Act of Will - A. J. Hartley

Table of Contents

Translator’s Preface

SCENE I: Show Business

SCENE II: Making an Exit

SCENE III: Desperate Times

SCENE IV: A New Problem

SCENE V: Things Can Always Get Worse

SCENE VI: The gatehouse

SCENE VII: No Virtue in Almost

SCENE VIII: The Wheatsheaf

SCENE IX: The Road East

SCENE X: Improvisation

SCENE XI: Of Gorse and Wild Thyme

SCENE XII: The Desert

SCENE XIII: The Party Leader


SCENE XV: The Cormorant

SCENE XVI: Consequences

SCENE XVII: A Kind of Welcome

SCENE XVIII: Harsh Realities

SCENE XIX: A Council Meeting

SCENE XX: Beacons of Honor

SCENE XXI: Stories

SCENE XXII: Opening Moves

SCENE XXIII: Glimpses by Firelight

SCENE XXIV: Questions

SCENE XXV: Seaholme

SCENE XXVI: The lighthouse



SCENE XXIX: The Fallen

SCENE XXX: Ironwall

SCENE XXXI: More Consequences

SCENE XXXII: The Elixir of Sensenon



SCENE XXXV: The Hopetown Road

SCENE XXXVI: Investigations

SCENE XXXVII: Time for a Beer

SCENE XXXVIII: The Razor’s Edge


SCENE XL: The Assassins

SCENE XLI: Rest in Peace

SCENE XLII: The Farmhouse by the Woods

SCENE XLIII: One of Them




SCENE XLVII: Alone at Last

SCENE XLVIII: The Secret of the Caves

SCENE XLIX: Adsine Again

SCENE L: Implications

SCENE LI: A Decision

SCENE LII: A Different Road

SCENE LIII: Back on the Horse

SCENE LIV: The Gathering

SCENE LV: The Enemy

SCENE LVI: Desperate Times

SCENE LVII: Desperate Measures

SCENE LVIII: Casualties

SCENE LIX: Realism

SCENE LX: The Curtain



Until a few years ago, the collection of manuscripts now known as the Hawthorne Saga had been sitting in a climate-controlled case in an obscure English library for over a century, baffling all attempts to decipher the strange language in which they were written. We knew from library records that they were once part of the Fossington collection and that they were almost lost when the east wing of Fossington House was badly damaged by fire in 1784. Parts of the second manuscript showed some light scorching, and there was moderately severe water damage to much of the first book, but how they were originally acquired and from where remains a mystery. The eighteenth-century records refer to the crate of Fossington manuscripts only as “handwritten, very old, bound in calf, in indecipherable cursive: language unknown.”

Being completely unreadable, the manuscripts would have remained no more than linguistic and historical curiosities were it not for the recent discovery of certain papers located in the attic of an Elizabethan manor house in Oxfordshire, the precise location of which I am not at liberty to reveal. I was first shown these papers eight years ago. Various experts concurred that the author was none other than the famous translator Sir Thomas Henby (1542–1609). The papers were all in Elizabethan secretary hand and difficult to read, which is the only explanation I can offer for not immediately recognizing that while some of them were in plain English, others were actually transcripts of the strange language featured in the Fossington House papers. Even after I had made the connection, it was another year before I realized that the English pages were actually translations of the so-called indecipherable cursive of the Fossington manuscripts, which actually turned out to be a previously undocumented language: Thrusian. How and with what assistance, if any, Henby accessed the key to this remarkable literary find, I cannot begin to imagine, but there is no question that he did, and left both direct translations of several dozen pages and notes by which the rest might be rendered into English.*

I have made up for my slowness to realize the significance of my find by diligent work on the manuscripts ever since. Using Henby’s translations and notes as a kind of Rosetta stone, I have been able to work out the grammar, diction, and tone of the Fossington House papers, which I have renamed the Hawthorne Saga for reasons that will become apparent. In the translation, I have used a modern, colloquial style in an attempt to capture—or at least echo—the uniquely sprightly and energetic Thrusian used by the author. The book in your hands, faithfully translated from the original, is the result. I only hope that you find my labor in bringing this ancient text to light to be worth the reading. If this meets with sufficient approval and I encounter no serious hurdles in the translation, I plan to complete work on the second volume of the series approximately one year from now.

—A. J. Hartley, 2009

* No identification of the place—or even the period—from which the original came has yet been made. All attempts to identify known landmarks, places, or geographical features have failed. Militarily, it lacks gunpowder and therefore seems early medieval, but the culture as presented seems later, more