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Excerpt from Where Seagulls Fly

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message 1: by Edwin (last edited Aug 04, 2009 07:22AM) (new)

Edwin Page (edwinpahe) | 2 comments Following is the opening chapter from my recently published novel entitled Where Seagulls Fly. It is a poignant tale of a social outcast seeking refuge with the monks of St Michael's Mount in western Cornwall and its main theme is friendship. Set in the years 1274 & 1275, it is an evocative story touched with a sense of magic and wonder.


1

The beast watched in shadowy silence as the small figure of Jebbit Cutler wandered along the ridge of the hill in the gathering dusk. The farmhand’s grizzled black Labrador plodded by his side as the sound of his worn, leather boots rose into the stillness. He walked along the familiar, muddy track at the edge of the ploughed field. His shadow was long in the evening hush as puddles which had collected in the furrows reflected the sky like the broken shards of a mirror.
Stopping, he pulled back the hood of his long, grey tunic to reveal his thinning curls. The deep lines upon his face were accentuated by the growing gloom. He looked out over the town of Marghas Byghan to the bay beyond, staring out at the Isle of Ictis which rose from the waters of high tide as Tinker halted beside him, the aged hound panting, breath misty in the late autumn chill.
The western walls of the priory at the Isle’s summit shone in the fading light and the sails of a fishing boat returning to the island’s harbour glowed with a golden aura as they caught the last rays of sunlight. The sound of the ocean lapping on the shore washed over the rooftops and treetops beneath Jebbit’s vantage point and came to him like gentle breathing as stars winked into existence above, the western horizon softly shaded in pastel hues as the sun sank from view. Smoke rose lazily from soot-blackened holes in thatched roofs, the smell of burning wood mingling with the musty scent of fallen leaves and dank earth.
He took in the familiar view with weary eyes. The dull ache of arthritis in his knees intruded upon his mind as his gaze remained fixed on the darkened priory atop the Holy Isle. Pale yellow light issued from a few of the small windows and in his mind’s eye Jebbit saw the monks kneeling in silent prayer in the chapel built upon the Isle’s highest rocks.
Tinker suddenly turned to the hedgerow to the right. A growl rose from deep within her as the hairs on her back prickled in a primitive response to the faint scent she had caught on the breeze. She took a step towards the barren bushes with teeth barred.
Jebbit turned, the western sky beyond the hedgerow now a deep, rich blue touched with a pale, golden yellow where it met the horizon. ‘What be it, Tink?’ he asked, glancing down at his faithful companion.
Tinker growled again and a shiver ran the length of Jebbit’s spine. The hairs on the nape of his neck tingled. A sense of dread reared up within, arising from some latent instinct, some deep, primal pit of his being, a murky swamp the depth of which reached back to the dawn of life itself, its sluggish waters disturbed by images of demons and devils, of foul creatures filled with shadows harbouring a malady of fear.
He scanned the hedgerow carefully, eyes narrowing. His pulse quickened and he felt perspiration upon his upper lip despite the chill in the air. Every nerve and fibre spoke of warning, the murky pool deep within stirring in reaction to some hidden presence.
There. He spied a faint movement. His heart became thunderous as he saw a fearful shadow beyond the lower branches of the hedge. Something large was lurking on the far side. It was trying to remain still in order to avoid detection, and from what Jebbit could make out it seemed to be a man of sorts.
‘Who be it?’ he called, his voice tremulous despite his attempt at courageous authority.
No answer came.
Tinker’s growling continued, hackles raised and head lowered as if about to leap forward. The muscles in her shoulders were tense and trembling, but something within held the hound in place, her claws digging into slick mud.
‘Who be there?’ He reiterated his question.
The shadow was substantial and he could make out the shape of a head atop wide shoulders. It then struck him with horror that whatever the fiend may be, it was looking back at him. Its eyes were upon him and beneath the gaze he felt all remnants of courage wither.
The figure of gathered darkness slowly began to move away to the left, following the line of the hedge towards the slope of the hill and the town below. It kept itself low, but despite this Jebbit could see its size was substantial, unnatural for any man.
Tinker took a backward step, her growls dying away in her throat.
Jebbit looked down at his dog and felt the rising urge to flee.
A branch snapped, its sound cutting through the night. The figure became still, hunkering down beside the concealing hedgerow.
The old dog barked uncertainly as she took another step back and looked up at her master, eyes questioning and fearful, sensing the apprehension of the farmhand beside her.
Jebbit reached down and scratched her head in an attempt at reassurance. ‘Do not fret, Tink,’ he whispered.
Turning, all the while feeling the presence of the dark shadow on the far side of the hedgerow, Jebbit began to quickly walk away. His boots slipped in the mud due to his haste, right foot splashing into a puddle, the ripples warping the darkened heavens reflected in the water.
He glanced over his shoulder as Tinker fell in step beside him and then began to trot ahead, grateful to be away from the hill’s brow. They began to descend a grassy path, trees looming before them on the slope above the town.
Taking one last glance at the hedgerow on the other side of the ploughed field, Jebbit wiped away the perspiration on his upper lip. The farmhand then set off at a brisk pace, he and his hound consumed by the dark maw of the woodland which masked the town below from view. His nerves jangled and his eyes were wide as he stared to the right, his sight unable to pierce the gloom beneath the boughs and his mind conjuring images of a large devil lurking amidst the gathered trunks.
The undergrowth beside the path seemed to reach out towards him with shadowed, spindly arms and long fingers. It snagged on the dark, woollen stockings he wore to ward off the chill as his pace quickened. He felt as though the twisted trees to either side were about to pounce and devour him, their branches reaching overhead, black against the starry heavens.
There was a sudden disturbance beside the path and his heart leapt. He halted and stared into the pitch, but could see nothing as the undergrowth rustled. His breath held and heart pounding against his ribcage, Jebbit prayed for deliverance.
The source of the disturbance wandered onto the steep path descending before him, its snout muddied after rooting in the woods. The farmhand stared at the pig and felt a flood of relief. ‘Only one of John’s sows,’ he whispered as he exhaled deeply and collected himself, hands trembling. He then continued the journey back to the town, muscles coiled in readiness should the beast he witnessed on the brow of the hill suddenly come shambling through the darkness.
Jebbit breathed deep in the hope of bolstering his courage, the cold night air adding an immediacy to the heat of his fear. With a sense of being spied upon by the unnatural fiend, he hurried for the security of Marghas Byghan, the sound of waves washing over him, but unable to cleanse his mind of trepidation.




message 2: by Urenna (new)

Urenna Sander | 29 comments I'm working on marketing my book and not reading as much, but I did read your excerpt. I was drawn to it. The story held my attention. My review might sound unusual, but I now look at work for their verbs, and show and tell. It helps me be a better writer. The excerpt has great verbs and great show and tell, Edwin!

Good luck!

Urenna


message 3: by Edwin (new)

Edwin Page (edwinpahe) | 2 comments Hi Urenna, Thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated. Those who have spoken to me after reading the book have commented that they were drawn into the environment where the story is set - delivered from the day-to-day existence into the setting.
Thanks again.
Ed


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