• 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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Bran the Betrayer Part 20 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s the final part of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy AND her brand new book, The Shadow’s Heir!  Happy Friday reading Voyagers!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 19

*

‘What home?’ Bran demanded. ‘She’s got no other family.’

‘That’s none of my concern,’ said Ruel. ‘It’s your business. Find a family that will take her, leave her at Guard’s Post for the Northerners to find – you can smother her with a pillow for all I care. But you cannot keep her and live here.’

‘Fine,’ Bran spat. ‘Then I’m leavin’.’

‘You cannot live in any Eyrie with that child,’ said Ruel. ‘If you keep her, I will legally exile you. Wylam will not want you, and Eagleholm is destroyed.’

‘Then I’ll go back to Canran,’ said Bran.

‘Canran is gone,’ said Ruel. ‘Lord Holm’s last followers decided not to accept our peace offer, and they suffered the consequences. Their Eyrie has been destroyed. Branton Redguard, I warn you one last time-,’ he pointed straight at Laela. ‘Rid the Eyrie of that child, or leave and never return.’

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Bran the Betrayer Part 19 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 19 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy AND her brand new book, The Shadow’s Heir! Happy friday reading Voyagers!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 19

*

Another month and a half later, when Bran had finally healed enough to walk properly and go back to some semblance of normal living, he was allowed to move into a private set of chambers in the Eyrie, with Kraeya and Laela. He spent a few nights there, getting used to taking care of himself again. By now his broken ribs and the cut from Bloodtalons’ beak had healed, and the stab-wound had begun to form into a deep pit of a scar. It still gave him pain, and he knew it always would. The arm on that side felt weak, too, and sometimes at night the wound itself would flare up. It would keep him awake at night, sweating and gritting his teeth to stop himself from crying out.

He wondered how long he would be allowed to live in the Eyrie for free, before someone forced him to find a job or leave. But so far they seemed content to look after him.

Finally, one day when he felt he had recovered as much as he ever would, a summons arrived for him to go and see the Eyrie Master.

‘Guess it’s about a job,’ said Bran. ‘Eh, Kraeya?’

She shifted uneasily. ‘Yes… we should go at once.’

‘Right.’ Bran picked up Laela. ‘All right, girl, you gotta wait here a bit. We’ll be back soon.’

But Laela clung to his arm and whimpered, and he found he couldn’t bring himself to put her into her crib.

‘All right, then,’ he said. ‘You come with us. I’m sure Ruel won’t mind.’ Since he was still considered a traitor by many people in the Eyrie, maybe the sight of Laela’s sweet face would soften the Eyrie Master’s attitude.

‘Oh yes, he wants you to bring her,’ said the servant who’d brought the summons.

Bran looked up in surprise. ‘He does?’

‘Yes. Come on now. Don’t keep him waiting.’

Bran shrugged, and left the room. His wound was hurting again and Laela was heavy, so he put her down and let her walk beside him. She toddled along, by now fairly steady on her feet, and held his hand.

Kraeya followed. ‘I do not like this,’ she said quietly.

‘It’s all right,’ said Bran. ‘I ain’t a prisoner no more. It’s over. We’re all right.’

Kraeya said nothing, but her tail twitched as she followed her human and the servant up through the Eyrie. The Eyrie Master’s quarters were at the very top. They took up the entire top level of the building, although most of that was taken up by the audience chamber that adjoined his private quarters.

Eyrie Master Ruel was there waiting, with his partner Arakae.

When Bran arrived, Kraeya went ahead and Arakae came down to meet her. The two griffins sniffed at each other, and Kraeya bowed her head politely.

Once the two of them had relaxed and stood aside, Bran could approach the Eyrie Master.

‘Yeh wanted to see me, milord?’ he said.

Lord Ruel eyed him with some interest. He was a thin man in his sixties, but his hair was still mostly brown. ‘So you’re the famous Branton Redguard?’ he said.

‘I am,’ said Bran. ‘An’ this is Kraeya, an’ this is my daughter Laela.’

‘Yes…’ Ruel looked at Laela, who was staring back at him with interest. ‘I have heard of her as well. That’s why I summoned you here today.’

Bran paused. ‘Uh… really? Why?’

Ruel pointed at Laela. ‘Remove that hood. Now.’

Bran took a step back. ‘No. I mean, why should I?’

‘Because I am your Eyrie Master and I order you to,’ Ruel said sharply.

Bran knew there was nothing he could do. If he argued he would only make the man suspicious, and it was obvious that he already knew something anyway. Reluctantly, he knelt and gently untied the strings under Laela’s chin. She looked back solemnly as he took the hood off to reveal her secret.

Ruel looked grimly at her. ‘So the report I heard was true. She is a half-breed.’

‘No she ain’t,’ said Bran. ‘She’s just got real dark hair, so I keep it covered up. Don’t want anyone makin’ that mistake, see?’ He’d prepared the lie a long time ago, in case this ever happened.

‘Her hair is black,’ said Ruel, unmoved. ‘Who was her mother?’

‘My wife,’ said Bran. ‘Lady Flell.’ That was true, at least.

‘I know of her,’ said Ruel. ‘It’s said she had pale brown hair, yes?’

‘She did,’ said Bran.

‘And your own hair is not that dark,’ said Ruel. ‘So where did your daughter inherit it?’

‘I dunno,’ Bran said lamely. ‘But she’s my daughter.’

‘She is a half-breed,’ said Ruel. ‘Is she not?’

‘She-,’ Bran began.

‘I trust you know that it is a crime to lie to your Eyrie Master?’ Ruel interrupted harshly. ‘Yes? Think of that, and then reply.’

Bran caved in. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘She’s a half-breed.’

‘And you are her father?’ said Ruel. ‘By blood?’

‘Yeah, I am,’ said Bran. That was one lie he wasn’t going to admit.

‘Then you fathered her on a Northerner,’ said Ruel. ‘Lady Flell was not her mother.’

Bran hesitated, and then stared stubbornly at the floor.

‘Very well, then,’ said Ruel. ‘I brought you here to discover whether the Master of Law’s report was true. Now I have, and I can inform you of the decision that she and I reached together.’

‘Which is?’ said Bran.

‘You’ve won your freedom and a pardon for all your crimes,’ said Ruel. ‘Therefore, you have won the right to stay here if you wish. I will give you a place in my Eyrie in return for an oath of loyalty.’

‘Thankyou, milord,’ said Bran.

‘However,’ said Ruel, ‘If you choose to stay here, you may not keep the child.’

Bran scowled. ‘No.’

‘I cannot have a half-breed living in my Eyrie,’ said Ruel. ‘And nor will it be good for you if word gets out that you fathered one. Find another home for the child, and you can stay.’

*

We’ll post up the final Part 20 next Friday 6th July!

K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy & her new book The Shadow’s Heir is in stores now!

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

Bran the Betrayer Part 18 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 18 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy. Happy Friday!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 18

Bran was not dead, but he was in darkness. At first there was pain – horrible pain. But he drifted away from it and into the darkness, and the further he went from it, the less he felt the pain. He felt cold instead. So damned cold.

Vague memories spiralled around him, or fragments of them. Pieces of himself and his past. His father, Haig Redguard – young then, speaking sternly to him. Our family code is honour an’ loyalty. Never forget it, son. Kraeya, rearing over him to screech, frightening him on purpose to test his courage. Flell’s sweet smile. Laela reaching up to touch his arm and call him Dada. The cold touch of Arren’s lifeless hands as they escaped from Warwick together. Danthirk’s nod as he had left the Council Chamber. Bloodtalons, screaming at him in the ring.

He thought he saw Arren again, one last time, watching him with deep sadness. I’m so sorry, his voice whispered from out of the void where he lived.

Laela, Bran thought. Kraeya.

After a time he started to drift back. Back toward the light. Back toward the pain. Back where Laela was.

He woke briefly just once, then drifted back into darkness. But he woke again, and again, sliding back and forth out of the peace of oblivion, where there was no pain, no fear, no danger, and the dead beckoned for him to join them. Arren was there, because Arren was dead. And Flell, her too.

But Laela was alive, and so was he, just barely. And, bit by bit, he left the void behind and decided to live.

*

It was a long time before Bran woke up and could stay awake long enough to be properly alert. There were healers there to take care of him and give him some water. Kraeya was there, keeping watch over him. And Laela. She was there too, in a crib near his bed. She was safe.

Knowing that helped Bran stay calm and sleep through his weakness – proper sleep now, not unconsciousness. Eventually, after days of doing not much but rest and feel the dull pain in his chest, the Master of Healing spoke to him.

‘You’re a lucky man,’ she said.

‘Oh… really?’ Bran gasped. It was the first thing he’d said since leaving the void.

‘Yes. That dagger could have killed you in so many ways. It could have punctured a lung, or hit your heart. It could have given you an infection. But it didn’t. You’re going to live.’

Bran listened to her, and believed her. But he could feel a pain deep in his chest that told him more. ‘Gonna… be all right?’ he asked. Every word took a huge effort.

‘Yes, of course,’ she said smoothly. ‘You just rest. You’ll be well taken care of, until you’re ready to leave.’

But Bran knew he wasn’t going to be all right. He felt it in his bones. ‘Anyon?’ he mumbled.

‘Dead,’ said the Master of Healing. ‘Otherwise he would have been executed for attempted murder. But Kraeya killed him.’

‘Yes.’ Kraeya looked down on him. ‘I am only sorry that I did not kill him sooner. But you must rest now, Bran. I will keep you safe.’

Bran didn’t try and talk any more. He guessed that it would be a long time before he had the strength to do anything other than lie here. But at least he was alive. For now.

*

Bran’s recovery did take a long time; longer than even he had guessed. Weeks passed before he had the strength to sit up and feed himself, and it was another month after that before he could start trying to walk again. He could only be grateful that the Master of Healing instructed her underlings to take care of Laela, and that none of them tried to remove her hood. She looked healthy to him, and she was still growing. She had all of her teeth now, and had started to feed herself. Bran felt like a baby himself, taking his first weak, shuffling steps.

His only visitor during that time was Danthirk, who looked shocked by the sight of him.

‘Great Gryphus, you look awful,’ he said frankly.

Bran grinned. ‘Yeah, I know. It’s better’n bein’ dead, though.’ His friend had come in while he was doing a practise walk around the room with the help of a crutch.

‘I heard about the fight,’ said Dan. ‘The whole city’s talkin’ about it.’

‘I wasn’t much fun, but I won, so that’s the main thing, eh?’ Bran winced. ‘Thanks for the advice, mate. I know it don’t look much like it, but yeh saved my life.’

‘It’s all right,’ said Dan. ‘I owed it to yer.’

Bran slowly limped back to his bed, and sat down on it. ‘They’re still callin’ me Bran the Betrayer, though. Right?’

‘Yeah,’ Dan looked unhappy. ‘I asked Finna t’come see yer, but she wouldn’t. That woman’s hopeless.’

‘Well you tell her I don’t want t’see her,’ Bran said harshly. ‘She’s turned her back on me, so if that’s what she wants she can go right ahead an’ say I ain’t her brother no more.’ Speaking loudly made the pain flare up again, and he stopped and grimaced.

Dan took a step closer. ‘You all right, mate?’

Bran coughed and groaned. ‘No. They won’t tell me, but I can feel it. I’m gonna live, but I’ll never be the same again.’

‘C’mon, it’s too early t’be sayin’ that,’ said Dan. ‘Just you stay calm an’ get plenty of rest an’ you’ll come right in the end – you’ll see.’

‘Yeah,’ said Bran, not believing him. ‘It’ll be fine.’

But it wouldn’t be, and he already knew it.

*

We’ll post up Part 19 next Friday 29th June!

K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy & her new book The Shadow’s Heir will be out in July!

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

Bran the Betrayer Part 17 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Following on perfectly from her Launch invitiation, here’s part 17 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy. Happy Friday!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 17

Kraeya looked up at the chains that covered the pits. ‘We cannot fly from here. Come, we will walk out to where it is clear.’

Bran nodded and limped beside her away from the pit where he hand nearly died, trying to ignore the shouts from the crowd. Some shouted accusations, others congratulations. It seemed that a few of them, at least, now believed he was innocent.

Bran didn’t even look at them. He didn’t care what they thought, not any more.

Some of them, though, moved around in front of him, standing in his and Kraeya’s path.

‘Get outta the way,’ Bran growled at them.

‘They will not stand in our way for long,’ said Kraeya. She hissed at them, sending several of them scurrying.

But one of them didn’t run. He shuffled forward, detaching himself from the throng, and came toward Bran.

Bran’s eyes narrowed. ‘Anyon.’

Here in the daylight Anyon looked even worse than he had in the Eyrie. His burned face looked half melted, the eyes glazed. But his voice sounded surprisingly strong when he spoke.

‘Traitor,’ he said. ‘Murderer.’

‘I’m innocent, an’ you know it,’ Bran snapped back. ‘If I was guilty, yeh wouldn’t have had to bribe them people to make ’em lie for yeh.’

‘Murderer!’ Anyon shouted suddenly. ‘You killed my master!’

‘I didn’t,’ said Bran. ‘Get outta my way. I’ll see yeh thrown in prison for what you did.’

Anyon didn’t seem to hear him. He stepped forward, drawing a long dagger. ‘Gryphus burn thee, Arren Cardockson,’ he said, and stabbed Bran in the chest.

Too late, Kraeya reared up. Too late, she lashed out with her talons. Too late, she hurled Anyon to the ground where he jerked and died.

Bran fell to his knees, both hands clutching at the dagger still stuck in him. ‘No-,’

‘Bran!’ Kraeya stood over him, trying to support him. ‘Bran, no!’

Bran could feel blood welling up around the dagger. His vision began to darken around the edges. ‘Laela,’ he mumbled, and fell.

*

Far away in the cell under the Eyrie, as if sensing what had happened, Laela started to cry.

*

Talmon and Nerris tried to care for Bran. Talmon held the crowd at bay with Kraeya’s help, while Nerris ran to find a healer. Luckily there were several working at the fighting pits, and one soon came running.

She rolled Bran onto his back. He flopped down, his arms falling limply away from where they had clutched at the dagger. His eyes had slid closed.

The healer touched his neck. ‘His heart’s still beating. Quickly, get him back to the Eyrie. He needs a better healer than me.’

‘Ain’t you gonna take that dagger out of him?’ Nerris asked.

‘No. If I did, he’d bleed to death. Help me.’

The healer had brought a stretcher, and with Talomon and Nerris’ help she slid Bran onto it. Together, she and Nerris lifted the stretcher and carried it out of the fighting pits. Kraeya went ahead, and Isleen and Arak took up the rear. The crowd moved out of the way, quiet now.

Together, they took Bran back to the Eyrie and up the ramps inside to the infirmary where griffiners were cared for. There they put him on a bed, and made him as comfortable as they could.

‘He’ll get the best treatment Withypool has to offer here,’ said the healer, while her fellow healers gathered around. ‘The Master of Healing herself will treat him.’

Isleen nodded briefly. ‘I’ll go and fetch the child. She should be up here with him.’

She left, along with her partner. Talmon and Nerris went with her. Only Kraeya stayed. The infirmary had been built big enough for griffins to keep watch over their partners, and the red griffin lay down quietly by Bran’s bedside and waited.

Bran didn’t notice any of it. He lay still on his back, scarcely breathing.

‘Do not die,’ Kraeya said softly. ‘Please, Bran. You cannot die…’

A short time later, the Master of Healing arrived. She swore softly in griffish when she saw the dagger.

Kraeya stood up. ‘Save him,’ she commanded. ‘You must heal him.’

The Master of Healing looked up at her. ‘I’ll do my best, but I can’t make any promises. If that dagger has pierced his heart, then he has no chance. Even if it hasn’t, he may well still die.’

‘Save him,’ Kraeya repeated.

The Master of Healing nodded silently, and went to work. She poured a medicine of some kind down Bran’s throat, and once she had prepared a strong-smelling paste she removed the dagger and quickly covered the wound with it. The paste hardened in moments, sealing the blood away inside Bran’s body, and once it had the Master of Healing covered it with bandages.

‘That’s all I can do for now,’ she said. ‘Now all we can do is hope the paste holds, and see if he wakes up.’

Kraeya huffed softly.

‘Don’t worry,’ the Master of Healing smiled to reassure her. ‘He survived the fight today, didn’t he? I think it’s clear that Gryphus wants him to live.’

‘He must live,’ was all Kraeya said.

Not long afterward, Isleen returned. She had a crying Laela in her arms. ‘How is he?’ she asked.

The Master of Healing shook her head. ‘Still holding on, but it’s too early to be certain of anything. Whose child is that?’

‘His,’ said Isleen. ‘I brought her up to be with him; he insisted that she stay with him at all times.’ She rocked Laela gently, and patted her on the back. ‘There, there, little one; it’s all right. I’ve brought you to your father now.’

Laela, though, kept on crying.

‘I’m not sure what’s wrong,’ Isleen said uncomfortably. ‘She’s not hungry and she doesn’t need changing, but she won’t stop crying.’

‘Perhaps she’s overheated,’ the Master of Healing suggested. ‘With that hood on.’

‘Are you too hot?’ Isleen touched Laela’s cheeks. ‘You feel hot. Here, let me help you-,’

‘No!’ Kraeya said sharply.

But Isleen ignored her. She untied the hood and pulled it away. ‘There, is that better-?’ she began.

The hood came off, and Laela’s thin, curly black hair puffed up, finally free of its prison.

Isleen and the Master of Healing froze.

‘No,’ Kraeya said again. ‘Put the hood back on. You must not remove it.’

It was already far too late.

Isleen touched Laela’s wispy hair. ‘It’s black,’ she said. ‘Holy Gryphus, is she…?’

‘That’s a half-breed,’ said the Master of Healing.

‘A half-breed!’ Isleen held Laela away from herself, staring at her in bewilderment and then, soon afterward, disgust. She looked at Bran. ‘So that’s why he wouldn’t let anyone take her away from him. That’s why he kept her head covered. He fathered a half-breed.’

The Master of Healing looked at the whimpering Laela. ‘Poor little thing. How could he do this to her?’ She glanced sharply at Isleen. ‘Put the hood back on her. We can’t let this get out.’

‘What does it matter?’ asked Isleen. ‘We had nothing to do with it.’

‘She’s only a child, Isleen,’ said the Master of Healing. ‘It’s not her fault that her father bedded a Northerner. If he ever recovers, we’ll confront him about it and leave it to him to deal with. If not… we’ll decide then.’

‘All right.’ Isleen put Laela down by Bran’s side, and put the hood back on her. ‘You look after her, then, if you care so much. As for me, I shall go back and report to my master. But I’ll say nothing about the child. Let him decide. Or, if not him, you.’

The Master of Healing nodded. ‘Thankyou. I’ll send word once I have it.’

Isleen left with a curt nod of her own, and the Master of Healing turned to Kraeya.

‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I’ll keep this to myself.’

‘You should not have done that,’ Kraeya hissed. ‘My human’s secrets are his own.’

‘Yes.’ The Master of Healing looked down at the silent Bran. ‘And if he ever wakes up, he’ll have to face the consequences. Whatever they might be.’

*

We’ll post up Part 18 next Friday 22nd June!

K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy & her new book The Shadow’s Heir will be out in July!

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

Bran the Betrayer Part 16 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 16 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy. Happy Friday reading everyone!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 16

Bloodtalons screamed. Finally kicking away the ruins of the net, he bounded after Bran. Stumbling as the pain rose in his back and chest, Bran was too slow to get away, and the griffin’s huge forepaw slammed into him and sent him flying. He landed in a shower of sand, and skidded away until he hit the wall of the fighting pit.

Only half conscious, his eyes full of sand, he looked up and saw Bloodtalons limping toward him. Coming in for the kill.

Laela, he thought.

Slowly, painfully, he dragged himself back up out of the sand. Bloodtalons was still coming at him. He had lost his sword, so he reached around to the back of his belt and freed the axe – the only weapon he had left. He grasped it in one hand, and braced himself for a final assault.

‘Come on!’ he wheezed. ‘I ain’t dead yet!’

But Bloodtalons didn’t look about to charge again. He moved slowly now, limping badly in one foreleg. On his chest, the deep wound Bran’s sword had left poured blood onto the sand.

‘C’mon!’ Bran yelled again. ‘What kinda wild griffin are yeh?’

Bloodtalons snarled, and made a clumsy run at him.

Bran knew he himself was hurt, but his legs were fine. He raised the axe and prepared to sidestep the charge, as he had before.

But before Bloodtalons reached him, he stumbled. His run slowed, and he staggered sideways with a hiss and a groan. His weak foreleg buckled, and he half fell.

Bran charged. Bloodtalons lashed out at him with his beak again, but weakly and slowly this time. Bran grabbed the beak with his free hand and wrenched it sideways. Before Bloodtalons could pull free, he hit him hard with the axe, in the neck just behind the jaw. Bloodtalons screamed again and fell sideways, exposing the spot even further, and Bran took his opportunity and struck again and again, hacking at the griffin’s neck right where the great throat vein waited.

He knew he had succeeded when blood spurted out with so much force that it sprayed over his face like hot rain. Bloodtalons convulsed, tried to make one last feeble strike at him, and then collapsed onto his side, twitching as his life’s blood pulsed out of him.

Bran dropped the axe and nearly fell on top of the dying griffin. He could feel himself shaking.

Above the crowd roared again. He couldn’t tell if they sounded triumphant, or disappointed. He didn’t care.

He limped away and found his sword lying half buried in the sand. The hilt was sticky with blood, but he picked it up and slowly walked back to where Bloodtalons lay. The griffin was still alive, barely. Bran knelt on his neck, and finished him off with a brutal stab through the eye and into his brain.

Bloodtalons jerked once, and finally stilled.

Bran stood up, over the griffin’s body, pointed his sword to the sky, and bellowed his victory.

The crowd bellowed back, and to his amazement he heard some of them begin a chant.

Bran! Bran! Bran!

Bran the Betrayer!’ some shouted, but they sounded almost admiring.

Yeah, Bran thought suddenly. I am a traitor. I stayed loyal to the city, and I betrayed Arren.

‘Bran the Betrayer!’ he shouted back defiantly.

Bran the Betrayer wins!’ came the voice of the announcer.

Bran grinned wildly. He’d won. Gryphus had given his protection. He could go free, and Kraeya as well. What did it matter that he was Bran the Betrayer? He would live.

The gate that had let him into the pit opened again, and he thrust his sword back into his belt and limped off toward it. The pain had really begun now, but it wasn’t so bad that it meant his injuries would kill him.

As he entered the weapons room he pulled off his breastplate. The talon cuts in it were so deep they had almost gone straight through. Any deeper and it would have been him. As it was, he could see dark red and purple bruising already forming under his tunic. He carefully felt his chest, and soon detected several broken ribs. Bloodtalons’ beak had left a deep cut on his back as well, and there were other cuts and bruises on his arms. But none of it was very serious. He’d be a while recovering, but he’d survive. And now that he was free, the first thing he’d do was deal with Anyon. See to it that he got arrested, one way or the other. Then maybe Bran would testify at his trial. Serve him right.

‘Betrayer my arse,’ he muttered to himself. ‘Nobody spits on a Redguard’s honour an’ gets away with it.’

The two guards who had brought him to the pit were waiting, with looks of open admiration on their faces.

‘That was amazin’!’ one exclaimed. ‘I don’t believe it!’

‘Hardly anyone ever goes up against a wild griffin an’ lives,’ said the second.

Bran grinned, and then winced. ‘I told yeh I was innocent,’ he said. ‘Gryphus says so too.’

‘Now they all knows it,’ the first guard said stoutly. ‘I saw Isleen a moment ago; she’s gone t’let yer partner free. They’ll be here any moment.’

‘Good.’ Bran winced again, and went to sit down on the bench. Just doing that made his ribs flare up, and he groaned. ‘Argh. Feels like I got a handful of rusty daggers in there.’

‘I ain’t surprised,’ said the first guard. ‘Just rest up a bit until Isleen calls us, all right?’

‘Sure,’ said Bran. He rubbed his chest very carefully, but even that made it hurt. He cringed. ‘What’s yer name, by the way?’ he asked.

‘Me, I’m Talmon,’ said the first guard.

‘Nerris,’ said the other. ‘Here.’ He offered Bran a water bottle.

Bran drank deeply, and waited until, sure enough, Isleen arrived. She came down into the weapons room by herself, looking a little flushed.

‘There you are,’ she said. ‘Congratulations.’

Bran stood up. ‘Is Kraeya there?’

‘Yes. Arak and I set her free. She’s waiting for you outside.’ Isleen cleared her throat. ‘Lord Branton Redguard,’ she said formally. ‘You have won your trial by combat, and are therefore innocent in the eyes of Gryphus. I am hereby empowered to present you with this.’ She offered him the scroll that declared his pardoning. ‘You are hereby cleared of all charges, and are allowed to go free with immediate effect.’

Bran took the scroll, and tucked it into his tunic. ‘Thanks, Isleen.’

He stood up, nodded to Talmon and Nerris, and went up the passageway and into daylight.

Kraeya was waiting there, and she rushed straight to him. ‘Bran!’

Bran hugged her around the neck. ‘Kraeya! Thank gods!’

She nibbled gently at his hair, grooming him as if he were her chick. ‘I knew that you would survive, my Bran. I trusted you to have the strength to save us.’

‘An’ I did,’ said Bran. Her feathers were warm and soft on his blood-spotted face. ‘I did. We’re all right now, Kraeya. We’re gonna be fine.’

‘Yes,’ said Kraeya. ‘And I am proud that you are my human.’

Bran let go of her. ‘C’mon,’ he said, eyeing the crowd all about. ‘Let’s get back to the Eyrie an’ get Laela out of that cell.’

*

We’ll post up Part 17 next Friday 15th June!

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 15 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 15 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy. Happy Friday reading everyone!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 15

Bran tucked his sword into his belt, and went to inspect the weapons on offer. There was quite a range – swords of various lengths, spears and axes, clubs, and nets. He soon decided to take a spear – as a guard he had been trained in the short sword and the spear, so with it and his sword he would be armed with the weapons he was best with. After some thought he also took a small axe and put that in the back of his belt just in case he lost his sword and needed something else he could use at close quarters.

His two guards watched in silence for a while, but while he walked back and forth along the racks, considering whether he should take anything else, one of them spoke for the first time.

‘You want my advice, take a net,’ he said. ‘Those griffins move fast. Get a net an’ tangle the bloody thing up in it. That’ll give you a chance.’

Bran eyed him, and then inspected one of the nets that hung from a hook on the wall. It was made of rope, and looked sturdy. He fingered it while he thought. The guard’s suggestion sounded sensible to him. If the griffin managed to pounce on him and knock him down, he’d be finished. Tangling it up with a net would give him a chance.

He nodded and took the net down. He bundled it up and slung it over his shoulder before taking a second net just in case. Best be as prepared as possible.

‘Thanks for the advice, mate,’ he said.

The guard nodded respectfully to him. ‘It’s damned obvious you used t’be a guard. You sure don’t look much like a griffiner!’

Bran grinned. ‘Yeah, I ain’t much of one. I never wanted t’be a griffiner really. A guard’s all I ever was an’ that’s what I still am at heart. Always will be.’

‘Well, good luck out there,’ said the guard.

‘Yeah,’ said his fellow. ‘I reckon yer innocent. This whole trial thing’s a nonsense.’

‘Thanks,’ said Bran. ‘An’ it is.’

‘You’ll do fine,’ said the first guard. ‘Gryphus is on your side, right?’

‘Right,’ Bran nodded, and tried his best to believe it.

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Bran the Betrayer Part 14 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 14 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy. Happy Friday reading everyone!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 14

‘Curiousities?’ Bran repeated to himself. He wondered what that meant.

When they walked through that building, he soon found out. It was an open structure, which a passage straight through the middle of it, and the five of them took a shortcut through it, forcing the crowd to move away. Bran looked around, and quickly realised what they had come to see. On either side of the passage, cages of different sizes had been set into the walls. Creatures sat inside them – the kinds of bizarre things that could usually be seen at a fair. Bran saw a two-headed calf, and a griffin youngster with four wings, all of which were stunted and useless. People gawped at the wretched creatures, most of which lay pathetically in their own filth, dead-eyed and scrawny. He guessed that a lot of them were already close to death, unable to live with their deformities.

Bran tried not to look at them, but he couldn’t help himself. Like the crowd he stared in fascinated horror at each new grotesque beast – and then he saw something that made him stop so suddenly that his guards stumbled to a halt as well. Normally they would have urged him on, but once they saw what he was looking at they too hesitated. One of them swore softly.

The creature sat in a smaller cage, set higher up in the wall. It was also small – about the same size as Laela, in fact. And it was the most bizarre and horrible thing Bran had ever seen.

What made it worse was that, while the other creatures there were deformed, it was at least possible to tell what animal they were. But this thing didn’t look like any animal that could possibly exist. It crouched awkwardly, unable to stand on its twisted back legs, which merged into its clawed hind paws. Its front legs were scaled, but the front paws… they had tiny talons on them, but they were pink and soft, and shaped more like human hands. The head was flattened, and the face had only the barest stump of a nose, and a few wisps of hair on the head.

The creature’s skin was mottled pink and grey, with patches of fur and feather sprouting seemingly at random. A stumpy tail hung over its backside. And, twitching on its back, there were…

‘Wings,’ Bran muttered. ‘It’s got wings.’

They were wings; they had to be. They were long and spindly, and covered in fluffy feathers, like the wings of a baby bird. The creature was like a baby, he thought, in some ways. But if it was a baby then it was the most hideous one he had ever seen.

Apparently realising it was being watched, the creature looked up, and fear shot through the disgust in Bran’s mind.

The creature’s eyes were large and yellow, slanted in its ugly face. They weren’t human coloured, or human shaped, but… but somehow Bran could see an expression in them. They were full of a terrible sadness.

Help me, those eyes said.

The creature made a feeble bleating, squarking sound, and Isleen stepped in. ‘Come along, all of you,’ she said impatiently. ‘We aren’t here to gawp at the freaks.’

Bran found his voice. ‘What in Gryphus’ name is that thing?’

Isleen looked past him at the bizarre creature. ‘Nobody knows,’ she said. ‘They found it abandoned in an inn somewhere outside the city. Now, hurry up. Noon is coming, and we can’t be late.’

The creature bleated again.

Bran forced himself to look away from it, and followed Isleen away. He felt sickened by what he had seen. But soon enough his own troubles returned to occupy his mind. Once this was over he’d have time to worry about other things. For now, he had to see Kraeya.

The building that housed the griffins lay just beyond the one where the freaks lived. Out of necessity it was much bigger, but it too was filled with cages – huge ones, but still not big enough to give their occupants much room. Most of them were occupied by what had to be wild griffins. They were scarred, and hampered by chains attached to collars around their necks, and they snarled threats at the small group of humans as they passed.

Kraeya was at the far end in a cage of her own, but she wore no chains. She lay on her belly, looking bored, but stood up at once when she saw Bran.

She came over to the bars. ‘Bran, my human. Why have you come? Is the trial over? Have you come to free me so that we may leave this place?’

Bran’s guards let him go up to the bars by himself. ‘No, Kraeya,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry. They got me nailed.’

‘What is it?’ Kraeya demanded. ‘What has happened?’

Bran gave her a brief description of the trial.

She hissed. ‘No! This is an outrage!’

‘Yeah,’ said Bran. ‘I got no way of showin’ I’m innocent, so I’ve asked for trial by combat. I gotta fight a wild griffin in one of the fightin’ pits. Today. If I win, we go free.’

‘No,’ Kraeya rasped. ‘I will not allow you to do that. You will die.’

‘I got no other choice,’ said Bran. ‘If I don’t fight I’m dead anyway.’

‘Then I must help you,’ said Kraeya. ‘Let me out of this cage and I shall fight beside you.’

‘That is not allowed,’ Isleen’s partner Arak interrupted. ‘You had no involvement in your human’s crime. You cannot fight this battle for him.’

‘He is my human and it is my right to defend him,’ said Kraeya. ‘If you force him to fight this wild griffin alone, he will die.’

‘Kraeya, it’s all right,’ said Bran. ‘I can do this. I’ll be all right. I promise.’

‘Come,’ said Arak. ‘You have spoken now and it is time to go to the fighting pit.’

Kraeya slammed her beak against the bars. ‘No! You cannot do this!’

Bran felt himself being pulled away. ‘It’s all right, Kraeya. It’s all right. Everything’s gonna be fine.’

Kraeya did not listen. She continued to bite and snarl at her prison, trying to break free and go to her human’s side. A pair of guards came running from elsewhere in the building and did their best to subdue her, prodding her with long spears to make her move back from the bars.

Bran tried to stay and calm her down, but his own guards wouldn’t allow it. They turned him around and forced him to walk back out between them, with Arak and Isleen bringing up the rear this time.

‘What’ll happen to her if I die?’ he asked once they were out of earshot.

‘She will be set free,’ said Isleen. ‘She would be free now, but we can’t risk her trying to interfere.’

‘Right,’ Bran muttered. Kraeya might be set free, but without him she would be lost. A griffin who lost her human was disgraced; little better than one of the wild griffins, who had no rights at all. It could well be that Isleen was lying, and that Kraeya would instead be kept here and used in the fighting pits like the other captive griffins.

Bran gritted his teeth. He wouldn’t let that happen. He’d fight for her as well as Laela.

Now his guards took him back to the fighting pits, through a large locked trapdoor and into an underground passage which led to a room lined with racks full of weapons. In the far side of it, a barred metal gate led into the largest of the fighting pits.

Here, at last, the guards removed Bran’s shackles. Isleen stepped forward, and gave him back his sword.

‘Here,’ she said. ‘As promised. As you were told earlier, you may choose any other weapons you want from this room. These two men will stay with you and wait in here until after the fight. Arak and I will watch from above. If you survive, we will be ready to set your partner free immediately and I will give you this.’ She held up a roll of paper. ‘A pardon, signed by Eyrie Master Ruel and the Master of Law. It will lift all crimes from you.’

‘Got it,’ said Bran. ‘Thanks.’

Isleen gave him the briefest of smiles. ‘Goodbye and good luck, Branton Redguard.’

*

We’ll post up Part 15 next Friday 1st June!

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

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