“Have you ever had a dream where you were someplace else, and everything was different? Even simple things like gravity?”
There are roads that are not on any map. There are pathways between worlds that anyone could walk if they only knew the way.
“What if that was a real place?”
A turning in the middle of a field. A crack between two stones that didn’t seem to be there a moment before. A course plotted by stars that can only be seen when the moon is right.
The clouds gathered beneath the city like foam on the waves of a stormy sea. Arsha stood at the railing, the cold air running over her thickly gloved hands even as the bright sunlight warmed her face.
For Arsha, growing up aboard her father’s airship, the Borderlands are the only world she has ever known. Worlds, really; countless worlds, each different in their way, but all of them connected by the hidden paths known as The Ways.
A steady drum roll brought Rachael to her senses. Rain hammered against the roof of the cardboard box which had sheltered her, as the chill of the morning air worked its way into her bones.
For Rachael, none of this is real. How can it be, when she’s only ever known the cold grey reality of life in London, a city of glass towers and smoke-stained brickwork? A city that just gets meaner and more frightened by the day.
“There’s a girl. She’s running away from something. She’s scared and in pain. I saw a boy with her, but I couldn’t see his face. He seemed to be made of shadows and smoke. They were standing together, Arsha and this girl. Their hands were bound together with red string, wound all around them, spilling over the ground. The girl, her other hand was covered in a gauntlet of iron, rusted and old. The boy was with them, watching them. I could see his shadow, surrounding them both.”
This is a story about two young women, their lives connected by a single strand of Fate. Across worlds, across realities, their lives bound to each other by a choice that neither of them made.
“It was there, in her palm. The Seed. Oh Fates, Rishi, I could feel it. I could feel its power.”
Because all it takes is one wrong choice, one mistake, to set events in motion that can change lives and change worlds.
The raven’s body was so vast that it could have been an aircraft. Its glistening black eyes were each the size of a beach ball. Talons, ugly yellow and large enough to lift a car, dug deep into the rooftop. Black wings shook out, the backdraft rocking the tiny ship as it pulled away. For a moment the curve of the raven’s beak seemed like a cruel smile.
This is a story about monsters. The kind that snarl in the darkness, lips smeared with blood.
The hand on her ankle yanked hard and her grip gave way entirely. Then he was on her, a mass of hair and bone and muscle and the overpowering stink of him. She felt the sweat of his palms as bony hands caught her wrists.
The kind that hide behind friendly faces, and smile because they love us.
“Why not? Are you seeking some higher purpose in this? Something more than fulfilling a base and selfish need? Everyone is selfish. Anyone who pretends to act only for others is a liar. I will gain power and influence, and you will wash your conscience clean. Both of us selfishly saving the lives of millions.”
And the kind that live inside our thoughts, waiting to drag us down into the darkness with them.
“Did they tell you this would help?” he snarled, gesturing with the clear orange container. “That if you took the pills and closed your eyes, all the scary things would go away?”
It’s a story about finding friendship in the strangest places. The kind of friendship that comes crashing into your life at the moment you least expected, and changes everything about you.
“So… What are we doing here anyhow?”
Arsha grinned, and hoisted herself up to sit on the railing, with her back to the open sky
“Something fun,” she said. Before Rachael could ask what she meant, the girl spread her arms, raised her head, and fell backwards off of the deck.
It’s a story about fear…
Her mind raced, hoping for any idea that might see them to safety, but only one thought came to her, repeating over and over.
And it’s a story about strength…
Her face a picture of cold fury, she slammed the man backwards into the wall of the alleyway and took a single step forwards, bringing one knee up hard into his guts. Then the gauntleted fist snaked out once more, and with a bright flash of blue and a resounding crack Rakesh slumped to the ground, a faint coil of smoke twisting upwards from his bleached white collar.
But most of all, it’s a story about family. The kind we spend our lives searching for… And the kind we spend our lives running from.
Horrified, Arsha could only stare at the scene in front of her. She could scarcely understand what had happened. She had only the vaguest sense, things half overheard, pieces that gathered together, buzzing at the back of her head like angry wasps that she desperately wished to ignore. She did not want to know, did not want to understand. Everything before her was simply too horrible, too nightmarish to be allowed to be real. She wanted to shut it out, to step back from the room, slam the door and run away from it forever.
Rachael continued to cough and retch. Arsha watched with horrified fascination as the puddle of vomit inched towards her boots.
“Rachael… Oh Fates, Rachael… What happened?” She said, as the girl drew ragged breaths.
“I did. It was all because of me.”
This is The Stolen Child.