“Edlen will not be King.”
Oh, how those words rang in my ears as I cried myself to sleep. Oh, how they haunted my dreams as I tossed and turned that night!
My grief was not from wanting the power of the throne and being denied it. Far from it. I did not particularly want the throne for its power. I did not even want to be King at all. But I wanted to do what was right, and I knew that meant to embrace my position as the crown prince of Oren, and to rule justly and bravely when I was King. And if life were to run its normal course, I knew I would one day be King.
The words I had heard were whispered by the poisonous tongues of treacherous men. But when I heard those words I bowed my head in shame; my knees shook and my stomach heaved. I knew what they meant, and I knew it was true.
I was a coward.
Ever since I can remember, I was afraid when others were not, and I would run from my fears.
I am told that I did not learn to walk until I was nearly two years old, because I was afraid of falling down. One night, when I was only four, a passing thunderstorm terrified me out of my wits and sent me wailing to my room, where I hid under my bed all night. My father saw it; my mother saw it; my younger brother Othniel saw it. Worst of all, Jelran was there and he saw it.
Jelran was five years older than I. He was the son of Lord Melthro, my father’s second cousin and a powerful man of influence in the government. Melthro was ambitious. My father was not at ease around him. This I could sense even when I was a small child. My father’s voice sounded strained when he talked to Melthro. Melthro sounded at ease – at ease in a way that was not appropriate when talking to the King. Melthro also never bowed.
I did not feel safe when Melthro was around.
Melthro’s cool manner around my father was his subtle way of undermining my father’s authority. But his son was not so subtle with me. When Jelran saw me wail in fright at the thunderstorm, he found in me an easy victim. Afterwards he told me frightening stories of monsters that lived in the woods that would come out at night and lurk around the palace grounds, trying to climb the towers and break through the windows. I believed him, and after that I feared the night and the dark. I bolted shut the window in my room and left my lamp burning bright until the first rays of morning. I grew sick from sleeping with such a lack of ventilation, until my mother discovered what I was doing and put an end to my nonsense. When she informed me that Jelran had told me a pack of tales, I was relieved – partially. But by this time my imagination had long sense run away with me, and I would not unbolt my window at night (although I did consent to putting my lamp out – if my door could remain open and let in light from the hall).
Later I confronted Jelran, and I wagged my finger at him the way my mother did to me when I was dishonest. Jelran laughed in my face, and pushed me over. I sat on the ground stunned, and then opened my mouth angrily.
Jelran sneered before I could say anything. “What are you going to do? Tell your mother on me? Ha! Just like a coward!” And with that, he walked away, leaving me with my mouth open, staring in feeble indignation after him.
Coward. That’s what I was. I was afraid. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of monsters. Afraid of being called names.
Afraid of Jelran.
All my boyhood I was afraid of him.
There was one time in my childhood – only one time – when I stood up to him.
And it is there, friend, where I begin my tale.
This story has been long in the making. I first wrote a scene for it almost six years ago, and gradually more details of the story began to come together in my mind, and I began to make some notes. But not much more came of this tale, until recently I resolved that, for the first time in my life, I would do NaNoWriMo this year and use it as an opportunity to finish this tale. And, I also decided that I wanted to post this novel here on ApricotPie, one chapter at a time.
I hope to finish this novel within the month of November as prescribed by NaNoWriMo, but the posting of it will take much longer, as I will post only once a week and there will be, of course, far more than 4 chapters.
Edlen is a fantasy story, set in Arah, the same world whose creation and early years are described in The Érenyel (which you are most welcome to go back and read), centuries after its creation and its fall.
If you’d like to track how well I’m keeping up with writing this novel this month, you can find me at https://nanowrimo.org/participants/james-dunn-2973303.
I hope that you will enjoy reading this story even more than I enjoy writing it... and in return, will give me some constructive feedback. :)