I started writing GreenSky when I was young, but the story really started in my teens. The earliest version I can find is 2004, although I know there are earlier ones (2000 is the earliest I remember, but that’ll be on a floppy disk someplace). I was reminded earlier today that I had actually been writing it for quite a while, and decided to haul out some old versions to have a look at…
And I find it so interesting to see the differences! My entire point of view has changed; the characters have shifted; I’ve gone from teenage-fantasy-ideal-quest to archivist-and-journey. It’s odd because I can see the similarities, but also the differences…
Reading back a lot of my wider GreenSky work is interesting. I originally had a very science-focused world, with spaceships and teleporters and mages and a Big Important Quest. S’ian was a heroine who fell into the Centre Of Magic and became a big important mage, and now…well, she’s still important, but in a different way.
I think the major change for GreenSky is that it’s become smaller. It’s more human. It’s about the tiny changes and decisions that make the big events. It’s about someone choosing to go to a city under siege. It’s about a decision to stand by and watch, or escape, or fight back. It’s become far more about the characters than their Quest or their Fate or their Duty, and – honestly – I love that. They aren’t pushed around. They make their own decisions. And over the last ten years, I’ve learned to let them.
So, this is the beginning of Green Sky & Sparks in 2004…
“Ah, my friends. Come in.”
The voice welcomed the two young men as the knocked gingerly at the wooded door. Opening it, they entered a large, airy room. It was situated in the branches of the tree and was very light. It had a wide balcony leading off it, with a view over the forest floor far below. The old Mage, Wyverex, was sitting in a chair by the window, watching the birds and Aels flit amongst the branches with their lashes of bright colour. He wore a dark robe, embroidered with brightly coloured threads and jewels. It gave the effect of gaudy power and wealth, which contrasted oddly with the old man’s white beard and thin frame. The two young men came in quietly, and shutting the door, walked over to where the Mage sat.
“Andrew, Catter.” The Mage’s voice was weak but still retained some of its commanding force that had been so prominent in youth. “Please sit.”
As the two young men sat down, pulling wooden chairs up to sit near the old Mage, Wyverex looked fondly at them. They were half-brothers, different mothers, but both took after their father. Both young men had short brown hair and piercing green eyes that sparkled and flashed with emotions, as their father’s had. Andé, the elder, had been trained as a skimmer pilot and serviceman in Orei, and Catter, the younger by half a year, had been sent to Belmont to study. The two half-brothers got on well with each other, even though they were frequently sent apart from each other. The old Mage sighed. They had been his companions since they were young, as their father had been a city dweller and a great friend of the old Mage. The two boys had often visited the Mage in his high home, and had learned a lot from him. When they had been sent away, after their father’s death, Wyverex had felt their absence more than he would like to admit. In turn, the two boys were fond of the old Mage and had come to visit him before both went off again to visit other worlds. Wyverex knew that they were both looking forward to it, and wished that he did not have to lay his burden onto them.
“I have known you two since you were boys. You are adults now, you have your names, and you have learned the ways of the world. I have a task for you, the dying wish of an old man.”
He held up a blue-veined hand in a silencing motion at they moved in denial, the pale skin wrinkled with age.
“I am going to die soon, I know it. But I have seen beyond the gates, into the future…I have seen the shape of the future, and you are the only people I can confide it to. I will tell. You two have been my companions for many years now, and I feel that it is to you that I must turn. You must go on a quest for me, as I cannot go.”
“A quest?” Andé said.
“A difficult, dangerous quest, one that I cannot see the end of, even though I know what the end will be. For the Mage will come, the greatest Mage ever seen, an Omni-Mage, one who can do anything. I have seen their presence in the lines, felt their influence in the web, even though they have not come yet. But they will come. It is their task to restore the balances.”
Catter shifted slightly. “ The balances are going awry. Is that what you want us to do? Find this Mage?”
The old man smiled, a strangely ancient smile on the withered face. “Not exactly. They will find you, I think. But you must go to the centre of the worlds. It is the axis. You will know what to do when you get there. It is there that the fate of the worlds will be changed or restored. It is up to you which one happens.”
“Wyverex, why have you chosen us?” Andé said softly. “Surely there are others better suited?”
“Mages, or Andres for that matter, will not listen to me, and will not want to follow the task which another sets. I do not willingly set this task onto you, but you are the only people I can trust. It is of vital importance. You must find this Mage. Without you there, without someone finding the centre of worlds, the Mage will not come, and the worlds will fall.”
And this is the beginning of the current (2014) publication.
Anoé had to stop abruptly to prevent herself from running into Catter’s back. The man had just stopped in the middle of the road, oblivious to the traveller who now stepped to one side of him. Anoé followed his gaze and smiled.
“Get over to the side,” she said kindly, aware of other travellers coming up behind them. Catter slowly walked over to the side of the dusty road, still staring at the view ahead.
It was an amazing view. Although the mountains had been in view from the time they left Aleric, the Drek Ridge had continuously appeared and disappeared behind the next ridge in the gently rolling landscape. And now, finally, they had crested a higher rise, and the farmland ahead of them spilled down towards the Ridge. The road was stretching ahead of them, and Catter followed its slow curve. It branched, one fork heading to the jagged gap in the dark rock of the Ridge and then vanishing through to the Drek Pass. The second fork turned, snaking up the Ridge into the city of Meton.
Catter let his eyes travel up towards the city, following the road. The dark rocks of the buildings blended in with the ridge, and he could see the winding road as an absence in the buildings. And then the Castle rose, sitting on the edge of the Pass, looming over the road below. The huge spikes, five of them around the walls, rose even higher. He found his eyes going between the city, seeming to loom over the land below, and then to the white-capped mountains behind; they dwarfed the city in turn, shrinking the Castle and its spikes to insignificance.
“The spikes are the spark towers,” Anoé said. “I’ll see if we can get a tour.”
“That would be interesting,” Catter said, staring in awe. “Why are they shining?”
“They’ve got copper wrapped up the outsides.”
“It’s a beautiful city.”
“It’s one of my favourites. Not as beautiful as Belmont, but then that’s beyond belief.”
Catter smiled and tore his eyes away from Meton. “I want to go there. Anyway, shall we get going? Otherwise I’ll spend all night here.”