I haven’t done a Fiction Friday in a while, and since I’ve been chattering on about my upcoming novel release, The Wanderers, it seemed only appropriate to share an excerpt, no?
This scene is towards the middle of the novel. Julie, Jasper and talking cat Tom have just made a deal with a Sea Queen, which involves rescuing her sea serpent from Prince Randolph. Jasper and Tom met Randolph on a previous adventure, and were not impressed. Not every sentence here will make sense out of context, but I think enough is comprehensible…
Julie, Jasper and Tom exited the water abruptly. One moment they were skimming along just above the sea floor under the power of the Sea Queen’s magic. The next, they fell out of a wall of water to land in a heap on wet but not at all submerged sand. Julie’s hair fell in tangles around her shoulders, and Tom shrank to a third of his former apparent size.
Julie got to her feet, wet skirt clinging to her legs, and looked around. They were on bare sea floor, in a trench formed by walls of water rising dozens of feet above their heads on either side. The trench was maybe a hundred feet across, and several times that long, the floor covered in mounds of sand and wilted seaweed. At the far end, she could see the serpent coiled like an enormous snake, while Randolph stood before it with sword drawn, his back to them.
“Damn,” Jasper remarked. “He must have a useful enchanted sword.”
“You think he used it to part the ocean?” Julie said.
“Can’t explain it any other way. Randolph just isn’t that talented on his own.”
If Jasper was right, the sword was giving him a considerable advantage. Julie didn’t know much about judging the health of giant sea monsters, but she thought it looked ill. It was snapping at Randolph, but its movements were sluggish. “It’s probably sick outside the water,” she said. “So to rescue it, we’ll have to move it back into the sea.”
“You want to move a giant serpent?” Jasper said. “I’ve seen buildings that were smaller.”
Tom unhelpfully added, “I’ve seen entire towns that were smaller.”
“All right, so maybe we don’t move it,” Julie said, keeping her chin in the air and a positive tone in her voice. Someone had to be the optimist. “We’ll move the water back around it.”
Jasper caught the idea and the optimism. “We get the sword from Randolph, and if he can part water, why can’t we put it back?”
Tom groaned. “We’re going to get wet again.”
“You can’t get any wetter,” Julie said. “Come on, let’s go steal a sword.”
Randolph could be excused for being oblivious of them up until this point. They were behind him, there was a giant serpent in front of him, and even in the trench there was still enough water noise to hide the sounds of conversation. He only became aware of them when Julie called his name.
“Oh good, there is a girl to rescue,” Randolph said, after a quick glance over his shoulder. “I was starting to think this was not only crazy but pointless.” He took another look and said, “Hey, it’s you again! See, I thought it was you the old woman meant!”
“No, it wasn’t,” Julie said, taking her attention away from the hundred-foot serpent to address this new issue. “She couldn’t possibly have meant me because she couldn’t possibly know about me and I don’t really need rescuing anyway so—”
“Look out,” Randolph yelled, and slammed into her. They crashed down onto the sand, where Julie had the perfect vantage point to look past his shoulder at a serpent head swinging by. It still looked sluggish, which at this angle was not reassuring. She should have kept an eye on the serpent, even while setting Randolph straight on certain points.
“Need help getting up?” Jasper asked, voice distinctly clipped.
“No,” Randolph said, rolled off of Julie and got to his feet.
“I could use a hand,” Julie croaked, trying to get air back into her crushed lungs. Randolph was heavy.
Jasper hauled her back to her feet, while the serpent stared at everyone, for the moment unmoving.
“You must have escaped from the Sea Queen,” Randolph commented to Jasper, and frowned. “Rescuing you from the serpent won’t help with my Fate at all.”
“I don’t need rescuing,” Jasper snapped. “And Julie doesn’t need you to rescue her either.”
There was something about the way he said it…Julie found herself suddenly reminded of Tom chasing off the pack of cats because she was his human. So she was Jasper’s…what exactly? Friend? Girl in need of rescuing? Whatever she was, now was not the moment to think about it, because there was a serpent watching them, and a prince with an enchanted sword who was looking suspicious.
“Why are you here anyway?” Randolph asked.
“To help fight the serpent,” Julie said quickly.
“Right,” Jasper agreed. “Of course.”
The serpent chose that moment to move. It took a few seconds to coil itself up for a strike. Julie was watching this time, and so she didn’t really need Jasper to say, “Look out,” and yank her backwards.
“Saw it this time,” she said, trying to regain her balance and forced to lean on Jasper’s arm to do it. The serpent swung harmlessly by. So far, the adventurers had been doing more damage than the monster.
“I don’t need your help,” Randolph said, ducking as the serpent reversed its path. “And last time you decided to help me, you bailed just when I really needed help.”
“You needed help all along,” Tom said.
“And I was not going to marry a girl just so you wouldn’t have to.”
“I don’t need your help,” Randolph repeated, raised the sword, and turned towards the serpent, in the perfect pose of “hero about to charge the evil monster.”
Julie pulled her arm out of Jasper’s hold. “This is all so terribly frightening,” she announced, flung her arms out (managing to whack the prince with one of them), closed her eyes and fell heavily in Randolph’s direction.
He was supposed to drop the sword and catch her. Princes were supposed to be good at catching fainting maidens. Randolph must have missed that lesson, because Julie smacked into him, he lost his balance and they both fell onto the sand again—though at least Randolph was on the bottom this time.
Julie really wanted to open her eyes to see what had happened to the sword, but didn’t dare because it would ruin the effect of the fainting. Fortunately for her curiosity, Jasper exclaimed, “You know, I have this rule about not leaving weapons lying around…” and immediately after that Randolph said, “Hey, give that back, that’s mine.”
Julie found herself unceremoniously shoved off onto the sand, at which point she decided she might as well open her eyes because Randolph obviously wasn’t paying attention to her anyway. She looked around to see that Jasper had moved off a few paces and was holding the sword, while Randolph was heading towards him—only to trip over Tom, and go sprawling into the sand once again. The ignored sea serpent swung by overhead again.
“You people call this helping?” Randolph spluttered, face-down in the sand.
“There was a serpent heading towards you,” Tom said in tones of righteous indignation.
“And if I had had my sword, I would have killed it!”
“How does this thing work?” Jasper asked, studying the sword. “You used it, so it can’t be too complicated. Do you just sort of hold it and concentrate and…oh. I guess so.”
Jasper was looking up, so Julie did too, and saw the walls of water beginning to tip inwards. Apparently Jasper had concentrated.
There was a horrified shriek from Tom. “Not good not good not good!” He came scrambling up onto Julie’s stomach where she was still lying on the seabed. “Water! Falling water!”
Julie put an arm over the panicked cat, and looked up at the two great waves curling towards them. There had to be something she ought to do, besides hope that the magical bracelet for breathing underwater was still working, or that Jasper’s concentration had somehow involved not crushing the people in the trench. Running, however, was obviously pointless. She only had about three seconds to contemplate the matter, and then the deluge hit. In the great foaming mess, it was impossible to think about anything.
Stopping there, I think? 🙂 Don’t worry, I don’t believe in killing major characters halfway through a novel…and if you are worried, the full story will be available in mid-November!