Author's note: Any suggestions would be appreciated.
This is an old story that I first started when I was 12. The quality drastically improves around chapter 3, I promise, but I haven't the time to go back and give these earlier chapters the full quality they deserve by completely rewriting them. If I did, they would take up no fewer than five chapters, and then I would end up with an actual full-length novel, and unfortunately that isn't the aim with this. I will, however, tweak these until they are at least acceptable in my eyes. Just look at these first couple of chapters as a messy bucketful of background .
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Tom was a farm boy in a serf's life. By incredible frequency of parents wrestling in the bedroom at any and all times and, seven years ago, a failed rebellion attempt that had left quite a few children in the nearby village without parents, he had fourteen "brothers" and fifteen "sisters," and there was little differentiating between real and adopted. He was the twentieth eldest of them all, the eighth eldest of the boys. Despite being with his blood parents, he was for the most part ignored completely. And he was the most picked on in the mass of practical jokes, petty fights, and no-good-reason hazing that was his siblings. His parents stopped all that they could, but it was impossible to stop it all. In fact, it was a miracle that they even had a semblance of order with how much they could do. Tom got literally the least attention of the lot. He was quiet, he was reserved, and he was a good boy. That was all that his siblings and his parents really had known. He was a nobody, just another body in the crowded house that needed to be fed.
He was a twelve year old genius, he was almost impossibly smart, but since he was one in thirty and a loner to boot, he did not get enough attention for anyone to notice that, other than his younger, four year old sister Emily, who looked so much like him they were basically twins of a different age.
He was not the youngest by far, but he was the most retracted from the world around him. He was usually found out in the fields, sitting down somewhere and imagining epic battles in the clouds, fables in the movement of the crops, fateful ripple effects in the little chipmunk's every movement. They had no books, but they had been taught their numbers and how to read by their mother and father, who were smarter than they let the world know. He imagined, more than anything, being able to read a different book every week. He had only read three books in his seven years of existence, and all of them he had stolen with great risk and all of them had since been confiscated and then handed to their original owners, and the last had brought three lashes. But he didn't care, he'd do it again. At least thirty times cover to cover, in the dead of night for months, he had read them. He could recite them by memory from beginning to end. His siblings were counted upon to end any fun he was having though. Three times he was tattled upon. Tom had been punished so severely the last time his father had been told and found one of the stolen books that he dared not to try again. He had loved them all with a passion. He imagined being able to read whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He wanted to know it all. He had a thirst for knowledge that could not be sated. So when he wasn't eating, sleeping, being picked on, or imagining, he was exploring, observing, and learning from experience.
On his eighth birthday, he was hiding in a tree. His seven older sisters and four older brothers were looking for him so that they could hold him down for his entire family to administer his friendly birthday punches. When they were done with him, he would most likely be a mass of bruises from head to toe. Which was why he was running.
Tom was very high in the tree, and when he shifted wrong the branch he sat on abruptly snapped. He hit a few branches, tried to stop himself, and then suddenly he caught hold of a branch. But carried by his weight, he swung, his grip slipped, and suddenly he was freefalling seventy feet up in the air.
Apparently both his mother and father had a single magical gene, a dormant gene. Both of them were of the most powerful type. And both of them were rare. It was only a chance in five that gave Tom any magic at all. But he had it, and he had it extremely powerful. That was the first thing that distinguished Tom.
So as he fell to certain death, he closed his eyes and concentrated with all his being on a wish. He wished with all his being that he would stop.
He thought he was imagining the sensations at first that he was feeling, but he was most definitely not imagining it. The air was pushing at him in an almost cushioning sensation. He felt like he was sinking through molasses-thick air. When he touched down, he indeed landed on his belly as light as he had seen feathers had. At first the air remained as thick as before. It took a ridiculous amount of energy to even lift his arms to get up. He stopped and conserved energy for the movement of his chest every time he breathed.
How had this happened? Had he caused it?
…Could he reverse it?
So he sat there and thought about it, he had an idea. He focused with all of his truly phenomenal brain power on having the air around him back to normal. And suddenly, breathing was no harder than it should be. He smiled and got up.
Over the next couple of days he thought on what it could be that had first made the air the density of molasses, then turned it back. He was stumped. There was one explanation and one only. Magic. He could do magic. But what was the extent?
Tom was in his room one day. It was late. He couldn't sleep. Frustrated, he finally gave in to curiosity and decided to figure out how much concentration was needed for the trick.
He thought of fire floating freely above his palm. Nothing happened. He concentrated on the image. Nothing. Concentrated harder. Harder. He was focusing on it with all of his might. It was not a wish, it was a certainty. There was fire above his palm. He was watching intently. It was there, and it would show itself
A candle sized flame appeared right over his palm. Fascinated, he moved his palm from side to side. The flame dropped on the carpet. Tom stomped it out quickly. He woke up his brother, who threw a random decorative rock at him. Tom heard a muffled statement from his brother. "Stop stomping around. Tryin to sleep."
Tom raised an eyebrow. Apparently even putting out fires was not good enough to get noticed. He pretended that he was detached, but he really wanted to be loved as much as any other little kid. Right now though, his brain was distracted.
So that much eh? Well, that's all I got so far, but that's just because I haven't trained my willpower. If it only takes that much, then if my brain power's growth holds, by next year I could do it with half my brainpower.
He laid back down and, still completely awake and still pondering, thought for the rest of the night. When day broke and there was the usual shuffling, stomping, yelling, complaining, tattling, and the like, Tom got back up and followed the crowd to the kitchen to retrieve his breakfast and went out the door to his thinking tree, the family apple tree. He sat down on the little depression just the right size for his butt and thought some more. He made an apple fall, or at least he thought he did. He made a concentrated wind blow one single plank in the fence down. He made a miniature cloud above his sister's head and laughed and laughed as it rained on only her. She ran into the house, terrified, and he made the cloud go away. No doubting it. He was a magician. A warlock. A wizard, a mage, an elementalist. He could manipulate water, air, and fire. Of that he was sure. But earth? He had to find out. And if he could move earth, then he might as well make an otherwise impossible structure.
He concentrated on a hole. He wanted specific portions of dirt to suck up together and turn to stone and to leave specific spaces between. He wished. He watched as an entire hill shifted a little bit, then stopped. It had a little hole in it behind a bush that he could crawl into. He did exactly that.
As he inspected the place, he was pleased that everything was according to the plan in his head. A squat little cone shaped dime sized hole was in the roof that would let in light all day for every day of the year. It was reinforced with thick stone and covered by a lot of grass. On the ground below it was a mass of angled lines that he had seen only in a diagram that his father had shown him. It was both a sun calendar and sundial. When the dot touched here on this line, it was 3pm on the third day of September. There was a small entrance hall that was two feet taller than he was, about six and a half feet of room. There was two rooms that had nothing to distinguish them from the rest. Another held a stone toilet with a lid rather like a pot and set above a sort of a pipe that led down into a lightless cavern with many many vents to the surface disguised as animal dens. It was a crafty outhouse. Tom supposed that something might stick to the side of the chute's wall, but he could just blast a mass of air down it. But he couldn't focus on his toilet. The enormity of the place had just hit him
He had his own place. His own room. He'd never had it. He had moved out of his crib in his parent's room to his brother and sister's room. The house had been expanded seven times, each getting more tangled and confusing every time. He had moved rooms approximately fifty times as he was bullied into moving by a set of twins or ordered to move by parental authority.
He moved out of the house. He told his parents that he would be sleeping somewhere out in a clubhouse for as long as they would allow. His father told him it was OK if he would be OK with coming back and proving he hadn't taken sick from sleeping outside every now and then. There was no more questioning of it.
He took his straw mattress and sheets and, with his father's help, put it on his hill. It looked like just a hill. He said that it was ok here for now, but he didn't want any more help because he wanted it to be secret where he was sleeping. When his father had gone back with a smile on his face from the childish remark, Tom immediately took one of the smaller kitchen knives out of his boot and slit a hole in the mattress. He emptied the dry straw from it and took the cloth casing into the hill first.
Then when it was in one of the twin blank rooms he grabbed an armful of straw and dragged it in. He labored at this until he had it all and had re-stuffed the mattress.
He took a borrowed needle and string from the storage and stitched it tightly and expertly up. He hadn't ever done it before, but he had seen his mother do it dozens of times. He knew the idea. And he was good almost immediately. He was done quick.
He went back to the house and returned the knife and the needle to their respective places. He went back and put sheets and blankets on his bed. It was out of place but tidy.
He focused, and created a stone shelf for his random things. He placed the rock his father had skipped seven times right onto the other side of the river, the seed and the single plucked strand of wheat that his mother had used to explain to him why they tilled, planted, and weeded the farm, and the stick that he had played sword fighting with his oldest brother and won with. They were his dearest worldly possessions.
Even he thought that was pretty bad….
He had a place he could call his. He had his own little space. He had a home. This never ceased to amaze him even more than the magic.