Present Time, Scotland, the Castle
Durst was not upset about being dead. Dang, I would be!
But he was upset, and mightily so.
His homeland was threatened.
Not for the first time over the ages. But past threats had come from fierce soldiers he had fought with hot passion and honor. While the danger now came in the smooth words and a slippery smile from the one known as “Gorgeous.” And though Durst was now a cold ghost, it chilled him. (The editor in me wants to reword this paragraph like so: Not for the first time, but past threats had come from fierce soldiers he had fought with hot passion and honor. Now the danger came came in the smooth words and a slippery smile from the one known as “Gorgeous.” And though Durst was now a cold ghost, it chilled him.
From a rough-hewn cavern beneath the dungeon, Durst’s vaporous form rose up, high above the tower walls. Below him the castle’s grey stones gleamed softly in the weak moonlight. A fog lifted slowly from the rocky cliff that bordered his land and overlooked a restless inland sea. I might cut one of the adverbs in the paragraph; probably slowly because I like the way the first sentence reads as is.
An owl swooped past in search of prey. A lone wolf howled. And other creatures of the night went about their quiet business.
This land must not be destroyed!
Strengthened now, Durst returned to his solitary chamber deep underground.
He rubbed the flat edge of his stone knife, back and forth, back and forth, against his pale blue cheek.
Done with thinking he stabbed the blade into the air, and a single crash of thunder quaked the Highland dark, summoning two other unearthly forms of the castle. In their own times and in their own ways each of them had devoted their living days to these lands -- the proud mountains and their valleys of sweet heather, on which even a god could lie and rest his head and drink from bottomless clear lakes.
The ghosts shifted in the small space, uncomfortable together. They were not friends. But they were bound by a love of their homeland that could not be bounded by a short earthly life.
Now they needed one from the living world. One with the purpose ... and the magic ... to protect this sacred place.
Durst took up the length of sapwood from the sacred alder tree on which he had carved the old symbols. He cut the final notch of a simple flute.
The three touched, and a white-gold energy glowed and grew until their shimmering forms blazed in cold fire.
Durst’s ancient ghostly lips met the living wood. He breathed in all their hopes and fears, and sent forth to the Four Winds a sweet, sharp song. His command was clear: “Carry here the youngest of the clan. The youngest Thistle.”
A future was cast.
Aside from the few places I marked, I really like this beginning. Especially Durst who is mightily upset about being dead. That made me laugh, and I think kids will find it funny, too. I also like the way the danger is described so minimally (smooth words and a slippery smile) and so chillingly. If I'd gotten this book as a kid, you can bet I'd be turning the pages.
But what do you folks think about this first page? Interested? Care to offer any suggestions? You know we like comments around here so I hope to hear your thoughts. And a big thank you to Annie and Chris for submitting :)