Well i have a trapped nerve, and as of yet, still no books, so I can’t do a panel at Bristol Con after all, though i will still do a reading. Hurts too much to sit still for too long and I’m not inspired enough to give a book justice or put other books down as they deserve! So that’s a shame and a pain, rather literally.But hopefully i can put the pain to good use in some written way . . .
Anyway, still having some trouble getting the ritual/festival part of book 3 sorted. So i fiddled with the start instead. And as I’ve never shared the beginning, here it is, the beginning of book 3, Children of the Shadow. No real spoilers i think for book 2, so you’re all right to read it
THE ROAD TO THE MOUNTAINS
The ground below me was always hard. Sometimes it was rough and would rumble along, rocking my body from side to side, with the occasion sudden jolt that would make my head thump on the ground before jarring my entire body. Always there was the sound of thunder, with the ground moving. A distant rumble that sounded beneath my head. Something heavy lay over me all of the time, smelling of animals. At times I felt like I was suffocating, drowning in that rich, musty smell. But at others, when I heard the harsh voices, unfamiliar and terrifying, like the voices of giants, sounding near to me, then I would burrow into those heavy covers, wrap myself in the musty smell and hope that the voices didn’t come near to me. Nothing good ever happened when they came near to me.
At other times the ground was smooth, thick, but I could feel something beneath it that was uneven. Still that musty smell was with me, thick and heavy, covering me, pinning me down. Though my mind was fogged, heavy, my thoughts slipping and sliding away from me as I tried to shape them, a part of me had come to understand that this time, when the ground was smooth, was the dangerous time. The time when the owners of those voices would come to me, when they would hold me up and force something down my throat. Sometimes it was hot, sometimes it was cold, always liquid and always leaving me to feel as though I was drowning. Sometimes I would choke, cough, and try to move the heavy parts of me that I could vaguely feel attached somewhere. Once those parts had worked well, letting me move where I wanted, how I wanted. But now they just seemed to flail around, on the edge of my vision, useless heavy lumps that wouldn’t work at all.
Always these encounters ended the same way. A rough hand over my mouth, the smell of something sweet and heavy, which flowed through me, bring with it a darkness so total and complete it was as though I was dead.
“Candale. Candale!” The voice in the blackness was strangely urgent and insistent and, with it, I was vaguely aware of a hand on my shoulder, shaking me, trying to stir me awake. But a part of me knew that being awake was loud and scary and it hurt. I rather stay in the darkness.
But then my body was moving beyond my control, the darkness rolling backwards, as I was pulled up to my feet and supported by two strong arms and, against my best efforts, the waking world slammed back around me.
Noise. A roar. It was all around me and it took a moment before I could separate the sounds, identify them as screams and shouts, the whiny of horses, the clash of metal against metal and pop and crackle of a fire. But I couldn’t understand them. It was usually so quiet, nothing but that familiar rumble or those harsh voices. Never this much noise, enough to make my, already, aching head want to split.
And then, as I was dragged forward, light and movement and smells joined the noise. Shadowy figures were moving all around us, the source of the shouts and screams, and swords glinted and reflected the dozens of fires that were burning all around us. The smoke was thick, it stung my eyes and set them to watering, and made it hard to breathe. I started to cough and the movement set a lance of white pain shooting through my already pounding skull. My vision was swallowed in a flurry of bright stars and spots and my legs collapsed beneath me. But I didn’t fall, the arms supporting me held me firm and continued to drag me through the roar of noise. Panic gripped me and I tried to pull free, to back away from the chaos all around me, but the arms held tight and continued to carry me on.
“Wait . . .” I managed to gasp, despite my dry mouth and thick tongue and a brain heavy with fog.
“We can’t,” said a male voice, the owner of the arms to my left. “We need to get you out of here, to safety.”
Safety. A magical word, one I had dreamed of, in the clearer moments of my captivity, one that meant freedom and warmth, my friends, my family, my home. Just hearing it made my legs feel weak and I nearly collapsed again this time from relief. Thankfully the arms were still there, holding me.
“Sorry,” I whispered, and forced myself to focus, to scramble for the elusive words. “Drugged. Been drugged.”
“It’s all right,” said the same man again. “We don’t have far to go.”
It might not have been far, but it certainly felt that way to my aching head and dead weight body. By the time we reached our destination, a group of horses standing still within earshot of the roar of sound coming from the camp, I was more dragged than walking. They had to lift me onto the back of a horse and, when the man who had spoken to me swung up in the saddle in front of me, I found it so difficult to keep my head upright that I pressed it to his lean back. For a moment I was still and the pain was eased, just a little, by that support.
And then the horse lurched into movement beneath me and we took off, galloping into the night. I tightened my grip, squeezed shut my eyes and prayed that I wouldn’t be sick.