Book Jacket

 

rank  Editors Pick
word count 24514
date submitted 05.03.2010
date updated 10.08.2010
genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
classification: universal
incomplete

Relic

A.B. Knight

Everyone knows the rule: stay inside the Wall, but to sixteen-year-old Tisha Tremayne, the city of Relic isn't a sanctuary. It's a prison.

 

Tisha does not believe the Realm Riders' stories about the monsters that lurk beyond the city. Every day she looks at the steep, towering wall that surrounds the city of Relic, and she swears she will find out what lies on the other side.

She never stopped to think that she might see too much.

When her father is taken by inhuman attackers, Tisha realises the worlds beyond the Wall are more dangerous than anyone imagined. With the help of the Realm Riders, including her best friend Cayle and the charismatic Falco, she sets out to unravel the mysteries surrounding Relic and return her father to her side.
 
Complete manuscript approx. 96,000 words. First five chapters uploaded to Authonomy.

 
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action, adventure, battles, demons, dragons, evil, fantasy, good, heroine, knights, magic, realms, relic, swords, teen, young adult

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Chapter Four

The misty light of dawn drifted through the shutters of Tisha's room, falling across her eyes and making her groan. She had no idea how long she had lain awake wondering if she had made the biggest mistake of her life by staying here. Logic told her she must have slept, but it did not feel like it. Her muscles were tense despite the comfortable bed, and exhausted heat prickled at her eyes.

It felt wrong. Here she was, safe and warm and doing nothing while her father was who knew where facing things she could not begin to imagine. Last night, she had decided to stay with the Realm Riders, but now she was not sure she had made the right choice. If she'd had the courage to walk out into the city and the brains to get over the Wall, she could already be looking for him.

Or she could already be dead.

Throwing off the blanket with a huff of annoyance, Tisha wrapped the sheet around her naked body as she sat up. The time for doubt had passed. She had to make the most of her situation, and she could not do that by lying around and fretting over events already set in motion.

Night-time gloom had lifted to the soft silver of a new day, illuminating her new bedroom. The furniture looked as if it had been around forever; the passage of the years had given it an air of respectability. The bed and trunk at its foot were carved from black wood, and a red rug splashed its colour across the floor. Simple oil lamps – dark now but for the spells warding them against breaking – were placed on the desk by the window, and a large wardrobe stood at the far wall.

A tapestry of a rearing horse hung above the bed, and Tisha stared at its weave for a moment before getting to her feet and heading for one of the two doors set in the wall. She had checked it out last night and was surprised to find a toilet, a sink, and a sunken bath for her use. Most people in Relic had indoor plumbing, except those who lived in the slums, but she had not expected a private bathroom. It was a guilty luxury, but Tisha could not deny that she needed to rub away the sweat and filth of the previous day, so she filled the bath before dropping the sheet and slipping into the water.

Tempting as it was to linger, Tisha knew it would not be long before someone came looking for her; she should probably hurry. A basket of soap and shampoos had been left at the bath's side, and she reached out, taking one of the soaps and working up a lather as she began to wash herself. Calloused fingertips chased away the lingering scent of sweat and fear, sweeping over the smooth edges of scars and the softness of her skin with quick movements. Before long, the last of the grime was gone, and she grabbed the shampoo.

Her hair was a tangled wreck, and she scrubbed at it fiercely before ducking her head under the water. Brown tendrils waved across her vision like bubble-shrouded seaweed, and she found herself staring at the swirling colours of the soap foam. She had always thought it was pretty until what she had seen yesterday. Now the glassy hues atop the water reminded her of the breaches: dangerous and hypnotic.

She broke through the surface with a gasp, grimacing as the wet tresses stuck to her shoulders, arms and back. Steam rose from the water, and the cool air of the bathroom raised goosebumps along her skin as she hauled herself out and reached for some towels, wrapping one around her head as she dried herself.

Last night, she had stripped out of her kitchen uniform in disgust, and now she padded through to the bedroom and nudged the heap of cloth with her toe. The black was faded and splattered with mud from yesterday's race through the streets, but at least it was hers. Wearing her own clothes would make it clear to everyone that she did not belong to the Realm Riders. Not yet, anyway.

Tisha allowed her gaze to slip towards the pile of clothing she had noticed the night before. On the trunk at the foot of the bed lay a neatly folded stack of black and forest green. Soft hide boots rested on the floor nearby; they looked a hundred times more comfortable than her tattered old shoes, and Tisha hesitated, torn by indecision.

In the end, the thought of clean clothes outweighed the symbolism of any choice she made, and she reached for the fabric on the trunk, carefully unfolding the thick, soft trousers and long sleeved tunic. A packet of essential undergarments – close enough to her size – rested on top, and she tried not to think about who might have guessed her measurements as she slipped into them.

The black cloth of the top and trousers clung like a second skin to her body and legs. It covered her from head to toe, and the sleeves reached down to her wrists. It was ideal fighting gear, without any extra material to become tangled or caught on a weapon during combat. Still, it did not leave a great deal to the imagination, Tisha thought as she looked down at herself.

Reaching for the deep green tunic, she slipped it over her head. The hem fell to mid-thigh while the slit sleeves stopped at the elbow. A belt rested comfortably around her hips, and by the time she had slipped on the boots, Tisha had to admit the Realm Riders had good taste. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed what she suspected: apart from the towel turban on her head, she looked the part. No one in the street would think she was anything other than a Rider.

Tisha filed that conclusion away for later. She might have decided to give the Commander and her men a chance, but her mind still conjured up back-up plans at every opportunity. She was getting through the Wall, legally or otherwise, and dressed like this, Tisha realised she was more likely to succeed. Pitching the towel aside, she took a comb to her hair, trying to calm the whirl of her thoughts as she worked the tangles free. She had to take things one step at a time, and right now that meant walking out of her bedroom door ready to face whatever the day threw at her.

She rummaged through the sheets and searched the floor for any hairpins that had survived yesterday's chaos. She found four, enough to keep her hair up and out of the way, and Tisha draped a swathe across her blue eye before fastening it in place. It was not as good as the patch, but it would not garner as many questions as the bandage Malerna had given her yesterday.

Finally, she made the bed and spread the towels out to dry, trying to make the room as tidy as she had found it. In the back of her mind, Tisha knew she was putting off the inevitable, but she needed to feel she was still in control of her life. Slipping under the command of the Realm Riders – never to be free again – would be too easy. She had to remind herself that, ultimately, she was still in charge of her future.

Tisha rubbed her hands across her face, taking one last glance around the room before heading for the door. She did not know what awaited her, but Cayle had promised to save her a seat at breakfast, and the thought of her friend and a good meal was enough to stifle her uncertainty.

Pulling open the door, she gasped in surprise, almost colliding with the commander, who had her fist raised to knock. They both stared at each other until Althea took a step back and looked Tisha over with a smile. 'I know you probably don't want to hear this, but that suits you.'

The commander's soft words were meant as a peace offering, and Tisha narrowed her eyes as she considered her options. Stubbornly, she wanted to resist efforts of respect or friendship, but being childish would not help her father. She had to remember that Althea was not an enemy, no matter what it felt like. 'It's better than the dress,' she admitted eventually. 'Thank you.'

Althea ducked her head, watching Tisha from beneath a thoughtful frown. 'To be honest, I wasn't expecting you to still be here. No one in the common room thought you would stay.' She stood aside, gesturing Tisha forward and waiting for her to shut the door to her chamber. Yet she made no move to walk away as she scrutinised Tisha's expression. 'What changed your mind? Last night you made it clear you didn't want anything to do with us.'

Tisha frowned, hating the disapproval in the older woman's voice. 'And you told me I didn't have a choice. Don't get excited; I'm only helping you because of my father, and I haven't made any promises yet.'

She could see the argument boiling up in Althea's eyes. This was a woman not used to being told “no”. A faint scent of leather permeated the air, and Tisha took a step back, bumping into the door of her room as the invisible wave of Althea's magic tickled her senses.

It was enough to break the tension, and the commander blinked before murmuring an apology. 'That wasn't a spell; it was -' She waved a hand, at a loss to explain, and she blinked in surprise when Tisha nodded in understanding.

'I know,' she said flatly. 'It was ether. To me, some mages constantly smell like magic.' She frowned as she realised something. 'Although not here.'

Althea nodded, motioning for Tisha to fall in at her side as she began to walk. 'We're well-trained. They don't let us outside the Wall until we can control ourselves. Most Riders believe the breaches appear when we use magic.' She reached the end of the corridor, and Tisha could hear the chatter of dozens of people. The chime of cutlery on plates suggested breakfast was in full swing, but Althea led her away in the opposite direction, reaching into a pouch on her hip and pulling out some food wrapped in paper.

'Eat that,' she ordered, and Tisha bit back the urge to tell her she was not the boss. 'No time for breakfast. We need to get going.'

Tisha paused in unwrapping the bread, frowning in confusion. 'Going where?'

'Outside the Wall. That's what you wanted, isn't it?' Althea looked at her with a smirk. 'What else were you expecting?'

'I thought there'd be some training or something,' Tisha muttered, taking a bite of the sandwich and trying to chew and swallow while butterflies thrashed in her stomach. 'Tests or trials or some other rubbish.'

'Not yet.' Althea gave her a long, steady look. 'We're not going to waste time and money on you unless we know you're a good investment. Everyone else comes here practically overflowing with magic, but we only have your word for what you can do. We'll take you out there and find out what you can really see.'

Their footsteps echoed along the hallways as they made their way out to a smooth paved courtyard. Dred was already waiting on a horse, as was Falco. They were all wearing armour, and a frisson of uncertainty raced through Tisha as she wondered how dangerous this was going to be.

'Something wrong?' Althea asked, swinging her way up onto a well-groomed bay and settling in the saddle. 'Let me guess. You don't know how to ride?'

Tisha shook her head, looking at the creatures with distrust. They turned their heads to stare back at her, nostrils flaring and hooves still as they patiently waited.

'Can't you count?' Dred demanded, shaking the reins in his hand and nudging the horse forward with his heels. 'There isn't one for you. Get up behind Falco and hold on. He won't let you fall.'

'Probably,' the young man murmured, smiling a little to take the threat out of his words.

Tisha looked up, trying to work out whether he could be trusted. The anger from the day before had vanished, and his expression was teasing and curious inside the shadow of his helm. 'I don't know how to get up,' she growled in annoyance.

Falco looked like he was trying not to laugh, and Tisha glared at him as he removed his boot from one of the stirrups. 'Put your left foot in there and haul yourself up. It's easy.'

She did as she was told. For a breathless moment, she almost slipped right off the horse, but she grabbed Falco's shoulders, spitting out a swear word that made him laugh.

'You on?' he asked. 'Because if you end up on the ground I'm not turning around to pick you up again. Just hang on to the horse with your legs. You'll be fine.'

Tisha struggled to find any grip on the strange, light plate armour encasing his torso. In the end, she settled for digging her fingernails into the scale-like seams on either side and surrendered the stirrup back to him in answer. 'Don't go fast,' she begged. 'I'm no good to anyone if my neck's broken.'

She tried not to panic as the horse set off at a steady, calm gait, following the lead of the others. Tisha expected to slip off at any moment, but the large, uncomfortable saddle she shared with Falco gave her some security. Step by step, her confidence grew, and she breathed out a sigh of relief as they moved out of the compound gates and onto the street.

It was hard to believe that, only yesterday, she had sprinted almost the exact same route to go and meet her father. Now, though, the carters moved respectfully out of their way to let them pass. Men who would have rather cuffed her around the head than give her the time of day touched their foreheads in salute, and no one even dared to block their path.

Up ahead, the Wall ribboned the horizon, tall and unyielding. Tisha could only stare at it as they got closer, unsure whether she was more excited or afraid. Yesterday she only caught a glimpse of the bleak world beyond, but was that really all that was out there?

No, she reminded herself. Her father was somewhere on the other side, too. This was not about adventure or satisfying her curiosity; it was about getting him back.

The sway of the horse was almost soothing, and Tisha shifted her grip around Falco's waist, staring blankly at the metal in front of her face. The top of her head was about level with the nape of his neck, meaning her entire view consisted of a broad, bland backplate. She straightened up, trying to get a look over his shoulder, but all she could see was the back of Dred and his horse, which was not a pretty sight.

'I'm sorry for last night. I mean, I shouldn't have snapped at you.'

Tisha blinked at the back of Falco's head, surprised by his apology. He had not bothered with such niceties when he had practically kidnapped her from the Wall, but he sounded sincere enough. Tisha shrugged, then realised he could not see her. 'That's okay. I suppose you might have had a long day or something.' She pulled a face when he snorted in disbelief. 'What?'

'Don't you think you might have deserved it, just a little?'

'No,' she snapped, trying to ignore the little flutter of acknowledgement that he was probably right. 'My dad had been taken away by some thing, and you'd cast a spell on me and dragged me away to a strange place. To make matters worse, people started telling me what to do and that I had no choice!'

Falco sighed, and she could sense him reaching for his patience. 'Cayle's right. You are the most stubborn, contrary person in all of Relic. Can't you ever admit you might be even partially to blame?'

She made an inarticulate sound of annoyance and smacked her hand into his side, feeling a smidgeon of satisfaction when he grunted in surprise. 'No, especially when your bad mood was not my fault! And don't listen to Cayle.'

'Why not? Afraid of what he might say about you?' Falco asked, guiding the horse down the wide approach to one of the gates. The Watchers called out orders to each other, and the heavy clank and clatter of chains being wound filled the air. Inch by inch, the massive wood panels – taller than any building in the city – parted to reveal a landscape wreathed in pearl-white mist.

Tisha craned her neck around Falco, blinking owlishly as she stared out into the wilderness. Yesterday, from the peak of the Wall and in the thrash of battle, it had been a mere backdrop, but now, as they rode through the high arch, she felt the keening emptiness of the place. The land was craggy and wrecked, covered in clinging scrub-grass. A few trees struggled to survive, but their branches lanced into the sky like broken bones, leafless and stark.

It was eerily quiet. The city was always full of noise, both animal and human, but out here it was almost silent. Only the huff of the horses stirred the air, and Tisha shuddered as she hunched behind Falco, acutely aware of the swirling fog that could be hiding anything from view.

'We'll head out of the valley to the clear air,' Althea called back. 'If anyone senses anything, then they're to speak up immediately. Breaches aren't normally this close to the city but, after yesterday, I'm not taking any chances.'

They slogged their way along the uneven terrain, taking it steady. Tisha listened as Falco began to explain that the last thing a Realm Rider needed was a horse to turn up lame. 'They're the quickest way to get across the land, and speed matters,' he said. 'Besides, horses aren't easy to come by. The stock's limited, and even with some of the spells they use, most of Relic's horses are too inbred to cope with the job.'

'So where do these come from?' Tisha asked in confusion. 'I thought Relic could sustain itself.'

'In the essentials, yeah. Plenty of fish come down the river, and they've been careful to make sure the population doesn't grow too fast, so unless we have a bad winter there's enough food. Horses, however, need a lot more than grass and water.' Falco grinned at her over his shoulder. 'Not all Realm Riders do this.' He waved in emphasis. 'Some of them – normally those good at animal magic – go out on foot looking for wild herds. It might seem quiet, but plenty of animals are out here. We take young ones, a couple at a time, and train them up. Some people think the horses are more valuable than the Riders, anyway. Especially some of the hybrids we're finding.'

Tisha looked down at the dark back of the creature she was riding. It looked normal enough: glossy, healthy and horse-like. 'Hybrid?' she asked with a grimace.

'When we get back, I'll show you Bane. He's got–' Falco stopped suddenly; his body tensed as the horse whinnied and did a shuffling sidestep. A groan of pain escaped Tisha as the air turned thick and heavy, wrapping around her chest like coiled rope and starting to squeeze. A sharp, acid scent tickled her nose, and the taste of tin burned across her tongue. Strangest of all were the drums. At first she thought it was the throb of her pulse in her ears, but it was too slow to match her racing heart.

'What's that?' she gasped, leaning her weight against Falco's back and pressing her forehead against his icy armour. 'What's happening?'

Beneath them, the horse gave a nervous twitch, and Falco's voice reached her ears as if it were coming from a great distance. 'Breaches are normally around here at the end of the valley. You're feeling what we sense every time we get close enough to one.'

'I think she's feeling a bit more than we do,' Althea replied, wheeling her horse around and pulling up alongside. 'Tisha, are you all right?'

Tisha managed a nod, but her next breath was a stutter, and her head throbbed so hard she could barely think. 'Don't feel so good.'

'Dred, help her. I didn't stop to think what the breaches might do to someone so sensitive to magic.' Althea shook her head as if she was angry with herself, moving aside to let Dred near. 'Be gentle,' she added with a scowl. 'We need her in one piece, remember?'

The man gave a grunt, tugging off his gauntlets and resting them on his saddle before he reached across. Tisha flinched away, but a warning noise from Falco held her still. 'Stay put. Dred's spells can be unpredictable. I don't want to be picking up pieces of you from here to Relic.'

'Ignore them both,' Dred ordered. 'I only kill enemies, and you're not one of those yet.' He let his hands hover above her shoulders, and Tisha barely heard the whispered word of power before the overwhelming stench of sweat and blood slammed into her. She gagged and shuddered, but tried to stay still as the magic filled her like molten fire, burning away the bands constricting her chest and banishing the pain.

'Better?' Althea asked when Dred pulled back, smiling in satisfaction when Tisha uttered a grudging “thank you”. 'Perhaps training you first would have been a good idea after all. We need to make this quick. The spell will wear off within the hour, and it's probably best you're back in the city by then.'

Althea waved a hand at the land before them. 'Breaches have been here for at least as long as I've been a Rider. So tell me, what do you see?'

Panic clenched Tisha's heart as she stared around the bleak land, looking for anything similar to what she had seen yesterday. Mist and cloud blotted out the horizon, and water droplets clung to her hair, dripping onto her face. The land stretched around her, empty and grey, and she tried desperately to remember if she had done something unusual that made her see the breaches. 'Nothing here.'

'Told you she was a waste of time,' Dred muttered, leading his twitchy horse around in a slow circle as they waited. 'At least if she's as blind as the rest of us, it means I don't have to tutor her.'

'But yesterday I – I didn't imagine what I saw!' Tisha's voice was rough with frustration, and she dug her fingers through her hair, scraping it back and shutting her eyes in desperation.

When Tisha opened them again, she almost fell backwards off the horse. The slate monochrome of the world had vanished, drowned out by the stormy midnight black and electric blue swirl of the breaches that stretched away on either side. They rose like cliffs, extending the line of the valley's walls out across the plains and vanishing upwards into the fog. The previous day, the breaches had been tinted with crimson, but these were like bubbles blown from ink, far bigger than anything Tisha had seen during the battle.

With a blink, Tisha let her hair fall back across her left eye, and the vision vanished, wiped out as if it had been nothing but her imagination. A quick experiment showed that the same thing happened if she covered her right eye and revealed her left. She needed both to see the breaches. Of course, she would have some weird talent that made it impossible to hide the one thing marking her as different from everyone else.

Lifting her chin, Tisha freed a pin and tied her hair well away from her face before looking at Althea. 'There's a breach on either side of us, but there's a big clear path in between the two. You could ride several dozen horses down it side-by-side if you wanted.'

'Is anything coming out of them? Anything alive?' Falco asked, squinting as he tried to pick out anything from the murk. 'I can't see any threats, but that doesn't mean we're safe.'

'Half the things that come out of breaches aren't visible to the naked eye, lad. You know that,' Dred pointed out gruffly.

'But they might be to Tisha.'

Tisha knocked her fist against the side of Falco's breastplate, smirking as it clanged like a muffled bell. 'Not in all this fog. I can make out the breaches on either side of us, but I can't see too far ahead.' Glancing over at Althea, she added, 'These breaches don't look like they sprung up out of nowhere. They seem – old. I don't think whatever took my dad came through these rifts.'

'What makes you say that?'

'A hunch?' Tisha winced as Dred snorted in disbelief, but she did not back down. 'They don't look the same, and they're barely moving. The ones I saw were drifting, but these look like they're anchored in place. They're more like walls than anything else. Besides, have you ever had any trouble with creatures here?'

For a moment, no one answered her, and Tisha looked between Dred and the commander before turning to Falco. Beneath their helms, all three were ghastly pale, and she wondered if they had sensed something.

'Once,' Althea said at last, 'It was years ago now, when Falco was a new recruit. We were taking them out on a basic training mission, and we thought this was safe territory. I've never been that stupid since.' Her hands tightened on her horse's reins, and she bent her head as she murmured, 'We lost seven kids that day – all of them your age or younger. They weren't even taken by a breach; they were – annihilated.'

'The things that attacked us were dead,' Falco said flatly. 'A lot of them were mostly rotten, barely anything left but bone, but they were still strong enough to drag people out of their saddles.'

'What did they do?' Tisha asked quietly, dreading the answer all the more when Falco shook his head.

'Killed them; that's all you need to know. We retreated back to the city and came back the next day to reclaim what we could, but there wasn't anything left: No horses, no people, no weapons and no creatures. It was like it had never happened. There wasn't even any blood on the ground.'

Tisha shivered, swallowing against the greasy knot of nausea lodged in her throat. Realm Riders were braver than she had thought. If she had seen that happen, she doubted she would have ever been able to set foot outside the city again, yet Falco did just that whenever he was asked. He knew what was out here in all its horror, but he still rode the realm. Was that bravery or stupidity?

'We should head back,' Dred said, reaching out to tap the commander on the shoulder and disturbing her from her reverie. 'It's no good haunting the past. There are enough dead to do that for us.'

Althea drew in a deep breath, and Tisha watched her compose herself, wiping her face clean of emotion and straightening her shoulders. 'Fall in,' she ordered, turning her horse around to lead the way back into the valley. 'Tisha, your training will start as soon as we're back at the compound. We need you out in the field as soon as possible.'

'I'm fine,' Tisha replied. 'Can't Dred keep casting that spell? I need to be looking for my dad now – today, not tomorrow or next week!'

'Knocking a little girl like you into shape will take months,' Dred grumbled, looking over at her with hard eyes.

'Months?' Tisha shook her head, pressing her lips together as she scowled. 'We can't wait that long. Don't you understand? Every day we are sitting around doing nothing is another day he might be fighting for his life. We don't even know if he has anything to eat or drink –'

The commander's stern words cut through the air, bouncing off the hills and making the horses flinch. 'Enough! We don't even know if a life is there to save. Properly trained, you could be saving Riders and protecting Cayle, Falco, or any one of the other recruits from walking into a breach.' She looked over her shoulder, her eyes fierce. 'Wouldn't you rather shield the people you know still have a chance than go chasing the dream of getting back those who are already gone?'

'He's not gone!' Tisha's breath hitched in her chest, and she blinked against the sudden stab of tears behind her lashes. 'How can you grieve for the people who’ve been lost one minute and write others off as dead in the next? Do you really train your recruits so badly that you don't think they'd fight with everything they had to try and get home again? What if they're alive? How long are you going to keep them waiting for a rescue? How long's it already been? Weeks, months, years?'

In front of her, Tisha could feel how rigid Falco had become, and she thought of his sister, gone the same way as her father. They both believed that those they lost were still alive and waiting for rescue. Surely he could not be happy to hear Althea admitting defeat? His breaths were deep and calm, but she could see the line of his jaw working furiously as if he were struggling to swallow back angry words.

Althea had not answered her challenge, but Tisha could feel the weight of Dred's glare burning into the back of her neck from where he brought up the rear. A thick, unhealthy silence had settled over them, marred by the jingle of bridles and the horses' snorts. Tisha did not know what else she could say that would not be seen as childish defiance, but she was not about to give up hope on her father. If that meant leaving the Realm Riders to sort out their own mess and herself facing treason, so be it, but maybe it did not have to be that way.

'Let me start searching for my father tomorrow; let me keep looking until I find him, dead or alive, and then I'll join the Realm Riders willingly.' Tisha swallowed, trying to ignore the shrink of her heart at her own proclamation and the imaginary slam of a cage door that rang in her ears. 'That way, we both get what we want.'

That was not exactly true. What Tisha wanted was a life with her father, without any walls or restrictions, but she knew that was a dream she may never have. The best she could hope for was a compromise. This was about more than her personal freedom, and she would spend the rest of her days behind bars of duty and obligation if it meant she had her father back alive and whole.

'Well?'

Althea did not stop her horse or even turn around, but carried on in silence as she gave Tisha's proposal due thought. Finally, she drew in a deep breath and nodded her head. Beneath the annoyance and resignation in her voice was a grudging kind of respect.

'It's a deal.'

 

 

Chapters

4

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HarperCollins Wrote

You’ve got a great, fun premise here and a lot of edge-of-your-seat thrills in Relic and I had a great time reading your novel. There’s a lot of things that work really well here – I think Tisha is an interesting and engaging character, I think the high-stakes are quite compelling, and I like the various jobs within the world and the way we hear about them and see them through Tisha’s eyes.

I do feel like there’s room for improvement here, in order to help this stand out for teens and draw in readers. I would encourage you to work more on building the world – both inside and outside the wall. I wanted a clearer picture of what Tisha’s world inside the wall looks like, how it feels, what the other people are like. It’s great that you throw us right into the action, but it left me feeling a little removed from the world itself. I’d also love more details about the Realm Riders’ home/training castle. I wanted to feel like I could picture their surroundings, and really understand how different it was from Tisha’s old home, and I feel like you can do a lot more to really bring that to life. I’d also love to know more about the rules of the world – how many people can and do use magic? How often are people plucked from obscurity to become Realm Riders? Who is in charge and how are they chosen? Do the people realize that they are constantly in danger of running out of food and comfort? As you go through and work on the manuscript, I’d encourage you to concentrate on bringing Tisha’s surroundings to life – the world of your novel needs to feel like a character in the story.

I was also a little confused about some aspects of our main character. Let’s start with Falco. When he’s introduced he feels much older than Tisha; I kept thinking of him as an adult (almost equating him with Tisha’s dad!), and I feel like it would be more interesting if he felt younger throughout, more on Tisha’s level. I was also a little thrown off by Cayle. When we first hear about him, we hear that he spent the first few months that he was with the Realm Riders pining for Tisha. But then when she sees him, there isn’t even a hint of romantic tension. I wish that there could be more chemistry there, more appeal – we need to see something, especially in Cayle. Maybe a hint of desire in his eyes, or even some hinting, half-finished sentences?

I was also confused about why Tisha wasn’t considered “magical” even when they realized that she could see the breaches and she could smell magic. We’re told very clearly that those abilities are both quite unique, but yet she’s referred to as just a regular human with no magical ability. I wonder whether that can be reconciled?

Lastly, I would encourage you to pay careful attention to your dialogue and language. Most of your novel feels very classic, as if this is happening in a parallel, past world, but there are a few moments (like when Tisha says “Sucks to be me”) which feel undeniably modern and a little out of the blue.

I think you have a great start here and I would strongly encourage you to keep working on the manuscript.

A Knight wrote 1330 days ago

Reply to HC Review:

It is great to finally have some concrete feedback and areas of improvement from someone within the publishing industry. I shall bear these thoughts in mind as I continue to improve both Relic and work on other projects. Thank you for taking the time to read this section of Relic, and for your active encouragement to both improve and continue with this work.

All the best,
A.B. Knight

bageek wrote 1378 days ago

This is ... amazing, and I haven't even read it all yet.
I've pretty much followed your stories ever since you joined FF.Net, since your first one, "Honest", and from then on, you've been one of the best writers I've ever come across - that includes fan fiction and books that are already published. I've been following your stories for years and it's just the way you do things that hasn't got me bored (wow, sounds kind of stalker-ish). I don't know what it is, but you *got* it.
You have this thing for words that other writers just lack; you know when to give the readers just that little bit more to keep them going.
The introduction was perfect. You know exactly what to do to spark curiosity - for example, our first encounter with "the Wall" in one of the initial paragraphs. The Wall is purposely presented with a capital W. Why has it got a capital? Is that particular wall special in some way? Then, after we read on and discover the purpose of the wall, we're presented with the rule. Why is the rule in place? Is it really that dangerous on the outside?
Your descriptions are well worded, and the scenery is described to the point of closing your eyes and being there. It's full of drama, and the action flows to make you sit on the edge of your seat. There are bits of humour in there as well, just little giggles to make sure the story isn't *too* suspenseful.
But most important of all, it's believable.
Most novels have characters that go through no development whatsoever - the MC is described fully at the beginning and soon the reader expects something of them, and is never surprised. Also, other novels with fantasy cities or worlds are sometimes just too much for the author to handle. However, you've given us a bit of insight to each character at the beginning, slowly adding to their personalities while the story progresses, eventually turning them into sophisticated people with their own quirks, flaws, strengths, goals, ideas, problems and mannerisms.
Also, for Tisha, tiny little things like not knowing how to do things - for example, sew or ride a horse - make her even more real. She's an average girl, just a maid, and she only knows how to do things that are within the criteria of her job and everyday life. It annoys me when novels have these average people that know how to do tasks that, in reality, average people would never know how to do, unless they were *meant* to or purposely *taught* to (in most cases they weren't).
And the city - oh gosh. I *died* of happiness when you made magic so believable. I *love it* how you made Tisha with a disgusted, somewhat hated outlook on magic. It makes it so much more realistic. Most people hate what there's too much of, and this goes to show that magic is so commonplace in Relic, some people are *sick* of it. In some fantasy novels, some of the characters have a "Wow, magic!" sort of attitude - which makes it boring for me. Other people love the whole idea of the wow-ish factor in novels, but personally, it's not for me. There are only a few novels which does this attitude well.
Also, more ranting about the city. Tisha mentions "Realm Riders" and "Watchers" casually, yet again without a "Wow!" attitude. Makes it all the more believable. I love it.
I really wish I had time to read the rest of it right now, but I will as soon as I can. So far, I'm up to when Falco apologizes to Tisha, when everyone is riding the horses.
This is awesome, it really, really is. I'm getting all my friends to try and get you to the well-deserved top (: . I just want to give you a big, big hug for your work.

Hope you make it!
Lots of love.
:)

Kaychristina wrote 1424 days ago

A literary fantasy for all, Abi. You've created a very real world within one of dark, magical happenings, and a heroine in Tisha all teenage girls will want to be. Those girls, and older women, it has to be said, will fantasise about being grabbed, heaved over a shoulder and ultimately saved by the divine Falco - a knight of a Realm Rider if ever there was one.

You've created this world, building up very quickly through what first appears a real, perhaps medaeval one, into another that is, by all realms of the imagination, a distinct possibility... By Tisha's astonishment when she first sees outside this monster of a Wall, so we are astonished with her, believing what she sees and sharing that astonishment.

And I can smell the franchise... as will HC, I hope! All I can offer is a backing, and wish you great success.

Kay xx ("Annacara")

Cherry G. wrote 1476 days ago

This is good!
An exciting start that skillfully introduces Tisha as the MC without slowing the action, and also alerts the reader to the wonderfully named Realm Riders, Watchers and the Wall. Tisha's eye patch is mentioned but as yet, the reader doesn't know what has to be hidden. All very mysterious!
It promises a lot and it soon delivers. Climbing up the steps , with the green light of the everflame lighting her way, she's stopped from peering over the Wall by the charismatic Sargeant Falco. The remainder of the chapter is action packed as magical monsters attack from over the Wall.
There are four main hooks that keep the reader engrossed at the end of Chapter 1. What is the threat from outside the wall and can Tisha's father be rescued? Why can Tisha see things the others can't and what is the magic that Falco appears to use on her?
The next chapters continue with the same high quality writing and the danger to Tisha mounts as she is forced to become a Realm Rider and endure the training. And Tisha's interest in Falco grows..
This is well written with a powerful and likeable heroine in Tisha plus many more believable characters. You've conjured up a magical world which feels very real. Impressive.
I think this could be very popular with teenage girls. (And others...I enjoyed it) I can see it as a film and with spinoffs such as games and T.shirts etc.
Hope this does as well as it deserves to do.
I will back RELIC tonight.
Cherry G.
Sister: One Woman's Journey through thre Trojan War

RobRow wrote 1476 days ago

Abi:

I think you've got something here. Relic is a very engaging story, and quite interesting--even to a reader like me, who rarely samples this genre. But the reality you create is very believable, your characters are well drawn, and the writing style is exceptionally strong. I believe all of these elements give you more than a decent chance at publication, and I'm happy to lend my support. Backed with pleasure.

By the way, I caught just one error in Ch. 1, a missing word at the end of this sentence: “Black slabs of rock made up the steep, inner face, and the only two gates were carved from wood so old it had turned as dark as the stone around its.”

All the best,
Rob

Adam Thurstman wrote 668 days ago

Dear How to Fail Supporter,

Here at the How to Fail support team we have been greatly encouraged by the developing lack in failure of our book’s progress, thanks to the ongoing support of all our members. You’re support too has not gone unnoticed. Please let us make you fully aware of our gratitude and thanks for all your kind efforts and everything you have done in continuing to partner with us.

It’s is our hope, dream and wish that soon everyone will be able to know how to fail, in a way that they have never known before; so that others will only be able to look on in awe at what a complete mess they have made of their lives.

Yours faithfully,
The team

Adam Thurstman wrote 672 days ago

What about me, everyone I know has just died and I've only got seconds to live, please back me!!!
Only kidding, everything’s fine; relax!

I saw you comment on 'How to fail' and and wondered if you wanted to help me back it again, it's so funny. If so it's on my book shelf.

Adam

Famlavan wrote 744 days ago

Hey Abi - How's it going - Published yet (if not I'm surprised) - If you get chance can you have a look at a kids book I've put up - Catch you soon - Ian

Geneva Wilkins wrote 756 days ago

Very well written, my daughter who read most of it says you need to upload more chapters :)

XIII wrote 768 days ago

I came across your book today and enjoy it. Good luck with your goals for it, so far, I'm still reading and enjoying it.

A.C. Wilson wrote 831 days ago

I've really enjoyed this book so far. I would LOVE to read more and find out what happens next.
Tisha is a highly amusing character in her stubborness and her insistance on doing what she feels is right, or best, no matter the costs. That can be a very good, or a very bad trait in a person, as she is quickly beginning to learn.
Falco, though, is my favorite so far. Amused by her, friendly, but with his own ulterior motives for everything. He didn't lie to her, nor was he completely honest. One day he's going to end up telling her about his sister, but she may accidently let it slip that she knows about his sister first.
I found this to be such a compelling story that I stayed up well past the time I should have been in bed, as I have things to do tomorrow.
A very compelling story. Keep up the good work.

Simon R. Willis wrote 885 days ago

Excellent start! Would love to read more. As a fantasy writer myself I'm always on the look out for a new world to see. I thought yours could have had more detail in the first 2 chapters - just small things like describing the surroundings, the smells, the peoples, what they wear etc etc. Great start though, keep it up!

ccb1 wrote 1283 days ago

The editor’s desk, was it worth? Was your book reviewed by HarperCollins? Did you receive a book publishing offer, or have other publishing houses expressed and interest in you book? We have found the comments and suggestions from the other authors on Authonomy helpful in revising our book, but were just curious as to the benefits of landing at the top.
CC Brown
Dark Side

BenGalley wrote 1309 days ago

Congratulations on a great and intriguing novel! As a fantasy writer myself I love to enter other people's worlds and yours is very imaginative. I love the Realm Riders and your use of magic as well, and the cover is great! Nothing like a spot of complete heterochromia in your lead character to inspire a bit of interest :) Truly looking forward to read the rest.

Kindest regards,

Ben Galley (formerly of Winchester)
The Written

Amy Smith wrote 1325 days ago
RonParker wrote 1325 days ago

Hi A.B,

I see you've managed to get to the top without needing my help. Cogratualtions and good luck with whatever happens next - hopefully, publication at some stage.

It's easy to see why your story made it to the desk. It's great.

Ron

A Knight wrote 1330 days ago

Reply to HC Review:

It is great to finally have some concrete feedback and areas of improvement from someone within the publishing industry. I shall bear these thoughts in mind as I continue to improve both Relic and work on other projects. Thank you for taking the time to read this section of Relic, and for your active encouragement to both improve and continue with this work.

All the best,
A.B. Knight

Bonofied1 wrote 1331 days ago

Wow. I just finished what you have posted here and I am wishing I could find out what happens!

Bonofied1 wrote 1331 days ago

I haven't even completed this yet, but my goodness WHAT A GREAT STORY! I am already picturing a full length motion picture to portray this story! AWESOME! This should definitely be published...and I would be one of the first to purchase!

Cheryl A. Thompson
'Whispers From My Heart'

michaelshortland wrote 1331 days ago

OK but rather predictable fabtasy story.

CG Fewston wrote 1356 days ago

Unique.

crazy mama wrote 1356 days ago

CONGRATULATION AND WELL WISHES FOR CONTINUED SUCCESS!

M.R.HYDE wrote 1358 days ago

Congratulations! I'm so glad it got to the top!

Tom Bye wrote 1360 days ago

hi a b ; RELIC'
CONGRATULATIONS .
TOM BYE ' FROM HUGS TO KISSES'

philip john wrote 1360 days ago

Well done, Abi! You made it!

Best wishes Philip John

MonicaEmme wrote 1360 days ago

I'm so excited for you! Please, please, please tell us, or at least me when it is published I really would like to read the rest. (I recruited friends, fans, and crit partners to come back your book also during last months rounds but alas it wasn't enough.) Glad you made it this time around though!

Alonwi Carrovella wrote 1361 days ago

CONGRATS ON MAKING THE EDITOR'S DESK ABI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ra Ra Radek wrote 1361 days ago

Especially enjoyed the visual imagery of this – the original eloquent similes (“like invisible oil, slicking her skin with its touch” for example). A cracking story written with tremendous flair and exciting vitality.

Amberly wrote 1361 days ago

Hi Abi

Just finished the first five chapters - you have got to get this this published because i have got to finish reading it!

I am so hoping for a romance between tisha and falco!

Absolutely addicted and unable to sleep now!

Amberly

Amberly wrote 1361 days ago

Hi Abi,

i know you've had a heap of comments and that it's already infront of an editor but i just noticed that halfway down chapter 3 you have falco letting Tisha go twice - a typo?

Cheers

Amberly

fh wrote 1361 days ago

Congratulations!

Faith
The AssassinsVillage

celticwriter wrote 1361 days ago

Hi AB. Have returned to your novel. Still enjoying your story telling. And just in case it didn't register first time, I'm backing again.

blessings,
jim

Roland Mann wrote 1362 days ago

Reminiscent of HUNGER GAMES...and that's a GOOD thing! I like what you're doing.

Keri Kern wrote 1363 days ago

I backed your book a while ago but I enjoyed it so much I am backing you again so you stay in the top 5. Good luck!
Keri Kern

Leo Sebastian wrote 1363 days ago

The way you use magic in the beginning as something you feel rather than ye old wizards shooting fireballs was fantastic. It creates the feel of "this is different" and makes you want more.

Good luck in the editor's desk and thanks for the backsies ;)

Amberly wrote 1363 days ago

Hi Abi

So far just great - amazing intro!

You've a lot of comments so you proabably already know this - sorry about that.

chapter 1, "taking two steps back and breaking into a run" i thought she was running away - because she just took 2 steps back? a bit confusing.

I can't wait to read the rest.

Great job

Amberly

LeClerc wrote 1363 days ago

I have back this before and I think it deserves another go.

Phil
Danny Murphy

dondyke wrote 1363 days ago

I love adventures... this one looks to me like fresh palm wine too strong to ignore. The title of a story is like the nail, the plot is the hammer, you are hitting the hammer on the nail.... N.D.W.DIKE aka dondyke.

tomkepler wrote 1364 days ago

Added your book back to my shelf, hoping to help you for these last days of the month. Good luck!
PS: I have a second book uploaded, Love Ya Like a Sister.

heaven-sa wrote 1365 days ago

Unreservedly backed. I've read chapter 1 and I would LOVE to read the whole book. Brilliant!!!

korvet wrote 1365 days ago

Excellent opening action and chapter structure, keeps you reading. Great narrative flow, propels the reader along matched with detailed character and scene descriptions allows you to see the action, like a movie playing in your head. I had to be asked to look at this, I won't need to be asked to read All OF IT. RJ. Kain The Chronos Gambit.

Rachel Bull wrote 1365 days ago

Hi, I have only read the first two chapters but am already hooked! Your story is fast paced and throws the reader into the action immediately, I loved it. Good luck
Rachel

Eunice Attwood wrote 1365 days ago

I have backed your book again but thought I had done so already. Sorry about that.
Eunice

R.A. Baker wrote 1365 days ago

This not your typical fantasy. I appreciate the considerable time and effort you must have spent creating your own mythology from scratch. Watchers, Realm Riders, the Wall--all great concepts and well executed.. This book is highly ranked a good reason: it's an excellent read!

Best wishes and success,

R.A. Baker

T. L. Bartush wrote 1366 days ago

You don't need comments now, (THE ED IS LOOMING!) you need backing (sorry about the outburst) so thank you for backing Bleak House Bleak Shed. I'm happy to reciprocate.

T. L. Bartush

Nursing Around wrote 1366 days ago

absolutely brilliant.
Bryn

Nursing Around wrote 1366 days ago

if i continue to read i'm going to be angry that the whole manuscript isn't here. This is damned brilliant. The best work I've read here, and as good as any fantasy I've read on the market. If the editors don't agree to publish you, it's their loss as I'm sure it's only a matter of time before you hit the big time.
Bryn

AoiKazeToMidoriAme wrote 1367 days ago

Wow, I really got immersed into the story by the end of the 5th chapter. I think at times though, the conversation seems a touch too modern youth ish, but, it is a young adult book, so maybe thats a good thing. It's been a while since I've been a teen, and fantasy dialogue can be difficult that way. But, really, absolutely fantastic story. I really want to write more successfully myself, and I am playing with teh plot for my own fantasy novel right now. Since high school I've not really written, but what I have churned out has been FF. I went through some rough times at 18 right as I was coming into my own in the craft, and in the 6 years since haven't been able to write work I've been comfortable with. Anyway, I really like this. I'm not sure how this site works, but I assume it is a still unpublished manuscript. I think its already great, and after a little bit of some editing can be fantastic. Although I'm an adult who started reading adult literature before he reached high school, I think perhaps today young adult fiction and especially fantasy remains my favorite genre. There is something so powerful about coming of age and the honor of fantasy protagonists and paragons that is so powerful. I think you've got a fantastic and rather adroitly flawed character here in this novel, with the perfect cast to help her out around her. I really strongly wish you luck, and I hope this story makes it. I'll buy a copy when it does, cause it will. It deserves it.

Roxanne Kade wrote 1367 days ago

Well first off I have to say congrats on being on the ED! Only a few days to go. You deserve your spot as you are a highly talented and accomplished writer.
The very first time I logged on to this site, your book was one of the first to grab my attention. Your cover is beautiful and promises something more than just the normal fantasy fiction novel. Your pitch really draws a person in and you just can't help but want to read more.
Best of luck. I'm going to add you back to my shelf to show my support as I really believe you deserve to be published.
Roxanne
Therian

nsllee wrote 1367 days ago

Hi Abi

I'm not surprised this is on the Ed's Desk. Great pitch, great idea, great opening chapter, full of tantalising ideas and questions to keep you reading. I love the idea of the massive ancient wall. Falco's sexy. I can't work out why Tisha has to keep one of her eyes covered, but it doesn't matter which one. My only hesitation is that Tisha annoys me. I guess I'm getting a bit fed-up of feisty heroines who don't care about their looks. But the rest is so good I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and read on, to see if she grows on me. Backed.

Nicole (Chosen)

Dom-inatez wrote 1368 days ago

This is a fab book I would love to read the rest of it, you are very talented. Book backed Happily.
Dom-Inatez

rachaelfiona wrote 1368 days ago

I thought this was a truly engaging read. Tisha is thoroughly three dimentional and I found I genuinely cared what happened to her. The world of Relic and the outside of the wall makes for a great setting for such a story. I am only disappointed I didn't get to find out what happens next!

fletcherkovich wrote 1368 days ago

A.B. Knight-

SUPERB.
This is a one of a kind book in this site. The story is well polished and the language is just so magical. I love it.

Michael Oakes wrote 1368 days ago

Excellent. Reminds me of The City of Ember. There’s the whole mystery aspect of what’s outside the city, and also a young girl character that immediately engages the reader. Very well written.

Bonzo147 wrote 1370 days ago

This is very impressive...a real page turner....there's only one way for it to go and that's up...well done...backed with pleasure.
ASC
Violet Hiccup