Here are the first 2 chapters of a project I am currently working on, and I'm posting it here as I would like to have some feedback, and I'm not too sure on how to continue this. Any help would be appreciated!
Satchel, a 16 year old boy who was born in the city of Hyperion, grows up by himself in an observatory on a hill, looming over the city of Safaria. One day, while fishing, he finds an unconscious girl floating on a piece of driftwood, and takes her home with him. After someone almost breaks into his house, the girl wakes up and tells Satchel not to let 'them' take her. She is referring to pirates who are after a legendary treasure that can only be opened by 'one not of their world'. The girl happens to come from another world and has the ability to make plants grow, and together they flee from the city and try to evade the pirates. The plot takes place in a steampunk world, with flying ships, eccentric landscapes, and bizarre automatons.
The sun was setting on the horizon, basking the entire city of Safaria in its dimming orange light, making the city look bronze in the twilight that would slowly envelope it. The sea glinted as if made of pure amber, and though there were thick, puffy, white clouds in the horizon, the sky above the observatory was relatively clear as it always had been. Through it, the night sky was visible with its millions of stars glistening, like crystals. Thin layers of fog floated above the sea surface is it always had, and the air dingy floated motionless at the end of the pier that led straight out of the observatory platform and a few meters over the cliff’s edge, suspended hundreds of feet above the sea and the jagged rocks at the base of the cliffs.
The observatory, though in the region of the city, wasn’t regarded as part of it by most. It was a gargantuan wooden structure at the top of a hill that ended on the other side with a cliff, raised upon a wooden platform to keep it from tumbling into the ocean. Red fans and bronze cogs stuck out from every where around the mobile building, allowing it to rotate around on its axis, so that the stargazer within could see the night sky from any angle he wished. It had a strange, Hyperion-like design that was uncommon to Safaria, and stood out not only by its location, but also its architecture, which contrasted the sand stone and red silk buildings that the city mainly consisted of. There was, of course, also the case of the strange boy who lived up there, all alone. People rarely spoke to him. He was from Hyperion and the memories of the fifteen-year war between the two regions were still fresh. No one spoke to him, no one knew how he got there, and no one even knew his name. All they knew was that the boy in the observatory had been there for the last fifteen years. They just called him ‘the star-gazer’.
Against the silhouette of the observatory on the rocky cliff, which was now basked in the shadows of the night, a figure was seen, throwing the door open and rushing across the pier with a large fishing rod over his shoulder. Awkwardly, he leaped into the boat, and pushed the wooden thrusters forwards, making the dingy move out into the open sea, towards the direction of the setting sun.
Satchel Mortimer Locke Sterling was a sixteen year old boy, rather short for his age when compared with other citizens of Hyperion. His light grey, messy hair was swept to the right as if by the wind, and his brilliant, green eyes searched the waters beneath him. As the dingy started to move, he quickly pulled down his leather goggles and pulled his brown coat tighter around him, preparing himself for the cold wind that would buffet him out at sea. He wasn’t rich, and he wasn’t poor. He wasn’t middle class either. In fact, he wasn’t sure what he was. He didn’t have any money, that was for sure, but he wasn’t starving or living a bad life, either. The clothes he wore he made himself: a closed, grey vest over a white shirt, with dark trousers, black shoes and a pair of fingerless black gloves, for protection against the cold and splinters that he could get from his old dingy. And of course his coat. He loved his coat. It was the one thing that he hadn’t made himself, and the last thing he received from his father.
Gradually, the dingy slowed to a stop, and with a sigh, Satchel fell back onto the wooden bench, picked up his fishing rod again, and cast out the line. The wind was whistling though the city, now rather far behind him, and the smell of maple filled the air with a delightfully sweet scent; an odour that was swept in from his hill, where the long, orange grass swayed in the wind and spread it’s parfume.
It wasn’t long before there was a tug on the line. Suddenly wide awake again, Satchel grabbed onto the handle and started reeling in with all his speed. By the time the fish was out of the water, the fight was lost, and reeling it in became a lot easier. There were many advantages to fishing from the air rather than from the water. For one, the fish don’t shy away, because they aren’t even aware of your presence.
At last, the fish appeared over the edge of the boat. It wasn’t a bad catch. A Safarian Silver Cod, half a meter in length, roughly two kilos. With a quick swipe of his long hunting knife, Satchel took the fish’s life, subduing it instantaneously. He smiled to himself, and tossed it into the wooden bucket of salt water that he kept next to him. Without wasting any time, he cast out the line once more. With any luck, he would be able to catch enough fish to feed him for the next week. He leaned back and reflected on his life, just as he always had done when he was out fishing. There was something about the environment that always caused him to enter deep into the realm of his thoughts. Maybe it was the sea that glistened like glass? Or was it the soft, cold breeze that was ever present so high up in the air? Either way, he felt content.
Though his life was a little dull and monotonous, he couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t happy. It did get lonely from time to time in the observatory, but other than that, he was satisfied with the way he lived. He could cook, make clothes, and take care of himself better than others could at his age, and didn’t really need anyone or anything else than what he already had access to.
A sudden, sharp tug on the line made him snap out of his thoughts. Something wasn’t right. He wasn’t sure what it was, but there was something wrong about that tug. It couldn’t be done by a fish; they weren’t usually so weak. He doubted the hook had caught on to something, either; it was relatively near the surface, where there were no rocks or weeds to get caught in. But then what was it?
Tentatively, Satchel peered over the edge –and gasped. There was a small white thing, floating on a piece of driftwood, tugging on his rope.
Satchel was slow to react. He didn’t realize it was a human being until it raised its head and stared at him with its bright blue, penetrating eyes. A single sentence formed in his mind that sprung him into action: “Help me.” The figure went limp and released the rod.
Without wasting another second, Satchel reeled in his fishing rod. He had to hurry. If he didn’t, the person might drown.
With a swift flick of his finger, he pushed a switch, changing the direction of the engines, before pushing the thrusters forward with all his strength, sending the small boat crashing towards the water at a speed that would destroy it and kill him if he hit it. But just before the deadly crash, Satchel pulled up.
The dingy stopped abruptly a few centimetres above the water, throwing Satchel forwards with the force of it, smashing his nose against the hard wooden floor of the boat.
Ignoring the pain and blood, he reached out with his hands and just barely managed to grab hold of a small corner of the person’s –who turned out to be a girl around his own age –blouse. That was enough. Satchel rebalanced his position to ensure that he wouldn’t fall out, then pulled the girl in and laid her down in the back of his dingy, before beginning his ascent back to the observatory. Fishing could wait; he would go out again at sunrise. But for now, he had to make sure the girl didn’t die. Everything else came second.
Finally, the dingy arrived at the end of the pier. Right after tying it up to prevent it from drifting off, he picked up the bucket with the fish, and hoisted the unconscious girl over his shoulder… and almost tripped. The girl was unnaturally light, barely more than forty kilos. Concern immediately flooded his mind. He raced towards the building, threw the door upon, and gently lowered the girl down on to the couch.
She was deathly quiet, no sign of movement coming from her. Could she already be…? No, Satchel definitely felt a pulse when he checked her wrist. He placed his index finger in front of her mouth. She was breathing. That was good.
Satchel left the room for a second, and then came running back with a thick, woollen blanket. Now all there was left to do was wait. He had never seen a person in a comma before, but he imagined that that was her condition.
Without taking his eyes off her, he wrapped the blanket around her still wet body, and set to work on lighting a fire in the hearth. Hopefully she wouldn’t be unconscious long; he had some questions he wanted to ask her. Then again, now he had time to prepare dinner. A nice warm soup, probably.
Satchel was under the telescope, observing the stars when there was a sudden and aggressive knock on the door. Instantly he froze, then reluctantly, he put down the star chart that he had nearly completed, and turned to the stairs. It was a strange occasion. No one ever knocked on his door. No one. Uncertainly, he walked down the stairs and into the living room. The lights were dim, and the entrance stood in complete darkness. An uneasy feeling grew within Satchel. Why would anyone come to visit him? And why so late at night? Could it be someone looking for the girl?
Slowly, he crept forward, staring at the door intensely, as if trying to see through it. Another knock, this time harder.
“Hello?” Satchel called out, his voice trembling slightly. “Who’s there?”
No reply. Another barrage of knock.
Satchel carefully took another step –and jumped with cry of shock. He had just passed the couch, as the girl’s hand shot out towards him, holding his wrist with a grip so tight, Satchel feared his bones would brake. He tried to shake it off, only to have the grip tighten. He gasped with pain.
There was another knock, this time much louder than before. Then, silence. For a moment. Just as Satchel had started to relax, something threw itself at the door from the outside, smashing against it with all it’s strength. Satchel’s pulse increased. Whatever was out there didn’t have good intentions. Another smash. Satchel tried to run, to find something to protect himself with, but the hand kept him in place. The door wasn’t made of hardwood; it wouldn’t last very long. Then he remembered his knife in his pocket. If he got the timing just right…
Another smash, now splinters started to break off the door. He had to act fast. He closed his eyes, and focused. The smashing was constant and rhythmical. Maybe, if he was lucky enough...
Just before the outsider tried to break the door in once more, Satchel pulled the knife out of his pocket and threw it at the door, hitting it accurately in the centre; At the exact same time, the outsider threw himself against his door and –an inhuman, blood curdling howl of pain cut through the silence of the night. Then… nothing.
The girl’s grip loosened, and Satchel fell to the floor. His heart beat slowed down gradually, as he remembered to breath. He stared at the knife in awe, then at his hand. How had he done that? The door was at least five meters away, and he had never practiced with throwing knives before, yet that was a throw that would have made any professional jealous.
Carefully, he got up and walked towards the door, keeping as quiet as possible. There was no sound on the other side.
With some effort, he managed to pull the knife out of the wood, which, just as he expected, was covered in blood. Whoever tried to intrude had thrown himself at the knife’s blade on the other side, probably wounding him badly, but Satchel doubted that it killed him.
He quickly wiped the blood off on his sleeve, then curiously, he weighed the knife in his hands. It felt so familiar yet so… alien.
Taking careful aim, he flung it at the flower pot at the other end of the room –and it cut straight through the flowers, merely millimetres above the vase.
Again? That was impossible.
It took a moment for him to realize that he was being watched, and he flinched as he noticed the girls blue eyes staring directly into his. For the first time, he got a proper look at her. Her eyes were big, and slightly slanted, taking up about a quarter of her face. Her dark blonde, almost brown hair flowed down her back in loose curls, and her eyebrows were thin and sharp, resting just above her deep-set eyes. She was beautiful in a way, but there was something strange about her. Something that wasn’t normal for humans.
She looked around the room, with her eyes wide open, shock clearly present in her expression. But she wasn’t scared of her environment. It was obvious by the numerous glances that she shot at the door that she was afraid of the character who tried to intrude.
“Is he gone?” She asked quietly, but with a voice as clear as running water. It wasn’t hard to hear her, due to this. “Has he left?” She asked again, this time a little more audible, and obviously directing the question at Satchel.
He needed a moment to recover. “Um… I-I think so, yes. Who was he?”
She continued to stare at the door for a moment longer, curled up in the far corner of the sofa, hugging her legs tightly. “Please.” She said pleadingly, her voice trembling. “Don’t let them take me. Kill me if you have to, but don’t let them take me back!”
Satchel managed to regain his composure and sat down opposite to her. “Don’t worry,” He said, his voice as calm as he could muster. “We are the only ones here, it’s safe. Are you hungry?”
She nodded diffidently.
Satchel left to the kitchen and came back with a wooden bowl, into which he ladled a helping of hot fish stew which he had prepared earlier.
He handed it to her, all the while aware of being under her watchful gaze.
Gratefully, she took it into her hands and regarded it for a second before putting it to her pale lips and drinking a sip. She quickly put it back down however as she burned her tongue. “Um… I would like to extend my gratitude.” She said, interrupting the silence. “You know… for saving me. But I would also like to apologize. I have just put you into a lot of danger.”
Satchel looked at her with new found interest. “In what way?”
“That thins at the door… it was one of Leighton’s daemons. They are after me for… a reason…” She trailed off for a second before continuing. “A reason that I’d best not tell you, lest I jeopardize you further. What you need to know, however, is that this place is no longer safe. You need to leave before sunrise; they know I’m here, and that you’ve spoken to me. They’ll kill you if they find you. And… this may seem like a farfetched request, especially coming from a stranger, but please… take me with you.”
Satchel was speechless for a moment, letting the truth sink in. He would have to leave? Leave the place where he had spent all his life?
Satchel jumped up with a grin. “I’ll go pack my things immediately!”
The girl gave him a look of confusion. “I’m sorry?”
“All my life I’ve wanted to leave this place behind, go looking for some adventure, and just see the rest of the world! And now you come along, a complete stranger, and offer me a chance at all three!”
Satchel dashed towards the stairs, but stopped just before them. “Wait – your clothes are hardly suited for travel . Come with me.”
The girl gave him a wary look, but didn’t decline; she stood up and followed him to the next room: a circular chamber with walls of bright wood and long windows with an intricate tree-like design. The room was rather disorganized, but that was part of its charm. Bits of cloth and fabric lay everywhere, and a rack full of clothes stood right next to a large mirror. The room smelled strongly of wool, and the girl couldn’t help but sneeze. Satchel handed her a handkerchief.
“You are a strange boy.” She said in an observant tone, as her eyes darted around the room, trying to take as much in as possible.
“Why thank you!” He replied with a grin, while darting around the room, examining pieces of cloth and throwing them back to their original positions. “And you aren’t exactly a normal girl either, being hunted by strange people and floating around the sea on a piece of driftwood. I’m Satchel, by the way. Satchel Mortimer Locke Sterling, but you may just call me… whichever one of those you like. I prefer Satchel though.”
The girl smirked. “They are pirates by the way, not ‘strange men’. And it appears that before me is an even stranger man than them. My name is September.”
Satchel shot her a look. “Just September? No last name?”
“Well then, Ms. Evergreen, I’m afraid I don’t have time to make you new clothes, so I’m just going to take some of my own and try to remodel them to fit your form.” He grabbed a measuring tape. “Come here for a second, I need to make some measurements. Stand up straight and stretch your arms to your sides –that’s right.”
“You are a tailor?” She asked while watching him swiftly dodge around her, taking measurements with speed and accuracy.
“Yes I am. And I’m also a cook, a hunter, a fisherman, and an astronomer. Oh, and a bit of an inventor. I have to be in order to live by myself. This observatory? Most of it I built myself. Impressive, isn’t it?”
September nodded. “But why do you live alone?”
Satchel paused and frowned. “I… I don’t know, actually. Well then, I have your measurements, this will only take a minute. Feel free to explore the rest of the house, and if your still hungry, you still have an unfinished bowl of fish stew waiting for you in the living room. It’s probably cold by now.”
Satchel dashed back to the clothes rack, grabbed a few things and ran to the sewing machine in the corner.
September just stood there and watched him. “I think I’d rather just stay here and watch, if that’s okay with you.”
Satchel turned his head, nodded, and pointed at a stool in the corner. “So who is this Leighton?”
September sighed. “He’s a pirate captain, a rather notorious one in fact. Haven’t you heard of him?”
“No. I actually live quite a secluded life; no Safarians wish to talk to a Hyperion.”
Satchel shot her a confused glance. “The war, of course. I take it you live a rather secluded life yourself?”
September hesitated. “Um… yes, I guess you could call it that.”
There was a moment of silence, interrupted only by the steady sound of the cogs in the sewing machine rotating and groaning. After a while, Satchel stood up, threw an outfit at September and left the room. “Tell me when you’ve changed.”
It didn’t take long. September slipped out of her damp night gown and quickly put on the clothes, which felt comfortable and surprisingly well-fitted. She didn’t like the trousers though; she was unused to wearing them and felt uncomfortable. She stole a look in the mirror and gasped. She looked like a completely different person.
The outfit consisted of a long-sleeved, green woollen shirt with a hood, a brown long coat behind which the hood stuck out, and a pair of beige trousers. But something was missing…
“Satchel, I’m done.”
Satchel stepped into the room –and froze, his eyes wide with surprise. “Wow. I knew I was great but I didn’t think I was that brilliant. Turn around, let me have a look.”
September tentatively did as she was told, but then stopped half way. “Shoes.” She remarked. “That’s what’s missing. Oh, and a piece of string would be nice, too.”
Satchel nodded, then fished a small piece of string out of a pile of cloths and handed it to her. “Again, I only have men’s shoes. They may not be comfortable for your feet, but I guess they are better than nothing. Unfortunately, I don’t really have time to modify them; sunrise is in an hour. But once we are out of here, I’m sure we can find something in a shop.”
September tied her hair back into a loose pony tail and cast a quick glance at the mirror. “That looks better, don’t you think? Oh, and do you have any money? It might come handy as we are technically on the run now.”
Satchel shook his head.
“Well that seems to be a problem. No matter; let’s keep our priorities straight first.”
“Right. So… packing. Can you lend me a hand?”
September shrugged. “I don’t see why not. Tell me what I need to do; it’s crucial that we leave as soon as possible.”
“Alright then. I need you to go into the kitchen, and look for some food and water; some meat, some fruits, anything, but it has to be dried. Just a small pile should be enough. I’ll be right back. Oh, and of course some bread.”
Satchel grabbed some clothes, left the room and hurried up the stairs, where he grabbed his bag, a compass, and his star chart. It wasn’t finished yet, but it would still be useful.
He then ran downstairs again, grabbed the knife that was still embedded into the wall, and entered the kitchen.
September smirked when she saw him.
She pointed at his bag.“Satchel’s satchel.” She giggled, and then gestured at the pile of food that she had made in the centre of the table, along with three tin bottles that Satchel presumed contained water.
Swiftly, he grabbed them and stuffed them into his bag, before slinging it over his shoulder and walking over to the main entrance, closely followed by September. “The shoes are in front.” Satchel said, and gestured to a rack next to the door. “Choose whichever ones you like.”
As September selected a pair and put them on, Satchel gripped onto the handle. He hesitated.
“Don’t worry, the daemon should be gone now.”
Nervously, he pushed the door open. Nothing but the lingering night greeted him. Satchel let out a sigh of relief, and headed off to the dingy at the other end of the pier. “We’ll be using my dingy.” He explained as they walked. “It’s fast and sturdy, and an easy form of travel. So where are we headed?”
“I don’t know.”
Satchel stopped. “You don’t know…?”
“You couldn’t really have expected me to know where I’m going, could you? All I know is that I am running from a bunch of pirates who will kill you once they get the chance.”
Satchel considered his options. “We could… we could head for Hyperion.”
“Sounds good. I –” September stopped her sentence abruptly, as fear struck her. Over the horizon, an orange line became visible that was slowly coming towards them. “Sunrise.” She whispered. Her skin turned as pale as snow.
“Is something wrong?” His voice was heavy with worry.
“There, on the horizon…”
September didn’t need to finish her sentence; a black dot slowly became visible that seemed to grow with the coming sunlight.
“Is that a ship?” Satchel squinted. “Come on, I have a spyglass on the boat.” September didn’t follow him. He grabbed her arm and tugged it gently. She didn’t move.
“September?” No response. He grabbed her shoulders and shook her with all his strength. Finally, she snapped out of the trance.
“We have to go.” Her voice trembled, just as her body did. “We have to leave, now!”
Satchel didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. Why was September afraid of a ship? Pirates were rather violent and brutal, but they were hardly terrifying. However, seeing September in that state was enough of a motivation to get him going. Nimbly, he leaped into the dingy and pulled September in after him. “It’s going to be fast,” he said, while digging into a compartment hidden beneath the back bench. Finally, his hand reappeared, carrying a pair of leather goggles, just like his own. He handed them to September. “So wear these, and make sure to hold on to something. If you fall off, you’ll drown.”
Without wasting a second, Satchel punched a button, pushed the thrusters forward and mashed his foot into a pedal under the controls. Satchel whooped, September screamed, and the dingy shot off at neck braking speed in the opposite direction of the pirates.
Oh, and any title suggestions are also appreciated.