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Tyrelia sneak preview – Chapter 3

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IN THE GOLDEN CITY

At the crack of dawn, an invisible Watcher Rube slipped back into the Golden City. He’d spent the night at the base of the city walls, trying to sleep, but the excitement of the previous day had kept him tossing and turning all night long.

The Golden City was the capital of Medar and home to the Master. It was a conical mountain surrounded entirely by a moat and a tall, gleaming white wall. The only way in was via the drawbridge to the single gateway. The dwellings within the city were perched one above the other on the steep hillside, like decorations on an elaborate cake. Narrow roads wound their way between them. All the houses were whitewashed, with terracotta tiled roofs, and many had pots of brightly coloured geraniums hanging from the windowsills. The Master’s mansion, shrouded in cloud, crowned the city. It was said that it was covered in glittering gold.

The inhabitants of the Golden City were selected by a lottery system, and when Freya’s family had been Selected, they’d considered themselves the luckiest people in Medar. Back in Nob, they’d led a meagre existence, scratching out a living in the poor soils in that part of the Land. Here, they were given a pretty, whitewashed cottage with glass windows and two bedrooms. They’d been assigned farming duties to work the fertile fields outside the city gates.

Freya’s family had told Rube that before coming to the Golden City, they had thought that the reason nobody ever left it was because life was so much better there. But on the day of their admittance, they’d learnt otherwise. As they’d stepped into the entranceway, they’d been cast into gloom. As they blinked, trying to adjust their vision, hands had grabbed their arms and pushed back their sleeves. Something had stabbed their inner elbows, and a strange coolness flowed through their veins. An injection. At the time, the Guards had told them that the injection was not only their ‘ticket into the Golden City’ but also that it would prevent them ever leaving. As farmers, the family’s injections allowed them to work the fields outside the city gates, but only to a certain distance. Any further … and they would die.

Rube had first managed to enter the Golden City about a week back and, thanks to his ability to turn himself invisible, had escaped being given the injection. After spending nearly a week drifting invisibly through the city, two days ago he’d finally found Freya’s family. That had been a stroke of luck: he’d been at the weekly Games, and ‘Jack from Nob’ had been announced as the winner of a wrestling match.

He’d followed them home and brought them up to speed with Freya’s adventures—how he and his fellow Watchers had been able to turn her invisible, help her solve the clues that the tablet revealed, and figure out where the long-lost path to Tyrelia was. But, most importantly, based on Martha’s description of Freya’s natural mother, the woman from Yaw, he’d been able to confirm that she’d been his wife … and that Freya was his natural daughter!

However, it had not taken him long to discover that his talking stone didn’t work within the city’s walls. The day after discovering Freya’s family, they’d helped him leave. He’d found a safe spot and waited most of the day, trying to contact the other Watchers. Finally, late yesterday afternoon, they’d connected. Freya and the Watchers had found the long-lost path, crossed the Chasm and were at the Wall. Except Freya could no longer see the Wall! They didn’t know why or how, but Freya was the only one who could pass through and enter Tyrelia. And so, moments after finding his daughter, he had sent her off alone into Tyrelia on another adventure. But not before arranging with Freya and the Watchers to contact each other every evening at sunset.

Now, he crept back into the Golden City to update Freya’s family on this latest development. Once through the gates, he headed up the wide boulevard to the right. He twisted this way and that, up a narrow staircase here and through an alley there, heading ever higher until he found the family’s whitewashed cottage. He sneaked around to the back door and rapped three times, waited a few seconds, then rapped three more times.

Shortly, Thomas opened the back door, stepped outside and stretched, pretending to take in some fresh air. Rube slipped around behind him into the house. Thomas swung his arms vigorously, reached down and touched his toes, then stepped back inside, closing the door behind him.

Rube was now visible and stood resting his hand on the bench, his white hair a startling contrast to his smooth red cheeks.

“Have a seat, sir.” Thomas gestured towards the kitchen table and four chairs in the middle of the room. “Martha, Jack! We have a guest.”

Martha bustled into the kitchen. “Rube!” she exclaimed. “You made it safely back. What news of Freya?”

While she fussed around, fixing bowls of porridge with fresh cream and hot cups of tea for everyone, Rube recounted the previous evening’s conversation.

“Freya and the Watchers found a secret staircase and bridge across the Chasm near the town of Andor.” The family looked blank. “In the north of the Land, on the other side of the Andoria mountains,” Rube explained. “And last evening, Freya managed to pass through the Wall into Tyrelia!”

He waited until the exclamations of surprise had ceased. “Unfortunately, the Watchers are unable to get through. We don’t know why.” He shook his head with frustration.

“So …” Thomas said slowly, “Freya’s all alone in Tyrelia?” He raised his eyebrows.

Martha’s hands flew to her mouth as she gasped.

“I’m afraid so, sir.” Rube replied. “It’s the only way to discover what Tyrelia is all about. But so far so good. I’ve agreed with the other Watchers and Freya that we’ll contact each other at sunset each night. But that does mean I can’t stay in the city.”

“What are you going to do?” Jack asked.

Rube sighed. “I’m not sure. I’d need to find somewhere safe to hide out, but also somewhere close enough so we can all talk each day—so I can pass on news of Freya to you all. And vice versa. Any ideas?”

It was quiet as they all thought for a bit.

Jack was the first to speak. “What about that big tree we all rest under during our breaks? Rube could hide out there and we should be able to somehow arrange to talk to each other?”

“Hmm, yes, I think that would work.” Thomas mused. “Rube, you’d have to be up in the branches, I think, to totally avoid all accidental contact with the other workers. I’m sure one of us could lean up against the trunk. You should be able to whisper in our ear.”

“Yes. I think the afternoon break would be the one to aim for. Then I could hitch a ride on a passing cart leaving the city for the day and find a safe place to contact the others by sunset.”

Martha nodded and clapped her hands together. “That’s settled then.” She beamed around at them all. “Anyone for another cuppa?”

Tyrelia sneak preview – Chapter 2

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THE WATCHERS

Saff pushed himself upright from where he had been leaning against the Wall. “Well, she’s gone then.” He brushed down his dusty robes and adjusted his belt.

Thyst still stared at the spot where Freya had disappeared five minutes previously. She blinked and shook her head slightly, as if clearing it. “Yes, I suppose so. Now what?”

“I’ve been thinking about that. I don’t think we should go back through Andor. Too dangerous—might be more Guards on the way.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Not sure yet. But first we need to cross back over the Chasm before it gets dark, else we risk falling off that narrow bridge. Once we’ve climbed the stairs on the other side of the Chasm, we head towards the western end of the Andoria Mountains.” Saff gestured across the Chasm.

Thyst turned to follow his gaze.

Saff continued, “We can follow the Andor river upstream—making sure we stay clear of Andor. I believe there’s another mountain pass, which would lead us to Marshford on the other side.”

“Sounds good. Let’s go then.” Thyst adjusted the bow slung on her shoulder and out of habit reached behind her to check how many arrows were still in her quiver. Only two. Too few. Frowning, she strode to the top of the stairs and started the descent.

The stairs were narrow and crumbling, a low wall the only thing preventing her and Saff from toppling into the Chasm. They needed both hands to balance themselves. Down, down, down they climbed. It grew darker and colder. They slowed, moving as much by feel as by sight.

Finally, they arrived at the landing at the base and stepped gratefully on to it, glad to be done with the stairs.

“Now for the bridge,” Thyst whispered. Suddenly, an image leapt into her head of Watcher Paz crumpling in a heap and toppling off the bridge into the depths of the Chasm, clutching at the arrow in his chest. She sat down.

“What’s wrong?” asked Saff.

“Nothing … just …” Tears welled up in her eyes and a sob escaped her.

“Oh. Of course.” Saff crouched down beside her and placed his arm around her shoulders. He cleared his throat. “Paz was a good Watcher and a great friend. He did his duty well. But now his vigil is done.”

“His vigil is done.” Thyst echoed. She brushed at her eyes with the heel of her hand and sniffed. “Thank you, Saff.”

He squeezed her shoulder one more time and stood up. “Ready now?” he queried, his blue eyes full of concern.

Thyst nodded and stood up. She eyed the bridge. It was extremely narrow. Without rails. Over an extremely deep Chasm. She took a deep breath and stepped onto it.

It was quite different from when they had crossed it only a few hours earlier. Then, they had been pursued by Guards shooting arrows at them. It had been intense, trying to help Freya across safely. Because the bridge was so narrow, they’d needed their arms for balance and had therefore been forced to allow Freya to be visible. Thyst had gone ahead of her, and an invisible Paz had had Freya’s back. The arrow that had killed him had been intended for Freya. She sighed.

Now it was just her and Saff. She walked calmly and carefully, taking her time. Saff followed her, a few paces behind.

At the far side, the bodies of two Guards lay awkwardly on the platform where they had been slain, arrows protruding from their chests. Thyst strode over and wrenched the arrows out of them. Wiping the blood off the shafts with her cloak, she slid them back into her quiver. She looked around to see if there were any more. She spotted a third Guard on the second to bottom step and retrieved two more arrows out of him.

“Let’s not leave them here.” Saff said. Grunting, he dragged one, then the other, towards the edge, then pushed them off with his boot. Thyst dealt with the third Guard. That business done, they began the long climb back up to the top.

The sun was on the verge of setting by the time they wearily dragged themselves up the final step and fell panting amongst the dense foliage that grew right up to the edge of the Chasm on this side, concealing the stairway.

“I’d better call Freya.” Saff exclaimed, eyeing the setting sun. He extricated his talking stone from a hidden pocket in his robes. It was blue, with white veins running through it. He placed it on his palm and focused his thoughts on Freya. A haze of blue formed around it. Swirling shades of blue solidified into Freya’s face.

“Saff!” she exclaimed happily.

“How are you, Freya?”

“I’m good! But something very strange happened when I went through that archway. I’ve got a shield.”

“What? You found a shield?”

“No, not found. It just sort of … appeared. On my back.”

Saff scratched his beard with his free hand. “I don’t know what to make of that, Freya.”

Freya shook her head. “Me neither. And that’s not all. There’s a pillar with the Laws of Tyrelia on it. There are four of them: Honour the Ancient, Put others first, Use your gifts for good and Follow the Rules.” The words tumbled out.

Saff chuckled. “Sounds great. So, you’re doing okay?”

“Yeah. How’s Thyst?”

“She’s good. We got back across the Chasm all right, and we’ve just finished climbing the stairs. We’d better move on now. Don’t want to be found here.”

“All right. Say goodnight to her from me. I’ll call Rube now.”

“You do that, Freya. Talk tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

Thyst mopped at her brow with her sleeve. “I’m really thirsty and my water skin is empty.”

Saff stood up. “Mine too. Let’s go find that stream.”

They pushed their way through the dense shrubbery that grew all along this edge of the Chasm. Not only did the band of vegetation prevent people and livestock from accidentally wandering too close to the edge, but for a thousand years it had also served to hide the ancient stairway leading down to the bridge. Branches and leaves swished as they brushed against their bodies, snapping back into place behind them, leaving no trace of their passage. Eventually, they emerged into the paddocks and fields at the outskirts of Andor. They turned themselves invisible then walked along the edge of the shrubs until they reached the Andor River. Falling gratefully to their knees, they leant over the bank and scooped the cool water into their mouths.

Their thirst slaked, they filled their water skins. It was well and truly dusk now and, in the distance upstream, the lights of Andor town twinkled from the windows of numerous houses. Andor was built on an island in the middle of the river with multiple bridges to the shore on either side. On their journey to the long-lost path, only Saff had crossed the river by those bridges to lure the Guards into following him rather than Freya and the other two Watchers. The ploy had only partially worked, in that their pursuers had split their forces, and half had followed Saff, whilst the other half had followed Paz, Thyst and Freya.

Suddenly, they heard a noise.

“Shh,” Saff hissed. He put his hand on Thyst’s arm.

They peered into the gloom behind them. There it was again. A thumping sound. Like someone was stamping their feet. A shape moved. Then it whinnied.

“By the Land!” Thyst exclaimed. “It’s your horse, Saff.” She laughed with relief.

“Well, that’s a stroke of luck.” Saff reached out and grabbed his horse’s reins, which were dangling from its bit. He patted it fondly as it nuzzled his neck. “I really thought I’d seen the last of him when I left him at the top of the stairs. He must’ve heard my voice and followed us here.”

“It’s a shame we can’t find my horse, too,” Thyst sighed. Paz and Thyst had left their horses on the opposite side of the river. Who knew where they’d be by now.

“Why don’t we try, though?”

Thyst laughed.

“No, I’m serious. Jump up behind me. Thunder can cross the river.”

“Okay. But you should try a bit further upstream. We were able to cross where there’s a whole lot of little islands. They all lined up like stepping stones. It was amazing,” Thyst recounted.

Saff found the spot and they crossed to the other side. Then he turned his mount to head back downstream towards the Chasm.

“We left them just in there.” Thyst leaned forward from where she was seated behind Saff and pointed under his arm at the foliage. “Beside the river.”

Saff urged his horse forward into the bushes.

“Dapple! Dapple!” Thyst called. She clicked her tongue. “Sandstorm?”

They strained their ears. Nothing.

By now it was dark. “You know what?” Saff asked. “I think we should just call it a night. We’re well concealed here.”

Thyst had to agree. There was not much point in wandering around in this vegetation in the dark. They knew that it grew right up to the edge of the Chasm, and they could easily fall in. She shuddered at the thought.

Saff hobbled his horse. They ate a light meal, then rolled themselves into their blankets and fell asleep straight away. It had been a long day. They had found the long-lost path to Tyrelia and crossed the Chasm. Twice. It was quite a feat!

Tyrelia sneak preview – Chapter 1

Order Tyrelia e-book or paperback

INTO TYRELIA

Freya took a deep breath and stepped through the Wall—the solid grey Wall that for her alone had disappeared. She turned back once more to look at her friends, the Watchers Saff and Thyst, whom she had farewelled just moments ago. They stood looking at the spot where, for them, Freya had disappeared. Yet Freya could see them clearly: Saff leaned against the Wall, his weathered blue robe wrapped around his tall, lean frame. Thyst stood with her back to the Chasm they had all climbed not even an hour earlier, her bow slung at her shoulder, over her purple cloak. Freya raised her hand, even though they couldn’t see her.

Then she turned her back on them and Medar, to drink in the Tyrelian landscape spread before her like a feast. Never had she seen colours so vibrant—from the verdant green of the lush grass under her feet, the intense blue of the sky overhead, the deep purples and bright yellows of the tiny flowers dotting the meadow, to the deeper greens and browns of trees on the far side. She gazed at it all in wonder. A gentle breeze lifted tendrils of her honey-brown hair off her forehead, exposing her scarred visage with one blind eye, as she turned her attention to the thing that had led them to the secret bridge hidden deep in the Chasm: an archway.

It looked ancient. Roughly-hewn rocks stacked atop one another to form the rounded portal. Except, the stones weren’t quite solid. It drew her like a magnet. She walked over to it and ran her hands over those closest to her. Rough, but not sharp. The points had been worn smooth, as if hundreds—no, thousands—of hands had done the same before her. The rocks were warm from the day’s sun and were indeed translucent. She’d never seen anything like it.

She stood within the archway, her arms outstretched, her fingers brushing the rocks on either side, and glanced across the meadow. What was that? She screwed up her good eye in case she was mistaken. But no, it was definitely a path leading into the forest. And some sort of pillar adjacent to it. She scanned her surroundings, but the place was deserted. She set off towards the pillar.

And stopped. Something was behind her. She spun around … nobody was there. She shrugged her shoulders. Huh! It felt different. She looked behind her and gasped. She spun once more. The thing was on her back. She felt behind her. It was metallic and round. It protruded above her shoulders, which is why she’d seen it with her peripheral vision. With both hands she reached behind her. There were straps over her shoulders. Slipping her hands under the straps, she shrugged it off. She shook her head, bewildered.

It was a shield. The setting sun glinted off it. Its curved surface was covered with studs. She brushed her fingertips over them. It was beautiful. And completely strange. How had it got onto her back? Shaking her head again, she laid it on the ground and set off once more.

As she drew closer to the pillar, she noticed strange shadows on its surface. She broke into a jog. The shadows refined into markings then, finally, words. Panting, Freya reached out a hand to touch the monolith. It was stone. The letters were worn, indicating great age, but still legible. They read:

THE LAWS OF TYRELIA

  1. Honour the Ancient
  2. Put others first
  3. Use your gifts for good
  4. Follow the Rules

She stared at them for a while. Well, the first one made sense. The tablet that she’d discovered near her hometown of Nob in Medar had told her about the Ancient. She’d found it in a cave that she had practically fallen into whilst trying to escape from the village boys. The tablet was about the size of a small book and made of glass. When she shone a flame on its surface, words had magically appeared: a poem telling her about Tyrelia. It was only later, after she’d been torn from her family and almost killed by the Guards, she’d discovered that new words appeared in moonlight. It was then that she’d unlocked the secret of the tablet: the four numbers 50, 63, 92 and 99 etched into the bottom of its face turned out to be clues as to which substances would reveal further stanzas of the poem. It wasn’t until she’d exposed the tablet to rainbow light that she’d learned of the Ancient. The fourth and final substance had been snow.

Her friends, Watchers Saff, Thyst and Rube—her father!—didn’t think that the Ancient was still alive, but Freya had been convinced that he was, and now, there he was in the first law: Honour the Ancient. She smiled to herself.

The second law was nice. Put others first. That’s just what friends should do for each other anyhow, she thought. But the third one: Use your gifts for good. What gifts? She didn’t have any gifts—did she? What about the shield that had magically appeared on her back as she stepped through the archway? Had it been a gift?

Suddenly, she felt a weight on her shoulders. Her hand flew behind her head. She gasped. Sure enough, the shield had returned. She shrugged again, and its weight shifted on her back. Huh. Well, if the shield was a gift, what was she supposed to do with it? She had no idea.

Maybe ‘gift’ meant her tablet? Unconsciously, she rested her hand on the satchel at her hip, confirming the tablet was still there. She’d used it to find the long-lost path out of Medar and into Tyrelia. That was certainly good. Well, good for her. Except nobody else could pass through the Wall. She puzzled on that for a bit. Why couldn’t the others get through? She tossed her head in exasperation. She just couldn’t figure it out.

A thought popped into her head. Her talking stone! Maybe that was a gift, too? She’d received it from Watcher Merald, right before he’d died. He’d rescued her from the Pit that the Guards were going to throw her in, and just managed to tell her to find Watcher Saff. It hadn’t been easy, but she had found him. It turned out that all the Watchers had a talking stone each—that’s how they communicated with each other. She pulled it out of the pouch hanging around her neck and held it up to her good eye. It was the size of a quail egg, greenish in colour with marbled white veins running through it. They’d tested that the stones worked with Freya in Tyrelia and the Watchers on the other side of the Wall, still in Medar. In her final conversation with them, right before she’d passed through the Wall, they’d agreed to contact each other every night at dusk. She supposed that was also a good use of her gift.

She didn’t have anything else that could possibly be considered a gift: she was still clothed in her leather tunic, leggings and travel cloak, with her satchel slung over the top. That was all she had. She was just an ordinary, nearly-fourteen-year-old girl.

Well, maybe not so ordinary, she thought ruefully. After all, it had turned out that she was the subject of a thousand-year-old prophecy and was the ‘Daughter of Yaw’. Together with the Watchers, pursued by the Master’s Guards, they’d followed the clues. Finally, just hours ago, they’d discovered the narrow bridge deep within the Chasm. But once they’d dragged themselves over the lip to the base of the Wall, only she, Freya, could pass through it. So, Watcher Rube—her real father (her heart skipped a beat again, thinking about that discovery)—had given her a new quest: to enter Tyrelia and see if she could discover the mystery of the Wall.

Freya turned her attention to the final law: Follow the Rules. Well, that seemed like a good idea. Depending on what the rules were, of course.

She glanced back across the meadow towards the archway. Rays of setting sun painted it a deep golden red. She squinted towards where Saff and Thyst had been. They were gone. Feeling suddenly very alone, she turned her back on the meadow and eyed up the path into the forest. The trees were not dense, and sunlight filtered through the leaves, dappling the forest floor. It looked safe. But was it?

There was only one way to find out. Hitching the strange shield up on her shoulders, she stepped into the forest.

Advertising – sooo frustrating!

It turns out that you don’t sell books if you don’t advertise. Who knew 😉 ?

So, after picking the brains of my good friend, author Karen Cossey, I purchased this software called KDP Rocket which helps you select the right keywords to use in my Amazon advertising campaign. I spent ages (like four hours) researching the keyword strings, crunching the numbers and analysing the trends to determine the good ones for my books. Up until now, I had an Amazon campaign running using seven keywords. Now I set one up that used over 300. I was so excited when I went to bed that night, imagining that suddenly, overnight, I was going to start getting sales on my book.

However, the next morning when I checked my ad, it had stopped very soon into the campaign, and there was a big red WARNING message. The ad hadn’t been able to draw on funds from my credit card. There were a bunch of links suggesting things to fix. I clicked on them all, and nothing seemed to be wrong. So I contacted the bank. Sure enough, they had blocked the payments, because the Amazon address trying to access my account had looked dodgy. They ‘white-listed’ it and I waited (because the Amazon site said that they’d keep trying for 72hours)…but still the payment would not go through.

I then submitted a query about to the Amazon author support team. Due to time zone differences, it took about a day, but eventually I got a response…an email with all the same links and information that their help site had originally suggested. So no help at all. Sigh. A week later, I had to call on Karen’s help again. “Ah yes,” she says, “that happened to me once, too. I ended up clicking a button down the bottom of this page…” We rummaged around the website and eventually clicked on something that seemed to say that my account has been re-set.

We’ll find out if it’s sorted itself out tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

 

Geysercon – Rotorua, Queen’s birthday weekend

Do you love science fiction and fantasy?

Are you a sci-fi or fantasy writer?

Do you teach English?

Or are you a fan of sci-fi and fantasy games and movies?

As the website says: Come to GeyserCon, New Zealand’s 40th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.

There will be heaps going on, from writing workshops by international guest authors for youth of all ages, an all-weekend Book Expo, events with international cosplay guests, workshops on writing fight scenes, fantasy mapping, cover design, the nuts and bolts of writing and editing, using mythology, marketing your books, fantasy makeup, zines, cosplay, filking, making your own ray gun, board gaming, a radio play and finding out the latest news from Weta and loads more!

I will certainly be there (I’ve been invited to be on one of the panels). I hope I see you there too!

Geysercon bookstall.png