A Vignette from the Ravensblood Universe
Alanna is one of my first and most loyal readers, one who has been with me from the beginning and has been trusted with insider information on where the series is going. A little while ago, she made an off-hand comment about how she couldn’t wait to see how Raven handled it when the midwife handed Raven his first-born.
Now, I didn’t see that scene fitting in to any of the upcoming books. (At least not as I’ve currently conceived them. Sometimes things change.) But it seemed like a good challenge to set myself. Not only would I be writing the experience for a masculine POV (and, let’s face it, birthing is one of those things where gender does really matter) but also I have zero parental instincts. No desire for parenthood whatsoever. Never had it, never will. I don’t think babies are cute and will go to great lengths to avoid holding one.
I did some research, IM’ing a male friend who became a parent a little while ago. Still, it was a challenge getting into Raven’s head at this moment. You can tell me how you think I did. . .
Raven looked on as the midwife took the small, perfect, impossible being from where he rested against Cassandra’s chest, dried it, and swaddled it in the soft, raven-print blanket that Ana had sewn as soon as they told her that Cassandra was expecting. He focused for a moment on that blanket, the fabric of which was purple and likely intended for Samhain, because if he looked at that small, scrunched face right now he was going to cry.
His chest hurt, too full of emotions he could not separate, let alone name. He’d wielded in his life more power than most mages could imagine, yet all of that seemed to slip away, insignificant in the face of this new life that he and Cassandra had brought into the world.
Sweat plastered Cassandra’s dark hair to her forehead. Tears of pain and joy ran down her face. She was utterly beautiful. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, but there were no words.
“Do you want to hold him?” the midwife asked.
No, Raven almost said, suddenly and ridiculously terrified of the fragility of this tiny life, the immense responsibility he had toward him. But that was ridiculous; he’d sat through all the classes, been taught how to hold a baby. He had thought he was ready, but nothing could have prepared him for this moment.
He reached out to take the child. His hands were trembling, but he could not be embarrassed by the show of emotion. He and Cassandra had chosen a name as soon as she had known the gender of the child, and so he whispered ‘hello’ to Ransley Zachary Ravenscroft.
Such an insignificant weight to carry so much hope and promise. Mick must have felt this way when each of his sons were born. Raven would have to call and give him the news, and thank him for all the times Mick had talked him through his fears about fatherhood. Soon, but not just now.
His son opened his eyes, looking up for the first time into his father’s face.
A Photo Tour of Portland and the Ravensblood Haunts
(Photos and text by Jocelyn S Mackie, who is helping me out today since I’m dealing with book launch madness. If you like her work, check out her website.)
As launch day for Raven’s Wing approaches, it is only appropriate to make the scenery come to life for the Ravensblood readers. Each of these establishments makes an appearance in the series, or at least inspires an imaginary venue.
Portland, Oregon was incorporated in 1851. While it went through many development phases that nearly destroyed its original architecture, it maintains much of its history while creating a colorful present day image. This made Portland almost a perfect back-drop for a society where magic and mundane lived among one another. Many of its unique elements provided inspiration as the journey of Cass, Zack, and even Raven arose into these novels. Portland may not just be scenery—it can be a character on its own!
With that, time to begin with a spread of the Hawthorne District, where Ana lives and Cass maintains her flat in the first book.
Portland’s Magic: Flowers bloom in December.
The Hawthorne District is known for being eclectic and walker-friendly. Just park your car as soon as you are able—you won’t need it here.
Hawthorne District Street View
Every walk presents good details.
If you are looking for a shop, restaurant, pub, or move theatre that is better than ordinary, this is the area in Portland you must visit. It shows its character in many ways, as seen by this photo spread.
A simple modern residence for an extraordinary mage and healer: Likely candidate for Ana’s home.
Two specific places figure prominently. The Oasis Café serves great pizza and really exists. You may remember it as the restaurant Chuckie and Cass pick up take-out in Raven’s Wing.
The Barley Mill Pub is also located in the Hawthorne District and a colorful meeting place for Cass, Chuckie, and Johnny. Jerry Garcia aficionados will appreciate its tributes.
It really does contain a barley mill.
The Barley Mill
While you drink, Jerry will smile down at you. Who knows if he misses his own good times from his time on Earth.
There is a little something for everyone in the Barley Mill’s unique decor–just in case you are not that into Jerry Garcia.
The Hawthorne District is also home to the oldest planned development in the west, Ladd’s Addition. This home in Ladd’s Addition resembles the Ravenscroft Manor, which is actually located in Nob Hill. However, the Ravenscroft Manor has half again the footprint of this house and features slightly larger grounds.
Nob Hill Neighborhood
Nob Hill is the polished upscale twin to the Hawthorne District. Also pedestrian-centered, it features top-of-the line shops and caters to the normally high-income Pearl District clientele. We start with this spread of photos featuring the buildings and homes within walking distance of Ravenscroft Manor.
Dusk proves to be the perfect accessory for these modern castles.
But in the daylight, you can enjoy the details.
Author’s Note, 2019: This is The William Temple House, a gorgeous, historic building that shows up in Raven’s Vow, the fourth book in the series.
Nob Hill can be a colorful place. This is the wall of the ladies’ room of the Blue Moon Pub, near the fictional Josiah’s Books, briefly mentioned in Raven’s Wing. Blue Moon has not made an appearance yet but it may receive its spotlight in the third book.
Author’s Note, 2019: Yes, the Blue Moon turned up in the third book, Raven’s Heart, as well as Raven’s Song, a novella set between the 1st and second books but published later.
Finally, no photo tour of Portland would be complete without Powell’s Books, a giant bookstore on Burnside. While not located in Nob Hill, it is an easy trolley ride from that neighborhood. Cass and Raven consider it the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World.
Raven’s Wing To Take Flight Soon!
The Raven’s Wing book launch is planned in Portland on January 24, 2015 at Max’s Fanno Creek Brew Pub in Tigard, Oregon. Check out the event page for details. Hope to see you there!
Yuletide Ravensblood Vignette
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we are gone astray.
Raven didn’t believe in a being of absolute evil, but evil itself he believed in. Had lived with it, had lived under William, for far too long.
And still, somehow, had found his way back to the light. He believed in evil, yes, but he believed in redemption as well.
He was not religious, and he had no particular sentimental attachment to Christmas carols. There had been little enough comfort and joy growing up a Ravenscroft. Neither Cassandra nor Ana were Christian, but apparently Ana’s mother had been, which explained the Christmas carols playing softly from the stereo as he and Cassandra sat on Ana’s sofa, sipping the sweet spice of mulled wine after a particularly fine Yule eve meal, listening to Ana reminisce about when she and Cassandra’s father were young. The charmed lights on the Yule tree glimmered softly, sparking glints of silver from the draped tinsel.
Cassandra leaned against him, warm and soft at his side. Three-quarters of a year since she decided to give them another chance at a relationship, and it still seemed new and fragile, though she’d moved back in with him six months ago when the lease on her flat came up for renewal. A little over a year ago he was still a bad memory she was trying to live down.
Ana kept any misgivings she might have had to herself. Surely she must have misgivings—the last time he had been in a relationship with Cassandra, he had entered into it under false pretenses and, had she not been so clever and so strong-willed, it would have cost her her life. Though Raven had put that time past him, there were some things for which he’d never forgive himself.
Ana had orchestrated a means for him to win a pardon and return to society, but that didn’t necessarily mean she anticipated his return to Cassandra’s life. Yet she gave him a genuine smile as she refilled his glass, a smile that had to be for his benefit alone. Cassandra, snuggled against his shoulder, couldn’t see. For the first time in his life, he felt entirely safe and welcome and at peace. For the first time, he believed in the promise of the returning sun.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
A/N: I closed with a different song snippet in the upcoming audio version because it worked better musically.
For more on the solstice, check out my guest blog today over at Here Be Magic!
Valentine’s Day Special Feature– A Letter Raven Never Sent from Australia
I ran this originally as part of last year’s Here Be Magic Valentine’s Day celebration. But for those of you who missed it (or who want to read it again and forgot to bookmark it), this is the letter that Raven never sent from Australia during the events of Raven’s Wing.
My dearest Cassandra,
I never thought it possible to miss someone so much that it became a physical pain. It is, perhaps, one of the reasons I yielded when you refused to renounce me, though I know I could drive you away if I truly wanted to. The truth is, I could not bear it, even though it is in your best interests. I love you, and in that love I am far more selfish than ever I was in my days as a soulless dark mage.
I love you. Though I do not say it often, I trust that you know me well enough to know that it is simple truth. Even though I will never post this letter, with its ridiculous, maudlin sentiment.
I know that you have not given up on a life together, and your hope keeps me sane even when I cannot share it.
If I do not speak the words, it is only because I find them inadequate.
The following is a vignette I wrote for a blog on marriage, and I can’t find the link where it was posted. So for those readers sad about having missed Raven and Cassandra’s wedding (between Raven’s Heart and Raven’s Vow), here it is:
For Raven, tying a cravat usually took less thought than triggering the set-spell that lit a light globe. Why, then, could he not get the damned scrap of white silk to cooperate?
Maybe it was because his hands were shaking.
“Here, best let me do that.” Mick’s Aussie-accented voice was steady and patient. “This might be my only chance. Knowing my other boys, they’re liable to opt for a trip to the courthouse followed by a barbecue.”
Mick’s other ‘boys’, his biological sons, stood off to one side, fidgeting with their unaccustomed ties.
Raven hadn’t expected to be this nervous. In truth, he hadn’t expected to be nervous at all. He’d stood against both dark mages and Guardians in battle and brought down William himself. This was a small, assembled crowd of their closest friends, his and Cassandra’s. Powerful mages, many of them, and people he respected, but no one he feared.
And it wasn’t that he doubted his decision to marry. Certainly, he didn’t doubt his love for Cassandra, nor hers for him. He still had moments when he wondered why any sane woman would want to wed him, but if a woman like Cassandra would take him, he’d be a fool to question his good fortune.
His stomach hadn’t churned like this before his first duel. But then, he was good at magic. He wasn’t sure he’d be as good at marriage. Certainly he’d made his share of relationship blunders along the way.
“You’ll do fine,” Mick assured him.
“Are you talking about the ceremony, or the marriage?”
“Both.” Mick said.
“What if I mess this up?” He heard the uncharacteristic panic in his own words. “I can’t bear the thought that I might hurt her. Again.”
“You will,” Mick said.
The betrayal of those words lanced through his soul, but before he could pull away, Mick grabbed his shoulder and gave a steadying squeeze. “And she will hurt you. Again. Without meaning to, and probably more than once. And you’ll apologize, and she’ll apologize, and you’ll both figure out a way to move forward and make sure it doesn’t happen again. At least not in the same way.”
Raven forced a little laugh. “You sound like you’re speaking from experience.”
Mick smiled. “I am.”
“But. . .” He thought of a piano in a house on a ranch in Australia, a piano still kept in tune in the memory of a woman who died of cancer years before.
“Do you think the boy’s mother and I didn’t fight? That whole thing about artistic temper, it’s not just a myth. And Zack, he got his mouth and his stubbornness from me.”
Raven smiled, remembering just how annoying the Aussie Guardian could be. If Zack had lived, probably he would have been Raven’s best man instead of Mick. Or maybe he’d have been the one marrying Cassandra.
He shook his head to clear it. He was old enough to know the futility of worrying about what might have been.
“You don’t need to be perfect,” Mick said. “You can’t be. You just need to remember always that you love each other, and never lose sight of that.”
Just then, he saw Cassandra enter the ballroom they’d rented for the ceremony. They’d both vetoed the idea and the symbolism of the white dress as both outdated and irrelevant to their lives. She stood resplendent in a deep gold silk, and smiled at him. His breath caught in his throat.
If Mick was right, they’d be just fine. Because he couldn’t imagine ever, even for one moment, forgetting that he loved this woman.
Another vignette with a ‘missing link’. This one took place shortly after Ravensblood and before Raven’s Wing.
Raven hadn’t had first-date nerves in a long time. Ever, really—one of the few advantages of having been so unpopular in high school. He had skipped awkward adolescent dating, and by the time he lost his virginity, shortly before his twentieth birthday to a mage in her early twenties, he was well-placed enough in William’s favor that any of William’s followers would have considered him a catch, even if he hadn’t finally filled out his gawky frame and grown into the nose he had inherited, along with a familial history of dark magic, from his father.
It seemed ridiculous to be nervous about a dinner date with a woman who had been his apprentice, a woman with whom with whom he’d shared a previous intimate relationship.Only that was the problem. So much shared history. So much of it bad. So much of that his fault. What were they going to talk about, anyway? The normal first date small talk was out. He knew what she did for a living, what her favorite color was, her favorite music. (Guardian International Investigations, all the colors in the sunset, and eclectic, respectively.)
Hello, dear, and how was your day? Too domestic.
Sorry again about your cousin’s death, but William would have killed him anyway, and me as well, had I not slit his throat and fed on his death?
This whole thing was a bad idea. How had he talked himself into it in the first place?
Oh, yes. Because Cassandra was the only woman he had ever loved. The only one that he could imagine wanting in his life for as long as he could persuade her to stay.
It was time to leave. Too late to back out now. He may have been a dark mage until recently, but he had never been less than a gentleman.
He teleported to a sidewalk in front of an elegant little French restaurant in the uptown shopping district not too far from his house. Close enough, in fact, that he might have walked, had he not procrastinated until the very last minute.
As soon as he entered Robert the maître d greeted him. “Mr. Ravenscroft, welcome. I have your usual table waiting. The reservation was for two. Will someone be joining you?”
The man’s subtle European accent might be false, but if so he used it so consistently and so well that Raven could not be sure.
“Yes. A young woman. Black hair, green eyes.”
Robert’s polite smile widened with genuine warmth. “Ah, yes. The brave and lovely Guardian of the news stories, yes?”
“Yes,” Raven agreed hiding his wince. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to his life being laid out in print for all the world to see.
At least this time it wasn’t the tabloids.
Cassandra had always been as lackadaisical about promptness, as much as he was habitually punctual. No reason to fret that she wasn’t here yet. Even if she’d come to her senses, she would tell him so, not just stand him up. She was neither cruel nor cowardly.
“Would you like to order the wine while you wait?” Robert suggested.
Raven hesitated. While he’d never been sexist enough to order dinner for any date, he had often enjoyed introducing Cassandra to new vintages and varietals. But that was three years ago. Would she still appreciate the gesture, or would she feel that he was treating her like an apprentice, disrespecting the experienced she had gained?
Gods, if he kept second-guessing everything, he might as well give up now. He glanced at the wine list. “A bottle of the 2005 Argyle Brut, please.”
Cassandra liked sparkling wine and was an advocate of the shop-local movement, and Argyle Brut could give French champagne a run for its money.
Cassandra arrived before the wine did. He stood, pulled out her chair for her, helped her off with her jacket. By her smile, she still seemed to enjoy the small courtesies. So far, so good. The waiter cane with the wine and filled their glasses, which spared Raven for a few moments. Perusal and discussion of the menu took a few more minutes only—neither of them were the type to dither and debate with themselves endlessly over meal choices.
“So,” he said after she laid her folded menu on top of his on the side of the table.
“So,” she repeated, with a smile for his nervousness.
A fond smile, not a mocking one, and yet he tensed up further. With the spy game over, did they have anything to talk about? Were they both fools to think that anything could be built on top of the rubble of a relationship that had had deception as its very foundation?
“So how was your day?” He cringed as soon as the words left his mouth.
She shrugged. “The usual.”
The waiter came to take their orders. Which bought some more time, but meant that there would be no escape for an hour or so.
“Oh, there was the one thing that happened,” Cassandra said after the waiter had left.
“Oh?” Thank the gods, something.
“We had this guy up from the local Guardians,” she said. “Interdepartmental cooperation and all that. “Was going on and on about my analysis of the time of crime based on the fading of the magical signatures had to be wrong because his instructor at the Academy said. . .blah, blah, blah.”
He hid his smile behind the champagne glass. Cass never reacted well to being told that she was wrong.
“So I explained to him about the influence of ambient magic, such as you find in craft lands or in a laboratory that’s been used for years for magical work.”
She paused to sip at her wine. “This is good,” she commented, and turned the bottle to read the label.
“You were saying?” he prompted.
“Oh, the jerk,” she said. “He implied that I couldn’t possibly know more about forensic magic than he did. Made a snide remark about ‘women’s intuition’ and heavily implied that I was only there because of affirmative action.”
“Oh, no.”He didn’t call her Firecat for nothing. He could almost feel sorry the man. . . if he didn’t so richly deserve everything he got.
Cassandra’s eyes sparkled. “So I told him that I hadn’t been aware that affirmative action extended to hiring blithering idiots, but his presence proved me wrong.”
She loved her new job; he hoped she hadn’t just blown it.
“He made some comment about PMS and threatened to tell my boss. So I showed him the way to Sherlock’s office.”
“So what did he say? Your boss?”
Cassandra grinned. “Cave-boy apparently wasn’t aware that Sherlock was just a nickname, and my boss’s given name is Abigail Andrews. He practically fell over his feet trying to backpedal. Unsuccessfully, I might add.”
Their food came, and they talked the rest of the evening about the fading of magical signatures and the tracing of teleport trails, until Robert regretfully told them he would have to lock up soon. Raven only then realized that the restaurant had officially closed an hour ago.He walked her to the sidewalk, his whole being buzzing with her presence. Too early, by far, to ask if she would like to come back with him for a nightcap. But she tilted her face up to him as they said their farewell, and the kiss they shared promised a future he could almost let himself believe in.