Sure, it’s all been said before. The prince and the princess, the dragon and the castle. But, it’s never been said by me.
I’d like to share a bit of my current novel Galiana Chronicles with you, to give you a taste of what is to come. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t. Let’s see how this goes. These are the first 3 chapters.
The ground shook and the skies rumbled as two massive steeds raced through the gloomy winter forest. They raced swiftly, like lightning bolts walking the face of the earth. One, by name of Titus, was as black as the midnight sky and the other, by name of Jupiter, was as white as an elephant’s ivory tusks. The wind roared like a thousand wild cats that merciless and forlorn night, a storm preparing to crash the silent darkness. Faint cries and ghostly screams echoed in the air. The riders came to the top of a hill where the cries died off. Far in the distance there lay a black object at the foot of an enormous redwood and another swinging in midair, with a dark red streak flowing slowly down and a puddle of crimson below it. The rider’s hearts stopped for a moment, but their minds raced a thousand miles per hour. Then Titus began rushing down the steep snow-covered hill with Jupiter following closely behind. The gushes of wind became stronger and stronger so, that the Redwoods began to sway back and forth, as if dancing to the ancient melody of their ancestors. As they came closer to the black objects, they began to realize they were human bodies. The rider’s stomachs churned at the sight of this. They came closer and Titus gently nuzzled the man on the floor. But the man did not move.
Titus’ rider leaped onto the soft snow-covered ground. Here stood a tall girl, with skin pale like the moon on that winter night. Her ruddy hair spiraled wildly down her back and her dark brown eyes radiated like the sun. “Stay there” She told the other rider “I don’t want you getting your feet wet.” Her raven black cloak dragging on the ground as she walked up to the bodies. She first approached the young man who was hanging upside down from the tree. She touched his glowing red face, she instantly felt his warmth on her fingers. She smiled as she whispered softly in his ear “You will make it, I promise.” She moved Titus under him and slowly lowered him onto the back of the horse. He laid on Titus motionless, like a lifeless rag doll. She tore off his pant-leg to examine his laceration. The bleeding was profuse but, luckily bone was not visible to her. She took the torn pant leg and tied it tightly above the cut. She then went over to the other young man, to see if he was still breathing. She touched his face but it was stone cold. Tiny snowflakes and icicles had formed on his eyes and around lips. She felt there was no hope for him. Tears gathered in her eyes for the fate of this stranger. What a life he had yet to live, so many new things and feelings he had yet to experience all cut short by the cruel hand of death. She stood up and began to take her leave. A soft voice carried in the wind to her ears “Don’t leave. Me.” She turned to look at him, his eyes fluttering among tears. “Give me your sleigh.” She went over to the other rider and was handed a small sled, only big enough for the smaller man to lay on. She put her arm under him and lifted him onto the sleigh. She tied him in and strapped it to Titus. As they walked by the light of the moon, eyes watched their every move. Each step they took, each breath they drew. They were watching. Glowing eyes mingled among the Redwoods that night. And an unmistakable presence was felt.
Finally after an hour and a half long journey, the riders and the two young men arrived to a small village, by name of Silverkeep, safe and sound. The girl, a mere seventeen years of age, rushed to the cottage door but it had been bolted. “Mother!” she screamed at the top of her lungs “Open the door!” She pounded on the old wooden door. Her mother awoke, startled at the girl’s screams. At last she opened the window of her sleeping chambers, situated on the upper level of the cottage. “Good heavens child!” She coughed. “What has gotten into you? Coming home at such an ungodly late hour!” “Never mind that mum, open the door! It is urgent!” Her mother’s eyes widened when she saw the two strange men that accompanied the girl. She made her way downstairs as quickly as her body could carry her to unbolt the door. The rider pulled Titus by the reins into the old weather-beaten house. His hoofs clanking loudly on the cold stone floor as he drug the body in behind him. Her mother stood by the door in utter disbelief. “Rose! How many times have I told you not to bring Titus in the house! And who are these men? And why are you covered in blood?” The girl just rolled her eyes, she went over to the young man and began to untie him. “Mother could we please discuss this at a later time? Right now I am trying to keep these two alive.” She said as she pulled the other man off Titus’s saddle. Working as fast as she could, for she knew their lives depended on her.
In came the other rider, a much smaller girl with eyes like sapphires and hair long and silky black. A petite lass she was, with small, delicate hands. Her skin like a sailor’s sunset in the hot summer months. She rushed in with several logs of woods. Her arms flung the wood on the floor and she leaned against the wall, tired and out of breath. “My poor little Evangeline!” Her mother shouted “Where in God’s creation has your sister been dragging you?” Putting her hand to her mouth preventing a cough. She looked over to Rose “I cannot believe you did this to your poor little sister!” “Oh, don’t worry mother, I told her to stay put on her horse while I worked.” Stated Rose, eyes glowing with reproach as she picked up the wood and placed it in the fireplace. Her pale and frozen fingers struck flint and steel to ignite a fire. It grew larger and hotter as time passed. She then lay the two young men next to the fireplace on her wool cloak. “Come my love, and rest. I can only imagine how exhausted you must be mon petit chaton.” Said her mother as she took a blanket and sat on the divan, wrapping Evangeline up tightly as she could.
Rose went upstairs to the darkest little room in the house. She lit a candle and slipped on her white cotton night-gown and her heavy wool robe. The candle light flickered softly about the scarce room. Only a bed, a wardrobe and a small table adorned the chamber. She collected several blankets for their unexpected guests, then walked back down the stair case. The wooden steps creaking with the slightest bit of pressure. She placed the blankets over the two young men. She went to the kitchen and brought two buckets of water, a towel and a bandage. She cleaned off the young man’s wound and bandaged his leg. She looked at him, obviously the eldest of the two, with more facial hair and sharper features. Her heart skipped a beat and her eyes went blank. She recognized him. His face, his nose, his eyes, his lips. Everything about him, she knew that face, but from where was a mystery even to her. She scavenged her mind as she stared at him, looking and searching for something, although she hadn’t a clue what for. She stared, paralyzed, with eyes wide open. Everything around her froze, even time itself. A loud and powerful cough brought her abruptly back to earth, she looked away, hoping that no one had seen her temporary paralytic state. She glanced at her mother but she was out like a candle, she laid there on the divan next to her beloved Evangeline. Both, sound asleep. Rose went over and sat next to them and pulled a big heavy blanket over them. She sat there the rest of the night, reading a book and keeping watch. It seemed like an eternity until morning, but at last it came, and the sun rose with all its magnificent glory.
The town of Silverkeep, quiet and peaceful, surrounded by four feet of snow. The town and the surrounding forest gleamed and glittered bright. Rays of sunshine touched its every corner. Without making a sound she got up and stretched her hands high up to the sky. She looked down at the two young men. The eldest’s eyes fluttered with excitement. She knelt down beside him and put her hand on his wrist, his pulse, strong and steady. She looked over to the younger boy and he too was breathing steadily. She held his hand, thankful they made it through the night. Rose walked to the kitchen and began to prepare breakfast. She was anxiously awaiting the return of her father, Lionel, who left two days prior, on a rather mysterious and unknown journey. Her mother and sister woke up as the meal was being set on the table. They all sat down, prayed then began to eat. “When do you suppose papa will be home? He has been away for several days now.” asked Evangeline. Her mother began to answer but was interrupted by Rose “Do you hear that?” She paused for a second to listen. There was a loud groan then they heard a whisper of a boy’s voice “Nathaniel! Where are we? Wake up!” The girl’s eyes widened with excitement “They’re awake!” she flung her silverware and napkin on the table and ran to the den as her mother yelled to her that she had not yet been excused. Her eyes locked with the young man, who although fully alert, was still sitting on the floor. His hair wavy and golden, his eyes a bright ocean, cheeks round and plump, a snub nose and a few freckles here and there. “Who are you?” he asked as he stood up, voice shaken and un-confident. He was not very impressive in height, for a young man. “My name is Rose.” Said the girl with wild curly hair. He did nothing but stare at first, until she extended her hand to him “And what is yours?” “Fff…Fil… Philip” he stuttered. “There is really no need to be afraid.” Replied Rose, seeing that the young man was trembling in fear. She twirled her lip, giving him a sweet smile. “But how can I trust her? Who is she? Perhaps she is one of them. Perhaps she is the one who did this to us.” He looked at her very suspiciously, at last he shook her hand, although he had no intention of trusting her whatsoever. Her mother stormed into the den “You were not excused yet Rose!” she shrieked. Philip shrunk in fear when she walked in. “This is my mother, Sarah.” Explained Rose, rather embarrassed by her. Philip looked at her and gave her a rather doubtful grin, almost as if he were afraid that she would pounce on him like a wild wolf on a defenseless rabbit at any given moment. “We should get you cleaned up Philip, it seems as if though you have been in a nasty, bloody fight.” Rose proposed. He rubbed his cheek then looked at it, crumbles of dried blood stuck to his moistened fingers. She led him into the kitchen while Sarah returned to her breakfast. She sat him down on a wooden stool. Taking a cloth and soaking it in ice-cold water. She dabbed it on his wounds. “So, how old are you Phillip?” “I am, uh, fourteen ma’am” “No need to ‘ma’am’ me Phillip I’m only 3 years older than you.” His eyes and mouth gaped a bit in disbelief, for he thought she was much older. Phillip was about to start speaking when a very loud and deep voice shouted and screamed “No, no, no please no!” They ran back into the den to find the other young man squirming and kicking wildly. Phillip went over next to him and pinned his hands to the floor then yelled at him “Donovan! Wake up!” He continued to squirm a bit until he gained consciousness. When he opened his eyes and saw Phillip kneeling over him, his eyes filled with tears and his lips trembled “Phillip!” he said excitedly “You’re… you’re…. you’re alive!” He rested his head down on the floor in great relief. Phillip released his hands, got up and dusted off his clothes “Yes, yes. I am very much alive Donovan. Thank you for noticing…” Phillip gave him his hand and proceeded to pull the young man up on his feet. Donovan hung his arm tightly around Phillip’s neck and favored his left leg. He was a very handsome young man who, even though in obvious pain, stood tall and proud. His hair was black as obsidian and his eyes were dark brown, like smoked topaz, fringed with long, thick charcoal colored eyelashes. He stood at 6 foot 2 inches in height, head and shoulders taller than any man in the entire kingdom and for the first time Rose felt small. “This is my brother, Donovan.” Phillip remarked proudly. Donovan’s sharp brown eyes glanced at Rose and they were immediately softened by her sweet smile and her big round eyes. She smiled at Donovan and bowed her head, as she began to look up, a bright red puddle of fresh blood caught her attention. “You’re bleeding!” She said to Donovan as she looked up at him “You need a Doctor as soon as possible! MOTHER, WE NEED A DOCTOR!” She started towards the kitchen when Donovan yelled “No! I don’t need any medical assistance.” Perplexed, Rose quickly responded “You’re bleeding profusely. Might I add, for the second time, yet you do not want a Doctor? Do you wish to die from blood loss!” “No Miss, I can care for myself. I will, however, need” at this point the pain was so that he reached down and tightly clenched his leg. He was in so much pain that he began to hold his breath a bit as he continued to speak. “Some supplies.” He looked at Phillip and signaled him to rest him back down on the floor. Rose asked “Are you sure you do not want a Doctor?” “Yes I am sure. If you would be so kind to bring me some towels, cold water and a bandage. Please.” She agreed and went to fetch the supplies, but when she returned he was unconscious…. again. “Alright that does it!” She threw the supplies on the floor and made her way out the door “I’m going for the Doctor.” She yelled to her mother. She began thinking about what a bad idea it was to have brought two complete strangers into her home all the commotion and uproar it might cause to be housing two strange young men. They kept losing and gaining consciousness and bled all over the floor, how irritating! She went to the barn and began to saddle Titus for her journey. Loud hoof-beats began rumbling the ground, drawing nearer and nearer. Rose walked to the corner of the cottage from where she could see the road. Two men on horseback. Her father, home at last!
She rushed towards the gate in great excitement and a bright smile. She opened the gate and ran to embrace her father. “Papa! Where have you been?! I was worried sick! You didn’t even tell us where you were off to! She said as she hugged him tightly. “I’m truly sorry my dear.” At this she looked up and saw Dr. Davison. She was very perplexed at the sight of him. Just the man she was going in search for, how did her father know? “We have been meaning to tell you…” “Never-mind the explanation for now papa, I am sure there is a perfectly understandable reason for everything, but the Doctor is urgently needed. Please follow me Dr. Davison.” Pleaded Rose as she tugged on the Doctor. “Right away Miss.” He replied as he followed her. He walked into the house and saw a puddle of blood near Donovan. His face nearly dropped to the ground “Nathaniel!” He exclaimed as he rushed to his side to examine him. Rose stood near them, now more confused than ever. “I’m to take them home with me as soon as possible.” Said the Doctor “Until then I will require some assistance.” He looked over to Rose and she agreed for she knew no one else would want to do it. Lionel walked in. When he saw all the blood and the body on the floor he gasped and gave his daughter a confused and frustrated look. Everyone froze, just standing there waiting for him to speak. At last words emerged from his lips “Would anyone care to explain what on God’s green Earth is going on here?!” Rose approached him and explained everything that had happened in the last 24 hours. “And whose marvelous idea was it to go out before a blizzard? And why?” Rose softly glanced over to her sister “Well, let’s just say, someone wanted to go pick winter berries. For, pie.” “Berries! Of course!” was all he could say as he rolled his eyes. “Well, don’t just leave him there, put him up on the divan at once!” He and the Doctor picked him up and laid him on the soft burgundy divan. The doctor proceeded to examine his leg. “It was bleeding when we found him, but I bandaged him up. It must have burst back open when he stood up earlier.” Said Rose as she cleaned the mess from up off the floor. After cleaning, she helped nurse the minor wounds on his arms and face. As she cleaned his face of the blood and dirt his eyes fluttered, he began to slowly open his eyes. He looked up at her in awe. What a beautiful, strange girl. Last time he saw her only from afar and had looked like every other girl. But he knew now he was very mistaken. Never had he seen such gleaming dark eyes or such wild, unruly hair or skin so fair. When she realized he was looking at her, she smiled and all he could feel was the speedy pounding of his heart and the blood rushing to his cheeks. Something, or possibly everything about her mesmerized him.
Once Dr. Davison bandaged him up he called for the carriage. “I truly hope that one day we may be able to repay your kindness.” “Phillip, there is no need. I hope and pray you and… Donovan… will recuperate quickly.” replied Rose as she tenderly shook his hand. “By no means shall we ever forget your care and kindness towards us. You shall be repaid.” Interjected Donovan, who was already sitting in the carriage. His manner cold and cutting. He looked into Rose’s eyes, but it was as if he was in another dimension. His eyes turned to stone due to the pain he was in. Rose looked away for fear he might look straight into her soul. She bowed then they said their goodbyes and headed off.
Lionel, unlike his wife Sarah, was very pleased and proud of Rose for helping and caring for those two young, unfortunate men. Sarah could do nothing but scold her for bringing two strangers into their home and leaving such a bloody mess. Evangeline spoke nothing of it to her parents, she only remarked to her sister how terribly handsome they both were and how impressed she was by their manner in speaking and how Donovan’s striking appearance would command any room he walked in to. “Do you think they’re ruffians or thieves? Or perhaps GYPSIES!” Asked Evangeline. Rose would just giggle and roll her eyes. It was her preferred topic for that of about 3 weeks.
It was the Sunday of the eight-week since the incident. Everyone was sitting at the table, all dressed in their Sunday best. Evangeline wore a baby blue dress that reached the floor and cinched her waist to show her light, delicate figure. Rose wore the same style dress but in light pink which complemented her fair skin and rosy cheeks perfectly. They each wore a strand of simple pearl necklaces, gifts from their father, their most prized possessions. They both loved their father so. He did everything he could for the two girls, but he especially loved his Rose for her noble disposicion, bravery and confidence. And she in turn adored him.
Half way through their delightful Sunday breakfast they were interrupted by someone knocking at the door. Everyone was puzzled, surely Sunday was the day people visited, but no one ever came to call upon them at that early an hour. Everyone stopped immediately and ran to look out the window. Lionel opened the door. A short, old man bowed, pulled out a scroll from his satchel and began to read in a high-pitched voice. “It would be an honor to the King, The Royal Family and his Court, if you, Sir Lionel DeMoure and the rest of the DeMoure family, joined him for a Royal feast in exactly one week’s time at the Royal Dunncaster Palace of Galiana at dusk.” He handed him a hand written letter with the Royal seal. The two girls and even the lady of the house peeked outside. All Royal riders who had obviously been trained at Galiana’s Royal Academy and Finishing school. What had they done in order to receive such attentions? Never mind that. Everything going on was much too exciting to be thinking. Lionel read the letter. And the man at the door asked “What response shall I give to my Lord, the King?” “Tell him that it is our honor to be bestowed such a gracious invitation and it will be our pleasure to dine with the king and his Royal Court in one week’s time.” They bowed and Lionel shut the door. As soon as it closed all three ladies swarmed him. “What is it Papa? What do they want with us? What’s the letter about? Are we in trouble? Are we going to jail?” He looked down at Evangeline wondering what was wrong with the child, he didn’t remember ever dropping her on her head as a baby. “It’s an invitation to a Feast with the King and his family for next week.” “Please do read it love.” Begged Sarah. The letter read like this:
“To Sir and Lady DeMoure and their lovely daughters Rose and Evangeline. First and foremost it is my duty as the King of Galiana to thank you for your recent services to the Royal family. It would be an immense honor if you and your family joined us tomorrow morning and stay with us for a week, for a special feast in your family’s honor at the Royal Dunncaster Palace of Galiana. You shall be brought to the palace tomorrow morning. You shall be fitted with the latest dressing trends of the country, be accommodated in the palace and dine with us each evening. Come Saturday evening, you will join us for the feast prepared especially for you and your family. You shall depart Monday evening to return home. I hope these plans are to your favor. With Highest regards, King Arthur Theoden Gallaway of Galiana.”
“A feast at the palace! In our honor?” It was incomprehensible not only to Sarah but to the entire family. No one could recall serving the Royal family in over two years and even then what they had done was not thought as being enough to attain such attentions from the King himself. But none of that mattered, the excitement was overwhelming. To think that just in a few hours they would be acquainted with the King and his family, people who were in fact very private. No one even knew the names of their children, they had never even been outside of the castle walls. “Papa, are we to go? That is, are you to accept the invitation.” Asked Evangeline as she clung to his arm. He caressed her cheek and kissed her forehead “You ask the silliest questions dear girl. Go pack your bags.” She smiled at him then ran off with her sister to begin packing.
Night fell at last. Residing at the palace was all the girls could speak or think of. There had been no other subject of such intrigue all day. As Rose lay drowsily in her bed, her mind began to venture and stray upon the subjects of tomorrow’s glorious adventure. She drew images in her head of a grand palace with massive chandeliers hanging from a cathedral ceiling. Tables ornamented with tall gold vases. Tables set with gleaming gold dishes and pristine silverware. Paintings on the walls of kings, queens, noblemen, Princes and knights. Floors of Redwood planks and columns of ivory. A grandiose staircase. Down the staircase came The King and Queen and their children, all princes and princesses of Galiana. All the assembly bowed upon their arrival. Lords and ladies, one by one greeted the king and his family. The room was filled with vibrant colors, blue and yellow and everything in between. They slowly and gracefully approached her “Rose my dearest.” My dearest? From the king? He doesn’t even know me! How… She thought to herself. She felt a tug on her arm “It’s time to wake up Rose.” She opened her eyes and found her father sitting next to her on her bed. The sun was shining brightly through the window. She felt a bit lost at first but then became fully alert. “Morning? So soon papa?” “I am afraid so dear. You’ve better get up and ready for we have a long day ahead of us.”
She leaped out of bed to begin the rest of the preparations for the day. She fed the horses, the cows and the chickens. Folded the clothes that were out on the line, and brewed a pot of fresh tea. Then she and Evangeline helped prepare breakfast, and pack a small meal for the trip. She washed and combed her hair, changed into her best dress and laced herself up. She put on her boots and was ready to go.
The Royal carriages arrived at last. There were of magnificent beauty. The quarters were black, embellished with gold fleur-de-lis on the doors. The wheels and folding head were gold as well. The carriages drawn by eight majestic Friesians all the color of black onyx, like Titus, with long curly manes and tails. The carriages were accompanied by four men on horseback. “Have you ever seen anything so majestic in your entire life?” Asked Evangeline “No, never. And these are only the carriages, imagine the palace?” Rose replied with a quiet giggle.
They climbed in and took their seats. The footman closed the door and set off for the Royal Dunncaster Palace.©
A. P. McKinney
Let me know what you think, and if you’d like to read more.