I thought you’d like an excerpt from The Princelings of the North this week, since I used the first sentence of the 21st page in my Challenge example on Monday. I was hoping to work on an idea for Chuck Wendig’s prompt of the week inspired by an event that happened last Friday. Maybe I’ll finish that off when I have more time. It’s been a busy week, not helped by spending Tuesday with my nose in a book – but I did enjoy it!
Here we have Kevin, a former prince of Castle Deeping far to the south of the realms. Months ago he was marooned by his wicked uncle in a tumbledown, but nevertheless secure, castle on a rock in an estuary on a Scottish island. Remote, in other words. Fortunately, local princelings Dylan and Dougall found him a day ago and said they’d be back to work out how to rescue him. Or something like that.
Kevin escapes (excerpt from The Princelings of the North)
Kevin roused when the moon came out, the light falling on his face. The rain had stopped, for now, and the moon’s reflection glinted on the patches of water still flowing across the causeway. A little while longer and the causeway should be dry enough to walk on.
He wondered whether he could get to the hedge Dylan had pointed out, and find something to eat there. He searched his memory: what had Dylan said? Get to the track, cross a few more bits of creek on it. Reach the crossroads and turn to the left. Try not to fall in the ditch in front of the hedge… Kevin shivered. Hunger fought with fear of the unknown. Could he wait till daylight? What if he crossed the causeway to the track now, stayed on that to keep dry when the tide turned, and moved to the hedge at daylight? What if it rained again, and the tide had cut him off from the shelter of the castle?
Kevin sighed. Sometimes he felt so useless, not even able to make the simplest decision. He’d be a pathetic king. Although he’d have advisers, like other kings. Yes, and look what his best adviser had done to him! Taken over his castle, and made him a prisoner hundreds of miles away. Kevin’s thoughts tended to go round in circles, and his mood swung between anger and depression as they did.
Now he was hearing things. Something had kicked a stone, further up the track. It could be one of those huge animals, he thought they were called deer. Or maybe a fox. They were nasty, crafty beasts. If it came up the causeway Kevin would have to fight it. Maybe it wouldn’t bother—it probably knew there was nothing there to eat, apart from Kevin. Panic rose in his mouth: what if the fox attacked him? Memories of fights he’d had with other kids and teens at Castle Deeping came back to him, especially a fight on the wall, when he’d been running with two ninjas. Ha! He’d showed them. He could handle a fox if he could handle a ninja. Mind you, he wasn’t as strong as he had been then. He shrank back into the shadows so he couldn’t be seen.
They were splashing through some of the puddles on the causeway.
“Hellooo! Are you awake?”
It was Dylan!
“Yes,” Kevin croaked, his voice strained by his fear of the fox and lack of use. He coughed and tried again. “Yes, I’m right here. Dylan, you came back!”
“Oh, there you are. Yes, and I brought some food too.”
Kevin nearly jumped at him, but remembered his manners in time. “Shall we go up and sit in the moonlight and eat it?” he asked.
Dylan followed him up the stairs to a pleasant room, or it would have been if it hadn’t been ruined. It faced south, so they watched the moon as the clouds cleared some more. A few of the brightest stars could be seen nearby.
“That one’s a planet called Jupiter,” Dylan said as they ate yesterday’s breakfast rolls. Kevin thought they were delicious, and said so, although Dylan shrugged. “My brother studies the stars. He tells me what’s going on when there’s something interesting around. Apparently we could see all of the planets lined up across the southern sky last winter. I didn’t look, though. I probably saw them when I was crossing the island one time, but I didn’t really bother.”
Kevin said little, except to ask what he was eating occasionally. He wasn’t familiar with oatcakes, although they were delicious too. And there were some little berries called bilberries.
“Lady Carolyn says you can stay with us for the winter,” Dylan said. “Dougall and I decided it would be best to get her advice. You can’t just rush off overland in the winter. You’d freeze to death in the country between here and Edin or Clyde, and that’s where you’d have to go if you go south.”
“Why would I freeze? It’s not that cold here; it’s not even snowing.”
“It will, though, and the rain that falls here usually falls as snow further east. And you have to go east before you go south. Lady Carolyn says there’s days of walking through boggy moors until you get out of the high lands.”
“Oh.” Kevin’s plan to go south seemed to be full of snags.
“So if you’d like, when you’ve eaten, you can come back with me tonight. You’ll stay with Dougall and me, and Lady Carolyn will work out whether to tell uncle Heath or not.”
“Why might we not?”
“Uncle Heath hates me, and he’s the Laird, so what he says goes. And he might say no to anything I’d like to do.”
“That’s not good.”
“Yes, but he’ll probably say yes to something Lady Carolyn suggests, and she thinks you should stay till the spring and make proper plans.”
“Sometime in March, depending on the weather.”
“When is it now?”
“That’s ages! I can’t wait that long. I’ll be away from the castle for too long!”
“Well, you’ve been away ages already. You might as well stay somewhere warm and get fit again before you try to make a long journey. Say you’ll come. It’ll be fun!”
Kevin thought about it. Dylan seemed a nice enough chap, although he could tell he was making an effort to be nice. With Dougall it came naturally, or that had been his impression. He realised he didn’t have many options.
“I’ll come. Thank you very much. Is there any more of that nice vegetable thing?”
“Swede? It’s a last resort as far as I’m concerned. But then we get too many of them during the winter. You’ll be sick of it in a few weeks. Here you are.”
Dylan handed him another chunk of swede and Kevin nibbled it to make it last. They finished the last of the oatcake and drank the berry juice.
“Shall we go then, while the moon’s still out?”
“Oh, yes, I suppose so.”
“Anything to bring with you?”
“Yes, hang on.” Kevin nipped up to the room above, found his bag and put in his drawing things, whistle and hairbrush, and slung it over his shoulder. Then he remembered where he’d left his scarf, and tied it round his neck.
“Ready!” he said as he got back.
Dylan had already packed up the picnic bag, which now weighed hardly anything.
“If you’ve forgotten anything you can always come back for it on a nice day, it’s not as if there’s anyone around to take it.”
“No. The village people haven’t been for ages.”
“They probably went over to Tober Hold for the winter. Some of our villagers come into our castle for the winter, then go back out in spring. Oh, you’ll be able to party at Yuletide with us!”
They set off, over the causeway, Dylan chatting about things they’d be able to do together, and Kevin wondering if he’d left anything behind. If he had, he’d leave them, he thought. He never wanted to come back to this horrible place again.
excerpt from The Princelings of the North, forthcoming © J M Pett 2018
TackleTBR Update #5 (after day 11)
Here my fifth progress report on #TackleTBR2017.
Books read (since last update): 0
Pages read (since last update): 0 Basically I’ve read nothing in the last two days. I’ve been to some boring meetings, played golf, and attempted to write a flash fiction, but failed. There’s always today, tomorrow and Sunday to finish some more.
Total books read: 3
Total pages read: 1021
A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows
Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
The Outcast Dead (Ruth Galloway #6) by Elly Griffiths
You can read comments on books finished (and see their covers) on my Goals post from the first Monday.