View Full Version : From the Shadows Chapter one: How long can you hide from your problems?

November 19th, 2011, 03:22 PM
This is the first chapter of my novel "From the Shadows." I was just wondering if readers would find this a boring read and if it is confusing in any way. I also want to know if it is enjoyable to read, or if not what I could do to make it better. Comments are appreciated and I hope you have fun reading.

How it Began…

The cries of towering beasts faded to silence as the evening calm overcame a day filled with harsh labor and unreasonable reptiles.

Zachery pounded the dust from his pants and started toward the door to the cottage he shared with his wife. The house was well maintained, with no weeds on the gravel walkway and no vines growing up the brick walls. A neat line of flowers lined the path, but the petals were now withered and the garden had since become a graveyard for fragile plants killed by the summer heat. Over his shoulder a worn pasture stretched for miles over rounded hills, but only small patches of stubborn grass were left to feed the livestock.

The shaggy lenx were spread across the hills with their stubby legs folded beneath them as they lay on the trampled earth. Occasional yawns passed over the ones that were still awake, but soon the fall of the second sun would lull them to sleep.

He paused, gazing east into the sapphire sunset as it tinted the landscape. Before nightfall the white stones used to build the dragon dens looked like polished gems compared to the dull earth. The flattering light made them all seem like mountains of crystal rather than piles of rocks. Every dragon sire slept lazily at the mouth of his family’s “cave,” preventing restless hatchlings from leaving their mother’s side.

Zachery watched them doze quietly, knowing they too were exhausted from another day of tedious conditioning. Once this generation of young adults was sold the days would be shorter until the hatchlings matured, but until then the days seemed longer and the nights felt shorter.
Still covered in filth, Zachery walked up to the door step and pounded the mat to shake off the dust that covered his boots. His effort was pointless, but he was too tired to wash them before stumbling inside. Janet would indubitably be angry, but today he was too spent to consider her reaction. He had only made it halfway to the bedroom before he heard a hesitant knock echo behind him. He turned slowly, muttering obscenities as he went to answer.

As he opened the door he saw a young girl standing on the sullied doorstep. Zachery studied her skeptically. The girl radiated such a fragile innocence she seemed grossly out of place among such a jaded reality. She seemed to be avoiding his eyes as she stared down at the tight bundle of blankets cradled in her arms. He never saw her lips move, but somehow heard her voice as clear as if he was speaking himself.

“I will not tell you my name because you can never say it.”

Zachery was mystified by her motionless face. Her words like thoughts of his own, they were a pitch he could never conceive on his own.

“I have chosen this moment carefully to present my gift to you. Take my son and the Gods will bless you with two of your own flesh and blood. Abuse this privilege and your world will suffer.”
Zachery stood completely still with his arms held stiffly against his sides, but before his eyes could register movement he felt a strange weight cradled against his chest. He looked down to see two oddly shining eyes the color of hot embers gazing back at him. His mouth opened to object, but when he raised his head the woman was gone.

It seemed unreal, but it was as if this was how it was supposed to be. It wasn’t his place to question the will of Fate when she decided to grant a mortal’s wish. All he could do was learn to be a father. The Gods would accept nothing less.

Chapter One

Jayden shifted restlessly, twisting in his chair until the gesture wasn’t enough to distract him from the uncomfortable room. The deep darkness was broken only by the orange glow of his eyes, which by themselves did nothing to light the room. There were no windows or doors for sunlight to leak through, only a vacant door frame leading to the bedroom he rarely used. The empty workbench in front of him stretched across the two closest walls, all in one solid piece that blended seamlessly with both. Shelves packed with neat rows of statues and swords outlined the rest of the room, every piece made of the same dark-metal as the structure itself. He glared at the shelves, jaw with clenched in dissatisfaction.

Even with hundreds of things covering the shelves, the room felt empty. The only family members he saw were idle memories of the life he abandoned five years before. Jayden often imagined what his little brother did when they told him what happened, but not even the thought of the young boy using his powers to burn down the forest was enough to make him want to go back. He tried to dismiss it by reminding himself that Owen wasn’t his real brother, but as usual it didn’t work. As much as he wanted to he never believed that blood was what tied a family together. He knew it would be easier if he saw it that way, but he never could.

Scowling, Jayden impatiently pushed the thought from his mind and turned back to his work. Memories only brought doubts that felt like failure. He slowly slid his index finger along the rounded edge of the workdesk and paused, mentally flipping through the limited list of the few things he still found entertaining. Outdoor activities were instantly cast aside; the red sun was still perched far above the horizon and the light strained his eyes when he spent the rest of the day in the dark. After the sun set would go out to watch the mistress of the nearby dragon den emerge to hunt her unfortunate prey, but for now he had to amuse himself with only a wandering mind and a room full of darkness ready to do his bidding.

Jayden’s eyes narrowed intently. He imagined the shadows around him pulling together into a single mass that grew heavier and heavier until it was finally too dense for the air to hold. He stared thoughtfully at the shapeless mass once it fell on the table, mentally searching for ideas he could recreate using the block he had conjured. His mind returned repeatedly to the protective expression the wild dragoness wore as she approached the cave where her hatchlings slept. He hadn’t seen a human make the same expression since Janet died, and he didn’t expect to see it again.

He studied the raw material, calculating the necessary dimensions for his newest project. His eyebrows tightened as he started to visualize every detail of the dragon’s figure. Slowly the metal began to shape itself according to his thoughts. The real creature was bright silver with radiant blue eyes, but his replica couldn’t imitate her color. The darkness he used to make it only came in one color. It always became a deep rainbow of black that resembled thick smoke constantly twisting beneath a thin pane of glass. It was beautiful in its own way, but he knew it wouldn’t be the same.

An hour went as he perfected the statue, individually shaping each curve and scale until she stood proudly before him. Jayden hesitantly leaned back in his chair and skeptically examined his work. Finding no flaws, a slight smile curved his faded lips.

He gazed around the room at the other pieces lining the shelves, but compared to his latest work they all seemed weak and simple. Irritated, wrinkled his brow and turned them all into plumes of shadow that dissolved instantly into nothing.

Mildly satisfied with his decision, Jayden mentally drew a window into the wall above the bench, making an opening just wide enough to see the surrounding treetops. His eyes were met by a landscape with slight bluish tint lit only by the second sun. He quickly rose and strode across the room, mentally weakening the metal wall beyond the properties of a solid until it molded around his body like a motionless waterfall.

As he passed through the barrier a weak gust of wind brushed against his skin. The scent it carried was much sweeter than the stale body odor that infested the house. The lush plant life had started to shrivel, but even dying leaves filled the air with the intoxicating smells of the forest. Unfortunately he didn’t have long to enjoy it.

Before he could look up an excited bellow pounded his eardrums. He raised his head just in time to see two flaring nostrils blow smoke in his face. He started coughing violently, suffocated by the odor of raw meat surrounding his head. After a few stiff moments the animal pulled back its massive green snout, glaring down as if it was disappointed. After a short pause Jayden heard a deep chuckle.

“I think he wanted you to fall down.”

A man jumped from the dragon’s back, snapping a cluster of of dead twigs as his feet hit the ground. A tall figure walked arrogantly around the animal’s folded wing, but he couldn’t tell who it was. Through the smoke it was hard to see anything other than the scowling green beast.

His burning eyes widened in dismay as he considered the consequences of being found. He spent more than a week finding a clearing so far from civilization, and now his effort was ruined. A brooding scowl passed over his face, violating the most basic rule of handling dragons: they are only as friendly as the people around them.

The beast snarled, digging its claws into the barren rock of the cliff’s edge and stretching its wings as far as it could. It shook its head so violently the reins whipped against its shoulders with a wild crack that would have split human skin. Its roar was powerful enough to be heard for miles, but the rider didn’t flinch, even as bits of stone broke from the cliff and fell into the forest below.

“Settle boy,” the stranger cooed. After a short pause the animal slowly lowered itself back to the ground and pouted silently. The man’s voice sounded oddly familiar, but it was too deep to belong to who he was thinking of. Jayden wanted to ask the stranger’s name, but the question lodged in his throat like a bad cough.

The dragon shifted restlessly, but made no movement to interfere with the situation.

“Why must everything you own be so dark?” the rider asked, motioning towards the cabin. For some reason Jayden found it hard to answer, but after an awkward pause he managed to reply.

“I use what I can get.”

The man laughed, but Jayden didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t place it, but his voice and attitude still seemed familiar. Jayden watched him cautiously, unsure how to react.

“I suppose you don’t recognize me,” the man sighed. “You were always so forgetful of names and faces.” He paused. “Of course, you should remember me, considering we were raised in the same house.”

Jayden’s right brow elevated involuntarily as he ravaged his brain for the imposter’s identity. Several seconds passed lost in concentration, but when the smoke finally cleared the realization hit him like a boot to the head. Owen became a man while he was gone. He had grown to be as tall as he was, but the dark tan and toned muscles made him look much bigger. Jayden frowned. Owen noticed the look of recognition pass over his face, and responded with a wide smile.

“I’m glad I made such a lasting impression.”

Jayden heard his brother draw a deep breath but couldn’t tell if he was disappointed or relieved. The emerald dragon blew little rings of smoke into the open air above his master’s head to get his attention, but Owen did nothing to relieve its boredom.

“You used to be much smaller,” Jayden replied slowly.

Owen brushed his scruffy brown hair behind his ear, wearing a subtle but noticeable expression of pride. The gesture made Jayden conscious of his own appearance, realizing how ragged he must look. His own hair had grown long since he last cut it, but it hadn’t looked decent since he ran away. He could never cut it right with only a knife, but the crookedness was lost in the fact that it was matted and dirty.

It didn’t matter how many times he told himself he didn’t care; he felt like anyone else did the shadow of someone greater. Jayden couldn’t tell if the resentment he felt was for his brother or himself, it just festered in his chest like a spreading disease.

“We need you to come home,” Owen demanded. “And honestly, what you say doesn’t matter.”
Jayden grimaced, but his distaste went unnoticed.

“I don’t want to.”

Owen’s smile grew wider until it looked like he was going to laugh.

“You don’t really have a choice. Your little hissy fit is about to end and it is ridiculous it lasted this long. It’s time to come back to the real world.”

The speech sounded more bitter than intimidating, but the intention was the same. As much as much as he didn’t want to deal with his brother he knew his odds of escaping were pretty low. Once a dragon caught a scent there was no escaping.

“Why do you want me back so much?” Jayden could feel the anger dripping off his tongue, but Owen seemed too cocky to care.

“I would rather let Pops explain, but it doesn’t really matter what you want. You’re coming if you like it or not.” The demand spewed mouth, but his words still invoked a sense of alarm only rivaled by the threat of being torn to pieces.

“Look,” Jayden grumbled, “I don’t know how you found me but I’m not coming with you.”
Owen threw his head back and let out a demented laugh. He slowly leaned against a nearby tree and crossed his arms over his chest. He still seemed much more amused than what was appropriate.

“You can do some interesting things, but nothing you might have in that little hut of yours is going to help you.”

He laughed again. Owen had given into insanity along with adulthood.

Jayden wasn’t sure how to respond. Part of him wanted to run away, but he it wouldn’t help. Running is what brought him in here to begin with. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and glared into his brother’s eyes. The bitterness he felt on his tongue tasted like hatred, but it wasn’t meant for his brother. Owen wasn’t even there when it happened. Jayden figured he lost both parents that night. He clenched his jaw, making his next words hiss through his teeth like an angry reptile.

“You can’t make me come with you.”

This time his brother’s laugh was closer to a manipulative giggle.

“Sure I can. Watch me.”

Jayden could hardly tell Owen moved before he was only a few feet away with a rock palmed in his hand. He heard a small crack before he felt the stone touch his skin, but the pain hardly had time to register before the world turned black and he fell into the void of unconsciousness.

Again, this draft hasn't been as edited as much as it could be, but any little advice you have to offer would be nice, but mainly I just want to know if it keeps your interest or if you find it confusing. I would also be interested in your feelings about the descriptions and which ones really stand out. Thanks everyone!!

November 19th, 2011, 09:23 PM
Hi. I found it somewhat confusing and a little boring in parts. But that is only because of the order of things I think. The character who turns up is Jaydens brother, and it is too much of a coincidence because Jayden was just thinking about him. So you should move things around. Start off with the action, not Jaydens thoughts. The first paragraph should be where his brother turns up, then afterwards Jayden can think about him. Hope you know what I mean there.

But it is written well, I didn't have a problem with reading, I just kept wondering if anything was going to happen. And it did but right at the last sentence when his brother aparenlty knocks him out. What may be more interesting is if the first paragraph shows Jayden being knocked out then he wakes up and discovers it was his brother. That way would be more intriguing for the reader, then you can have Jayden do some thinkng etc about their past.

But I like your naration.

November 20th, 2011, 07:52 PM
Since you posted that comment I actually added the "prologue" to my post that gives some background into the world and where Jayden came from. The prologue doesn't have any explosions or fire either (haha), but I've been told it's still pretty interesting without giving everything away.I like some of the descriptions I use, but I'm curious as to what you all think.

Hopefully what I added will make things less confusing, but it was written with the intention of leaving a lot of questions so I don't know if that will help or not. Maybe when I go back in the future I'll try to add some more action into the first few pages, as as of now I'm not sure what that will be.

I appreciate the advice, and if you decide to read over the prologue just let me know.


November 24th, 2011, 07:31 PM

I really enjoyed the prologue. Though it seemed somewhat slow, I felt it really showed the setting well. I also thought that when the girl showed up it got more interesting.
On the other hand, I felt Chapter One to be more confusing. There were a few bits that I couldn't quite understand, however that may just be from lack of intellect on my part.
There were a few typos / errors (or what I assume to be) like; "but he it wouldn’t help." I'm guessing that was meant to be "but he knew it wouldn't help".
But I do know you mentioned it wasn't edited as much as it should had so I didn't really worry too much about them and I'm sure you're already aware of them.

Anyway, I also thought that chapter one set the scene quite nicely. It was a bit boring-ish and slow-ish at the start but as it went on I found it to get more exciting.
I did however find the part "Owen had given into insanity along with adulthood" sounding a bit forced.
Maybe it's just me but it seemed that you just wanted to get this fact off of your chest and I just thought that you could somehow let us know in a less of a straight-forward manner.

Allthough I've already said this but I really do think that the settings was well described and the story had nice imagery. Overall, it was a nice read. ^^V

November 24th, 2011, 07:52 PM
Since you posted that comment I actually added the "prologue" to my post that gives some background into the world and where Jayden came from. The prologue doesn't have any explosions or fire either (haha), but I've been told it's still pretty interesting without giving everything away.I like some of the descriptions I use, but I'm curious as to what you all think.

Hopefully what I added will make things less confusing, but it was written with the intention of leaving a lot of questions so I don't know if that will help or not. Maybe when I go back in the future I'll try to add some more action into the first few pages, as as of now I'm not sure what that will be.

I appreciate the advice, and if you decide to read over the prologue just let me know.


Sorry I didn't see the prologue. You describe a very colourful and vivid world there, to me it came across very "not of this world" but I suppose thats what you intend. So am I to believe that Jayden and Owen are grown up children of Zachery?

"It seemed unreal, but it was as if this was how it was supposed to be." This sentence stuck out and if I were you I would get rid of it. But I like the rest of the writing. You mention his wife but we don't meet her.

November 25th, 2011, 06:30 AM
I enjoyed the prologue and the first chapter. A lot of the comments I would make are things you can fix by just reading the whole thing out loud. For example you use Jayden's name a lot and it sounds funny. Jayden does this and Jayden does that. The story is interesting so far. I think that the hook for me were the orange glowie eyes you introduced early on in Jayden. For me the first chapter reads better with out the prologue, because I like to figure out the cool little out of place elements. I like to be introduced slowly to the world. In printed books I skip prologues and then go back to em after I have read a few chapters. Forums and short story classes are the only place I read them as intended.

November 26th, 2011, 04:40 PM
I know a lot of people skip the prologue, which is part of the reason I don't call it the prologue. I'm glad you like it as a whole and hopefully when I go back to edit it a little better I can take out some of the issues you see in it. I'm trying not to make any structural changes right now because the second chapter picks up where he is back home with his family, but I probably should add something about his little sister, and maybe that could replace the thoughts about his brother near the beginning.

I really like the eyes too. People think it is somewhat strange, but I've always liked it that way because it helps show how different he is from most people and it's a pretty cool image. It really becomes important to the story later on because he is really self conscious about it and other kids made fun of him when he was younger because he was different. The reason his eyes are like that will probably be a big part of the story line later on, but I haven't written that part yet.

Maybe soon I'll post chapter two.

November 27th, 2011, 01:04 AM
I think you could use some of the prologue as a flash back type scene later on to explain Jaydens unusual origin.

November 27th, 2011, 04:53 PM
I've never been much of a fan of flashbacks, but the problem with it here is that Jayden is still a baby and wouldn't be able to remember it even if I decide to use one. I'm going to pretty much tell the story through his eyes for the entire book, and if I follow through on that then it wouldn't be possible for him to have a flashback to that particular event.

November 28th, 2011, 02:36 AM
You know more about your character than I do, but he isn't human right? I don't know if all humans laws apply to him.When I said flash back I really meant, like maybe one day his old man guardian, parent figure, can explain how that woman brought Jayden. I know I love when my mommy tells me about when I was young.

November 28th, 2011, 04:05 PM
I'll have to think about that. Some parts later on talk about how he already knows what happened, and a lot of things talk about his eyes, which is something any kid would ask about when they saw theirs were so different, so it wouldn't make much sense if I had him find out as an adult. I'll think about it, but I try to keep the flashbacks and dreams to a minimum. So far almost eighty pages in I only have one because in most cases they seem out of place to me. Some writers are a bit excessive with the flashbacks, and I guess I'm afraid of doing the same.

November 29th, 2011, 12:20 AM
In the end it's just a wittle suggestion. You need to follow your heart song.