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The borders have been closed for 700 years. 

Elias has been arrested for crossing into the forbidden zones. 

Barrak must end his self-imposed exile and return to the city, to get to the bottom of his young friend’s disappearance.

He finds the capital tense with talk of rebellion and security chief, Meldrick; tightening his grip on power.  Allying himself with Jasmyn – the feisty and beautiful astrologer he has known since childhood – Barrak becomes witness to a conspiracy at the core of the military establishment.

But power is not all Meldrick wants …he also wants Jasmyn.

When parliament is suspended and martial law imposed; Barrak and Jasmyn are cast as enemies of the new order. They must flee Eyre.

As they travel east they will learn that humankind has re-invented itself in surprising ways, since the Fall; from gentle hunter gatherers living off the land; to blood-thirsty bandits with an appetite for slaves and flesh. Strangest of all are the aesthetically militaristic easterners whose city is built amongst the ancient ruins of a vast harbour city.

If they can survive ruthless bandits; man-eating predators and the attentions of a charismatic rescuer, turned terrifying monster; they might yet perish in an unforgiving wilderness before reaching their goal.




Publié par
Date de parution 15 octobre 2018
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780648413912
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0015€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Published by Stuart Rosson, 2018
Copyright © Stuart Rosson 2018
The moral right of Stuart Rosson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this publications shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

9780648413905 : Paperback
9780648413912 : ebook - mobi
Cover design and execution by Brendan Downs and Catherine Larsen
Editing, text design and layout by Nan McNab
Printed and distributed by IngramSpark

Thanks to my amazing boys Sam, Luke and Harry, for their enthusiasm, encouragement and ideas; for their steadfast support and love through thick and thin and for always knowing when to drag me off to go surfing. To my sister, Judy for her unswerving support and belief, and to Nan for thoughtfully and patiently plying the magic of her invisible repairs, of which so many were needed, whilst putting up with my tantrums. Endless appreciation to Fran for all her help, encouragement and expertise throughout and to Fiona for her insightful counsel and always being there to listen and advise. Thanks to Suzanne for banishing me for my own good, so I could get on with it, and to Joanne for her early encouragement and Bruce for his interest and early feedback; to Deanne for getting me out of the house to breathe the sea air; and to Mark for showing me the pelicans. Lastly and with utmost sadness to Bill (RIP) for his generous advice, which provided the last vital piece of the puzzle.

For my mother, Nanette

Now he always slept light. A legacy of his nights alone in the desert. Or maybe it was the training camps . . . the pre-dawn starts.
The slightest sound would stir him, but this was no possum on the roof. It sounded like the door was off its hinges, boots stomping in the hall, and he heard his mother’s thin wail of protest.
After so long away, everything in his mother’s house had seemed unaccountably small, but he could still get through the window and drop to the ground in moments. He slid off the sill, landing with a soft crunch on a mound of mulch. Only then did he think about shoes. He scuttled barefoot across the yard and through the wire fence, pausing in the shadow of the lilly pilly.
Up the lane, he could see the manic orange pulse of a military patrol parked in the road. Keeping to the shadows, he bolted down the lane, heading for the scrub, his heart bounding in his chest.
But he didn’t even reach full stride before his legs went from under him, lead weights cracking at his ankles, cords binding his shins. He crash-landed in a muddy puddle from last night’s rain.
Hauling himself up to his hands and knees he found his legs were locked together by the weighted lariat that had felled him and soon he felt the cold hard tip of a sword or crossbow bolt pricking the nape of his neck.
A jaundiced moon danced murkily in the puddle.
‘Elias Arrowsmith?’ The voice was low, hoarse, almost solicitous.
‘You just missed him.’
A boot stomped between his shoulder blades and his face was in the puddle again. He bucked and twisted to take a breath, the mankiness of the mud filling his nostrils. When he blinked away the muck, he saw a thicket of military jackboots all around him. A lone cricket chirruped in the quiet of the night.
‘Try again.’ The same harsh voice, challenging and loud.
‘Who wants to know?’ He coughed and spat.
A dark shape swooped down on him, extinguishing what little light there was.

Chapter 1
Barrak should’ve known something wasn’t quite right.
Was that crisp spring morning a little too perfect? The bay too calm and pristine?
Even though the day had dawned balmy, there had been an electric quality to the air, a barely perceptible threat of calamitous change. Maybe he should’ve consulted the oracle of the heavens and there he would have seen, plain as day, transiting Uranus – that ruthless harbinger of disruption and upset – lurking on the cusp of his fourth house.
But he hadn’t consulted the oracle. He rarely did anymore.
As he watched the sun rising over the bay, he gave himself to the routine of herbal extraction, draining the dark glistening fluid from the spent herbs then adding it to a fresh batch of dried herbs to extract even more of the healing principles.
He walked out onto the small back verandah and up a flight of stairs to the rooftop garden and his beloved chooks. His morning routine: collecting the eggs. At the top of the stairs, did he pause for a few slow, mindful breaths as he gazed out at the sea? Could he have smelled the winds of change in those breaths? Indeed, though he may not have noticed the absence right there and then, he would assert strongly in years to come that there’d been not a single peep from any bird that morning, as he stood on his rooftop surveying the mirrored bay.
And so what should have been an ordinary and forgettable morning was indelibly etched in Barrak’s memory, because nothing was ever the same after that day. And yet, strangely, the image that would persist was the shattered remains of Hilary and Hildergard’s contribution to his never-to-be-eaten breakfast, gooily leaking on the kitchen floor as his front door burst open to reveal a mud-spattered and barefoot Gracie Arrowsmith, struggling to catch her breath and explain her presence to a startled Barrak Brethrenhope – physician and village delegate to the High Council of Tamouer on Eyre.
Fresh tears welled up, and her plump face, normally so vibrant and rosy, was alarmingly pale in the bright morning light of Barrak’s kitchen.
‘Councillor, they’ve taken him—’ she croaked, her voice deserting her at the very moment she needed it most. She swallowed forcefully, willing her voice to return.
‘They’ve taken Elias!’ she blurted out, her voice now morphed into an unearthly, throaty wail, so unlike Gracie’s natural voice it sent a chill through Barrak.
Words tumbled out of her. ‘They came just before dawn, Councillor. My boy, he’s gone! Gods be merciful, what am I to do?’ She sank to her knees as if the stream of words had deflated her. Barrak took her arm and eased her into a nearby chair. A violent shiver ran through her, and he took a blanket from a pile of folded laundry and wrapped it around her.
‘Who? Who’s taken him, Grace?’
She looked up at him, one hand ensnared in a tangle of hair. ‘The Keepers,’ she breathed, as if confiding a dark secret. ‘ They took him. They broke in. He tried to run, but . . . Why would they take him?’ She stamped a muddied foot under the table. ‘What’s he done?’
Gracie stared past Barrak’s shoulder. ‘We thought we’d lost him once before you know, when he ran away as a youngster,’ she confided. ‘Gone those three long years. Given up hope, we had. But then he came back and it was like a miracle. You remember, don’t you, sir? Orlan’s grace, he was so grateful for that job you gave him.’ Gracie smiled briefly. ‘But then he went again . . . Gods, it near broke my heart! Gone again he was for close on two more years.’ She looked desperate, confused.
‘He’d only just come home, just last Sunday. Turned up out of the blue, all growed up and manly, with a beard and all, and full of all kinds of stories as usual . . . But he seemed different somehow . . . older; older than his years.’ She blinked. ‘And then they came . . . the Keepers!’ She eyed Barrak fiercely and sobbed. ‘They beat him senseless, Councillor, those swine! And they took him away . . . What are they going to do to him?’
Barrak rested a big hand on her shoulder as she sobbed, while he struggled with the implications of the news. The Keepers coming and taking someone away? Surely this was the stuff of legend and myth, the sort of scary story a cruel parent might tell a wayward child. It had never actually happened, not to his knowledge, not in his lifetime. The Keepers of the Light of Orlan were certainly a strange mob, a secret society whose origins went back at least three hundred years to the time of the Great Transformation.
But surely today they were now nothing more than a bunch of old men with funny handshakes and secret meetings. Barrak himself had been approached to join, more than once, but it just wasn’t his style.
‘What makes you so sure they were Keepers, Gracie?’
‘It’s what they said, Councillor. And they were military types – had a military patrol parked out the front and all – but when I asked them, “What do you want with him, what’s he done?”, they didn’t say. The nasty-looking one, the leader, he just said, “We are the Keepers of the Light of Orlan.”’
There was a long pause, during which they both stared at Barrak’s old kitchen table, as if its greasy knots might offer some answers. When Gracie spoke again, her voice was touched with a great weariness. ‘Why would they take my boy, Councillor? Why?’
‘I don’t know Grace, but we’re going to find out.’
Abruptly, Gracie’s demeanour changed and a wave of relief, almost excitement, passed over her face. ‘Oh thank you, sir. My Dan said you’d know what to do, being on the High Council and a cquainted with the Lord High Councillor himself. Surely it’s all a mistake, don’t you think Councillor? A horrible mistake, and once they know Elias has done nothing wrong . . . ’
Barrak only half listened as he cleaned up the broken eggs and then made Gracie a tea of chamomile and hops to calm her nerves. He gave her a flask of concentrated tinctures to take home – chamomile, oats and vervain to help her sleep, an

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