Sandrider by Jay Aspen (The Infinity Paradigm Book 2)
English | 2020| Fantasy | ePUB | 3.0 MB
However well you plan, something unexpected will throw it all into disarray.
Aisha and Reith are determined to make the dangerous journey back to the capital with vital information for the Resistance, to defend the planet from a deadly invasion that threatens everyone’s survival.
All they have to do is cross an unstable swamp inhabited by giant eels and carnivorous plants, get past the enemy slave camp on the coast, and somehow make it across the ocean to Pangaea without getting captured.
What they didn’t expect is the sinister threat already implanted deep in Reith’s history. If they can learn each other’s skills and work together, they might have a chance.
Even in a vast desert inhabited by giant sand-lizards?
I feel exposed and vulnerable as we move across the open expanse of marsh. I’ve never before felt threatened by our Pangaean aircraft, carefully designed to create minimal web-disturbance. My senses hadn’t perceived it until it was almost on top of us and I could finally hear its almost-silent passage. But it either stays at Ocean or flies directly back to Merkaan, because we don’t see it again that day.
Maybe luck comes in pairs because the solidity of the swamp improves. A flat shield of rock emerges from the muddy grass and reeds, like a giant plate dropped onto the floor of the rift valley.
We cross the second half of the valley in one day and I even find time to instruct Reith in a few basic principles of moving silently instead of crashing through the terrain like one of his infernal machines. By late afternoon I judge that he’s improved enough to reduce our chances of attracting predators or scaring off potential food by almost half.
Then we reach the low cliffs guarding the edge of whatever lies beyond. I stand motionless on a grassy mound, hoping the Fourth Principle will hold true and the web-disruption will hold off until I can find the tal that will get us safely down onto the coastal plain.
‘Water. A lot of it. That way.’
We follow animal tracks along the foot of the cliffs, heading south for about twenty minutes to the edge of the rock plate.
‘Oh. Not sure if that helps or not.’ I look down on the river draining the whole swamp-filled valley as it cuts a deep gorge through the cliffs and pours in a great waterfall of rainbow spray into the forests of the coastal plain far below.
Reith assesses potential routes down with military precision. ‘We get to the base of the cliff and figure it out from there. Lucky I insisted on bringing your ropes with me. No vines here to make new ones.’ He uncoils the braided lengths of vine. ‘Can you splice two together?’
‘Sure. So long as you’ve acquired a bit more confidence in its tensile strength since the first time I saw you use it with a scary drop below you?’
He gives a non-committal shrug. ‘I fell of that branch three times and didn’t die. I can probably give it the benefit of the doubt so long as I don’t think about it too much.’
We free climb down where we can, relying on the rope for stretches without handholds. On a few dizzying sections the rope proves shorter than expanse of sheer rock. Here descent involves releasing the doubled rope and climbing down the last few feet of single strand as it slips. Relying on the person waiting below to catch you before you disappear into space.
Reith goes first and catches me as I come flying down. I know I wouldn’t be able to hold his weight, not perched on a narrow ledge gripping the rock with one hand.
We reach the forest floor and head back to the base of the waterfall.
‘Another bit of luck. The river’s navigable. This part at least.’ Reith looks around the different tree species. ‘Is knowing which logs make the best raft included in your university training? It would save us several days’ walk.’