I have started rewriting my previously self-published 2 book, MG/YA series as a trilogy and I'm looking for lovers of epic fantasy of all ages to help me polish the first installment of 40,000 words before I start querying agents and publishers.
The Legend of Finndragon's Curse
What if your father disappeared without a trace? You try to come to terms with it, but then find a clue that leads to an unbelievable realization. Would you lead your younger brother and sister on an incredible and perilous rescue mission to the mythical land of Morgannwg?
This is the dilemma facing fifteen-year-old Emma Davies in my fantasy novel, The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse. Should she try to save Dad and risk being trapped forever, or stay at home and give up all hope of seeing him again? What follows is an emotionally charged, gripping rollercoaster ride which seamlessly blends moments of fear, danger and violent battles with times of humour, compassion and camaraderie.
What do I want from my beta readers
All I ask is that you give me your honest opinion of the book and point out typos or spelling/grammatical errors you spot. (Of course, I don't expect you to find any!)Do you want to find out what happens and at the same time help me make this series the best it can be? Then let me know at onethousandworlds[at]hotmail[dot]com. To whet your appetite, the opening of the book is printed below.
As her tears trickled unchallenged onto her soaking pillow, Emma didn’t realise that this was the three hundred and thirty-third consecutive night she’d cried herself to sleep. The strain of staying strong for Mam, Megan and Scott found its familiar release when her bedroom door closed for the night. Darkness rushed in, offering little solace as she struggled to suppress the inevitable, unearthly and unfathomable stench suffocating her senses. Infrequent at first, the now nightly horror would stalk her dreams until daylight brought its limited reprieve.
The smooth, painted walls of her supposed sanctuary morphed into oppressive cold limestone. Emma shivered as her bones chilled beneath her delicate skin. Quiet, beguiling echoes rippled rhythmically from the puddle-strewn floor, tuneful, tantalising and tempting. She glided; sweat erupting from every pore as a sweet, distant voice enticed her into the abyss, deeper and deeper into the fiery flames of hell. The early morning sun’s flickering rays dragged her back to earth, a torrent of fresh tears still following their well worn path.
Emma strained every sinew against the unyielding burden, struggling to rise from her pit of despair. The floorboards creaked as she crept along, not ready to face the rest of the still sleeping house. She swept away a curtain of wayward hair revealing lifeless eyes, sunk into a disjointed face, staring forlornly back from the cracked mirror and she wondered how she would get through another day.
A small mongrel scuttled around at the foot of the stairs, nuzzling his cold, wet snout into the back of her knee as she reached the hallway. “Oh Bones, at least I don’t have to put on an act for you,” Emma knelt on the tiled floor, stroking the pooch. “It would be pretty pointless anyway, there’s no fooling you is there?”
Emma shuffled to the kitchen and opened the back door, allowing Bones to scamper through to attend to some business. He soon returned clenching his food bowl tightly between sharp teeth, and it clanged as he dropped it at the feet of his waiting mistress. Emma took a large scoop out of the nearby sack of dried food, observed closely by her drooling dog as an almost inaudible whine escaped his lips.
The first rumblings from above made Emma cock her head slightly, as she tucked into a bowl of cereal, scooping the last spoonful into her metallic mouth by the time Scott sauntered into the kitchen.
“Morning Em,” Scott sat opposite and filled his bowl.
“Morning,” she replied, trying to banish any trace of sadness from her voice.
Mam surfaced next, quickly followed by Megan and they chatted about all manner of unimportant topics over breakfast.
“Let’s go up the mountain later,” Scott suggested.
“Okay, but we’ll have to make sure we’re well prepared,” Mam sounded just like Dad, Emma thought.
He always made sure they were well equipped before setting out on any expedition. Numerous items jostled for places in backpacks, stowed in a variety of water tight compartments. Mam often joked that Dad thought he was leading an expedition to the South Pole.
Emma, Megan and Scott dressed and laced up sturdy walking boots over long, thick socks before crawling through the low hatchway in the attic bedroom. In the smaller storage area beyond, they found their backpacks which had sat idle since the end of last summer.
“Oh look at this!” Emma exclaimed, “The strap is broken!”
“Don’t worry, you can use Dad’s,” Mam called from the bedroom.
The children gazed through the hatchway in surprise. Dad would let them use any gadget in the house, but he never let anyone near his precious backpack.
“He’d want you to use it. He’d want us all to enjoy ourselves the way we used to,” Mam explained, trying to stem the flow of a tear-drop. “Now make sure you’ve got everything you need before we go.”
They soon set off, marching sullenly and silently towards the rolling hills and majestic mountains which lay siege to Crafanc y Ddraig. Emma’s mind instantly drifted back to the police investigation and media coverage following .....
“Tell us about the legend Em,” Scott broke the silence.
“You’ve heard it loads of times.”
“I know, but not for ages, not since Dad.....” Scott’s voice tapered off.
“Well alright, but no interruptions, that goes for you too Meg!” Emma raised her voice slightly. “This is a tale that has been retold over countless generations, passed down from father to son....”
“And mother to daughter,” Megan cut in.
Emma ignored her sister, “the story has almost been forgotten because it happened at about the same time as Arthurian Legend, you know, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. So only the people of Crafanc y Ddraig, like us, remember Finndragon’s Curse.”
“We know all about that,” Megan snapped. “Just get on with it will you!”
“Okay, stop moaning! A long time ago, a wise old king called Dafydd the Defiant ruled the Kingdom of Morgannwg. It was a time of magic, wizardry and witchcraft. Like all powerful men of the time, Dafydd had a court wizard, called Finndragon, who advised him on all matters; from what to eat, to where to build his castle,” Emma teased her long brown hair between finger and thumb as she retold the old tale.
“They say he stood head and shoulders above the tallest of men with a long grey beard sprouting from his chin and even longer grey hair hanging below his pointy hat. Finndragon had lived five lifetimes, making him influential and all knowing, and some people claim he once served King Arthur at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall.”
Emma remembered how Dad always brought the story to life and continued, “Finndragon loyally served his master, advising Dafydd to build his huge castle, Castell y Mynydd - The Mountain Castle - above a high cliff that surrounded three sides. To the front, a long plane swept into the distance making a surprise attack impossible. A large moat filled with Finndragon’s fierce creatures protected this side. Dagger-like teeth crammed inside their mouths, waiting to rip apart any unfortunate invader who ended up in the water. A narrow strip of land split the moat in two and led up to the castle, stopping a few yards short. Entry was only possible with the huge drawbridge lowered to span the gap. The massive castle took seven years to construct.” Emma paused for a moment, catching her breath as she reflected on the magnificence of Castell y Mynydd.
“Word had spread for the last two or three years, of invaders from the east,” she continued dramatically. “Barbaric warriors with huge beasts of war rampaged across Britain, slaughtering everyone and destroying everything in their path. Finndragon ensured the castle would repel any attacking force. The front wall towered at least thirty feet above the moat with battlements running all the way along it. A strongly fortified gatehouse stood in the centre of this wall and at each corner of the castle, a tall, circular tower soared into the sky. The savage invaders finally arrived at Castell y Mynydd and lay siege for one hundred days. They couldn’t launch an attack on the well defended castle, so they waited until the food ran out and Dafydd’s starving men would have to leave the stronghold. But, they didn’t realise Finndragon had cast a spell on the food store and for every item removed, another magically took its place. The invaders eventually launched an attack, which proved hopeless. While crossing the moat in small rafts, Finndragon’s creatures left their watery beds and tipped them over, savagely turning the water red with the blood of the barbarians.”
“What happened next?” Megan’s hazel eyes twinkled, even though she knew how the story ended.
Emma hesitated as she climbed over a rickety old stile, and then continued, “The surviving barbarians fled, never to be seen in Wales again,” casting an irritated glance at her sister, “but soon after, Dafydd and Finndragon argued. Everyone was celebrating the Feast of August, with food aplenty and a good supply of strong wines and ales. Nobody knows for sure what the disagreement was about, but some say Finndragon fell in love with Dafydd’s wife. Queen Hafgan, which as you know means ‘summer song’, was very beautiful and much younger than Dafydd, with long red hair and a pale complexion. Dafydd banished Finndragon from his kingdom....”
“And as he left Castell y Mynydd, the wizard turned to the king and said,” Megan again cut in. “‘Unless you lift my banishment before thirteen moons light the sky, then you, your castle, kingdom and everything in it shall sink into the earth. You will be set upon by monsters and demons until the end of time, and never be seen again.’ The sky blackened, only lit by the frequent flash of lightning with thunder crashing all around, as Finndragon swirled his long cloak in the air and vanished.”
“Dafydd soon forgot about Finndragon, employing a young Welsh wizard called Myrddin who claimed he could protect Dafydd from any curse. Many people believe he was actually Merlin in Arthurian Legend,” Emma explained, casting another meaningful look at Megan. “He had an even younger apprentice called Gwayne. With the invaders dispatched, life was peaceful, Dafydd was happy and his kingdom prospered. But exactly a year after Finndragon’s banishment, with a full moon lighting the beautiful night sky, a terrible storm came up from nowhere. It is said his cousin Dewi, King of Ceredigion, was visiting Dafydd that night. Suddenly the whole kingdom was pitched into darkness, except for Castell y Mynydd, which was lit by a single shaft of moonlight. Every fire and light within the castle was blown out by the howling wind and the lashing rain. The waters in the moat bubbled and boiled, and the ground shook violently.”
“What did Dafydd do, Em,” Scott asked, “and what about Myrddin’s magic?”
“Myrddin was still a young wizard. His magic hadn’t become powerful enough to stop Finndragon’s Curse as he’d claimed. So he saved himself by turning into a hawk and flew away before the kingdom sank into the earth, and a mountain rose up above the spot where it had stood. Dafydd, everyone and everything else weren’t so lucky,” Emma went on with the story.
“So that was the end of Dafydd!” said Megan.
“Yes, except some people think his kingdom is still intact in the belly of the earth, where it is plagued by Finndragon’s demons even until today,” Emma concluded.
“Well that’s a load of cra.....”