Short Story by Tom Cullen

The Mysterious Orb

I hadn’t a clue how it had gotten there, a small box on the forest floor. It was gold and glittering, wrapped in a royal blue ribbon tied neatly into a bow on top. Taken over by curiosity, I bent down and picked up the box. It was weightless in my hand. I pulled the tail of the bow gently and the ribbon fell to the ground. I carefully removed the lid and a wisp of white light flew out and formed itself into a sphere. It slowly drifted into the forest.

Entranced by the orb I followed it down the path. It was mid-summer and the trees were dressed in vibrant green leaves, which swayed lightly in the refreshing breeze.  The sun was setting but it was still warm. The forest floor beneath my feet was littered with twigs and scattered sticks. These woods were not often walked in, so it was extremely peaceful and the plants and shrubbery were overgrown. I was so overtaken by the orb that I hadn’t noticed that night had closed in.

The ball of light had started to stray from the path, floating further and further from where it had started, I followed it nonetheless. It was as if it was pulling me behind it. As I kept walking, the forest kept getting darker but the ball lit the area around me.

I trudged on through the bushes and brambles, focusing solely on the orb. The further from the path I went the thicker the undergrowth became. I trailed the orb into a large circular clearing. Then, the orb began to drift upwards. I tracked it with my eyes as it ascended into the starry sky. When I looked up I saw millions of bright orbs, drifting, tumbling and dancing around above my head, illuminating the clearing in multiple vivid colours.

I sat and watched them dance amongst the branches of the trees, backdropped by the stars. They were enchantingly beautiful and I stayed there for hours. The orbs entertained me until dawn arrived, and, as the sun rose in the new morning, the orbs dissolved into the daylight.

Short Fiction – The Return

By Gerald O’Donovan

THE RETURN

Grey clouds were coming unfurled where the steppes transitioned into hills. Like many banners of dirty silk, they unfolded into the sky in an endless billowing. They stretched from horizon to fuzzy horizon. In their shadow the rolling, undulating steppe broke on a shore of stony knuckles, pushing up out of the earth.

A ruthless wind was rising here, and the drab apparel of a lone rider snapped and rippled. His cloak, its creases lined with dirt, rose flapping in the air, like the great wings of a monstrous bird. His attempts to flatten the rogue garment were futile and the wind was picking up on the high outcrop.

Beyond the outcrop, scrawny trees took up residence in the crannies and nooks amongst sudden boulders. The first escarpment of many descended into a valley of stone and lengthening shadows. Grunting through a face-full of fabric, the rider kicked in his heels and allowed his horse to carry him down the slope.

The wind roared, the leaves of the gaunt trees shivered, and the rider’s cloak fought valiantly to tear free. The man shifted his face in a half-grimace, the lines of his bearded face wrinkling.

The rider’s name was Tario. Not the name of one native to this Kingdom of Vorne.

Tario was here on a ‘diplomatic appointment’. Appointed over three years ago, he’d been dispatched, with encouraging platitudes from his superiors, to what had seemed an impossibly difficult situation. A Kingdom broken, an Empire at war, a Prince in rebellion and a country teetering between war and peace. This was the state of the Kingdom of Vorne, in the Year Four-Hundred and Ninety-Nine, Anno Domini.

Tario’s cloak was still snapping at his back when, peering out from behind a shoulder of limestone boulders, a tumbled-down cottage welcomed him. Despite the place’s decrepit appearance, a ruddy glow emanated from within, promising warmth.

Hopeful thoughts begun to stir in Tario. Surely they would’ve sent one of his few friends to welcome him back to Vorne. He hardly dared to hope … but perhaps Verin, the Prince, had decided to wait for him?

But mounds of broken slates were heaped beneath the eaves, the patchwork roof grotesquely reminiscent of decaying skin, shrinking off a ribcage. Hardly a place for a prince, even for the prince of country as desolate as Vorne.

Embers swam from the crooked windows, brilliant sparks of light illuminating the gnarled roots that had overrun the yard. Large, stout trees fenced the cottage’s paltry garden and constituted some form of boundary against the wilderness.

Rumbling in the sky encouraged Tario to pick up speed. He kicked in his heels and urged his weary horse to hurry past the rustling leaves.

He wasn’t quick enough. The grey clouds gave one last resounding groan before relinquishing their burden. His cloak was heavy with water and the bottom of his boots squelched as he dismounted to lead his horse through the rain and into the safety of the cottage. He made care not to trip over the roots.

The watcher waited within. Beside the watcher, hulking sleepily in the corner, was a grey horse with a dark streak running along the centre of its face. An eyelid flipped open at Tario’s entry, then slid lazily back down again when no danger was apparent.

 “Punctual again,” the watcher observed, his voice dry. “I do wonder if you’ve ever been late in your life, Lord Terrace-man.”

“Malak,” Tario said tightly, thinking that he’d come all the way back only to be greeted by this dour lout.

Tario pulled his horse inside the cottage, bringing it over to an overgrown corner, as far as he could get from the doorway. After an uncomfortable examination of the dubious mould that creeped from a darkened corner, Tario pressed the bunched-up reins in a gap between two of the cottage’s old stones.

Tario turned to regard Malak, still slouching where he sat, staring into the hearth. A log burst, the chunks hissing and crackling as they hurried to escape the flames.

 “Well,” Tario began, a little impatient. “What’s been happening while I’ve been gone?”

When no reply was forthcoming Tario pressed further.

“The war, Malak, how goes the war? The Prince, is he well? And has Lord Osword kept his word-”

“Yes, yes,” Malak interrupted, waving a hand to clear away some stray smoke. “Our Prince’s in the capital. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it here to welcome you back … he’s a little busy with, well, you know, matters of state and such.”

Malak poked the logs with a stick.

“But how did your mission go, good news I hope? Will the horse-lords rally to us?”

Tario thoughts flickered to the letter that lay in his saddlebag. His only prize after a month of politicking abroad, in a land of harsh tongues and friendless faces.

“The results of my mission are for the Prince alone.”

Malak’ mouth twitched. “Of course they are.” He rubbed his knuckles, his jaw working before he uttered his next sardonic comment. “How did they refuse, politely or did they hurt your pride?”

Tario raised his chin. “It takes little to be more courteous than you, Malak.”

He dragged over a chair and joined the soldier in front of the fire. The flames pulsing, he pulled off his gloves and gingerly aligned them next to the fire.

Malak shrugged, produced an apple from a satchel he’d deposited next to the hearth and seemed to admire it for a moment. It was glowing in the firelight, so bright you’d imagine it’d burn to touch. He turned it over in his fingers before taking a crunching bite. Juice ran from the craterous wound.

Inexplicably, Tario found himself disgusted. Malak saw his expression, the chunk of apple still bulging in his mouth, and laughed.

Malak wiped his face and stood up. He gestured out to the rain.

“I apologise, Tario. I’ll extend an olive branch to you and take the first watch. Mind the horses and yourself. Soon you’ll be back to the Prince.” He took another bit of his apple, shrugged on his hood and plunged into the night.

Tario’s eyes, now accustomed to the meagre light of the hearth, lost Malak as soon as he ventured beyond the slanting doorway. The snuffling of the horses as they kneeled to rest turned his gaze back inside. Tario watched his own horse rest on her knees. Her inky eyes reflected an image of the burning hearth. Tario, his brow furrowing under the weight of expectant troubles, nodded at her. He glanced outside and caught a glimpse of Malak’ silhouette flitting across a window, already bowed against the rain.

I ought to sleep. There’s still weeks of travel ahead. He stroked his burgeoning beard. I need to shave, take a bath and food. Tario had adapted to the Vornese cuisine well, to the point that he’d begun to prefer the packed Oswordian pies over the light pastries of his home city.

Although it’s been too long since I’ve eaten the food of my own fair city. The flames exploded in the hearth and ashes were blown over his drying gloves. His distant eyes rested on them, thinking of home. It’s been too long since I went back and presented myself. Letters hardly suffice to ease the ache of a missing son. Tario bit his lip. He did not relish the prospect of returning home. Even returning to a virtual warzone fretted him less. While his mother had maintained as close a contact as she could manage, his awkward father had always been embroiled in professional matters, either absent in the halls of administration or faceted away in his study.

A thin-legged spider spun down on its web and floated between Tario and the fire. It swung there, on its slender rope, and seemed to stare at him with its multitude of tiny beady eyes. Tario frowned, and made to bat the thing away. His hand lingered in the air a second and then the fire rumbled as it consumed another log, exploding detritus onto his gloves. When Tario had blinked the ashes from his eyes the spider had disappeared.

He collected his gloves, dusted them of the ashes and put them into his saddlebag. Outside, the rain had dissipated into a misty drizzle. Malaks’ footsteps made soft squelches as he patrolled. Then they began to fade, as he moved away from the cottage.

He didn’t say how long he’d give me until I have to take over his watch, Tario noted. I’d better get what sleep I can.

Sleep did not come quickly nor easily for Tario. He lay on his side some distance from the fire, on the driest patch of earth he could find in the cottage. He stared at the flames and it seemed to him that the slim, fiery dancers were taunting him as they pirouetted and twisted in the dark.

***

Water gurgled in the roots and grass of boggy fields as the two rebels made their way north. They rode on their horses along narrow bands of dry soil that made a twisting route through patches of stagnant puddles. Ahead, another ridge of windswept hills loomed.

And then more lowlands and after those, more ridges, Tario thought wearily. He’d come this way months ago, had already seen these dull sights once, which he felt was enough. The water sucked at his horse’s hooves.

The bony legs of Tario’s horse were splattered by the time they escaped the waterlogged field. Malak’ brooding stallion had suffered similarly, breeches of brown muck now rose up the horses’ legs. Fortunately, the ground beneath the horses’ hooves was becoming firmer and the air fresher. Tario glanced back at the bog-lands they’d just traversed and saw curling mists prowling the watery trails.

He thought enviously of a proper bed and a warm meal. Vague, half-remembered fragments seemed to suggest that there’d been a village somewhere nearby.

The morning sun still hung low in the east.

Turning back he examined the view in front of him. Dull clouds blotted out any view of the sky to the north and it seemed to Tario that something malignant was lurking on that horizon, beyond those hilltops. A smell was being carried on the air, and it wasn’t his own unwashed scent.

“There’s a village near, isn’t there?” Tario asked Malak in an attempt for conversation. As they approached the apex of the hill he hoped that talk would dispel his sudden foreboding.

Malak craned his head back to look at him with one eye.

“Very good, Terrace-man. You’ve an eye for our gloomy geography.”

“It’s Lord Caryn that rules here, isn’t it? When I passed through I had to avoid Caryn’s men. Has he chosen a cause yet?”

Malak sniffed and repositioned himself in his saddle.

“Our Prince has, indeed, managed to persuade Lord Caryn to join us,” he said in a sour tone.

Tario frowned. “Caryn. They call him careful. He wouldn’t abandon the winning side.”

Malak grunted. “He’s cowardly, not careful.” He hesitated. “There’s been talk recently among the well-off folk, the scholars and the merchants that the Prince’s the winning side.”

Tario was watching Malak carefully. He urged his horse to hurry up a bit.

“What do you think?”

Malak shot Tario a questing glance. He sighed and pushed greying locks from his forehead. “The Governor here, Tenebreve, isn’t called the ‘Butcher of Voyrnestod’ for nothing. You know his reputation. He’s defeated a Vornese army in the field more than once. Now the clergy preach that our young Prince, only a boy, can defeat this monster.” He spat over the side of his horse. “I don’t believe it. Tenebreve has the men, the numbers. All he needs is for us to slip up once, then he’ll crush us.”

His voice was laden with contempt.

“The surviving lords are getting reckless now. They forget our history, the Surrender and Regrant, the Submissions, the Battle of the Novaryn. They’ve forgotten how our King was slaughtered. You know what I think, Tario? I think that the Governor, old man he is, can still hear them kicking in the stalls.”

Tario didn’t reply to that. But he was inclined to agree with Malak for the most part. Their cause had come so far in the past few years but they still needed more time. They couldn’t hope to beat Tenebreve, the Imperial Governor, right now. Not when two consecutive generations before had failed.

The country holds its breath and waits to see who’ll outlast the other. Verin needs a cool head at times like these. As Malak said, only Tenebreve would benefit from a reckless assault.

They crested the hilltop. Tario’s breath caught. Malak’s whole body shot up in his saddle and he let out a cry of dismay. His back arched as taut as a bowstring, one of his hands fumbled for his sword.

The village below had been mutilated. It was an ugly, but strangely irresistible sight. Tario found he could not look away from the devastation. The houses, workshops and taverns had been turned into gutted shells of their formers selves. The village commons had been scorched to black ash. Jumbled, blackened timbers and billowing plumes of smoke greeted them back to Vorne.

The river that coursed through the village was choked with debris. The ruins of smashed jetties leaned into water until they disappeared in the foaming torrent.

Tario’s thoughts flicked to the image of bodies bobbing, bloated and discoloured in that water.  He tried to crush this involuntary premonition but he couldn’t banish the dread that was settling on his soul.

Beside him, Malak was quiet for a long moment, his body tensed. His jaw had clamped together like a bear-trap.

When he finally spoke, his voice was a whisper, barely audible beneath the cawing of the circling crows.  

“Whatever you think of me, stay close, Terrace-man-” he swallowed and Tario swore he heard his voice waver. “You picked a bad time to return.” He drew his sword, steel sighing as it parted from the leather scabbard.

Short Story -Riven of a Thousand Voices by Ethan Roberts

The migthy Athamkara could grand wishes for whatever you wanted and all they want in return is a favour. The first thing you might ask yourself is, “What are Athamkara and where do they come from?” My friend, I will answer all of your questions in time but you must listen to me as I am going to tell you a story about one Athamkara in particular.

This Athamkara is the last Athamkara that we know of. The Athamkara’s name is Riven, Riven of a Thousand Voices. Only few fireteams have braved the journey to defeating Riven and have never been seen since, all except for one fireteam.

The Athamkara are wish dragons and Riven’s final wish is to be killed. This fireteam had passed all of the steps to defeating Riven and they killed her. Eons passed and fireteams from thourghout the universe had taken on Riven and defeated her, but you ask, “If Riven’s final wish was to be killed then why does she keep coming back to life?”I will answer this question.

Riven can never die no matter what and her final wish was to be immortal. The fireteams had to venture deep and far into the dreaming city to find and defeat Riven. Many people to this day still have to confront Riven and they are scared of that name. It sends a shiver down some people’s spine just like when they hear the name Oryx or Corta. You may wonder why people did this and sacrificed their lives? They did this because long before Riven was killed, a king named Oryx who was the taken king and the father of Corta stood and had almost wiped out the human race.

More guardians took it upon themselves to defeat Oryx. The vanguard and others thought that Riven might do the same so they needed her killed. After this a long time has passed and it has been peaceful, but we fear that demons are rising on the moon and we are watching just in case, but for now we live in peace and we hope it stays this way for a long, long time.

War -a short story by Dara Ryan

War. The single worst thing ever created by man. To the
masses, those who do not see it first-hand, do not truly
experience it, war is just a board game, a way for the
presidents and ministers and chancellors to settle a petty
dispute. To those people an army is just a number, a solider a
faceless uniform. To those people war is just another thing to
be noted down for the history books.
But then there are those who do go to war. The delusional
ones go willingly, dreaming of grandeur and glory, of fighting
for their country, of medals and endless celebration. The
sane ones are forced; they dream only of a quiet life. I was
not one of the sane ones.
Even the most delusional recruits are changed by war. To a
solider war is a terrifying thing. Each second is a year, a year
of nothing but darkness and deafening noise. And you pray to
God each of those seconds isn’t your last. And God doesn’t
always answer those prayers. I realised that quick enough.
The ones who survive are considered the “lucky ones”. I
certainly wouldn’t call myself lucky. No matter how much
praise, recognition or medals I get, it will never be worth the
atrocities I saw and the scars they left me with.
To the masses, those who do not see it first-hand, do not
truly experience it, war is a battle between good and evil.
There is no good or evil in war.

There is only death.

Book Review by Mark Henchion: The Enemy by Charlie Higson

By Mark Henchion

Genre: Horror/Adventure/Post-apocalyptic thriller

Audience: Young Adult

The Enemy is a post-apocalyptic horror novel. The book takes place in London after a worldwide sickness has infected everyone over the age of 13, turning them into something akin to voracious, cannibalistic zombies. These bags of rotting flesh mindlessly roam the streets looking for their next meal, the kids. The surviving children must figure out what cause the outbreak but more importantly, how to survive.

I enjoyed this book because it was extremely exciting and difficult to put down. The age of the characters made it easy to relate to. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars. Goodreads gives the book an impressive 4 ½ out of 5. In terms of comparable novels, if you have read these books, you may like this title, or vice versa:

  • Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz
  • The Suspect by Fiona Barton
  • The Merciless by Danielle Vega
  • The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
  • Ten by Gretchen McNeil
  • The Cherub series by Anthony Harrowitz

The New School by James Connolly


My new school is big and new
Every morning the grass is laden with dew
And when the bell rings for class,
Everyone vacates the grass
 
I become a nervous wreck,
“Did I bring the right books?I forgot to check”
The screech of chairs and tables,
And teachers connect their cables.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

BOOK REVIEW by Daniel O’Mahony

The Knife of Never Letting Go was written by Patrick Ness and published in 2008 to critical acclaim, and for good reason. In this book Patrick Ness explores many intricate ideas, including morality, adolescence, lies, toxic masculinity and hatred. This complex task is accomplished through the eyes of Todd.

Todd is a twelve year old boy living in Prentistown. In a world where all women are allegedly dead and everyone’s thoughts are open to the world through the Noise (the ability to hear everyone’s thoughts whether you want to or not). Everything is turned upside down when Todd discovers a “Hole in the Noise”.

The believability of the main characters is outstanding, (As weird as it might sound, Manchee is an exceedingly credible dog). The narrative is as thought-provoking as it is powerful and the intentional misspellings and unrepentant bad grammar, while annoying at first, adds depth and credibility to the main character. However, the villains can be a bit over the top at times and certain sections can feel slightly unnecessary.

Nevertheless , Patrick Ness more than makes up for all this with his dazzling writing style. I feel he thoroughly deserves the acclaim he has received  and I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in reading, Science Fiction and writing.

BOOK REVIEW BY DONAGH WILSON

Gospel Of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

★★★★★

The Gospel of Loki is an interpretation of ancient Norse mythology from the perspective of Loki. While it does have some similar points to main Norse mythology, there are some changes. This makes it much more interesting than if it were to be a carbon copy of the real mythology.

The book is extremely interesting and was an enjoyable read. It had a few bits of humour and was all in all a very good book. I would definitely recommend this book to other with an interest in good fiction, fantasy and mythology. I think a broad range of readers would be able to enjoy this book. I give it a score of nine out of ten.

Review by Donagh Wilson

Poetry

The Speech

My heart starts beating faster,

A flushness takes my face,

Flashes of disaster,

My pulse a rapid pace.

The sweat on my brow thickens,

My tie feels like a noose,

A seconds length is quickened,

My stature is reduced.

Hands filled with tremble,

A blur covers my notes,

No words do I assemble,

A lump within my throat.

So many eyes upon me,

Do they see my anxious state?

Their silence blocks my helpless plea,

They’ve doomed me to my fate.

But as I start to speak,

I feel a blissful calm,

The redness leaves my cheek,

My fate no longer damned.

My words are without flaw,

Closing line I finally reach,

I hear the crowd applaud,

And so I end my speech.

By Aodh Ó Gallchóir

The Weather

Soar, soar, birds are soaring

Clouds, clouds, clouds are roaring

Rain, rain, rain is pouring

Soar, soar, birds still soaring

Clouds, clouds, clouds still roaring,

Does the rain ever stop pouring?

By Hugh O’Mahony

Junior Writing Award -Be Inspired Awards 2018

Dara Ryan 1st Year

The Magician

The boy looked out the window and there he was, just walking down the street –the magician. He had known the magician was there before he looked out the window; he had sensed him. But as he gazed, he realised how absolute the power of his being was. He could calm storms, feed every person on the planet with a click of his fingers. He could cure any disease, heal any wound, give sight to the blind, even reverse death.

But for all the good he could do, he could also do evil. He could summon a storm strong enough to rip through any house, any building. He could kill you with a look, break your arm from the other side of the world, melt your brain and break your mind without lifting a finger. He could rip the sky asunder and summon the legions of hell to lay waste to the Earth.

Suddenly the magician snapped his head around and saw the boy. He smiled, though it was a smile that was devoid of warmth, or any kind of emotion. He turned and began to walk towards the boy, up the staircase that had once been a garden. Because the world reshaped itself, liquefied and solidified itself to his need, his every wish. For a being of such great power deserved such respect, such obedience because he was a living god, and he graced them with his very presence.

Andthe magician walked through the arch that had once been a window, held out hishand and offered the boy infinite power. And the boy thought of feeding thepoor, calming storms, healing all plagued by illness, of bringing back hisparents. He reached out to take the magician’s hand, but in doing so herealised that it was a white as chalk. He looked up and saw dead eyes and asmile that showed no semblance of emotion. He thought of creating storms,killing without thought, effort or consequence. He thought of summoning thelegions of hell to destroy all he held dear. And he withdrew his hand andrefused the magician’s gift. The magician’s face clouded over and the howled infury. And then he and the boy vanished, never to be seen again.

“Dara’s use of language in highly impressive in this unusual, fascinating, surreal encounter between a boy and an all-powerful magician. It is also an interesting exploration of the corrupting influence of power. A very original and well-executed piece.

-Author Ciarán Collins