A few days ago, I shared the first part of Chapter1 of my book, "The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel", with you. Now, as promised, I give you the rest of chapter 1:
In awe, Eric gaped around him. They were in a long corridor with doors on either side, each one the same. He noticed the door they had just come through had shifted to match the others, all rectangles about seven feet high with a large pane of frosted glass in the top half.
The hallway was lit by many chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, each of which held many candles that burned without a flicker in the still air. A red velvet carpet covered the floor, and it stretched as far as he could see, seeming to go forever in both directions.
Then, with a flicker of light, a desk materialized on his right. A wizened man with a long white beard and golden spectacles was sitting behind it. The desk was littered with papers. A large white quill pen stood in a jar of India ink amid the clutter. The man smiled as he rubbed his hands together. His blue eyes sparkled as he looked at the boy and the owl.
"Well, well, so this is the young man, is it, Stig?" he asked.
"Yes, quite correct," said Stig as he landed on the desk. "I have the honor of presenting Master Eric Scott. Eric, this is the Gatekeeper."
The old man stood up, his blue robes shimmering, and offered Eric a bony hand.
"Very pleased to meet you my boy," he said.
"Uh, same here," said Eric, shaking the old man's hand. He had expected the Gatekeeper to have a weak grip like his grandfather's, and was surprised by its strength.
The old man grinned as if reading his thoughts. "This job keeps me on the move," he said. "It wouldn't do to get out of shape. Now, I suppose Stig has explained all this to you. Is that right?" The Gatekeeper’s voice assumed a serious tone.
"Yeah, I think so, " Eric frowned. "Um, he told me about going through the Doorway into the Hallway and meeting you and being sent on Official Business and all. I’m still not sure that this is for me, though." The Gatekeeper's sudden change of mood had made him very unsure of himself. Until he had entered the Hallway, Eric still had thought he could back out if he wanted. Now, he wasn’t so sure.
The Gatekeeper's eyes regarded him intently. "Well, since you know the basics, let me tell you a little about the task at hand. If you have any doubts, say the word and I'll send you back home and that's the end of it. From the look of you, I'd say you'll be able to make up your own mind. Does that sound all right?"
Eric nodded, his fears allayed somewhat.
"Okay, lovely." The Gatekeeper broke into another wide grin. "The task involves a small fishing village called Calendria. The village is prey for a band of pirates that keeps them as virtual slaves to supply them with food and other goods.”
“Why don’t they fight back?” Eric asked.
“The majority don’t because they live in constant fear of the pirates captain, Sharky, who has led his crew for almost three hundred years.”
“Three hundred years?” Eric wasn’t sure he’d heard right.
The Gatekeeper nodded. “He wields a terrible power, one that gives him long life. Many villagers also believe he can see straight into their minds and hearts, and that resistance would be futile. Some, however, believe otherwise and are working to resist him.”
“But what can I do?” Eric asked.
“Maybe nothing,” the Gatekeeper replied. “But Calendria is the lynchpin of this particular world. If it remains under Sharky’s dominion, then the entire world will be subject to a darker power and won't survive.”
"You mean you want me to save the village, maybe the world?" Eric asked. “I’m not Superman.”
"Well of course you aren’t," said the Gatekeeper. “That’s why I’m sending Stig with you. The two of you should be able to handle things.”
Eric looked at Stig. The owl’s large golden eyes gazed back. The boy frowned. Well now what, he thought. The chance to explore another world, visit a place no one on earth had been was something that made him quiver with excitement. Then why did he hesitate? Because, he thought, I’m scared to death. Me? Fight pirates? Take on supernatural powers? Eric looked from the impassive face of the Gatekeeper to Stig, who winked at him.
Eric faced the Gatekeeper. “But why me?”
“Because,” the Gatekeeper replied, “I need someone who’s brave, and has the confidence to stick with what he believes. You’re just the one to convince others that you’re right. Above all, though, I need someone who won’t give in to fear.”
“But that’s not me. I...I couldn’t even save my dad,” Eric’s eyes flashed a defiance that suddenly faded. He hung his head. “I was too busy worrying about myself.”
“Listen to me boy,” the Gatekeeper’s voice was so sharp that Eric flinched. “What happened to your father wasn’t your fault. There wasn’t anything you could have done to keep him from falling, so don’t beat yourself up about it.”
“You know about my dad?” Eric blinked.
“Of course, it’s all here in your file.” The Gatekeeper patted a thin folder that lay on the desk. “You and your father were hiking last year. You scrambled up onto a ledge, your father followed. Part of the ledge gave way and he fell. You see, I’ve had my eye on you for a while now. You say you don’t have what I’m looking for, but you’re wrong.” The old man’s face softened and he smiled gently. “The day will come when you’ll find there’s more about you than you can guess. Now, what do you say?”
Eric took a deep breath, fighting back tears. The old man thought he knew the whole story, but he was wrong. Eric knew. He’d grabbed a boulder instead of his father’s outstretched hand. If he hadn’t been so afraid, his father would still be alive. But there was something about the Gatekeeper, and Stig too, that he couldn’t turn his back on.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” he whispered. His voice gave no hint of the eagerness and fear that churned within him. He silently hoped the old man knew what he was talking about.
The Gatekeeper smiled. "Splendid! I knew I made the right choice."
"Hoo, hoo!" hooted Stig, momentarily losing his calm and quite a few feathers as he flapped his wings. "I'm so glad. It will be so much better than having to do it alone."
"So, what happens now?" Eric asked.
"Follow me." The old man started off up the corridor. "Let's see, so many doors…"
He looked to the left and right as he led them along, trying to see through the frosted glass and muttering to himself. Eric’s wet sneakers felt cold and clammy, and made squishing sounds with each step he took. Every now and then the Gatekeeper would stop for a minute, then shake his head and move on.
"It's here somewhere," he said over his shoulder. Then, he stopped short and peered at a door on the left. "Ah, here it is!" he said.
"How can he tell?" Eric whispered to Stig, who was hovering beside him. "That door looks just like all the others."
"I don't know, but he's never wrong," Stig whispered back. "As a matter of fact, I do believe he does all that hemming and hawing just for show. He can be a little overly dramatic at times."
The Gatekeeper turned and smiled. "This is the place. Any final questions before you go through? No? Then good luck to the both of you and I'll see you when your task is done.
"Farewell Eric. Go with your instincts and believe in yourself! Bye, bye, Stig, you've done splendidly in the past. That should come in handy here."
He opened the door and ushered them through.