Zarda, Fate-Seer of her people, the Drax, has chosen to join the wingless and their broken-winged dams on their long and dangerous journey into exile. But Kalis, the Prime she has abandoned, dispatches flyers to hunt her down and offers a reward to anyone who will give her up.
When their path takes them into the Crimson Forest, horror and death stalk the exiles beneath the vines. As the pain and hardship of banishment begin to take their toll, Zarda wonders which of the exiles will be the first to betray her, but nothing can prepare her for the discovery that awaits her beyond the furthest reaches of Drax territory; a discovery that has the power to alter the course of history.
Exile’ is the sequel to ‘Unreachable Skies’, and Karen is currently working on the third book in the trilogy.
Read an Excerpt from Exile:
“If you go through the Deadlands, you will all die.”
As I picked my way between strewn belongings, and smouldering campfires that did little to warm the icy dawn, it was the voice of Shaya, the Chief Hunter, which carried to me above the sound of breaking waves, whimpering younglings, and complaining females. Just two days ago, every wingless youngling, and every female who had produced one, had been sent into exile by our Prime, Kalis, urged on by his favourite adviser, Fazak. Yet already the arguments had started!
My nose alerted me to the stink of a shallow waste-pit and I edged around it, stepping over a broken beaker, and continued on toward the squabbling voices. As Kalis’ Fate-seer I was expected to return to my dwelling on the Spirax peninsula, a few nines of wingbeats across the bay, but a Vision had shown me that my future lay with the exiles and, after visiting my Dream-cave, I had flown to their makeshift encampment.
The females, their wings broken by Kalis’ new Elite Guard, had been netted over the river along with their younglings, and had been left on the claw of reed-tufted sand that jutted into the ocean from the Manybend estuary’s north shore. As I’d circled over the nines of fires, their spiralling layout had shown that someone had taken charge of setting the camp properly, and my sole concern had been finding somewhere to land without being seen. In the end I had set down on the beach to the north, wetting my feet as I landed at the edge of the incoming tide. Taking care to make sure I would not leave any traces of my approach, I had walked along the tideline till I reached the promontory at daybreak. I had intended to find my friend Doran and make myself known to her, but the sound of raised voices had drawn my attention, and I had instead made my way across the camp to the ridge of snow-covered ground that separated the hook of sand from the mud of the Deadlands. I smelled cooking – branmeal bubbling in a pot to my left, meat patties warming in a pan to my right. My stomachs rumbled a protest that I was not stopping to eat, but my attention was on the group at the foot of the slope where Shaya stood, and the arguments that I could now hear more clearly.
“The Deadlands are frozen, Shaya, just like everywhere else. I don’t see why we can’t walk straight across them to the Ambit river. We can head for the Eye, or even the river upstream from there where it narrows and will be easier to cross.”
I didn’t recognise the speaker, though I knew from her copper tunic that she was an Artisan. As Shaya set her ears to a more aggressive angle and began to explain the dangers of the Deadlands – the thin ice masking mud that was deep enough to drown in, brambletrap that would feed on any creature living or dead – I spotted Doran’s russet fur and green-and-black Healer’s tunic amid the crowd. Forgetting that I had changed my appearance by dyeing my fur and changing my tunic from Fate-seer black to Trader blue, I made my way over to her and said, “Doran, what’s going on?”
She twisted an ear my way, gave me a sniff, and looked me up and down. “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
I took a quick look round. Nineties of females were attending to their younglings, cooking meals, or still rolled in blankets, sleeping. Those in the group surrounding Shaya had their attention on what she was saying. Only Doran had an ear twisted my way. “It’s me,” I hissed, “Zarda. I promised I would join you, didn’t I?”
“But you’re…” she said as she waved a paw from the neck of my tunic to my feet, “you look so different.” She sounded disappointed. “I’ve been waiting for you to come. I thought that having Zarda the Fate-seer join us would help all these drax to face what lies ahead. But if they don’t know it’s you…”
It had not occurred to me that I might help anyone’s morale. “I came because I Saw that I should,” I said, “and because Kalis no longer listens to me. Besides, if Dru is to fulfil his destiny and defeat the Koth, he’ll need help and guidance from a Fate-seer, especially—” No. Only members of the council knew that Dru had the Sight, and we had agreed to keep it secret for the moment. Doran had no need to know – not yet. I dismissed what I’d been about to say with a flick of an ear that told Doran it was of no importance, and spiralled a paw across the front of my tunic. “I can’t be Zarda here. I know Kalis isn’t interested in anything I have to say, but he is a stickler for tradition. I’ve left him without a Fate-seer and he won’t be happy. He’ll send the Guardflight to look for me – maybe even his new Elite Guard. And I think we can both guess what will happen to me if they find me.” As I finished talking, I turned my head to indicate the pathetic figure huddled in a blanket, sitting alone in the shadows beyond the encampment fires.
Doran flicked an ear in sympathy – the other was still turned toward Shaya and the ongoing argument – and ran a paw over her tunic. “I never liked Varna, but to lose her wings like that…” She shuddered, then leaned toward me to confide, “She howled through the entire first day. Only subsided to a whimper when Limar threatened to bind her mouth shut. Dru kept taking her beakers of soup from Limar’s cauldron, and showed her things he’d found on the beach, but she snapped and snarled every time he went near her. In the end, he stayed by the fire over there with Limar.” Turning back to face me, she waggled an ear in apology. “I suppose you’re right, you can’t be seen to have joined us. Not yet, anyway. I just hoped…” she said, indicating the group arguing with Shaya. “Perhaps if the Fate-seer had been able to step in, these silly females wouldn’t be proposing to cross the Deadlands on foot.”
Mirror World Publishing
Meet the Author:
Brought up in Staffordshire, England, Karen now lives in West Sussex where she is enjoying her retirement. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching films, local WI and U3A activities, volunteering with the South Downs National Park Volunteer Rangers, and spending time with friends and family. She has also flown in a Spitfire!
Karen has written articles on films and British history for a number of British magazines including ‘Yours’, ‘Classic Television’, and ‘Best of British’. In 2009, her essay on ‘British Propaganda Films of the Second World War’ was published in ‘Under Fire: A Century of War Movies’ (Ian Allen Publishing).
She also wrote a number of online articles and reviews for The Geek Girl Project (www.geekgirlproject.com), as their British correspondent.
Karen’s short stories have appeared in anthologies by Fiction Brigade (2012, e-book), Zharmae Publishing (‘RealLies’, 2013), Audio Arcadia (‘On Another Plane’, 2015), Luna Station Publishing (‘Luna Station Quarterly’ December 2015), Horrified Press (‘Killer Tracks’ and ‘Waiting’, both 2015; and ‘Crossroads’, 2016), and Reflex Fiction (‘Voicemail’, published online 2017). She also won second prize in Writers’ News magazine’s ‘Comeuppance’ competition in 2014 with her short story ‘Hero’.
‘Exile’ is the sequel to ‘Unreachable Skies’, and Karen is currently working on the third book in the trilogy.
You can follow Karen on Twitter @McKaren_Writer, or check out her website at www.karenmccreedy.com
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