I’ve worked with young writers quite a bit over the past few years, teaching the Sage Hill Teen Writing Experience for three summers in a row, serving as writer-in-residence at Riffel High School and now, of course, as writer-in-residence at the Regina Public Library. I’ve also edited the Saskatchewan Writer Guild’s magazine for young writer, Windscript, and was involved in an on-line mentoring program for young writers for a couple of years.
One reason I like working with teen writers is because I used to be one. I wrote my first short story at age 11 (“Kastra Glazz, Hypership Test Pilot”), wrote a fairly long piece called The Pirate Dilemma in Grade 9, when I was 13–and then, in my Grade 10 year, when I was 14, wrote my first novel, The Golden Sword, later revised into The Silver Sword when I realized a sword of gold was a little too heavy to be practical.
(Although, as you can see from the picture, another author, Janet Morris, stuck with that title. Though I guess I had it first, since I wrote this in 1973-74 and her book came out in 1977. It’s an...interesting…cover, isn’t it?)
So here is what I wrote when I was 14. If you’re a teen writer, you may want to compare, just to see what someone who eventually became published was turning out at your age. If you’re an older writer, you may find it amusing. And if you’ve ever been confused by the term “info-dump,” then I think you’ll find a striking example of it in the first few paragraphs!
I’ll probably post more of this as time passes (and also some of my other two high school novels, Ship from the Unknown and Slavers of Thok, but this is all I’ve typed in so far.
Feel free to cringe. I know I do! :)
THE GOLDEN SWORD
By Eddie Willett
The sun rose slowly over the misted hills of Solonia, casting long shadows across the road, sending an eerie twilight creeping slowly back from the high cliffs on the opposite side of the valley of the Prall. Far below the road, at the bottom of a deep gorge, the Prall river flowed swiftly toward Lagon, far in the north.
Lagon was the arch-enemy of Solonia. Solonia, trading with the barbarian city-states, had encroached on territories in the Desert of Coran that Lagon considered its own. Negotiations slowed—broke down—stopped Soon after that Lagon had declared war on Solonia. That was the First Lagonian War.
When both countries had devastated each other and neither one would surrender, the war ground to a halt. But nearly a hundred years later, Lagon, fully replenished, had determined to take over the barbarian countries between Solonia and Lagon. Solonia had been sworn to defend the barbarians, and thus had begun the Second Lagonian War.
And now Kyle, Master Soldier of the Solonian Empire Militia, was returning as the advance messenger of the Militia, bearing news of Solonia’s victory over Lagon.
Things had changed in Solonia. The capital city of Solonis had been fortified and special troops of the Militia had been stationed in Solonis to protect it. And the city had grown immensely as refugees from the attacked parts of Solonia had poured into it.
Now the sun had climbed to such a height that the Prall River glinted like quicksilver far below him and the mists were evaporating in the heat. As they cleared, he spotted the walls of the city in the distance. He glimpsed the glint of the Gate-Guards’ armor and weapons as they circled the city’s mighty walls.
Kyle rode on in silence, reflecting on the events of the past three months. He felt in his belt-pouch. Yes, the citation was still there. It read:
TO MASTER SOLIDER KYLE OF THE SOLONIAN EMPIRE MILITIA:
A CITATION FOR HONOR AND REWARD TO KYLE, FOR BRAVERY ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY AS WELL AS WITHIN IT.
It was addressed to King Lodi of the Solonian Empire, from the Commander-in-Chief of the Militia. But before he presented it to the king, he had duty to perform. Any moment now the Gate-Guards would surely glimpse his brilliant metal armor and gleaming white mount. They would then send out an honor guard to greet him as they had done on his previous message-carrying visit.
But as he drew nearer to the city, he began to wonder what was going on. By now there was no doubt but what they had spotted him–unless they were asleep or dead–but where was the honor guard?
He racked his brains for some reason behind this failure to honor an officer properly–and found it. From sunrise to midnight on the fourteenth day of the second month of summer all rewards were presented to those that deserved them–those that had performed some feet of greatness in the past year. Everyone’s record was checked, and the names announced and the deeds recorded of those people who deserved a reward. Then, in the Reward Ceremony that night after the evening meal, they were presented with the proper rewards All citizens except the Gate-Guards would be in the Central Square–so no honor guard.
The sun rose higher, and finally the full blaze of it reached the road and set the city shimmering in the heat.
Kyle spurred his horse into a gallop and raced for the city in a cloud of dust. As he neared the gates he saw a flurry of activity and heard shouting, indistinct above the thunder of his horse’s hooves, but sounding like the word Kyle. He had been recognized.
The gates swung open and he shot through them into the city, reining his horse to a sudden stop. The chief gatekeeper looked down at him. “Any news, Master Kyle?”
“Yes–great news. I’m going to the Central Square. The criers will be spreading the news soon.”
He trotted his horse on through the streets toward the Square. As he neared it the people flooded out to meet him. “What news do you bring of the war?” “Are we winning, Kyle?”
“Hold on just a moment and I’ll tell you.” The mob quieted, and Kyle lapsed into formal ceremony. Resplendent in armor and black battle tunic, he stood up in his stirrups and took out a small golden horn. This he blew to announce the message. Kyle filled his lungs and shouted, “A message from Lagon!” He paused, and the crowd held its breath. “We have won! The war is ended–and we have obtained the victory!”
The crowd erupted in a flood of cheering and yelling. “We won! The War is over!” So loud was their jubilant yelling that no one heard Kyle’s call for the king. Indeed, nothing could be heard over the cheering, singing mob. Kyle raised the golden horn and blew as loud as he could. The mellow sounds died away and with them the sound of the crowd. “More news, Master Kyle?”
“No, but I request an audience with the king.”
“The king! Call King Lodi! Master Kyle requests an audience with the king!” Kyle heard the request fling itself through the crowd and toward the Castle. Then there was an expectant silence until a reply hurled itself back through the packed multitudes. “Master Kyle! the king will accept your presence at once!”
Hearing this, he reined the horse around and thundered up the street to the Castle. He stopped before the massive gates and called to the Royal Gate Guards, “Master Soldier Kyle here for an audience with the King.”
“Enter, Master Kyle.” The huge ironwood-and-steel gates swung open and Kyle trotted through. He stopped and dismounted, and as the groom took his charger, marched to the throne room doors. He presented a magnificent figure in the bright sunshine–6 feet, 4 inches tall, young, strong, handsome, muscular, resplendent in armor, carrying glittering spear and shining sword.
The doors were opened and a valet appeared to take his weapons. He gave them to the boy and entered the next room. For a moment he was blinded from the sudden transition from light to darkness. The only light in the small room came from the smoking torches in the bare stone walls.
But as Kyle’s eyes grew accustomed to the dimness he glimpsed the rough wooden door in front of him. Knowing the correct procedure from the many times they had drilled it into him during training, he called out, “Master Soldier Kyle humbly requests an audience with his Majesty Lodi, King of the Solonian Empire.”
“Enter, Master Kyle,” came the reply from within. Kyle opened the door and entered the Throne Room. Now he was again momentarily blinded, this time by the light streaming in through the huge glass windows, the largest glass windows in Solonia. This light, once used to, showed the magnificent splendor of the Throne Room.
Four walls of the hexagonal room were covered with beautiful silver, black and gold tapestries depicting the First Lagonian War, the coronation of Lodi, the fortifying of the city, and an unfinished one of the Second Lagonian War. The other four walls were almost completely glass.
In the center of the black and gold mosaic floor rested, like some rare and exotic jewel, the Royal Throne of Solonia. It was 7 1/2 feet high, and had been designed to represent all parts of Solonia. The silver and gold had come from the mines along the northern part of the Prall. The jewels had come from the Slater Mountains in the East. The black leather had come from the Western ranches, and the basic design from the city itself. It had been built by the Royal Metalsmith and Craftsman, Tolin.
But for who was all this splendor? At first glance the king would seem to the huge, bronzed, muscular giant standing beside the throne. But King Lodi was neither tall nor muscular. He was a short, rather old man, barely 5 1/2 feet tall, with snow-white hair and beard.
And yet, he was impressive. His eyes flashed fire, and he held his finely chiseled features proudly and high.
Kyle took all this in at a glance. Then he kneeled slowly until Lodi said, “Rise, Master Kyle.” Kyle rose. “What brings you here do the Castle, Master Kyle?”
“I came for a twofold purpose. I came to bring news of our victory over Lagon–I suppose you have already heard this?”
“True. And the other purpose?”
“To present to you a citation sent from the Commander-in-Chief of the Solonian Empire Militia. If I may present it to you now–?”
“You may.” Lodi snapped his fingers, and the giant strode forward, hand outstretched. Kyle opened the belt-pouch and removed the citation from it. He handed it to the giant, who in turn handed it to Lodi. “Thank you, Ronan.” He opened the seal and unrolled the thin parchment. He read it, then looked up. “This citation is accepted. As today is the day of the Reward Ceremony, you will take this to the priest reading off the names of those deserving a reward. I will seal it.” Again he snapped his fingers. Ronan lifted a door hidden in the tapestry. He returned with a golden seal, and the king stamped it into the parchment, where it left a clear print. Then Ronan returned it to Kyle. “Master Soldier Kyle, may the gods of sun and rain smile upon you and may you die a brave death.”
“Thank you, your majesty.”
“You are dismissed.”
Kyle bowed, turned, and left the Throne Room. He passed through the dim entry room, and into the plush foyer. The valet reappeared, handed Kyle his weapons, and disappeared as quietly as he had appeared. The groom trotted out his horse, and Kyle mounted and rode through the Castle Gates back into the city.