From the Back Cover

Kiera’s a seemingly normal girl brought up by her uncle and abandoned by both parents. Life is as normal as she believes it to be, apart from the deep ache inside, telling her she’s different. For years, Kiera’s had dreams about venturing into a magical reality. She’s not alone; a presence is always there, keeping her safe, yet she feels vulnerable, and hunted.Zakk, Prince of Zantar, is under the Witch Queen’s spell as she tries to take over his world. He crosses paths with Kiera, changing her life forever.As their journey unravels, Kiera discovers she’s not the only one affected by this prince. Why has she been chosen? How can someone so young, defeat such evil? Will she find the strength to save the ones she loves? Will this be Kiera’s only quest?

Genre: Children’s fantasy, Sword & Sorcery

Excerpt

Below you can read the first 10 pages of Cinderfella, by Kristy Brown

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Chapter One

Zakk’s throat grew tighter. Barely able to breathe, sweat dripped from his brow.

“What…what did I do wrong?” He gasped, seeing only darkness. Invisible hands clamped around his neck. “Please… stop.” His limbs became heavy like lead weights. Knowing this to be the end, he managed to push out with a shallow breath, “I’m sorry.”

 The vice around his throat loosened, discarding him like a crumpled tissue. Maybe an apology was all ‘it’ needed. Minutes passed, feeling like an eternity. All seemed quiet in the icy air. Zakk dare not move. Trying to collect his thoughts, attempting to regulate his breathing. Straining to catch a glimpse of his jailer but was unable to see past his own shadow. The presence watched, enjoying the show. Waves of emotions passed within; pain, loneliness, emptiness, dread, but most of all fear. Fear seeping in, like black ink coursing through every vein, devouring all consciousness. For the first time ever, Zakk felt totally alone. He knew if he could scream, no one would hear. If he tried to run, his legs would not aid him.

“Who are you?”

“Who am I? Who am I?” The voice somehow seemed strangely familiar, as it broke into a spine-chilling laughter.

“Don’t you know?” it mocked. “Look hard, deep into yourself. You know who I am. I am your darkest fear when you close your eyes. I lie in wait at your very core. Who am I?”

Zakk fiddled with the dull glass ring on his middle finger. It had belonged to his mother, just touching it reminded him of her warm smile, her golden silky hair, and the lullaby she sang to tuck him up each night.

“You’re the Witch Queen!” he realised. He’d waited so long for answers but still was not face-to-face with this cold-blooded murderer. “You killed my mother.”

“Clever, clever Zakky. Clever child,” she hissed. “Your mother would be so proud of you.”

Silence fell upon him. Aching with sadness, skin burning in anger. If he was about to die in this cave, he needed answers.

“Why her?”

“I should have ruled this world. I should have been queen. She was useless. I’ll do better. It should have been me at your father’s side. She never loved him.” Spitting out the words as if they were poison.

“But you did?” Zakk asked. “You loved my father?”

“Silly boy, silly little, Zakky. I do not love. It’s a weakness which eats you alive, swallows you whole then moves on to dessert.”  Had she tasted this bitter pain? “I got sweet revenge on sad, cowardly Helen by pushing her into a D’rog pit. They tore into her like a yummy treat.”

Tears pushed under his eyelids. Unable to swallow, for the boulder-like lump blocking his windpipe.

“Tossed from one to the other, like a little raggedy doll,” she sang, with great malice.

Zakk, now broken, wept. No longer able to hold the tears at bay. Giving in to the despair, picturing his mother’s gruesome death. The Witch Queen poked a spindly leather finger into Zakk’s cheek. Her face still covered by a veil of darkness. Watching his tears run down her long, ugly finger, he noticed a very familiar glass ring at the end of it. Shaking in disbelief, he looked again, recognising his father’s ring. Time slowed. Sweat gushed over him like hot rain.

“Father!” he cried. “Father?” knowing the only response would be that of his own echoes chasing each other around the stone cave walls.

“He’s gone,” she said, stepping a little closer, he could just make out a pair of empty eyes.  Searching them wildly for a hint of compassion, but there was none to be found. Like hard coal, these eyes were dead inside.

“No, no,” he pleaded, kneeling on the floor, arms clasping his chest.

“I will rule Zantar; it is meant to be. All will live in fear of my gaze upon them. I thought you might have been my biggest barrier. But as I look upon you, crying like an infant, I find you weak, boy. It will be easy to send you to join your parents. It’s only fair after all.”

The Witch Queen took a step back; he could see her boney outline as she held her hands aloft and chanted. Flames shot from her hands and bolted toward him. Vibrant reds and dancing oranges licked at his heels, engulfing him, he stumbled back. The chanting became more urgent. Zakk raised both hands to shield his eyes. This is it. I am finished. I couldn’t save my family, or my people. I am nothing.

At that moment, the air cooled. Opening an eye, feeling safe from the heat. A pure force of light shielded him, bringing the fire to a halt. Bizarrely, the force poured out from his mother’s ring, which now shone all the colours of the rainbow. In her own way, she still watched over him and protected him. Feeling the wrath of the Witch Queen sliding away. Strength glided back through his being once more. Slowly rising to his feet, feeling strangely confident. This new resolve seemed to anger the witch further. She tried once again to execute her enemy, throwing arrow upon arrow of flesh stripping fire, but to no avail. Her efforts bounced off the protective shield, like hail against a windowpane.

“Damn your wretched mother and your proud father. If I cannot kill you, I’ll make you wish I had.”

A high-pitched squeal, a flash of white light, and Zakk began to fall. Unable to feel his body or open his eyes. There were no sounds. The heartbeat pounding in his chest moments ago, fell deathly silent, and all went black.

 

Chapter Two

Kiera cranked up the volume to the edge of its limits and danced around the room. Singing along, hairbrush in hand, throwing in the odd harmony or two. Imagining herself on a smoke-filled set, a wind machine blowing her hair wildly about her face for dramatic effect. She would be wearing a black off-the-shoulder number, combat trousers and army boots. Her almond eyes, dripping in eyeliner, her lips redder than anger itself. In reality, her chocolate brown hair was an uncombed mess pulled into a scrunchie atop her head, and she wore a green velvety dressing gown and Scooby-Doo slippers. Singing and twirling into the arms of an imaginary chiselled hunk, whilst strutting along the landing.

Kiera froze mid- breath. Maddy stood at the foot of the stairway, chewing her red frizzy hair, to stifle the laughter. “Your uncle let me in.” 

“How long have you been there?” Kiera asked, feeling herself blush from scrunchie to slippers.

“Long enough,” Maddy teased. “Who’d have thought it? Kiera Matthews…by day, innocent schoolgirl, by night, secret diva!”

“Don’t tell anyone,” Kiera pleaded.

“Okay, okay, but you owe me an ice cream.” Maddy smirked. “Came to see if you wanna go out? Thought we’d meet up with the boys at the beach.”

“Cool,” Kiera replied. “But give me chance to freshen up. Don’t wanna scare ‘em.” She began attacking her hair with the brush.

Uncle Tom popped his head around the corner. “Will you be a doll and take Terrence? He’s still settling in. Just watch him while I’m at work.” Grinning at the girls, shoving the terrier onto Kiera. “Cheers!” he yelled, rushing out the door.

“Come on, you mangy mutt,” Kiera rubbed his head. “Let’s get your lead.” Terrence bounded after her like a crazed monkey awaiting a banana.

“Err mate…you might wanna get dressed first!” Maddy shouted.

It was a beautiful, lazy day in the small seaside town of Stanforth. Being a week before tourist season, it was just the locals. Kiera had lived here with her uncle for as long as she could remember. She knew about her mother, some semi-famous country singer named Lynne Matthews. Her father’s details were a little hazier. Apparently, he was a roadie. Kiera would receive the odd allowance cheque from her mother, but Uncle Tom dealt with all that. Lynne Matthews had gone on tour in Australia years ago and never returned. Kiera couldn’t remember the woman and had become an expert at pretending not to care. Sometimes getting an overpowering urge to secretly Google the singer, but black and white facts about your birth mother just frustrated and angered her further. Photographs on-line of a smiling liar, made Kiera feel sick. If the subject of her parents ever arose, she would simply shrug off the sickly cramping knot in her gut. The pain of knowing that they didn’t want her.

“Hey! Here comes speedy and weedy,” shouted Daz, as he and Joe watched the girls rolling up. Kiera frowned; he always called them this, even though they were quite proficient on skates. They never questioned which was which, but both secretly hoped they were not the latter.

“What’s this?” Joe asked. “Thought you were working in your uncle’s shop today? You kill him off or something?”

“Whatever,” Kiera shrugged. “I told you before, it pays for my singing lessons.”

“His way of keeping tabs on you more like,” Daz mumbled.

“He’s in a good mood and the shops not busy yet,” Kiera said, flicking Daz an evil look. “I do have to do the stock count tomorrow. Will you guys meet me afterward? There’s a new Channing Tatum movie I wanna see.”

“Oh, I do soooo love a Tatum.” Joe raised an eyebrow.

“Me too, he’s just so cute,” Daz gushed.

The girls took off skating along the beach path. Maddy pulled Kiera’s arm and they hung back from the boys.

“Notice how Joe’s face lit up when he saw you?”

“No,” Kiera replied, taking no nonsense of this ‘Joe’ rubbish. “We’re just great friends, as I keep telling you.”

“Well you just keep your blinkers on, missy,” said Maddy, shaking her head. “That’s what we think.”

“We?” Kiera asked, coming to a halt.

“Me and Daz, we think you’re made for each other.” Maddy poked Kiera’s side.

“You wanna know what I think? I think you two have got far too much time on your hands. Just because you and Daz are like, ‘picking out curtains,’ I’m here to tell you, there will be no joint wedding.” Sticking her nose dramatically in the air, Kiera skated after Terrence.

The four friends hung out all day. The girls skated up and down, trying to impress the boys with their mediocre tricks. The boys pretended to ignore them, deep in conversation about the big sci-fi sequel due out, and Joe’s new trial bike. The four seemed unbreakable. This was Kiera’s family now. With them she felt wanted, happy, but if she stopped to think, for just a second, she became restless. Somewhere deep down inside, was a puzzle she couldn’t solve. This feeling made her uneasy, so she buried it away and kept it hidden. In her dreams though, came the desire to seek it out. In her dreams something, or someone, was seeking her.

Chapter Three

“Eight Moshi Monsters, eleven Star Wars figures, thirty-two sets of marbles, nineteen buckets and spades,” sang Kiera, to the tune of ‘A Partridge in a Pear Tree.’ Humming along, trying to keep a merry outlook on the monotonous task at hand. “Seven Whoopi cushions, eight kite sets, four packs of cards, and a weird looking, male- Barbie doll.” She stopped singing and looked at the last item again. “You’re not on my list. Must be a new promo line. I’ll pop you on the desk, not sure what to do with you…” Kiera began counting again. “Twenty-one yo-yo’s, nine skittle sets,” she boomed in full soprano style.

Zakk’s eyes shot open. He’d woken abruptly, startled, and let out an overwhelming gasp, as if he’d been held under water for centuries. A noise, a voice, greeted him like a chorus of birdsong. No, an angel, or some higher being. Was he dead then? Was this the afterlife? Unable to move. Strapped down, pinned by his arms and legs, and across his chest was a restricting band. Was this a coffin? There was no air. Panicking, his eyes darted about. Beginning to focus, seeing blurred outlines in various shades of grey.

Kiera wrote the last number on the worksheet and gazed at the clock. It was only five forty-five. What shall I do till six? Turning to file the day’s findings, gaze falling upon the doll she’d put to one side.

“Oh yes, I forgot about you.” Scanning the contents of the box. “Doll, clothes, shoes, ooh, and a cool ring…” Reaching down inside the box to try it on, her uncle wouldn’t mind.  Sliding a hand past the doll, she retrieved the ring. “Cool, it fits.” Kiera had never seen one like it, simple in its design., yet quite unique. Its clear glass was cut into tiny squares, as she angled it differently, it threw out various reflective patterns. A prism of colours emanating a rainbow around the dimly lit storeroom. “Wow,” she gasped.

“Help,” Zakk whispered. “Help.” There was no power in his voice. “Anybody?”

Kiera shuddered, like someone had walked over her grave.

Please, help me.” The voice was weak but audible. Kiera spun around. Shaking her head, laughing at herself. She wasn’t usually in the shop alone, but Uncle Tom said as it was just a stock take and the store would be locked, it would be safe.

“God, I’m bored. Guess there’s time to dress you, little prince. Or I could leave you in your royal underwear. I’ll make you all handsome and put you in the window display. Who knows someone might buy you? So, now I’m talking to myself? Great.” Kiera yanked the doll from the box, ripping it from the plastic binds.

Oh God, thought Zakk, as a giant hand came toward him. I’m not dead.

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