Thursday, December 17, 2015

Doleful Creatures -- Synopsis

Publishers seem to be asking for a synopsis of your book as you submit. So here goes.

Before the world was made, He Who Notes the Sparrow’s Fall and the one known as The Lady fought for the minds and souls of the animal kingdom. The crux of their argument: Would animal-kind be happier in a world where men and their inherent evils were not present? She said yes, while he said no, claiming one living in a world without the other would not develop as deep an empathy for others as they would living together.

Both went their separate ways. He Who Notes the Sparrow’s Fall built his world and populated it with animals and man and watches as they live, more or less, in harmony – though there is trouble. And misery and death amid the joy and laughter. She took her followers and built a different world, lost to the other and forgotten.

Jarrod the Magpie is himself lost between two worlds. One, a world of love and friendship created by his beloved Rebekah, long since dead with the beavers who had been their friends. Jarrod and the badger Aloysius survived the cataclysm that claimed the beavers and their mates, and Jarrod takes the blame for the deaths and is practically outcast among the animals who live in the wood near the ramshackle Purdy Farm. Aloysius, bitter at the loss of his Landi, makes sure the other animals never forget Jarrod has blood on his wingtips. Only the murder of crows who live in the wood are friendly to the magpie, who wanders the fringes half mad with guilt.

There are odd stirrings in the wood. Animals claim to hear an odd sound – a sound some call the trumpet of elephants – coming from the wood. And The Lady can be seen, disguised as a woman in white, wandering the woods, speaking gently but always probing for something she appears to have lost. As the mythology of the world expands, Jarrod speaks with the Man in the Rock, an ancient, wise being living in a box canyon not far from where the beavers died, as Jarrod tries to sort his world out. 

The Lady enlists the help of a colony of marmots to dig for her, as she senses what she has lost may be buried in the ground beneath Purdy Wood. As they dig, a creeping cold beings to fill their tunnels, as well as the burrows of the moles and warrens of the rabbits. More and more, they hear the strange sound, the call of the elephants, and fear spreads in the wood.
Sensing the coming storm, the crows, led by Chylus and Magda, work to rehabilitate Jarrod the Magpie, whose misery and refusal to live in the present due to his guilty past seems to be augmenting the fear and the power of The Lady. They enlist the help of a group of hawks, longtime friends with Jarrod’s Rebekah, to help him feel new hope. The hawks remind him of the one beaver Jarrod sheltered and saved from The Lady, who guided men to destroy their dams and trap them out of her hatred for the world He Who Minds the Sparrow’s Fall created. The hawks show him a revitalized beaver colony, again happily building dams and filling ponds. They greet him not as a murderer, but as the one who helped ensure their colony in the upper reaches of the box canyon was not destroyed completely, though at great personal price to him.

With renewed hope – and despite Aloysius’ disbelief in the tale Jarrod and the crows bring from the canyon – Jarrod begins efforts to spy on the marmots and on The Lady, to determine what she seeks and what the strange elephant cries in the wood could be. They plant gardens to conceal their own tunnels as they dig parallel to the tunnels dug by the marmots.

Nevertheless, fear of The Lady grows in the wood, with many succumbing to her spells and many ending up dead. Aloysius is deep within her influence, but as he sees Jarrod regain hope, bits of his memory, aided by recollections of his beloved Landi, help him free himself from The Lady’s smoky tendrils of doubt. He goes on to free others – notably and old friend whom, he discovers, has already freed himself. He journeys to the canyon of the beavers as he himself seeks to escape his current bitterness, and to recruit the beavers to help in the coming battle with The Lady.

The Lady meets them at the beaver ponds and threatens, once again, to destroy Jarrod’s friends and future – but Jarrod defies her and with the help of the Man in the Rock temporarily defeats her. He and Aloysius reconcile and together persuade the beavers to move south to help in the final battle. Jarrod flies one last time to meet with the hawks, who appear to know of The Lady but remain uninfluenced by her. He speaks with the leader of the hawks, hoping to learn more about The Lady in hopes of finding a way to defeat her. The magpie and the hawks turn to the Man in the Rock, revealed as a guardian assigned by He Who Minds the Sparrow’s Fall to keep watch over The Lady’s kingdom in case it were ever discovered. He shows the birds, in riddles, how to defeat The Lady.

The marmots, meanwhile, have begun filling in their tunnels, alarmed at the seeping cold they discover as the dig deeper. Mindful of the rumors that Jarrod’s past isn’t what it appears, Father Marmot, leader of the marmots, decides to cut off his return, as his natural leadership threatens his own. He leads a harvest of the gardens the animals have planted in an effort to demonstrate his leadership to them, hopefully usurping at last any tenuous hold Jarrod or the crows might have had over their loyalties.

But The Lady has discovered what she had lost after a swarm of bats escaped from a marmot tunnel. She gathers her starling servants to keep the animals at bay as she seeks her treasure – the entrance to the world she created for animals, free of mankind. As the opposing forces gather, a sinkhole collapses in the wood, revealing the entrance to a cave. Both sides rush to the hole as the beavers build dams, hoping to flood the wood and keep whatever might be in the hole from escaping into their world. Jarrod, Aloysius, and the crows enter the hold and discover, in a bleak, dark cave at the bottom of it, the animals The Lady entranced and enslaved before the worlds began – including the elephants who have been calling for help to escape their prison. The birds being to lead the animals to the surface – only to be confronted by The Lady.

But they’re not alone. He Who Minds the Sparrow’s Fall has sent his sparrows. They fill the wood with their songs of bravery and warmth, even amid the cold and cowardice. The animals in the cave, long The Lady’s slaves, reject at last her promise of safety in a world without men, and in the final battle simply walk past her, into the flooding wood above. Water from behind the beavers’ dam, multiplied by He Who Notes the Sparrow’s Fall, floods The Lady’s caverns and seals her world from ever capturing minds and souls again.

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