Read an excerpt from Helen Brain’s new novel Elevation: The Fiery Spiral – the exciting conclusion to the fantasy trilogy set in futuristic Cape Town
More about the book!
Read an excerpt from Elevation: The Fiery Spiral, the new Young Adult novel from Helen Brain!
About the book
Ebba is in Celestia, the land of the gods, and the only way to return to earth is to journey across a barren, lifeless landscape until she reaches the Fiery Spiral. But the road is fraught with difficulties and danger. She must learn the meaning of love and courage before she can fulfil her true destiny. It seems like Lucas has to share her journey. But to save everyone she loves, she might have to give up her life … and her heart.
This is the exciting conclusion to the popular fantasy trilogy set in a futuristic Cape Town.
About the author
Helen Brain was born in 1960 in Perth, Western Australia, and grew up in Durban, South Africa. In 1982 she completed a Performer’s degree in singing at the University of Cape Town. She began to write when her three children were young. Her first book, Who’s Afraid of Spiders was published by Human and Rousseau when she was 38. Since then she has published over 50 books for children and young adults, as well as a memoir for adults entitled Here Be Lions. Her teenage novel, Tamara, won an ATKV prize in 1998. After many years as a school teacher, she now teaches writing part time at an international online writing college, www.sawriterscollege.co.za. She lives in Cape Town with her husband and two dogs.
Read the excerpt:
There Micah is – scuttling around in the shadows outside the council room like a rat. He told me I’d be a hero if I assassinated General de Groot. He showed me when to take out the knife hidden in my hair clip and exactly how to use it. He said he was proud of me, that he loved me. And then he betrayed me to the guards.
If I could reach him I’d shake him until his brain rattled. But I’m above the council chambers, being pulled upward into the portal, away from the marble floor where the general lies dead, stabbed through the heart, not by me, but by Lucas. Where Major Zungu is bellowing orders, guards swarm like angry bees and Mr Frye is searching for me, shouting my name, not knowing I’m watching him from above his head.
Lucas has fallen in a spray of blood near the door. In my head I see flashes of the day I was picked for the Purification. My heart thuds as it did when the soldiers tried to shove me over the edge of the mountain to join the bloodied bodies of my friends, bashed against the rocks.
I’m on a beam of greenish light, twisted like a rope, spiralling upward. Another beam spirals down, just within arm’s reach. Slowly it rises, and I close my eyes, trying to block out the image of Lucas, dead in my place. Or am I dead too?
I check my body, limb by limb.
Nothing hurts. No blood on my robe. My pulse is still beating in my wrist, and my chest rises with every breath. How did I pass through the roof without hurting myself if I’m not dead?
My hand goes to the necklace. That must be it. In the chaos, as I was about to stab the general, Lucas took the knife, and pressed the missing amulet into my hand. I pushed it into the empty clasp …
The portal between Earth and Celestia opened, just as the Book of the Goddess promised. She will be coming back to Earth to heal it. Soon everything will be alright again. Peace will be restored. There will be enough food for everyone, and shelter and fresh water. The Earth will flourish again, as it did the day she made it.
My eyes flick open as I hear Micah’s voice. I’m above the buildings, looking down on Micah who stands at the top of the stairs, addressing the crowd of soldiers lining the courtyard. ‘The new leader of Table Island City,’ he bellows, and Major Zungu comes strutting along the colonnade to a roar from the crowd.
‘Repeat after me!’ Micah shouts. ‘I pledge allegiance to Major Mandla Zungu.’
I gave him everything – my farm, my power, my heart. And he wanted me dead. Soon the Goddess will come down the portal, and we’ll go back to Earth together. She’ll punish him for what he did to me, her flesh and blood.
Earth is so far below me now, it’s the size of a peach. Rows of flickering, dotted lights lead from my feet down, down, down, until they’re so tiny I can only just see them drawing together on the islands at the tip of Africa.
Sparks of light flicker on the horizon and then an emerald green glow slowly rises, building, growing until it fills the sky and rolls towards me in a huge wave of colour. I brace myself, wondering if I’ll be swept away, but as it pours over me it floods every cell of my body with shimmering, dancing light. It smells of wet earth, buchu, fynbos, compost – all the smells I love, but magnified a million times. The sounds of woodland echo around me. Rustling leaves, birdsong, even gurgling water. And then a voice says, ‘Ebba.’
I appear to be dead.
What an extraordinary situation. My body was prostate on the floor of the council chamber, and judging by the number of bullet holes in my chest, I have certainly, as the poet said, shuffled off this mortal coil. But I now appear to be rising through solid rock on a twisted current of air and light that resembles a helix. A fact that no one in the chamber appears to have noticed.
I suspect this must be the portal to Celestia, opened when Ebba added the final amulet to the necklace. But why am I on it?
Below me, mayhem prevails in the council chamber, and there is no sign of Ebba. Have they dragged her to the dungeons already? Where is the Goddess? She is supposed to return through the portal.
Looking up, I catch sight of Ebba far above me, clinging to the helix as the light fades.
I wonder how far the space between the worlds extends, and how long it will take to cross it. I wish to get away from Earth as fast as possible, so I begin to climb the helix, feeling for footholds where the strands cross, and pulling myself up as though it were a rope ladder.
It’s growing colder as the darkness increases. I climb faster, trying to keep warm, but soon it is as dark as night, and I’ve lost sight of Ebba. Two small lights glint near me. Are those eyes?
A shape, a shadow, a human form, floats by me. Fingers grasp at me, long scrawny fingers with clawed nails. I try and keep inside the helix, but with each revolution I am turned to the outside and the figure leans in, trying to claw at me.
They’re coming from all sides – ten, twenty shapes, half human, half bird with sharp beaks and powerful wings – and as they reach me, the light falls on their faces and I recognise them.
That’s my mother. Her skin is rotting away and the flesh has fallen off her elongated fingers. She prods at me, hissing my name. ‘Lucasss.’
Behind her Hal is staring blindly through empty eye sockets. Half his face has fallen away but I know him by the dimple in his half rotted cheek. They’re all there: my father, missing his lower jaw, his hooked nose turned into a razor-sharp beak, the other wives, my half-sisters and -brothers, all tugging at the helix with skeletal hands. Crowding in on me, they pluck at my robe, my arms, my hair. They’re going to pull me off, rip me to pieces and throw me into the darkness.
Have they seen Ebba, or is it only me they are interested in?
‘Climb!’ I yell to her. ‘Hurry up! Climb!’
She’s not listening. She’s staring up at the other helix which has begun to vibrate, sending rays of emerald light pulsing across the darkness. The ghosts of my family shrink back, shrieking as the greenness floods over us, burying Ebba in light.
The helix has stopped. I hold my breath, not moving. It feels as though all of creation is suspended with me, waiting with longing for the voice to speak again … When it comes, it sounds from all sides at once, in layers of harmonies like gurgling streams and doves and the rumble of thunder after a drought.
‘Goddess!’ I call. I turn to all sides, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but there’s nothing, just a flash of silhouette on the helix next to mine, strands of auburn hair, a fragment of green silk. The rays of emerald light almost blind me with their brilliance.
‘Ebba, you have done well. You’ve brought the necklace.’
She reaches her arm towards me and the air begins to vibrate and sing, a sound that cuts deeper than my heart, to a new place that is stretching and growing like leaves unfurling.
‘Theia …’ It comes out like a sigh of joy and love and coming home.
‘You deserve to be rewarded,’ she says as she touches the necklace. It heats up, pulsing against my breastbone. ‘What do you want more than anything in the world?’
The words spill out of me so easily, before I can even think. ‘I want to go home and find Samantha-Lee gone. I want things back to how they were between us before she arrived, when Micah loved me more than anyone, more than the resistance.’
Her fingers are undoing the clasp of the necklace around my neck, her face inches from mine. Her eyes are green and mysterious and her shining pupils hold a story, the story of humankind, of the world, of things too vast for me to understand.
‘That’s what you want? Are you sure?’ Her voice ripples, winding and flowing like rivulets of rain.
Am I sure? I close my eyes and I see them … all the people I love. I want Letti to be happy again, and her baby safe. I want Shorty to be alive again. Could I ask for my mother and father to come back to Greenhaven with me, so we can be a family?
Her hands are cool against my skin as she lifts the necklace off. Then suddenly her hands jerk away and she coughs. Fog floods in from all sides. I can’t see my fingers, I can’t breathe … The fog sucks up the green light, dragging her, pulling her away from me, away from the portal.
‘Here!’ she shouts, flinging the necklace at me. It’s just a glimmer in the grey but I catch it with shaking hands. ‘Don’t take it off.’
I tie it around my neck as her voice fades, thickening until it drops like stone. The cloud swirls around me, sucking and tugging at the necklace so it cuts into my neck. I grab onto it, trying to cover it with my arms and hands. It’s going to break. I’m going to be ripped off the portal. I grab the rope of light, hanging on, too scared to do anything but clutch tightly and keep my head down.
‘Get off the portal!’ It’s Lucas, rising up the shaft of light below me. ‘Can’t you see Prospiroh is throwing meteorites at Earth?’
Trembling, I peer down the shaft. I can’t see what he’s poin ting at, though the fear on his face is clear. I can barely see Earth through the fog. But I have to go back. Surely he can’t hurt Earth if the necklace is there.
‘I must go back to Greenhaven.’
‘You can’t,’ he pants, right below me now, pushing me upward. ‘He’s taken Theia. You have to close the portal.’
‘I can’t leave my sabenzis. What if he harms them?’
‘Look at that one.’ He points down the portal. ‘It only just missed.’
‘I can’t see anything.’
He stares at me, then gives me another shove. ‘Just believe me. Go. Go.’
Then Isi is above me, grabbing the shoulder of my robe in her teeth.
‘Isi?’ I gasp. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘There’s no time to talk. Just go!’ Lucas shouts. Together they force me through the fog, away from Earth, from everyone I love … until suddenly I’m on solid ground.
I sink onto sand, and Isi drops next to me, panting. A moment later Lucas appears. The bloodstains have vanished from his robe, and there is no sign of the gunshot wounds.
The fog begins to swirl and then to drift away. The portal clicks shut. Am I in Celestia? Am I dead? Is Celestia like paradise?
Will everyone be happy and content, humans and animals living together in peace? Will my mother hold me in her arms, and will I see her face and know her at last?
But when the mist clears, my heart drops.
It’s a desert. It’s just sand the colour of dried blood, rocks and an endless orange sky pressing down on me. No life, nothing growing or moving. Just Lucas, Isi and me. ‘What are we going to do …’ I start to say. But then I see Lucas’s face. He’s gazing around him in amazement. Amazement and joy.