Tag Archives: science fantasy

Shadow Over Avalon: The makings of a cover.

Shadow Over AvalonBackcover of SOA Shadow Over Avalon Front cover  SOA Postcard

Evelinn Enoksen, wonderful artist. https://evelinnenoksen.wordpress.com/

Ken Dawson talented graphic designer: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Phoenix-Designs/422386537864899?pnref=lhc

The concept is the bands controlling the surface humans interlinked and hovering over the undersea city of free humans, Avalon. The second picture is a Moonscape with a flying saucer in the background against the beginnings of Earthrise. These are all elements in the book series, the first of which, ‘Shadow Over Avalon’ is at a temporary and amazing discount of only 99c. Get it while you can at this price.

Stuck for a Christmas Gift? Look at these awesome titles from Kristell Ink

KI Kickstarter

http://kristell-ink.com/out-now/

Hot off the press is SS front and back with text

and  White Mountain cover

And from Tenebris BooksTenebris Books

http://www.grimboldbooks.com/our-imprints/tenebris-books/

All books are available in print and as ebooks. They can be found at Amazon, Barns and Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Waterstones and many other venues.

5 star review for Shadow Over Avalon

by C.N. Lesley

Shadow Over Avalon

A review taken at random from the Amazon.co.uk website. Wow! Does happy dance. #kingarthur #dystopia #achievednumber1bestsellerpaidonAmazon #99c #C.N.Lesley

5.0 out of 5 stars Shadow over Avalon! 14 April 2014
By brenda
Format:Kindle Edition
Shadow Over Avalon is an unusual book that caught my attention, grabbed hold and didn’t let go until the very last page. I loved the ongoing adventure that was both thrilling, entertaining and wildly suspenseful.

This is a well developed story with great characters and extremely good writing. So much creativity and imagination. Pretty mind blowing if you ask me. This futuristic tale took me by surprise and brought me to a completely different time and place. How I loved the surprises. This story moved at a quick pace as there was never a dull moment. Surprising since I am not much of a fantasy or science fiction fan. The writing was enough to keep me glued to the pages. Loving every minute. This is a smart story that will take you places you never imagined existed. I would highly recommend this great tale if you are looking for a great escape with a great unpredictable plot. I love how the different story lines come together. Very clever. I would read more from this author. Without a doubt. So enjoyable.

Excerpt ~
“Two days of rest refreshed Shadow. The morning of solstice started a warm, cloudless day. She walked along the shore after breakfast, followed by two brothers. They didn’t appear to trust her not to leave them, looking on the edge with her so near water. She returned to the camp with reluctance and one backward glance at the sun glinting off the waves.”

The writing is soothing and poetic. Sophisticated and yet easy to get lost into. I would highly recommend this sophisticated story that has the wow factor!

http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Over-Avalon-C-N-Lesley-ebook/dp/B00GAN6HMG/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_3

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/shadow-over-avalon

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadow-over-avalon-cn-lesley/1117299037?ean=2940045359054

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shadow-over-avalon/id735615772?mt=11

Real people for characters?

Someone asked me this the other day. Well the answer is both yes and no. Yes, I did base a Flash Fiction story on a very irritating real person and no, I would not put a real person into a book. It wouldn’t work as the personality would be already established, with all the little quirks, wants, wishes and needs. It would be like taking a bucket of water out of a rushing mountain stream and letting it sit there, trapped and stagnating. There is a lot of difference between a story of five hundred words and one of 100k+.

While my book characters are entirely fictitious, they then to spring to life fully formed, with strong personalities of their own in the world they inhabit. I couldn’t inflict artificial restraints on these free spirits in the form of an artificial personae of a real person grafted onto them. The first thing that comes to my mind is the resulting amalgams would be boring and predictable. Eeeew.

However, if a film ever got made of my Shadow books then I know which actor I would like to play Arthur. Don’t know his name, but he is perfect. Arthur

Research and Fantasy.

I was having an interesting discussion a few days back with an author who writes in a different genre to myself. The upshot of it was that they thought I was very lucky was it didn’t really matter what details/setting/skills I added to my sci fis and fantasy as it was all made up anyway.  ROTFLMAO.

Um no, this may be a popular assumption, but it is an incorrect one. Take Darkspire Reaches, for example, which is a fantasy world, not Earth.  Ah, you may say, in that book you used Earth words to describe trees and stuff. Yep, I did. Of course I did. I had gone to a great deal of trouble to construct this world, decided on its geology, weather patterns, temperature, zones, types of flora and fauna that could possibly live successfully in this place, so naturally I used the words people would recognize. If I stick a rabbit in a story I am not going to commit the stupid trope of calling it a flubble, or a werible. If it looks like a rabbit and acts like a rabbit, then it is a rabbit.

Why all the fuzz over stuff fitting into a setting? In one word, feasibility. I can’t have violets and roses flowering at the same time. A lot of people know this doesn’t happen in reality. I can’t have a xerophyte spudded in at an unlikely location. It has to be consistent and realistic to allow the reader to sink comfortably in the world.

What about history? Yes, that is enormously important. With the Shadow Series, beginning with Shadow Over Avalon, I wanted to find what the true King Arthur might have been like. This involved going back to the original Welsh legends to avoid the politically correct fabrications firmly in place by the time of Mallory. Fabrications? Oh yes.  In Medieval times it was considered almost necessary to go on a pilgrimage; something the church really promoted as the end destination raked in on cha chink right royally. In those times, Glastonbury Abby ‘discovered’ the bones of King Arthur and his queen in their precincts. (One hopes they were not over-zeolous about procuring the right sort of bodies). Now the problem was that hyping up the Arthurian legends meant mentioning women of power. Oh quel horreur! Women couldn’t have power! That couldn’t happen, therefore one Geoffrey of Monmouth set out to discredit pagan priestess Morgan Le Faye and he made a bang up job of it. Now to elevate Arthur, who was most probably a pagan king. Easy enough with chivalry, knights and holy quests, excepting there were no knights in Arthur’s real time-frame. Also look closely at the objects in the major stories. A sword and a grail. Writing was a real pain way back when and I imagine it took Geoffrey’s whole life work to put all this down on vellum in beautiful script done with a quill or two, not to mention the gold leafing trim. This explains the absence of the other two power objects, the wand and the pentacle.

Look at the old Tarot sets and the names will be very different. Swords, Cups, Pentacles and Wands; not Swords, Chalices, Coins and Batons as they became to fit in the need for the right sort of chappy to go visit on a pilgrimage. Arthur was Christianize, as were many of the trappings from the pagan days. Of course the monks could get away with whatever they wanted to say to swing a pilgrimage route in their direction. At that time, they were the only ones, aside from a very few nobles, who could read. History is absolutely fascinating when taken back to the nth degree.

I will only use a small fragment of the material I researched for the Shadow Series. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is I have a real handle on Arthur and his times.  And just how did ancient men raise Stonehenge? The jury is still out on that one.Snow day May 29 2010 158

Shadow Over Avalon only 99c for a limited time.

http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Over-Avalon-C-N-Lesley-ebook/dp/B00GAN6HMG/ref=asap_B00HTV3GV8_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416661986&sr=1-

1

by C.N. Lesley

Beyond the mists of time, a dying warrior binds his soul to his sword with an oath to protect his people. His shade rides with the Wild Hunt while he waits for the call of greatest need, but when it comes, he doesn’t know it is a lie.
In the undersea city of Avalon, Arthur nears the end of his acolyte training. But he doesn’t want to spend his life serving the Archive, he wants to fight side by side with the air-breathing people to defeat the predators who are determined to ensure their own survival no matter the cost.
Ashira, War Maid princess of the surface-world, is ready to sacrifice her life to defend her kin, but when she is betrayed she must choose whether to die with honor or become one of the creatures her kinsmen fear and loathe.
Fortune twists in the strongest hands. This is no repeat; this is what happens next.

Following two threads of time, CN Lesley’s fresh take on the Arthurian tales of old delivers the perfect blend of science fiction and fantasy.

And here is the next book in the series, just released, ‘Sword of Shadows’.

SS front and back with text

http://www.amazon.com/Sword-Shadows-C-N-Lesley-ebook/dp/B00P4HX4SE/ref=asap_B00HTV3GV8_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416661986&sr=1-2

By the pricking in my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.

I hear Sword of Shadows will be live on Sunday. Yay! This being the case, there is another little snippet of the first chapter.

Five hours later, Arthur and the exhausted Submariners finished dragging all the Terran warriors into a vast, air-filled cavern under Dozary Lake. Looking up, he just managed to grab the wrist of a weary man about to remove stasis devices.

“No. Leave them, Huber. They are getting the rest they need.” Arthur’s hand shook where it gripped the Submariner. He forced it to stillness. “They have just lost a battle advantage. They do not need time to brood over it.”

“Will you leave them here, Arthur?” Huber sank to his knees, trembling with the same fatigue. The raw scent of ketones, the by-product of protein breakdown, wafted through the air around him.

“All of us must rest.” Arthur looked around at what he could see of their dank and noise-some bolthole. It offered little beyond safety. He faced a decision he did not want to make. “Then we visit Avalon.”

When his Submariners crawled to sleeping places in the sand, Arthur used every last ounce of his willpower to stand and walk to his own bedroll. He knew it as a pointless gesture when he added to the scent of ketones on the air. He also guessed at the nature of the reception he could expect from the rulers of Avalon and his mother after an absence of two years. Tomorrow they would board the submersible vessel and return to the place of its theft, under the southern ocean. Sleep came as a soothing blanket of darkness.

***

Transport lights gave the empty ocean a blue hue, for at this depth few life forms could withstand the crushing pressure. Arthur’s thoughts drifted as Kai piloted the craft. Their journey, with Terrans still in stasis, from the cavern to this transport had further drained his Submariners. They lay sleeping at the back of the cabin. Arthur felt his own need, yet resisted. Guilt colored his reasons because he wanted a genuine excuse to escape from his mother’s expected chilling wrath.

Over the past two years, many messages from her regarding his abrupt departure reached him through a variety of messengers. However phrased, each one held the same command, ‘Come back immediately.’ He knew Kai shouldered a similar burden of demands from her. Neither of them replied and so risked giving a clue to their location. Now they must face her.

A brighter blue glow appeared ahead, signaling their proximity to Avalon. He glanced across at Kai. His brother’s face remained expressionless. Information of their discovery must be shared despite any personal cost. The lethal storm had remained anchored over the earrings while the group made their escape. Without the earrings and their strange emissions, all the Outcasts were helpless to fend off a mind attack from the Nestines. If the earrings no longer worked, then the Outcasts might be used to kill their Submariner allies.

“Avalon wants an identification code.” Kai passed the information relayed through his earpiece in an offhand tone as if it didn’t matter. The sound of his voice roused Submariners into reluctant wakefulness.

“Break comm-silence.” Arthur glanced back at his unit, seeing the strain and fatigue showing on each face. “Tell control who we are. At least some of us can hope for a shower and a hot meal.”

“Commander?” Haystack, an Outcast with untidy blond hair edged closer to Arthur. “What will happen to us now?”

“You all get a respite for a time.” Arthur looked towards Kai, who only shrugged. Respite was their personal code for nothing changed.

“No.” Haystack looked tense, unusual for any of the Brethren. “I meant this unit including our leaders.”

“Unknown.” Arthur pushed aside his own misgivings to appear confident. “No Brethren, whether born into the state or created an Outcast, can function on the surface without risking his comrades until this is resolved.”

Haystack looked back towards the others. Subtle adjustments of posture among Brethren and slight nods from Submariners seemed to give him input. “We won’t go to Rowan. We will share whatever punishment is decreed for those we trust.”

“The strength of the valorous,” Kai quipped, catching Arthur’s eye.

“Sir?” Haystack raised one eyebrow.

“Keys to the Kingdom.” Arthur struggled to keep his voice steady as a fierce pride in his fighting men surged through him. “One mainstay of any kingdom, however small, is the strength of the valorous.”

“The cries of the oppressed demand the wisdom of the wise,” Stalker joined in, coming to stand beside Haystack.

“Who dares lock the doors of wisdom?” Merrick, a Submariner, continued this surface-world game of children’s logic, gaining himself a startled glance from the Brethren.

“Those who wish to suppress truth,” Kai continued on to the next phase, looking hard at Arthur.

“Shall the truth be hidden from those oppressed?” Stalker jumped a level, leading them closer to the final gambit.

“The people cry out for justice from those who must judge,” Haystack responded, also looking at Arthur.

“The valorous must fight to ensure truth is given to the one who must hold the keys to the kingdom.” Kai smiled the slow smile of Brethren.

“Who is the one?” Haystack matched Kai in expressions.

“He who would sacrifice his all for the sake of the oppressed.” Merrick finished the game.

“We will not stand down. We will not be dispersed. We will continue our mission together.”

Arthur looked from one trusting and resolute face to another, aware of the same commitment from all. For the first time, it hit him how much they knew of the burden he bore. Looking into those eyes, he saw acceptance. It made him want to kneel before them and beg their forgiveness. A lump formed in his throat.

Kai’s console began blinking with an incoming message that diffused the moment. He reattached his earpiece.

“They say they are sending a security detail to ‘assist’ us in debriefing. Once we dock, we are to exit the submersible and wait for further instructions.” Kai terminated the connection. “How much assistance are we prepared to let them give us?”

“We stay together,” Merrick answered for all of them, and then a slow smile peculiar to Brethren lighted a Submariner face.

A slight thud warned them all of docking clamps securing their transport. The faint hiss of airway breathers activating brought a smell of dust and mold to Arthur. His nostrils flared in protest at this contamination of their clean if recycled air, with Avalon’s best offering. It smelled of home to him and his Submariners, but he knew how much the Brethren Outcasts hated this stink of ages as he also did now. He suppressed a yearning for the fresh bite of a keen, crisp wind on his face, bringing with it a rich aroma of growth and life. How many years must he live without experiencing the full array of natural odors this time?

Automatic processes thudded, entrapping their craft and preparing to open it like a hapless clamshell. Faint stirrings behind Arthur told him the men formed up into position for disembarkation. Tiny betrayals of sound indicated that they moved into fighting triads. He isolated the creak of Brethren leather clothing from the almost soundless rustle of Submariner water-repellent garments. Not one footfall though, not from these stealth-trained warriors. By the deeps, he must be wound to snapping point to notice these niceties.

Kai closed down all engines and came to stand at his side, an unspoken question in those violet eyes that matched his own, down to the color and shape. He guessed Kai sensed his tension since he shared the concerns and consequences. Even as he took that first deep breath to start a calming mantra, Kai’s muscles slid into the fluid stance of battle-ready Brethren. They turned to move as one as if sharing the same soul. Icy chills washed over Arthur as he recalled when this happened in fact. No one had ever survived a gestalt before.

The main doors opened onto a deserted docking bay. Metal walkways gleamed in the perpetual day of Avalon. Buildings cast harsh shadows in their thrust upward to the transparent bubble of plas-glass that kept out the crush of water, fathoms deep and fading into blackness. Arthur moved his hand in Brethren sign language to order halt and scan.

His flesh crept in the unnatural quiet of the area. No ground runners rumbled by carrying workers. No railpods hissed from overhead tracks. No people walked to their destinations as they should during a day split into multiple shifts. Faint sounds in the distance warned him of an area cleared for combat.

“I can’t sense any change, yet there is something.” Kai caught at his arm, looking as if he concentrated. “I’m beginning to feel very sleepy.”

“Stop probing ahead.” Arthur caught sight of a partial shadow in an alleyway. “We have a shy welcoming committee. Some of them are Seers.”

“They set an ambush?” Kai hawked and spat. An action calculated to upset the social instincts of any Seer. He grinned at Arthur.

“If I find that a primitive example of coarse behavior, the Seers who witnessed will want to roast you over a slow fire.” Arthur matched his smile. “We wait.” Behind him, he heard similar expulsions, normally against his expressed orders. Brethren knew how and when to disgust others to their own advantage. Liquid sounds splashed against a hard surface and the smell of fresh urine made his nostrils flare.

With hypersensitive olfactory organs possessed by most of the Seers, the aroma must reach them soon if they hadn’t already connected the sound with the action. No one in Avalon had ever before witnessed Brethren living up to their role of insentient animals ascribed to them by forts. The sound of a similar splashing to the right of the first sound caused him to check a laugh. This aroma held the pheromones of a Submariner. Was it going to take the formation of an outside urinal to make Seers break?

Pile all your weapons in a heap and move away from them, a multi-toned voice in Arthur’s head whispered. An octet of Seers and he guessed Elite trooper backups. He eased his hand behind his back to sign for more offensive behavior. Two more of his unit obliged.

We can order you shot down where you stand.The tone of the multiple voices held a note of anger.

And forgo the benefit of information brought to you at personal risk?Arthur let traces of amused irony infuse his return thoughts.

A scream of pain spun him around. Haystack thrashed on the ground, frothing in his agony. Arthur linked with him to feel a white-hot rod of flame piercing into his head for the moment it took to trace the attack back to its perpetrators. Then he counter-struck.

Two howls sounded from around the corner of a building. A brief glimpse of a leg in spasm appeared, to be pulled back from view with some speed. Haystack groaned shaking his head and easing up to his former battle stance.

Care to try that again? Arthur taunted his unseen enemies.

We have a combined psi factor strong enough to destroy you,the multi-toned voice warned.

Sword of Shadows, a small snippet.

Here is a taste of story and it is just a little bit. Not nearly so much as will be loaded on Amazon for a free look, but that will come soon. In the meantime, here is a snippet. It is possible I may post a little more in the next few days, but I guess you will have to stay tuned to this page to find out. Enjoy.

Sword of Shadows

Chapter 1

Freezing rain lashed down at Arthur, sending chill runnels over his fighting men where they huddled in a gully. Forked lightning crackled around them, charging the air with a stink of destruction. He eased higher to see through this unnatural deluge and choked back a string of foul oaths at the sight of a Nestine skyship positioned over trapped victims in the distance.

Well-oiled leather clothing hung heavy from hours of pounding rain that ran off his hybrid skin. A faint tingle made him duck for cover seconds before another bolt zapped to ground, feet from his former position. Thunder hammered his eardrums, leaving him shaken by the violence of its detonation. Not one man broke for cover. Pride flushed through him at their discipline and courage. A storm like this one came as a shock to even the Terran Outcasts in his unit, conditioned as they were to foul weather. As for his Submariners, unused to electrical storms, he could imagine the calming mantras they used to hold position.

Water forced between his neck and the collar of his tunic making a cold pocket of wetness. His flesh moved in automatic response to pry open gill flaps under his ears. All Arthur’s senses came on full alert. That shouldn’t happen.

He tasted salt on his lips. Seawater scooped up to form an artificial storm directed as a weapon? What a brilliant strategy. Arthur envisioned precisely where he wanted to return the compliment.

Caught between both races as a fulcrum, he had elected to wear Brethren clothing as a counter to his Submariner skin. Without the Brethren leathers, no pocket of water could have given forewarning. His hated mixed ancestry proved its worth this time. A double-edged sword; he stood between human Brethren and mutant Submariners as a living shield.

Responsibility for his unit weighed like a rock on his soul. They crouched in misery, waiting for the end of a timeless storm. Copper-haired Kai, his younger brother, with their mother’s deep violet eyes, resembled her second mate. Arthur, by contrast, wore the features and the rich, dark hair of her first. He pictured the Submariner faces of half his men, just a little different from a Terrans, with their aquatic mutation and psi factor that he shared. The Brethren, those Terrans cast out from surface habitation by birth or circumstance, were shock-troopers of the unit, now he had to make a hard choice. When he looked down at his brother crouching in the rocks, Kai’s expression told him all he wished to know.

Kai’s mouth turned up into the slow smile of Brethren. Calm acceptance radiated from his brother’s casual stance and the cold, flat stare that made others think Outcasts could see through rock. Arthur didn’t need Kai to voice the grim odds against surviving through the night. He had the others to consider, all comrades gleaned from amongst the ranks of Brethren and Submariners. All dead men, soon.

A violent rumble shocked though his body. He ducked for cover as lightning struck. Thunder hit him like a stun blast again, leaving him shaken and partly deafened. He had to admire this battle tactic. Defense against weather control orchestrated from an off-world location represented an impossible scenario for Submariners. The Nestines held the winning hand…for the present.

The ringing in his ears eased into a hiss while he searched his memory for every detail that brief glance over the terrain afforded him. Outcasts belonging to Rowan’s rival faction hid amongst boulders approximately a thousand paces from this location, pinned down by the skyship. Arthur reckoned about three of them still survived; caught without Submariner firepower apparently. His face settled into grim lines.

Yesterday evening, Kai reported sensing an event horizon, another candidate about to be made into an Outcast. Arthur needed recruits just as much as Rowan did. He experienced a bitter sense of irony that his orders had led them into this death trap.

An animal scream of pain sounded from the direction of the trapped victims. He looked over the rim, blinking against shafts of moisture. A green ray shone earthward from the skyship. Flashes of white flickered within, followed by howls of someone dying in slow agony in that light. The terrorized scream from the moor ended in a howl of unspeakable animal anguish that brought a flood of bile into Arthur’s mouth. This was the fifth poor bastard losing his nerve to run into death. Blind with terror, stumbling over rocks in panic, caught in a holding beam and carved up into gobbets of meat for the Nestines in the hovering skyship.

The burden of leadership hung like a leaden noose around Arthur’s neck. Even Kai thought the Nestines just killed their victims. He could not, and would not now, tell these people the truth. Emrys, his long departed mentor judged aright in this case. The knowledge of such horror must remain his silent load. Of all here, only Kai possessed strength enough to fight with his eyes wide open. Arthur refused to share and thus destroy Kai’s peace of mind.

Something wasn’t right about the way they fell into this trap. Rowan’s men were beyond help, and then the skyship would come for his storm-trapped group. No Outcast wore his original slave bracelet; all had Submariner supplied replicas, so the Nestines weren’t using those to track them. Something else was the lure. Something gave the director of the storm a homing beacon to trap them.

“Hey, the odds…” Kai didn’t finish the sentence. Arthur guessed the remainder, grateful for his brother’s fey ability to see threat in possible alternative time lines.

“…are altering in our favor,” Arthur said. His mind slipped back to a training session with Emrys in the cave of his dreams. Sometimes sacrifices, however horrific their fate must be offered. Three hundred paces to their right lay a deep river. Each Terran in his party carried a standard issue stasis device. Counting himself, that meant three Submariners to ferry five Terrans to the depths and safety.

“Arthur?” Kai’s hand gripped his upper arm.

“I know. The odds.” He watched Kai’s eyebrow quirk up in question as lightning flashed again. Thunder rattled their bones moments later.

“What are you planning?”

“Give me a moment.” Arthur reached up to cover Kai’s hand with his own. “I almost have it.”

“Commander?” A voice came out of the gloom. One of the Brethren, his tone sounding troubled. “We’ll be next.”

“Patience, Stalker.” Kai cautioned. His voice larded with relaxants learned from Arthur. “We will make a move soon.”

Arthur heard the anxiety in Stalker’s voice: some of them came to breaking point. His mind shifted with abrupt clarity into a higher mode. Special quartz earrings prevented Brethren succumbing to mind control of the Nestines, and the psi powers of his Submariners blocked thought raid attempts. So which now failed? Not psi power, as his ability was the strongest of all and he would have felt a challenge. The Nestines would target him if they knew he existed. That left the earrings. With mostly Terran physiology, even Kai needed his earring for protection. That clinched it.

“Listen well.” Arthur looked to the shadows of rocks concealing his men. “We have a problem. I think Nestines track us by a connection to the earrings some of you wear. Bury them in mud as deeply as you can. I will shield your minds from any intrusion.”

“What if you can’t?” Stalker’s voice sounded from the darkness. “What if there are too many to shield?”

“I guess you will be going to sleep if that happens,” Kai suggested, sounding almost friendly.

“Kill us, you mean?” Stalker edged out from around a rock. “It is our right to die in combat.”

“Enough!” Authority of conviction rang in Arthur’s command. He let the lesson sink in for a few moments before he continued, “No man of mine remains here. We win through, or we die together.”

“Commander?Your orders?” Haystack’s voice held tones of trust as it carried over the deluge.

“No triads. We go as a group.” Arthur sensed rather than heard the reluctant removal of jewelry. He reached out with his mind to encircle all of them in a link. Now he waited for another sacrifice to fate from the trapped group in the distance.

A flash of lightning streaked down from angry clouds. Thunder cut off the sound of a shriek of agony from one of Rowan’s remaining men. Arthur used this moment to send an order directly into the minds of his troops. A close-knit group of shadows flitted to the safety of water.

***

Five hours later, Arthur and the exhausted Submariners finished dragging all the Terran warriors into a vast, air-filled cavern under Dozary Lake. Looking up, he just managed to grab the wrist of a weary man about to remove stasis devices.

“No. Leave them, Huber. They are getting the rest they need.” Arthur’s hand shook where it gripped the Submariner. He forced it to stillness. “They have just lost a battle advantage. They do not need time to brood over it.”

“Will you leave them here, Arthur?” Huber sank to his knees, trembling with the same fatigue. The raw scent of ketones, the by-product of protein breakdown, wafted through the air around him.

“All of us must rest.” Arthur looked around at what he could see of their dank and noise-some bolthole. It offered little beyond safety. He faced a decision he did not want to make. “Then we visit Avalon.”

When his Submariners crawled to sleeping places in the sand, Arthur used every last ounce of his willpower to stand and walk to his own bedroll. He knew it as a pointless gesture when he added to the scent of ketones on the air. He also guessed at the nature of the reception he could expect from the rulers of Avalon and his mother after an absence of two years. Tomorrow they would board the submersible vessel and return to the place of its theft, under the southern ocean. Sleep came as a soothing blanket of darkness.