Turning 30

Today I am thirty.
There is so much I wish to tell fifteen-year-old me.
Things like – you won’t make it. It’s all a lie. Your dreams are just a shattered mirror on the floor. Don’t fool yourself sweetie, aim for something smaller, easier.
Don’t be stupid.
Don’t be an idiot.

Hah, hah – that marriage thing.
Yeah…
Well, guess what kiddo, you’re going to be thirty and pretty much the embodiment of Rapunzel stuck in a Tower.

I don’t feel like I have really “achieved” anything in my twenties. I feel like I am a burden on my parents. I feel like I am a waste of resources to the world. I feel aimless, plotless, useless.
And yet, for the past few months I have been asking myself “What?”
“What, just WHAT am I supposed to BE doing?”
There is NOTHING to do.
My Dad said to me the other day while I was in one of my moods. “Without a career, husband or kids, what is a woman to do?”
I answered, “Nothing, we do utterly nothing.”

(Dear feminists, don’t take this as a challenge or anything, this was a hypothetical question that my Dad and I were discussing, we do this often. Please don’t shoot me with fiery darts from hell.)

NOTHING.

So then, I remembered something my Dad also told me quite often, “No one ever really achieves anything in life. We all live mundane lives in a mundane world. We live, we die.”
He wasn’t meaning it to be discouraging, on the contrary, he was meaning it to be uplifting – and it is – in a manner of speaking. Life is made up of the nothingness – like the universe is formed of dark matter, or some mumbo, jumbo like that.
It is the mundane moments that gradually fold together, the little moments, those precious little moments, that become the long string that is LIFE. The repetitive motions you do every day – waking up, eating breakfast, going to work, smiling at people in the street, talking to family, not talking to family, going for walks, watching tele. It all gradually forms a mosaic. It’s the coloured pieces of that mosaic that eventually clustered together to become something meaningful.

Often we think of life as the HUGE big moments.
Marriages, and holidays, Christmases and buying houses – the big things that tend to be events.
But it’s the bits in-between those big events that truly craft us into the people we are.

I still have utterly no idea where I am going in life.
I have no idea what direction I am supposed to be taking.
I feel like a lost girl, struggling to find her way in the woods, stumbling over broken branches. I don’t know the way forward into whatever terrifying darkness that is ahead – that future before me – I am so scared, I am so afraid of what unknown lies before me.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t even feel like I have a lantern to direct me.

But I’m just going to keep stumbling forward.
Keep trusting that somewhere, somehow, I’ll find my way home.
That the nothingness will turn into somethingness. That the moments I’ve gathered into a mosaic have already formed a beautiful piece of art.

I have incredible parents, amazing siblings – a family that is supportive and loving – I’ve travelled abit, I’ve got friends across the world thanks to the internet, I’ve had adventures I never thought possible thanks to my Books.
I am so grateful to the community that has gathered around my stories, to the fans and friends I have found in my journey to become an author.
I have a house – a house I love – a house I look forward to someday making into a home with a husband and kids.

I still have dreams, hopes, and a future ahead.

I mean.

I’m only 30.

So, fifteen-year-old Kylie – it’s going to be okay. You’re in a bad place. You’re in a really, really bad place right now, but, you’re going to survive. Things get better. You pull through. You make 30. I know you don’t think that’s possible – but congratulations, we did it! WE DID IT!

Perhaps, don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t think you’re fat when you’re obviously not. Wear that pretty brown dress like you’re a queen, cause, girl, you’re only going to be size 12 for like, three years. Flaunt it.
Don’t listen to women who tell you that you have ‘so much time,’ because, apparently we don’t.
Also, that whole there is ‘a lot of fish in the sea’ – yeah – about that…
The headaches are going to get worse before they get better, but, GOOD NEWS, they get better, you can look forward to that.


Finally, sweetie, don’t take life so seriously.
Enjoy yourself.

Just.

Really, really, enjoy yourself. Live.
Watch your anime. Dance to your songs. Write your stories. Play games.
Someday you’re going to be a thirty-year-old woman who is a little bit more cynical about everything.  

Excerpt – Orphans & Outcasts – Chapter One

 

Hello friends and readers.
I thought I would upload an excerpt from ‘Orphans and Outcasts’ since the editing is getting pretty close to finished. Just a few chapters to go. Front cover and illustrations are still way off done, but hey, at least editing is on track! Yay!

Enjoy. 

 

CHAPTER ONE

There is nothing left.

Kemet is gone. Kemet is gone. How could we have allowed this to happen?

Had we truly grown so complacent in ourselves that we believed we were invulnerable?

We believed we had tamed a Dragon—(why, why did they not listen to you? Why did they not slay it?)

I sit here, my dearest Sekhmet, surrounded by the mirrors that reflect my failures.

What have we done?

Kemet is gone.

There is nothing left.  

 

Private Communications Link. Utillian Time 14:19PM. Signal: Strong. Upload: Completed.
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A’aldryn dashed lightly across the sand, the fine grains roasting his foot-paws despite them never touching the surface for longer than a moment. The wind sang a howling song in his ears as he raced Utillia’s wide skylines. In the distance the bow of the Lawless Child crashed down, cutting its way through the mighty sand-waves like a blade. The Sun, low behind the dunes, was a herald of the coming Twin Winter months. The cooling air from the higher dune shadows tangled between his legs, dulling the heat of the scorching sand.

These precious moments of freedom were just for him and Khamsin. The wind-god who dwelt within him cherished the running of the burning-sea. In these few scarce hours they were one in mind, lost in the immensity of the horizon.

It has been a good day. The wind-god stroked the filaments of his awareness. It was not so much a voice that he heard but a sensation of lingering like an old etching carved into stone, for Khamsin was as ancient as the Ovin-tu Mountains[1] and always it felt as though he was a call echoing off distant cliffs.

“Indeed,” A’aldryn replied. “I hope we uncover something in that null-zone. Thanks be to the Rythrya[2], maybe we’ll finally get enough funds to upgrade the generators.”

A horn hollered, spiking his pelt. Thick lines were flung over the edge of the Lawless Child, breaking the waves. A’aldryn breathed deeply through his air-gills. A thrill chilled his under-pelt as he watched the sand-ship spreading her outer wings. She was not an overly large vessel—a nyhot class[3], crewing only a hundred and fifty able-bodied burning-seafolk—but she did them proud and he adored her almost as much as he adored his mate.

He dropped to all fours, increasing his speed. The wind surged around him, spurring his body forth with leaps and bounds until he latched onto a rope, clawing up the hull with strong hauls. With a flip, he twirled into the air and landed with an expert swagger on the decking. He caught the movement of the sand-ship as he stood upright on his hind-paws. His fan-tail unfurled, steadying his posture.

The two upper-decks of the sand-ship were busy with scurrying crew members, obeying the orders of the queen, all paying him no heed despite his rank of chaplain. The vessel shuddered under his foot-paws as the Lawless Child took the brunt of a strong gravity swell, thrusting out from the null-zone yonder.

They were vagabonds and orphans, cast-offs from the Ruling Prides, coming to the Lawless Child for the same reasons—protection, shelter, food, work—a home, a pride. To the unobservant it was not so obvious, but to his eyes it was easy to see those who were unique like himself—the misfit-born, cursed with mutations caused by the rising radiation leaking free of the null-zones and the Zaprex technology beneath the burning-sea.

In many ways it was better to be dead than to be born a misfit; whether Human, Kelib, Kattamont or half-breed, the shame was a cutting blade and life within the Ruling Prides was impossible.

A’aldryn curled his extra digits into the hooks of his dangling belts. The scars had long been hidden by his silver pelt, but he could still feel them pull from time to time, reminding him of his childish attempts to cut off what he had once considered an abomination.

Through the commotion a commanding voice called, “Prince A’aldryn, get your tail up here! Report!” A’aldryn caught sight of his mother aloft the stern deck: Zafi’ashid Silvertide, exiled queen of the Silvertide Pride. The glow of the Sun was raw behind her, casting a glinting halo around her glossy unkempt fur. She was dainty behind the heavy weight of the helm, the magnificent contraption of wheels and levers dwarfing her in size, and yet there was no doubting the queen’s prowess.

She might have been an exile of the burning-sea, cast aside like trash by the Silvertide Pride that ruled the Trading Routes between the Wind Cities and Isles, but her queenly strength was unwavering. Like raw silver, pure from the ground, she had been born to rule the strongest pride of Utillia, and that air of royalty had never left. It was something she had passed to him, in the way he sashayed up the stairs to the helm. She did not glance his way as he stationed himself directly beside her, but her flamboyant air-gills briefly flashed in greeting and, within, Khamsin berated him sharply for forgetting Kattamont customs.

Zafi’ashid cared not that she mingled with the low-life scoundrels of the outlaw trading posts, or the criminals and pirates that winged through the outer sectors. That, he knew, was true pride—that she had been outcast but had never lost what she had been born to be.

“Mother, I scouted ahead and the null-zone is over the next wave-bank. Ni’xlye was correct in her dreamings; there is a ruin inside.”

Zafi’ashid spun the wheel, locking a lever in place with a foot-paw. Her tail balanced her weight as she guided herself around the controls. “Good, good. Does it look like anyone has discovered it already?”

“It looks unscavenged.”

“All the better; we shall be the first.” Her grin grew wild, bright azure eyes ravaging the horizon yonder in anticipation. She did so love the hunt. A’aldryn swished his fan-tail lazily, envious of the colours his mother’s had; it glinted like a precious opal, while his had the pristine blues of scarce water. Mother had never told him why she had been outcast, but he had gathered enough over the sol-cycles. It had been because she had birthed a misfit. It perhaps explained the intense drive he had inherited to search for and learn more of the Zaprexes, following in her unwavering paw-steps.

What truly lay beneath the burning-sea? Wonders untold—long uncharted cities, sunken and left to slumber. He had barely scratched the surface of their great towers in his countless dives. They called to him. He had to follow. It was because he was misfit-born, and all misfit-born shared in common the dream of the cities paved in gold.

Mother knew he craved answers. That was why they had become archaeologists. It was a dangerous profession; they were labelled heretics by the Ip’osti——for their beliefs that the Zaprexes were not invaders but saviours. Honestly, he was not afraid of being branded a heretic, but what he truly despised was the dirt they had to put up with to fund their research. For the upkeep of the Lawless Child and food for the crew, they had been forced to allow Scavengers to use the sand-ship and accompany them on exhibitions.

It went against everything an archaeologist upheld to tolerate Scavengers pulling apart the wonders of a Zaprex ruin. He felt filthy just thinking about it.

“Must they come, Mother? This is truly a marvellous find and they will destroy it.”

Zafi’ashid’s brow lifted under the linkage of her air-gills. A’aldryn unfolded his arms, spreading them in protest.

“And, yes, I detest the man.” He spat.

“It is simply your pride instinct. Resist it.”

“I want to stab him in the face whenever I see him.”

Her laughter rang high into the Mist sails. “That is what you get for being born a pure-blooded prince.”

“Mother!”

He had been born a prince, and the prince’s place in a pride was to protect. Queens and princesses lived for the hunt. A’aldryn stiffened as he caught the scent of the leader of the Scavengers. Zafi’ashid was smiling and he rolled his eyes, feeling his fur spike as the heavy footstep of the Human thumped up to the helm. There was no way he was going to duplicate his mother’s gesture of greeting towards Torka. The stinky Human could go throw himself overboard for all he cared.

“Greetings, Queen Zafi’ashid! I see we have been in luck and found some fair winds.”

Zafi’ashid cocked her head toward him and A’aldryn shrugged nonchalantly. He might have given Khamsin free range to push the Lawless Child along; it was not a bad thing to have a wind-god permanently residing within his mortal shell—he was personally going to take every advantage it brought. After all, he was the sand-ship’s chaplain; taming the wind was his role on the vessel—the Pride had just never seen fit to inform the Scavengers about Khamsin. To the vultures he was, quite simply, a very good wind-tamer and he did so enjoy how much it vexed them.

“Indeed, Torka, the Rythrya Stones have smiled upon us.”

The Stones do not cause the winds. Your mother needs to remember who it is that truly rules these oceans. Khamsin stirred, bristling under his fur like hot-fire. A’aldryn snorted, insulted on behalf of Khamsin for being compared to the monuments scattered around Utillia.

“Mother, the Rythrya are guide stones, nothing more. They do not create the winds.” A’aldryn glanced over the tossing dunes in the distance. “The Simoon forge the winds.”

“Ever the scholar, A’aldryn,” Torka said. “You fill your head with useless facts from a useless past.”

Torka’s bass laugh was heavily weighted with a gurgling of tobacco use. It was never a good thing for a Human to abuse their lungs in Utillia—the air was already too thin for a first-generation Human of Pennadotian birth.

“The past is not useless, Torka,” A’aldryn muttered. “It is from the past that the future shall be reborn.” He could not understand how so few who dived deep into the burning-sea, down into the depths of the Zaprex wonders below, came out not seeing that the rebirth of their world was beginning. A’aldryn unfolded himself from his perch, levelling the man with a glare. “Besides, it is my useless facts that bring you coinage to fill your useless pockets.” He had not encountered many Humans Torka’s age; most who sailed the burning-sea died before they had the chance to reach more than fifty sol-cycles. He was not entirely sure if Humans could get much older. Half-breeds he had encountered—they had many amongst the crew—but pure Humans usually remained in the Wind Cities and the Isles, preferring the life of mist-farming or trading. Torka, though, was beginning to go gray and he smelt of foul decay that was off-putting. His long hair was always bound back, and he often wore a broad smile as though life was pleasant. His skin had long since seen better days, wrinkled and blotched by the boiling Sun and the radiating burning-sea. Yet it was still the smirk that A’aldryn detested the most—so smug and self-satisfied, like he knew something no one else did, some grand secret he was content to let sit on his lips but never to tell.

“I think what the prince is trying to say, Torka, is that the ruin is un-scavenged. If you and your men will prepare for the dive, I will get close enough to drop you off.”

“This is good news Queen Zafi’ashid. My men have been holding out for a good bit of scavenging.”

“I hope this will be fulfilling for us all.” Zafi’ashid heaved on a lever and the vessel beneath them lurched forward. A’aldryn steadied himself as a side-wing caught an up-gust of gravity and he seized a nearby handle, throwing his full weight upon it.

He bellowed over the deck, “Tie down that wing! Why is it still open? Someone tie that cursed thing down. We’re closing on a null-zone. The gravity is destabilizing. I want the wings buckled down.”

Zafi’ashid laughed and he shot her a glare, fluffing the fur of his chest in frustration. “I would be grateful, Mother, if you took better care of the sand-ship I will inherit when you cross the Osiris Gate.”

“You will not inherit it, my prince. Your queen will.”

“It will still be my sand-ship.”

Torka cracked a laugh. “Maybe we might find your queen some legs this time, heh, boy. Some records did say those Zaprexes could rebuild limbs better than our Kattamont mechanics.”

A’aldryn quenched Khamsin’s internal raging tornado. The indecency of the Human man was beyond insulting. It was enough to justify cleaving his head from his shoulders and putting it on a stake. Had this been any other Pride, he would have.

“I will prepare myself for the dive, Mother.” A’aldryn turned sharply, his fan-tail coiled irritably. Maybe if he had wind-blessed luck, Torka would take a bad fall this scavenger hunt and never come back up. After all, the burning-sea took no prisoners. He heard his mother’s laugher as he stomped away. It was troubling, though; he was not entirely sure if he was happier to be away from Torka or his mother.

Neither his mate nor his blood-brother were in their cabin, their usual hiding place from the crew of the Pride. A’aldryn breathed in their lingering scents. It calmed his nerves. Collecting his assortment of archaeological and dive equipment from a locked chest he donned the hand-crafted belts and foot-paw pads and snatched up the face-mask. It was a ghastly thing, made all the more uncomfortable by the tubes that attached to his air-gills, but the presence of toxins could be possible in any ancient Zaprex ruin, and that could not be taken lightly, even by a Kattamont. He had seen Humans melt when exposed to spores and gases below the surface of the burning-sea.

He headed topside. Zafi’ashid’s voice was shrill over the groaning of the Lawless Child and the bustling of the crew as they anchored the sand-ship on the edge of a high dune wave. Khamsin’s spirit soared through him and A’aldryn breathed out deeply, sensing the delight of the wind-god as its tentacles danced around the metal of something beyond his sight. They had found it—something old, and yet it felt impossibly new and undamaged by the passage of time and the burning-sea.

A’aldryn sighted Ni’xlye on the deck leaning over the railing. Her tail poked through a hole in her wheelchair, flapping in a clear display of joy. He smiled. For a half-breed, his mate leaned more toward a Kattamont nature, and to that he was eternally grateful. Her Humanness was in her peculiar hands and her cute little nose. She had none of the magnificent Kattamont air-gills but had at least inherited a tail and fur. She was already a queen, though she pretended otherwise for the sake of their Pride unity and his mother’s sanity—though neither queen would admit it to the other.

At the death of a queen, such as his Pride mother, the waiting neutral princess would mature and take her place, inheriting the Pride, including the princes and neutrals under her rule. His mother was not dead; she was an outcast, staying alive by her sheer desire to win back the honour she had lost. Ni’xlye was not a neutral princess, but, out of deference to his mother, she kept the façade as his mother’s princess. He was sure this was only possible because his mate was half-Human and their Pride was one of misfits. It was the part of her that was Human that did not mind being a second queen to his mother.

After all, in truth, it was his mother who suffered—she had no , no one to care for her; she was alone—like a rythrya stone amongst the sand dune waves, weathering the storms of the burning-sea’s rage.

Ni’xlye was the true queen; the shadow queen his blood-brother would often say.

With stubby ears twitching, she caught his stare. The glow of her rosy fur brightened at his admiring gaze.

“Ryn!”

He smiled at her shortened version of his name. It bothered his mother, which was perhaps the reason both his blood-brother and his mate used it so often.

“Oh, Ryn, isn’t it beautiful! I wish I could go with you.”

His chest ached as she rolled the wheels of her chair around. Under the patchwork blanket of her own making, he knew her legs lay limp. Only he and his blood-brother had the privilege of seeing her uncovered. His mate was strong, not only in spirit, but also in body. Her life was one of tribulation. He had been childish, thinking his little extra digits were a blight on his life. Ni’xlye had still been in the womb-sack of a female, and, due to the mutation of her bones, her legs had never developed correctly. It pained him to think that were it not for the softened heart of one Ip’osti she would not be alive to love him.

He hooked his extra digits into his belts and levitated over the deck, landing beside her in a swell of wind.

“If the Human oafs were not coming I would take you, love.”

“You shouldn’t speak ill of Torka; he is a nice man. Besides, I am half-Human, so you should be kinder to my people.” Ni’xlye fluffed her chest fur, settling back in her chair.

A’aldryn rolled his eyes. Ni’xlye’s insistence on acknowledging her Human side extended to wearing Human clothing, which was bothersome to get off her at night, and it ruined her adorable rosy pelt. Why keep fur as luxuriant as his mother’s under that much fabric? He did not see the point. Kattamont fur was supposed to be without restriction; otherwise it did not absorb sunlight or starlight—but, no, Ni’xlye refused to listen to his nattering on the subject.

“You’re judging me; I can feel it.” She eyed him.

“I’m undressing you in my head,” he sniped back.

Her tail thumped him, causing him to stagger forward, more in surprise than at the force of her strike. He caught her cocky grin and the shine of her mottled eyes.

“Find me something, Ryn. Bring me back a gift.”

She so loved the beautiful wonders they uncovered, the artefacts of centuries past that her fingers could touch and her mind process. He promised himself he would find something for her to cherish, just to see her happiness.

The wheels of her chair grated over the deck and her hands grasped the surface of the railing. Ni’xlye stared wistfully over the horizon. “Be safe, too,” she murmured.

“I will, I promise.” The adventure of discovery was thrilling, but it was still dangerous. Even with all the caverns of secret wonders, the possibility of finding clues as to why Utillia existed as a land of scorching irrational sand, there always remained the danger he might not return from below. He had been raised a warrior-scribe, and he would always seek the answers, despite the risks.

A’aldryn fluttered a soft breath of wind across Ni’xlye cheek, causing her to laugh as she tucked her hair behind a perky ear.

“I can feel it, Ryn.” She tipped her head toward him. “I don’t know what it is, but I know we’re getting closer to the source of our dreams. We’ll figure it out—what happened to us.”

She was speaking about his extra digits, his mutation, and how she even existed at all—half-breeds—they should have been impossible.

He did not know which was sadder: the fact that his mate believed unswervingly in the Zaprexes or that, no matter how much they searched, they never came any closer to that which all misfits dreamed of—the cities of gold.

A’aldryn bent and nuzzled her cheek. “I trust our dreams. They have carried us this far.”

“As do I.”

A’aldryn straightened at Zafi’ashid’s low voice. He stepped aside from Ni’xlye sharply, bowing to the queen.

“There is an island nearby; we shall dock there and await your return. It is far too dangerous to keep the Lawless this close to a null-zone; we could destabilize the gravity and collapse the area onto you while you dive.” Zafi’ashid approached, brushing a paw through Ni’xlye’s hair tenderly. A’aldryn curled his foot-claws against the wooden planking.

“Yes, Mother.”

“Then you have your orders, prince. Come back alive.”

“Always.” He sent a swell of wind toward Ni’xlye to caress her cheek as he turned and skipped over the edge of the sand-ship into the burning-sea below.

 

***

 

One of A’aldryn’s great pleasures in life was annoying Torka with his ability to walk on the burning-sea without sinking. Only skilled Ip’osti chaplains could do this, and the fact that he, a young prince, flaunted it, irked the Human scavenger to no end. He could tell from the twitching of Torka’s eyebrow and the way his lips curved into thin lines. The man loathed him, and the feeling was well returned in kind.

The surging pulses of the destabilizing gravity of the null-zone made his fur spike. He would never get used to the sheer power that Zaprex technology radiated, nor come to understand how and why pockets of emptiness would open up within the burning-sea and leave vast sectors unstable. Some burning-seafolk called them holes, but they were not holes in the term of a visible gap one could swing a rope into and drop down into the dark depths. It was an area of no sand, no burning-sea, just nothing—appearing suddenly and without warning in a sector. They could be big or small. If they occurred when a sand-ship was nearby, or right beneath a sand-ship…well, he had seen it happen from a distance and it was never pretty.

Somewhere in the pocket of nothing lay a Zaprex machine, a wonder of extraordinary history just waiting for him. Waiting for him to discover why the null-zone existed and why Utillia had become a land of moving sand, why misfit-children were born, and why the world they lived upon was crumbling, piece by piece.

“What do you think we’ll find down there, cub?”

He glanced at Torka as the man strapped his booster pack to his hips. While he did detest the Human, he had to grudgingly admire him for being the best in the scavenging business.

A’aldryn fitted his mask, attaching the tubes to his air-gills.

“The null-zone is small, so I suspect it won’t be a city entrance.”

Torka nodded. “Good, good. Last time we got a city entrance I lost three men.”

A’aldryn shuddered. Ah. Yes. That had not been a good hunt. The crystal-spores from the Zaprex corpses had been particularly lethal, but they had gone down so far, and so deep, he had almost expected to never resurface—and they had only reached level six, the very tops of the cityscapes.

He had been glad Torka had been unable to scavenge the Zaprex remains due to the spores. Desecrating the fairy-kin’s castles felt disrespectful enough, let alone taking the hollow bodies for spare parts.

“It is unlikely that will happen this time, Torka.” A’aldryn shook his head. “But I do suggest caution. I suspect we will encounter some crystals, so full protective gear if any of you want to father children.”

“You heard the cub!” Torka shouted to his men, “Don’t mess up your suits this time!”

“Why doesn’t he wear one?”

A’aldryn glanced back at the questioner, giving the new-comer a smile as he stepped over the edge of the null-zone.

“I’m already tainted. Misfit-born, remember.”

“It’s why he’s here, numbskull. He can sense the shiny-crystals and warn you not to step your foot in it.” Torka whacked the young man over the head and A’aldryn smiled as he released Khamsin, beginning his dive. It was disorientating, as he knew he was going downward, but there was no reference point for the slow movement when all around him was entirely nothing. When he had first begun his expeditions into null-zones he had thought his eyes were playing tricks, catching signs of life, trickles of sand, and whiffs of light. He had tried to reach out and catch the strange fragments only for them to break up and disintegrate in his paws. Khamsin called it corrupted information and now whenever he took the plunge into the odd world of nothing he knew that surrounding him was not mere darkness but a lack of anything at all. It made him feel very alone, very empty, and ever more frightened of the world he lived in. The burn of the scavenger crew’s booster-packs glittered in his eyes, he watched them pan out, creating a formation. Torka swirled around him; finally the man was in his element. A’aldryn eyed the booster-pack, wondering how easy it would be to accidently kick Torka hard enough for the booster-pack to grow unstable—

A’aldryn, I have promised to protect all the lives upon the Lawless Child, and that includes Torka. If you desire to fight him, you will have to do it as a Kattamont prince with a grudge, then mayhap I will aid you with throwing him overboard. Currently, the man has done nothing to slight you but ruffle your kitten feathers.

A’aldryn winced at Khamsin’s berating.

“You are no fun,” he muttered.

Faint light appeared below them. A’aldryn glanced up, shaking his head at the sight of the small sliver of daylight some distance above. Despite how long he felt the dive was, they had not truly travelled far. On his deepest dive he had reached the sixth level, the very tips of the ancient Zaprex cities, and that alone had taken days to achieve. They had barely broken the surface during this dive. He looked at Torka. Honestly, he should get along with the Human man he spent so much time diving with.

Torka manoeuvred his booster-pack controls, swinging towards him, his cheeks flushed rosy against the burn of the pack. “Any idea what it is, cub?”

A’aldryn squinted. This close he could finally make an outline of the old Zaprex monument. His chest inflated sharply with surprise. This was a spectacular find. If only his mate and blood-brother were with him. He could imagine their delight.

“A flying machine.” He barely managed the words.

Torka clapped his hands. “Oh, oh!” The scavenger whirled back around to his men. “Lads! We got ourselves the catch of the sol-cycle.”

It must have crashed here. Khamsin nudged his mind. It is strange…

A’aldryn frowned. Yes, it was strange—the way the eerie shape was suspended in the nothing, globs of sand surrounding it. Crystals were scattered, as though they had been shattered when the null-zone had been created. Others protruded through the hull of the ancient vessel in such a painful manner it made him cringe. He could only liken it to a pin-cushion from his blood-brother’s healing kit. The crystals’ glow was an allure though, drawing him closer as a moth to a flame.

There is something inside. Something different…something…new…

“What?” A’aldryn raised his brow. “Really?” His tail flicked. New was good.

Khamsin’s wind rippled over his fur. Sometimes, young one, it is not always good. The wind is the element of change, and not all change is good change.

Tah.” A’aldryn waved aside the wind-god’s concern. “We will bring Ni’xlye back a grand treasure.”

***

[1] The mountain range that rings the borders of Pennadot.

[2] Rythrya – means ‘Guiding Stone’. In this case it is in reference to the ‘Seven Rythrya’ which are the great guiding stones worshipped in Utillia by all Kattamonts. However, scattered across Utillia, there are many ‘rythrya’ used to guide sand-ships through the burning-sea. Chaplains use them to navigate the winds and currents.

[3] Nyhot – medium sized sailing vessel, two masts. Typically equipped with twenty-five guns, five officers, a doctor, chaplain (wind-tamer), purser, and up to one-hundred and fifty able-bodied burning-seafolk.

Starting a new novel

Book 3.
Ohhhh. Book 3.

So I already have a fabulous outline for Book 3, but now, with an outline all done and dusted, comes the actual work of writing the prose. That important…part…of turning an outline into a novel. This phase comes with its own difficult challenges.

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The first of these challenges being a sort of ‘resetting’ that is required when switching out of outline mode into prose mode. After having spent such a long time writing just an outline, dot pointing every single thing that happens in a chapter.
Zinkx walked over to the tree and rested while he said blaa, blaa, blaa.
Shanty swung a club
Sam shook his head.
Skyeola waved his wand–sorry–conductor.
That sort of stupid, silly, dot-point like outline that I do because…I am ridiculous.

Now I have to move away from that into actual ‘story-telling mode’ and its hard. Oh. It’s hard. I sat at the cafe the other week just staring blankly at a white page of doom open in Office Word with the cursor blinking at me and while I had the Outline sitting there, right next to me, I was just drawing a total and utter BLANK.
What the heck was I supposed to write? I started to panic. Could I do this? Oh no…oh no…oh no!!

Wait. Wait. Hang on. Hang on. I had the same problem when I was switching from Book 2 Outline to writing Book 2. Ohhhh.

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Cafe time!

So, I thought to what I had done back then. I got out my pen and notebook and I kick started my imagination by writing the oldie-fashioned way. Totally confused everyone at the cafe, which was amusing. I guess it’s a bit odd to see the author who is such a quick touch typist suddenly switch to using a pen and notebook.

The words started the flow. Not great, mind you, but at least something was coming onto the page. It’ll likely need a serious rewrite by the time I get to the end of the novel, but I do have to start somewhere.

I think the major problem I am having is getting back into the ‘voices’ of the characters. Zinkx’s somewhat dry, sarcastic drone that I imagine him having when he’s the POV character. Shanty’s comforting warm demeanour hiding her slowly growing fierceness. Sam’s upbeat chirpiness, and his childishness gradually fading as the heavy burden of his task becomes ever more apparent. Skyeola’s melancholy and bitterness giving way to a subdued adulthood.
It’s like I halted all that for six months while writing the Outline and now I’m having to remember their voices, their actions, the little nuances that make up their characters.

Here is an example of just how different the outline plan can be from the writing prose I end up with, and just keep in mind, none of this might end up in the final cut. (The prologue that ended up in Protectors, some of you might recall, is very different from the Prologue I had originally written for Protectors, let alone the first chapter of the book!!) So I always go into writing a novel knowing how unlikely it will be that anything I write will end up in the final production.

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Zinkx slammed into the ground, rolling across sharp basalt rocks, his suit no longer able to absorb the sheer force of the assault as the explosion of the mine blasted away his battery back. Skin tore. His crystal visor cracked and toxic air flooded his lungs. He could not stop the roll, his hands threaded bloody as he clawed at the jagged rocks. One moment he was spinning, the next he was airborne, and over a cliff, sailing downward, into the red glow of an open wound into the earth. Lava swamped his vision.

Zinkx reacted. A surge of lighting ignited through his limbs, spinning free of his bloodied hands, coiling together to form ropes, and latched onto the cliff side. He jerked to a halt, landing knee deep in the molten rock. His suit flared with vectors between the seams, and alarms blinked across his visor. Zinkx heaved on the ropes, surging himself out of with a thrust of gravity control. He landed in another uncontrolled landing, crying out as his burning legs gave way.

The desire to curl over and give into the blackness that threatened to swamp him was intense, but the horrifying dreamathic colours coming across his damaged visor urged him to ignore the call to collapse. His squad needed him. He had dragged them into this, he was going to get them out of it. Tearing off his utility belt in a blind panic Zinkx ripped into the painkillers, thrusting the syringe through his suit and into his thigh. The relief would be at least enough to ignore his damaged body and the failing of his battle suit. His replacement visor was shattered. There was no choice then but to reseal his broken one and hope the patch worked long enough until help arrived. Picking himself up Zinkx tightened the strap on the treasure he had tied to his back.

The canopic jar.

The result of their infiltration into the Zaprex fairy-castle of the Dam, holding back the Sea of Inquisitives. Even now, through the thick yellow miasma choking the horizon, he could see the immense structure rising out of the charred black earth. Its silver, sleek architecture, like all Zaprex buildings appeared netted together in a series of enormous hexagons, that upon closer inspection, became smaller grids, upon even small interlocking webs. It astounded him that he and his squad were the first in generations to manage any infiltration into the ancient Dam. He was half in the mind that the High Elder had sent him on a fool’s errand in the hope he and his squad would perish—he would not have put it past the erratic man who loathed any competition to his position.

“You’d better be worth it…” he whispered to the precious artefact.

Zinkx threw himself forward with a bounce of gravity control. If his legs where useless he was going to have to overwork everything else—he could not allow the canopic jar to fall into the hands of the enemy, nor could he return to the House of Flames and High Elder empty handed.

::Captain!:: His lieutenant’s pictographs, sweeping and smooth despite how frantic they came across, filled out over his visor in thick black lines. ::Captain where are you?::

::Kaitla?:: The disorientation of dreamathic communication caused him to halt. He had never been particularly skilled in communicating through the crystal visors with the colours of emotions, making them form understandable patterns, and it was made all the worse with damaged equipment. ::Kaitla, I got thrown by the mine. Count me into your position.:: He sent back. Unlike Kaitla’s beautifully sculpted colours, his always went across in globs and splatters, ending up like embarrassing ink stains.

Numbers threaded quickly over his visor screen and he followed their position through the smoke. The mine had been unexpected, and he should have scanned for such a weapon, but the pinning fire of the Twizel legion following them under a blind fog of toxic cloak had been frantically distracting. He had paid the price for his panic.

A bullet ricocheted off a nearby rock and Zinkx ducked behind it, eyeing the nearby cliffs, visible only in sharp shadows cast from the eerie glow of the murky lava draining down in slow, majestic falls, overflowing into deep trenches.

::Kaitla, I’m coming in hot, get a shield up.::

::Aye, sir.::

He fisted his hands. Muscles flinched, prepared for the pain, and he it took deep breathes to unwind the knots. He burst into a run, forcing it through his legs. Bullet fire rained down, cracking the soil. He lunged as a shield of metal surged out of the ground, throwing up rocks and dust. Zinkx looked up from his crouch at the taller figure of his lieutenant in a gleaming silver battle suit. Either Kaitla’s battery pack had been damaged, or his supply was running low, for the liquid shine that usually glinted off the skin-tight armour was failing, and the daffodil signage that indicated their ranking as soldiers had lost its lustre glow.

::You look like trakri sir.:: A hand was offered to him, he seized it.

::Thanks.:: He stood with the aid, ignoring his trembling legs. ::We need to move.::

::Problem, that.:: Kaitla winced as his shield was assaulted and the noise was near deafening. ::And it’s not just our friends on the ridge,:: his colours turned a sarcastic green before quickly shifting to grief sickened grey, ::Sir, it’s Ariel, she…she triggered the mine.::

Zinkx’s already dry mouth felt now like he had swallowed a spoonful of ash. No. No. He refused to think—no. He pivoted on his heels. Lying under an ice blanket his squads medical nurse was lying stationary on the hot rocks. He grabbed for the cold blanket. It disintegrated in his hands, revealing her lower extremities and he choked on the whine escaping his throat.

Her suit had resealed the wound.

It was designed to do so.

It was designed to save their lives.

But it made no difference, to a Messenger, this was a death sentence.

Her legs were gone.

Her dreamathic colours over his visor were the horrible shades of pale pottery, broken and unfixable. He could barely understand them with the cracks in the crystal.

::Leave me, Captain…please.::

::Never.:: He shifted to her side and altered his gravity. He slid his arms under her. ::I would never.::

::I am useless now. They’ll just put me in the Breeding Program.:: Her colours turned blue and the strokes sharp—terror, filled with terror.

::I won’t let them do that to you. Now, get on my back.::

She struggled. Her heart was not in it. Zinkx grabbed her visor, placing his against it, ignoring the cracks.

::Ariel, we can do this. We can make it. I need you. I need my medic. I’m torn up inside. I’m going to need you.:: Her sobs echoed through the dreamathic bond. Her fingers around his shoulders tightened, the colours of the dreamathic tears like pattering toxic rain turning gradually a deep determined orange of resolve. It was back, the desire to live, to fight again. Zinkx bit down on his lips as he swung her onto his back. His legs could give way when he was free of this, for now, he had legs to carry her with and carry her he would.

::Lieutenant, let’s go.::

Kaitla spread his hands, metal splitting like a wave around them as his birth elemental-gift danced with the ease of an experienced welder. The metal shield rolled, becoming wheels, spinning off in two directions.

::I’ll cover you.:: The clipped reply came, ::Make it over the ridge sir.::

Zinkx set his gaze forward. The next ridge. Their last communication had pinged off a Thyrrhos warship in that direction. That was their safe zone—if the vessel was even still anchored there. He had to believe it was. He had to believe that Prometheus would have waited for him.

Slamming his boots into the unstable ground Zinkx ran, balancing himself only with thrusts of gravity control. Kaitla’s metal shields spun, twirling back and forth, spitting up sparks of lava as they sliced through the earth, blocking the onslaught of weapon fire from the distance. It was a small blessing that the Twizels were not engaging them in close combat. That meant the high possibility the Thyrrhos warship was docked over the ridge.

His feet left the ground suddenly.

Ariel’s grip on his shoulders tightened.

Laughter burst out of him, unexpectedly, as he sailed downward in a rush. In the distance the shambled together shape of the Thyrrhos warship docked by the Sea of Inquisitives sent a rush of relief through him, flooding his chest and the pain of his jarring landing was just bearable. Kaitla skidded down beside him, rolling before scrambling up and spinning back to look up the ridge they had leapt down.

::Traki!:: The lieutenant swore.

Zinkx needed no other warning. He ducked. Ariel cried out as the Twizel’s talons clipped the air nearby. Zinkx grabbed her around the waist and flung her away, watching, barely, as she was caught by one of the approaching Thyrrhos. The enormous Fire Elementals thundered past, shaking the earth, splitting the small fissures in the crust, splurging up lava. The lone Twizel stood no chance against the storm of fire that met it, it’s bulbous body of rippling shadows, mangled together with stolen muscles and bones from Messengers it had consumed, was ripped apart by weapons that towered over Zinkx.

Zinkx dropped to his knees as the energy drained out of him. Safe. He was safe.

“You’re late, fire-sprite.”

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For those who want to know what Thyrrhos look like. Kaitla and Ariel are much older in this image though.

If you’ve read Protectors, you might notice that the prologue of Book 3 covers one of the stories Zinkx tells Skyeola and Sami (I think. It might just be Skyeola…) about the time he fell into a pool of lava and learnt how to summon lightning without a battery pack — and how he got the scars on his legs.

However my concern is, at the moment, I’m not so great at writing young-Zinkx voice. Young-Zinkx is rebellious, loud and wouldn’t hesitate to punch someone he’s having a disagreement with. Older-Zinkx very much thinks things through a bit more, having learnt from his younger-self mistakes.

So this will get a rewrite when I’m much more settled into writing, as I still feel like I writing to much like I’m outlining. It’s going to take awhile to switch around.
I just find it a fascinating experience to see the difference between the outline and the prose.

It’s going to be a really long journey. I’m always in awe of authors who can punch these 200,000 word books out in a few months. Perhaps someday I’ll get that good.