This is the Kickstarter campaign page for viewing samples from Captain Wilder & the Dragon of Margundor. The campaign page is at:
I hope these short extracts give you an idea of the writing (which of course is subject to revision as part of the editing process involved in the Kickstarter campaign).
Choosing what to include and exclude in any such sample is difficult, given I want to highlight aspects that interest readers without giving away too much of what happens in the more dramatic passages.
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From Chapter 1: I Am Named
I was born by the banks of one of Melen Darit’s great salt lakes one day when my mother had ventured fully pregnant out of the Night Forest where we lived. I know this story well as my oldest sister, Judith later related it to me many times while we sat by the fire late into the night, me begging for more stories and fables, she patient through all my pestering.
Mother had come to fetch some of the little silver fish that lived in the Lakes. Each night she would set traps for them and each morning set out to check her luck. But this morning the fish in the traps would have to wait for my sister to come fetch them in the evening.
“Help me, daughter!” She shouted to Judith, who’d gone to check traps further along the banks of the lake. “The child comes suddenly!”
Judith hurried over, though she was not panicked. As forest dwellers, our family fended for itself in everything and feared nothing from birth through to death. The two women retired to a grassy sheltered area and set about the business of bringing a new soul into the land of Animarl.
I came into the world so silent they thought I may have been dead born. But no, look, it kicks and wriggles, and it is a boy! Both mother and Judith smiled; there were two other girls in our family but no males.
“It will be nice to have a man about the house again,” my mother said as her smile faded to a faraway look. The loss of her forester husband when a tree fell on him in a storm still grieved her even after the many moons separating that event and now.
That evening they named me as they sat around the fire after dinner passing me from one to the other for inspection. My mother wanted me named Linden, but my sisters were taken by my big bright eyes of blue and tufts of red hair; they suggested Foxbright. At the end of the discussion, it was amicably decided: my name thenceforth was to be Linden Foxbright Wilder.
From Chapter 5: Parting
We had just rounded the corner that bent the path down to a little creeklet. Uncle Jimmy was first over the rise that broke onto the descent, with Judith and I following close behind. Too close, as it turned out. For uncle had abruptly stopped in the middle of the track and the pair of us stumbled into his back.
Even that would have been all right, except for my foolish little child’s feet which somehow got tangled in Jimmy’s legs and sent me tumbling down the track.
I heard my sister gasp and Jimmy curse. I wondered why and looked up to see several rough-looking men down at the creek, filling water jugs. The commotion I made alerted them and they were on their feet in a moment, brandishing knives. One of them leapt aside and picked up a crossbow. He winched it back to the cocked position and levelled it at Jimmy. “I’ll be thanking you to state your business, stranger!” he shouted.
I started to crawl back up the path on my backside, using my shaking hands. From the corner of one eye I saw Judith begin to level the staff at the belligerent group we’d encountered.
Jimmy replied to the rough fellow with the crossbow.
“And I’ll be thanking you to state your own business, my friend, pointing that contraption at my chest!”
The man snarled, showing rows of rotted, broken teeth.
“I asked first! And as you can see, I’m first in line to strike a blow, so don’t tarry with your answer.”
He looked over at Judith and said, “and you, put that wand down, for I’ll wager our bolts will outpace and outnumber yours, if you chance your luck!”
Judith lowered the staff but started to edge towards covering bush at her side.
The rough fellow looked down on me gradually edging my way back up to my companions. “And you, young sprout, stay just exactly where you are!”
That was enough for Uncle Jimmy. He pushed Judith sharply and she went flying into long grass at the side of the path, still clutching the staff. Uncle glanced quickly to see that she had landed without injury and then swung back on the crossbower.
“You point a weapon at me, and threaten a child. What manner of man does that, I wonder? And I’ll answer my own question: a coward! Why don’t you put that thing down and come up here to ask me politely? And I’ll politely give you my answer to all of your questions.”
As he said this, uncle stood on side with his fists up.
The ruffian just laughed.
“And surrender my advantage? I don’t think so, old man! Now, I’ll ask you once more and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll start answering before I’ve finished speaking.”
I looked over my shoulder at Uncle Jimmy. I was shaking so much I’m sure all could see it. But Uncle Jimmy was solid and calm as a rock with moss on it.
His face softened from its anger and he nodded slowly. “All right, you shall have your answer.”
As he said this, he lowered his hands towards his belt. He made quite a show of hooking the thumb of his left hand in the belt and straightening himself up. Then he seemed to get the thumb caught, and brought his right hand inside his coat in an apparent effort to free it.
At first, the group of men laughed at poor old Jimmy’s predicament, but the one with the crossbow stopped quickly and jiggled the weapon up and down in Jimmy’s direction.
“That’s enough of that, keep your hands outside the coat where we can see them!”
“I most surely will,” Uncle Jimmy answered evenly. As he did so, he withdrew his right hand and levelled it straight at the crossbower. I wondered what he was doing, for in his hand he held a strange object.
It extended beyond the fingers of his hand further than the length of my own arm. But it was made of wood and had a pipe of metal fastened to its top.
Jimmy pulled back a rod at the rear of the metal pipe and curled his finger around another strip of metal that extended downwards from the contraption. As he did this, noise blasted my ears and I thought for a moment a sudden storm had struck and that thunder had somehow come ahead of the lightning, rather than after it. But then I saw that the lightning had actually come out of the metal pipe, blazing red and puffing black smoke.
I wondered if Jimmy had learned some mysterious magic on his travels. For it seemed to me he carried a little dragon in his hand and could command it to spit fire and noise at his enemies.
I sat there a moment, completely stunned by what I’d seen. But my amazement was only to increase. For, almost as soon as the dragon’s blazing died away I heard a groan behind me and looked back just in time to see the crossbower falling forward, doubled over and clutching his chest, into the creeklet. The water downstream of him immediately ran red.
His two companions fell back almost as shocked as I, until a wicked gleam came into their eyes and they exchanged a knowing glance. I had no idea what they were thinking or planning, and wondered why their fright had lessened while my own had grown. But they leapt across the creek anyway and came forward brandishing knives. I looked back at Jimmy…
From Chapter 11: Barto Hatches A Plan
Then one night my luck changed, though it certainly did not seem that way at first.
This night I was on the upper deck, sentenced to scrub it until daybreak. My crime? I had failed to get out of the way of the second mate in a timely fashion as he made his way to the forward deck. The Crow’s nest had called out a ship on the horizon, and the second mate had leapt into action. He’d caught one of my legs on the way and gone down heavily. He rose, swearing with pain and embarrassment, and yelling that I’d be seen to later.
I was still sore from the flogging received for it and the work was doubly hard for the bruising and general stiffness I still felt.
At length, I collapsed against a stowed topsail that had torn apart in a storm and been taken down for repairs the following morning. It had been roughly folded by the deckhands who’d drawn it down, and I wondered what their punishment would be if that martinet, Captain Lygon set eyes on it before morning.
I lay there and closed my eyes a moment, knowing there were few hands on deck at this hour of the night and that I would most likely be ignored by them anyway.
Noise woke me, a sound I’d only ever heard when a farm animal’s throat was cut in the slaughtering. I’ve never gotten used to it and on a ship that carried no animals – only dried stores for a battle voyage – it cramped my stomach with fear.
I slowly peered above the folds of sail that were hiding me.
Several figures were slithering over the edge of the deck, climbing hand over hand up the ropes they’d thrown attached to grappling hooks, which they’d wrapped in old sail material to muffle the noise of them landing on the deck.
I was terrified. And for a moment, totally at a loss as to what to do. But it didn’t take long to see I had no choice in this matter. If I continued laying there the pirates would inevitably discover me either before they’d plundered the ship and killed all on board or after. Either way, I would share the common fate.
I jumped up and screamed with all my lungs, “Pirates!” I felt that one word was far too short, really, I wanted to let out one long scream. Would the crew think I was playing a joke? Despite my terror, I felt embarrassed.
But I needn’t have worried. In an instant, those mates on the top deck sprang to arms, and soon the clashing of cutlasses sounded a more shrill and effective alarm than I could ever have given. Sailors in all stages of undress and full dress poured out of the quarters fore and aft, brandishing their own blades to join the fray.
Now, as I have previously remarked, pistols and such armament were a rarity in these parts. Indeed, my own knowledge of them was limited to what I had observed when I lived at Shadow Lake with Uncle Jimmy. My uncle had told me he’d travelled far north in order to source his own brace of pistols, which he prized highly.
“Be thankful if you never run into the northern pirates around the Margundor,” he’d said, referring to the den of the fabled Djinn, the Margun, “for they are fierce and merciless. They carry on board their ships’ cannons which tear apart any ships that oppose them, ripping great holes and killing many sailors, then sinking them by virtue of the water let in!”
“What are cannons?” I’d asked.
Uncle held one of his pistols up for me to inspect. “Like these, they spit fire and balls that break whatever they hit. But much, much bigger — a cannon is so great in size and weight, it cannot be lifted by many strong men. They strap them to the deck of their ships as fast as they might, and yet when they are fired off, many still break free. They are such mighty weapons they are often a danger to the very men who aim them at their enemies!”
His description terrified me, and I was thankful we had none of those northern pirates down where we lived.
Nevertheless, these cutthroats attacking us now represented a grave danger with their cutlasses and murderous intent, even if they lacked the spitting dragons of their northern relatives. I shook off my terror and resolved on action.
I ran from my hiding place and headed for a bloodstained sword that lay discarded on the deck. Here, age and height worked both for and against me.
The giants in combat overhead jostled, slashed and thrust to stay in the world of the living, quite oblivious to the small boy running about below their desperate focus. Many times a flashing blade passed where my head would have been but for my small stature.
But if I was saved in that way, my insubstantial presence cost me in another. I could not avoid the frantic limbs that thrashed about like trees in a storm. Several times I collided with one of the pirates and was sent sprawling, and several times I rose, bruised and dazed, to continue my progress towards the sword.
Eventually I got there and snatched it up. I’d never held such a fine weapon before and was surprised by its weightiness. Nonetheless, I intended to do some damage with it. I had in an instant become a true member of Her Majesty’s Naval Forces, and more importantly, I was throwing in my meagre strength with the crew upon whose survival my own would depend.
I wheeled about looking for some pirate whose legs I could hack into, the intention being to so bring them down to my size and finish them. Looking back, it was a brave and foolhardy endeavour for a little boy, but as I say there was no choice but to fight if I wanted to live.
I’d just spied a suitable target when another blow sent me sprawling backwards into a knot of combatants. I dropped my sword and had to use my hands to keep from falling flat on my face. The pirate I’d crashed into turned around and swore, then raised his cutlass above his head, intending to bring it down upon mine.
I rolled to the side and flashed my legs out at his feet. In the chaos it worked, he looked down and tried to kick back but missed. He tottered sideways several paces and I jumped on my dropped sword and ran towards him. As he raised himself from the deck, I raised the sword parallel and ran full pelt aiming for his middle.
Due to my young speed more than strength, the attack worked. The length of the blade buried itself just below his rib cage and another one of our crew finished him.
As soon as he’d fallen, I turned back to the group where he’d been fighting. To my surprise, only one lone figure remained standing, that of our master, Captain Lygon. Even in this chaos, he was grinning at me.
“Well done young man, well done!” It turned out later that my cascading into his assailants had distracted them and when they’d turned around to identify the interruption he’d wasted no time setting upon them.
“Come to my side, quickly! You have saved my life and by the gods I will save yours!”
Of course, I did as he told me, but by the time we were side-by-side holding our swords up ready for further attacks the fighting had ceased. Those pirates not dead had beaten a hasty retreat, some even discarding their weapons and diving overboard to swim away in the dark to their vessel.
As I watched in horror, the unmistakable figure of Barto joined them in their retreat. Somehow he had escaped from the brig, or perhaps pirates had gone below and freed him. I would never know, and neither would I ever underestimate my cousin’s ability to evade justice.
When the deck had been cleared of these vermin all present raised their swords in the air and uttered a roar of victorious warning, led by Captain Lygon who grabbed my free hand and raised it with his.
From Chapter 21: The Beast In Its Den
I cannot tell how long this lasted, the dank air of the passage constricted my breath and stretched time this way and that. All I know is that we came into a wide chamber whose walls glowed a strange, pulsating red. Their light did not completely dispel the dark but threw every shape into sharp relief, so that the chamber’s features could be made out by solid object or the shadows each cast.
I looked about for the source of light that shone on the walls but could not find it. There were no entrances from outside in through the cavern’s roof, nor even lower down. And whatever it was, it made everything equally iridescent. Thinking on this a moment I realised the source must emanate from one place, and since it lit up every space around the cavern that place must be towards the room’s centre. Bringing my eyes to bear on the floor at this point I caught my breath.
There at the centre of the cavern, pitched at a slight angle in the sand and crumbling rock, lay a stoppered bottle about the size of a container for cheap spirits. I wondered if some wayward sailor or smuggler had left it at some time past. I stepped forward for a closer look.
The closer I got to the bottle the more I could see that it was indeed the source of light. A frightening glow pulsed within, as though some living form inhabited the thing…
…I went to step forward once more, but my foot froze in mid-air as I saw the bottle’s stopper uncork itself and fall away. The bottle glowed ever brighter and a strange, red-brownish mist swirled within it. Finally, the murk flowed out and ever out, it seemed an endless, uncoiling thing the bottle could replenish at will. It rose until it attained the height of the cavern, where it spread across the rock ceiling before slithering down the walls to creep back along the floor like some predatory ether approaching for the kill…
Want More? There is also a sample of the first several chapters from the Kindle draft version available here: Kindle Sample First Chapters