Extract from Joshua Palmatier's REAPING THE AURORA

Here's an extract from Joshua Palmatier's soon-to-be-released Reaping the Aurora, compliments of the folks at Daw Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Final book in Joshua Palmatier's epic fantasy trilogy, set in a sprawling city of light and magic fueled by a ley line network.

In a world torn apart by the shattering of the magical ley lines that formerly powered all the cities and towns of the Baronies, there are few havens left for the survivors. The uncontrolled distortions released by the shattering have claimed the main cities of the Baronial Plains. And many of the Wielders who controlled the ley died in the apocalyptic cataclysm their manipulation of the ley created.

Wielder Kara Tremain and former Dog Allan Garrett, survivors of the city of Erenthrall’s destruction, have seized control of the new Nexus created at the distant temple known as the Needle, the stronghold of the White Cloaks and their leader, Father Dalton. With Father Dalton a prisoner, Kara intends to use the Needle’s Nexus to heal the major distortions that threaten to shake their entire world apart.

But while she and the remaining Wielders managed to stabilize Erenthrall, they have not been able to stop the auroral storms or the devastating earthquakes sweeping across the lands. Now they are hoping to find a means to heal the distortion at the city of Tumbor, releasing the nodes captured inside. If they succeed, the ley network should be able to stabilize itself.

But the distortion over Tumbor is huge, ten times the size of the one over Erenthrall. Kara will need the help of all of the Wielders at the Needle in order to generate enough power, including the rebel White Cloaks. But can Kara trust them to help her, or will the White Cloaks betray her in order to free Father Dalton and regain control of the Needle, possibly destroying any chance of healing the ley network in the process?

Meanwhile, Allan journeys back to Erenthrall, hoping to form alliances with some of the survivors, only to discover that Erenthrall itself has sunk a thousand feet into the ground. The vicious groups that plagued them on their last visit have banded together under a new leader—Devin, formerly Baron Aurek’s second-in-command. While discussing an alliance with the Temerite enclave, Devin’s men attack, forcing Allan and the Temerites to flee back to the Needle, leaving Erenthrall in Devin’s hands.

But the Needle is no safe haven. Father Dalton’s followers have begun to rebel, starting riots and creating unrest, all of it targeted at Kara and the Wielders. The tensions escalate beyond control when Father Dalton declares he’s had a vision—a vision in which the Needle is attacked from the north by dogs and from the south by snakes; a vision that ends with the quickening of the distortions called the Three Sisters to the north . . . and the annihilation of reality itself!


“What did you find?”

Grant had barely emerged from the gray shadows of dawn, but Allan had been watching for him. The large man huffed as he stalked forward, his furred face creased with a scowl of worry. Allan’s eyebrows rose when five Wolves emerged from the darkness behind him. “Two more of our brethren. There were others, but they fled like prey.” His lip curled in disdain. “We will find them.”

“What about the Gorrani?”

“We hunted their old territory but they were not there. Their scent is strong in that area though, and in the part of the old city that used to be trapped in the distortion nearby.” His gaze shifted toward where the rest of the camp had begun to rouse, Gaven already cooking by the heat stone, Bryce’s men donning swords as they ate. “Are we moving?”

“Any idea where the Gorrani went?” Allan countered.

Grant returned his attention to the ex-Dog. “To the cliffs to the south. We could see their fires.”

“Will they be a problem?”

“Not if we skirt their territory. They are foraging, like rabbits.”

“Then, yes, we’re moving.” Allan spun back to the camp, giving Bryce a signal, the Dog calling out orders. The activity in the camp picked up, everyone scarfing down what they could, Gaven scrambling to collect everything and load the wagons.

“We aren’t staying here?” Grant asked.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it back, so we’re taking everything with us. I don’t trust Erenthrall anymore.”

Within twenty minutes, they left the three story building behind, dawn’s light pulling the ruins of Erenthrall from the shadows. Grant’s Wolves vanished, although their pack leader stayed with Allan. Bryce sent out scouts ahead. They headed straight toward where Kara had described the shard she’d left behind, even though it would take them through part of the released section of the city.

They reached the churned up edge of the circle where the distortion had been by noon without encountering anyone. The demarcation between the earthquake-cracked roadway and the utter destruction caused by the distortion’s collapse was dramatic. The road simply cut off, the ground inside the collapse splintered and broken, granite sliced into random blocks and thrown into a haphazard pile. The rubble had been dragged toward the center of the distortion—toward Grass—churned into a heap a hundred feet wide before Kara had managed to heal the distortion from within. Gaven groaned when he saw the pile of stone, but a quick glance to either side revealed that there would be no going around it. The residue of debris arced off in either direction, nearly uniform in height. The only option was to climb over.

They cleared the worst of the shattered stone, creating a narrow path for the horses and wagons, then continued onwards, losing an hour of time. But once they’d passed inside the ring, spirits improved. This part of Erenthrall had been caught inside the distortion and hadn’t been affected by the quakes. Buildings were more intact, the damage caused by the Shattering. Bryce sent out his enforcers to scour the closest buildings as they moved, most reporting back that many of the homes and businesses hadn’t been looted yet.

Then they crossed a threshold, the tenor of the buildings changing. Allan thought at first that they’d passed into a new district, the stone of the cobbles and the surrounding buildings suddenly ancient, his skin prickling with age. He drew in a deep breath of unease, the air tainted with dust and decay, the scent thickening.

“What happened here?” Bryce asked, drifting closer to Allan as they progressed.

They passed a reddish-brown building, the stone façade sliced diagonally across two floors. The stone below the slice was a vibrant color, that above faded as if bleached by sunlight.

Allan grunted in sudden understanding. “This section was in one of the shards where time ran faster. The bleached stone feels older because it is.”

Bryce shuddered and unconsciously picked up his pace.

They slipped from the decaying stone into a new section.

A few hours later, they neared an area where all of the buildings were shrouded in a fine layer of spider’s silk. The enforcers clustered about the wagons as they slid past, the horse’s snorting and stamping their feet, eyes wide in fear. Holes penetrated the layered silk, boring through doorways and windows into darkness. Staring into those depths, Allan’s skin crawled, his palms suddenly clammy. Something deep in the darkness shifted with the scrape of skittering feet and a section of the webbing trembled, although Allan saw nothing.

Beside him, Grant bared his teeth and growled, the sound a low, dangerous rumble in his chest. “Don’t go any closer,” he said, his voice low and quiet. “It’s watching us.”

They edged beyond, Allan not relaxing until they’d turned a corner and the eerie tenements fell from sight. “What was it?”

“Men were transformed into more than Wolves after the Shattering.”

They never entered Grass, passing by the truncated towers a few districts away. But dusk began to fall before they were near the ring of destruction on the far side of Erenthrall. Allan ordered a halt and they camped in the gardens of what was once a lord’s manse, behind its walls. Once again, they could see firelight to the northeast, closer now. To the south, fires lined the walls of the cliffs that surrounded the city, Allan marking the Gorrani’s location. Overnight, howls broke the quiet, Grant and the other Wolves perking up, the two newest members pacing near the wrought iron gates of the wall and whining. Ley light also punctuated the darkness, some sections near Grass glowing with a low steady pulse, others throughout the city sputtering fitfully. Most were mere pinpricks, like stars.

“We didn’t see any of those ley lights last night,” Allan commented.

Dylan pointed toward the steady section. “Those were likely blocked from view by Grass.”

“They’re near where the Temerites were camped before the distortion was healed.”

“The Temerites might have Wielders. They could have stabilized the ley once the nodes were freed. They might be actively using the ley again.”

“What about the other lights?”

“Ley lines that were left open at the Shattering are now active again because their connections to the inner nodes have been restored. The ley runs where it can. If ley globes were attached to its flow and left on, they’d light up again, assuming they survived the surge. They won’t be glowing as strongly now though. The Nexus isn’t there to augment the strength of the ley.”

Allan thought about all of the lights that had once lit the city, recalling the web of ley lines he’d seen from the hills over a year before, how the city had glowed in the darkness of the plains with a strange brilliant beauty.

The glow of ley he saw now was nothing compared to that.

The next morning, they followed the edge of the river, crossing it eventually on a cracked but still standing stone bridge. The waters flowed dark beneath them.

Then they climbed the distortion’s ring of debris and entered into the territory near where Allan, Kara, and their previous group had run into the Tunnelers and the Rats. Bryce stepped forward, taking the lead, and Allan let him, knowing the Dog knew how to handle his men. With Dylan’s help, they angled toward where the shard containing the trapped Wolves and the family they had been chasing stood, moving slowly, everyone on edge. But they saw no one and heard nothing.

They entered the square where the shard glowed with a faint orange-pink light, even beneath the sunlight. Bryce barked out orders and the enforcers spread out around the square as Allan, Grant, Dylan, and the wagons pulled up alongside the shard. Stepping up to its edge, Allan could see the cart trapped inside, the man who drove it tensed in grim determination, the horses lathered with sweat, eyes wide in terror. Another man, a woman, and two children cowered in the cart behind him, three Wolves hounding the cart from behind, caught in mid-snarl. When they’d been here last, Kara, Dylan, Artras, and Carter had healed the shards that surrounded this section. But they’d been unable to free the people trapped here, because it would also free the Wolves.

And because this shard was really composed of multiple pieces, some of which sliced through the woman, the small boy she clutched to her chest, the driver’s legs, and the horses.

“Can you release them?” Allan asked as he felt Dylan halt beside him.

The Wielder sucked in a deep breath. “I’ll have to heal the breaks inside the shard first, otherwise it will cut those poor people in half. Then I’ll release the shard. Which means the Wolves will be freed at the same time.”

From behind, Grant said, “I’ll handle the Wolves.” He whistled, the sound sharp, and all five Wolves loped out of the shadows of the surrounding buildings, trotting towards them. Allan hadn’t even realized they were that close.

Grant turned back to Allan. “Tell us when you’re ready.”

Allan signaled Bryce, the enforcers drawing in closer around the shard, Gaven and his crew stepping down from the wagons as well. Bryce’s men focused their attention outwards, while Gaven and the Wolves focused on the trapped people and Wolves.

“Whenever you’re ready, Dylan.”

The Wielder licked his lips, then closed his eyes. Allan stepped back, keeping his distance. He knew he could affect the ley in odd ways and didn’t want anything to interfere with the release of the shard. But he tensed, ready to charge forward as soon as the shard released.

Nothing happened at first, until Allan noticed that the fractures inside the shard were slowly fading. The face that cut through the people and the horses dissolved, sinking back on itself, toward a focal point to the right of the cart. Sweat broke out on Dylan’s forehead as he worked, a droplet trickling down to drip from his nose. He raised a trembling hand—

And then the entire shard collapsed. Screams, snarls, and the desperate shouts from the driver slammed into the silent square as the cart leaped forward. The Wolves in pursuit lurched forward as with a splintering crack one of the cart’s wheels faltered. The cart sagged sideways, spilling the woman and the boy she clutched to the cobbles, her scream cut off. The man in the bed clutched at the headboard with one arm, roaring in defiance as he snatched for the girl and missed. She tumbled out a breath after her mother as the bed’s corner struck stone and jerked sideways. One of the horses screamed as they fought the suddenly cumbersome weight, the entire rear axle cracking, the second wheel spinning off to the side.

Allan darted forward, heading toward the girl. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gaven and the others doing the same. They’d known they’d only have seconds before the Wolves would be on them, even before the wheel gave in.

Even those few seconds wouldn’t have been enough if it hadn’t been for Grant and his own Wolves.

Before Allan had made it halfway to the girl, a blur of gray fur sped before him and launched itself at the snarling Wolves in pursuit. Eyes fixed on the girl, Allan heard two heavy bodies slam into each other, a vicious snarl cut off with a sharp, startled yip, which instantly devolved into a mess of thrashing growls. He snatched the girl—no more than six—from the street, dragging her to his chest in a protective huddle, then shouted “I’ve got the girl!” before sprinting across the space toward where some of Bryce’s enforcers waited on the far side. As soon as he passed their line, he spun, breath heaving.

Behind, Bryce was dragging the woman and her son, younger than the girl, back from the edge of a snarling mass of Wolf teeth and claws. Grant’s pack had attacked the three Wolves that had been in pursuit of the cart and blood now slicked the cobbles. Grant had stayed back, although he stepped forward as soon as Bryce, the woman and child, and the rest of their men retreated from the fray.

A low growl churned up from his chest, building in intensity until it cracked and broke into a shouted, “Enough!”

Grant’s pack broke free of the fight, twisting and rolling out of their attackers’ reach, pulling back in a rough circle. Some of them were blooded, teeth and claw marks on their sides. One of them limped slightly. All of them had teeth bared and were growling.

The three Wolves left rolled into defensive stances, fur bristled across shoulders, lips drawn back. Their feral eyes glared at their fellow Wolves before latching onto Grant.

One of them stepped forward, head lowered, body bracing for a leap.

Grant barked out a command, mostly snarls, and the two Wolves behind their leader flinched. The leader didn’t.

The girl in Allan’s arms began to struggle. He loosened his hold and shot a glance toward where the cart had headed, glad to see Gaven and a few of the others had the panicked horses under control but were keeping their distance. The two men in their midst looked confused, but he trusted Gaven to handle it and turned back to the Wolves.

Grant stepped forward, to within arm’s reach of the lead Wolf, and knelt down. The Wolf’s growl deepened and one paw stepped forward.

Without warning, Grant’s hand snapped forward and cuffed the Wolf hard enough to shove him to the side.

Those watching gasped. The Wolf’s head snapped back, teeth flashing. But Grant’s hand wasn’t there anymore. The Wolf’s jaws closed on air and Grant cuffed him again from the other side. He yelped this time, rounding on Grant again. The two stared at each other, until the Wolf leader’s rumbling growl of defiance broke off and he dropped his head with a plaintive whine and attempted to lick Grant’s hand.

Tension leeched out of the square as Grant stood and gave Allan a curt nod. Allan sighed, then glanced down toward the girl in his arms.

She looked up at him with wide-eyed curiosity, her eyes a penetrating green, her hair a silky yellow, like corn tassels. Blood had beaded along a scrape on one cheek where she’d struck the cobbles while falling from the cart, another more serious scrape along one forearm, but she didn’t appear to notice either one.

“Are you here to save us from the ley?” she asked.

Allan strode toward the girl’s mother, who stood next to Bryce, her face locked in shock. That transformed as soon as she saw Allan and her daughter.


She stumbled forward, snatching the girl from Allan’s arms and kneeling down to set both the boy and girl on the ground as she kissed their foreheads and checked them over for injuries.

Bryce had come up behind her. “Looks like we managed that. Now what?”

“Now we regroup and find a place to settle in for the night.”

He glanced warily at the Wolves, Grant and the others still surrounding the three new additions, although they weren’t bristling at each other anymore. “We should probably keep them separate, don’t you think? Until we know if the newest ones are going to follow Grant’s lead?”

“Not a bad idea.”

He raised his fingers to his lips. A piercing whistle and hand wave called Gaven and the two men released from the shard toward them, one of the men crouching down beside what Allan assumed was his wife, hugging her and the two children close as he broke into tears.

The other man—the driver of the cart—stood over them, arms crossed, eyeing Bryce, Gaven, and the rest as they converged back on their own wagons.

His gaze finally settled on Allan, mouth downturned with unease, tainted with suspicion. “Who are you people?”

“Survivors of the Shattering … and the healing of the distortion.” Allan could tell the words meant little to him.

“That man, Gaven, said we were trapped in the distortion. That you freed us.”

“Yes. We would have freed you sooner, but we couldn’t with the Wolves attacking you. They were caught in the distortion as well. It’s taken us a few months to get back to you.”

“Months.” The man fidgeted uncertainly, glancing around at the surrounding buildings, the cliffs, the ring of debris caused by the distortion not that far away, broken only by the section where Kara and the others had healed shards before it had started to collapse. “He said we were trapped in the distortion for over a year.”

“Yes. A lot has happened since the distortion quickened.”

“So it would seem.”

The second man finally released his wife, both of them standing, although the woman held both of the children close to her side.

“Forgive my brother,” the man said, extending his hand. Allan hesitated, then shook it. “He’s always been untrusting. I want to thank you all for saving us from the Wolves.” He laughed, the sound shaky, as if he were barely holding on to sanity. “From our perspective, you simply appeared out of thin air. One moment we were alone, running for our lives, the next—there you were!”

“Charles, hush,” the woman said, grabbing onto his arm to calm him. But she turned to Allan with a thin smile. “We are grateful, whatever has happened.”

Charles’ brother suddenly tensed. He nodded toward one side of the square and said, “You have company.”

Before Allan could turn, one of the enforcers cried out in alarm. Bryce’s men formed up around the wagons as on the far side of the square a group of a dozen men emerged from one of the streets, creating a short wall between the buildings to either side. Archers trained arrows on them, but no one fired. Three men passed between the archer’s ranks, stepping out before them, then halted. Allan couldn’t tell who they were at this distance. The Tunneler’s? Temerites? Another group?

The fact that they hadn’t already attacked told him they weren’t Rats.

“Get your family to the wagons,” Allan said, not bothering to look back to see if Charles and the rest were complying as he stalked toward where Bryce and the enforcers stood. Grant and his Wolves remained clustered to one side, their attention fixed on the newcomers.

“That didn’t take long,” Bryce said as he approached.

“Can you see who they are?”

“Not at this distance.”

“Stay here. It looks like they want to talk.”

Bryce sucked in a breath to protest, but Allan was already walking across the square. He flicked orders to Grant with one hand, the pack leader nodding once in acknowledgment.

Then he focused on the group ahead. As he drew closer, he relaxed slightly. The lead figure was obviously Temerite, the thin face and neatly trimmed beard a dead giveaway. Most of the others sported the same beards. They were dressed in the armor he’d seen the guards of the Temerite nobles who’d visited Erenthrall using, although then it had gleamed. Now the polish had worn off, the uniforms obviously blemished from hard use. Pieces had been replaced with whatever could be found at hand. Even the leader’s uniform—slightly more embellished but still practical—showed wear.

Allan halted ten paces away from the leader, acutely aware that at least four of the arrows were trained on him.

He and the Temerite eyed each other for a tense moment. Then the Temerite’s eyes flicked toward the rest of Allan’s group in the square. “That was impressive. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to release the family for months now.” His attention returned to Allan, his gaze hardening. “What group are you with and what are you doing here in our district?”

0 commentaires: