Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | February 25, 2013

First Chapter of “Warrior’s Psalm”

Warrior’s Psalm is the popular name given to Psalm 91, which begins, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” 

The book is a Young Adult science fiction story centering around a young woman and a young man, coming of age in a future society. I have chosen Warrior’s Psalm as the title because of how they are surviving in a dystopian world. The pair are natural telepaths and communicate silently as easily as with their voices.

I’m posting the first chapter of the book today and the first chapter of a very different science fiction book, Swift & Company, tomorrow.

I’m trying to decide which book justifies most of my my immediate writing time. Please leave a comment when you’ve read both.

Thanks.

**********

  1.

 “Listen. They’re coming.”
Janiss shuts his eyes and diverts the power of all other senses to his ears.
Nothing.
He relaxes, counts to thirty, and then focuses again on hearing.
There. A brush of tall grass against britches; whisper of branches pushed aside into leaves of others. Slow, but closer.
“Four. I saw them cross a clearing. Not Hivers—armed.”
Janiss hears Freya’s voice in his mind as clearly as if she’s sitting on the tree limb beside him.  There is no sound and she, too, is in a tree, probably several hundred yards away. Closer to the Hive.
“Coming this way. I haven’t seen them yet. A game trail runs in their travel direction. They’ll probably use it,” Janiss.
They’re using the trail. The sound of boots on bare earth is louder than in grass.
“Use the Shopper anyway, don’t take a chance that they’ll see you,” Freya.

In a pocket of his leather vest, Janiss finds a device the size of a thick fountain pen. He uncaps both ends and spreads a conical fan from each. He points the larger cone at a spot on the game trail where someone, looking up in the trees, could see him. The smaller cone is aimed over his shoulder. If anyone on the ground looks up, the only visible sight will be a picture gathered by the device and projected. They’ll see the tree limbs and oak leaves behind him.

“They’re on the game trail, not looking up.  I’ve got the Shopper putting out a false sight anyway. What are they hunting for?” Janiss.

Through summer oak leaves, forty feet below and thirty feet away to the east, four men in green and tan mottled camouflage walk the trail; their tread, virtually noiseless. They’re armed with stubby automatic rifles and carry grenades on their belts. Protectors.

“Don’t know.  After they’re far away, let’s go closer to the Hive. Something’s happening there. Protectors don’t normally come to this Hive,” Freya.

Janiss focuses all sensory power into his ears, listening to the disappearing footsteps of the patrol.  When only silence touches him, he relaxes.

“Freya, send a locator.  I’m coming to you.”
Immediately a silent, but strong, pleasant song, like a solo violin begins in his mind.

“Like the sound?” Freya

“Yes.”

He slides, limb to limb to the ground. His feet touching with no more sound than a falling leaf. Lithe as a whip and maturing, he moves with easy grace.
He turns, seeking the music. If he veers off course, the song fades. Never traveling on trails, he reaches the base of an immense beech when the song reaches a crescendo. The trunk is probably five or six feet thick. There are no low-hanging limbs.

How to climb?

“You don’t need to climb, I’m here.”

Freya moved behind the trunk when she sensed his approach.  She appears from behind huge tree’s base, smiling, her head cocked to the right—a mannerism she’s shown Janiss since they were six.

They are dressed the same. Short, brown leather boots, loden green trousers, pale green shirt and a dark-brown, fringed leather vest with multiple pockets. Sheath knives hang from their belts.
Freya has her blond braids circling the top of her head. Pale blue-green eyes sparkle above full lips. A light dusting of freckles over the nose and cheeks emphasize a mischievous grin.
The patrol has passed and the two can speak aloud, but they keep their voices low.

“How far is the Hive?  You’ve been closer than I,” Janiss.

He didn’t even ask how I got in and out of the tree. Let him try it.

“We can get to the top of the eastern ridge line of the mountain chain in about thirty minutes.  If we go to the north end—another half-hour—we’ll be able to look down on the Hive. It’s just below the cliffs. We’d better go in that direction anyway, those Protectors will be doubling back soon, if my guess is right,” she says.

A lift of her chin and eyes shows the direction.

“We don’t know why they’re here, but if they’re on a security patrol for some reason, they’re probably coming back this way soon. Show me the way to the ridges,” Janiss says.

Freya slips through the woods with Janiss following, her movement smooth and quieter than the breezes. No rustling of leaves marks her passage.

Janiss admires her fieldcraft, but as he watches her supple body, his throat tightens. Freya is a blossoming young woman. She is almost as tall as he, but while his shoulders have been widening, her figure has developed feminine curves that make him aware of his masculinity. He unconsciously touches his red-gold soft beard.

Janiss,” her voice in his head says Yah-neese.

She has shifted back to mental communication.

“Let’s pause for five minutes.  Your eyes are better than mine and my ears more sensitive than yours. If that Protector patrol is nearby, we need to know.  There’s a clearing ahead we’ll have to cross.

“I’ll climb a tree and look for movement.  You listen. After we’re sure, we’ll sprint across the open space side by side and wait again, just to be sure,” Janiss.

The security halt reveals no threat and within fifteen minutes, the two are in dense hardwood forest that only begins to lighten and turn to evergreens as they climb higher on the ridge.
“When we get to the top of the mountain, we’ll drop to our hands and knees. We’ll crawl toward the crest until we’re far enough away from the edge so that we can’t be seen from the ground.”

Freya doesn’t comment, but the silent sense Janiss feels is like she is nodding her head. He takes the lead, watching for any sign of the Protector patrol.

Once the pair has reached the summit and turned north, they hear voices.  Not individual speech, but the storming thunder of thousands in unison. Though loud, the words are unclear.

With no possibility they can be seen from the ground, Freya and Janiss jog through the trees and underbrush at the crest of the ridge, toward the sound as it rises in intensity.

As the two near the point of the mountain above the Hive, the words become clear.

“Plant food! Com—post! Com—post! Plant food!”

Over and over the rhythmic chant rebounds against the rock cliffs rising above the Hive like heaving waves breaking against a rocky shore in a storm.

Suddenly the chant goes silent.  Within seconds, a clamor of cheers punctuate the end of the earlier calls.

“What’s that all about?” Freya.

Though the chance of their voices being heard is virtually nonexistent, she stays in silent communication.

“Let’s crawl to the edge of the cliff and see,” Janiss.

The Hive is a dense city made up of scores of high-rise buildings forming a squared “O.”Growing plants cover the flat tops.  The open space is about a hundred yards on each side. Though the promontory on which Janiss and Freya lie is towering limestone, the Hive is only a few hundred feet below.
People are jostling in the square, shoulder-to-shoulder around a black metal box with a shining top.  They are all dressed in identical gray shirts and trousers. A lane through the crowd, leads west under the buildings to a narrow exit road.  Parked near the reflecting box is a black vehicle six or eight times the size of the Hive’s Lectrics. The packed crowd avoids the paved area.
Beside the huge car, facing the box, are two people; a man and a woman, dressed in black robes that reach their glittering ebony boots. Hoods on the robes are thrown back. They stand, spines straight and chins lifted—as unlike The Hive masses as timberwolves among animal shelter dogs.  An armed, silver-uniformed Protector stands beside each of them. These two are Deciders.

The woman, tall, narrow faced, with dark hair, wide mouth and imperious black eyes raises her right hand.  All crowd noise stops. In the silence, her amplified voice rebounds from the cliffs.

“Let any who would dissent remember!”

The male, tall, brown-haired and square-jawed stands beside her with arms crossed. A thin smile curves his lips. He raises a signaling hand.

The crowd, as one hoarse voice, responds.

“Yes, remember!” then goes silent.

The two Deciders turn toward the car. Protectors hold two of the eight doors open. The male steps through one door and disappears.  Just as she is about to enter the vehicle, the woman pauses.

She turns toward the mountain where Freya and Janiss lie. She lifts her chin and shifts her gaze like a questing predator. After several still, ominous seconds, she enters the car and a Protector closes the door.

A group of four Protectors in camouflage uniforms trots into the square. The patrol. They join the Deciders in the car.  Gray smoke trails as the vehicle departs and accelerates as no Lectric could hope to do.

The crowd leaves the open square, disappearing into the buildings, like gray water sluicing down open drains.  Three people with white cloth bags enter a door in the side of the shining box. When they emerge, the bags they carry are half-full.

Janiss and Freya crawl back from the lip of the promontory, away from the cliffs. Once they are in the scraggly bushes, they stop to sip water from their canteens. Strange sights and the nauseous stench rising from the Hive clogs their throats.

“What did we just see?” Freya, still silent.

“The ending of something.  It was almost over when we got here.”

They stand, without discussion, and head south along the eastern military crest of the hill. Their path is just enough below the mountaintops to assure they won’t be silhouetted against the sky. Sunset will be within an hour and the first Cave is at least ten miles away.

Their caution is lessened as The Hive falls farther behind, but unease about strange sights and sounds keeps their conversation silent and spare.

“Andrus will want to know what we saw and heard. He’ll understand what it meant,” Freya.

“I don’t know anyone but Andrus who’s seen a Decider. One of our instructors said she saw Protectors in the forest once, years ago. Remember, Andrus had her warn us about them in training,” Janiss.

“Why did the woman look up at the area where we were lying?” Freya.

“No idea.  She couldn’t have seen us.”

Using an old fashioned mechanical compass and a map printed on thin plastic, the pair works through the forest toward their overnight goal.  Their pace is steady and only caution slows their steps.

As the last gold of sunset filters through pines and oaks Freya takes a thin, black, round-cornered metal box, less than half the size of her palm, from an inside pocket of her leather vest.

“We must be near the Cave. I’m going to check.”

She slides a two-inch square door open, presses her index finger on a plate, and then presses a button. Immediately, inside the device a tiny light glows green and flashes. A yellow arrow points south-southwest.

“We must be within a hundred yards of the Cave door. Can you see well enough to lead?” she says.

“Yes, I’ll use my Seeker.”

Janiss takes the device from a vest pocket, touches the identity plate and, following the arrow, pauses when the green light is steady. Their route leads them down the side of the mountain. A button, inside the Seeker, that has been dark glows orange.  He touches it.

A soft thump signals the opening of a door, swinging up and out, from the side of the hill. To one passing by, it would appear that a rocky outcrop rose, as from an earthquake. Another touch on the orange switch turns on a dim light in the Cave.

Once they are inside, Janiss immediately closes the door, checks the locks and seals, then turns on more lights.

After blinking, they see a room approximately twelve by twelve feet with wooden walls, floor and ceiling; their home for the night. Two bunks are set in the walls on opposite sides of their lodging. Tan privacy curtains are pulled aside.  A table, with two chairs and an upright cabinet complete the furnishings. A tiny room, behind a black curtain, holds a toilet and washbasin. A periscope tube hangs from the ceiling in the corner. On the table is a simple tablet reading device. When turned on, it displays The Bible.

Janiss turns the tablet on and goes to Psalm 23. He taps word, “shepherd.” The words on the device disappear.  A simple drawing and instructions describing an emergency exit appear. After both have read and understood, he taps the screen again and the twenty-third Psalm reappears. He then navigates to Genesis and touches the word, “earth” in verse 1.

The display becomes a picture of the room with an orange arrow pointing to the back of the washbasin. The instructions tell him to press down on the spigot, without turning, for five seconds. Hidden in the wall is an electronic portal that will, with the Seeker in close range, allow communications with The Acreage.

Tonight, on their initiation Recon, there is no need to burden the system. He simply uses the Seeker to send an automatic “safe” signal back to The Acreage.
Inside the main room, he joins his partner. She’s investigating the surroundings.

“A little bare,” Freya says.
The couple reverts to vocal communications.

“Better than sleeping on the ground. Let’s find some food.
The cabinet, a simple wooden box with doors and shelves has bottled water and sealed dry food. Two people could eat for a week from the contents.  Flameless heaters are included.

“I wonder who stocks these places,” Freya says.

“Andrus said that once the door is triggered, it signals certain people in one of the Villages to check the facility and make sure it’s restocked.”
Hunger makes the unexciting food seems like gourmet fare.  After eating, they remain at the table.

“We forgot to ask a blessing,” Janiss said.

“I think we’ll be forgiven, as hungry as we were. I’ll ask a belated blessing with my prayers,” Freya says.
Exhaustion and food have slowed their reactions, but the unfamiliarity of their experiences keeps their minds engaged.

“It’s amazing, on our first Recon, we see Deciders and Protectors,” Janiss says.

“And, we witnessed the last of some bizarre event.  I don’t want to get near a Hive again, if possible. The smell is awful” Freya says.

“We’ll have to ask Andrus what causes the smell,” Janiss says.

“I’m exhausted, I’m going to sleep,” Freya says.

They choose their bunks and, after goodnights and a quick visit to the toilet, Janiss cuts all but a tiny night light. He takes the electronic Bible to his bunk, pulls the curtains and reads from Psalm 91.

Freya’s sleep is delayed by replaying the day’s events. Something about the strange ritual they witnessed troubles her rest.  The Decider woman’s searching stare in their direction atop the mountain almost makes her shiver.
She wonders if Janiss is awake, thinking of her. The sight of him as he led the way to the mountain is vivid in her memory.  Broad shoulders and smooth, confident strides. He seems mature beyond his years. Does he know her feelings?
He is thinking of her in much the same way, but within minutes, both are asleep.

 

 

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Responses

  1. I think this is another book that I will love!

    • Thank you, Donna, I’m enjoying the people and their world.

  2. Thanks for sharing this sample. I really like the way you’ve handled this dystopian theme!

    • Wait’ll you see the kind of society the Deciders rule.

      • Hmmm, will it look something like, zero world?

  3. Not exactly. The world ruled by the Deciders is too close for comfort.

  4. I love how this book starts off. You have some great characters to work with. Without reading your other option (that you are posting tomorrow) I like how this one has a feel like that of The Hunger Games. With Hunger Games being a hot commodity right now, this might be the perfect time to finish this particular project. I think the young readers could really use a Christian touch.

  5. The has a strong Christian base, hence, the name. It’s also about a young woman and a young man dealing with becoming adults in a difficult world. Thanks for your comments.

  6. I guess this one – the Warrier one- would be my favorite of the two. Sorry if I’ve become too old for fantasy but that’s why we have variety.

    • Hi. No one’s to old to dream. That’s why I don’t think you’re too old for fantasy!

  7. I like this one and look forward to reading the rest of the story.

    • Thanks, I appreciate your taking the time to read the I’ll be working to get the rest of the story published soon.


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