Whiterock is my next novel, aiming for release in 2020. I have it all written but it still needs polishing so I’m sharing it here, a bit at a time, to get your feedback. Have a quick read and tell me your impressions, or give me your critique, in the comment area below. Enjoy! (updated 14-Jul-2021)
By Hal Aetus
©2019 Hal Aetus (aetusart.com). Please do not repost without permission of the author.
WARNING: There are some scenes throughout this novel that depict actions some may not consider suitable for children such as drinking of alcohol, mild gore and violence (as in close combat), romance, and mild sexual content. My target audience is adult (e.g., 18 years or older) so be advised.
As Tristan climbed over the third ridge to the east of Galinta, he thought back to his home nest in the Western Meadows, a day’s flight to the west. His journey to Kor’s had been the only long trip he had ever made. Now a wide, new world spread out before him and it thrilled him down to his talons. He smiled up at Pepro, high above him, and Pepro smiled back.
Pepro could see in Tristan’s eyes the same excitement he experienced when he began his Wander, fresh from the nest and full of wonder.
Tristan inhaled the fresh spring air and savored the warm sun on his back feathers. Now this is an adventure!
The two birds flew at different speeds with different styles. Tristan was smaller and faster but Pepro could glide long distances with less effort. It made keeping pace with each other difficult so Tristan tended to fly ahead and wait in a treetop for his friend to come soaring by.
By late afternoon they had made it to the gentle, forested slopes that dropped east. Far in the hazy distance, they could see the blue sliver of a long lake nestled at the foot of valley that came down from the stabbing, white peaks of mountains to the north. Beyond rose the blue wrinkles of the forested coastal ridges. At a rocky hilltop, Tristan stopped and waited in the top of a bone-white dead spruce and watched as Pepro soared closer. As Pepro came overhead, he dropped his legs, pulled his wings in, and lifted his head. It turned him into a wall of ruffling feathers, bringing him down swiftly and smoothly without picking up much speed. He dropped below Tristan’s level then snapped his wings open and used up the last of his momentum to swoop quietly up and land gently beside Tristan with only one lazy wingstroke.
Tristan smiled, “You’re a pro, Pepro. That was almost as quiet as my landings!”
“Thanks, buddy, that’s a big compliment, coming from a barn owl. Good thing I don’t need to be quiet to sneak up on fish though.” Pepro’s gizzard growled. “Speaking of which, I could use some fish right now. That’s Sunrise Lake down the valley. Looks like we’ll make the lake at sunset. Perfect! We’ll have some supper and sleep with full bellies tonight!”
“Hmm… don’t be offended, Pepro, but I’m hoping that I can find something less fishy for dinner tonight. Maybe I can catch some voles along the lake tonight.”
Pepro preened a wing feather. “Your parents are village hunters, right?” asked Pepro.
“Mhmm, for the village of Kahnavis.” Tristan stared at his delicate toes and talons. “But they said my feet were too small. They said I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the family trade. My parents . . .” Tristan’s voice cracked and trailed off. He sighed. “I just couldn’t hunt like my siblings. So, they brought me to Kor and here I am.”
Pepro shuffled closer and bumped Tristan lightly with his left wing so that he lifted his gaze to his friend’s face. Pepro smiled and said “Hey, those feet are perfect. You’re an artist! So what if you’re not the best hunter. How many owls get to make wedding rings for royalty?”
Tristan smiled back. “You always make me feel better, Peppy.” His gaze shifted out to the light blue horizon. “Somehow, I don’t think my parents would be impressed. They’re all about hunting, and they’re very good at it, but that’s all they do.”
“I’m sorry your parents couldn’t see the best in you. Maybe they really do love you but just didn’t know how best to help ya.” Pepro reached his left wing over Tristan’s back and hugged him close. “I can see it hurts you and I won’t say it’s all ok. But I know one thing. I’m sure glad we ended up together. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. And if you’d stayed in Kahnavis, I’d have never met you and we wouldn’t be on this adventure together.”
Tristan looked back up at Pepro’s smiling beak and leaned into his soft breast. “That’s saying a lot Pepro. You must’ve met all sorts of interesting birds on your Wander. It sounds like you’ve been all over Volatalia.”
Pepro looked into the distance. “Yes, all over the north and all around the coast of the south too. It was fun, sometimes hard, always a bit lonely. And now that I’m old enough to see things different, the loneliness has become harder to put over.” “Putting over” was a euphemism referring to the swallowing motion that eagles make when they move food from their crop to their stomach. Pepro looked at his feet thoughtfully for a moment. “You’re the first bird that has begun to fill that emptiness.”
A breeze broke the stillness and the old tree creaked.
Pepro looked down at Tristan. “Hey, I’ve got an idea! I’ll get you something special for dinner tonight. When we get to the lake you’ll see an island with a big spruce and an eagle’s nest. Wait for me there. It’ll take me a while but I’ll catch up with you.”
Tristan’s beak stiffened with concern. “I don’t know, Pepro. Are you sure it’s such a good idea to separate?”
“You’re doing great, Tristan! And I promise the surprise will be worth the wait!” chirped Pepro, already lifting his tail and relieving himself in preparation to take flight.
“Well, ok, but hurry! The day is getting late!” called Tristan as his friend launched out towards the north.
Tristan watched Pepro flapping away with determination and let out a sigh. “Oh well, I guess he knows what he’s doing.” He stretched his wings and headed down the valley with golden sunshine on his tail.