The King North of the Sky is a pulp-adventure novel. It follows a young woman's travels with a band of her late father's treasure hunter acquaintances to the Andes Mountains. There, they investigate the details of her father's death, while each acting on their own objectives in the remote location.
Drafted as a short story titled "The Incan Sphere and the Black Glass Bishop" on December 10, 2014, the story was the first on Ghost Little to be executed with a thorough 6 chapter outline, with three chapters completed as of January 1, 2016.
As with all of Ghost Little's a free books to read online, the first chapter sample functions as both a short story featuring the characters, as well as an introduction to the story's larger scale.
The characters were based on conversations during a tabletop pencil-and-paper game played in 2014.
|The King North of the Sky,
placeholder 2016 cover art.
The King North of the Sky is set in 1930, with flashbacks to the 1910s and 1920s. The settings range from the English countryside, to rural California, Miami, the Peruvian city of Cusco, and the rugged Andes Mountains beyond.
The story centers on the young woman, Astrid Cornwallis, traveling across the world in search of treasures and truths men would kill for. Along the journey, Astrid learns that her father, Lloyd Lord Cornwallis, came back from World War I a changed man, emotionally and physically, and has been in correspondence with former soldiers across the globe before his untimely death in Astrid's childhood.
Lord Cornwallis and his friends were trafficking in unusual relics, devices, and fluids, while testing unusual medical procedures on local children, tests practiced on Astrid, as well.
Chief among the tests done around the world was a word that translates into, "Grove." As an adult, Astrid allies with what remains of her father's old correspondants and travels to Cusco to learn Lloyd's intentions in his experiments.
Astrid Cornwallis is the protagonist, a savvy, reckless young woman seeking clues surrounding her hated father's cloudy demise. She was trained in horseback riding and marksmanship in school as a girl before she was sent home at age thirteen for her indirect involvement with another student's death. In the following nine years, she trained herself in human anatomy, geography, and world languages. Using these skills, Astrid decodes her father's notes and learns that her he conducted sinister experiments on her before passing. While she is uncertain of their effects, she is driven to discover the answers, following clues left behind by her mother. This leads her to her family's cabin in California where the final clue rests, expecting it to lead her to the truth surrounding the experiments' purpose.
Ridley Woodward is Astrid's foil and possible-assassin, a newspaper writer under contract from a mysterious benefactor. Ridley was driven west out of Chicago by bootleggers looking to collect on his debt, although its possible the United States Federal government is also hot on his trail. Back to the wall, Ridley began working for Arthur, which acquainted him with Astrid. Ridley is a writer by trade and does not quite have Astrid's penchant for violence.
Arthur Remington III is globally-recognized philanderer. Arthur is the last survivor of the long line of Remingtons, a clan of nepotistic English lords that have slipped their fingers into many key moments in history. An unstable drunk, Arthur is often found wearing a silk bathrobe, wielding flint-lock pistols. He became an acquaintance to Astrid'd father during World War I. At that time, the two of them established their exploration and experimentation company that eventually killed Astrid's father and launched the group's expedition to the Andes.
Lucy O'Hara is a disgraced socialite that's found herself addicted to travel. She carries her terrier, Peaches, with her everywhere she goes, as well as massive drunk filled with rattling objects. She is an experienced mountain climber, despite her appearance and demeanor. She joined Arthur's expedition to the Andes to escape the Georgia heat for the summer.
Ryan Templeton is a Chicago bootlegger and drinking buddy to Arthur. Seeking self-satisfaction from the world's more pleasurable substances, Ryan and Arthur enable the worst characteristics in one another. Ryan believes unity and friendship could be achieved the world over if everyone had a drink in hand.
Petite Freddie is a Canadian mountaineer operating out of Cusco. He's most often found at the Skyhook camp at the base of the Zel glacier, guiding primarily European groups on simple climbs. Freddie is an avid radio listener, capturing signals from all over the world.
Edgar Cooke is a World War I veteran and an acquaintence of Astrid's father. Not much information is known about Cooke, or his involvement with the expidition.
Joshua is a federal agent of the US government. Born from an Algonquin bloodline, his superiors have dispatched him alone on a unique mission to learn the significance of the so-called King North of the Sky.
|The King North of the Sky,
updated 2016 cover art.
The King North of the Sky was conceived during an original table-top RPG game session surrounding a group of explorers marooned on a Himalayan mountain. The names and backgrounds were slightly updated and expanded upon. Astrid received the most significant background building and the world pushing the characters to the mountain was also grown.
Indiana Jones is the obvious inspiration for the story; explorers traveling to remote regions to retrieve artifacts that may possess occult magics. So far, so Jones.
I also found the works of Michael Crichton informing the story-framing, including elements such as a genius-level scientist (Astrid), in an unusual field (anatomy), traveling to a hostile and remote region (the Andes), to discover the folly of a deceased relative (Lloyd), with help from the relative's unusual friend (Arthur), and another colleague on the run (Ridley).
The first chapter was a good deal longer in its initial draft. I trimmed it down when I determined it'd work well as a free book to read online. When a greater outline was drawn based on a tighter storytelling structure, chapter one was cut down. In the initial version, the cabin slid down the entire side of the mountain, with Arthur giving chase in a pickup truck. Characters were leaping from one structure to another as they tumbled down the hill. It was too much for an introduction to a story that was planned to start nearer to reality and escalated as the situation demanded.
The story's prose style is much sloppier than the other pieces. There are more tropes in the dialog, a result of its initial draft being typed out with the intent to create a pulpy adventure, to which it succeeded.
Chapters two and three were later drafted, calling inspiration from more classical literature, namely Jane Eyre, informing the style for the girl's school section of Astrid's upbringing.
As of August, 2017, The King North of the Sky was given priority and work began on chapter 5, focusing on Cooke and Joshua. It was some surprise to discover King was one of the most highly-trafficked writing samples on Ghost Little.
The sample free books to read online are available.
The King North of the Sky uses the following colors: