Retreat, Day 5

PieToday’s wordcount:4006 (teaching day)
Current Hearts of Tabat wordcount: 92212
Total word count for the week: 17073
Total word count for this retreat: 17073
Worked on Hearts of Tabat, story “Days of Sweetness, Days of Want”
Time spent on SFWA email, discussion boards, other stuff: 30 minutes
Other stuff: Taught Character Building class, did some e-mailings
Steps: 6351

From today’s, part of Hearts of Tabat

The Red Moon’s Sugar Tea House had a flimsy and unfinished look to it — one door had a (0 of tiles half laid around it, ending at a shoulder-high mark where either tiles or energy had given out. The tables were all-of-a-kind but second-hand, marked with stripes and weather stresses, but the chairs were a mismatched conglomeration that could, upon study, be sorted into four groups: a set once marked with a noble signet, all chiseled away; a few basket-woven chairs, looking flimsy but more comfortable than the rest; a set of plain chairs, crude in construction and made of pine planking, and one rocking chair, set in the corner. The floor underfoot was unfinished planking, marked with spills and splotches and a winter’s worth of grime in the grooves between the planking. The narrow windows were half-shuttered, their lower reaches clad in gray slats, while their naked uppers admitted winter’s chill light.

A fat-bellied stove sat cold in the back of the room, while chal steamed in a vast samovar/vat near the till. A skinny boy sat there, reading a penny-wide and paying no attention to the room whatsoever.

Sebastiano paid the boy a couple of copper skiffs and received a ceramic mug. The samovar smelled as though it had not been cleaned in a while, but the chal was hot and surprisingly peppery. Sebastiano chose not to contemplate what the spice might be masking. He found a basket-woven chair with a low table beside it that was cleaner than the rest of them and sank down into it with a sigh. It creaked and murmured under his weight but held.

No one else was in the tea house, which was not a good sign. It had the feeling of a stage set, of something erected more for show than for purpose, and it made his encounter in the flower shop seem all the odder, as though he’d been catapulted into the pages of a penny-wide, something lurid and full of spies and secret words.

He sighed and slouched back a little in the chair, sipping at his mug. Was that the sort of story he had wanted for his life? He would prefer a love story, something simple and not too complicated, ending up happily in a way that promised for a good life, with love and family and friendship and at least moderate wealth.

That was, he thought, not the story he had told himself ten years ago, when he had first come to the College of Mages. That had been a younger man’s story, one of devoting himself to his craft, discovering things that no one had ever learned before, adding to the store of Human knowledge. That had been a worthy enough ambition but he was no longer sure that was what he wanted.

Surely this was not the normal state. Surely people usually knew what it was that they wanted of life — everyone at the college of mages seemed to, at least.

Shadows flickered past the door as passersby went down the street. The boy turned a page and kept reading. His lips moved a little as he read, sounding out words.

Sebastiano felt dissatisfied, at odds with himself. Thoughts of the oread still rankled at him. Why had she thought he would do her harm? The thought came to him that she wished him harm, and that was why she had feared it from him, but he discarded it. Oreads were simple creatures, and no danger to Humans.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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