Ambril’s Tale, the Return of the Dullaith by Wendy Walter

January 5, 2012

Novel Excerpts

Chapter 1 Of Chicken Legs and Bad Breath

 

Ambril awoke with a start. The last thing she remembered was the chicken-legged monster bending over her. She was pretty sure that had been after the tree ate the one with breath so bad it had nearly melted her fingernails, but she couldn’t be sure. Too many monsters–––way too many. But she was safe now, hopefully. At least she thought she was. She felt warm and cozy, as if she were being rocked to sleep. How had this all started? Exactly when had she taken a sharp left turn into this weird, monster-laden place? It must have been that puzzle box, the Ashera. Because earlier that day, she had awakened in her own bed, just her regular, every-day self. She began thinking back over her upside down day, trying to make sense of it all.
It had started when her mother had raced into her room and vaulted onto her bed. “Get up! We’re already late,” she had said as she peered out the window at a murky yellow van parked in their driveway. “The movers are on time for once, which makes us–––later than usual.” Her mother had wrapped her robe around her as one of the movers squinted up at the house. “How many times is this, Sweetie?” A grunt from the quilt was all she got. She prodded it with her big toe. “Come on, Ambril, I’ve lost track. How many times have we moved?”
“Nine times.” Ambril’s tousled brown hair emerged from the covers.
Her mother smiled magnificently, “Nine times is the charm!” She jumped from the bed and was through the door before the old bedsprings had time to squeal. Ambril heard her skip down the stairs and open the door. Polite conversation hummed. Move Number Nine had begun.
Ambril groaned. She did not want to get up ever, ever again. She loved this old house, stuck on a hill and overlooking the San Francisco Bay. It had been home to Ambril, her brother and her mother for over a year–––the longest time they’d been anywhere. She had actually made some friends for once. And now they had to act happy about moving to a boring, country town. OK, so it was the town where she’d been born, but it didn’t count if you didn’t remember it. They had left when she was only three. Still, her mother expected big smiles every time its name was mentioned–––Trelawnyd. It was a stupid name, Ambril decided as she burrowed back into her comfy bed.
But when she heard the heavy clump of boots and the rumble of dollies, Ambril jumped up. The thought of big, sweaty guys barging into her room made her cringe. She put on her usual T-shirt and jeans, then snorted at what she saw in the mirror: skinny, fourteen, grumpy–––a mess. She scrunched her hair into a lumpy ponytail and grabbed her backpack before skittering down the stairs.
Her mother was holding court in the hallway, her long, blonde hair in a sleek ponytail. Somehow her mother always managed to look right even when she wasn’t supposed to. “Hi, honey!” Her mother then turned swiftly to a mover and said in a tone that would have made a lineback cower, “That was my great aunt’s! You’d better not drop it or she’ll haunt you just like she did my Gran after the punch bowl incident!”
Ambril smiled mechanically and slumped down on the stairs to watch the parade of her favorite things being carted away.
Next, her mother hissed at a mover struggling to prevent a hutch with too many curlicues from bumping the doorframe. “Be careful with that. It’s twice as old as all of us put together!”
“Unloading the contents of the furniture would a’ made it much easier, Ma’am,” he grumbled.
“Well, everything’s going into storage this time.” Ambril’s mother said as she picked up a crystal bowl seconds before its pedestal was knocked over. “It seemed a waste of time to pack it all up.” She smiled at Ambril, showing off every one of her perfect teeth. “We’re going back home in style! New furniture! New clothes! New life!” She sighed contentedly. “I would never have thought it possible, even six months ago.”
That was just about right, mused Ambril. It was just about then that Feldez had gotten his well-manicured hands on them. Feldez was her soon-to-be-stepfather. Nobody liked him…except her mom, of course.
Just then, the hutch wobbled and dipped as it went past Ambril. It listed dangerously to the side, which jarred a cupboard door open and launched a wooden missile straight at Ambril’s head. There was a sharp, jarring crack, then a jolt of electricity, followed by lots of creaking and swaying.
“There goes another earthquake!” said the mover cheerfully as he hoisted the hutch higher. “Just an itty, bitty one, though.”
Ambril rubbed her head irritably as the strange object bounced into her lap. Normally she didn’t mind a little earthquake now and then–––it sort of spiced up the day. But this one had gotten personal. She looked down at this new thing…and smiled. It was interesting in a filthy, ancient sort of way. It looked more like the thick part of a twisty branch more than anything else. Not perfectly round, a little longer than her foot, and thicker than her wrist. The best part was that every inch of it had been carved with images of animals and plants all woven together with a sort of tracery. It seemed to tell a story. She wiped some of the dust off to get a better look, then she shook it slightly…it rattled. There was something inside!
“Ambril, give me that old thing, it was my Gran’s and has to go into storage.” Her mother reached for it.
But Ambril was not feeling obedient.
“Why does everything have to go into storage? This is our stuff! It’s bad enough we’re moving to a weird town in the middle of nowhere but do we have to give up all of our things?”
Her mother pursed her lips and hiked her hands onto her hips, an all-too-familiar pose to Ambril. “I’ve told you this at least a hundred times! Feldez has gone to a lot of trouble with this new house. And though our antiques looked fine here, the new house is very modern. These old things…lovely as they are,” her hand reached out to sadly pat the old grandfather clock as it marched by–––“just won’t fit in.” She grimaced as she stroked her daughter’s hair, “You’ll see what I mean when we get there.” They watched as the living room furniture was heaved onto dollies. “Besides, it won’t be forever. We’ll look around for a summer place and give these things a new home someday.”
Ambril wasn’t having any of it and wrinkled her nose. Modern…New…Just won’t fit in. Well what if she didn’t fit in? Would they wrap her in blankets and ship her off too? Ambril protectively hugged the funny, old tube to her chest and pointed at the underside of their old coffee table where she’d scrawled her name in toothpaste long ago. “You might as well put me in storage too,” she groused. “Maybe I’d be happier there.”
Her mother blanched. “That’s a nineteenth century Biedermeier table, Ambril! I had no idea you had–––how could you do such a thing!” Horrified, her mother ran after the table with a wet rag.
Ambril scowled, “I don’t see why we can’t take a few things!” she yelled after her mother. The tube felt warm in her hands.
Having finished wiping down the table, her mother switched to staring savagely at a mover who had just caught a porcelain vase on the verge of tipping over, then said distractedly, “Of course you can keep it, silly! All of these things are just going into storage. We’re not throwing a thing away.” She closed a cupboard door as it sailed past, then looked doubtfully at the tube. “I guess you can keep that old thing–––at least for now. My Gran called it an Ashera.” Then to herself she muttered, “Feldez can’t possibly mind, it’s so small.”
A door slammed and Ambril’s brother Zane ambled down the stairs. He had that stretched look of a boy who had grown way too much, too fast for his own good. His blonde hair stood out in wild strikes and matted gracelessly over his eyes as he sneered at his little sister.
“Looking forward to our new digs?” He sauntered down the stairs until he got to a pile of clothes innocently blocking his way. “Thinking you might actually make some friends this time and fit in?” He hooked the clothes with his foot and dumped them neatly onto Ambril’s head. A button caught in her hair. She struggled with it as the rest of the clothes rolled down the stairs. Finally freeing herself, she turned and lunged at her brother just as her mother turned around.
“Ambril, I just finished folding these things!” Her mother picked up the clothes and shoved them into her daughter’s arms. “Refold them NOW, they’re donations, and we don’t want anyone to think we’re slobs.” She gave her son a brilliant smile. “Hi, sweetie! There’s cereal in the kitchen.” Then she swept into the dining room and started chewing out another mover who had upended a potted palm.
Zane smirked. “Yep, we have to keep up appearances…or at least you and Mom do. Me? I’m not gonna bother. It’s a waste of time. Our ‘home town’ is the one place on earth that our family will NEVER make it in.” He slid into the kitchen and said just before the door swung to, “Mom’s delusional.”
Ambril sighed as she folded the old clothes. Normally she would have stuck up for herself, but it wasn’t worth it these days. Zane had been a terror ever since they had learned they were moving back to Trelawnyd. Sure, there had always been times when he was a jerk, but after the night her mom had broken the news to them about the move and her engagement to Feldez, he hadn’t been the same. No sideways grin, no help with homework…not even any practical jokes.
Ambril remembered that night vividly. Zane had raged and shouted and sworn that he wasn’t going back, they couldn’t go back, and that he’d run away and join the Foreign Legion–––whatever that was–––if they forced him. His mother had finally stopped him by wrapping her arms tightly around him until he quieted. It had shaken Ambril to see him so crazy. She couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t all bad, this move. Mom had been happier than she’d been in years and for once they had had enough money for clothes and food. Ambril shook her head as she gave a final pat to the messily folded clothes and picked up her backpack. There was something mysterious about this little hometown of theirs. “Mom?” she called, “I’m going down the street to say goodbye to Chao Feng.”
“Great, honey. Say goodbye for all of us and pick up some bagels will you?” her mother answered from the dining room. Then there was a magnificent, cascading clatter of metal followed by silence. “The silverware stays in the drawer! IN THE DRAWER! IN THE DRAWER!”
Ambril tiptoed down the stairs, wanting to escape before she got roped into any more chores. But just as she opened the front door, Zane emerged from the kitchen with a bowl in his hands.
“Bagels? Greah, I wan’ cinnamom and raisim, careem cheese,” said Zane his grin showing a large amount of cereal. “If ya don’t,” he crunched menacingly. “I’ll make life miserabo in da car.”
Ambril made a face at him. But she knew she’d bring him just what he wanted. If it would guarantee a quiet ride, she’d have brought him an entire grocery store. As the door slid shut, he added, “you’ll see, ya gonna wish ya neva’ heard a’ Twelaaanid.”
Ambril jogged down the steps and along the rolling sidewalk and tried to look on the bright side. At least there was a living, breathing, kid-sized person going through this with her. Zane wasn’t exactly helpful, but at least he’d be there. That was a little comforting. She frowned at a crack in the sidewalk. When did it begin to feel as if their family really wasn’t a family anymore? Ambril sighed, but the cool, morning sunshine began to work its magic and refused to let her stay upset.

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4 Comments on “Ambril’s Tale, the Return of the Dullaith by Wendy Walter”

  1. john Says:

    can I ask you where you got the name of trelawyd from?

    I am interested

    Best wishes
    John Gray
    (Trelawnyd Flintshire N wales)

    Reply

    • cwcpeninsula Says:

      Hi,
      My family hails from there. It looks like you do too! My great great (great?) grandfather immigrated to the U.S. His name was Joseph Parry. I was able to trace my ancestors back to something like 1290 one day while on Ancestry.com though I’m not certain that info is reliable. Cheers!

      Reply

  2. john Says:

    The parry family built my cottage as well as the church in 1764
    my blog perhaps will give you a flavour of the village today

    Reply

  3. john Says:

    let me know if you need any further info
    best

    Reply

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