I was looking through some old files and found the, almost original, beginning. It is so different from how Journey of Awakening starts now that I thought I'd share. For the next few days, I'll post a parts of the first chapters. All of it in one day might be too much.
In this version. Sarah doesn't start out in Anatar. She lives in Seattle, Washington. I hope you enjoy this.
White wings flashed as gulls soared against an angry sky. Sarah Kenneth followed their serene ballet, a puff of wind chilling her skin and whipping dark hair into her eyes. After taking the porch steps two at a time, she paused under the eaves to fumble with her keys, appraising the leaden clouds. The day had dawned overcast, promising a downpour but never delivering more than an occasional misting. The storm had finally come of age. So am I.
“Stratus and cumulonimbus.” She shook her head. Can’t even admire a storm without classifying cloud formations. Get a life, girl.
“Twenty-one.” Her key slid into the lock. A magical number. More times than Sarah could recall her grandfather’s answer to a question had been: ‘I’ll tell you when you are twenty-one’ or, ‘when you’re twenty-one, you’ll be an adult and you’ll understand.’ Sarah smiled, feeling the extra weight in her bag. On the way home, she’d stopped by the liquor store to buy a bottle of wine for dinner, another benefit of her coming-of-age.
The oak door creaked as she pushed against it. “Papa, I’m home.”
“Koreie sindu awau,” a voice called from further in the house.
Sarah sighed. “I’ll put it away.” Even though she was now an adult, she wondered if her grandfather would always treat her as if she was seven.
Before storing her bag in the foyer’s closet, she removed the bottle of wine. Carefully, Sarah slotted a bokken on the vacant hooks above her katana and ran a finger over the sword’s curved scabbard. She stepped back. It appeared lithe and feminine compared to the claymore and the heavily decorated schiavona, which hung on the adjoining wall. “The new Kendo instructor is good,” she called, slipping off her shoes in exchange for the tabi waiting in a battered wicker basket.
Her grandfather appeared through the kitchen door. “Anatarian, please, Sarah.” A linguistics professor and fluent in several languages, William preferred his own invention, a language he’d developed before she was born. Sarah sometimes teased that Anatarian was the native tongue of the Kenneth household, and they its only users.
One generous eyebrow rose, losing itself behind silver bangs as his smile widened. “How long did it take you to beat him?”
“Twenty minutes. But what a match!” She rubbed her side and flinched, “I’ll have the bruises to prove it. He was impressed I already knew Kenjutsu, even more...” Sarah wrinkled her nose. “What’s that awful smell?”
“Ah! My frostbite preventive,” William called over his shoulder as he scurried out of sight.
Sarah followed, her feet whispering against the silky oak floor, and leaned against the wooden frame of the kitchen door. Some of her earliest memories were of her grandfather bent over the stove, brewing one concoction or another. But then she hadn’t had an ordinary childhood. She watched him lift a blackened pot off the burner. A wild mop of white hair, always in need of a trim, dipped to brush wiry eyebrows crowning intense blue eyes. He took to the role of mad scientist well.
“Are you going to stand there watching?” He nodded at the table. “Hand me that bottle, please.”
Sarah passed over the container, jumping back to avoid a waft of pungent steam when he lifted the lid. Noxious fumes filled the small kitchen. She blinked back tears, her sinuses cleared. “Frostbite? Are you sure it’s not an expectorant?” Sarah opened a window, breathing in the damp, cool air.
“An added benefit. Were you afraid the smell was your birthday dinner?”
“The smell? No. I know you better than that.”
Their eyes locked and she felt the uncanny intensity of his gaze.
“The cake’s in the refrigerator, but don’t peek. It’s a surprise. Still raining?”
As if returning from a dream, she combed a hand through her dark hair, smoothing out the rougher patches. “Yes and no. The sky can’t make up her mind.”
“The sky is female now?”
Sarah watched golden fluid drip through a strainer into the glass jar. “Of course she is. You think a male could change his mind so quickly?”
William smiled. “Was that a bottle of wine?”
“Uh huh, for dinner.”
“My favorite; good girl.”
The kettle sang. Sarah prepared tea and settled into her chair. She knew what was coming next.
“Now, let me tell you what I’ve done, so you can reproduce it as necessary,” William’s voice took a familiar lecturing tone.
Sarah sipped her tea. When she was small, she would sit in the back of his class, enthralled by the words and ideas Professor Kenneth offered his students. For the last ten years, she had been his only pupil, sharing in his vast liberal knowledge of standard subjects, and a dusting of unusual ones: herb craft, survival skills and primitive technology. Besides the Kendo, Iaido, Kenjutsu and kickboxing lessons she’d practiced for years, he’d also enrolled them both in medieval history classes and botany. She’d often pondered that her knowledge would come handy in the
or Amazon Forest Papua New Guinea, but in Seattle?
She felt a pang of guilt. When Sarah’s mother died shortly after her father, her grandparents had taken her in. Then, after Grandma died, William retired early to attend to Sarah’s education full time. Her grandfather was brilliant, kind and his love for her permeated his every action. Perhaps he pushed her a little at times, but they were all each other had. It was enough.
William paused mid-sentence. “Sarah, this is a special day and here I am lecturing. You only turn twenty-one once. Why didn’t you stop me?”
She shrugged. “One day, I may be caught in a blizzard with nothing but a potato and a pepper and I’ll have you to thank for keeping all my toes. Of course, have you noticed it rains more often than it snows in
He peered down his slightly crooked nose, his eyes stern.
“What? I was kidding.” Sarah sighed.
“Sarah… never mind.”
“Papa, I’ll remember. If the pepper is hot on your tongue, it’ll warm your skin but dilute it with an inert substance so it doesn’t burn and further damage the tissue. If you don’t have access to a pepper, add a little oil to the meat of a baked potato and apply it to the affected area.”
William smiled. “Very good. But don’t forget, that cure is for minor frostbite only.”
“Yes, if I faced major frostbite, I might be more worried about dying than losing a few digits.”
A cloud passed over William’s face but he pointed toward the liquid-filled jars. “No, use my formula and your skills and you won’t die or lose any digits.”
Sarah cleared her throat. “So, what did you make for my birthday dinner?”
“Your favorite: roast beef, potatoes, carrots and parsnips.”
“Carrots and parsnips? You found them already?” Theirs wouldn’t be ready for weeks. She kissed his wrinkled cheek. “I love you the sky, Papa.”
William stroked her hair. “And I love you the moon, Sarah. Don’t you ever forget it.”
William placed one last dish into the cupboard, closing its door with finality. He was stalling. Rain battered the windowpane. Sarah moved to the window, opened the sash and breathed, a look of delight on her delicate features.
His throat tightened and he felt his resolve weakening. Have I done the right thing? The ghosts that haunted his sleepless nights returned unannounced. For years, he’d driven her mercilessly, drilling Sarah for her destiny and in doing so, he’d stolen her childhood and the wonderful years of careless youth. His schedule of extra classes, training and activities occupied her waking hours, including weekends. She didn’t have leisure for a social life. At times, it had broken his heart to watch her as she saw other children playing or groups of teenagers indulging their foolishness. She hadn’t complained, much. Sometimes he wondered if some hidden part of her knew that she was different. He’d taken her out of public school after first grade when he realized, eventually, peer pressure would overcome even a child like Sarah. There was too much at stake.
Reaching inside his shirt, eager fingers sought a pendant, his breath quieting as a rush surged through his veins like cool frothy water. Tonight he needed its power more than ever.
His eyes sought Sarah standing by the open window. Five-four and not an ounce of extra fat on her slender body, she was now taller than her mother had been. Her hair had grown. He’d never learned how to style a girl’s hair. The first few years, after his wife died, he fumbled about with clips and rubber bands and finally opted to keep it short. Now, Sarah’s hair fell just past her shoulders, a curtain of mahogany silk. When she turned around, his heart sang at the unbound joy on her features with the wind on her face. Tiny droplets of water clung to her cheek mirroring the gleam in her eye. Her eyes were her best feature, a deep silky gray that sparkled when she laughed. Yes, I have done my duty. He released the pendant, the ghosts gone.
“Shut the window, you’ll catch a cold.”
“Nonsense, you’ve taught me better. But I will make us more tea to go with our cake. Earl Grey?”
“Thank you.” William caught a flash of concern in Sarah’s expression. Her eyes had always said more than her words.
“You seem preoccupied. Are you okay?” Sarah asked, placing the kettle on the stove.
He wasn’t but he wouldn’t tell her. He had greeted the morning with a sense of anticipation and dread. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“Who else am I going to worry about?” Sarah’s smile lit her face but her eyes darkened with concern. “Papa, go sit down.”
William nodded and moved to his easy chair, a hand caressing the pendant.
Purpose gave him strength. Years of preparation would come to fruition today. The stone warmed in his hand, its power coursing through his arm. “Yes, it’s time.” His words seemed loud against the crackling fire and distant bustle in the other room.
Closing his eyes, William swam in his memories where a parade of faces both warmed and chilled his heart. His mind settled on Sarah, his life. The stone throbbed. William felt her presence and opened his eyes to see Sarah entering the room, a tray in her hands. When he wore the pendant, he seemed to have an added sense; vision beyond what his eyes could see. Magic. He both hated and loved the stone. Hated because it had ruled his and his granddaughter’s lives, stolen carelessness and the bliss that ignorance could bring. Loved because it was what it was.
Sarah walked with supple movements. Born with natural grace, her agility had improved with time. Sarah had been only four when he signed her up for ballet lessons and then gymnastics and martial arts; at fourteen she’d won her First Dan black belt and moved on to Kendo. He smiled. His granddaughter: the Samurai. Child, you’ll need everything you’ve learned.
“My, you look deep in thought.” Sarah set the tray on the ottoman and poured the tea.
“You know how old people are, collecting cobwebs.”
“The last thing I would call you is old.”
“But I am, Sarah.” He sipped the hot tea. “I bet you’re wondering what you’re getting for your birthday.”
“The question has entered my mind.” Her eyes sparkled. She arched an eyebrow. “A trip to
to study with a Fifth Dan?”
William threw his hand in the air. “Children, what are you going to do with them?” He watched firelight play in her hair. “No, Sarah, today you are an adult and for your birthday, I’ll give you a story.”
“A story?” Sarah sat in a chair opposite his. Her intelligent gray eyes never leaving him.
“Yes. A story.”