The preview of ‘The Key of Alanar’ continues. In case you missed them, you can still read the Prologue and Chapter One. Picking up where the first chapter left off, young David had decided to flee the island that has been his home as far back as he can remember, in search of his true home and true family. Storm clouds are gathering, however…
Had he not been blinded by the impetuousness of youth and the emotional turmoil that clouded his judgement, David would have known to heed the warning signs and at the very least postpone his departure. But instead he turned a blind eye to the ever-darkening skies and the imminent storm that was brewing.
The rain fell lightly at first, but it wasn’t long before it lashed down in torrents, filling the bottom of the boat, stinging his skin and soaking him from head to foot. He wasn’t far from the island when the storm swept in and a blanket of cloud enveloped him, obscuring visibility. The wind howled and the waves took on a nightmarish life of their own, thrashing against the boat and further drenching the panic-stricken boy. He clung to the wooden hull, frozen by fear as the boat lurched from side to side. He didn’t know what to do except hold on tight.
The storm intensified. The wind screamed its howling wail as waves pummeled the boat. Nauseous and dizzy, David could barely see anything as the oars were snatched off the boat. He was helpless and entirely at the mercy of an opponent he could never have imagined would pose such a virulent threat: nature itself.
As the boat filled with water, David knew that it would only be a matter of time before it sank, capsized or was ripped apart by the waves. Whatever happened, he would surely drown, for there was no way he could hold his own against the might of this foe.
Please. Someone help me…!
Wave after wave crashed over him. He choked, coughing up the salty water, still clinging with all his might to the battered vessel. Though unable to think clearly, one thought flashed through his mind and it was a thought of disbelief: This can’t be the end. Can it?
David was uncertain how long he spent clinging to the boat, eyes closed as the waves and rain lashed over him. Time blurred; each moment stretching into an eternity. He veered between hopelessness and desperation, praying—to who or what he didn’t know—that he’d be okay. Pleading, begging, willing to do anything just to survive…
Perhaps someone or something was indeed listening to his prayer, because something remarkable happened to change his fortune. At first he thought it was his imagination, but he became aware of a light, some way off, piercing the veil of darkness. Yes, it was definitely a light of some kind and it was getting brighter! It was soon accompanied by a voice, shouting above the roar of the storm—a voice calling his name. “David!”
He could barely believe his eyes when he saw a boat emerge through the screen of rain, mist and water. It was one of the island’s fishing boats; a vessel larger and sturdier than his rowing boat, but still taking a beating from the storm.
“David!” This time he recognized the voice. It was his father, Jon. His father had come to rescue him! But how? What was he doing out here? Squinting to see through the dim light, he could make out a handful of men on deck, frantic in their efforts to steady the boat. Two men stood on the edge of the deck, one brandishing a mysterious light that cut through the darkness like a knife. The other man, who David quickly realized was his father, called out to him: “David, can you hear me?”
“David! You have to listen to me! I’m going to throw you a line. You have to catch it. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” David spluttered, spitting out a mouthful of water as another wave crashed over him.
But what sounded like a simple task was altogether more complicated in the eye of the storm. The first attempt to pass the rope was a misfire. Despite Jon’s best effort to throw the line, the wind and rain deflected his aim and the rope doubled back and smacked against the side of the fishing boat. Taking heed, Jon tried to coincide his next effort with a lull between gusts of wind. Sure enough, it was a more successful throw, but he still missed his aim and the rope landed in the water. Jon reeled it in and made several more attempts before David successfully caught it. “I’ve got it,” he shouted to his father, keeping a tight grasp of the rope with one hand, clinging onto the hull of the boat with the other.
“Tie it to the mooring ring at the bow! Make it tight!”
David edged his way to the metal lock at the front of the boat. The waves continued striking the boat, rocking it precariously, forcing him to struggle to keep his balance as wall after wall of ice cold water crashed over him. By now the bottom of the boat was full of water. David knew the vessel wouldn’t withstand much more of this assault.
In these conditions, a simple task like tying a rope to the boat was anything but easy. His hands were numb and he could barely see through the stinging rain. He fumbled desperately as he tried to tie down the rope. He eventually managed to tie a knot, which he doubled up and checked and rechecked. “I’ve done it!” he called back to his father, still incredulous that his father of all people had come to rescue him.
“We’re going to pull you in,” Jon shouted. Aided by the other men on deck, Jon was about to reel in the boat when the storm struck out with its most brutal outburst yet.
David bore the brunt of it. Although it happened at dizzying speed, time somehow splintered and David experienced it in agonizing slow motion. An immense wave exploded over the boat. Losing his grip, David was swept back as the boat split in two; his body slamming hard against the hull. As the boat lurched again, David was rammed forward, his head colliding with the edge of the bow. The last thing he was aware of was a sharp pain and choking as icy water filled his lungs. His consciousness ebbed away and everything went dark.
He awoke with a sense of drowsiness and disorientation. His head was throbbing and his body aching all over. He had no idea where he was or how long he’d been unconscious. He found himself on an unfamiliar bed with a blanket draped over him. His water-soaked clothes had been removed and he was wearing an oversized shirt.
Despite the struggle to move, he propped himself up and looked around. The rocky walls were those of a cave, but this wasn’t just any cave. Tapestries and fabrics of shimmering rainbow color adorned the craggy walls, bringing what would otherwise have been a dank cave to entrancing life. An assortment of potted plants and flowers lined the chamber, providing dashes of green, blue and red. A stack of unpacked crates lay against the far wall alongside an old wooden table. David’s eyes were drawn to the tabletop, which contained a number of exotic-looking artifacts including crystals of varying sizes and colors and a collection of glass jars containing herbs and liquids. A dozen or so white candles illuminated the cave.
“I see you are awake.”
David jumped, startled by the unfamiliar voice. A man stepped out of the shadows and into the flickering candlelight. David stared at him in surprise. It was someone he’d never seen before. Carrying himself with dignity and elegance, the man was perhaps in his mid to late forties, tall and of average build; his face rugged yet kind, a tanned complexion accentuating his emerald eyes. He wore a neatly-trimmed beard and his long, greying hair was tied back in plaits. His style of clothing was different to that of New Haven. He wore a navy tunic and trousers with a long dark grey cloak fastened at the neck by a gold broach. Whoever he was, he exuded gentleness, power and a foreignness that intrigued David. “How are you feeling?” the stranger asked as he drew closer.
“A bit dizzy…my head hurts,” David croaked in response. “Where am I?”
“Somewhere safe,” the man said as he pulled an empty crate alongside the bed and sat down upon it. “Do you remember what happened?”
Making an effort to gather his thoughts, David cast his mind back. “The storm. I was caught in the storm…” It all came back to him. “But my father was there. He was trying to rescue me…I can’t remember anything after that. What happened?”
“You lost consciousness. We managed to pull your boat in. By that time the storm had begun to subside and your father managed to get you aboard.”
“So you were on the boat with my father?” David asked. The man nodded. David could stave off his curiosity no longer. “Who are you?”
“My name is Janir.”
“Where are you from? I’ve never seen you before. And where are we?”
“This is my new home,” Janir replied. “I arrived on your island only a few days ago. Your island council granted me sanctuary. I came from a land far from here.”
David felt as though he’d been struck by lightning. Could it really be true? Could he finally have met someone from the outer lands? What was he doing on New Haven? Where was he from? What was life like out there? He had a thousand questions…
As if sensing David’s racing mind, Janir smiled and held up a hand. “There will be time to discuss everything later. I am a healer. We brought you here so I could treat your injury. Your parents are waiting for you outside. I imagine they will be eager to see you.”
Janir stood up and was about to leave, when David stopped him. “Wait. It was you I saw yesterday at the edge of the forest, wasn’t it? You were watching me. I saw you out of the corner of my eye but when I turned a split second later, you were gone.” He narrowed his eyes, his forehead creasing as he stared up at the stranger. “What were you doing there? Why were you watching me?’
Janir paused a moment, as if considering how to respond. “Yes, I happened to be in the vicinity,” he admitted. “And I noticed you standing on the hilltop. You seemed upset. I was concerned about you.”
David knew that there was more to it than that. As if piecing together a puzzle, he was struck by a sudden realization: “You knew—you knew what I was planning! That I was going to leave the island. It must have been you that told my father and brought him to rescue me…?”
Janir said nothing. An enigmatic smile played across his lips and his eyes twinkled in the candlelight. “Your parents are here to take you home. You have a concussion and will need to rest for a few days, but you will be fine.”
“Will I see you again?”
“Yes, I will drop by to check on you,” Janir said as he disappeared back into the shadowy tunnel.
“Wait,” David called after him, but he was gone. There was still so much he wanted to know. He couldn’t believe it. Aside from the the Alazan merchants that traded with the island, Janir was the first outlander that David had ever met.
“David,” he heard his mother’s voice. Looking up, he saw both her and his father entering the cave. Jesanda raced over to the bed and embraced him with such force that it almost knocked the breath out of him. “Oh David, thank the twin suns,” she exclaimed as she continued to hold him. He relished her embrace; it was almost as though he could feel her love and affection washing over him as well as her elation at seeing him unharmed.
“David, we were worried to death,” his father said. It showed on their faces too. His father looked particularly strained: his broad-set face pale and drawn and his sandy-brown hair disheveled and damp.
David felt a surge of guilt at knowing he had been the cause of their pain. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
His father, who had also changed his clothes and was wearing a tunic and trousers similar to the clothing worn by Janir, reached out and wrapped his arms around his son. “I thought we were going to lose you,” he said as he pulled back, a slight wheeze in his voice as he spoke. “You’ve no idea how scared we were.”
“David,” Jesanda began awkwardly. “What were you doing? In the boat, I mean. Where were you going?”
Part of him was tempted to lie. He didn’t know if he had the strength to deal with this particular confrontation right now. Yet it was something that had been ignored, denied and repressed for too long. Now was the time to finally get it into the open and deal with it. “I was leaving,” he said bluntly.
“Why?” Jesanda’s eyes widened.
“Because I don’t belong here.”
It was his father that responded, perhaps a little too defensively. “What are you talking about? Of course you do.”
“No, I don’t,” David said, his voice rising. He could feel the fire in his belly as he looked up at them. “Don’t lie to me! I know…”
Silence followed. David averted his eyes, shifting his gaze to the silk tapestry on the wall across the from the bed. There was nothing more he could say now. All he could do now was wait for them to respond. It was Jesanda that spoke first. “David…” she whispered, her eyes welling with tears.
Jon put his arm around her and looked down at David. “Who told you?”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s true, isn’t it?”
Jesanda reached out to take his hand. “David, we never intended you to find out, not like this. Not until you were older.”
“But I had a right to know. And in a way I always have known. I’ve always felt like I’m an outsider, like I’m not really welcome here…”
“That’s not true. You’re our son and we love you.”
“No.” He pulled his hand back from her. “I’m not your son—not really. I need to know the truth. I need to know who I am.”
Again there was a long silence in which the only sound David could hear was the beating of his own heart. It was almost a relief when the silence was broken by his father. “Very well, David. We were going to tell you this when you were older. But it seems the time has come sooner than we’d anticipated…”
“Jon,” Jesanda interrupted, turning to him pleadingly. There was fear in her misty brown eyes; the fear of losing her only son. But she knew that the truth could be withheld no longer so she acquiesced, letting Jon continue. There was no going back now.
“Eight years ago I was part of a trade expedition to the mainland,” Jon said as David listened intently. “We met the Alazan traders at our rendezvous in the forest of Senrah. Everything went as planned and we the exchanged goods as usual. Afterward, when we were on our way back to the shore we heard something in the forest. At first I thought it was the call of some forest animal, but as it got louder we realized it was the cry of an infant. We followed the noise to its source and found, lying in a clearing and wrapped in a golden shawl…a baby.”
“Me,” David whispered.
Jon nodded. “Yes. To this day we don’t know who left you there or why. We spent hours searching, but there was no one within a radius of several miles. Eventually darkness began to fall. We knew we couldn’t leave you alone in the forest, so we took you with us back to New Haven. We returned to the mainland for the next few days, looking for signs of whoever might have left you. But there was nothing. It was a mystery.”
“So someone abandoned me…? Why would they do that?”
Jesanda sat down on the edge of David’s bed. “We asked ourselves that a thousand times, David. But the truth is we may never know.”
“What happened then?”
“Well, obviously someone had to take care of you,” Jon said. “Your mother and I longed to have children, but we were unable…”
“Until fate delivered a beautiful little boy into our lives,” Jesanda said, her face lighting up with a proud smile. “It was the happiest time of our lives. We adopted you, pledging to take care of you and to raise you as our son.” She paused, carefully considering her words before she continued. “And David, in every way that matters, you are our son. I never want you to forget that.”
David didn’t know what to say.
“We knew this day would come,” Jon said. “We dreaded it. Maybe we should have told you sooner. Maybe that would have made it easier. We know how confusing this must be for you. We know that part of you will probably always be curious about your origin. And when you’re old enough, if you still want to set out and discover the truth for yourself, if that’s something you really have to do, then we won’t stand in your way.”
“But for now,” Jesanda said, “you have to know that we love you. That’s all that matters. You mean everything to us.”
David’s vision blurred. A teardrop tickled his skin as it rolled down his face and dripped off the edge of his chin. He didn’t know what to think anymore. But as his parents embraced him, he began to wonder if perhaps he’d been wrong. Perhaps this was his home after all, and he just hadn’t realized it.
It had been a fateful day and would take time to integrate what had happened and all that he had learned. In spite of this, he somehow assumed that life would return to normal. He was wrong. Life would never be the same again, as he would soon discover.
If you are eager to read more, The Key of Alanar is now available to buy on Amazon and multiple retailers in both paperback and ebook format. Visit the official launch page for buy links, background information and much more!