, I don’t think that’s a …”
Charlie interrupted Robin’s response, lifting the axe as if to threaten Lord Heffalump with it,. “That’s freaking it!” he bellowed. “I’m through playing these games. Where is Siri, and where are the goddamn hyena men?”
Robin gasped at Charlie’s profanity. Lord Heffalump sighed and turned towards the boy. With a single upturned hand he said, “Your anger will weigh you down like an anchor. Only when you can release its grip on you, will you learn what you need to know.”
“Really, and what do I need to know?”
“At the moment,” replied Lord Heffalump, speaking softly, “how to swim.”
The icy water, upon which Charlie was standing, ripped opened and he plunged beneath the waves. The ocean closed over him like a sheet.
Robin felt herself crying and wondered if her tears might make Charlie drown that much faster. “Please help him,” she pleaded. “He just lost someone he really loves a lot. It’s not his fault. He’s just hurting.” She looked down into the vast ocean, hoping to see him below the surface. She did not. “Please!” she cried. “He can’t swim.”
Lord Heffalump pointed to Robin’s rope. “Then you must save him, child. It is not water in which he is drowning, but anger.”