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Excerpt from The Arisen Worlds, Book 1, The Girl Who Fell Into Myth. Pages 11- 21, wherein Liesa enters the strange world of the Mythos.


     In the near future, 21-year-old Liesa has been living in an isolated spot in the US with her father, who is an ambassador from the witchy kingdom of Numinat.

     Numinat is one of the several realms of the Mythos that have lain hidden for a thousand years. These realms arose from the myths of the world and were driven from the Earth by fear, superstition, and the ruinous effects of machines.

     Since Numinat is fearful of the new science of nanotechnology, it brokered an Accord with Earth, assuring safeguards against nanotech leakage into Numinat. Liesa’s father was sent to Earth 20 years earlier to help monitor the Accord. Over the years the court of Numinat forgot about him, and he forgot about them as he sank into dementia.

     Now he has been summoned home by a Numinasi messenger. (They dislike the term “witch” since it was used by people who persecuted them on Earth.)

     The messenger has found that a child was born—an unfortunate birth, since now Liesa is too old to receive her birthright magic. In this scene, Liesa and the messenger travel to the home she has never seen.


     The stranger gave Liesa one hour to prepare. Thoughts of escape rattled through her mind, but the man wore a short sword at his belt and she had no doubt he was willing to use it. He demanded that she impress upon her father the importance of obedience. Otherwise, he said, it would be noted. She was to change her clothes. He was explicit: she should wear something decent and dark. Also strong boots. She hoped tennies would do.

     Her distraught father was stacking papers and looking in boxes trying to set things in order. She helped him, all the while whispering that they should call for help. She spent precious minutes trying to get her father to concentrate, to acknowledge that the man waiting for them in the yard could not command them. Finally she said she would call the local sheriff, even Rolly—but at that her father became alarmed and made her swear not to oppose the princip’s courier, as he called the stranger.

     “But why just let him take us? We’re happy where we are!”

     Her father swallowed. Taking her hand, he said, “It’s where we come from. It’s the only place you can be happy. Your own country, you see?”


     He squeezed her hand, searching her face for understanding. “And if we don’t return—if you don’t—it will be a great . . . disgrace.”

     “Why didn’t you send me back? You said you forgot. But early on? When you remembered better?”

     He slid his gaze away. “I don’t know. There must have been a reason.”

     Liesa shook her head in frustration. “Why do they want us so much now, when they never did before?”

     “The ways,” he muttered. “Numinasi ways.” He brightened then, as he sometimes did when the fog parted for him. “Your power. You need to receive your power.” His eyes pleaded as he said, “Tell me that you’ll go, promise me . . .”

     Numinasi had mystic powers. All peoples of the Mythos did.

With only minutes to decide, she looked at the expression on his face and couldn’t say no.

Her father asked the courier for time to put his affairs in order—whatever those affairs were—and the man agreed, saying that in two days’ time they would send someone to guide him home. But it was best that Liesa go immediately. When she balked, her father pinned her with a frantic gaze, shaking his head. Was he in his right mind to be sending her off? She couldn’t know, but his newfound conviction swayed her.

     She was going, really going, to Numinat, a place that she had come to think of as a story, or a distant country that would always be remote and mysterious to her. She had said she would go, but as she rummaged for the clothes the courier had told her to wear, the weight of her decision pressed down on her with a cold hand. The urge to escape vied with her father’s wish to avoid disgrace. Minutes passed, with her mind caught in an endless loop. At last the thought occurred that surely she could return here, if things didn’t work out. Yes, she would go. For now, for her father’s sake, she would go.

     By the time the hour was up, Liesa had put on a navy-blue plaid shirt and almost-new jeans. It was the closest she could come to something dark and decent. The Numinasi looked at her skeptically but managed to nod his approval.

     Her father walked with them to the equipment shed, where the stairway was. Outside the shed, he embraced her for the first time in years. She clung to him as he kept whispering, “I’ll join you soon. Soon.” Gently, he pulled away, patting her shoulder, trying to make everything seem not so bad, like a fall from a bike. He gave her a shaky smile.

     The storm was receding into the distance, flickering with sheet lightning and grumbling as though it had been unfairly driven away by the dark emissary.

     “Tell them I’m coming,” she heard her father say as he backed away.

     And then she was inside the shed, the courier behind her. He ordered her to clear the path, to move the noxious machines like the leaf blower, electric generator, even flashlights, so that he would not pass close to them. Machines disrupted powers; it was why magic had faded from the earth, why her father’s gift of perceiving the aligns had fallen into a weak reflection of what it had been. Envoys accepted this diminishment, knowing it only lasted for the term of their service in the mundane world.

     This must be why the courier was in such a hurry to leave. He could feel his powers blurring.

     The door was still open. Her father smiled at her, urging her to continue. To repair the disgrace that they had somehow incurred.

     With a last, faltering smile at her father, Liesa turned to the courier. The trap door was still open from when he had arrived. The depths beneath it glowed faintly, making it seem that in the murky shed they were about to leave a darker, lesser world and enter a more vibrant one.

     They descended the stairs and entered the paths between. With the shock of events, she had not even begun to think of what was to come. She would enter the crossings, the network of branching tunnels between the realms. She had no idea what to expect.

     Except for the fact that she had been there once before. When she was eight years old, and against her father’s warnings, she had gone into the shed where the entrance was. Ordinary citizens wondered how to access the crossings, but no one thought to search for them in humble, even rundown places. In Barlow County, the entryway was in a shed that her father had built twenty-some years before.

     She remembered her dread as she had lifted the hatch in the shed floor, curiosity pushing her like a strong hand against her back. And the moist, yeasty smell as she descended the short staircase into the tunnels. Although she had brought a flashlight, she didn’t turn it on because the tunnel glowed softly from everywhere at once. Then she heard—or maybe imagined—muffled, echoing voices. Turning, she fled back to the stairs, taking them two at a time. She was never so glad to see the flat, open desert that met her as when she burst through that shed door.

     And now here she was again, in her twenty-first year, deep in the unmistakable, heavy air of the crossings.

     Liesa stood in the strange tunnel, with its gloaming light and the fecund odor she remembered so well. The Numinasi was patient as she took in her surroundings. The ground beneath her feet—and the whole tunnel—seemed to be a rubbery material she could not begin to identify. It was pale gray, pebbly, and hard; the high ceiling, roughly rounded. No clear source of light, yet she could see all the way to a distant turn in the path.

     As they walked, and things were no longer in a rush, she recognized the clutching feeling in her chest for what it was. Fear. Fear of what waited for her. Her father had said that the Numinat had renounced machines. She was going to a place that would be almost primitive. But her father always spoke of it fondly. A simpler life. A better one. She tried to believe it.

     The tunnel narrowed. It had been twice her height and wide enough for four or five to walk abreast, but now it was half that size. Her breath came in little gasps and her heart sped. She went into a crouch and held her head in her hands.

     To her surprise, the courier—the guard as she now thought of him—sat down beside her, handing over a leather pouch shaped like a bladder. He urged her to drink. The cool water helped her disordered thoughts to subside. In that stunned quiet she heard faint clanking noises like someone carrying a boxful of bells, some of which clinked together and others rang softly.

     For comfort, Liesa rubbed at her smart watch beneath her shirt sleeve. A forbidden object, no doubt, since it would likely be considered a machine.

     As she sank into the first peaceful moments since the stranger had appeared in their yard, she considered what kind of trouble her father was actually in. Was it just that he had been out of touch, or were envoys not supposed to have children? By the guard’s attitude, she wasn’t sure the mistake was a small one.

     Her father had kept his daughter a secret even before senility began stalking him. Then the truth of it came to her. He had done so because he didn’t want to be alone. Her mother died giving birth to her. And she was all her father had.

     “Did I have a choice?” she asked the Numinasi, unsure if he would allow a real conversation. “About coming with you?”

     “Your father chose.”

     “Could he have chosen otherwise?”

     “Yes. But he chose well.” He stood up. “We will continue.”

     “What is your name?” Liesa countered.

     “I am in service to the court.”

     So no personal details. “Why are we in a hurry?”

     “The princip sent me. She wishes your father to be brought back from the mundat. You also, since you have . . . happened.”

     Mundat. Their term for the regular, mundane world, where magic was nearly dead. She handed him the water skin and they walked on. And that word, princip; she didn’t ask who the princip was, not wanting to reveal her ignorance.

     The corridor at times branched off at odd angles, and some of those branches were more like caves, because she could see to the end of them. Others led into distances, perhaps to places that were not Numinat, but the other kingdoms of the Mythos.

     Liesa tried to remember her father’s tales of the Mythos realms. As she grew older, she had come to understand that they were—and also were not—stories. That the Mythos worlds came from the closely held legends of the mundat. And while they did really exist in their way, they were called forth by the engines of magic and, once formed, retained those connections to the origin world. The world she had just left behind.

     She allowed herself a growing curiosity to see something of these realms. Their wonders, the places of wizardry, realms that were related to, but forever altered from, their former home.

     Out of nowhere, like a long-forgotten song, a childhood recitation came to her: The chant of the Nine: fore-knowing, mani-festing, ward-ing, heal-ing, crea-tures, ver-dure, a-ligns, el-e-ments, prim-al roots. The nine powers. One of these would be hers, now that she was to be in the Mythos. She held her breath for a moment, testing to see whether a flicker of enchantment lay somewhere in her being, especially her left hand. But there was nothing.

     They came to a side tunnel leading upward. To her relief, it spread wide as though it were more heavily used. The main one continued on, but they would depart here. The Numinasi went ahead, confident that she would follow.

     As she trailed after him, she carefully pulled up her shirt cuff to check the time on her watch. The screen had gone dead. The time readout, gone. Email gone. Internet gone.

     She was on her own.

* * *

     They emerged into a fortification. Liesa took in the high walls of mortared stone, soldiers wearing quilted jackets and fur-wrapped leggings. Swords at their sides, gleaming in a dusky light. Her guard exchanged a few words with one of them, and they passed through into the fort’s courtyard. From walkways on the walls, soldiers watched them, as though she and her guard—and not whatever was on the outside—were the enemy.

     He took her to a low wall behind which was a trench. By the smell, she knew what it was for. She had expected simple ways, but this . . . Perhaps the primitive sanitation was just at this fort. Though she had expected medieval, she hadn’t really grasped the likely conditions. The lack of conveniences. When she finished relieving herself, a female soldier approached. She wore the same quilted jacket and trousers as everyone, and her hair was pulled into a bun at the back of her head. Small knives crisscrossed through it. She held out a bulky pile of clothes.

     Unfolding the stack, Liesa noted that it was a long, heavy dress. Incredibly, she was supposed to wear it.

     She was tired, hungry, and cross, and now required to wear a ridiculous gown. “What is this for?”

     “It is how one dresses,” the soldier said in Numinasi as though explaining the obvious.

     “It’s not what you’re wearing,” Liesa said, hoping to talk her out of the dress.

     With some kindness, the woman responded, “But you are going to Osta Kiya.”

     There was no hope for it. She had to wear the dress, a situation that irked her all out of proportion. But she was in their world now, and if she was going to make demands, it wouldn’t start with what to wear.

     The gown was a dour shade of dark gray, with a voluminous skirt and tight sleeves and fitted bodice with a high neck. “Help me, please,” Liesa said. The buttons were in the back and she thought she could get lost in all the folds of material.

     When the woman had finished buttoning her up, she handed Liesa leather ankle boots, fur-lined gloves, and a water bladder with a sling to carry it crosswise over her chest. Liesa drank greedily as the soldier led the way out.

     It was twilight, and Liesa wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep, but instead her guard took charge of her again and led her out of the fort onto a hillside where grasses swayed in the wind. Overhead, clouds raced across the sky as though fleeing something. The soldiers on the wall were still looking down at the courtyard.

     “What are they watching for?” she asked the Numinasi.


     “But they’re not looking out here.” Liesa turned her gaze to the prospect before them. They were on a low saddle between two rocky outcroppings. The land sloped to an immense plain bearing, in the distance, tall buttes like ships upon a calm sea.

     “If the Volkish come, it will be through the crossings,” he said.

     “The Volkish?”

     “Well, we would have no need of a garrison without enemies.”

     Something moved on the near hillside, startling her. A great hump of glistening silver.

     The hump was alive. Stepping quickly backward, Liesa caught her breath. A huge creature, twice the size of their old flatbed truck, slowly lifted its wings and lowered them, catching the last of the sun on its scaled body. Grass hid what looked to be four legs.

     It swung its head around to regard them with a baleful stare and, as though it had been asleep, yawned, exposing teeth and a bright red tongue. Its elongated skull bore a sharp crest, and as the animal stretched its wings to their full length they were as wide as a small airplane’s.

     “A dactyl,” the Numinasi informed her.

     Alarmingly, on its back it bore a rigging that looked like a saddle.

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