To celebrate the preorder of The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon, the first in a new fantasy adventure series from Yarnsworld author Benedict Patrick, I’m taking part in this event along with some of the great websites from the fantasy community, where we are sharing extracts from the novel’s first chapter, as well as revealing some exclusive character art from artist Juliana Wilhelm.
In case you somehow missed the recently revealed – and besides damn awesome – cover, you can feast your eyes on it, along with the blurb:
Impossible world. Impossible dragon. Impossible adventure. Lost with her ship and crew in an unfamiliar land, Min’s first command could be her last. Nothing here behaves the way it should: The magic that powers her skyship has been drained, rendering it immobile. The sky is an endless twilight, lit by the luminous fish that swim in it. Off starboard, there’s also the country-sized dragon that is looking particularly hungry. It will take all of Min’s training and experience to get her people safely back home, but as the truth about the Darkstar Dimension begins to be revealed, Min will have to prove to her crew - and to herself - that she is still the best person for the job. From the twisted mind that created the ‘delightfully weird’ Yarnsworld series comes a fantasy adventure like no other. Grab it now, to set sail on a journey you’ll never forget!
The Character – Zoya Odili
Today, I’ll introduce you to Zoya Odili, a Kisiwian soldier who is on the board of the Melodious Narwhal as Abalendu’s (a noble scholar) bodyguard. She has something called Parasite Glove which lends her inhuman power, but that comes with a price. Personally Zoya was one of my favourite characters in this book, so I really got excited when Benedict asked me to reveal her art. And without further ado, here she comes:
The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon releases on 7th October, and is available to preorder NOW.
Excerpt from The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon
Chapter One, Part Three
Using Jedda’s contraption, but clipping considerably less secure lines than the careful artificer, Min struggled across the deck and made her way back below. The Narwhal was vibrating so hard now, Min could not tell if they had reached full velocity, or if the crystals that permitted the Narwhal to fly were still powered by the last of the magic they had drained from the core.
Walking on the wall, jumping to get through doorways, Min made her way to Abalendu’s study.
“There you are!” the scholar shouted as Min pulled herself through his doorway. Abalendu was curled up in the corner of his bed, purple pillows pulled around him, as if they would somehow protect him from impending disaster. As always, his dragontoad had its long tail curled around his neck, claws locking it tight to his shoulder, the beast looking moronically at Min as she entered, as if this was just a regular day at sea.
“What in Master Aarav’s name have you done to my ship?”
Min did not acknowledge the noble’s greeting. She did not have time to rise to his insults, and she was not here for him in the first place.
She was here for Zoya.
Abalendu’s bodyguard stood in the middle of the room – in the middle of the wall, really, such was the angle they were tilted at now – her harpoon at the ready. The traditional weapon was more ceremonial than anything else. Zoya’s real strength was in her right hand.
Specifically, in the stony glove she wore upon it.
“I need Zoya,” Min shouted urgently. “Tell her she can come with me.”
The bodyguard regarded Min coolly, but otherwise did not respond to the summons. The deep brown of the warrior’s skin – several shades darker than Abalendu’s, or even Jedda’s – betrayed her identity as a Kisiwian, and Kisiwian soldiers were known for their loyalty. Zoya would not go anywhere without Abalendu’s instruction.
“The Narwhal is falling. Unless Zoya uses her Parasite Glove to deploy our wings, we’re all going to die. You included.”
Abalendu opened his mouth to protest, but his jaw slackened as he considered Min’s words.
Then, with a knot of frustration on his face – the same look he gave Min anytime he found himself forced to agree with her – the scholar nodded at Zoya.
Not waiting for any further conversation, Min spun around and ran, assuming the warrior would be following her. Goryeoans were shorter on average than most of the peoples New Windward had tempted into its cultural melting pot, but Min did not let that hold her back. She had taken her apprenticeship seriously, always pushing herself physically, never allowing others to take the lead just because they were taller or naturally stronger than her.
Despite her intense training, Zoya overtook Min in seconds.
The bodyguard was built for this, had dedicated herself to this. Even without the Parasite Glove, Zoya was formidable. Indeed, that formidability was exactly why she had been chosen for the Glove in the first place.
“Where are we going?” Zoya said as she leapt to a high door frame, waiting for the seconds it took Min to haul herself up. The warrior’s braided hair held firm in a tight bun at the back of her head, giving the impression of a statue, standing stoic, waiting for Min to pull herself puffing to the top.
“Wings,” Min said, swiping her own messy bob out of her eyes. “The guidance wings. Got to force them open. Hope it’ll give us some lift.”
Still running, Zoya shot her a doubtful glance. “That will work?”
Min shrugged, not really wanting to think about the question. “It’s the best idea Jedda’s got. It’s either the wings, or hope we survive whatever we hit.”
Not needing to hear any more, Zoya put on another burst of speed. Swearing, Min prayed to the spirit Holamo to give her the strength to push herself further, to catch up with the bodyguard before she missed everything.
Min was so intent on keeping pace with Zoya, she almost forgot to hold on to something when she got back above deck.
The crystals had clearly failed now, and the ship was in total freefall. Jedda was there, right beside the entranceway, trusting her harness to hold her to the deck.
Boramu’s noisy hell, the speed they were falling at now made everything feel impossible. Jedda was trying to speak to her, the artificer’s eyes wide, but without fear, just surprise. Min could not hear the words.
“Zoya!” Min shouted, mouthing the words exaggeratedly to try to get through to Jedda. “Which side did Zoya get to?”
Before Jedda had the chance to respond, the Narwhal shuddered. Unbelievably, slowly but impossibly, the ship’s bow was beginning to rise.
As quickly as she dared, Min swung portside using Jedda’s harness, just in time to catch a glimpse of Zoya at work.
The warrior was standing on the side of the ship. She had leapt over the railing, and was now planted on the Narwhal’s outer hull. Oddly, she did not seem out of place. Zoya had a reputation for achieving the impossible when the situation called for it.
What was unusual was what was happening right in front of Min. Zoya was tall, she was muscular, but she was lifting forces she should not have been able to. The warrior woman was crouched, straining, the veins in her neck clear, both hands gripping the metal frame of the guidance wings, slowly pulling them open.
The Parasite Glove, its rocky surface normally dull and grey, began to glow, red cracks lining the stones that were permanently bonded to Zoya’s arm. With the strength of the Parasite Glove aiding her, Zoya could do the impossible.
Behind Min, the crew began to cheer. Min felt like joining in; as Zoya pulled, the wings continued to open, and the Narwhal continued to level out.
However, Min knew they were not out of danger yet.
“Come on, Jedda,” she said, tugging on her artificer, beckoning her toward the prow.
“We’ve no power, and we’re currently gliding on wings not meant for the job. We’re going to crash, no doubt about it. Time to see where we’re headed, so we know how hard we have to pray.”
As she ran, already exhausted, Min cast another glance upward to where they had fallen from. Other than the multitude of floating objects above her – most just a collection of colours, like blobs of paint speckled over a night sky – Min’s attention was once again drawn to the purple sun.
The sight of it gave her an uneasy feeling in her belly, and given the situation she had recently found herself in, that was saying something.
The Narwhal’s prow continued to rise, tilting the deck almost horizontal again. Reaching the railing, Min leaned over to get a look at where they were headed.
Just like earlier, she could see nothing down there. Blackness, stars, nothing.
Min narrowed her eyes.
Wait a second…
“Brace!” she shouted, waving behind her for attention. The rushing of their fall had lessened, as had the roaring of the air around them, so Sung’s head shot up, as did a number of other deckhands.
“We’re about to land! Brace yourselves!”
Jedda, finally catching up, leaned over the edge to see what Min was talking about.
“But it’s just more sky. We’re falling into space, Min. There’s nothing for us to hit.”
Min said nothing, but gritted her teeth. The artificer had not yet spotted what Min had just noticed.
It looked like nothing below them. It looked like a sea of stars.
But that was not quite true.
It was just a sea.
“Brace!” Min screamed, just before the Narwhal hit the water.
For a brief moment, Min experienced weightlessness. Her hand gripping the railing close to the prow, she slammed into the deck, and then, as the ship’s movement below took the surface away from her, she felt as though she were floating, the spray of the water they had just impacted adding to the dreamlike sensation, taking her back in time.
Even though her eyes were open, taking in the chaos of the Narwhal’s deck, Min’s mind was elsewhere. When she was a young girl, not yet ten years old, a sickness had taken her, and she had almost died. Min remembered her grandfather’s healing hands, under her neck, keeping her head above water as he lay her in a bath of iced water, to steal the fever away. The cold spray of water, and the floating sensation of the ship – especially when her fingers slipped, and she lost her grip completely – brought her back to that part of her life.
Hitting the deck a second time drove all fond memories away, replacing them with pain.
Min moaned as the Narwhal shook again, tilting almost on its side, sending Min sprawling helplessly along the deck until she was finally caught by the port railing before being pitched overboard.
Then, blessedly, the Narwhal began to calm.
They had done it.
Despite the fall, the ship was – as far as Min could tell – in one piece, and judging by the shouts of pain from behind her, at least some of the crew were still alive.
Gritting her teeth, hoping to put on as brave a face as possible, Min got to her feet, steeling herself to survey the damage.
She spotted Zoya first. If Min had been an Eshak player, she would have bet on the warrior as one of the first to be killed on impact; to keep the wings level, Zoya would have to have been standing on the hull when the Narwhal hit the water. However, Min saw the Kisiwian climbing back onboard the ship, one leg over the railing as if she had just taken a dip in a calm New Windward cove. Zoya had indeed been on the hull when the Narwhal had hit the water. She had simply survived the experience.
“Sung,” Min shouted, forcing herself to tear her eyes away from Zoya as the Kisiwian made her way below deck, presumably to check on Abalendu. “Sung, give me a count. Make sure we’re all here. And find Holtz.”
Hiding her satisfaction at the first mate’s immediate jump to attention, Min forced herself to move, making her way to the quarterdeck, daring to hope that there was enough of a wind for her to take control of the ship. Min’s heart sank, however, when she raised her eyes to the Narwhal’s triple masts. They were ruined, the sails hanging in ribbons, and the foremast had lost its top third. Grabbing the spokes of the helm, Min gave it a test, and swore.
It was broken. The rudder – or at the very least, some of the mechanism that allowed her to control it – was damaged.
No core. No sails. No rudder.
They were adrift here. Wherever ‘here’ was.
If you want to read more, the story continues tomorrow over at Fantasy Book Review – check out the Darkstar Dragon launch page to keep track of the next story and character reveals.
The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon releases on 7th October, and is available to preorder NOW.
As a special ‘thank you’ to those first in the queue, Benedict is also offering a brand new, exclusive short story set in his Yarnsworld series to those who preorder Darkstar Dragon – forward your proof of purchase to email@example.com to get your hands on Mister Rattlebones today!