Hey all… we’re just two months away from my first major release in twenty months – I released Dropnauts in May of 2021. I didn’t mean for it to take this long, but there were reasons.
That said, I am thrilled to bring my new Tharassas Cycle to you thanks to Steven Radecki and Water Dragon Publications. It’s loosely connected to The Ariadne Cycle and Dropnauts, and to The Oberon Cycle too, falling somewhere in the middle of these two time-wise. It’s my boy-eats-dragon, other boy-wears-gauntlet, girl-becomes hencha queen YA/Adult crossover sci-fantasy four book trilogy.
Isn’t that a mouthful?
To say it more simply, it’s my new four book sci-fantasy adventure. 🙂
Each week I’ll share something special from the book and an excerpt. This week, it’s the map of the main city on Tharassas, Gullton. If this sounds a little familiar, this is the same world I explored in the novella The Last Run and in the short story The Emp Test. The cover reveal/preorder date is February 16th, and the book officially goes on sale on March 16th.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Read on for the blurb and an excerpt.
Raven’s a thief who just swallowed a dragon. A small one, but still …
Now he’s growing scales, the local fauna is acting strangely, and his world is shaking itself to pieces. And his familiar, Spin, is no help at all.
His best friend Aik has been pining for him for years, and things are coming to a head. A guardsman and a thief? That would be … messy. And there’s also Aik’s judgmental ex Silya, who hates Raven and is facing a magical coming- of-age problem of her own.
The unlikely trio must deal with strange beasts, alien artifacts, and a sentient silver sphere. If they don’t igure out what’s happening to Raven and the world around them, it might be the end of everything.
When events spin out of control with world-ending consequences, what’s a thief to do?
Spin’s voice echoed in his ear. “This is a bad idea, boss.”
“Shush,” Raven whispered to his familiar.
He needed to concentrate. Cheek and jowl against the smooth cobblestones, he held his breath and prayed to the gods that no one had seen him duck under the sea master’s ornate carriage. The setting sun cast long shadows from a pair of boots so close to his face that the dust and leather made him want to sneeze. Their owner was deep in conversation with the sea master, the hem of her fine mur silk trousers barely visible. The two women’s voices were hushed, and he could only make out the occasional word.
Raven rubbed the old burn scar on his cheek absently, wishing they would go away.
“Seriously, boss. I’m not from this world, and even I know it’s a bad idea to steal from the sea master.”
Though only he could hear Spin’s voice, Raven wished the little silver ay-eye would just shut up.
The hencha cloth-wrapped package in the carriage above was calling to him. He’d wanted it since he’d first seen it through the open door. No, needed it. Like he needed air, even though he had no idea what was inside. He scratched the back of his hand hard to distract himself from its disturbing pull.
An inthym popped its head out of the sewer grate in front of him, sniffing the air. Raven glared at the little white rodent, willing it to go away. Instead, the cursed thing nibbled at his nose.
Raven sneezed, then covered his mouth. He held his breath, staring at the boots. Don’t let them hear me.
A shiny silver feeler poked out of his shirt pocket, emitting a golden glow that illuminated the cobblestones underneath him. “Boss, you all right?” Spin’s whisper had that sarcastic edge he often used when he was annoyed. “Your heart rate is elevated.”
“Be. Quiet.” Raven gritted his teeth. Spin had the worst sense of timing.
The woman — one of the guard, maybe? — and the sea master stepped away, their voices fading into the distance.
Raven said a quick prayer of thanks to Jor’Oss, the goddess of wild luck, and flicked the inthym back into the sewer. “Shoo!”
He popped his head out from under the carriage to take a quick look around. There was no one between him and the squat gray Sea Guild headquarters. It was time. Grab it and go.
He reached into the luxurious carriage — a host of mur beetles must have spent years spinning all the red silk that lined the interior — and snagged the package. He hoped it was the treasury payment for the week. If so, it should hold enough coin to feed an orphanage for a month, and he knew just the one. “Got it.”
“Good. Now get us out of here.”
A strange tingling surged through his hand. Raven frowned.
Must have pinched a nerve or something.
Ignoring it, he stuck the package under his arm, slipped around the carriage, and set off down Gullton’s main thoroughfare. He walked as casually as he could, hoping no one would notice the missing package until he was long gone.
Spin’s feeler blinked red. “No. Run! They’ve seen you.”
He didn’t know how his strange little friend did it, but he trusted Spin. When his familiar’s far vision worked, he was almost always right.
“Stop the thief!” A guard’s voice echoed down Grindell Lane between the shops that loomed over Raven like jagged teeth in the dimming light. Passersby turned to stare, but no one intervened.
“Holy green hell, what’s in this thing?” Raven clung to the package, his patched-up boots thudding down the cobblestone street. He said a brief prayer of thanks to El’Oss, the Old God, that Spin’s special powers were working.
He shot a glance over his shoulder at the pursuing guardsmen. A miasma of fog mixed with smoke lay thick across the city streets, lighting the sunset in the green sky behind him gloriously in red and gold.
You’re daft as a gully bird, Rav’Orn. Stealing a package from the sea master’s carriage in broad daylight? Seriously? If the Thieves’ Guild found out, they’d be after him again for stirring up trouble.
Still, he hadn’t expected three guardsmen to come after him. What in Heaven’s Reach did I steal, the Hencha Queen’s jewels?
A woman lay slumped in the doorway of a closed tailor’s shop ahead, The Knotted Purse, wrapped in a familiar blanket. Raven skidded to a halt. “Where are they?”
“About a block away. You’re not as slow as usual today.” Coming from Spin, that was almost a compliment.
“Thanks.” Raven ignored his companion’s snarky tone. He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a single silver croner and dropped it into the roofless woman’s hand, ignoring her unwashed smell. Not everyone had a bathtub or a river to bathe in, after all. “Get yourself something hot to eat, Scilla.” He kissed her cheek.
Scill’Eya’s eyes lit up, and a smile cracked her weathered face. A single tear ran down her dirty cheek, revealing the ruddy skin underneath, and she nodded. “Nor’Oss bless you, Rav’Orn.”
Spin’s voice chimed urgently in his ear. “Let’s move it. They’re hot on your tail, boss.”
But Raven was already off and running again, barreling down the street.
He glanced over his shoulder in time to see the roofless woman stumble to her feet and careen “accidentally” into the path of one of the guards, knocking him to the ground.
Bless you too, Scilla.
The garishly painted buildings of the city’s commerce district blurred into the darkening green sky as he sprinted down the central street of Gullton’s main spine, the long, skinny, rocky protrusions carved out by the Elsp as she ran to the sea.
Rain slicked the cobbles, slowly evaporating into an earthy mist, equal parts water and manure. “Which way?”
“Go left! You’re cutting it awfully close.” Spin seemed almost as worked up as he was.
Raven swerved left and ducked under the skeletal beams of the new three-story wood-framed building that had replaced Landers’ Pub. Shame about that. He’d found some of his best marks there. Rich folk from Peregrine Spine, easy pickings after a long night drinking.
He burst out of the other side onto Yorkser Lane and slammed full-on into a fruit vendor’s cart, tumbling head over foot and sending apples flying everywhere. The package slipped out from under his arm to clatter across the street into the gutter.
Raven sat up and touched his pocket — Spin was still tucked firmly inside. “You okay?”
Spin was quiet. Whether surly or damaged, Raven couldn’t tell.
Farking hells. He should just leave the cursed bundle and get out of sight, but it pulled at him again, making him feel queasy. Godsdammit.
Then he saw a little chunk of silver, spinning on the cobblestones. He grabbed it and shoved it back into his ear. It melded to him again.
“— coming! You need to haul ass.”
Raven grinned. Spin was his usual truculent self — thank the gods. He sprang up and checked himself — no permanent damage, just a scrape on his left elbow. He snagged the package, wiping off the urse droppings as best he could, and took off again.
The vendor had pulled himself up off the ground, and now the man tried to grab him, missing the tail of his shirt by a hair. “Damned gully rat!” His face was red, his long stringy hair in disarray. “Watch where you’re going!”
“Sorry!” He called back over his shoulder. In normal circumstances, he’d have stopped to help pick up all those apples, but he was a bit busy fleeing the law. “Spin, where are they?”
“I can’t tell. You’ve got eyes. Use them.”
“Seven hells.” Jor’Oss and his blasted luck had turned against him. Spin could see things he couldn’t, but sometimes the ay-eye’s mysterious ability just went away. Of all the godscursed times …
He glanced over his shoulder. No guards yet. Turning back, he almost ran headlong into a carriage made from the frame of an old flitter — the flying machine’s rotor had been chopped off, and wooden wheels added to make it mobile again. Someone had decided to paint the thing gold, and the results were more hideous than elegant.
He pulled open the door and slipped through the cabin. The startled inhabitant — a wealthy woman from Peregrine Spine, by the look of her and her rich silk dress, screamed.
“Pardon me!” Then he was out the other side, leaving her and her carriage behind.
He ducked around the corner at Tuckins Street, running down the short, narrow lane toward the edge of his namesake, Raven Spine, where the cliff dropped off to the thundering waters of the Elsp thirty meters below.
“Good going, boss.”
“Just glad you’re still alive.” For all that Spin liked to cut him down to size, he was Raven’s only constant companion. And friend.
He stuffed the package down his pants.
“Nice to know you care.”
Raven grabbed the spume-slick railing that lined the plaza at the end of the street and vaulted over it with the ease of long practice. He landed hard on the other side and slipped over the edge, lowering himself onto the first of the rusty metal pitons driven into the slate-gray rock long before.
A flurry of blue wisps surrounded him as if he’d disturbed them, their light painting the cliff walls an ethereal blue, before floating up into the air over Gullton and catching the sea breeze.
Weird little things. He shook his head and continued down. Nimble as an eircat, he descended hand over hand, grasping the wet rods tightly.
He dropped the last half-meter to a hidden ledge, well below street level, and slid over to the widest spot with his back against the cliff. His chest heaved from the exertion. Almost there.