The following is an excerpt from my novel, “Keeper of the Sword,” which is in rewrite mode at the present. I hope to have it uploaded to smashwords with in a couple of weeks. I wil keep you posted.
“Josh, Josh dear, it’s time for supper.”
Josh struggled awake, sat up, looked around for his book, and found it lying half-open on the floor. He picked it up and placed it on the bed, “I’m not very hungry mom.”
“You need to eat something,” green eyes misted over. “I made a chocolate pudding for desert. Do you want me to fix you a tray and bring it to your room?”
“No thanks,” he flashed a grin. “As soon as I wash, I’ll come down and have supper with you. Having company while I eat will be nice.”
She smiled the worried smile that only a mother can, hugged him, kissed his forehead, “See you downstairs.”
After helping to wash and dry the supper dishes, Josh watched TV with his mom until nine, returned to his room and booted up his computer. Gramps still wasn’t online. No email from him either.
He took a shower, went to bed, fell asleep as soon as his head settled on a pillowcase, smelling faintly of lilacs, and drifted into a strange dream. A boy about ten years old lay under a tall tree, crying. High above him, four big birds, black wings folded, cyan heads flashing iridescent blues, purples and greens in the moonlight pouring through rents in the heavy clouds, kept sharp eyes on the child.
The largest of the birds spoke in a hushed husky voice, “Poor young princeling, first his mother was poisoned, and now his father the King has been brutally murdered.”
Another one grumbled, “We can’t take proper care of him. He needs to be with his own kind.”
“Besides,” growled a third, it was as close to a growl as a bird can come, “We have our own younglings to tend to.”
The fourth one asked, “What are we then to do?” If no one tends to him he’ll die, and we can’t let that happen because he’s King now.”
The large bird answered, “He’s far too young for us to take him back to the castle because his enemies will kill him.”
“I know, I know, I know what to do,” shouted the fourth one. The other three spoke at once, “Well, tell us.” “We can take him deep into the forest where the old man and old woman live. They don’t have younglings of their own. They’ll tend to him and give him their love.”
“That’s a good plan,” the others said, “We’ll guide him on his journey when the sun wakes, but we can’t tell them who he is.”
Josh’s dream changed, and now he looked down into an old hut. Four men, two with short grey beards, looking old enough to be his great-grandfather, a third, dressed in mottled grey and green, and a forth, sporting a shamrock-green hat, adorned with a long blue feather, sat around a table looking like the slightest sneeze would make it collapse.
The man with the hat asked, “How am I to find my way?”
One of the old ones reached under the table and lifted up a leather bag. He took out a black stone with a bright blue light lancing out of one side. “This is the seeing stone of Kings. Sometimes it is called the finding stone, and it will guide you to where the two who are spoken of in the prophecy wait.”
Away in the distance, carried by the breath of the wind came the skirling of a single bagpipe, wailing a mournful dirge, reminding Josh of his great-grandfather, Donald McDonald. For a moment, he saw the old man standing on hillside, silhouetted against the ruins of a castle, a kilt, bearing the tartan of the clan McDonald flapping around skinny legs, his dark eyes, eyes that always flashed when the Stuart’s were mentioned, fixed on the setting sun.
Over the tune, so familiar yet so strange came a voice, sweet, poignant, brushed with an Irish lilt, whispering at first, growing louder, filling him with an aching, a longing to go on board the great black ship she sang about. He held his breath in the depths of his dream, trying to burn each word, each haunting trill of the voice into his memory.
“In the moonlight gleaming/the Uniaedean rests, dreaming. Sails furled, captain sleeping/no one is watch guard keeping. Anchor set, gentle wind blowing, the great black ship dreams of going/to a mysterious, distant land/guided true by her captain’s hand. Awake, awake, loud voice calling. War drums beat/flaming arrows falling. In fear Uniaedean awakens, shudders from deep wounds taken/looks long at moonlight gleaming/then returns to her dreaming.”
The men faded, the hut, and the words the men spoke faded , all the words of the song, except Uniaeden faded, but the aching caused by the voice lingered on, filling his dream with sadness, and he wept for the loss of the sweetness of the moment.
He stirred in his sleep, tossed, turned, and before he woke, a ship sailed into view. How proud and bold she looked, with her black prow cleaving through tall white topped waves like a scimitar slicing through soft lard. Her black sails filled with wind, struggling to free themselves from the ropes binding them, and a fiery-eyed black stallion figurehead, pawing the air with silver shod hooves, glinting in the moonlight, seeming to urge the ship forward, ever forward.
Closer, closer came the horse and ship, closer until he made out the name Uniaedean on the ship’s side. The raised silver and turquoise letters glowing in the moonlight seemed to be surrounded by an unearthly blue and silver flame. For a moment, he stood on the prow, looking over rippling muscled flanks, over the broad back, out between the black stallion’s pointed ears, and heard a man call, in a gruff voice, “Trim the sails, hard to starboard,” over the cracking of sails, the rushing of the wind.
Salt spray splashing onto his face, soaking his clothes, stinging his eyes, cooled his fevered brow. His heart thudded like he’d just finished a ten-mile run, his throat tightened, he held his breath. Ahead of him, mist gathering up from the sea, spread out over the distant shore, swirling through strange looking trees, sweeping up towards far off snow covered mountains, not hiding the land, but adding a mystical fairy like quality to it.
He blinked sea water from his eyes, and stood on the shore, filled with longing, filled with a need to be onboard her, and as the last bit of dark sail slipped over the horizon, the voice, the sweet voice whispered to him once more.
He woke, sweat soaked, shivering, sat up, wiped tears from his eyes and tried to remember the voice, the words to the song, but the only thing remaining of his dream was the great black ship, and the fear and excitement of seeing her flying before the wind.