Authors: Christine Murray
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #Novels
A Ravensborough Saga Novel
A Ravensborough Saga Novel
Copyright © 2012
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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I woke up in a cold sweat, my heart racing. I’d had the dream again. It had been haunting me for the past few weeks, and I still had no idea what it meant.
It started with me lying face down in a dark room on a cold stone floor. I knew there were other people around me – I could sense them – but I didn’t know who they were. I heard someone walk across the room, their footsteps echoing on the stone floor.
‘This is your last chance,’ I heard a female voice hiss in my ear. ‘Or it's all over for you – and your friends.’
Moonlight streamed through a window illuminating the voice’s body, but I couldn’t see her face. A black shadow came over the window, blocking out the moonlight. A second later there was a large crash, an explosion.
‘Scarlett, stay where you are!’ another voice shouted. The voice was familiar but I couldn’t place it. A high-pitched scream echoed above and I closed my eyes tightly, afraid of what I might see. When the screaming stopped, I opened my eyes. On the floor I could see the unmistakeable glossy slick of blood.
‘Scarlett it’s time to wake up,’ Mum said patiently. ‘We’re just coming into land and you need to put your seat back up.’
Sure enough, there was an air hostess standing in the aisle waiting to ensure that I did just that. Sighing, I pulled my seat up into the correct position. I rubbed my neck, which hurt quite badly. I must have fallen asleep at an awkward angle.
I looked out the window to see the island of Avalonia coming into view below. The people in the seat row behind me were trying to pick out features they recognised from their guide book, their voices high and excited. I, on the other hand, felt underwhelmed. After all, it wasn’t as if I’d wanted to leave Ireland. I’d lived there for sixteen years: my whole life was there. I’d known my best friend Lindsay since the first day of playschool. Plus, after months of wondering whether I was completely unattractive to the opposite sex, I had finally found myself a boyfriend who was gorgeous, funny, and to top it all he was a lead guitarist in a heavy metal band. I was doing fairly well in school – enough to keep Mum off my back anyway – and I had a good social life, with lots of friends. Written down like that, my life in Ireland sounded fairly idyllic. So why was I leaving it all behind?
That was the question I kept myself over and over, and as I stepped off the plane in Northport – the capital city of Avalonia – I was no nearer to finding the answer. First impressions did not bode well. Rain was falling down in heavy sheets, and an icy wind was blowing in from the smudge of murky blue sea I could just about make out in the distance. My auburn hair was caught by the wind and whipped against my face, making it hard to see the rickety metal steps that brought us down from the plane to the tarmac. The sky overhead was the same bleak grey shade as the sky I had left behind in Dublin. Mum and I ran across the concourse to the airport terminal where it was warm and dry.
‘Well, Rupert did say autumn here was colder here than in Ireland,’ Mum said as we queued at passport control. ‘It makes sense. After all we are further north.’
I sighed. ‘If this is what the weather is like in autumn, can you imagine what
will be like?’ If Mum was going to move to a new country for love, I wished she could have picked somewhere warmer. Like Spain.
The first thing I did when I got my suitcase back from baggage reclaim was fish out the big padded jacket that I’d bought the week before in an outdoor shop in Dublin, the first time I’d ever been inside such a place. I was more of an indoor girl, truth be told. But if the weather was going to keep up like this all the time, it looked like fashion in Avalonia was going to be a matter of practicality over style.
We found a trolley for our luggage and wheeled it out into the arrivals hall. A big sign reading ‘Welcome to Avalonia’ was fixed to one wall, accompanied by the country crest, a lady’s arm coming out of a large lake holding aloft a medieval sword.
Rupert met us at arrivals. He was my mother’s fiancé, and the reason that I had packed up sixteen years of my life into an assortment of cardboard boxes and moved to this cold island, situated roughly half way between Iceland and Ireland.
Rupert was dressed in his usual prim manner. Although today was a Sunday, he still dressed as if he was going to the office: plain grey trousers, white shirt and a royal blue tie. On his feet were expensive looking Italian leather loafers, and he was wearing a full length wool jacket.
‘Welcome to Avalonia!’ He smiled at me and gave me a stiff hug. I sighed inwardly. Why couldn’t the man my mother decided to marry be less awkward and self-conscious?
‘Did you have a good flight?’ he asked. Typical small talk stuff. He was kind, but I was glad to let Mum do all the talking. I dreaded the moments where we were left alone together. Conversation didn’t exactly flow easily, and we had absolutely nothing in common. Living with him was going to take some getting used to.
We made our way to the car park where Rupert’s car was waiting, a shiny black four wheel drive with thick tyres. I found his choice of car pretty surprising. Not only did it clash with his neat, almost prissy appearance but Rupert was always talking about the importance of being environmentally friendly, and those cars guzzled fuel.
As we made our way through Northport, I got my first look at Avalonia’s capital city. It was industrial, with large brick factories and processing plants dominating the skyline. The port had a couple of large ships docked and heavy cranes and machinery lined the banks to unload cargo. Only a small portion of the port was being used and the warehouses at either end were falling into disrepair. I guessed that the port had accommodated more ships in times gone by than it did in the twenty-first century.
The whole city was overwhelmingly ugly. My heart felt as leaden as the steel girders that seemed to be everywhere. It was just functional, with no beautiful buildings at all. I took my mobile phone out of my bag, checking to see if I had any messages from Lindsay or Sam, but my mobile still hadn’t managed to pick up an Avalonian network. I threw it to the bottom of my bag in frustration.
Some of the boats in the harbour had the same crest as I’d seen in the arrivals hall painted on their sides.
‘The country crest, is that something to do with the Arthurian legends?’ I asked Rupert as we left Northport turning onto a large highway. ‘You know, the Lady of the Lake?’
‘Yes, it is,’ he replied. ‘Those legends are said to have taken place on the island of Avalon. When the first settlers came here in exile during the sixteenth century, they thought some of the scenery was reminiscent of those tales. So they called the country Avalonia.’
Thinking of the ugly Northport docks that we’d just left behind, a hub of industrial energy with large, steel, no-nonsense boats and large cranes crowding its skyline, it was hard to believe that this was a country filled with legend and myth.
‘Did they really happen here?’ I asked.
‘I really don’t think so,’ he answered. ‘We’re just one of many countries who claim the stories. There are some people, however, who do take the legends seriously. Which is yet another reason why the rest of the world thinks that the people of Avalonia are all crazy.’
His voice was gruff with irritation, and I diplomatically stayed silent. It was a well known fact that a large proportion of the Avalonian population were more than a little wacky. They called themselves Pagans, and believed that they really had magic powers. They claimed that they were the descendants of 'witches' that fled to Avalonia during the sixteenth century to escape persecution in Europe. I knew in Iceland, a little further north, that the majority of the population refused to deny the existence of elves. Maybe that’s what northern climates did to you – they made you believe that fairytales were actually true.
I settled back in my seat, watching the scenery scroll by. As we left Northport behind, I began to see why Rupert drove a 4x4. The landscape was rocky, barren, and full of steep hills. Between that and the crosswinds pulling at the car, I guessed that cars built like tanks were a necessity in this country. I shook around in the back as we took hill after hill, bouncing downhill among the alien landscape peppered with brightly coloured sturdy looking plants. We were heading towards Avalonia’s second largest city, Ravensborough, the place that was to be my home for the next couple of years.
It had been a long day with a three am start and a six hour wait for a connecting flight in London. I was tired, and the movement of the car made me drowsy. I can’t remember falling asleep, but when Mum woke me up it was dark outside and we seemed to be stuck in a traffic jam. She was shaking my shoulder and saying something to me that I couldn’t make out.
‘Your passport, Scarlett, where’s your passport?’
I rummaged in my shoulder bag sleepily and handed it to my mother. My eyes slowly began to adjust and I could see that we were in some sort of queue. Peering through the windscreen, I saw a group of men in uniform standing beside a trucks painted in army camouflage. A sign set up at the side of the road confirmed my suspicions: army checkpoint.
I’d only seen checkpoints in films. Our car slid up to the front of the line where a surly looking soldier grabbed asked for identification. Rupert handed over his identification card and our two passports. The soldier shone a torch at each of our faces, and threw light on empty seats, while another walked around the back of the vehicle. I guessed they were checking that we weren’t smuggling anyone else in with us.
‘Affiliation?’ he asked Rupert gruffly.
‘What is your business in this area, sir?’
‘We live in Chesterfield,’ Rupert answered.
‘And what about the two with the Irish passports?’
‘They’re moving here, their visas are in the back of the passports.’
He flicked through the passports, confirming that what Rupert said was true. Finally satisfied, he nodded at Rupert.
‘Make sure they get registered at their nearest office as soon as possible.’
‘That’s fine Sir. You can go now.’
He nodded to the soldiers standing in front of the car. They moved back and waved us through. The car sped up and we began to cross what looked like the Starling-Bird Bridge. I recognised it from a picture on the front of the guidebook that Lindsay had bought me as a leaving present. I felt another pang in the pit of my stomach as I remembered just how far away I was from home.