The Father’s Sword (Novel Teaser)

Altarpiece of St. Michael (c. 1510) by Gerard David

Once upon a time, there were two brothers named Thomas and Ivan who lived on a small island off the Western coast of Africa named Erith. The island was the shape of an inverted diamond, with a town sprawled across the crown and a mountain reaching down to the culet. Slicing between the two was Thorne’s Valley, right where the girdle would be.

Erith was so quant, and the mountain so tall, that the townsfolk to the South could make out her peak on the horizon, even on those foggy summer days. It was at the foot of this mountain, on just such a foggy summer day, that our story begins, for this is where Thomas and Ivan called home.

The two boys were resting under an apple tree when Thomas finally broke the silence of dusk. “We should start to head in. Mom’ll have our necks if we miss supper.”

“What? Are you a little fraidy cat? You’re not still scared of the dark, are you?” Ivan replied.

Ivan was ten, three years older and one foot taller than his brother, but it was actually him, not Thomas, that was still afraid of the dark.

“No,” said Thomas. “It’s just that Dad will be home soon too, and if Mom’s upset with us, you know what that’ll mean!”

“I don’t care about no spanking. They don’t even hurt,” Ivan lied again. “Besides, Dad won’t be home for another hour.”

This time, Ivan was right. Three miles from any other person and on the wrong side of Thorne’s Valley, the Raffers were an isolated bunch, but none the poorer for it. In fact, Mr. Raffer liked it that way. After marrying Mrs. Raffer and having the two boys, he decided to leave his job as firefighter in crowded Boston to be a farmer.

Fortunately for him, Erith had some of the best soil in the world, almost all of it just surrounding the mountain like a halo of fertility. On a good day, you could walk the circumference of the mountain in six hours and see everything from corn to peaches to tomatoes to wheat. Even more fortunately for Mr. Raffer, there was nobody he had to share the land with. When he purchased his fifty-acre plot, the town clerk’s office, they gave it to him for pennies on the dollar!

But being so far from town and without roads to get there did mean that his deliveries took almost half the day. Even in his big, blue truck crossing Thorne’s Valley was no walk in the park. On days that he left to sell his produce in the town market, the boys and Mrs. Raffer wouldn’t see his yellow headlights roll up their long drive until eight or nine o’clock at night.

“Well, I’m going in. You can stay out if you like.” Thomas said. As he headed in, he whispered over this shoulder with a smirk, “Don’t let the wolves smell you! I hear they can run fast as sound.”

With that, Thomas opened the door to their farmhouse, and the golden glow from inside momentarily illuminated the lawn. Then there was a click as the door shut, leaving Ivan alone with the dark. And the dark seemed even darker now.

“I’m no fraidy cat. I’ll show him.” Ivan murmured to himself. He looked around nervously. The long, winding driveway was right in front of him, and to each side of the gravel, as far as the eye could see, were crop fields, corn stalk to the right and wheat to the left. Both were summer crops, so the stalks were too high for him to see above. Behind him was his house, and behind that the barn, filled with tow horses, two cows, three pigs, and fifteen chickens. Behind the barn was the mountain, towing above it all.

Suddenly the cicadas stopped their chirping. The animals in the barn stopped their shuffling about too. Even the wind died down. For a moment, it was completely silent, and Ivan became scared.

He looked around for wolves but saw nothing. More scared than he could handle, Ivan turned to run inside, but something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. Something bright. At first, he thought it was a lightning bug, but looking again, he saw that it wasn’t moving at all. It was a glimmering, green light about half-way up the mountain. Ivan tried to focus in on it, but something ran up on him from behind. Ivan turned back to the fields and saw a wolf bounding toward him only feet away. It leapt into the air, throwing Ivan to the ground. He whined his eyes shut and let out a scream which filled the night, but it cut off when he felt a warm, wet tongue instead of great, big fangs. Ivan opened his eyes again and saw Brano’s looking back at him, confused.

The door to the house opened again and Mrs. Raffer yelled out, “Quit playing with the dog so loud! You’re going to spook the animals!” The door closed once more.

Ivan lifted himself to his feet and gave Brano a few pats on the head for screaming at him. Then he remembered the mysterious light, but when he looked up to the mountain, it was as if it had never been there!

“I must have been seeing things,” he said to himself. “It’s all Thomas’ dumb fault getting me all scared. Ain’t no wolves here.”

He dusted off his jeans and walked inside to join his mother and brother. As he did, he heard his Dad’s old truck tires on the gravel off in the distance.


To my friend, Jonah, for his efforts in the fight for life.

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