Cornerstone: Raising RookPROLOGUE
For his thirteenth birthday, his father gave him a rock.
Lorcas got up earlier than he wanted to, because it was bright and sunny and he couldn’t sleep. He staggered downstairs to breakfast in his pajamas. He slid into a chair across from his father, who was sitting primly behind a neat plate, his napkin and silverware precisely aligned with the edge of the table and his glass forming an equilateral triangle with the plate and the tip of his spoon.
“Well!” his father said brightly. “It’s the birthday boy!” He tilted his head from side to side, happily observing the meal before him.
“Mmmph,” Lorcas grumped. His mother set a bowl down in front of him, followed by a box of cereal and a spoon. Lorcas grabbed the milk from the middle of the table.
“Thirteen!” his father continued, still looking at his breakfast. He picked up his fork and knife. “A special birthday! And of course I have a special present for you!”
Lorcas rolled his eyes. His father’s cheery tone sounded patronizing. The best gift he could get would be for his dad to quit treating him like a little kid.
Lorcas’ mother set several small wrapped gifts down in front of his plate with a smile. Lorcas perked up. His mom was pretty good at listening to his hints, and he suspected the packages contained some of the most coveted electronics of his age group. Too bad he wouldn’t be able to show them off to anybody until fall, when they’d probably be old news. They were at the summerhouse, hours from the city where Lorcas attended school in the winter.
“And now for my gift,” his dad said when Lorcas had ripped the paper off the final package. “But…what? Still in pajamas! No, no…you must get dressed! Hurry now, hurry, hurry!” He pumped his elbows outward in excitement. He looked like he was about to take off.
Lorcas left his dirty dishes on the table and gathered up his mom’s presents and a handful of new batteries. He made his way through the cluttered living room, past the more cluttered den, and up the stairs. In the bathroom, he leaned close to the mirror and stared at his face. He hoped he wasn’t beginning to look like his dad. His dad, he had decided, was weird looking as well as weird in general. His dad had a round face and round eyes, in odd contrast to his heavy unibrow. Below his narrow nose, his mouth turned up into a prissy V-shape when he smiled. But the darker skin and regular features of Lorcas’ mother had tempered his father’s genes. He was relieved to see that he looked like no one so much as himself.
Lorcas got dressed slowly, dawdling a little between each item of clothing to poke at the new devices scattered on his bed. He wanted to spend the morning setting them up and playing with them. He couldn’t imagine what his father wanted to give him that required that he be dressed first.
Downstairs, his father was waiting in the entryway, rocking from heel to toe and humming under his breath. His hands were clasped behind his back, and Lorcas saw he had put on a ratty old coat, one of the bizarre antiques he loved to collect. It looked like something from a hundred and fifty years ago. It was black, with buttons and a high collar and split tails that hung down the back over a large, square flap. At least there was no one Lorcas knew around to see that get-up. He grabbed a windbreaker and stuffed his arms in, leaving it unzipped.
The summerhouse sat on a high bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There was a big sun-room on the back of the house, facing the sea, but it was so filled with clutter that nobody could use it. On one side of the house were other scattered summer cabins and a few permanent homes. There was a trail that wound along behind those houses and eventually dropped through a cleft in the cliffs to access the rocky beaches below. Lorcas seldom went that way, since there was no one else to hang around with and the hike back up was tortuous.
Mr. Felken led them the opposite way. Theirs was the last house in that direction. The land rose gradually and the trees crept closer to the cliff’s edge. The wind off the ocean began to stiffen as they hiked.
At last they came to a place where the land leveled off. The ground was uneven and lumpy, as though the turf was laid over many underlying rocks. The deepening forest blocked the view further on. The houses below them looked small and the neighborhood seemed lonely and isolated. Mr. Felken stopped. Lorcas stood silent, wondering what was going on and where his present was.
Mr. Felken waved at the uneven ground. “Well, there it is!”
Lorcas looked where his father was waving. There was a large boulder sticking out of the ground. It was mostly covered by turf. Only the side and part of the front were exposed.
“It’s…a rock,” he said.
“Oh, not just any rock!” His father waved at it again. “Look closer!”
Lorcas looked. It looked like a gray, mottled rock. After a moment it occurred to him that he had never seen a rock of that color around there. After another minute he noticed that the exposed front edge was oddly square.
“Well…it’s carved,” he said. “And it’s not from around here.”
“It’s a cornerstone!” his father said triumphantly. “It’s all yours now!”
“Um, thanks,” Lorcas said in bafflement. “What do I do with it?”
“Well, you know what a cornerstone is, right?” his father asked. “It’s the first stone laid for a building. This one is a very old cornerstone. It’s an antique.”
“It’s the first stone of a building, but there’s no rest of the building here,” Lorcas said in exasperation. “So what good is it?”
Mr. Felken took a large step up onto the cornerstone. He turned towards the ocean, the wind in his face. “You never know,” he said, barely above a whisper. “Someday you might want to build a castle.”
Lorcas stared at him. The sun reflecting off the ocean backlit him and Lorcas saw the tails of his coat lift in the breeze and stand out stiffly behind him. His father puffed up his barrel chest, and the wind wrapped his pants around his thin legs.
Lorcas blinked. For just a second, it seemed as though the silhouette shifted. For an instant he thought he saw a bird of prey standing there upon the cornerstone, round head, sharp beak, puffed chest, thin legs, and the points of its wings and square tail behind it. In another second the illusion was gone.
Mr. Felken turned and hopped off the rock. “All yours now,” he said with a satisfied air. “Remember, you own part of a castle. Not very many people can say that!”
Lorcas looked back at the rock. “I suppose you could get a forklift and haul it out of here, put it somewhere else. Like a garden bench,” he suggested.
“Oh, no, I wouldn’t do that,” his father said hastily. “Better leave it where it lies.”
“Well, you know, because of the shadow,” Mr. Felken said. “They always bury a shadow under a cornerstone. You wouldn’t want to disturb that.”
“Oh…kay,” Lorcas said to his father’s back as he trotted off quickly back down the hill. Lorcas followed, glad to get out of the wind and back to his electronics. The dude was getting stranger by the day.
“When I was about six, my mother pointed out that someone had to write all those stories she’d been reading to me,” says Kathy. “The seed was planted, and I immediately began writing my first ‘books’. By the time I was eight, I was learning to type on the old manual Royal typewriter so my parents could actually decipher what I’d scrawled. My fingers turned black from constantly untangling the typebars after I’d hit more than one letter at once. To this day, I pound on my laptop keys as though I have to strike them hard enough to make those recalcitrant rods hit the ink ribbon.
“I didn’t publish anything until 2005, though, when, after having adopted two rescued cattle dogs, I submitted two stories to an anthology of rescued animal stories called ‘Happy Endings I and II’. Riding off the success of being a published author, I added several more shorts to my history, but it was another few years before I hit it right with a novel: the first two books of the ‘Stolen’ epic fantasy series were published by Malachite Quills in early 2012.
“After that, convinced I could format the manuscripts better myself, I struck out on my own. In the last couple years, I’ve put out the third book of the ‘Stolen’ series, a book of short stories, a mystery, and ‘Cornerstone: Raising Rook’, excerpted above. While I generally go for professionally-done covers and editing, I’ve enjoyed doing the formatting and other tasks myself, including making some trailers. I’ve also been privileged to be able to participate in the Water Aid charity project ‘Of Words and Water’ for two years, and intend to continue being involved with that as long as they’ll have me.
“‘Cornerstone’ is a contemporary fantasy, exploring our perceptions of good and evil, but I’m not strictly a fantasy author. I write whatever comes to me. I should probably stick to one genre, or maybe two, but I think having read so extensively as a child caused me to think in stories all the time. Just about anything can be told! I’ve heard an opinion that this is what makes us human: our ability to tell stories to, and about, ourselves, to encapsulate the past and explore options for the future.”
Thanks, Kathy, for joining me on The Friday Fiction this week! I have read all of Kathy’s Stolen series, and Cornerstone; Raising Rook, and loved them all, I am a big fan of Kathy’s unique fantasy storytelling style. If you want to find out more, just take a look at Kathy’s website, it’s fab! And this is where you can buy her books.
If you are an independent author, and would like to see your books promoted here, please don’t hesitate to contact me.