It is official! Against all odds, I have won NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row! Oh, the book is by no means done. No, apparently I don’t write 50,000 word novels. I just start with that. Because based on how the story is going, I am pretty sure I am only halfway done. I am not sure on that though. I will have to check in with my characters and let you know for sure. They keep taking unexpected turns on me. Ah, the frustrations of a writer! However, I figure in celebration, I will share a small excerpt of my ill and hastily written first draft with you. Quick, before I change my mind!
Excerpt from Ethrill
I entered the dining room, the young woman immediately leaving me and saw that the table was set as generously as the evening before, but was lit only by candlelight this time, and there were two places set. One at each end of the very long table. I began to head to the darker side that was set, which had no candles at the end, partially because I suspected I was supposed to go to the one that was fairly well lit with candles. I had not gotten further than two steps however before Bandah was at my side.
“This way please Master Jack.” I reluctantly turned and followed Bandah to the well-lit end of the table where he seated me, and Deke and the young woman again appeared out of nowhere and silently served me, this time focusing on the foods that I appeared to have favored the previous evening.
I perceived at the other end the table – probably a good several yards down the room – a large shadow that was even darker than the blackness of that side of the room.
“Damanius, I presume?” My heart quavered a little at my audacity in speaking first, but I steeled myself with the thought that he had imprisoned me against my will all day.
“Master Jack.” The voice was loud, though he appeared to be speaking in a whisper. It was low, gravelly, and almost came out as a hiss. It was altogether frightening to listen to, and I quickly lost my appetite. What type of man had a voice like that? I forced myself to slowly chew and swallow the bite of meat I had on my fork.
“So you deign to know the names of your prisoners.” My voice trembled despite my attempt at bravery.
“Of course. I do apologize for the necessity of delaying you. I do so enjoy company and I was detained last night and unable to join you for dinner. Please forgive a lonely creature for wanting to visit a little.”
Slightly mollified by his pleasant and apologetic, if a bit slimy voice, I found myself backing down a little. “It was not necessary to lock me in. A simple invitation to stay for the day would have been sufficient. In any case, were you unable to get away from your business in time for breakfast or lunch as well? Was it really necessary to keep me all day?”
“Again, I must offer my apologies. I only go out during the day when necessary. I have not the most attractive features, and I find that I am very sleepy during the day as well. Evening is a much better time for me.” He shifted in his seat a little, and I was startled at how large he appeared to be.
“And I have not always found that passersby are as accommodating as you when it comes to – waiting for me to meet them. I appreciate your understanding. Please feel free to keep eating as we have our conversation.”
Despite my lack of appetite, I forced another bite down my mouth and washed it down with a sip of wine.
“What brings you to my area, Master Jack, if I may be so bold as to ask?” I repeated the rehearsed story that I had given Bandah, as I was becoming more and more certain it was not necessarily safe in Ethrill to advertise I was from the dimension of Earth.
“Come now, Master Jack.” The voice turned sickly sweet and developed even more of a hissing sound, with a hidden edge that shook my nerves even more than they had been previously. He really sounded just as I would have imagined a snake sounding had snakes been able to talk. “We both know that is an altered version of your true story.”
Had he been next to me instead of across the room, I could easily envision him running a hand along my shoulders in a deceivingly gentle touch that was meant to threaten.
“You have a different accent than any I have ever heard, and I can assure you, I have heard – I have closely experienced – virtually every accent in all of Ethrill. Your story makes little sense. You come from the Wilderness, and yet are here to experience the Wilderness. You are taken aback by magic, admire castles, though they are fairly common, and, accordingly to my sources, come to see this part of the world with no coin in your pocket and no change of clothes. There are several elements of your story that are missing. Would you care to fill them in for me? I am really quite curious.”
I hesitated, but could see no way around the discrepancies he had pointed out. It was obvious he had done his research, and I was quite unnerved. I tried a defensive tactic. “I – I really do not see how where I come from or what I do is any of your business. I did not even ask to come to your castle – I was invited in.”
“Very well, then. Shall I fill in the pieces for you?” I apparently had angered him by refusing, because the sweet, low tone to his voice disappeared and in its place was a voice that, though not shouting, was nonetheless reminiscent of thunder in its ferocity.
He moved again, and I saw, to my incredible alarm, that he was not sitting in a chair at all, but had simply been sitting – or standing – on his own. He came around the edge of the table and headed toward me and as his size grew, so did my alarm.
As he began to emerge into the soft light, I could not stop the squeak of fear that escaped me.
His huge, oval shaped, yellow eyes, scaly skin, snout as long as a normal table, and head with horns showed all too clearly that the master of the castle was not a man at all, but a dragon.
As he continued emerging into the light, I stood, dropping my wine glass, and backed up, as though it would make any difference.
He was on all fours, and there were raised spikes along his back. His body, completely covered in scales, glinted maroon and green, depending on how the candlelight struck them. His legs were as round as the tree trunks in the redwood forest and I could not see the end of his tail, even when he was completely on my side of the table. I had the random thought that I now understood why the rooms in the castle were so large.
His yellow eyes flashed as much fire as I imagined his stomach held as he continued to speak.
“What is it, Master Jack? Do you dislike my appearance? Where is the brave man who sat here a moment ago?” His forked tongue flicked in and out as he spoke, creating the hissing sound I had heard from his speech before I had seen him. “You do not like my face? You are, after all, like all the others. Only, after all the generosity I have shown you, you see fit to break my things.”
My eye fell to the wine glass that had shattered as I had stood.
“Well, well – do not worry about it. You shall make amends, I assure you. Now. Allow me to fill in the story that you so unkindly chose to withhold from me. I, who ask so little in return for a tour of my home, a good meal, and a comfortable place to sleep.”
I gulped and continued to back away, mesmerized by his size and his eyes, and quite aware of the fact that he could likely wrap his tongue around me and swallow me in one place, if he so chose.
“Please, stay where you are. Your constant movement is irritating to me. It makes me feel as though you are not enjoying yourself.”
I stood as still as I was humanly capable of.
“To continue. Dragons – I am sure, as perceptive as you seem to be, you know by now that I am a dragon, since you appear to not have known so previously – but as I was saying, dragons are excellent at deductive reasoning. Consider your accent, and the direction from which you travel, and the fact that you are going toward the Mountain of Shadows, I deduct that you are a mortal, from Earth. Is it not so? Have the Beings allowed yet another mortal into Ethrill, to defile it with their strange ways, to marvel at us as though WE are the oddities, to ask and probe about Ethrill’s secrets, only so that they can go back to earth and reveal them to all who dwell therein? It is not fair, I tell you!” His voice rose in anger, and with it, I saw flames licking the insides of his mouth, as though if he lost his temper any more they would come out of their own volition. He must have sensed my increasing fear or felt the flames himself, for when he spoke again, his voice was quieter, if not less infuriated.