A fantasy / science fiction trilogy by Laurel Hickey.
The books come in two version - ePUB and PDF. The ePUB files should work with most ebook readers and mobile devices with the exception of Kindle. If you have a Kindle, please use the PDF versions. Free for personal use only.
Book 1. The trilogy begins on the planet Ri with Ulanda, Bolda and Garm, all linked in their own way to Cassa, the Empress, who vanished years previously, triggering events that may yet bring about the destruction of the Empire.
Book 2. Finding refuge among her own people, Ulanda attempts to create a life for herself on Alisim, but finds the forces of Empire gathering against her and the man she loves.
Book 3. Fleeing Alisim, Ulanda and her companions find themselves in an altered future, hunted still by Empire and now also by the Spann Protectorate who want to use her to bring about the end of the Empire.
"Great books, great characters, great series."
"I like the books because of the 'wheels-within-wheels' plot. Myriad characters interact realistically and convey powerful emotions to the reader. Ulanda, Garm, and the other characters are not perfect beings: they have human traits and flaws. I was reminded of the DUNE books plot-wise when I first read them, because all the characters influence the plot and eventual outcome of the story. An aspiring fantasy writer, I have used these books to set the bar for my own writing." Darthonyx, as posted on the www.sffworld.com fantasy forum
"...very interesting and engaging characters!"
Ulanda’s dark robe absorbed the heat from the blinding sunlight. Warmth that had been a welcome change after the cold of their long walk, was building rapidly, trapped in the folds of cloth. Her underrobe was stuck to her back. Covering her eyes with one sleeve, she tried to see through the cloth. Just light and sound and the deadening heat. From how the walls on either side angled in, she was about five feet from the point of the diamond.
She looked over her shoulder. Garm was bathed in the uneven light, the veins of the marble moved like grimaces and frowns, winks and sneers over his face but the cold green of his eyes never changed. Bolda was a few feet further away, sitting with his back against the marble, head turned, looking back the way they had come.
“If there’s a way out, I can’t find it.”
“Then you’re not trying,” Garm said.
Since leaving the island through the portal and finding themselves back in the white marble room, the single point of brightness had started to move. Sunset had them walking into a narrowed focus of light, they were in total darkness before reaching the wall. Then dawn and the glow was behind them, but moving faster again, as though racing them. After a quick morning and quicker afternoon, the ceiling was finger height for Garm’s greater reach, and the sun ahead of them had compressed into the point of the diamond. Light and sound competed for attention. But it wasn’t the wind sound of the other portal, this was an ice crackle and groan of raw power unleashed.
Ulanda took another step towards the source of the light and froze, certain the floor would drop away with her next move. Instinctively, she reached out with pattern-sense. And found nothing more than what her eyes and ears and feet told her. And kept reaching. And didn’t know she was falling until she hit the marble, her right knee first. The jolt snapped her teeth together.
On her knees still, she crept forward until she could touch the marble she couldn’t see for the light. Instead of the heat her mind said would be there, the wall was cold. A hint of the ice of pattern? There wasn’t any she could feel, nothing obvious like the last one, not even when she reached out slightly. No order in the stone that wasn’t entirely natural.
A place where reality could be molded at will. Where a portal might take you to whatever place you could dream. That was Garm’s interpretation of Cassa’s diamond. Truth? Or one of his stories? And if it was true, what did she want? Her only dream had been to be a Priest and she was, of a kind. A dream come true, or one interpretation of her dream. She was more of a danger to Empire than Cassa had been. If she could choose a path from here -- knowing how mutable desire and result could be -- what path would she want?
Too short in the fiber... it won't take the kind of finger matting this weave requires.
Bolda at the Mound... a Xintan Matron. Bolda had been speaking to a Xintan Matron about the weaving...
Silently, Rit started to laugh, rolling over, then curling up, holding his stomach when he couldn't stop. Cassa's weaver.
When he straightened, he inched backwards until he hit rock. The top of the dam had narrowed to less than ten feet wide and ended not much further along in a tumble of rocks.
Did he have goodbyes?
Where had that thought come from? Not goodbyes. A lack of hellos. He wanted Alicia asleep in their bed before he took to it. An hour? Or she could be back and sleeping already. He'd have to check with the Net or ask Kori eventually.
The thought was persistent at least. He had no feeling of Ulanda being near him, and despite his snagging one pattern line, no sense that any action was being directed against him. He felt as invisible as the warding found him.
And the timing of his being here? That thought he recognized. From the position of the stars it was only minutes from when both the earlier visions had faded. Pulling his knife from the sheath in his boot, he held it to the stars, turning it this way and that, looking for the sasi markings along the white ceramic blade that would make it an honor knife.
There was no transformation. He was very humanly confined to the body and mind and memory that honestly belonged to him. And the senses, Strom included. If he let himself notice, the fire of overpattern was all around, the same as it had been since Ulanda and his shared version of the world-altar. And now? Just his, nothing of Ulanda that he could sense.
Bracing his left arm against a bent knee, he put the tip of his knife under the braid encircling his wrist. He hadn’t removed it after leaving Endica, hadn’t wanted to force the Xintan to take notice of the split between him and Ulanda. The oath band separated and fell away. The tip of the knife stopped against the fleshy base of his thumb, splitting the skin in a tear an inch long. Clumsy. The wine. The poor light. He thought about pouring the last of his drink into the wound to clean it.
Pain is a prayer.
That wasn’t him. He hoped. With a hand sticky with his own blood and the sweet wine, he picked the glass up and threw it as hard as he could over the edge of the drop.
“It's not,” he said out loud. “This isn't. Not a prayer.”
He felt suspended, time as meaningless as the emotion that had made him throw the glass into the dark. The blood on his hand was drying, pulling at the skin. Half an hour? More? Above him, more and more in his consciousness, was the fire. The sky burned, cracked with explosions of sound, twisted as though the fabric of space would tear apart.
"Are we all just symbols?" Ulanda asked. Leaning forward, with the edge of one hand she fanned the tufts of the rug much as the loom-master had with his toe. Details were lost then formed again. Like a picture, she thought, but not just surface, each individual fiber had several colors along their lengths - she'd pulled one earlier that showed shades of red, two greens, a brown and a mustard yellow.
"When... just before the Audience Hall vanished," she continued, "people appeared. I didn't know them all, but some of those I do know couldn't have been there. There was a man..." Anga looked up at her, his tiny black eyes glittering like cut glass.
Ulanda stood suddenly, with Tika turning the start of a fall into a jump to the floor. The cat glared at her, ears back, flicking her tail. "I'm sorry," she whispered to the cat, feeling like an idiot then walked to the steps, back the way they had come, crossing her arms into a tuck.
An offering-fire and for a moment, waves crashed against rock far below, bringing the scent of salt on the rising spray. She was on the edge of a cliff. "There was a man," she repeated as though having to convince herself. Then she blinked and smoke still rose in a thin stream, but it was only Peecit's small fire and that was almost out. Ulanda could see the Zimmer girl, somewhere she'd gotten red paper to shred, it was scattered all around her, more fragments in her hand, but those being placed on the embers to flare up then die almost immediately.
Mirwin was watching Peecit. The Wa'tic, she'd forgotten its name, was sitting by the water where Rit had been earlier, its back against a stone.
The wood floor creaked behind her, she recognized the footsteps. "There was..." She stopped, feeling helpless against the tidal rush of feelings. A man. I was real to him, she thought. All of me was real to him and I don't even know his name.
"What is it?" Rit said.
She felt the warmth of his body behind her. "I got what I wanted, didn't I? To be an Altasimic Priest... except I changed what that meant as well."
His large dry hand brushed wisps of hair from her neck. "Circumstances changed it... and you."
"And what am I?"
The next Eye of the Ocean book is nearing the end of the first draft stage. While the fate of the Empire is being decided in the final climax of Book 3 of Eye of the Ocean, other forces are at work in the Spann Protectorate. At the center of the conflict is the tree-ship Amber, a lving world harboring a colony of humans.
Further into the melt. Water was falling, streams flying into air, freezing in an arch, melting, dripping, freezing again. Ice on the bark in patches, filling cracks, but not enough to bite into. Blinded by the leaf mass, with no feeling in her hands or feet, Amli moved by instinct. And by what Amber could tell her.
Except at the ledge, what she could feel from Amber hadn't told her the truth about being safe. On the ridge, the seelaka had lied about the sheltered Pinnet encampment being close.
Or she had missed it.
Violet in her eyes ... or in her mind. From Amber. Violet light and a wish for the cold of the darkseason. Part of her said: release. Fall away, forever free between the stars.
Except she'd be dead before reaching the core, burned screaming as the heat built, what was left of her crushed against the metal-dense skin of the seed layer, the gravity of the core relentless. There wouldn't be ashes.
Could she have missed the direction? Her senses had put them close, the actual feel of Amber's flesh as the anchor bit, said they had been close.
Her current hold was a finger jam into a tiny split, depending on what strength and resistance a single finger against two close surfaces of bark could give. A diagonal transverse, a long slow way without a place to set decent protection. If she fell, she'd swing off the last anchor into Geffo and Dal. If it held. And if it didn't, would her falling weight be enough to knock their anchor out as well?
A push of air lifted her and slammed her down again. And was mercifully gone. She held by her single finger in the crack, her face to the bark, teeth bared, knees spread and tensed as though she could grip the surface like it was a lover's body. Pain in her arm grew to a fire then spread to her shoulder tendons and down her back.
She couldn't move. She was stuck here. The pain would go away when she was cold enough. She could stay here. Or fall. With a scream, she raised her free hand and swept it across the bark, searching for any kind of hold. Nothing.
Do it again. Count it, force the movement to occupy time as well as space: sixty ... seconds. A measure of time. Just do it one more minute. Then I can take the lead off and let go.
Amber's sense? Or her own? She had done that once and lived, but in a part of Amber relatively thick with thread and plateau, not a void open to a rising seed. Another minute. One, two, three ... seconds. Minutes. Then another. For all she tried to build a structure of time in her mind, she seemed to be timeless, existing only between the moments. Moments were events, things happened in moments. You grew up, grew old in moments. Died in moments.
Over the water and ice roar, she heard a sharp crack from above her. Close. A plate of ice? With the sudden focus of knowing she was about to die, she could hear the grinding noise of a large ice sheet moving across the bark, the evenness of the sound that said no handholds. Should she count? Two seconds? How long did it take to realize you couldn't escape?
Let go. Fly free.
There wasn't time. No feeling, no strength, no leverage to get her finger out of the split in time to drop and swing to the last anchor much less cut the rope.
Another cracking sound less than a body length on top of her, close enough that the fracturing ice blasted splinters into her face, cutting her cheeks. It must have hit all along her extended arm, but she couldn't feel anything, couldn't see herself past her shoulder.
A section flipped free -- slow motion into her field of vision, edges lit by the leaf light, the flat surface crawling with green -- and hit her across the nose, a jagged point slicing in just above her left eye. Violet light, then blood flooded her vision, blinding her. For a moment, she couldn't breath, blood from her nose choked her, then she coughed, then swallowed and gulped air.
Something above had broken the sliding sheet before it could hit her. Something just above her hold. And no way to reach it.
I welcome comments from my readers. Also, if you'd like to be put on a list for news about the next 'Eye of the Ocean' book coming out - working name is 'Amber' - please let me know.