Possible opening scene of Conniption, Book One in the Veins of Power Series

The opening line of a book is so important to the success of a novel that I lack the words to convince you. The opening scene is what decides whether an agent will read on. They receive tens – if not hundreds – of submissions a day, so I need to make my own stand out. This is a sample excerpt from Chapter One of Conniption, a flash forward that the rest of the book works back from. Please, leave a comment below and tell me if this scene would make you read on, or, more importantly, pick this book off a shelf and purchase it. 

All your critiques are welcome.

Enjoy.

Chapter One (Scene One)

“Bring her back.”

The old man stayed silent.

“Do you not hear me you stupid lunatic. Bring. Her. Back.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Codswallop you can’t. I know you can. I know it. You have some spell. Some trick. You must do,” the boy’s arms waved frantically as if he could flap hard enough he’d fly away. Or at least hover and not fall further into despair. “Please, Magellan, I’ve never asked you for a thing. But I am now. Please bring her back. Please,” the tears burst over his red raw eyelids and ran down his muddy cheek, carving crooked runes on his face.

“I can’t do that that,” he said again, calmly, though the wind came bursting through the bushes and ruffled his green robes, sending a chill through his body.

“You can. Please. Please, I didn’t mean it. She was in so much pain.”

“You killed her.”

Rennoc looked at him as if he’d just started singing and banging on a tambourine. He saw the old man’s lips move and heard the words but couldn’t understand what he’d said.

“She was hurting. She couldn’t go on like…like that. She was becoming a monster.”

“I can’t bring her back.”

“I had to – you believe me, don’t you? I had to. I couldn’t let her become like me, I couldn’t let her lose her innocence like that. I had to save her from herself. I had to save us all. You believe me, right?”

“That doesn’t matter,” Magellan could barely contain the bile that burned his throat from spilling from his lips and spitting at the boy. “I can’t bring her back.”

“Then I will. Tell me the spell. Tell me. I command you, do you hear me? I command you to tell me the spell that will bring her back. Now.”

“There is no spell.”

“There MUST BE,” a flock of pigeons, watching nervously yet nosily, nearby, flocked into the sky at the sound of the Sahrail’s raised voice, at the force of the power that pulsed from him. “Look at her.”

But the old man couldn’t and refused to move his head. The boy was stalking back and forth, pacing, magic at his fingertips. The power crackled like lightning and sent smoke wafting through the air like flame.

“I said LOOK AT HER,” he was more demon than boy now, his voice deep and darker than the magic that was flowing through his veins. “There’s no power there now. She can come back. She can come back and be safe. I’ll protect her. Bring her back. BRING HER BACK.”

More tears carved more runes and twisted his face in unadulterated grief.

He was ugly and more broken now than he’d ever been before.

“Rennoc, I can’t. You can’t. No one can. Magic can’t bring back the dead – it shouldn’t.”

“Maybe your magic,” Rennoc said coldly, all emotion draining from him like the life that had drained from his dead adversary as he snapped her soul in two. “But I am more than you, more than anyone, more than anything that’s ever been. And that means I can do whatever I damn well like.

“Good bye,” the boy – now a man – said as he flicked his fingers and sent a spell fizzing like a hive of bees at his old friend. Wrapping itself around his frail body it threw him far away, the world becoming a blur. Only the horrid look of evil stamped across his young ward’s face glittered before his eyes.

The Last Merchants of Righport

He could see the moment you would die with just a touch.

“Only two points in our lives are fixed beyond reason,” Tomshin’s mother used to tell him, “the moment we are born, and the seconds in which we die – everything else is entirely up to us.”

Those words had hung heavy round his shoulders since he was a small boy of four and his unusual talent had manifested itself when he placed his hands on the Dock Keeper’s daughter, Sandraelle.

The icy wind from the Sea of Heirs made him shudder as he thought of that first vision. The streets were empty but for a few stragglers, too proud or stupid to leave this horrid little town, in search of riches where riches truly lay. And that was not by the Docks of Righport. Once a mighty and prosperous trading hub, the Third door To the Kingdom – as some had once called it – now stood as nothing more than an impoverished fishing town. Clutching desperately onto the coast of Hailreim, afraid that it would slip into the sea of obscurity.

Dark, olive hands wrapped themselves around her fragile neck.

Tomshin shook his head.

Crushing they squeezed until here eyes popped with bloodshot and wept tears of crimson.

He slapped his temple, trying to drive the vision from his mind’s eye.

A primal rutting was shaking her body as she tried to cry out one word of true love.

Laughter jolted him from his nightmare.

Three golden haired girls were gigging uncontrollably, while staring at the poor market son turning crazy in the streets. Their gowns of fine blue silk and jeweled clasps that kept their hair off of the cream of their perfect skin, all hinted at wealth.

Draymen bayed at them as the sauntered by, arses wiggling in the dying light that was setting behind the blanket of grey clouds that covered the sky. Thick copper bands rung the dark blue crates they heaved down the gangplank of the Pylian beer cog, bobbing restlessly in the growing tide. Oar men clustered around the docks, eager to stretch their legs after the hard ride against the unpredictable Great Solent.

“Captain’s daughters,” the grim face of Kinto Peeling muttered behind yellow teeth. His eyes were stained red with grief and he stank of TeMor and week old sweat. His clothes had become ragged and filthy, large yellow stains spreading outward from his armpits and deep blues raining down from his collar. “They shouldn’t be without guard.”

And with that, he strode off to follow the girls down the pier.

Peeling strode off towards the docks, his arms like jelly, wiggling by his side. He barely seemed to notice the cold, even though he had only that thin tatty shirt to warm him. The Draymen seemed to know him and immediately ceased their rambunctious flattery of the captain’s daughters.

The guilt poured through him like piss through snow.

He knew where Sandraelle was.

The clip-clop thunder of a dozen horses echoed down the tight cobbles that hinted at Righport’s former wealth. Tomshin turned, with lead in his stomach, towards the Highwaymen barreling angrily towards him.

To what do you owe the Wee Sneaky?

One of my favourite parts of creating my fictional world of Draothair is the extensive folklore and backstory I get to create along with it. I love my books, and the characters that coincide with them, but sometimes I need a break. Thinking up fantastical beasts and curious creatures is definitely an enjoyable way to rest from the more demanding challenges of plot structure and character development. So please enjoy one of my favourite creations, a small creature designed only to brighten your day a small amount, so that you may brighten your week more easily than you could have before. Remember, if you think someone is looking out for you … it is probably a Wee Sneaky.  

You may never have heard of the Wee Sneaky,

That’s O.K., they are a legend from another land,

But I gently suggest you take a moment to learn,

About how you should be thankful for a Wee Sneaky hand.

Days may be grey, that’s a fact we may not ignore,

But next time you feel the rain falls heavier on you,

Keep an eye out for a surprise that comes from the blue,

That’s the work that the Wee Sneaky loves to do.

If in your wine glass there’s an extra sip,

Or in your box of nuggets you find twelve and not ten,

More often than otherwise, it’s not a trick,

But the pleasant reward of a Wee Sneaky pick.

From toadstools of wood deep in the Forest of Cailbhe,

With holes the size of sparrow feathers and nooks not much bigger,

Sprouted kind little beasts that don’t like to be seen,

But enjoy very much sharing out laughs and sniggers.

They aren’t the most powerful beings of the wood,

They don’t come in hordes and sweep away all your debtors,

All that they want is to make your day brighter,

And with one small act, help you make the world better.

So don’t look for the Wee Sneaky,

They are too quick to see,

Look only for the gift they leave behind,

And remember that being sad is not who you are supposed to be.

The Highwaymen of Blackbrack Town: Ace and Spade

The sweaty mess of congested and dull looking buildings squatted next to each other like little trolls by the river. With no bridge to hide beneath they got wetter and darker from the falling rain. Fat, heavy drops were not enough to wipe the grime from their bodies and Ace and Spade looked at each other warily, both concerned about going further.

“We don’t have a choice, Spade,” Ace argued, his stomach rumbling loudly in tandem with the thunder. The protruding mound of his belly stretched his ceremonial robes almost the point of comedy. He hadn’t ate a good meal since he had left the City of Three and it was beginning to put an edge on his usually jovial manner. “Torrdunaigh wouldn’t let us in, remember? Worried about spies, see?”

“Of course I remember, idiot!” Spade snapped but instantly regretted it. He hated being so harsh with his rotund friend. He had “thin-guilt” for as much as Ace ate, so too did Spade, yet he was two feet taller and seven times as thin. “I wish this war would hurry up and end. Civil war, eh? Nothing civil ‘bout it.”

He had been dismayed to be turned away from Torrdunaigh. Ace and Spade were not rich men and couldn’t afford the Toll fee to get a ship directly to the wide, sprawling docks that housed a thousand ships directly next to the continents capital. He had thought as men of the robes, or so they appeared, that they would gain access unfettered. He had even been concerned that the imposing Janus Dome would be too much for him to deal with and he would have had to have left of his own volition. They were both already weary after walking down the coast all the way from Bor Bay, the closest destination they could afford, and the ferry hadn’t been exactly pleasant.

“Come on now, need to get out this rain,” Ace said, his stomach rumbling again. It wasn’t that he missed the Order of Aurora and his kinsmen in the Kindred of the Sacred; it was more that he missed the feasts. The long tables laden with pigeon stuffed with cranberry, honey treated lettuce, lemon branches dipped in chocolate and large Fluttahburrah wings dipped in sweet and spicy sauces were what had attracted him to religion in the first place. But things were differnet now. It was no secret that the Kindred of the Sacred were openly opposed to the Kindred of the Royals and were supporting Herthallin and his allies against the Queen. If they had had a few more coppers they would have purchased new clothes and maybe not set off so many alarm bells. Spies were real threats and wearing the colors of the enemy was not a clever move. But Ace and Spade were not clever men.

Walking into the pub they were instantly gratified by the wave of heat that welcomed them. The humid combination of roaring fires and bodies so packed together you could smell each others breath was better than a dripping nose and a wet arse. The clientele, Spade noticed, were as fearsome as the stories told. Everyone knew that Blackbrack Town was a Highwayman’s stronghold. The North Strong Road that linked Torrdunaigh to the Second City was riddled with robbers, bandits and thieves, south of the Links of the Light Towers. Only the fearsome Dons that lived in the North had kept their section of the rode properly policed. Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizarine had been long absent from any true responsibilities of government. Only no that the Sahrail was changing the world a cloud at a time had she truly embraced her role. But her eyes were trained south, to the continent and her navies, not along the only road that bound her island together.

Hostile stares and sarcastic wolf whistles ushered the two men closer to the bar.

“What can I get you lads?” the crusty woman with one arm and no hair asked while looking the strangers up and down.

“Do you do Fluttahburrah wings?” Ace asked, his stomach rumbling once again.

“Do we look like a restaurant in Tollton?” she laughed, while looking at Ace like he was some shit covered pig, escaped in through a door that shouldn’t have been left open. “We have ale and bread, you want something fancier then I suggest ‘ye bugger off somewhere else.” The bar erupted in roaring laughter at the barmaids joke and she pottered off towards the dirty looking tap that the beer came out from.

Finding a table by the window, Ace and Spade sat down and picked the mould from their bread.

“Better than the rain, eh Ace?” Spade tried to joke. Ace looked ready to cry at the measly morsel he was about to have as a “meal”. “Perk up. We’re free men now! No one will be looking for us here.”

“Something to hide boys?” a stern looking man with a metal star on his chest turned from his compatriot and placed his hand on the table. “This isn’t a place to be hiding from the law now.”

“We… erm… we don’t want any trouble now,” Spade said while looking to Ace for support. Half eaten bread hung limply form his mouth as his sad eyes looked at the situation without much interest.

“No trouble,” he spat half heartedly, spraying the man with crumbs of saliva sodden bread.

“How would you boys feel like doing a job for me? Grant yourselves some absolution for helping a stranger out,” his voice was deep but cajoling. Absolution was absolutely the correct word to use for Ace and Spade. The Kindred of the Sacred was all about absolution and confession and bowing before the idols. “Give you some coin for your trouble too. Buy yourselves some real nice meet and fish, fresh from Lake Wilfene.”

“Lake Wilfene? That’s … that’s almost two hundred miles from here!” Spade said.

“You better get going then! Got a package for you both to deliver to my friend up in Tollton,” the way he spoke made it seem like they had already agreed.

“But there’s highwaymen along that road! We might be injured … or worse,” Spade said.

“There’s highwaymen in here too and I don’t like it when my new friends don’t do as their asked.” Ace felt hopeful at the thought of a few coins and all the hearty meals he could buy, the guilt at breaking the law overpowered by his desire to start a new life. Spade felt more cautious, more intimidated and most of all, more eager to live outside the law. What had following the rules ever done for him?

So with the rain slanting into their face with the wind trying desperately to blow them back towards Torrdunaigh, Ace and Spade began walking the North Strong Road to Guinevere Bridge and Tollton. Ace carried they heavy and clanking bag that had to be delivered with the threat of the highwaymen ringing in his ears.

“Don’t be looking in that package now. I’ll know if you looked and I’ll take your peepers for nosying.”