Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 9:29 pm
Location: A treehouse atop a hill
Babaldo - A novel about Monkeys
Hi guys, hope you will find time to read and critique this.
This is a story called Babaldo and is written in a similar style to all the animal fantasy stories such as Watership Down, Duncton Wood and Redwall. It's about a group of monkeys, cottontop tamarins and spider monkeys from a valley called Rabrera that where once friends of the native humans until an earthquake hit. After the disaster the tamarins fly to the forests beyond on their trained macaws and find a population of Brown Capuchins who not only felt the quake but were also devestated by a deadly plague. Selflessly the Rabrerans try to repair this shattered society and bring everyone into a new alliance, but it is not without it's challenges.
I have been working on, reimagining and shelving this story for the past eight years and it's still far from finished. My hopes are to have it complete by next summer. I'd really love some opinions on this chapter. It was originally intended to be the opening to the book but i've found as i came to chapter ten that i'm throwing a lot of information together which just seems to come far too soon and so at once that the readers will see it as just a bunch of words on paper. So i've decided to go back even further than the setting of this chapter to write and include the prequel i always fantasized so that it becomes a much more satisfying story.
My novel is going to be split into three parts, The Fall, The Stand, The Climb, this is a chapter from part 3. I'd love to hear some feedback once you're done. I'm sorry that the post is full of long lines.
Cry out in space
It was the dry season and a somnolent heat hung over Babaldo and the forests far beyond. Inside, a twilight effect absorbed the verdant jungle and the perspiring trees left not a dry leaf hanging. As idle creatures went unnoticed an encore of shrikes and other birds harassed the tangled bones of the canopy, a sound eclipsed only by the pervading whoop of monkeys.
By some miracle the forest stopped at the border of a long running river and opened into a rust colored savannah. A great vapor moved through the air like a struggling worm, making it difficult to see the camel thorns, yellow grass and tall towers of sandstone guiding shadows across the hours like gnomons. Most animals had gone to the jungle to escape the heat but there were still some brown capuchins at play in the river, this small gathering was the one sound the plain was treated to.
A long walk from the river took any animal to Geren Hill. A six mile mass that held a healthy grove around often steep faces of sandstone and friable clay. Much of the peak was level and gave way to clearings. In one clearing, after the trees a walkway of log rounds lay across the smooth ground, leading up to a stocky banyan tree lined with many jutting, flawed roots and enormous limbs. An unusual pair of vines made of fine, braided strings hung motionless down the length of the trunk. Several large wooden bowls were placed along the top branches filled with a small amount of today’s rainwater. Beneath the leaves stood a wooden house on top of a platform and its residents, two black-handed spider monkeys, were inside the first room.
The youngest monkey was sitting against a small stage on the left side. Though having lived four and more years he had the scraggy look of a toddler with a dinky tail but of his one saving grace which was his long haired crown he made himself considerably more attractive by styling it with gum from a Chardo bush. He let out a yawn, heaved himself to the stage and then slid back till his legs lay straight in a “V” shape, then shivered with pleasure under the warming light that smothered him.
His older brother danced in front of him with an unusual wooden instrument strapped around his shoulders. All his worries had been poured into the song. There was a warm placidness in his eyes which almost masked his fighter’s build. They both shared the same color mixture in their coats, black, brown and golden yellow. His long forehead hair hung untidily over his eyes in a curve, which to the perplexity of his sibling he was happy leaving the way it was.
The musical one took a break from playing and gave all eight of his fingers a thorough rubdown. He creased his face showing slight discomfort.
‘That you done, Laurel?’ asked the smaller monkey. He looked outside with a folded brow.
‘I might last a few more’ Laurel replied, ‘I promise after that we’ll sniff out the Ohgor. Paliurus? You ok with that?’.
‘You’ll be doing all the calling so I can’t really argue’ said Paliurus, scratching his belly.
Once Laurel started to play Paliurus sat up, curled over his lap and watched with more focused ears.
Laurel was such an expert with this device that he detected his every move with his eyes closed. His right hand sent a small white item scratching over six sparkling strings while his left glided and manipulated across the neck. The instrument had a scuffed, hollow body with a burnt illusion on its front side. There was a hole in the center surrounded by an attractive pattern of red swirls. On the third bar a black device was holding the strings against the neck. The neck connected to a head where the end of every string was wrapped around a stud. He had a spare instrument but in green in his room below them.
Paliurus straightened out his right arm and swept his other hand over it to measure its length, then he bent his arm roughly like Laurel’s was over the instrument’s body and played an air song. He put his arm down, picked himself up slightly and raised his voice again. ‘Have you picked a couple yet...?’.
‘What was that...?’ asked Laurel, cutting off the noise and his movement. He rubbed his palms together rapidly.
Paliurus rolled back and crossed one knee over the other. ‘Which songs are you playing at the gathering?’.
‘Woke up with a dead arm this morning, don’t think it’s away yet’ said Laurel while putting his hands against his neck. Going off topic when he doesn’t have an answer was one of his more annoying habits. He then came back to it ‘All right, uh...’ then he looked to different points of the room like inspiration was a spider that must be squished before it bites someone. He finally looked up to Paliurus and announced ‘I’m thinking of doing “Dried Out” for an opener. Then I’m not that sure’.
‘Yea, good’ said Paliurus hearing it in his head, ‘maybe you should play “Blink and you’ll miss it” after that’.
Laurel’s forehead pulled up. ‘That one...?’ he said with booming surprise. His fingers tried to find a place on the instrument as if the song was just requested.
‘I think they’d like it’.
Paliurus was not as great a thinker as Laurel was but tried to explain his reason nonetheless. Though he couldn’t express it in great detail he said it told a very nice story about lacking stability even though life is going well. He moved from the stage as he went on about some of the phrases in it that he liked over to the barrier set up at the other side of the room. He picked up a sween from a container on the first shelf, tossed it over to Laurel then took his own. He then said ‘I’m just worried for you. You don’t get to do all your songs at once, right? Its three songs, then if that goes down well you get to play three more later, that’s right isn’t it? I think you should hit them with your best early, because that’s all you might get to play’.
Laurel ran his fingers across his neck as he swallowed. His next expression was strange. He was half smiling and looking at his own forehead like his life seemed crazy and complicated but really fun. ‘I love how you worded that, but I’m not sure I want to do that song at all,’ he said politely, ‘you see, if I sing it to a large crowd it might make them think I’m at a low, desperate point in my life, and it might put them off me...’.
‘Ok, just getting it out of my head’.
‘There’s no need to be worried. It’s still a while away’.
‘Yea, but, it’s important....’.
‘I know, I’ll make this decision really soon’.
Paliurus pointed outside with his Sween hand and said ‘I’ll let you get back to it’.
‘Alright, I won’t be too long’ replied Laurel who then resumed his work.
Paliurus stepped out of the room. The branches above him scribbled shadows over half of the platform and left two equal sides of light. Each patch of light he stepped on was very hot so he did his best to avoid them till he got to the edge. He looked out to the other side of the clearing, then up to the blankets of cirrus clouds over the sky and imagined himself making a long call that was so powerful it could move them away, so mighty it could take down trees.....but that was so far off from reality.
He knew himself that he had a lot of trouble making a strong long call, he could interpret one but that’s it. Even his defense barks were weak for his age. He hadn’t given any thought to practicing lately. It hurt whenever he tried, leaving his voice very weak and sometimes made him ill. He supposed practice escaped his thoughts because it didn’t seem necessary to learn a skill that most of the time only Troop Captains had to use, and he didn’t see himself becoming one.
Despite being negative about it he let his voice out a couple of times....then it put him in the notion to try for real.
He stood on his feet, filled his chest, and curled forward letting out a weak, shrill shout as a warm up.
So far it was fine, there wasn’t any pain. He practiced like that a few times making each attempt a little stronger. When he felt ready he let out the most powerful shout of all.
He tried to finish the note but then something kicked in his throat and he started to cough violently….so very, very violently….after that his whole neck felt closed off and bloated. It would be impossible to make another call. He felt very pathetic. A few tries were all it took to wreck......
‘HAAA!’ shrieked Paliurus, bending down with his head covered.
It was just Laurel’s instrument falling over…..
He straightened up.....BUMP!
‘JJAAAHAA!’ screamed Paliurus.
In a blink Paliurus threw on a hideous, stretched out mask, shoved his arms down by his side, turned, and shrieked in Laurel’s face.
‘What’d you pat me on the back for?!’ shouted Paliurus, waving his arms to stress his outrage.
‘Calm down you daft thing...!’ said Laurel holding up his hands to protect his face.
Paliurus went silent but he remained mad. What state of mind was Laurel in to think it was ok to do that? Anything could’ve happened. He could’ve…leapt forward…and by mistake jumped off the platform and never catch the vine before he hit the ground. He coughed with his mouth closed and rubbed his neck. Now his throat was worse than before, wonderful….then something set him off again with the randomness of it.
Laurel sat down over the edge of the platform....and did nothing....
‘You know what this says…this…this’ll be you if I’m lost, this’ll be it!’ growled Paliurus. Even before his next breath the ridiculous way he sounded stunned himself as much as it did Laurel. A shudder went to his head and he was afraid of himself and the harm his remark had caused.
Laurel made just the face that summed up the impact of stupidity and offense he’d made. ‘And what do you think that says to me!’ he said in a controlled but vicious manner.
Paliurus found it impossible to talk back. His body was shaking and his heart was thumping irregularly. He was still upset and angry and now really worried he was getting out of control. He tried to calm down before he talked again. He looked down at the ground and took another bite of his food.
‘I’m sorry....’ croaked Paliurus, he drew a deep breath and finally relaxed, ‘I’m not, feeling right…it’s too hot…the whole day’s been too hot…can we get going now?’. He patted his neck, coughing lightly.
‘Of course we can’ answered Laurel. He slipped off the platform and caught the vine. Paliurus soon followed, freeing one hand to rub his neck.
They crossed the clearing and a hundred plus yards of forest later they found liana they could climb. Once in the canopy they set off northeasterly, passing to and through each hold very agilely. They covered the mile in no time at all and came to an old teak tree of incredible height with a strangler fig spiraling from its buttress roots to the first limbs at the end of its trunk, the roof had no leaves as the tree hadn’t long to live. It had their scent mark on it but it was a redundant reminder since they’d been here so often. Tens of meters away a steep clay lick that was full of lovebirds brought the height of the hill down several hundred feet. Beyond it was a thin forest. Their other friend was down there, Captain Reniform, looking for his son, Billberg, who’d been missing for all of four days.
Laurel threw out the message. ~ I am who you know ~ I am waiting ~. Over and over. A reply didn’t come but they weren’t concerned as this wasn’t the first time they’d waited here without one. Twenty minutes went by and Laurel cried out in space for the fourth time. All the parrots took off around the hill’s corner shortly after he’d finished. Unbeknownst to Paliurus he was fixed on where they’d just been for a short time after.
‘Do you think Barbin’s (small parrots, larger ones like macaws are called Pero’s) will fly to our tree before anyone appears at the gathering?’ he asked.
‘Barbins? Maybe to get bits for a nest or something, there’s no telling’.
Laurel smiled a little, sort of sadly. Had he said the wrong thing?
‘They always make me think about love....’ said Laurel, ‘maybe when the guests start flooding in I’ll get a chance or two to get serious with someone’.
‘You might be in with a shout as well’.
‘And what talent do I have?’.
‘Don’t put that in your head…’.
‘I just said that to be funny….in a way I wasn’t. I’m not creative like you, but maybe I have something in me to be. Maybe my hands can work like yours even though they’re smaller. I’m finding calls bit hard, not saying I won’t keep trying….’.
‘Could you hold off a month or so’ said Laurel with all his teeth showing, ‘I honestly would love to train you but you should’ve asked me a lot earlier. I mean, I don’t know how busy or quiet everything’s going to be and I’m not even sure how to teach’.
Paliurus was slightly annoyed as he wasn’t about to ask for lessons. Now that he had said it, surely it wouldn’t take that long just to show him the basics and let him carry on learning from memory, but he decided not to be stubborn. ‘You’re right. There’s all that in your way’.
‘I’m really sorry’.
‘It’s alright, really’.
‘Okay....I hope we hear something soon, that sky is like....’.
He never got to say what the sky was like. There was word, right there and then.
~ We shall be coming ~.
It sounded as if....no, that’d be asking a lot....but when they listened....when they looked....there really was.
Two voices! Two monkeys standing on the same Ohgor!
Spike - "Seriously, a talking Dog is the weird thing about all this"
Me - "Not at all, the fact that you're a dog and not a lizard is much weirder"