I rarely shill stuff I’m working on but I made a promise to myself a couple of months ago that I would put up an extract of my completed novel, The Four Realms, before Eastercon. So in typical leave-it-to-the-last-minute style, here it is. If you like what you read, retweeting or sharing links on FB would be much appreciated. The book is finished, polished and currently seeking representation and publication. I’ll save you the hard pitch but needless to say I have a pitch, synopsis and sample chapters for any professional who is interested. Whilst I’m not expecting a book deal to come of this, you’ve got to put yourself out there don’t you?
In this extract, 82 year old Maureen Summerglass has snuck from our world into the realm she is gatekeeper of, in the hope of finding answers to the mysterious death of her close friend, Ernest.
Enjoy! Comments are welcome!
Maureen stepped out of the entrance of the Friary and was almost knocked over by a dwarf in a Guns ‘n’ Roses T-Shirt, listening to an iPod.
“Watch it!” he grumbled as he sidestepped her.
The Friary opened onto a rectangular plaza about the size of four football pitches. Two identical huge Baroque buildings lined either side. At the far side they met the remains of a building that looked like it was made entirely from crystal. Water flowed from the top, through a series of gulleys and falls, causing a section of building to shimmer and glow with the colours of the rainbow. She could see from the damage to other sections that once the water would have once run over the entirety of the building, collecting in the small moat that surrounded it. What a sight that must have been.
However her attention was drawn to the centre of the plaza where a statue of what she assumed was a life-size sculpture of a dragon. Wings folded back, it appeared to be hissing at some unseen foe, ready to strike. Though just stone there was something incredibly lifelike about it.
She’d heard Ernest talk of it on one of his many visits.
“They say that whilst the dragon stands, New Salisbury will never fall,” he’d told her. “She’s the guardian of our city.”
Except she couldn’t remember the dragon’s name. Sher-something. Not Shergar, that was a race horse. Sheila? No that wasn’t it either. Don’t be so scatty, Maureen. She knew the crystal building was elven, most likely one of the few buildings to survive when the dwarves took the city back during the war. But the Baroque buildings, they were newer, built after the dwarves had gifted the city to the Humans and renamed it to New Salisbury. However, she’d be darned if she could remember the name of the dragon and it bothered her.
She’d hoped there would be some sort of plaque with the name on as she walked past, but she couldn’t see one, and there was no time to stop and sightsee. She took the map out of her handbag and studied it, before heading down a passageway beside the crystal building.
The passageway emerged onto a busy urban street. Tall Tudor wooden-framed buildings hunched over the road like old men, almost touching their opposite number in places. The occasional younger sibling wore the same designs but was identifiable by how straight they stood. Both young and old had been modernised though. Maureen saw that some had replaced their windows, from small lead-lined panels to PVC double-glazing. Others had been gutted, their ground floors replaced with an open plan design and a modern shop facia. Amongst the grocers and blacksmiths, she saw shops that she recognised from her own world. The smell of french fries emanating out of the McDonalds across the road mingled with that of peculated coffee from the Starbucks situated next to it.
On either side of the road, people clogged the pavement even at this time of evening; a mix of all those races she’d heard about but never seen. To Maureen’s surprise, they weren’t dressed in the old fashioned leather tunics and chainmail she’d always imagined but modern outfits; well, all except for the trolls who presumably couldn’t find sizes to fit them. Some were wearing T-Shirts with brands on them that Maureen recognised as belonging to her realm; most were wearing jeans, although she noted that the shorter races seemed to prefer three-quarter length trousers or shorts, due to their stature. Some were even wearing sunglasses, and she was sure she saw the name Gucci on a pair belonging to a female elf that walked past.
If the pavement was an eye-opener, then the road was more so. Whilst there were plenty of the expected horse and carts, filled with fruits and vegetables – presumably from the farms that ringed the city – moving inbetween were bicycles and scooters. Here and there, three wheeled auto rickshaws, in yellow and blue livery, zipped around defying what little semblance of road rules Venefasia had. It looked like several of the farmers had upgraded their horse and carts for huge, diesel chugging trucks that coughed black smoke out into the streets. None of the vehicles appeared to be new, Maureen thought. They looked like the hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs, each dented, chipped and rusted.
Maureen started walking along the street doing her best to avoid the crowds, from goblins only a few feet high to trolls that towered over her. She passed an electronics store, the contents of which made Soviet era Russia look progressive. Beside a display of various Walkmans, a large poster advertised that telephony was coming to New Salisbury next year. The rotary dial phone on the poster was even older than the one in Maureen’s home. “Pre-Order early to avoid disappointment,” the poster read.
Maureen tried not to stare at the sights around her, instead consulting the map and heading south down a side road. Not as busy but still she had to weave in and out of people large and small.
“Can I interest you in our offers on meat today, Madam?” an Adlet asked Maureen, stepping towards her on the canine feet that denoted his race. “We’ve got a special on rat and pigeon.” He smiled showing large canine teeth.
Baskets of all variety of dried meats were arranged on a table in front of the shop. The Victorian façade was such a marked difference from the large windowed shop front selling trainers next door.
“No. No, thank you,” Maureen replied, backing away from the strange creature, her head bumping into the dried snakes that were hanging from the shop awning.
She hurried along, consulting her map at every street corner. The shops gave way to residential areas, spacious three story flat-topped terraced houses with iron railings and steps up to the front door. The traffic and pedestrians ebbed, although echoes from the main streets reverberated across the city.
She passed through a labyrinth of these back roads, before emerging onto a cobbled road that ran alongside a river. She went over and peered over the iron railings to see mudflats where the river should be, small fishing boats beached on them.
“Tide must be out,” she muttered to herself as she looked downstream, trying to make out what looked like a harbour.
In the distance, huge cargo airships rose, metal circlets sat on cushions of air, presumably taking goods from the port further inland. Gulls chattered above, the hint of the ocean on the breeze, as Maureen consulted the map once again and looked toward a line of fishermen cottages alongside the road. “It’s here,” she told herself.
Next to the cross that marked the location was written the number 49. She scoured the line of houses. There was 45 and the one next to it was 47, so this one – the one with the red door, how typically Ernest – had to be 49.
She stood there relieved she’d found it. She went to touch it as if it wouldn’t be real unless she did so, when the door flung open to reveal a wizard standing there. She immediately glanced down to the ground, in case he recognised her. But in that split second, she’d got a good look at his face and was relieved that it wasn’t anyone she recognised. She was good with faces, even if she wasn’t good with names.
“You must be the cleaner,” the wizard grumbled. “About time. I know we said late in the day, but this is ridiculous.”
Maureen didn’t know what to say, her heart was racing and she thought it might burst out of her chest there and then.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “They didn’t say.”
The wizard huffed.
“Here,” he said. Taking her hand and thrusting some coins in it. “The boxes are upstairs. A removal firm will be coming to collect them first thing tomorrow morning, so no need to move them, just fill them with the books.”
“Books,” agreed Maureen still trying to take everything in.
“Look,” said the wizard, his anger subsiding. “I’ve got a poker game tonight.” He rummaged in his robes before pulling out a key and handing it to her. “I’m supposed to supervise, but it’s not like there’s anything worth nicking in there. You couldn’t just lock up after you finish and post the key through the letterbox? The removal guys have their own key.”
“Thanks,” The wizard said, stepping out the door and past her. “I dunno know why we couldn’t just get some acolytes to baby sit. Still I don’t suppose it bothers you if someone’s here or not.”
Maureen wanted to ask the wizard what he knew about the man who lived here, but she dare not. Instead, she just backed into the doorway.
“Thank you,” she said.
The wizard probably took her for someone who didn’t speak a lot of English as he just smiled, turned and walked back toward the city whistling to himself. Maureen waited until he turned the corner, before stepping inside and closing the door to the outside world.