Did you see the latest AAD Author visiting Larissa’s Bookish Life yesterday with her own After Dark on Bourbon Street story? You should totally go read it…like now.
After Dark on Bourbon Street
Thank you Jackie for having me on your blog today. I’m excited to be here. The theme of this post is After Dark on Bourbon Street from the perspective of my protagonist going to New Orleans, experiencing Mardi Gras, going sight-seeing, or getting into trouble. Getting into trouble isn’t a problem—as much as my hero wishes is was—however Burbon St and New Orleans is, since my story takes place in a entirely fictional world and in a time period about a hundred years before New Orleans was founded. That said, I do have a festival that has some Mardi Gras flavor and a world filled with dark magic.
To this end, let’s see what trouble my hero, Ward de’Ath, finds himself in, when he attends the Festival of Souls. First, let me set the mood…
Image a world of castles, swashbuckling swordfights, carriages, and corsets. This is a world where the most powerful religious leaders have the ability to see the future and the dead can be brought back to life for a short time so family members can say goodbye. This is the Union of Principalities, a collection of principalities joined together by a common religion, peace treaties, and political marriages.
There was two major festivals in the Union, but the most anticipated on is the Festival of Souls in honor of the Dark Son, the god of justice and passion. Celebrated during the summer equinox, it’s a time to honor those who’ve died, pray for forgiveness for the year’s sins, and then celebrate the passions of life. And no city does it with more gusto than Talorento.
Talorento is a landlocked, city principality. The smallest principality in the Union, it is the heart of creative and intellectual advancement, boasting numerous schools of philosophy, science, and art. The greatest minds and artists in all the Union have lived and worked in Talorento at one time or another. The culture is freer in Talorento than in other principalities, the people more focused on creativity than adhering to some of the stricter moral values found in other principalities. (In our world terms, many of those living in Talorento have a bohemian-esk lifestyle).
And this lifestyle thoroughly embraces the Festival of Souls. The main market is dressed in bright flags and awnings and packed day and night. Entertainers of all kinds demonstrate their skills for coins: mummers, stilt walkers, puppeteers, fire breathers, jugglers, and minstrels. In honor of the Dark Son and his passion, men are encouraged to woo women with their most charming lines and women can reward them with hairpins. You can often seen men with leather necklaces covered in hairpins strutting through the market showing off the power of their charm.
When you go to Talorento there are two things they say you must do: buy a mask for the masquerade on the fifth day of the festival (the mask makers of Talorento are the best) and visit a street seer to your fortune read.
… and this is where we meet my hero, Ward de’Ath. It’s about three years before his story begins in Ward Against Death, and he’s on a festival recess from his studies at the Olmech School of Health and Philosophy in Bantianta (a principality neighboring Talorento). In a year he anticipates he’ll have graduated from school and be a full, practicing physician. His slightly older cousin, Jared, has dragged Ward to Talorento on the promise of getting him into the greatest library in the city, but Ward is getting the sinking suspicion that Jared is only interested in the party.
Ward squeezed his new mask, a heavy black thing with a gruesome expression. He’d wanted the mask representing the Light Son instead, but Jared has insisted on the Dark Son. He’d claimed it better represented Ward’s necromancer heritage and honored the de’Ath necromancers who’d come before him—proving that Jared was still one of the family members who hadn’t accepted Ward’s decision to pursue medicine instead of necromancy. And now his cousin had abandoned Ward to the chaos of the market.
A fire breather in a bright blue and yellow costume blew a gust of orange flame above the heads of the crowd, drawing cheers and clapping. Ten feet down from him, a pair of jugglers called out, trying to steal the fire breather’s crowd—and money. Voices buffeted Ward from all sides, more cheers for the fire breather, another yell from the jugglers, screaming children, singing children, yelling parents.
He shifted further into the recess Jared had left him in between a cart selling pastries and a booth selling teas and jahalva. There were too many people, too many wild movements at the edge of his sight, jerking his attention this way and that. He should have stayed at school and continued studying.
A woman in a beige and yellow dress, wearing a fawn mask, backed into him. She giggled and turned around. Dark doe-like eyes stared back him from beneath the mask.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled and jerked his attention to his feet, but that only put her cleavage in his line of sight. Heat raced up his neck and across his face, and he yanked his attention back to her eyes.
“First time to the festival?”
“Ah… yes.” He didn’t know what to say or where to look. Women just didn’t pay attention to him unless they were forced to, which, he supposed, was the case here.
“Well, I’ll start you off.” She plucked something from the braids and curls piled on top of her head. It caught the late afternoon sunlight, a hint of copper and a piece of yellow glass. A hairpin. She slid it between the second and third button on his shirt then slipped away into the crowd of merry markers.
“Found it,” Jared said, taking the woman’s place. His gaze jumped to the pin stuck on Ward’s shirt. “Hey, you’re finally getting into the spirit.” He draped a heavy, well-muscled arm over Ward’s shoulder, forcing Ward to bend to match his cousin’s shorter height.
“Where are we going?” Ward tried squirming out of Jared’s grasp, but while his cousin didn’t have Ward’s height, he made up for it with a solid build—something Ward didn’t have.
“I told you there were two things you have to do when in Talorento for the Festival of the Souls.” He lead Ward through the crowd, away from the fire breather, the jugglers, and the woman in the fawn mask.
Ward bit back a sigh. Jared had told Ward the saying a million times already. “Get a mask and visit a—” They turned down an alley filled with brightly colored tents. Ward twisted out of Jared’s grasp. “Oh no. I’m not getting my fortune read by a street seer.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No. Save your money. Buy me a nice wine or some jahalva.” It was foolishness to have his fortune read by a charlatan. He knew his future. He’d figured everything out and didn’t care to be told pretty lies about love and money and fame.
“This will be more fun. You’ll see.” Jared pulled him into a red tent empty save for a woman sitting on a short stool facing an empty stool. Not at all what Ward had expected. Even his family, who brought people back from the dead so loved ones could say goodbye, knew enough to put on a show for the layman.
The street seer turned a face toward him that was neither old nor young—although with the tent flap closed and in the light of the single small lantern hanging above her head it was difficult to really make out anything clearly. All he could tell was her hair was piled atop her head like the fawn-woman in the market, was dark brown, and her eyes were pale, green… maybe hazel.
“Have a seat.” She pointed at the stool with a pale hand bedecked with bronze and silver rings.
Ward’s stomach flip-flopped and his mouth went dry. This was ridiculous. She couldn’t see the future and even if she could he knew what his future was. But perhaps that was the problem. Plans changed—it happened all the time—and what if this woman really did know what would happen.
Jared snorted. “Come on, Ward. You wake the dead. You aren’t scared are you?”
“I don’t do that anymore, and of course I’m not.” Ward sat on the stool. His mouth remained dry.
The street seer held out her hand, palm up. “Give me your hand.”
Ward slid his hand against hers and she grabbed his fingers before he could jerk away, her rings digging into his flesh. Something flashed across her eyes. Was that gold light? The sign of a true vision? No, it had to be his imagination, or a figment of his sudden nerves, or something. But everything within him screamed to get up, to not let her read his future. Except he was stuck. Jared was watching and if Ward left now he’d be the laughing stock of his entire family.
The woman pressed her lips together and hummed. A low, pensive sound.
“What do you see?” Jared asked, his lips twitching, his eye bright with mirth.
Jared leaned closer. “Yes?”
“I see a beautiful woman. Hair like night. Eyes like sapphires. There will be adventure, and—” The woman gasped. She squeezed her eyes shut and a line formed between her brows.
“And—?” Jared asked.
A chill raced up Ward’s spine as if the darkness was already invading him.
The street seer drew in a slow breath. “A darkness like night to dawn. Your old life, the night, to your new bright one, the dawn. You will find great fame and true love.”
Ward shivered even more. Her words about the beautiful woman, and the darkness part felt true, but not the rest of it. That felt forced.
The street seer released Ward’s hand and sat back. Jared dropped two quartos in her dish and pulled Ward out into the alley. “A beautiful woman. Hair like night and sapphire eyes. Adventure, fame and true love. Can you just imagine it? Ward de’Ath an adventurer.” He barked a rich full laugh. “She’s terrible isn’t she? I got told to remember the importance of family and that I’d find a pretty maid and settle down. I think we should trade fortunes.”
“Yeah, adventure and fame,” Ward said, but he couldn’t shake the chill within him. Darkness. That’s what awaited him. That and some mysterious, beautiful woman…
Thanks again for inviting me, Jackie. I look forward to going to Authors After Dark, meeting new people, and seeing Bourbon Street.
Meet Melanie Card!
Melanie has always been drawn to storytelling and can’t remember a time when she wasn’t creating a story in her head. Her early stories were adventures with fairies and dragons and sword swinging princesses.
Today she continues to spin tales of magic in lands near and far, while her cat sits on the edge of her desk and supervises. When she’s not writing, you can find her pretending to be other people with her local community theatre groups.
Thank you Melanie for taking the time to stop by Literary Escapism!
Melanie Card is giving away an ebook of Ward Against Death. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: Have you ever experienced Mardi Gras or a similar festival? While we’re at the AAD Conference, where should we hit up? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered.
In addition to the fabulous prize above, Larissa and I are giving away two $25 ARe gift certificates, so be sure to answer the question.
Even though I’m not giving the additional entries any more, you can still help support the author by sharing their article, and this contest, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you can. After all, the more people who are aware of this fabulous author ensures we get more fabulous stories.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
The contest will stay open until February 28th at which time I’ll determine the winner with help from the snazzy new plug-in I have.
I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.