• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

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The Death of a City part 2

Roland went about his work that day in a kind of trance, brought on by tiredness and gloom. He paid particular attention to the griffin chick Arren had stolen, which had been brought back by the adult griffins who had hunted him down. The little creature didn’t seem to be any worse for wear. Arren might have abducted it, but he hadn’t hurt it. In fact, the story went, it had hurt him.  

Roland crouched by the chick’s pen, noting the small bloodstain on its feathers. ‘I’m so sorry, little one,’ he told it. ‘But you’re all right, aren’t you?’

The chick eyed him. ‘Food!’ it chirped. Most chicks couldn’t say much more than that.

Roland smiled ruefully and stood up with a shake of his head. At least the chick was all right.

And then, chaos erupted.

All at once, as if they had been given some kind of signal, every single chick in the room went mad. They began to screech loudly – the panic screech that Roland had only heard a few times before, once when a large stray dog had wandered into the Hatchery. Too young to fly, the chicks started to run around inside their pens. Some of them threw themselves at the gates or burrowed in the corners, trying desperately to escape. The more timid ones cowered in their nests, calling pathetically for help.

Roland turned around sharply, expecting to see some sign of danger, but there was nothing. But still the chicks panicked. Over in one corner, in their hanging cage, the live rats kept for feed ran about in terror, making their prison swing gently back and forth.

The hair on the back of Roland’s neck prickled, and an irrational fear started to sting at him as well.

‘Who’s there?’ he called stupidly. ‘What’s going on?’

Without warning, the door that led into his room at the back slammed. Roland started in fright, but ran over to investigate.

As he drew closer to the door, the fear grew in him. Very cautious now, he reached for the handle and inched it open. He couldn’t hear anything coming from inside.

Roland peered around the door, and once again he sensed a presence. ‘Is someone in here?’ he called.

‘Shh,’ a voice whispered back.

Roland jerked backward. ‘What the-? Who is that?’

‘Nobody,’ a melancholy voice replied as he pushed open the door.

But there was someone there. A thin, hunched someone sitting at the table and staring at the candle that burned on it, just as Roland had done the night before.

Roland relaxed slightly. ‘You’re tresspassing, you know.’

‘I do,’ said the voice. It sounded low and hopeless.

Roland entered the room. ‘Is there something I can do for you?’

‘No,’ said the stranger. ‘Not any more.’

That was when Roland finally realised the truth, and that was when he froze. ‘I know that voice,’ he said aloud. ‘I know that… but… but that’s not possible.’

‘I wish it weren’t,’ said the stranger, finally looking up at him.

Roland’s breath caught and twisted in his throat. ‘You,’ he rasped. ‘It is you.’

Arren Cardockson stood up. ‘I suppose so,’ he said.

‘But you’re-,’ Roland began. ‘Bran said you were dead.’

The bitter lines on Arren’s face deepened. ‘Of course he did.’

‘He lied?’ said Roland. ‘To help you escape?’

‘No,’ said Arren. ‘He let his friends kill me.’

Roland went silent for a moment, regarding his one time apprentice. The last time he had seen him, Arren had been a shadow of his old self – ragged and dirty, full of bitterness and self pity. Now, if anything, he looked worse.

He had trimmed his grubby beard into a small, neat pointed chin-beard, and now his curly hair, grown long over his shoulders, had been washed and combed. The wound that the griffin chick had torn on his face had been cleaned and had already begun forming into a scar. He wore a robe now – the traditional black robe of a slave. The same one Bran had been carrying in the Temple.

But it was the eyes that had changed the most, and the eyes that put terror into Roland’s heart. They were black, and full of hatred and despair. There was no soul left in them.

‘Arren,’ Roland said. He could feel himself trembling lightly. ‘What are you talking about?’

Arren laughed a laugh that had no humour in it whatsoever. ‘I’m not Arren,’ he said. ‘There is no Arren. Arren died. He fell thousands of feet and broke every bone in his body. It’s over, Roland.’

He’s mad, Roland thought. ‘Why have you come back here?’ he asked. ‘You’ll be caught.’

‘I came back to say goodbye,’ said Arren, sounding a little more normal. ‘Tonight I’m going to leave Eagleholm, and I’m never coming back.’ His shoulders hunched, and for a moment he looked as guilt-stricken as Rannagon had done. ‘I’m so sorry. For everything. I’m sorry for what I did, and I’m sorry for what I am.’

‘It’s all right.’ Roland came closer, holding out a hand. ‘Arren, it’s all right.’

‘Don’t touch me!’ Arren jerked away. ‘You don’t want to touch me. I’m cold.’ He relaxed and smiled weakly. ‘So damned cold. You know what I wish, Roland?’

‘What is it, lad?’ Roland asked.

Arren turned to look around the room. ‘I wish I’d never come into this Hatchery. I wish I’d never become a griffiner. I wish I’d never been born.’

In a moment of insanity, Roland almost wanted to laugh. ‘And I’m sorry too, Arren.’

Arren turned back. ‘For what?’

‘I should never have left you alone here. I should have done something to help you before it was too late. I should-,’

Now it was Arren who came closer. He reached out and touched Roland’s face. His hand was cold and lifeless. ‘It’s all right, Roland,’ he said. ‘It’s over. I don’t blame you for anything, and if you ever did anything to hurt me, then I forgive you. I shouldn’t’ve have done what I did, and I’m sorry. Thankyou for everything you ever did for me.’ He took his hand away. ‘And now I should go.’

Roland let him pass. ‘Where will you go?’ he asked. ‘What are you going to do?’

‘I’m going to end this,’ said Arren. ‘The gods have given me a chance to do what I should have done when I was alive, and I’m not letting that chance go. Goodbye, Roland, and good luck.’

And then he was gone.

That night, the Eyrie burned.

Roland heard the news of the fire, and like many others he came running to see for himself. But there was very little that he or anyone else could do.

He stood in the semi-darkness, watching the flames billow out of every window. The fire had already consumed most of the building, and it was now too dangerous to go inside. But a gang of guards were still trying. Roland saw two of them emerge from the Eyrie’s ground-floor entrance, dragging a couple of bodies. Others had formed a line, keeping the onlookers from getting any closer. Roland could hear the screams as people struggled to get past them.

‘Let me go!’ one man yelled. ‘For gods’ sakes, she’s still in there…!’

Roland kept back. All he could do in that moment was stare at the burning Eyrie, while Arren’s face appeared in his mind and intoned those last words again.

I’m going to end this… do what I should have done when I was alive.

‘Oh gods,’ Roland whispered.

An almighty crack split the night air, and a portion of the Eyrie’s outer wall crumbled inward. Screams rose from the crowd.

I’m going to end this.

‘Arren, what have you done?’ Roland said to the invisible presence. ‘What have you done?’

He knew that Arren had done it. Who else would have, or could have? The people of Eagleholm had destroyed his life, and now he had destroyed Eagleholm.

Roland stared dully at the flames, and wondered if Arren was in there somewhere. Had he lit the fire and stayed there so he could finally die – properly this time? Surely if he’d escaped he wouldn’t have gotten far. After all, he was the only Northerner in the city.

Whatever had happened, that was the night that Eagleholm died. The Eyrie burned, the Eyrie Mistress and the members of her council perished in the flames, and after that there would be nothing left to bind the city together. Arren Cardockson had taken his revenge.

Sometime later, while Roland watched helplessly from the crowd, a little group of survivors came over to him. He heard one of them calling his name, and sighed in relief when he recognised the voice.

‘Flell!’ he called, pushing his way toward her. ‘Thank Gryphus you weren’t in there.’

Flell’s pretty face was deathly white with shock, and tears and soot had stained her cheeks. Her young partner, Thrain, perched on her shoulder, cheeping in fright.

‘Roland,’ Flell said hoarsely.

Roland put a comforting arm around her shoulders, and looked at the young man who had come with her. He had never seen him before, but nevertheless he looked familiar. He was stocky and broad-shouldered, with a strong jawline and tousled blond hair. His eyes were bright blue, and red-rimmed from the smoke.

A griffin walked beside him. She was as young as her partner, and she too was blue-eyed, with sandy brown feathers.

‘Senneck,’ Roland said, nodding to her. ‘And you-,’ he looked at the boy. ‘I know who you must be. You look just like your father.’

‘Thankyou,’ the boy said grimly. ‘You’re Lord Roland the Hatchery owner, yes?’

‘I am,’ said Roland. ‘You’re Erian, aren’t you? Rannagon’s son.’

Erian’s shoulders hunched, and a terrible sadness showed on his face. ‘Yes,’ he said softly. ‘Yes, I am.’

Senneck hissed bitterly. ‘What a cruel night this has been. At last I choose a human, and in one night the Eyrie we would have lived in has been destroyed. If only I had known, I would have killed the Northern pup the moment I saw him.’

‘So Arren did do this?’ asked Roland.

‘Yes he did,’ Erian growled. ‘We saw it.’

‘Were you in there?’

‘Yes. We’ve been helping other people get out, but it’s too dangerous to go back in now.’

‘Who got out?’ Roland asked urgently. ‘Did Rannagon-?’

Flell started to sob.

‘He’s dead,’ said Erian.

‘The fire-?’

‘No,’ said Erian. ‘The blackrobe murdered him. We saw it. He broke into the Eyrie and killed him and Shoa. Then he lit the fire and ran away.’

Roland closed his eyes for a moment. ‘What happened to Arren? Dead as well?’

‘Escaped,’ said Senneck. ‘But he will not get far.’

‘How did he get away?’ asked Roland. ‘Surely, with the fire, he would have run straight into the arms of the crowd here.’

‘He had help,’ said Senneck. ‘The black griffin. They fought together, and it was the black griffin that killed Shoa. They are partnered now.’

Roland gaped. ‘Arren… with the black griffin? That’s not possible! Why would Arren want to be with him? He killed Eluna. Arren hated him so much he wanted to kill him; he told me so himself.’

‘Don’t ask us,’ Erian snapped. ‘They’re savage beasts, the pair of them. They were made for each other.’

Roland shook his head sadly. Once he would have argued, but not after this. ‘So they flew away together.’

‘Yes, and in the morning, Senneck and I will go after them,’ said Erian. ‘We’ll catch them, and I’ll kill that murdering scum myself.’

Roland looked sternly at him. ‘Revenge won’t bring you peace, lad. Do you imagine that Arren feels better having done this?’

‘Justice must be done,’ Erian said stonily. ‘My father taught me that.’

‘Yes…’ Roland turned away wearily to look at the burning Eyrie. The fire was starting to die down now, and the building looked close to collapse. He hoped that Erian would never find Arren, for both their sakes.

Stay tuned for the final part tomorrow!

KJ Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy: The Dark Griffin, The Griffin’s Flight & The Griffin’s War

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The Death of a City part 1( an original short story by K.J. Taylor! )

Roland remembered the last days of Eagleholm all too well, but if there was one day when it could be said that the once-great city died, he remembered that one most of all. It was the day that Arren Cardockson died.

On the night before that last, awful day, Roland could not sleep. He sat up in the little room at the back of the Hatchery that he called home, and brooded. He knew what had happened was his fault, but he didn’t know what to do. If only…

This was my fault, he thought bitterly. My fault from beginning to end.

After all, it was Roland who had chosen to train the young Northerner as a griffiner. It was Roland who helped him and his partner Eluna stay together. It was Roland who persuaded Lord Rannagon to support the pair of them and help them be accepted by the Eyrie. And when Eluna died and Arren descended into madness, it was Roland who did nothing, Roland who could not see the truth of Rannagon’s betrayal.

Roland who gave the half crazed Northerner a job. Roland who left him alone with the griffin chicks that day.

All his fault.

‘What have I done?’ he mumbled aloud. ‘Gryphus save me, what have I done?’

But the sun god didn’t seem inclined to answer. Roland wouldn’t have blamed him. Why would Gryphus want anything to do with him any more? After all, the legends said that the griffins had been sent to partner with Southerners alone, and if Roland had trained one of the Night God’s followers then he had betrayed Gryphus as well.

‘But I thought I could save him,’ he said now, staring blankly at the candle that burned on the table in front of him. ‘I thought I could make him one of us. I thought…’

The old man lapsed into silence after that, while the guilt and shame of everything that had happened soaked into his very bones. But how could he have predicted that this would happen? He had almost been a father to Arren, and he never in a hundred years would have believed that his former apprentice would go so far as to steal a griffin chick. But Arren had done exactly that, while Roland was away, and now he was going to die for it. Lord Rannagon, Master of Law, had sentenced him to death. Roland had been there to witness the trial, and he had seen the insanity that had taken hold of the young Northerner.

Arren had spat his accusations at Rannagon in front of everyone, and when Rannagon said what everyone thought – that Arren was mad – no-one believed that his claims could be true. And if they were true, who would care? Arren was a Northerner and a petty criminal, disliked by almost everyone in the city. Rannagon was a war hero, brother to Lady Riona the Eyrie Mistress herself.

Roland stood up and wandered distractedly out of the room, into the larger chamber where the griffin chicks slept in their pens.

Keth was there, dozing in the lantern light. She usually guarded the chicks at night, and after Arren had abducted one she had become even more vigilant – she woke up the instant she heard Roland’s footsteps.

The old griffin relaxed again at the sight of him. ‘Roland. Why are you not sleeping?’

‘Can’t,’ Roland mumbled.

‘You blame yourself for what has happened,’ said Keth.

‘I do,’ said Roland. ‘Keth, what am I to do? How can I face Cardock and tell him his son is dead because of me?’

‘It is not your fault,’ said Keth.

‘I left him with those chicks,’ said Roland.

‘We both did,’ said Keth. ‘We trusted him.’

‘But I should have known what he would do,’ said Roland. ‘He wanted to be a griffiner again so badly; it was only a matter of time before he did something stupid.’

‘Yes,’ said Keth. ‘But there was nothing you could have done.’

Roland said nothing.

‘You and I both knew that it was inevitable that those two youngsters would destroy themselves,’ said Keth. ‘It was madness to train them.’

‘I thought I could change him,’ Roland mumbled. ‘I really did. But I was wrong. Now Eluna’s dead, and soon Arren will be too.’ He shook his head. ‘I should try and get some sleep.’

But he got almost none at all, tossing and turning long after he had snuffed out the candle, and he woke up shortly before dawn.

He lay there in the semi-darkness for a long moment, before suddenly making up his mind. He felt lost, and alone, and he didn’t know what to do. There was only one place he could go.

He left the Hatchery alone, not even stopping to think of the chicks who would be needing their morning feed. His assistants could take care of it. For once, Roland would think of himself first.

The streets of the mountaintop city were almost completely silent. A few birds chirped here and there in the eaves, but nobody was stirring. The sun had not yet begun to rise.

Roland walked alone through the deserted streets, making for the centre of the city where the larger buildings stood on the stone of the mountain itself. At the very centre, the Eyrie rose into the sky – a great, round tower with a flat top built for griffins to land. Roland’s griffin partner had died when he was young, and he almost never went into the Eyrie any more. But that wasn’t where he was going. Not today.

Not far from the Eyrie, the city’s great Sun Temple stood. Roland often went there, and he knew that its front doors were never shut.

They were open now, even this early in the day, and he went in through them as the first rays of the sun started to pale the sky. The last of the stars had begun to go out.

The Temple was a round building with a domed roof, and the inside of that dome was one huge domed space. At the very centre, the altar stood beneath a rounded window in the ceiling designed to let the sunlight in. Just now there was no sunlight, but the Temple was never dark. Gold lanterns burned on the walls and hung from the ceiling, keeping it lit all night long.

On the altar were the remains of some incense, long since burned to powder, and some withered flowers that had been left as offerings.

Roland went to it, and stopped to look up at the ceiling. It had been covered in gold leaf, as if the inside of the Temple were the inside of the sun.

He sighed to himself and knelt at the altar, silently bowing his head. For a long time he stayed there like that, saying nothing, and only waiting.

After a while, the light brightened in the Temple as the sun rose outside. But still Roland waited, arthritic knees aching. He waited until the light finally touched the altar, and then he began his prayer at last.

‘Gryphus,’ he murmured. ‘Please help me. Forgive me for what I did. I never meant to hurt anyone. I swear to you, I meant it for the best. I’ve only ever tried to help others. Please, Gryphus, I don’t know what to do. Help me. Guide me. Forgive me.’

Saying it aloud made him feel a little better, but the answers he wanted didn’t come to him.

He looked up at the window in the ceiling, where the dawn sun shone. ‘Gryphus, what shall I do? How can I repair the damage I’ve done? I don’t know, I just don’t.’

Still the answer did not come, and Roland sighed and went to sit on one of the cushions that ringed the altar. Maybe if he rested a while, he would be able to see a way forward.

After a while, he dozed.

Footsteps on the floor woke him up. Unmoving, he opened his eyes and stared at the altar.

Someone else was coming to it. He carried a bundle under his arm, and as he moved Roland heard the faint creak of leather armour.

Not wanting to interrupt, Roland stayed where he was, and went unnoticed while the newcomer knelt at the altar. But he couldn’t help but hear the muttered prayer.

‘Gryphus forgive me, what’ve I done? It’s all my fault. Why didn’t I do somethin’?’

And the young guardsman put his head in his hands and shuddered.

Roland watched him for a time, but his heart wouldn’t let him leave the man alone. He got up slowly, wincing as his knees straightened, and limped over. ‘Is there something I can do to help?’ he asked softly.

The man looked up. He was indeed a guard – he wore the red tunic and leather breastplate of Eagleholm’s finest. He looked young, but very strong, burly and bearded. His eyes were brown, and red-rimmed. ‘Who’re you?’ he said, obviously embarrassed by being seen.

‘My name’s Roland,’ said Roland. ‘I’m sorry to interrupt you, but you’re obviously upset, so if there’s anything an old man can do to help…’

‘Roland?’ the man stood up and squinted at him. ‘Wait, I know you. You’re the old man what runs the Hatchery, right?’

‘So I am, lad,’ said Roland. ‘And who might you be?’

The man rubbed his eyes. ‘Captain Branton Redguard.’ He looked up at Roland. ‘You’re the one, right?’ he said. ‘You’re the one what trained Arren t’be a griffiner.’

‘I am,’ Roland said sadly. ‘And I know your name. You’re Bran. Arren’s friend.’

Bran shuddered again. ‘I was. Wouldn’t want t’go puttin’ it about nowadays, though. But what’s it matter any more?’

‘Why?’ asked Roland. ‘He’s still your friend even if he’s in prison, isn’t he?’

Bran looked away. ‘He’s dead.’

Roland froze. ‘What?’

‘Arren’s dead,’ said Bran, shuddering as he suppressed a sob. ‘He died last night, an’… an’ it was my fault.’

Roland put a hand on his shoulder. ‘What happened? Tell me everything. Please.’

So Bran did, in short, terse sentences, as if he were reporting to his superiors. ‘He got out of his cell. Dunno how. Got out of the whole prison. We don’t know how he did that either. He just vanished. Like a ghost. But after that he went to the Arena. He let Darkheart out. The black griffin. Let him out of his cage. He went on a rampage. Killed half a dozen men an’ then flew away. We was investigatin’, an’ we found Arren. Saw him tryin’ to escape. We chased him. Got him to the edge of the city. I… I told him to surrender, an’ he did. I was just gonna arrest him, but Sergeant Danthirk an’ young Toman shot him. He fell off the edge of the city. I tried t’catch him, but it was too late…’ Bran shuddered again. ‘He’s gone. Dead. If I’d just…’

‘What are you going to do?’ Roland asked gently.

Bran held up the bundle of cloth he’d been carrying. It was a black robe with silver fastenings. ‘Arren left this in his cell. I gotta… I gotta go tell his parents what happened. Give ’em this back. It’s the least I can do.’

‘You should,’ said Roland. ‘And I’m sure they’ll forgive you.’

I ain’t gonna forgive me,’ said Bran. ‘I should’ve… he was my best mate. Why didn’t I do somethin’, before it was too late?’

‘Because there was nothing you could do,’ said Roland. ‘There was nothing anyone could do. After Eluna died, it was all over. If it’s any comfort… I think Arren wanted to die.’

Bran shook his head. ‘I didn’t listen to him. None of us did. He told us what Rannagon did, but… I gotta go.’

He turned and shuffled out, head bowed.

Roland watched him go, and felt the same guilt that Bran must have been feeling, and for the same reasons.

Why didn’t we listen?

But if they had, was there anything any of them could have done? Maybe Arren would have been doomed no matter what.

After that, Roland stayed in the Temple, sensing that there might be something else he could do there.

He was right. Not long after Bran had left, another visitor came to the Temple. This one was a woman, and one Roland knew.

‘Flell!’ he called as she entered.

Flell saw him, and ran to him. ‘Oh, Roland,’ she sobbed, throwing herself into his arms.

Roland held her close. ‘Are you all right, Flell?’

‘No.’ Flell let go of him, and fought down her tears. ‘I’ve seen Bran. He said that Arren’s…’

‘Yes,’ said Roland. ‘I know. He told me too.’

‘I should have listened to him,’ said Flell. ‘I should have…’

‘We all should have,’ said Roland. ‘But we didn’t, and now there’s nothing we can do.’

‘I should have saved him,’ said Flell.

When he heard that, Roland finally felt certain. ‘No,’ he said. ‘There was nothing anyone could do. Arren didn’t want to be saved. You saw it. He wouldn’t let anyone help him. He wanted to die.’

‘But I loved him,’ Flell whispered. ‘I thought I did. Oh gods, what have I done?’

‘Did you come here to ask for forgiveness too?’ asked Roland.

‘Yes. I loved Arren, and I abandoned him.’

‘But there’s something else too, isn’t there?’ said Roland.

Flell tensed. ‘I can’t tell you.’

‘Yes you can,’ said Roland. ‘You know you can trust me. If something’s hurting you, then let it go. Or it’ll stay with you and keep hurting you forever.’

Flell sat down by the altar, resting her back against it. ‘I’ve committed a sin. I came here to ask Gryphus to forgive me.’

‘So did I,’ said Roland. ‘So did Bran. If you’d rather not tell me, tell Gryphus.’

And Flell did, softly. So softly that Roland couldn’t make out the words – but he didn’t try to. It was her secret to confess.

But once she had prayed for a little while, Flell began to look a little stronger. She faced Roland again, and told him.

‘I’m pregnant.’

Roland froze. ‘You are?’

‘Yes. I found out a few days ago.’

‘Is it…?’

‘Yes,’ said Flell. ‘It’s Arren’s. But I never told him.’

Roland felt sick. So this was why Flell was in tears. She was carrying a half breed child, and if she ever gave birth to it she would be disgraced forever.

‘Don’t tell anyone,’ he said urgently. ‘Take something to empty your womb, and quickly, before you start showing.’

‘No,’ said Flell. ‘I can’t. You know I can’t.’

‘Flell, you know what will happen if-,’

‘Killing an infant is a worse sin than bedding a Northerner,’ Flell said harshly. ‘I don’t care what happens to me. I’m keeping the child. I’ll find a way to take care of it. If I have to, I’ll leave.’

‘It’s your choice, lass,’ Roland said gravely. ‘But never tell anyone the truth.’

‘I won’t,’ said Flell. She smiled weakly. ‘If it’s a girl, I’ll call her Laela. It was my grandmother’s name.’

‘And if it’s a boy?’ said Roland.

Flell smiled again, more strongly. ‘I hadn’t thought of that yet. Maybe I’ll call him Roland.’

Roland chuckled. ‘It’s a fine strong name, I’ll give you that.’

Flell hugged him again. ‘Thankyou, Roland. For being here. I…’ She broke off midsentence, and Roland felt her tense.

‘Flell?’ a voice called.

It was Lord Rannagon. He came into the Temple alone, frowning, still wearing the clothes he had had on the day before.

‘Father,’ Flell said coldly. ‘What are you doing here?’

Rannagon came on toward the altar. He wasn’t much younger than Roland, and his once blond hair and beard had gone to grey, but he was still as solid and stocky as his bastard son, Erian, who had come to the Hatchery to introduce himself to the griffins only a day or so ago.

‘Hello Roland,’ he said stiffly. ‘What are you two doing here?’

‘Praying,’ said Roland. ‘What are you doing here, my lord?’

‘I-,’ Rannagon hesitated. ‘I was looking for you, Flell.’

‘I’m fine,’ she said, and stalked out of the Temple.

Roland watched her go. ‘She’s angry with you, Rannagon, and I don’t blame her.’

Rannagon hesitated, but the moment Flell was out of sight he seemed to age ten years. His shoulders sagged. ‘I don’t blame her either.’

Roland shook his head. ‘Why did you do it, old friend? Why? He was no threat to you.’

‘I know,’ Rannagon muttered. ‘I just… found out what happened. He’s dead. I should have seen to it long ago. If I weren’t such a coward, I would have had him assassinated, not… not this.’

‘But why?’ said Roland. ‘What did he ever do to deserve it? Because he was a Northerner? That never bothered you before. You supported him as much as I did.’

‘He was becoming a danger,’ said Rannagon. ‘Getting too ambitious. I’m certain he poisoned old Lord Cyric to become Master of Trade. Not that it’s unheard of for apprentice griffiners to dispose of their Masters for promotion. But Riona was going to put him on the Council, and what then? What then? You tell me, Roland; you’re so wise, aren’t you?’

‘So Riona wanted to put him on the Council,’ said Roland. ‘Why not let her do it?’

‘And have a Northerner in the Eyrie?’ said Rannagon. ‘Half the other Eyries would have seen it as an act of war. Especially Malvern. We should never have let him become a griffiner. You should never have let it happen. I warned you back then, but you wouldn’t listen.’

‘I just don’t understand it,’ said Roland. ‘This isn’t like you, Rannagon. What happened to you? You were the most honourable man I knew. You watched Arren grow up. He looked up to you as a father.’

Rannagon closed his eyes for a moment. ‘I know. But times change, don’t they? People change, and I…’

‘Yes?’ Roland said it as kindly as he could, sensing that Rannagon desperately wanted to tell him the truth.

Rannagon wandered over to the altar. The Temple was still deserted, but soon enough a priest would come in to light fresh incense and replace the flowers.

‘You remember the war, don’t you?’ he said.

‘Against the Northerners,’ said Roland. ‘Of course.’

‘You know, after I killed their leader, our friends in Malvern, they…’ Rannagon rubbed an old scar on his arm. ‘They wanted to make me their new Eyrie Master. I said no. I was tired, I hated the cold, and I wanted to go home. Shoa never forgave me.’

Roland thought of his friend’s yellow feathered partner. She had never been the sort to forgive anything.

‘I promised her that sooner or later I would become Eyrie Master here instead,’ said Rannagon. ‘She believed me, but you and I both know how that turned out. Riona, she-,’

‘What?’ Roland tensed. ‘What happened? Is it because of Erian?’

‘My son?’ said Rannagon. ‘No. She put about that it was the reason – said that because I’d fathered a bastard that meant I couldn’t be trusted. But no. The truth was… she’s mad, Roland.’

‘Her and Arren both, apparently,’ Roland said coldly. ‘How so in her case?’

‘She-,’ Rannagon hesitated. ‘She said that… she wanted to put Arren on the council, and she said that if he proved himself there, she would make him her successor.’

Roland choked. ‘She said that?’

‘Yes,’ said Rannagon. ‘It was insanity. I don’t know if she meant it, or if it was just to taunt me, but Shoa believed her. She believed that Arren would become Eyrie Master instead of me. And from then on, Arren had to die.’

‘But you didn’t believe it, did you?’ said Roland.

‘No,’ said Rannagon. ‘But what did it matter what I thought? She forced me to do what I did. She used her magic on Arren. Cursed him to die. Forced me to send him away, to disgrace him. I had to threaten him when he came back, to keep him quiet about what I’d done. I had to protect myself, didn’t I?’

Roland couldn’t believe what he was hearing. ‘How did she force you? She couldn’t kill you.’

‘No,’ Rannagon said bitterly. ‘She said that if I didn’t do what she wanted, she would kill my son instead. After all, he’s only a bastard peasant – who would care?’

‘So you did what she wanted,’ said Roland. ‘And now Arren and Eluna are both dead.’

‘Yes,’ said Rannagon. ‘And it’s my fault. I should never have let Erian stay here. I should have sent him back to Carrick. I was weak, Roland. I’ve always been weak, just as Shoa says. All I had left was my honour, and now I’ve lost that as well.’

The two of them stood there in silence for a while, Rannagon brooding while Roland tried to digest what he had just heard.

‘It goes without saying that you’ll never mention this to anyone,’ Rannagon said eventually. ‘If you do, Shoa will kill you – or force me to have you arrested. I’ve lost control of her, Roland. A griffiner should be able to stand up to his partner, but I can’t. I’ve grown old and tired, and I wish…’

‘What do you wish, Rannagon?’ Roland asked.

‘I wish I’d never come to the Hatchery,’ said Rannagon. ‘I wish I’d never met Shoa, or become a griffiner. I wish for a thousand things I can’t have, just as Arren did. He’s lucky to be dead – he’s well out of it now.’

Roland touched his old friend on the arm. ‘Is there anything I can do?’

‘No, Roland. There’s nothing anyone can do. Now, I should go. I have to order an enquiry into Arren’s death. As if that will save him now.’

And Rannagon left the Temple as well, head bowed as if the weight of the world were on his shoulders.

Roland watched him go with a heart full of sadness. Later on, when he thought of his old friend, it was that image of him that returned to his mind. It was the first time that it ever occurred to him to see the Master of Law as an old man like himself. But perhaps that was because, before that moment, he had never looked like one.

He left the Temple himself shortly afterward, when the priest arrived to clean the altar. The Hatchery needed him, and there was nothing more he could do for any of those suffering people he had seen.

But Eagleholm’s last day was not over yet, and the strangest and the worst part of it was still to come.

*

Check back for Part 2 tomorrow!

KJ Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy: The Dark Griffin, The Griffin’s Flight & The Griffin’s War

Supanova recap with Kylie Chan

 

 Supanova is such a big part of my family’s life that I stop and have a moment of confusion when I actually have to explain it to people who’ve never heard of it. The whole week before the show, the newspaper had teaser articles about what visitors could expect there. My daughter’s main hobby is making costumes for Supanova, and she spends months agonizing about what she’s going to wear.

And for those who don’t know….

Supanova is a pop-culture expo held for one weekend each year. It travels from city to city, and next year is expanding to six Australian cities.

If you’ve seen news articles about ComiCon inAmerica, it’s our own version of that but not quite. There are three main reasons people come along:

– Stars of science fiction and fantasy movies are special guests, and you can collect autographed photos, have your picture taken with them, and hear them talk about their experiences. My daughter was hugely excited about going along and having her photo taken with Evanna Lynch – Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter movies.

Billy Boyd (Pippin from Lord of the Rings) came down to the stand when I wasn’t there, and had his photo taken with Ian Irvine. Ian rolled out a map he’d done for one of his fantasy novels, and it was nearly 2m by 1m – huge and detailed. The man’s a genius at worldbuilding.
 

Ian Irvine and Billy Boyd -two delightful gentlemen together!

– You can dress up. Anything you like, but most people choose a sci-fi/fantasy/anime/manga character – I counted ten Doctors on my first day and gave up counting the second. You can strut around looking awesome in lycra with green skin and red eyes, nobody will look twice, and there’s a competition for the best costume. The technical term for this is ‘cosplay’ (from the Japanese) and it’s one of the most fun parts for me. If you do an awesome costume people will stop you and ask for their photo with you.

Of course, if you’re a group that’s decided to cosplay every single Doctor, four companions AND K9, you’ll never be able to move because you’re constantly having your photo taken. Four, Five and Nine were somewhere around, probably stuck in a time vortex. I stood between ‘my’ Doctors, Two and Three. Damn, I’m old.

My daughter dressed up as a character from a manga called ‘Blue Exorcist’ which was a Japanese school uniform and a long purple wig with pigtails below her waist. The wig drove her completely nuts – it was unbelievably heavy! – but she enjoyed herself tremendously.

– The trading floor is a bad place. Very bad place. I protest loudly every time my daughter nears the Madman stand – last time I was there I bought a complete collection of both Astroboys – the black and white sixties version from my childhood, and the colour eighties version – in boxed sets. There’s traders of vintage comics, awesome t-shirts and bags (I got my Hellsing signing bag at Supanova), tryouts of new games, and collectible figures (my daughter got a matched set of 20cm Ezio and Leonardo figures).

They’re from the Assassin’s Creed game; Leonardo da Vinci on the right totally adores Ezio on the left. I suspect that my daughter’s planning to do something stop-motion with these fully-articulated figurines. After completing the game she went on a huge Leonardo da Vinci research phase.

Dymock’s have a stand on the trading floor, and that’s where I come in. You can come up to the stand and buy books from us Awesome Authors and have them signed on the spot, and embarrass us horribly by having your photo taken with us.

Left to Right: Rowena Cory Daniells, in front Keri Arthur, Tracy O’Hara, me (short), Marianne de Pierres (tall), Ineke, and Lynne in awesome hippy steampunk.

There’s a bunch of new fantasy and sci-fi to try out, and the staff on the stand are knowledgeable and all-around terrific people.

They can help you with every need.

I love Supanova because people can come up to me and actually have a chat about my plans for my new books, rather than having to line up at a signing and not have a chance to speak to me. There’s not often a line of people for signings, so if you’re in the mood to have a chat, I’m there all day.

We interviewed ourselves (Rowena did a fantastic job) for a youtube video for AskBrisbane; you can check out the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zssGViYHieU.

For the admission fee, it’s a grand day out and as a computer/sci-fi nerd long before I was any sort of author (and a Doctor Who fan since I first saw it in the late seventies) – well, I feel right at home. The other authors sometimes asked me what a particular costume referenced – and most of the time I got it right (sorry Totoro!). I’m very much looking forward to the inaugural Gold Coast one next April, and hoping that I can make a few other cities next year.

Special thanks to Ineke Prochazka, the staff of Dymock’s, Daniel Zachariou, Dion, Roland, Missy, and Quinny from Supanova.

The Supanova site is at http://www.supanova.com.au.

Out of Oz is out!

I’ve always loved reading a different author’s take on an established idea or world; I guess it comes back to my love of adaptation in general. One of the best examples of this in recent years has been Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years series based on Frank L . Baum’s classic Oz books. The fourth and final volume is out now, Out of Oz:

” Once peaceful and prosperous, the spectacular Land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on the run from the law. And look who’s knocking at the door. It’s none other than Dorothy. Yes. That Dorothy. Yet amidst all this chaos, Elphaba’s granddaughter, the tiny green baby born at the close of Son of a Witch, has come of age. Now it is up to Rain to take up her broom—and her legacy—in an Oz wracked by war.”

How good does that sound?? I think it also speaks to my love of deconstruction and giving a relatively simple children’s book a more adult, political & complex edge. In a sense “adultifying” something from your youth helps you to re-experience it with a new sense of satisfaction, while still giving you that nostalgia hit. Does anyone else get that feeling?

Here’s the awesome trailer for it. Stirring music also helps get me going!

Game of Thrones Season 2 trailer! ( Kinda)

Just saw this sneak peek behind-the-scenes “trailer” for Season 2 of Game of Thrones! Click on the pic to watch it on the HBO website:

Threshold and Tutankhamun

So, the other weekend, I had a trip to Egypt.

From the website for the exhibition: http://kingtutmelbourne.com.au/

Not the actual Egypt– oh, how I wish it had been. But I went to Egypt in terms of the artefacts and the culture via the Tutankhamun exhibition in Melbourne. I also went to Egypt in the literary sense by re-reading one of my favourite books – Sara Douglass’ Threshold.

 Re-reading Threshold was not just about paying a kind of homage to Sara, but I was interested to see the impact it would have on me when I then went to the exhibition.

 First, for those few who haven’t read Threshold, a quick recap – A young woman and her father are forced into slavery by his unpaid gambling debts. Because of their skills in working glass they are taken from their homeland to a place far south – a place of sand and heat and where the spectre of Threshold, a giant pyramid, looms over all. There, the horror of Threshold unfolds and along with new and discarded loves, she must fight to defeat the evil and restore balance and peace to the land.

 Oh, there’s so much to love about Threshold. Not just the uniqueness of the Egyptian-based setting (and when this was published in the 90s it was truly unique) but also the idea of number and mathematics as the basis of a magic system. Fabulous!

 Threshold the structure was created by a mountain of slaves – first when making the building, then the artistry as theentire thing is encased in glass. I was struck on this reading as to how difficult it must have been, particularly for those doing the most intricate work, to have faced the fact they had to destroy their creation to save themselves. A piece of you goes into everything you create – years later it still resonates and you see where you were, what you were needing and feeling at the time.

 There was a sense of that wandering around the exhibition and seeing the extraordinarily beautiful things that were there. Honestly, we in our day and age tend to think we’re pretty damn cool, with what we can create. Then you look at the delicate, precise, astonishing things that could be done 3000 years ago, without all our so called technology and education and think – art really does surpass all of that. And those artists put their heart and soul into these pieces, to honour a man they considered a god.

 And yet, they were doing all this and it was going to be locked away, never to be seen again. Art is meant to be viewed, is it not? Admired and seen and interacted with and loved. So it must have been a bitter sweet thing to both spend all those days and hours creating these incredible objects, and know that few people would ever get to admire it.

 The whole push of the building of Threshold is about the search for immortality. This is where it divulged from the Egyptians – their belief was that you were already going to be immortal, that this was just a step to the next life. You’re going to live forever, so let’s make that next life a good one by being good in this one.

 In Threshold, there was no sense of thinking of the implications beyond that of having what had been dreamed of for generations. I think that some of those chasing had plans for what they would do when they were immortal, but I didn’t get the sense that they thought through all the practicalities.

From the website for the exhibition: http://kingtutmelbourne.com.au/

 In this, the ancient Egyptians were to be admired. The tombs were filled with everything a good man or woman could need to have a comfortable life in the next place. Tut had games buried with him. Don’t want to spend the afterlife without something fun to do – how boring would that be?

 But most interesting was that Tutankhamun came to power at a terrible time for Egypt– his father had tossed out the old gods, established a new one and it had caused ructions throughout the empire. In just the nine years he was pharaoh, Tutankhamun turned all that around and left Egypt once again in touch with its pantheon of gods.

 At the beginning of Threshold, the people of Ashdod are under a thrall to The One, but that is tearing the country apart. It’s easy to see that Threshold may indeed have been heavily influenced by the story of Tutankhamun and his need to rebuilt his fractured country and make them whole again.

 Unfortunately, I’ll never have the chance to ask Sara Douglass if that was the case.

Nicole Murphy is the author of The Dream of Asarlai trilogy: Secret Ones, Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda

K.J.Taylor’s Design Your Own Griffin Contest

Instructions: Everyone who’s read the Fallen Moon trilogy, or its prequels, knows that Cymria is home to many griffins. They come in different sizes and varying coats, and a smaller and more colourful subspecies lives overseas in Amoran. Some live in the wild, some live in cities, and some choose humans. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, every griffin has his or her own special power.

So! Your challenge is to design your own griffin, and there are a couple of different ways to go about it.

You must give your griffin a name, a physical appearance, a power, and if you like you can also specify some other things about him or her – which of the Cymrian (or Amorani) territories they call home, if they’re wild or civilised, and whether they have a human partner.

If you want to try your hand at some artwork you can draw, paint, sculpt or even animate your griffin – but if not, a simple description in words will do. The quality of the artwork or description isn’t important; what matters is the ideas you come up with.

Your griffin should have a sensible name and a sensible power – some griffins are more powerful than others, but none of them can move mountains. Most of them will have griffish names, but partnered griffins may be renamed by their human partners. Be creative, but try not to go overboard. And, above all, have fun with it! Humorous entries are welcome as well.

Dates: All entries must be in by the 29th of November. Late entries will not be accepted! If you’re wondering if that’s November 29th Australian time or what – just submit it before the 30th comes in your own timezone and that’ll be fine.

Submit to: Me at beachcombe – fanmail @ yahoo . com . au   (take out the spaces, obviously).

Restrictions: Please keep everything PG-13. No sex related powers, thanks. (I can’t believe I’m actually saying that, but after the rape-themed fanfic entry I got in the last contest, I’m taking no chances).

Entries will be judged by me, based upon the creativity of your response. Come up with something cool and original! After the winners have been announced, all entries will be posted here with permission of the creator. If you don’t want your entry to appear here, say so when you submit it.

Prizes: Three winners will be selected, and will have a choice of prize.

An IOU for copies of each of the next three books, personally signed to you,

OR

Your winning griffin in plush form, handmade by yours truly. ( See the pic- they’re awesome! )

Enter now!