Tag Archives: Vokhtah-book-2

When pantsters become plotters

I’ve been struggling a bit of late. Part of that is due to our sixth lockdown, and part is due to the difficulties of writing one long story over a number of volumes.

The first volume is a joy because the world and its people are yours to create. The second volume is a pain in the proverbial because…some things are now set in stone. In other words, I’ve written things in the first volume that I cannot, must not stuff up in the second.

-sigh- And that, my friends, means doing some serious plotting.

At the moment, I’m back in book 1 of Vokhtah, trying to reconcile the timeline I created there. I wrote that there were only 51 days to go before the torrential rains of Kohoh stopped all travel. Therefore the ‘hero’s journey could only take 51 days.

Then I wrote about the character spending XX number of days at this spot and that spot and t’other. Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered that I’m three days short – i.e. if the journey follows a certain pattern, it will have taken 54 days rather than the allotted 51:

I can fix this shortfall, but I’ll have to adjust the map I originally created to show the route of the journey. This is what it looks like at the moment:

The dotted line marks the route…and now some bits have to be closer together to make everything fit…

Don’t judge me! I know exactly how anal this all sounds. 😦

Anyway, I’ll update the map etc in the next couple of days and explain why this level of detail is needed to get things right in book 2.

Stay well!

Whetstones – what are they, and what are they for?

Back when I was a kid, my Dad used to sharpen all his own tools with a whetstone. This is a modern day whetstone, and how to use it:


I really enjoyed that video because it was instructive and funny. Unfortunately, the iVokh don’t have modern day tools, so the next step of my research was to see how primitive peoples sharpened things. This is what I found:


This video explains how to sharpen a stone arrowhead, but what I really want to know is how to sharpen a claw…a to’pak claw. Luckily, the tool used to knap the edge of the arrowhead is an antler, and antlers are made of bone. As an aside, the presenter sharpened his antler tool on a piece of sandstone. Yes! Getting closer.

And here, at last is what I was looking for – a [replica] black bear claw with a sharpish point that could be sharpened even further with that sandstone!

In the scene I’m currently writing, the Yellow sharpens a to’pak claw and uses it to carve Death’s hide…as a punishment. Thrilled that it’s possible in my world as well as theirs. 🙂

Happy weekend,

Music for a Villain?

I’m a pantster and I love characters ‘on the cusp’, so I’m not sure yet which side of the Good vs Evil divide Death will occupy, but as soon as I heard this piece on Soundcloud, I knew it was Death’s theme.

Enjoy? Maybe?

Old friends and new acquaintances on Vokhtah

This excerpt is also about the Forager and takes place a few days later. It is quite a bit longer than the first snippet so remember to make a cuppa first. 🙂


The Forager was standing in line with six other foragers, a bag full of fresh herbs in its arms, when the gong for true-dark sounded throughout the eyrie. They had all been held up because of a dispute between one of the foragers and the head Attendant of Stores. The forager only had half a bag to hand in and the Attendant was refusing to pay.

“But only needing one last credit for rock lizard,” the forager cried. “Bringing extra half on the morrow!”

“Pah,” the Attendant said. “And if to’pak catching again?”

“Ki! Promising-…”

“Out of way Scar!” someone else called angrily. “Missing all food soon.”

Other irate voices quickly joined the first, and the Forager gripped its bag tighter, in case a scuffle broke out. It too was just one credit short of a rock lizard, and had no intention of losing its precious herbs in a fight. Peering over the heads of the iVokh in front, it breathed a sigh of relief when it saw the desperate forager finally give up and step out of the line.

As the iVokh limped past, emaciated arms clutched tight around its half empty bag, the Forager could not help noticing the scars tracing an uneven semi-circle around its right wing and leg. Bite marks like that could only have come from a to’pak. Scar was lucky to be alive. The attack must have happened close to the eyrie or it would have bled to death before the healers could reach it.

But why had they left it half crippled? Letting it live without the means to feed itself properly was no boon…

When the line began to move again, the Forager promptly forgot all about the scarred forager, and shuffled along with the rest until it reached the Attendant.

“How knowing so much about herbs?” the Attendant asked.

The iVokh’s tone was more curious than suspicious, yet the Forager still felt its bowels clench in fright. The Attendant was one of the original survivors of the eyrie, and obviously thought it was one of the newcomers from Five Rocks. Unfortunately, the rest of the foragers still waiting in line really had come from Five Rocks. And they thought it was one of the survivors. If it said the wrong thing now it could end up betraying itself to both groups.

“Great parent teaching,” the Forager mumbled, hoping the Attendant would not question it further.

“Ah… fever balm,” the Attendant said as it picked up a twig with pale orange leaves and sniffed. “Parent teaching self. Being apprentice healer before coming to Needlepoint.”

Then parent failing apprenticeship early, the Forager thought as it nodded politely. The obvious pride in the Attendant’s voice stopped it from pointing out that the twig was actually sleep balm, not fever balm. Both were an orange colour, however sleep balm smelled sweet while fever balm had a strong, astringent scent.

“Healers being pleased,” the Attendant continued as it handed the Forager three credits. “Next!”

Clutching its credits, the Forager bowed with exaggerated politeness before hurrying towards the communal feeding area.

By the time it reached the huge cavern next to the animal pens, most of the other iVokh of the eyrie had already fed. And of course, the plumpest rock lizards were gone.

When the bored attendant saw the Forager coming, it reached into the lizard cage and pulled out a scrawny specimen with one hand. Its other hand held a large sack that bulged with credits.

As the Forager handed over its own precious credits it could not avoid a moment of bitterness. If it had only thought to keep a few of the credits it had bartered for the gem shard, it would not now be breaking its back for the privilege of drinking lukewarm blood…

Lizard in hand, it retreated to an empty spot by the wall, and began to feed. It tried to drink slowly, to make the moment last, but all too soon the body in its hand began to shudder.

Pulling away with regret, the Forager licked every last trace of blood from its mouth before going to collect its ration of dried vegetables. It was halfway through the unappetizing granules when it chanced to look up, and recognized Scar standing next to the baskets that held the used bowls.

The iVokh had its back turned to the Forager, and seemed to be transferring bowls from one basket to the other. Every so often it would stop and examine one of the bowls for a moment or two before placing it neatly in the second basket.

Strange, the Forager thought as it started eating again. A moment later its meal was interrupted a second time when an angry shout sounded from the direction of the baskets. It looked up just in time to see an attendant bearing down on Scar, who was backing away with a bowl clutched in its hands. As it retreated it licked frantically at the inside of the bowl.

Realization hit the Forager at the same moment the attendant hit Scar, and pulled the bowl from its hands.

“Cripple!” the attendant hissed in disgust.

“Not being cripple!” Scar hissed back, but it did not try to approach the baskets again. Instead it wandered over to a group of washers who were still eating, and sat down just a short distance from them. If it was hoping they would leave something in their bowls, it must have been disappointed when they got up as a group and moved closer to the attendant.

The scarred forager remained where it was, staring blankly into space, as if it did not care.

Apprentice looking like that

The Forager’s stomach seemed to turn over as it suddenly remembered that night on the Spine, when the Apprentice and the other two had been disowned by the rest of the Traders. Of the three it had managed to save only one.

Was the Apprentice still alive? Had it managed to get back to the Settlement on its own?

Despite knowing it had done all it could for the young Trader, the Forager could not help wishing it could have done more. Perhaps that was why it rose to its feet and crossed the cavern to where Scar still sat, staring at nothing.

Sitting down a short distance from Scar, the Forager made a show of eating as it watched the other iVokh from the corner of its eye.

Scar did not come any closer, but nor did it move away.

The attendants were just starting to clean up when the Forager belched, and put its half-finished bowl on the ground by its side. Then it rose and walked away without a backward glance.

Do you know this iVokh?

I thought some of you might enjoy a small snippet about an old friend. 🙂

* * *

The tall, thin Forager rose up in the air and carefully inspected the clump of boulders before landing, and plucking the fleshy pink shoots that grew in the shade they cast. Boulders and shade often meant to’pak, and it had learned to be extremely cautious when approaching either.

Moving away from the boulders, the Forager popped one of the round, succulent pink leaves in its mouth and chewed. The leaves of the lifeberry were not as effective as the fruit, and the flavour was rather unpleasant, but the moisture and small rush of energy were welcome. Spitting the remains on the ground, it popped another leaf in its mouth before it returned to the heat and back-breaking work of gathering.

When the Forager had first arrived at Needlepoint it had chosen to become a forager because, as a healer, it knew far more about the plants of Vokhtah than most ordinary iVokh. Foraging, however, had turned out to be a gruelling and hungry occupation.

At Needlepoint, every iVokh received one small bowl of ground seeds and tubers every day, no matter what their occupation. Food animals, however, had to be bartered for credits.

As one of the least valued classes in the eyrie, foragers received just one small, leather credit for every bag of seeds or tubers they gathered. By contrast, each rock lizard cost ten credits.

The small upland plateau that surrounded Needlepoint was still almost lush in comparison to the great plains, but even here, most foragers were lucky to gather three bags of food a day. That equated to one rock lizard every four days. They all grazed on whatever was edible as they worked, but a few berries, or the odd piipa fruit could not compensate for the severe lack of blood in their diets, and they all looked half-starved.

Thanks to its knowledge of medicinal herbs, which had a higher value than seeds or tubers, the Forager managed to feed on a rock lizard almost every second day, yet even so it was always hungry, and seemed to spend every waking moment thinking about food. It even dreamt about food. Strangely though, it never seemed to dream about akaht, or tukti. Despite having fed on akaht for most of its life, it could now hardly remember what either akaht or tukti tasted like. It knew akaht were supposed to be slightly salty, but it could not actually remember how the blood tasted on its tongue.

Shaking its head to dispel such futile thoughts, the Forager popped another lifeberry leaf in its mouth as it squinted up at the sky. Still another three hours to go…

…and no rock lizard this night…

The Forager’s sigh was lost in the swish of grass as it bent to its work.

From Queen to Kaati

It’s miserable outside so what better way to get the blood pumping than with We Will Rock You, by Queen. 🙂

And now, to prove that I have actually been doing something other than just cruising the youtube channels, here is a short scene featuring Kaati.  There is a very short fight scene at the end, and I’m really proud of it. I checked it out with a real martial arts expert [T.D. McKinnon] and it was given the green light! [I just knew my obsession with Bruce Lee would come in handy one day].


Kaati was crouching with its head down a waste pit, pinging to see if the hole led anywhere, when disaster struck.

“Ho! What doing there?”

The young Trader froze, its thoughts racing. As it straightened up, the small personal pouch hanging from its neck swung against its chest.

“Dropping credit,” it said as it turned to face its interrogator.

The drudge’s eyes travelled to the small pouch hanging from Kaati’s neck and stayed there.

“How losing credit when pouch still being tied?”

Kaati’s hand reached defensively for the pouch before it realised how pointless the gesture was. Throwing back its shoulders, it glared at the drudge.

“Calling a liar?”

“Ki,” the drudge replied, its gaze shifting to the ground by the young Trader’s feet. “Calling thief.”

Kaati did not need to follow the direction of the drudge’s gaze to know what lay by its feet. It was the broom, the broom it had stolen from the stores. It had meant to return the broom to its hiding place at true-dark, but had been in a hurry, and had wanted to check one last waste pit before returning to its own hiding place for the night. It had thought it was safe because all the drudges were at their evening meal. All but one, apparently.

“Hearing gossip about someone attacking guard to steal broom,” the drudge went on, “but not believing, until now.”

When Kaati still did not say anything, the drudge rolled its shoulders, and dropped into an aggressive crouch.

“Thinking healers paying well for capture of such a thief.”

Kaati had never been the best fighter amongst the apprentice Tellers, and had never fought a real fight to the death. Nevertheless, it had fought, and won, enough mating battles during the gathers to know the iVokh opposite could never win, not against a Teller.

The eyrie-bound was tall, and well built, but most of its bulk was fat, not muscle. And the way it crouched in one spot spoke of over-confidence. It would charge like a to’pak, relying on bulk and momentum to deliver a knock-out blow.

As the drudge lowered its head and bunched its powerful leg muscles, Kaati subtly shifted its weight to the right foot, and clasped its hands together at chest height, as if hoping to protect its face.

The drudge leapt with a roar of triumph.

Moving with studied grace, Kaati spun on its right leg.

The drudge barreled through the empty space where the young Trader should have been.

As the iVokh passed, Kaati brought its clasped hands down on the back of the drudge’s neck, just below the spot where the neck met the skull.

There was a sharp crack, and the drudge collapsed. It slid across the ground for a wingspan before coming to a halt just fingers from the lip of the pit. It was not dead, but its neck was broken. One terrified eye stared up at Kaati as the young Trader picked up a rock and put it out of its misery.


I appreciate this scene is a bit out of context, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. 🙂



Vokhtah book 2 – another short snippet

I’ve had a great day writing, and just finished this little scene. I think you’ll know what it’s about. Enjoy. 🙂


The guard at the entrance to the Settlement was just an ordinary iVokh who happened to be quite a bit larger than average. Easy going, and just a little lazy, it usually allowed the hunters and foragers to return to the Settlement without too much scrutiny. If they were carrying food they were allowed in.

On this day however, the guard was feeling as nervous as the refugees who had arrived the day before. It had made the mistake of allowing them in without first advising the healers. That small deviation from protocol had earned it a severe reprimand, and a supervisor for a ti’m’akh.

The Messenger standing beside the guard, and watching its every move was only young, but it took its assignment very seriously, and had made sure the guard checked every iVokh who went in or out.

When an iVokh flew up to the flight ledge, almost an hour earlier than normal, both the guard and the Messenger narrowed their eyes in suspicion. Their suspicions were not eased when the iVokh landed badly, clearly favouring its right leg.

As the iVokh limped towards them, the guard stepped out of the shadows of the entrance and held its hand up.

“Identifying self!”

“Being Hunter,” the iVokh said in a hoarse voice as it untied the flap of its pouch and pulled out a rock lizard.

“Why returning so early?” the Messenger asked, as it too stepped out of the shadows.

The Hunter seemed taken aback when it saw the starrock chain hanging from the Messenger’s neck, but recovered quickly. It fumbled a lopside bow as it said, “Forgiveness Healer, not seeing.”

The Messenger flapped its hand impatiently.

“Being Messenger. Answering question!”

“Of course, Messenger. Begging forgiveness!” the iVokh said. “Being in hurry when retrieving rock lizard, and foot being caught in crevice. Returning early to seek healing…”

“Pah!” the Messenger said, its tone officious. “Healers having more important work than fixing twisted ankles. Soaking foot in cold water and being more careful next time.”

“Hearing and obeying,” the iVokh said, its voice just a tiny bit sulky. “Can passing now?”

The guard glanced at the Messenger for confirmation before waving the Hunter through. It watched the Hunter from the corner of its eye as the young iVokh limped slowly inside.

When the guard faced to the front again, its expression was carefully neutral, but a more experienced Messenger would have noticed that it appeared a lot more relaxed than it had been.

Of course a more experienced Messenger would also have noticed that the injured Hunter was now favouring its left leg.

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