Imagine an island world where the seas seethe with dangerous creatures, where those rare men and women called Bard-Navigators have learned to sing Whales to protect their ships. Only on the wings of Bardsong can ships avoid the Sea-Dragons and travel the great gulf between the Atolls scattered across the World-Sea.
I sang to the Sea; She sang back to me,
Tales and travails wreathed in mystery.
Zhialeiana has an astonishing gift of song. She can sing the unique songs of the mighty and magical creatures of the World-Sea. She can touch their souls. When her gift is discovered at her mother's funeral, the current of her life begins to sweep her to a future that she could never have imagined. She must navigate both opportunity and danger, and lay her life on the line for the Whales she loves. But Zhialeiana also has a toxic secret - a secret that will force her to undertake a journey beyond faith, beyond all hope, and beyond the World-Sea.
Read an excerpt:
It happened so quickly, there was no chance to scream. Zhialeiana snatched a breath just as she struck the water. Now she fell slowly into the blue, sinking beneath the weight of the net–had it dragged loose? She saw her right hand tangled up in the cords, making her the fish about to be heaved into the bottom of a fisherman’s boat. Her left hand still gripped the knife’s wooden handle with deathly intent.
In the underwater world, events seemed silent and dreamlike, unfolding more slowly than she could comprehend and yet, inexorably. A red ribbon of blood streamed out of her calf muscle as she kicked weakly. Had she been bitten? She felt no pain. Here, suddenly thrusting her downward as it rolled into the net, striking her shoulder a juddering blow before tumbling away in a billowing cloud of pink, came half of the shark’s body. Half?
This thought had barely registered when she perceived a mouth lunge out from between the boulders no more than three cords beneath her drifting feet, gape open, and attempt to swallow the remains of the shark whole.
Bubbles exploded from Zhialeiana’s mouth. A Sea-Dragon!
Now that it had moved, she realised that this Sea-Dragon was comfortably as long as the Whale above her–far larger even than the Sea-Dragon she had briefly glimpsed as a child. The creature struck her as a cross between a moray eel and a sea lizard. It had an eel’s flattened, sinuous body, and the squat, powerful legs of a lizard ending in the sharp claws she had seen before, which gripped the rocky side of the channel as though each foot were glued in place. Its head was broad, the mouth a wide thicket of needle-sharp teeth. Baleful, slit-lantern yellow eyes completed the picture. This Sea-Dragon could probably swallow six of her in a single bite.
A sharp pain in her hand brought Zhialeiana to her senses. Great Mother, in trying to cut her trapped hand free she had nearly sliced off her own forefinger.
The Sea-Dragon glared at her over its mouthful of shark meat. Its jaws ground deliberately up and down, masticating the tough sharkskin as though it wished she were the meal between its jaws, an altogether softer and tastier snack. It shifted closer, sinking those long talons into the cracks between the rocks. There was a fearful intelligence behind that gaze. She knew exactly what–who–was next on the menu.
Zhialeiana ripped at the heavy netting, making panicked strokes left and right, desperately trying to find some kind of leverage to apply the knife effectively. She resorted to sawing at a handful of cords, glancing down every few heartbeats to check if the terrible eyes had moved any closer. Her breath was running short. The net folded down around her shoulders as she scrabbled about, threatening to entangle her further. The flotation gourds appeared to be doing nothing–perhaps they had broken and filled with water?
The Sea-Dragon spat out the skull and grinning jaw of the great white. Its yellow lamp-eyes fixed upon her and the huge dorsal fin, which ran the length of its body, rippled.
Zhialeiana kicked desperately and felt the net part around her like a shroud.
Marc is a South African-born author who lives writing about dragons and Africa, preferably both at the same time. He lives and works in Ethiopia with his wife and 4 children, 2 dogs, a rabbit, and a variable number of marabou storks that roost on the acacia trees out back. On a good night there are also hyenas patrolling the back fence.
When he's not writing about Africa, Marc can be found travelling to remote locations. He thinks there's nothing better than standing on a mountaintop wondering what lies over the next horizon.
Marc is the bestselling author of Aranya and The Pygmy Dragon and is currently working on sequels for both books.