"The Griffin's Boy" is his story, set on Ella-Earth; our world's twin in an alternative universe. Evolution has taken a different path and mythical beasts exist. Britain remains an island of mists, populated by Celtic tribes and governed by a strict feudal hierarchy. Only noblemen's sons are recruited into an elite troop known as the Griffin Riders. The best a nameless nobody like Neb can hope for is to become a griffin's lad. But then his fate becomes entwined with the mischievous grey griffin Balkind, who everyone knows is trouble…and sure enough, Balkind disgraces himself on recruitment day and is rejected by Griffin Master Romulus. But Neb is determined to change Romulus' mind. Telling himself and anyone who will listen that Balkind deserves a second chance, Neb steals the beast and flies off on the adventure of a lifetime. He quickly realises: Riding griffins isn't for the faint hearted. Girls are complicated beings, and best treated with respect.
One single courageous act earns Neb his heart's desire – but then he ruins everything: When his new friend Samara, is abducted, Neb rushes to her rescue – with disastrous results. The youngsters learn they are to be sacrificed in a macabre ceremony. Their only hope is Balkind. Although clever, Balkind has always been difficult to control. Will the griffin answer his boy's summons?
"The Griffin's Boy" is released on Sunday 15th December, and will be available to download from Amazon. To celebrate, "The Griffin Cryer" is FREE from today until Sunday - but that's not all - there's also a griffin giveaway! Two lucky winners picked at random by Rafflecopter get to adopt and name a griffin. To grab your free copy of "The Griffin Cryer" go to http://www.bookShow.me/B00AM5GQUG (universal link).
Thank you again for inviting me over to your fabulous site. I know we've only recently met, but I am absolutely in awe of all your achievements.
Your readers can discover more about the great griffin giveaway at http://www.griffinriders.com/ and of course, learn more about griffin lore. "The Flying Book Tour" continues tomorrow over at the lovely Alesha Escobar's (of Gray Tower's Fame) site.
Neb, whose ambition is to work for griffin master Romulus as the equivalent of a stable lad, has stolen the griffin Balkind. Disaster strikes when the griffin throws the youngster from his back in mid-flight. By using his wits, Neb has just had the narrowest of escapes from death.
Chapter Seven: The Girl Tree. They had landed in a meadow with only a solitary tree to break up the acres and acres of lush grass. Neb pulled himself to his feet, using Balkind's leg as a crutch. Immediately, white hot bolts of pain shot through his shoulders and upper arms.
He swayed, but managed to remain upright. 'Who's there?' he called. The tree branches rustled, and he crossed his fingers against evil spirits. Balkind stiffened and gazed fixedly at the tree. Neb placed a hand on his griffin's shoulder, and crossed the fingers of his other hand. While he was deliberating whether to take a step forward – or back – a small figure dropped from the lower branches of the tree. It landed in a crouch then straightened upright and shook back a mass of dark curls. Neb breathed a sigh of relief; it was only a girl. A girl wearing boy's trews and who appeared to have rolled in mud before gallivanting in trees. Neb frowned. Chantress Anderra's girls would know better than to ape boys.
'Samara - My name is Samara – and you are…?' Keeping her eyes on Balkind, the girl waded towards him through knee length grass. In spite of her ragamuffin appearance, she had the assurance of Chantress Anderra herself. Neb revised his opinion of her age. Is it a Pisky? he thought, and made the sign against evil with both hands. Samara's lip curled at this.
Behind her the tree branches rattled again; Neb's hand tightened on Balkind's shoulder. Another girl dropped from the tree, this one as fair as the other was dark, but only slightly less grubby.
'That's Lillian', Samara said, without turning around, and prompted him again, '…and you are?' as she spoke, she stretched out a hand to Balkind, who nuzzled her palm expectantly. The fair haired girl skipped through the grass up to them, her podgy cheeks flushed and her blue eyes shining.
'He's a Griffin Rider of course!' She grasped Neb's hand, and urged him forwards. 'Quickly, we thought you'd never come – but now we must hurry!'
Samara's dark pebble like eyes surveyed Neb.
'He isn't a Rider. He doesn't know what we're talking about,' she said, and her pinched anxious face appeared even more worried, if that were possible. Neb opened his mouth to explain, but his voice was drowned out by a loud bray. Balkind snorted and raised his head from nuzzling Samara's curls. He stared toward the hedge bordering the meadow. A man riding a white mule trotted through a previously unnoticed gap.
What on Ella-earth have I stumbled into here? Neb thought – or am I still dreaming? He gazed from the mule to the fair haired girl, still dragging at his hand, to Samara. Her mind was as sharp as her face, and she hammered out an explanation:
'There's been an accident. Lillian's brother – he's only eight – is trapped. Lillian's father has gone to beg for help from the nearest Griffin Riders.'
'Part of the river bank sheered away. Luke managed to grab at a tree as he got swept away by the current. The tree – and Luke – are lodged against some rocks in the river's middle.'
'Can't you throw him a rope?'
She shook her head. 'No – no one can climb down the bank – it's far too steep, and there's a risk of mud slippage. In any case, the child is terrified.'
'Don’t say child like that. You're only five years older – and it was not an accident,' Lillian said, and Neb decided she wasn't quite as sweet as she looked.
'Chief Luthan of Penwyn village upriver is to blame. They've built a dam – forcing the river to form a loch on their land. Now come on – hurry – else …' she fell silent as the mule trotted up. It halted ten paces away from Balkind, yawned open its mouth and brayed again. The man riding it hurriedly dismounted before it spun around and trotted back the way it had come.
'Thank goodness you're here – ' he hurried forward with both hands outstretched – and then faltered. 'What is this? You're only a boy!' He glanced at Balkind who had returned to preening Samara's hair.
Neb stiffened, and refrained from glaring. He squinted sideways at Samara. Unaccountably, she too seemed to dislike the gangly man. Once again, it seemed he'd assumed wrongly. 'This is my … husband to be, Vander.' Samara said, tonelessly.
Before Neb could decide if he should congratulate or commiserate, ignoring his bride to be, Vander continued to sneer: 'A boy and a gryffant – what is Romulus thinking of – the Chief's only son is in mortal peril!'
The gears in Neb's mind worked rapidly – he calculated Romulus and his new recruits would be lucky to return to camp before sundown. If Romulus's griffin riders were the closest then no help would be arriving until tomorrow.
'Sir, Griffin Master Romulus has spent today at the Cherub Cliffs, selecting new recruits. They flew –'
'–that must have been them we saw flying over – I shouted and waved – but they just waved back,' Lillian interrupted. Vander frowned at her, but dared not scold the Chief's daughter.
Instead he turned his rage on Neb: 'Then what do you do here with that griffin? Have you stolen him?' his upper lip lifted, displaying stained yellow teeth.
Neb straightened. 'No sir. I am no thief. The Griffin Master selected Balkind, but there were none to ride him.'
'Why weren't you recruited?' Lillian asked, wrinkling up her face and peering up at him. 'You're a good rider – we saw you practising "fall and catch".'
"Fall and catch" was an essential part of a griffin – and rider's training. Samara's lips twitched and her eyes seemed to dance with amusement. Neb felt a flush creeping up the back of his neck.
'Aren't we wasting time – standing around here gossiping?' he glared at Vander, daring him to challenge. Grabbing Samara by the upper arm, he hoisted her onto Balkind's back. 'The girl will show me the way,' he said, vaulting up in front her. Before Balkind could protest, Neb kicked him forward. Balkind gambolled up the meadow's slope with the curious upsie-downsie lopsided gait of a griffin. Samara bounced against him like a rag doll, so as soon as Balkind's wings were inflated, Neb pushed him into flight, more for the sake of the griffin's comfort than the girl's. Balkind circled as he soared upwards, spreading his wings to their fullest. Both the newcomer and Lillian shrunk to toy-size, although even from here, Neb saw Lillian stamp her foot with rage at being left behind.
Extracted from "The Griffin's Boy" available from Amazon on December 15th 2013. © Julia Hughes 2013.
"THE GRIFFIN CRYER" will be free to download from December 11th – December 15th. Grab a sample now, download the entire story for free on Wednesday!