“Butterfly” – excerpt


Once upon a time there was a kingdom in which the royal family was beautiful–perfectly beautiful.

Of course, there were occasional whispers that some young cousin had a hawkish nose, stringy hair, even an unfortunate birthmark. But by the time that particular royal child reached adulthood, the nose was aquiline, the locks luxurious, the skin uniform.

In ages before, the Nizamies had been better known for their strange “gifts” than their looks. The royal gifts were always thought of as magical, but they were just bits of magic–a single power– rather than a whole cupboardfull.

For some Nizamies (for that was the name of that clan), the power was but a parlor trick—an ability to spark a light or find an object–while in the case of others, it dominated the royal’s whole life, even the entire kingdom.

Take the great Queen Ayodyah. She was quite ordinary in most respects.  Her gift, however, was “followability”– an uncanny knack for making people trail after her, or, as later royal historians liked to call it, “leadership”.

Ayodyah’s gift was a bit annoying at balls, when the whole dance floor formed a conga train at her heels, but it proved invaluable at war, where not only her own army fell in behind her, but the opposing army as well.

Count Hyderadi was known for fireproofing. Nothing he owned -not matches, not kindling, not even marshmallows – would burn. The gift was a great boon to the Count during the drought of 1421 when forest fires broke out over the countryside and it was found that a simple deed of the burning acres to Count Hyderadi was all it took to quench the flames. The gift proved less of a boon, however, when the Count and his men were discovered in the King’s forests one dry night with torches and lamp oil. Then all it got him was a length of knotted rope.

This story, though, takes place some years after the deaths of both Queen Ayodayah and Count Hyderadi, during an age in the Kingdom of Zindabar when the Nizamie gifts had become much less important. During this time, in fact, the old magic was sometimes viewed as awkward,  especially since it was believed that, occasionally, the strange gifts affected the royal’s appearance. It was said, for example, that the great Queen Ayodyah had had a funny notch on her spine (which looked for all the world like a small tail), and that Count Hyderadi was constantly streaming with sweat.

And in the time of this story, no royal wanted a tail or to be overly sweaty. No, what had become important to the Nizamies was beauty, perfect beauty. That was deemed magic enough.

It was into this magically beautiful royal family that the Grand Duchess Ahmimaya Theodora Christina Nizamie Tureth was born.  She wasn’t a grand duchess then.  Her mother was the grand duchess and she was just a little tiny baby with a red wrinkled face and a voice that went ‘waah’.

But soon, as she grew older, she became a lot less red, less wrinkly, and instead of saying “waah”, was actually very happy most of the time.

Unfortunately, when she was thirteen all that changed.  Her parents’ boat was caught in a storm on the Great Inland Sea.  And although her mother and Nana, working together, had managed to keep her afloat, her father, and then her mother too, were drowned.  In other words, her life had been saved, but her life also, the life she had always known,  had been swept away.

So that instead of being a very happy non-duchess who spent most of her time learning, studying and talking with her parents,  and exploring, both with and without them, the gardens and forests and sea coast around their small but  remarkably cozy castle, and, as much as possible, avoiding Nana who was constantly telling her the proper way to stand, sit, look and behave, she was a very sad grand duchess who, accompanied by that same Nana, sat in a hot dusty train, headed south.

A summons had come from the capital.  The Queen, her mother’s sister, had called Ahmi to court.

Ahmi  only knew what her Aunt looked like from seeing her face on coins.  Even then, she’d not seen it much.  For her Aunt’s beautiful face was reserved for gold coins of the highest denominations.  And Ahmi, though now a Grand Duchess, did not actually see that kind of gold very much.

She wondered sometimes as they headed south, why she had not drowned too.  Why her mother, and then Nana, had not simply let her go.  A part of her sometimes wished they had.  But when she thought of that black swirl of wave, the chilling, choking force of the water around and above her, terror filled her chest, and she knew she could never truly wish for that.


The above is sort of the preface of a fantasy novel I have written (but not published) called either “Butterfly” or “An I for an Eye.” (If you have any ideas about the title – not knowing anything about the book – please let me know.  (Also after initial posting I added a section that leads into main story.  So sorry for length.)  

I am posting this for Kerry O’Connor’s challenge on With Real Toads to create another world. The world is not described very vividly in the above excerpt, but as a preface, it seemed fairly self-contained. Plus I did the little drawing this morning of Queen Ayodayah (not actually an elephant.)

Thanks much for reading!

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38 Comments on ““Butterfly” – excerpt”

  1. Luke Prater Says:

    Well it don’t sound like the British Royals.. ha! Phantasmagorical

  2. coalblack Says:

    Karen, I wanted to let you know that your link at Toads is faulty. it links to your “edit” page and doesn’t allow access. You might want to re-link, and when you do, I can delete the faulty link. 🙂

  3. Ha! On the deeds to the burning acres, torches and pitch. Sounds like the sort of magic they practice in D.C. This is fun, k. You have a lovely droll style with this kind of thing.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. The book, which I haven’t revisited in a while, is actually rather serious after this, and it would have been more ‘poetic’ to have included a later excerpt, but this was very self-contained. I should edit it all again and publish on kindle or something as it is something that I spent a huge amount of time on some years back. Actually, i realize even as I write you that there was an ending to this preface which I should not have cut. Editing is such a difficult process. Maybe I’ll find and put in. k.

  4. I like the addition (or edit-ion) k. The touch of tragedy, albeit stoutly born, adds to the reality of the world.

    My problem is, I keep thinking of them as elephants. Hard to imagine beautiful elephants, unless, of course, you are another elephant.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      No, no. The book has nothing to do with elephants, and actually it is quite dramatic – it’s for children, you know, but with sadness and violence etc – And I’m not even sure I would use this preface as I’ve taken it out several times. But When I saw Kerry’s prompt and thought of responding, I guess I took what I thought I could put together and when I thought of doing a drawing, I just did something fairly automatic. But the elephants have a cute quality which does not go with the book.

      I’m fairly torn at the moment about just not posting so much, or at all, or just posting visual images–I really need to work on other things– but I liked Kerry’s prompt. k.

      • I know. The constant posting/interacting becomes addictive after awhile, but it’s also draining–you know I have stepped back from a lot of it, just so I could continue to have the juice to write at all. Forgive me for the elephant crack–it’s just that your drawings are so idiosyncratic and cool, that they stay in the mind–I knew the story had nothing to do with them, but they got confused in my mind. AFA working on other things–the work you’ve been doing in this venue is nothing to be shy about, it’s been consistently good, often way beyond good, and I think all writing, especially on some of the difficult topics you tackle, exercises the right metaphorical muscles. But, one does have only so much energy. Still, I wouldn’t underrate the creativity and value of what you do here.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Thanks. It is all a learning experience for sure, and I am very grateful for the kindness of the community – yours especially. I do long to do a more coherent project, but there are other forces beyond the addictive aspects to blogging that interfere with that! Agh. A lot though is simply making and keeping to a decision or commitment. We’ll see. k.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        PS – No apologies necessary! My drawing style is quite different from writing! The only thing human I can kind of do are little children!

  5. margaretbednar Says:

    I like the idea of each having a small gift – specific to them. The idea of them not possessing “perfect beauty” is wonderful… it is a great subject for children.

  6. peggygoetz Says:

    I enjoyed reading this. It kept my interest. The sketch of the elephants made me expect that we would find they all had trunks of great beauty and lovely waving ears.

  7. brian miller Says:

    nice…cool intro to the story k…i like the bit of magic…one small talent/power…some intriguing elements as well as the hawkish noses and things going away by the time they are of age…hmm…would love to read more…

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha! There are a few hundred pages! This is an old novel and most is not written in this tale telling manner, if you know what I mean.

      I should/may/maybe/will revisit though. I spent a great deal of time on it. I was very involved with fantasy books. Thanks much, Brian – how do you have the energy! You are great!

      On Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 11:28 PM, ManicDDaily

  8. janehewey Says:

    I was completely enrapt and I’d love to read the whole story. I like the title Butterfly over An I For An Eye which sounds like it could be trying to teach me something:) Really enjoy your voice in this story.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks so much, Jane. And thanks for your comment re the name. I agree actually. A long story of why I changed it – and at the time felt sort of coerced,but now think it’s better. I may try to get it together and put on Kindle or something. I have so many different drafts–at this point hard to tell which is better as I sometimes think I make my drafts worse over time. k.

  9. What an absorbing preface to your story ~ fantastic 🙂

    I like the title ‘Butterfly’, though without knowing the book it’s difficult to make suggestions ~ why not just use that as a working title ..?

  10. David King Says:

    I’m not a royalist, but I could be in the land of the Nizamies. A real treat of a story, it’s going to be, I have no doubt! Thanks for the glimpse.

  11. Helen Dehner Says:

    ‘An I For An Eye’ has deep meaning … I like it. I love the story and (as always) your precious drawing.

  12. Kim Nelson Says:

    You are quite clearly experienced at this! Terrific, Karin!

  13. Kay Davies Says:

    I loved the idea of having the other army become followers, instead of dead enemies. Laughed, though, at “Then all it got him was a length of knotted rope” because I believe very strongly in punishing people who set forest fires.
    I like what I’ve read here so far, and tend to agree with Helen, “An I for an Eye” sounds like a good title but…and there’s always a “but”…for children? I wonder.
    As for publishing…in today’s uncertain publishing world (I’m old, and I used to know actual print publishers) it might be a good idea to get it out there on Kindle or whatever, in case you’re hit by a bus. Okay, that’s just me being facetious, but it means “you just never know what the future will hold”.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks – yes, I think about this sort of thing. I have a few old novels, with innumerable drafts – I can no longer tell which was “better” floating around, and i would like to just dicsipline myself to go through one more round of edits with each one and just publish. Simply so all that work isn’t wasted, even if no one reads them – my family would have. I have two middle grade novels, this one that’s YA, and an adult one finished – and then there are the really rough ones. There’s something very dispiriting about putting out books–believe it or not–in our world – but I should just discipline myself to bite the bullet. Thanks for the suggestions. k.

  14. Your story is packed with interesting and original touches. I especially liked this:
    Count Hyderadi was known for fireproofing. Nothing he owned -not matches, not kindling, not even marshmallows – would burn.

    I can see that you have put much effort into building this fantasy world. It takes dedication and vision, so well done to you.

  15. This is full of delightful characters. I am not British, but it takes me right to the current English royalty. What a great characteristic “followability” Queen Ayodyah possesses. I can see this as a delightful book. I would so love to read it.

  16. Deborah Says:

    Im always intrigued by the Eye~ for it reminds me of the egyptians and their symbol of the eye; as well as in christianity and the most unbelievable beauty and perfection of this creation, & not just one but two! Im enamored by the captivating characters and language and landscape ~ Debbie

  17. Sherry Marr Says:

    This completely captivates the reader’s interest. You have something really worth pursuing here. I do hope you publish this. There is more of a market for YA than almost anything else, I think. Up here in the hinterlands, I know a young woman who supports herself by writing young adult fiction………I enjoyed this piece so much.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks so much, Sherry. I was happy to have a chance to revisit it, and I am going to really consider just getting it out. I’d put it away for a couple of years or so. Thanks again.k.

  18. jasmine calyx Says:

    This is a very intriguing, attention-grabbing excerpt. Well done!

    I especially liked these:

    “Take the great Queen Ayodyah. She was quite ordinary in most respects. Her gift, however, was “followability”– an uncanny knack for making people trail after her, or, as later royal historians liked to call it, “leadership””

    “During this time, in fact, the old magic was sometimes viewed as awkward,”

    Really good writing, K.

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