So Remember That Book I’ve been Working On?

I am horrifyingly bad at updating folks on this book. That’s partly due to the writing process not being much of a process… it’s in my head mostly, then I write, then I think some more, then I write some more… you get the idea. I did a huge amount of writing over the summer, along with editing and proofreading. But this semester at SCSU has been a busy one! Here’s the deal, my Japanese 100 course was three days a week and every class began with a short quiz. That means I had to study every single day. Combine that with forging metal in my Jewelry/Metals course, and utilizing most of the studio time to paint for my Painting II course, I didn’t have much free time to write. Actually, I didn’t have any free time to write. I think during this whole semester I proofread ONE TIME. And that’s not even writing, that’s fixing typing errors.

So for some asinine reason I had it in my head that First Earth would be published back in October. I don’t know why I thought I could finish a book in a few months. I’m not exactly known for being speedy in this sort of thing. In the bright side of things, I did start the illustrations, and actually finished one, and have others nearly done or halfway done. Hey, they’ll be inside the book, they count for something!

In the spirit of apologies, I’ve decided to give all of you a treat that you deserve. You have been asking for this book, received very few updates from me, and you have given me more patience than I would ever give myself. So I am grateful for your dedication to what I am putting so much effort into, for you to read. The writing process is about me because it’s my story, my book, but it’s about you, the reader, and your intelligent decision to read it. Without further ado, feel free to scroll down and click on “Read the rest of this entry” to read the very first completed chapter of First Earth.

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(First Earth – Chapter One – “Born of Fire” is Copyright to Alexandra Nofi 2014, All rights reserved.)

Chapter One – Born of Fire

This man’s face was a unique mixture of youthfulness and structure. The cheek bones were set high, and somewhat close to the center of his face. The jaw was square, but also narrow and slightly elongated. His chin was broad, and his mouth wide. The bridge of his nose was triangular and mildly pointed, with the nostrils round and full. His forehead was well proportioned to the rest of his face. His ears were oval shaped, and reached out mildly. His eyes however were his softest feature. They held a hint of childish wonder, mixed with all of his thoughts and emotions.

He had a medium muscle build, and was six feet even. His arms were a little long, as well as his fingers. His legs were not quite as lanky, and he walked with his toes spread out some. His thighs were a bit wider than expected for a man. The muscles on his back were also prominent, signature of a swimmer.

His eyes watched the waves as they spilled over each other. They started out large, but lessened in size the closer they moved to the beach. The last wave in the series which surged onto the sand had lost most of what it had learned from those before it. It was like generations of people in a way; the way they would teach their children a moral, belief or practice only to be defied later on. Still, that last wave is the one to meet the achievement of touching the beach. Who would it be, without the others?

The tiny grains had that runny and sometimes slick texture from meeting the incoming tide. He pushed his toes into the sand and it seeped down between them. It felt cold in a nice way, but when he rubbed the digits together, it clawed at his skin and toenails. Another wave pounded into the beach. It swiftly wrapped around his ankles and dragged the sand off of his feet back into the ocean. It was like the water was toying with his fiery self by telling him he could only enjoy this Earth for a moment.

Due to his frosty blue eyes, he had always felt connected to water, but in a frigid way. This water was an opposing force to him because his stern demeanor could freeze it. Once he learned that he had stopped it in its path, his warm heart would melt it with an apology. He often watched this happen with the people he knew. He was careful about who he allowed to see him for just this reason.

The waves grew stronger. They growled as they walked onto the beach and slapped his shins. A lone horseshoe crab tumbled within the tide and landed upsidedown on the moist sand. It flexed its legs and wagged its tail up and down in an attempt to flip itself over. It managed to lift itself slightly, and its circular boat-like shell rocked side to side. The salty ocean splashed into it, but didn’t carry it back. Its claws stiffened and were withdrawn into its shell. It still tried to right itself but to no avail.

Seeing its plight only several feet away, he wandered over to the crab and scooped it up in his left palm. The shell was at least ten inches in diameter. It was healthy with not a single scratch or crack in the shell. Knowing full well that it had been picked up by some giant being it did not know, it stretched out its legs and swatted its tail up and down furiously. He gently laid his other hand over its underbelly, which made it relax slightly. It did not try to grab or pinch with its claws, of course, these crabs were never feisty like other species. He flipped the crab over, then walked into the waves until he was knee deep. He set it on the bottom, and it lingered quietly for a split second. He tapped the shell a few times, which made it scurry off out of sight.

The sun was beginning to recede behind the horizon. He loved being out here during this time of the day. The darkness of the sky on the clouds with the roaring ocean was eerie and powerful. Few people were out right before dusk, especially with the temperature dropping mildly. While he wished more people would appreciate this sight, he was also glad he could see it without being encroached upon.

The wind picked up, and twirled around him while howling in his ears. His short, dusty blonde hair ruffled as the air danced with it. His body swayed slightly as the wind pounded him every which way. The cold waves roared again, and grabbed hold of his thighs. With the late summer heat, this felt good.

Once the waves settled, he walked forward a few feet then stretched his arms outward. He inhaled sharply and dove forward under the surface. The shock of the cold liquid against his bare upper body only lasted a few seconds. He propelled himself with his kicking feet and arms until he couldn’t hold his breath anymore. He surfaced, now only his face visible above the water line. The waves lifted him up gracefully, then set him down, makng his neck and shoulders peek out.

He dove underwater again, and continued his journey out to sea. There was no particular reason why he wanted to be out here, he just did. To him it was like an act of self-cleansing; a way to calm himself. Every so often he needed to put out his flames.

Finally he surfaced and tread the water gently. The occasional seagull flew overhead and shrieked in tune with the sounds of the ocean. The way the water hugged his body was soothing and gentle. He shut his eyes and tilted backward while slowly pedaling his feet. He balanced himself on his arms, and the waves softly lifted him up. A small tingle ran down his spine each time the liquid licked at the back of his ears.

He continued to bob with the choppy waves for some odd number of minutes. His feet couldn’t touch the bottom anymore and he just let the ocean carry him wherever it wanted to. The wind would whip across his face, but it was cold now, almost too cold. Slowly the waves died down, until the surface was almost perfectly still.

Dusk was settling in, but the ocean never just stopped like this. There were no sounds around the beach, no birds to be heard. Nervous, and knowing something was not right, he began swimming back to the beach.

He made it there as quickly as he could. The waves were barely moving across the sand. The wind screeched ferociously and knocked against his left side. The cold air mixing with the water on his skin easily chilled him. Whatever this was, the world felt out of balance, and it was frightening.

He walked to his beach blanket and picked up his short sleeve shirt. As he placed it over his head the fabric clung to the droplets but still warmed him a little. He kicked aside his shoes which he had been using to hold the blanket down. He made many attempts to fold the blanket with the air racing pass him, only to grow frustrated and simply ball it up under his arm, then gather up his shoes. He started going back to his house, but a large gust plowed into his right side and knocked him over. He dropped his blanket, and his face whacked into the sand.

It felt more like an invisible hand had tried to pluck him from the Earth and drag him up into some unknown place. It felt like something had invaded nature. He shivered from the unusually cold air and started to stand, shoes still in his hand. As he did, another violent gust swept under his stomach and nearly constricted him. He barely had time to react, as his feet were lifted from the beach. It wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t a nice feeling either. He wanted to ask what was happening to him, but could barely breathe from his fear. He let out a frightened scream for help as he was hurled straight up into the sky, not knowing if he would ever come back.

Wherever he was going it was dark and frigid and quiet. He could not see around him, or tell how fast he was moving. Unable to do anything to help himself, he just shut his eyes.

This man’s name is Ethne.

She was a tiny, pear shaped creature, with pink fur and black beady eyes. Her snout was flat, with a tiny nose hidden beneath her short fur and the mouth barely visible. Her wings were similarly shaped to an Earth butterfly, but were transparent and bore no colors. Unlike other animals, she didn’t need to flap these wings in order to fly. She was the governor of positivity, plants and air.

Melly tried as hard as she could to hold on to the human. Just because there was a gateway between her world and Earth, did not mean that transporting a person was easy. It would only be a short while before he would hopefully land safely beside her, and could help right serious wrongs.

She knew that Archayo would be nearby and therefore she had to be watchful. Any time she heard the plants move or footsteps, she shuddered and whimpered. Her wind’s grip loosened, which made her regain her focus at the task at hand. She must get this human to safety!

A pair of brown, humanoid eyes peered to Melly and in fear she forgot the human and flew away to hide. The human faded from her memory as the being walked into view. “Leave me be!” Melly yelled.

“It is only me.” Koo’s voice was soft, and warm, like always. She was a short character, barely reaching five feet. Her physicality was nearly identical to a human’s, but her skin was a royal blue. She had no hair, and was wrapped in a dark brown cloak.

“Archayo killed Seria! I heard it! I cannot find Seria’s soul!” Melly shouted frantically. The tiny being was so upset, and it broke Koo’s heart. “I summoned a human but I lost him! I cannot summon another!”

“Perhaps you should go in search of him, then. I am happy to assist you in any way I can.” Koo said. Melly nodded. She had never been so frightened before, and she hated the feeling.

Ethne opened his eyes and noticed whatever had been holding him had let go. He also noticed he was falling, but all he could see was a dark sky and clouds. Perhaps he was dreaming? Maybe this was one of those bizarre falling dreams and soon he would wake up.

Instead, several thin branches stabbed at his limbs and sides. He had to react quickly by grabbing ahold of any limb he could get for fear of falling and hitting the ground. Finally he caught himself under both arms on two parallel branches. The impact vibrated through his biceps and he was surprised nothing was broken. He breathed shallow and fast, while planting his feet on a thicker branch. He was shaking vigorously.

Now he had several scratches and cuts on his face, arms and legs. These felt much too real to be a dream. This place did not feel the same. The air smelled different. It was musky, and seemed thick with moisture. The sounds were different. It was a soft static, with the occasional crackling branch or distance thump. For a moment something very close to him grunted, and his muscles locked up. The atmosphere itself felt outside of the world he was used to.

He wanted to be as quiet as possible. He didn’t know what was out here, and he didn’t want to find out either. This tree was a good tree, however, and he wanted to cling to it for now. He dared to look around, which only puzzled him more. The trees had no leaves, and were slightly twisted and knotted. The branches of most of the trees were woven together, like arms of many people reaching out to hold each other. The grass was several inches high, but covered in patches of what appeared to be sand. To his left was a field, full of taller grass, plants similar to reeds, and the occasional over-sized flower. They resembled sunflowers, only a grayish-blue. The center was smaller, and there were fewer petals.

Ethne looked back at the tree and that is when he saw them. Two dark orange eyes peering straight through the branches. They were oval shaped, with black slits for pupils much like a snake’s. The snout and head had jet black scales, which glistened mildly in the moonlight. He could see most of the muscular body, and the width was more than intimidating. He knew this animal was as wide as his thigh, maybe almost twice as wide as that. It could harm him if it so desired, so he made the choice to slowly crawl his way down, and maybe out of this tree.

The serpent grunted again. The pupils widened a bit, and he only gazed back at it. He heard a low growl and the jaws parted to reveal the many rows of teeth. The lips lifted above the gums, and a shriek mixed with a hiss escaped the throat.

Carefully he moved his way to a lower branch. He was honestly ready to jump clear out of this tree if need be. A fall would hurt but definitely not seriously injure him. When it moved forward, he did exactly what he had planned. He was not welcome here and that was not worth disputing.

He hit the ground with a loud thud and moaned. At least nothing was broken, but he was sure he had acquired some new bruises and scrapes. He looked behind him to see if this animal was the type that would chase. Obviously not, because it moved back to where it had been resting. As scary as it was, all it wanted was space.

Were more of these snake type creatures in all of these trees? Did they travel on the ground too? Where was he supposed to go? He couldn’t stay on the ground, at night, where any sort of predator would snatch him.

New eyes were watching him now, and he could tell they were behind him. He was still on his hands and knees, so he rolled onto his rear, to face whatever was looking his way. He noticed the eye-glow, typical of a nocturnal animal. The fur was dark, and well hidden among the grass and reeds. He was able to make out a dog-like snout, as well as ears. He could tell it was large, likely double the size of the wolves he was accustomed to. This did not look good, so he jumped up, and pulled himself back into the tree he was just in.

That is when it came. This massive canine sprinted forward and leaped up, snapping its jaws at Ethne’s legs. He pulled his feet up, but this animal’s size and strength allowed it to scale the branches. It latched onto his calf, and easily wrenched him down. He gasped and held the branches tight, but even he was no match for this animal’s power. As it pulled harder, he kicked with his free leg. Ethne’s hip joint was stressed, and he groaned as he dragged himself up. Impatient, the wolf shook him, which loosened his grip. It let gravity work in its favor by stepping off of the branches and yanking the human down with only its bodyweight. Ethne looked up and his eyes caught the serpent’s. He couldn’t yell for help. Finally his fingers couldn’t hold onto the branch anymore. He tried grabbing others as the wolf pulled him back, but he wasn’t fast enough or strong enough.

The pinching of the jaws was enough pain to make Ethne cry out, and try to crawl away. The wolf shook him side to side, while dragging him around. “Get off!” He yelled and started kicking the side of its face. He realized in comparison to his foot, the head alone was five times the size. The animal did let go, but then readied itself to pounce.

A deafening roar echoed throughout the forest. The wolf whimpered as the toothy jaws slammed into its shoulder and sliced across the flesh. The snake laid there with its neck across Ethne’s side, mouth gaping and teeth dripping with a clear liquid. It screeched and moved toward the wolf. Heeding the serious warning from the serpent, the canine ran with a slight limp into the cover of the plants.

The snake closed its mouth and snorted. It looked back at the tiny, fearful human stuck under its belly. Something about his eyes, as frightened as they were, were soothing to look at.

All Ethne could think about was that there was nothing he could do. Should this creature notice his wound, should anything here notice, he’s dead. He hadn’t really realized the light tears rolling from his eyes, but he did notice the snake’s gaze softening. It slithered closer to him, and sniffed along his arm. He was an odd beast, something which had never been encountered before.

It pushed its snout under his arm and ran its nose along his chin. He was shaking more, knowing it would be all over any second. It just chuffed again, and the breath tickled the hair around his jawline. There was an odd smell of sulfur each time it exhaled. Ethne could not help himself. He slowly lifted his right hand and carefully ran a couple of fingers along the animal’s scales. Clearly perturbed, the snake swatted his hand away, and turned to crawl back into its tree.

“Why me?” Ethne asked. The reptile ignored him and continued ascending into the tree. He recognized how long its body was, which only added to the intimidation.

The cuts in his leg were not too painful, likely due to the human body’s ability to suppress pain. However, once he tried to stand, his leg throbbed angrily and a sharpness traveled up his calf muscle. The branches of the tree belonging to the serpent were tangled in knots with another one beside it. He didn’t feel perfectly safe this close to the snake, but he was fairly sure it wouldn’t try to kill him. Having no other forseeable option, he started climbing the other tree. He dragged himself up the branches at first and whimpered when he carelessly bore weight on his left leg. He had to hop up on his other leg, while pulling himself up with both arms.

When he felt he was high enough, he sat on a branch and examined his injury. His leg at this point was caked in blood. There was a ring of teeth marks on either side, and some small gashes. He lifted his shirt over his head and wrapped it tightly around his calf. He tied both ends and softly set his leg down. He knew this would lessen the bleeding, but he couldn’t stay wounded like this. Clearly there wasn’t anything here that he could use to help himself.

Now without a shirt, shoes and only a pair of wet shorts, the cold, night air gnawed at his flesh. He crossed his arms over his stomach and tucked his good leg to his chest. The soaked fabric pressing against his belly didn’t help. He hadn’t eaten since lunch, so his stomach gurgled a bit. He shivered roughly, and debated moving from this spot. But where could he go?

Even though this place was strange to him, being unable to do much of anything made boredom set in. The tired feeling that often accompanied boredom forced his eyelids to droop. However, each time an animal made some sort of noise or a branch moved, he would open his eyes and look around nervously.

Surely there was a reason why he was here. His imagination ran wild with ideas of being a hero here to save the land. Maybe he had been snatched accidentally. He wasn’t sure which one he wanted to be true. He knew for sure he wanted to go home, to be warm and above all to be safe.

After a while he began to fall asleep. The sound of a howling wolf almost woke him, but not enough to prevent him from nodding off again. The wind swirled through the trees and grazed his back. He shook rapidly and groaned. This place was not going to leave him alone.

Eventually he awoke to the sensation of something brushing along the bottom of his left foot. He curled up his toes, and heard a loud chuff noise which he recognized immediately. “Come to say hi?” He asked. The snake was entwined with several of the thicker branches that bridged between the two trees. He gazed into the creature’s eyes and the emotions were broadcast loud and clear. “You’re wondering what I am, aren’t you?” He asked again.

The snake lifted its snout and rested it on the branch just near Ethne’s thigh. He gave it cautious thought, before carefully and slowly extending his left arm in the snake’s direction. When he was inches away from the nose, the beast retracted and gave a quick hiss. “It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.” He said.

He left his arm where it was. The serpent eyed him in the belief that he would overstep his boundaries. It couldn’t help its curiosity though, and slowly creeped toward his hand. It softly pushed its nose into his palm, and snorted loudly. “There, see, I’m nice.” Ethne said with a smile. He let his fingertips rub the smooth scales. The skin was surprisingly warm regardless of the freezing air. Eventually the snake slinked back after being pet too much. It stayed near, but in the territory of its tree, and not his. It wound itself around a set of branches which had woven themselves together like a hammock.

Ethne was not unfamiliar with situations like this, but something as survival oriented as building a fire could do worse for him. He had no idea if animals here were attracted to such things, and staying on the ground had been proven unsafe. He wasn’t in the best position to go looking for some sort of shelter, but he had little choice. He scanned the area for any place where he might be able to tuck himself in. As far as he could see, he was surrounded by leafless trees and grassy fields.

In the distance, likely a few miles away, were four large pillars reaching up as high as the clouds. They were somewhat jagged and twisted, from what he could tell. There were cliffs and mountains even farther away, but not one resembled these pillars. They looked important, maybe even symbolic in some way.

Two unknown beasts started screeching and snarling nearby. The sounds ripped through the forest with a violence which pierced Ethne’s soul. This sounded like anger, and not a more typical scenario of predator meeting prey. Becoming more nervous by the second, he looked to his acquaintence for reassurance. The serpent only looked back at him, with its head tilted slightly. These sounds were typical. Why be so frightened?

The screeches turned into vicious screams, which forced Ethne to look around rapidly for where these creatures might be. They sounded like a combination of a furious cat and dog, as if they were fighting for their lives. His eyes soon locked with the orange ones which were watching his every move. The snake nodded at him, almost like it wanted his attention. He wasn’t sure what to do, so he stayed put. Growing impatient, the snake nodded to the side, this time like it was beckoning him to come closer.

Ethne lifted himself while holding some branches extra tight. He hobbled his way near his acquaintence, who seemed less tense with his presence. Once he reached his new friend he sat down close-by. The snake pushed its nose under his forearm and made a small chuff sound. He was surprised to hear a soft purring which was almost exactly like a feline’s.

After a few moments he was reminded of how freezing it was. He wasn’t sure what reaction he would get from this, but he laid down and tucked himself against the serpent’s side. At first nothing happened, until he felt a rough tongue drag along his hair and forehead. The tongue was not forked, and more like a mammal’s. The animal did this grooming behavior multiple times. In spite of previous actions, he could tell this snake was likely female, and possibly a mother. She set the end of her snout on his temple. “Thank you.” Ethne said.

“Uzim… please help…” Melly’s tiny voice cried. She hovered over the circular pool of water until it began to ripple. “There is a human equivalent here that I must find.” The well’s rippling halted, and the foggy image of the man she had summoned came into view. “Why must he be in the company of Arake?” Melly groaned. Since the death of her mate and children, Arake had become a violent dragon who was unwilling to listen to or reason with anyone. But here this human was, sleeping next to her, obviously unharmed and unafraid.

“Would you like me to go with you?” Koo asked.

“You should stay here, in case you see Seria.” Melly said.

It would not be too long before she would reach this man. Maybe he had softened Arake’s heart.

Ethne almost jumped out of his skin when he heard a shriek come from the beast beside him. She gave a loud, drawn out hiss next. “What’s going on?” He asked. The serpent did not respond. He saw something pink for a split second, but it darted off behind a branch.

Melly peeked from her hiding place but Arake’s growling made her hide once again. “Who are you?” Ethne asked. He sat up, then turned around and grasped Arake’s nose in his hands. She shook him away, and slapped her face against his side. Ethne huffed from being hit in the ribs.

“Is she being nice now?” Melly asked.

Ethne turned to the snake. “Well? Are you going to be nice now?” Her eyes shifted side to side and she slowly relaxed. She was a bit embarrassed, so she tucked her face behind his back. He pat her side, just to acknowledge that he understood how she felt.

Ethne waved to the sprite to come closer. Melly flew toward him. He was not what she expected. He was tiny, in comparison to the beasts here. He looked fit but he was already injured. He had barely any clothing, which made him ill-prepared for the world’s impending cold season. Maybe Koo would be able to lend him something soon. “What do your fellow humans call you?” She asked.

“Ethne. What do your fellow-” His voice trailed off because he wasn’t sure what she was.

“I am the only one, of my kind. They call me Melly.” She explained. “They gave you a nice name. Are you important?”

“Thank you. I assume I’m important. I know people care about me.”

“I am sorry. I did not mean it that way. Only governors, their blood kin, and humans, are given names in this place.” Melly said. “I can tell your heart is good.” Her voice was solemn now. She hated this feeling of sadness and regret. She hated her responsibility of bringing a man so happy, to a place of such chaos.

“Don’t be sorry. It’s nice to meet you, Melly.” Ethne said. He reached up and pet her paw with his index finger.

“You are really amazing with Arake. She seems so calm around you.” Melly observed. Arake snorted loudly.

“I think she’s embarrassed.” Ethne said. He made note of the name, Arake, and what Melly had said of importance. Who was she blood kin with? What did she mean, when she referenced humans? Arake shoved him forward, somewhat playfully. It took very little of her strength to almost knock him out of the tree. His left leg rubbed too hard against the bark, making him wince.

“May I see your wound?” Melly asked. Ethne nodded and gently lifted his leg up so that he could unwrap his shirt. “I’m not supposed to do this, but I don’t have much of a choice.” She explained.

Ethne wasn’t sure what she meant. “Not supposed to do what?”

“Heal your wounds, which is why you are here. Your eyes reach inside others and read their intentions. In time, you will be able to heal someone as I can. You are the human equal to Seria, and it is your job to bring her back to life.” Melly’s voice was stern now. Ethne’s eyes turned downcast. It became hard for him to sit still. “You are unhappy with your purpose?”

“You’re putting a lot of responsibility on me.”

“I brought you here. I share that responsibility.” Melly said. “Hold still.” Ethne did as he was told. She set her hands on his leg and closed her eyes. A warm wave of gentleness passed through his body and it felt like a summer breeze was tickling his insides. Even with that soft wind, it couldn’t hide the intense flames that were raging, engulfing his soul and ripping his breath from his lungs.

Ethne closed his eyes. The occasional cold gust of wind felt like nothing each time it blew pass him. He wasn’t sure what this was, but there was something within him that was screaming to leave. It was clawing its way up, roaring like a fiery dragon as it fought for its freedom. Should he let it go now?

“Ow!” Melly shrieked. Ethne’s concentration faultered when he heard her cry. He opened his eyes and Melly was shaking her paws. “Are you okay?” He asked.

“Don’t do that!” Melly scolded. Ethne noticed the branches he was sitting on were warm beneath him. He lifted his right hand, and the bark was charred with black residue. “What did you make me do?” He asked, partially irritated.

“Wind fuels the flames. And you Ethne, are born of fire.”

End of Chapter One

Author’s Notes: I began the first draft of this story in 2007. Back then I didn’t have a name for Ethne. I liked his character a lot, but I was worried people wouldn’t be to fond of a blonde and blue-eyed white man, so I scrapped him for a tall, dark and handsome type. That new character never fit into the story the way I needed him to. In 2012 I met someone who bore a resemblance to Ethne, and seeing a real-life “version” of my character compelled me to bring Ethne back and start over. I guess that’s what people call inspiration.

(First Earth – Chapter One – “Born of Fire” is Copyright to Alexandra Nofi 2014, All rights reserved.)

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