Sample Chapter Sunday: Fallen Star

As I am notorious for letting this blog fall off my radar (a lot- I am forgetful at worst, scatterbrained at best), I thought to start a weekly thing. Give myself something to stick to schedule-wise, and possibly provide readers with some stories. So welcome to Sample Chapter Sundays, friends!

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Today’s sample chapter comes from my incomplete YA fantasy titled FALLEN STAR. It follows the adventures of siblings Lucas and Jewel, who are tasked with bringing Star to the Celestial Knights to protect her from the machinations of her brother, Lord Sirius. I had plans to tweak it a bit to make it MG instead, but I haven’t gotten around to it just yet. In the meantime, allow me to present the first chapter for your reading pleasure. Hope everyone enjoys!

lucas star jewel

Star and Lucas in the back, with Jewel in the foreground. Art by my sister.

FALLEN STAR: Chapter One

“Jewel! Don’t go ahead so fast!”

Jewel waited until she crested the snow bank before turning and beckoning her father. Gradually he appeared, a heavy pack slung over his shoulders. He gripped the tightly wound tent against his side, both ends drooping so low they nearly touched the ground. His other hand held a medium sized electric generator. Upon reaching her side, he dropped his burden with an audible sigh, then placed his hands on the small of his back and stretched.

“Hurry, Daddy,” Jewel insisted, taking hold of his sleeve and tugging it. “We won’t be able to get a good spot!”

“Yes, yes, I know,” he said, smiling indulgently. “But we must wait. Can’t watch the meteor shower without my telescope, can we?”

“Why didn’t you let me carry it? I can set it up and everything!” Jewel reminded him, scowling.

“Because it’s twice your size and weight,” her father reminded her, and she pursed her lips. He chucked her on the chin. “Don’t worry, you can help set it up. I’m sure Lucas won’t mind.”

Mention of her older brother brought a smile to Jewel’s face. Just then she heard the crunching of boots on the snow and looked past her father. A hooded figure appeared behind them, his steps slower. Tall but skinny for a seventeen year old, Lucas looked like he was about to fall over because of the telescope. Jewel raced down the snow bank to Lucas’ side, reaching out to take hold of the folded stand clutched under his arm.

“Jewel, don’t do that,” Lucas admonished, his voice muffled from the scarf wrapped around his lower face.

“I wasn’t going to break it,” she informed him tartly before taking it off his hands. He released it with a sigh. Falling into step beside him, careful not to let the legs drag in the snow, she asked, “Will the meteors hurt anyone when they fall?”

“No. They’ll burn up in the atmosphere way before they reach the surface. It’s actually what we’ll be seeing.”

“Oh,” Jewel said, relieved. She stared at the snow, thinking how it sparkled like diamonds in the sunlight. “What time will it happen?”

“Late tonight,” Lucas replied after a moment. “Hmm, I think we’ll see the Northern Lights, too.”

“Really?” Jewel cried excitedly.

“Yep,” he confirmed, looking down on her and smiling. All she could see were his cheeks rising to make his eyes appear smaller. “That’s why there’s so many people here.  See?” Lucas gestured around them. Jewel followed his motion, seeing that a crowd had begun gathering. Many had already set up camp, and stood clustered together talking.

“Lucas, Jewel! Over here!” called their father. He stood just beyond the snow bank, the pack once again resting on his shoulders and tent tucked beneath his hand. “I found an excellent site.”

Lucas surged forward, his longer legs giving him an unfair advantage over Jewel as she struggled to keep up. After a moment he paused and turned, offering his gloved hand. She took it, laughing as he half dragged, half carried her away.

***

Once they had erected the tent and the siblings arranged the telescope outside, their father went to visit neighboring camps. As for Jewel, she looked forward to the time she’d spend with her big brother. But Lucas hooked up the radio, opened a book and began doing homework. She remembered he was studying to take the entrance exams into a top astronomy school, so, a bit crestfallen, sat just outside the tent to stare at the sky.

Dozens upon dozens of stars streaked across it, and for a time Jewel amused herself with trying to count them. She had reached forty when the tent flaps shifted. Lucas plopped down onto the snow beside her, his head hung low. Strands of his tousled, light brown hair fell over his brow.

“I didn’t make too much noise,” she protested, thinking that maybe her counting out loud had disturbed him.

“What?” Lucas said, somewhat surprised. The way he looked at her, it seemed he had forgotten she was sitting there. “No, it’s not your fault,” he sighed, reaching to push up his glasses further onto his nose. Jewel prodded him in the arm with her finger. When he didn’t react, she did it three more times.

“Hey, stop that,” he groused, attempting to mimic their father’s sternest glare.  Jewel ignored it. She jabbed him in the side, once, then, at seeing a smile winning its way on his face, began tickling him with reckless abandon. Lucas latched onto her, his exclamation of, ‘That’s it!’ a half growl, half hiss. He overpowered her, leaving Jewel laughing and breathless in his arms.

They sat in silence for some time, Jewel happy that she had made him smile. She gazed up at the stars, thoughts of their mother, gone seven years now, abruptly entering her mind. Jewel’s memories of her were fairly dim, but Lucas remembered her so vividly Jewel sometimes believed she existed in him. Aside from that, her only link to their mother was the necklace she wore. Lucas had one just like it, and more than once Jewel had seen him toy with it when he was worried. At feeling his arm shift, she rolled over onto her back, and, sure enough, his hand had strayed to the necklace.

“Why aren’t you studying?” she asked.

Lucas’ chest heaved against her as he exhaled. “Father has such high hopes for me getting into this school,” he murmured. “I’m afraid I’ll disappoint him.”

“Why? You’re as smart as he is when it comes to stars.”

“I know,” Lucas replied, though he didn’t sound convinced. He bowed his head. “But I don’t think he looks at them the way I do.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

Lucas’ hand stroked the long crystal on his necklace, then coiled around it. “Mom used to tell me stories about stars when I was young. She made it sound like she believed every word. I wanted to learn astronomy in the hope that I’d find out if they were true.”

“I remember those stories,” Jewel said. “You told them to me all the time when I was little. I really liked the one about the star visiting Earth and finding a new family.”

A wisp of a smile appeared on Lucas’ face, but it quickly faded. His hand fell away from his throat, coming to a rest on his knee. “I want to tell Dad about how I feel, but he’d probably think I was being silly.”

“Nuh-uh,” Jewel said, shaking her head. “He likes stars, too.” She brightened. “Maybe he believes and can’t tell anyone cause he’s a grown up.”

Lucas gave her a wan smile and ruffled her hair. She giggled, swatting his hand away. “I doubt that. Anyway, thanks for trying to cheer me up. But,” he sighed, his eyes drifting skyward. “Mom’s stories were just that. As much as I like to believe them, they’re not real. Stars are just massive bodies of energy millions of miles away. Nothing romantic about them at all…”

Jewel watched him, unsure of why he said that. She didn’t remember ever seeing him look so…so sad before.

His brow furrowed. “What the…?” he murmured. He shot to his feet, sending Jewel sprawling in the snow. Pushing herself to her elbows, she glanced over her shoulder. Lucas stood totally still, his eyes narrowed as he stared ahead.

“Lucas? What’s wrong?”

“I just saw something streaking toward the ground,” he answered after a long pause.

“The meteors?” she asked. Their father would be disappointed if he missed them.

“No. It’s too soon,” Lucas told her. Turning and ducking into the tent, he soon returned with a pair of binoculars. He peered through them, his expression turning grim. “Kinda hard to tell what it was from here,” he muttered. He lowered the binoculars swiftly and glanced down at his sister. “I’m going to check it out.”

“Not without me!” Jewel exclaimed, following him into the tent. She grabbed her goggles and scarf from the suspended net to her right. After donning them, she took her gloves off the table set before the generator.

So busy gathering his own things, he did not realize her intentions until she stood ready. “Jewel, you can’t go,” Lucas said, doing his best to sound firm.

“Daddy wouldn’t want you to leave me here alone,” she countered. He looked as if he wanted to protest, but after a moment he sighed in resignation.

“Get the flashlights.”

Jewel hurried to the toolbox. After taking the larger one, she grabbed the maglite for herself. She turned in time to watch Lucas bring the telescope inside. She handed him the larger light, then shadowed him as he left the tent. He zipped the entrance shut, checked to make sure the supports were secure before nodding to her. “Let’s go.”

***

Darkness had settled around them, broken only by the narrow cone generated from Lucas’ light. He made certain to walk slowly, not about to challenge whatever dangers lurked beyond. This he had to remind Jewel of, for more than once she had tried to venture ahead. Her enthusiasm was typical Jewel, but Lucas, feeling the weight of responsibility upon his shoulders, did not want to think of something terrible happening to her. If only she’d waited at the tent!

But, if she had, she would have followed him anyway. Better to have her on hand than wandering somewhere alone.

Seeing that his sister had finally decided to heed his warnings, Lucas focused on what the object could have been. Speculations ran rampant in his mind- a felled satellite? Debris from a piece of spacecraft? He searched his memory for recent happenings that could lend credence to his ideas, but he drew a blank. He just hoped whatever it was, it didn’t bring trouble with it.

“Lucas, look there!” Jewel cried, halting in her tracks. She thrust her arm forward. Lucas lifted the flashlight higher, seeing first the chunks of snow, then the hole. Clamping a hand on her shoulder to prevent her from tumbling headfirst into the crater, Lucas had her switch her light on to better illuminate it.

“Careful, now,” he advised.

She nodded, and together they made their way toward the edge.

Standing over it now, Lucas could see the heat of the impact managed to penetrate the ice, revealing the scarred earth below. He trained his light along the corner closest him, studying the ground intently when Jewel gave an astonished cry. Fearing she might have seen a wild animal, Lucas drew her closer as he turned on his heel. The light arced wildly in the air.

“Look in the hole!” Jewel urged. “There’s someone in it!”

“No, there isn’t,” he said as he glanced around. “You’re letting your imagination get away with you.”

“Am not!” Jewel snapped. Then, taking firm hold of the hand that held the flashlight, she forced it down. Lucas nearly lost his balance due to how ruthless her movement was. But sure enough, his light passed over a figure almost completely hidden by long, dark hair. He stared, dumbfounded, before realizing that the person was naked.

“Hold this,” he said, thrusting his flashlight at Jewel. Once his hands were free, he unzipped his heavy coat, then dropped down. Twin lights followed him as he knelt and wrapped the body- an adolescent girl’s, he noted with sudden embarrassment- in his coat. Gathering her slight frame in his arms, Lucas arranged her so that her head lay against his shoulder. Strands of her hair hid her face from view, making it difficult to identify her.

“Is it an alien?” Jewel called excitedly.

Typical for her to latch onto the fantastical. But Lucas could hardly fault her for that, not when he himself secretly believed stars were like people. “I don’t think so,” he replied, rising to his feet. The woman weighed no more than Jewel did, despite the fact she was twice her size. As soon as he climbed out, she was beside him, her curiosity having gotten the best of her.

“She’s pretty,” his sister acknowledged. She leaned closer, her eyes widening. “I think she’s waking up!”

Lucas quickly looked down, his eyes meeting hers the moment they opened. His breath stilled at how time seemed to slow, then eventually stop under the power of her gaze.

The girl studied him, her brow furrowing in confusion. No, not confusion, Lucas realized. She was concentrating.  But on what?

…gel…

Lucas blinked and looked down. “Did you say something?”

“No,” Jewel said, staring at him quizzically.

The girl weakly reached for Lucas’ collar. Her bare fingertips brushed the spot of his neck that wasn’t concealed by the scarf, and his necklace. A spark seemed to come alive between them, though he wasn’t sure. Her fingers were ice cold.

…Ri…gel…?

Lucas gaped at her, unbelieving what was happening. However, before he could officially declare that she was telepathic, she fell slack in his arms.

“What’d you do?” Jewel asked worriedly.

“Nothing,” he answered, hearing the quiver in his voice. He paused to gather his thoughts, still unable to comprehend what happened. “But I think she tried speaking to me telepathically.”

“Really?” Jewel asked. When Lucas nodded, she spared the unconscious girl a fascinated glance. “Wow.”

“Come on, we need to get back to the tent,” Lucas stated before walking away. Jewel trailed after him, dutifully lighting the way back. It was a good thing she did, for much of Lucas’ attention was fixed on the girl.

Just who was she?

***

They had been walking for some time when Jewel stopped. She squinted ahead, unsure of what she saw. Something, or someone, had moved just beyond the light surrounding them.

Lucas went past, causing her to reach for his sleeve. “We have to keep moving,” he reminded her, pulling away. Warily, she started walking again. Their trek took them past a sparse collection of trees. Jewel glanced around, relieved that the trunks were much too thin for a person to hide behind.

Until she saw someone peer from around a tree.

She yelped and dropped back, her hand going to Lucas’ sleeve once again. “There’s someone hiding over there,” she whispered.

“Where?” Lucas asked, then looked over. “The trees?” Jewel nodded furiously. Dropping to a knee, he gently laid the girl down. After zipping the jacket up, he then touched her throat and nodded to himself. Jewel couldn’t help but notice the way his hand lingered there before he rose to his full height. “Keep the light on me,” he instructed as he walked away. She watched, tense, when he came upon the tree she’d seen the person hiding behind.

After a moment he rounded it. He spread his arms to either side. “There’s nothing here.”

“Look again,” Jewel insisted.

“I don’t really think there’s-” He paused, his head jerking to the right. Jewel went to ask what he heard when a figure appeared behind Lucas and grabbed him.

“Lucas!” Jewel shrieked, taking a step forward.

Lucas’ shout for her to stay back was cut off when his captor clamped a hand over his mouth. Five others manifested seemingly from mid-air, three taking positions near Lucas while the other two advanced for Jewel. Their movements were jerky, like robots with stiff joints. Each time they took a step, the snow melted around their feet. Jewel’s attention was momentarily drawn to this when she realized they were practically on top of her. Now that they were so close, she could see their faces. Oval-shaped with wide, round eyes and sharply angled brows, both leered at her with disturbing grins. They wore dark purple, form-fitting armor, their surfaces so shiny she could see her distorted reflection on their chests. The first one reached for her.

Suddenly a bright, white column shot down from the sky, spreading bands of light overhead. Distracted by this, the one holding Lucas eased his grip just enough to allow him to escape. He pulled free, shoved the nearest one aside before rushing for Jewel. She called his name as he dropped to his knees and swept her up in a tight hug.

“Are you all right?” he asked breathlessly. When she nodded, he positioned himself in front of both she and the unconscious girl. Peering over his shoulder, Jewel watched what happened next.

A large, armored figure emerged from the light, what looked to be a spear in his hand. Four of their attackers reacted with shrill cries and advanced, only to be sent sprawling by a single, mighty swing. The lone one emitted what sounded like an aggravated hiss before flinging its arms down. A pair of glowing, sword-like weapons instantly replaced its hands, and it spun round. Jewel cried out. Lucas, however, jumped to his feet. He ducked and jammed his shoulder against the other’s chest. It was sufficient enough to knock it back; as it did, arms flailing, a spear pierced its chest. White energy flared in brilliant flashes before the body faded.

“Toss me the halberd!” the man shouted, his deep voice like thunder.

Lucas quickly did so. He lobbed the weapon with all his strength- so much in fact he stumbled forward the instant he released it. The man caught it effortlessly, set it in his hand and aimed the end at the closest of the remaining enemies.

There was a tense moment before they pounced. Jewel didn’t get the chance to gasp in shock; the man stabbed each one in the chest well before they reached him. The final one faded in a blast of white light, leaving the man standing alone. He glanced around once, then, shouldering his halberd, turned on his heel and approached them. Jewel stared at him in awe. He was easily the tallest man she’d ever seen. When he passed into the ring of light from her felled maglite, his armor gleamed bright copper. It reminded her of a new penny.

“Has harm befallen the new star?” he demanded.

“You mean her?” Jewel said, looking down at the girl. “Do you know who she is?”

“Yes,” he answered briskly. He dropped to a knee before her, closing his hands over her shoulders. “I ask for silence now,” he requested, though it sounded more like an order due to his tone. Jewel had heard it often enough from their father when he felt she was being too noisy. She glanced at Lucas, but her brother’s attention was solely fixed on the girl. He swallowed uneasily, as if something bothered him. Jewel could not place what it could be.

The man cupped the girl’s face, turning it this way and that. He mumbled to himself, seemingly upset over something when the girl’s hand moved. He reached for the pouch attached to his belt and removed what looked like a crystal fragment. Jewel gasped. It looked a lot like her necklace!

Holding it close to the girl’s face, he waited. A moment passed before she leaned forward. The crystal came into contact with her forehead, flashed, and faded.

“She is safe,” he said, relieved. Leaning back, he removed his helmet and looked over at the two. He had straight copper hair pinned back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck, like the man in the Revolutionary War picture at school. His eyes were bright white, deep set in a stern face with a strong, square jaw. When he smiled, it softened his entire face. “I thank you for looking after her, and for your aid in battle.”

“Were those men after her?” Lucas asked, sounding angry.

“Indeed they were,” the other sighed. He gestured; the helmet in hand trembled, then looked to melt into his forearm. The halberd also disappeared the same way. Afterward, he gathered the girl in his arms and stood, towering over the siblings. “We must go. Sirius’ minions will return, and most likely in bigger numbers.”

“Sirius?” Jewel echoed in surprise.  “But who’s-”

“There is no time to explain now, little one,” the man interrupted. “If you can provide us with sanctuary, we will be on our way.”

Lucas gestured for Jewel to start walking. “Come with us to our tent. It’s not far from here.”

The armored man nodded. “Then I shall follow you.”

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