Broomrider - The Wyrms of Pasandir will be the first in a standalone sequel to 'Lioness'.
Twenty-five years after the happenings in Lioness of Kell, Maud and Jurgis, Basil and Yarwan and all the others are married with children.
This is the story of the next generation, and their friends. The story of Kellani, daughter to Maud and Jurgis; of Naudin, son to Yarwan and Basil, and Siolde his mother; and of Eskandar, the strange ship's boy with unexpected powers.
‘CHAPTER ONE - ESKANDAR
‘Out of my way, bilge rat!’ the first officer snarled as he pushed past me on the sloop’s crowded quarterdeck.
I shuffled my feet and mumbled ‘Aye aye, sir’. Idiot, I thought, irritated. You’re a boor, Lieutenant Wylmer; a flat-footed imbecile. I had totally had it with the Tipred sloop, her first lieutenant and the endless days of choking heat on this useless patrol.
Around us the sea was still and the wind dead as a six days old corpse. To starboard, the shimmering line of the Hellesands desert coast seemed glued to the sky and the dullness of it all made me want to scream.
I shifted my weight from one tired foot to another and leaned my back against the railing. Stand still, curse you! I watched Wylmer’s enormous bulk pass four feet away and fumed in silence. I’d been on duty since sunrise and after nearly six hours dodging my officer’s booted feet all I wanted was my hammock.
‘You’re just lazy, boy,’ Teodar said in my head.
‘I’m not!’ I knew he was teasing me, so I sent him a funny picture of me being terribly exhausted.
He snickered. ‘Slouch!’
‘It’s hot,’ I complained. Teodar didn’t answer. Of course he didn’t; voices don’t feel the heat. Still, just knowing he was there made me feel better. Teodar’s bodiless voice had whispered to me for as long as I could remember. At first I’d thought he was a ghost living inside my skull somewhere. I even asked him once, all seriously. He laughed in my face and teased me with ghostly boo’s in the middle of the night for the next week. It was funny, but he never did tell me what he was and why he was helping me of all people.
I didn’t complain. Teodar was the one who’d practically raised me. He wasn’t all that much older than me, but he knew everything. He taught me magic, watched over me and kept me company. I don’t think I would have survived without him.
I felt another drop of sweat run down my back. If I’d been alone, I would have raised my mage shield, the invisible force field would keep the heat at bay, but people would notice its bulk on a crowded quarterdeck. With my dark gray skin I didn’t have to worry much about sunburn, but the sweat on my neck had dried to a horrible itch. Almost ritually, I scratched at it with the hook I have for a right hand, and wished I could scratch at the boredom as well. Here we were, nearly a week out from Dvarghish Harbor, and not a single a ship sighted.
The lieutenant shifted his bulk again, and I eyed him warily. It wouldn’t be the first time those heavy boots of his mashed my toes.
Suddenly, a flash of sky-blue uniform on the companion-ladder and a hearty laugh froze the lieutenant in mid-step. My exhaustion evaporated as the broomrider set foot on the quarterdeck.
We all stepped aside to make room for our passenger, Broomrider Kellani of the Kell. She was a powerful girl with straight, short hair, a hawkish nose and a grin that nailed me to the deck planking as she lifted one reddish-brown hand in a salute.
There haven’t been many girls in my boy’s life; only the little shrews at the orphanage who were as horrible as the little bullyboys. I avoided both like the plague.
Then I joined the navy. The Tipred had a mixed crew, but all female sailors were ancient; way past twenty. That made the arrival on board of a tough girl of my own age a Major Event. Especially one who was both nice to look at and one of those awesome broomriders. She was much bigger ‘n me, but I’m used to that. I’m disgustingly small for my fifteen years. “Skinny little beast,” the nice orphanage keepers used to call me.
I peered around the lieutenant’s back; hoping beyond hope the girl would notice I existed. Most people didn’t.
I must’ve breathed or something, for she saw me and winked. Navy discipline went by the board, and I grinned back like a maniac.
‘Strange ship at forty-one!’ The hoarse cry from the masthead made us all jump. The girl craned her neck, but then she must’ve realized the other ship wasn’t visible from the deck yet, for she smiled ruefully. Her hand went to the crooked broomstick on her back, and for a moment she looked about to fly away and investigate.
Then she relaxed as another cry followed the first.
‘Ship’s a threemaster barkentine; Ahaude, out of Dvarghish.’
I knew Ahaude. She was a Kell ship, a coal carrier. Like us, she’d be bound for Port Naar, the navy outpost on the desert coast.
The broomer caught my eye and gave a rueful smile. Maybe she’d also hoped for something exciting, like pirates.
I gave her a slight shrug and an apologetic grin. Welcome to the Tipred. Nothing ever happens here.
Lieutenant Wylmer had his usual moment of indecision. Big body, slow mind.
‘Let’s check up on her, Quartermaster,’ he said finally. ‘Show the navy’s presence.’
The petty officer was a stolid type, a real seaman, and he saluted without showing his thoughts.
‘Aye aye, sir.’ He relayed the order to the helmsman beside him, and the Tipred turned to intercept the big coaler.
Wylmer looked around the quarterdeck. ‘Where’s the little runt?’
Another of his little games, I thought, exasperated. I’m at my post, fool; right behind you. Where else would I be?
Wylmer turned, his puffy face scowling like a rabid pug dog.
‘What do you think you’re doing, ratface? Stop hiding and warn the captain I’m changing course.’
‘Aye aye, sir.’ Knowing the broomer’s eyes on me, I gave the lieutenant my No. 1 salute. He scowled suspiciously, but couldn’t find fault with it.
Without looking, I skirted his bulk and sprang down the companion-ladder to the main deck and Captain Malkim’s great cabin.
‘Watch out!’ Teodar shouted in my head.
Only then I saw the Old Man was already on his way aft and I froze in mid-jump.
A strong brown hand grabbed my collar and pulled me up before the unthinkable could happen.
The captain stepped onto the quarterdeck and halted in front of me. My cheeks burned as I urged the planking to burst open and swallow me.
Old Man Malkim didn’t say anything. He just raised an eyebrow at me dangling from the broomer girl’s big fist. Hurriedly, I brought up my iron hook in salute.
‘First-officer’s-compliments-sir-and-he’s-changing-course,’ I gargled, slowly choking to death in the girl’s grip.
‘I see,’ was all Captain Malkim said. ‘Thank you.’ With a nod, he walked over to the wheel.
Status: Work-in-Progress: ca. 48.000 words - Out for Beta Read.
Expected Publication Date: Summer 2016