For centuries, the Great Bell was silent…
It remained undisturbed, nearly forgotten by history, hidden away in the ruins of an abandoned fortress. The enchantments within its iron slumbered, its secrets protected by silence. Until someone discovered how to ring the Bell, other secrets would remain safe.
One day, while running an errand, a young store clerk took a wrong turn, then another, until he found himself deep within the old fortress where the Great Bell waited.
It waited for him.
And when the hapless clerk rang the Great Bell and released its enchantments, his troubles began.
For he had become the Bellringer.
He claimed it was all an accident, that he did not mean to ring the Bell. Fate, it seemed, thought otherwise, and proof of the Bellringer’s destiny began to emerge just as the world spiraled into war. Revolt and treachery worked to break apart the Seven Realms. Armies were on the march. The faraway King, obsessed with his own power, seemed unwilling or unable to prevent the looming catastrophe.
Perhaps a new King was needed…if only someone could penetrate the secret of the King’s power and take the throne before it was too late. It was foretold that the person who discovered the True Name of the King would become the next King. But who was capable of such a thing?
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Perhaps more than anything else, what inspires me to write is the compulsion to explore the characters, settings, and situations that enter my imagination. I feel as if I must record those as best as I can, and try to weave all that into a somewhat coherent narrative.
More tangibly (perhaps), music provokes a certain kind of imagery in me, sparking my imagination in a way that few other things will do.
All that said, the specific initial inspiration for The Year of the Red Door came from the tale of the King of the Wood as described by Sir James George Frazier in The Golden Bough. That got me wondering and imagining the various scenarios of paranoia and power, and of people seemingly trapped by fate or destiny.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters in The Bellringer (and in The Year of the Red Door) came into being as the world took shape, the world in which this fantasy epic takes place. As such, many of the characters have strong backstories (not included in the tale), and so were already defined as important players in the plot. Other characters had to be imagined as the writing and the world-building continued. Very few are based solely upon people I have known. Most are alloys of various people, or character-types.
…He stared at the approaching wolves, and the others that were joining in, thinking the eerie and growing light in the room was from the fire, fixated by the foam-dripping fangs of his attackers. He turned and pounded at the iron door with his fists.
"Open!" he cried. Robby flinched away as the door lurched with a shrill grinding of metal against metal. It then slid straight down out of the way and disappeared through a crack in the floor, landing somewhere below with an earth-shaking thud that brought down dust and chips from the ceiling. Bits of stone flaked from the cheeks and bare arms of the two warriors, and Robby stumbled forward in a nightmare state of panic. He did not notice holes in the ceiling where steady streams of sand now came pouring out, nor had a mind to care if he had noticed. But the opening of the iron door set in motion the release of sand from three chambers above, each housing an iron ball the size of a pumpkin. As the sand leaked out, each ball descended in slow turn, one before the other, sinking downward onto rails that would set them rolling along stone-laid tracks within hidden conduits above.
Meanwhile, Robby stumbled along the passageway before him, dark doorways opening to his left and right, but he kept on straight. Behind him, the noise of a terrible fight broke out, and he thought he heard the sound of ringing steel and pounding iron amid the screams of the wolves, and it distantly occurred to him that the beasts must have tipped over some of the statues in their frenzy. Suddenly, he came upon another door, this one of stone with the remnants of a lock as big as his hand. He slapped the lockplate, and it instantly burst asunder, the door toppling away from him and shattering into heaps of rubble. Cold wind and rain burst in from the gloom beyond as Robby scrambled out and onto a steep mossy staircase. His torch sputtered in the wind and died, lightning flashed overhead, and as he climbed the last few steps, he found himself to be on the very crest of Tulith Attis, surrounded by the ancient walls of the fortress.
The storm roared with terrible cracks of continuous lightning and thunder. After a moment, disoriented by the rain and noise and brilliant flashes, Robby saw a wide, round ground, a bailey surrounded by high, vine-covered walls. Turning in every direction, trying to see a way out of the fortress, he spotted the decrepit gateway at the far side and ran toward it, dodging holes and scrambling over rubble, shielding his eyes against the hard rain and the blinding lightning. He saw as he went many ivy-shrouded stone columns, just over his height and shoulder wide, standing in groups all around the yard, and some atop the parapets, but he had no time to wonder at their purpose. Halfway across, the lightning flashed again, and he could clearly see the gate ahead, and, just as plainly, a throng of wolves moving through it into the fortress. Sliding to a halt, he saw a stairway leading up the side of the east wall, and he ran to it and up, slipping a time or two on the mossy stones, until he reached the top of the great wall of the fortress. Peering over the side, he looked for a way off the summit. But all he could see in the flashes of light was a raging river where once the ravine had been. He ran across the wall to the other side, then along the southern face, scrambling around crumbled portions and climbing over piles of rubble. When he had gotten all the way around to the opposite side of the fortress, he looked westward, toward Barley, but could make out no details in the flatlands beyond the base of the hill and could barely even see to the barrows below. The only way off the ramparts was back down the way he had come or else over the side down the sheer walls. He made up his mind to do that, if he had to. He could still hear the noise from within the bell room, and he could not understand how the wolves could be so delayed from following him. In a panic, he continued to run along the wall, dodging around the odd columns that he met, but he could find no place where he thought he could scale down the outside face of the walls. At one point, when he looked over, he realized he must be over the gate, for when the lightning flashed, he saw what he thought to be hundreds of wolves crowding through the wall and disappearing below. Edging over to the inner side, he looked down and saw them emerging into the fortress, running here and there as if looking for him. Scrambling back, he ran along the ramparts, crouching against the torrential rain, searching for another way down and away from the wolves.
Deep within the fortress, one of the great iron balls settled onto the inclined track that had been crafted for it and began to roll. Like thunder rising from the ground, its course rumbled through the interior of the hill. Robby heard the queer sound and froze. The iron ball burst through the ceiling of the bell room and struck the bell with such a roar that Robby stumbled, instinctively clutching his ears. The fortress shook violently as the din reverberated, the ivy fell from the stone columns, and loose blocks crumbled from the parapets and tumbled down. As the sound faded, the second iron ball began its course and rumbled along its track toward the great bell. During this, the wolves were howling deliriously at the air, running around senselessly, biting stone, vine, and their own flesh alike in their madness. Robby staggered to his feet. The second ball struck the bell with the same force as the first. The clang ripped through the stormy country, and Robby reeled sideways to stay on his feet, screaming with pain, but he could not hear himself over the toll. Losing his balance, he stumbled and slipped off the edge of the wall. Thrashing wildly for some vine to hold, he fell forty feet, landing squarely on top of a wolf with a sickening crunch, killing the beast instantly, and knocking the breath out of himself. Gasping for air, he crawled to his feet, and in madness akin to that of the wolves, he ran, yelling as he went, to the center of the fortress, kicking or beating away with his fists the foul-smelling animals that threw themselves at him, biting at his legs and arms and leaping against his back as he fled. Once more there came a rumble of iron and the crash of the great bell, and once again the ground shook and even the rain seem to flee away. Robby and all of the wolves were completely knocked off their feet, stunned into senselessness as the boom ripped eastward through the Boggy Wood. It galloped away westward over the far mountains and the plains beyond, it thundered and rolled north and south, and it blasted the very rain from the air.
In the stunned silence following the deafening toll, still air descended thick with fog, disturbed only by the return of a distant echo. Overhead, the storm-clouds thinned, and high Lady Moon cast her full pale light on the blue-gray mists that floated all around. Robby staggered to his shaking knees in shock and bewilderment, his head spinning. The dreadful ringing in his ears was made all the louder by the stark hush that settled like a mantle on the old fortress, as tangible as the thickening fog. Around him, the wolves lay scattered, some struggling to gain their feet, others mewling, and a few already up and coming at him, swaying drunkenly from side to side, their heads down, bloody foam dripping from their snouts. Robby heard a slight snap, like the breaking of a dry twig, and then a crack, and another one, sharper, more distinct, from another direction. More snaps, like the breaking of brittle crackers, or the clattering of small pebbles falling upon stone, coming from all around the fortress. He got to his feet, fell down to one knee, got up again, and fell again on all fours, weak and terrorized. Looking around, he saw no source of the odd sound in the strange light, but he was dizzy, and he staggered onto his side, his head spinning, looking for an escape. A new movement caught his eye.
What he saw was more than he could bear. The columns that stood all around were shedding chips of stone, cracking and crumbling away to reveal vague shapes of some other material beneath. The shapes grew more distinct. To Robby's shock, a face appeared on the one nearest to him, then a shoulder and part of an arm. Robby whimpered, backing away from the emerging form. The wolves began barking and snarling at the columns, all of which were hatching strange beings. Robby then saw what looked to be polished steel, scarlet robes, and glittering mail, as from each column a soldier emerged dressed in gleaming armor, bearing in one hand a straight, bright sword and in the other a shield. Upon their heads were helmets of black, threaded with green vines and golden flowers, like the bell in the bell room, and the device upon their red, burnished shields was the same ivy-shrouded star he had seen on the sails of the ships in the mural. Their faces were fair and pale and their eyes silvery-green like the maple leaf in spring. They looked sternly at one another as if awakened from only a moment's nap, and gazed hard all around, filling Robby with a new terror, though he was half-entranced by their appearance.
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