Book one of a trilogy of high fantasy novels.
First draft currently at 55,000 words. I am aiming to complete this through a year long course at Faber Academy, ending December 2019.
Synopsis (in 150 words)
The ancient gateways linking the two worlds of Jord and Munoria have sealed shut and no one knows why.
In Munoria, a young woman named Willow finds herself caught between her religious community and a forbidden kinship with an ancient rock giant known as a drengir.
In Jord, a man named Ambrose invents a weapon with the potential to save his country from economic subjugation. A key component of the weapon is constructed from the organs of drengir, creatures endogenous to Munoria.
As Ambrose grapples with the refusal of the Gateways to yield to scientific genius, Willow finds herself exiled, struggling against an identity forged of indoctrination as she slowly learns to trust the darkness inside herself. As her bond with the drengir deepens, an old power begins to stir in her, and with it, the ability to open the Gateways to Jord.
Book one ends when their stories collide.
Chapter One Excerpt
A shiver rippled over Willow’s skin as she gazed at the footprint by the forest’s edge. It was big enough to lie down in.
An unseen rivulet trickled into the footprint, feeding a dark pool that held within it the shadowed depths of the forest beyond. Cresting the pool, three smaller depressions marked the shape of the creature’s blunt, toe-like forms. They pointed up the slope, toward the village.
Willow’s heart quickened. She should run back and raise the alarm, yet there was something very odd about this. When had a drengir ever stopped and turned away?
There were rumours that in ages past the drengir were not the violent gods they knew them to be. As a girl she’d discovered it was sin to repeat these rumours. As a woman, she had silently committed herself to finding out if they were true.
A whispering breeze poured down the slope, stirring the hem of her skirt.
But for the distant crashing of the wind wracked canopy, the forest was silent.
Being so close to something so vast made her body pulse with sensations she never felt in the confines of the village. There were valleys in this forest that no one had seen the bottom of. The forest’s many predators made it far too dangerous to travel through unaided by the protection of the Gods, yet here she stood, at the edge of the deep unknown.
Willow put down her basket and took a step toward the footprint. Her scalp tightened as blessed fear cascaded over her skull. She grinned and took another step.
It was as if the footprint was somehow aware of her presence, like a wild creature that would bolt off into the forest if she moved too suddenly. As she drew closer, the sensation of being watched grew so strong that it felt like the ground itself marked the shifting of her weight.
Pausing at the edge of the footprint, Willow peered into the deep shadows of the sloping forest, eyes tuned for the looming jagged form of a watching drengir.
She drew in a lungful of the soil-scented air, steadying herself as she crouched down beside the sunken footprint. Her hands were shaking. A drengir had stood in this very spot. Why had it not attacked?
Chapter Two Excerpt
Ambrose stared contemptuously at the wall of black stone. It had grown almost an inch since last night, seeping from the mountain itself like some foul tumour. He clenched his teeth, suddenly overwhelmed by a desire to slam his fist into the repulsive stuff.
Calm down. It’s merely rock.
The thought rang hollow in his head. Like it or not, this ‘mere rock’ was threatening everything he had worked for. Ambrose lifted his lantern, searching for at least a hint of reflected light, but there was nothing. The rock was so black it seemed almost to pull light into itself. He looked down at the lantern and found the candle had burnt out. The rock was right there in front of him, he was sure, but he could have been staring into miles and miles of darkness and it would not have looked any different.
It was enough to make a lesser man believe he could walk right through the mountain and come out in Munoria. A stupid thought. Ambrose reached out to touch the rock but found only air. His heart jumped, then settled again when he felt smooth, cool rock against his finger tips. It had been warm last time, though no amount of research had told him why.
The scuff of footsteps echoed through the tunnel. Ambrose turned to find a hunched figure lit grimly by the lantern held out before him. ‘Mister Macray?’
‘What is it?’
‘Beg pardon, sir.’ There was a note of fear in the man’s voice. It must have been unsettling to have a voice coming at you from the pitch black. ‘You’re due in the grand chambers soon.’
‘Mm. Very good.’ Ambrose tapped a finger against the black stone, then marched back down cavernous tunnel toward the distant clamour of Osterfold.
The cave’s entrance drew closer, framing the city’s depths in its jagged mouth. It was easy to forget just how big Osterfold was when you were inside it, but up here the city made its size abundantly clear, reaching from the north mountains to the southern crags, disappearing to the east and west in a haze of black smog, plumed continually by countless chimneys jutting up above the rooftops like a forest of charred pine. Through them swung the great rail bridges that linked the nine districts of Osterfold, their massive stone pillars disappearing in the smog below where people teemed through the streets in droves, toiling away in the workshops, factories, markets and offices. Ambrose drew in the smoky air. It smelled of smoke and steel. A reassuring scent that grew stronger as he approached the workshop that housed the machine upon which rested his future, and perhaps even the future of his nation.
Thirty six tons of folded steel, shaped into a mechanism that resembled a blunt-nosed predator the size of ship. Its black diamond cutting head rivalled the work of the finest sculptor, the mathematics governing the interlocking gears of its central drilling shaft would have brought the most gifted composer to tears. ‘The Endeavour’, they called it, but no name could have done justice to the machine they were bringing into being. Years of small scale experiments had yielded a cutting head capable of penetrating the black stone that blocked their passage to Munoria, and though the penetration had been minuscule, it proved it could be done. Why, then, was he so uncertain about their success?