Another excerpt from my novel as I plow through my 4th draft. You know they say that you are starting to get to the point where your manuscript is polished enough when you are sick of going over it. Well, I’m almost there. I want to publish, but it’s not quite there. Some minor structural fixes, a buffet of grammatical errors and word choices to go, then yep… I can send it to a professional editor for the final line editor.
I can tell you this much, the NEXT book is going to be a much more streamlined process.
Everyone was startled awake by a sharp series of whistle blasts. Many of the adults sprung to action. Even Bergamot scrambled to the ready with a wheezy groan.
“Greithr, children. We can step down at the station as the train takes on more water and peat. I will go get us some food for the second half of the trip. You may get off the train, but do not get off the station platform. There is no stockade here, and there might be things hiding in the dark,” warned Brother Finn.
Ahead, they could see the warm light of many torches and a large water tower. Most of them were in a desperate need to climb down and see what was happening if nothing more than to move their legs or use the outhouse.
“If you hear the steamwhistle again, get on top at whatever carriage is nearest. Do not wait. The train will leave without you and then you are on your own. I will not be coming back for you, and no one will take you home.” The seriousness of his words cut into their minds and put a cold needle of fear there. None of them had ever considered being abandoned before. The realized possibility showed with frightened glances. A few jerks and bounces distracted them as the brakemen set the brakes, running and jumping between car tops and spinning the cranks as they went.
As they glided to a squealing stop next to the station platform, the squat stone building blazed with life. Large pitchpots smoked around the building, filling the air with acrid smoke and sparks lighting the area with greasy yellow light. The Huskarls took position at their large springbows at the front and back of the train. Two more of them walked the platform with axes at the ready. Their colors were unfamiliar to Reimar. He reasoned that they belonged to another Aettir in the area. The carriage rocked as people surged off to find food. Only three children got down off the top and stood on the stone platform. Brother Finn rushed quickly into the station with the rest of the passengers to get food and drink. Reimar and Mats slowly walked on the platform, legs shaky from the rocking of the trip. Liesl made a bee line for the outhouse. Hand whistles blew and men shouted. They could hear the groans of llamas and a pair of oxen being taken off a car at their stop then being replaced with a different farmer’s cattle. Occasionally a foul word would color the air as a loader would throw a heavy package on the train.
Off in the dark, just beyond the pitch pots Reimar had the feeling that someone watching. He could not see anything beyond fireflies bobbing up and down among the grasses and weeds. It was beautiful and mesmerizing as he looked into the deep heart of the pinery. He walked away from the snorting engine trying to hear what could be out in the dark and maybe see something as well.
His family was so far away, and in that moment his frailty became known to him. He was just a young boy with only a strange man and his dog keeping evil at bay. Reimar continued to stare away from the noise and the chatter. He did not know what he expected to see out there, but looked anyway.
Then the apparition appeared. Was it a trick of the shadows dancing, or was it something in the trees faintly glowing? Pinpricks of yellow and green flashed like eyes and then vanished like the fireflies. The gurgling and gushing of the water tower filling the tender overwhelmed all other sounds nearby. The shadow returned. It was human in shape, resting a hand on a tree trunk. Reimar’s focus was intense and wanted to see more, but could not move.
The steam whistle blew. The shock of which jolted the boy around and he looked frantically at what was happening. His eyes fixed on Brother Finn, who had just come out with a large parcel of food wrapped in thick paper nodded to the carriages. His expression frightened Reimar with its severity of purpose. As Reimar started to move toward him and the train, he looked back over his shoulder one final time. The apparition was gone.
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