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World Book Day

Happy World Book Day everyone!


Today, children across the world celebrate the power and importance of books. In honour of this special day, I thought I would share an extract from The Earthstone, my third YA fantasy novel and also the third instalment in The Elemental Prophesy series.



Extract:


The undergrowth suddenly parted and they found themselves standing at the edge of a clearing. The leaf encrusted building stood to their right but it was not the only one. Clay walled huts encircled the clearing, all facing inwards. All bore signs of fire damage, smoke stains marking the baked walls. Several of the roofs had also been damaged, sagging where the same fire had burned irreparable holes.

‘I wonder what happened here,’ Dina said in a low voice. ‘It looks abandoned.’

At the centre of the clearing was a stone well. James peered inside. The bucket was still attached to its chain and thirsty after the long walk, he lowered it down. There was a dull splash as it hit the bottom, followed by a clunk. The handle creaked as he reeled it up again, relieved to feel the weight of the bucket had changed.

‘Anyone thirsty?’ he asked with false cheeriness.

The bucket reached the top and he peered inside. Rather than carrying water however, it was filled with reddish muck. Half buried in this sludge was a dead fish, its skeleton smashed into tiny fragments. Disappointed, James let go of the bucket and it plunged back to the bottom of the well where it landed with a thud.

‘The fire marks aren’t particularly old,’ Kaedon remarked, running his fingers along the blackened wall of one hut. ‘The village can’t have been abandoned long, although the dry well might suggest otherwise.’

James opened the door of the smallest hut. A cloud of ash swirled around him, carrying the stench of smoke. The room before him had been destroyed by the fire. There was nothing left apart from a fireplace piled with the remains of another fire and footprints marked permanently onto the earthy floor. It was then that he saw a body, lying face down by the back wall. The corpse was so badly burnt that there was almost nothing left of it. He stepped closer, hardly daring to breathe. Beneath the papery skin gleamed parts of a skull. The smell was sickening and staggering backwards, he was sick against the wall. Behind him, the door creaked and he spun around. It was Kaedon.

‘Come out of here,’ he encouraged, ‘it’s not safe.’

‘There’s a body,’ James gasped, ‘or what’s left of it anyway.’

‘It’s not the only one,’ Kaedon grimly replied. ‘Come on, let’s get out of here.’

Stumbling over the debris, James went back out into the hazy sunlight. The air in the clearing tasted fresh compared to the stench inside the hut. He saw Will, Tala, Arthur and Aralia coming out of another hut, all looking as grey as he felt. Oede and Dina stood by the well with Dara between them.

‘There has been a massacre here,’ Oede said quietly. His face looked pained; an expression James had never seen on him.

‘It’s no ordinary massacre,’ Kaedon added, ‘nor an ordinary fire. The huts have been burned from the inside out.’

‘Dark magic,’ Dina murmured.

‘It was her,’ James accused, ‘the Belladonna.’

‘She’s not the only one possessed by darkness,’ Oede reminded. ‘There are others: looters, madmen, coldblooded murderers who also know dark magic.’

James looked at the huts, so ordinary on the outside but tainted by darkness within. The clearing began to spin around him. The sky, the huts and his friends became a blur. When everything settled again, the scene before him had changed. Though he still stood in the clearing, it was now night time and he was surrounded by people who were not his friends.

As he watched, these cloaked strangers raised their hands and cast streams of light into the sky. Rather than strike the huts however, the beams fizzled out in mid-air and sparks rained down on the matted roofs. The smell of smoke reached his nostrils. Acrid fumes began pouring from cracks in the roofs and walls. The huts were burning from within and those trapped inside began to scream.


***




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