His name was Boden. He was seventeen, the oldest of the company, the tallest, and the toughest. His long, sun-bleached hair was bound behind his head, and his dark brown eyes – double-irised, as all Taranor eyes are – were intent on the orange in his hands as he sliced it into segments with his hunting knife.
- Extract from the prologue to Silent Skies
The following is an extract from the first chapter of Silent Skies...
THE NIGHTS OF HIS FATHER'S DEPARTURE
(NINE WEEKS AGO)
Boden knew that to find any answers of any kind, he need only ask his father.
He came to with a vanishing echo of the sword that had been drawn in his dream. He gave a grin of wonder. It had been a marvellous weapon, its blade shining like red crystal. He had stood in the light of a small campfire, drawing it by the dancing flames.
There had been enemies – nameless shapes – watching from the outer darkness … but he had been so enchanted by the sword that he had not had the time to fear them.
He sat up and looked around, his brown, orange-ringed eyes travelling across his room to the window on his right. The moon was shining – nearly full – in the star-filled sky. He gave another small smile. There was a calf just outside the window. She was the youngest of their herd, and he had named her Belle – and he adored her.
The rasping sound of stone sharpening sword – the noise that had roused him – prowled through the air a second time. Boden tumbled quietly from his bed and decided to seek the reason for his awakening in the cottage beyond his room.
The short hall that led to the living room was dark with mottled shadows cast by moonlit windows as he crossed it. He could see his mother, Sapphire, sleeping under a thick woollen blanket through the open door of his parents’ room.
His father was awake, then.
He heard the rasp of the whetstone once more as he entered the living room. His father sat in the chair nearest to the door. He held his sword onto his knee with his left hand. The whetstone was in his right, running the grey length of the blade; and emitting a high gravelly sound.
Harros looked up as his son came out of the hall. “You left the sword blunt yesterday,” he said, and his gaze dropped again to the grey weapon.
Boden sat beside his father, nodding. “I was tired.”
It wasn’t an excuse, but Harros returned the nod all the same. The previous day had held one of the more exciting duels between Boden and his father. Training had begun long years ago, now, when days had passed for Boden like lifetimes. He was older now, and the days seemed to shorten as the training gained intensity.
“I’ll be leaving for the day, perhaps tomorrow night as well.” Harros placed the stone into a chest that sat beside the door. He sheathed the sword and laid it inside as well, next to a round shield. He closed the lid slowly, allowing it to emit only a muffled tep.
“Are you going hunting?” Boden asked.
Harros stood, nodding. “Two days, and I’ll be back,” he said. He hefted his pack over his shoulder, taking hold of his unstrung longbow from beside the door at the same time. Boden followed him out of the house. His father turned, ruffling his son’s hair before facing the Wolfwood.
The swift wind carried a putrid scent past the door and into the cottage – something dead in the woods. It was odd that he could smell it, for most meat was scavenged well before it turned…
Boden wrinkled his nose and made a last smile before turning back to bed. It was the strangest of his smiles, being almost a fading echo of his previous mirth – an empty shadow, really.
Here are a few of the answers his father had given him – in the years before his departure…
His name was Harros Tuthervarr – but Boden still usually called him Dad – and he was a traveller from the Balinzo Isles.
What did Tuthervarr mean?
Well, it was their family name. It was vaguely synonymous with the term ‘hero’ because many of their ancestors played that role in the countless fables now written in the stars.
Originally, when the Tuthervarrs were a line of kings – centuries ago, before they gave up the throne to be heroes instead – five heirlooms had been crafted by a monarch and his granddaughter.
Each Tuthervarr heirloom symbolised a different heroic virtue, which was why some people thought they were religious relics of the Old Way – the religion that most people in Durnam were devoted to in those days.
There were thousands of theories about what the heirlooms were; paintings, rings, urns, books, coins… But there was this much agreed-upon concerning the Tuthervarr heirlooms and their virtues: there were five of them, and they were lost. They had been stolen and reclaimed by the villains and heroes of legend so many times that no one knew where they now dwelt.
But Boden knew more than most because he had once asked his father this question:
“Do you have one of the heirlooms?”
And his father had answered, “Yes.”
“Where is it? Can I see it? What is it?”
“It is small and beautiful. I will show it to you when you are older, I think.”
So, Boden knew that the Tuthervarr heirlooms were more than just fairy tales.
His mother often asked questions of Harros, as well – and she even answered questions from Boden sometimes. Here are a few of her answers…
Her name was Sapphire – but, again, Boden called her mum. She hadn’t had a family name until she married Harros because she had been orphaned very young. She was from a place called Hazathsad – which had always sounded very frightening when Boden was young.
Hazathsad was the stormy, stony island that her people had once called home. It was all very confusing for Boden – which was why he was more interested in his father’s history than his mother’s – but his mother’s people had two names. They used to be called the Janzacs, but in the year before Boden was born, a sect had broken off from within them, overthrown the king, and changed their ways as well as their name.
You see, for over a hundred years, the Janzacs had raided and pillaged the coasts of Durnam, bringing their bounty back to Hazathsad, where they lived under constant storms and the azure glow of their great lighthouse. The sect that overthrew them, liberating Durnam from their brutal fire, then renamed their people the Taranor – after the leader of the sect, a man named Toran.
So, his mother’s people, who were once called Janzacs, were now called Taranor, though many people feared and hated them, even though they had changed their ways. They had left the hellish Hazathsad, settling in the land around the Fen River in western Naranon, owned by the Province of Iantal. They called their new land Torin.
But, as I have said, this was all somewhat hazy for Boden, who had never ventured further into the world of Durnam than the edges of the Wolfwood. He knew this, though: he was part of two epic stories that had been slowly unfolding for centuries; that of the Tuthervarrs and the Taranor.
Anyway, Boden had been asking his mother, Sapphire, many more questions than usual lately – because his father had departed…
“He’s been hunting for two nights. How much longer will we wait before we go into the Wolfwood and track him down?” he asked.
“The Wolfwood is too dangerous for you, Boden,” his mother answered, “and I will not leave you here alone. We will wait, and he will return.”
“He’s been away for three nights… How much longer?”
“We will wait, and he will return.”
“It’s nearly been a whole week…”
After a while, he would stop asking halfway through a question because there was answer enough in his mother’s worried eyes – and that answer made him sad and afraid.
Boden awakened the second time, two nights later.
Sitting up in his bed, he looked instinctively out his window. The shutter had loosened itself and was swinging slowly with the breeze, creaking in its rain-rusted hinges.
He stood and moved to the window. In the act of pulling it shut, he saw that Belle was grazing nearby. The grey of dawn was reaching over the paddocks from the east, and the swelling moon was dipping low.
Boden climbed out his window, pulling his jumper from his bedpost as he did so. He drew it on as the cold felt out for him. Belle grunted soft and deep as Boden wandered over. The boy sat on the old stump of the tree that he and his father had cut down a few months ago for firewood. The thing was proving difficult to be rid of as the roots were deep and thick.
Belle moved a little closer, nudging Boden before going back to chewing, contented that the boy was warm and breathing.
Sometimes, Boden imagined that Belle and her mother – the milking cow – asked him questions…
“I’m alright,” Boden answered in a manner that often preceded a lengthy exchange between boy and beast. “It’s Dad you should be worried about,” he continued. “He said he’d be back a week ago… but it’s all right,” he added, after seeing the cow was suitably impressed by his extensive knowledge. “He’ll be back soon.”
A heavy sigh told Boden that Belle already knew this. Boden shrugged and stood again as Belle went back to chewing.
The gold of dawn was gathering over the eastern paddocks, far from their lonely cottage. Their farm was in the far north of Torin, near the Abnoran Mountains. It wasn’t particularly good land, but the family liked it. Boden suspected his parents enjoyed the solitude. He couldn’t say he minded it either.
The closest town was Baror, one of the many small villages that held a mix of Taranor and Iantal people. Most of them were as suspicious as those from Carin – who had a reputation for spreading strange stories of demons and the like.
Boden shook himself a little, watching the sunrise for a moment before turning back to his cottage. His face was fair but not so starkly pale as most Taranor, for his father was an olive-skinned traveller who had arrived in Naranon only a few months after the Taranor had settled there – over sixteen years ago now. Harros had met Sapphire shortly after arriving and, later that same year, Boden had been born.
Boden woke up the third time shivering in front of a dying fire.
The lonely blackened log in the fireplace emitted little comfort from the white and red end of it. Boden swivelled slightly in his chair to see the candle he had lit on the table behind him. The diminished height of the wax had the boy guessing that it was almost midnight.
He turned back to the fire in front of the couches. Just above and to the right of the inglenook – whose brick chimney cut through the middle of the wall – a square window was set, revealing the full moon in the northern sky above the distant peaks of Abnoran. Black clouds hovered about the sharp summits.
He rubbed his eyes. Twelve whole days had passed since his father’s departure… Any number of things could happen to a man in the Wolfwood.
Boden shuddered. He wanted to know what was taking his father so long, but the Wolfwood was dangerous. His mother would not be happy if she found that he, too, had disappeared. She had reassured Boden that Harros would be fine – but the boy had seen the worry in her eyes.
An owl hooted somewhere near, its eerie call drifting through the cracks in the window and the door.
Wandering, Boden’s eyes flicked across the fire. On the opposite side of the chimney to the window, there hung an old tapestry, a family treasure. Dull golds and greens with red in the centre. The bordering was an intricate circling of tiny capital ‘T’s. T for Tuthervarr.
Boden had thought for many years that the tapestry was his father’s heirloom. It was beautiful, but it was not small. He remembered the last time he had talked about the heirlooms with his father – before his departure…
“Dragons,” his father had said. “They’re hoarded by dragons.”
Boden – sitting beside his father and following his gaze to the fire – fingered the black leather of his sword, held upright between his knees. He had just rewrapped the hilt, and his eyes were tired but alive, attentive and wondering as he nodded.
“You said the heirlooms were useful... What do dragons do with them?”
“Dragons use them to disguise the flawed treasure in their hoards. The heirlooms shine so brightly that even grey stone can seem brilliant beside them, like golden sunrise on stark cliffs—”
The fire cracked, and Boden snapped back awake, suddenly on his old thought trail again…
Anyway, he thought, with my father’s sword, I will be able to protect myself. He sniffed and watched the light fading from the fire. What if wolves came down from the mountains?
Boden had broad shoulders and stood nearly as tall as his father. He had the age that told him he could do anything, and he had the budding skills to reinforce that fallacy – hell, he knew three of his father’s seven sword methods. Well, he knew The Beast and The Dance, at least; he was only partway through The Light…
Regardless, he was decided.
He reached slowly up and bound his hair in a knot behind his head. He took his belt out of his pack, sitting on the couch next to him. After grabbing his leather jacket from the cloak rack, he pulled his father’s sword and shield from the chest by the wall.
Silently, he lifted the latch, opened the door, and left the cottage.
(END OF EXTRACT)