• 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 13 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Our apologies for not getting this up on Friday everyone- Here’s part 13 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy. We hope it brightens up your Monday!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 13
When Bran returned to his cell he found Laela crying – almost as if she knew what was going to happen. She had made a mess in her clothes, so Bran changed them and cleaned her up as well as he could before giving her a reassurring cuddle. But she kept on crying, refused to eat, and stayed unsettled through most of the night.

Bran probably wouldn’t have slept well anyway. He spent that night alternately dozing and trying to calm Laela down, and finally woke up properly at what he guessed might be dawn. There was no natural light down here.

Bran got up. Laela was finally asleep, and during what could be his last quiet moment for a while, he decided to pray.

Normally, a Southern sun-worshipper like himself would pray in a Temple, or failing that would sit somewhere sunlit. Down here he could do neither, but there was a flame burning, at least – a torch inside a protective bracket up on his cell wall. He fixed his eyes on the fire, and murmured his prayer, keeping his voice low so he wouldn’t disturb Laela. And anyway, these words were for him and Gryphus, and no-one else.

‘Gryphus,’ he said. ‘I never did much right by yeh. Consortin’ with a Northerner – I know that ain’t what you’d want. Arren belonged to the Night God, not you. But I did my best t’stand by people an’ do right by my family an’ by Kraeya as well. I did the best I could, always have, even if I ain’t strong enough. An’ I ain’t. I can’t save Laela an’ myself without help now. So I’m askin’ yeh, Gryphus – protect me. Help me get out of this. Now Finna’s married out of the family I’m the last Redguard. Me an’ Laela. Don’t let us end like this. Let me win back my honour an’ my freedom. Please.’

If Gryphus heard, he didn’t feel the need to reply. But Bran felt better once he had prayed. And if he survived today, then surely that would mean Gryphus had forgiven him.

After he had prayed a while longer, he went back to his bed and slept. This time it was proper sleep, and just as well – he would need it.

*

Some time later, a voice calling from outside his cell door woke him up. He sat up hastily, and blinked away the last of his sleep as he saw someone standing outside. It was Della’s other assistant – a short, pudgy young man with a squint.

‘Yeah, what is it?’ asked Bran, standing up and stifling a yawn.

The man looked timid. ‘Er,’ he said. ‘Er, I’ve been asked to inform you that your fight with the griffin will happen today, at noon, in the fighting pits. You’ll be given back your sword, and you will be allowed to choose any other weapon you want before you go into the pit.’

‘Right,’ said Bran. ‘Then tell them guards I want some fresh water an’ somethin’ to eat for me an’ the baby.’

‘Baby?’ The man peered past him at the sleeping Laela.

‘Yeah,’ said Bran. ‘My daughter. Hop to it.’

‘All right.’ The nervous young griffiner hesitated. ‘You’re… you’re very brave, you know,’ he said quickly. ‘I wish I was brave like you.’

‘Well, feel free to come sit in this cell instead of me,’ Bran grunted. ‘It’s a real treat.’

The man flushed. ‘That’s not what I- sorry. Yes. I should go now. My name’s Alaric, by the way. And, er, good luck.’

He stumbled off, and Bran watched him go with bemusement. Someone that weak-willed wouldn’t last long as an apprentice to a Master as powerful as the Master of Law. He must have very wealthy parents to have been given the job in the first place.

A short while later food and water arrived. Laela was still asleep, so Bran ate and washed himself before strapping on his old guard armour which he had been allowed to keep with him.

When Laela woke up he washed and fed her too, and then settled down to wait. Eventually Isleen arrived with a pair of guards in tow.

‘Are you ready?’ she asked brusquely.

‘Yeah,’ Bran nodded.

‘Good. Come with us.’

Bran stood up, took Laela in his arms and gave her a last hug and a kiss on the forehead. ‘You wait here for me, girl,’ he said. ‘I’ll be back. Don’t you worry. I won’t let yeh down. Promise. You just sit tight an’ wait for me.’

He put her down on the bed and gave her the little stuffed griffin she loved so much, before he turned to the guard outside and said sternly; ‘You keep an eye on her, understand?’

The guard nodded reluctantly. ‘She won’t go anywhere, milord. Don’t worry.’

‘Good.’ Bran gave Laela a worried look, and left the cell. ‘All right,’ he said to Isleen and her escort. ‘Let’s get this over with.’

He let her two guards shackle his wrists behind his back again, and walked between them as before – up the corridor and out of the Eyrie, and into the city. As they left the Eyrie, Isleen’s grey partner Arak joined them and walked beside his human, leading Bran and his guards onward.

Bran watched the two of them, and found himself thinking of Kraeya. She must still be locked up in the fighting pits, where he himself was going. He wondered if she knew what was going on.

‘I want to see Kraeya,’ he said as they walked through the streets.

Isleen glanced back at him. ‘Your partner?’

‘Yeah,’ said Bran. ‘She’s still at the pits, right?’

‘She is,’ said Isleen.

‘I want t’visit her before the fight,’ said Bran. ‘So she knows what’s goin’ on.’

‘Very well,’ said Isleen. ‘There should be time. But she won’t be allowed to help you in the fight. If she were accused of helping you commit your crimes she would be, but she’s above suspicion.’

Bran sighed to himself. Kraeya’s help would make all the difference in this fight, but Isleen was right, and besides, it wouldn’t be fair to his partner to drag her into this.

Above, the sky was clear and bright. Withypool’s streets were busy. Plenty of people stopped to watch curiously as the prisoner and his escort went past – the fact that he was being guarded by a griffiner as well as two ordinary guards meant that he must be a griffiner himself, or be accused of a particularly heinous crime. Or both.

Bran ignored them.

Fortunately the fighting pits weren’t far from the Eyrie. In Eagleholm there had been the Arena – one huge round building, where wild griffins had fought criminals for the amusement of the crowd. That was where Arren had gone, and where he had nearly died at the talons of the black griffin. In Withypool, though, there were several different fighting pits sunk into the ground – miniature Arenas, more or less. Bran had seen them from the sky on his way into the city. All of them had nets of steel chains over them, to stop anyone inside from escaping, and the spectators stood above and looked down on the carnage below. A second, much larger chain net covered the entire area, so that when Bran first entered he felt as if he were being caught in layers of spider web.

Around the edge of the open area that housed the fighting pits, other more ordinary buildings stood. Many of them had signs on them, which Bran couldn’t read beyond a few words here and there – he’d never learned much of reading and writing, even after becoming a griffiner.

‘What’s in there?’ he asked, pointing at one of them.

‘Griffins are caged in that one,’ Isleen said briefly. ‘The building next to it is where the curiosities are kept for people to see. We will pass through it on our way and you can see for yourself.’

*

We’ll post up Part 14 next Friday 25th May!

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

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

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Bran the Betrayer Part 12 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 12 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy.  If you’re a fan of the world and KJ’s books, you’ll be happy know she’ll be attending the inaugural Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne from 30th June-1st July!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 12

‘Anyon…’ Bran repeated.

‘Yeah,’ said Dan. ‘You saw him. He got burned half to death in the fire, an’ lost his griffin as well. An’ he lost his master Rannagon too. He could’ve been Master of Law one day, with a place on the Council, but when the Eyrie burned he lost everything. I dunno if he really thinks it’s yer fault, or if he knows it’s a lie. But I think he’s just plain lookin’ for someone to punish. Can’t get to Arren any more, so who else is there but Arren’s best friend?’

‘Can’t yeh tell them?’ Bran asked. ‘Go tell the Master of Law about Anyon tryin’ to bribe yeh. If we can prove he’s behind it, they’ll have to tell me go.’

Dan shook his head. ‘I tried. But nobody wants to listen. Everyone here’s the same as him, see. There’s a lot of Eagleholm survivors here. That’s who was up there in the gallery today, mostly. You heard ’em shouting. Nobody’s gonna listen to me. They’ll say I’m the one lyin’, since yer my friend.’

‘But you gotta try!’ said Bran.

‘I did. I said I did. Nobody listened. Anyon looks so frail now no-one believes he’d be up to somethin’ like this. He spends most of his time in bed nowadays.’

‘Then what’m I gonna do?’ said Bran. ‘I gotta get out of here. It can’t end like this, mate, it just can’t, dammit!’ His voice rose, betraying his desperation. Over on the bed, Laela whimpered.

Dan finally noticed her. ‘What the-?’ he said. ‘Why’s there a baby in there?’

Bran picked her up. ‘My daughter,’ he said. ‘Laela Redguard.’

‘Oh,’ said Dan. ‘Yer wife Flell was pregnant when you got married, wasn’t she?’

‘Yeah,’ said Bran.

‘What happened to her, anyhow?’ asked Dan.

‘She died,’ said Bran. ‘In the war. I’m all Laela’s got now.’

Dan eyed the child for a long moment. ‘She’s not yer child,’ he said softly. ‘Is she?’

‘She is,’ Bran lied, as he’d lied every day since his marriage to Flell.

Dan’s brow furrowed as he frowned. ‘Them eyebrows look real dark,’ he said.

‘Maybe, but she’s my daughter,’ Bran insisted.

‘No she ain’t,’ Dan said matter-of-factly. ‘She’s his. Isn’t she? That’s Arren’s child.’

Bran said nothing.

‘You’re a good man, Bran,’ said Dan. ‘Better than me. Better’n anyone in this whole gods-forsaken city. You don’t deserve t’be in that cell. I do.’

‘No yeh don’t,’ said Bran. ‘Stop it.’

‘I do,’ said Dan. He looked miserable. ‘An’ it’s time you stopped blamin’ yerself for what happened in Eagleholm. You did yer duty. I didn’t. It was me who turned his back on the city an’ did what he shouldn’t. It was me who committed a crime. If there was any justice in the world, I’d be the one facin’ the death penalty.’

‘Dan, what’re yeh talkin’ about?’ said Bran.

‘I’m a murderer,’ said Dan. ‘You were right, Bran. I murdered Arren Cardockson. I should’ve arrested him, not killed him. If I’d done my duty, then the Dark Lord wouldn’t have come. But nobody ever cared about what I did, because he was just a Northerner.’ He shook his head. ‘Murder’s murder. Bran, listen. If I could trade places with yer, I would. That’d make us even. But I can’t. So I’ll do the only thing I can do.’

‘What’s that?’ asked Bran.

‘You can’t prove yer innocent,’ said Dan. ‘We both know that. Only Gryphus can help yer now. Ask for trial by combat. It’s yer only chance.’

Bran frowned. ‘Fight for my freedom,’ he said aloud. ‘Hadn’t thought of that.’

‘Do it!’ said Dan. ‘You got the strength for it. Here in Withypool, they’d have yer fight a wild griffin.’

‘Could Kraeya help me?’ asked Bran.

‘No. I asked around before I came here, see – found out the rules. Griffins are Gryphus’ creatures, so if you go up against one an’ live, that means Gryphus wants you t’go free.’

Bran hesitated. ‘Me, fight a griffin?’

‘You can do it,’ said Dan. ‘You got the fightin’ skills. Besides, Gryphus knows yer innocent, right? He wants you to win.’

‘I’ll think about it, then,’ said Bran. ‘Thanks, Dan. For bein’ here.’ He reached out through the bars.

Dan clasped his friend’s big rough hand. ‘It’ll be all right, mate. You’ll see.’

‘I’m just glad I still got one friend left in the world,’ said Bran.

‘You deserve more,’ said Dan. ‘Well… I gotta go. Good luck, mate. I’ll be there tomorrow. An’ if anything happens to you, I… I’ll do what I can for Laela.’

Laela.

In the end, she was what made Bran’s mind up. After Dan had left he sat for a long while, doing his best to keep her amused while he thought about what to do. But Dan was right: with the whole city out for his blood, and nobody else taking his side, there was nothing he could do. If he didn’t come up with some proof in his favour tomorrow, they might well sentence him to death on the spot. Demanding to fight for his freedom would be his only alternative.

He looked at Laela and she looked back with her big, innocent blue eyes – eyes that reminded him so much of Flell, but just a little of poor, doomed Arren as well. That was when he knew for certain. For her he would do anything – even fight a wild griffin, if it came to that.

He hugged her. ‘Don’t worry, girl. I got it under control. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll rip that griffin’s guts out if I have to. I can’t make Dan care for yeh; it’s too much to ask. It’ll be all right. I’ll fight even harder knowin’ I’m fightin’ for you.’

Laela smiled at him. ‘Dada,’ she said.

*

Bran’s trial resumed the next day. Once again, he was taken to the dock while the crowd hurled its insults from above. Della and her partner stood patiently on the Master’s platform. This time, though, when Bran looked up, he could see Dan and Kakree up with the spectators. Dan waved encouragingly at him.

Bran nodded back, and waited patiently while Della declared the proceedings open again.

‘Now,’ she said, turning to him. ‘Today you have the opportunity to offer any evidence you might have to prove that you are innocent.’

Bran hesitated.

Della gave him an expectant look. ‘Well?’

Finally, Bran spoke – loudly and strongly, so everyone there could hear him. His voice was deep and stern – a Captain’s voice.

‘I didn’t do it,’ he said. ‘I didn’t help Arren get out of prison, an’ I didn’t help him break into the Eyrie. I chose duty over friendship. I shouldn’t have. I should’ve put my friend first an’ given him the help he needed before any of it happened. If I had, I would’ve saved him, an Eagleholm, an’ myself. But I didn’t, an’ that’s why I’m here. Because I did what I was told an’ not what my heart told me. Now all of yeh here can see how I’m rewarded for that.’

‘But can you prove you’re innocent?’ Della pressed.

‘No,’ said Bran. ‘I can’t. But Gryphus knows I’m innocent. Let me fight to prove it.’

‘You want trial by combat?’ said Della.

‘Yeah,’ said Bran. ‘I do. I’ll fight the wild griffin. Gryphus will show yeh I ain’t guilty.’

‘Is that your final word?’ asked Della.

‘Yeah,’ said Bran.

‘Very well, then. You can go back to your cell while the arrangements are made. Your guilt or innocence is out of my hands now. The wild griffin will decide.’

Above, the audience jeered.

‘Feed him to the wild griffins!’ one man shouted. ‘Let Gryphus punish him!’

‘Kill the traitor!’ others yelled.

‘Burn the lot of yeh!’ Bran roared back suddenly. ‘You’re a load of cowards. How brave of yeh, throwin’ insults at a man who can’t fight back. I tell yeh, if Arren was here you’d be runnin’ like sheep the moment yeh laid eyes on him. It was the likes of you what turned him into a monster. Hate a man long enough an’ he’ll start hatin’ back. Well you ain’t gonna do the same thing to me.’ He spat.

Outraged shouts rose from the crowd. A few people even started to throw things, and the guards up there had to step in and start hustling them out.

Bran had said his piece. He walked out with his own guards, muttering and grim-faced. As he left he saw Dan again, and his old friend nodded sternly. Agreeing with him, maybe, or wishing him luck. Bran nodded back, unsmiling, and began the walk back to his cell.

*

We’ll post up Part 13 next Friday 18th May!

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 10 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 10 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy for some weekend reading:

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 10

Isleen brought the old man forward to stand between her master and Bran.

Della spoke. ‘Tell us your name.’

The old man raised his head. ‘My name is Anyon. I was apprenticed to Lord Rannagon, Master of Law in Eagleholm.’

Bran started, and stared in horror. He had known this man once, but… but Anyon was only thirty five, and this man here…

The remains of Anyon’s hair had turned white and brittle, and his whole body was bent and frail. Bran could tell just from looking that he barely had the strength to stand any more.

‘And is this the man you saw helping Arren Cardockson enter the Eyrie that night?’ Della asked.

Anyon nodded slowly. ‘That’s him.’ His voice had gone dry and rasping. ‘That’s Branton Redguard. I worked alongside him once. I knew him very well. He was the blackrobe’s best friend. He helped him.’

‘I never!’ Bran protested.

Continue reading

Bran the Betrayer Part 9 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 9 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy for some weekend reading:

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 9

The Master of Law came to see him that afternoon. She came alone, since the corridors outside Bran’s cell were too small for a griffin to fit, but her fine clothes immediately told him who she was. She was middle-aged, and had a tough, no-nonsense look about her.

Laela was sleeping by now, and Bran stood up and went to the bars. ‘You’re the Master of Law, right?’

‘I am,’ said the lady. ‘You’re Branton Redguard?’

‘Yeah, I am.’ Bran gripped the bars. ‘Now are yeh gonna tell me why I’m in here? What’s all this nonsense about treason?’

‘I’ve brought the list of charges with me,’ said Lady Della. ‘I’ll read them to you now.’

‘All right.’ Bran sat back and listened tensely.

‘You, Branton Redguard, are accused of high treason in that you did betray your home territory of Eagleholm,’ Della said, reading out the formal words from a piece of paper. ‘It has been alleged that while serving as a prison guard on the Seconday of the first week of Midsummer Month, you knowingly and illegally released a dangerous prisoner. It is also alleged that you aided this prisoner’s escape from the city, and that you later aided him in breaking into the Eagleholm Eyrie, where he murdered Lord Rannagon, Master of Law, and set the Eyrie building on fire, causing the deaths of at least one hundred people and forty-three griffins, and the serious wounding of many more. This makes you complicit in one murder, and implicated in the other hundred and forty-three, and also implicated in the destruction of the Eagleholm Eyrie.’

Bran gaped. ‘What? You think I did that?’

‘Those are the accusations that have been made against you by the survivors from Eagleholm,’ Della said calmly.

‘I never did that!’ said Bran. ‘I never did any of it!’

Della must have heard claims like that plenty of times before, because she didn’t react to this one except to say, ‘Those are the accusations, and you’ll have to stand trial. I can promise you that you’ll be fairly treated, and if I can dismiss the charges, I will.’

Bran knew enough about law to have at least some idea of how the trial would be structured. ‘You got any witnesses for all this?’

‘Yes,’ said Della. ‘Plenty of the Eagleholm survivors came here to live after the fire, and they were the ones who came to me with these accusations. There’s been an order out for your arrest for some time.’

Bran grimaced. He wondered if he would recognise any of his accusers. ‘Fine. When do we start?’

‘Tomorrow.’ Della looked past him. ‘Is that a baby?’

‘My daughter,’ said Bran. ‘She’s stayin’ with me.’

Della shrugged. ‘All right. Sleep well, and I’ll see you tomorrow.’

She left, and Bran sat down beside Laela, his mind in a whirl.

None of it was true, not one word of it, and they had no proof. Surely…

But, he knew… if they did somehow find him guilty, then the penalty would be the one meted out to all traitors. Death by hanging and disembowelling.

And if he died, then Laela would die as well.

But it couldn’t possibly come to that. It just couldn’t.

‘It can’t come to that,’ Bran repeated to himself. ‘It just can’t. No way. It can’t…’

*

Bran’s trial began the next day, at noon. The trial of a griffiner, and especially one accused of such a serious crime as treason, would always take place in the Eyrie’s Council Chamber. His own was no exception. He left Laela asleep in his cell and went with his guards without argument, and they took him to Withypool’s Council Chamber.

It looked quite similar to the one at Eagleholm; similar, in fact, to every Council Chamber he had ever seen. Round, of course, with the gallery above for spectators and the pit below, where the seats for the Council stood in a ring around the Master’s platform. The ceiling had been painted with an elaborate mural of a summer sky, with clouds and a golden sun, and griffins in flight. Above, the gallery was packed. Hundreds of people had come to see what would happen – griffiners and commoners both. He could see a line of guards up there, at the front, ready in case the spectators got rowdy. Below, on the floor, other guards were stationed at the entrances. Clearly, they were taking no chances with him.

The Master of Law was already there, standing up on the Eyrie Master’s platform with her partner beside her. Her two assistants, Isleen and another young griffiner, stood on either side with their own partners standing protectively behind them.

When Bran entered, the crowd hissed. When he came into clearer view, shouts rose. He forced himself not to look up at them, but trudged along between his two guards, hands shackled behind his back.

Ahead, some of the Councillors’ seats had been moved aside to make room for a wooden platform with railings around it. It was just large enough for one man to stand on it, and he already knew that it was for him. Sure enough, his guards led him around to the back of it, where there was a gap in the railings and a step. Bran went up it and onto the platform, and his guards took the shackles off his wrists before moving to take up station on either side of him.

Bran rested his hands on the high railings in front of him, and looked up at the people who had come to see him go on trial for his life. The shouts rose higher in response.

Traitor!’

Blackrobe lover!’

Bran shuddered and looked away.

In front of him, the Master of Law gave him a solemn look and glanced at her partner. Her partner, a male with white feathers, raised his head and screeched. The sound echoed through the great space, and up in the gallery the spectators went quiet.

Lady Della nodded to herself, and began.

‘Lord Branton Redguard of Eagleholm,’ she said. ‘You stand accused of high treason, dereliction of duty, and of implication in the crimes of murder in one hundred and forty three counts, attempted murder in thirty eight counts, and arson in one count. Before we begin, you may speak. Did you commit these crimes?’

‘No,’ Bran said immediately. ‘I ain’t guilty. I didn’t do any of it.’

‘Then you’ll be given the chance here, among your fellow griffiners, to prove your innocence,’ said Della. ‘First, your accusers will be brought in to give their evidence.’ She nodded to Isleen, who hurried out of the chamber. A moment later she returned, leading an old man. He walked slowly and painfully, leaning on a stick, and as he entered a sympathetic groan came from the audience.

Bran leaned forward to see him better, and his stomach twisted when he saw the man’s face. It was scarred and warped down one side, from his cheek to his neck. The ear on that side was entirely gone, along with most of his hair where the scalp was scarred.

*

We’ll post up Part 10 next Friday 27th April!

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 8 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 8 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy for your afternoon ride home!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 8

They refused to explain any more than that.

Despite his protests and furious demands for an explanation, they forced Bran to go with them. His captors hobbled Kraeya’s front legs by force, so that she wouldn’t be able to land easily or run far, and instructed her that she would carry Bran and Laela and fly with them.

‘Where’re we goin’?’ Bran demanded.

‘To Withypool,’ one of the three griffiners who would guard him along the way finally answered. ‘Where you will stand trial.’

‘For what? What’d I do?’

‘You’ll be told when we arrive,’ was the terse answer.

‘But I ain’t even ever been to Withypool,’ Bran persisted as they gestured at him to climb onto Kraeya’s back.

‘Your accusers are from Eagleholm,’ came the reply.

That was the best explanation he got, before or during the journey to Withypool. Kraeya flew patiently in formation, constantly tailed by the three guard griffiners and several unpartnered griffins as well, who could manoeuvre more easily in the sky than her since they were riderless.

When they landed to rest, the hobbles stayed on Kraeya’s legs and they would add more to her wings during the night. Bran was allowed a tent to sleep in, so he could keep taking care of Laela, but with Kraeya restrained and under guard he had no opportunity to escape. Not that he wanted to; if he ran away now he would become a fugitive. At least if he went to Withypool as they wanted he could clear his name. He was certain he could do that; the charge of high treason was preposterous. He’d never broken the law in his life. His whole adult life had been spent enforcing it, for gods’ sakes. They had to have him confused with someone else, surely.

But assurances like that couldn’t stop his apprehension from growing as Withypool got closer.

Laela seemed to sense his fears, or maybe she just disliked travelling, because she was just as restless as him. Fortunately, though, his captors didn’t pay much attention to her and allowed him to take care of her. But he had no idea what they might do with her when they arrived at Withypool.

He and Kraeya got almost no chance to speak during the journey; in the air it was far too noisy for talk, and on the ground they were seperated. He could tell, though, how angry she was.

‘It is a lie,’ she was finally able to say to him when they landed atop Withypool’s Eyrie. ‘We have not committed any crimes, and we will prove it and be freed.’

‘Let’s hope,’ Bran said grimly as he dismounted. ‘Hey-!’

Two of his guards had just grabbed him by the shoulders. A third took Laela away, and before he could reach out to take her back they had twisted his arms behind him and shackled his wrists together.

Bran struggled. ‘Lemme go!’ he roared. ‘Don’t you dare take her off me, you bastards!’

‘You’re going to be locked up,’ said the griffiner holding Laela. ‘The child will be given to somebody to look after until the trial is over.’

‘Oh no she won’t,’ Bran snapped back. ‘Nobody looks after her but me.’

The woman looked slightly taken aback. ‘You’re going to be in a cell, Lord Redguard.’

‘Then put her in with me if yeh have to,’ said Bran. ‘She stays with me.’

‘All right then,’ the woman shrugged.

Kraeya had already tried to come to Bran’s aid, but the other griffins there surrounded her and herded her away from him.

‘What’re you doin’ with her?’ Bran asked, trying to go to her and failing as his guards held him back.

‘Your partner will be locked up in the fighting pits,’ said the woman, ignoring Laela’s whimpers as she reached out for Bran. ‘Normally she would stand trial with you, but she is not accused of anything.’

‘Dammit, let her go!’ Bran yelled.

‘We will, after the trial,’ the woman said blandly. ‘We can’t risk her interfering. But rest assurred; she won’t be harmed.’

Kraeya snarled. ‘You will not hurt my human!’

The woman ignored that completely, and despite her protests and threats Kraeya was forced away by the other griffins.

‘Bran!’ she called back. ‘Do not falter, do not surrender! I will see you again soon.’

‘Don’t worry!’ Bran called back. ‘I’ll be fine! You take care of yerself, right?’

‘I shall!’ Kraeya took off and flew away down over the city, following her captors. Bran watched her go, and hoped she would be all right. But at least she wasn’t accused of anything. She would be fine.

Now it was just a question of whether he would be fine as well.

The woman who was in charge of his own guard gestured impatiently at her underlings. ‘Take him below. I’ll follow.’

Bran went down into the Eyrie, flanked by two men and followed by the woman. ‘Can yeh tell me what I’ve done?’ he asked.

‘My master will come and see you some time today,’ said the woman. ‘She will give you the list of charges.’

‘Who’s yer master, then?’ Bran persisted.

‘Lady Della, Master of Law,’ said the woman.

Bran already had her own name, at least. ‘You’re Isleen, right?’

‘I am,’ the woman said briefly. She was young; younger than himself, and had a round, bland face.

You don’t reckon I did anything, do yeh, Isleen?’ Bran asked, hoping to find at least a little support.

But Isleen’s reply was flat and compassionless. ‘My family burned at Eagleholm,’ was all she said.

‘I didn’t do that!’ Bran protested.

Isleen ignored him.

But she did, at least, keep her word. Once Bran had been taken to a small cell under the Eyrie and his arms had been unshackled, she gave Laela back.

‘Food will be sent down soon for both of you,’ she told him briefly, and left as the cell door slammed behind him.

Bran sat down on the bench provided, and groaned to himself. Laela clung to his arm, confused but clearly happy to be back with her adopted father.

Bran gave her a hug. ‘It’s all right, Laela; I got yeh now. But I’m damned if I know what’s gonna happen to us next.’

Laela gurgled.

‘High treason?’ Bran repeated to himself. ‘What the blazes is goin’ on here? What do they think I did?’

Laela, naturally, didn’t have anything to add to this, so Bran answered himself. ‘Whatever they think I did, I know it’s gotta be a lie, or some kinda mistake. It’s gonna be all right, Laela. We’ll sort it out.’

The cell, at least, wasn’t too bad. Bran had seen plenty of cells during his time as a guard, and this one was more comfortable than most. It had a bench, and a small bed, and even a chair. He guessed that this must be a high class cell, meant for griffiners. He’d never seen one himself, but he knew griffiners got better treatment even when they were in prison.

The food when it came was good too; a bowl of hot stew for him, with bread on the side, and boiled carrots and milk for Laela.

Bran fed her before he ate his own meal, and cleaned her up as well as he could with the jug of water provided. He did his best to neaten himself up as well, hoping to make a slightly better impression on the Master of Law when she arrived. After that there was nothing he could do but wait, and hope.

*

We’ll post up Part 9 next Friday 20th April!

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 7 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 7 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy for your afternoon ride home!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 7

The three of them were taken down into Canran’s Council Chamber. Bran had only been there once before. It was easily the largest space in Canran’s Eyrie; a massive rounded room, designed much the same way as the Council Chambers in Malvern and Eagleholm, with a stepped gallery overhead where minor griffiners and others could watch Council proceedings. Below, on the floor, a carved stone platform in the shape of a sunwheel provided a place for the Eyrie Master to stand. A ring of smaller platforms around it were reserved for Council members. A magnificently painted domed ceiling covered everything.

Now, the chamber was crowded. Captured griffiners stood just outside the ring of Councillor’s seats, while ordinary citizens sat up in the gallery. Everyone was surrounded by enemy soldiers and griffiners, and aside from the occasional angry outburst nobody tried to fight back. Canran had surrendered.

Its conquerers stood up on the platform – two men clad in fine armour, whose partners wore decorative gold and silver rings on their forelegs. Eyrie Masters, both of them.

Lord Holm himself stood below the platform, with Dekrak beside him. Both of them were visibly angry and humiliated.

Bran and Kraeya were sent to stand with the other minor griffiners, and they waited there in silence to see what would happen next. Finally, one of the two conquering griffins – Bran didn’t know who was who – started to speak. Fortunately she spoke loudly and clearly so that everyone there could hear, so Bran found it easier to work out what she was saying. But he could have guessed anyway.

‘Dekrak!’ she crowed, tail held arrogantly high. ‘We have conquered your territory here today, and you have surrendered to us. Now our humans will talk, and you and your own human will obey them.’

Dekrak snarled, but said nothing. Beside him, Lord Holm’s face was full of barely concealed rage. But he too stayed silent, while one of the two victorious Eyrie Masters spoke.

‘I am Lord Kyron, Eyrie Master of Wylam,’ he said. ‘And this is Lord Ruel, Eyrie Master of Withypool.’ He raised his voice to address everyone there. ‘Today we have conquered Canran, but as you can see, we were merciful. Together our forces could have destroyed this city completely. But we spared your lives, because we did not come here to slaughter. Lord Holm – you and your council will agree to our demands, or our mercy will be withdrawn. Is that understood?’

‘Perfectly,’ Lord Holm growled.

‘Good. From this day on, Canran will answer to us. Your lands to the South as far as Potter’s Bay will now belong to Wylam, and all its taxes will be paid to my Eyrie. Meanwhile Canran will also pay tribute to Wylam.’

Cries of outrage came from the gallery where the Canran civillians and minor griffiners listened. Lord Holm and the Council, though, stayed sour-faced and silent.

Now Lord Ruel of Withypool stepped in. ‘Simultaneously,’ he said, ‘Canran’s lands to the East as far as the village of Herbstitt will now belong to Withypool, and all its taxes will be paid to my Eyrie. Canran will also pay tribute to Withypool.’

‘But we have come to offer mercy as well as demand payment,’ Lord Kyron resumed. ‘As a show of our goodwill, any Canran griffiner who wishes to do so may swear himself to Wylam or Withypool. We will accept you as long as you are loyal.’

Several griffiners there immediately stood up and called out that they would accept the offer.

Kyron waved them into silence. ‘Our officials will speak to each of you personally once this meeting is over. First – Lord Holm, you and your councillors will stay here in the Council Chamber. You will be told when you can leave.’

‘This is an outrage!’ Lord Holm finally shouted. ‘How dare you come here and speak to me this way, in my own city!’

Several of the soldiers and griffiners the conquerers had brought jeered and laughed at his humiliation. Most of the councillors, though, started to shout in agreement with their leader. Bran pulled back cautiously, holding onto Laela, sensing a fight.

Lord Kyron and Lord Ruel were quick to take control of the situation, though. Both of them snapped some quick orders, and in a moment the griffiners standing guard over the council stepped in and subdued them again, with threats or even a quick blow or two.

Bran was not one of those who flared up. He listened in disgust as other griffiners continued to shout out to their conquerers, promising to transfer their loyalty. Loyalty! As if griffiners had ever understood the meaning of that word!

Griffins certainly didn’t know the meaning of it; at that moment, Kraeya lowered her head to his ear and said; ‘We must choose a new Eyrie, and quickly.’

‘No we don’t!’ Bran hissed back. ‘We ain’t leavin’.’

‘We cannot stay,’ said Kraeya. ‘This Eyrie has just lost almost all its territory. Soon it will fall into ruin just as Eagleholm did.’

‘No, it’s better,’ said Bran. ‘No-one’ll think to look for us here. Lots of people from Eagleholm went to Withypool; you wanna get recognised? Someone’ll figure out who Laela’s real dad is, an’ then we’re all dead.’

‘Then we will go to Wylam,’ said Kraeya. ‘There is no future for us here.’

‘No, there’s no future for Laela if she goes where anyone pays attention to her,’ Bran argued.

‘We were safe here before,’ said Kraeya. ‘And I can protect you and the child.’

Bran knew that this was a bad place to argue, so he nodded vaguely and let the matter drop for the time being. They could decide later.

But later never came.

The minor griffiners were allowed to leave the Council Chamber then, shuffling out past their conquerers with either deference or open dislike. Bran went with them, intending to return to his room and wait until the situation changed. But as he passed a junior griffiner near one of the entrances, she called out to him.

‘You! Yes, you with the beard – stop there!’

Bran stopped and looked up. ‘Yeah, what is it?’

The woman peered at his face. ‘You look familiar. What’s your name?’

‘Lord Branton Redguard,’ said Bran. ‘An’ this here’s Kraeya.’

The woman tensed. ‘From Eagleholm?’

‘Yeah, that’s us,’ said Bran. ‘Why, are you from there too?’

‘Wait here a moment,’ said the woman. She hurried off.

Bran waited. ‘What’s this all about?’ he wondered aloud.

‘I do not know,’ said Kraeya. ‘But I do not like it.’

They waited anyway, watched by the woman’s partner. Bran tried to watch out for the woman, but she quickly disappeared into the crowd, which thinned out as people left.

Finally, just as he was starting to wonder if it would be a better idea to be on his way, the woman returned. There were two other griffiners with her now.

‘Branton Redguard?’ one said brusquely. ‘Former guard Captain of Eagleholm?’

‘That’s me,’ said Bran. ‘What’s this all about?’

The woman and one of the other griffiners she had brought advanced on him, while the third answered.

‘You’re under arrest,’ he said. ‘For high treason.’

*

We’ll post up Part 8 next Friday 13th April!

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 6 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 6 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy, to get you through Friday afternoon! Don’t forget to comment if you like it, or if you’ve got any questions for K.J. !

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 6

A month or so after this, Bran was in his room trying to coax Laela into eating some bread he’d cut up for her when every single griffin in the Eyrie burst into an earsplitting din.

‘Augh!’ Bran dropped the plate and covered his ears. Beside him, Laela burst into tears of fight. He picked her up and hugged her reassurringly while he went to see what was going on.

As he was entering Kraeya’s nest, he heard a thump as the red griffin landed on the perching ledge outside. An instant later she came bounding in in a rush of feathers and flailing tail.

‘Bran!’ she called. ‘Quickly, you must prepare to fight.’

‘What’s goin’ on?’ Bran asked sharply.

‘Enemies have come,’ said Kraeya. ‘Many of them. We are under attack.’

Bran’s stomach lurched. ‘The Northerners?’

‘No,’ said Kraeya. ‘Wylam and Withypool.’

Swearing, Bran ran back into his own room and put Laela in her cradle while he rushed to strap on his armour. His old short guard sword hung on the wall; he lifted it down and buckled it on, then grabbed the spear he had been given for his official duties.

Then he went to see what was happening for himself, darting out onto the balcony with Kraeya close beside him.

His heart leapt into his mouth when he saw it.

Griffins. Hundreds of them, swarming into the city. They moved together, as a flock, but with a purpose and organisation no other flying creature would ever show. As Bran watched, a group of them broke away and swooped low over the city. They were too far away for him to see what they were doing, but he found out moments later. Flames blossomed into the air, and a moment later a dull thud shook the ground.

‘Son of a bitch!’ Bran swore. ‘They’re usin’ shooting stars! Bloody shooting stars on their own people!’

Sure enough, a second contingent swooped down as he watched, and this time he could just barely see the huge clay jars full of burning liquid as their bearers dropped them onto the city. When they landed they exploded, destroying houses and setting large areas of the city on fire.

Nor was that all. While Canran’s griffins flew to the attack and archers took up position at windows and doorways, other, larger Withypool griffins flew up and onto the clifftop. Bran could see the human figures dangling from their talons.

‘What’re they doin’?’ he asked.

‘Bringing their human fighters into the Eyrie,’ said Kraeya. ‘They will fight their way through to here and take the Eyrie.’

‘Right.’ Bran pulled himself together. ‘What’re we gonna do? Fly away?’

‘No,’ said Kraeya. ‘Out there we will be an easy target. Here we cannot be attacked from above. We must stay here and defend this place. We should find others and fight beside them.’

‘But what about Laela?’ asked Bran. ‘I can’t take her into a fight, an’ I can’t leave her here. What’re we gonna do?’

Kraeya scratched her flank irritably. ‘You are right. I do not think that they are here to kill us all; this is a conquest, not a slaughter. And I am unwilling to die for this city.’

Laela was still crying.

‘I’m gonna stay here,’ Bran decided. ‘I’m gonna defend this room, an’ her, as long as I can. If we try goin’ anywhere, we’ll get caught in the open.’

‘Then we will stay here,’ said Kraeya. ‘I will defend you.’

So Bran stayed in his new room, and got ready for a fight as well as he could. He moved Laela’s cradle into a corner where it would be protected by the stone wardrobe, and blocked the door with any other furniture he could move. While he did that, Kraeya took up position in the outer entrance to her nest, ready to fight off any other griffins who tried to get in.

Bran readied himself, with his spear in his hands. If anyone broke down the door, he would stab them over the furniture barricade. It should hold out. He just had to hope that Kraeya would be able to protect his back.

He gave Laela a quick cuddle to try and quiet her, and gave her her favourite fluffy griffin toy. ‘It’s all right,’ he told her. ‘We’re gonna keep yeh safe. Promise.’

Laela huddled down in her crib, and chewed on the toy’s already well-chewed wing. The sight of her helped to bolster Bran’s determination. He picked up his spear again, and rolled his shoulders to loosen them.

‘All right, yeh bastards,’ he muttered. ‘Come an’ get some.’

But after that, nothing happened for a long time. Bran stood by the furniture barricade for a while, and then gave up and sat on the bed. The wait dragged on, and he fed Laela the last of her food and ate a quick snack to give himself some energy.

‘Come on,’ he muttered.

After a while, he started to hear it. Faint thumpings and the low murmur of voices shouting in the corridors above him. They were coming.

He stood up again, and readied his spear. In her nest, Kraeya looked up from her grooming. Laela had fallen asleep.

And then the silence shattered.

Without warning, Kraeya leapt to her paws and rushed into the entrance that led to the open air outside her nest. And not a moment too soon. As Bran turned, he saw the other griffin drop onto the balcony outside and launch itself at his partner.

Kraeya was ready for him, and as the enemy landed she powered forward and struck him directly in the belly. Knocked off-balance, the other griffin stumbled backward and fell off the balcony. It was over before Bran could get there to help, and half a heartbeat later his own time came.

The door to his room rattled as someone tried to open it from the outside. Bran hurried back to the barricade and silently braced himself, hoping the soldiers outside would give in before they realised there was someone inside.

The door stopped rattling, and silence came. For a short time Bran hoped they might have gone. But they hadn’t.

A thud shook the door, and then another. They were trying to break it down.

Behind him, Bran heard a screech from Kraeya. He looked back over his shoulder, and simultaneously, a crash came from the door as it broke down.

As Bran raised his spear ready to defend himself, he saw something that made his stomach twist horribly inside him.

A griffin stood there on the other side of his makeshift barricade. Only half Kraeya’s size, but a griffin all the same, its beak open to scream a threat at him.

Bran didn’t hesitate any longer. As the griffin started to clamber over the barricade to get at him, he lunged forward and thrust his spear directly into its throat.

The beast screamed again and stumbled backward, blood soaking into its feathers from where the spear had impaled it. Bran braced himself against the barricade and pulled back, hard. The spear point came free, and a gush of blood followed it.

The griffin thrashed in agony, breaking the legs of the table Bran had used to block the doorway, but its struggle didn’t last long. The gush of blood slowed along with its movements, and then the griffin slumped down and slid back onto the floor, its eyes dimming as it died.

But Bran had no time to celebrate this small victory. A gang of soldiers came quickly on the griffin’s heels, and they had too much sense to try and climb over the barricade. They too had spears, and another had an axe, and while he hacked away at the barricade his friends thrust at Bran. Bran drew his sword and knocked the spears away.

‘Sod off outta here!’ he roared over Laela’s cries. ‘Can’t yeh see there’s a baby in here?’

To their credit, they hesitated.

‘We won’t hurt the baby,’ the man with the axe called back. ‘Or you if you surrender.’

Bran hesitated as well. ‘What d’yeh want?’

‘We’re here to conquer the city,’ said the axe-wielder. ‘Not tear it t’bits. Once the Eyrie Master surrenders we’ll stop.’

‘What’ll yeh do with us?’ Bran asked.

‘You’ll be taken prisoner an’ set free if you swear loyalty to Eyrie Master Penrin or Eyrie Master Kyran.’

Bran shot the man a suspicious look. ‘You’re attackin’ yer own people here. Why’d I believe anythin’ yeh say?’

‘Look,’ said one of the spear-wielders. ‘We don’t like fightin’ other Southerners any more’n you do. We’re just followin’ orders. But we’ve been told not t’kill griffiners unless we have to.’

Bran glanced uncertainly at Kraeya. She had fought off the other griffin, and now came to join him. Laela was still crying. Maybe if he surrendered, it would be better. He didn’t want to kill other Southerners, and the attacking Eyries would have no reason to kill him. Maybe he could find a place with one or other of them, and was this really his fight anyway?

‘Do not surrender,’ Kraeya said harshly. ‘I will not lose another fight.’

A screech came, from somewhere outside the Eyrie. Everyone there stopped to listen.

Kraeya tensed. ‘That was Dekrak.’

Bran was about to ask how she could tell, but then the screeching grew louder, and he could make it out. It wasn’t just a call, but a word.

‘Surrender!’

Kraeya groaned. ‘Dekrak is defeated and he is ordering us to surrender. But-,’

But Bran had already thrown his spear and sword down. ‘Fine,’ he said. ‘I ain’t gonna fight other Southerners an’ I ain’t gonna let Laela get hurt. Help me take this barrier down, lads, an’ I’ll come with yeh.’

They looked relieved. ‘Thanks, mate,’ one said.

‘It’s all right, Kraeya,’ Bran said as he lifted the damaged furniture away. ‘This ain’t our fight. Let the Eyrie Masters decide what t’do next. I’m a follower, not a leader.’

Kraeya looked irritated, but she didn’t argue. ‘Perhaps we will find favour because we are not councillers and have not been here long.’

So, resignedly, the two of them went with their captors. Bran wasn’t allowed to bring any possessions, but he carried Laela with him, and one of the soldiers he’d surrendered to brought his sword along.

*

We’ll post up Part 7 next Thursday 5th April!

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

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