In the last update I mentioned that I was thinking about doing a re-write and here is what happened that made me finally decide to do it.
There is an equation that has lead to this decision.
Rejections from agents + feedback from friends saying the story was difficult to read = something wrong.
After a lot of discussion it was concluded it was the journal style creating this problem and I had to eat humble pie and realise the journal style was not working as well as I thought it would. (I had been told this by author Anne Perry when I first emailed her at the start of this project looking for advice. I see now that her advice was right).
However I have had a year and a half of learning so I am grateful that I stuck to my guns. Now I can do my story justice and apply all the the things learned.
The re-write is already going very well and the first three chapters are done and have been edited a little but will no doubt have some errors still. However it is ten times better than the old version and good enough for now so please read the brand new and super improved Chapter 1 below and any feedback would be so so helpful. (Chapter 2 and 3 will follow in the next few days or weeks but I will update on facebook as usual).
The last words echoed in Dragatu’s mind. “Protect your brothers Dragatu! Get them home! And remember your promises!”
The memory was only seconds old but it went round and round in his mind. The image of the giant white wolf chasing his father into the forest flashed before his eyes. Then his father and the wolf vanished amongst the trees and they faded into the darkness of the night.
This roundabout of memories lasted for a minute then the shock began to pass and he was aware of his two brothers again. He turned to face them and they just stood there shaking, the shock paralysing them as it had Dragatu. Dragatu knew he had to take control of the situation to save them; they were his younger brothers after all. They may have only been younger than him by a few minutes, as they were triplets, but over their fifteen years of life he had always felt responsible for them.
“Run!!” Dragatu shouted and began to briskly walk towards them gripping his bear skin pack tightly ready to pick up speed when they started running.
Unilus came to his senses first and responded to the command. He took Phoenon by the arm and half dragged him in to a run. Dragatu ran behind them shouting comfort and orders.
“Everything will be okay. Dad will be fine. Just keep moving!!”
They were running blindly; slightly disorientated from the horrific events. Dragatu knew they were heading in a southerly direction from the few stars he could see in the sky, but with all the chaos that was whirly in his mind he didn’t have time to focus enough to lead them in an exact path that would take them out of the bowl shaped valley.
Dragatu kept his brothers running at an incredible pace and all they could see around them were blurred trees as they flew past them. He heard Phoenon sob every now and then, but he knew if they stopped to console each other they risked their lives.
After running for about twenty minutes they suddenly came to the side of the valley. Dragatu then realised they must have been running in a more westerly direction than he had thought. In front of them was a crevasse that they could enter and Dragatu hoped this would lead them west along the side of the valley until they could turn to go due south and make their way over the hill. He took this path and his plan was then to rest near the small spring they had camped at several days before with their father. Then once they had rested they could cross the great desert to their home and he hoped his father would return soon after.
Dragatu didn’t run but walked briskly through the passage, taking advantage of the assumed safety of being surrounded by rock. After about one hundred metres they came to a large opening and in front of them they saw the whole reason they had been in the northern hills.
“Water!” The three of them gasped almost in unison.
Dragatu took a few steps forward, crouched, then looked down and put his hand in the water. They had found it. They had found what could be the water the nation needed so desperately.
As he looked in to the water he deliberately ignored the black hair and chiseled face of his reflection, which showed how much he looked like his father. His mother always teased him about it and called him her handsome little boy. He hated that, but at this time he paid no attention to all this. He just stood up and strained his eyes to see how far it went back, the star light didn’t give him much help, but he could tell it went back a long way and it was very wide.
For a split moment he smiled because they had found it, but then he was angry because his father wasn’t there to see it. This anger extinguished any positive thoughts and brought him back to reality. He focused and quickly scanned the area for a way out. There was none. The walls were too steep to climb up and he turned around to lead them back out as quickly as he could.
Unilus had already noticed there was no other way out and as Dragatu turned around Unilus nodded and quickly said,
“Come on Phoenon. We have to go back.” Phoenon sobbed a little, but turned around; breathing deeply in preparation for the inevitable running that lay ahead. He was struggling with the amount they had been running because he was not used to physical exertion like his brothers. It was obvious from his appearance: he had a rounded physical shape that was in complete contrast to Unilus’ tall lean, skinny body and Dragatu’s heavy muscular shape. He had to dig as deep as his body would let him to keep up with them and he just wanted to stop and lie on the ground. It was all too much for him, but the motivation from his brothers was enough to push him so he kept going.
Dragatu’s mind was alert and he knew that danger was still everywhere in the hills, and not just from the giant wolf, but from wild bears and other animals. So he took the lead and began running again. They slowed as they came out the way they had come and all their ears were strained, hoping not to hear the howl of the deadly animal.
They stopped momentarily as they left the crevasse and Dragatu held his finger to his lips. They tried to stay as quiet as they could, but their breathing was still loud in the stillness of the night. As they listened and tried to hold their breathing as long as they could. This meant there was a split second of silence and that’s all there was, only silence. They all breathed a sigh of relief.
“We must go south and leave the hills. If we can make it over the hills we will be safe and who knows? Dad may have killed the wolf and be waiting there for us.” Dragatu said this to give them encouragement and he hoped he was right. However he did not fully believe his own words. This was because when he had watched his father leave the words that had been spoken had had a ring of despair in them.
Just as they began to run in the direction Dragatu lead them they heard a noise that made them all freeze on the spot.
It was that same long loud howl they had heard when they were with their father before the wolf had first appeared and it was very close.
Phoenon let out a few more sobs and Unilus murmured sadly the word, “Dad.”
Dragatu knew that if the wolf was following them now there was little hope for their father and pain mixed with sadness swelled in his chest. But just as the tears began to swell he shook his head. This was no time to be weak and upset he thought. He had to save himself and his brothers.
His mind raced as he tried to decide what to do. Could they really out run the wolf? It was very unlikely. Could they hide? No he thought. There was nothing to give them good cover in the hope the wolf would pass them by. There were only trees.
And just as he realised the trees might be the way to escape the wolf Unilus spoke the same idea,
“We need to climb up a tree each.”
“Go then!” Dragatu half shouted, half whispered and he watched as Unilus pointed at a tree and told Phoenon to go up it. Just before they split up Dragatu gave a last order.
“Be as quiet as you can. Do not move or speak until you hear my voice again.” He then ran to a tree next to him and began to climb it with incredible speed that his strength and the years of tree climbing had given him.
They all got as high as they could and then tried to stay as still and silent as the dead. A few minutes past and they could hear the loud panting of the wolf below them. Dragatu slowly moved his head towards the sound and there was the wolf. Its white fur was splattered in blood where his father’s arrows had hit it but the most amount of blood was around its face. A tear fell down Dragatu’s face. There was no doubt in his mind that his father was dead. He controlled his breathing so not to release a sob and he hoped his brothers would do the same and not give away their hiding place.
The wolf prowled the floor and sniffed violently. After a few more circles the wolf howled loudly with obvious frustration. Dragatu then felt the wind pick up and it was blowing from west to east. He saw the wolf sniff a couple more times and then it darted west and ran in that direction.
Dragatu continued to breathe slowly and quietly, but heard two loud exhales from two of the trees nearby. He winced hoping the sound was not loud enough for the wolf to still hear it. He pleaded in his mind that they would stay quiet and wait for him to break the silence as he had told them. They did and he heard no more from them during the few minutes that he waited to make sure the wolf did not return. Then he heard the sound he was waiting for. A faint howl in the distance and immediately he broke the silence.
“It is safe. Climb down now.”
Dragatu reached the bottom first and then Unilus and last they helped Phoenon down from his tree. Then Phoenon spoke,
“He’s dead isn’t he?”
“Yes.” Was the almost cold response Dragatu gave and Phoenon started to cry. Phoenon hugged Unilus who just stood there letting him, despite feeling uncomfortable. Unilus was not good at expressing his emotions and although felt very sad inside rarely showed how he felt, he just didn’t know how. Dragatu watched as Phoenon buried his head in Unilus chest. Unilus was a head taller than Phoenon and looked over the brown hair at Dragatu. Dragatu nodded at Unilus in acknowledgement that he was doing the right thing, Unilus nodded back.
Dragatu then continued to try and do as his father had told him and get them safely home.
“We must keep moving. There will be time for mourning later but we need to get out of here. We have to be brave so we can return to mum. Can you be strong for her Phoenon?” The question had the affect Dragatu had intended and Phoenon released Unilus and wiped his face nodding at the same time. Dragatu knew the thought of their mother would bring him around. He had always been their mothers favourite. Nothing else was said and the three of them jogged through the trees keeping all their senses alert.
Finally they made it up the last of the hills that separated the desert from the hills and the forests they had been in.
They reached the top and the sun was beginning to rise on the horizon and they were happy to see the sky lighten around them and the darkness disperse. It gave the sense that the worst was over and they were safe.
They began the descent and they were all hungry, thirsty and exhausted. Phoenon had asked to stop but Dragatu had said only when they reach the water spot they had previously camped at with their father.
They trudged on and by high sun they came to the last big source of water they would see for about two weeks. The desert they were about to cross did have some water, but if you didn’t fill your water containers fully and know where to find water in the desert, you could die.
“We can rest here” said Dragatu, as he threw off his pack and lay down on the ground needing a moment to bury the storm of tiredness and anger. After a few minutes of being aware of nothing but his own mind he finally regained his senses and sat up. He saw his brothers getting out bedding from their packs and took the lead once more.
“Good idea,” he said, “Get some sleep. I will stay awake in the slim chance the wolf journeys down here. I don’t think it will because we came across it at the far side of the valley, which must be its territory. I think it got our scent and followed us from there. I believe it will return to its territory when it can’t find us. We should be safe but I will keep watch just in case.”
Phoenon and Unilus did not argue as they knew their brother well and when he said he was going to do something he could not be convinced to do otherwise. So despite wanting to arrange shifts for keeping watch they obeyed him. They lay down and both cried for a short time and then finally fell asleep.
Dragatu was now left alone and he began to think about all that had happened since they left their nation and tried to process it all wondering if he could have done more to stop all this from happening.
Please let me know what you think.