• R.N. Jackson

Esta Brown and the Daughters of Mara... Sneaky peek


As worlds weave within worlds, chaos threatens everything Esta holds dear.


In this excerpt from the forthcoming conclusion to the Legends of the East trilogy, Esta and her friends are escaping from Gatley House in Graham's old banger, when the road buckles and sends them ten feet in the air before crashing back down again...


Prepare to meet new foes. Prepare for new mysteries.



White Sadhu Advance


Whup, whup, whup, whup.

I touched my temple.

My head throbbed like hell.

Whup, whup.

I tasted blood, smelt petrol, saw spots of light.

Whup Whup.

The contents of my stomach threatened to crawl up my throat.

There was a grating squeak of metal, a hissing noise, the sound of groaning and…

Whup, Whup.

I looked across at the others in the car. Scattered glass everywhere, limbs threaded all over the place, thankfully all attached to the correct body.

‘Everyone OK?’ Simon croaked from the front. His voice was muffled by Harry, who was lying on top of him.

Whup whup.

‘I have ringing in my ears!’ Tubten moaned.

‘What happened?’ Lily said, prizing herself out of the gap between the front seats.

‘Turn the bloody wipers off, will you?’ Harry said. ‘They’re spitting glass everywhere.’

Graham flicked the stick. And the whupping noise stopped. The road was all shadow through the windscreen.

‘The road,’ Graham coughed. ‘It jumped…’

‘What do you mean, jumped?’ Lily asked.

He swivelled to one side and kicked open his door. ‘I don’t know. It went straight up, like a rollercoast—’ The door screeched on its hinges and then dropped to the tarmac. He pushed himself out and landed on his knees next to it.

‘The road’s flat,’ Karma Chodron said. ‘We must have gone over something.’

Graham rolled on to his back. ‘No,’ he said, staring up at the early morning mist. ‘No. I’m telling you it was the road.’

‘Ssh.’ Lily shifted on to the driver’s seat Graham had just vacated. ‘What’s that?’ she whispered.

‘What’s what?’ Simon said, squeezing out from under Harry.

‘I swear to God,’ Graham said. ‘My Dad’s going to kill me!’

‘Graham! Shut up!’ There was tension in her voice. ‘I heard something!’

No one moved.

There was the creaking of the engine, the squeak of a wheel… and something else.

Footsteps.

Graham jerked to his knees and ducked back into the car. ‘Bugger!’ he muttered.

‘Start the car, boy,’ Harry whispered.

‘What do you think I’m doing?’

‘What is it?’ Tubten asked. ‘What’s wrong?’

I shushed him.

The engine sighed.

‘Come on!’

Something moved on the road ahead of us.

Lily saw it too. ‘What was that?’

‘Graham?’ Harry said urgently. ‘Get this piece of junk moving.’

‘It’s dead.’

‘What is it?’ Simon asked.

‘Everyone, get out,’ Karma Chodron said, yanking at the handle of her door to not much effect. ‘Get out and run as fast as you can.’

‘Why? What? Run where?’

‘Anywhere. How do you open this thing?’

‘Wait a minute,’ Graham said. ‘Let’s see if—’

He flicked on the headlamps. The road ahead became flooded in a yellow hue.

Standing across it, about forty feet away, was a line of seven pale figures. Silhouettes walking slowly and deliberately towards us, what looked like long robes shifting around them as they came.

‘Where did they come from?’ Lily asked.

‘I’m guessing they’re not paramedics,’ Graham said.

‘White Sadhu,’ Rabjam whispered.

‘Get out and run,’ Karma Chodron said, finally opening her door and easing herself onto the road. ‘I’ll hold them off for as long as I can.’

‘The nun’s right,’ Harry said. ‘Get out. Get out your side, Graham. Everyone. Now.’

No one moved though. No one except Karma Chodron, who leant back inside. ‘Why are you all still here?’

I yanked my door open and got out, my gaze never leaving the slowly advancing figures.

Thirty feet away now.

It had started to rain, and the drops fizzled gold as they passed through the headlamp glow.

Rabjam and Tubten scrambled out behind me. Lily and Graham in front of me. Graham and Simon helped pull Harry from the driver’s side door.

‘Everyone, get back,’ Karma Chodron said, nudging Harry and Simon behind her. ‘I don’t know how long I can hold them off. Rab? Find a place to create a protection circle.’

Again, no one moved. We were transfixed by the silent line of figures walking calmly towards us. Karma Chodron gripped her stick and raised it towards them. They stopped.

‘Is everyone bloody deaf in the human realm?’ Karma Chodron hissed. ‘Run! I’ve got this!’

The figure in the middle of the line of White Sadhu raised his right hand to his heart, then brought his left hand underneath.

Karma Chodron bowed a little. ‘Rab?’ she whispered. She looked round at us. Her eyes were wide with fear. ‘Please!’ she said. ‘Go!’

Rabjam lifted Tubten up and started backing away. Sera joined him. When they’d cleared the back of the car, the three of them turned and ran back down the road.

Graham and Simon set off, Harry between them.

Lily grabbed my hand. ‘Esta?’

‘I’ll be right there,’ I said. But my eyes were glued to the White Sadhu in the middle of the line. His left arm shifted.

A ringing sound.

Karma Chodron yelled something incomprehensible and launched herself towards the figures.

But the other sadhus made the same gesture as the middle one. Suddenly, the early morning was filled with an eerie high-pitched whine that sounded like feedback, or the squeal of skidding tyres. It made my teeth itch and the hairs on my arm stand on end.

I watched through squinted eyes as the road bent under Karma Chodron’s feet, the stick she held wilted like a week-old stick of celery. Her robes developed a life of their own and wrapped around her shoulders and face. Within a single pace, she was on the ground, attacked by her own robes.

The White Sadhu stopped their ringing. The road snapped back to horizontal. Karma Chodron’s robes settled around her. The line of Sadhu advanced again as she gasped for breath.

I checked behind me. The others had made only thirty yards. Graham and Simon struggling to drag Harry away.

But what was the use of running away from these guys? They had powers. They could twist the road upside down if they wanted to.

Unless…

The White Sadhu weren’t the only ones who could do cool stuff, were they?

I quickly studied the road between me and KC, folded my hands, dipped my head and said the words…

… The world became sluggish and blurry around me as I ran. Karma Chodron’s features, an expression of defiance and rage; the White Sadhu frozen in place, mere feet away from her. I paused as I ducked.

Frowned. The White Sadhu… this close… not what I expected at all. A few of them were women, two or three of them were Asian looking, but there were a couple of westerners too. Proper little multicultural outing. The main one—the one in the middle at least — looked like a scruffier, bearded version of my headmaster, Mr Culter. Same blue eyes, same long, bony nose. But this one had dark brown wavy hair and his eyes were cold and mean-looking. He was holding a silver version of the Vajra and Bell, Simon and I had found. He held them like he knew what he was doing, though. I considered grabbing them for a second, or at least knocking them out of his hands, but that would mean opening my eyes and breaking the Carve. The rest of them would be all over Karma Chodron in a heartbeat.

I bent down behind her and opened my eyes.

The road flooded back. Surrounded by white robes, the clanging of a bell, the hardness of the tarmac. I threaded my arms through KC’s and before anyone could react — including her — had her up on her feet.

Luckily, she had the presence of mind to jump as I said the words, and the road, the White Sadhus and the star speckled sky twisted sideways.


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