Guest Post by Carol Browne
Authors can’t help but grow fond of their characters. We have taken great care over their creation and, if we have done it properly, they come to life on the page. They seem real to us and we hope our readers feel the same. However, some characters do stand out more than others. In The Exile of Elindel, book one of my fantasy trilogy The Elwardain Chronicles, there is one character readers have told me is their favourite, and, although as the author I feel I should like all my characters equally, I have to confess this particular character is one of my favourites too.
The character in question is an Exmoor pony called Grimalkin. What makes her even more intriguing is that I have no idea where she came from. She just appeared almost halfway through the book. She was merely a pack animal, a means of transport. When I created her I had no idea how important she was to become—not just in Book One but throughout the trilogy. I don’t know if the trilogy would have worked as well without her.
Well, no spoilers; let’s just say she provides the bathos, the comic relief. She is the deflator of pomposity. She says the sort of things we would all like to get away with. She hasn’t a good word to say about anyone. And yet she is immensely lovable. I have no idea how this happened!
For at least 700,000 years, primitive wild horses roamed the British Isles, having crossed over from the continent of Europe before Britain became an island. The Exmoor pony is the oldest of our native breeds and is as hardy and robust as the wind-scoured moorland on which it lives.
Once used to tend and herd livestock, these ponies were also a means of transport during the Roman occupation. They can carry far more than their size would suggest and they are extremely agile and quick to learn.
Exmoors are always brown with black points and a mealy muzzle. They have buff-coloured rings around their large, intelligent eyes. Their sturdy legs and well-shaped hooves suggest strength, solidity and surefootedness.
These days the Exmoor pony has endangered status. I’m sure Grimalkin would have something to say about that. I’m also sure it would be blunt and amusing. And here’s the curious thing: I don’t understand why she makes me laugh when I’m the one who put the words into her mouth in the first place.
A talking pony? I hear you ask. How does she do that? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I’m not going to say any more about Grimalkin, her origins or her part in the story. Suffice it to say, the main characters in The Elwardain Chronicles have more to them than meets the eye, and Grimalkin is no exception.
Here’s a peek at Carol’s fantasy novel.
Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.
Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.
A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.
When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.
There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?
The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals. Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.
She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.
She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.
It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.
After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.
She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.
“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”
A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.
A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.
Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”
A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”
“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.
“To see for myself.”
“To see what?”
The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.
Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.
“Stay!” commanded the creature.
It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.
“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”
The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”
It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.
Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.
Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .
With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.
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About the author
Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes speculative fiction. Carol’s first novel The Exile of Elindel was published by Musa Publishing on 18th April, 2014. Following the demise of Musa Publishing, she became a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. The Exile of Elindel was re-released on 8th October, 2017. Meanwhile, Carol’s award-winning non-fiction novella Being Krystyna – A Story of Survival in WWII, was published in eBook format by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016.