When the idea for what would eventually evolve into The Nightmare Lullaby first sparked in my mind, Cedelair was just what he appeared to be: an aging sorcerer, mentor to a young apprentice, a type we’ve seen in innumerable fantasy tales. Yet somewhere along the way — I’m not entirely sure how or why — he started in a different direction. He developed from the crusty mentor into the male lead, a young man cursed to appear old, a man with his own burdens to bear and journey to make. I even, just for fun, composed a “back-of-the-book” blurb from his point of view:
“Cedelair was only twenty-two when a blow in a magical duel cursed him with the appearance of old age. In the five years since, he has lived a hermit’s life, interacting only with his teenage apprentice, Valeraine, and her nightmare-imp companion, Pierpon. All Cedelair really wants is to be left alone to mix and brew his potions in peace. But when an eight-foot-tall woman with bone-white skin and hair and furious green eyes appears in his front yard and announces, ‘I have come to labor for you,’ what’s a sorcerer to do?”
Cedelair should look like an older, more disgruntled version of Hugo Weaving’s Elrond from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I love the way Kaysha Siemens absolutely nails the “disgruntled” part.
In this sequence, the first from Cedelair’s own point of view, we learn that he has a habit of not sleeping, and that he can be as surly as any of us when a song gets in his head.
“Cedelair shook his head with a sigh as he picked up the book lying open, face-down on Valeraine’s chair. He had lost count of the number of times he had told his apprentice not to leave books this way, but she never could remember.
He glanced at the title on the spine and frowned. The Magical Art of the Geas. He’d noticed her poring over this volume, her frown deepening steadily until at last she had pleaded a sick-headache and slumped off to her room. He’d warned her. Magicians’ books offered minute instructions on how to lay a geas in place but never bothered to mention how to get rid of one.
After he slid the book back into its place on the shelf, he took down one for himself, Sacrifice Magic among Belfaire’s Hill Folk, bound appropriately in blood-colored leather. He settled down on his stool, letting his back and shoulders slack. With half-closed eyes he wondered how it might feel to drift off into sleep.
In five years he had not slept. A satisfying wall of wakefulness stood between him and visions which would carry him back to that moment of horror and pain, of wrinkles chiseling into his skin and the brittle smirk on his enemy’s face. Sometimes he girded that wall with the most gruesome tales he could find. The spine-chilling blood sacrifice customs of Belfair’s hill folk were especially useful. But this night something new kept mixing in with the grim words – chimes that gleamed like sun on a clear stream, playing a cheerful tune.
Valeraine had told him of the efforts she’d made to befriend Meliroc, most notably the songs she’d played on their walk home which had moved the giant to share a melody of her own invention. They’d felt like friends in that moment, a current of song flowing one to the other. ‘We ought to be friends,’ she’d concluded, ‘and I’m sure we would be if her former masters didn’t stand in the way.’
Cedelair had met this plaint with a disinterested grunt. He had to keep a careful eye on the outsized ogre, but he would think no more of her than he could help.
Yet there it was again, weaving its way through a blood-dripping paragraph – that funny little tune, drawing a smile to his lips. Something of himself seemed to move in that song. Yet it had come from her. He slammed the book shut and set it down at the foot of his stool. He sprang to his feet and started for the door.
Drawing his long gray coat about his shoulders, he strode over the front step and into the light-pool. He caught sight of Meliroc treading across the lawn, her bell-machine and mallet tucked under one arm and the writing-book Valeraine had given her clutched in her opposite hand. She strode with a purpose, headed somewhere.
Answering a call.
‘Best go after her, he whispered. Following the tracks she had made, he marched beyond the reach of the moonlight spell. As he stepped into darkness he mouthed two words of the Second Tongue, the Tongue of Light. A pale blue flame sprang up from his palm to light his way.
Something in this sojourn might shed some light on how he and Valeraine might rid themselves of the intruder.”