Thursday, May 22, 2008
ORPHAN'S QUEST (Book One of The Chronicles of Firma) excerpt by Pat Nelson Childs
Rokey, a poor orphan, has lived his entire life sheltered within the walls of the Noble Contemplative Monastery. Growing up, he never dreamt anything would haunt him more than the riddle of his parents' identity. But at seventeen, Rokey is discovering that while his roommate, Ely, can think only of girls, his own feelings draw him toward other boys instead. Soon the question of whether or not he is a "samer" is occupying his mind to the exclusion of all else. But when a tragedy results in his expulsion from the only home he has ever known, and an unknown enemy begins trying to kill him, Rokey's mind abruptly returns to the mystery of his parentage. Solving that puzzle, he determines, could mean the difference between life and death.
On the road, Rokey soon meets up with a charming elf named Flaskamper. Captivated by the handsome young exile, the elf promptly volunteers his help, as well as that of his three unlikely companions. Before long, the five become swept up in the effort to solve the riddle of Rokey's origins, finding out who is trying to kill him, and why. Along the way, Rokey endures some harsh lessons about disappointment and betrayal, but also delights in the joy and excitement of first love.
Foiled in initial attempts, Rokey's enigmatic foe escalates the attacks. As the young orphan and his new-found friends pursue the trail of clues that leads them across the land of Firma, they find themselves battling an ever-deadlier array of assassins. When they finally do uncover the truth, it is in the last place Rokey had ever expected to find it.
Glynworks Publishing (June 2007)
ISBN: 9780979591204 (hardcover)
When supper was over, Flaskamper ordered two goblets of mulled wine, then paid the innkeeper for the meal. Heelbor looked at the gold sovereign suspiciously, and Flaskamper half expected that he would sink his teeth into it to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit. But he only dropped it into his moneybox and fished out the change. Flaskamper thought the man might call a magistrate on them if he dared overtip him, so he carefully counted out the standard gratuity, said goodnight to the others, who were still finishing their drinks, and made for the room with the two goblets of wine.
He opened the door to find Rokey sitting on their blankets in front of the fire. He paused for a moment to watch him. The fire made his lush, black hair turn almost midnight blue, and gave his face a deep golden hue. He had washed up and dressed in fresh clothing, and was staring into the flames humming a little tune, which the elf thought sounded strangely familiar. Flaskamper walked over and sat down beside him.
“Thought you might like some mulled wine,” he said, handing Rokey one of the goblets, “to help you get a good night’s sleep.”
“Thanks. I’m not sure I’ll ever get a good night’s sleep again,” Rokey said. “ I’ve been spoiled by your mother’s wonderful beds. But I’ll give it a try. What shall we drink to?”
“To our hearts’ desires,” Flaskamper answered without thinking.
“Alright, to our hearts’ desires,” he said, and they tapped the goblets together.
For a few moments they sat together in companionable silence, sipping their wine and watching the fire.
“That song you were humming,” Flaskamper said finally, “where did you learn it?”
“It’s something I remember from when I was a child,” Rokey replied. “Just that little part of it. It just floats through my head sometimes. Why?”
“It’s strange. I’m sure I know it. And I seem to remember it being something unusual. Damned if I can remember what it is now though.”
“You mean it’s Elvish?” Rokey asked.
“I don’t think so,” said the elf. “I’m sure the harder I try to remember, the less successful I’ll be. That’s always the way of it.”
Somewhere in the back of Rokey’s mind a little light came on. He closed his eyes for a moment, concentrating.
“How – ,”
“Shh,” Rokey held up a hand. “I’m remembering something”
Flaskamper sat quietly as Rokey turned something over in his mind, trying to grasp at thin strands of memory.
“A dance,” Rokey said at last. “I seem to remember a dance. In a clearing. A circle of dancing figures. And I’m in someone’s….I’m in my, my mother’s arms. Flash, I’ve never had this memory before!” He frowned. “But what in the world could it mean?”
The elf shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “When I think of where I’ve heard the blasted tune before, maybe we can make some sense of it. Keep in mind though, distant memories are tricky things. This new bit that just came to you, it could mean nothing at all.”
“Killjoy,” said Rokey, pouting.
“I’m not saying that’s the case. I just don’t want you to build your hopes needlessly.”
“And I appreciate that…I guess.”
They let the subject drop, and turned back to the fire.
“So, what’s yours?” Rokey asked, after a while.
“What’s my what? Flaskamper asked.
“Your heart’s desire. We toasted to our hearts’ desires. I was just wondering, you know, what yours was.”
Flaskamper’s throat was suddenly very dry. He took a large gulp of the wine.
Well, Mother, Flaskamper thought to himself, you said the moment would come. I suppose it might as well be now.
“I’m sorry,” Rokey began. “If that’s too personal –”
“No –” Flaskamper squeaked, then cleared his throat and took another slug of fortification. “No, not at all.”
He paused again for a moment.
“Rokey, you see, there’s been…well, there have been…a lot of people in my life, men I mean. Some of them for a week or, on rare occasions, a little bit longer, but mostly for just a night. I liked all of them, even imagined that I loved one or two –”
“Flash, you don’t have to – ”
Flaskamper held up his hand to stop him, but noticed that it was shaking, and quickly tucked it under his leg.
“But I was wrong,” he continued after a moment. “Truth is, I’ve never been in love before. I knew that – ,” he took a deep breath and looked deep into Rokey’s brown eyes. “I knew it as soon as I first saw you.”
Inside, his heart was racing in terror, but he swallowed hard and forged on.
“From the minmark I laid eyes on you, I knew that I felt something different for you – different than anything I’d ever felt before. And as these days have passed, any lingering doubts I may have had have tumbled away. I tried – tried to fight it, but I can’t.” Tears were welling up in his eyes, but he ignored them. “You’re my heart’s desire, Rokey. I’m totally and completely in love, and if you don’t love me back … I don’t know but – but I just can’t keep it inside anymore. I – ,”
His voice broke, but then Rokey’s arms were around him, comforting him.
“It’s alright Flash,” Rokey whispered soothingly. “I do. I do love you. I do.”
Flaskamper trembled as he lay in Rokey’s arms, letting the words sink in. Then his lips found Rokey’s. They kissed, softly and tenderly at first – but then the energy began to rise, building steadily, until a nearly furious passion gripped them. The elf’s trembling hands slid under Rokey’s shirt. The boy’s skin was so warm and smooth beneath his fingertips… and so soft. Then he grabbed the shirt, resisting the urge just to tear the fabric apart, and Rokey leaned forward so it would slip off. Then he took Flaskamper’s off as well, and they held each other for a while, savoring the feel of one another’s bare flesh.
Flaskamper began kissing his neck, and Rokey felt himself being guided backwards, lowered down to the blankets on the floor. Flash lay down on top of him, and as the elf’s long fingers began to unbuckle his breeches, Rokey was gripped by a sudden surge of panic.
“Flash,” he cried, his body tensing, “I’m afraid.”
Flash stopped abruptly and pulled back.
“Alright,” he said breathlessly. “It’s alright. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to push you so fast. I got – I got carried away. We can stop –”
“No!” Rokey said. “No, I don’t want to stop. That’s not what I meant. What I’m afraid of is, well – I’m just afraid that I’ll disappoint you.”
They were silent for a moment, then Flaskamper threw his head back and laughed.
“Why are you laughing at me?” asked Rokey, his eyes widening in hurt surprise.
“Oh, Rokey,” Flaskamper said gently. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m not laughing at you, just at the idea that you could possibly disappoint me.”
“Well – well, I’m just worried because – you’re the first, and….”
“I know, and because of that, it’s I who should be worried about disappointing you. It’s my job to make your first time special.” Flash ran his fingers through Rokey’s thick, dark hair. “But, chatka, there’s never in my life been a job that I was so eager to do.”
“Chatka is an elvish word,” he explained, in response to Rokey’s quizzical look. “Literally, it means treasure, but it’s also used to mean the one you love.”
He smiled down at Rokey.
“If you trust me,” said the elf, “and love me as much as I love you, then neither of us is going to be disappointed. I promise.”
“I do trust you,” Rokey said, “and I love you so much it hurts.”
Flaskamper lay down again on top of him and resumed kissing his neck. A moment later, Rokey gasped as he felt the elf’s slender hand slip down into his breeches.
“Hurts, huh?” Flaskamper whispered playfully, “In that case, let me kiss it and make it better.”
* * *
The fire had burned low. Flaskamper sat on the floor, his eyes fixed adoringly on Rokey. The light of the moon shone through the window, casting a pale blue glow over the boy’s naked body as he slept. Flaskamper ran a hand lightly over Rokey’s back, causing him to moan and shift slightly.
The elf could never remember a time in his life when he had been so contented. In a way, lovemaking had been just as new to him as it had to Rokey, and he realized now what he had been missing in his many previous sexual encounters. All those other experiences, once the fun was over, had left him feeling empty inside. With Rokey, it was just the opposite; he felt whole, and fulfilled, and quite honestly amazed at his good fortune. He simply couldn’t fathom how something so wonderful could happen to him. It was this bemusement that caused a few fine threads of worry to run through his otherwise blissful mood. He had gained so much; yet it meant that he now had so much to lose.
He stood and went to the window. The moon was full and bright, nested in an abundance of twinkling stars. It reminded Flaskamper of a little prayer to Secta, the moon goddess, that he had learned as a child. Though he was not generally a religious elf, he decided that it couldn’t hurt. He closed his eyes and murmured it quietly –
Guard us tonight.
Keep us til morning
Cradled in your light.”
Having thus hedged his bet, he went and lay back down beside Rokey. The sleeping boy rolled over and put his arm around him. Flash sighed with satisfaction and closed his eyes.
“It’s going to be alright,” he assured himself. “Whatever else happens to us – in the end, we’re going to be alright.”