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Authors: Jacob Gowans

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Flight From Blithmore

BOOK: Flight From Blithmore
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Flight from Blithmore






 

The Storyteller

s Tale

Volume One






 

By

 Jacob Gowans

 

 

 

All
characters, events, and text within this novel and series are owned by Jacob
Gowans. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or recorded
by any electronic or mechanical means without written permission of the author.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be
re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book
with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for
your use only, then please purchase your own copy. For information regarding
permissions, please contact the author at
www.jacobgowans.com

 

Published by Jacob
Gowans 2012

 

 

 

 

 

Dedicated
to Lily, whose presence in my life is a constant . . .

 

Adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

Other
books by Jacob Gowans:

 

Psion
Beta (Psion Series #1)

 

Psion
Gamma (Psion Series #2)

 

. . .
and coming Dec. – Jan. 2012:

Psion
Delta (Psion Series #3)

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

I
wrote this book in my first year of dental school. In fact, it almost got me
kicked out because I was too busy writing instead of studying. That’s when I
learned that “the urge” is something a writer can’t ignore. It’s stronger than
my potato chips addiction, stronger than my desire to play video games, and
stronger than my need for sleep. In the end, that’s how I did both dental
school and writing. Less sleep, not less chips, unfortunately.

After
Psion Beta
and
Psion Gamma
, I started a few other projects,
things I might someday get back to. I had an idea for a book about a
former-dentist-turned-assassin, one about modern gladiator games, and another
that’s a sort of fantasy novel. But
Tale
is special. It’s the first book
idea I ever had, planted way back when I was eighteen and working for Feature
Films for Families, selling movies over the phone. (For shame, I know!)
Plotting out book details kept me going. I never thought I’d actually write the
novel. And I didn’t do it alone; I had lots of help and advice along the way.
After all, this was only my third book.

I
want to thank Raleigh Jones, Braden Atkins, Lewis and Natalie Gunther, Nancy
Block, my father, my mother-in-law, and anyone else I may have forgotten for
reading and offering criticism, praise, and enthusiasm. I owe great thanks to
my workshoppers, who had lots of helpful criticisms and ideas: John Wilson,
Britta Peterson, Dan Hill, Natasha Watson, Kellie Buckner, Jana Jensen, Alyssa
Harnagel, and Benjamin Van Tassell.

I
also owe thanks to Britta Peterson for another wonderful cover, and Adam
Morris, Shannon Wilkinson and Caity Jones for editing final manuscripts. Last
of all, I thank you, Fellow Bookworm, for supporting a self-published author
who
still
can’t seem to find an agent or publisher willing to join his
team.

In
the end, this is a book about two things: love and adventure. And so I have
three more people I want to specially thank. First are the father and mother of
my ex-fiancée who inspired one of the villains in this novel. Thank you, R. and
K., for breaking us apart with your abnormal cruelty so I could meet the woman
who discovered with me everything I know about love and adventure: my wife,
Kat. After almost seven years of marriage, our relationship seems to get better
and better.

 

 

 

 

 

Flight from Blithmore






 

The Storyteller

s Tale

Volume One






 

By

 Jacob Gowans

 

 

 

Prologue
-

The Old Man

 

 

“Can
your horses
go any faster?” I begged the driver for the third time. My
head stuck out the carriage window and the chilled wind blew hard against my
face, stinging my nose and ears enough to force me to withdraw back inside.

“I’m
sorry, sir.” The thick wool scarf wrapped around the driver’s mouth muffled his
husky voice. “These aren’t the youngest horses in town, and I’m afraid they
tend to stiffen up in the cold.”

I
glanced at the sun, low on the cloudless, violet horizon and ready to disappear
at any moment. I couldn’t lose this job. I’d be hard-pressed to find any more
in my line of work. With the last remaining sunlight, I opened my traveling bag
and checked my supplies, counting everything for the last time.

“Everything’s
here,” I reassured myself, “and that may be the only positive thing this whole
evening.”

“What’s
that, sir?” my driver called out.

“Nothing.
I was only speaking to myself.” I shivered and pulled my cloak tighter around
my neck.

“We’re
almost there, sir. Just passing onto the main road now. The inn’s not far.”

I
considered asking him if he could go even a little faster, but decided against
it. Fortunately for me, he was right. We arrived at the inn in moments, and no
sooner had the carriage stopped, I let myself out, clutching my bags in one arm
while my other hand searched my pockets.

“I
could have gotten that for you, sir,” the carriage driver said. He was a heavy
man with a thick brown beard that made his red nose appear like a small beet
surrounded by dirt.

I
replied with a weak smile as my searching became more frantic. “Er, how much do
I owe you?” I asked, though I knew the amount.

“Three
silvers should do it, though I wouldn’t say no to a gratuity!” He guffawed at
his own joke.

His
answer bought me the time I needed, and there, in the deepest recess of my
pocket, was the amount I had been certain I possessed. I paid him the three
silvers, apologized that I couldn’t pay more, and bade him a good night.

The
inn was on a crowded street lined with shops, homes, empty stands, stables, and
quite a few buildings I couldn’t identify at sunset. Standing outside the inn,
hearing the sounds and smelling the food, I could sense it was alive with
business. My stomach gave an angry lurch, and I went straight in.

Bodies
filled nearly every chair. Mugs and plates littered the tables. More food and
drink poured out from the kitchen, served by beautiful women whose perfume
mingled with the smell of herbs and meats to form a truly divine scent. Men
played dice games in one corner and bet on ring tosses in another. The inn was
a good one, better than most I’d visited.

I
spotted the man I was certain must be the owner. He stood not far from the
kitchen speaking to a table of well-dressed men. I made my way forward, noting
his neat work clothes, the walking stick he didn’t use, and his friendly habit
of greeting everyone with an arm around the neck or a firm pat on the
shoulders. When I got near enough to hear him, I noticed how he knew everyone’s
name.

He
caught my eye as I approached, probably identifying me as someone needing
assistance, so he concluded his other conversations and gave me his full
attention.

“Hello,
young man.” His voice was warm, and he offered me his hand. “Benjamin Nugget,
owner of The Silver Nugget. How can I help you?”

“Geoffrey
Freeman,” I said, shaking his hand with vigor. “Just traveled up from
Vistaville.”

“You’re
here for tonight’s entertainment?” His knack for listening made me feel as
though the whole inn were as silent as a cemetery.

“Yes,
but I also need lodging.”

“I
have plenty available. Almost everyone here is local. Do you plan to stay for
more than one day?”

I
informed him that I did. Then, due to my own embarrassment, the conversation
became awkward. “You see, I used the last of my money to get here—the very
last. However, I’m here for work. I mean, I have work. This is my work.” I
hefted up my bag filled with writing supplies for him to see. “I was hoping I
might pay you at the end of my stay rather than at the beginning. I won’t
receive pay until after—”

“So
you’re the scribe!” Benjamin declared. Then he pointed down to the bag I
carried, filled with paper and ink and pen. “I should have noticed it sooner.
Yes, yes, don’t worry about a thing. I’ve been told you were coming, but it
slipped my mind. I’m certain I even saved you a place to sit.”

Without
any trouble, he procured me half of one table all to myself. As I sat, I
thanked him for his kindnesses. Outside the window, the sun had vanished. I
searched in vain for a clock, though I knew it had to be nearly time for the
entertainment to begin. I went about preparing my area for my task, forming a
large stack of papers next to me and then arranging the feather pens and
inkwells how I liked them. A loud shout startled me, nearly causing me to spill
my ink.

“Say,
when’s the storyteller getting here?” a man sitting behind me called out.
“Should be near that time.”

“Any
moment now,” Benjamin responded smoothly, “so have more drinks.” That brought
several laughs and mutters. Benjamin returned to his duties, observing the
women distributing his food and ale and checking on the cooks in the kitchen.

After
several minutes of waiting, my papers were perfectly arranged, my feather pens
lay ready, and I’d set out my own candles to ensure myself enough light by
which to see my notes. All I needed was someone to dictate.

“Is
everything all right, Mr. Freeman?” Benjamin said to me as he passed by my
table.

 I
could see sweat forming on his brow and his eyes kept flitting to the door. I
smiled sympathetically. “Perhaps I should ask you the same thing.”

He
forced a small chuckle and looked around the tavern. “In a few more minutes
here, I’ll be handing out free rounds and apologizing for the absence of my
distinguished guest.” He took out a modest cloth from his pocket, wiped the
perspiration from his head, and excused himself. He ran about offering
apologies for the delay and trying to put off the moment of surrender as long
as possible. Then several men who had been betting on dice stood and marched to
the door.

“Gentlemen,
please!” Nugget exclaimed.

The
men stopped at the threshold as though they had walked into an invisible
barrier. Most of the other patrons did not seem to notice this because the
volume in the tavern was louder than ever. The men at the door parted to reveal
a bent-over old man with long white hair and a clean-shaven face wearing a worn
traveling cloak and magnificent riding boots. He might have been tall once, but
he was so hunched over now that no one would ever know.

The
magnitude of his presence was so great that the tavern, beginning with those
closest to the door and moving toward those nearest to me, fell silent until
the only sounds came from the cooks in the kitchen. Every eye (including mine)
was fixed upon this man who took little notice of the change in the crowd and
drew a long wooden cane from the folds of his cloak, setting it down on the
floor with a resonating tap. Each small step the old man took was accompanied
by another tap, and the eyes of the patrons followed him. When the old man finally
reached the small stage with his chair waiting, he gently set his cane on the
floor and sat. I heard his joints creak as he bent. When his body finally
reached the seat, a collective sigh broke out over the audience, but it was
quickly hushed.

“Water,
please,” the old man said to no one in particular. With a mere glance, his eyes
surveyed the large crowd. For a moment they rested upon me. It startled me from
my entranced state, and I grabbed my pen and dipped it into my ink. The excess
dripped steadily into the inkwell. The blank paper called to me to fill it with
words.

A
mug of water was in the owner’s hand almost faster than the words registered in
my ears. The old man received it gratefully, drank a small sip, cleared his
throat, and lifted his head. He had many features common to men fortunate
enough to reach such a ripe age: large ears whose lobes hung down his cheeks,
and a grand nose—red from the same cold I’d experienced. His eyes shone so
brightly that I doubted his memory had dulled a whit. His lips were heavy and
thick. All this made the tufts of long white hair from his scalp appear even
whiter.

“True
love,” he began, his voice low, but strong. “We use these words too lightly. We
throw them around like bare chicken bones, but when a man and woman experience
it, recognize it, and embrace it, there is nothing more powerful. Two kinds of
people exist in the world: those who taste love and those who do not. To be
pitied are the latter.”

A
flinch rippled through the crowd, and the old man surveyed them with the utmost
seriousness.

“Great
things are born of great loves. Such are the matter of stories. Such things
bring me here today, for I shall tell you of a truly magnificent love and, of
course, equally terrible powers. It begins here . . . in Blithmore, although I
have never told the story in this land before tonight, and I may never tell it
here again. I will tell you about a man named Henry Vestin, a woman named
Isabelle Oslan, and those who were closest to them.

“This
story begins many, many years ago, in a time when there were still nobles and
kings and emperors. It was a different world, almost. King Sedgwick Germaine
had been sitting on the throne for . . . forty-one years. Nobles in Blithmore,
in that day, were distinguished not by ownership of land, but by occupation and
title only. King Germaine’s father had given all Blithmorians the right to own
land. So it was that Henry Vestin’s father owned a woodcarving shop near the
heart of the capitol, Richterton, and earned the reputation of a fine master of
his art.

“Behind
his house and across a very large lawn stood Oslan Manor, owned by Lord Roger
Oslan. Only a row of tall evergreens separated the properties. Lord Oslan’s
gardener planted the hedge two years before Henry’s birth, the same year James
Oslan was born. It was Lord Oslan’s way of trying to forget the Vestins existed
at all. He was among the poorest of the nobles, having made several bad
investments in exotic juices, cutlery, cosmetics, and many things of that
nature. Master Vestin, on the other hand, amassed a respectable fortune,
especially for a shop owner.

“Despite
the disparity in riches, the two families were alike in many ways. For example,
they each had one elder boy and one younger girl, although Mr. and Mrs. Vestin
later took in a foster child, Ruther, who turned out to be quite a disaster.
Both fathers were strict, and both mothers wanted their children to be given
every possible advantage in life. As it so happens, this was a time in
Blithmore’s history when education had become quite popular, even for women. So
fashionable was it that Henry’s mother, Mrs. Vestin, went and received her
certificate from the Office of Royal Educators so she could set about teaching
her two children.

“Desperate
to keep her own children fashionable, but unable to afford the cost of sending
them to the schools with other young nobles, Lady Oslan made an unconventional
arrangement with Mrs. Vestin, and sent her two children through the evergreen
hedge every morning to be taught alongside Henry and his sister, Margaret.

“On
the first day of class Henry dumped a handful of dirt into Isabelle’s hair.
Isabelle screamed until her brother, James, became so angry that he wrestled
Henry to the ground and tore Henry’s shirt in the process. This behavior so
offended Lord and Lady Oslan that if Mrs. Vestin hadn’t apologized in person
and assured them of an immediate change in her son’s behavior, that would have
been the end of it all, and there would be no story to tell today.

“On
the second day, out of revenge, Isabelle pinned Henry down and put her muddy
handprints all over his new white shirt. So began the long courtship between
Henry Vestin and Isabelle Oslan. All they had left to do was grow up like the
evergreen bushes of the hedge that separated their parents’ properties. Every
year growing a little taller, a little older, and a little closer together.”

BOOK: Flight From Blithmore
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