Rift Riders: Chapter 1, Part 2

Time to fly!

Not to mention catch up with a couple of familiar lieutenants. It just doesn’t feel the same without them.


MHYSRA LOCATED CUMULO’S tack and limped to her big miryhl’s side. “Ready to play?”

The giant eagle lowered his head for his bridle and rubbed his beak against her. “It’s about time you shared the fun. Just stay on and I’ll keep us out of trouble.”

Setting the saddle on his back and buckling the chest straps, Mhysra snorted. “That’s likely.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” he sniffed virtuously, shuffling his wings as she buckled his girths. “You might want to strap yourself in too.”

Trying not to put too much weight on her sore ankle, Mhysra stepped onto his lowered wing, and let him boost her into the saddle. Once in place, she settled her bad foot into the stirrup and took her Wingborn’s advice. For the first time in longer than she cared to remember, she pulled the leather straps out from under the saddle, passed them over the tops of her legs and buckled them either side of the pommel. In terms of safety they weren’t foolproof, but they did offer an extra measure of security. The clips that also attached to her flight-belt she left loose; she wasn’t quite that feeble yet.

When they were fixed, she gathered Cumulo’s reins. “I almost dread hearing the answer, but what have you got in mind?”

Chuckling, the miryhl crouched. “To win, of course.” He sprang into the air, heavy wing beats causing the nearest miryhls to duck. Once he had enough height, Cumulo circled upwards, keeping an eye out for any third-years while waiting for Jaymes and Derrain to join them.

It wasn’t long before the three miryhls were gliding watchfully over the lake. The task ahead was simple: get back to the citadel. The only problem was that around fifty third-years were waiting to get in their way. It didn’t make Mhysra feel any better to know that she and her friends were just an appetiser before the second-years tried their own luck later in the day. Few enough first-years made it to this point, and those that did rarely put up a fight. She smiled, knowing Cumulo had other ideas in mind.

Rising from a crag halfway down the lake, seven miryhls circled. More launched along the route and Mhysra had no doubt others were waiting to ambush them. The challenge had begun.

Mhysra leant against her Wingborn’s back. “Ready, Cue?”

A chuckle vibrated up through his spine as he circled one last time. “Let’s show them how real Riders fly.” Pulling in his wings, he dived towards the lake.

A high scream echoed through the valley, answered by another and another, as three groups of miryhls stooped to attack. Cumulo kept his head down, aiming for the glistening water below. Hunched on his back, Mhysra looked over her shoulder, murmuring their opponents’ positions to her partner.

“This is just a game, Cue,” she warned. “We’re not supposed to hurt them.”

“Nor they us,” he replied, and tilted his wings so that they levelled out just above the water.

The third-years howled as they swept down the wind, arrows and bag-bombs at the ready.

“Steady,” Cumulo murmured. “Steady.”

Mhysra shifted on his back, resettling her weight and trying to ignore the throbbing in her ankle. She watched the nearest miryhls fan into an attack formation, the leader drawing back his bow. Her hands clenched in Cumulo’s neck feathers, wondering what he had planned. Two more students sighted them with their arrows and drew back their arms.

Cumulo arched his back and, with a downward thump of his wings, drove straight up into the formation, scattering miryhls everywhere. Arrows twanged harmlessly wide, startled students yelped and by the time they had recovered Cumulo was gone.

Other groups converged as Cumulo soared above the lake, powering into the wind. Mhysra looked behind and counted six miryhls approaching on the left, four on the right. She called their positions to her Wingborn and he tipped his head from side to side, assessing the competition. Two more groups joined in front, providing a united front of nine more miryhls.

Hunched on Cumulo’s back, Mhysra tried to make herself smaller, while her Wingborn laughed. “A challenge!” he screamed, lifting high as a flurry of arrows shot at them. “Hold on!”

Left with no other choice, Mhysra clung as Cumulo raced above the approaching flock and, as they turned to follow, folded his right wing, tucked in his left and dropped. Rolling twice, he avoided the missiles lobbed in their direction, flung open his wings and flew straight at the nearest miryhl.

Mhysra clenched her teeth and shut her eyes as Cumulo rolled again, breaking the defensive line and scattering his opponents. Her Wingborn was enjoying himself hugely, shrieking and swooping on the other miryhls to make them flee. She couldn’t join in, though, as every sharp turn, roll and unexpected move sent a jolt through her twisted ankle and made her feel sick.

Despite that, the roar of the wind in her ears, the chill of the air racing over them and the sheer exuberance of her miryhl did raise her spirits. Cumulo was so magnificent – how could she not be impressed?

Though younger than those he was facing, Cumulo was big, cocky and brash. Being Wingborn meant he matured faster than other miryhls, and most often kept company with birds of the officer class. It was unfair to pit him against student eagles, even when they outnumbered him. Flock politics meant that they had to give way, something of which Cumulo took full advantage.

Whenever one saw him coming, they were only too eager to move, regardless of their Rider’s orders. It was fine to chase him, but quite a different matter when he flew in their faces. Mhysra laughed at the dismay on the third-years’ faces as their miryhls dodged and almost collided in their haste to keep out of Cumulo’s way.

Such was the chaos that Derrain and Jaymes slipped easily by unnoticed. When they were safe Cumulo swept out of the commotion, leaving their opponents squawking like flustered hens. Giving up on them, with jeers and catcalls, the third-year flocks returned to their perches to await easier prey.

Laughing, Cumulo swiftly caught up with the other first-years, and the three young miryhls rose above the lake, riding the draft through the narrow valley opening and on towards the citadel below.

Lifting her face to the sky, Mhysra felt her heart race in time with Cumulo’s, and knew there was no place on the Overworld more perfect than this.

* * * * *

“MAKE WAY FOR Aquila’s most esteemed and honoured flight instructor.” Lieutenant Willym was at his mocking best when Lyrai entered the officers’ mess for dinner that evening.

“Someone skipped their envy drops this morning,” Stirla said airily, shifting along the bench to make room for Lyrai. “Not to mention feels sore because none of his precious favourites made it home today.”

Grinning, Lyrai shook his head and greeted Captain Myran’s senior lieutenants, recently returned from Nimbys and staying in the town barracks. “What brings you up here?”

Imaino rolled his eyes in Willym’s direction. “Can’t say it’s the company.”

“Likewise,” Willym sneered.

“Stubble it, boy,” Fleik grumbled. “You give me indigestion.”

Stirla chuckled as the other lieutenant’s face turned an unpleasant shade of red. “It seems not everyone is afraid of your father. Poor Willym, having to suffer such insubordinate ruffians.”

The dark-eyed lieutenant glowered, but the arrival of the captains deprived him of any comebacks. Instead he moved to the far end of the table and turned his back, like the sulky brat he truly was.

“Well, that told us,” Fleik said cheerfully, standing up to shake hands with Captain Hylan. “Good to see you again, sir. I thought you were patrolling the Wrathlen.”

“I was,” Hylan agreed, slapping Imaino on the back and ruffling Stirla’s hair. “News brought me back early. Don’t suppose any of you know where I can find the dean?”

“Still in Nimbys, as far as we know,” Captain Fredkhen said, as the servants brought in their meal. “We expect him back any day now.”

“Unless he gets snared for the Midsummer festivities,” Captain Myran added, making his lieutenants shudder, while he stopped at the sideboard to gather a fresh bottle of wine. “Cayn would be grateful for the support.”

“Especially since Lieutenant Lenfyr wants to wear a dress,” Fleik mumbled between mouthfuls. “Not sure how he intends to explain that one.”

She won’t have to,” Imaino said, sipping his wine. “I’ve seen it. There are so many Kevian crystals on it that the last place anyone’ll be looking at is her face. Even with her dress coat on top.”

“After all these years as a male Rider, it must seem strange to suddenly come out as a woman,” Stirla mused. “Her disguise must have been a damn good one.”

“Or her friends damn good at keeping secrets,” Imaino agreed, with a wink.

“I suppose that now the proclamation is in place, she won’t be the last.” Stirla grinned and raised his glass towards the captains. “Here’s to a brave new Overworld.”

The captains shared a wearied look. “And I thought I had problems,” Fredkhen muttered.

“You have,” Hylan assured him, looking around the room. “We all have.”

“Mysteriousness never suited you,” Myran said, limping across the room to take the seat beside Lyrai. “Unless you intend to wait for the dean to return, why don’t you join us, eat and share what you can?”

Hylan took the space between Stirla and Imaino and filled his plate. “The Wrathlen stirs.”

They fell silent and even Fleik stopped mid-chew. Beyond the walls the sounds of the main hall filtered in, while in the serving room, someone dropped a platter and was soundly chastised for it. Inside the officers’ mess, all eyes focused on Hylan.

“How much of a stir?” Fredkhen asked, voice strained.

“All out.”

“The anticipated target?” Myran enquired, pouring himself a glass of wine and another for Hylan, which he passed down the table.

The other captain drained half of it in one gulp. “My sources have been silent for a month.”

The lieutenants and captains exchanged uneasy glances.

“What do you intend to do, sir?” Fleik asked.

“Speak to the dean,” Hylan replied. “I’ll need more men to watch, hoping that when they move we’ll be able to delay them or send out warnings.”

“Not much of a plan,” Willym muttered from the far end of the table.

“Then perhaps yours should be one of the flurries sent in support,” Myran said, voice cold.

Fredkhen looked embarrassed, but he’d always been too nice for someone like Willym.

The trainee-lieutenant shrugged. “Can’t be any worse than wasting my time here.”

Lyrai caught Stirla’s eye and they shook their heads. Willym never changed.

“I had hoped to speak to the dean on my arrival, but I would have taken the next step regardless.” Hylan drained his wineglass and looked at the captains. “I need your swiftest Riders. We might not know what the Wrathlen plans or where they intend to strike, but that doesn’t mean we can’t send out warnings. Most of the Greater West will be on the alert, but such a force might try their luck on Imercian or down the Stormsurge. This way we can prevent anyone being taken by surprise.”

Fredkhen nodded grimly, while Myran signalled for his senior lieutenants to see to it.

“In the meantime, we wait,” Hylan sighed, toying with his food. He wasn’t the only one whose appetite had vanished. “Merry Midsummer, everyone.”


Next update on Friday. Hope you’ll be back for more.

Thanks for reading!

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Rift Riders: Chapter 1, Part 1

Back again, and this time I’ve brought along a familiar character or two to help things along.

(Proper links and things will appear, but I’m off to the zoo in a bit so it’ll have to wait for tomorrow or something.)

In the meantime: this is my kind of end of year exam!


One
Aquila in Summer

Aquila
21st Sun Month, 787 CE
ALL WAS QUIET as Lady Mhysra Kilpapan, Wingborn and first-year Rift Rider student, crept down the bank. Around her, evergreen trees stood in silence, blocking out all but the strongest light. They marched up the mountainside in haphazard style, over all terrain – steep, shallow, rocky. Nothing stopped them from growing or shedding a pungent carpet of needles.

Mhysra was taking advantage of that carpet now to keep her footfalls quiet as she slithered from tree to tree. The woods might look and sound empty, but she knew better. They were out there. Waiting. Watching. Ready to take her captive.

Crouching behind some thick bracken, she edged sideways, senses alert. The bank was steep, but nothing that she couldn’t handle as she slipped down it, cursing the pebble avalanche rattling in her wake. Flattening herself against the nearest pine, she waited.

A branch snapped. The entire wood seemed to hold its breath and Mhysra hid behind a stand of ferns. They were over six feet tall but she didn’t dare crawl in amongst them: the slightest movement would give her away.

“See anything?” a voice muttered from the top of the bank.

“No. Could be a deer.”

The first person snorted. “How many deer have you seen up here?”

“I saw two herds last year,” the other retorted, sounding young and sulky, but then he was only a second-year. “These woods are littered with deer tracks. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?”

“Next you’ll be warning me about bears and wolves,” the first student mocked. “Let’s move on. There’s nothing here and I want to bag myself a couple of firsties.”

“Still sore over your capture last year?” his companion chuckled.

“As if you weren’t getting caught right beside me.”

Mhysra stayed in her crouch as the sounds of a tussle reached her, before the second-years continued in a more dignified manner. Even when they were out of hearing, she remained still, waiting for her heart to calm. Under the thunder of her pulse was a tingle of exhilaration. She was still in play, still in the forest, evading her hunters. This wasn’t so hard.

Grinning, she eased around the ferns and continued. She still couldn’t believe she’d almost completed her first year at Aquila, training school and home of the Rift Riders. That was why she was running around the mountainside, dodging other students. Because rather than sit the pupils down for dull examinations, Aquila preferred to assess their progress in more practical ways. Thus the hunt.

With most of the first-years still learning how to fly, not to mention handle their weapons, their role in the hunt was simple: prey. They were taken high into the valley above the citadel, where an enormous lake was surrounded by a thick pine forest, and turned loose. Two bells later the second-years were released to pursue them. The goal for the first-years was to reach the end of the valley without getting caught. The second-years’ task was to capture as many firsties as possible. It was up to each individual whether they worked solo, in pairs or teams.

In order to monitor everyone’s progress, and ensure that there was no foul play, instructors, officers, attendants, servants, tutors and off-duty Riders were scattered through the forest. Even ordinary folk from the town came up to keep watch. It was an annual event.

And the hunt was just the start.

The sun blazed hotly down as Mhysra reached the bottom of the ridge and the canopy overhead thinned. Here the undergrowth was littered with scrub, gorse and the occasional birch sapling. It made hiding easier, but each step was more perilous. With silence now impossible, she pushed on regardless. The end of the valley was in sight and a flock of miryhls waited beyond the finish line. They looked bored and irritated: their day had been nothing but dull so far.

Determined that would soon change, Mhysra sought out her Wingborn amongst the giant eagles and sighed with relief. Cumulo was close, his head raised, looking for her, knowing she would come. A group of Riders laughed and played cards in the shade while they waited for the first-years to arrive and claim their mounts. They also ensured that the birds remained under cover, away from the burning sun, while keeping away the worst of the midges. Swearing under her breath, Mhysra waved the flies away from her face and wished she’d stayed away from the water a little while longer too.

Fast approaching footsteps made her freeze. She darted her head around and threw herself into the gorse bushes, stifling yelps as the prickly branches seized her with glee. It was as good a hiding place as any since surely there weren’t two people on this mountain foolish enough to jump into gorse bushes.

Wriggling down to the ground and welcoming the respite from the midges, Mhysra crawled on her elbows until she could see the miryhl enclosure and watch the commotion.

A student – slender and red-haired – was sprinting as though a pack of pyreflies was after him. It was Jaymes, Mhysra’s regular sparring partner. His russet hair was dark with sweat, his shirt clung to his back and he was panting hard. Mhysra silently urged him on as four second-years broke from the woods, whooping at the chase.

One of them paused long enough to draw his bow, using a blunt arrow marked with paint. They didn’t fly very far, or very well, but Mhysra had already seen two students taken out by them. The second-year loosed, but Jaymes started running in lunges from side to side and avoided it with ease. The other boys fumbled at their packs and pulled out little cloth bundles, lobbing them towards the fleeing figure. Only a stumble saved Jaymes from the first, which burst in a shower of red dye, while the second missed altogether.

The drowsy miryhls looked up as the Riders gathered by the finish line, cheering the students on – some for the hunters, some for the prey. At Jaymes’ approach they unlatched the rope, while the second-years cursed and threw more bombs.

Jaymes lurched on, stumbling, one hand pressed to his side. The end was in sight. Less than six feet from the line a bumble sailed over his shoulder. It struck a Rider, who rolled his eyes good naturedly and caught Jaymes as he tripped into safety.

The Riders slapped him on the back and offered him water, while the second-years begrudgingly congratulated him before trudging back into the woods. No traps were allowed within fifty feet of the enclosure, in order to give the first-years a fighting chance. Mhysra estimated that she was just about within that distance. Still, it would be better to wait for the second-years to leave. No point making life difficult for herself.

With the hunters gone and Jaymes recovering, Mhysra wriggled out of hiding. Sneaking around a copse of silver birches, she debated whether to sprint for it or continue creeping and hope she didn’t alert anyone.

A distant crashing in the forest startled her and she sprang forward.

“Here comes another one,” a Rider chuckled.

“And more,” another agreed. “It’s all go now.”

The crashing behind grew louder and closer, but Mhysra didn’t dare look. The ground ahead was covered in clumps of grass, rocks, tree roots and shrubs. Moving quickly over it and keeping her feet was tricky.

Something whistled over her shoulder and she threw herself to one side as the bundle struck a rock, exploding in a burst of red dye. Rolling over her shoulder, she came easily back to her feet and ran on, checking for signs that she’d been hit. Her clothes were clean, or as clean as they could be after a day crawling through the forest.

“Duck!” a familiar voice yelled, and she bent down as a painted arrow bobbled overhead.

Using a hand to push herself upright again, she shook the sweat from her eyes as the cheering Riders opened the enclosure. She stumbled over a loose pocket of ground and swore. Another bundle flew over her head and yet another landed off to her right.

Each stride sent a jolt up her left calf, but she hobbled on, yelping as a strong hand seized her arm. It threw her across the line and she landed with an undignified thud. Her saviour thumped down beside her, chuckling as a bundle hit Mhysra’s knee and showered them both in red dye.

“Too late,” her rescuer panted, rolling onto his back. “You all right?”

Sitting up, Mhysra flexed her ankle and winced. “Just about,” she said, and smiled. “Thanks for the help, Derry. Appreciate it.”

Derrain fra Canlen, her broad-shouldered, good-natured, best friend grinned. “You were so close. Seemed a shame to let you lose.”

“Don’t get too comfy,” a Rider warned, offering them a drink. “Fun’s not over yet.”

Groaning, they accepted the water and crawled over to join Jaymes. He smiled weakly in welcome. “Did you two work together?”

Emptying the remains of his canteen over his head, Derrain shook himself like a dog. “No chance. I lost sight of her around midmorning. She moved too fast for me. I was with Mouse and Haelle. Haelle tripped an arrow trap around noon, while Mouse ran smack into a second-year just after. His leg was starting to play up, so he wouldn’t have stuck it much longer anyway. I’ve been running since.” He looked at Mhysra and raised his eyebrows. “What happened to Corin and Greig?”

She sipped from her canteen, shaking her head. “Corin got hit by an arrow, tried to keep going and ended up shouting at Lieutenant Stirla. Greig was so busy joining in that he missed a net dropping on him. I only escaped because I fell down a gully.” She pushed up her right sleeve and showed them the graze running the length of her forearm.

They hissed in sympathy and one of the Riders went to find something to clean it with.

“How about you?” she asked Jaymes.

“I was with Silveo,” he said, to no one’s surprise. The two North Point lads were born in the same village and had been inseparable ever since, even if Silveo was intensely studious while Jaymes was more active. The only time they didn’t pair up was when the instructors and teachers separated them. “He grew bored around midmorning and started cataloguing the different species of fern. Last I saw of him he was smearing his shirt with red dye and talking to Captain Fredkhen about gorse.”

They chuckled tiredly, while Rider Theryn arrived to patch up the worst of their scrapes and bruises.

“Has Dhori been through yet?” Mhysra asked him as he washed her graze.

Theryn grinned. “First in and skipped off before the third-years even left the eyries.”

“I don’t know why he even bothers pretending to be one of us,” Derrain grumbled. “I could have sworn he’d done all this before.”

“And then some,” the Rider agreed. “If he wasn’t so young, I’d think him a captain.”

The students thought about it, then Jaymes shrugged. “At least he’s on our side.”

“True,” Theryn chuckled, with a last swipe over Mhysra’s arm. “All done. You can go.”

Though it was tempting to remain beside the lake, Mhysra’s day was only half done. “Come on,” she said to the boys, batting away a cloud of midges. “Time to make the third-years work.”

The amused Riders wished them luck and returned to their card game.


Tomorrow – flying!

Thanks for reading.

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Rift Riders: Prologue

At last, the moderate wait is over.

Rift Riders is Book 2 of the Wingborn series. This is a twice weekly serial updated every Friday and Sunday, and if you missed the first one, you can still read it online for free. It’s a high fantasy world with giant, talking eagles, Regency-esque manners, a YA protagonist and lots and lots of clouds.

Book 2 starts about six months after the first one ends, with Mhysra and friends having just completed their first year at Aquila. But before we get to any of that trouble is brewing in the Wrathlen and a new world player is about to step onto the stage…

Appropriate snacks at the ready, people, we’re going in!


Prologue

Kincarg, the Wrathlen
23rd Feather Month, 787 Cloud Era

THE WIND WAS bitter as it whistled across the top of the Wrathlen and crept into the crevices. Down below all was dark, while the sky above frowned with rain clouds. Everywhere was cold, but it was always cold here, even in the middle of summer.

Out of the grey sky, six kaz-naghkt approached, leathery wings beating in time, wiry arms taut with the strain of keeping a fur-lined cocoon aloft. They struggled to hold steady as winds buffeted them from all directions, roiling off the tumultuous Stormwash. But the pouch hanging beneath them remained smooth. Even when the right rear kaz-naghkt dropped its rope and collapsed on the landing crag, the other five took the extra strain and lowered it cautiously onto the rocks before allowing themselves to rest.

Panting, bone ridges flushed with exertion, the lead pair gently unwrapped the pouch, pulling leather strings and peeling back padded layers, each one marked with a series of breathing holes. Fleece blankets came next, followed by another leather cocoon. No matter how tight the knots, or how many growls of frustration the kaz-naghkt emitted, they never once lost patience or used their sharp wing spurs to rip or sever the cords. Even shaking with cold, they treated each layer as something unimaginably precious. At last, the pouch stirred on its own and the kaz-naghkt stepped back, taking up guard positions around it.

Which was just as well, because their arrival had drawn a crowd. Wary and suspicious, the inhabitants of the Wrathlen waited at a cautious distance, weapons ready, to see what the kaz-naghkt had brought. The crowd was entirely human, wrapped up against the chill, though the quality of their garments varied from the plushest furs to the cheapest wool. No one spoke, though many shivered. They stared at the kaz-naghkt and the kaz-naghkt stared back.

The pouch shifted, leather laces hissing as they were pulled from their holes, and the blankets loosened. A hand emerged, encased in fleece gloves, followed by an arm, then a head covered with thick waves of blue-black hair. The man looked up, pale barley eyes taking in his audience as he stretched and emerged from his cocoon, the only creature on the Wrathlen not shivering.

A sly smile curved the corner of his mouth as he stood between his kaz-naghkt guards.

“Take me to your leader,” he announced, eyes narrowing with amusement. “I believe she is expecting me.”


I hope to have the first bit of Chapter 1 up tomorrow.
Until then, enjoy your weekend, my friends.

Thanks for reading!

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It’s Rift Riders Weekend!

As promised, the second Wingborn book is about to begin! And will continue over the weekend as I post the prologue and complete first chapter in all the usual places.

Before I get into all that, though, I’ll be making a few changes this time around.

  1. No Wednesday updates.
    The main reason why I’m serialising this book rather than sitting on it for a few months and releasing it whole is because I need time to work on the next few Dragonlands books before spoilers start showing up. But although this book is almost the same length as Wingborn, it has fewer chapters. Since I think I’ll need more than twenty weeks to get going, I’m afraid it’ll be twice weekly updates only this time around.
  2. No Cloudy Chapter Headings.
    This is mostly down to laziness on my part. Also, I’m pretty much out of good photos I can turn into Overworld scenes. Besides, this book is not peaceful and I’d really need some Aquila images. Which I don’t have. So no headings, not that I think anyone will care but I thought I’d say it anyway.
  3. Available for a limited time only.
    Unlike Wingborn, which I plan to leave up for free for the foreseeable future, as well as in free ebook format, I do plan to charge for Rift Riders eventually. This means you’ll get the serial for free, but I’ll be taking it all down a month after I’ve reached the end. Then I’ll release the ebook. I’ll put out warnings and reminders before I remove it, but try not to leave it too late.

Other than that, this should all go much the same as the last book did. Except with more action and cliffhangers, because Stuff Happens in this book.

Oh, here, have a blurb:

Rift Rider Cover 8On a world cursed to be covered in clouds, protected by the elite Rift Riders who fly on the backs of giant eagle miryhls, Lady Mhysra Kilpapan and her friends are making history. Women are now firmly back within the Rider fold and the future looks bright.

But even though Mhysra and her Wingborn Cumulo have survived their first year as students, there’s more to becoming a Rift Rider than lessons and training. Especially when trouble is brewing in the Wrathlen and the kaz-naghkt are looking for revenge.

Return to the Overworld for the next exciting Wingborn adventure, where strength, loyalty, honour and friendship are about to tested to their limits – and beyond.

The Wingborn ebook is coming too, I promise. I had hoped to have it ready to go this weekend, but these last three weeks have been largely spent being invaded by family. Which is never a bad thing, because I love getting to see my family, and playing with my nephews and nieces is always awesome, but it does diminish my free time just a tad.

However, next week will be free, so I intend to whip Wingborn into shape and set it free into the world as soon as possible. Then, finally, I can turn my attention to Storm Rising, because one of the new characters has headed off in a totally new direction while I wasn’t paying attention, and I have no idea what they’re up to. Esten has also decided that he will be one of the POV characters in this book, which… should prove interesting.

They’re supposed to be passing through this one not very interesting place before heading to the Dragon Moot so deals can be struck and Khennik can get the help he needs, but something warns me that all the interesting stuff is going to happen in the dull places, while the Moot will be really boring.

Urgh, dragon wrangling. Why did I ever think writing them was a good idea?

Well, enough with the wingeing. I have Rift Riders to post and another weekend with family up ahead. Here’s hoping you have something equally enjoyable to look forward to!

 

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The Last Link (and Wingborn Shorts)

Blazing Dawn Cover 2

Barnes and Noble have finally joined the Blazing Dawn party. Yay!

I’ve had a pretty busy week in which I managed to write about 700 words of Storm Rising before my brain shut down mid-sentence. Next week looks to be pretty busy too, but hopefully I can get back to it after that and finally make some sense out of it. Thus far this seems to be a flying book. I have three and a half chapters and it’s all flying, all the time. I’m hoping to change that in the next chapter, because I have some pretty amazing locations that need exploring. There may also be a baby dragon… called Rhiddyl. (If you one of the few who read the original Rift Riders back on Elfwood, yes, that Rhiddyl. As a baby!)

As for Wingborn news, well, I need to carve out some time for edits, but so far I have three requests for short stories and, me being me, I want to write all of them. I’ve already finished one and have little doubt I’ll throw over all the other things I’m supposed to be doing and scribble down the other two soon. I’m still open to requests, if anyone desperately wants to know something about the Wingborn bunch.

So far, the ones I have are:

  • Cumulo and Hurricane’s first meeting (written – about 3.5K)
  • A survival lesson with Stirla
  • When Stirla met Lyrai (done – about 3.5 K)
  • Milli and Stirla romance (old tale – about 5.5K)

When they’re done I’ll post them in various places for people to read, hopefully before the start of Rift Riders. Although that’s creeping up on me quite quickly, so I might not manage it. Nevertheless, they will appear.

In the meantime, merry Sunday, everyone!

 

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Mini Update

Blazing Dawn is up and available from iBooks and Kobo!

For some reason B&N is taking forever this time around. Oh well.

In other news, Wingborn is doing really well on Wattpad these days, and passed 500 likes last weekend (ei!). To celebrate I’m thinking of writing a short story or two about some of the characters, or scenes people would have liked to have seen.

I already have an old short story about Milli and Stirla’s Nimbys romance, which I’ll probably polish up and post at some point. Along side that, any requests?

Maybe you want some more Derry time, or another glimpse of Corin’s failure to flirt. Perhaps you’d prefer a survival lesson with Stirla, or Cumulo and Hurricane’s first official meeting. If you’re hoping for more Bumble, she plays a fairly big role in the Milli/Stirla story.

So if there’s something you’d like to see, let me know! If I get enough suggestions I’ll put up a poll to let people decide, but if not, I’ll see which one most takes my fancy and see what comes out of the keyboard.

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Blazing Dawn or Wingborn? Q&A

As you may have noticed, I’ve recently released a new book. In some ways it seems quite similar to the book I serialised over the last few months. Both have giant flying eagles called miryhls, both feature Rift Riders and both are set on a world covered in a curse of clouds. But one has dragons and the other doesn’t, and one is YA while the other isn’t.

What’s going on?


If these are both Overworld books, does
Blazing Dawn have anything to do with Wingborn?
Yes, it does. Blazing Dawn is set in 579 Cloud Era, while Wingborn takes place two hundred years later in the 780s. The Dragonlands series is set in a time when dragons still traded freely with humans, and women weren’t just allowed in the Rift Riders, they were an important part of it.

So it’s the same world, but what does one series have to do with another?
At the moment, not a lot, but there are plenty of connections between the two series. As the Wingborn books progress you’ll begin to see certain things that may seem familiar from the Dragonlands books, and likewise, some of the big questions about how society is shaped differently in Wingborn will be answered in the Dragonlands books. Such as why the dragons stopped trading with humans and why women were banned from the Riders.

How many books then?
Currently I have no idea how many books will be in the Dragonlands series. Wingborn seems set to wrap up in six novels, but even though I ultimately know where the dragon books are going, I don’t quite yet know how I’ll get there. There’s an awful big time gap to play with and rather a lot of big personalities emerging from my new characters.

Will there be spoilers?
Since I’m writing and releasing the series concurrently, it might seem that way. I hope people will actually find it fun if they’re reading both and can make certain connections. As for whether they’ll actually be spoilers or not… Well, all I’m saying is the answers that seem the most obvious might not be quite as clear cut as they first appear.

Which is another way of saying my imagination has a tendency of twisting things on me at the last minute, so even I’m not a 100% certain on how this or that will turn out. One plot line I had thought set in stone for about ten years has recently decided to head in a different direction, so I’m making no promises. It’ll be fun to find out, though – and I hope you’ll think so too!

I don’t like spoilers. Which series should I read first?
If you don’t want to read them both at the same time, that’s fine. Dragonlands is chronologically first, while Wingborn is far older in terms of my imagination and writing, but both series can be read without knowing anything about the other. The Wingborn series is easier to access, since the first one is available for free as a serial, and I will be releasing the second in the same way soon. So if you’re impatient to find out more, that’s probably the better one to go for. If, however, you prefer to wait and read the whole book, I’m hoping to have Dragonlands #2 ready in a few months.

Basically, it’s up to you. If you prefer dragons and slightly more adult themes, head for Blazing Dawn, but if you’re intrigued by learning how to fly giant eagles and finding out more about the Rift Riders themselves, with a YA heroine breaking new ground amongst her friends, then go with Wingborn.

I’m still undecided, where can I read more?
Wingborn is available for free and can be found here, which also has links to Wattpad and Livejournal versions.

Blazing Dawn is available to buy as an ebook from various retailers. Go here for more about the book and to read the first chapter.

I still have questions…?
Great! I love question. Feel free to ask them below and I’ll see what I can do to answer them. In non-spoilery ways.

 

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A Lecture on Dragons

Also known as Blazing Dawn: Chapter 1, Part 3. In which we meet the ambassador and she makes a few important points very clear before the humans go off to meet the dragons.

If you missed them, click Part 1 and Part 2 to catch up.


“AH, LIEUTENANTS. PLEASE, sit down and forgive this rather late request for a meeting.” Ambassador Jesken waved a hand in welcome without looking at either of them. That was because even the slightest twitch of her head made her maid twitter in protest, since she was working hard to ensure the ambassador’s wealth of curly brown hair was arranged just so.

Following Anhardyne across the room, Nera stared in fascination as the little maid tucked and crimped and pinned, transforming the ambassador’s usual messy bun into a stunning confection of loops and swirls and shining silk, all held in place with delicate gold net and diamond pins. As remarkable as the performance was, the result also turned the ordinary, plain-faced woman with an air of amused command into a dignified lady of wealth and stature. All because of a hair-do. Nera was most impressed.

“I know we have spoken often this last moon and a half about what to expect over the next five years, but there are two final topics I need to address before our arrival.” Regardless of her looks, Ambassador Jesken had a beautiful voice, rich and mellow, rolling with only the slightest hint of her Etherian origins. “Being as they are also the most personal, I had hoped to discuss them over dinner tonight, but as you can see, events have overtaken us somewhat.”

She waved a plump hand towards the wide window that allowed them a perfect look back over the glowing Cloud Sea, now peppered with forested islands and hints of stone buildings. The best view of this moment would have been found at the front of the ship, but still, even from the stern, the sight was breathtaking.

A flurry of squeaks drew Nera’s attention away from the window, realising that she hadn’t been the only one who’d turned to stare. The ambassador’s eyes crinkled with humour as she apologised to her maid for moving her head. Then she looked at the women in front of her again.

“There is little about our role here that you do not already know, and both Captain Wellswen and Commander Bethnelm assure me that you are each fine Riders, well-versed in etiquette and dragon behaviour. However, there is one topic that the books do not discuss: sexual relations.”

Nera felt her eyes widen, while beside her Anhardyne choked.

The ambassador smiled. “Indeed. My own initial reaction to the subject was much like yours. They are so much bigger than us, of course, and an entirely different species. But you will find that, inside their own lands, dragons are a little different to the ones we glimpse at a distance in our cities. The ones we do meet in their human forms tend to be the highest ranking officials, ones who have little interest in humans beyond political negotiations. Which is why they were chosen, of course. Things are a little different here.”

As the maid stepped back with a sound of satisfaction, Jesken thanked her and dismissed her to finish packing. “As you will soon discover, dragons are quite sensuous creatures, curious too. They can be rather flirtatious and are not afraid to touch. A new influx of humans is quite a novelty and you will find yourselves the centre of attention for quite some time.

“For the most part this curiosity is harmless. However, dragons can also be quite alluring. It is perfectly understandable to be drawn to them and personal relationships, while not encouraged, are not expressly forbidden either. Humans are a novelty to dragons, and they do not always take as much care with us as they should, but as long as you are aware of this, and make sure that your partner is also aware, little harm should be done. Provided that your partner is thoughtful.”

The ambassador’s smile was soft, her gaze distant as if recalling fond memories. Then she cleared her throat and fixed them with a stern gaze once more. “There are a few risks that rise alongside the obvious physical disparities. Some humans, for example, experience strange reactions on contact with certain dragons’ skin. No one is quite sure why, or who will be effected, but it can be treated with the right herbs and lotions and is something to bear in mind. The reaction can range from a small rash to something quite painful and debilitating, and may not be obvious on first contact. A good dragon lover will be aware of such possibilities and provide you with adequate care, but please know that myself and Captain Wellswen are always here if you need us.”

She settled back in her chair, taking on the same stance that Nera had grown familiar with during their journey: a lecture was coming. “But there is another, much greater risk to be found when lying with dragons. Despite the differences between a human and a dragon, when a dragon takes on a human form, they do so in all ways. Some trick or slip of magic means that when you lie with a dragon in human shape, you face the same risks you would with any human male.”

Anhardyne was the first to make the connection. “Do you mean pregnancy?” Her forehead scrunched in a frown. “We could end up having dragon babies?” The incredulous squeak of her voice made Nera smile.

Ambassador Jesken’s lips also twitched. “In theory, yes, though it is doubtful that you would carry any offspring to term. Dragon pregnancies are long and arduous. A female dragon will gestate her egg for a considerable period even before laying it and leaving it to incubate.”

“We’d have to lay an egg?” Anhardyne sounded horrified, and Nera didn’t blame her.

This time the ambassador chuckled. “No, no egg laying, just an excessively long pregnancy that will likely end up with a still born child and an infertile mother.”

Which sounded worse than trying to lay an egg.

“Human and dragon blood doesn’t mix well,” Ambassador Jesken continued firmly. “Just well enough to create a spark of life, one which burns up all too quickly. Best for all involved if you never fall pregnant in the first place.”

She would get no argument from Nera on that point – nor Anhardyne either, if her expression was any indication of her thoughts.

“So you’re saying we should stay clear of bedding dragons?” the older lieutenant asked, shifting in her chair.

Jesken smiled. “It is probably the safest course, yes, but I believe there are herbs that take care of such things. Slightly different to ones you may already use, but easy enough to obtain if necessary. You should investigate all the options thoroughly before taking any risks – should the opportunity arise.”

While Anhardyne looked thoughtful, Nera wrinkled her nose. It was unlikely that she would ever need such knowledge, especially when Anhardyne was close by. Her friend was golden and beautiful, bound to draw attention wherever she went, while Nera was small and plain and quiet and far too easily overlooked. Which was how she preferred things.

“I must also warn you about your hair.” The ambassador reached up a hand, as if to check that her elaborate arrangement was still in place. “When assuming a second form, most dragons take a human shape, but because they are more akin to reptiles and birds, hair does not come naturally to them. The most skilled and powerful dragons can produce a small amount of hair, but it tends to be short and straight and of only one shade. The prospect of curls and many colours absolutely fascinates them. Lieutenant Fennik will become very popular.”

“Fennik?” Anhardyne laughed incredulously at the mention of one of her Riders. “But he’s a squashed-nosed bruiser, with hair so short you can hardly see what colour it is. Except brown.”

The ambassador’s smile was indulgent. “The dragons won’t care what his face looks like. His hair may be short, but you can still see a hint of red amongst the brown. I’ve no doubt that before the first moon of our trip is through someone will have convinced him to grow it long, just to see what else is hidden in there. As for you, Lieutenant Anhardyne, you’ll be flooded with offers before nightfall. If you’re not careful, a bidding war might commence.”

“Bidding war?” Anhardyne echoed, startled. “For my hair?” She pulled the long braid over her shoulder and wrapped it around her hand, staring critically at it. “But why?”

“Wigs,” Nera answered before the ambassador could. Having spent her childhood watching her mother dance for the greatest courts across the Overworld, Nera had learned at a young age how a different hair colour could add surprise and a sense of the exotic to any performance with very little effort. “Your golden mop could make a fine few wigs, Hardy.”

“Indeed.” Jesken nodded in agreement. “Whether or not you choose to sell will ultimately be up to you, of course, lieutenant. However, try not to make any decisions for a good few days. I have a list of reputable names for if you do wish to sell, but either way, you will need to pay close attention to your hair tonight.”

While Anhardyne sat there blinking, Nera smiled at the ambassador. “I’ll remember for her, Your Excellency, thank you.”

Jesken smiled back, but didn’t extend the warning to Nera. And why should she? Nera’s hair was short, thin, stick straight and dull black, with nothing about it to interest any dragon whatsoever. Not when Anhardyne and Fennik were around anyway, and especially not when she considered all the other Rift Riders they travelled with, whose hair included near-white blonds, vibrant reds, myriad brunettes, a deep black with an almost blue shine, rich thickness and curls glorious enough to make a temple dancer weep. Even the ambassador’s hair was blessed with abundant curls, though the shade was a non-descript brown.

A brisk knock on the door interrupted Nera’s depressed thoughts and Captain Wellswen stepped inside without waiting for permission.

“Forgive the intrusion, Your Excellency, but I’ve come to reclaim my lieutenants.”

Nera eyed her captain’s wealth of dark, intricate braids, currently tied back in a simple knot, and wondered how much a dragon would be willing to pay for them. Not that Wellswen would sell. Mistrunan braids were gifts from friends and lovers, each design unique and highly personal to the wearer.

Oblivious to her lieutenant’s thoughts, the captain nodded at her Riders. “The miryhls are assembling on the foredeck,” she said. “Leave your luggage in your cabin to be taken care of and get yourselves in the air with your flurries.” Pausing only to brush her fingers across her forehead, in a semi-respectful, non-military salute to the ambassador, Captain Wellswen strode out again. Brisk and brusque and busy as always.

“Well,” Jesken chuckled, standing up. “Time you were off then. Thank you for your patience, lieutenants, and luck go with you. I shall see you at dinner.”

Scrambling out of their seats to bow, Anhardyne and Nera mumbled their agreement and hurried out of the door. The corridor was awash with Riders gathered around the ladders that led to the upper deck. While the captain and embassy servants would remain on the ship with the ambassador, it was up to Nera and the three other lieutenants to fly their twenty-five Rider strong flurries across to the palace and settle into whatever accommodations the dragons had provided for miryhls and humans alike.

As they awaited their turn for the ladders, Anhardyne smiled at Nera and raised her eyebrows. “So, Half-Pint, we’ve arrived at last. Ready to meet some dragons?”

Squashing a burst of anxiety into the pit of her stomach, Nera took her place on the ladder and summoned up a confident smile. “I’m ready.”

At least she hoped she was, as she climbed up to the deck where fifty giant miryhl eagles awaited their Riders, with fifty more already in the air. It was too late now to be otherwise.


Still want more?
Then click this way and find out where you can buy it
and read the whole thing at your own merry pace.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Blazing Dawn is Out! (Snippet #2)

Blazing Dawn Cover 2To celebrate the release of Blazing Dawn, and to make all the spamming seem worthwhile, here’s the second part of Chapter One.

If you missed the first part, you can find it here, where you’ll meet Rift Rider Lieutenants Nera and Anhardyne.

Now it’s time to introduce Elder Khennik kin Blazeborn Clan Sunlord, who is feeling very grumpy. You’ll also meet his lovely, if excessively nervous, aide Mastekh kin Rainstorm Clan Flowflight.

A fire dragon and a water dragon? What could possibly go wrong? ;D


“ELDER B-BLAZEBORN. ELDER B-BLAZEBORN?”

Khennik kin Blazeborn Clan Sunlord sighed and rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. Ringed by hanging fronds of fragrant seisflowers, the sun was perfectly framed by the circular opening, pouring its life-giving warmth over his bare head. Seated in the brilliant spot cast upon the floor, Khennik had been deep in meditation, dreaming of his home far to the west, where the clouds were thin and the mountains dry. Every breath there tasted of dry heat, stoking the fire that ran through his veins, where to fly was to bathe in Father Sun’s glory.

“Elder B-Blazeborn?” The voice this time was much closer, even more timid than before and full of apology.

Khennik glanced towards the irritant with narrowed eyes. “What is it now, Mastekh?”

Mastekh kin Rainstorm Clan Flowflight sweated with nerves as he stood on the edge of Khennik’s precious sunlight. Barely past his change time, the youngster had only just mastered a human shape, though his skin was blue-grey instead of a more acceptable shade, his hands were clawed and he wore scales instead of clothes. Merely being in Khennik’s annoyed presence loosened what little control Mastekh had and a soggy tail uncoiled behind him.

Trying not to snap at such a poor showing of focus, Khennik closed his eyes again and lifted his face towards the sunlight. “You will have to work harder than that, wingling, before the humans arrive. Else you will unsettle them and be asked to leave.”

If it were up to Khennik the youngster would have been long gone. Whoever had decided to pair a nervous Rainstorm dragon with a Blazeborn elder, not well known for his patience, was a fool indeed. Yet it was a rule between the kins and Clans that youngsters had to gain experience with others outside their own, especially those opposed to their nature. To toughen them up, the Starshine elders claimed. Khennik thought it was all rather cruel, when he thought of it at all.

“That’s j-just it, Elder B-Blazeborn,” Mastekh stuttered, his voice turning bubbly – a clear indication that he was about to lose his hold on his form altogether and revert to dragon shape.

Khennik’s eyes flashed open in a glare. “If you’re going to liquidate, do it outside.” The only water he permitted in this sunroom was for the plants. Everything else took too long to dry, and if he had to see to it himself the flowers might not survive. Which would put him quite out of temper.

Gulping nervously, Mastekh clenched his clawed-hands together and stared at the ground for a long moment. A shudder rippled over his scales and skin, the blue shade darkening as more water dripped from his nose and elbows, but he finally mastered himself.

“Ap-p-pologies, elder,” the young dragon whispered, lowering his head as if expecting a beating.

Khennik had never been one for physical punishment. He sighed. “Fetch a cloth and clean up after yourself, then leave me be. I have too much preparation to do for the arrival of our human guests’ tomorrow to be disturbed now.” If meditating and brooding over his poor fate could be considered preparation. Which in Khennik’s book it definitely could.

Humans were useless. Once they arrived they would need constant supervision and support, leaving him no time for anything other than irritation at their hopelessness. A foolish task for a Blazeborn, especially one with as important a mission as his.

“N-not tomorrow, Elder B-Blazeborn,” Mastekh squeaked, wringing his hands so hard that yet more water dripped onto the beautifully dry floors. “N-now.”

“What?” Khennik snarled, losing patience as he opened his eyes yet again. “Stop this brookish babbling, Mastekh, and speak clearly.”

“The h-humans are er-er-early, elder,” the Rainstorm dragon bubbled in a rush. “By a whole d-day. They’re h-h-here. Now!”

With that Mastekh lost all control, bursting out of his human form and leaving a large, soggy dragon drooped pathetically across the floor and a completely sodden elder glaring at the mess.


Still want more?
Oh, very well.

Chapter 1, Part 3

Or click here to find out where you can buy it!

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Blazing Dawn

Blazing Dawn Cover 2

Nera has been fascinated by dragons all her life. Now, as a Rift Rider Lieutenant, her chance to see them up close has come. The appointment to spend five years as an escort to the human ambassador seems like the ultimate honour and gift, but the dragons she studied in training don’t come anywhere close to the reality awaiting her inside the Dragonlands.

Elder Khennik kin Blazeborn Clan Sunlord has no interest in humans. Thanks to the Cloud Curse that their kind brought down upon the Overworld, Khennik’s kin are close to losing their ancestral desert homelands forever. When he’s assigned as a delegate to the humans upon their arrival, he can’t believe his bad luck. Unlike some dragons, he has no wish for more power or responsibility, but he can’t seem to avoid collecting them. From his desperate kin to his nervous aide, right along to the useless humans, Khennik dreams of the day when he can return to his desert home.

Regardless of personal dreams and opinions, both humans and dragons are about to learn that they often have more in common than they might think or wish. And when trouble descends, the true friends you can count on have little to do with species – and everything to do with spirit.

Available now!
Amazon: US || UK || AUS || DE || CAN
Smashwords || B&N || iBooks || Kobo

Read on for the first part of Chapter One!


Continue reading

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