become an apprentice to the legendary warrior, Raven Lennox. As a
prince of Alcherys, he will be expected to fight in the eternal war
against the Brotherhood of Shadow when he reaches sixteen.
causing mischief than in mastering weapons?
a deadly threat. It appears that an age-old prophecy is finally
coming to pass, and Soren and his family must take a perilous journey
deep into their enemy’s land. Does Soren have what it takes to save
his country before the Brotherhood destroys everyone and everything
With a loud clang of metal slamming into metal, the final bolt was undone. Reign slowly pulled the door open, and Vincent found his breath catching in his throat.
High-pitched whimpering came from the tiny bundle of rags cowering at the back of the cage. Her long silver hair parted for a moment and Vincent could see her wide, silver eyes, terrified and innocent. Vincent’s skin prickled with discomfort. He hoped that Reign had a damned good reason for capturing a small child like this.
Beside the glass cage were two oil lamps, both resting unlit. Reign reached up and took one down. Then, in a single savage moment, he slammed the lamp onto the floor of her cage. The girl screamed in terror and covered her head with her hands, but he hadn’t been aiming for her.
The shattered glass gave way to a stream of oil that spread out in a pool across the floor. This seemed to scare the girl even more, and she began to cry quietly, sobbing into her clenched hands.
Reign looked back at Vincent. Excitement flashed in his eyes as he drew a match from a box in his pocket. A small flare of light, a flicker of sulphur and a small flame danced on top of the match. With another laugh, Reign tossed the match into the glass cage.
Vincent gasped as the oil ignited in a rush of intense heat. The entire floor of the cage burst into flames. Vincent tried to rush forwards to save the girl from a fiery death, but the heat was too intense. A hand tapped incessantly at his shoulder, and he tried to brush it away, but Reign grabbed hold of his hand.
“Look! Look!” Reign shouted excitedly, pointing at the cage.
When his eyes fell upon the cage, Vincent froze to the spot, his eyes nearly popping from their sockets. “But…how?”
The girl, who Vincent had assumed would be burning in agony, was somehow floating above the flames, hovering at the top of her cage. From her back sprouted two enormous wings of the purest white feathers Vincent had ever seen. The two beautiful white fans could only just fit within the confines of the cage, and as she beat them to stay afloat they fanned the flames beneath her.
It wasn’t just her wings that dazzled Vincent with their purity. Her whole body had adopted an ethereal, almost ghostly, silver aura, her hair shimmering with radiance. She didn’t seem too frightened any more, but there was a definite hint of sadness in her gentle eyes.
Vincent studied her carefully, struggling to catch his breath, which he hadn’t realised he had been holding. “What is she?” he managed to croak.
Reign grinned and draped an arm across Vincent’s shoulder. “She, my friend, is an angel.”
with world-changing consequences.
destiny, honor and glory. Arrogant and headstrong, he believes he is
the strongest warrior in the land, until a fateful coincidence puts
him at the mercy of the demon Anathema.
another only leads them closer together. When the forces of Light and
Dark collide, where will their loyalties lie?
A COLD SLAB OF STONE. That was all that was left of fifteen-year-old Freya Nitaya. The bells around the city of Nazaki chimed, their mournful tune echoing across the kingdom of Alcherys like ripples across a calm lake.
The usually vibrant and majestic city had been brought to a standstill when Freya’s body had been taken through the streets, followed by a stream of mourners. The funeral procession finished its slow march at the Nazaki Cathedral, an immense marble temple right in the centre of the capital city.
At least two hundred members of Freya’s family attended, all of her siblings, aunts and uncles, and distant cousins who had come from miles away. Everybody. They were all part of the largest family on the planet, the Children of Light. When one of their own died, they all turned out to say goodbye. On top of that, there were a huge number of ordinary citizens of Alcherys who had turned up to pay their respects to the fallen princess.
The ceremony was short but beautiful, a fitting tribute to the tragically short life of the beautiful teenage girl for whom life had only just begun. When it was finished, the Alcherans trudged back to their homes with their heads drooped in sadness. Their grief at the loss of one of the royal family was profound. It always was every time the war claimed one of their leaders, but at least they could return to their lives and leave the conflict behind. When the halls were emptied of mourners, only the family was left behind in the cold, marble temple. It was Freya’s parents, her brothers and sister who would have to live with the loss.
There were still fifty people or more in the grand cathedral where the funeral had taken place, but now that the villagers had left, it seemed deserted.
Soren Nitaya was just five years old, and he was angrier than he had ever been in his life. He stood, rigid as a post, his fists clenched tightly together and his chin tucked in to his chest. He glared furiously at any who tried to come near him, any who tried to comfort him about the death of his sister. And there were many who tried. ‘
A hand rested gently on Soren’s shoulder, but he bristled at the touch and shook it away. He cast a bitter scowl up at his older brother. Deveron was still a child himself, only nine years old, but he had taken it upon himself to look after Soren and their baby sister, Kellyn.
Their parents were too grief-stricken at the moment to help anybody.
Soren glared at them from across the hall, where they clung to one another, tears marking their faces.
“Let’s go home now, Soren,” Deveron said and tried to lead him away, but Soren stood his ground.
“No!” He crossed his arms over his chest but kept his eyes locked onto his mother and father.
“Come on. Mummy and Daddy will come later.” Deveron reached out to hold Soren’s hand, but he held his arms crossed even more tightly together.
“Don’t care. I hate Mum and Dad.”
Deveron paused, taken aback by his brother’s words, but he tried not to let it show.
“Don’t be silly. You don’t hate Mum and Dad. Come home, and I’ll play soldiers with you.”
Soren stamped his feet in quick succession. “No, no, no!”
His angry voice echoed across the hall, causing his mother and father to snap out of their catatonic grief. With slow, shaky steps, they walked over to their sons together.
“Hey, little buddy,” their mother said, as she knelt down in front of Soren. He resolutely looked away from her. Tears welled in his eyes, but he wouldn’t make eye contact with his mother.
She stood up and looked to Deveron instead, whose face was ashen and full of sadness.
“You holding up OK?”
Deveron tried to answer, but he couldn’t get his words out so he merely gave a hurried nod. His mother pulled him into a warm and comforting embrace, and he nestled his face into her long, platinum hair. The familiar smell of his mother, of roses and leather, clearly comforted Deveron’s frayed nerves. He gently pulled out of her arms and looked to his father, Kham, but although he stood beside them, he wasn’t really there. His eyes were distant and unfocused, his dark skin pale and sunken.
Kham Nitaya had been a powerful warrior once, strong and dedicated to their cause, but the loss of his daughter had destroyed his will to fight, to survive even. He was a shadow of the man he had once been.
It unnerved Soren and Deveron to see their father like this, and they both looked away. The children’s mother, Callista Nienna, Queen of Alcherys and the leader of the Children of Light, looked as radiant as ever. Her long white-blonde hair cascaded in rivers down to the small of her back. Her hazel eyes glistened with pain, but her expression remained stoic, the hardened shell of a strong leader.
“Everything’s finished now, boys,” Callista said in a warm but authoritative voice. “Let’s go home.”
She moved to put an arm around each of her boys, but Soren ducked away from her embrace and crossed his arms again, high upon his chest. He wore a deep purple uniform with the silver symbol of the Children of Light stitched onto it. He looked down at it and screwed his nose up in distaste, making sure he crossed his arms to hide the badge. His bottom lip was firmly stuck out in defiance.
“Come on, Soren,” said Callista.
“I don’t want to go anywhere!” he shrieked. He frantically shook his head from side to side. His messy black hair fell across his face, and he angrily swept it aside.
“Come on. You’ll feel better back at home.”
“No, I won’t!” He clenched his fists by his side and glowered at his mother.
“I know you’re upset, but—“
“No! You don’t know anything!”
Callista looked to her husband for support, but his face was blank and distant, as if he wasn’t even aware they were in the room.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” she said softly and reached out to stroke Soren’s cheek.
Soren clenched his jaw, grinding his little teeth together. When his mother reached out to him, he waved her hand away and sat down on the floor with a loud huff.
Callista nodded to Deveron, and he sat down in front of his brother.
“What’s up?” Deveron asked in a calm, friendly voice, blatantly trying to put Soren at ease, which aggravated him further.
Soren cast a cross frown at his mum again before looking back at his brother. He mumbled something under his breath.
“What was that?” Deveron leaned in more closely.
“It’s Mum’s fault. She let Freya die.”
Deveron glanced up at his mother with wide eyes. “Why do you think that?” he asked. “Mum had nothing to do with it.”
“She didn’t save her.”
Callista crossed her arms and turned away, but not before Soren saw her trying to hide the burning tears that glistened in her eyes.
“Don’t be silly. Mum couldn’t have done anything,” Deveron said.
“She could! Mum has that potion. She can give it to anybody whenever she likes. It can bring people back. She could have saved her.”
“It’s not like that, Soren,” Callista said quietly with her back still turned to the boys.
“It is! That magical potion makes people live forever. You live forever. Daddy lives forever. Everybody does! When I reach sixteen, I will take it and live forever. Why didn’t you give it to Freya?”
“I couldn’t…,” Callista murmured.
“You could too!”
There was an uncomfortable silence, broken only by a barely audible sniff as Callista held back tears.
Deveron straightened up. “He’s right, Mum. Why didn’t you just give Freya the elixir? Then she could have lived forever.”
Callista’s eyes were wracked with pain. “I wish I could have, but it doesn’t work that way. You don’t understand…”
“So tell us!” Deveron cried.
“You’re too young to understand…”
“We’re not babies!” Soren shouted, and he leapt up to his feet. “We’re big now! We can understand.”
Callista frowned, unsure.
“Come on, Mum. We need to know why this happened. We want to know why you didn’t save our sister.”
Callista gave a sad smile. The boys could tell she knew they were right. Their ability to believe in her, to believe in the world again, rested on this.
She turned to her gaunt and exhausted husband.
“Kham, I’ll do it. I’ll take the boys to Alexiria and show them the book, where it all began. Then they’ll understand.”
Their father snapped out of his silence. “You can’t, Callista. It’s too dangerous, and the boys will be at risk. What if the Brotherhood of Shadow have spies on the roads? They could target you and hurt the boys.”
“It’ll be fine. We’ll take a cart tomorrow morning and be back by evening. We’ll bring a dryll as well, so we have a way of communicating with home. We’ll be discreet and stick to the main roads, and I can defend the kids. Please, they need this. You stay here and look after baby Kellyn.”
“Soren’s too young to travel so far.”
Callista rested a hand on Soren’s head. “Something tells me Soren will be just fine.”
* * *
The following morning, Callista, Deveron and Soren made their way through the thriving streets of Nazaki, Alcherys’s capital city, with canvas bags of food and water strung over their backs for the long journey. A wooden cart was waiting for them, and an elderly driver sat at the front with the horses’ reins in his hands.
As the ruler of Alcherys, Callista had easily persuaded the elderly driver to cart them across the country, even if it would take all day. She paid him well, as the royal family were tremendously wealthy, and that gave him the encouragement he needed to forsake other jobs for the day.
Soren clambered up onto the cart, eager and ready for the long trip across Alcherys. He didn’t know where his mother was taking him, but despite the prickling of anger he still felt towards her, he couldn’t help feeling excited about their adventure.
That excitement doubled when he first caught sight of the palace dryll they were taking with them. It was twice the size of the drylls Soren had seen flapping around the fields on the city’s outskirts. His fascination with the proud and impressive birds of prey had begun on his first journey out of Nazaki’s walls, watching them soaring high above, mere dots in the sky, before hurtling towards the ground at break-neck speed to catch an unsuspecting victim.
But this particular dryll was nothing like those wild birds. This one was a pedigree, bred for speed and efficiency, and it had developed its striking plumage somewhere along the way. Its grand, royal-blue feathers ruffled haughtily around its neck as the bird’s handler placed it carefully on the edge of the cart and tied the rope around its feet to a hook on the wooden panels.
Soren was intimidated by the dryll’s piercing yellow eyes and edged back towards his mother, but he couldn’t stop staring at the incredible creature. He shifted his position to make sure he was out of range of those deadly sharp talons, while retaining a good view of them.
When Soren had finished fussing and fidgeting, they finally set off, and the cart trundled along the shale pathway out of Nazaki.
At eight hours’ travelling time, the trip was boring and exhausting for the children. Even the dryll became boring to Soren after it tucked its head inside an enormous wing and slept for the majority of the journey. So Deveron made up games to play with Soren along the way. They sang songs and challenged each other to be the first to spot various items. Traversing from one side of the nation to the other should have been exciting for the two young boys, but Alcherys wasn’t the most interesting country. Ninety percent of the landscape was largely featureless plains and wastelands, and only the vast and impressive settlements of the Children of Light broke the monotony.
A journey across the country of Meraxor with its vibrant rainforests and dramatic mountain vistas would have been far more exciting, but as the land of the Brotherhood of Shadow, Meraxor was far too dangerous. They would have to make do with the dull plains of Alcherys instead.
When trying to entertain himself became boring, Soren drifted in and out of sleep, curled up in his mother’s arms, his belly full of the bread and cheese they had brought along with them. Deveron was quiet, seemingly content to simply watch the scenery passing by.
After what felt like an eternity, the cart began to slow as it approached Alexiria. The boys had heard of the place before. Everybody in Alcherys had. It was the place where everything had begun, where Callista had formed their nation and where the ghosts of their ancestors still stalked the skeletal ruins of a lost civilisation.
Soren didn’t believe in ghosts, but if he had done, Alexiria is where they would do their haunting.
He was still feeling groggy from his intermittent naps, but, as they approached the ruins, excited butterflies began to dance in his stomach. Even the dryll pulled its head from under its wing and eyed everything suspiciously with its beady yellow eyes.
“Deveron, is there anybody up ahead?” Callista asked.
Deveron focused on the wall ahead, his forehead creased into a frown. To a passer-by, it might look like he was staring at nothing, but Soren knew different. His brother was special.
“No, I can’t detect any life forces.”
Callista nodded, and they continued on their journey. Soren stared at his big brother in admiration and wished he had a special power. Nobody knew why Deveron could do what he could do. He had just been different ever since birth. He could literally see life. He could discover traces of living beings when all other signs failed. It was as if he were fundamentally entwined with the planet, synchronised with the life force itself, its conduit. Others saw it as a great gift, and it certainly came in handy for Deveron when he was hiding from other kids or playing chase games. But, the darker side of his “gift” had become clear the day he saw Freya’s body stretched out on a stone slab. His beloved big sister, who had always cared for him, who had always possessed such a vibrant and strong life force, was now empty and cold. His power had been stronger since then.
They were drawing near to Alexiria. Soren just knew it, but all he could see in front of him was a blank grey wall, dilapidated and covered in moss and creeping ivy. The cart didn’t stop as it got closer and Soren’s eyes widened. They were going to hit the wall. Preparing himself for a big crash, Soren covered his face with his hands, but at the last minute, the walls seemed to open up before them. As the angle of their approach changed, Soren saw that there was a thin crack running between two steep cliffs made by the walls. Nature had provided the city of Alexiria with natural camouflage.
Soren, Deveron and Callista watched in silence as the cart slowly passed through the wall and into the ruins of the city. Soren’s excited eyes widened with wonder as they trundled along the cobblestone paths and past ruined, overgrown buildings on either side.
Callista called for the driver to stop as they approached the tallest building. It was a huge, colonnaded mastery of architecture. Marble columns supported elaborately carved friezes showing parades of people, animals and what looked like humans with wings.
A large archway at the front appeared to be the main doorway. This was where Callista chose to release the dryll. Soren stayed as still as possible, watching his mother closely as she untied the rope with tentative movements. They all knew better than to startle a dryll. People had lost fingers that way.
When the bird of prey was untethered, Callista took a small note from her bag. Soren assumed it was the usual note to their father telling him of their safe arrival. It didn’t take much to set Kham to worrying, and Soren was pretty sure he would be worrying right now.
Tucking the note safely inside a small brace on the bird’s leg just above its right claw, Callista ran a piece of cloth from one of Kham’s old shirts under its nose. The dryll’s eyes focused on something in the distance, and then it was off, flapping its gigantic wings with a great rush of air.
Callista, Soren and Deveron gathered their things together and asked the cart’s driver to wait for them. As they dismounted from the cart, Soren ran ahead, bounding up the steps, oblivious to any danger.
“Soren! Wait for us!” Callista called, as she helped Deveron down from the cart.
They jogged after Soren, and together passed into the building. Whatever Soren had been expecting, it wasn’t this. The hall they stepped into was the size of a cavern. The ceiling, stretching at least twenty-five metres above their heads, was covered in splinters of coloured glass. The bright sun shone through in tiny scattered rays, casting kaleidoscope emeralds, rubies and sapphires across the floor.
Soren and Deveron stopped in the centre of the room, their eyes cast up to the awe-inspiring ceiling and their jaws nearly hit the patterned grey stone floor.
“Welcome to the library of Alexiria, boys,” Callista said with a smile.
The children tore their eyes from the ceiling and looked around the room. They were inside an immense cylinder. The ceiling was a patterned disc sitting on top of the rounded walls, which the boys had only just noticed were lined with bookshelves at least eight metres high.
Hundreds of thousands of crinkly old tomes were stacked neatly along the shelves, their covers grey with a film of dust.
“What are all these?” Deveron asked, as he pulled a dark-brown leather-bound book from the shelf.
“These are documents written thousands of years ago by an ancient unknown civilisation. When the war first started, I came here with my friends. They were the only people I had left in the world. We found this library, and I began to read those books. Over the last hundred years, I have read them all. They tell of ancient history—age-old battles, angels, demons, dragons—all manner of fantastical things.”
Soren’s eyes were wide with fascination, watching his mother carefully as she ran her hand across the bound spines of the books.
“How much of it is true and how much mere fairy tale, I do not know. But some of these books speak of things no person could possibly know of gods and monsters beyond belief and even of the future.”
“The future? That’s impossible,” Soren said.
Callista smiled. “I thought so too at first, but whoever filled this library knew an awful lot about us, about our way of life, our family, me. How can that be when they were written so long ago? We could only surmise that the person, or people, who wrote them had magical powers of some kind. These books were written by something greater than a human. Something superior, something we should bow down to and follow.”
Deveron gasped. “Is this where you found The Book of Alcherys?”
Callista’s eyes twinkled. “Yes. Right here.”
She pointed to an empty marble plinth which held pride of place in the centre of the room. “I knew it was special immediately. The other books were amazing, but this was different. I could feel the magic oozing from the pages and knew once I read it, life would never be the same again.”
She slung her bag off her shoulder and tugged at the drawstrings. They came open, and she reached carefully inside and withdrew a large, dusty book with frayed edges and stitching so old it looked like it would fall apart at a touch.
“Is that it? The real book? I’ve only seen copies.” Deveron’s voice was filled with wonder.
Callista nodded and sat on the floor with her legs tucked beneath her. She opened the book carefully, and the leather cover creaked. A waft of musk hit them, and a smell of old papyrus hung in the air.
Soren screwed his nose up in disgust and waved the dusty air away from his face, but Deveron soaked up the smell of the paper, closed his eyes and tried to get a feel for the time when the Book was written.
Callista ran her fingers over the pages fondly, as if caressing a much-loved pet. “When I was lost, alone, with no idea what to do for my people, this book saved me. I don’t know how, but the words in it told me exactly what I should do to keep my friends and family alive. This book has warned me of disasters long before they have happened. It has shown me which path to take when I couldn’t choose. I learned long ago that the Book is sacred and we cannot argue with the words inside.”
Callista began to flick through the pages, and Soren leaned in further as the sheets of scratchy black writing flitted past. Each page was decorated with patterns running around the edges: swords, shields, feathers, dragons, and flames.
Soren’s hand shot out and he pointed excitedly to one of the symbols. “That’s ours! That’s the badge of the Children of Light!” He jumped to his feet and pulled aside his jacket to reveal his deep purple uniform with the silver badge featuring four daggers upon it.
“That’s right, Soren,” his mother said. “When we set up our nation, we took our sigil from the Book that had given us so much guidance.”
She flicked on again until she landed on a page with the word “elixir” in spiky lettering across the top of the page. She spread the book out on the floor between herself and her two children.
Soren crept forwards and leaned over it eagerly. In the centre of the page was the knot of infinity. It looked like a figure eight lying on its side, and Soren’s eyes followed the loops round and around until he began to feel sick. His mother began to read:
“This mystical brew has the power to stop the turning of the tides and the decline of the living. But one sip and the drinker shall never age, never fall victim to withering skin or greying hair. An eternity of youthfulness awaits he who drinks from the potion of life. Even on the verge of death itself, this tonic can bring a person back from impending oblivion. But beware, for once the damage is too great and the icy hand of death clasps around the heart, not even the properties of the elixir can bring life back.”
Callista closed the book gently.
“Do you see, boys? The elixir, which every person in Alcherys takes at the age of sixteen, gives eternal youth. That is why we never age. It is why I am nearly one hundred and twenty-seven years old. When you come of age, you shall take it too. It makes your body stronger and natural decay does not ravage you. If you are injured and nearly dead, you could be saved by a dose of elixir. If even a single spark of life remains, you can be saved, but once that spark is gone…once you are dead, it cannot bring you back,” she whispered and tears gathered in the corner of her eyes.
“Freya was too far gone…,” Deveron said quietly. Callista nodded, biting her lower lip to stop the trembling.
“There was nothing I could do. It was too late to give her the elixir.”
Soren trembled and began to cry, as the anger he had been holding inside dissipated. He shuffled over to his mother and threw his arms around her, snuggling into her warm embrace. She put her other arm around Deveron and pulled him in close too. When she spoke again, it was in a warm and comforting voice.
“Everything in our lives is mapped out. It has already been decided by forces bigger than us. The Book of Alcherys is proof of that. There was nothing I could do for Freya, nothing any of us could do once she was in the grip of evil. There is only one person to blame for your sister’s death—Vincent Wilder.”
Publishing. The Light and Shadow Chronicles series features a range of books
which can be read in any order. The first of these to be written was A Chronicle of Chaos.
The Shield of Soren will be released in March 2017. She is currently working on the next
novel in the Light and Shadow Chronicles series, The Sins of Silas,
as well as two complementary novellas entitled Genesis of Light and Origin of Shadow.
a psychological thriller set in a dystopian future. The Phoenix
Project was the winner of the 2016 Kindle Book Review Best Sci-Fi
of the creators and administrators of the online author group
#Awethors. Her short story The End was published in Awethology
Dark: an anthology by the #Awethors.
with her husband and young son, and spends her time reading, writing
and reviewing books, playing RPGs and listening to symphonic metal.