The Prologue

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This is their world: flippant love, ceaseless dancing, flowers beneath the stars, roses on their lips, and pleasure. Always pleasure.

This is my world: nights in my car, road beneath my tires, rooms paid for with bills that turn to oak leaves after I have gone, table for one, and time. Always time.

I have seen the world over and then I have seen it again and then I have seen it again; I have worn through one thousand pairs of shoes. My wandering stops for only one thing. For only one person.

* * * *

My Queen sent the hounds for me, all frost-bitten and fire-hardened, and she sent the Hunter for me, his skin covered with runes and smelling of clover. And they brought me back to her.

“I want you to watch this one,” my Queen said. “Lady-of-the skies, show him.” Lady-of-the-skies was what she called her lady, but that’s not what I called her.

Her lady tossed bones into a shallow pool of water that floated lilies on its surface, and the face of a girl appeared. “Deirdre,” said the Queen’s lady. “That’s her name. Go watch her, love.”

With a smile so beautiful that the sky wept, the lady moved past me. She gave the iron in my pocket a wide berth. Once upon a time, that would’ve given me pleasure, but now, looking at the face of the girl in the water at my feet, I just closed my eyes.

* * * *

And so I watched Deirdre. I watched her walk into her high school for the first time and I watched the seasons change and I watched her frown get deeper.

I watched her coax music from her harp. I didn’t have an eye for magic, but I had an ear for music, and when she played her harp, I wanted to take my flute out for the first time in years. I was fascinated. Not when she effortlessly played transcendent tunes in front of her family. That invisible proficiency was like magic and I had seen lifetimes worth of magic.

No, I liked it when she sat in her room and her fingers stumbled over a phrase and so she played it again and again, her eyes darkening and her jaw set, until her fingers learned better than to displease her. It was very human, this intense repetition. Brilliance that was earned instead of bestowed. That fascinated me.

* * * *

The Queen’s lady found me in my car.

“I thought you were watching her, love,” she told me. Her disappointment burned faintly in my chest.

“I’m watching her,” I told her. Unlike her, I didn’t have to tell the truth, but I did anyway.

“I heard her play tonight,” Lady-of-the-Skies said. “And I think you know what happens now.”

I knew.

Soon I’d be wandering again.


Author’s Note: This is an alternate prologue for LAMENT, which comes out next Wednesday (OMG, etc!). If you like this, please check out the real thing!

image courtesy: Felinux

24 thoughts on “The Prologue

  1. I know, if I had LAMENT to do over again, that first section alone would replace the current prologue. All the way, baby!

  2. So, so so very gorgeous. And unnervingly close in some elements to the book I’m writing right now, wah, but even if some of the props are similar the execution is very different, so I will comfort myself with that, yes.

  3. Oh, hey there, familiar characters! Awesome. And I agree, this would have made a great prologue; Luke is kind of a hard character to get into the head of, so seeing things from his point of view is pretty interesting. And seeing that he’s been ordered to watch Deirdre also helps reduce the initial creepy-stalker vibe. (Which, admittedly, wasn’t very high, but it did ping me a bit towards the beginning.)

    And you know, I’m sure James has a lot more to say about what went on in Lament as well… ‘specially in that last section… *hopeful grin*

  4. Really awesome! And it’s so cool to see an alternate beginning! Love it (though I love the beginning that you have now as much — it totally pulled me in!!)

  5. :-O

    Wow, that’s awesome.

    I like the names you put in, too… “Lady-of-the-Skies” and stuff.

    Very cool.

  6. Wow, I just might like that more than the actual prologue. Though the actual prologue was quite good too.

  7. “Brilliance that was earned instead of bestowed.” I think you’re about to earn some more. When I hold Lament I feel empowered, successful, happy, determined, playful, and wise.

  8. muahahha.

    And the great thing about Ballad is that it actually has TWO POVs (not saying who the other one is) and in retrospect, I wish I would’ve done that with Lament. Luke had a lot of interesting stuff going on too.

    And I actually agree with you re:stalker bit. I can’t say anything else for fear of being spoilery!

  9. Thank you! Isn’t it interesting to think of how much differently we would have written our books a year later?

  10. This is simply awesome, every single word of it. Especially these ones: “Brilliance that was earned instead of bestowed.” Such a powerful phrase. Darn you for making me more antsy to read Lament!

  11. Ah-ha! This answers so many of my questions! I was wondering about Luke’s money… trixty leaf money, I see!

    This was gorgeously written, especially the first few sentences, really great word choice.

    I also like that this gives Luke’s feelings about Dee more depth. Since we don’t ever get to see Dee through another’s eyes, we have to kind of guess at why someone would fall in love with her. It fleshes out Dee a lot to see her, even just a little, even just practicing harp. I think you talked about this in a blog entry, how your MC is always less developed than the side characters, merely because the MC is narrating and doesn’t really describe themselves. I didn’t find Dee underdeveloped in the slightest, but I still think it helps to get another view of her.

    On the other hand, part of what I found so fascinating about Luke was that he was such a question mark, and I think a key reason he was so irresistible to me was that I wanted more of him, he was always just out of reach. I think I prefer this prologue over all, but maybe the upside of the published one is that it preserves the utter mystery that is Luke <3.

    Thanks for posting this! Can't wait for Ballad!

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