by Karen McCreedy
In a world where it’s natural to fly, what happens when you can’t?
When a plague kills half the Drax population, and leaves the hatchlings of the survivors with a terrible deformity – no wings – suspicion and prejudice follow. Continuously harassed by raids from their traditional enemies, the Koth, the Drax are looking for someone, or something, to blame.
Zarda, an apprentice Fate-seer, is new to her role and unsure of her own abilities; but the death of her teacher sees her summoned by the Drax Prime, Kalis, when his heir, Dru, emerges from his shell without wings.
A vision that Dru will one day defeat the Koth is enough to keep him and the other wingless hatchlings alive – for a time. Half-trained, clumsy, and full of self-doubt, Zarda must train Dru to one day fulfil the destiny she has foreseen for him, even if it is quickly becoming clear that the Prime’s favourite adviser, Fazak, is not only plotting against the wingless, but is gaining more of Kalis’ trust by the day.
Efforts to fight prejudice and superstition are certain to lead to death for some and exile for others; while Zarda’s own journey to understanding her role in events may lead her to abandon all tradition in order to protect her peoples’ future.
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, 242 pages
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Silence. Was the hatchling too weak to break out? How long were we supposed to wait before declaring it a cracked shell? What was the protocol for proper disposal? I glanced from egg to candle, candle to egg, sending wordless prayers to the Spiral that the hatching would resume before the flame went out. My feet ached and I wiggled my toes, cringing at the noise my claws made on the cold rock floor. If only tradition allowed for stools in the nesting chamber...
A ripping noise heralded another crack around the top of the eggshell and I forgot my discomfort as I began to murmur the traditional incantations. I stood to one side of the platform, looking over the egg toward its parents, who were holding on to each other as they stood on the far side of the nest, breathing encouragement. As tiny claws appeared and began to break the shell apart from within, Kalis gave a shout of joy and licked Varna, who was snuffling with happiness.
The tiny creature pushed away the entire top of its egg and everyone in the room roared delight at the sight of the white mane on its head and neck. The nest-nurse got to her feet, her ears twitching with excitement. “A male,” she exclaimed, as proud as though she had produced him herself.
The hatchling struggled out of the bottom half of the shell into the Nest, his fur still wet, chest heaving from his exertions, and the roars died away. Varna howled, pulled away from Kalis, and backed away, shaking her head. Limar, who had been reaching to pick up the infant, stayed her hand and looked at the Prime, awaiting guidance, but Kalis appeared to be too horror-struck to speak.
It was I who reached down to pick him up. I too was astounded – and not a little afraid. My teacher the Fate-seer had predicted that this infant would be the saviour of his people, a great Prime who would lead the Drax to victory against their greatest enemy. I couldn’t understand how this horror could have happened, how all the portents and signs could have been so wrong.
“Zarda.” Kalis found his voice at last, sounding the more terrifying for speaking so softly. “Vizan told me that this nestling would be the hero of our people. That he would be the Prime who would finally defeat the Koth and halt their raids forever. Tell me – how is he to become that when he is born deformed?” His paws clenched, and his voice rose to an anguished roar: “He has no wings!”
About the Author:
Brought up in Staffordshire, England, Karen McCreedy now lives in West Sussex where she works at the University of Chichester.
She has written articles on films and British history for a number of British magazines including ‘Yours’, ‘Classic Television’, and ‘Best of British’.
Karen has had a number of short stories published in various anthologies. She also won second prize in Writers’ News magazine’s ‘Comeuppance’ competition in 2014 with her short story ‘Hero’.
‘Unreachable Skies’ is her first novel.