Yantra, p.1
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       Yantra, p.1

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  Cradle of Time

  Book One

  By Kristin Swanberg

  Copyright © 2015 Kristin Swanberg

  Original and modified cover art by Josh Pesavento and CoverDesignStudio.com

  Dedicated to my inspiration, my sunshine,

  my brilliant daughter . . . Gigi Benedetti.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter I: Origins

  Chapter II: Astrid

  Chapter III: Escapades

  Chapter IV: The Witch of Tulim

  Chapter V: Preta

  Chapter VI: Secrets Shining Through

  Chapter VII: The Party

  Chapter VIII: Power in My Hand

  Chapter IX: The Path

  Chapter X: Penance

  Chapter XI: Perfect Plans

  Chapter XII: Happily Every After

  About the Author

  I. Origins

  Behind the hill is sorcery

  And everything unknown,

  But will the secret compensate

  For climbing it alone?

  —Emily Dickinson

  Four hundred million light years from the Milky Way, in the solar system of Tribunaus, thirty-one planets dance in an orbit eternally strained by the excessive gravitational pull. Of the thirty-one planets, twenty-two measure five times the size of Earth, each with a radius exceeding 20,000 miles. The largest of these is Galara with a radius of over 90,000 miles. Galara’s axis would change as much as thirty degrees in as little as ten years, causing the planet to spin like a child’s top. The erratic wobble of the planet is so intense, that it makes the sun appear to vibrate over the horizon. This dramatic shift in rotation causes seasons to change very suddenly and makes weather patterns rather extreme. The overwrought orbit seems capable of allowing the colossal planet to drift off into oblivion at any given moment.

  Though covered mostly by water, there are three large landmasses on Galara. Yantra, Vovros, and Tulim are even more unpredictable than the turbulent solar system. The most vast and peaceful continent on Galara is Yantra, which extends 27,000 miles across the northern hemisphere. Yantra River sprawls from the upper northwest to the southeast of the continent, feeding creeks and streams throughout the abundant forests and rolling hills, before emptying into the sea. Lavender Moosewood trees grow throughout the continent, soaring up to 2,500 feet above the ground. In the northwest, a rare variety of stocky Zuza trees stand with a girth of 600 to 800 feet and a height of up to 500. Their foliage stays iridescent shades of cerulean, violet, and magenta until autumn when they turn white and reveal the various metals absorbed from the soil. Gold, copper, and silver veins spread through the gigantic leaves hanging from the Zuza branches. In the northeast of Yantra, rolling hills span thousands of miles with vast meadows and forests, ending at the edge of a crescent-shaped rocky cliff. The Yiri Desert sits hundreds of feet below and extends several thousand miles south, covered in the black meteorites that pelt the area several times a year in violent showers.

  The Yantran royal family, advisors, and their assistants live in meticulously handcrafted homes inside the Zuza trees. The treehouses sit high up inside naturally forming cavities with up to thirty-foot ceilings. The temperature remains mild inside the trees, insulating residents from the fitful seasons.

  Yantra is ruled with a class system dependent upon each citizen’s physical features. Those born with wings occupy the Zuza treehouses and reign over the land. Children are born with wing-buds on their backs that mature into magnificent wings between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. These appendages grow long enough to brush the ground beneath their feet with dazzling, multi-colored feathers. Winged Yantrans hold the most wealth and prestige in Yantra. Despite the fact that winged Yantrans would remain the envy of outsiders due to the power and endless wealth that was afforded to them, Yantrans only sought to help one another and they chose to live quite modestly.

  A small number of Yantrans belong to an amphibious race. The Kyhas are born with webbed hands and feet along with smooth, slippery skin. They live in and around the many lakes of Yantra, able to breathe both in and out of the water. At puberty, Kyhas go through metamorphosis and develop their adult tails. Every so often teenagers, eager to test their new tails, venture past the lakes and rivers toward the sea and face a vile threat lurking beneath the cursed waters.

  Hooved Yantrans opt for simple dwellings carved into hillsides facing the Zuza Forest or farther away between Yantra River and Surya Valley, near most of the farmlands. Hooved Yantrans work as teachers, farmers, builders, and shopkeepers. Farmers grow spices, herbs, java, grapes, cinder papayas, pygmy oranges, blue kale, and paracress. Mothers can grind up this orange, leafy vegetable and mix it into their children’s deserts to cure ailments. These crops are the most valuable items Galara exports to nearby planets.

  Yantrans are known for being wise and hard-working, but the progress they need to survive in the shadows of the innovation surrounding them is often thwarted by the continuous strife between the people of Galara.

  In between Yantra and Vovros lies Tulim, the smallest nation of Galara. Tulim is bordered by swamps and made up of low-lying grasslands with a dense jungle in the south. Coix Floribunda can be found within this jungle. The rare, enormous plant grows in abundance but only blooms once a year, for five months. Its small, heart-shaped leaves are usually emerald or gold colored and extremely bitter tasting. However, distant travelers collect these leaves and boil them into a tea to cure stomach diseases and provide boundless energy. Coix Floribunda is sold illegally in a more powerful form called Coix Salt that causes people to stay awake for several days at a time.

  Tulim is occupied by witches and warlocks. Many are benign blessing witches, but others practice malevolent magic. One particularly evil coven creates havoc for everyone in Tulim and, from time to time, in Yantra. These witches and warlocks used Blood Magic on the sea centuries ago, trapping all the Kyhas from Yantra within and cursing them with an insatiable thirst for blood.

  Perched on the rocky and uninhabitable Tulim Island, located near the border of Vovros in the south and just 100 feet west of the Tulim shoreline, is the treacherous volcano Mt. Naga. Vovros and Tulim send their prisoners to Mt. Naga to be tormented by twisted creatures made with Blood Magic. Undead ghouls, blood demons, and other ghastly creations haunt prisoners until their agonizing deaths.

  South of Tulim, a heartless dictator rules over Vovros and imposes vicious military control on his citizens. As a desert land with hardly any foliage, Vovros offers little refuge to its inhabitants. Each citizen is required to wear a bright blue uniform and is implanted with a microchip to track their whereabouts at all times. They work excruciatingly long hours, while the government collects all profits. Those brave enough to try and escape are promptly sent in chains to Mt. Naga.

  Two dwarf planets orbit near Galara. Miera has beautiful mountain ranges, lakes, and rivers that create stunning views for visitors. Seraphi consists of scattered islands with white beaches and crystal blue waters. The temperate climates and more predictable seasons of Miera and Seraphi make them popular tourist destinations for Galarans. Both planets have resources valuable to Galara including advanced technology, popular foods, and textiles.

  The nations of Galara and the neighboring dwarf planets have long coveted Yantra for its expansive lands and abundant resources. Some years before this story, the Vovrosi dictator launched an initiative to conquer Yantra and began a full-scale war. Azaran allied his army with sorcerers from Tulim, promising them land in the south, and invaded Yantra from the Tulim border. Battles between the nations raged for over a year on Yantran soil.

  When Yantra began to emerge as the victor, a group of Tulim sorcerers made a last attempt at swaying the war in their favor. Generations before the war,
two sorcerers had fled Tulim and gained asylum in Yantra by offering guidance and aid to the royal family. The couple, Celestine and Gemmeth, quickly became the most trusted advisors to king and queen of Yantra. They were both hated by the dark sorcerers of Tulim and considered a threat in the war. So, a couple of Tulim witches and one warlock banded together to cast a powerful curse on Celestine and Gemmeth. They isolated the couple atop Yantra Mountain, cutting the king and queen off from their help and condemning Celestine and Gemmeth to live out the rest of their lives there.

  Still, King Angus continued to push the invaders back toward the Tulim border with his well-trained army. In the final battle, Azaran’s Tulim allies foresaw defeat and deserted, leaving only the depleted Vovrosi forces to fight. The dictator conceded his loss and abandoned his remaining soldiers, fleeing toward Tulim. However, King Angus soared through the forests of Yantra searching until he spotted the cowardly ruler. In their final confrontation, Azaran took a machete from his belt and thrusted it straight into the king’s heart. Angus became the final Yantran casualty.

  A tense peace followed the terrible war, with Queen Lisette of Yantra unwilling to trade or make treaties with Vovros but likewise unwilling to engage in more conflict. Azaran remained dormant in Vovros, waiting for another opportunity to seize Yantra, and Tulim
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