***** WARNING: The post below contains spoilers to The Crimson Banner. If you
have not read it and do not want anything spoiled for you, do not proceed*****
Greetings, faithful readers!
As promised, here is the prologue and first chapter of the unfinished sequel to The Crimson Banner.
Due to a rather upset text from my sister, I feel the need to clarify something- when I said that on Monday that this is the "unfinished (and now dead) sequel" I did not mean the sequel was dead. I meant this one is.
I am making no promises that there will ever be a sequel to The Crimson Banner. But I am also making no promises that there won't be. The characters (especially Tom and Toby) have a very special place in my heart and I would love to return to the kingdom of Knox someday. I do not know if that is truly to be in my future, but do not give up hope.
After all, anything's possible.
Now, without further ado, the beginning of Return of the Archer:
The stars twinkled brightly as fourteen-year-old Toby Pemberton raced across the open field. Reston was leaving in the morning and he had promised to give her an astronomy lesson that night.
“Hey, Squirt,” Reston said as she approached him.
Toby glared at him. At only 4.11 she was touchy about her height. “Don’t call me that,” she said. “I’ll get taller.”
“No you won’t. Everyone knows girls stop growing at your age.”
“I’m not a girl,” Toby stated.
“Toby, you may dress like a boy and you may act like a boy but your body will still function like a girl’s. I don’t think it heard about the change in gender.”
“We did not come out here to discuss my body,” Toby said irritably.
“You act just like a girl,” Reston muttered. “Mood swings and all.” He gave Toby one of his charming smiles but she didn’t fall for it.
“All right,” he said clapping his hands together. “First, there’s Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.”
“Besides the sun.”
“Of course besides the sun. They call him ‘the Dog Star’.”
“I guess because he’s one of the stars that makes up Orion’s dog.”
“Well,” Reston said pointing, “moving from Sirius past some of the other stars, see those three in a row? That’s Orion’s belt. Orion is the mighty hunter of the skies.”
Toby looked from Reston to the sky then back at Reston. “I can see a resemblance.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if he’s a hunter that means he must be an archer like you. I think I can see a family resemblance.”
“Sorry, Tobes,” Reston said ignoring her glare. “In the first place, all archers aren’t related. And in the second, Orion hunts with a club.”
“Well, that’s rather primitive.”
“He’s been up there a long time,” Reston pointed out. “You can’t really blame him for not being in tune with new hunting methods.”
Though it was late December it wasn’t very cold and they lay on the grass for a good three hours staring at the heavens. Finally Toby stood up.
“I’d better go,” she said. “Lord Pemberton won’t like me staying out so late.”
“He doesn’t own you, Toby.”
“Actually, he kind of does.”
Reston shook his head. “Toby, if you want to get anywhere in life you can’t let anyone have power over you. Come on, come with me, I’ll take you places you only dreamed of. You have potential, Toby, but you’re wasting it here on that man.”
“He doesn’t have power over me,” Toby said, ignoring his plea altogether. She couldn’t have gone even if she wanted to. Something held to Babancock and to her brother- invisible ties that couldn’t be broken.
“You just said he practically owns you.”
“Maybe so but he still doesn’t have power over me.”
“Oh, really?” Reston said unconvinced. “And why not?”
“Because I’ve forgiven him,” she said simply. Reston waited expectantly for more. “I mean, if I become angry and embittered then I’ll be just like him and that’s what he wants. By forgiving him I’m deciding who I want to be and therefore he has no power over me.”
Reston nodded slowly. “Let me know how that works for you.”
“It’ll work fine,” Toby said. “Just wait and see.”
He shook his head. “I don’t have time to wait and see. I have places to go and things to do. The offer’s open, Tobes, come with me and leave this all behind.”
In response, she just grinned and said, “Come back and see me sometime, okay?”
He sighed. “All right, if that’s how you want it to be. And, of course I’ll come back. You owe me a favor, remember?”
“Come and collect any time you like,” she replied. “I’ll be here.”
And, with that, she scampered off into the night.
Chapter One: Times of Trouble
Lord, give me strength, Captain Tom Rogers prayed as he made his way through Hydel’s crowded streets. It’s been a year already… she might not even remember me.
He pushed passed a group of sailors who had obviously just pulled into port and been paid. He remembered that feeling. The hopes and dreams a man carried with his pocket full of his wages.
I failed you, Faith, his heart cried. I promised you those dreams would come true and I failed you. He sighed. And now I’m going to fail Emily too.
“Hey, watch it,” a female voice said. It sounded full of a smile but he muttered an apology anyway, though he kept his eyes on the ground.
“Tom?” the voice questioned, a gentle hand touching his arm. He looked up then, into the huge green eyes of a pretty, dark-haired young woman. “Captain Tom Rogers?”
He took a step back. “Excuse me, but do I know you?”
She laughed and something about her giggle sounded familiar. “No, I don’t suppose you would remember me. Last time we saw each other I was sporting a rather singed pair of pants.”
He started to shake his head, then it hit him. “Toby?” he said in disbelief. There was no way this beautiful young woman was that annoying little girl who insisted on acting like a boy.
But she was smiling and nodding. And then she gave that annoying laugh of hers and he knew it was true.
“I didn’t know you were in town,” she said.
He nodded. “I have some business to take care of.”
A young man, about sixteen, approached them. His dark hair fell over his forehead, shading his eyes, and his clothes were ragged. Tom moved a bit to shield Toby from this street waif in the subtlest of ways.
And the boy narrowed his eyes threateningly at the captain and said, “You leave Miss Pemberton be, you hear?”
Toby smiled. “It’s all right, Duff. This is my friend, Captain Tom Rogers. Tom, this is my friend, Duff.”
Duff nodded, though he eyed the man warily, not fully convinced. “Captain.”
Tom nodded back. “Duff. Toby, if you’ll excuse me now.”
“‘Toby’?” Duff looked at her, his eyebrow raised, questioning the name.
She smiled as she began walking again, keeping step with Tom. “I’ll tell you some other time. It was good to see you, Tom. I’ll be seeing you again, I hope, before you leave?”
“Aye, I’m sure you will.” He stopped in front of a small house, nestled between two storefronts. He glanced nervously towards the door. “Well, good day to you both.”
Before either could reply, the door to the house opened and a little girl, perhaps ten, appeared in the doorway. She had long blonde- almost white- hair and bright blue eyes. Her dress was faded and she wore a stained apron over it. Her face lit up as her eyes fell on Tom.
“Daddy!” she cried and ran to throw herself against him.
His face grew red with embarrassment. “Hello, Emily.” He took her in his arms and kissed the top of her head. “How have you been?”
“Grandma said you weren’t supposed to come for a whole month or more,” she said wrapping her arms around him. “But you came early! Why’d you come early? Who’s she?”
Toby stood staring at him in utter shock. He swallowed. “Emily, this is, Tob- uh… Miss Pemberton. Miss Pemberton, this is my- my daughter, Emily.”
And there you have it! Be sure to stop back on Monday for the start of an exciting new series on writing tips. And then Next Friday will bring more of my writing from my teenage years.
In the meantime, let me know what your thoughts on the story above, of if you have any ideas for a series or blog post you'd like to see me write. I look forward to hearing from you!