Sorry to have been missing for several months. In December last year I was diagnosed with cancer, and had to have several bits removed. I am now in remission and hopefully free of tumours.

To celebrate being back in action for the time being, I have decided to publish occasional extracts from Winterbloom, my work in progress. It is now 96, 445 words long, thanks in part to Nanowrimo.

Winterbloom follows on from Malarat, the third book in the series. In it, the story moves from Lefranu to Anglond, and then England. A group of seven immortals including notorious Elizabethan Magus Dr John Dee and modern warlock Aleister Crowley are trying to harvest magic from other worlds.

In order to do so, they have set in motion a plan of cosmic proportions, working across time and space, in order to unite Earth with its sister worlds Midgarth and Mir.

Random extract follows:

He had not been expecting the firedrake. In a cavern that was monstrously tall, something rose up, with the smooth body of a snake, the hood of a cobra and blood-red eyes. It was too smooth, slick as a worm, and its eyes were filled with flame. It had fangs the length of a man’s arm, and as it reared up, flames licked around it and squirted from its mouth, burning the floor of the cave black and red. It was hideous yet beautiful, a creature that should not exist in any world, any more than the fabled salamanders that lived in fire. A torch was useless against it, and both Dakker and El Shur threw theirs down on the cave floor and drew their swords. They both carried the gladius, the Imperial army sword that had served many generations.

‘Shura! What is that?’ shouted Dakker against the roar of the flames.

‘Naga,’ said El Shur, simply. And it struck, in a movement that looked slow but was swift, uncoiling its neck and snapping across the cave like a whip. Both men jumped clear, and the Naga followed them with its fiery breath. They backed against the cave wall, trying to remember where they had entered; the cave seemed to have sealed itself somehow, and they could not detect any tunnels or openings.

‘Is this the underworld?’ Dakker shouted against the roar of the flames. In spite of his fear, he also felt a hysterical glee at the sheer size and power of the brute. Nothing like that could exist in the upper world; down here, it had brought the underworld into being. El Shur glanced at him.

‘I don’t know, Dakker,’ he said. ‘No-one said there would be creatures like this.’

The flame forced them apart. They confronted the creature, balancing on the balls of their feet like gladiators, ready to run, jump or somersault. Dakker had been a gladiator in truth; he had not forgotten the tricks needed to outwit an adversary. As the snake darted out its neck, he brought down the sword, the trusty gladius, on its smooth back; and the blade snapped.

The firedrake swung its head, snapping it from side to side, and knocked him off his feet. Despite its size, it moved as swiftly as a tiny creature. As he hit the ground, the pulse-blood thundering in his head, Dakker heard El Shur shout his name. He had lost his footing and gone down, the worst thing of all. He looked up into its jaws without a sword to fend it off, and saw the ridged bones in the roof of its mouth, the flickering black tongue and the flame in its gullet. He thought he was going to die, and whispered the prayer of ending.

Copyright Jessica Rydill 2015

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