Sunborn Rising: Beneath The Fall
(Sunborn Rising #1)
by Aaron Safronoff
Middle Grade Fantasy
Release Date: May 2016
Publisher: Neoglyphic Entertainment
A distant world of Great Trees floating on an ocean surrounding a star.
The flotilla forests cycle light and water through their boughs into their lush canopies. But the once vibrant treescape has grown dark, slowly, subtly over many generations. The civilization of creatures living among the boughs believe the darkness is normal. That is, until one willful young girl named Barra discovers the hidden journal of her late father.
Pouring over her father’s writing, Barra learns of a mysterious plague, a creeping vine choking the flow of light and water into the canopy. Her father warned the Elders. He urged them to take action. Those were his last words.
Together with her two best friends, a Rugosic named Tory and a Kolalabat named Plicks, Barra will explore every bark, wood, and leaf of the Great Forest to relight her world and complete her father’s story, even if it leads her beneath the Fall.
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Alone in the Dark
The room seemed alive, but it wasn’t. There was something else in the room with her.
Along the far wall, a sheet of black undulated like a doorweave waving in a breeze. The sheet grew wider as it moved, spreading outward from the center. It rippled and slid, covering up the wall and continuing up the ceiling, working its way around the room toward Barra.
The low light turned the sheet into a canvas where Barra’s imagination painted nightmares. As the sheet grew closer, details resolved out of the darkness; it was a multitude of tiny creatures moving in unison. Barra caught glimpses of legs and antennae as the creatures flowed together and expanded along the wall. It didn’t take long for them to cover every surface of the kitchen. She had no idea where they were coming from, or how many there were.
They were almost at her feet.
She stood, and the creatures stopped sharply.
The warped kitchen was trapped in stillness. Barra’s heart was drumming the urge to run into her chest. She stole a quick glance over her shoulder to locate the way out, and when she looked back, the tapestry of creatures had closed the distance to her.
Eyes burning because she was afraid to blink, Barra backed up slowly.
The bugs moved. They matched her progress toward the doorway. She took another step backward. They narrowed the gap.
Barra felt her pulse in the quick of her claws. Adolescent claws her mother was always reminding her; fragile. Easily broken, easily repaired, Barra had argued. Suddenly, she wished she’d listened to her mother, and just tried to avoid danger. If she made it home, she would hug and kiss her mom, tell her how right she was, and promise to listen better. She had to make it home.
She felt the closeness of the insects, and the closeness of her escape.
She picked her moment. They picked the same.
Hundreds of pinprick lights turned on as the tiny creatures’ eyes flashed open. Wings fluttered and clacked ominously. In unison, the insects faced Barra and swarmed like tendrils of smoke reaching for her. They billowed around Barra, a terrifying, rattling cloud. Barra coiled, and then in one swift motion, burst through the cloud and out the doorway. She flew into the open boughs of the Middens with the insects trailing after her.
Barra fled through the woods. The oily collection of insects accelerated. They flew together as one large predator. Barra cut through a thicket of brambles, but the insects were unfettered, flowing like liquid over the sharp thorns. The chase sent Barra winding around branches, through dense nettles, and over great gaps in the boughs, but she couldn’t lose them.
Trying a new tactic, she jumped and spun herself around. She whipped out her tail, lassoed a branch, and pulled. Changing direction mid-flight, she headed up toward the Loft. But the insects were too fast. They swarmed and cut off her ascent.
Her pursuers flowed in and out of each other, eyes appearing and disappearing in a frightening miasma. Barra saw their eyes and felt chills—no warmth in those tiny lights, only predatory instinct. They were focused. They allowed her to turn any way but up, relentlessly driving her toward the Fall.
Barra dashed into a den. She bolted through distorted rooms and passages, found a window, and leapt back out. Her eyes were focused, seeing only the path ahead. She ran, but not at full speed. The shadows and boughs were dangerously interchangeable in the dark. Barra hesitated at turns and stumbled after jumps, all the while colliding with leaves and ferns she couldn’t see.
A large clearing in the branches yawned open ahead of her. She couldn’t mark the distance across, but all the way to the edge was clear. She went for it, increasing her speed to make the leap of her life… then realization skewered her like a broken branch through her chest. Her blood drained. Her lungs collapsed.
It was too far.
Digging in with all her strength, she tried desperately to stop. Her claws broke and cracked from the stress, but fear kept her fingers braced through the pain. Searching for a hold, her tail thrashed like an angry snake behind her.
Barra stopped. A whisker’s breadth from the edge, shaking, she inhaled. She didn’t finish her breath before the mass of insects hit her like a tidal wave. They engulfed her and carried her over the edge.
As she struggled viciously against them, Barra realized that she wasn’t falling, at least, not falling fast. The cloud of tiny beasts was metamorphosing, becoming thick. Each insect clutched at the next, holding fast with their claws and jaws. Working together, they became a stretchy, writhing net.
Arms and legs frantic, Barra fought through the ever-thickening mesh like she was swimming upstream through sap. Finally, she splashed through the amalgam and burst out. The bough from which she’d just fallen was close. She reached for it. Pain shot through the tips of her shattered claws as she shredded bark before managing a grip.
Barra hauled herself back up onto the bough and was running again before she was even conscious of it. She glanced over her shoulder and saw the disentangling mesh of insects was slow to follow, unable to detach from one another quickly.
Barra went vertical, heading for the Loft while she had the chance. Hot blood in her veins, she ran and climbed like never before. She didn’t look back again until she crossed into the Loft. Looking down through the dense branches, she was positive she spied the insects hiding in the shadows. But they didn’t follow her. Cautiously, she waited. She stealthed, camouflaging herself with her specialized fur.
“Why’d they stop?” she thought as she paced, ready to run, but curious.
It wasn’t unusual for branches in the Loft to settle, creak, and crack, and sometimes for no obvious reason they snapped. That’s probably all it was, that sound, but Barra was away in a flash.Halfway home, Barra thought, “At least I have a good excuse for being late.”
Meet the Characters
And here he is. . .
Aaron Safronoff was born and raised in Michigan where he wrote his first novella, Evening Breezes. In his early twenties, he moved to California to attend culinary school. He fell in love with the Bay Area and has never considered leaving, although he did eventually leave the school.
During his ten years in the games industry, he worked at various levels and for several disciplines including quality assurance, production, and design. All the while he was writing a novel, short stories, plays, and poetry. His career in design introduced him to amazingly intelligent, fun, and creative people, many of whom he considers family today.
Safronoff self-published, Spire, in 2011, and won the Science Fiction Discovery Award for the same in the summer of 2012. By the end of that year he decided to drop everything and free fall into fiction. In the following three months he completed work on the sequel to Spire, Fallen Spire, edited Evening Breezes, and published both.
Today, Safronoff is co-founder and Chief Storyteller of Neoglyphic Entertainment and working on his fifth novel, the second book of the Sunborn Rising series. In his spare time, Safronoff enjoys reading a variety of authors, Philip K. Dick, Cormac McCarthy, and Joe Abercrombie among them. He enjoys living near the ocean, playing and watching hockey, and video games. He has a deep love of music and comedy.
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