The next planned work in the third arc of the Shine Cycle, following A Calculated Wager, is a collection of stories—or perhaps a novel—that doesn’t yet have a collective title. I call them “the Dratted Campaign stories,” for reasons I’ll explain in passing below, but that will hardly do in the long term. They are the last work in the “main line” of the Shine Cycle as presently planned. Today’s post is a brief introduction to these stories.
A few years ago, I posted a draft of the first story, “A Backwater Rebellion,” on this blog in “serial” format. In hindsight, the draft was very rough, but you can still read it, starting from the beginning.
One of the many small universes that can be reached from the world of the Shine Cycle consists of a small peninsula (and a few sparsely-inhabited islands) in an endless sea, separated from an unknown mainland by a series of walls punctuating the rising ground. There is one good-sized walled city, as well as a port or two and a fair number of villages. And there is a mountain on which lives a dragon.
Beyond the walls is a land ruled by a nameless evil, who for some time has also taken the form of a dragon, and who seeks to rule the entire (small) universe. At one time the people of the peninsula had held fast and had in fact driven his forces back past at least the seventh wall, but of late they have lost all that ground and keep only a tenuous hold on the peninsula inside the innermost wall. And with dark armies massing just beyond that wall to try again to conquer all, the dragon calls for help from beyond the universe.
Portia Royal, the King’s youngest daughter in mid-childhood at the time of An Internal Conflict and now a newly-minted knight, is assigned to investigate this signal. With her she takes Aaron, a childhood friend who is now her squire. Each of them meets a winged horse, of a race apparently unique to that universe but similar to the unicorns of unicorn country, which initiates an empathic bond. They meet the dragon, who explains the situation somewhat, and then visit the city.
With his Academy education, Aaron is a good if untried commander, on a level above any of the native leaders, so he rallies the countryside and takes command of the city’s defense, while Portia writes and sends her report, asking for reinforcements. But any additional help from her home can’t arrive until well after the enemy army reaches the city.
The first confrontation ends when Aaron’s guidance leads the city’s defenders to a few small, tactical victories, and in an aerial battle Portia defeats the black dragon that is the enemy’s leader.
Each subsequent story begins or will begin with the arrival of the reinforcements that Portia and Aaron would have liked to have for the previous challenge. For example, the second story begins with several mages and tacticians that both Portia and Aaron look up to joining them, but the first naval experts won’t arrive until the beginning of the third story, after Portia and her cohort have already had to improvise a naval defense, for example.
And once the enemy runs out of fresh and unexpected attacks, Portia, Aaron, and the other volunteer “advisors” will people of the peninsula in a counterattack to retake the walls they once held and push the Darkness back further than ever.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph above, these stories don’t have a collective name I’m willing to formally label them with (even tentatively). I have the idea that after these events are over and Portia and Aaron have moved on to other tasks, when they look back at these events they will call it something like “that dratted campaign.” (As the opening sentences of the prologue of current drafts of An Internal Conflict, which you can read here, explain in a similar case, both as mages and as Imperial natives, rather than having been raised on Earth, they wouldn’t be likely to put it in any “stronger” terms than that.) And so that’s the name I’ve used for them in my own records so far. But I’m not willing to say “that’s the name for the collection,” and am open to suggestions.
And also as I mentioned above, these stories are the last work on the “main line” of the story of the Shine Cycle. For the next several months, I’ll write précis of the novels I plan to write for the various sub-series that I’ve skipped over so far.
Do you have any thoughts about my plans for these stories?