Monday, November 17, 2008
Princess of Amathar: Chapter 1 Excerpt
I don't expect you to believe this story, but it is the truth. My name is Alexander Ashton. I was born in the heart of the American west. I have often been known to say that I was born either a hundred years too late, or perhaps a hundred years too early. It always seemed to me that I had the misfortune to live in the single most unexciting period of time the panorama of history had to offer. I don't say that I longed to be transported to another time or to another world, for never in my wildest dreams did I believe this to be possible. I was destined to be surprised.
I was born in a small city. I played as a child in a park that was once a dusty street where outlaws of the old west fought famous gunfights. When I was seven, my parents were killed in a motor vehicle accident. I really remember little of them. I was put in a state run children’s home where I lived until I was eighteen, passed by time after time by prospective adoptive parents primarily because I was too old. I hold no ill feelings about it now. If there is one thing I learned while I was a ward of the state, it is that no matter how bad off one may be, there is always some one worse off than you are.
After graduating high school and being set on my own by the state, I entered college at the local university. I became a voracious reader and excelled in athletics, but did poorly in my required studies. After two semesters of academic probation I was asked to leave. I walked down the street to the Army Recruiter's office and enlisted. There wasn't much to the army, since there was no war on at the time. While I was there, I did learn to shoot, and fight with a saber, and to keep in good physical condition, but otherwise I left the service just as I had gone in.
After finding a new apartment in my old home town, I happened to run into a fellow whom I knew from college. He was running a small grocery store, and doing quite well, since no large grocery chain was interested in such a small market area. He offered me a job, I took it, and we became pretty close friends.
My friend, the grocery store owner, was engaged to a nice girl, and they decided in time to get married. I was chosen to be the best man. The wedding was nice, and the reception was even better. I have never been much of a drinking man, but that night I made a name for myself in that capacity. I don't know why I drank so much. Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself and my lot in life, I don't know. I do know that in short order, I had worked myself into a staggering, slobbering, half-conscious stupor. How, when, and where I became unconscious, I cannot say, but at some point I did. And this is where my story truly begins.
I awoke with a chill in my bones. I was lying down in a small stream bed with icy water running over my feet. I tried to rise, but couldn't. My body was stiff and weak and its only response was to shiver uncontrollably. Around me was a thick forest, and I could see dark shapes moving around in the trees. I sensed then, on some deeper level, that I was in a place I had never been before. Then I heard a deep growling as I passed once again into unconsciousness.
When next I awoke I looked around to find myself in a small shack. I was lying on a cot made of animal furs, and I was bathed in a cold sweat. The walls of the small shelter were made from cut logs and a roughly fashioned wooden chair was the room's only furnishing. When the door of the shack opened, I truly believed for the first time in my life that there were life forms other than those I was familiar with on earth.
The creature that stepped inside the door, and closed it after him, was most ugly. That he was intelligent was demonstrated not only by the fact that he had opened and then closed the door, but also by the fact that he wore clothing-- ugly clothing yes, but clothing nonetheless. He was about five feet tall and stood in a kind of perpetual crouch. His body was covered with coarse brown hair, two to three inches long, from his head to his feet, which reminded me of the feet of a dog or a wolf, although larger. He was somewhat wolf-like in every aspect, such as his protruding snout, but he also seemed somewhat baboon-like in his expressive eyes. I am comparing him to earthly animals, but this is really inadequate, as the similarities were actually quite superficial, and he was totally unearthly in appearance. I remember most looking at his hands. He had four fingers not too different from my own, but his abbreviated thumb possessed a great, long, curving claw.
The creature, stepping slowly over to me, reached out a hand and gave me a piece of dried fruit. I found myself quite hungry and the fruit quite good. As I began to eat, the being began to bark and growl at me. At first I thought he was angry, but then I realized that he was trying to communicate in his language. I was too tired to respond and fruit still in hand, passed back into sleep. When I woke again the creature was sitting in the chair looking at me with his head cocked to one side. I pushed myself up on one elbow and he spoke to me again, this time in a more human sort of language. It seemed almost like French, but having learned a few phrases of that language in the army, I knew that it was not. This language was so much less nasal. He pointed to his chest and said "Malagor" then he pointed to me. I said "Alexander". He smiled wide exposing a magnificent row of long, sharp teeth. My language lessons had begun.