As Stand Against the Light is moving toward presale, I will start posting appetizers, a few times a week.
Author’s forward: Stand Against the Light is Book 3 of the This Shining Sea series. If you are curious how Eclipse evaded certain doom, you must wait for Book 4, Of Breaking Waves.
Some tween readers may find later chapters a bit frightening, but there is a reward at the very end. If you ever don’t feel like reading any more, skip to the very end, read the last few paragraphs, and you may be ready to return.
Chapter One Eclipse in Solitude
Eclipse peered contentedly over an edge of her pillow. The sky was the darker blue of early evening. Long shadows on the higher hills said that the sun was almost across the horizon. A dozen yards from her tent, a pair of squirrels rooted for pine cones, occasionally glancing toward the intruder in their New Mexico wilderness.
She came more sharply awake. Last night she’d fallen into deepest sleep, waking only for a drink of water. Now she’d slept the day almost all the way around. Those were her gifts, she told herself, making their protest at overuse without adequate recovery time. She unzipped her sleeping bag, rolled from her cot, and pulled on her down-filled bathrobe. Her feet slid into fur-lined camping slippers as she snapped to her feet. Platinum blonde hair atop her five and a shade feet of height cleared the roof of her pavilion tent. Startled squirrels dashed helter-skelter into the trees. The evening air was frigid. Her bathrobe would need minutes to warm up.
A stretch brought twinges of resistance. Twinges succumbed to stretching exercises. You’re twelve, she told herself, not seventy or seven hundred, to have joints complain about a little use. Of course, she noted, she could call on her gifts to stay warm. Instead, she’d trusted her -40 sleeping bag. Powers that protected her from the airless dark of intergalactic space were perfectly adequate against the worst that the earth’s climate could supply. That was not the point, she told herself. You are not going to become a slave to your gifts, using the power within to do things that you could perfectly well do with your own hands.
She would have been more comfortable sleeping in Pickering’s home, but several bouts of high-power combat had left her seriously drained. If she were attacked while she was asleep, her gifts might not protect her. All too many people connected her with Pickering. It was too dangerous to him if she did more than visited.
A search of her pantry found a simple meal. Milk that stayed fresh at room temperature, at least in unopened containers, had been unknown before the change. A row of pint containers awaited her attention. She’d have to find out how Pickering’s people managed to do that. Rye bread, butter, sausage, fresh plum tomatoes, and an orange for dessert were a fine simple meal. So long as she had natural light, she told herself, she ought to take advantage of things to collect her thoughts. A fresh pad of paper lay open onto her camp table, the pencil sharpener weighting it in place. She’d collect her thoughts, and then eat.
Where to begin? The chronology was easy, if overfamiliar. She’d joined the Medford trio –Star, Comet, and Aurora – and their friend Cloud for a flight across the universe, a flight undertaken on the advice of the Wizard of Mars. Find and defeat the Two Dooms, he’d said, or all mankind will perish. After some unpleasantness–nearly fatal for you, Eclipse noted– they’d returned to Earth. This Earth. A new Earth in which there was still an America, but in which there were no personae, no one who flew or teleported or called the fires of the sun from their fingertips. All of history was different. In fact, most of history was simply gone. Of the two dozen ancient civilizations that had blended to form modern America, perhaps two remained in the history books. No one had every heard of Sarnath or Tsolrin or the Goetica Knights; inquiries about Atlantis — Gaia Atlanticea — brought giggles.
Losing history was not entirely without its benefits. There was no more League of Nations, so she was no longer the world’s most wanted war criminal, with a hundred tons of gold as the reward for her twelve-year-old head. Nor was there a crucifixioner sharpening his spikes while he waited for her to be brought to justice. She yawned and stretched again. She’d spent her first week in this new world living with the Medford four in the peculiar house of Alexander von Pickering. They’d rescued a spaceship from orbit, brought various criminals to justice, stopped a group of reivers from destroying a shopping mall, and carried out a full action against a man corrupt on this earth. The locals were more upset that the corrupt man had smuggled medicine than that he had bribed a judge, showing how little the locals knew about proper morals. Then they’d shut down an alien invasion of the Americas. That had been a team effort, meaning that thanks to the team she’s only needed to blow up part of a mountain range.