In a world where it is normal to fly, what happens when you can’t?
When a plague kills half the Drax population, and leaves the hatchlings of the survivors with a terrible deformity – no wings – suspicion and prejudice follow. Continuously harassed by raids from their traditional enemies, the Koth, the Drax are looking for someone, or something, to blame.
Zarda, an apprentice Fate-seer, is new to her role and unsure of her own abilities; but the death of her teacher sees her summoned by the Drax Prime, Kalis, when his heir, Dru, emerges from his shell without wings.
A vision that Dru will one day defeat the Koth is enough to keep him and the other wingless hatchlings alive – for a time. Half-trained, clumsy, and full of self-doubt, Zarda must train Dru to one day fulfil the destiny she has foreseen for him, even if it is quickly becoming clear that the Prime’s favourite adviser, Fazak, is not only plotting against the wingless, but is gaining more of Kalis’ trust by the day.
Efforts to fight prejudice and superstition are certain to lead to death for some and exile for others; while Zarda’s own journey to understanding her role in events may lead her to abandon all tradition in order to protect her peoples’ future.
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Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Adventure - This book is targeted toward a general audience.
Page Count: 242 pages
Publish Date: August 17, 2018
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing
Hurrying through the Spirax’s eastern entrance in Morel’s wake, I switched to night vision as I followed him through the vast Feasting Hall. I glanced up at the concave ceiling, where huge seatach bones had been positioned to look as though they were keeping the roof in place. I had no time though to stop and admire the effect, or to get more than a cursory whiff of the residue of ancient meals which permeated the walls. The rock underfoot was cool and smooth, bare of any floor covering or furniture since the hall was so rarely used. Only when the next Prime succeeded Kalis would the fires be lit in the huge hearths, and stools and tables be brought from storage. At the far end of the hall, an ornate arched doorway, twice my height and wide enough for me to spread my wings had I been allowed to, led to a wide passageway that curved upward. There were torches here. They lined the walls in burnished copper brackets, and oily smoke wisped around our feet as we toiled upward. Narrower corridors to our right – some lit, most dark – led to rooms in the centre of the edifice, and Vizan had once told me that there was a narrower, stepped corridor further in, which wound the opposite way to the sloping passage Morel and I were clambering up. Apart from a murmuring of voices and clattering of pots as we passed the cooking chambers on the lower levels, the sole sound I could hear was the slough of our feet against the polished black floor – that and my breathing, which was, I was must admit, a little laboured by the time we turned into one of the horizontal passages that took us toward the middle of the rock.
I was grateful for the momentary pause outside the nesting chamber door as Morel knocked and waited. Warm from the climb, I pressed a paw against the smooth passageway wall and opened my mouth to draw cool air over my tongue. It refreshed me a little, but did nothing to quell my anxiety.
I didn’t hear Kalis' command to enter, but obviously Morel did, for he opened the door with a flourish, dipped his ears as he moved into the room, and stepped to one side to allow me to enter the chamber.
“Lord, I regret to report that Vizan is unwell,” he announced. “He sends Zarda as Fate-seer in his place.”
I set my wings and ears to the appropriate angle and bowed low, then straightened up and waited for Kalis’ command.
“Zarda? The apprentice?” Kalis’ voice dripped with disappointment and displeasure, and I had to make a conscious effort to stop my fur standing on end.
The Prime stood beside his nest-mate, Varna, in the middle of the chamber, next to the platform that held the nest – and the egg. Varna, her pale fur bristling with worry, didn’t take her eyes from the egg, but Kalis stood straight, his bulky black-furred frame towering over me. His white tunic glowed in the light of the torches that lined the walls, and the crystals in the badge at his throat sparked red in the torchlight.
“What ails Vizan?” he asked, the words bouncing off the walls in a deep rumble. “Is it the Sickness?”
“No, Lord.” I took one hesitant step forward. “He’s old. He says it is his time.”
“Well, it’s very inconvenient of him.” Kalis' voice became a growl, and I felt that it was not the right moment to point out that Vizan was probably not happy about it either. Kalis grunted, flicked a curt ear, then dismissed Morel with a wave of his paw. The herald bowed and scuttled off, the lay of his ears signalling his relief. “I suppose you will have to do,” said Kalis. “You have the Sight, yes?”
“Yes, Lord.” I almost added that my gift was very slight compared with Vizan’s, that it was not even comparable to the two apprentices who had preceded me. That I had been a poor third choice for Vizan, and had not had time to learn even half of what he had taught his earlier pupils. But they were dead of the Sickness, and I was not, so I clamped my jaw shut on all of that. Kalis was already annoyed – no need to add to his impatience.
"In the tradition of Ursula K. LeGuin and Anne McCaffery, with Unreachable Skies Karen McCreedy has created a nuanced alien culture populated by compelling characters." ~ James Swallow, bestselling author
And here she is...
Brought up in Staffordshire, England, Karen McCreedy now lives in West Sussex where she recently retired from the University of Chichester. She has written articles on films and British history for a number of British magazines including ‘Yours’, ‘Classic Television’, and ‘Best of British’.
Karen has had a number of short stories published in various anthologies. She also won second prize in Writers’ News magazine’s ‘Comeuppance’ competition in 2014 with her short story ‘Hero’.
‘Unreachable Skies’ is her first novel.