I'm working on something new. Something bolder and brighter than anything I've done before. It's far more fantasy that sci-fi this time, but I think that I prefer writing fantasy. It allows you to add more lightness to the world, which is what I'm trying to do here.
This is the introduction for the protagonist, James. In past works, I've neglected giving an amount of serious thought to the lead character, which is a bit stupid really. So before I go off and write this thing, I really want to know how he's turning out straight from the start.
Also, how is the mood? I want it to feel changing, flowing from one semantic field to a juxtaposing one.
I am also looking into the magic that runs through this extract. Any comment on that would be great - I have a fine system worked out for the Arts, but I sometimes struggle with getting it on paper in the best way possible. Of course, I'm not explaining it here (that happens later). But how do you think it is introduced?
Thanks in advance,
(note - this isn't the first chapter)
The room was dry and dusty, with brown unpainted walls and neglected floorboards that creaked even when no-one was walking on them. A small open window hovered above the floor, casting a dull light on the floor a few inches away from where James Ulfrin was sat, quietly thinking while sitting no one of the two splintered chairs.
James was young and not very fit. He had a thin frame which his dirty clothes hugged tightly – especially his shirt, which was itchy and never kept him warm. James’ hair was short and unkempt, with the odd bit hanging over an eye and a little tucked behind one of his small ears. He had pale skin that hadn’t seen much light, as he spent much of his time indoors.
While he sat, too tired and bored to do anything, a spider danced its way down the corner of the wall with a spin while it span its silky thread. It came to rest on the floor, and scampered towards the boy with its thick hairy legs.
‘Not now, Harry.’ Said James calmly. The spider stopped, and looked sad.
‘I’m too tired.’ James continued. ‘Maybe tomorrow.’
‘But tomorrow’s too busy – I got three meetings and a double conference.’
‘With who?’ asked James as he stood from his seat and bent over to let the spider climb on his hand.
‘That’s confidential, that is. They didn’t give me a mind to speak so I could ramble on about official business now, did they?’
‘I suppose not.’ James sighed. ‘But you don’t have to get uptight about it.’
‘I’m not uptight!’ Harry squeaked. He then lowered his tone. ‘Life’s not exactly peachy when you ain’t one of those Ancients, you know.’
‘I know.’ James said sadly.
‘Sorry.’ The spider said.
‘No, no, it’s okay.’
‘Yeah.’ James said, and the spider disappeared into the shadows. James walked over to the window, and stared out with a doleful gaze.
A few children were playing on the stony street, getting in the way of the men and women who had more important things to do. Sweepers swept and soldiers marched. It was just another day in Domaheed.
The city of Domaheed was nothing to scream or shout about. It had started as a small fort holding off June’s troops so that Koromax could be used for offensive purposes. It was supported by Koromax until Carris was forced to play a dangerous strategy, which meant that Koromax was no longer able to share its resources with the small fort that protected it. Not one to leave anyone out, Carris turned Domaheed into a large town so that it could sustain itself.
Now, June rarely bothered attacking Domaheed, as it bore no strategic advantage after the Three Fellow Mountains had moved in the way of his attack route. Koromax was getting less important too. A lot of the focus was on Palar, Carris’ second capital, which was well overdue for an invasion from Zoar.
James had dreams of the war. He’d always be one of the gallant warriors that charged at the enemy, striking fear into their hearts and swords into their brains. James longed to escape the dour walls of Domaheed and seek adventure in the far reaches of Warzone as a millitarized servant of Carris, but there was no way that would happen. Only Ancients were drafted into the war, and James wasn’t an Ancient.
Although human, James had never known Earth. He’d been taken by mistake to aid the war effort in Warzone as a Support Draft. For fifteen years James had grown up in Domaheed, in a land locked away from the galaxy known only as Warzone. The lock was in place so that June and Cassis’ war wouldn’t destroy any of the other inhabitants of the galaxy, which was a good move unless you were put inside it. It let June and Carris settle their differences without accidentally blowing up stars in the process.
James had been taught the ways of the Ancient, which weren’t too different from human customs. The Ancients even looked almost the same. James had grown up with Ancient traditions, growing up in an Ancient house with an Ancient family which had welcomed him when no-one else had cared. Everyone knew he was human, drafted by mistake. It didn’t help their growing concerns for Carris’ leadership.
By now, James had given up his hopes of going back to Earth. His home was Warone, and it would be until the war was over. Nothing would change that.
The old door opened, and through it strode Marla. Marla was a calm and collected girl, about the same age as James. She wore a yellow dress with a matching band in her long bronze hair, and her bare feet made footprints in the dust on the floor. Marla was everything James would want in a sister, but she was a real Ancient, which made him always feel out of place. There wasn’t any power to her presence or difference to her form, but James knew from her eyes that she was not human. He saw a fire that burned quietly within, the kind he saw in all who inhabited Warzone. All except him. All James saw when he looked in the mirror were two blue eyes, blue as the sky, but normal nonetheless.
‘You look sad.’ Said Marla, with her serious but sweet tone.
James sighed. ‘I’m just a bit tired today.’
‘It’s probably this room – this whole house, even. It’s a nice day outside, you know.’
‘Might be. But it still isn’t a nice place.’ James had gotten tired of Domaheed long ago. There wasn’t anything wrong with the place – it was just as exciting as staring at cement.
‘I know you don’t like it, but it’s where we live. At least you’re safe.’
‘I’m bored being safe.’ James stated. ‘I just want some excitement/ Something... new.’
Marla thought for a moment. ‘I have an idea.’ She said.
‘What?’ asked James hopefully.
Marla didn’t answer. Instead, she closed her eyes and reached out with her mind. James could feel it – the Arts were at work.
The first strange thing was the grass. It sprang up from the floor and covered the entire space in a matter of seconds. Then the walls changed, blurring and distorting and becoming a bright sun-struck blue, and the window faded away into nothingness to be replaced by a roaring sun. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the door on chairs, which stood eerily alone, surrounded by a spectacular Illusion.
James was speechless. He bent down and felt the grass. It was real, cool and crisp with a touch of dew. Marla stood serenely, lost in the dream, staring into the blank sky. She loved the feeling of grass beneath her feet, and stepped lightly with a mirth in every step. The Illusion was almost perfect – the field seemed to stretch on for miles, and James could walk without bumping into any of the walls. There were even a few trees in the distance, like titans against the light of the star.
Marla pointed to the nearest one and yelled, ‘Race you!’
James ran after her, catching up quickly. While he wasn’t fit, he did have a lot of stamina. Marla quickly slowed down, and they ran together to the tree.
The tree was as real as the rest of the world. It had leaves that swayed in the light wind, and it smelled of sweet herbs and foliage. There was bark hard as it should be, and it painted a grand shadow on the ground. As James entered the shadow, the felt the effect of the shade and wondered if this world was Illusion at all.
Marla climbed the tree first, followed by James. They sat on one of the sturdy branches, enjoying the view of the cloudless sky. Marla dangled her feet in the air, feeling the strengthening wind rush through her toes.
‘You like it then?’ Marla asked.
‘Yeah.’ James replied calmly. He was completely at peace, feeling himself flowing freely in the power of the Arts.
‘I learnt this a week ago. It’s really a simple illusion, unless there are more than a few people involved. The Arts are like that – everything’s harder with more people. You have to accommodate for all their perceptions. Makes me wonder how the Lords do it.
‘Do what? This?’
‘And more. Grand displays for all to enjoy. Mum told me about it – she went in Romar’s palace one day. Best day of her life, that’s what she said. I wish I could be taught by a Lord, but girls don’t ever get that privilege And anyway, even if I was a boy, he’d never take interest in me. He’s far too busy with the war. So, has Harry told you anything new yet?’
‘I told him I wasn’t in the mood today.’ James said. Thinking about it, he should have listened to Harry. It might have lightened his mood a little. Harry was a Spy Spider, or ‘Spyder’ for short. He was charged with reporting June’s progress to Romar every week, warning him of any incoming threats. Not that there were any, though. So, Harry also reported to James, because he had loads of gossip (serious gossip, that is, about evil Tri-Lords and their malevolent plans), and because James had been the first person to not attack him on sight. James wasn’t afraid of spiders – especially nice ones like Harry. Harry was James’ only friend outside his own family.
‘Now I know why you’re sad!’ Marla said, attracting James’ attention. ‘You were thinking that I forgot, didn’t you?’
She put her hand behind her, making something Visible once again. She then revealed a present, wrapped quite untidily, but beautiful nonetheless. It was made of many colours of paper, and it even had a white ribbon on top.
‘Oh, Marla. You shouldn’t have.’ James said.
‘Happy birthday.’ She said back, passing him the gift.
The Chapter continues after that, but I don't want to post loads of material. Hope you enjoyed the read.