Lockwood Tower Excerpt – Chapter Two

I will soon be publishing Lockwood Tower on Kindle, and thought it was a great time to give a better sneak peek at what the book will be like. I originally posted a first draft of the prologue, but things have developed significantly since those many months ago.

I offer up Chapter Two because it gives a good few scenes involving the hero of my story, Garrett Dale, who is a half-breed orc with elvish heritage. As you can imagine, he is very self-conscious about his looks and not unfamiliar with prejudice. Luckily for him, he has his older brother, Theo, with him this time. Anyway, I think that’s enough preamble from me. I look forward to unleashing my entire book out into the ether.

My cover is still being tinkered with, but that will be done shortly. I will be sure to post it on the blog once it’s done (the rough versions have all exceeded my expectations)! So, as a placeholder, I did a mock-up welcome sign for Greenleaf Academy, the spell-casters school that my hero enrolls in. Enjoy!

Greenleaf Academy

Chapter Two:


<>The seaside town of Castlederg was a beautiful place to behold. Originally the capitol of southern Allagash, it was bad luck that brought war to its doorstep years ago. Kirk spoke of the War of the Waves whenever Theo complained about how routine life on Peaks Isle was. “I’d take routine over warfare any day,” he said.
<>Giants from Magog sailed down in a fleet and tried to ambush the men and women asleep in the town. They hurled flaming rocks at the castle and the rest of the settlement and managed to destroy a good portion of it before the men could retaliate.
<>But, all was not lost. In a lucky turn of events a squall came in from the Moran Sea and smashed the giants’s ships against the bluffs. Many were drowned in the deep waters. Fishermen from Castlederg were known to dredge up giant bones with their catch every once in a while.
<>Emma said the Guardian was with humanity that day, and without the squall, the city and probably even Peaks Isle would belong to the giants. Instead the giants retreated north and hadn’t been seen since. Magog was claimed by the orcs and renamed Muir, which it remained to this day.
<>The castle on the cliff was reduced to a shadow of its former self.
<>Only the foundation remained, looking out forlornly across the sea. The rest of the castle was reduced to rubble that was eventually carried off by the townspeople and used to build up the breakwater that Garrett and Theo sailed by to get to the docks.
<>Theo tied off the boat and gave the ropes a good yank to be sure that their little vessel wouldn’t go anywhere while they were away. Once it was secure, Garrett followed his brother up onto the boardwalk that led them to the promenade.
<>Garrett was imagining the great squall smashing the giants against the cliffside when Theo reached out and tugged at his arm.
<>“Come on!” he said. “We have to hurry, or the post office will be closed!” He dropped a coin into the collection box to pay for their docking fee and quickened his pace down the cobblestoned promenade. Garrett had to run to catch up. He was busy fixing the hood over his head. It was tricky to get the strings beneath his chin to stay tied. He let out a groan and started over, calling ahead to his brother.
<>“We still have a half hour before the post office closes! Hold up, will you?”
<>“Can’t,” Theo called back. “We’re on an urgent mission, remember?”
<>Then he was off.
<>Garrett fumbled with the strings once more and at last managed to get them to tie into a bow. He double knotted it just in case and then set off after his brother.
<>All along the streets were groups of people milling about. Fabric stalls were erected on the right side of the road closest to the water. The opposite side was a continuous wall of buildings that looked like a hodgepodge of different designs all glued together. These places were selling multitudes of interesting things. One was selling handmade scarves in brilliant reds and greens. Another stand had baskets of fresh fruit of all kinds. Garrett’s mouth watered as he passed by green apples, nectarines, and even dark purple grapes that glistened with moisture. He even walked past an open doorway to a bakery and smelled cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla frosting.
<>Garrett wished he could stop and grab something to eat. But, Theo paid no attention to the stalls. He weaved in and out of the groups of people like an assassin, heading all the way to the far end of the pier where the post office was situated.
<>The Castlederg post office occupied the first floor of a tall, three-story high building made of dark gray stone. Large bay-style windows trimmed with green paint curved out towards the sidewalk and a fancy wooden sign matched the window paint with gold lettering.
<>A bell tinkled overhead as Theo and Garrett entered. The bustling noise of the waterfront’s business was muffled once the door closed and a peaceful quiet washed over the place. Garrett felt like he could finally catch his breath.
<>Behind the tall counter stood Rufus Levitt, the post master. He was a very thin man with a shock of brilliantly white hair. His pointy nose was pressed against a ledger which he examined obsessively.
<>“We’re closing shortly,” he said, not looking up.
<>“Don’t worry,” Theo replied. “I promise we won’t be long.”
<>Levitt looked up at the sound of Theo’s voice. His eyebrows were arched so high on his forehead that they nearly disappeared into his hairline.
<>“Well if it isn’t Theo Dale!” he said as Garrett handed Theo the package and the stack of letters from his pack. “This is certainly an unexpected surprise!” He shook Theo’s hand vigorously, almost causing him to drop what he was holding.
<>Theo placed the items on the counter along with the coins to pay for postage, then shoved his hands into his pockets.
<>“It’s good to see you, Mr. Levitt,” he said with a nod.
<>“I haven’t laid eyes on you in months,” Levitt went on, appraising Theo with a flourish of his hand. “How did you ever get Emma to let you leave the island? Kirk’s not with you, is he?”
<>“No,” Theo answered. “But, I’ve got Garrett with me. So, no funny business.”
<>Levitt turned his attention now to Garrett who was standing a few steps back, still wearing his hood.
<>“Garrett. Of course it’s you! Getting cold out, isn’t it?” He motioned to the cloak that Garrett wore and then rubbed his upper arms a few times.
<>Garrett nodded slightly and muttered, “Hello.”
<>“Never mind the cloak,” Theo said, brushing the subject off. “He got a horrible sunburn yesterday, so Emma made him wear the hood. You know how she is.”
<>“Oh, understandable,” said Levitt. “Understandable. The weather’s certainly been touchy. Normally it’s not this cold until weeks from now. But, even with the chill, you wouldn’t think the sun could still burn you to a crisp, right? All that air from the north, though. I don’t know how the orcs and giants can stand it year round. Absolutely freezing!” He shook his head then picked up the envelopes, looking them over briefly before moving on to the package. “Now, what’s all this we have here?”
<>“Emma’s been meaning to send those letters for ages,” Theo explained. “She finally finished them up, so there they are. The package is the important thing. Those are receipts for the town offices. Dad said there was a deadline, so they couldn’t wait.”
<>“Did he indeed?” Levitt pressed his lips together and shook his head. “No doubt your father’s been getting a lot of kickback about the shipping taxes going up?”
<>Theo rolled his eyes. “If I had a gold coin for every time I heard someone make a snide remark about the checkpoint fee I’d have a bucket of gold coins. Do they think the lighthouse is going to fund itself?”
<>“Yes, well,” Levitt said as he stamped the package and moved it into a bin of more packages. “If there was no lighthouse then the ships would be smashed to bits every time a storm blew in. They’d really be up in arms then, wouldn’t they?”
<>Garrett listened to the conversation while he looked around at the office. It felt like an ancient place. He wished he could rip open the stacks of letters and read them all, but there was no way that would ever happen. He wondered what people had to say to each other. What was going on in other parts of the world?
<>He never got any letters. In a way he was envious of people who had someone that wrote to them.
<>“Well, these are all set,” said Levitt as he returned his attention to his ledger. “Do you want a receipt?”
<>“Please,” said Theo, and Levitt set about scratching the details onto a thin piece of parchment. He blew on the ink for a moment before handing it over.
<>“What are you boys up to now? You’re not heading right back to the island are you?”
<>“No,” said Theo. “We’re going to grab something to eat over at Ridley’s if it’s not too crowded.”
<>“That sounds like an excellent idea,” said Levitt, absentmindedly rubbing his stomach. “I wish I could join you, but I’ll still be here for probably another hour. You boys take a break and have a great time – and don’t forget to say hello to your parents for me!”
<>Garrett and Theo were just stepping onto the doorstep when suddenly Levitt called out to them.
<>“Oh, boys – wait!”
<>They both turned back to see Levitt holding a hand up for them. Theo walked over to the counter while Levitt rummaged through a box of envelopes, muttering nonsense to himself.
<>“I knew I was forgetting something. It’s here somewhere…” There was more rummaging, then finally, “Aha! Here we are. This was posted earlier for your father. I was going to send it with the morning shipment, but since you’re here you can save me a trip.”
<>He held out a squarish envelope with dark blue lettering on the front. The words were written in a hand that neither Theo nor Garrett recognized. Perhaps it was from a new town councilor. They received a few introductory letters the past few months. The councilors never had to be reminded to make sure every person in the area knew that they were appointed.
<>Theo paid the letter no more attention than a brief glance before stuffing it into his pocket. They both thanked the post master and bid farewell, stepping back onto the street.
<>“Amazing,” said Theo as they passed by rows of shops. “See? Our job was done in no time.”
<>“If by no time you mean a handful of hours,” Garrett teased.
<>This got a laugh out of Theo. “At any rate,” he went on, “we can now kick back and have some fun before heading back.”
<>Garrett’s stomach growled fiercely.
<>“I hope this fun involves something good to eat?” he asked.
<>“Something good to eat,” Theo agreed, “and a drink to wash it all down.”

Ridley’s Pub was as famous for its warm atmosphere as it was for its dark brews and hot chowders. There was never a time when the place wasn’t filled with friendly talk and at least a handful of the seats taken by hungry folks.
<>Garrett and Theo walked in during the lull when the lunch rush was over and the staff were preparing for dinner. This meant that they had a good selection of seats to choose from. Theo never failed to want a seat at the bar, so the two boys wove their way between circular tables and groups of men – and even a few women – finally grabbing seats at the long bar.
<>The husky bartender was busy cleaning glasses. He didn’t know Garrett or Theo by name, but he recognized Theo at least and gave him a nod.
<>“What are you thirsty for, lads?”
<>Garrett let Theo take the lead on ordering. He had no idea what was what. He’d only tried a few different things that Kirk kept around the house. Those were mostly dark brews from Sorrell. However, Theo was more of an alcohol enthusiast and answered the bartender immediately.
<>“Two hard ciders, please. And a basket of fries.”
<>“You’ve got it,” the bartender replied.
<>Within a few moments there were two curved glasses filled with a honey colored liquid in front of the boys, followed by a steamy basket of salty fries sprinkled with vinegar. The cider bubbled with carbonation.
<>Theo paid the man out of his pocket and picked up his glass. He raised his glass and held it towards Garrett.
<>“Here’s to an awesome adventure,” he said.
<>Garrett picked up his own glass, with the condensation cold against his hand, and he clinked it against his brother’s.
<>“Cheers,” he said. “To staying out of trouble!”
<>Theo, who was mid-gulp when Garrett said this, choked on his cider.
<>“You always – hrrrmmm – worry too much!” he said.
<>“I’ll work on it,” Garrett replied, then tipped the glass to his lips and puckered them when the tartness of the cider hit his tongue. His molars stung and his jaw clenched with a sharp breath. “Wow, that’s sour!” he said.
<>“I know,” Theo grinned. “I like it like that. It’s fresh from the orchards in Calais, or at least it tastes like it’s fresh. Sour or not, it’s still a lot better than the stuff that Kirk likes.”
<>“Mmm-hmm,” agreed Garrett, picturing the incredibly dark brews that sat on a shelf in the Dale kitchen. He took another sip of his cider and was glad to find the taste not as shocking the second time around. Soon he was halfway through his glass and decided to savor the rest. He focused his attention on the fries. The basket was soon half empty.
<>Now that the boys were settled they had a chance to look around. The place was filled with rich colors of dark wood and stone, dotted by candlelight every few feet. Large windows let in the remainder of the ambient light, and Garrett was disappointed that there were only a few hours left before nightfall. They would be long gone from the pub before then.
<>Assorted pictures decorated the walls, along with sketches and old notices from the area. A few were advertisements for odd jobs. One farmer asked for help digging a tunnel under the bay that would bridge Castlederg to Portsmouth to save on shipping costs. This proposal obviously didn’t get any takers. Garrett wondered if it was just a joke, thinking that Kirk wouldn’t be too happy to lay eyes on the notice.
<>When it came to the paintings, many were so realistic that Garrett felt like he was looking through a window onto the actual scenes being depicted. Some paintings depicted great ships that were dismantled in the harbor long ago. A few portraits of leaders with ribboned hair tied back as if it would spring forth and attack otherwise made Garrett smirk. He wondered what it was like to be one of these great men, in charge of so much. <>Many of the men were decorated with badges of honor on their chests.
<>“Check out that one over there,” said Theo, pointing to a large canvas on the far wall.
Garrett leaned to the left and laid eyes on a painting of the Castlederg coast and the giants being beaten down by the storm. One of them was painted being dashed against the rocks with his face twisted in pain.
<>Garrett swallowed his cider noisily.
<>“Can you imagine it?” asked Theo.
<>Garrett looked to his brother. “Imagine what?” he replied. His brother’s eyes twinkled.
“Giants. Great massive men standing in the surf outside.” He glanced out the window as the wind picked up, toying with bits of paper from a nearby stand across the way. “Kirk told me that they were more than twice his size.”
<>Indeed, the giants had to be ridiculously tall to be able to wade so far away from the beaches. Garrett wasn’t an amazing swimmer, but he did remember nearly drowning on a day trip once. One minute he was wading out about waist high, then the next step there was nothing beneath his foot. He lost his balance and fell beneath the water, nearly drowning before Kirk pulled him out by the scruff of his neck. That was one of the last times that the family had a swimming outing at the beaches. For a giant to be able to tower above the water…
<>Theo continued. “Kirk also told me that things could have been a lot worse that night.”
<>“How so?” asked Garrett, forgetting about the rest of his cider now. His brother hunched over the bar and looked over at him.
<>“He said that if the giants had brought over the dragons, the city would have been wiped off the map in an instant.”
<>“Dragons?” Garrett shook his head. If Theo thought he was going to impress Garrett with horror stories with dragons in them, he was going to be disappointed. Even as gullible as he was, Garrett knew that dragons only existed in stories. Nobody had ever truly seen one. He tried to laugh it off. “If you’re trying to scare me, you’ll have to do better than that.”
<>“It doesn’t matter if you’re scared by it or not,” said Theo. “Kirk said that when the battle was over, the giants returned to get their dragons and finish the job they started…but the dragons had all disappeared. Nobody knows where they went. For all we know, they could be sleeping beneath the very floor we’re sitting on this very moment.”
<>Suddenly a glass shattered. The sound made Garrett jump in his seat, and Theo jumped a little as well. Behind them someone had knocked their goblet from the table and now it was a million tiny pieces on the floor. A few people laughed, but a shiver ran down <>Garrett’s arms and he clenched his hand around his cold, dripping cider glass.
<>“Let’s talk about something else,” he said. “This is a little too creepy for me.”
<>“It’s a little too creepy for me, and I’m the one making up the stories!” Theo agreed. <>“Alright, that’s enough. We’ll be on the water soon. We don’t need any bad luck to follow us.” He downed the rest of his cider and slid his chair back. “I’m going to hit the head, and then I’ll met you out front, alright?”
<>Garrett nodded and his brother disappeared in the sea of people and tables.
<>Only a few minutes later, Garrett finished his glass and got to his feet. The room tilted slightly and he had to catch his balance with the effects of the fermented drink. Perhaps it would have been better to eat more than just fries before drinking, but there was still time for that later at home. He was only a little tipsy, and he made his way out onto the front walk where he waited for Theo.
<>Garrett crossed his arms and tapped his foot a few times on the cobblestones. What worried him was that if Theo went missing or stumbled into trouble, Garrett would have no idea where to look for him or what to do. He was completely out of his own depth on the mainland.
<>He glanced across the way at a fountain that dribbled water into a large basin, filled with old coins that people had thrown in for good luck. The sound of the water didn’t do much to comfort him.
<>His mind was overreacting about what would happen if his brother never returned (such a silly idea) when Theo grabbed his shoulder with a laugh.
<>“Were you getting worried?” Theo asked.
<>Garrett sighed heavily with a roll of his eyes.
<>“What took you so long?”
<>His expression must have been ridiculous because Theo laughed once more.
<>“I told you I’d only be gone a few minutes,” he said. “You worry too much. If you have to know, there was a line for the bathroom about a mile long.”
<>“That explains it,” said Garrett. “Can we go now?”
<>“Of course. It will take us a little while to row back, but that should give us enough time to shake off our cider.” Theo winked. “Remember, not a word to Mom.”
<>Garrett shook his head. “Don’t you mean ‘mum’?” he said with a mischievous smile. Theo clapped him on the shoulder.
<>“Let’s go.”
<>They started back towards the docks when suddenly a man stepped out of the pub and directly into their path. They crashed into him head-first. Theo managed to jump back quickly, but Garrett got the full brunt of the man and was nearly knocked off his feet. His hood started to come off and he caught it quickly with his fingertips.
<>The man was massive. His light red hair was cropped closely to his scalp, and the rest of his rough fur ran down the sides of his face, collecting in a great patch of stubble around his mouth. He flexed his arms menacingly and it looked to Garrett like the man’s clothes were going to tear under the strain. He growled as more people exited the pub behind him.
<>“Watch where you’re going, you little twits!” he said.
<>“Sorry!” said Theo. “We didn’t see you step outside.”
<>“Well, maybe you should open your eyes,” the man growled back.
<>Garrett stepped over to his brother and tugged his hood down a little farther over his eyes. The man noticed him anyway.
<>“What are you doing wearing a hood like that around here? Are you a thief?”
<>The man’s gaze seemed to penetrate Garrett’s disguise like a dagger, and Garrett shook his head.
<>“No,” he answered. “I’m not a thief. Just cold, that’s all.”
<>“Heh,” said the man, stepping forward. He peered beneath Garrett’s hood and his eyes widened for a moment when he took in the orc features. He stepped back quickly as if Garrett were giving off a horrible stench. “Not just because of the cold,” he said. “You’re trying to hide your ugly orc face, aren’t you?”
<>Thankfully Theo wasn’t letting the situation get any worse than it already was, and he stepped in front of his brother, to Garett’s relief.
<>“He didn’t mean any trouble,” Theo said, staring directly into the man’s eyes. “We’ll be on our way, if that’s alright with you.”
<>“Well, trouble seems to have found you, hasn’t it?” the man said in a booming voice that caused the people leaving the pub to stop and watch. “Bringing orcs into this city. What a disgrace! Do you know who I am?” He looked back and forth from Garrett to Theo – mostly at Theo since he had stepped in the middle.
<>“No, I don’t,” answered Theo. “And I don’t know if I care to.”
<>The man reached out and jabbed a finger against Theo’s chest.
<>“Well, you’re going to know,” he said. “I’m Marcus Chafe, and I’ve lived here in this city my entire life. I even fight for it when I need to, and right now I think I need to do a little fighting to teach you both something that seems to go unnoticed. But, not by me.” He tapped on his chest a few times, his stare as serious as someone at a funeral. “Not by me. You see, this place has always been run by men – good men and women – trying to bring their children into the world. Trying to keep their jobs and hone their craft, maybe saving enough to live comfortably.” His eyes darted to Garrett. “But, more and more I see strange folk coming here. Maybe it’s happening in the capitol as well, but, all I know is you’re not welcome here.”
<>The onlookers quieted down as Marcus’s voice got louder and louder. He became more and more passionate – no doubt helped along by the alcohol he’d consumed. The audience certainly seemed to help as well.
<>“I know what you’re trying to do,” Marcus went on. “You’re trying to take what’s ours. You want our jobs. Our food. Pretty soon your kind is going to try showing up like they did in the past and want our homes! It might not be by force this time – not with giants, but they will try anything. Don’t think we aren’t paying attention.”
<>A few people muttered in agreement. Garrett felt his knees begin to shake as the eyes piled onto him, staring like lines of burning light that threatened to torch him right there. <>The hood didn’t do much to protect him now. If only he was on the boat heading back home!
<>Breath shot from Marcus’s nostrils.
<>“We’re not turning into a welfare city,” he said. “I’m telling you that right now, orc. There’s no home for you here. You best go back where you came from and tell your family to stay there as well.”
<>Suddenly someone pushed their way through the crowd with a shocked cry.
<>Mr. Levitt’s eyes widened as he took in the scene. He hurried over to Marcus with his arms outstretched and trembling.
<>“Marcus, stop this at once!” he said. “These boys aren’t trouble makers. Do you know who they are? These are Kirk Dale’s sons!”
<>Marcus sniffed.
<>“Maybe the human one. The orc’s just lucky. Dale’s another welfare supporter.” He pressed his tongue against his bottom lip. “He’s the one who found you. You know that, orc? He’s the one who brought you inside.”
<>Garrett stood on the street, motionless. A glare fixed on his face at the tone this man used when he spoke about Kirk.
<>The crowd seemed to be holding its collective breath. Suddenly Marcus stepped away from Mr. Levitt and walked forward, bypassing Theo and closing the gap between himself and Garrett. He stared down at him.
<>“He was brave to take you in,” said Marcus. “I’ll give him that. But, your kind is more trouble than it’s worth. Everyone knows it. You know what I would have done if I had found you on that beach?”
<>Garrett crossed his arms.
<>“No,” he said. “What would you have done?”
<>In an instant, Marcus lashed out with his arm and grabbed Garrett by the collar, nearly lifting him off his feet. He pulled Garrett close until their noses were mere inches apart, and Garrett could smell the man’s horrible breath.
<>“I would have thrown you back into the ocean,” Marcus answered with narrowed eyes.
<>Then, before anyone could move, he threw Garrett backwards.
<>Garrett’s arms flailed as they tried to catch onto anything that would stop him, but there was nothing around. The thought of landing on his head flitted briefly through his mind, but then his legs caught on the lip of the stone fountain behind him and he tumbled head over heels into the dirty water. He barely heard the shocked cries and laughter from the onlookers before water filled his ears and cloaked everything with a far-off, hollow sound. Water went up his nose and stung his sinuses.
<>As he got to his feet, a few people clapped. He spluttered and brushed his hair out of his eyes, and Theo hurried over to help him out of the fountain.
<>Marcus stood with his arms stretched out, welcoming the cheers from a few people. Most of the onlookers were indifferent, however, and two or three were already walking away from the scene.
<>“Let’s get out of here,” said Theo as he put a hand under Garrett’s arm to support him. <>But, Garrett wasn’t paying attention. Instead a horrible flare of anger raged in his belly and shot up to his shoulders and temples.
<>He was soaked and would be lucky to dry off by the time they made it back to the island.
<>Marcus laughed.
<>He needs to pay for this, thought Garrett.
<>Theo tried to move him along, but suddenly Garrett’s feet seemed to stick to the ground as if they were nailed there. His eyes narrowed and locked on Marcus.
<>“Garrett, what are you doing?” asked Theo.
<>Garrett didn’t answer. Instead he focused on the boastful man, his eyes never leaving <>Marcus’s gleeful face.
<>A pressure began to build behind Garrett’s eyes. It started in his sinuses and spread out to his temples and ears. His arms trembled and his hands clenched into fists.
<>“Garrett!” said Theo, urgently this time.
<>Suddenly the sound of the fountain behind Garrett came to an abrupt halt and all eyes turned to it.
<>The water in the basin collected into a cylinder that stretched into the air like a serpent. It was as if two invisible hands were molding the water into a massive, rippling column. The tip of the cylinder reached over the lip of the basin and forked into two streams. In the blink of an eye they wrapped around Marcus and yanked him forwards.
<>Marcus cried out before he was pulled head-first into the basin. His body made a loud slap against what water remained in the fountain, and he caught his forehead on the side, knocking him out cold.
<>The pressure behind Garrett’s eyes disappeared when Theo squeezed his arm. He blinked.
<>“What just happened?” he muttered, but Theo wasn’t listening.
<>“Let’s go!” he said as the crowd swarmed around Marcus. Off to the side, Mr. Levitt gave the two of them a brief wave. Then Garrett and Theo raced to the dock and didn’t stop until they were safely out at sea.
<>They rowed for about ten minutes before Theo spoke up.
<>“Did you see that back there?” he asked.
<>“See it?” said Garrett, pulling back on his oars. “I think I did it.”
<>“Stop being so dramatic,” Theo replied, his gaze set firmly out to sea. “How could you have possibly done something like that?”
<>Garrett wasn’t going to be brushed off so dismissively.
<>“No – I mean it. You know strange things happen around me when I’m stressed. That water lifted out of the fountain because I made it happen…somehow.”
<>Theo didn’t want to hear any of this. Usually he pretended that everything was fine, but this time, stuck on a small row boat with Garrett, he couldn’t pretend that nothing had happened. Theo set down his oars in their grooves and reached into his jacket.
<>Garrett blinked. “What are you doing?” he asked.
<>Theo held up a finger as he gripped whatever was in his jacket pocket and then pulled it out. It was a small, rectangular package.
<>“Here,” he said, handing the package over to Garrett. It was wrapped in forest green paper and tied with twine.
<>Garrett looked up at his brother with a furrowed brow.
<>“What’s this for?” he asked.
<>“Don’t be so predictable, Garrett!” Theo laughed. “That package is the reason I left you alone in front of the pub for so long. I actually feel a little guilty about it now. It’s your birthday present. From me.”
<>“My birthday…”
<>Garrett had honestly forgotten about it.
<>The date wasn’t exactly his real birthday. Nobody knew the exact date that he was born. <>But, it was indeed the anniversary of the night that he was found by Kirk on the beach. <>That had been August 30th, sixteen years ago.
<>Looking up at the darkening sky, Garrett let out a single chuckle as he realized that in a few hours, the anniversary would be exact.
<>“I can’t believe you forgot your own birthday,” said Theo, picking up his oars and rowing once again.
<>“Well…” Garrett didn’t really know what to say. He wasn’t expecting anything at all from this trip besides a drink with his brother. He tucked his fingers beneath the lip of the paper and started to tear it open. “You know, it’s just the date that I was found,” he said.
<>“So that makes it unimportant?” asked Theo, leaning back in his seat. His gaze never left Garrett. “That’s the date that I got a brother, and I say we should celebrate it like it’s meant to be celebrated.” After that, he looked away with a guilty smile. “Besides, Emma set this whole thing up so that you’d be out of the house long enough for her to get your party all set up. Well? What are you waiting for? Open your present before I do it for you!”
<>Garrett took off the rest of the twine and continued peeling the paper back.
<>“You don’t want me to wait till later?” he asked.
<>Theo shook his head. “This one’s just from me to you. It’s kind of personal, so it might be better to open it now anyway.”
<>At the sound of that, Garrett was more intrigued than before. He finished unwrapping the fancy paper and marveled at a book bound in dark red leather with gold trimming. <>When he lifted the cover he saw the title: Dragon Island.
<>“Is this for real?” he asked, a smile on his face. “I’m really holding this book in my hands?”
<>“It’s real, all right,” said Theo.
<>Garrett ran his hand along the cover, feeling the soft finish of the leather. The pages smelled crisp and new.
<>“How did you ever find this?” he asked, flipping through the book. He’d been dying to read Dragon Island ever since Kirk regaled the family with a brief anecdote from it over dinner. It turned out that the story was part of the book that Garrett now held in his hands, though Kirk had lost his own copy years ago. The story was the only one he could remember off the top of his head. Now he could read it in its entirety.
<>“I had one special ordered,” Theo explained. “I didn’t know you could do that. But, the woman who runs the library in Castlederg said that it was possible. She wouldn’t order one for the library, but she could order one for me to buy. I was just running to pick up the book earlier and pay her back. Did you expect it?”
<>“I didn’t even remember my own birthday,” he said. “How would I have ever expected something like this?”
<>“So, you like it?” Theo raised an eyebrow.
<>“I love it.” Taking one last look at the book, Garrett placed it safely in his bag and helped with the rowing. They were getting close to home. “You said Emma’s planning me a party?” he asked after a few moments.
<>“She is indeed. Probably just a cake and a few presents.”
<>“Do me a favor and don’t mention anything about what happened back there,” said Garrett.
<>This made Theo laugh. “Do me a favor and pretend to be surprised!” he said with a wink.
<>Garrett rolled his eyes.
<>“I’m full of secrets today, aren’t I?” he said.


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