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The Beltheron Select

 

Welcome to 'The Beltheron Select' 

 
'The Beltheron Select' is also available. You can buy it here 
If you want to start at the very beginning of the story,'The Beltheron Pathway' is available to buy here.
For a preview of the exciting sequel, read on... 
  raven
 

Prologue

 

It was morning on Atros. The pale sun had been up over the horizon for almost an hour. The early mist which hovered over the lowlands had gone but the chill in the air was still cold enough to reach through to the bones.

If you weren’t moving it felt even colder.

And if you weren’t moving and you were lying on the ground then it felt so cold that the blood seemed as if it had frozen solid in your veins and you wouldn’t be able to get up without crying out in pain as your joints cracked.

The young man hiding in the long grass by the side of the lake knew that if he didn’t move soon, then getting up was going to be very painful indeed.

He gently flexed his toes inside his leather boots and slowly rotated his shoulders to ease the stiffness and to get some of the feeling back into his muscles. His eyes however did not move. They remained focused on the same point in the distance, like a kestrel hovering in the sky manages to keep its head and eyes perfectly still and fixed on the ground below.

 The young man had been staring at that same place for the last two hours.  It was the point where a small clump of trees thinned out on a low hill, and where a narrow road wound across the land towards him.

‘If they are coming today,’ he thought to himself, ‘this is the route that they will take.’

And if they came, he would be waiting for them.

His grip tightened on the handle of his long, silver sword.

The man’s name was Tarawen. He was waiting for the rish, the servants of Gretton Tur the Wild Lord. Tarawen had led a band of rebels on Atros now for over five years. Since the defeat of Gretton Tur, and the collapse of his castle two years before, these rebels had continued to pursue the rish whenever they could.

However, for over eighteen months there had been peace and harmony and Tarawen had become almost like a policeman on Atros; a keeper and protector of this long awaited peace. Even so, Tarawen knew that the rebel gangs still had to keep a close watch on the remaining small bands of rish. There were groups of them who still occasionally scoured the hills and woodlands for food or prisoners.

Therefore Tarawen still kept in regular contact with Cleve Harrow and Lord Ungolin, who were his masters on the land of Beltheron. He kept them informed of any strange activity whenever he might notice it.

Tarawen did all this because the rish were his sworn enemy. They had taken from him all that he had ever loved and held dear. He thought every day about those that he had lost. He hoarded his memories of them. He worried in case the passage of time started to rob him of these memories by making them fade. He didn’t want his revenge to be dulled in any way.

As he waited, Tarawen closed his eyes to summon up the images again. Closing his eyes made it easier to remember. Thinking very hard about his mother, father, and his two sisters made them spring more vividly into his imagination. Tarawen’s mind started to drift away to a time several years before…

 

...It had been a beautiful morning. He had been allowed to go with his father, Goloren, to the market in Atros City for the first time. Usually he was expected to stay at home with his mother and younger sister, Farron, while his older sister, Petron, travelled with his father to help with the purchases that they needed. Petron and his father always came home from these trips with stories of the exciting sights of the city and the people that they had met. They sounded like strange people to young Tarawen’s ears.  Many of them were twice as tall as a man, Petron said, some of them with scaly skins, or tiny figures with sharp features and fur on their faces.

She told him tales of the beggars who dwelt outside, under the eaves of the buildings around the market square, and of their ways of pleading with the merchants for a drink of fresh cold water or a few spare copper coins. But there were also men and women of great wealth who frequented Atros City, beautiful people who moved elegantly, dressed in rich, brightly coloured fabrics.

These descriptions had long fascinated Tarawen and he wished that he was allowed to go with his father to see the sights for himself. His other sister, Farron, bored him. She was two years younger than he was and she always wanted him to join in her silly games with her dolls. He was almost ten years old now and he knew that soon, very soon, the day would come when he was given more responsibility. Then he could help Goloren with more important tasks around the home.

Today’s visit to the market was the first step towards that new responsibility, Tarawen thought. His chest filled with pride as he walked alongside his father. Together they drew closer to the bustling market square. The other traders and merchants scurried around, calling greetings to each other or arguing over prices.

The whole morning passed in a blur for the young Tarawen. He followed his father to a number of stalls; listened as he haggled with other men over the sale of grain; laughed along as his father joked over a beer with his friends in a brightly coloured tent; felt pride swelling up again as he saw the obvious respect and liking for his father in the eyes of everyone there.

It had been a successful day of trading for Goloren and they returned home with pockets heavy with silver and brass coins.

They were over half way there, walking along a dusty track that led up the side of a hill, when his father stopped suddenly. He was staring at some markings on the ground about ten paces ahead. Goloren moved forwards swiftly and dropped down on all fours to take a closer look. Tarawen followed his gaze. The markings looked a bit like hoof prints, he thought.

Tarawen stepped up behind his father and looked down at the large prints in the ground. They were like horse’s hooves, but pointed at the front rather than curving round. There was another, smaller hole in the dust just behind each print that looked as though it might have been made by a sharp spike or claw. His father stood up next to him.

‘Holva prints,’ Goloren said in a low voice. ‘Rish steeds.’

Tarawen looked up at his father and saw that his jaw had set into a firm, angry line.

‘Come, my son, we must get home. Quick as you can now!’

Goloren was already running on ahead. Tarawen hoisted his pack into a more comfortable position on his shoulder and hurried after him.

Before they had gone much further he saw black smoke drifting up on the horizon. It swept up over the brow of the rising hill that led to his home. For a moment his father stopped in his tracks and stared. Then he ran on again, reaching for something in his belt as he did so. Tarawen saw something bright flash in Goloren’s hand. Then he was left behind as his father’s urgency carried him away and up to the brow of the hill.

When he got to the top, Goloren stared down the other side for a brief moment, down towards their home. Then he spun around and waved with his hand to Tarawen who was still struggling up the hill behind him, warning him to get down. The look in his father’s eyes was enough to frighten Tarawen into obeying instantly.

He dropped down into a clump of tall grasses at the side of the path and peered out. His father had turned back to look over the hill again, but his left hand was still stretched out behind him, the fingers splayed, gesturing to Tarawen to stay where he was. In his father’s right hand, Tarawen saw the bright flash again, and this time he could tell that it was a dagger.

Then they heard the scream.

With an anguished cry, Tarawen’s father plunged down the other side of the hill and out of sight.

Tarawen squirmed in fear and frustration. It was maddening not to know what was going on just beyond his reach. His father had told him to stay where he was, but surely it wouldn’t hurt just to take one peek? There was so much noise and uproar on the other side of the rise now that nobody would notice if he just stuck his head out a little way, would they?

Moving as slowly and silently as he could manage, young Tarawen edged his way over the grass. He moved flat on his belly, using his elbows to push himself through the tall stems.

At last he reached the brow of the hill. Cautiously he peeped over the edge and down into the valley below.

The sight that met his eyes filled him with horror and outrage. His home was ablaze and dark smoke billowed from the thatched roof of the farmhouse. Flames flickered through most of the shattered windows. He looked around avidly for any sign of his mother or sisters, but they were nowhere to be seen. There were seven or eight rish galloping around on their terrible holva creatures. The rish themselves had four long arms each, and grey, egg-like heads with small slits for eyes. Their holva were like horses, but with dark skulls and blazing fiery eyes. They had grey scaly skin like a lizard all over their bodies instead of horse hair.

The fences of the corral had been broken in several places and his father’s own horses were running wild. They neighed in fright as the holva galloped madly among them, snapping with their jaws. Even at this distance, Tarawen could see the terrified rolling of the horse’s eyes.

Goloren was already in the fray of fighting and Tarawen felt a quick surge of excitement as he saw his father’s dagger flash quickly among the rish, bringing one of them to the ground. It was immediately clear though that his father could not defeat so many. As Tarawen watched helplessly, one of the largest rish pulled back his bow with his strong upper arms and sent a bolt flying towards Goloren’s heart. Tarawen cried out a warning in anguish, but it was too late. The shaft struck his father squarely between the shoulders. He staggered, and Tarawen heard him gasp with a strange, surprised sound.

His father tumbled to the ground. A second rish, on a dark grey holva, cantered casually towards him as he struggled to get to his feet. The rish raised his curved scimitar above his head and began to swing it down in a wide arc towards Goloren’s neck. Tarawen gasped and spun around, covering his face with his hands so that he would not see.

He remained there, sobbing for long minutes until the fearful battle sounds receded and all that reached his ears was the crackling and popping of the fire that still blazed in the farmhouse.

Tarawen wiped his eyes and took his hands away from his face. He took several deep breaths and stood up. His legs trembled for a few moments, but he steadied himself and turned to walk down the hill towards the remains of his home…

 

...Tarawen blinked a tear from his eye at the memories. He remembered finding his mother and sisters at the back of the house. He remembered covering his father’s body with his own cloak and burying all of them side by side with a simple white stone to mark their graves. He remembered the tears he had shed and the feelings in his heart.  

  On that day he had sworn eternal revenge on the rish and whoever they worked for. He shifted his position again slightly and rotated his shoulders once more. They were stiffening up again.

The sun was now high in the sky. It could take hours yet, or days even, before the rish came.  He knew that, but he didn’t mind the waiting. It was all part of his revenge for what had happened to his family. That revenge would never end until Tarawen himself drew his last breath. He adjusted his position slightly and tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword.

He settled back into the long grass and continued to wait.

 

 
The following extract is taken from a little later in the book. Serrion has been sent back to Earth by Cleve Harrow to spy on the enemies of Beltheron. However, he becomes trapped in the house he has been searching and tries to escape...
 
 

3

Old Friends and New Enemies

 

Serrion spun around in the kitchen. There was no time for him to hide. He could not even get the vial out of his rucksack in time to create a pathway to Beltheron and disappear through it. The footsteps had almost reached the kitchen door.

From across the room he flung his hand out towards the door and it slammed closed. Concentrating all his energy onto the handle he twisted his outstretched fingers swiftly. The metal handle began to melt, fusing the door-catch into the frame, making it impossible to turn from the outside.

The figure running towards the door crashed into it. The noise in the small kitchen was terrifying. Serrion reached into his rucksack for the vial but the zip on the pocket had stuck. He couldn’t get it open!

He could now hear urgent voices behind the door. It seemed that there were two men on the other side. Serrion jumped as a loud bang from the hallway made the door shake; they were trying to kick it down! He turned and ran into the study, picking up a long carving knife from one of the kitchen work surfaces as he rushed past.

As he entered the study, he heard the doorframe behind him crunching and cracking. In moments his pursuers would be through! Swinging the study door closed behind him he locked it with a quick flick of his hand. Even in his frightened, distracted state he noticed immediately that this room had been ransacked. Papers were strewn around the floor and across all the desktops. A tall filing cabinet had been overturned and the drawers forced open. There was no time to wonder or worry about this though. Serrion was already halfway across the study, racing towards the window. The door handle behind him was rattling and the voices were now raised angrily.

‘Stand back!’

‘Hurry up then! Smash it!’

Still running, Serrion put the carving knife into the rucksack and then tucked it tightly under his left arm while stretching his right hand in front of him. The window shattered and in the same moment he jumped through it. Fragments of the glass cut at his face and hands, stinging him sharply, but he was out into the garden.

As he landed he rolled over so that his shoulder could absorb some of the shock, and used the forward momentum to propel himself back onto his feet and into a run.

Ahead of him was a high wall at the bottom of the garden. He knew it led out onto an alleyway that was usually only used as an access to the garages of the houses opposite. Most of the people in the street worked during the day so right now the alleyway was likely to be empty. He swung the rucksack back over his shoulder as he ran, so that he could leave both hands free to climb over the wall.

He was only a few metres away from it, and preparing to jump, when a small, pink camellia bush nearby exploded into flames. He glanced back and saw his two pursuers standing at the broken window of the study. One had his arm outstretched and there was a thin, metallic object in his fingers. It flared briefly and Serrion ducked and rolled once more. The shot missed him and blew a large hole in the garden wall. Grunting with extra effort, Serrion dashed towards it, leaping through the gap just as a third blast detonated by his ear, sending more brickwork into the air and stinging his face with flecks of stone and cement.

Serrion turned to his left and hurried down the long alleyway. His eyes looked desperately left and right, trying to find an opening. He knew it could only be a matter of moments before his pursuers were through the window and running down the garden after him.

Up ahead he saw a garage with an up-and-over door that had been left open. He hurled himself towards it, hoping that the owner wasn’t inside.

He ran into the garage, risking a quick look behind him as he did. He was relieved to see that his pursuers still hadn’t reached the alleyway. They wouldn’t have seen him run in here! That might give him a few extra seconds.

Crouching down on the floor of the garage he slung his rucksack off his back and reached inside for the knife. He ripped at the fabric of the pocket with it until he could get at the vial of liquid. As his fingers reached into the pocket he groaned with dismay. His hand came out sticky and wet; the vial had smashed! The liquid that would allow him to create a pathway had soaked into the fabric of the rucksack. He couldn’t use it to escape!

Getting up he silently crept to the open garage door and peered out. He expected that it was now too late to run off through the alleyway without being seen.

It was just as he had feared. The two men chasing him were now in the alleyway and were looking up and down it. They were both tall and looked burly and strong. They were dressed in black leather jackets over dark coloured sweaters and trousers. Every inch of them looked unfriendly and dangerous.

The two men began making their way along the alley, looking into dustbins and rattling the handles of the other garages, checking to see if any were open. Luckily, as yet, they had not noticed his hiding place. But Serrion knew he only had a minute, at best, before they did.

Serrion shrank back into the shadows of the garage. He looked around to see if there was any other way of escape. There was a door at the other end of the garage. He thought that it must open out into the garden of the people who lived here. He stepped towards the door, holding out his hand to unlock it.

Just as he did so he heard voices from the other side of the door. People were coming down the garden path! Serrion froze. His eyes darted around the garage to see if there was any place to hide. Most garages, he remembered, were filled with all sorts of rubbish, tools and large, empty boxes that might have helped to hide him; ironically, this garage was neat and tidy. With the threatening men behind him in the alleyway and more people on the other side of the garage door there was nowhere to go. He was trapped!
 
Make sure you find out what happens next! Order your copy of 'The Beltheron Select here.
 
 


 

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