• 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!

     

     

Bran the Betrayer Part 4 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Looking for some weekend reading? Here’s part 3 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy.

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 4

And he did, but for those first few months in Canran it felt as if his best wouldn’t be even halfway useful. Bluntly, it was a nightmare.

The Master of Law, Lady Idelle, soon gave Bran a job as one of her assistants, but since he couldn’t read he could only be a lowly one. Not that he minded; too much attention might lead someone to ask inconvenient questions about Laela’s origins. It didn’t help that her eyebrows started to darken and become more noticeable around this time, and they were most definitely black. Bran kept her hair cut short and hidden, but it kept trying to grow back at an alarming speed.

Meanwhile he had a job to do, which was more or less that of a glorified guardsman. Whenever Lady Idelle had to publicly judge someone, Bran would stand by in case of escape, and command the ordinary guardsmen who restrained the accused. He was also informed that he and Kraeya were mainly employed for special cases – namely, if a griffiner ever had to be arrested. Ordinary guards wouldn’t be able to handle something like that; the griffin would probably kill them. But he and Kraeya, with the help of a couple of other minor griffiners, would be able to subdue them.

Fortunately only one such special case came up, and the accused decided to give himself up and come quietly rather than try and get away, so Bran didn’t have to do anything or be away from his rooms for too long. He had to leave Laela alone in her crib when this sort of thing happened, and he didn’t like doing it – even though she wasn’t old enough to get out of it, she might still need him. Eventually, as Laela grew older and strong enough to start needing real supervision, Bran gave in and paid Maura to watch her while he was away – but under strict instructions that she couldn’t take the hood off. He refused to explain why, but he guessed that Maura quicky started to suspect the truth.

Thankfully, she didn’t say anything.

Meanwhile Laela grew quickly, as Maura told him all babies did at that age. The rest of her teeth gradually came through, and her body changed shape; lengthening and shedding something of her babyhood chubbiness. Her hands changed too. Not that anyone would have noticed if they weren’t looking for it, but Bran was, and he was certain that her fingers were growing longer. Clearly, she had inherited her father’s slender Northern hands as well as his black hair. But her blue eyes had come straight from her mother. Bran thanked Gryphus for that, at least. He might be able to hide the hair, but if she had been given her father’s glittering black eyes, then how on earth would he hide that?

The thought made him shudder.

But she was lively as well, and seemed intelligent too, as far as he could tell. She wasn’t overly talkative, but she would sit and listen solemnly while he told her stories about his life. He liked to talk to her, because here she and Kraeya were the only ones he could talk to properly. The only ones he could confide in, anyway. He told Laela things he would never dare tell anyone else, knowing she was too young to understand. He told her about Eagleholm, and the war. He told her about her parents. In a low voice, he told her about her father.

‘He almost killed you,’ he said softly, his big rough hand resting on her narrow shoulders. ‘He was gonna do it, I swear. He’d slit yer mother’s throat, an’ he was gonna do the same to you. He would’ve, if I hadn’t been there. I begged him not to do it, I tried t’make him remember who he was. I dunno if he did, I really don’t. But I got through somehow. I don’t reckon he knew yeh were his. How could he? Flell never told him she was pregnant, an’ he didn’t remember anyway. He’d forgotten everything. See, when yer older everyone’s gonna tell you he’s evil. Not a drop of humanity left in him. They’ll say he’s just a murderer without a heart. But I know that ain’t true. I know there’s a bit of the old Arren still in there somewhere. Whatever it is, it made him let yeh go.’

Laela stared at him in silence, as if she knew how important the things he was telling her were.

‘Thing is,’ said Bran. ‘No matter what happens, no matter what he did or what he is, he’s yer father. Yer real father. Yeh gonna go through life sayin’ yer a Redguard, but underneath yer gonna be Laela Taranisäii. But yeh won’t know it. No-one will. I’m only tellin’ yeh this now ’cause you ain’t old enough to understand. I’m never gonna tell you the truth when yer older. The truth’d be too painful, an’ too dangerous. Bad enough that yer a half-breed, but if they knew you was his daughter, yeh’d be dead.’ He heaved a sigh. ‘They never got to punish him, see, for what he did. He got away with it, an’ now he’s outta their reach. They’re gonna want someone else to blame, someone they can get to. An’ I’m damned if I’m gonna let that be you.’

Laela just stared. Her blue eyes were big and round and full of innocence, but they made Bran feel weak somehow.

‘Yer safe here,’ he told her. ‘Safe with me. I’m gonna keep yeh safe, an’ never let yeh down, ever. When yer old enough, I’m gonna teach yeh how to fight. ’Cause life ain’t gonna be easy for yeh, an’ yer gonna need it.’ He gave her a hug, and added, ‘I’m glad I got yeh, Laela. If it weren’t for you, I’d be all alone. Poor ole useless Bran, with nobody left.’

Laela hugged him back, wrapping her little arms around one of his. ‘Dada,’ she said softly.

Moments like that helped to keep him going through those painful months, which he spent rushing about from work to more work, trying to do his job without leaving his foster daughter alone for any great length of time, trying to keep her, Kraeya and himself fed, in that order, with never a moment to himself, and all the while the fear hung over him that Laela’s secret might be discovered. It was enough to run him ragged and put the first hints of grey into his beard.

In the meantime, the war continued outside Canran’s borders. He heard about it from time to time, usually from other griffiners – or those who were willing to talk to him, anyway. He was one of what were called the common griffiners; with no money, no noble blood, and no education, he was the lowliest of griffiners, and the ones native to Canran, who had all come from old, wealthy families and been raised expecting to become griffiners, looked down on him and refused to spend much time with him.

Bran didn’t care. He’d never liked griffiners much anyway. Except for Arren, of course, but he’d always been different. Back in Eagleholm Arren had been the only Northerner chosen as a griffiner, and thanks to the “proper” griffiners who ruled the city he’d spent his time among commoners and had only been allowed into the Eyrie under sufferance.

Bran found himself thinking of his old friend often in those days, forgetting what he had eventually become and remembering the man he had been back at Eagleholm. He remembered how Arren had spent his youth being shunted about from apprenticeship to apprenticeship, constantly dismissed for trumped-up reasons by Masters who wouldn’t admit that they simply didn’t want to see a Northerner be fully trained and become a Master himself. Even when he had become Master of Trade he hadn’t been given the home in the Eyrie, or the place on the Council, that his new position should have meant. He’d lived out in the city instead, with his partner Eluna, and his friends had been commoners like Bran.

Bran remembered him as he’d been then very well, in his patched old clothes that he nevertheless kept obsessively clean, along with the curly black hair he insisted on keeping as well-groomed as possible. He’d never made much of himself, had Arren, but he’d kept his pride – at least until Eluna died, and after that…

Bran preferred not to remember him as he’d been after that. Ragged, filthy, and all but dead inside, he had begun the slow decline that had finally driven him to become the monster who had murdered Flell and so many others.

Sometimes, in his darker moments, Bran couldn’t help but picture what might happen – how it could be if what had happened to Arren happened to his daughter as well. If Laela were to be persecuted and tortured in the same way. If she, too, lost everything. If she…

Bran couldn’t bear to imagine that, and he refused to believe it either. He wouldn’t let it happen; he’d die before he did. He swore that to himself, once before the altar in Canran’s Sun Temple, where oaths were always the most solemn and unbreakable.

‘I swear,’ he said. ‘I let it happen once; I won’t let it happen again, not for anything.’

He reminded himself of that oath every time things got too much for him, and he was tempted to just give up. And, for a while at least, it looked as if he and Laela were going to survive.

*

We’ll post up Part 5 next Friday 16th March!

K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy:

The Dark Griffin, The Griffin’s Flight & The Griffin’s War

Bran the Betrayer Part 3 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Looking for some weekend reading? Here’s part 3 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy.

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 3

Dekrak had said his piece, and he moved back. Now that Kraeya had been accepted and stopped being a threat, the other griffins who had stood by ready for a fight lost interest and started to disperse.

Now Lord Holm spoke again. ‘Welcome, Lord Branton Redguard. And my partner is right; we do need fighters, and you certainly look like one! Where did you learn to fight?’

‘In Eagleholm,’ said Bran, hiding his relief. ‘I was in the city guard before Kraeya chose me.’

‘Ah,’ said Lord Holm. ‘I thought that your armour looked familiar. Perhaps you and Kraeya can serve the Master of Law, or the Master of War. I will consult both of them and find a position for you. In the meantime, you’ll be given food and quarters.’ He paused. ‘And who is the child?’

Bran had kept Laela’s head covered by a hood ever since leaving the North – not just to keep her warm, but to hide the telltale black curls. ‘My daughter,’ he said. ‘Laela Redguard. She lost her mother in the war.’

‘I see,’ Lord Holm said sadly. ‘Yes, war makes many orphans. Does she need a nurse?’

‘She’s weaned,’ said Bran. ‘But… honestly, I dunno much about babies. Maybe if someone could teach me about feedin’ her an’ whatnot, that’d be a help?’

‘Certainly,’ said Lord Holm. ‘Your daughter can grow up in Canran, and when she’s old enough, she can be presented to the griffins. When the fighting is over, new griffiners will be needed.’

Sadness made Bran shiver internally. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Thanks, milord.’

Fortunately, with so many griffiners already killed in the fighting, there were plenty of empty rooms left. Bran and Kraeya were quickly directed to one by a servant, who summoned some friends to clean it out and replace the bedding with astonishing speed.

Bran inspected his new home while they worked. It had been carved out of the stone of Canran’s cliff, of course, and just about everything in it was made of that red stone – even the bed was made out of a stone platform cut out of the floor, with an expensive feather mattress on top. There was a bath, too – not a portable tin one, but a stone pool that rose up out of the floor. Shelves had been cut into the walls as well, and a wardrobe complete with fitted wooden doors. Kraeya’s place was next door, in a much larger adjoining chamber. It too had furniture carved into it – a water trough set into one wall, and a bloodstained plinth for food. A rounded hollow for sleeping had been filled with now-mouldy reeds and dry grass, which the servants were in the process of replacing.

‘Magnificent!’ Kraeya said again as she scented the air of her new home. ‘We have done well to come here.’

‘Yeah,’ said Bran. Laela started to fuss, so he put her down. She had taken her first steps shortly before her mother died, and now she slowly and laboriously pulled herself into a standing position and toddled off to investigate the water trough. One of the servants nearby stopped work for a moment and smiled fondly.

‘Aw, look at the little one,’ she said to her friend. ‘So clever!’

Bran smiled too. ‘She’ll be runnin’ about before long. I’m gonna need a cradle or somethin’ for her to sleep in if yeh’ve got anything.’

‘We do, milord,’ said the woman. ‘I’ll have one brought up straight away.’ She glanced cautiously at Bran. ‘What’s her name, milord?’

‘Laela Redguard,’ said Bran. ‘My daughter.’ He looked fondly at the tiny girl as she splashed her hands in the water trough. She was the only family he had left, he reflected, and he didn’t think he’d ever felt more protective of anyone in his life.

As if sensing his thoughts, Laela came waddling back and put her arms around his leg. ‘Dada,’ she gurgled.

Bran laughed and picked her up. ‘That’s my girl. C’mon, let’s go see what else we got here!’

By nightfall their new quarters had been cleaned and fixed up, and the servants had brought up a fine wooden cradle for Laela, and even some toys. Laela seemed to like the soft fluffy griffin toy in particular; she quickly grabbed hold of it and started chewing on its wing. Her first tooth had just started coming through while they were travelling, and she had developed a passion for chewing on things.

Lord Holm kept his word, and sent a pleasant-faced middle aged woman to visit.

‘Hello!’ she said when she saw Bran. ‘I hear you’ve a baby here who need a little attention.’

Bran smiled. ‘More like you got a grown man what needs some teachin’.’ He showed her over to Laela’s cradle. ‘I reckon she’s healthy, but I figured there’d be some things I should know about lookin’ after her,’ he said. ‘I mean, I ain’t a woman, an’…’ he trailed off, a little desperately.

The woman had already started cooing over Laela. ‘Ooh, isn’t she a sweet one? What’s her name?’

‘Laela,’ said Bran. ‘She’s gettin’ on for a year old. Yeh got any advice for me?’

The woman picked Laela up and patted her on the back. ‘Well, she’ll need to be eating soft food until the rest of her teeth come through. Give her things to chew on though; her mouth will hurt while they grow and chewing helps.’

‘I got it,’ said Bran. ‘What sorta food should she have, then?’

‘Just any food you can make into mush,’ said the woman. ‘Bread soaked in milk is good, and fruit. Meat gives a baby strength as well – cook it until it’s crumbling and give it to her in little pieces. But you don’t have to do all that, milord. If she doesn’t have a mother, then you can find a nurse for her.’

Bran shook his head. ‘No, it’s gotta be me.’ He didn’t add that he had no money to pay a nurse anyway, and even if he had it wouldn’t have been the real reason. If anyone spent too much time with Laela they would probably take off her hood and realise she was a half-breed. And if anyone found out that he had supposedly fathered a half-breed, he would probably be hounded out of the city.

‘It’s your choice, of course,’ said the woman. ‘But feed her those things and she should do well enough. She’s too young to feed herself yet, but try and teach her how to use a spoon, and she’ll pick it up eventually.’

Bran nodded. ‘I got it. Anything else?’

‘Just keep her close,’ said the woman. ‘She needs plenty of attention, and she needs to be supervised as well. She might not look like she can do much now, but you’d be astonished by what they can get up to if you don’t keep an eye out. For example-,’ she pointed ‘-Keep her out of the griffin nest, and never let her near your partner unless you’re holding her. I know your partner wouldn’t hurt her on purpose, but griffins don’t know their own strength or understand how fragile human beings can be. And if she gets into the nest she might fall off the balcony. Keep sharp things away from her, and anything she shouldn’t put into her mouth.’

Ye gods, Bran thought. ‘I dunno how I’m gonna work an’ watch out for her at the same time.’

‘That’s why it would be a good idea to find a nurse,’ said the woman.

‘Yeah…’ Bran sighed. Clearly, this job was going to be hard. ‘Thanks for the help.’

‘It’s no trouble,’ said the woman. ‘Just do as I’ve said and it should be fine. My name’s Maura, by the way, and if you ever need any other help, just ask for me.’ She put Laela back into her foster father’s arms. ‘Keep her clean and well-fed, watch out for her, and most importantly, give her plenty of love. It’s the most important thing any parent can give a child.’

Bran smiled. ‘Thanks, Maura. I’ll do my best.’

*

We’ll post up Part 4 next Friday 9th March!

K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy:

The Dark Griffin, The Griffin’s Flight & The Griffin’s War

The Death of a City Part 3

That night most of the Eyrie’s gutted remains did collapse, and in the months that followed Roland watched the city collapse as well. With the city’s government gone, the unpartnered griffins from the Hatchery left. Young and old left their former home and soon afterward most left the city, choosing humans to take with them. Normally, to be chosen, a would-be griffiner had to present him or herself to the griffins and only the noble or wealthy would be chosen. But with the city falling apart, the griffins threw their standards aside and seized whatever partners they could find. Away from the city, an unpartnered griffin would not survive.

Some of those new griffiners tried to take over the city and found a new Eyrie, but none of them lasted long. Roland watched at a distance as assassination followed coup, and bickering devolved into a series of fights that left dozens of people dead. More of the city burned, and the commoners formed gangs. With nobody left to run it and raids and thefts becoming a daily threat, the marketplace quickly fell apart. Shops were looted, and as many of their number joined the ranks of the new griffiners or turned to crime, the city guard could do very little to keep order. Most of their original administration had been lost anyway.

But people left Roland alone. He was only an old man, not a true griffiner, and he had no money or power to offer anyone. Many of the new griffiners came to him to be trained, or at least to learn griffish, but only one stayed long enough to learn much at all. Captain Branton Redguard, the only guard Captain left still trying to do his job.

Before long the few remaining guards had rallied to work under Bran, and he survived only by refusing to try and make himself Eyrie Master, or ally with anyone else who did.

‘You’re a fine leader, lad,’ Roland told him one day. ‘But you’re being wasted here.’

‘The city needs me,’ Bran said stolidly.

But beside him, his new partner Kraeya said; ‘You are right, Roland. This city is falling to pieces and will soon collapse. Already the wooden parts of the street have begun to break apart. My human and I were made for better things than this ruin.’

‘What’d she say?’ asked Bran.

Roland translated. ‘And she’s right. Get out of here, Bran, before you’re hurt. It’s only a matter of time before someone decides that you should be removed.’

‘But what about Flell? She’s pregnant, an’ nobody’s gonna take care of her.’

‘Take her with you,’ Roland suggested.

Bran hestitated. ‘I dunno…’

Roland smiled. ‘Come now, lad. I’ve seen the way you look at her. And besides, she needs you.’

Bran frowned. ‘I’ll think about it. But yer right; I oughtta leave. But what’ll you do?’

Roland shrugged. ‘There’s nowhere for me to go. I’ll stay here and do what I can for these people. I’m too old to go gallivanting across the country, that’s for certain! But you’re young and strong, and there’s a dozen different things you could do together. Think about it.’

Bran did think about it, and in the end he chose to follow Roland’s advice. He and Flell were married some weeks later, in the Temple. There weren’t many people at the ceremony, but Roland went with Keth to watch. By now Flell’s baby was showing very clearly. It would be born in another month or so by Roland’s guess.

A few days later she and Bran left with their partners. Roland was there to see them off.

‘Good luck, all of you,’ he said. ‘Take care of each other, and the baby especially.’

He looked warmly at Bran. He hadn’t shown any hint that he knew who the true father of Flell’s child was, but surely Bran must know, and it had been a brave and good-hearted thing for him to marry Flell and claim the child as his own.

‘Have you decided where to go?’ Roland asked.

Bran nodded. ‘We’re goin’ North. To Malvern.’

Roland looked to Flell. ‘Why Malvern?’

Flell gave him a steady, determined look in return. It made her look very much like her father. ‘That’s where Erian is now. And if he’s still alive, that’s where Arren went as well.’

Roland took her hands in his. ‘Don’t go looking for him, Flell, if that’s what you’re thinking of. No good will come of it. Not for anyone.’

‘I won’t,’ said Flell.

‘Good,’ Roland smiled and gave her a hug. ‘Goodbye and good luck.’

He farewelled Bran with a griffiner’s handshake.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Bran. ‘Kraeya an’ me’ll take care of this lot. Yeh can count on us.’

‘I know I can,’ Roland said proudly. ‘Take care of yourself too, my lad.’

‘Count on it.’ Bran winked.

Kraeya carried him and Flell down from the mountaintop, with Thrain fluttering along after her. Roland watched them go, and never saw any of them again.

*

Everyone left, Roland reflected later. Left, or died. Erian and Senneck left, never to return. Flell, Roland, Thrain and Kraeya, they left. His second longest-staying apprentice, the former Segeant Danthirk, left with his wife Finna and his new partner, Gerak. Before long all the griffins had gone from the Hatchery, even the chicks. One of Roland’s assistants left, and the other died in a fight. Not long after that, Keth sickened. Roland did his best to care for her with the medicines he had left, but she was old, and he knew that it wouldn’t be long before she too was gone.

Nobody visited the Hatchery any more, except to take the food that he gave away to those who were desperate. More and more people were fleeing the city altogether.

The few griffiners who visited Eagleholm from the outside reported that its lands were being seized by its neighbours on either side – Wylam and Withypool. Canran to the north had begun sending armies in as well to take what they could. But nobody wanted Eagleholm itself, not any more. It was a ruin now, its wooden outer streets rotting or scavenged for firewood.  

Soon, Roland knew, he would be all alone. His family was gone, and when Keth died the last of his friends would be gone too. He felt as if his life was over. He had done everything that was ever asked of him, and now there was nothing left to do at all but wait until old age took him just as it would do to Keth.

‘Did I ever do any good?’ he wondered aloud one day. ‘Did I ever help anyone?’

He didn’t know, and as Keth grew weaker, a deep weariness came over him. The stiffness in his knees got worse, and sometimes he didn’t have the energy to get up in the mornings.

Around him the city descended into anarchy. Within a year or so most of the larger buildings had been destroyed or occupied by squatters. Outside, war tore the last of Eagleholm’s lands to pieces, until nothing was left of them but a patch of lawless no-man’s-land around the city and further to the South where the Coppertop Mountains stood.

Every so often, travelling griffiners would come to see the ruins of Eagleholm, but they soon found that it wasn’t worth the visit. Only Roland was left to greet them, and to hear their news.

From them he heard about the civil wars that had broken out elsewhere in the South, as Eyrie fought Eyrie. Word reached him about the war in the North as well.

‘The Northerners have risen up,’ one man told him. ‘Rebelled just as they did all those years ago. They’ve found a new leader, and they’re destroying everything. They’ve assassinated half of Malvern’s council. Lady Elkin sent messages begging the other Eyries for help, but nobody’s answering. Nobody can spare the troops, not with all that’s going on.’

‘Have you heard anything about Erian?’ Roland asked. ‘Or Senneck?’

‘Oh, you mean the new Master of Farms?’ said the traveller. ‘Yes, he was in Malvern for a while. He left, though, and nobody seems to know where he’s gone.’

He hadn’t heard anything about Bran or Flell.

Months later, another traveller told Roland the outcome of the war.

‘It’s over,’ she said. ‘The North is lost. Malvern’s been overrun by the rebels – only a few of our people escaped.’

‘What about Bran and Flell?’ Roland asked urgently. ‘And Erian? And Senneck?’

The woman shook her head grimly. ‘Erian’s dead, I know that much. The Dark Lord killed him in Malvern.’

‘Dark Lord?’ Roland repeated, puzzled.

‘The leader of the rebels,’ the traveller said darkly. ‘A Northerner, of course. It’s said he sold his soul to the Night God, and no man can kill him.’

For some reason, those words sent a chill down Roland’s spine. ‘The Dark Lord…’ he murmured to himself.

‘Yes, the Dark Lord Arenadd,’ said the traveller. ‘He rides a black griffin.’

The coldness gripped Roland’s heart. ‘Arren,’ he half-whispered. ‘What have you become?’

Only one other traveller came after that, and it was from this one that Roland heard about the death of Flell at the hands of the man all Southerners now called the Dark Lord Arenadd. He heard nothing about Bran at all, or the child.
He heard, too, about how the Northerners had captured all of the North and had built a new nation there, with Arenadd as its King. But nearly all the tales everyone told about the place were tales of burning and slaughter, torture and murder.

Roland knew who Arenadd was – who he had to be. But he didn’t want to believe it, and a part of him simply refused to.

Shortly after this Keth finally passed away, and Roland was left alone to think of the past and regret so many things that had happened. Surely, he thought every day, surely it was over now. Surely life had nothing more left for him.

But it wasn’t over. Not yet. Not quite.

One day in a moment of nostalgia, Roland decided to visit the remains of the Eyrie. He walked to it through the old streets, which were now strewn with garbage and rubble. A few ragged, scrawny people stared dully at him as he passed, or called out pleas for food or money.

He reached the Eyrie before long. There wasn’t much left of it. By now the ruins had collapsed into a heap of rubble, with only a portion of one wall left standing as a reminder of what it had once been. Survivors had long since looted whatever scraps had been left behind.

Roland picked his way through the blackened pieces of stone and broken wood, and felt a deep sadness press down on him. So many memories still lingered here. So many lost lives. Rannagon, Flell, Erian and Senneck. His old father Elrick, long since dead. Riona, lost in the flames with her partner Shree.

Slow tears wet the old man’s face.

‘Why me?’ he asked, looking up at the sun. ‘Why me, Gryphus? So many people dead, so much destroyed. Why leave me? What use is one old man in a dead city?’

He sat down on a piece of rubble, and put his head in his hands. His father had once told him that everything happened for a reason, but he could see no reason in this, none at all.

‘Go away,’ a voice called, interrupting his thoughts.

‘Eh?’ Roland looked up.

A small girl had wandered over to him and stood glaring at him. ‘Go away,’ she said again. ‘This is my place.’

Roland eyed her. She looked about ten years old, and she was gaunt and grubby. Her clothes were in rags. But her expression was fierce as she stared challengingly at him.

Roland stood up. ‘Who are you, lass?’ he asked in his gentlest voice. ‘Do you live here?’

‘Yes. I’m Liantha and this is my house.’

‘Hello, Liantha.’ Roland smiled and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. ‘My name’s Roland Elrickson.’

Liantha frowned. ‘From the Hatchery?’

‘Yes. Why are you living here? It’s a ruin.’

‘I was born here,’ Liantha said defiantly.

Roland had already noticed her refined speech. ‘You lived in the Eyrie before it burned, then? Were your parents griffiners?’

‘Yes,’ said Liantha. ‘My grandma was Lady Evlyn.’

‘Are your parents somewhere about?’ asked Roland.

‘No.’ Liantha’s ferocity faded somewhat. ‘They’re dead from the fire. So’s Granma Evlyn. I’m the only one who lives here now.’

‘Nobody looks after you?’ Roland pressed.

‘No, I look after myself,’ said Liantha.

‘I see. Well… I’m going back to the Hatchery now. If you’d like to come with me, I could give you something to eat.’

Liantha brightened up. ‘You’ve got food?’

‘Yes. The griffins left, but I still have the goats I used to feed them, and people trade me other things for the milk and meat.’

‘You’ve got milk?’

‘Yes. Would you like some?’

Liantha looked close to tears. ‘Yes I would!’

And she followed Roland home, all her protectiveness toward the Eyrie ruins forgotten.

Roland was as good as his word. He gave the child a hearty meal, and scrounged around for some new clothes for her as well. Liantha ate ravenously, and chattered on about her parents and how she lived by stealing what she could from the other survivors who clung on in the rubble.

Once she had eaten and talked and grown sleepy, Roland gave her a blanket and let her snuggle down by the fire in the Hatchery’s back room.

‘Why are you here?’ she asked drowsily.

‘This is my home,’ said Roland. ‘It always has been, since I was just a boy.’

‘But why?’ Liantha persisted.

‘Well…’ Roland began. Liantha was watching him curiously, and before long he was telling her everything. He told her about his own childhood, and about his adulthood caring for the griffins. He told her about all the new griffiners he had trained – even Arren.

‘He burned the Eyrie,’ Liantha interrupted. ‘He killed everyone. He killed Mummy and Daddy.’

‘Yes,’ Roland said sadly. ‘I think he did. But not all my apprentices did things like that. Now they’re all gone, and I don’t know what to do next. I’ve got no-one left to teach.’

‘Teach me!’ Liantha said suddenly.

Roland looked at her in surprise.

‘My parents were griffiners,’ said Liantha. ‘One day I’ll be one too. You should teach me how.’

‘But-,’ Roland began.

But there were no griffins in Eagleholm any more.

‘Please?’ said Liantha. ‘I’ll be really good and I’ll listen to everything and do what you tell me.’

‘I suppose I could,’ said Roland. ‘But you’d have to live here with me. The Eyrie’s no good to live in any more.’

Can I live with you?’ Liantha asked.

‘Certainly,’ said Roland. ‘There’s plenty of room.’

‘And I can take care of you,’ said Liantha.

Roland looked at her, and smiled for the first time in days. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I think you can, Liantha.’

‘Then I’ll be your apprentice and live here with you,’ said Liantha. ‘And one day I’ll get a griffin and be a griffiner.’

Roland found himself thinking of Arren, and Erian as well. ‘Perhaps you will,’ he said.

But Liantha had already settled down to sleep.

Roland watched her drift off, peaceful in the firelight, and dared to let himself feel hopeful in a way he hadn’t done for years. It made him feel lighter, and younger.

‘It’s not over yet,’ he murmured to himself. ‘Not yet.’

Eagleholm was dead, it was true. Everything came to an end. But everything had a beginning as well. And here, today, something had begun and who knew where it would end?

Roland remembered Arren’s last words to him, more than two long years ago.

The gods have given me a chance to do what I should have done when I was alive.

And perhaps they had. Arren had been given another chance. Now, another chance had come to Roland as well.
He looked down at Liantha again, and made a silent vow. He would train her, as he had trained Arren once upon a time. And this time, he would not let her story end in tragedy. Liantha would have the future that Arren never could, and maybe something of Eagleholm would live on through her.

He could only hope.

‘Thankyou, Gryphus,’ he said softly, knowing that his prayer had finally been answered. ‘I know what I have to do now, and I won’t let you or this city down again.’

He left Liantha to her rest, and went to his own bed, where he slept peacefully. Forgiven, at last. And finally able to begin again.

 *

Like this short story and want to read more?
Check out the rest of the story in KJ Taylor’s Fallen Moon Trilogy: The Dark Griffin, The Griffin’s Flight & The Griffin’s War

And congratulations KJ on winning the Canberra Critics Circle Writers Award!

Muse Go Boom: K J Taylor on Ideas

One of K J Taylor's ideas come to life ...

Where do you get your ideas?

We all hate being asked that question, partly because there’s almost never a good answer, but also because it’s probably the wrong question in the first place.
[When people ask me, I always say I bid for my ideas on eBay].

I think a better question is: what does it feel like to have an idea?

That’s a question I can give a real answer to, particularly because I’ve just had an idea. I don’t mean just an idea, by the way – we get those all the time. This one is an Idea, and those come along once in a blue moon. Not just a small idea, such as my sudden realisation that it would be good to get a cider from the fridge before sitting down to write this. This is a big Idea – the kind that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. Ideas like that feel like revelations, and they can change everything. And they have.

So what does it feel like to have an idea?

One analogy is that having an idea is like having fireworks going off in your brain. It’s been used before, but it happens to be an almost perfect piece of imagery, and the closer you look at it, the more apt it feels.

This is not just because a big idea gives you a “whizz bang!” feeling, with that rush of wonderful excitement. The image of a firework going off is also a perfect metaphor for how the idea is born, and grows.

So we begin with a spark. The spark could be anything. An overheard remark, seeing something at just the right moment, a train of thought that goes somewhere unexpected. Whatever it is, if it hits a mind in the right state, a firework is lit. As it goes off the idea expands in your mind. Then, as it spreads, it creates other, smaller explosions in the air all around it.

So a truly big Idea is an idea that spawns more ideas until your whole mind is lit up with possibilities. All of a sudden, as the ideas burst through your skull in a barrage, you can’t sit still. Your hands start to itch for the keyboard. You want to be alone to start writing right away. But no! No, you want to rush off and tell everyone about it! You don’t know what you want to do, but you do know that you’re all over the place. And, in that one moment, everything feels so right.

Some people have only one Idea in their whole lives. Some have a few. Others never have one. It all depends on how your mind is wired, and how much stimulation it gets.

Of course, this is just how it feels for me. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but I have a strong suspicion that it’s a common experience. In any case, I can definitely say that I live for moments like these. As with the perfect diamond, their rarity only makes them more precious.

Is it the same way for you? How many Ideas have you had in your life?

Oh… and what Idea have I had? It’s a secret, for now. If all goes well, you’ll see it for yourself one day. Or at least I’ll tell you all about it. The best Ideas are there to be shared. When the time is right, of course.

K J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon trilogy:  The Dark Griffin, The Griffin’s Flight, The Griffin’s War. She lives in Canberra and is now working on the Risen Sun trilogy, a follow up to the Fallen Moon.

The Dark Griffin audio trailer

One amazing fan, Natalie Van Sistine, has contacted K J Taylor with this awesome audio trailer for  The Dark Griffin . Listen to her realisation of the voices of KJ Taylor’s characters.

Music: “Merchant Prince” by Two Steps From Hell
Original Sound Design and Mixing: Natalie Van Sistine
Script: Lines from The Dark Griffin by KJ Taylor

The players: (in Order of Appearance)
Orome: David G Doyle (Australia)
Female Griffin: Esther Nho (Washington)
Rannagon: Edward Bosco (Illinois)
Bran: Zach Holzman (Oregon)
Vander: Nick Louie (New Jersey)
Shoa: Amber Connors (Ohio)
Arren: Steven Kelley (Scotland)
Riona: Natalie Van Sistine (South Carolina)
Roland: Mark Allan Jr. (California)
Erian: Justin Briner (Maryland)
Flell: Kimlinh Tran (California)
Emogen: Suzanne Yeung (Maine)
Cardock: Russ Gold (Pennsylvania)

Meet K J Taylor this weekend!

Enter a world where griffins rule ...

K J Taylor will be signing copies of The Griffin’s Flight and The Dark Griffin at A&R Westfield Belconnen Shopping Centre, Canberra.

When? Saturday 6 March, 11am – 4pm.

And if you can’t make it there, come to the launch of The Griffin’s Flight at:

The Co-op Bookshop, Shop 3, The Hub, University of Canberra
When: Thursday, 25th March 2010, 5.30pm for 6.00pm
Refreshments will be served
RSVP: Lynn, phone 6251 2481

Pulp Fiction signing in Brisbane next week

Pulp Fiction Booksellers are holding a signing just before the Aurealis Awards, with lots of your favourite authors in attendance – including Voyager and Angry Robot authors, so if you’re in Brisbane, do not miss out!

When: Saturday 23rd January

Who:
10.30-11.30 Trudi Canavan and Kaaron Warren
11.30-12.30 Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, Sean Williams
12.30-1.30 Karen Miller and Glenda Larke
2.30-3.30 Pamela Freeman and K J Taylor

Where:
Pulp Fiction Booksellers
Shops 28-29 Anzac Square Building Arcade
265-269 Edward Street
(entrance halfway between Ann and Adelaide Streets)
Brisbane

Why? Because if you’re in Brisbane and DON’T go to this signing then we shall remove your ‘fantasy fan’ badge and lock it away FOREVER, ok?