Thursday, December 31, 2015
Hello! It's summer in the southern hemisphere and the heat has now arrived. This means it's often so cooking hot, I dare not have my computer on too long or it will melt (no air conditioning here!). TKC is therefore a bit behind on episodes, but I am taking note of where we are and will post catch up episodes soon.
Also, everyone is on holiday and therefore I'm not giving as much time to writing as I usually am able to ;)
Next up is episode 150 and I can't believe we are there already! (and ep. 151 and 152 ... )
Stay safe during your New Year celebrations and we will catch up with Damin and Lyra and the changing Horin sooooon :)
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
TKC 148 and 149
In the morning, it is a new day for all of us, not only for Lyra and I. In a manner I had not fathomed the night before, my impulsive actions have clearly led to a spirit of togetherness. Even Horin is more approachable.
I see him now, moving among the horses and chatting to Siri, and he is smiling. Siri bursts out laughing and it gladdens my heart. My sister deserves every moment of joy.
She sees me and comes running, still laughing. “Hey, married brother!” I enfold her into my arms and kiss the top of her head. Still smiling, she looks up. “Horin says the three ghosts made themselves scarce last night as well.”
Blinking, I realise I had not even considered their presence while Lyra and I were engaged in consummating our vows. Laughing, I set Siri aside. “At least they have good sense.”
“I would have thumped their ethereal arses had they stuck around,” Kay laughs, coming at us from the other side. He has a rabbit slung over his shoulder. “Breakfast,” he adds, jiggling it. “Joseph got one also.”
The Messenger is in fact behind him, grinning from ear to ear.
Lyra comes out then, and Hanna instantly releases an ear-piercing whistle. “Girl, you are positively glowing!”
Blushing, Lyra kisses my cheek and goes out to join her. Siri winks, and follows. The women are soon is laughing conversation.
“Suddenly Arc does not seem so bad,” I say.
“It will not last, this calm,” Horin warns. “This is how they lull the sense for danger we all possess.” He smiles then. “This is a haven, though, and it is all right to enjoy these moments.”
Horin seems to have attained a plateau in his growth spurt. He is now my height, although broader of shoulder, and his features are those of a man close to thirty years of age. He is unchanged from yesterday, and wears his sword as if very familiar with it.
“How old were you when you died?” I ask him.
He loses his smile. “Old, Damin. Ilfin age slowly.”
“How old?” Kay insists, his tone revealing his interest.
Horin swirls his tongue behind closed lips, a ploy to give him space to consider his answer. Finally he heaves a sigh, perhaps understanding we will pest him until he does answer. “Three hundred and forty-one.”
We simply stare at him.
He shrugs on a laugh. “Young for an Ilfin, old for a Massinian.”
Joseph grins as he hauls his rabbit from his shoulder. “Could use some of those years, I tell you. Right, let’s get the pot going.” He vanishes into the cottage and, after a moment, Kay follows.
Horin and I lock gazes. “How old can I expect to become if circumstances were normal?” I ask him.
“Have you never wondered why some people live beyond a hundred and fifty, while others pass on at eighty? Age, of course, cannot be a way to determine Ilfin from home-grown, and yet the gene must be present …”
“Answer the question, Horin.”
“At least a century and a half,” Horin states. “Maybe more now that you are aware of yourself. You will age slowly and appear pretty youthful yet after a century has passed for you.”
Well, my wife will match me if those years do find me. This fills me with relief. “And Siri?”
“Probably longer, for she is a healer true.”
“Is this why the Glonu seek to enslave us? Longevity?”
Horin nods. “We possess the kind of life force which gifts them time. They were short-lived eons ago, and then discovered how to extend their years, and it depends wholly on possessing souls.”
Monday, December 28, 2015
With the year behind us, this is what happened for this writer in 2015 :)
Republished ebooks after Thorstruck Press closed, now with Tirgearr Publishing (3)
The Tinsal Deck
A Tear in the Clouds
Republished ebooks and paperbacks (2)
The Kallanon Scales
The Nemisin Star
Paperbacks published for the first time (4)
The Infinity Mantle
The Kinfire Tree
The Drowned Throne
The Dragon Circle
New books (ebooks and paperback) (4)
The Sleeper Sword
The Dreamer Stones
The Nemesis Blade
The Echolone Mine
New ebooks (8)
Lore of Arcana Omnibus
Lore of Reaume Omnibus
Our Friend Thomas Henson
Foreseen for 2016 (10)
Thomas Henson's Mansion
The Nowhere Sphere
The Master Mechanism
A Scar in the Earth
Mark of the Kalion
Circles of Civilisation
Lore of Sanctum Omnibus
The King’s Challenge (working title)
Sunday, December 27, 2015
TKC 146 and 147
Into the silence after Lyra’s confirmation, the three forms materialise. There is a way through the curved shield, the central one says, although we do not hear his words with our ears.
Horin mutters, “I seem to recall we could not shatter it before.”
That is true, but time has revealed certain flaws.
“Surely we shouldn’t trust these entities?” Kay rasps. “Are they not Glonu slaves?”
We are indeed, young sir, but we did not start out as Glonu. Although the slaving manipulation bends minds and engenders greater atrocities among the slaves become light beings, some of us have maintained our original beliefs and loyalties.
“And we must take your word for it?” Siri blurts.
Until now my sister has been markedly silent, but she is correct. I nod. “How do we know you are not duping us?”
Ask Lord Makar to check his orb.
All eyes swivel to Horin. He offers a sheepish smile. “I was content with ‘Horin’.”
By the stars, this just gets weirder by the moment. I shove up from the table and stalk out into the night air. At this point I have had enough of revelations and such. It is the simple things that create a life, not these mighty tales of a past no one now remembers. I wish with all my heart I had never left Grenmassin. I wish I had wed Lyra when the time came for our nuptials, and if it meant we all died when the bloody rock in the sky hit our world, that too would be fine. I would have died a happy man, with my beloved at my side.
Her hand on my shoulder tells me she has followed me out. “At times like these we wish for what was,” Lyra murmurs in my ear.
I swing around and grab her hands, enfolding them into mine. “Marry me, Lyra. Here, now.”
The blue of one eye is bright in the moonlight, while the green seems to vanish for a while. “Yes.”
My heart thumps hard. “Yes? Really?”
She laughs, a tinkling sound. “Under these stars with these witnesses, yes!”
I haul her in and hold her. Never have I been this happy. I have no ring to give here, but my heart is hers and my lips will seal the sacrament. Lifting her face to mine, I kiss her as if it is the first time, with all tenderness and awe.
She sighs against me after, resting her cheek upon my chest.
We have our witnesses as the other leave the confines of the cottage. I kneel and say, “Lyra, with all my heart, soul and body I love you. You are my wife from this day forward before these witnesses.”
Hanna gasps and then grips Joseph’s hand. “Fantastic,” she breathes.
Lyra kneels also. “I love you with all of me, Damin. You are my husband from this moment on, even if only the moon and stars know it.”
Siri sighs. “How romantic.”
Horin kneels then to face both of us. “We witness your nuptials. You are now husband and wife.”
Laughter and applause then fills the night air and suddenly everyone embraces and speaks words of love and fellowship. My focus is for Lyra alone, though, and to that end I step into our first kiss as a formal and decreed couple with all the fervour a long wait has endowed me with. She does not disappoint in her response, and both of us are quite breathless when we reluctant break our communion.
“Right!” Kay hollers. “We are sleeping outside tonight! The love birds need their privacy!”
Laughing, I lift Lyra into my arms and head for the cottage. The Lord Makar steps into my path.
We stare at him and eventually he bows and moves away. He may no longer claim the blood of a true brother, after all.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
TKC 144 and 145
Night has fallen, and we sit around the table in the cottage, a tight fit. Stomachs are full and everyone is relaxed.
During the remaining hours of daylight many conversations took place, some in whispers, others casual, most in the open to feel each other out, to determine who stood where. I think all of us now begin to regard each other with some suspicion. Who among us is a Glonu? Who is Ilfin? Who is true born to this world and is therefore a Massinian? If we claim those differences, are we enemies?
Surely our common cause - fleeing the potential of annihilation from space - united us and race or creed no longer features?
This may be a fool’s hope.
Lyra has explained the magnetic slide she created - although she claims she did not create it, she simply launched something already in place - and that it bounced the asteroid into further space. Massin, as world, is safe from that threat.
We are not safe from this new suspicion. I am afraid it may lead us to war.
To that end, Lyra murmurs, “However we regard our genesis, given what Horin has revealed, there is still the issue of leaving Arc. We cannot stay here. Whether I am Ilfin or Glonu does not matter, for staying means I am a slave to this resident power. I refuse to accept that.”
“Likewise,” Kay stated. He levers to his feet. “I know some of you think I must be Glonu because I am from the west, but I say it doesn’t matter. I will not be enslaved within a ring of mountains.”
Horin stares at him. “You are not Glonu.”
Kay glares at him. “And how can you tell?”
“You have the heart of a revolutionary, friend, and no Glonu has ever risen against their own kind.”
“Maybe that’s true,” I say, “but time has moved on and many have now lived and learned on a world that has allowed freedoms perhaps unknown elsewhere. Kay could be a traveller from somewhere else entirely, as we all may be, for we have integrated. You said yourself it is now hard to tell us apart, Horin.”
Horin inclines his head. “Agreed, but there is another factor.”
Lyra sighs. “You can see our genesis?” I can tell, by her tone, she hopes it will not be that.
“No, I do not see where we come from, but I am able to feel the presence of light.” Horin opens his hand upon the table to reveal the green orb. “This light pulls at other glows. If a Glonu is nearby, it vibrates as it attempts to remove that one’s mask.”
I lean in. “Horin, the glow could be someone carrying a torch.”
He smiles at me. “Not that kind of light, Damin. It’s not of the tangible kind.”
“Light is never tangible,” I growl.
“And there you prove yourself an Ilfin beyond all doubt,” Horin whispers.
This is a morass of dangers. Discuss this too much, and we will be at each other’s throats, all of us. I change the subject. “According to you and Hanna,” and I focus on Lyra, “it will be easier to escape if we are on or near the rim.”
Lyra nods immediately, and I sense her profound relief. She shoots me a look filled with gratitude. “True, yes, therefore, come morning, we need to hasten back to the others.”
Kay slaps at his thighs. “Excellent. I want out of here as soon as possible.”
Horin glances at Lyra, who says, “It will be a bit harder than simply walking out. The reason for the place being known as Arc is now in place again.”
“Meaning the shield from ancient times is enabled?” Joseph asks quietly.
“Exactly,” Lyra murmurs.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
My first denial comes then. Staring at Horin, I tell him, “Sorry, Horin, but I found a kid in Porlese, one terrified of being tested. Yet now you claim you knew what was happening.”
After glancing at Lyra, and marking her silence, he responds, “Most of the time I was that kid, Damin. It is easier to live in the body chosen when the resident mind acts its age and functions as expected.”
“But you claim you knew from birth.” My second denial.
“I did, but they were flashes of an older self. Generally Horin, the boy born in Grenmassin, was the boy everyone expected to have around. After Porlese, when the soldiers came at us, that was when it changed … a permanent change.”
“What about Horin the boy?” Lyra whispers, and my heart goes out to her. Never have I heard her sound this sad. “Have you usurped him? Thrown him away?”
Horin closes his eyes and then moves around the table to Lyra. “Everyone has a soul, my sister. Usually we grow up with it, learn from it, and teach it new emotions and ways of thinking. I am no different there. My soul was simply more aware from the start. Horin still is. Lyra, I am Horin.”
She lays her hand on his cheek. “How do you explain this phenomenal growth, then? I have to look up to you now.”
“Ilfin talent. In times of great stress certain factors are accelerated. Had the asteroid not appeared, I would have grown into this body at a normal pace.”
Lyra nods after some thought. “Sensible.” She suddenly swallows as if she is about to choke. “Go away, all of you,” she says. “I need to think. Go, Horin; just give me a little time.”
As everyone leaves the cottage, Horin included, I hang back. “Lyra?”
“Damin,” she whispers … and hurtles into my arms.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I am the one who dares ask, “Why exactly are they our enemies?” No one else seems capable of speech.
Horin gets to his feet and places his hands on the table, leaning onto them, causing the burgeoning muscles in his shoulders to bulge. “They are slavers.”
Well, truth is, always we have lived under the yoke of slavery in some form and, yes, this makes slave masters our enemies, but I have the distinct feeling Horin is on about something far greater than our understanding of the concept.
“Explain that,” Siri murmurs quietly, moving forward to lay a gentle hand on Horin’s arm.
He smiles at her, although it isn’t so much appreciation for her support as it is a gesture filled with sadness. I glance at Lyra, to see her watching her ‘brother’ as if she is already grieving his loss.
“The Glonu are world-builders. This means they go out there to find empty worlds and prepare them for habitation … and sale. When ready, those worlds are auctioned to the highest bidders, and there are many governments and councils willing to pay. World-building requires much labour, though, and such cost is crippling, even if the future pay-out is astronomical. Slaves, therefore, and they are taken in the most diabolical ways you can imagine. Those slaves remain bound into eternity; for death transforms them in working ghosts, and those go on to lure the living.”
“So the Ilfin decided to put a stop to them?” I ask.
“Not only the Ilfin; many races, many worlds.”
“Are the Glonu world-building here?” Kay demands.
Horin lifts his hands from the table to spread them. “They have already succeeded. They are now everywhere. Many others came after the first influx, and more arrived after the last ceasefire.” He gazes then directly at me. “Damin, do you know why they tested for the talents in Porlese?”
I close my eyes. “They were searching for Ilfin.”
“Ilfin were searching for Ilfin. Anyone without talent is either a Glonu or already a slave to them and deserves only death. That was why they were throwing people from the cliffs.”
Monday, December 21, 2015
TKC 140 and 141
Horin proceeds to tell us the tale of times before. Lyra and I listen to every word and, by the time Horin finishes, the others are crowded into the cottage and listening also.
“Massin is an empty world, because it is a massive sphere. The population we think of as huge is pretty sparse given the landmass available. Long ago there were even fewer walking this earth and when others from the heavens saw how much space there was, this became a coveted world. Fortunately it was left alone for a long time - one cannot simply see a world and take it, not according to the laws out there - but it was marked and known.
“War came to the heavens and civilisation fought civilisation there, until one day the remnants of a particularly terrible battle fled to Massin. Their enemies followed, but they were too late, for the ring of mountains thrown up here were impenetrable. It was created of both stone and technology and therefore difficult to sunder. The mountains became a shield wall, and the protection extended as a rounded force field into the sky also. This is why we call it Arc. The shielding arcs from mountain top to mountain top.
“Those who fled here were and are beings able to manipulate light. They have true form, but few see them, for they employ light as a mask. They were called the Glonu, and we know this name from legends past, although few hear of that history in this present. Do not make the mistake of regarding the Glonu’s light as something benevolent.
“According to the ancient tales, the Glonu fought the Ilfin for territory until the Ilfin were driven into the uplands, into the plateau mountains, into the cold. Between lay the plains, regarded as neutral territory. This is true. There was a mighty war enacted between the two races on Massin, and the Glonu were victorious. Both sides agreed to maintain the neutral territory, for both sides required a period in which to renew strength. That war was the last in a string of battles that began elsewhere in space and continued here. There were other battles on Massin, between the raising of Arc and the creation of neutral territory, but history records only the last war that forced people to live either east or west.
“Yes, I see you realise what it means. The people of the plateau are the Ilfin, the enemy that tracked the light beings to this world. We are the Ilfin. Every breathing man, woman and child possessing one or more talents is able to track his or her lineage right back to ancient time … and is Ilfin, not Massin bred. We, however, are not the enemy. We came to end the Glonu, for they are made of darkness and not of light.
“Much time has passed and today one cannot tell an Ilfin from a Glonu or a Massinian. Today we look the same, and thus there has been a truce in place for millennia.”
Horin pauses there, before saying, “Maybe we would have continued living in peace, if divided as a civilisation, had not the asteroid changed the way of it. The moment its danger to this world was marked, was also the moment Ilfin talents began to rise again to the fore. To halt its path or alter its trajectory, we required the magical technology of the Glonu - the Spire inside their Arc. They needed Ifin to enter, for our talents were needed to connect with and employ their technology. Technology fails, understand, but inherent talent cannot be removed. Thus we needed each other, but we remain enemies.”
Silence descends when he ceases speaking.
No one is able to saw a word.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
As Horin speaks those words, three forms materialise in the space around us.
They are ghostly and yet there is the suggestion of armour and ancient weapons, as if they were warriors before death took them. Their faces are indistinct, but they have long hair and each wears a helmet. Cloaks swirl around then.
They bow to Horin.
“I have not seen them like that before,” Lyra whispers.
“Who are you?” I ask. The hairs on my arms have spiked.
Horin stands and bows his head. “They are of those who attempted to end the imprisonment here. Our people.”
One steps forward then, holding an ethereal sword upon open palms. Kneeling on one leg, he lowers his head and presents it to Horin.
Lyra is as astonished as I am.
Horin accepts the offering. As he touches the otherworldly weapon, it solidifies into a real length of shining metal. “Thank you.”
The man rises again, smiling. Although his features are unclear, the smile isn’t. By the stars, this is strange.
The ghost’s attention shifts to me as I formulate that thought. Horin laughs lightly. “Damin, where do you think that saying comes from? By the stars?”
A cold shiver passes through me. Who is the Delver here?
Horin winks at me … and sheaths his sword. Magically, a scabbard is there at his waist to accept as he does so.
“How?” Lyra breathes.
“Leave us,” Horin murmurs, and the three forms dematerialise.
“You are the leader they have been waiting for,” I say.
Horin rejoins us at the table. “Actually, I have been here before and lost my weapon in a battle. They kept it safe until my return. Yes, I led them then and I shall lead them now.”
Lyra is so pale I begin to fear for her, but she demands of her brother, “And when were you so-called here before?”
“A thousand years ago,” Horin says quietly. “That was the last time we fought. Now it begins again.”
Friday, December 18, 2015
Lyra reaches across the scarred table to grip Horin’s hand. “I am so sorry this is happening to you. At your age, dealing with so much, changing so much …”
He grips her hand fiercely. “Lyra, this isn’t new to me.”
She leans forward to place her other hand over their clasp. “What do you mean?”
“I have always known this time would come.” Horin too leans in. “I know it sounds strange, but I am finally becoming myself. I am not eight years old.”
Swallowing, she stares at him. “I was there when you were born.”
Sighing, Horin sits back, disengaging their hand hold. “Damin says the same.” Both send me a glance, before again gazing at each other. “Yes, I was ‘born’ and yet it was merely a means to entry. The person I am inside spent eight years waiting to step forward, often frustrated with the limits of form …”
“You were a sunny boy!” Lyra interrupts. “Horin, I left you in Grenmassin a few weeks ago, a boy who winked at me and told me he would take care of our mother!”
He closes his eyes. “In that I failed and I am sorry.” Opening them, he says, “The day you pushed the tidal wave aside is also the day I began to assume my true form. We are connected, you and me. Every time you use your power, mine becomes more, as yours intensifies when I deploy mine.”
Lyra stares unseeingly into the distances of the mind. “How?” she asks softly, after a time.
“When Arc was formed, those who hid here did not come alone. The old ones chose a different form of longevity in the greater spaces of this world. Death, birth, a cycle of original souls through the generations to follow, until time is made new.”
Even my mouth hangs open at this point.
“Lyra, the beings of Arc are our sworn enemies.”
Thursday, December 17, 2015
“I trust you, Lyra.”
She gazes at me. “I hope so, Damin, for I may ask of you the kind of aid you may not be prepared to easily give. But come, everyone. There is food inside.” Lyra turns and heads back to the cottage without another word.
Watching her, I hope she will glance over her shoulder at me, but she does not.
Kay comes to rest at my shoulder. “Man, I see you love each other, but I also wonder if that will be enough.”
I wonder the same, but I glare at the westerner, and set off after Lyra, leading Forest. In the shade of the trees I leave him to graze.
Horin is behind me and releases his mount to the cool and new sweet grass as well. “The others are being tactful and have chosen to stay out there for a while.”
I glance over shoulder. They remove saddle bags and talk amongst themselves. Siri is the only one looking at me. She winks encouragement. I manage to smile at her.
“Lyra, is there water?” Horin calls.
Her answer comes from inside the cottage. “There is a trough round back. The horses will find it.”
Taking my arm, for I am now reluctant to move, Horin enters the dim space, taking me with him. I feel his strength.
Inside is a table and mismatched chairs, with a counter along one wall. A rough log ladder leads to a loft space spanning half the cottage. A small hearth opposite is in use, and Lyra is there, stirring something in a large cauldron. Whatever she is making, it smells heavenly. My stomach rumbles.
“How did you find this place?” I ask.
“I was led here after leaving the Spire.” Lyra leaves off stirring and joins us. "I assume we are to talk together first? Should Siri not be here?”
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
I scramble off my horse and run. Lyra disengages from Horin when she sees me coming and opens her arms wide. Moments later she is in my arms. We say not a word; we merely hold each other, faces buried in hair and necks, breathing each other in.
Horin clears his throat.
Laughing, Lyra lifts her head. She holds my face. “I missed you.”
Somehow I understand she speaks of more than the recent parting, the one that brought her and Hanna to Arc first. This is about Grenmassin also. “I intend to stay at your side from this moment on, I …”
She placed a finger over my lips. “Do not make promises, Damin. Not only is the future able to change in a heartbeat, but this place uses promises against us. Shh. I know your heart.”
Laying my hands on her cheeks, I draw her near and kiss her gently. “My heart is filled with joy,” I murmur against her lips.
“As mine is,” she smiles, and softly kisses me again.
“I sense three entities,” Horin’s voice intrudes.
I lift my head to him to see him gazing towards the trees. Glancing in that direction, I see nothing. Sighing, Lyra moves away. She actually steps backwards a few paces, away from all of us. I immediately feel uncomfortable; she seems to choose sides in her actions.
“Lyra?” Hanna murmurs somewhere.
“Hello, Hanna … and Joseph. Siri! You are safe as well …” Lyra lapses into silence. Briefly she closes her eyes. “There are three here, yes, and many more beyond these rock walls. This is a haven, and they keep the watch.”
Kay draws his sword.
Her two-eyed gaze rakes him. “Put that away. Metal cannot touch them.”
The sound of sheathing follows, and then more silence.
“They will not harm us, not unless we prove untrustworthy,” Lyra says then. “They seek to help us, and I seek to help them. If dealing with the Waiting is too much for you, turn around now and go back.”
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
After two hours Kay tells me the trail vanishes behind us we go forward. He says he cannot catch anyone doing so, not even a shadow seen peripherally. It appears the ghostly host is with us. And they want no one to follow us.
I say not a word, for Siri’s sake. For mine as well, I admit.
Around sunset we enter a narrow defile. Rock is sheer on either side, and we are forced into single file. I like it not. This is the perfect place for an ambush. Kay whistles under his breath behind me, but it isn’t a comforting sound. The man is clearly as unhappy as I am. Ahead, Horin lifts his left arm into the air, with his thumb on display.
He tells us we are fine in that gesture, not to worry.
I bloody hope so.
The defile widens after half an hour and I breathe easier. Amber light summons us into a small meadow surrounded by the same sheer rock. There is no way out, other than going back.
Kay reins in beside me. “Not liking this.”
Neither do I. We remain unmoving with the defile at our backs, using eyes and senses to investigate every rock and shadow. There seems to be no threat. Horin casually dismounting and allowing his horse to graze proves it even more.
To the right, nestled under giant trees, I notice a stone cottage. It is cleverly camouflaged in the shifting shadows of moving foliage.
Kay draws his sword.
Right. Best be prepared. I reach for my dagger …
“Horin!” a woman’s voice shouts out, her tone filled with joy.
“Lyra!” Horin shouts in response, and moves across the meadow as a woman leaves the shadows of the trees to run towards him. They meet and clasp together, laughing and crying.
By the stars. Lyra. Never has my heart thundered this hard.
In the spirit of Writing World, I delved into my image files (I have many files!) and thought I'd share a few of the female fantasy forms I have on file. Images such as these inspire me, whether or not I write about them. Sometimes it's the eyes, sometimes jewellery, often dress, frequently it's the feeling evoked ...
Tomorrow I will share the male side of inspiration :)
Monday, December 14, 2015
Horin’s revelations accompany me as we move deeper into Arc in the morning. He said more after telling me about his soul, and now I attempt to deal with what he revealed. So much so, I do not consciously notice Kay guide his horse to ride alongside Siri, although I see them riding.
Hanna leads with Joseph, while Horin trails us a fair distance behind.
The massive smiles that erupted on seeing the world in colours as we know it, has now abated. Despite the silence, I sense much relief. Neither Attis nor I said a word about Horin’s interference. It is better not too many realise how much power he really possesses.
Two days later we arrive at the same crossroads that set Lyra onto a different path. It is before sunrise and the moon is visible.
No one sees or hears or even senses the ghostly host Hanna told us about, but something else awaits us.
“That wasn’t there before,” Hanna mutters, staring at a cairn of white stones in the centre of the crossing.
Joseph gets off his horse to walk around the pile of rock. “It indicates direction. See there? The dark stone denotes the way.”
I see a line of darker stones on the facet facing the river. “We cross the river? Who would have left this here?”
Hanna gazes up at me. “Lyra, or someone on Lyra’s behalf.”
I twist my neck to see where Horin is. He is close enough to have heard us. “What do you think?”
“It’s Lyra,” he says quietly, and urges his mount forward to the river’s edge, crossing directly over without halting. The water is shallow.
Horin waves Joseph to him. “Can you track Lyra?”
The Messenger leans over the neck of his horse, and nods after a while. “She has left clear indicators.”
“She wants to be found,” Attis states.
I am not as certain Lyra leaves a trail, but I keep quiet. Let us see where this leads. I send Kay a look, and the westerner immediately understands. Others are able to read sings of passing also; we must be wary. Kay falls back to take up the rear.