Diamond Peak Series Book #4
By- Tahlia Newland
Genre- YA Fantasy
Ariel and Nick face their deepest fears and their greatest challenge as they search for the Master Demon who holds the key to the future of mankind. Slay him and the world goes free; fail, and it falls irrevocably into violence and chaos.
Guided by a wisdom master of a mystical tradition that uses mind power as the basis of powerful magic, the assault party travels from the ancient granite walls of the Hermitage, up the Steps of Death, and through a labyrinth of shifting gorges to the Palace of Skulls. Even if Nick wins his struggle with the scars of his past and defeats the green-eyed head of the Cogin clan, they still must cross the scree slope, where the bones of Ariel's father lie, to get to the ice caves beneath the summit where the Master Demon awaits.
The journey is extraordinary, the enemies are deadly and the ending is mind-blowing.
This book has been awarded the AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction
And now an Excerpt from Eternal Destiny
Ariel stroked the horse’s neck. He smelt of horse hair and linseed oil, just like an ordinary horse. But this was no ordinary horse. You couldn’t miss the great wings folded along his side. ‘I think you’re beautiful,’ she told him as she scratched him behind his ear. His saddle cloth was beautiful too, all orange and blue swirls, and red flowers on a bright yellow background. ‘Will you take me for a ride?’
The Sky Steed regarded Ariel with his big brown eyes, then bunted her gently in the stomach.
‘That’s a yes,’ Radric, his owner, declared. ‘Come on, up you get.’
Ariel took a deep breath, placed her foot in the stirrup and heaved herself, rather inelegantly, onto the horse’s broad back. Radric climbed gracefully up in front of her and helped her strap on the complex harness.
‘In case he wants to show off,’ he declared. Ariel’s stomach gave a nervous flutter as she remembered the story of Nick’s ride. He’d lost his lunch. Perhaps she should have waited until her porridge had settled. ‘Are you ready?’ Radric asked.
Ariel gulped and nodded. It was already a long way down. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea.
Radric chuckled. ‘You look a little nervous.’
‘I’m fine,’ she said, then remembered that the letters of the word could stand for freaked-out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. Nah, she could handle it.
‘Wait for me!’ a small voice called from near the ground. Twitchet, the little ginger cat, streaked across the open space and leapt onto the saddle in front of Radric.
‘You cannot come,’ he said.
The cat’s eyes grew big and round and terribly cute. ‘Please.’
‘There isn’t a harness small enough.’
‘Ariel can hold onto me.’
She shook her head. ‘I might drop you.’
‘I can sit inside your coat.’
Ariel shrugged. ‘I guess you could, but only if it’s all right by Radric and the horse.’
Radric shrugged. ‘I’ll let the steed decide.’
‘I’ll arrange it then.’ Twitchet padded forward, rubbed his cheek against the horse’s neck and purred loudly.
‘What a suck up,’ Ariel said.
The horse snorted quietly and Radric nodded. ‘The steed has agreed to take the little furry beast.’
Twitchet dashed around Radric and Ariel tucked him inside her coat and buttoned it up so that just his head stuck out the top. She smiled. Not only did Twitchet look unusually adorable, but also his warm furry body felt good against her belly.
The horse lurched forward. Ariel grabbed onto Radric, and Twitchet’s ears flattened. Great hooves pounded beneath her. Broad leathery wings unfurled at her side and beat against the air with powerful strokes. The steed lifted into the air. Wind tossed Ariel’s hair and whipped her cheeks with its icy breath.
‘Hey! Get back here,’ someone shouted.
Ariel glanced down.
Kestril glared up at her. ‘Walnut would forbid this!’
‘Do you want to go back?’ The wind tossed Radric’s words away.
‘No,’ she yelled.
‘I don’t want to get you into trouble.’
‘It’ll be fine,’ she reassured him, though Kestril’s expression said otherwise. Fury sculptured his face in hard lines and, though she couldn’t see the green of his eyes, she felt their intensity fixed on her. The Magan lord’s son wouldn’t be used to being disobeyed.
The steed circled the Hermitage. Orange lichen grew on its grey slate roof and tufts of green peeked between the cobblestones in the courtyard, touches of colour in a grey-toned canvas. Kestril grew smaller. His thick black hair lifted in the wind, and Ariel thought that though he wore no jacket, just the usual Magan loose shirt and leather jerkin, his beard would keep his chin warm. It was a ridiculous thought, but she wasn’t going down, and Twitchet didn’t say anything, so she figured that he, at least, thought she’d be okay.
‘Are you sure?’ Radric asked.
‘I’m sure. Keep going.’
Radric shrugged and the steed flew higher.
Regardless of what Kestril or anyone thought, Ariel deserved a bit of fun. Here she was, nearly eighteen and Warrior lore had laid the fate of the world on her shoulders. They couldn’t seriously begrudge her a ride on a Sky Steed, could they? Kestril’s face assured her that they could, but he wasn’t her guide. She didn’t have to do what he said. She didn’t have to do what anyone said.
‘It might be the last bit of fun I ever have,’ she muttered.
‘It may well be,’ Twitchet replied from his spot in her jacket.
Ariel rolled her eyes. That was exactly the sort of truth she wanted to escape. Just let me be an ordinary teenager, she thought, just for a little while. But, of course, no ordinary teenager ever got to ride on a flying horse.
The air grew colder as they climbed, and Ariel wished she’d grabbed her beanie to keep her ears from freezing off. At least her chest was warm. Twitchet made a fine hot-water bottle. The cat’s eyes grew wide and shiny, though whether with excitement or fear, Ariel didn’t know. An intoxicating mix of both emotions coursed through her veins.
She didn’t look down, not back to where she’d been, but up towards the future. Much of the mountain rose clear before her, but thick clouds shrouded her goal—the summit.
About the Author-
Tahlia Newland, author of the multi-award-winning Diamond Peak Series, writes heart-warming and inspiring magical realism and contemporary fantasy. She is also an editor, a reviewer, an occasional high school teacher, and a mask-maker who loves creating digital art and sitting on her veranda staring at the rain forest.
Tahlia has studied with top Australian editors and has a Certificate in Editing and Proofreading. Before writing full time, she had over 20 years’ experience in scripting and performing as a dancer/mine in Visual Theatre and Theatre in Education. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in Australia with a husband, a teenage daughter, and a cheeky Burmese cat called George.