Kaelynn’s Tale

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Copy of Heir of Nostalgia 1As many of you know, my first published work in the Valerian Series is aptly named, A Gathering of Darkness. So if you’re curious to try my writing out, I would start there.

‘Tis thought the king is dead; we will not stay.
The bay-trees in our country are all wither’d
And meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven;
The pale-faced moon looks bloody on the earth
And lean-look’d prophets whisper fearful change;
Rich men look sad and ruffians dance and leap,
The one in fear to lose what they enjoy,
The other to enjoy by rage and war:
These signs forerun the death or fall of kings.

Shakespeare: Richard II., ii. 4.

And thus begins the Heir of Nostalgia SeriesCopy of he

The second book in the Series is titled, Kaelynn’s Tale.  As you can imagine this book deals mainly with Theo’s love interest from A Gathering Darkness.  It also builds upon the mythology of Nostalgia, and some of the legends and lore within that countries history.  However, without context, you’re probably going to feel lost if you start with Kaelynn’s Tale first.

I think it’s only fair to warn you that even with this being said Kaelynn’s Tale, can be considered odd.  It is as much backstory as it is forging ahead.  It’s about a hero and heroine, and it illuminates as much as it clouds- in other words, it doesn’t do a lot of the things a “normal” story is supposed to do, but what it does, it does well.

On the other hand, if you’d like to learn more about Kaelynn, Catherine, Katrina and Theo, as well as a character called the Bone Wytch, then this story has a lot to offer.

If you love words and mysteries and secrets- if you’re curious about the darkness behind the scenes and the forces that are just beginning to marshal their strengths, then this book is for you.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

Kaelynn’s Tale

Chapter 0

 

Some stories are fully formed, others grow in the telling. Kaelynn’s Tale is one such story.

I have always been amazed at how strong the character of Kaelynn Carroll has become throughout the story of Theo and Phillip. Her beginnings were simple, a love interest for Theo, but as she grew on the page, her character began to deepen and broaden in character development.

As an author, I suspicioned what had occurred to her, from those tense, dark moments beneath the British Museum of Art until she found herself on a plane above the Atlantic on her way back to the States. Afterward there was darkness on her soul, a stain, as it were, from what she experienced on the ‘other side.’ I thought it was time the rest of the world caught a glimpse of what cast that shadow.

I’d like to say that her story ends here, but as you already know, dear reader, that simply is not true. Kaelynn lives on, and continues to affect all who encounter her, struggle with her, as she continues to journey forward to defend the man she loves and the family she will become.

I hope this story answers some of your questions regarding past enemies, present villains, and the situations that birthed them. I also hope it creates some new questions and mysteries as well. After all, what good is it to know everything when mystery drives life?

In order of reading, this book falls somewhere between Book One, Heir of Nostalgia- A Gathering Darkness, and the concluding volume yet to be written.

The story of Valerian continues to grow with each new telling, as more story-lines are overturned and brought to the surface. It has always been my intention to uncover each new gem as it is revealed, bringing to light the lost times and places and people of Nostalgia.  I hope you enjoy.

S.M. Muse

May 2014

 

 

Chapter 1- A Gathering Darkness

 When: Thirteen years ago… almost to the day.

Where: British Museum of Antiquities and Arts

Circumstances: Prior to Kaelynn’s flight back to the States

 For a moment it was all she could do not to break out in hysterical laughter.  “Something’s definitely wrong,” she repeated, looking down at the three paintings before her.  As if on cue there came another thump, this one seemingly much closer than the last. Again, it was followed by a general dimming of the lights overhead. “That can’t be good, can it?” she observed.

Much like the insanity of the paintings before her, like this entire situation!

At the same time Henson’s eyes widened, his hand going to his throat, as if his fear needed a physical expression. “We need to get out of here!” In his rush to get around he clips her knee, causing them both to stumble.  As he fell, clipboard, papers, and pen fly from his hands.

Before she can say or do anything, the door bursts wide open- darkness engulfs them like a tidal wave.

 

Instant chaos and pandemonium, muffled shouts and scrambling abound, mostly hers.

In one corner of the room something large topples, knocked over by whatever accompanies the darkness into the room. The sound of its breaking echoes throughout the chamber like rolling thunder.

Without warning, wings, claws, and beaks seem to fill the space around her, scratching and pecking at her arms, hands, and face. She raises a hand to protect her eyes; with the other she keeps a tight grip on Hilliard’s book.

Henson was right; they needed to get out of here.

Funny now, but in the midst of all the chaos, she thought she’d freeze. However, with effort, she neither freezes nor screams helplessly, instead she manages to crawl towards the direction of the door, even as the presence and sound of many bodies begin to surround her, filling all the remaining space.

In that next moment, the room feels crowded, to the point of being claustrophobic.

 

She manages to exit the room and enter the just-as-dark, but much-emptier-feeling, hallway outside.  Still blind, eyes wrapped in darkness, she manages to stumble towards the elevators (or so she hopes), before catching her foot and tripping over something sprawled before her unseen.  She falls so quickly and unexpectedly, that she makes little effort to catch herself. As a result, sudden and intense pain lances from her knees where they cracked against the floor.  She cries out, but the sound of her voice is drowned out by the larger struggle within the room she just exited.  She considers crying out to Henson, but decides against it at the last second. Since the darkness fell, she hasn’t heard a peep from the Englishman, either by design or by accident.

This should tell me something… as in I should keep my big mouth shut!

Perhaps the darkness works to her advantage as well.

 

Biting her lip against the pain, she manages to stand, using the wall to steady herself. She has time to draw a couple of deep breaths, before she is startled by muffled cries from somewhere behind her.

Henson!

More cries, and then there is no time to scream, as a roughened hand closes over her face, choking off her airway and causing her head to snap back.

Violence fills the air.  Someone is behind her.  She steps back, hoping to catch them off guard!

No good-

She leans forward, hoping to pull them off balance- suddenly a heavy thud from behind, so heavy it reverberates through her assailants bones-

Now!

She struggles to break free, her assailant hangs on.  Her chest burns for air, eyes watering, in the midst of all this someone, or thing, begins tugging at Hilliard’s book.  Desperate, and with her waning reserves of energy she strikes out with her foot, striking the leg of her assailant.  An ear-splitting scream and then she is free!

In the midst of all this a sudden memory crashes in, a childhood dream, or a vision perhaps, of a time when giants tried to save her from the wretchedness of night and all she could do was cry out for her mother and father to save her.

Fevered dreams?

The memory fades as a series of blinding flares cut the darkness reminding her of sparks from a metal grinder. Once again she topples forward as the floor is torn from beneath her.

She lands on her knees in the sand.

Sand?

Sudden light, clarity- what she sees- nightmare!

She was no longer in the hallway, or even beneath the museum—she had been cast into purgatory instead.

This can’t be real. This can’t be happening…

But it was. The two skies that vaulted overhead made no sense. They reminded her of two gigantic wheels tipped up on their rims. And as such, they appeared to be grinding one against the other, like two tremendous dinner plates slapped back-to-back. In that space where they met in eternal battle, where one wore against the other, madness and fire literally rained from the sky in showers, white-hot streaks of fire trailing into darkness and night.

The wheels were like two sides of the same coin, one side wearing darkness as pitch black as night; the other, visible to Kaelynn, radiated bright, illuminating light.

All she could do was stand there, wildly attempting to make sense of what she was seeing.

Could something like this be happening?

Once again, a singular thought ran through her mind, drowning out all other thoughts. This can’t be happening. This can’t be real…

 

In the distance, off to her right, sprawled a featureless plain flat as a pancake and desolate as a desert. An endless, burning vista of waste. It radiated a stifling heat, furnace hot.

Behind her was the exact opposite. An overly healthy jungle of dark green, massive and sprawling, seemed to consume the border between desert wasteland and deep forest as primitive and primeval as any she’d ever seen before.

The fact that it reminded her of the Siberian wilderness, a taiga some 1.5 million square miles in size, did not escape her.

 

A murky haze seemed to grip this darkened land, and beyond the haze, there were what appeared to be mountains, an entire range of needle-sharp rock formations stabbing up from the earth in clear defiance of the sky. On the sides of those mountains was a series of dark forbidden keeps.

What she could see, even at this distance, were gigantic and frightening structures, horrendous in size and proportion, like some nightmarish scene from a 1930s black and white horror flick.

And were they slowly moving…

Where was she? More importantly, was there anyone in this place to hear her cry?

This can’t be happening. This can’t be real. Please God, I just want to go home!

 

“Mr. Henson?” Her words seemed to fall from numb lips to lie lifelessly at her feet. It was as if the air itself were void of life. She might as well have been screaming in a vacuum.

“Mr. Henson…” she tried again. Same result, an eerie and flat silence was her only answer. A sudden thought occurred to her even as fear wrapped its cold, bony fingers around the base of her skull. What if I am all alone? What if Henson never even made it out of the museum?

What if?

A quick look around only confirmed her fear. She was alone, absolutely alone, with the Englishman nowhere in sight.

Obviously, we’re not in Kansas anymore, she realized.

Being caught out in the open left her feeling vulnerable. She needed to find cover, shelter, anything safe—in other words, the cool, darkened, confines of the nearby forest.

Upon entering the woods, she tried to relax. But the strange woods made it hard.

The nearest tree, its trunk twisted and gnarled, seemed to be swallowed by darkness, an eerie sort of night that seemed to absorb her very being. The darkness’s depth both beckoned and repelled her, a siren’s song of seduction and deception.

Only then did she realize that she had been weeping the entire time, tears running down her cheeks and leaving salty trails on her lips and tongue. It was obvious, as she took stock of her situation that she was either stark-raving mad, or she had been knocked unconscious beneath the museum during the struggle, and was hallucinating. There was a third possibility as well, one she hated to even contemplate—that she was dead, as in dead-as-a-doornail dead.

It had to be one of the three. There was another possibility as well—the one that had her trapped beneath the museum, blinded by darkness, helpless, unable to move, get away—one that had her living in hell.

So pick your poison, Mrs. Contestant… chose your fate. Which one will it be? Door #1 and insanity? Door #2, tripping on LSD? Or Door #3, being really, really, dead?

She had to start somewhere, so she pinched herself on the leg.

Ouch!

She obviously wasn’t asleep or dreaming. She also realized that maybe next time she shouldn’t pinch herself so hard, either.

Next, she placed two fingers just beneath her chin, feeling for a pulse.

.. .. ..

Yep, a definite heartbeat, so she obviously wasn’t dead. Which was a good thing…? Then again, if she were dead she could just be imagining a heartbeat… It certainly felt real, from the blistering heat in front of her to the cool, shivery, shade behind. A line from Dante’s Inferno rose unbidden to her mind bringing with it another possibility altogether:

“Midway upon the journey of our life,

I found myself within a forest dark,

For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

 

Great, just great. The last thing she needed was to be comparing this place to Dante’s Inferno.

From beneath the trees she took a good long look around, hoping to spot anything at all that might tell her where she was or how she could possibly get out of this place—only to see nothing obvious; nothing, that is, except for the aforementioned vistas of blistering heat and sun and the choking forests of darkness and gloom.

The sands before her stretched all the way to the horizon, and had been bleached to a bone-white by the unforgiving sun blazing overhead. Nothing stirred, nothing even moved, other than the eternal watery haze drifting just along the surface. The place reminded her of the Great Salt Flats in Utah. Her parents had taken her and her brother there, on their last family vacation what seemed a lifetime ago.

 

The forest, on the other hand, was the exact opposite.

From within its confines, cool breezes tugged at her hair and clothing, bringing with them the sickeningly sweet aroma of jasmine and rose. Undercutting these scents were even deeper scents, like shadows cast at midnight, hints of cinnamon, cumin, and curry. There was something else as well, more than just a simple current or a breeze, something lurking just beyond her senses, hidden by the darkness of the trees—something primeval.

The dampness permeating the air left tiny drops of dew behind, coating her clothing, forearms, and face. As a result, she began to shiver. Whether from terror or the coolness she could not tell, but possibly a combination of both.

As noted before, the trunks of nearby trees were thick, dark and gnarled—twisted—as if suffering from paralyzing arthritis. Clumps of pale lichen clung to their sides and waved from overhead branches. Each tree bore a weighty crown of thick, green foliage, leaves the size of her palm, some bigger still. At times they seemed to wave at her in some sort of silent, sinister language.

(She might have imagined that last part.)

Beneath her feet, the soil lay rich, dark, and dank, bringing to mind images of spilt dried blood.

For some reason, at that moment, her mind leapt to a game she used to play with her brother and parents as a child, a game she still taught groups of schoolchildren who visited her museum.

It was a game her father liked to call Survival.

The premise of the game was simple—you were one of the lucky (or not so lucky, depending on how you looked upon it) survivors of a recent plane crash. The object of the game was to gather various supplies, in order of importance, while waiting to be rescued. Gameplay consisted of each child being given a sheet of paper listing approximately twenty to twenty-five items, from flashlights to matchbooks, blankets to a compass.

The idea was to list those items in order of importance, starting with the most important and ending with the least important, that would be necessary for survival. One wrong decision and you die a gruesome, horrible death! (Pretty morbid game, if you think about it.)

On your mark, get set, go…

This time though, it was for real. This wasn’t some game. She really was stranded. And a long way from home, by looks of it, she mused sourly. Her only problem this time, she wasn’t in a classroom full of kids; she was outside in unfamiliar surroundings and she had no real supplies to begin with—other than Hilliard’s sketchbook and a few odds and ends she managed to pull together in her mad rush from the hotel.

 

Feeling her mind start to wander, she resisted the urge to run even further into the woods. Something in her gut said she needed to stay put, that danger existed beneath those outstretched branches. As a result, she focused on the moment, and what may or may not have taken place to bring her here in the first place. She was beginning to feel an awfully lot like Alice after falling down the rabbit hole.

The last thing she clearly remembered was being in one of the rooms beneath the British Museum of Art with its curator, Mr. Henson. They had been looking over some of Hilliard’s more “questionable” paintings—paintings that showed Theo, Phillip, and a few others, including herself, dressed in 16th-century garb and posing like Royalty.

The thing was they had never posed for such pictures, not even in spoof or for fun. Second and more important was the fact that she hadn’t been alive during the 16th century. She’d been born in the twentieth century; late 70s to be exact, a good four hundred and some years after the supposed paintings had been created!

Deep breaths, Kael, deep breaths. Just close your eyes and get your crap together…

She tried.

 

Regardless of how she felt or even how impossible her current situation seemed to be, one fact remained—she needed to come up with a plan for how to get out of there and back to reality.

She hoped that when she opened her eyes, she’d be back in the labyrinthine hallways beneath the museum with Mr. Henson, and all this craziness would go away. With this singular thought in mind she slowly opened her eyes to see what she might see.

 

If you like what you’ve just read, make sure and pick up Kaelynn’s Tale– Book 2 of the Valerian Cycle.

Copy of he

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