This is my ridiculously over-edited but not even near half way written, fantasy novel that I’ve been working on for oh so many years. The problem is that every time I sit down to write I end up editing like the Dickens (it’s great how well that applies here) and never end up getting any further in my draft. I’ve decided to completely rewrite what I have so far so that I can actually progress to the many many ideas that I have. I’ve re-done the first chapter, mostly adding and editing. It’s a new draft, so I hope that those of you who’ve read the previous draft consider this an improvement.
The novel is titled Dawning of the Sun.
The wind rushed past her face in pure ecstasy as she looked out upon the sea. Her breath steadied as the salted mist filled her lungs, her long, dark hair blew fervently in the wind with the sun illuminating streaks of bronze; the gentle slap of the waves against the rushing hull of the ship and the deep smell of the water soothed her. A smile crept upon her lips as her element encompassed her.
She heard a shout arise from the main deck behind her and her jade eyes shot open. Her face hardened and she spun around hands ready at the hilts of her swords, but it was merely the first mate barking orders at the crew. She watched as they tended to their duties. All of them scurried about avoiding the passengers. The main deck was littered with hoards of them, confused and unaware of what to do with themselves. The ship had been at sea for over three months. The voyage across the Deila Ocean from the royal family’s homeland of Aurtania to the tropical colonies of Barbaka was horrendous. People were flocking to the new colonies to begin lives they hoped would be better than before.
Sol Vesper put her weight on the railing of the ship. She leaned out over the water and let the wind take her body. One of the sailors called out to Sol to get back on the main deck. She glared back at him but did as she was told. Her body ached for the day when she could work aboard a ship again, but there had not yet been a captain who would take her on as a crewmember. The myth that female crewmembers caused a plague of bad luck still circulated on the Eastern shores of Aurtania. Sol hoped that the myth would die with the crossing to Barbaka and a captain would take her on as the experienced sailor she was. Her fierce appearance, olive skin and piercing jade eyes, provided her with a wealth of intimidation. Her lean frame was muscular and her dueling skills were something to be desired.
“LAND HO!” screamed the lookout from the crow’s nest. A buzzing anticipation overwhelmed the passengers after over three months on a ship they all longed for the land and to escape the smell of so many unwashed bodies. Sol’s feet itched with anticipation. She scurried about the main deck trying to get the best look. The colonies were said to be filled with harbors and prosperous businesses.
After a slow approach, the ship eventually docked at New Seta Port. All the passengers were herded from the main deck onto the dock. Sol picked up her pack from where it lay at her feet and ran her hands against the ship’s railing before exiting it. “Oye! Girl get movin’! We aint got all day to stan’ around whatchin’ you. GET!”
Sol rolled her eyes at the rowdy sailor, tossed her pack over her shoulder, and walked down from the ship to the docks. The pungent smell of the hub town hit her like a wall, a mix of dead fish, baked goods, florals and sweat. The harbor was full of bustling people and eager vendors. Fishermen stuck their catch out in front of anyone passing urging them to buy; women tried selling baked goods and flowers from baskets on their arms. Everyone looked half starved. Sol wandered into the town where pubs and shops incased the streets, which were merely an extension of the dock. The thick boards of the street creaked under Sol’s feet as she walked along the establishments that sat above the shoreline on stilts.
The first inn that she came across was called The Empty Bucket. The whole building seemed to tilt a little to the right. The front door was solid oak on the left side of the building next to a stained green, purple and red window, which from the sounds of rowdy drunks and smell of barely must be guarding the pub from the bright sunlight.
Sol hurried through the door to avoid a speeding carriage filled with barrels. Once inside, Sol let her eyes wander. The walls were adorned with wood moldings carved into waves and ships dancing together along the ceiling. To her left the wall had three seascape paintings with little mermaids in each one hidden somewhere among the waves or rocks. To her right was a large arch also carved in the same mariner theme as the moldings. This led into the pub where the smell of beer and bread drifted into the foyer where she stood. Ahead of her she saw the front desk where a woman, Sol assumed to be the innkeeper, sat. She was a stout little woman with aged eyes and thick sandy ringlets that hung loosely around her collarbone. By the looks of her she was capable of dealing with any uncooperative inn mates or pub-goers if it came down to it. Sol strode up to the desk as the innkeeper looked her up and down judgingly.
“Can I help you miss?” the innkeeper said still staring her down.
“I need to acquire a room, for a few nights; can you provide me with one?” She lent on the counter casually looking at the innkeeper.
“That all depends, do you have the funds to acquire one?” the innkeeper looked Sol in the eyes, not backing down.
“As long as the price is reasonable, I’ll pay your fee Miss…?”
A smile snuck upon the innkeeper’s face, “Call me Teresa” She stuck her hand out to shake Sol’s. “I can tell you’re not going to cause me trouble. Come I’ll show you to you’re room…”
“Sol.” She shook her hand firmly. Teresa waved a hand for Sol to follow and she led her to a narrow staircase hidden behind the back wall of the foyer. Sol walked up the stairs behind Teresa’s wide frame that left little room between her hips and the walls of the staircase. Once they reached the landing, a thin hallway led to five doors on each wall. Teresa led Sol into the second room on the left, dropping the key on a desk under the window. The room was small and cramped, with a cot-like bed crammed into the left corner of the room next to the desk where the key now lay. A small wardrobe occupied the left wall, leaving little room for much else. Sol walked over to Teresa and looked out the window. The room overlooked the harbor.
“Fee’s two Lords a night. I’ll take payment for tonight now and every morning you decide to stay longer. Sound fine with you?”
“Just fine.” Sol reached into the satchel that hung from her belt and produced two silver coins the size of an acorn imprinted with the royal seal on one side and a decorative cane on the other, the same canes that the lords of Aurtania carry around to denote their statues.
“If you’re needing anything else just come down and ask. I’m always at the desk if I’m not at the bar.”
“Before you go I’d like to ask you if you know of any ship captains looking for an experienced sailor?”
“There are always captains looking for a sailor or two. But you won’t find much luck my dear; women are rarely seen on ships in our part of the world.”
“I guess old myths have trouble dying.” Sol smiled at Teresa.
“That they do dear, that they do. If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to ask me.” Teresa smiled and walked out leaving Sol to her thoughts.
Sol looked out the window taking in the harbor. The docks were littered with ships. There had to be a captain out there who had no time for superstition, one like her father. Sol took a deep breath and exhaled her grief. She missed her father. He was the only captain she would sail under if she could. But after his death at the hands of his crew Sol was determined to sail and take in the sea enough for the both of them.
The sun began to set over the rippling horizon and Sol was worn out from her trip. Walking over to the wardrobe she opened it up and found a mirror and washbasin built into the right side. She smiled and dipped her hands into the cool water, bringing it up to splash her face. Sol took the cloth that hung on a hook next to the mirror and wiped her face down with it. Feeling a little cleanlier than she had before, she walked back over to the bed, placed her swords on the floor within reach and lay on her back.
She stared at the ceiling thinking of her father. She remembered his crinkly smile and his rough hands that always seemed to cover her entire head when he would ruffle her hair. Sol fingered the sun pendant on her chest; her father had given it to her mother when they were young and in love. On her tenth birthday, shortly before her father’s death he had given it to her to remember her mother. Sol had spent over ten years on her own, surviving the streets and avoiding brothels. Luckily, her father had taught her all there was to know about sailing a ship. Sol was capable of doing every task on board by the age of seven. As a child Sol dressed as a boy and became a cabin boy in the galley aboard many transport ships, all of which sailed the coasts of Aurtania. Soon the fact that she was becoming a woman proved difficult to hide. Once a captain discovered her she was thrown off the ship at the next port. Captains clung to the superstition that the seven goddesses of the seas hated other women encroaching on their territories and would curse those captains harboring them without the proper tribute to the goddesses being paid every voyage.
Sol drifted off into dreams of her father.
She was a little girl again running around the main deck of her father’s ship, the Drifting Maria, named after her mother. Her father scooped her up as she ran past him. He placed her little frame atop his shoulder and went about the ship giving orders to his crew. Sol watched with glee as her father maneuvered his crew effortlessly. Her favorite crewmember, Jaymus waved at her as he tightened the main sail. He was the one who had taught her the sword. After years of practice with Jaymus her fighting became flawless. A storm began to simmer on the horizon and her father began to ready the crew for the impact. The crew stood on the main deck and did nothing. Sol’s father became frustrated and placed her on the deck while he screamed at the crew. The eyes of his crew grew red with hate and all of them came at her father. Sol hid underneath the stairs leading to the quarterdeck. Jaymus came to her father’s defense but the crew overtook them both. Sol held back a scream as she watched her father and the only other person in the world she trusted, Jaymus get run throw by the first mate, Orphion. Once thrown overboard the red eyes of the crew began to search the ship for her.
Sol woke up in a cold sweat. Her hair was plastered to her forehead as she woke from her dream, a dream that was unfortunately based on a memory. She looked out the window into the night of the starry sky, the moon shown bright illuminating the town below. The sea sparkled and danced between the docked ships. Sol sighed and watched the water as it flowed effortlessly. A glint from a blade caught her eye as it moved along the dock. She watched a young man cut the rope of a small vessel and push it out from the dock. The man’s dark ear-length hair covered his eyes as he jumped into the boat and paddled out into open water and opened his sail. She watched as the thief sailed away.
Sol couldn’t bring herself to sleep again for fear of re-living her father’s death. She took the key from the desk and stuck her swords back into her belt. The pack she carried was small and light but she left it behind intending on returning in the morning.
Sol left the inn silently and wondered the town streets for some time. She watched the stars as she went; they were the only consistency she found in life. The moon lit the earth giving Sol a source of light to walk by. She wondered the docks inspecting the ships, curious to discover which ship held the captain that would let her sail.
Few people were out at this time of night, most were drunkards left outside pubs and others were thieves like the man with the dark hair. Sol watched as the town slept and its rat population scurried about. The night air chilled her shoulders despite her hair that fell around them. The town was almost peaceful at this time and the smells that had assaulted her when she first stepped foot on the dock seemed to dissipate, over come by the silence and sea air.
Sol followed the main road that led out of town. The dry earth that composed the road lifted around her boots with each step. The dank air of the town began to dissipate and the musty smells of dried grass and drought dominated. The road wound around a cliff, which looked over the bay where the harbor sat. Sol climbed up on the rocks and sat above the harbor. As the hours past she watched the sky change from a deep deafening blue to a gentle mixed hue of pinks and yellows while the sun rose in front of her. New Seta Port erupted with life as the sun’s light burst over the ocean, venders set their stands up, fishing boats broke free of the docks and headed out for the day’s catch and women hurried along as the market opened.
Sol watched the town come to life in the blink of an eye. She rose from her perch on the cliff, dusted off her pants, and headed back to the inn for her pack. She avoided conversation with people along the way, most of which were trying to sell her something. She reached The Empty Bucket and greeted Teresa at the desk with a nod as she ascended the stairs to her room.
Her pack lay on the bed where she had left it, a note sat on the desk. Sol looked curiously at it before reading it.
Breakfast waits for you in the pub’s dining room. I can hold your key for the day if need be. Captain Shamus of the Oaken Queen is looking for crewmembers; he may prove to be an interesting prospect for you.
Sol chuckled upon finishing the letter. Teresa clearly had the notion that Sol needed all the help she could get. She made her way to the pub’s dining room located just beyond the stairs. The inn seemed to be a long narrow shape, which expanded back into the cliffside away from the shoreline. The dinning room table had an assortment of breads and cheeses layed out for the guests along with a bowl of local apples that sat in the very centre of the tale, more as a decoration than a breakfast item. Sol took an apple and tossed the fruit in her hand as she approached the front desk. Dropping her key and a few Pezzies, copper coins with the royal seal on one side and a wheat field printed on the other, on the desk she looked up at Teresa and said, “I may need that back.”
Teresa winked at Sol and placed the key behind the desk. Both women nodded at one another in approval and Sol left the inn. As she made her way to the docks she pierced the skin of the fruit with her teeth. The juice from the apple trickled down the sides of her mouth and her tongue embraced the sour-sweetness.
Upon finishing the apple she tossed the core at a group of squawking seagulls perched on the edge of the dock and wove her way between the ships scanning each hull for the words ‘Oaken Queen’. Finally, the words looked out upon her from an enormous ship. The vessel was not built for speed or battle, but for goods transportation. Sol realized as she examined the ship that there would by very little open sea time on this ship. However, she still needed to join a crew, make a good reputation for herself in her new surroundings, and make some coin. She wouldn’t be able to afford staying at The Empty Bucket for too long.
A crewmember of the Oaken Queen saw her examining the ship and called out to Sol. “Oye! Can I help you missy? Or per’aps you are her’ to help me?” He was an average looking man, with blonde hair and tanned skin. He wore black bandana and had a scar that ran from the bridge of his nose to the bottom of his cheek.
“I seek the attention of your Captain Shamus. Is he here?”
“What business you ‘ave with the Cap’in eh?”
“I wish to inquire about a position with his crew.”
“Hah! The captai’ wouldn’t think twice about kickin’ you from the plank!”
This incompetent sailor caused Sol’s frustration to rise from her stomach. “Will you tell me where he is or not?”
“Alrigh’ keep yo’ knickers on, I’ll get h’m.”
A tall man emerged from the side of the ship; he had a long grey beard and a slight limp to his walk. He took one look at Sol and grunted.
“You want a position on my ship?”
“Yes sir, I’m here to prove my skills to you in hopes that I may sail with your crew.”
“What makes you think I would let any woman sail on my ship?”
“If you had any sense you would take a chance on a worthy sailor.”
“Well little miss, I’m guessin’ I have no sense. Now go home to your kitchen before I let my lads loose on you!”
Sol’s jade eyes flamed with fury and she caught Captain Shamus off guard by pushing the man up against the haul of his ship, pulling a dagger from her boot and pressing it to his throat.
“I warn you Captain, that the next time you refer to me as a little miss I will spill your blood for all your men to see.”
Shamus glared at Sol as she lowered her knife leaving a subtle line of blood from where she held the dagger. She replaced the dagger in her boot, scanning her surroundings; a young man watched in wonder as Sol turned on her heels and headed back to town. She didn’t hear a word from Shamus or his crew as she walked away.
Captain Shamus’ hand rose to his throat as he wiped away the blood. He turned to the sailor who had first addressed Sol, “Remembar that face, Dregs. We’re gonna ‘ave ta teach it a lesson it wont soon far’get.”
A sigh escaped Sol’s lips as she headed for The Empty Bucket. She had let her temper get the better of her. Whenever a man referred to her as weak or coy her vision went red and she would prove him wrong. This however, rarely got her what she needed. A rumbled escaped her stomach and she hoped that Teresa may have started a new batch of breads and that one may be waiting for her. She entered the inn and felt Teresa’s eyes prying at her. Sol countered her look standing her ground.
“Captain Shamus is a friend of mine, I’m sure you treated him well.” Teresa said these words with a slight air of distain towards Sol.
“I would have, if only he hadn’t treated me with disrespect. How did you find out so soon, anyway?”
“Word travels fast in a small town with many eyes.”
“Does this effect our agreement?”
“Not that I can tell, I like a woman who holds her ground. But I’d prefer if you’d keep yourself in line when I’m the one who’s helped you.” Teresa paused and unleashed a smile. “Bread’s in the kitchen, help your self dear.”
Sol chuckled; Teresa must have heard her stomach grumble. She slipped into the kitchen, located behind the pub and took the loaf of bread up to her room. She devoured the whole thing and decided to start looking for a ship to join after a quick nap, her stroll from the night before took a toll on her overtired body.
For the next few days Sol went from ship to ship looking for a crew to join, but every captain turned her away. Sol became frustrated and felt deprived of the sea, her whole being ached to be on a ship. Every morning at dawn she would watch the ships sail from the harbor. She rubbed her sun pendant vigorously as she stared out the window. Sol sat on the sill and waited. She was running out of money and soon she may have to find a job in town, tying her down.
On her sixth day in town as she walked along the docks looking at all the ships hopelessly, a dark ship appeared over the horizon. She watched as it obstructed her view of the sky. The ship approached and Sol marveled at its craftsmanship. The ship resembled a magnificent galleon. It was clearly built for speed. The forecastle had an exquisite carving of the goddess Maria, keeper of the ocean winds, the goddess her mother had been named after. The hull was elegant and shapely. Sol had never seen such a brilliant vessel.
The harbormaster noticed Sol staring off into the horizon and followed her gaze. His face went white and his mouth fell open. Sol noticed the little man next to her and gave him a puzzled look. The harbormaster turned and ran towards New Seta’s military fort perched on the cliffs.
Sol turned back to the ship and finally noticed why it was so dark on the horizon, as her gaze rose from the haul she saw the black sails. Each mast had a small crimson flag dancing from its tip. It was a pirate ship.