Since it is election day and you are probably huddled around your tv waiting anxiously for the results as I am, I have decided to post the next chapter of my book, Junkland, as a treat!
But first a little update on my NaNoWriMo writing progress. Today I have written a pretty lame chapter that will need a lot of work and possibly might get cut in the future. But I also wrote the first major plot point in the first act and it was so great that I had to end the chapter on a cliff hanger and will continue it tomorrow in the next chapter. I can’t wait to develop the plot point ever further!
NaNoWriMo word count: 16,496
Enjoy the next chapter of Junkland:
A Busy Day
HE QUICKLY SHOT OUT of bed, his heart pounding and breathing rapid. It wasn’t the bright morning sun shining in through the window that woke him, it was a dream. A dream he had been having for a while now. All he could remember from it was screaming; the only part he could ever remember.
His clothes were stuck to his body as he pushed the sheets off of himself. He had to disentangle his legs that were wrapped up in the blankets. He jumped out of bed.
Not again, Jahr thought as he pealed the clothes off his body. He tossed them into a dirty pile in the corner of his room, on top of more soggy clothes. There was one thing that was impossible to escape; the Astenpoole heat. Every now and then there would be a lucky break with a nice cool night. Especially when the year would approach its end. When the wind would pick up and a nice cold breeze would blow off the shore of the Farrest Sea.
But the year was far from over.
Jahrys’ body ached all over from the previous day. He and his best friend Kevin had met up to practice their sword fighting in a courtyard off of Zalus Road. They were both equally skilled with the sword so it made for good competition. But Jahrys was feeling it this morning.
He put on his blue shorts, and a white ragged shirt. He muffled up his rather long wavy brown hair and walked over to his window to check the weather outside. Jahrys was able to enjoy a rather nice view of Astenpoole since his house was located at the very end of the outskirts of Palor, just below the Western Mountains. The sun had almost passed up and over the six large towers of the castle keep that towered high into the clear blue sky as it stood on its hill. The castle wall stood tall and proud, wrapping around the city of Astenpoole. He looked down to the road beneath his window and saw people rushing busily in the streets already, probably setting up for the festivities for later that night.
King Leone Poole was to marry a new queen that afternoon. A queen that came from a small city across the Farrest Sea. No one outside the castle would be invited to the wedding obviously, unless they had some special connection with the royal family. But the king was cautious these days about who he interacted with outside the castle walls, ever since his wife died.
Jahrys could only imagined what it would be like to attend the royal wedding. He could picture all the royal knights in their shining blue armor, holding swords at their sides while keeping a diligent eye on the crowd as they looked for suspicious activity. One of these days I will be a knight, Jahrys thought as he gazed out the smudged glass.
Jahr squinted his eyes as a glare shined through his window. The sun was shining onto the palm of the golden hand that sat high above the steeple of Pastor Allen’s church. The palm that stood as a symbol for Zalus pouring life into Astenpoole.
Jahrys had always thought Pastor Allen was a rather odd man. In fact, just yesterday he had walked passed the church after helping his father in his shop. Pastor Allen was outside preaching like he always did when church wasn’t in service. His bald head was shining from the setting sun. He was waving his long lengthy arms and body back and forth on the church steps like a street performer. Usually Jahrys would ignore him but he had noticed something unusual about him that day. Pastor Allen’s face was pale and his voice…his voice was a lot deeper and scratchier than it normally was. It was the words that had frightened Jahrys the most.
“With dusk comes the dreadful night. When giant walls block out the light,” he was flailing his hands in all directions, “yellow rain will fall, a storm of eternity. Taking it all as the innocent lose energy. Zalus! Oh Zalus come down from the Western Mountains. For we will perish unless you change the course of these miss happens.”
With the last word, Pastor Allen had collapsed off the steps and onto the dirt road. Jahr, being the only one around, had no choice but to run over to him.
“Pastor Allen! Pastor Allen?” Jahr had said worryingly, scooping his head up with his right arm. “Pastor Al—”
“Zalus?” Pastor Allen’s eyes shot open. “Zalus? Have you come?”
“What? No. It is me Pastor Allen. It is Jahrys.” Jahr was still cradling the priest’s head when he shot a hand out and grabbed Jahr’s shirt, yanking him close. Jahrys could smell his bad breath.
“Have you prayed O’Jahrys? Have you prayed for Zalus’ coming?” Pastor Allen’s fist was shaking as he gripped his shirt tighter.
“Uh, I—” he stuttered.
“Pray my boy. Pray for Zalus or else we will all be doomed. It starts with…” he began to lose consciousness.
“It starts with what Pastor Allen? It starts with what?”
“It starts with…”
But Jahr never received an answer as Pastor Allen passed out in his arms. Jahr had brought him into the church and sat him down on a pew. He grabbed a wet cloth from the back and placed it on top of the unconscious priest’s forehead. But when Pastor Allen had woke, he did not remember anything about what had happened outside the church that day nor anything he had said.
Yellow rain will fall. What had he meant by that?
Jahr laced on his brown boots and walked down the creaking stairs at the end of the hall. His parents were already in the kitchen. Just like the rest of Jahr’s house, the kitchen was small but a good size for three people. Jahr’s mother was cutting up a few sausages while simultaneously cooking eggs over the fire. His father was examining a wooden chair that he was holding upside down by the two front legs.
A chicken ran from under the table towards Jahrys as he entered. The old bird wobbled up to his boot and began to peck at it.
“Good morning to you too Miller.” Jahrys bent down to pick up the old looking chicken.
“Ah, O’Jahrys, you’re up!” his father said, taking his large eyes off the chair for a second to look at his son. “The next few days are going to be busy, busy, busy.”
“For the thousandths time, can you not call me O’Jahrys! At least drop the O!” He told his father as he was petting Miller. Miller began to peck at his fingers.
Jahr never liked the full name he was given. He could live with Jahrys but he mostly preferred to be called Jahr.
“But that was your Granddaddy’s name. O’Jahrys the Bear they used to call him. His arms were as thick as a tree stump and he was as big as a bear. As hairy as one too as a matter of fact.” His father gave a little chuckle, his mustache bounced up and down.
“I never even met the guy before,” Jahr said, as he placed Miller back on the ground and watched it wobble out of the kitchen and into the living room.
Jahrys walked around the table towards his mother.
“Well, he taught me everything there is to know about carpentry. He sure did. The man could build a whole city out of wood by himself if he wanted to.”
“I’d be lucky if I didn’t splinter myself building a birdhouse,” Jahr said sarcastically.
“Good morning honey,” his mother said, turning to greet him as she finished cutting up the last sausage. “What happened to your eye!?” she put down the knife and touched his face.
“Ouch!” Jahrys didn’t even realize he had a bruise there. “It must have been from yesterday when Kevin and I were practicing our sword fighting.”
“You know I don’t like you two playing with those sticks,” she placed a hand on her hip and turned to his father. “Don’t you agree Martin?”
His father lifted his eyes from his chair obviously confused at what the topic of conversation was about. “Listen to your mother, O’Jahrys.”
“But how else am I supposed to train to be a knight of the Poolesguard?”
“You can start by being a knight in my kitchen and go put some plates on the table…Sir Jahrys,” her mother ordered.
“Yes mother,” Jahr did not hesitate. He went to the cabinet, collected three plates and set them on the table.
“Look at here O’Jahrys,” his father traced the carvings on the leg of the chair. Vines ran bottom to top of each leg. An occasional rose would be carved into the design. “Look how perfectly symmetrical they are. You can’t find art work like this in Astenpoole. No you can’t. This is the work of patient, Grent hands. It runs in our family.”
“Put that chair away Martin,” his mother ordered, “we are about to eat.”
“It is going to be a busy couple of days Jane,” his father said without taking his eyes off of the chair, “we need to make sure we have everything prepared for after the wedding this afternoon.”
“You can work on it after we are done eating. Put it away Martin,” his mother repeated, stamping her foot on the floor.
“Dammit woman, you make it so hard not to listen to you.” He gave her a little smile, his greying mustache rising and falling. He carried the chair to the living room and sat back down at the table.
Jahr’s mother served the food as they all sat.
Jahr wanted to bring up what happened with Pastor Allen the other day. He was having a hard time figuring out how to word it without his mother freaking out. He decided to just go for it. “Ma, Pa, I was walking passed the church the other day and Pastor Allen said—”
“Oh, now you listen close boy,” his father interrupted, “that man is a whacko. Do not listen to anything he says, you hear?”
“Well,” his mother cut him off, “what your father is trying to say is, don’t listen to anything he has to say outside of the church, honey. Pastor Allen has been having a hard time ever since his daughter passed away after the sickness.”
“He’s a freak. I don’t know why we go to listen to him every week and hear him talk about some Western God. He needs—”
“Be quiet Martin,” his mother had enough.
“I am just say—”
“We go because that’s what families are supposed to do. Now eat your damn breakfast.” His mother snapped at him.
With that, Jahr did not bring the conversation up again.
After a long silence of chewing sausage Jahr’s father said, “we are going to need at least fifty cases from the cellar for tonight. After the wedding is done, people are going to want to celebrate and get really really—”
“Martin! Don’t talk like that in front of Jahrys!” his mother pointed a fork at his father.
“Come on Jane. The boy is almost a man grown!” he turned to Jahrys, lowering his voice so his mother couldn’t hear. “Uh, how old are you now son?”
Jahr rolled his eyes. “I am thirteen, father.”
His father shot up and placed a hand in front of Jahrys as if he was a showcase. “You see! Almost a man grown!”
“Yea…almost.” His mother stressed the word. “But until then, no talking like that in front of our son.”
“As you say, my lady,” his father said smoothly.
Jahrys rolled a piece of sausage around his plate, waiting for the next awkward topic of conversation.
His father turned to him, pointing his fork. “Later today I can show you how to make a perfect chair O’Jahrys.” Jahr realized he spoke too soon. “That will be our back up if we run out of cases of wine tonight. You can never have too much wood. Am I right honey?”
His mother’s fork fell to her plate and her face shot up at his father, giving him a devilish stare.
“Uh…right…” his father looked away from his wife, realizing what he had just said. “Well…this will be our chance to make a fair amount of coin. We mustn’t mess up this opportunity!”
Jahrys just stared at his plate uncomfortably. He felt Miller nibbling at a few crumbs by his feet.
“I can help after I go fishing with Kevin today,” Jahr told his father, while playing with a piece of sausage with his fork.
“How is Kevin doing by the way?” his mother asked, “we haven’t seen him around much lately.”
“He has been busy helping out his grandmother. I don’t think she is doing too well.” Jahr was finished playing with his sausage. He picked it up with his fork and ate it.
“That’s a shame. We should go over there and help out if he needs it. That’s a lot of responsibility for a boy his age to do without any support. Don’t you think we should do that Martin?” his mother turned to Jahr’s father.
“Huh?” his father was busy chewing on his eggs.
“About Kevin’s grandmother,” his mother repeated, irritated.
“Oh, the woman we still have yet to meet?”
“Kevin said she is too old to leave the house. He has been selling his grandmother’s clothes and anything else he finds around his house on the road in order to provide for her. He also has been helping Willy maintain the Arcalane for a few extra pooles.” Jahr was getting annoyed at the subject. Truth be told, Jahr had never met Kevin’s grandmother either. He always acted strange when he would bring her up to him.
“Oh, that poor boy. Bless his soul,” his mother said, placing a hand on her heart. “After the celebrations settle down, we will go over there and help him out.”
“I don’t think he wants us to get involved, mother,” but of course that didn’t change her mind.
“Nonsense Jahrys. I am sure Kevin would appreciate the help. Don’t you think so Martin?”
“Huh?” his father was now busy shoving sausages on top of eggs into his mouth.
“Oh, never mind,” Jahr’s mother gave up repeating herself.
When Jahr had finished everything on his plate, he turned to his mother and asked, “can I go meet up with Kevin now by the lake? We were supposed to go fishing soon.”
“Yes, just make sure you are back in time to help out your father,” his mother answered, leaning over and giving Jahr a kiss on his head.
“We need to make sure everything is ready in time for the celebrations tonight O’Jahrys!” Jahr cringed when his father said his name. “Don’t forget. Everyone will be celebrating! King Leone and his new wife, Queen Nadia. I bet she is a poole and a—”
“Martin!” his mother interrupted.
“What?” his father gave her an innocent look.
Jahr’s mother rolled her eyes and said, “I still can’t believe it has been four years since Queen Asha’s death. Such a shame. Her daughter must be so devastated with all of this going on. I hope Queen Nadia brings her and her father happiness,” his mother said.
“Aye and maybe Princess Alana will marry O’Jahrys and we will become a royal family with King Leone, ha!” his father gave a big old chuckle and nudged Jahrys with his elbow. “That would solve all our money problems.”
Out of all the things he chooses to listen to… thought Jahr.
“Don’t tease the poor boy, Martin,” his mother scolded him.
They started bickering at each other. Jahrys used this distraction to his advantage. He silently slid out the back door of the kitchen, Miller followed.
Jahr stayed clear of the vineyard and crossed the yard to the back gate. He opened it and curved around to Zalus Road. Miller crisscrossed between his legs as he walked.
He looked right, towards the castle, to look down the road. The streets were filled with people, wagons, tents, and animals busily crossing back and forth. He turned away from the castle and continued in the opposite direction, towards the mountains. The mountains loomed high up in the sky; the peaks lost within the clouds.
Not too far passed Jahr’s house, the cobblestone turned into dirt, getting skinnier and skinnier as it curved off to the left towards Zalus’ Tears. Jahr followed it all the way down to the lake where he found Kevin waiting for him. He was hunched over a small boat, head down in preparation.
“Hey Kevin!” Jahr yelled from down the path.
Kevin turned around to look at Jahr while he was tying the hook onto his line. “Hey Jahr. A little late.”
“Yea, sorry about that. My parents made me eat breakfast with them and talk about all the chores I am going to be doing later tonight after the wedding,” said Jahr, approaching the other side of the boat. “You know how my father is. “‘It’s going to be busy, busy, bus—’”
Jahr paused when he looked at Kevin’s face. It was as pale as a ghost. His eyes were blood shot as if he hadn’t slept in days. “Kevin…are you alright?”
Kevin’s face shot up. He looked like he was offended from the question. “Alright? Yes I am fine! Just been up late the past few nights helping Willy with the Arcalane. That’s all. Did you bring your rod?”
“Ahh crap I forgot.” Jahr ran a hand through his hair. Miller was doing circles around his feet.
“That’s alright. I brought an extra one. It is over there on the grass,” Kevin pointed to the left of the road Jahr had arrived on, “grab it and let’s get out on the water. I can feel it. The fish are going to be biting today. You can see some of them jumping out of the water.” He pointed towards the lake. Jahrys saw a fish fly into the air over the clear, glassy water. It was in the air for a split second as it crashed back down into the sheet of glass water, sending ripples towards the shore line.
Jahr grabbed the extra rod and threw it into the boat.
“Ready?” Kevin asked.
“Let’s do it!” Jahrys turned to Miller, “stay here Miller. I’ll be back in a bit.”
“BUCUUUUUUCK!” Miller replied, running off into the bushes.
“Idiot,” Jahrys said under his breath. He placed his hands on the left side of the tiny row boat.
Kevin took the right side and they began to push the boat into the water.
Jahrys felt his muscles ache from the day before as he pushed the boat knee deep into the water before hopping in. Kevin followed. They rowed out into the deep center. They were careful to keep their distance from Zalus’ Tears that fell like thunder on the far side of the lake.
“This never gets old does it?” Jahr asked, it was more of a comment than a question. He looked around, enjoying the view before grabbing his fishing rod.
The giant waterfall fell hard into the lake, sending a mist of water into the air. A rainbow appeared as the rising sun shined through the light cloud of water vapor.
Birds cawed above their heads as they flew from their nests that were built on the crooks of the mountainside. They swooped down, beaks shooting straight into the water. The birds were underwater for only a split second. Only one was successful in bringing up a fish.
The castle laid peacefully in the distance on its hill top.
“Do you ever imagine what it would be like to live in there?” Jahrys asked.
“Erh, not particularly. There’s too much drama to worry about inside those walls. I wouldn’t be able to keep up,” said Kevin, giving his honest opinion. “Out here…we are free!”
“Yea…but what about being a knight? Like Patrick Yale? And saving princesses from pirates that come out of the Farrest Sea and over the castle walls?” Jahrys was getting excited.
“Jahrys, Astenpoole hasn’t been attacked in a thousand years. And besides…those stories are old and outdated. For all we know, they might not even be true.” Kevin flung his line into the water.
“I guess…” Jahrys continued to look at the castle in the distance. I will be a knight.
Jahr took a worm from a cup that Kevin had collected. He held it up between his thumb and index finger. The worm wiggled back and forth. It almost looked like he was putting on a dance routine. Feeling some sympathy for the worm, he ran the hook through the poor guy as his dance grew faster. He flung his pole over his shoulder and casted it over the boat. His hook plopped twenty feet in front of him.
“How’s working for Willy these days?” Jahrys asked as he waited with his line in the water.
“Eh, you know how Willy is. He always likes things to be perfect. He had me paint the entire outside of the bar the other day. This wedding has everyone acting mad.” Kevin kept his red eyes on his line.
“Yea, I know what you mean. My father has not stopped working on his wine and building his chairs. He is going to hurt himself for working this hard. My hours in his shop have been doubled for the past two weeks. I—” He felt a tug from his line. “I think I got one!”
Jahrys started to reel it in. The end of his pole began to arch upwards. He felt the pole slide a little in his hands. “It’s a big one!” He kept reeling. The curve in his pole deepened. Jahrys stood up. He placed one foot on the side of the boat. He put his entire back into it as he gave one last giant tug.
Jahrys went flying back into the water as the boat rocked behind him. When he swam to the surface, Kevin was laughing at him.
“You know you are supposed to catch the fish. He’s not supposed to catch you.” Kevin couldn’t stop laughing.
“Not funny.” Jahrys threw his rod back into the boat and pulled himself up. Although embarrassed, he was happy to see his friend laughing. “At least it cooled me off a bit. Damn fish.”
“Out of all the times we have been fishing, that was definitely a first.” Kevin was still amused.
They sat in silence as Jahrys tied on a new hook. He was never good at it. After a few minutes of struggling, he added a new innocent worm and through his line back into the water. Kevin waited patiently with his line still in the water.
After a long silence, Jahrys asked, “how is your grandmother doing Kevin?” He didn’t know why he asked it. But he needed to know. Kevin didn’t have any one else to talk to.
“She’s a…she’s okay, Jahrys. Thanks for asking.”
Kevin stayed silent.
Jahrys wasn’t satisfied with the answer. Something felt wrong with Kevin’s tone. Jahr turned towards Kevin. He was going to ask him something else about it until he saw his face. Kevin was staring up at the Western Mountains. It looked like he was crying.
“Uh, Kevin? Are you alright?” Jahrys was concerned.
Kevin didn’t answer. He just kept staring up.
Suddenly he whispered something.
“What was that?” Jahrys couldn’t hear it.
Kevin turned to face him. “I’m sorry Jahrys!” He was crying.
“Sorry for what?” Jahrys was confused. He did not know what was going on or where this was coming from.
But Kevin did not answer him. He turned back around and watched his line bob up and down in the water.