Friday, February 26, 2016

March Novel Essential Information

Novel Title: Astounded
Time Setting: 1892
Genre: Historical Fiction
Minimum Word Goal: 90,000
Timespan: January-April
Location(s): Verdant* and Rock Springs, Wyoming
Main Characters: Penrod Haskell, Jemima Vaughan
Background Information:
Born northeast of Memphis, Tennessee, Penrod was the third child and only son of his parents' union, which tragically ended when his father was killed in the Civil War. Three years after his father's death his mother married a man who was heading west and the family — naturally — joined him on his journey which terminated at Casper, Wyoming.
Penrod lived in Capser until he turned eighteen, when he set out to become a lawman. While he waited for a posting he took work at a large ranch near Rock Springs where he fell in love with one of his fellow ranch hands' daughters whom he's been courting for over a year.
Recently, however, he's been named deputy for the small town of Verdant, which is a significant trek north, leaving them in a long-distance relationship until they can make arrangements to be wed.

Born in southern Illinois east of St. Louis, Jemima was the sixth child and third daughter of an eventual ten in her parents' union, however four children died before she turned eleven. Her family lived and farmed in Illinois until she was six, when they set out west, spending some time in Nebraska before eventually settling near Verdant, Wyoming when she was twelve.
Later that year all of Verdant including her family was struck with scarlet fever, which claimed the lives of her mother and three younger siblings along with leaving Jemima blind. Her older sister helped her to adjust to sightlessness and become fairly independent before marrying when Jemima was fifteen.
Jemima and her father have lived a rather peaceful existence since then, although the large-scale ranches in the area have been getting rather oppressive, claiming her father's few cattle are depriving their cattle of valuable grass. Jemima has been especially worried of late because she hasn't heard her father in several months as well.

*Verdant is a completely fictitious town that never did exist, it has been created in my imagination exclusively for the purpose of this story.

The next post will be on March 1

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 15

Word Total: 90,001

Year to Date: 210,024

Summary of Events:
Nikita rode up to his hometown of Zilyograd, recalling pleasanter times of his childhood as he headed to visit his father's grave — which Gavriila discovered had different names in the two languages engraved on it, as did all of his siblings' graves. After leaving the cemetery Gavriila was introduced to Nikita's father's horse and told the gelding and Breasha were half siblings before Nikita's little brother came out to greet them and they headed inside. Briskly entering the home, Nikita demanded a confession from his mother . . . 

Excerpt of the Day:
"Tears brimmed in her eyes and she started to tremble violently as the tears started running down her cheeks. She tried to start speaking several times before she finally got the words out: "Your name is Ilya Mechislavavich Zhihondoniov-Vaylizhenkivy."
Nikita straightened and stared at his mother. They'd lied to him. All along they'd fed him lies, telling him his name was Nikita, telling him he was their son. Rage swelled within him.
"Why am I not addressed by it?" he demanded, trying to keep the tremor from his voice and the tears from his eyes.
"They were going to kill you," she whispered. "We had to save you."
"Who was going to kill me?" Nikita demanded.
"They'd killed your parents," she whispered.
Nikita grabbed onto the table. It was true, they weren't his parents. "Who are my parents?"
"They were killing everyone," she whispered. "We had to save you."
"From whom?" Nikita demanded.
"I was your mother's handmaiden," she whispered.
Nikita didn't know what to ask now, Mother wasn't answering any of his questions, she was just speaking.
"Davyd — Danyil — convinced me to escape, no one else would listen to him," she went on. "We had to save you."
"From whom?" Nikita asked again.
"I didn't want to leave, but I didn't want to die," she said.
Nikita sat down and looked at the woman he'd always thought was his mother, staring at the floor, wide-eyed, fearful, and forlorn.
"We ran forever," she whispered. "We had to save you."
Nikita shook his head. From whom? Why wouldn't she tell him whom he'd had to be saved from? Why was she not telling him the whole story?
"We had to hide ourselves," she said. "We married, for your sake, and disguised ourselves as a family, then we actually became one."
"Why did you lie to me?" Nikita asked forcefully.
Startling, she looked up as if she hadn't heard his prior queries. "We had to save you."
"From whom?" Nikita demanded.
"They were going to kill you," she repeated.
"I know that, you already told me!" Nikita snapped. "Who was going to kill me?"
"Danyil wanted to tell you," she whispered. "I would've preferred you never knew."
"So you're not going to tell me?" Nikita demanded.
"Leave me alone," she said, turning away from him. "You've tormented me enough."
"And what about me?" Nikita demanded, surging to his feet. "For weeks — even months — I've been tormented by the thought that I would be kidnapped! That people whom I'd always believed to be my parents weren't! That they would've lied to me!"
"We did not kidnap you!" Mother shouted, the fury suddenly reawakening in her and bringing her to her feet. "We saved you!"
"And you lied to me!" Nikita snapped. "Everything I thought was true! Everything I believed! It all turned into grotesque lies before my eyes! Why would you not tell me!?""

. . . Nikita's mother threw him out of the house and told him to leave and never come back, and after crying while embracing for a time, Nikita left. Gavriila overheard General Moroyhanev make an announcement that would help them to embark on a quest for answers — although it would be dangerous no matter what.

Vaylizhenkivy: vaylihzhehnkeevee
Danyil: danyeel

The next post will be on February 26

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 14

Word Count: 84,003

Summary of Events:
Nikita was woken in the night by a scream he initially thought was the cry of a screech-owl, but discovered was actually Gavriila having had a nightmare; he comforted her until she went back to sleep. After several days of battlefield cleanup the Sergeant-General who'd bullied Gavriila was found among the wounded and given his extensive punishment, Nikita — as commanding Lieutenant of the unit the Sergeant-General was a part of — doling out the requisite flogging. Afterwards Gavriila offered to read some more for Nikita, and he decided to have her read the roll of paper he'd received from his father: it turned out to be a birth certificate for the Ilya Zhihondoniov the sword belonged to. Convinced he and Ilya Zhihondoniov were one in the same, Nikita became depressed and Gavriila tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't look at her . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"Gavriila sighed, she wished he would look at her, but decided to go on anyways. "I know this probably won't help you feel better, but it was an observation I'd made. If I would've assigned to you a first name . . . I would've chosen Ilya to be your first name."
Lieutenant Kharondirev was silent, braiding the remaining hair of Breashah's mane down to an end, being as there was no more hair to gather off her neck.
Gavriila waited, rubbing Nadia, who'd been looking for some attention.
"You're right," Lieutenant Kharondirev finally replied. "That didn't make me feel better. What was the point of sharing something like that?"
"Because I thought it was interesting," Gavriila replied. "The very name I thought suited you best is the name involved in this whole mystery."
"It's not a mystery," Lieutenant Kharondirev said.
"Yes it is," Gavriila replied. "You have a sword and a birth certificate that belong to someone whose birthday is exactly the same as yours to the letter and could very well be you, but you have nothing more than papers and fears. You need to talk to your mother and find out the truth: did your father just get those things in a raid and take them because they shared your birthday and could maybe provide a way for you to scout undercover in Aissure, or were you kidnapped, or was it something completely unrelated to either one of those? You don't have all of the answers, and yet you're walking around resigned to this purported fate as dictated by a couple of objects."
Lieutenant Kharondirev started undoing Breasha's braid, offering no comment.
"You're a soldier, soldiers check out their reports. Just because they find a document or hear someone say something about a person or place doesn't mean they believe it," Gavriila said. "They look around for themselves, they get the testimonies of many people, they figure out if what they've seen or been told is true, or if it's just a bunch of bunk, someone trying to lead them on — lest they make the wrong decision about whether or not to launch an attack and come out of things looking like a fool, if they live, or being disgraced when they die because they were so foolish and didn't examine things thoroughly."
Gavriila waited for Lieutenant Kharondirev to say something. He stood with his back to her, stroking his hand down the flat ridge of Breasha's skull that formed both her forehead and the bridge of her nose. She felt like he deliberately wasn't looking at her.
"What kind of a soldier are you — regardless of what your name or title is — if you're going to go accepting things as truth without thoroughly examining everything to be sure that you're not being fooled?"
Lieutenant Kharondirev kept his back to her, stroking Breasha's head, not volunteering an answer, although Gavriila knew that he had to know the answer: he wasn't a very good soldier.
"Pack your things Major Comaromkova," he said. "We're going home."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 13

Word Count: 78,016

Summary of Events:
The two camps and other reinforcements went to attack the fort, which went well — although being as the fort was of fairly green wood it didn't catch on fire as fast as Nikita, personally, had expected. Gavriila was getting bored waiting, then was nearly discovered as a girl and ended up being bullied by one of the officers of a rank lower than hers before they had to charge into battle — which Gavriila had hoped wouldn't happen. Once the battle was finally over Nikita helped identify the dead — including ten men from his own unit — before finding Gavriila bloodied and traumatised because some other soldier had beheaded a man close to her who had fallen on her. After having lead some of the captive horses back, Gavriila went, somewhat reluctantly, with Nikita to bathe herself and Nadia.

Excerpt of the Day:
"Once they got to the trees Lieutenant Kharondirev took the lead and led them to a sizeable pool of clear water, bordered all around by an open grassy area.
Gavriila watched as Lieutenant Kharondirev removed his boots, socks, belt, shirt, and cloak, leaving him in bare feet and breeches. He wasn't dirty, what was he doing?
In silence she watched as he turned back, took Naida's lead rope from her fingers, and led the mare toward the water.
Nadia put her hooves in, but then balked. Gavriila could hear Lieutenant Kharondirev murmuring to her softly, but couldn't make out exactly what he was saying. Nadia stepped forward a little and Lieutenant Kharondirev gave her enthusiastic praise for it.
Slowly Nadia inched her way in until she was belly deep in the water. Gavriila watched as Lieutenant Kharondirev scooped up water into his hands and washed it over Nadia's bloodstained shoulder. Gavriila felt like it was her job to wash Nadia, but Lieutenant Kharondirev wasn't calling her over, so she stayed where she was and watched.
Lieutenant Kharondirev led Nadia further into the water until only Nadia's neck and head remained above water — as did his own. He dove under the water for a moment and came up with his dark hair plastered against his skull.
Finally he led Nadia out, her coat soaked to a shade of nearly black, but no longer stained by blood. Gavriila saw Nadia bracing herself to shake and stepped away a bit before the water droplets flew, first from her neck, and then all the way along her body to her hindquarters.
Lieutenant Kharondirev was dripping wet, his breeches clinging tightly to his skin — not that there was much for wrinkles being as they were close-fitting to start with — waster running in small rivulets down his bare chest.
"Now it's your turn," he said.
Gavriila nodded.
Lieutenant Kharondirev turned and took up his shirt, which he used as a towel to dry his hair and upper body before he put his sword belt back on. He looked at her over Nadia's back.
Gavriila set her jaw and glared at him. Smiling, he turned away.
Even though she didn't want to, Gavriila slid off her boots and removed her belt. She was going to undo her breeches when the thought suddenly struck her: her clothes were as filthy as her skin was going to be underneath. She could go into the water fully clothed and then wash them both at the same time, along with being completely modest until she had to change afterwards."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 12

Word Count: 72,014

Summary of Events:
Gavriila read the sword Nikita took from the soldier at Viladyslovo and they hypothesised about where the swords came from, with Nikita getting more sure that his parents may well have kidnapped him. Nikita participated in a debriefing from General Moroyhanev for the soldiers of the camp that was coming in to help with their attack on the Aissuresky fort, and was unnerved by the commanding General of the other camp calling him back and commenting on his appearance. Gavriila got ready for the attack and got Nikita to give her some horsemanship lessons being as he was just moping around and worrying.

Excerpt of the Day:
""And you're the one who found this fort?" the General of the Seventy Fourth asked.
"Yes sir," Nikita replied.
"How old are you?" the General of the Seventy Fourth asked.
"Twenty," Nikita replied.
"You already seemed a capable leader," the General of the Seventy Fourth said. "I think you'll become a great man. You look it. Doesn't he?"
General Moroyhanev nodded. Nikita felt unsettled thinking about his recent punishment. He didn't feel like General Moroyhanev ought to have been agreeing.
"He has his lessons to learn yet, he is young," General Moroyhanev said. "But his father was a great man, and I do believe that he, too, will aspire to such greatness."
"It's something about his face," the General of the Seventy Fourth said. "It looks like the face of a great man."
Nikita shifted uncomfortably.
"It looks almost . . . but he couldn't be," the General of the Seventy Fourth said.
"What?" General Moroyhanev asked, looking as puzzled and curious as Nikita felt.
"The most formidable man I faced in battle, the most skilled soldier, the most terrifying adversary, was a man, his name was Zhihondoniov, it was carved into his sword otherwise I would never have known it," the General of the Seventy Fourth said. "You almost look like him."
Fear roiled in Nikita's stomach. No. Not Zhihondoniovs again. And now he looked like them? It was closing him in. They couldn't have. Mother and Father wouldn't have dared, would they? Why would they have been so cruel?
"If another soldier wouldn't have come to my defence I may well have been killed by the man," the General of the Seventy Fourth said.
"Did you see if he was killed?" Nikita asked, not that he was sure where the words had come from.
"No, I didn't," the General of the Seventy Fourth replied. "Do you know of him?"
"No," Nikita replied. "I've just been hearing about a lot of Zhihondoniovs lately.
"Oh really?" the General asked.
Nikita nodded. He wanted to get out of here. He shouldn't have said anything.
"Maybe it's a sign that you're going to be greater than they," the General said.
"But anyways, we should get on to our discussions," General Moroyhanev said. "You may go on Lieutenant Kharondirev."
Nikita nodded quickly and hurried away. He headed past Lieutenant Yasimokov, but Lieutenant Yasimokov caught his arm and stopped him.
"You look like you saw the General's ghost," Lieutenant Yasimokov said. "Not that I've heard of ghosts making daylight appearances."
"No, I haven't seen any ghosts," Nikita replied. "I'm just hearing about too many Zhihondoniovs.""

Friday, February 12, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 11

Word Count: 66,007

Summary of Events:
Gavriila was brought before the General by Nikita, she then came up with a story as to why she'd been absent — so as to not tell the General she was a girl. As a result Nikita was to be punished at the General's orders, with the punishment being castration; Nikita refused painkiller and when he cried out in pain his cry startled the doctor into injuring himself. It took so long for the doctor to get tended to that everyone left but Gavriila, who stitched up the cut the doctor had made in Nikita's skin with some reluctance. Nikita was then released and told to return to active duty despite the pain. Gavriila went into the trees and collected plants to make a salve for Nikita, who didn't want it, still being mad at her . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
""I'm sorry!" Gavriila cried. "I am. I didn't think that they would do that sort of a thing as punishment. But, I couldn't go telling them I was a girl, or all my efforts to keep my family safe were for nothing. And besides, if you wouldn't have decided to be so selfish none of this would've happened."
"Oh," Lieutenant Kharondirev said arrogantly, turning away. "So your actions are justified because, in the end, it's all my fault?"
"No," Gavriila replied. "My actions aren't justified. I was mad at you, so I decided to say something to get you into trouble, and that wasn't right of me. I could've just told the General that I'd been busy doing something and hadn't been paying attention to the hour. I did deliberately fabricate the story I did so as to cause you harm, but I'm sorry that I was so unkind in doing so, and I would like to make it up to you."
The muscles in Lieutenant Kharondirev's shoulders relaxed and his shoulders lowered. His head tipped down slightly as he stood, his back to her.
"Will you forgive me?" Gavriila asked quietly.
"I'm sorry," Lieutenant Kharondirev said, slowly turning around to look at her.
His expression looked genuinely remorseful.
"That's why a woman shouldn't be in the army, and, your hair is getting longer, the temptation is harder to fight," Lieutenant Kharondirev said. "You're starting to look too beautiful to resist. I . . . I want you so badly, but, but I shouldn't have done what I did either."
Gavriila reached up a hand and stroked some of the tears off of her cheek.
"You shouldn't be here, but you are," Lieutenant Kharondirev said. "And until we come up with a solution as to what to do about you and your family you're staying here, which is going to have to test my resiliency when it comes to temptation. I'm sorry."
Nodding, Gavriila stroked some more tears from her eyes.
"Will you forgive me?" Lieutenant Kharondirev asked, his voice barely a whisper.
Gavriila smiled slightly. "I asked first."
A soft ghost of a smile lifted Lieutenant Kharondirev's face as well. "I forgive you."
"And I forgive you too," Gavriila said.
Lieutenant Kharondirev stepped forward and gently wrapped his arms around her. It felt odd and somewhat inappropriate to Gavriila, but she settled her head against his warm, smooth chest and brought her hands around his back to hang off of his shoulders.
"I considered telling General Moroyhanev the truth to get you into trouble," Lieutenant Kharondirev said, his voice resonating in his chest. It was like when she'd used to lean her head against Papa's chest while curled up in his lap on a cold winter night and she'd listened to him talk to Mama. "But if I would've told them I would've been killed as well as you, being as I'd hidden the fact that there was a woman in the ranks.""

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 10

Word Count: 60,021

Summary of Events:
Nikita visited the town inside the fort of Viladyslovo they were camped nearby to get information regarding the wooden chest he'd received, and got confirmation it was Aissuresky. Gavriila went into Nikita's tent looking for him, he returned after she'd come inside and told her, essentially, that he wanted to do to her what she'd joined the army to avoid and she ran away. Nikita recalled a talk his father'd had with him about honourable men and realised he hadn't been one; he was then ordered by General Moroyhanev to find Gavriila when she was noticed absent from dinner. A soldier in Viladyslovo talked down to Nikita, which he took offence to, drawing his sword — the one he'd inherited from his father — and caused the man to raised the alarm; the ensuing panic didn't help Nikita find Gavriila, but eventually he found the soldier who'd raised the alarm at a tavern telling other men about how he'd known Nikita's sword was Aissuresky: he had one of his own with writing on it and everything . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
""It says . . ." Ledranokor tipped his head back, looking contemplative. "It says: Blessed be this sword's possessor.
Nikita wrapped his hand tightly around the handle of his sword. That was exactly what his sword said.
"And then it had a name and a date too," Ledranokor said. "I can't remember the date, but the name was Zhihondoniov."
Nikita's eyes widened. Zhihondoniov!
"I know the Zhihondoniov name," a man with his back to Nikita said. "My brother was captured by Zhihondoniovs, they're a well-known military family in Aissure. Just about worked him to death they did — it was only by his own cunning that he escaped."
Looking down at his sword, Nikita didn't know what to think, but he had to know.
Quickly he spurred Breasha forward and then slowly waded through the crowd, hoping dearly that Ledranokor hadn't recognised him as he'd ridden by. He saw a soldier and rode over. The soldier stood straight and saluted, even though he was on foot and thus likely Azemjutany.
"Where are Ledranokor's quarters?" Nikita asked.
"Why do you need to know sir?" the soldier asked.
"Ledranokor claims he has a foreign sword that matches that of the intruder he reported, we must see it so that we can confirm the man is an intruder," Nikita replied.
"First unit, second block from the southeast corner," the soldier replied.
"Thank you," Nikita said.
Breasha surged forward on the fringes of the crowd — which moved quickly away from her — until they reached the appropriate block. Getting out of the saddle, Nikita quickly opened the door and stepped inside. There were several bunks in the unit from what he could tell in the dimness.
Fumbling around he found a lantern and lit it. All of the bunks were empty, and all of them had a pair of trunks by them — one for the top bunk, one for the bottom — he had eight trunks to look through.
Quickly Nikita used his key and managed to open each one. In the fifth one he found a long sword like his own with a similar hilt. Drawing it out, he looked at the blade and found that it possessed writing much akin to his own sword, along with three blood grooves — one wide flanked by two thin. This was the sword.
Taking it up, Nikita quickly closed and locked the trunk, then blew out the lantern and hurried out, now to find a way to get out of here.
As Nikita closed the door he heard a gasp. Looking around, Nikita saw no one, and he knew that Breasha couldn't gasp. He was puzzled. A man carrying a torch walked by and Nikita saw a figure curled into one of the barrels piled between the blocks.
Starting forward, Nikita knelt down at the barrel and reached inside. Finding an arm, he wrapped his hands around it and pulled, hauling the person both out and to their feet.
In the dim light Nikita could barely make out the features, but what features he made out were familiar: he'd found Gavriila."

Viladyslovo: vihlahdeeslohvoh
Moroyhanev: moreoyhayneev
Ledranokor: lehdrahnocore
Azemjutany: ahzehmzhootahknee

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 9

Word Count: 54,016

Summary of Events:
Nikita, getting a moment to himself, looked at the items his father had given him and discovered a book hidden in a false bottom on the chest he'd received; Gavriila came in and looked at the book before they hypothesised extensively about where the things were from and why Nikita had been given them. Several days later they were called into a battle, Gavriila lost her sword and then saw Nikita's mare riderless and so fled the battle with his mare, certain he'd died. Nikita woke up in the middle of the deserted battlefield and found Gavriila's sword before figuring out which way the camp was, finding Gavriila in his tent crying, and solacing her.

Excerpt of the Day:
"Never had Gavriila felt more relieved. Lieutenant Kharondirev hadn't been killed, he was alive, he was alright. He hadn't even been wounded, other than a sizeable collection of bruises.
Gavriila looked at him as he rubbed over his mare while she casually dined. To think hat he could just as easily have been dead chilled her, but she shook off the thought quickly, he was alive, and he was well.
But pushing aside those thoughts left Gavriila feeling somewhat unsettled. Twice yesterday Lieutenant Kharondirev had kissed her. Once on the forehead before she'd gotten a good look and realised he was there and alive, and once on the corner of her jaw.
Gavriila could still feel how softly he'd cradled her head in his hands, how tenderly his lips had massaged themselves deep into her skin, especially on the second kiss. She felt a flush of warmth at the thoughts.
The more time she was spending with Lieutenant Kharondirev, the more she was getting to like him, and the thought that months ago she hadn't wanted to like him seemed to her foolishness now. She loved him.
Startling, Gavriila covered her mouth — even though she hadn't said anything — had she– did she really think that? She looked at Lieutenant Kharondirev as he gently cradled his mare's head in her arms, standing restfully.
Dark brown boots wrapped around his legs all the way to his knees, close-fitting light brown breeches fit around his thighs, his light-coloured shirt hung loosely around his body, his head was topped by a neatly-trimmed head of inky black hair.
His face, of that noble cut that made Gavriila think that his mother must've been the daughter of a nobleman: it looked fairer and more refined than any other face she'd ever seen — even Papa's — and there was something about that nobility that left her feeling a longing.
She longed to have him wrap his arms around her gently, to hold her close, his chest moving softly underneath her head; she longed to have his lips caress her forehead again so soft and gentle.
Yes, she had a feeling it was true: she loved Lieutenant Kharondirev. And it was a solution, too. If she got married — instead of Fanya — then she could get out of the army sooner, and her family would be provided for.
A thought suddenly struck her and she bit her lips. His father had died too, and from the way he talked, and from all the soldiers she knew, he didn't appear to have any brothers in the ranks. Did his father even have any sons other than him? If she were to marry him, how would he be able to provide for both families?
Fanya might have to get married after all — even if Gavriila were able to win Lieutenant Kharondirev over — otherwise one family would be provided for and the other would be endangered, no matter what."

Fanya: fanyah

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 8

Word Count: 48,007

Summary of Events:
Gavriila watched Nikita work with the stallion they'd captured about a month before, then was told by Nikita to do some work with Nadia instead of always watching him. Nikita took his sword to the smith for repairs, along with bringing the sword he'd gotten from his father for hopeful identification; the blade wowed the smith, but he couldn't give Nikita any answers, so Nikita asked Gavriila to read the writing on the sword — being as it was written in a language Nikita couldn't read. They broke camp again and were delayed by the fact that several soldiers couldn't catch their horses, so the General ordered Nikita to start a horsemanship class so they wouldn't have such delays again — and especially not at more pressing or dangerous times. Gavriila went out to visit Nadia and with Nikita's aid discovered Nadia had thrown a shoe and discussed Nikita's recent sullenness.

Excerpt of the Day:
""Blessed be this blade's possessor: Ilya Mechislavavich Zhihondoniov-Vaylizhenkiva, eleven, twenty three, eighteen fifty two," Gavriila finally read aloud. "What do the numbers mean?"
"It's a date," Nikita said.
"There's no twenty third month," Gavriila said.
"No," Nikita agreed. "But Father said the Aissuresky write the date with the month first, then the day, and then the year, whereas we switch the month and the day."
"So the twenty third day of the eleventh month, eighteen fifty two," Gavriila said. "Is that the birthday of this Ilya?"
"Maybe," Nikita replied. He felt shaken, though. That was his birthday. That day, that month, that year. The only thing that was different between the two of them was their names. That was too much of a coincidence for comfort. . . .
. . . Quickly Lieutenant Kharondirev pulled out the nail. Nadia curled her head around with ears laid back and bit at Lieutenant Kharondirev, but didn't catch him.
"Nadia!" Gavriila scolded. "That's not nice!"
A smile crossed Lieutenant Kharondirev's face — the first one Gavriila had seen in a couple of weeks, it surprised her — and he chuckled, a soft and low sound that, although short, sent a strange feeling throughout Gavriila's breastbone.
"Horses don't care what's nice, or not," Lieutenant Kharondirev said. "They are prey animals, and they act based on the threat. If something hurts, they'll lash out as opposed to accepting relief."
He lowered Nadia's hoof and looked at Gavriila. Gently he settled his forefinger under her chin.
"You sounded like a mother scolding her child," he said. "I'd advise you to watch that you don't scold her in front of others or your feminine way with her will be your undoing."
Releasing her chin, Lieutenant Kharondirev walked back to his mare and leaned against her. Gavriila felt a little irritated by Lieutenant Kharondirev's words, although she was sure they were true.
"I'm glad to see you've recovered your former irritability," Gavriila said quietly.
"Irritability?" Lieutenant Kharondirev asked, sounding like he was still in a mirthful mood.
"Yes," Gavriila replied.
"I didn't know that I'd lost it," Lieutenant Kharondirev said.
"You've had all the emotion of a corpse for the past week or so," Gavriila said.
"Oh really?" Lieutenant Kharondirev asked.
Gavriila turned to look at him. "Yes, ever since I read the engraving on that sword to you."
Lieutenant Kharondirev's countenance darkened, but he said nothing.
"What's so disturbing about that sword?" Gavriila asked. "I didn't think it said anything that should cause anyone to be as disturbed as you've seemed over the past week."
"The date," Lieutenant Kharondirev said simply.
"What about it?" Gavriila asked.
"It's my birthday," Lieutenant Kharondirev replied. "The day, the month, and the year I was born."
Gavriila startled. That made sense then. She was sure she would find it disturbing to discover that something had a completely different name on it than her own, but bore her exact birthday."

Ilya: eelyah
Mechislavavich: mehshihslahvahvitch
Zhihondoniov: zheehohndohneeohv
Vaylizhenkiva: vayleezhehnkeevah

Monday, February 08, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 7

Word Count: 42,005

Summary of Events:
Gavriila waited with Nikita for the arrival of the Czirtsak for his inspection of their camp and intercepted him beforehand to tell him of the Aissuresky fort and ambushes. Nikita brought the Czirtsak before the General — who didn't believe Nikita until the Czirtsak severely reprimanded the General, which caused the General to promptly keel over and die of fright. Gavriila pretended to watch the General's body be burned — the ultimate disgrace — and a Lieutenant-General be promoted to his place. Having broken camp for the first time in nearly two years, the soldiers set up camp in a new location; Nikita noticed Gavriila's tent wasn't set up — a skill she'd yet to learn — then he found she'd gone after a suspicious man watching them and hurt her arm; an Aissuresky soldier attacked him, but he got Gavriila off to safety on Breasha and duelled the soldier before finally killing him . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"Nikita stood over the body for a few moments. Suddenly an arrow buried itself in the ground between his feet. Looking up, Nikita saw a soldier with a hefty bow drawing back another arrow.
Quickly Nikita turned to run. The arrow embedded itself in a tree not far from him; Nikita closed his eyes to keep flying bark bits from getting in.
His legs powered over the sloping landscape. He made sure to angle his feet so if they slid on the residual snow and damp old leaves from the year before they'd hit a tree before he lost his balance and landed on his face.
Several more arrow missed him as he ran. He slipped and reached for a tree. He heard a funny sound and nearly had his sword pulled from his hand as he reached. He caught the tree, then found that his sword was bent, a crack in it.
Muttering curses under his breath, Nikita quickly got himself to a stable position and sheathed his sword before he actually broke it.
More arrows landed dangerously close as he scrambled up the slippery slope for the break in the trees. If they dared come out after him from the trees the entire camp would be up in arms and root them out.
Finally he hit drier ground and had traction. Each thrust of his legs carried him further forward. Sharp pain stabbed deep under his shoulder and he toppled forward, sliding down the slope on his face slightly.
Nikita lay still for a few moments. He heard an arrow land nearby and forced himself to his feet, a difficult task being as he was angled downhill. He turned around and got up as more arrows landed nearby. The horses saw him running, and turned, fleeing. Nikita couldn't see Breasha, or Gavriila, or anything else other than the camp, still and lifeless.
Reaching the bottom of the hill, Nikita kept going across the flat as hard and as fast as he could go. The pain underneath his shoulder spiking as he swung his arm back and forth to give himself more momentum, but he worked to ignore it, even as it started to touch his brain.
Suddenly a stab of pain shot up and when Nikita opened his eyes he found he was down on the ground. Feet were all around him, someone was pulling. He recognised the coarse canvas of a stretcher under him, and he could hear distant shouts and battle-cries.
"You're safe Lieutenant, we'll root out those bastards and give them a good licking for you," someone said. The voice sounded vaguely familiar.
"Comaromkova," Nikita gasped.
"Major Comaromkov you mean?" the familiar person asked.
Nikita nodded.
"He's alright, he warned us of the attack and the doctor's with him right now," the familiar person replied.
Nikita cursed in his mind. He'd said Comaromkova instead of Comaromkov. If he didn't watch his own tongue he was going to get Gavriila found out and killed just as much as she might."

Czirtsak: zeertsack

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 6

Word Count: 36,023

Summary of Events:
Gavriila and the nice Major — Major Tiarkonski — discussed how the military functioned and why over breakfast. Nikita was visited by a fellow Lieutenant and invited the Lieutenant along on their hunt for the Aissuresky camp, which the Lieutenant agreed to. Gavriila rode in the group behind Nikita — which her mare didn't appreciate — and heard calls she'd heard prior to the ambush the day before; the troops then all spied fleeing Aissuresky and made chase. They discovered the Aissuresky had built a fort and battled the Aissuresky in front of it. After the battle Nikita went looking for Gavriila, whom he couldn't find, and found she'd fled; he found her in the forest crying because she was sure she'd killed someone.

Excerpt of the Day:
"Gavriila was still in tears, balled up against the dirt, so delicate and feminine. He could do anything to her, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do to her.
Instead, though, he collected her into his arms and held her gently against himself.
"This is exactly why women aren't suited to military life," Nikita said gently.
Gavriila whimpered against his breastplate, a tear ran down the side of her nose.
"Killing is a part of being a soldier," Nikita said. "And it's the part most of us men enjoy about being a soldier. We get to defeat our enemies. For some of us the bloodlust is so strong we go into a frenzy. Women are delicate creatures, much more suited to the giving of life than the taking of it. Of course, you know all of this is merely proof. It doesn't relieve your agony, it doesn't help you find solace for your soul. And to be honest, I don't know how you can, I rather like killing."
She pulled away from him and gazed up, her blue eyes wide with terror.
"Not my own countrymen, and never a woman," Nikita said. "But I like killing my enemies, especially in vengeance for killing my friends, and my father."
"But that's not right," she said quietly.
"Maybe it isn't, but that's how it is," Nikita said. "Come, the battle's over, we routed them, let's go collect our captive horses and head back to report the construction of the fort. Besides, they need someone to command them over there, Lieutenant Yasimokov is in no condition to do so."
"Why?" she asked.
"Because he's still in a killing frenzy," Nikita replied. "He's out on the battlefield stabbing the heads of the dead and dying to make sure they're dead."
Gavriila shuddered violently.
Nikita got to his feet and helped her up. "That's the way he's always been. He doesn't mind relaxing, but he likes a good fight with lots of blood better."
"That's terrible," Gavriila whispered.
Nikita said nothing, he just gave Gavriila a boost up to the top of the little cliff and then hauled himself up with the aid of a tree. Nikita placed an arm gently around her shoulders and led her back to where their horses were waiting.
"Sometimes killing is an acquired taste," Nikita said. "But I don't think you'd acquire it, especially being as you're so tender and delicate, but if you're going to be a part of the army, you're going to have to fight for survival and if that means killing or mortally wounding someone, that's just kind of how it's going to have to be."
"I don't ever want to do it again," Gavriila said.
"Then make sure you stay further back next time," Nikita said, swinging into his saddle. "But until we get you out of here, you're going to have to deal with it."
Gavriila made no comment. Nikita looked over at her. He felt sorry for her. She was doing this for her family, but he had a strong feeling she hadn't realised what she was getting into when she'd signed up. There was a reason why women weren't welcomed in the military."

Tiarkonski: teearekohnskee
Yasimokov: yahseemohkohv

Friday, February 05, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 5

Word Count: 30,019

Summary of Events:
Gavriila was roused to participate in a hazing of Lieutenant Kharondirev, but she watched from a distance. Nikita was furious and levied all kinds of punishments on his soldiers for their activities, then he got in trouble with the General due to the fact that being doused with liquor was part of his hazing. The unit went out on patrol again and Gavriila noticed some different soldiers just before their unit was ambushed. Nikita helped his troops get a handle on battling their attackers before noticing Gavriila all by herself and discovering she was a girl. Gavriila had her wounds tended to by Nikita, who then questioned her . . . 

Excerpt of the Day:
""What, may I ask, possessed you to begin this charade?" he asked, firmly.
"My father had no sons," Gavriila replied. "I did not want our family to be disgraced and slaughtered."
Lieutenant Kharondirev gazed at her, but said nothing. Gavriila expected him to say that her family would be slaughtered anyways because of this.
"It is rather noble of you," Lieutenant Kharondirev said.
Gavriila had no idea what to say, was he complimenting her?
"What are you going to do to me?" she asked, she needed the suspense relieved.
"Do?" Lieutenant Kharondirev asked.
Gavriila couldn't believe it. He didn't know?
"Well, it depends on whether I decided to do what I want, what my father would want, or what the military dictates," Lieutenant Kharondirev replied.
"And those are?" Gavriila asked, not that she was sure she wanted to know.
"According to the dictates of the military any woman found in the ranks, regardless of reason, is to be presented before the General of the regiment, disgraced, and slaughtered," Lieutenant Kharondirev replied. "Her decapitated remains would then be sent to the village from which she hailed and hung about the village as a reminder to the women that they dare not make any attempts at joining the military, lest we come to be a disgrace to other nations."
Gavriila gasped, that sounded terrible.
"My father would regard the discovered woman with decorum and escort her back to her home, paternally discouraging her from trying to reenter the military, and if she had a reason akin to your own, I'm most certain he would find some way or another to make provision for you and your family and make sure that you weren't under threat of such disgrace," Lieutenant Kharondirev said.
Gavriila glanced over at the flattened grass where she was sure Lieutenant Kharondirev's father had spent his nights.
"I, personally, must admit, despite your emasculate haircut, and cunning disguise, that you are, indeed, a fair creature, and I am sure that if your hair were at its full length you would be even more of a beauty," Lieutenant Kharondirev said. "There is much I would desire to do."
Gavriila was sure she knew what, and she didn't want him to succeed, but she didn't know what to do.
"However, you are a fine soldier, despite your femininity and naïveté," Lieutenant Kharondirev said. "I do not believe I will determine yet this night what shall be done with you."
"Then what will you do?" Gavriila asked.
"I will dismiss you back to your tent to rest," Lieutenant Kharondirev replied, getting to his feet.
Gavriila felt a little unsteady when she started to get to her feet, and she could feel some pain across her chest where the wound was. Lieutenant Kharondirev aided her gently to her feet, and held onto her until she was steady.
Fearfully she looked up at Lieutenant Kharondirev. He looked like he was distressed about the whole incident too. His green eyes looked stern, hungering, and terrified all at once."

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 4

Word Count: 24,011

Summary of Events:
Nikita seethed after Gavriila left, and got upset at the Major-General for suggesting that he'd been behaving immaturely; in his tent he got to thinking about how to get information about the things he'd received from his father. The next morning Gavriila apologised to Nikita for her disrespectful conduct and was saddened when he wouldn't say he forgave her; at breakfast she ended up sitting with some soldiers she didn't know who didn't believe she was a Major and bullied her, but a nice Major from her unit came to her defence. Nikita led his troops on a patrol with intent to find the camp the soldiers who'd attacked his unit leading to his father's death had come from, but they ended up running into a gargantuan stallion who fancied Nikita's mare Breasha; Nikita succeeded in mounting the stallion, who had no idea what to do with him.

Excerpt of the Day:
"The stallion halted abruptly, but paused only for a moment before continuing on backwards. He continued the reverse and halt motions until he nearly ran into the line of horses which were Nikita's forces.
"Should we continue, sir?" one of the soldiers asked quietly.
Violently the stallion startled and hurried forward, then started backwards again abruptly. Nikita had not expected such a smooth ride from the stallion, but, being as the stallion was confined to a forest, he wasn't surprised. It also showed the stallion was familiar with the forest, knowing it to be too dangerous for him to try bucking or galloping to get away from Nikita.
The stallion nearly backed into the line of horses again, then started forward once more, this time going at a brisk walk, passing Breasha, who looked curious, and followed quickly behind.
Nikita glanced over his shoulder and saw his troops were following as well. He didn't want to get separated from them, lest the stallion succeed in throwing or injuring him, or get close to doing so and leave him with no one to swoop in and rescue him from the predicament he'd somewhat gotten himself into.
They passed over a ridge, after which the trees thinned into a clearing. It was too small to support a camp, but in the clearing was a small group of horses, who looked up and nickered to the stallion. Nikita guessed they were his herd.
Out in the clearing, the stallion circled around, as if he were trying to get a good look at Nikita, which he couldn't do because Nikita was on his back. The stallion backed up again and grazed a tree with his hindquarters, startling himself and setting him to bucking — what Nikita had been expecting all along.
Being a big and muscular horse as he was, the stallion's bucks were quite forceful, but Nikita's grip on the stallion's mane was strong, and horsehair didn't give easily. He hung on as the stallion tried everything it possibly could to remove him.
Nikita didn't let go, even though his arms and shoulders felt like they were all pulled out of their joints. He was going to hang onto this stallion until it stopped and see if he could ride the stallion all the way back to the camp with his herd and maybe get some seasoned veterans to train the horses for them. They could always use horses.
Finally the stallion stopped, downright exhausted, his sides heaving, his legs slightly splayed with fatigue. Nikita bent forward, his own sides heaving from the effort it'd taken to keep his seat.
It took some work to extricate his hand from the stallion's mane, but finally Nikita got a hand free and hand-signalled to the troops to circle around the herd and start back for the camp."

Breasha: breeshah

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 3

Word Count: 18,006

Summary of Events:
Nikita went to visit his father's grave and thought angrily about the Aissuresky who'd brought about his demise. Gavriila was roused and went through morning inspection before being promoted to the position of Major, which her father had held before her. Nikita set out early in the morning to head back to camp, none of his family said farewell to him. Gavriila was being worked terribly hard in training when word came that Lieutenant Kharondirev was returning; she got dressed in her finest, cooled her mare down, and was then inspected, after she was dismissed she ended up catching Lieutenant Kharondirev's attention when she was trying to get in the saddle, he advised she lower her stirrup for better ease in mounting . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
""You aren't going to raise the stirrup?" Lieutenant Kharondirev asked, looking at her like he judged her insane to do so.
"I'm not allowed to get comfortable before I do so sir?" she asked calmly.
Lieutenant Kharondirev startled and pulled back his head to look at her in surprise.
Gavriila reached down and drew up the stirrup. She returned it to the notch it'd been at and slid her foot into the stirrup.
"You didn't raise the stirrup enough," Lieutenant Kharondirev said.
"It's been fine that way before sir," Gavriila replied, wishing he would just go away.
"You are not, as yet, your father's height Major Comaromkov," Lieutenant Kharondirev said, looking at her somewhat sternly. "For the sake of your life and safety you ought to raise the stirrup."
Gavriila reached down and pulled up the stirrup to tighten it another notch, and then did the same to the other stirrup. Straightening in her saddle, she looked at Lieutenant Kharondirev. "Do you find any other faults with my tack sir?"
An impish look of interest lit the Lieutenant's face. "I do not believe you've ridden much Major."
"I've ridden much in the weeks you've been absent Lieutenant," Gavriila replied.
"Before that?" Lieutenant Kharondirev probed.
"Yes sir," Gavriila replied.
"How much before that?" Lieutenant Kharondirev asked.
"Plenty sir," Gavriila replied.
Lieutenant Kharondirev curled his mouth into a smirk. "I feel I will be much amused by you Major Comaromkov. Unlike I at your age you do not appear to be revelling in the attentions of such a senior officer as myself."
"You are merely two ranks above myself sir," Gavriila replied.
"Merely?" Lieutenant Kharondirev asked, looking at her with raised eyebrows. "If it would not have been for your father's unfortunate demise there would be some eleven ranks between us."
"And if your father had not met the same unfortunate demise as my own sir?" Gavriila asked.
Lieutenant Kharondirev startled, looking at her somewhat horrified and slightly enraged, as if he were insulted and offended by her comment. She waited patiently for his answer, glad to see that he might be understanding her discomfort — although she dearly hoped that he did not know why.
"Two," Lieutenant Kharondirev replied succinctly.
"My sincerest condolences Lieutenant," Gavriila said gently.
Lieutenant Kharondirev — who'd turned to leave — snapped his head back around and looked at her like he was ready to either scream at her or strike her, opening his mouth, he then paused and gazed at her.
His shoulders dropped. "My sincerest condolences Major," he said, slightly mumbling.
"They are appreciated Lieutenant," Gavriila replied.
She signalled Nadia and headed away from Lieutenant Kharondirev. She hoped he felt just as uncomfortable as she'd felt when under his scrutiny now. He had been promoted just as much as she had: some nine ranks above his position before his father's death."

Aissuresky: aysyoorski
Comaromkov: kohmahrohmkov
Nadia: nahd'ya

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 2

Word Count: 12,011

Summary of Events:
Nikita arrived home with his father's body and told his mother the news before heading out to start digging the grave. Gavriila was finished with packing, but didn't want to leave and came up with the idea of masquerading as a boy to keep her family safe. Nikita attended his father's funeral and helped cover the body before going to visit his mare. Gavriila's family hurried home from the funeral, but soldiers were coming down the street, so Gavriila quickly made herself look like a boy and went with the soldiers. Nikita asked his mother about the things his father had told him about and got a surprisingly foul reaction. Gavriila arrived at the army camp and was kitted out by a rather terrifying one-handed old man.

Excerpt of the Day:
""These are not your things!" his mother hissed. "Davyd merely stole them from a rich, foreign man, and he wanted to give them to you."
"And why shouldn't I receive them?" Nikita asked.
"Because they are not yours!" his mother snapped. "They belong to someone else, and they were stolen from him!"
"Well then, should I return them to him or his heirs?" Nikita asked.
"No!" his mother shouted — although it sounded somewhat mixed with a scream as well.
"You don't like stealing Mother, and you always told Father to return what he stole," Nikita said. "Why should I not return these things on his behalf if that is what you so wish?"
"I do not wish for them to be returned!" his mother spat. "I wish for them to be destroyed!"
"And waste such a fine sword Mother?" Nikita asked. "It is of such fine craftsmanship, I don't think I've ever seen a sword that could possibly compare to it."
"It all needs to be destroyed!" his mother barked. "It has caused enough ill in this household!"
"Ill, but Mother, how has it caused ill?" Nikita asked. "Do you think it's to blame for Gennadi and the rest?"
"No!" his mother replied in that same shout-scream, this time reaching out her hand and slapping Nikita's face.
Nikita shifted his jaw to ease the stinging pain. He didn't know what had come over his mother. He'd never seen her this angry or violent. Obviously these things were a source of some kind of pain to her. He didn't think they would've belonged to her father, after all, Father had a strict code about taking women as plunder.
"Mother," Nikita said. "It seems a shame to waste this handiwork, it's–"
"I do not care if it is wasted!" his mother interrupted ferociously. "You will not have it and it will not be in my presence a moment longer!"
"Mother!" Nikita cried as she seized the handle of the sword with both of her hands.
She pulled on it, but could only draw it out less than a quarter of its length. Nikita managed to pull the sword out of her hands and pushed it back into its sheath by pressing the hilts-piece into his side.
"Mother, I promise, I will destroy it," Nikita lied; he needed to placate her. "I will not look at it, I will not look into it. I will destroy it."
Her eyes blazed. "It is destroyed tonight," she said through her teeth.
"I promise Mother," Nikita said. "Please, I will go do it now."
She nodded succinctly and stalked off toward the sitting room again. Nikita looked at the items. He ought to destroy them, too. He had the freedom to, after all, as Father's tags said they belonged to him, and he felt rather unsettled by the possibilities they suggested.
But Mother's reaction left Nikita thinking the opposite more. He didn't want to destroy them, he wanted to keep them, and he wanted to find out who they belonged to, and how they'd come into his father's possession."

Davyd: dayveed

Monday, February 01, 2016

Unriddling Clues: Day 1

Word Count: 6,003

Summary of Events:
Nikita, with his father's division of fifty men, was out on patrol and heard a suspicious sound; the division was ambushed by a larger troop and forced to retreat, his father died en route to safety. According to the military tradition Nikita was promoted to his father's rank of Lieutenant — despite the fact that he was only a Cavalier — and then went through his father's trunk to find the things of his his father had told him were inside; he didn't recognise any of them, they all looked quite foreign. Gavriila and her mother were making breakfast when they received a knock at the door bearing them terrible news . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"Rough and urgent a knock sounded on the door. Gavriila's head snapped up from the eggs she'd been minding. Mama hurried to the door and opened it. Old Man Fylondeyor stepped inside quickly, his crooked figure moving oddly with urgency as he made his way to the table and seated himself on the bench.
"I've received terrible word," he said, bending his head oddly to look up at Mama.
Gavriila forced herself to stir the eggs before they burned while she listened.
"Lavrinti?" Mama asked worriedly.
"Yes," Old Man Fylondeyor replied.
"What has befallen him?" Mama asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"The worst," Old Man Fylondeyor replied.
Gavriila looked over her shoulder at him. No. It couldn't be. Tears were running down Mama's cheeks.
"It was a surprise attack, he was one of ten lost to his unit of fifty," Old Man Fylondeyor said. "His unit commander even died."
"No," Mama whispered.
"I am sorry Comaromkova," Old Man Fylondeyor said quietly. "I came to warn you as soon as I heard your husband was among the dead. We must make ready for you to leave at once."
"No," Mama said, resolution in her voice. "We must receive Lavrinti and bury him. I cannot abandon my love to be cast wherever he is put."
"You endanger yourself Comaromkova," Old Man Fylondeyor said. "If you wait that long."
"He is my love," Mama said. "I must see him buried. Then I will leave."
"You mayn't have the time," Old Man Fylondeyor said. "Only if the soldiers can be distracted will you have the time to get away after you bury him."
"We must start digging his grave now so we are in readiness, and then we will pack all that we need and be ready to leave the instant he is laid to rest and the last shovelful of dirt covers him," Mama said.
"Don't even wait that long Comaromkova," Old Man Fylondeyor said. "They will see you leave and be hotly after you, surely to overtake you. As soon as he is lain down you must depart."
"I don't want to leave him uncovered," Mama said.
"We shall take care of him," Old Man Fylondeyor said. "You must get to safety, and then once the time is right return if such can ever be done safely."
Mama nodded. "Will you stay to breakfast Fylondeyor?"
"No, I must get the men rallied to dig Comaromkova, so that you may be ready," he replied. "And all of Bolodenkagrad must know as well, that we may aid you in escaping."
"Many thanks Fylondeyor," Mama said quietly.
"You are much welcome," Old Man Fylondeyor replied. "My sincerest condolences.""

Fylondeyor: feelawndayoar
Lavrinti: lahv'rihntee