Today I'm excited to be able to share the cover for the fifth book in the Legacy of Androva series! Scroll down past the book's description for a look at the prologue and first chapter.
“What happened to you? You look
terrible. It’s not the sickness, is it?”
Varun shook his head. He was
deathly pale. In the low light of the underground workshop even his hair
looked white. I glanced at Garrett, who frowned.
“You should have told us you were
testing again,” Garrett said. “We could have helped.”
Garrett was exhausted. We all were.
The sickness had killed so many of us. There were almost no elders left. Our
parents were long gone.
The three of us had been the best
magicians at the Academy. Friends and rivals. As close as brothers.
We’d been searching for a cure ever
since it started. But all we’d managed to do so far was slow it down.
“I didn’t need your help. I figured
it out on my own.”
“You figured out what?”
His eyes gleamed.
“I can stop it. I can stop the
“What?” said Garrett
“But… how?” I added. “I thought we
didn’t have enough magic left. All the spells we’ve tried lately haven’t
“I found a new energy source.”
“How does it work? Show us!”
Garrett and I were speaking over
each other in our excitement. The first hope I’d felt in months was sharp and
“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll show you. We
have plenty of time. We’re going to live forever.”
Silence. I thought I’d misheard,
but his expression was ominously serious. The back of my neck prickled.
“What did you say?” asked Garrett
“You heard me.”
“But… that’s more than a cure,” I
said. “We can’t change the balance between life and death. I don’t want to live
“Don’t you? Pity. I could have
guessed you’d say that. Cal the do-gooder. Always on the side of what’s right.”
I stepped backwards. This was
getting very weird, very fast.
“Look, Varun—” Garrett said, but he
“No. You do what I say now.
Now and forever. Both of you. All of you!”
Chapter One - My First Gathering
The beginning of it all was
completely unremarkable. My life-giver was an ordinary Breeder. I don’t
remember her, obviously. She was long gone before I was old enough for the
first memory to stick in my head.
I’ll go forward six years. I knew
my place by then. The rules of Imberan society were brutal, but we could depend
on them. Opta rule, Exta serve. Until our skills reached their permitted level:
developed enough to be worth donating, but not powerful enough to be a threat.
Nice word that, isn’t it, donating?
Makes it sound like we offered our skills to a worthy cause. They were stolen,
along with everything else keeping us alive.
When I was old enough, I was
assigned to a unit. The Opta sorted us according to personality and skills so that
each unit had a balance of each. They admire uniformity.
I suppose that’s why they all look
the same. White-haired, white-skinned ghosts. Not that I’ve ever seen a ghost.
But I imagine they’d be like faded copies of real people.
My unit looked after the city’s
buildings. We were the lowest of the low. Repairing and cleaning. No job too
degrading. And I was a Worker, not a Thinker. Which put me right at the bottom
of the pile.
Before I was old enough to wonder
why we allowed the Opta to treat us that way, I knew the answer. We outnumbered
them ten to one, and yet they had all the power.
A word, that’s all it took to
activate the process. The Initiation Word. We didn’t know what it was, and we
all lived in fear of hearing it. Workers couldn’t read, and we couldn’t write,
but we could still be afraid of that word.
It was worse for Thinkers. Reading
and writing was their thing. Stumbling across the Initiation Word by accident
was something that showed up in Thinker nightmares regularly.
There was a timetable according to
age. We were supposed to be safe until our names appeared on the list.
But sometimes the Opta said that
word as a punishment. It didn’t take much to annoy them. It never made sense to
me when I was younger. They were our masters, with the best of everything
Imbera had to offer, and yet they were so discontented.
I didn’t get it then, but I do now.
They weren’t discontented. They just wanted us to be afraid of their anger. It
amused them to invent reasons to punish us.
There I was, six years old and
joining my unit. I remember being excited at leaving the childstation. I was so
trusting back then. So stupid. I actually believed that things might not
be as bad as they seemed. That I had plenty of time to change the world before
anything happened to me.
My “brother” was called Garrett. He
was twelve. He’d be my brother for the next six years, until he was eighteen.
Then I’d be twelve, and I’d get my own brother to look after.
“I’ll call you Cal for now,” he
told me. “You’ll have to grow into that name of yours.”
He was so angry at first. His grey
eyes were like storm clouds. I didn’t realise he’d just lost his older brother
to the Gathering. I thought it was my fault. Those first few days I carried
rocks until my hands were bleeding, I was so desperate to win his approval.
“Cal,” he told me, sighing with
frustration. “You have to pace yourself. There’s not going to be any less work
tomorrow if you do more today.”
He wrapped my hands in faded strips
of blue cloth torn from an old shirt. He tied the knots very tight, and I
remember trying not to flinch. I didn’t know it, but he’d intended to hate
me. And he wanted me to hate him too.
But I followed him around like a
miniature shadow. No matter how much he scowled at me, I was determined to be
friends with him. I guess I wore him down.
The brother/sister pairing system
in the units wasn’t just for teaching and learning. It made us care about each
other. Caring made us vulnerable, and the Opta knew that. Garrett was trying to
defy the system when he pushed me away.
Our unit, being buildings
maintenance, was nearly all Workers. But we had an allocation of two Thinkers
to help us plan our tasks more efficiently.
Life settled into a pattern of work
and sleep. There were never quite enough Exta to go around, so the workload was
heavy. It was deliberate. The breeding programme produced no more than the city’s resources could
sustain, which also happened to be slightly less than the workload required.
The sky was dark for three days out
of every four. On the fourth, the red sun rose slowly in the sky, and the Opta
stayed inside. We were allowed to work a shorter day.
In those precious hours, we could
talk to each other without being overheard, and the future seemed less bleak.
When we were feeling brave, we met up with other units and talked about what we
might do if we were ever free.
“I would eat all day long and sleep
in a proper bed!” I said. My young age kept my dreams simple.
“I would speak to who I want,” said
one of the older boys, throwing a stone away from him forcefully. Dervan had
just been assigned to road repairing. Permanently. This was his punishment for
striking up a forbidden conversation with a girl from another unit while they
were both on cleaning duty.
I didn’t get what was so great
about girls then. I thought Dervan was mad. But some of the other boys nodded
“I’d build a boat and try to find
out if that shape in the water is another city,” offered Talik, the oldest
member of our unit. “Maybe the Opta don’t live there.” He was counting down the
days until his eighteenth birthday, and his eyes flashed with a mixture of
suppressed rage and sharp fear.
“What would you do?” I asked
“Discover. Learn. Negotiate.
Rebuild this world into something decent.” Rude laughter and shouted insults
greeted this. Garrett ignored them.
He became my best friend. I
hero-worshipped him. I grew taller than the other boys my age, and stronger,
but he never called me Callax. As long as I was Cal, we could pretend that we
weren’t both getting older.
In time, the boys in the unit
looked up to him too. He was a natural leader. Smart enough to be a Thinker and
a Worker, but that was against the rules. It was not permitted to have too many
skills in one Exta. He was just a Worker, quietly doing what he could to
protect the weaker boys in our unit.
We lived in the caves, when we
weren’t working. It was miserable. Those hours in the sunlight prevented us
from being as pale as our Opta rulers, but it was never quite enough.
I always felt like chasing the sun
to the distant horizon when it disappeared from the sky, hoping that it might come
back if I wished hard enough. Did I mention how stupid I was back then?
The city was built on a rocky
island in the middle of a giant ocean. The buildings were piled into the
available space, like stone boxes. The ocean kept us trapped as much as the
Opta did. Talik never got to build his boat, of course.
The years passed, and boys came and
went. As long as Garrett was there, I felt like I could handle anything. Then I
turned ten years old, which meant that I was required to attend the Gatherings.
Two or three times a week, for the rest of my life. The reality of being an Exta
hit me like a rock to the chest.
We lined up in rows in the central
square, outside the ruling house. It was taller and grander than the others,
extending five stories high. And that’s not counting the statue.
All of the other buildings looked
the same from the outside. It made our jobs a tiny bit easier. Every piece was
the same size, and in the same place.
Not this one though. Rows of
curling symbols surrounded the enormous doorway. What was the point of that? Decorating
it didn’t change what happened there.
I was scared to look at the symbols
for too long in case the Initiation Word was hidden in the pattern. The statue
of the great Flyer rose up from the roof, a menacing reminder of Opta
It was all wings, talons, scales,
and feathers, with a long spiked tail thrown in for good measure.
Every Exta was plagued with visions
of these fire-breathing Flyers whenever we worked outside. They swooped across
the ocean towards our island one after the other, disappearing when they
reached the centre. Purple and silver, gleaming even on the dark days.
It was an unnecessary reminder that
we served the Opta. If we could see the Flyers, we could not escape the
process. We were told that it was a sign of our stupidity, because our weak
minds were so easily led.
Garrett stood next to me, with his
hand on my shoulder as a warning not to run. We were quite far back, but I
could still see the victims when they crawled into the square.
I panicked at first, and Garrett’s
fingers dug into my shoulder. I’d known that Dervan would be there, and I’d
also known that no one came back from the Gathering. But I still wasn’t
prepared for what I saw.
He’d left us three days earlier,
summoned to be bound by the Initiation Word on his eighteenth birthday. We’d
sent him off with the usual bravado.
“Some people will do anything to
get out of a day’s work, won’t they?”
“Give the Opta one of these for me!”
This was accompanied by a jab to
“Enjoy sleeping above ground for once! Think
of us in our cave while you enjoy your comforts…”
Garrett had clasped Dervan on his
upper arm. They didn’t speak, but Dervan seemed to appreciate the silent
Years of repairing the roads, week
in week out, had made him physically strong. These days he kept his brown hair
very short, and it made his eyebrows look quite fierce.
Like most of us, he had easier days
and bad days, but little remained of the boy who had exchanged a few hopeful
words with that girl three years before.
His expression in recent weeks had
acquired a terrible patience. That was the choice he’d made. It was the only
choice left to us. How to face it. We either accepted it, like Dervan, or we
raged about it. But there was no point in resisting it.
The Opta would not hesitate to seek
out the entire unit and bind them too. Not even the brashest rebel, or the most
desperate coward, could allow themselves to be responsible for that.
The Dervan I saw that day in the
square was barely a person. His physical body, on its hands and knees, was
familiar, with the same dimensions and the same hair colour. There were no
But the face that lifted towards
the two Opta leaders was a hideous parody of the boy he had been. In his eyes
was the glint of insanity, the broken pieces of a mind that had been smashed.
“Please, please, please, please,
please, please, please…”
He repeated the same words over and
over, until I thought I would go mad as well. He was reaching for something
from her, the Binder, and she appeared poised to grant it, one arm
She was waiting for her brother. He
was the Breaker. He was in no hurry, walking in a circle around Dervan on light
feet, his expression fascinated.
“I do love my work,” he breathed,
the cold, quiet hiss of his voice reaching his silent audience easily. While
some of us were disgusted or angry, most were afraid.
There was worse to come. Dervan’s younger brother,
Alken, would be made to finally condemn him.
Alken had to be dragged forward.
This babbling replica of the mentor who had looked after him for so long was
the stuff of nightmares.
He told me later that he was too
afraid to look Dervan in the eye. The guilt writhed in his stomach like a
trapped Flyer for weeks afterwards.
“Your words, Exta,” said the
Breaker to Alken. His pale eyes glowed brighter as Alken’s face twisted with
revulsion. “Say them, and I will put him out of his misery.”
Garrett’s hand got even tighter on
my shoulder, but I welcomed it. The pain was evidence that we were still
connected, still normal.
“I… I can’t…” Alken’s expression
was terrified. He suddenly looked much younger than his twelve years. He rubbed
at his hair, creating brown spikes that looked as if they were standing up in
fright as well.
“Come now,” the Breaker mocked.
“You know how this goes. Four words. Speak.”
There was a pause, and the
senseless pleading coming from Dervan escalated. Alken whispered something. He
was made to repeat it, louder and louder, until he was screaming the words,
before the Breaker was satisfied.
“Please kill my brother!”
It happened quickly after that. The
Binder traced a pattern on her arm, and Dervan collapsed. Her brother lifted
Dervan’s life essence out of his body like a multi coloured ribbon of light.
I was torn between fascination and
disgust. In the end, disgust won, and I had to swallow hard to keep from
throwing up my breakfast.
The symbols on the ruling house
drew the light towards them like a sinister magnet. In seconds, Dervan’s life essence
had disappeared. There were seven more Exta sacrificed at the
Gathering that day. It lasted not quite one hour, but it was the longest hour
of my life. I had seen my future. Garrett’s future. And there wasn’t a single
thing I could do to change it.
Post a Comment