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Excerpt: Clever Jorl, or, The Story of Spire
For Price of Thorns LAUNCH DAY, here is one of the many fairy tale histories from the book. We’re working on getting this set up as a stand-alone mini audiobook and I’ll give you details when that’s ready to go. And as an extra bonus, after the story, I’ll share one of the pieces of art we’ve been working on with the extremely talented artist Hibbary!
If you want to help with the launch, of course picking it up is helpful, but recommending it to a friend is maybe even more effective. If everyone on this mailing list got just one other person to buy it this week, that would make a huge difference. I’m really proud of this book, and the biggest struggle we have now is getting people to see it.
Anyway, on with the story …
The scene: our heroes Nivvy and Bella have just arrived outside the city of Spire, a walled city with an immense tower at the center of it, and have met a hawk who claims to be a guide. They agree to hire the hawk, Zein, to guide them through the city.
“Fantastic!” Zein brightened and fluffed their wings. “You won’t regret it. I don’t eat much and I know all the places to go. What do you want to do first? Never mind, we’ve plenty of time for that. Do you know the story of the spire and the founding of the city? That’s our First Story and every visitor should hear it, if you haven’t already, and even if you have, you haven’t heard my version. I know because I only just met you and I haven’t told it yet.”
Bella ignored Nivvy’s outstretched hand and pulled herself back up on Rahila. “That sounds like an excellent way to pass the time.”
Nivvy was partial to making plans when plans needed to be made, as they did now, but he had to allow that it couldn’t hurt to know more about where they were going. It was hard not to be curious about the great spire in front of them, the great blocks of stone and the saucer at the summit where, now that he stared at it, it looked like something was moving? From this distance, there was no telling whether it was a bird or a man, but it was something for sure.
Zein had drawn themself up and now began with a theatrical flourish. “Now this was a long time ago, before I was born, but I heard it from a river spirit who was there and saw the whole thing. There was a king who had three sons, and the youngest of those was a boy so clever that by the age of five he could solve riddles that baffled grown men, by the age of eight he was holding conversations with the king’s ministers, and by the age of twelve, sages across the kingdom would visit him for advice. He was named Joric, but the people knew him as Clever Jorl.
“Now, the king’s foremost minister was a nasty fellow, just the worst, and he saw how clever the boy was and he was worried that one day this boy would grow up to be so clever that he’d find out about all the things the minister was doing that he wasn’t supposed to be. So the minister went to the temple of Apo, the Sky-God, who incidentally is the god who looks out for people turned into birds, and he’s normally a very good god but his priests don’t come off so well in this story. Anyway, the minister was good friends with a priest, and he convinced the priest to warn the king that his youngest son was scheming to take the throne for himself, that he would kill first his eldest brother, then his next eldest, and then the king himself.
“The king didn’t believe it, of course. Would you? But the minister went and stabbed the eldest prince in the night and lay the blade in the bed of Clever Jorl, where it was discovered in the morning. Now the king believed the false priest, so in order to save his middle son, he ordered Clever Jorl be put to death.
“But Clever Jorl argued that since no man had seen his crime, no man should judge him. He said, ‘The gods know the truth, therefore let the gods judge me. Let me go out into the world with only this blade, and if it were my hand that killed my brother, let the blade always turn against me, but if another hand were responsible, let the blade guide me through the world until it finds the guilty party.’
“The evil minister was pretty scared, as you can imagine, so he went to Clever Jorl pretending to be his friend, the louse, and he told him to follow the Kalla River, because he knew that the river led to the country of giants.”
The men on horses ahead of them turned, and one said, “Keep that accursed bird quiet.”
“I’m a licensed guide,” Zein shot back at them, and clacked their beak. “You don’t have to listen if you don’t want to.”
They looked at each other and then one muttered something to the other, and they both laughed and turned forward.
Zein turned their head back and continued as though there’d been no interruption. “So Clever Jorl thought this was good advice, because he didn’t know the minister was evil. He traveled along the river and hunted game and had a fine time of it, and—” Here Zein looked to see how close they were to the gate, which was now a matter of only fifty feet or so. “Anyway, he had adventures and you can hear about some of them later. I don’t know all the stories but I know a few of them, but anyone can tell you about Clever Jorl and the fairies, or Clever Jorl and the trader’s wife. But in the end he came to this town, and the town told him that they were plagued by giants, and the chief promised that if Clever Jorl could make the giants leave them alone, he’d give him his daughter in marriage. And the daughter was beautiful, of course she was, so Clever Jorl said he’d give it a try.
“He walked along the river and found the giants and demanded to speak to their leader, and that was the tallest one, because that’s how giants choose their leader, so he came along and wanted to eat Clever Jorl, but Jorl said, you can’t eat me because I’m going to prove that I should be your leader. All the giants thought this was hilarious, they laughed and laughed, and Clever Jorl said to the leader, I’ll prove it. I bet you can’t build a tower that’s taller than I am.
“Well, the leader giant said he only needed two stones to do that, so they went to a hill by the river, and he put two stones on top of each other, and lickety-split Clever Jorl went around behind the stones and climbed to the top of them. ’See,’ he said, ‘I’m still taller.’
“Giants are pretty dumb, so the leader scratched his head and said, ‘Wait here,’ and he went off to get more stones. While he was doing that, Jorl carved notches in the back of the stones so he could get up and down faster, so he didn’t have to just stay on top of the tower forever, you see, and when the leader came back with more stones, Jorl got up quickly to stand on top of them. ‘See,’ he said, ‘I’m still taller.’
“Well, the leader couldn’t stand for this. So he got the whole tribe to find stones and keep building this tower, and every time, Clever Jorl climbed up, carved more handholds, and stood atop the new tower. This went on for a year, because giants might be dumb but they’re good builders, and at the end of the year they had built a tower that was taller than even the leader, and he couldn’t build any more because his arms couldn’t reach the top.
“Then Clever Jorl stood on top of it and said, ‘Now I am the tallest and I am your leader, and I command that these giants shall walk toward the setting sun until they come to the sea, and they will make their new home there and shall never return to this land.’ And the giants grumbled but they had to listen to him because he was the tallest.
“So the giants went off to the west, and eventually they lay down and became stone and that’s the Iridi Mountains which you can see from here over on the horizon there where the sun sets, and that’s what happened to the giants.”
They were almost to the gates. Zein sped up their recitation. “Oh, and by the time the tower was finished there was nothing left of the blade but the handle, so Clever Jorl gave it to the leader of the giants and told him to throw it away, this was before they left for the west and became mountains, obviously, and the giant threw the handle as hard as he could. It sailed through the air all the way back to the original kingdom where the evil old minister happened to be walking out in the garden, and it struck him on the head and killed him, so it found the guilty party at last. And Clever Jorl married the chief’s daughter, and they built a big city around the tower and called it Spire, and that’s where the city got its name. Phew!”
Thanks all for reading, and as promised, here’s a piece of artwork from later in the book. I won’t spoil too much by describing the scene, but if you’ve read it, you know what this is:
It’s so lovely. <3 Yay, the book is out today, it’s a real thing!
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