Arkoumene: One Boy's Adventure

Arkoumene: One Boy's Adventure

by J. L. Harned

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Overview

Eleven-year-old Ethan Smith is a shy, ordinary boy who dislikes math and hard work. As he goes about his days playing computer games, escaping bullies, and living within his imagination, he finds himself wishing something exciting would happen to him. While taking a walk one afternoon, Ethan's wish comes true in a way he never imagined.

He is suddenly kidnapped by an elven horse in an abandoned alley and wakes up in Arkoumene, a strange world populated by cyclopes, dragons, trolls, and evil goblins. The horse-who can speak and whose name is Cara-takes Ethan to a village in the country of Ryon, where he learns that a prince has mysteriously disappeared, the king has been deceived, and enemy soldiers are creeping unnoticed into the land. But when Ethan and his new Ryonian friends accidentally discover the enemy army's logbook during a cave exploration, all of them must embark on a journey across the dangerous countryside to warn the king of the impending attack and expose the truth about the missing prince's fate.

Arkoumene is the tale of one boy's mission to save a kingdom from an evil plan as he confronts his fears and realizes that he can be braver than he ever imagined.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475991833
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/18/2013
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.91(d)

Read an Excerpt

ARKOUMENE

One Boy's Adventure


By J. L. HARNED, DENISE PLUMLEE-TADLOCK

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 J. L. Harned
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4759-9183-3


CHAPTER 1

In which we meet our rather unheroic hero, Ethan


Once upon a time, our own time in fact (that is, early in the twenty-first century), there was an ordinary boy named Ethan Smith. He was a thin child with shaggy, chocolate-brown hair, tall for his age of eleven years, and rather pale in complexion. Being shy and quiet, he had few friends and no interest in making new ones. He was the only child of working parents, with whom he shared a rather large house on the outskirts of a medium-sized town. If you had asked him, he would have told you he had a great love for animals, especially horses, but he paid little attention to the animal in his home, a small mixed-breed terrier his mother had adopted. Most of his free time was spent watching television and playing the epic game Goblin Wars on his father's computer.

So far everything said about Ethan has been nothing remarkable, but there was one thing that set him apart from his peers: he read books. Real books. Somehow, one of his better teachers had persuaded him to read The Hobbit, and since then he'd been reading novels as fast as he could bring them home from the library. He didn't like science fiction, but he enjoyed many classics, including Black Beauty and Tom Sawyer, and his favorite genre was fantasy.

It was fortunate that he read so many good, wholesome titles; otherwise what was soon to happen to him would not have come so easily, though he would have needed it much more.

My story begins on an ordinary October morning, with Ethan in bed. Having been told once by his mother and twice by his father to get up, he was finally aroused by the dog (whose name was Pete), who started licking his face and dancing all over the bed.

"Pete," the boy groaned sleepily, squinting under the bright ceiling lights.

"Now come on," his father said from the doorway. "The bus will be here soon." It was he who had set the dog on the bed.

Ethan shoved Pete off his bed, sat up, and lazily stepped onto the cold wood floor. In ten minutes, he arrived in the kitchen where his parents were having breakfast.

Mr. Smith was a tall, good-looking man with dark hair, a short beard, and blue eyes. His wife was slender with blonde hair cut halfway down her neck, but she was not really beautiful.

The household was not exactly a happy one, but it was a normal one, and Ethan's parents seemed content to keep it that way. When words were exchanged, they were usually accusations or denials, so the three who gathered at the table on this ordinary morning were, though related by blood, hardly friends. And while Mr. Smith demanded respect as a husband and father, Mrs. Smith demanded it as a mother and wife, so naturally, neither got any—least of all from their son.

Ethan helped himself to the cereal and skim milk, which made up most of their diet, and sat down at the table. Not a word or a smile passed between them, until Ethan's father said, "I believe your math teacher sent a note home with you, Ethan."

Ethan suddenly felt rather warm and looked down at the table.

"Well?"

Ethan slowly nodded.

"She called and told me about it last night," his father went on. "Why didn't you give it to me?"

"I forgot about it."

The man nodded. "I see."

Ethan hoped he didn't see but was sure he did. Mrs. Smith looked up from the romance novel she was reading and cast an annoyed glance at her son but said nothing.

"She said you were drawing dinosaurs in your textbook during class. And this isn't the first time it's happened."

Ethan squirmed uncomfortably. "They were dragons."

"What?"

"The dinosaurs—they were supposed to be dragons."

His father shook his head and sighed. Ethan returned his gaze to the table.

"Ethan, what am I supposed to do with you?" he demanded, standing up from his chair. "You do this in every subject—math, history, science—every class you're in."

Mr. Smith started to leave the kitchen but stopped and turned around at the doorway. "Why can't you ... What is it you need that you don't already have?"

At that moment, the school bus drove up to the lane, thus ending the family conversation. Ethan, with his breakfast only half-eaten, promptly left the table.

His was not a happy life. He knew this and blamed it on not being liked by other people, on not having as many toys and other pointless amusements as some kids had, and on the fact that nothing exciting ever happened to him. There were hundreds of things he thought should be different, but if those things were changed to his liking, it would make little difference. He would be happy for a while, but soon he would think of a hundred other things that ought to be, and weren't—or oughtn't to be, and were anyway.

Another problem was, whether he realized it or not, he preferred living in his imagination to living in the world to which he was born. He was in the stage of a young boy's life during which anything and everything seems possible, from saving the damsel in distress, to meeting the president, to saving the entire world from mass destruction. Of course, whether anything like that could happen or not, nothing was happening, so he imagined such things were. When he couldn't use the computer, or the current novel was uninteresting, he would spend his time fantasizing, fancying himself an adored pop star being interviewed by a news reporter, or a young mole running through an enemy spy base, or just a kid lost in a dangerous wilderness with his girlfriend. When thinking of that sort of adventure, he always imagined that a certain girl in his class named Julie, who he considered "hot," was with him—though in real life she paid him no attention, and he was too afraid to approach her.

Not surprisingly, most of his imaginary adventures involved doing things he would have been terrified to do in the real world, outside his Fantasian paradise, but he never thought of that, and he wouldn't have cared if he had.

Once on the bus, he chose the seat next to his best friend, Jacob. He, too, was tall for his age, but that's where the physical similarities ended. He had blond, crew-cut hair and an impish grin. He was neater in appearance than Ethan was, but he was mischievous and very active, so much so that most people found him quite an annoyance.

The bus started off. Neither boy spoke as Ethan sat down, but after a moment Jacob said, "Are you ready for the test?"

Ethan looked at him. "What test?"

"The math test."

"Yeah, I guess."

Jacob acted surprised, even though he was used to such a reaction from his friend. "Did you study for it?"

"A little."

Jacob nodded. He was secretly proud of being better than Ethan in this respect, and only pretended to be concerned. "I'm ready for it," he nonchalantly said.

Ethan didn't reply. After a moment, he said, "Have you read the book we were supposed to read?"

Jacob looked slightly uncomfortable. "Uh—you mean A Tale of Two Cities?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah ... I read the first chapter."

Ethan nodded, secretly pleased.

At that moment the bus came to a stop, the door opened, and a gangly teenage boy climbed up the stairs. By habit, Ethan and Jacob hid behind the seat in front of them. The boy, Levi, was the ringleader of a group of troublemakers that mercilessly humiliated and inflicted pain on younger students they disliked—which was just about everyone outside their gang. They were the school bullies; they were feared by their inferiors and disliked by their elders. They seemed to enjoy their status as terrorists, and no one ever attacked or defended against them.

Soon they reached the school. In spite of their care to stay out of his way, Ethan literally ran into Levi while walking through the hall.

"Hey, kid," the boy said as Ethan tried to regain his balance. "Watch where you're going."

"You just like being beat up, don't you," taunted a younger freckle-faced boy, coming up behind Levi.

"Leave me alone," Ethan muttered, trying to pass by them.

"Do you actually think we're gonna let you go on by?" asked another.

"Let us through," demanded Jacob.

"And who are you?" Levi retorted.

At that, Jacob kicked him hard in the shin and dashed by, Ethan trying to keep up with him. The others immediately gave chase, but the two made it safely to their classroom where the seventh-grade math teacher was organizing papers on her desk.

The gang stopped at the doorway. Levi glared at Jacob. "After school," he promised, and then dashed away, his disciples following him.

Ethan turned and glared at his companion. "Why'd you do that?"

"I don't know."

"Now they're gonna kill us!"

"Not if we outrun them."

Then their teacher ordered them to their desks, and the daily routine began.

Nothing out of the dull ordinary happened after that. They stayed inside at recess, and it wasn't hard to stay away from their pursuers throughout the day, for their schedules were different.

When the hour of departure finally arrived, Ethan asked Jacob how they were going to escape the bullies.

"We'll go out the back door," his friend replied. "We can be in the bus before they even see us."

They quickly and cautiously left their classroom, but somehow the gang had gotten an earlier start. The two had only started down the hall when they heard Levi shout, "There they are!" They all took off as fast as they could run down the hall to the large double-doors at the back of the school.

Jacob and Levi got to the door, but their attackers quickly caught up with them, and while Jacob managed to escape, Ethan was put head-first in the dumpster behind the school.

Ethan stayed there until the voices faded away as the boys walked back to the bus. At last he climbed out. Feeling very sorry for himself and angry beyond control, he sulked back to the parking lot. He was glad the next day was Saturday.

CHAPTER 2

In which Ethan discovers his fear of horses, and the adventure begins


It was always easier for Ethan to get out of bed on Saturdays. On this particular Saturday, he was up before his parents were, for his mother was going to take him to a stable outside of town for a horse riding lesson. Needless to say, he had been looking forward to this day for a long time, for he had always wanted to ride a horse. How he persuaded Mrs. Smith to enroll him in riding lessons was unknown to me, but she had consented, and the big day had come at last.

They had a quick breakfast of toaster-waffles (which, to Ethan, was a delicacy), and at ten o'clock they left the house. Ethan's father didn't come along. Though he would spend hundreds of dollars on Christmas presents for his son, he didn't care enough for him to spend half his weekend at a stable, and Ethan didn't really care.

The drive lasted only about half an hour, though, in his excitement, it seemed much longer. When they finally reached their destination, Ethan felt a sudden pang of fear. He was uneasy about unfamiliar places and unfamiliar people, and this was both. As he stepped out of the car, the first thing he noticed was not the unusually clear sky or the expansive fields of green grass, but the many other people present, all talking and laughing before a big white barn.

After some not-so-patient prodding by his mother, he uncomfortably joined the chattering group, going to the end of the line of horse-lovers and cowboy-wannabes. Mrs. Smith paid the fee and left him.

After several minutes, an old man wearing a tattered cowboy hat walked to the front of the small crowd. "Well, good mornin', everyone," he said with a Western drawl, grinning broadly. "My name is Sim, and I'm gonna be your riding coach today. Now, in case you don't already know the rules, I'll just name 'em off to ya ..."

So the man went on about the Do's and Do Not's of the stable. Ethan paid little attention and instead focused on his surroundings.

Before them was a large white barn that was rather in need of paint. Behind that was a large pasture, the fence around which was the typical T-post and barbed-wire sort. The air smelled surprisingly clean and fresh for a farm, and the few trees that were nearby had changed to their fall colors.

After a few minutes Sim finished speaking and pulled the big barn door open. Everyone walked inside the large arena and seated themselves on a short row of bleachers on the right side of the arena, rather like those before a tennis court. On the other side of the arena was a row of stalls where six or seven horses were penned up. Two men in cowboy attire were leaning carelessly against one of the wooden gates. Once everyone was seated and the doors were shut, each man led a horse out of the stalls and approached the bleachers, motioning to someone in the group to come and ride. Ethan was relieved not to be called—he still wanted to ride, but he would rather not be the first.

The men led the horses around the arena, instructing the riders how to hold the reins, how to sit properly, how to tell the horse to start and stop, and other bits of basic knowledge. The men were very patient, and most of the young people caught on quickly. Only one small girl was at first afraid to mount her horse.

After about forty-five minutes, once most of the children and teenagers had had a turn, the men put the horses away in the stalls and brought out new ones to give the first three a chance to rest.

Ethan had been watching the animals the whole time, but the horse Sim was now leading captivated him. She was a sleek, white-and-gray dappled mare, her coat, mane, and tail perfectly groomed. She was much more beautiful than the others, but what caught Ethan's attention were her eyes. They seemed—somehow different. Intelligent, maybe. Some might have counted the strange difference as wonderful, but to Ethan it was just weird—unnatural, and he didn't like it.

He didn't wait much longer for his turn. To his dismay, Sim beckoned for him to come.

Ethan turned pale. "I—I'd rather wait," he stammered.

"Wait!" the old man barked. "If yer afraid o' horses, you'd just better get over that fear right now."

"I'm not afraid of them!" Ethan retorted. "But ..."

"Just a little nervous then. I see. Well, I was too when I first started ridin', but you won't mind it 'fore long. Come on over here."

Ethan would have remained where he was, but someone behind him gave him a shove, and he went forward in spite of himself.

His eyes were fixed on those of the horse's, and hers seemed to be fixed on his, but then Sim went between them and took Ethan's hand. "C'mon, now. It's not at all hard, as you'll see. Just put your foot in the stirrup there—"

"No," Ethan said abruptly, moving back. "I'll—I'd rather ride a different one."

The old man looked at him in surprise. "Well, you ain't got nothin' to be afeard of. She's a big animal, but she's the gen'lest horse we got here." Sim again pulled him toward the animal. "Now just—"

"No!" Ethan jerked away from Sim and, in spite of the cries from the people behind him, ran out of the barn and down the road as fast as he could.

At last he stopped, panting for breath. He had run a long way from the barn, and no one was following him. He felt a little embarrassed now as he thought of how surprised the others must have been at his odd behavior.

He sat down in the ditch beside the road to rest. The sun hadn't quite peaked in the sky, and his mother wouldn't come until one o'clock, so he had a long time to wait.

After several minutes, he stood up and walked away from the road into a large unused farm field. He thought over what had just taken place. "What was wrong with that horse?" he thought aloud. "And—what was I so afraid of?"

Now that he had calmed down and was thinking clearly, he felt a little silly for running away. What did the people there think of him now? And more importantly, what would his mom say?

"She doesn't have to know," he decided. "I won't tell her."

He walked back to the road and then sauntered back into the field, and then back to the road and back into the field again. After a long time, his mother's car came into view, and he stood by the road until she pulled up next to him.

Mrs. Smith rolled down the window and looked at him quizzically. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to meet you."

"Why?"
(Continues...)


Excerpted from ARKOUMENE by J. L. HARNED, DENISE PLUMLEE-TADLOCK. Copyright © 2013 J. L. Harned. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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