Catalyst Moon: Exile (Part Two)

Part One here.

Enjoy! 😁

Content warning: suicide


TWO

Even Aredian mountains were weak. It took Atanar the better part of another day to find a suitable cliff, one that he could summit, one that overlooked solid chunks of rock that would show his body no mercy when it fell from a great height. Preferably sooner rather than later. Already the sky darkened with heavy clouds and lightning flickered on the horizon.

Atanar stood upon a cliff while snow-scented wind rifled through his long, blond hair, lifting the knotted strands as if in play. It was a very long way to the rocks below. Go, he told himself, nudging his feet toward the cliff’s edge. This is what you deserve.

At first, his body refused to listen and stubbornly remained on the cliff’s edge; no amount of mental cajoling would convince his feet to move. At last, he pictured Nel’s face, to remind him why he was here. The painful spike of grief was too much for even a Canderi warrior to bear. With his last breath, Atanar prepared himself and took a step into empty air.

“What are you doing?”

Atanar jolted away from the cliff’s edge and froze in place, heart pounding. He felt no anger now, only his body’s insistence to remain earthbound. Even so, the sense of otherness within him, whatever-it-was, pulsed brightly at the rush of blood through his veins, and his vision blurred again while his thoughts slipped out of his control. Kill, vorunn whispered, in that samechorus as Atanar had heard the night he’d destroyed everything he loved. Kill them all.

Something cracked through what passed for scrub-brush up here and Atanar shook away the whatever-it-was and managed to find his balance enough to turn. This time, his heart turned to ice in his chest. Nel stood several paces behind him, one arm outstretched, blue eyes round with surprise.

It was difficult to speak at all, let alone to a ghost. All Atanar managed was a croaked, “Nel?”

The boy’s forehead creased. “Huh?”

Blinking, Atanar took another deep breath and fought for control, fought to clear his vision so he could see properly. The other voices, what he’d come to think of as the voices of vorunn, fell away, and he was himself again. Another look at the boy confirmed this was not Atanar’s younger brother, but a stranger – and a Canderi. That much was evident in the lad’s fair hair, bright blue eyes, and strong build, though his limbs seemed too long for his body in the way of a gangly youth. Older than Nel had been, but not by much – perhaps thirteen or fourteen summers. He carried a slender Aredian bow and arrow, a brace of rabbits swung at his belt, and he wore a braided strip of multi-colored cloth around his forehead.

Even in his stricken state, Atanar recognized the mark of a kulkri, and scowled.

The boy must not have seen Atanar’s expression, for his gaze darted between Atanar’s face and the empty air below. “I said, what are you doing?”

Atanar opened his mouth to answer, but the words died in his throat. This boy was not Nel, but he was as close as Atanar would ever come, and there were some things that should never be said to a child. Even a vagabond kulkri.

 He shrugged. “Just…looking.”

“You looked like you were about to jump.”

“Your eyes are liars,” Atanar shot back.

The boy frowned again and swept his gaze across Atanar from head to boots. “What’s a pikarac doing in Aredia, anyway…?” He trailed off as his eyes fell on the place where Atanar’s claymore should have been. “Ea’s tits,” he muttered, taking a single step backward. “Unless…Vorunn. You’re exiled.”

Heat flushed through Atanar’s veins and his fists balled. “I am. Now leave me be, child.”

He emphasized the last word as he turned his back on the boy, and tried to concentrate on his own fate rather than the wild urge that suddenly beat his blood. Kill it. Kill it. Kill it.

Clenching his jaw, he tried to ignore the urge and instead focused on the fact that none of this would matter in a few moments. He was vorunn; he could not find peace with his ancestors, but perhaps there was something for him in what waited beyond.

But the boy spoke up again. “Are you hungry?”

It was too strange a question at this moment. Atanar shot a glare over his shoulder. “No. Go away.”

“I didn’t think I’d catch anything,” the boy went on, tugging on the rabbits. “I just wanted to practice. So if you’re hungry, we have more than enough food for supper.”

“Save it.”

“We have plenty.”

“My words stand,” Atanar said though gritted teeth. “Save your rabbits for your own people, and leave me to my fate. And don’t watch; you’re too young for such things.”

He pitched his voice to be a low growl, hoping to send the boy scurrying, but another growl – that of his stomach – undermined his words, and the boy laughed aloud. “Come on, pikarac.  A storm’s coming. You can always kill yourself after.”

Atanar bristled at being called “child” by a boy not old enough for facial hair, but…

Well, he was hungry, and the sky looked surlier by the moment. If he could not summon the courage to end his life now, he’d spend the afternoon in a snowstorm.

And even though this boy was not Nel, the sight of him stirred memories within Atanar’s heart; even after what Atanar had done, would Nel want him to die like this? Torn to pieces on a pitiful excuse for a mountain was not supposed to be Atanar’s fate.

Nor was Nel’s fate supposed to be death by your hand, Atanar reminded himself. He was vorunn; he deserved nothing more than what he had found in Aredia so far.

As if reading his mind, the boy said, “If you jump, I’ll watch, and be haunted the rest of my days. Is that what you want, pikarac?”

Atanar rolled his eyes. Ancestors curse this child to the fire and ice. But he knew when he was beaten and turned his back on the cliff. For now, anyway. “Very well,” he said as he approached the boy. “I’ll eat your rabbits, kulkri.”

The boy chuckled, but Atanar did not miss the flash of relief in his eyes. “Let’s hurry, then,” he said as he stepped through the nearby brush, toward the game trail Atanar had followed to reach this point. “My sister gets very cross when I’m late.”

*

Atanar soon found himself in another Canderi camp, a place he’d never thought he’d stand again. Several dozen men and women bustled about with evening tasks: cooking food over several scattered fires; grooming horses and herding children; securing the rounded tents made from animal hides. Despite the approaching storm, laughter and conversation rippled through the camp.

Kulkri, the lot of them, but for one moment, Atanar could have been back home.

Or it might have, had each kulkri’s eyes not marked Atanar for what he was, then narrowed to dagger-points.

The boy—Corvac—led Atanar through the others without a word to anyone, instead trotting toward one of the fur-lined tents in the middle of the camp. There, he paused and listened beside the entrance before giving Atanar a look that was almost concerned. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

Before Atanar could ask what was going on, Corvac disappeared within the tent, leaving Atanar alone in a camp full of people giving him dark looks. Well, he could return the favor, particularly to a bunch of thieving kulkri such as these. Perhaps he was vorunn, but he had some measure of respect for tradition.

So Atanar stood tall and met each glare with one of his own, until movement to his right caught his eye. A young woman strode toward him. She was a few years younger than Atanar, perhaps in her twentieth summer. Her hair was neatly braided in the Aredian fashion; it was darker than most other Canderi but still streaked with pale gold, and, like so many of the others, she wore a sash of red, yellow, green, blue and white, all woven together.

“Who are you?” she called as she approached.

Your name will be forgotten. As it should be. But he had no other to give. He shook his head. “No one.”

The moment she registered what he was, her stance turned even more hostile as her body became strung taut with tension. “Cor was right,” she murmured, halting just over an arm’s length away, one hand reaching for the claymore strapped to her back. “You’re cursed by vorunn. What in Nox’s void are you doing here?”

Atanar frowned over the strange word, Nox. The woman’s speech was Canderi, but was that word Aredian slang? Is that what happened to Canderi who left their home: they lost themselves and turned into those soft, weak folk? Ancestors strike me dead before that happens to me, he thought with a shudder.

He shook his head. “Corvac brought me.” She scowled up at him and he could not help but add, “For supper.”

Her scowl deepened. “Corvac is a child. He has no say in who or,” she wrinkled her nose, “what comes into our home.”

“And you do?”

“Aye, as far as you’re concerned.” She pointed the general direction he had come, where he could now see a rudimentary sort of passage that wound through the tents and cooking fires. Beyond these, in addition to a few large elk-like atsuula, there were a dozen or so scraggly Aredian horses, outfitted with Aredian saddles, bridles, and other gear. In fact, most of the gear he saw was Aredian in make.

Atanar frowned. A sloppy affair, this kulkri camp.

“Leave, now,” she said, lifting her pointed chin. “Save me the trouble of dirtying my sword with your blood.”

“Quiet, Sivoy.” An elderly man slipped out of the tent, Corvac on his heels. Like the rest, the older man wore thick furs, though he leaned heavily on a staff and on the elbow of the boy at his side as he regarded Atanar curiously.

“He’s vorunn,” Sivoy said. “Corvac never should have brought him here. I’m within my rights to cast him out, Utu.”

“So you are,” her grandfather replied. “And so you may. But your word is not the only law. We are not like them.” He nodded in the vague direction of Cander, and Atanar bristled despite everything. “I advise you to learn a little more before you toss this warrior back into the storm.”

There was greater meaning in those words than Atanar could glean. Indeed, Sivoy frowned, but regarded Atanar with a new sort of speculation. “Very well, stranger. I will allow you a chance to explain why we should not cast you away.”

Atanar frowned. Vorunn, he may have been, but these vagabonds did not deserve even his respect. He straightened and regarded Sivoy from his full height – considerable, even among the Canderi. “Your graciousness humbles me.”

 Sivoy glared back, but her words were honey-sweet.  “Corvac, please tend to our guest while I gather the others.”

 With that, she spun on her heels and marched away, disappearing within one of the other tents. Atanar looked back at Corvac and the older man, presumably the boy’s grandfather as well, given the resemblance between Corvac and Sivoy. “I have no need of your charity.”

The older man leaned on his staff and regarded Atanar with a shrewd gaze before he smiled; the expression shone through his white beard. “That remains to be seen, my friend.” He nodded to the tent behind him. “Come, sit. My name is Tikaani. Rest easy, warrior, and eat your fill, for now you are among kin.”

Tikaani spoke the benediction with a familiar, musical cadence that Atanar had heard more times than he could count. But even so gently said, the words struck Atanar in the chest as would a thrown spear or a stray atsuula hoof. At once he was overtaken by an ache so deep and powerful, he could not speak. Beyond the camp, the sky darkened further still, and each gust of wind cut more bitterly than the last, adding to the ache. Vorunn. So it had taken almost everything from him – almost. It would eventually take his life. It should take his life. Very likely it would, if he tried to weather the storm without proper supplies.

But death is what I want, he thought, clenching his jaw lest he reveal his battered heart to these vagabonds. Isn’t it?

Perhaps sensing his indecision, Tikaani said, “Outcast or not, cursed or not, you have no home. Please share ours – even if only for a night.”

Kindness…perhaps. In all likelihood the old man had an ulterior motive. Nevertheless, Atanar nodded once. “I may as well get out of the wind.”


Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think so far. 😊

Next time: “It’s my life you speak of. And if you’re asking everyone’s opinion, shouldn’t mine count as well?”

Catalyst Moon: Exile (Part One)

As promised, here’s the first installment to this unreleased Catalyst Moon novella. Enjoy! 😁


ONE

Atanar held Ruuk’s gaze and prayed the snow lion’s death would be swift. Although he could not hear Ruuk’s thoughts, he knew the proud beast’s heart and saw the fear in those vivid blue eyes – a mirror of his own.

Be at ease, my friend, Atanar thought, willing Ruuk to understand, willing his own terror not to affect his friend any more than it already had. It will be over, soon.

The snow lion, a caradoc, in the Canderi language, stared back. His breath still came fast, steaming the late winter morning air, but only Atanar’s ears rang with the memory of his roars, for the snow lion was calmer now. Even so, the half a dozen Canderi warriors that held the ropes binding Ruuk regarded him warily. The other Canderi who had come to watch the execution and exile kept at a safe distance, easily done on the flat tundra.

Atanar longed to place a hand upon Ruuk’s snowy mane; though he and Ruuk were separated by Atanar’s fellow Canderi, he could still feel the thick fur between his fingers. But the strong hands holding Atanar in place would not release him. Yet.

The samaat, the leader of Atanar’s clan, lifted Atanar’s blade—though Atanar would never touch it again—and the audience held their collective breath.

Atanar fought not to squeeze his eyes shut. He would not dishonor Ruuk by looking away. His blade descended.

Winter wind cut through Atanar’s furs and struck him as though it was the claymore he’d once carried every day of his life; the same claymore now slit his caradoc’s throat. The bond between them severed; Atanar felt the loss as if his own soul had been stolen. In a sense, it had. With a snarl of surprise, the massive gray-spotted lion collapsed in a heap of fur and bright crimson stained the snow beneath Atanar’s boots.

The samaat turned her cold blue eyes to Atanar. Though he’d faced that gaze many times, there was something different there, now, something he could not name. She pointed his claymore at him and said, “Vorunn.”

Atanar had known this was coming, so why did he flush at the shame, the degradation? He was cursed, had been so since that night. Vorunn. Now he had no soul, no ties to Cander – his home, his blood. Now, he was alone.

The other white-clad Canderi who surrounded them shifted at hearing the term, but none spoke. Only the wind dared to dart through the mountains that stood sentinel all around, kicking snow flurries over the snow lion’s carcass and those that watched alike. It was a mournful wind, and it whispered, Vorunn.

Ever since he’d awoken that night, Atanar had known this was coming, but somehow, hearing the word aloud was worse than everything else – even his beloved Ruuk’s death. Perhaps his mother had been right, and at twenty-two summers he was too young and proud and headstrong to know when to bow to fate. But no longer. Now he shut his eyes and dropped his head, as much in acceptance as from a desire to look anywhere else. The word echoed through his bones like a shout in a mountain pass. Vorunn.

But deep within him, where anger warred with bitterness and collided with grief, something else stirred. The edges of his vision blurred a little more with each increased beat of his heart, and the world seemed strange, dull and distant – just for one moment. His breath caught. No, not again.

Yes, again. Yes, always. He was cursed – he was vorunn.

The samaat cleared her throat and brought him back into the moment. Atanar looked up and the elderly woman gestured with the sword behind him; the crowd parted, giving way to the broad expanse of Cander tundra. Beyond the tundra was the Iyer River. Beyond that…

No. This was not supposed to be his fate. But what choice did he have? An honorable death was too good for him. Throat tight, Atanar looked back at the clan chieftain. “Please–”

But she cut off his words with a wave of the claymore; in her sixtieth summer, she may have been, but she held the sword as if it were a feather. “No, Atanar.”

The use of his name startled him. He wasn’t the only one. The surrounding Canderi of their family glanced at each other, bewilderment on their faces, but still kept their silence.

Perhaps sensing her misstep, the samaat raised herself to her full height and struck him again with that cold glare, though her eyes were red-rimmed. “You have killed your own kind. You have slaughtered an innocent–”

Her voice cracked, betraying her outward calm. But she composed herself almost immediately, she was the samaat, after all. “Your name will be forgotten,” she said as the wind lifted her graying hair. “Your voice will not be missed. You will die alone, and not even the crows will mark your passing.”

Atanar dropped his head again as his bonds were cut. Someone shoved him backwards, sending him stumbling, but he caught himself before he fell. “I heard you,” he couldn’t help but mutter. “I’m going.”

“Go faster.” She shoved him again, towards the borderlands that divided Cander from Aredia.

  The others echoed, “Vorunn.”           

 “Go,” the samaat said one last time.

He went.


Three days to reach the Iyer River. Three days without food and only a few sips of water from the flask he’d been allowed. Only enough to leave Cander. Once he left, he would not be allowed to return. Every morning, Atanar awoke in a cold sweat, heart racing, searching for the warm familiarity of those he loved, but he was always alone.

At last Atanar stood above the snow, atop a boulder at the river’s edge. It was swiftly flowing, but shallow, racing over smooth round stones to an end he could not measure from the skull of the world. The Iyer River might have served a better purpose if it were deeper, or if he could not swim.

If he had a blade, he could have ended everything days ago.

For what surely must have been the hundredth time that day, Atanar looked behind him at the mountains; blanketed with snow, distant and untouchable, but somehow comforting in their invincibility.

 No longer. That tight, painful knot of memory and grief that lived in his heart seemed to coil tighter at the thought of home.

Ancestors help me, he thought, then winced. He was vorunn: cursed, exiled, less-than human. He had no past, nor future, any longer. “Vorunn,” he said aloud. “That is all you are. You have no home. Go.”

The river only came up to his knees, so he forded it easily. Too easily. Once on the opposite, shore, he paused to inhale deeply, but the air smelled the same in Aredia as it did in Cander. Strange, that he’d thought it would be otherwise.


Next time: He was vorunn; he could not find peace with his ancestors, but perhaps there was something for him in what waited beyond.

But the boy spoke up again. “Are you hungry?”


Did you enjoy? Let me know what you think in the comments! 😊

Legal mumbo-jumbo:

Copyright © 2019 by Lauren L. Garcia.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Author’s note: Exile is supplementary reading to the larger story of Catalyst Moon. The events of this vignette collection take place before Catalyst Moon: Incursion. However, Exile may be read at any point prior to Catalyst Moon: Surrender.

Catalyst Moon: Exile – new novella

Howdy!

If you’ve been around these parts for a couple years, you might recall me talking about a Catalyst Moon prequel novella. Due to life, Exile has been relegated to the backburner for a while now, and the truth is, even after several rewrites, it still needs a lot of work. Also, I’m not sure when, or even if, I’ll “properly” publish it. I’ve waffled about what to do with it, and have ultimately decided to share it here, as it’s doing no good collecting virtual dust in my hard drive.

I’ll post each section on the blog every week (ish), so stay tuned.

And as always with any fiction I share on this blog, this is still sort of a rough draft, so please excuse any typos. However, please do let me know what you think. All feedback, thoughts, musings, squees, and/or rants are welcome. 😊

Take care and stay awesome,

Lauren

Breach – new cover reveal! 😍

It’s done.

My books are now scrubbed clean of every remnant of my former publisher. While I liked their version of Breach’s cover better than their take on Incursion’s, I’m not sorry to see it gone. My time with Inkitt taught me a lot – about the publishing world and about myself – but ultimately, it’s for the best that we parted ways.

If you’ll excuse the bad pun, the new cover for Breach begins a new chapter in my writing career: one where I stand on my own, one where all potential rests squarely on my shoulders. This is terrifying notion. I can’t and won’t deny that truth. But I’ve got dreams and aspirations, and to achieve them, my internal drive must be fiercer than fear.

So, forward. Always. 😁

Anyway, here’s the new cover! Fiona Jayde did a FABULOUS job and I’m already brainstorming book 4’s. 😆

Until we meet again,

Lauren

Introducing: The Catalyst Moon Fan Collective! 😁

Hi there!

So, it has been a while since my last post, naturally. Unlike previous times, there is a reason, but I’m not quite ready to share the details of my personal life to this extent. Suffice it to say that much in my life has changed, but I’m still 100% oriented toward all things Catalyst Moon.

Hey, speaking of CM… We have our very own Facebook group! It’s called the Catalyst Moon Fan Collective (though I’m not sold on the name & will gladly take suggestions) and you totally should join the fun! I thought it’d be cool to have one spot where we can chat, rant, gush, etc. about this labor of love. We’re small in number, now, but are vast in spirit!

So if you haven’t already, I encourage you to join the fun! 😊

Link: Catalyst Moon Fan Collective

Until we meet again,

Lauren

cover art reveal!

Heya!

It’s happened, y’all. Catalyst Moon: Incursion FINALLY has a cover I can be proud of! The amazing Fiona Jayde has knocked another one out of the proverbial park, and I am super jazzed to reveal book one’s new cover art!

IT’S SO GORGEOUS! 😍😍😍

Massive, tremendous, ecstatic thank you to Fiona Jayde and her team! I’m always blown away by the quality of her work, particularly given her reasonable price points. Seriously, if you need a book cover, check out Fiona Jayde Media.

Okay, that’s enough gushing for now. I’m off to update the print and ebook version. 😁

Thank you and stay awesome!
Lauren

Update – May 2019

Hi there!

First off, this is a gentle reminder that Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3) is now available on Amazon! Massive thanks to those who have purchased it so far! 💜 If you are able, I humbly ask that you leave a review so that other readers know what they’re in for.

Second, in case you didn’t hear the news, Catalyst Moon: Incursion (Book 1) is the Spring Book of the Month over at F-BOM! I’m thrilled beyond measure to have my work featured among the likes of other awesome, feminist authors (and readers), so please do take a look at what Cecelia & Lindsey are doing, because it’s important and amazing. Even if you already own Incursion (and if you don’t, you should!), there’s going to be a ton of great member-only content on their site, including multiple interviews by yours truly. (We had a blast recording them! I could quite literally talk for hours about writing, feminism, and Catalyst Moon.) Check out F-BOM today! 😍

In actual writing news, one of my betas has finished her read of Book 4. I’m pleased to report that, other than a LOT of continuity issues on my part, (plus my tendency to ramble), the book seems to be in fairly decent shape overall. I still need to do a lot of work to make it palatable, but let’s not worry about that right now. 😉 Of course, my other beta is still working through, so she may have a different take. Time will tell.

As I’ve reported in a previous post, Book 5’s discovery draft is done, although the story is far from written. I’ve completed my first read-through and it’s…rough. There are a lot of unnecessary elements that clog the narrative and will need to be reworked, which means that probably 60% of the book, (if not more), will be rewritten. Honestly, though this task feels a bit daunting, I’m excited to tackle the rewrites because the story will be better: more satisfying and more cohesive.

Book 6 is still very much in the planning stages. I’ve decided to rein in my usual barrel-forward-at-all-costs approach and try to, you know, PLAN these next three books as sorta their own trilogy, even though they are the continuation of elements set up in books 1 – 3. This may seem like an obvious solution, but for the author who is up to her eyeballs in Catalyst Moon, this was a revelation. In any case, book 6 should be the final installment in the current story arc. I have MANY plans for the next story arc, so stick around; the best is yet to come. 😁

In self-publishing news, I’m working with the talented Fiona Jayde on redoing Book 1’s cover, and plan to redo Book 2’s as well. Marketing has unfortunately had to take a backseat due to 2019 being a battering ram; I have to be judicious with my time and energy, so most of both are saved for my family and the actual creation of content, (ie: my books.) In a perfect world, I could do it all, but alas…

Lastly, if you’re in the North Florida area on June 29th, stop by Infinity Con and say hi! 😘

Until we meet again, stay awesome,

Lauren