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dissent RENEGADES – Chapter One

It is Sneak Peak Sunday again. 

In case you missed it, the prologue from last week is here

Without waffling on, here is Chapter One of the first DISSENT book.  Enjoy!

Wow! Look at that!

—chapter one—

Daybreak in Port Harmony

Ellie loved riding the orgo. She had often dreamt about it since being a small child. Now that her father wasn’t around to voice his opinions, she finally could. Twenty years had been a long time to wait.
With ice-cold air biting at her nose, Ellie raced through Port Harmony’s maze of frozen streets. She sat comfortably in the saddle of her employer’s orgo. Winter was ending, but that didn’t make it particularly warm. Ellie couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t feel like she lived in a bubble formed from pure ice. The snow had stopped falling, but the breeze tugged on her knotty mass of once yellowish hair. It was still thick with muck from her work. Ellie’s heart pounded with the thrill as she continued to build momentum on the back of Sage. Stone, dome-shaped buildings surrounded them. The intricate designs etched into the surface of each structure, had blended into a grey blur.
Kicking down hard, Ellie urged the animal she commanded to give more. Her huge smile revealed the shallow dimples usually hidden within her pale cheeks. She was convinced that it was impossible for anyone to reach the speeds that she could on Sage. For a few minutes, Ellie felt like a champion in a world far removed from her reality. A reality where she was an apprentice orgo-keeper, on her way to the market, wearing loose brown overalls that stunk of dung.
‘That’s it boy,’ Ellie said, as loud as she could. ‘Faster. C’mon Sage…faster.’
Sage stretched forward when Ellie thrashed her legs. She couldn’t believe how fast he picked up speed; the excitement wanted to burst from inside her. Despite hearing ice and slush crunching between his fearsome toes, she had faith in Sage’s experience. He could cope well with the difficult terrain. The reins burned into Ellie’s fingers when Sage extended his neck, charging toward a bend in the street. He knew where he was heading. They had made plenty of trips to the market together.
Within seconds, Ellie noted a strong smell of cooked fish and the noise of market chatter growing louder. They were close, and Ellie pulled back on Sage’s reins, slowing him to a canter. Taking a deep breath, she dusted down her overalls one last time and tied back her hair.
‘Okay boy…you know what to do. It’s round there…give me everything you’ve got!’
Clumps of dirt flew from Sage’s claws as they sped forward, but Ellie felt her saddle jolt. Something was wrong. A clasp had worked loose and Ellie screamed; she hadn’t fastened it properly before leaving. Wondering how she had been so careless, Ellie tried to slow Sage down.
‘Whoa boy…whoa,’ she cried. But her commands came too late, and wouldn’t make a difference.
As they swung around the corner at the entry to the street-market, the saddle slipped further. Ellie was tossed from the back of Sage onto the cobbled street behind. A dull, hollow grunt was forced from inside her, as her entire body thumped against the solid ground. Dazed, Ellie lay still. Sage turned back to examine her and nudged his snout into Ellie’s side to provoke a response.
‘I’m okay…’ Ellie grumbled as she sat upright. ‘I think.’
She could not believe how ridiculous she felt, or how stupid she looked. Glancing down into the market, Ellie’s face tingled with shame. Everyone was staring at her. Everyone. The busy market appeared to have frozen in time; with every single person gawking in her direction.
The street was the same as any other in Port Harmony. Low level, plump dwellings lined either side of the road up the incline. Large openings in the front walls of each of the buildings served as entrances. Yet, where some of those cavities contained doors, others were covered with simple sheets of fabric. The carved gritty surfaces of each building acted as decoration, with designs specific to the families living there. Ellie admired the patterns every time she wandered Port Harmony’s streets. She thought they were all stunning, in their own individual ways.
Staggering to her feet, Ellie clutched Sage’s reins and started to lead him into the market. The freedom she had embraced moments before, had been replaced with humiliation. After what felt like hours—but was probably more like a few seconds—people in the market began to move again. Suddenly, it was as though they hadn’t seen anything. Nobody even seemed to register Ellie’s accidental dismount. Everyone was carrying on with their own business.
Hobbling toward a wooden post, close to the stall she needed, Ellie tethered Sage. ‘Be back soon,’ she said, petting her steed and sinking her fingers into his light tan wool. ‘Don’t be goin’ anywhere!’ Which she knew he wouldn’t; he looked exhausted.
Sage’s snout nuzzled into her armpit; it tickled. Releasing an echoing snort, he was showing Ellie that he was happy. Ellie giggled, and rubbed Sage behind his head, in the way he appeared to like. Moments like this one were why she had grown so fond of the orgo.
Finally, she stroked down her orgo’s neck. ‘Okay boy, work to do. We need to get back before Cedric wonders where we are.’
Ellie lifted her head to shake off her embarrassment, then trudged amongst the stalls laid out at the front of all the houses. The market was frantic, with dozens of cluttered counters lining each side of the dirty street. People were bumping into one another, desperate for a bargain. It was possible to buy almost anything at the market. Assorted items were strewn across every table, or even hanging from timber posts between. The aroma from squid, shrimps and various fish, blended into something tempting. Ellie’s mouth watered with the fragrance.
Gazing around as she manoeuvred her way through the crowds, Ellie avoided eye contact with anyone. Discreetly positioned next to some of the stalls, wardens patrolled. They were watching for anyone to make a mistake. The wardens called it keeping Port Harmony safe, but to Ellie, they looked like they were hunting. Armed with lances and standing bolt upright in their grey and white uniforms, the wardens seemed to be waiting for something. In any case, situated as they were, they could monitor the whole market with ease.
When she caught a whiff of ground orchid leaves, it didn’t take Ellie long to find the stall she wanted. ‘Hey,’ she called out, uncertain of the response she may get. Ellie approached a tall man with scruffy dark hair, but a well-kept beard. It was Evan, and Ellie was always eager to see him, although she tried not to show her enthusiasm too much.
Evan was a few years older than her, and always appeared distinguished for a market trader. He wore a thick, pale grey tunic and cloak. This was unlike most people in Port Harmony, who generally dressed in brown. A scarf made from animal fur was hung around his neck for warmth. Evan peered around from behind a slanted metal table as Ellie drew near. He gave the impression he was anxious. Beautiful, but anxious all the same.
‘Riding with no saddle…’ Evan responded, once Ellie arrived at his stall. ‘That’s new! Bareback orgo riding…it’s the future. Ask anyone…other than those who can ride I reckon.’
Ellie had to listen carefully to hear Evan over the noise of the market, but then wished she hadn’t. She had hoped he hadn’t seen her when she had been thrown from Sage. It wasn’t her most elegant moment. Of anyone in the world, Evan was the last person she wanted to witness her mistake. Choosing to ignore him, Ellie glanced around at a nearby group of children. They were playing a game known as land the pebble. A group of opportunistic puffins flapped around nearby them.
‘You shouldn’t be here Ellie,’ Evan went on. ‘Not after last time.’
‘Bosses orgo are hungry, precious.’ Ellie softened her voice, resting her hands on the table. ‘Where else can I go?’
‘Anywhere but here I reckon.’
Evan’s stall was well known as the only place in Port Harmony to get decent orgo food. But Ellie knew that he would be worried her presence may cause trouble. It had the last time she had visited. Now she thought about it, her behaviour then hadn’t been that attractive either.
‘Like where? Besides…you like me coming here.’ Ellie said, offering a smile. Evan’s stall was cold, and she snatched her hands away before her fingertips went numb.
Evan grinned and turned away. Ellie was sure he was trying to hide it.
‘Do I?’ he said, chuckling. ‘After last time, I thought you might have kept your head down. There’s enough trouble in The Union…without people fighting amongst themselves here.’
Ellie raised her voice a little. ‘Who’s fighting Evan? Can’t a girl look around the market anymore?’
‘Well…don’t say I didn’t warn you.’
‘Warn me?’ Ellie turned, noticing someone familiar browsing around one of the other stalls. Although she was a bit shorter that Ellie, the girl always seemed a similar age—early twenties at most. Feint freckles decorated her fair skin, and her coppery hair commanded attention. It was Evan’s sister, Haylee. Ellie’s muscles all tensed at once.
Evan kept his head down, fidgeting with metal buckets of animal food on his stall. ‘Wherever my sister goes…’
Haylee staggered toward a blacksmith’s table on the street corner. Her thick black tunic was tied at the waist with a grey belt, and a smoke coloured cloak hung from her shoulders. It ran all the way down to her boots. Appearing to take little notice of her surroundings, Haylee knew that she only needed to walk through the market to get what she wanted. She nodded with gratitude, as the man in front of her scurried over, and placed a drink on the table. Most people in Port Harmony respected Haylee. In some way, her quiet charisma was domineering. She didn’t say much, but when she did, everyone listened.
‘I need to tell you something,’ Ellie said, deciding to have some fun. She was determined to win Evan’s affection.
He moved closer to the counter where Ellie was, then grumbled as she grabbed his hand, tugging him towards her. ‘You’re asking for trouble.’
Ellie refused to release Evan, and stared toward Haylee, waiting for a reaction. On the contrary, Haylee seemed oblivious, and completely unaware of Ellie’s presence. Much the same as anyone else in town, Ellie idolised Haylee; regardless of the fact that she felt intimidated by her. Sometimes, when Ellie finished her chores at Cedric’s, she would wander down to the wharf. There, she was able to watch Haylee and her friends racing their orgo. She had heard many stories about ‘The Dispute’ too; a dangerous sport held in Eklips territory. Haylee and her friends were all renowned warriors, who fought battles on whomphorn—amongst other animals—to earn their living. Well, so Ellie had heard. She had only ever dreamt about attending The Dispute one day; it sounded exciting. Ellie often imagined what it would be like to be a warrior like Haylee. For whatever reason, it had placed Haylee’s gang in high regard. Well, around Port Harmony it had.
Evan yanked his hand away. ‘Enough!’ he said, in a sharper tone. ‘What do you need? Quickly.’
Smiling, Ellie was sure that Evan felt the same way as she did. He would never admit it though, because of the potential consequences. Ellie was an outsider as far as Haylee and her friends were concerned, and Evan was her brother. It didn’t matter if he liked her—it mattered if Haylee did.
‘You know what I want,’ she answered. ‘Orgo feed.’
Evan’s eyes widened and he took a step backwards. ‘You need to go Ellie…Now!’
Ellie swung round, alarmed by the sudden change in Evan. A pod of three white orgo were skidding to a halt. Although why they were referred to as white orgo, Ellie had never been sure. Their snowy coats were prominently dappled in black splodges.
The riders of the animals dismounted; binding their reins to wooden posts. Ellie wasn’t certain, but it looked like they were in a rush. Their orgo snorted aloud, before dunking their heads into troughs of feed placed around one of the stalls. As the group entered the market, Ellie’s heart hammered inside her chest. A man and two women, all dressed like Haylee, were walking toward her. She knew them all too well from the last time she had visited Evan. Concealing the anxiety that consumed her was hard.
Realising she needed to look somewhere else, Ellie glanced back at Evan. Preoccupied, he continued to reorganise his counter. Ellie shivered as one of the women stopped beside her. It was Morrigan, and she always looked the more youthful of the group. She was definitely a couple of years younger than Ellie was. Hair flowed over her shoulders like shadows, and she had dewy skin. Morrigan’s cheek was also inked with the silhouette of an orchid moth, although Ellie had no idea what it meant. None of Haylee’s other friends had any similar markings.
Ellie often thought that she detected an inexplicable suffering in Morrigan’s eyes; a sort of hidden torment. Yet, despite her demeanour, and the beautiful fragrance that floated around her, there was something about Morrigan that also felt threatening. For a second, Ellie regretted not listening to Evan and her arms began to prickle.
‘Thought we told you not to come here?’ Morrigan said. She was staring toward nothing of any interest to anyone else.
Ellie didn’t answer, but flinched when she spotted the oldest of the gang. This one placed her bruised hands on the stall next to Evan’s, where gugubat patties sizzled over flames. Ditto didn’t say very much, but was somehow scary because of that.
Tucking her snarled brown hair behind her ears, Ditto grinned strangely at Evan. ‘Hi.’
Evan seemed unsure how to reply.
‘Well lady?’ said Tik, the last of the group. This one was not far from Evan’s age. He decided to position himself even closer to Ellie, scratching his stubbly chin and making an effort to look menacing. ‘My friend asked you a question.’
To look at, Tik was by far the vainest member of the group. His large build and short-shaven head made Ellie cringe. Not to mention that he had arms that wanted to burst from beneath his tunic. Also, he was the only member of their group who didn’t wear their unique animal skin cape. People suggested that it was because Tik didn’t believe the garment showed off his physique. They were probably right, but he must have been cold in a solitary tunic.
A balkutar clung to Tik’s shoulder. Ellie had only seen one a couple of times before. They were small, fluffy, ape-like animals and pale grey in colour. She assumed this particular one was Tik’s pet. Standing tall, it was maybe a foot long in total. Its bizarrely long arms stretched the length of its body and legs combined. In contrast, much shorter limbs led to its huge feet that looked more like hands. Each one held three identical small toes, and a larger one twice the size of the others. In the wild, balkutar lived in the hillside pine trees, and their feet were designed to help them grip branches. With its tiny ears twitching, Tik’s pet glared at Ellie through enormous bulging eyes. It looked as though it was waiting for her to speak.
‘Doesn’t look like she says much,’ said Tik. Ellie assumed he was talking to the odd little animal bouncing against the top of his arm. ‘Does it Toze?’
Ellie knew Tik wanted her to hear, but she chose to ignore him. The easy option was to apologise for returning to the stall, when they had clearly told her not to. She remembered her last trip, when she was caught flirting with Evan. Ellie hadn’t realised that Ditto had similar feelings towards him. Having made a lucky escape that time, she had often thought that it would be wisest to find other ways to get feed for Cedric’s orgo. But then, she liked Evan, and was desperate to get acquainted with Haylee’s group. They intrigued her.
Ditto turned toward Ellie and scowled. She looked furious that Ellie had come back, but at the same time, like she was trying to manage her temper. Evan was much more of a peacemaker, and Ditto must have known that. Likewise, the wardens wouldn’t tolerate any disruption.
‘Okay,’ said Morrigan, still refusing to look at Ellie. ‘Let me try this another way…You need to leave!’
Ellie stood firm, and swallowed her panic. ‘A barrel of orgo feed please Evan.’ Her voice felt a little shaky and she was certain someone had put a large pebble in her throat. Maybe more than one.
As Evan went to fetch the barrel for Ellie, Ditto interrupted. ‘No!’
‘My barrel please Evan,’ Ellie said, trying again.
Ditto stared at Ellie.
‘Not today Dit…not today.’ Tik patted his friend’s shoulder as she became jittery.
Ditto’s screechy voice was able to pierce eardrums. ‘Leave!’
Ellie gulped. ‘What’s your problem precious? I’m here for Cedric.’
‘You’re here for Evan, and Ditto doesn’t like it,’ said Morrigan. ‘This has nothing to do with your new boss.’
‘Can we all calm down?’ Evan interrupted. ‘I will get her barrel, and she can leave.’ He turned to face Ditto. ‘Agreed?’
Ditto’s deep breaths were easy to see. Ellie assumed it was to impress Evan with her composure. Normally, Ellie didn’t like conflict, and most of the time, chose to resolve it. On this occasion, she was finding a strange enjoyment in provoking Ditto. So, she chose to push her luck a little further. After all, annoying Ditto wasn’t hard, and Ellie was becoming good at it.
‘You know what,’ Ellie said. ‘Before I go back to work, I’m going for a drink. Will you join me Evan? We could have—’
Ditto flew toward Ellie like a predator. She seized her prey by the hair, and dragged her to the orgo that her friends had tethered moments before. Scanning the street, Ellie waited for the wardens to help her. Not one of them reacted.

That’s it.  Next Sunday will be a small snippet of Chapter Two.

Please feel free to let me know your thoughts as always!

R.J.

Morrigan – Cover Reveal

As you know, the first book in the ‘dissent’ series (RENEGADES) is released on Kindle on the 1st November.  In addition, there will be a paperback edition, which is just having final adjustments before it is published.  But here’s the thing…

On the paperback’s back cover, there is a small coming soon element, featuring the cover of the next book I will release.  Therefore, I realised that it’s a good time to tell you a little about it, and (drumroll) show you the cover!

This next book is called ‘Morrigan’, and it is a shorter story, about one of the characters from the first book.  However, this is not the sequel to RENEGADES, it is a spin-off of sorts.  In fact, I have referred to it as ‘a dissent story’.  I am hoping to release ‘Morrigan’ by the end of this year.

Now for the exciting part – The Cover!

Beautifully illustrated, by the wonderful Amy Leslie, I think this cover perfectly captures Morrigan.  I am super-pleased with it, and really hope you love it too.  Amy is an excellent artist, and I haved loved working with her on the artwork for Morrigan.  You can find more of her work on Facebook right here.

Without further delay, check this out…

Morrigan Final Cover 2

Don’t forget, the first ‘dissent’ book is available for pre-order NOW, and you can order it here…

UK:  http://amzn.to/2yBVtuA

USA:  http://amzn.to/2yvI21B

That’s all for now.  Let me know what you think of the cover for Morrigan…

Dissent RENEGADES Pre-Order NOW

Hi,

Perhaps now is a great time to give you those all important pre-order details for the first DISSENT book!

dissent RENEGADES Kindle Cover jpg

So…

If you’re in the USA 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

Pre-order here 👇

http://amzn.to/2ykbN5E

Or, if you’re in the UK 🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧

Pre-order here 👇

http://amzn.to/2hIcISX

This title will also be available for Kindle Unlimited. Go on, what are you waiting for?

Click the link and pre-order…

YOU won’t regret it!! 😀

dissent RENEGADES – Prologue

Hello Dissentians,

So, I decided now was a good time to share some of the first ‘dissent’ book.  Each Sunday between now and release day I will share a chapter.  That gives you three chapters before publication, and they will be shared (on here) in order.

In the book, there is a small scene-setting piece of text, a map and then the prologue.  Therefore, in this post, you will get all of that!  

Without any more delay, here it is.  Enjoy…

Mug Design

The Great Freeze changed everything…
Before that time, our species colonised almost every part of our world. Yet centuries have passed since the onset of an ice-age which wiped out most human life. The phenomenon forced the few people that survived into a primitive existence. Living in small groups or alone, they fought to endure stark conditions. The climate was cold and cruel.
Then, two hundred years ago, alongside a species known as the elrupe, people began to form new colonies…

The Union Map New jpg

—prologue—

Night Terrors

Ice shelves broke the surface of the ocean, shimmering in the moonlight off the shore of Port Harmony. When darkness came, the busy harbour town would always fall silent. To escape the cold, people would move indoors; and this night was no different to any other. The cobblestone streets had emptied steadily, until everywhere lay still. Everywhere, except on the wharf, where an animal trotted along the harbour wall. In the creature’s saddle, a solitary rider examined a large supply store. The heavy snowfall made it hard to distinguish the buildings bordering the wharf.
Opposite, a warden known as Ermine pulled open a heavy timber gate twice his height, unaware that he was under surveillance. As squadron leader, he was there to assess the progress of his crew. It was a job he had done for many years, which was evident by the tired way he handled the gates. He was certain someone kept making them heavier.
Within the supply store, an enormous Land Transport dominated the vast open space. The scarlet, torpedo-shaped vehicle looked immaculate, and towered above Ermine. Scattered around it, his squad were busy preparing heavy crates of seafood; six wardens in total. They were getting ready for their thirteen-mile journey inland, to Scorr Tanta. Each member of the squad wore a fleecy, dark-grey cloak, made from thick animal skins for insulation. These garments flowed to the floor, and covered the wardens’ crisp, white tunics. It was the standard uniform for a warden, and the same as Ermine’s; although he also wore a purple band on his arm, to signify his rank.
A seventh warden—the pilot—inspected his vehicle. He was paying close attention to the caterpillar tracks, encasing the two large sets of wheels at the front. These were crucial for the transport to travel across the thick ice and snow. It was essential to check for any damage that may hinder their journey. Scorr Tanta wasn’t that far, but Port Harmony was situated on a steep hillside leading to the ocean. The frozen terrain wasn’t the pilot’s only challenge. His machine would have to travel through the meandering streets, up the hills and away from the coast. Those sharp gradients always proved treacherous.
The pilot looked confident as he stepped away. Absorbed in his work, he didn’t notice Ermine approaching.
‘Magnificent, isn’t she?’ Ermine announced his arrival at the top of his voice. His nostrils filled with an overpowering stench of fish. Eating seafood was one thing, but Ermine hated the smell, and already wondered when he would be able to get clean. The transfer of seafood to Scorr Tanta was not the best part of his job. But luckily, he wasn’t the one who had to go out to sea and catch it.
‘Yes sir…sorry…didn’t see you arrive,’ the pilot replied. He swung around to greet his superior and almost stumbled on his cape.
‘Renegade proof?’
Grinning, the pilot patted his dirty palm against the solid rubber tracks. ‘Won’t get in our way this time! Nothing is going to interfere with this…’
‘It would be wise…to not underestimate these Renegades.’ Ermine’s eyes wandered across the tapering frame of the impressive vehicle. ‘This thing may offer more protection than moving the crates with orgo. But we shouldn’t be over-confident…not until we’ve reached Scorr Tanta.’
Nodding, the pilot acknowledged the warning. ‘Yes sir. Of course, sir.’ He then turned his attention to the small rudder wheel at the rear of the transport.
Conscious of his schedule, Ermine studied the room. He counted more than a dozen containers, each marked with the Scorr Tanta insignia. The dominant, bright green S-shape, overlaying the greyish-T, looked glorious. Goosebumps ran all the way up Ermine’s arms every time he set eyes on the metallic emblem. Each of the marks reflected the hazy light, cast from timber pendants in the ceiling. The wardens however, were struggling to haul the containers, despite the tough metal runners fixed beneath. Time was precious, and they needed to work faster.
‘We need to be ready to leave…soon!’ Ermine called out to his squad. ‘The sooner, the better. Time to get those crates loaded. Rada isn’t known for her patience. There is also a Bicentenary to prepare for. Scorr Tanta is depending on us.’
Ermine acknowledged that he feared Rada. As both ruler of Scorr Tanta and head of “The Union”, she was formidable. Her lack of tolerance for anyone who disappointed her was well-known. It had been fifteen years since Rada’s ascension; a time which had created divisions in Scorr Tanta and resulted in people leaving. Those that departed built Port Harmony, whilst The Union itself was created once a peace evolved between the two colonies. That was the time when Rada moved Ermine’s squad from Scorr Tanta to Port Harmony. Their role was to ensure that those in Port Harmony followed Scorr Tanta law. Not to mention, that they had to supervise shipments moving between the two colonies.
Ermine missed their home city, and Port Harmony was not his favourite place to be. Even so, he always embraced any orders from Rada. Nobody argued with her; especially not Ermine.
One of the wardens looked up. ‘I was thinking sir,’ she said, gasping for breath whilst going about her work. ‘Two hundred years since people got together to build our city. Two hundred! Who would have thought that Scorr Tanta was that old? And it’s four years since The Union agreement too, isn’t it sir? Incredible! To think…how far we have come. Before that…before Scorr Tanta…our ancestors barely survived. Well…if you believe all that. I mean…it’s fascinating. Now look at us…three colonies working together. Us…the people here in Port Harmony…those folk in Eklips up the shore. Sometimes, I wonder if there’s more…you know people and—’
‘What’s your name warden?’ Ermine said sharply, marching toward his subordinate. She appeared young for a warden, and much too inexperienced. That, and she talked a great deal too. Wardens were not recruited for their ability to think for themselves—or to talk quite that much.
‘Er…Dee Nine…sir.’
‘Well…Dee Nine!’ Ermine spoke in the sternest tone he could master. ‘It isn’t our job to be thinking. It is our job to be moving these crates to Scorr Tanta.’
With her spindly fingers fiddling with her plaited hair, Dee Nine’s face crumpled. ‘Yes sir…sorry sir…I was just thinking—’
‘Well don’t! You are Dee Nine…and your job is more important than your thoughts. Your job…is to make sure this lot gets to Scorr Tanta for the Bicentenary. That is, if you’re happy to do your job? Would you prefer to discuss your career with the commander?’
Dee Nine bowed her head and carried on with her work. ‘No sir. Happy to do my job sir,’ she muttered, understanding her place.
Nonetheless, as an infant, Ermine had also heard stories about their human ancestors. Those that had been pushed to the brink of extinction during The Great Freeze. Tales about the creation of Ermine’s home city, Scorr Tanta, often got shared with children too. But, they were just stories. Ermine gave little consideration to how much truth they held.
‘Now,’ he shouted, ‘unless anyone else has some…thoughts they would like to share…let’s get—’
His orders cut short when the shelter gates flung open, and something charged inside. Stopping in its tracks, the beast observed its surroundings. Its bulky body was taller than any of the squad members. Snow clinging to the animal’s thick, black fur was dripping onto the floor creating a small puddle. With a distinctive shape, a short stumpy excuse for a tail and a long slender neck, the creature was easily identified. An orgo!
More than any other animal, orgo coped well with the cold. A dense mass of wool kept their plump frames well insulated. Their two powerful legs toward the rear of their frame formed the source of their agility. This meant that they could outrun any man-made vehicle with ease. Having such unrivalled capabilities, most orgo were domesticated by the people living in Port Harmony. Even some of the wardens employed by Scorr Tanta owned them. Orgo were undeniably useful.
Tapping its razor-sharp claws against the solid floor, the beast watched the wardens with interest. Tiny eyes set deep in its head, flickered. Then, the creature shook to loosen the snow that invaded its fleece. With caution, it began moving further inside the building.
‘Sir…’ Dee Nine said, staying as still as her colleagues. ‘Did…did someone forget to tell them…that we don’t use orgo to move supplies anymore?’
Ermine stared at the animal, refusing to take his eyes away for even a second. ‘Lances…now!’ he said, in a soft but commanding tone, trying not to unsettle it. This orgo wasn’t one of theirs, and Ermine was certain that it wasn’t alone either.
In a ridiculous attempt to go unnoticed, the pilot started clambering up his vehicle. He had barely taken a step before the orgo snorted and turned to face him. Panic took hold, and he clutched at handrails, heading toward the cockpit. Few feared the orgo; they were generally docile creatures unless they felt threatened. The pilot, it seemed, felt differently.
The rest of the crew edged away from the transporter, closer to their weapons. With each step they took, the orgo moved closer toward them, lowering its head and stretching forward with curiosity. In turn, each warden removed their lance from the rack on the wall, preparing to defend themselves.
‘Hold position,’ ordered Ermine, when the orgo took a step away. For a few seconds, he tried to predict its next move. He refused to let the orgo out of his sight. But then, unexpectedly, its neck swung around and it hurried back through the gates.
‘What was that all about?’ Dee Nine asked, as the orgo vanished into the night.
Ermine screwed his face and shivered. For the first time, it seemed cold inside the building.
‘Wait…’ He wanted his squad to remain on alert. They would be stupid to assume this was a random intrusion.
‘We need…to get finished…now,’ the pilot said, spluttering over his words. He had managed to clamber into his seat.
‘No! Wait—’
Interrupted, Ermine stood in horror as three more black orgo exploded into the building. Each animal was saddled and accompanied by their owners. Ermine recognised the crimson cloaks and bizarre animal skulls, which concealed the intruders’ faces.
‘Renegades!’ mumbled Dee Nine, stating the obvious.
‘Scorr Tanta…our home!’ Ermine called proudly. His call instructed the squad to defend themselves, and their shipment. He had not expected this. The Renegades always ambushed them on their journey. They had never attacked the shelter before. With their new Land Transport, Ermine expected that the Renegades wouldn’t be a problem. How wrong he was.
Acting on their orders, the wardens immediately charged toward the orgo. Their lances were poised for attack. The orgo responded, and dodged their enemies with ease as they galloped inside the building. Two of the Renegades busied their foes, whilst the other dismounted and drew an axe from his saddle. Tossed and thrown around in the direction of the Land Transport, the weapon wasted no time cutting deep into the tracks that covered the wheels. The Renegades were efficient and well prepared; as always.
‘Stop!’ said Ermine. ‘In the name of Rada!’ But it was pointless. His words meant nothing to these outlaws.
The Renegade ignored him, and continued severing the vehicles tracks with unrelenting aggression. Whilst he worked, the other bandits lurched at the warden squad on their orgo. Each warden thrust their lances at the animals in front of them, but they were all unsuccessful in their attacks. Although they outnumbered the Renegades, the squadron still appeared outmatched. The orgo stretched out their necks and began butting their aggressors. They were systematically protecting the bulk of their bodies—and their riders—from injury. Each orgo avoided every lunge of a lance. Persistent, the wardens continued with their uncoordinated attacks.
Ermine ran toward the Renegade vandalising their new vehicle. ‘Drop your weapon. Stop what you’re doing!’ Instantly, another of the bandits knocked him from his feet.
His attempts to stop them was futile. The Renegades weren’t the sort to surrender, and wardens couldn’t match their skill. Holding their ground, the Renegades pressed on and distracted the squad. After only a few minutes, the tracks on the vehicle began to fall away. The armed Renegade had rendered it worthless and joined his accomplices.
In a flash, the outlaws changed formation and cantered out of the shelter; mocking the squad. Orgo were too fast for the wardens, but the Renegades didn’t make any attempt to race away with haste either. Ermine wondered why the outlaws had left the supplies behind.
‘After them!’
With the wardens trailing behind, the Renegades trotted away from the supply building. In some way, they appeared triumphant. Stunned by their arrogance, Ermine was still confused. Why hadn’t they taken any of the crates? he thought. His ambition to detain the Renegades took over. Ermine wanted to be the hero, and he wanted to stop these criminals when nobody else had been able to. Joining the other wardens, he pursued their enemy.
***
Everyone moved across the slushy wharf, whilst the lookout remained hidden in the shadows. He had been there throughout the entire raid, and since before Ermine’s arrival. Knowing exactly what to do, he raced across the wharf toward the supply shelter at the exact right moment. Once at the entrance to the building, the Renegade dismounted and prepared to work alone—the way he liked it. When he entered the shelter, he immediately caught sight of the pilot that the rest of the wardens had left behind. The man now cowered in his cockpit. His head could just be seen through the glass cover, but he didn’t concern the Renegade. The pilot wouldn’t challenge him—it would be stupid to try.
The thief worked fast, binding the abandoned crates together, shoving each into place and creating a chain. It was easy work with no interruptions. Within no time, the Renegade completed his makeshift contraption and fastened it to his orgo’s saddle, using two pieces of spare rope. The beast was the engine, and the Renegade became the driver, of a long “sort-of” train of supply containers. He made his job look simple, twitching on his reins and cantering out of the shelter. With incredible strength, the orgo pulled the load behind them. In minutes their task was complete, and the Renegade laughed to himself whilst he dismounted by the shelter gateway. The thought of the pilot, quivering in his cockpit like a child, amused him
After removing a corroded can from the saddle of his orgo, the Renegade stomped up to the huge timber gates. From inside his container, he lifted a brush and began writing. He wanted to leave a mark, and send a message to those who wished to stop them. On the gates, in large red lettering, he wrote—RENEGADES. Then, returning to his saddle, the solitary Renegade punched the air to celebrate. He galloped across the wharf undetected; his mission a success. The wardens were oblivious that their supplies had been taken.
They were easily fooled.

There you go.  Let me know your thoughts.  Chapter One will be out next Sunday!

Reading At School – Opinions Wanted

Last week, one of my sons (Ian) was enrolled into a book club at school.  I think it’s fair to say that his ability to read (in a functional sense) is above average for his age.  As such, along with others of a similar ability, he was seemingly moved into this group.  The book club’s purpose is to promote comprehension, and encourage understanding of literature that they are reading.  Well, that’s my understanding.

I was introduced to this concept when he brought home a book with a note attached, telling me what page he should read up to; and by when.  Needless to say, being a diligent family, we did as required.  However, there was a problem…

The book that he was working on in this club, bored him.  I mean, seriously bored him!  It could be heard in his tone, seen in his mannerisms and let me tell you; it took an age to sit him down in the first place.  By the way, the point of this article is about personal taste, so I’m not going to name the book.

At this point in my tale, it is worth mentioning that Ian reads books every day.  This is his choice too, we don’t have to motivate him.  Much of the material he reads at the moment is written by Dav Pilkey, but he reads, and has read a great deal of books by many other authors too.  Where Dav Pilkey is concerned, if you read the attached article, it gives away one of the many possible reasons that Ian finds him relateable.  They share a similar sense of humour.  Likewise, the characters in Captain Underpants have ADHD, and so does Ian.  Therefore, Ian is reading about children who have similar traits.  Importantly, he is also identifying with the challenges that the characters face.  In fact it appears, although the diagnosis isn’t specified, that Mr Pilkey also had these qualities.  In the article, Dav explains that he explored his strengths, with encouragement from a particular teacher and his parents.  Yet otherwise, he was commonly seen in a bad light at school.

Ian also has autism, and where comprehension is concerned, care has to be taken.  This applies to instructions as well as literature; in either written or verbal form.  Because of this, Ian tends to operate at one extreme or the other.  If he understands something and can visualise it, he submerges himself fully.  You should see him walking down the street, whilst in his head he is living in Super Mario’s world.  In contrast, if Ian doesn’t engage with something, you’ve lost him completely.  With Ian, this is easy to see.  Game over!

But doesn’t this exist for all of us?  We all have things that we like and don’t like.  Not only with literature or anything school related, but with everything.  I’m talking movies, TV and games; even food.  So, on that basis, why do we still insist on force-feeding children literature, that they are just never going to engage with?  If there is a book club in school, why couldn’t it cater for individual tastes.  Surely everyone could pick their own material, and then share what they’ve read with the group.  The questions they need to answer around the book could all be the same, but with different books will come a variety of answers.  Likewise, this book club would then self-promote a love of reading.  Ian would talk about Captain Underpants for example, and the child next to him may think ‘Wow!  That sounds great!’.  Ian may also learn of other material that interests him.  It would be a perpetual loop of enjoyment for all things literature.

James Patterson sums up my point here…

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Please don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of people pushing boundaries.  I think it is healthy for all of us to explore things we sometimes don’t normally lean towards.  Again, this goes for literature and anything else in life.  However, when children start at a point of enjoyment, I believe that they would pick up an enthusiasm for other things from peers.  This itself would promote their exploration.  I’m thinking of Ian coming home saying ‘Dad, you’ll never guess what.  This kid at school is reading (fill in your own suggestion), and it sounds fantastic!’.  After all, nobody told him to read Dav Pilkey, he just found it on the shelf.

Surely this is preferable to grown-ups imposing literature that some will never enjoy?  That will never teach them to fully engage and understand the content will it?

As a side note, I’d also like to point out, that this seems to be a general culture in our education system.  In short, every school I come across takes this approach, not just ours.  This rambling isn’t in any way targeted at just one institution; the approach is much more widespread that that.  Otherwise, James Patterson wouldn’t have pointed it out.  To my knowledge, he didn’t attend the same school Ian did lol.  I’m certain that many of you see the same things.  As my mum said…’That’s the way we all learned.’

But does that make it right?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please feel free to comment away!

 

 

“DISSENT” RENEGADES Cover Story

Happy Friday everyone. I don’t know about you, but…

It always intrigues me how an artist, or someone creative, gets from their concept idea to the finished piece.

Well…

Where the cover for my first book is concerned, I can (sort of) show you in pictures!! And, you are in for a treat.

As I have said before, the artist behind my cover is called Dawn, and she is just incredible. You can find out more about her here…

https://www.facebook.com/dawn.beever.54

Meanwhile, gaze upon these beauties and enjoy. It’s fascinating how such a great piece, became so fab!

Let’s start with the sketch…

Then came the background…

And finally the detail began on the Orgo itself…

In the end, this was the result…

Although, we did take the hugely important decision to remove the nostrils from the Orgo. They just weren’t working on the illustration!

Then, after adding in the text, we had the cover for the first DISSENT book.

This one is due for release on the 1st November!!!!

I hope you enjoyed seeing that process as much as I did. Would love to hear your comments. Please do keep in touch. If you haven’t signed up already, you can be first for DISSENT news by clicking here…

http://www.rjfurness.com

Speak soon 😀

© R.J. Furness, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, without express and written permission from this site’s author, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to R.J. Furness, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Finding The Right Title

Whilst writing my first book, there have been a fair few challenges along the way.  Yet one of the biggest, seems to be finding the ‘right’ title.  This issue hasn’t stopped me carrying on, but nonetheless, it seems to eat away at the back of my mind.

Let’s be fair, this title thing…its rather a big deal!

At the moment, my title seems mostly elusive.  Some writers appear to draw from an element of their story, that may just jump out at them; such as a main character, or an important event that dominates the plot.  In these cases, this does the job brilliantly.  However, other writers may not do this, because that isn’t the best fit for their particular story.  There may be several (equally important) key characters, or various sub-plots etc., and many reasons like these, create the need to adopt a different approach.  Stories like these, tend to need more figurative, or encapsulating titles, and this seems to be where my story slots.

This is where I’m having a problem!  Discovering the best title, that captures my story.

I would welcome any suggestions anyone has, or any ideas/methods you have utilised to guide you through this process.  Perhaps simple inspiration would go a long way too.  Therefore, please feel free to comment away.

Thank you once again for reading, and best wishes.