excerpt from Initiate, book one, chapter one of draft two
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I was sitting on the edge of my bed, staring out the window with unseeing eyes, lost deep in a daydream.
The mighty warrior Aidene, Princess of the Dragonheart clan, released a hoarse cry as she slew another foe with her shining sword. Pausing to catch her breath, she wished dearly that she might rest. But though they were winning, it would never do to back out now. It had been a long, hard battle, each step won dearly through sweat and blood, and Aidene would not rest when her soldiers could not.
A faint smile crept to my lips. This was gonna be so cool.
With a deep intake of breath, Aidene lifted her sword to rush into battle once more, when a distant rumbling shook the sky. It grew quickly until it shook the very earth, bringing the fighting to standstill. A faint roar of rage and triumph sounded, and the fearless Aidene blanched.
Oh no, we’re too late!
The smile grew to a grin as I absently tossed the lump of wood I had been fidgeting with from hand to hand.
The roar grew to a deafening crescendo as an enormous dragon exploded from the earth, showering dirt upon all within a quarter of a mile. The ground shook so as Aidene fell to her knees, gazing in awe and despair at the creature, larger than one could imagine, muscles rippling beneath sharp black scales and wings that blotted out the sky.
They were too late.
The Dark Dragon had been awakened.
It was an odd lump, a gnarled root twisted round and melded into itself, surface smooth as glass from years of small hands rubbing it, running sticky fingers through creases and cracks, following the woodgrain in its endless looping maze.
The dragon roared again, revealing teeth impossibly white, eyes yellow and cruel. The dragon began to gleefully sow destruction, killing all in his wake, and Aidene clambered to her feet. They may have failed to prevent his awakening, but now this monster must be killed. If not, the entire world would fall to his claws and fire.
Mama had used it for years to keep fidgety toddlers occupied during car rides, long church services, and waits in doctor and dentist offices. I myself had outgrown the need for it, but I still liked to play with it when I could.
The air was filled with blood, gore and screams as the ground continued to shake. The dragon took no notice of the small, lone figure sprinting towards him, intent as he was in the carnage. Aidene summoned the last of her strength and jumped, sword flashing as she descended…
The cracks in the wood grain were the perfect size for my fingers, and I absently traced them as I daydreamed.
With a yell she drove her sword deep into a chink between scales, peircing the tender flesh beneath. The dragon bellowed, writhing at the sting, and Aidene was flung far, crashing into the ground with a heavy thud, knocking loose her breath.
Where is my sword?
There it was, still buried deep within the dragon’s foot. Aidene got up, wincing, and started to run, darting from cover to cover as the great dragon continued to thrash.
She was almost there, she was going to make it!
But no, the dragon saw her, or smelled her perhaps, and turned, fast, too fast. She was defenseless, still in the open, the dragon’s talons were slicing towards her and there was nowhere to run—
A small cracking sound, and the wood in my hands shifted— in two different directions.
I froze, daydream vishing as I looked down at my hands, almost afraid of what I would see. Had I broken it? My hands had lined up while I wasn’t paying attention, fingers nestled snugly in shallow grooves, smoother patches cupped in my palms. And now it had a sizable crack right in the center, making my heart sink with horror.
It was just a lump of wood, but I liked this lump of wood, and so did my siblings. And now I’d broken it. Me, the oldest and supposedly most responsible, had broken something when I wasn’t paying attention again—
Wait a minute…
My sorrow gave way to confusion. If it really was cracked, I should see my scuffed, pale knees, or the faded purple of my bedspread, but instead I saw green. Bright green, like new grass. Weird.
Curious now, I risked tugging on it, and it expanded rapidly, so fast I yelped a little and dropped it. It hit the carpet with a soft thump, now a large, jagged shape about three feet long, maybe two feet wide at the center and tapering into points. I leaned over the edge of my bed to take a better look.
The border was still the wood, but the center was now completely filled by a picture of a beautiful clearing, new grass with patches of blue and yellow wildflowers, trees in the distance, and a pastel dawn fading to blue. It seemed to be in the mountains somewhere. I nudged my glasses out of the way to rub my eyes and blinked hard. Was I dreaming? Was I sick? Had I fallen asleep?
I frowned. Now the grass was moving. Great.
It swayed gently to a light breeze, and I could have sworn I caught a whiff of fresh air. I glanced at the door to my room, shut for once, but didn’t hear anything that sounded like anyone approaching. I almost wished someone would, either to join me in puzzling what this was or assure me I wasn’t crazy. I slid off the edge of the bed, dropping neatly to kneel on the carpet, and gingerly prodded the thing. Nothing happened but it slid a little on a carpet, so I picked it up, careful to only touch the narrow wooden frame.
I held it before my face at arm’s length, puzzling, turning in different directions to watch the scene inside stay stationary. I flipped it around, to see what the back looked like, and was surprised that I could look right through it to the wall. I set it back down again, propping it up against my younger sister’s bed, which was right across from mine. What to do now?
Touch it, duh.
Hmm. Might be risky. Had no idea what this was, after all. It could be like a laser, and I get my fingers burned off. Or it might forcibly suck me in as soon as I touched it, or a myriad of other possibilities. Anything could happen, everything was on the table of possibilities.
But then again, I won’t know until I try it.
I chewed my lip, rocking back and forth as I wavered. I cautiously extended my hand, then yanked it back, switching to my left hand instead, which I could afford to lose if everything went south, prepared to draw back as soon as I felt anything off.
Nothing. Everything felt fine, my hand slipped in smoothly without any resistance, I peered around the side of the, portal, I suppose, and couldn’t see my hand from the other side. It has vanished into the crack.
“Woah.” I sat back forward again and saw my hand chilling in the open air. I could feel the light breeze on my palm, and the fresh scent of wildflowers and dewy grass had grown stronger. I could faintly hear running water, though I couldn’t see it. I withdrew my hand, excitement mounting. This was right out of a book, and I was so down for it.
The faint sound of the front door opening, my dad’s booming announcement of his return—only slightly muffled— the answering hollar of joy, and the fear flared back. I snatched up the portal, shoved, and it folded up neatly with a snap. I stuck it under a stuffed animal, scrambling to my feet to follow the small stampede which had just passed, shaking my door in its hinges.
A turn to the right and a few skipping steps brought me to the living room, where my dad stood just inside the door, children hanging off every limb.
“Hi Dad!” I added to the din, crashing through a few siblings to get a hug.
“Hey sweetheart!” He planted a kiss on the top of my head, one hand ruffling my hair, the other raising a plastic grocery bag out of the reach of one of my brothers, who was hanging from his elbow. “Guess what I brought you little hooligans?”
“Do we get to eat it now?” squealed my sister, Grace.
“Absolutely,” Dad replied. “Aidene, serve it up before it gets too melty.” He passed me the bag with its frosty treasure and Dad was left alone as my siblings detached themselves from him in an instant to follow me with a whoop of joy. “Don’t go overboard and leave some for your mother and I!” his last instructions followed us as we streamed past Mama for the kitchen.
I plunked the bag on the counter, crumpling down the sides to pry the lid from the tub while my siblings swarmed over the kitchen, retrieving bowls and trying to find the ice cream scoop.
“Logan, make sure you get a bowl for Ada while you’re up there, she can’t reach,” I instructed.
“‘Deeeeeeeene I can’t find the ice cream scoop!” Ethan wailed.
“Check the drawer next to the sink,” Grace suggested.
“Did you check inside the sink?”
“It’s okay,” I interjected before it turned into a fight. “just get me a big spoon then, no not that big, yeah that’s good.”
“‘Dene!” a small hand urgently slapped the side of my hip, the highest point she could reach. “Eyeshweem! Wan eyeshweem!”
“Serving you up right now Ada, be patient.” She shrieked with joy, growing inhumanely shriller when I handed her the plastic bowl I had just filled. Grace hurried to give her a spoon, but she had already stuck her fingers deep into the melting chocolate lump with a giggle. Oh well, she would have done it eventually. Three more bowls were eagerly shoved towards me, and kept returning after I knocked them away with my elbow. “LOGAN NEXT you know the drill, youngest first.” Grace and Ethan knew this perfectly well, and subsided with minimal grumbling while I filled their bowls. First Logan, then Ethan, Grace, and finally my own.
“Take it outside,” Mama instructed, and herded us out onto the front porch, where the weathered boards would be unbothered by a little melted ice cream.
It was a hot day for the end of April, sunshine filtering slowly through the thick air, muggy from yesterday’s downpour. I eyed the porch railing, considering sitting on it, but decided against it. I might be able to keep my perch without falling or dropping my ice cream, but most of my siblings would not, and would still insist on trying if they saw my success. I settled for the porch swing, Ada scrambling up beside me, getting sticky fingerprints on the cushion’s new slipcovers, while Grace and the boys settled on the front steps.
It was quiet for a few minutes, save for the sounds of spoons scraping plastic, the whining creak of the porch swing as I gently rocked, soft chicken cluckings from in the back, a few frogs out farther, and the occasional car passing in the distance. It was too early for cicadas, and the frogs would speak up later in the day once it got darker and a little cooler.
My gaze absently wandered over the overgrown yard, patchy with dandelions and clover, trees full of new leaves already limp in the heat, a rogue chicken scratching in the ditch near the road. My hair was already sticking to my forehead and neck, spoon stuck to my fingers, backs of my bare legs sticking to the edge of the paint chipped swing. My siblings’ faces were as flushed as mine felt, Ada and Ethan’s hair starting to curl in the humidity.
What I would give for a breeze just now.
My mind wandered back to the glimpse I’d seen and felt just earlier, the fresh sunrise in the mountains, wildflowers dancing in a cool breeze.
How on earth was that even real? I wondered. How does it all fit? How does it work? But more importantly, how big is it? How far could I go? Is it like, a little pocket dimension stuck in a case that is much smaller on the outside? Or is it a portal to someplace else on earth, somewhere in the mountains, and a different time zone, so the sun is just rising there. Or did it go someplace not on earth? An entirely different world? Like Narnia, or Middle Earth? That would be so cool. Would it be the same place if I opened it again, or would it show somewhere different? I licked my spoon thoughtfully. Anything was on the table, after all.
My thoughts were stuck in a loop, spinning the same words over and over, poking and nagging. So many questions, but no answers! It was infuriating. I kicked the floor a little harder in frustration, scuffing my bare toes and jolting the swing. Ada squealed as she tottered, thrown off balance, and I nudged her shoulder back with my elbow to steady her. “Sorry,” I said, but she just laughed, kicking her feet and rocking back and forth in imitation, eyes sparkling.
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Ayyyy that’s a long excerpt. Well kudos to you for reaching the end, and I hope you enjoyed this first official look at my girl Aidene, the main character and narrator of this trilogy. I have more introduction posts like this lined up, and they’ll be along shortly!
Till next time,