In celebration of over 1500 unique views, and 100 followers, I have decided to release a special treat: the first chapter of my much anticipated novel!
The series is titled (tentatively) The Marvelous Adventures of Sebastian Smith, and novel one is called “In The Dungeons of Castle Gallifrax”. The novel tells the story of a young boy who has always been a little bit different than the other people in his village. Then one day, as a Dragon terrorizes his home, a mysterious traveling peddler has a most unusual proposal for Sebastian and the small village of Hilsbac.
This project was undertaken as a way to provide well-rounded, high quality, empowering literary role models for GLBTQ youth. It is not exclusively for GLBTQ youth, but the story is about them for once. It seeks to show queer culture and development in a light that presents the individuals as complete people rather than being dominated by their sexual orientation. In this novel, the fact that Sebastian is same-sex attracted is no more important than the fact that Harry was opposite-sex attracted (we think). It is at its heart, an adventure novel, and a story about what it means to really accept yourself.
Read chapter one after the jump, and check out the summary here.
In which a maiden is not saved
The sun was just beginning to rise when the Dragon crested the hillside. It was an accepted fact that any maiden, offered to the Dragon, if she survived from sundown until tea time the next day, would be freed and a new, more pleasing sacrifice chosen. You can imagine Millicent’s disappointment then when the great scaly beast came looming over the top of Hagar’s Hill.
The huge body was held aloft by great wings which looked to her as if they were two sheets of unspoiled night, preserved unharmed from the killing grasp of dawn’s first light for the specific purpose of bearing the monster to her. It was a poetic thought, and Millicent was proud of it. When she survived the Dragon’s visit, she resolved to become a roaming poet instead of a house wife; though she was certain the town would feel as great a sense of loss for her wanderings as they would for her death.
The Dragon, most often, was merely offered a small tribute of common items. Once a year the signal would come that the scaly hoarder was ready for his annual donation of old furniture, excess bric-a-brac, and unwanted itchy knit sweaters. Of course, the villagers gathered together in their finest mourning clothes and wailed over the useless trash, to be sure the Dragon thought they were offering him their very most prized possessions. However, once in a great while, the Dragon would indicate its thirst for something more valuable than the overflowing contents of a junk drawer, and which the villagers were, in fact, rather reluctant to part with.
Sometimes the Dragon demanded a maiden.
As the Dragon streaked through the pre-dawn sky, Millicent thought it was odd that her heart was beating so hard. It was a formality that she was out here at all. She was the mayor’s daughter, and if it hadn’t been for certain farmers (with droves of utterly dull daughters just perfect for sacrificing) pointing out that her own family hadn’t offered a maiden to the Dragon in twenty-five years, she wouldn’t be tied to a stake in the middle of a field at all.
The Dragon seemed to be getting awfully near now, and Millicent wondered just how close it could get to her in light of the extraordinary measures her father had taken to ensure the beast left her alone. Despite the fact that the Dragon had, for the past fortnight, been ceaselessly demanding maiden sacrifices which he then ignored entirely, her father had insisted on hiring a specialist; a traveling doctor with extensive dealings in draconic physiology who had consulted the family immediately upon her selection to be sacrificed, and developed a complete plan of action designed to deter the devouring intent of any reptile great or small.
The specialist had given her every countermeasure imaginable. She had no less than six amulets and charms designed to ward away various aspects of draconic myth, from talons to fire breath. She was wearing a dress made of strictly died green cloth, a color which the doctor assured her father dragon eyes could not detect. She was bound to a stake made of yaupon wood, the oil of which was said to irritate dragon scales. She had even washed her hair, the most beautiful blonde hair in three counties, with shampoo made from vinegar, rosemary, and calf’s blood, so that any dragon noses she encountered would be stunned by her stench, and any dragon stomachs would be nauseated.
It was unfortunate for Millicent that none of these remedies would prove effective against this particular Dragon. Indeed, I would be quiet surprised to learn they had worked against any Dragon at all, though perhaps they would prove quite effective against common garden snakes, or tree lizards. At any rate, I could not encourage attempting any of these remedies as prevention of any kind, especially against lethal threats, particularly monstrous lethal threats.
The Dragon landed with a great rush of wind. The ground shook beneath its sudden weight, and Millicent let out a maidenly scream in spite of her supposed invulnerability. The sky was just changing from pale black to dark grey, but Millicent thought she could see the Dragon’s dark scales sparkling none-the-less.
The long neck snaked out, the gigantic head hovering mere feet above Millicent. As the two great nostrils flared wide, Millicent thought very stinky thoughts. However, the Dragon did not recoil. It lowered its head so that its two glowing red eyes could lock onto Millicent’s own. She tried her best to look green. One great claw lifted up slowly, talons glittering as the sun finally crested the edge of Hagar’s hill, lighting the great Dragon from behind. As it gently wrapped its great fist around Millicent (and the Yaupon stake), she waited for the instantaneous appearance of hives or boils or cracks or…something…on the dragon’s forearm. And as the Dragon opened its toothy mouth wide, and Millicent saw the flames glowing in its deep throat, for the very first and last time in her life thus far, she was too stunned to think one single thought about herself.
(OK! That was short. How about I give you a bonus chapter? Just to wet the appetite??)
In which we find our hero in a rather important alley
Sebastian Smith lived in a small village, on a small island, ruled over by a small barony, in the otherwise large nation of Gregoria. Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to have heard of Gregoria, much less the small village of Hillsbac. And I assure you, this story spends but a few brief, if rather important moments in its dusty little streets. But it is important for you to understand how small Sebastian’s world seemed back then, so that you can also understand why what he did seemed, back then, quite as large as it did.
Sebastian had stolen a shirt. The shirt belonged to Roland Baker, a boy of about Sebastian’s age, but twice his meager size. It would have, as you might imagine, looked ridiculous on Sebastian, and owing to the above mentioned smallness of the town, been quite an obvious theft had he chosen to wear the garment. But Sebastian had not stolen the shirt to wear it. In fact, while not often invited to join the more dangerous of traditionally male village activities (like hunting), at thirteen winters of age, Sebastian was already hard at work in the community as a cook’s boy, amateur tailor, and one day, he hoped, as a carpenter like his father before him. He also, on particularly boring weekends, offered to help the village matron with the management of the community laundry for a few spare coins.
It is important for you to notice two things out of this brief glimpse into the life of a small village boy: The first is that Sebastian was perfectly capable of providing for his own clothing needs, and the second is that by virtue of this very productivity, he had been put in a place to procure the ill-gotten shirt which I was telling you about a little while back.
By itself, you might have come up with any number of reasons why Sebastian had stolen the shirt; that is of course if you had noticed him as anything out of the ordinary while he was walking home with it. However, if you had come across Sebastian in the midst of his current activity, you might have had a very different set of questions entirely.
Sebastian was sniffing the shirt.
He was crouching in the moist snow, in the back alleyway between the blacksmith shop, and Mrs. Holand’s new two story family house (a gift from her husband, upon the birth of their tenth child, a house his own father had overseen construction of), with the light blue, still soiled fabric of Roland’s large shirt practically jammed up his nostrils.
Now, you might have memories of sniffing in a wide variety of situations. You might, for example, have walked into your grandmother’s house on a particularly happy holiday, and caught the smell of warm apple pie, dancing through the air and right up into your nose to tickle your nose hairs and tug at your tummy. This is sniffing at its most effortless.
You might also have walked past your very own bathroom, after your father, or perhaps your older brother, had occupied it for a longer-than-normal span of time and tiptoed your way past the doorway, plugging up your nose with breath, hoping that the smell didn’t overpower you, but secretly testing the air to make sure the scent wasn’t following you down the hallway and into your bedroom. This is advanced sniffing.
None of these things would adequately describe what Sebastian was doing with Roland’s shirt. Firstly, the winter air was cold, and smells are made much duller by the cold, requiring a much more vigorous working of the nose to detect them. Secondly, Sebastian knew that he wasn’t supposed to have the shirt, and if you think about it for a little while you will remember that never was a cookie more desperately devoured than when it was taken despite the express prohibition of your mother. And lastly, Sebastian was in love with Roland.
These things when taken together, might have given a neutral observer, who happened upon a small Sebastian with the large shirt, cause to describe the youth’s activity more accurately as huffing. And while I, of course, agree that I might have used the word huffing instead of sniffing all those paragraphs ago, you might not have quite understood what I meant, and more than that, it is still very early in our story, and I can take the time to lead you on these little adventures with ideas. And you will see very shortly that we will not have as much time to spend with one another, you and I, as you will be far more interested in Sebastian and the adventures he is about to have.
It might also interest you to know that Sebastian was crying. He was huffing and crying. You see, Sebastian felt very bad for stealing Roland’s shirt. In fact, more broadly, he felt very bad for loving Roland. In Sebastian’s small village, as is true in many other larger places, it isn’t precisely permitted for a boy to be in love with another boy, especially when they were supposed to be of the age to start loving (and marrying) girls; and Sebastian was still very interested in the people in his village accepting, and in fact liking him (A prospect unlikely were they to know how he felt for Roland).
Yet Sebastian found he couldn’t help himself; with the theft or the love. When the familiar blue garment had passed into his hands to be run down the wash rack by the town matron, he felt his heart might climb out of his throat, and quite contrary to his earnest desire to aid with the town washing, he found his hands stuffing the shirt under his own, and now, nearly an hour later, he was feeling giddy and guilty as he stole little intimate bits of Roland he really shouldn’t have; like the way the nape of his neck smelled on his shirt collar, or the odor Sebastian imagined his belly button gave off in the heat of the day. Sebastian’s heart was aching, even though each breath caused his stomach to flutter with joy and desire.
Now, I expect at this point there are many ideas, some might even call them opinions, racing through your mind. I think we have all felt as Sebastian felt, kneeling in that alley. Each of us has wanted something even if we suspected it might not be good for us or would get us into trouble. Some people who feel this way will argue that Sebastian should have, like them, turned always away from the things that might have gotten him into trouble, and to have denied the truth of what he felt in his heart. And if Sebastian had followed their advice, he would never have stolen the shirt, and as you will see, the wondrous adventures that ensued would never have come to pass.
However, there are others still who would argue that Sebastian should not have been upset by his choices at all. That the theft of the shirt, and the love which motivated it, were not wrong in any way, no matter what the other villagers might have thought, and that Sebastian would be healthiest and happiest were he to have accepted himself just as he was, and that he should have helped others to accept themselves as well. And those people would be right, of course, save for the fact that if Sebastian had not been slowed by guilt, and tormented by the feelings inside of him, his excitement to have procured an item belonging to the object of his love would have propelled him quite beyond the dirty alleyway, and into the relative safety of his own home, wherein he might have used the shirt to fan the embers of affection in his heart into a flaming courage with which he might have finally confessed his love to Roland, and forever changed the way the small village saw people like him.
But he would never have stopped in the alleyway. And stopping in the alleyway is, in fact, the decision which made all the difference for so many more than just the people in the small village of Hillsbac. You might, in fact, have found it difficult to let Sebastian sit in the alley, huffing a shirt and crying, feeling quite awful about himself. You might have wanted to make him feel better, or feel worse; to make him return the shirt, or proclaim his love. But if he had not stayed, just as he was, caught between his love for the life he lived in his small village, and the secret longings of his heart, he would never have heard the words that started it all:
“Hey Girlie! Give us a kiss eh?!”