March 5, 2013
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You the mapmaker traveled three long years and charted a fraction of the kingdom. The King wished for faster results, but he knew you and your crew gave him more than he had expected. He himself walked some of the maps on his own and encountered no missed marks or wrong turns. Despite your wish to work through that fourth winter as well, the King summoned you home for a long respite. You had earned it and, you knew, others had insisted.
How strange it was to return home, a woman of twenty. You had been away for so long. The first step over the threshold, and you fell under a familiar spell.You slept in your girlhood bed, under your father's roof and your mother's care, above neglected cobwebs, things that go bump in the night, and maps to hidden worlds.
At each daybreak, you sat on a stool long after you'd slipped on your boots. You remembered where you were again. Your mother always thought you were a lazy riser. You were listening to see if he was gone. You listened for signs of your inconsistently indulgent father with a mean streak. No, he never whipped you with a switch or belt. No, you saw him do that to Ciaran. He'd slap you across the mouth, the face. Unpredictable. You were slapped for saying you didn't like runny eggs. Another time for telling your mother you didn't wish to wear a particular frock to a banquet. You weren't a bratty child.You didn't much complain. What did your mother do? It's for your own good. Serves you right, stop that crying, what a lucky child you are to have that food, that dress.
Home again, you wished to see friends, but all had married and moved throughout the kingdom. Your brother Ciaran was far off and weeks away from a visit. Prince Wyl had been sent to another kingdom for a courtly purpose. Then he suddenly returned to his castle rooms unannounced. You availed yourself of his royal requests. Wyl had become a collector of dubious maps. He wanted your expert opinion, but you avoided him otherwise. You knew your place. He had forgotten his.
One sunny morning, you ventured to the forest in a dark green hooded cloak and brown boots lined with fur.You found a favorite boulder, not yet warmed by the sun, and sat with your back against it to see what might come. The winter was not yet so harsh, the animals not yet too thin. Winter is a dream time, you thought. All that is imagined to be lost returns when we wake up.You looked to the sky with closed lids and open ears.
There came a sudden scuffle of hooves and wheezy breath. You rolled your eyes to watch the deer leap over the boulder, over your head, and stumble into the trees. There was blood on your hands. You kept to your seat when you heard the noise of running
footsteps and harsh gasps.You turned only your gaze to see who it could be. You watched Wyl and his brother Raef vie for a lead as they raced ahead. The two brothers resembled each other at rest as much as in motion. The similarity ended there.
Through no fault of his own, Raef was born after Wyl. He didn't receive the same attention, esteem, or respect. By nature or neglect, he was also not as charming or amiable. He seemed desperate to prove himself. In the forest, at least, he could compete with his brother on equal terms.
You peeked through the brush and met the glint of a blade. Wyl grabbed the antlers of the great stag. You clasped your mouth. Raef drew a dagger against the stag's throat. Three arrows jutted from his body. You saw a thick scar on his shoulder. You had seen the ancient creature many times since your childhood. You had drawn him on your maps.
There was some chase left in the old man, said Raef.
Though it was not his season, you said.
The young men startled at your approach.You knelt at the stag's side.
It's the season for boars, you said.
So it is, but we found none today, said Wyl.
She believes she has surely seen them, hiding as she was, said Raef.
You narrowed your eyes at the younger prince. He smiled as he wiped the dagger in his shadow on the beast's fur. You pushed to your heels, wrapped deep into your cloak, and left without a reply. Soon Wyl's footsteps fell in rhythm with yours. He tried to explain the reason for the hunt, the choice of quarry.You had little use for the older brother's defense of the younger.
Be careful of your brother, Wyl. I know this wasn't your doing, you said.
I wanted to hunt today as well, said he.
Raef hunts what secretly reminds him of himself.
He isn't so swift and strong.
That's not what I meant.
Say what you mean, then.
He is cold and weak.
Wyl took hold of your cloak and halted your steps.
What am I? asked he.
A man of good intention, nature, and cheer.
What are you?
A mapmaker, and a subject.
He took your hands and smeared the blood. He found no wound but touched something carnal and raw between the two of you.
What could be, if it were, would come to a dark end, you said. | spoke it into being then, didn't you? |
Aoife, even you can't see that far in the distance, said he.
You turned your head when you heard Raef call out. His bloody hands hovered at his sides. Wyl waved to him, and Raef stood in wait. Wyl took your stained hand and pressed it to his chest. Your palm filled with the heat of the chase, his shirt, your will. All of it pulled away from your grasp as he left to join his brother.
The above is an excerpt from the book The Mapmaker's War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2013 Ronlyn Domingue, author of The Mapmaker's War: A Legend
Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Mapmaker's War: A Legend (Atria Books; March 5, 2013). Its epic sequel is scheduled for 2014. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, was published in ten languages. Her writing has appeared in The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books), New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, New Delta Review, The Independent(UK), and Shambhala Sun, as well as on mindful.org and The Nervous Breakdown. Born and raised in the Deep South, she lives there still with her partner, Todd Bourque, and their cats.
For more information please visit http://www.ronlyndomingue.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.
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