Your thoughts on a novel I've written! Chapter one
Cade, an only child, was nearly seventeen years old. Standing 5’ 9”, he had a slim, lean but sturdy frame. Although he was not the most athletic, his muscles were defined enough. His hair was brown-black, thick and short, but long enough to have a slight wave to it, which he slicked back. His eyes were a cheerful blue. They were kind, innocent and keen, having a sharp 20/15 vision. Cade was able to read the smallest letter line on an eye chart. His cheeks were flushed with a touch of red on his olive toned skin, while still having that boyish youthful look when he smiled. He was dressed casually in blue jeans, a grey W.H.U T-shirt, with a dark grey zipped hooded sweater and white sneakers.
The journey had been long. Two planes, a coach, and now a train ride. Cade thought he had seen the last of Wales ever since they moved to the United States of America over a year and a half ago. His Dad, Bryce, a professor of sorts, was a little eccentric. He was, of all things, a relic hunter. Everything and anything to do with the Dark Ages whet his appetite, luring him into a quest, to discover and uncover, all he could find. What drove Cade’s Dad’s interest into the Dark Ages was a mystery to Cade ever since he was a small boy. However, for as long as he could remember, it was all his Dad ever talked about.
Bryce Evans, a Professor of the Dark Ages and Medieval Times and Practices. He is a short, 5’3”, burly man, with a head full of black wispy hair, or rather a face full of hair. The only hair on Professor Evans’ head was around the side, from ear to ear. Although you would never know that unless he took his hat off, which was not that often. He insisted on wearing an Indiana Jones kind of hat, a fedora, which made it all the more frustrating for his son, Cade. With sharp brown eyes, thick bushy eyebrows and broad rounded cheeks, Bryce looked every part of an historian-archeologist-adventurer stereotype. He was a good, even-tempered man, but able to handle himself if the situation called for it, despite his small stature.
His quest-driven passion had made him very knowledgeable about many things, but his main love was the life of the Dark Ages! Of course, without question, he loved his son dearly. Bryce had raised him from a baby, pretty much on his own, but in growing up his son never warmed to this love of ‘history’ like that of his father.
Sadly, Cade did not know much about his mother. She had disappeared many years ago when he was roughly two years old. Being that young, he had no real memory of her, only the faint whispers and shadows of echoes past, drifting like shifting vapors. That was over fourteen years ago, and throughout that time, his father never really spoke much about her. All Cade knew was that a search had gone on for months, but to no avail. It was a very heartbreaking and sad time. Shortly after her disappearance, Cade’s father, buried himself in learning, finding a reassurance from history. Consequently, the Dark Ages became a passion of his, a passion that Cade did not fully understand.
The jolt of the train stopping roused Cade from his thoughts. Llandyke Wells, last stop. He looked out of the window, at least it had stopped raining. There were not many people around, only a half a dozen or so. Llandyke Wells was a small village, consisting mainly of local village folk and farmers.
Cade stood to collect his things from the overhead luggage rack - a backpack and a suitcase - and made his way towards the exit. He stepped down from the carriage car onto the platform and looked left and right. The skies were grey, the air wet and the smell of the rain still hung in the air.
The railway station was a small grey/black flint stone building; the kind you see on old-fashioned picture postcards. In fact, the whole place looked like a step back in time. The town of Llandyke Wells had the railway station along with a small post office, a grocer’s shop, a supply and hardware shop, a newsagents, a police station and a small pub. They were all made mainly of the same kind of stone, since there used to be a stone quarry a few miles away, long since abandoned, from which most of the town was built.
Surrounding the town were a few small farms and cottages scattered here and there, thinning out as you traveled further from town. Open fields, woodlands, forests and rivers were the main backdrop that stretched on for miles.
The only thing that stood out was Byne Keep, upon Glynn Hill, in the distance. It stood there broken, wounded over time, ravaged by fire, its authority of long ago, an ancient past in ruin. Now, overrun with plant and wildlife, long forgotten by the locals, it was a playhouse for many a kid that ventured out there.
A taxi was waiting for Cade outside the train station. The driver held a handwritten sign that said, ‘Evans’. Cade walked up to the driver and said, “That’s me”.
“A’ight laddie” the driver replied, “Welcome to Llandyke Wells.”, nodding slightly as he touched the brim of his flat cap, “‘Ere lemme take that for you”, he continued, taking the suitcase.
Cade opened the back passenger door, climbed in and sat down while the driver put his suitcase in the boot of the car. After Cade buckled in the seatbelt, he took out his earbuds from the side pocket of his backpack and put them in his ears, hit play on his Smartphone and listened to some streaming music on Pandora.
The driver returned to his seat, looked over toward Cade and said, “You ready?”, but Cade paid no attention, his mind was on his music, “a’ight laddie” the driver said with a slight smile and chuckled to himself, turning his eyes back to the road. He started the car and drove off.
Cade had been here before; he grew up here. Up until the age of seven, the town of Llandyke Wells and its surrounding fields and farms had been his home. After that, he and his Dad moved south into a bigger, more city-like town, away from the rolling country hills of Wales and into the hustle and bustle of city life. This life, Cade loved. Aberandoen was a completely new lifestyle for Cade, one that he quickly adapted to. The sounds, the noise and the buzz of the city were all different, compared to the life he grew up with. There was television, music, telephones, mobile phones, computers and people. People everywhere. There were probably more people living in one apartment building than in the whole town of Llandyke Wells.
It is hard to imagine living in the twentieth century without all the modern technology, but if you never knew about it, you could not miss it. Being only seven at the time, Cade was not missing much. He had learned so many things like fishing and hunting, planting and farming, and horse riding.
Growing up on a small farm was hard work, for everyone. Even though Cade was young at the time, this did not excuse him from the daily chores of farm life. Eggs had to be collected from the chicken coop, the pigs had to be fed, the stables had to be cleaned out and the cows and goats had to be milked. This life was a life that belonged to his Grandparents and still did today. They had lived there all their lives and raised a daughter there too, his mother.
Nevertheless, that was the kind of lifestyle Cade and his Dad left behind. Cade soon forgot about the simple way of living and became very astute in today’s technology that now surrounded him. It fascinated him. It was a different world, one he wanted to master. Unlike his father who had a passion to learn everything about the Dark Ages, Cade had a passion of his own, to learn everything about the digital world, the Digital Age as it were.
School was a new experience for him too, since he had always been homeschooled Nonetheless, Cade found himself excelling in almost every subject. It had almost become too easy for him, science and technology were his greatest strengths. From junior school to senior school, Cade was top in his class, and even in the entire school; this enabled him to jump a few grades, not really making him the most popular kid, but that did not matter, Cade just busied himself with the latest computer gizmo. He had built dozens of computers, his first one being when he was only nine years old. That made him money too. He would build them then sell them for profit, using that money to buy more parts and/or the latest gadget.
With each passing year, Cade grew in stature. He was taller than his Dad, his features were softer and he was leaner too. Cade did not inherit the brawn and roughness of his father’s strength, but he had the strength of a learned mind, one that was disciplined but inquisitive, a trait they both shared. The ironic thing was it seemed like he and his father were two polar opposites, both passionate to learn all they could, driven and dedicated in the craft of knowledge, however one looking at the past, the other looking at the future.
There were other things that they had in common too - food and travel. Cade’s father, Bryce, could rustle up a meal fit for a king with only a few ingredients. Bryce and his son would often challenge each other in a food cook-off, using the same ingredients to see who could come up with the best dish. Until recently, Bryce would win but Cade’s determination was beginning to show; he had won the last two competitions and was planning for a third.
Being the kind of man Bryce was meant that he never stayed still for too long. That is why they had moved to Aberandoen. Traveling to and from the city was much easier and quicker than it was traveling from Llandyke Wells.
When Cade was still a young boy, they would only travel during the summer months, just visiting parts of England where it required only a short train ride, where they could be back within the same day. Other times, they would camp out for days at a time, which Cade loved. The quick flip-up tent made it so easy to set up and settle down for the night. His father would then tell stories of long ago, about life during the Dark Ages and how they were living like they did, off the land. However, this was not strictly true. They would bring their own canned food, soda and water to drink, with a camp-out kit for cooking including two pots, plates, cups and a set of cutlery for each of them. Not exactly Dark Ages stuff, but his Dad would pretend that they were, hoping to fire a desire in young Cade’s heart for the past, but never really did. The Digital Age always won out, and his father would often concede, especially as his son got older. Camping out lost its flavor. Cade did not like the rain or the cold when in a tent, and the places they would visit would not have Wi-Fi or a mobile tower nearby to give him a connection to the internet. Cade also grew tired of the ‘same old stories’ his father would tell, what happened here or what happened there. Bryce was all too aware of Cade’s growing disinterest and began telling fewer stories, and did not always take him along on his travels. Cade was growing up, able to look after himself more, he was not so dependent on Dad. Just because this was right, it did not make it feel good. Yes, Bryce knew his son loved him, he also knew that Cade needed to make his own stamp on the world that he was discovering. He was a good lad, a sensible lad. Smart too. Bryce was all too proud of the young man Cade had become, he need not worry.
The car hit a pothole, “Everything’s ok laddie, just a small pothole that’s all. These aren’t the best of roads ‘ere”, the driver said. “You fell asleep, didn’t wanna wake ya. We’re not too far now. You hungry?” he continued.
“Er, no, but thanks. I’m good,” replied Cade as he pulled the earbuds out of his ears, looking down at his Smartphone. He could not believe he fell asleep with the music still playing. The battery was almost dead, ‘great!’ thought Cade, ‘just what I need’, and was mad at himself.
“Here son, I got one of those thingy-ma-jiggy plug wires, charge ‘er up.” the driver said, reading Cade’s face, as he handed over a car phone charger adapter. A little surprised, but relieved and grateful, Cade thanked the driver and plugged his phone in. Power!
“You’re welcome, laddie. I got a son, uses that phone thingy all the time. Ain’t got time for it meself, no. I’m kinda old-school, but my son got me this so we can stay in touch while I’m on the road. Can’t get all those fancy things to work, don’t understand ‘em meself, but a phone’s a phone and that’s all I use it for. Not that it works a lot out ‘ere, but I’m not this far out normally.” Realizing what he just said, he ended with, “er, I’m sure it’s ‘cause I don’t know what I’m doing”.
They hit another pothole. “Better focus ‘ere, laddie. Getting dark and all.”
“Oh yeah, sure, and thanks again,” Cade said.
He looked out the window, the sun was setting and the moon was starting to climb in the blanket of the growing night sky. He sat back and sighed. No city lights here, just the moon and stars that shone in between the cloud cover, as it revealed the starry hosts above. It was quiet, which was something Cade did miss. Nature’s sound compared to none. Other than the sound of the engine, there was nature’s stillness all about them.
Cade reflected on the past few weeks. Long journeys do that. It gives you time. And in that time he thought - a lot. He had been on the road for two days now. He could handle it, Cade was nearly seventeen and it was not the first time he had traveled alone, though admittedly it was the first time back to the UK by himself.
Bryce was invited to speak in a seminar at Whelhelm House University just outside of Seattle, Washington. The students and faculty loved the depth of knowledge that Bryce had so much, they asked if he could stay on for the rest of the semester. After the visas were granted, Bryce and his son Cade stayed on campus in the guest faculty wing. Cade was given the chance to enroll himself in some of the IT classes there too, while his student papers were transferred over to the university on a temporary education exchange program. Here, Cade had the opportunity to further his studies in Science and Technology, which was not possible back in a Welsh/UK classroom. What started as a short-term stay, ended up being a long-term stay, over a year, in fact.
About two months into the second semester, a student in Professor Evans’ seminar, (that's how they referred to him at the University), had found some information concerning a small town in the middle of Wales. A town called, Llandyke Wells. This, of course, got Professor Evans’ attention. The student's name was Carl McSmythe. He had brought in a somewhat peculiar stone that day. It was about the size of a goose egg, almost like a pebble, but not one naturally made by the rolling waves of the sea, this had been made by hand. The surface was kind of smooth with irregular edges to it. Its color was ivory white. This was unlike any other stone, for when you tapped it on a hard surface it would send out something like a low audible resonating hum.
The stone was a gift to Carl when he was just a young boy, left to him by his late Grandfather who received it from his Great-Grandfather generations ago. He used to tell a story of long ago, about a castle in Wales, England, and how, once upon a time, great wealth and power flowed in their family. Apparently, this stone was hewn from a rock found at the base of a tree and was meant to hold some mystical power. Engraved on one side of the stone was the symbol of a tree.
To a young boy, the magic and mystery of his Grandfather's story ignited a great imagination. There was much more his Grandfather shared, but as Carl grew older the memory of the story became more disjointed, merging with fairytales and books he had read. However, he always kept the stone safe for some reason and held on to it throughout all those childhood years, though somewhat forgotten.
The seminar lectures held by the Professor reminded Carl of that stone, so he went on a small treasure hunt of his own to dig it out from his dorm storage, to pay a little more attention to it. Vaguely remembering the story his Grandfather told him, Carl did a little research for himself and found out that there was a Keep built on a hill in Llandyke Wells in Wales, called Byne Keep. The Keep was once part of Llandyke Castle built around 900 A.D., which was destroyed by fire only fifty years later. Only the Keep survived. A local Baron later occupied it and had the Keep reinforced with stone, and began to rule over the small nearby hamlets at that time. Upon further reading, he read about the usual folklore stories of the time. Tales of sorcery and battles between clans, treachery and plagues, mostly general stuff you would find commonplace during the Middle Ages. However, not much more was known, so Carl turned to his professor to see if he had any insight, since Professor Bryce was from Wales and may know more about the history of that time.
When Carl showed the stone to the Professor, his eyes widened a little, though he tried not to act too surprised by it. “So, where did you get this, son?” Bryce asked. Carl told him the story, which was even more intriguing to the Professor. “I see, I see”, he replied, coolly. “Well, yes I’ve seen similar stones like this before. It is a rune stone. Its size is a little unusual and the tree symbol is different, but I have seen rune stones with other etchings on them, but not quite like this. Byne Keep does have a lot of history surrounding it. I could look into it more.” The Professor said, handing the stone back to Carl.
“No, no, you keep it. I don’t think I can appreciate it the same way you can.” Carl insisted, returning the stone to the Professor.
“Well, if you insist. But isn’t it a family heirloom? How about this, I’ll keep a hold of it and see what I can find. And when I’m done, I’ll return it to you.” Bryce persisted.
“To be honest, I don’t have much use for it, really. Forgot I even had it.” replied Carl, “If it happens to hold an interesting story, maybe put it in a museum or something. Better than me using it as a paperweight”, he jested.
The Professor smiled with a nod of his head and slipped the stone into his pocket.
“Oh, one more thing, Professor”, Carl added, “Tap the stone on the table.”
Professor Bryce looked puzzled. However, he took the stone from his pocket and tapped it on the table. “Well, would you look at that” he exclaimed a little surprised as the stone emitted a low hum.
“Weird, right! It’s gotta be what - a kind of meteor stone or something, right?” quizzed Carl.
“Maybe, maybe” the professor replied, with his eyebrows raised.
“Well, see what you can find out, eh Professor?” said Carl
Looking down at the stone he slowly muttered, “Yes… yes”, as his mind wandered for a moment. Professor Evans cleared his throat, then he looked back up at Carl. “Of course, sure. No problem,” he smiled, “I’ll find out what I can.”
At roughly the same time, across the other side of the campus, Cade was returning some books to the library, when he suddenly heard and felt a strange sound. It startled him so much that he let out a rather loud, “Whoah!”, right there in the library, as he put his hand on his chest, looking a little shocked. Those around him looked puzzled for his sudden outburst and started muttering to each other. Cade soon realized that no one else heard or felt what he just did. Being slightly embarrassed, he just smiled and shrugged. He finished returning the books to the librarian, who just looked at him with ‘the look’.
A week later school was out for two weeks, so Bryce took the opportunity to return to Wales to check on some things. Cade stayed behind.
When school started back, Professor Evans had not returned. This was strange, Bryce was usually a punctual man, never really late for anything except when he was headlong into a relic hunting project. However, he hadn’t had one for over a year now. The college expressed their concern. The students were missing class, not a good thing. Calls were made but there was no answer. Cade started to worry a little. This had happened a few times before when his Dad got involved in a project and forgot about the time, one of the few ‘little’ quirks his father had.
About two days into the semester, Cade received a telegram. Who sends telegrams in this day and age? he thought to himself, then he remembered - his Grandfather would. The telegram said,
‘Cade come home. Tickets and travel all arranged for you.
Everything is fine. Your father needs you. Do not worry.
Have sorted things out with the University. See you soon.’
That was it. Cade did not know what to think. The Dean of the University said that the plane was scheduled to leave in a few hours and that he should pack as soon as possible. Cade packed a few of his things into a suitcase and his backpack, still a little bewildered, as he had no clue what was going on.
About an hour later, Cade was met again by the Dean, “We’ll give you and your Dad some time, we can cover his base until you both return”, he said, helping Cade to the cab that was waiting on the grounds, ready to take him to the airport.
“Oh, ok” Cade replied, “thank you, yeah, we’ll be back soon.”
He loaded his luggage into the cab and left the campus.
Thunder broke Cade’s thoughts. The taxi was nearing the house of his Grandfather, they were now on local roads, mud roads. Llandyke Wells in the rainy season was not a lot of fun when you’re in the countryside. The driver honked the car horn a few times, “We’re here, we’re here, laddie. We made it. ‘Ere lemme help you with your luggage.”
The door to the cottage opened, it was Grandpa Yates. Cade jumped out of the taxi as his Grandpa came over to greet him, “Ahhhh, there he is! There he is!” he chuckled with his arms open wide. “Good to see you, sonny boy, been a while eh?”
They embraced each other. “Sure has, Grandpa! Sure has.” replied Cade.
“You boys get a move on, come inside, don’t want you both catchin’ colds now.” That was Grandma standing in the doorway, “Come, come, say your hellos inside.”
Grandpa Yates nodded to the taxi driver, thanked him and headed inside as the driver returned to his seat and drove back into town. It started to rain again.
Once inside, Grandma Yates warmly hugged her grandson. “Look at you”, she said softly with tears welling in her eyes, “My little Cade.” She cupped his face gently with her hands as she looked up into his eyes, “Though not so little now, eh”, she said with a smile, pinching his cheek. “Come, come, sit yerself down, sonny.”
Tired from the long journey, Cade sat in a comfy chair. The cottage had not changed one bit from what Cade could remember, all those years ago when he was a young child.
“So then, where’s Dad?” asked Cade.
“Now sonny boy”, Grandpa Yates began, then changed direction a little, “ah look at you, a fine young man you turned out to be”, he breathed, “Your father’s fine, just fine son. Don’t you worry. Right now, what you need is rest. Rest up, son. Ahh, you left a boy and returned a man. Good to see you, boy. Good, it is. No more talk tonight, get some sleep, we’ll talk tomorrow.”
As much as Cade wanted to know, somehow he was assured by his Grandfather's words, after all, he was very tired, the journey had been long. Cade hugged his Grandparents goodnight before he retired and went to his old room. He sat down on the bed and looked slowly around the room. Not one thing had changed, it was still the same room as when he was seven years old. He smiled and lay back on the bed as he tapped a toy plane on a string above his head, which made it swing back and forth. It did not take long before Cade fell right to sleep.