Most of my posts lately have been related to the work in progress, which is an epic fantasy. I’m not sure how epic it will be (that all depends on reader preferences) but, it’s certainly a fantasy and coming along nicely. I don’t have a release date yet or a cover, but I’m coming up on the finale and the writing is becoming intense. I do intend to publish the book by the end of the year at least – hoping for sooner. But, I won’t skimp on the proofing.
Solid news on this book has been very scarce, so I thought I’d give something a bit meatier today. I’ve made it past 62,000 words, and I have an estimated thirteen chapters remaining to be finished on the first draft. All of those are chapters at the back of the book. So, progress has been good this year. How about a title and a sample chapter?
The book is titled Lockwood Tower. For those who have read any of my fan fiction, I did do a Harry Potter fan fiction titled the same, and in some ways that fan fiction was the inspiration for this work. I started out writing fan fictions because my friends wanted certain characters (Draco and Hermione) to get together, and they were very day-to-day in content. But, then something changed in my routine and I started writing stories that deviated so much from the source material that all that remained was the characters. Their situations were wildly different from the ones they faced in the seven novels.
So, that was a personal turning point in my creative writing. This was around the time that I was knee-deep in college, and my writing voice came out the other end.
What is this book about?
Well, here’s where the similarities start and end as far as the Harry Potter influence goes.
The book follows Garrett Dale, an orc who has lived on Peaks Isle with his adopted family his entire life. His parents and older brother are humans, and he’s grown up with stories of how he was found on the shore after a particularly nasty storm. He’s different from those of his own kind, the orcs, and thankfully living on an isolated island has shielded him from the prejudice against them. However, it’s only a matter of time before his special abilities – magical abilities – emerge and become unable to be ignored. Garrett’s father reveals that Garrett’s birth mother was an elf maiden who died the very same night that he was discovered on the beach. He has a magical heritage, a heritage granted only to the elves, which has been ignored until now. He needs to go to a place where he can hone that magical ability and put it to some use in his future.
And so Garrett travels a long way from home to one of the only magical schools that remains. There he will face the prejudice that his parents shielded him from, but he will also find friendships and people who believe in him. When the leader of the orcs sets Garrett in his sights, will Garrett choose to continue his education and make his own path? Or will he join the orcs and give in to the darker side of his heritage?
The themes of prejudice, forging your own path, and the real definition of family have been tugging at me for a few years, and through this book I have been able to explore them. It has been very satisfying, and I hope to tighten the story in my second pass. Editing is the fun part where you make sure that your rough sculpture contains all the details that you want before it’s placed in the kiln and solidified.
Now, for the scary part. A sample chapter.
I will precursor this with the statement that this is a rough draft. I haven’t gone through to fix sentences or anything like that, so it is what it is for now. But, I can’t sit on this story forever, and hopefully this prologue will be good proof that the story is not just an anecdote I use at family gatherings! (“Still working on the fantasy novel?”)
The prologue is longer than chapters from my horror/thrillers, and rightly so. The pacing has been a nice change up from the quick storytelling I did before.
Without any further ado, here is the prologue. I hope you enjoy it and join me in looking forward to the finished product!
* * *
The Rocky Coast
The wind threw icy ran against Kirk Dale’s broad shoulders. The steps leading up to the Peaks Isle light were slick with puddles and his boot nearly slipped completely out from under him as another blast of wind tugged at his cloak, urging him towards the rocky shore far below.
He needed to get to the top light and keep it from going out.
Regaining his balance, he took hold of the rusted steel railing and made his way up the spiral stairs, coming closer and closer to the top. His face was raw, and his cheeks were numb from the unusually cold September storm. The cold air from Frostwith was already descending onto the southern islands earlier than normal, and it was surprising to find most of the dune grass covered in salty frost. Inky clouds blanketing the sky made it nearly impossible to see two feet beyond Kirk’s nose, and the lamp he gripped from out of the house ended up being useless. The storm was too strong to carry a flame and it was quickly snuffed out.
At last he made it to the landing and he fumbled with his keys. Even feeling for the keyhole was useless since his fingers were numb and his hand was trembling. But, an ounce of mercy came from above as a flash of lightning lanced across the sky and for an instant Kirk was able to see the keyhole. He jammed the thing into the door, turned it, and forced his way into the glass-enclosed lamp house.
Rain came pouring into the space, but in seconds Kirk had the door closed and the storm became nothing more than muffled pattering against the roof and windows with the occasional rumble of thunder.
He leaned against the door and tried to catch his breath.
Clearly someone in the clouds was angry. At least that’s what Emma would say. She had kissed him goodbye before he stepped out of the house and made the trek across the tiny island they called home.
With his heart rate settled a bit, Kirk peeled the soaking gray cloak off his arms and shoulders and hung it on the peg.
It was time to get down to the business of guarding the flame, and he had a feeling it was going to be a long night.
Another flash of lightning came down from the clouds as Kirk struck a match and lifted the glass door that protected the thick white candle. Three quarters of the candle was surrounded by mirrors so that the light could be collected into a beam and aimed out towards the right, into the open ocean. To the left, so far in the distance that they were nearly impossible to see, were the twinkling lights of Castlederg.
Nobody would be coming from there. Not in this gale.
Kirk hoped that the same could be said about out in the Moran. The waves out to sea were like rolling hills. They crashed against the bluffs down below, sending sprays of white foam spattering the edge of the lighthouse.
“The Guardian help anyone out there, if there is any,” Kirk muttered, and then closed the glass door and let the light do its work.
Now was the easy and hard part all wrapped up into one. Now he had to guard the light and make sure it stayed lit the rest of the storm.
Over to the side was a small metal wood stove with a stack of chopped birch wood, brought in from the mainland. Kirk went over to it and set a few of the log-quarters inside the stove and struck his flint over a mound of bark shavings. In a few minutes a warm fire was burning and the lamp house became less and less damp.
He took a seat next to the stove at a small desk where he could now relax and watch the storm. However, even though he could now kick back, it was his duty to remain awake until the storm passed or day broke, whichever came first. Judging by the way things were going, he had a bad feeling that the storm wasn’t going to let up any time soon.
He leaned back in the chair and reached into the desk drawer. Inside, tucked against five spare candles, was an old, fraying book. The front cover nearly fell off every time it was handled, but Kirk was sure to never lose it. Handling it as if it were made of spun sugar, he turned to his bookmark and continued reading about Raewyn and the Battle of Bastion Hill.
Enough storms and I’ll be done this book in no time, he thought with a wry smile.
A brilliant flash filled the room, the closest that the lightning had come so far, and with a few seconds delay, the entire lighthouse shook as if a cannon had lodged itself in the base. Kirk jumped in his seat, nearly dropping the book.
“Perhaps I should wait,” he muttered, and set his bookmark back into the pages and leaving the book on the desk.
With all the noise, he was better off just watching the storm. No way could he focus on the book when every few seconds he was being startled out of his seat.
Instead, he walked over to the window and rested his arms on the sill.
After a few moments of watching the shadowy waves, Kirk was surprised at how beautiful the storm was. Even though it was probably going to devastate the neighboring ports on the mainland, the way the inky purples, blues, and the gray of the foam all blended together in a constantly changing tapestry was magnificent. When the lightning came down, it changed everything even more.
He blinked as the dark was replaced by light, and was just blinking away the afterimage of the clouds when something caught his attention. An anomaly in the rolling waves.
Squinting and looking closer, Kirk saw a tiny light off in the distance.
The light, coming from the black horizon, was being tossed too and fro on the waves. Very slowly Kirk saw that the light was getting closer and closer, and he scrambled to the center of the room where the candle sat.
He needed to warn the poor ship of the trio of islands ahead. Not only was there Peaks, but Glyndeeg to the side, and then the tiny black strip of rocks behind.
He aimed the light towards the ship and used a makeshift slate to block the beam in a steady pattern.
But, the ship didn’t seem to take notice – or if it did, there was nothing it could do about it. It was at the mercy of the storm, and Kirk watched as within minutes, the outline of the ship became visible.
It was headed straight for the bluffs.
“No,” Kirk muttered. “No, no, no…”
He could see the ship clearly now and it was obvious that the poor thing was barely big enough to carry a small crew of six or so. What in the world was a ship like that doing out in a storm like this? If it weren’t for the light, Kirk would have guessed that the brig had been ripped free from some dock up north.
But, this ship was manned. As the thing came closer and closer to the rocky coast of Peaks, Kirk saw the silhouettes of figures in the wheel house.
He flashed the candlelight once more, hoping that there was something that the captain of the ship could do – some stroke of luck that their rudder would take them around the rocks and into the tiny harbor between the three islands.
But, it was not to be.
Within minutes, Kirk was bracing himself against the windowsill as he watched the ship lurch upwards on a massive wave and then go nose-first down onto the boulders below. He could both hear and see the crash. Wood splintered against the sheer side of the island, and the light was washed out by the constant spray of water pummeling the coast and all that lined it.
Judging by the crunching sound heard all the way up in the light, Kirk had a horrible feeling that nobody survived the wreck.
He threw on his jacket, grabbed a lantern, and rushed down the stairs and back into the storm.
The path down to the bottom of the bluffs was slippery and narrow. Stone steps had been carved into the cliffside and zigzagged their way around until at last Kirk made it to the pebble-strewn beach below. Massive boulders stuck out of the surf like jagged teeth. With a flash of lightning, Kirk spotted the ship’s rigging, tattered and splintered on the ends, poking out from behind one of the rocks. Boards with nails sticking out were floating in clusters, coming to rest on the beach not feet from where Kirk stood.
But, where were the bodies?
Kirk had no idea how many people might have been aboard the ship, but he expected to see at least two or three floating towards shore, or perhaps clinging to the rocks as they called for help.
However, the churning water held no bodies, and for a moment Kirk wondered if the ship had already been abandoned. He looked out into the ocean’s expanse and shivered at the thought of anyone adrift on a tiny lifeboat. Instead of being dashed on the rocky coast, the crew would probably be thrown out to sea with no food and water and slowly dehydrate to death. They might not be found until months later when their boat drifted to some foreign port.
Whatever had happened, the area looked deserted and it was impossible to see the full extent of the damage in the dark. He would have to wait until the morning to clean up and send a message to the mainland about the incident.
But, as Kirk was making his way back to the stone steps, pulling his jacket tighter against the pelting rain, a flash of lightning lit up the scene once more and a glint of white caught his eye. The lightning faded and the white object was obscured once more into darkness, but Kirk raised his lantern and hurried across the beach to see what it was.
When he got closer he saw, to his sorrow, a woman clothed in white lying on her back, her eyes staring up at the sky. Her gold hair was dirty and matted across half her face and the tips of her pointy ears poked out from beneath the tangles.
She was elvish.
In a rush, Kirk set his lantern down and knelt beside the woman, lowering his ear to her mouth to listen for sounds of life. In a few seconds he heard breathing and sat up with a relieved laugh.
“You’re alive!” he said. It seemed impossible, like some sort of dream.
The elvish woman’s lips were pale blue from the cold, as well as most of her face. Every breath from her mouth came as puffs of mist. Her body trembled in the cold, the wind freezing her soaked skin and frosting her clothes. She was the only person on the beach. Kirk wondered if she was alone on the ship.
He didn’t know what else to say to her besides, “I’ll bring you inside – hold on!” and he went to tuck his hands under the woman’s back and legs.
But, whether the elf couldn’t hear him or she chose not to, his words fell on deaf ears. Instead the woman spoke out in a wavering voice, her teeth chattering.
“P-please,” she said. “Let him l-l-live!”
Kirk had been about to lift the woman into his arms when he stopped, blinking.
“What?” he said, staring at the woman.
Her eyes looked into his now, for the first time. They were a brilliant emerald green, the only things that didn’t appear to be affected by the cold. She repeated her statement. Her voice was barely a whisper.
“L-l-let h-him live…”
Suddenly a new sound came from the garments wrapped around the elf’s arms. What Kirk originally took as merely a bundle of shawls started to squirm slightly, and a soft cooing evolved into sharp, startled cries.
“A baby?” said Kirk under his breath, and the elf merely stared up at him, her body trembling continually. It looked like she had no strength left to lift the bundle into Kirk’s hands, so he reached down himself and took the baby from her. The fabric pulled away from the skin of the elf’s hands with a crack.
The baby, still buried in the fabric, wailed louder than ever now, perhaps realizing that it was being taken away from its mother.
The elf watched Kirk as he cradled the baby in the crook of his elbow.
“H-he m-m-must live,” she said, her eyes closing for the first time since Kirk arrived. “W-watch him…”
Kirk shook his head.
“No,” he said. “You’re coming with me up to the light. You’ll be fine. Really, you will.”
He didn’t believe it seeing how cold the woman was, but he said it as if some force within him were pushing him through the motions. In between the elf woman’s arms where she had clutched the baby was a shard of splintered wood from the ship. It had stabbed her in the left part of her chest and her dark red blood was soaking intricate designs in her cloak. She doesn’t have long, Kirk thought as he held the baby against his chest, trying to soothe it. Her life was draining from her faster than the storm had arrived, and it didn’t matter now whether or not Kirk dragged her up to the light.
Her mouth opened, taking in sharp gasps of breath. Her eyes remained closed, but she spoke once more.
“P-promise me y-y-you’ll make him live,” she said, her shoulders shaking more violently than ever. “P-promise me, p-p-please…”
Kirk, still kneeling beside her, reached out a hand and placed it on her arm which had gone as cold as the stone beneath them. The baby wailed louder close to his ear, and he had to speak up to be heard over the noise surrounding them.
“I promise,” he said, again as if he were being controlled by some great puppeteer. The words just flowed. “I will make him live. I promise you.”
This time the elf must have heard him because her lips curved into a smile. Her eyes opened, looking up at the pitch-black sky, and with one more gasp of breath, she held it in for a few seconds, her body tensed, and then all the air in her body released in a solid stream.
The elf was gone, her body now just a husk of what it once was.
Suddenly it felt as if the rocky beach became even darker. The thought of the poor mother’s spirit flitting away in the rain and pellets of hail made him shiver, and he couldn’t shake it. His arms broke out in goosebumps and he had to stand to distance himself from the now dead body.
Looking around, he saw that there was a small niche in the rocks up against the cliff face, and he dragged the elf’s body into it. She would be safe there until morning when a full search of the island could commence. There was no chance he could drag her and the baby all the way up to the light, so she would be safe here. The grooves of stone seemed to wrap themselves around her. Emma could help give the woman a proper burial tomorrow. Perhaps they would set up a memorial stone. It seemed only fitting that they should do something for a woman so beautiful and unlike what they’d see on Peaks Isle.
Now he turned to the steep stone stairs cut into the cliff side and focused his attention on the baby bundled against him. The sea water that had drenched the bundle now soaked into his jacket and shirt, and he was eager to get out of the storm and next to a fire. The lighthouse was the closest shelter – their home was halfway across the island and was too far to risk taking the baby who was already wet and freezing. In minutes Kirk was up at the top and closed out the cold, hurrying to set the baby close to the fire.
Loud, piercing wails came from the tiny bundle and echoed around the room. Kirk ran his hands against the bundle, trying to soothe the boy as he prepared to unwrap the blankets and take a look at the damage masked beneath. He didn’t know if the piece of wood that had killed the mother also injured the boy. He shook his head.
Whatever the damage, he had to give the child a fighting chance after promising the dying elf that he would do everything he could.
“Sshh,” he said softly as he reached around the back of the child and tugged at the edge of the cloth. “Sshh, you’re alright now. You’re going to be alright. Let’s see what we have here…”
The boy was much smaller than his and Emma’s own son. Theo was closing in on his second birthday and causing trouble all over the place. This bundle was so small that Kirk thought the child had to be only days old – it was so light. Slowly he peeled the blankets away until he revealed the child’s face –
And he pulled back in horror.
The face was blue! He only looked at it for a split second before diverting his eyes, but the child’s skin was icy blue. Maybe it really was too late to do anything.
But, the boy continued to make crying sounds, something that seemed impossible if he were dying of the cold.
Kirk turned back, giving the child a closer look.
As before, the skin was blue. But, it had a strange texture that Kirk had not seen before. It almost looked reptilian. The child was certainly very young – only days old, as Kirk had suspected. A few tufts of black hair stuck up between two pointed ears that looked goofy on a body so small. The ears were unmistakably elvish, but the rest of the child’s features were a confusing mess. Besides the skin, the child’s nose was not normal. Two slits, much like a reptile’s, replaced normal human and elvish nostrils, giving the child the appearance of being some sort of half-breed.
But, a half-breed of what?
With the wet blankets completely removed, Kirk examined the rest of the child’s body and was pleased to see that it was not injured. He went over to the drawers and pulled out a dry blanket and set it down near the fireplace like a nest, curling the ends into protective buffers so that the child couldn’t roll away. Then he set the boy down in the middle and let him warm up near the flames.
The heat seemed to sooth the child and he reached up a knobby-fingered hand and began sucking on it.
Now with a few moments to think, Kirk looked at the box that the woman had first given him. It was finely made and carried the inscription ‘Evangeline Gracewind’. That must be the woman’s name. It was beautiful as she had been. He glanced down at the baby.
“Well, now we know who your mother was,” he said, setting the box down on the table. “But, who are you, little guy?”
The baby continued sucking his hand, his eyes closed gently. Kirk went over and stroked a finger along the child’s cheek and was thankful to feel warmth returning.
“You’re not what I expected at all,” Kirk went on softly. As the child turned its head towards the voice, Kirk was struck with the notion that the child appeared to be part orc. It was a laughable idea, but the rough blue skin was not seen on any other race that Kirk knew of. “I wonder if your mother was trying to escape with you,” he continued. “That might be likely, if you truly are hers. You’ve come a long way from the north. What’s your name, little guy? Hmm?”
The baby’s eyes slowly opened, and Kirk was struck by the same emerald green that the boy’s mother had worn. The eyes took in the man’s face for the first time, studying. They were innocent. They were peaceful.
Then, before anything else could happen, a soft voice spoke in the back of Kirk’s mind. It sounded unlike any voice he had heard before.
Garrett, the voice said, unmistakable.
“Garrett?” he echoed.
At the sound of the name, the child started to smile. He reached out a tiny hand to Kirk and gripped his finger tightly. Kirk smiled back.
“That must be your name, huh? At least the name your mother wanted for you.” He looked out the windows at the sky, but all he could see was the rain. “Garrett. It suits you.” He picked the child up and held him close to his chest, wrapping the blankets around the tiny frame like a cocoon. Then he took a seat in his chair and stared out at the storm. “I’m going to take care of you, little guy,” he said, patting the child’s back gently. “You’ll be safe here on the island with me and Emma. You might even like Theo, once he grows out of his terrible twos.”
Garrett let out a yawn and then dozed off to sleep, clutching the edges of Kirk’s shirt collar.
Of all the things that could have happened this night, Kirk never expected finding a baby to be one of them.
Death and life, he thought.
But, even through the traumatic experience the child had just been through, he was now sleeping soundly in Kirk’s arms. It felt like it was meant to be. He wasn’t sure how Emma would react to taking in an orc with elvish-tipped ears. But, if he knew his wife at all, it was a sure thing that any infant could melt her heart.
He rocked the baby in the chair for a long time after that, listening to the pounding of the waves down below.
“You’ll be fine now,” he said. “You’ll be fine. Welcome to the Dale family, Garrett.”
* * *
And so there it is – a sample, rough chapter. What awaits Garrett as he comes of age? You’ll have to wait to find out.
Of course, there will be more updates as I get closer and closer to a finished product, but this is a good start. There is a lot of work to do ahead, but if you like what you see, any word of mouth will be greatly appreciated!
To all my fellow writers working on their own fantasies, I wish you all the best! It’s such an exciting genre to work in, and I’ve enjoyed every moment since this story grabbed hold of me.