Chuck Wendig has issued a challenge to post a wee bit of one’s current NaNoWriMo work-in-progress. I’m accepting that challenge. Here’s a very short–and very very rough draft–chapter/tale from my NaNoWriMo project:
In a world much like ours, but slightly different…
The year is 1923. The Elf is traveling from Bristol to New York on the American airship Franklin. He is 10 years old and isn’t called The Elf yet, he’s called Jeffrey.
What do you think happens when agents of the Wasp King attack the airship Jeffrey is on? Well, what happens is this:
The passengers sit quietly in their seats as the ship soars over the Atlantic Ocean. Some passengers read newspapers or magazines. One group of passengers plays cards without speaking. A few passengers sleep. One snores lightly. Another snores not so lightly, until the person next to him pokes him awake. Jeffrey fidgets in his seat while drawing in his notebook. He looks at his father, sound asleep in the seat next to him, sighs, and goes back to drawing pictures of angels, dragons, and clockwork automatons. After a few minutes, he suddenly realizes he’s started drawing pictures of dark, ghostly men in green cloaks and green hats. Jeffrey wonders why he’s drawing these shadow men, since he’s never drawn them before.
And then the ship begins to shake. It shakes gently at first but quickly escalates to shaking wildly, violently. Newspapers, magazines, books, and playing cards fly around the cabin. The sleeping passengers, including Jeffrey’s father, awaken suddenly, jolted out of sleep into panic. Jeffrey throws himself across his father’s lap and looks out the window. There are dark, ghostly men in green cloaks and green hats flying around the airship. The dark men are hurling stormy gusts of wind at the ship, knocking the ship to and fro.
The Stags of the Storm have arrived.
When a man feels he has been unjustly spurned by a woman he fancies, the Wasp King comes to the man in the middle of the night and whispers angry, bitter words into the man’s ear. The man grows increasingly resentful, annoyed, and irate until he can no longer keep his emotions contained. The man seeks out a woman (perhaps the woman who refused his attentions, perhaps a casual acquaintance, perhaps a random stranger) and murders her. And with that act of cruelty, the man is lost to the Wasp King, who spirits the man away, turns him inside-out so that his roiling emotions are now his body, and binds the man’s rage to storm clouds. The man has become a Stag of the Storm, a phantom of blustering anger towards everyone and everything.
Jeffrey’s father pulls him away from the window and drops him into his seat, holding him down with one arm to protect him from the shaking. Jeffrey’s body trembles with fear, his heart pounding in his chest. But he also feels intensely curious about these strange ghost men and the possibility that they might cause the airship to crash down into the ocean. Why are they attacking this ship? Do they always attack airships? And how did he draw pictures of them before he saw them? Did he bring them here with his drawings? Is he the cause of this calamity? If he is, isn’t it his responsibility to send them away?
Jeffrey grabs his notebook and pencil and begins sketching a picture of the airship. He’s drawn many airships over the years, dreaming of a trip like the one he and his father are taking. He draws more ghost men around the airship. He draws them angry, with hands full of wind and rain and thunder and lightning. The airship shudders and shakes more. Some of the passengers scream and cry. Jeffrey holds on tight to his pencil and notebook as he looks at his drawing. And that’s when he decides to play a trick on the Stags of the Storm. He pulls a rubber eraser from his pocket and begins erasing his drawing of the airship, whispering over and over, “We’re not here. We’re not here. We’re not here.” There’s a soft buzzing in his ears. His skin prickles with a strange heat. His heart continues pounding, but now it thumps with thrill instead of fear.
Outside, the Stags of the Storm cease their attack as the airship fades away before them. They fly headlong at where the ship was, only to rush right through an empty sky. The Stags of the Storm growl and roar at each other in confusion and frustration. The Wasp King promised them a chance to rage and destroy but their target has been taken from them. They race off in an explosion of petulance. They’re gone when the ship fades back where it had been before.
The airship passengers and crew look around bewildered as the ship stops shaking and rolling. In his seat, Jeffrey grins, his body coursing with excitement and magic. Only he knows what he did and how he did it. He wants to tell his father, tell everyone, but he knows no one would believe him, so he relishes the secret, keeps it wrapped up inside him like a Christmas present.
This is the moment he stops being Jeffrey and starts being The Elf.
But why did the Wasp King send the Stags of the Storm to attack the airship in the first place? That’s a story for another time.