I thought that song was necessary in this situation. Halfway to 50,000 words! Today I reached 26,120 and it feels fantastic. I went into today’s writing session not feeling great. I am still having some trouble filling in the in between spaces before my second major plot point. But I left today’s writing session feeling great! The story has really picked up and pieces are starting to connect and the character’s motivations are becoming clearer and clearer. I am excited to keep this going and I have outlined the next few chapters with high detail already. This should keep me going for the next few days!
And it is Sunday! As promised…here is the next chapter of Junkland, the first book in The Hoarding Series.
IT HAS BEEN FOUR years since her mother’s death, but the pain was as real as if it happened yesterday. She remembered her perfectly as if she was standing right there in front of her. She had been so beautiful. She had had blonde hair that curled down to her lower back, blue eyes that were brighter than the sky, and soft pink skin. She also had been loving and caring in every way imaginable.
Princess Alana could see her mother’s features in herself as she looked in the full length mirror in her bedroom. She didn’t have the blond hair, blue eyes, nor the pink skin as her mother. But she had her face and she continued to grow into it. It felt like her mother was a part of her.
She had been a girl of eight at the time, young and confused of what was going on around her when her mother fell sick like many others did inside the castle that year. Her father swore the sickness came from the outskirts and that was when he closed the Eastern Gate for good.
Now, the only way in and out of the castle was through the Western Gate. But since the sickness, her father has been ever so cautious on who was allowed to enter and leave. It wasn’t impossible to go through the gate but it wasn’t as convenient as it used to be.
She missed going to High Point with her mother and father. She hadn’t been to the beautiful eastern shores in five, maybe six years; almost half her life. She felt trapped inside the castle. When she was outside, she felt free. She wasn’t treated like a princess. She was treated like a normal human being. She liked that. She liked when people didn’t recognize her. She would be happy if no one recognized her for the rest of her life. Especially after today. All she wanted to do was run far, far away instead of facing the wedding.
Things changed when her mother died. People looked at her more differently than how they did before. Instead of just being a princess, she was now a princess with a dead mother. She didn’t need the people’s sympathy. She just wanted her mother.
She remembered that night, four years ago. Her mother didn’t last too long after the sickness got her. It only took a day and a half to take her life away. Her mother was lying in bed in the King’s Tower. Her father was standing to her left, his hand on her shoulder, squeezing it gently to reassure her that he was there. She remembered approaching her dying mother. The once beautiful queen she looked up to was now pale as a ghost with cracked lips and dried up hair. Her bright blue eyes were now a light grey. Her mother smiled at her but it only brought tears to her eyes.
“It’s okay, my sweet. Stay strong.” Her mother had extended her hand to Alana’s cheek and brushed it softly. How she told her to stay strong at the brink of death was one of the reasons why she loved her so much. She was the strongest woman Alana ever knew.
“I’m scared mother. Don’t leave!” she had taken her mother’s hand and held it tight, hoping it would keep her there with her. Her hand was clammy and cold.
“Don’t be scared, darling. Your father will be right by your side.” Her mother let out a frightening cough. “Here,” her hand reached out to her dresser, “I want you to have this.”
Her mother placed something into the palm of her hand. Alana looked down and saw the most beautiful necklace she had ever seen. It had a tear drop shaped sapphire hanging from a ring of diamonds.
“You are going to be a beautiful woman,” her mother had said. “Try it on.”
Her father had walked around to help Alana wrap the necklace around her neck. She looked down. Alana saw the blue sapphire hanging by her chest; it was beautiful.
Her father had taken a step back and looked at her. “She looks exactly like you, Asha. Stunning. Just absolutely breathtaking.”
Alana smiled at that. She rotated the sapphire between her index finger and thumb. “It is beautiful moth—” but when she had looked up, her mother was gone. Alana felt her heart drop into her stomach. She felt sick. The tears were already running down her cheeks. “Mother…” She reached out to her. But her father clutched her close into his chest, wrapping both arms tightly around her. She cried. And she didn’t stop crying.
Knock Knock Knock.
“Alana! Alana? We are going to be late to your father’s wedding. Are you ready yet?” it was a man’s voice.
Knock Knock Knock.
“Yes!” she was struggling with the zipper on the back of her dress. “Yes! I will just be a minute,” the princess yelled back through the closed door. She finally was successful in zipping her dress. She walked over to her dresser and picked up her mother’s sapphire necklace. Alana stepped back in front of the mirror and wrapped the necklace around her neck.
She stood tall and looked herself over. I love you mother. She clutched the sapphire tight, brought it up to her lips, and kissed it. The sapphire was as blue as her mother’s eyes and she constantly liked to be reminded of them.
Alana Poole was wearing a skinned colored gown with a flower patterned design on the top half and smooth silk on the bottom. It was sewn specifically for her size. She was now a girl of twelve, not yet flowered but growing rapidly. She was just starting to notice a rise in her chest and her hips pushing outwards. I will soon be as beautiful as my mother was, she thought as she spun around to look at the back of her gown. The back was open down to her lower back.
Knock Knock Knock.
“Alana! If you don’t come out right now, I will be forced to—”
“Alright, alright. I am coming out!”
Alana started to walk over to the door to her room. But before she opened it, her hand went down to her stomach. When will this stomach ache go away? She walked back to a cup that was lying on her night stand by her bed. She took a sip of water. It must have been something I ate last night at the rehearsal dinner. She took another sip. Maybe some fresh air will make me feel better.
She walked back to the door and opened it.
“Well now don’t you look like a beautiful young lady,” said the knight standing before her. He was tall, a man of twenty and three, and muscular. His blonde hair fell perfectly to the sides of his face. He was a man that the girls would always giggle about as he past them in the streets.
“You look very handsome yourself today, Sir Benjamin.” Alana gave him a little curtsy.
“My princess is too kind. I look this way every day.” The handsome knight gave a little chuckle. “Shall we be off before your father kills me for how late we are?” he offered his arm to her. She smiled and took it.
Sir Benjamin Burrow always knew how to cheer her up. He has been her personal guard for close to four years now. After the sickness, her father had assigned Sir Benjamin to watch over her. As much as she protested to this, she had grown to enjoy his company. Especially on a day like today when she felt more alone than ever.
Sir Benjamin escorted her out of the Princess’s Tower and into the courtyard, one of her favorite places in all of Astenpoole. Gardens and trees lined the paths throughout the green yards. People would gather here to relax, pray, or just to escape the Astenpoole heat. But there was no one in the courtyard today. Everyone was either at the wedding or setting up for the celebrations later that night.
Giant large tents had been set up throughout the courtyard. There were tables, chairs, and bars under most of them. A large stage was being set up against the fountain.
The fountain sat in the very center of the courtyard. To say it was a large fountain would be an understatement. This fountain could be mistaken for a lake; it was huge! A statue of Zalus stood on a marble platform in the center of the water. He was raising his palms high up towards the sky as water sprayed up out of them and fell back down into the lake like a waterfall.
“May I ask you something, Sir Benjamin?” Alana asked while they walked past the statue.
“My princess may ask me whatever she likes.” He did a little bow and a wave with his hand that told her to ask away.
“Do you believe?”
“Do I believe in what, my princess?” Sir Benjamin wasn’t following.
“Do you believe in Zalus? The Western God?” Alana dodged a large stone lying in the path.
“Well of course I believe. He’s why we are here now, walking to your father’s wedding. He is the reason why we are talking to each other right now. Without him, I wouldn’t be a knight of the Poolesguard. He came down from the Western Mountains, raised his palms high up to the sky, and life poured out of them into Astenpoole. Zalus is the creator of this world!” He sounded confident.
“But where is he now?”
“Back beyond the Western Mountains, watching over us, my princess.”
“Well if he is watching over us, then why did he let the sickness take my mother!?” she felt her voice rising. She felt nauseous again. Alana placed a hand on her stomach.
The knight was caught off guard by her sudden change in tone. He stopped and faced her. “Is my princess okay?”
“Yes…yes I am fine,” she took her hand away from her stomach and looked at Benjamin.
“You see, Alana. Some things in life are beyond the control of people. Even Gods. But I assure you, your mother is watching over you peacefully beyond the Western Mountains. Zalus is taking good care of her, I promise. And one day you two will meet again.” He held up his palm. “I swear by my honor of a knight of the Poolesguard. Believing is what gets me up in the morning. It gives me a purpose.”
But what do I believe in? she thought.
Ding Dong Ding Ding.
He turned to the sound of the bells. “Let’s keep moving. Your father is going to have my head.”
They walked underneath the open King’s Gate and crossed the road to the throne room. Alana and her knight took one step at a time as they climbed the grand steps up to the giant oak doors.
Sir Krist Perriwill and Sir Martin Perriwill were there to greet them at the top of the steps.
Benjamin gave them both a slight nod, “Krist, Martin, I have brought the princess.”
“What took you so long? The king is furious! He won’t start the wedding without you. Let’s get you inside Princess.” Sir Krist motioned to his brother. “Don’t be standing there. Open the damn doors for the Princess!”
“Ay, as you command. Mother always told me to listen to my mature older brother,” he gave Krist a little wink. He turned to Alana. “And may I say you look stunning today my fair lady.” Martin gave a little bow to the Princess.
Benjamin huffed. “Do I have to do everything my damn self?” He walked over to the doors and flung them open for Princess Alana. “After you, my lady.” He waved his hands towards the doors.
Princess Alana gave Krist and Martin a kind smile and said, “thank you sirs,” and walked through the double doors.
Before the doors closed behind her she heard Krist slap Martin on top of the head and say, “you are the dumbest knight in all of Astenpoole.”
“I may be the dumbest, but you’re stuck with me.”
“I don’t know why Piller pairs us together for every single task. I am going to have a…”
The doors closed behind them. They were in the entrance way of the Hall of Heroes. Every past king was hanging in a portrait amongst the walls. Her father was on a pillar in the center of the room.
Footsteps echoed down the hall.
“Where have you been!?” it was her father approaching them.
“I…uh…you know father…lady things.” She used that excuse for everything. Her father struggled to relate to his only daughter. He only had brothers growing up. Brothers that Alana had never met. Her oldest uncle took to the Farrest Sea to never return. And the youngest uncle died before she was born.
“Say no more! I don’t want to hear about it.” He walked over to his daughter and wrapped his arms around her. He gave her a kiss on her forehead. “I know this must be hard for you, Alana. But I am so proud of you. I hope you know that.”
Alana smiled. She didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t happy with him and her stomach still hurt.
Feeling the awkward tension, her father turned to Benjamin. “Thank you Benjamin for escorting my daughter here. Let’s go start this wedding.”
They walked down the long Hall of Heroes and entered the throne room. The giant six pillars were freshly painted. The carvings designed on them were as distinct as ever. There was a long deep blue carpet that covered the length of the room. It stopped at the steps to the altar. Usually the steps led up to the High Seat, or the Wave, which some folk liked to nickname it since the throne was in the shape of a giant wave. But an altar had taken its place for today.
Pews were also added to the room. They lined both sides of the carpet on either side. They were mostly all filled already. People were hanging over the balcony that covered the perimeter of the room.
Her father took his spot on the altar as Benjamin guided Alana to the front pew on the right. She slid in next to Sir Kyle Lark. Arnold Beck and Hollow Tryant were to the right of Kyle. They were all brothers of the Poolesguard. The captain of the Poolesguard, Sir Piller Lorne, stood on guard at the bottom of the steps on the king’s side.
“Princess.” Kyle gave a slight nod with his head as he greeted her.
“Hello Princess Alana,” the two young knights on the other side of Kyle waved to her.
She gave them both a small wave back.
Suddenly, the sound of an organ began to echo throughout the hall. All eyes turned to the back of the room.
Nadia Dane stood in the entrance. She was wearing an all-white wedding gown which looked awkward on her with her black hair, pale skin and eyes that were a faint yellow. Alana always thought she looked like a man with her short hair that barely grazed her shoulders. She definitely did not have the beauty her mother had had. She didn’t know what her father saw in her. But she kept her mouth shut. She just assumed the woman must all look like men across the Farrest Sea.
She took the long walk to the altar. The organ continued to play the corny wedding song. No one spoke as she walked up the steps. The king smiled at his soon to be wife. She gave him a half smile back. The music stopped.
The priest appeared and began the long ceremony.
Alana’s aching stomach made the already long ceremony seem to go on for hours. But the priest finally said the words everyone in the throne room were patiently waiting for. “Do you, Leone Poole, King of Astenpoole, take the hand of this lovely lady to be your wife and queen?” The priest asked it in a way where it seemed like the answer couldn’t possibly be no.
“I do,” her father confidently said. His voice echoed loudly throughout the hall.
Alana’s stomach tightened. She felt like she was going to be sick. She wanted to scream.
Alana’s chest tightened. She suddenly felt herself gasping for air. She began to sweat.
The priest turned to Nadia. “And do you, Nadia Dane, take this man to be your husband and king and to carry out all the duties that are acquired from the queen of Astenpoole?”
Alana’s chest tightened. She suddenly felt herself gasping for air. She began to sweat.
“By the power in me and through the palms of Zalus, I now announce you husband and wife, king and queen of Astenpoole. May you grow old and one day find peace beyond the Western Mountains.” The priest clapped his hands together as if to pray and gave a little bow.
The newly married couple kissed in front of hundreds of eyes. The hall erupted in applause and cheer. Except Alana.
She wanted to run, to get out of there, but her legs gave out before she could and she collapsed to the floor. The back of her head slammed down hard on the wood of the pew. She found herself lying on her back looking up at an open window high above the balcony. She saw something blurry and black sitting on the window’s edge looking down at her. It almost looked like a crow. She didn’t know if she imagined it or not. But suddenly her world became a blur as it spun around her, gradually growing black.