Day 18 – this is a bit of backstory for my novel, ‘Firesoul’, which I thought would be interesting to explore. For my Beta readers, this will explain why Finn is not as fierce when it comes to The Rook. For everyone else, I hope it whets your appetite for the YA fantasy story I’ve been working on and developing.
Unfortunately, folks, this will be a two-parter for you. It will be too long for a single blog post, but it splits nicely into two. (And I need to write the second half.)
Welcome to Kalos, the hidden world of fae and foe.
Finn staggered into sunlight and freedom, covered in blood and tears. Threven scooped the young fox fae into his arms and turned from the copse of trees, shielding him from the horrors that lay within.
Angus was Finn’s hero and his father. There was nothing the old fox fae didn’t know about the worlds they shared with the Sleeping. Angus was a veteran helpmeet, later a mentor to fresh helpmeets before they met their Awakened humans. He was a master swordsman, and Finn used to listen to his father’s stories at the dinner table, his eyes wide and gleaming with admiration for the old fox. He wished – hoped – that he could make his father proud one day, by being the best helpmeet and warrior since Angus.
But Finn didn’t know about the enemies his father had made. Angus only told about the complete victories, those that ended with the bad guy dead or locked up in Kalos’s prison, under constant guard. There were plenty of those stories; they far outnumbered the ones where the opponent got away. Those ones usually ran off into self-imposed exile. Only one enemy transformed into a nemesis. Only one swore vengeance before limping off into the darkness. Only one promised to return, to kill Angus and his loved ones.
Only the Rook.
Sunlight slanted through the trees, filtering into green light that filled the thicket hidden in the centre of the forest. A summer zephyr played with the leaves, the light twinkling and flaring on the thick grass below, and occasionally dazzling in the eyes of the two combatants circling each other in the centre.
The sporadic tock tock of wood hitting wood played a syncopated beat to the birdsong from above. ‘Keep yer chin up, lad,’ Angus said. ‘Ye cannae keep lookin’ down at yer feet every other step.’ He lunged forward and struck out. Thunk. ‘Ye leave yer head open fer any attack.’
Finn rubbed his head where he had been tapped by his father’s training sword. ‘Da, that stings!’ He danced backward out of reach as he nursed his wounded pride.
Angus snorted, his whiskers rippling in echo. ‘Aye, but a bladed sword’ll hurt worse than a sting. Chin up!’ And he stepped to attack again.
Finn parried and side-stepped, sliding the stick against his father’s and succeeded in rapping the old fox’s knuckles. He turned and lunged for a stab to the ribs, but was blocked and spun round. His father used the pup’s momentum to keep him turning and off-balance, then slapped the young one across the small of his back, just above the tail. The sound of the strike reverberated around the trees, sending a few birds fleeing their perches.
Finn’s snarl of annoyance sent the rest of the birds flying, as he dropped the training sword and rubbed his tailbone. His eyes glistened with tears, but Finn refused to actually cry at the pain. He gave his father a sullen glance as the fox fae tried – and failed – to keep his laughter at bay.
‘Lad, ye’ve done well enow fer yer second training, so dinnae be too hard on yeself,’ Angus said, putting the training sword down on the grass and attending to his son. ‘Ye cannae think that ye can pick up a sword and be a master of it in weeks.’ He put his arms around Finn’s shoulders, pulling the reluctant pup into his embrace. ‘Ye’re young yet, too young to be fightin’ really, but there’ll be time enow for ye to learn. C’mon, lad,’ he said, ‘let’s go see if’n yer ma has lunch ready.’
Angus rubbed his knuckles into Finn’s scalp, trapping the pup under his arm and dragging him to the mouth of their den. Finn tried not to laugh, struggling and growling to release himself, while his father laughed at his youthful attempts.
They stopped frozen as a soul-freezing howl spiralled up from the depths of their home.
Wide-eyed, they looked at each other.
Angus whispered, ‘Dorna. Oh, my love ….’ He paused to grip Finn by the shoulders, staring deep into his only son’s eyes. ‘Run, dear heart. Don’t follow me down. Run, and get the Godvoices and the Guardians. Run!’ He pushed the pup towards the edge of the thicket, and Finn staggered a few steps.
He turned back to his father, his brown eyes filled with shock. ‘Papa?’ Finn had never been allowed out of the thicket without one of his parents with him, and the fear was near-paralysing. ‘Papa?’ His voice trembled.
But Angus was at the entrance to their underground home, his lightning-sharp sword rippling to existence in his hand. Over his shoulder, he said ‘Go, Finn! Now!’ He didn’t – couldn’t – wait to see if his son had gone for help; he dove into the darkness, his snarling war-cry splitting the air above and below.
Finn trembled in the sunlight, now gone cold. He whimpered, looking at his violated home, looking at safety and help beyond the thicket. He fell to his knees, tears soaking his whiskers. Rocking, sobbing, knowing his was ignoring his father’s orders, Finn could not bear to leave his parents in danger. He felt as though his heart would break, and he closed his eyes, hoping that the choice would be made for him.
The sunlight changed, shifting in from the other direction,
warming his fur. Confused, Finn opened his eyes and blinked at
the sight – a meadow, not a thicket; a tree, not a forest; a figure, not his father’s.
The figure turned. ‘What do we have here?’ But the jolly words did not
cover the concern or suspicion. ‘You are Angus’s son.’ A statement.
Finn nodded, robbed of words in this moment. ‘You are too young to
have been trained for this.’ Finn nodded again. ‘Angus is under attack.’
Finn howled his tears out, and the figure – wolf-headed, blue-eyed, garbed in robes –
made some shushing sounds, but kept his distance. ‘The Guardians will be
summoned. Go back and tell your father that help is on its way.’ The figure swiped
his hand down through the air, ending in a flick towards Finn, who-
tumbled backwards over the grass in his thicket. He stayed on his back, panting, his tears drying on his face.
The snarls and howls from deep within his home propelled Finn forward, and the pup pitched himself into the hole, desperate to help his father.