Along with my fantasy series, the Fading Marks Cycle, I am also working on a YA book. It’s about a young boy who finds dragons in the forest, but no one believes him. It’s called The Boy Who Found Dragons. At the moment it’s outlined to be twenty-five chapters and I have two chapters written.
I wrote it as a story to share with my boys, since my fantasy series is a bit old for them. The first chapter is below. Enjoy! 🙂
– – –
“But it’s not stupid!” Denham stomped his foot on the worn wooden floorboards staring up at his mother through shaggy hair.
“I didn’t say it was stupid, I said it was childish. You’re almost nine-years-old, you shouldn’t be telling tales like that Denham,” Ma’ma replied, barely looking up from her sewing.
“Yeah, well,” he mumbled looking down while he traced the pattern of the rope rug with his toe, “Barrick said childish things are stupid.”
“Your brother does not make the rules,” she said finally looking up, “but I do. No more tales from you. Do you understand?”
His shoulders drooped. “Yes, Ma’ma.”
“Good, now go tell Marabel and Barrick to wash up, it’s dark soon and Pa’pa will be coming back.” She stood up from her chair and walked to the hearth to check the progress of their dinner without another thought to Denham.
“Yes, Ma’ma,” Den mumbled again.
He twisted his small body and glanced over his shoulder, standing on his tip toes so he could see out the small window near the door. Ma’ma was right. The sky’s colors were starting to jumble with the painted leaves of the tree in the front of the cottage. Pa’pa would be back soon. The dragons would have to wait until tomorrow.
He let out a dramatic sigh and dragged his feet across the rug making his toes vibrate against the deep grooves as he walked towards the ladder to the loft. When he got to the base, Den looked back to see if Ma’ma had noticed his petulant retreat. But much to his disappointment she remained in the same spot fiddling with whatever was cooking in her iron pot. Probably turnip soup again. Stupid turnips.
Den looked up the ladder. He knew Mara was up there. He knew Ma’ma knew Mara was up there. He also knew if he yelled up the ladder for her to come down, he’d get switched again. Stupid Mara playing with her stupid baby dolls. He let out a half muffled groan and climbed into the loft.
The wind whistled across the roof. And the big branch by the front window tapped its rhythm on the cracked pane. Mara sat on her pallet with her back towards him, her lower half wrapped in a woolen blanket. She was singing one of Grama’ma’s lullabies, but she was getting all the words wrong.
“You’re singin’ it wrong, stupid,” Den said.
“I’m not stupid!” Mara yelled. She spun around and threw a ragdoll at Den’s head, missing him by a hand’s breadth.
Unprepared for dodging the projectile, Den’s foot slipped off the wrung he was standing on. He was barely able to grab the floor in front of him before his other foot caught the next wrung down.
“What are you, daft? You almost knocked me through the floor you little baby brat!” Den scrambled up the ladder and ran at his sister, who ducked under the blanket to protect herself.
He made it as far as the edge of the pallet when Ma’ma’s voice drifted up through the floorboards, “You better be getting your brother and sister for washing up Denham Oakwood.” There was no harshness in her voice, no change in tone from their conversation earlier, but Den knew he was in trouble. She’d used his last name.
“Yes Ma’ma,” he yelled louder than he needed to. Then he kicked the lump in the blanket. “You heard her. It’s time to wash up. Pa’pa will be back soon.”
The blanket made an odd side to side movement which he took for her agreeing. He turned to leave, but stopped and gave her one last kick for good measure.
As his head disappeared through the hole in the floor Mara’s voice drifted down to him, “Big jerk! I hope a wolf eats you!”
Den just shook his head and continued his descent. When he was near the bottom he jumped, making a satisfying thump noise as he landed. Of course that was what finally got his mother’s attention.
“Did you get your brother yet?” She pointed her wooden spoon toward the front door. “You best get a move on double quick! The sun isn’t going to wait for your laziness.”
This time Den didn’t say anything. He nodded then bolted out the back door towards the barn. His feet kicked up dust as he ran across the farmyard. It had been a dry summer and the fall wasn’t looking much better. There was already a decent amount of leaves under the apple tree by the barn door. They crunched and crackled as he ran up and into the shadow of his brother’s domain.
Barrick should have been a field worker like Pa’pa by now, tending the shared crops for the village. But Old Uncle had pulled Pa’pa aside in the spring of the last year and said that Barr had the gift. So now instead of working in the hot field, where he couldn’t bother Den, Barr was in charge of the pigs and sheep and horses and all the other animals in the village. Ma’ma said it was a great honor. Pa’pa had been so proud he let Den start wearing the family crest a whole year early. All Den knew was now he was stuck with his bossy older brother around the house until he was old enough to work in the fields with Pa’pa.
He slowed his pace at the open barn door. Barr didn’t like Den in the barn; he said the animals didn’t care for him. Den didn’t believe him though. The animals liked him fine unless Barr was around. Just cause he can com-mune with them or something he thinks he’s better than me. The barn was dark, lit only by the last rays of the setting sun filtering in through the cracks in the wall boards. He heard the cows lowing in the back pen, but the horses weren’t inside yet.
“What are you doing near the barn, brat!”
Den swung around and managed to miss getting wrapped in the head by his brother’s knuckles.
“You’re supposed to be coming up to wash!” Den said trying to regain his composure, while at the same time putting some distance between himself and his brother. “She’s real mad!”
Barr relaxed his stance and leaned on the shovel he was carrying. “I bet she is. What did you do this time?”
Den was going to answer back, but Barr turned and open the second door of the barn. He called out in his strange “gift” voice, something that sounded like a cross between a horse naying and a crow calling. After a moment, four towering work horses and a much-too-thin mare trotted around the side of the barn. They seemed to nod to Barr as he waved them into their stables for the night. Den stood watching, wishing deep in his gut that he could talk to the animals too. Maybe then Pa’pa would be proud of him and Ma’ma would make him his own sash with the family crest to wear.
“You better run back to the house and wash up yourself, or Ma’ma will have the switch on your ass before dinner’s off the hearth,” Barr said, heading into the barn.
Once again Den was treated to an indifferent dismissal, with nothing to do but stick his tongue out at his brother’s back as he disappeared through the door.
Den turned around and kicked his feet through the dust. A large plume of red earth drifted up before being blow across the yard by a gust of wind. He stood watching the cloud disappear and thinking about his dragons. Their shining iridescent scales and their semi-translucent wings that seemed to capture all the light in the meadow and throw it back in rainbow of brilliant sparkles. The small puffs of smoke that would twist and twirl around their heads like vines.
The sound of feet across stone shook the visions from his head. Pa’pa was home. He ran towards the pump.
“Denham?” Ma’ma’s voice called from the house. “Denham Oakwood! Hurry your body up!”
Den’s feet skid to a stop in front of the well. The dirt around its base had turned to mud as his sister had not been careful with her washing. But at least the bucket was still mostly full.
“Stupid baby brat!” he cursed as he tried to avoid getting more dirty than he already was. He grabbed the bucket, moved to a dryer area, and began washing himself down.
In the distance he heard the front door close soundly. “Hot damn, I’m gonna get it.” He shook himself dry as he ran around the outskirts of the yard, trying to avoid the dustiest areas so as not to undo his already hasty wash job. He ran through the door and was almost knocked over as he barreled into Ma’ma’s legs.
“Denham Lead Oakwood!” she yelled brandishing her wooden spoon.
Now he was in trouble.
“Get your butt to the table little sir and behave yourself! Pa’pa is home!”
For a brief second, Den thought he’d gotten a reprieve. But as he started toward his chair he felt the swift smack of the spoon on his back. If Pa’pa hadn’t been watching him disapprovingly from the table, Den probably would have started crying. But men like Pa’pa didn’t cry and Den didn’t want to be anything less than a man like him.
As he pulled up his chair, Den got a smarmy look from Mara. She had gotten her dress wet while washing up but Den knew she wouldn’t get in trouble for it. The only person who ever got in trouble in the house was him.
He balled up his fists in his lap and focused his gaze the table, trying to ignore his little sister. In front of him sat a glazed brown bowl filled with turnip soup. Stupid turnips. Stupid everything.
Barr sat down next to him and Ma’ma finally joined them at the table across from Pa’pa. The family joined hands.
Pa’pa and Ma’ma half spoke half sang, “Great Father of All, thank you for your bounty and protection. We are your servants in all things. Bless us and keep us always. Amen!”
The children echoed the amen and released their hands as one. Then when Ma’ma took her first spoonful of soup the rest of the family began to eat as well.
“How were the fields today Pa’pa?” Barr asked between bites.
“They’d be better if we got some rain soon. It’s too dry. Much too dry. Probably lead to a mean winter. How’s that mare doin’? She eaten anthin’ yet?”
“She’s told me she’s too tired to eat. I don’t think it’s a sickness though. Somethin’ in her belly just ain’t sittin’ right…”
The “men” continued to talk while the rest of the family ate. Everyone except Den.
Ma’ma looked up from her dinner. “Eat your food Denham, before it gets cold,” she said quietly, but firmly. “I’ll not be heating it back up.”
Den let out a sigh from deep in the center of his soul. And picked up the spoon in front of him.
“…and Den’s been seeing monsters in the glen today too,” Barr said with more than a little sarcasm in his voice.
His spoon frozen halfway between his bowl and his mouth, Den turned to look at Pa’pa. The man’s suntanned face, even newly washed looked dirty, as if all the water in world couldn’t clean the fields from him. They were one, Pa’pa and the earth, and today Pa’pa looked as dry and humorless as the dusty farmyard.
Words would have been helpful. A voice to produce them would have been as well. But faced with the withering stare from Pa’pa all hope of both fled.
“Barrick, we don’t need to discuss such nonsense at the dinner table,” Ma’ma piped up as she wiped a nonexistent drip of soup from her lips. “Denham will not be telling childish tales any longer, will you Denham?”
The reprieve from Pa’pa’s disapproving look was a blessing from above. Still speechless Den nodded his head in agreement and greedily began shoveling soup into his mouth. It wasn’t till later that night while he lay awake staring at the moonlight on the rafters that the full meaning of Ma’ma’s words hit him.
They were never going to believe him. They weren’t even going to listen to him, to let him try to explain himself. He was just a child, the second son of a farmer in a tiny village near the Great Forest. No one here would ever believe him. It probably wouldn’t make a difference if he was older. Everyone just thought he had rocks in his head. Well I’ll show them! If they don’t believe me then I’ll bring back proof! Then they’ll have to believe me. Even Barr!
He settled back into his pallet, adjusting the feathers beneath him. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would be the talk of the town: The boy who found dragons.