The Rifter is a ten-part serialized novel by award-winning author, Ginn Hale. The first episode, The Shattered Gates, was published on March 8, 2011. Further installments will be published on the second Tuesday of each month.
Part 8, The Silent City, was published on Tuesday, October 11th.
When John opens a letter addressed to his missing roommate, Kyle, he expects to find a house key, but instead he is swept into a strange realm of magic, mysticism, revolutionaries and assassins. Though he struggles to escape, John is drawn steadily closer to a fate he share with Kyle—to wake the destroyer god, the Rifter, and shatter a world.
“The true sorcery here is in Ginn Hale’s writing, which is by turns funny, fierce and lyrical. I can’t say enough good things about her work. Rifter is an astonishing story: terrifying and yet romantic. I was bewitched from the first sentence.”
Read an Excerpt:
John worked his knife blade deep into the tree’s black trunk. Gripping the edge of the bark, he tore a long strip away. A thick lining of creamy cambium came away with the rough bark. John tossed the bark onto the stack behind him. It wasn’t much, but it would keep the tahldi nourished.
A thin layer of snow already covered the heap of bark that John had stripped from other trees. Big delicate flakes drifted down and melted against John’s hands.
John’s fingers ached. It had only been four days. He wasn’t sure how complete his recovery was. But he couldn’t lie under the shelter feeling miserable any longer.
When he thought too much about Laurie and Bill, the snow poured down. Lightning burst through the sky and a cutting, icy wind slashed across the land. Unless he wanted to herald in a new ice age for Basawar, John knew he had to distract himself. Physical activity always helped.
He trudged through the thigh-deep snow to the nearest outcropping of trees. He peeled more strips of bark from the trunks. A faint sweet scent rose from the soft cambium, reminding John of spring leaves.
A cold breeze brushed over John’s face. He turned quickly, studying the air for that slight distortion. He caught sight of a faint shadow streaking through the trees towards him. An instant later Ravishan dropped out of the Gray Space. A flush colored his cheeks and he smiled brightly at John. He bounded through the snow to John’s side. His brown goat hide coat was scuffed and weathered from passages through the Gray Space. A fringe of his newly cropped hair poked out from under a dark wool cap.
“I can’t believe that it’s still snowing. I think it might be warmer in the Gray Space,” Ravishan commented.
“I thought the weather was letting up.” John tried not to sound guilty.
“It’s warmer than it was yesterday, I think,” Ravishan admitted, but he didn’t seem pleased by the thought.
“Isn’t that good news?” John asked.
“Good and bad. It’s definitely more comfortable, but I was just thinking that the storms must have kept anyone from searching for us.”
Ravishan paused and looked questioningly at John. “What are you doing to that tree?”
“Stripping a little bark. The lining is edible.”
“You’re planning on eating bark?”
“Not me.” John smiled at Ravishan’s skeptical expression. “It’s for the tahldi. There are also huge mats of mosses. I dug a couple out from under the snow earlier.”
“Will a tahldi be able to live on moss and bark?”
“It should be,” John said. “It’s a ruminant, so bulk stomach content is more important than nutritional quality.”
“A ruminant.” Ravishan repeated the English word. He seemed amused not to have understood what John was talking about.
“They’re hoofed or horned animals with chambered stomachs and—”
“I don’t really need to know.” Ravishan cut him off with a charming smile. “I can just take your word for it that the tahldi will be fine.”
“Oh.” John felt briefly embarrassed by his own nerdy enthusiasm. He’d spent a good portion of the morning contemplating the tahldi’s digestive system.
“What about you?” Ravishan asked.
“Starved,” John admitted.
“Let’s get back to the shelter and eat, then.”
John pulled a last strip of bark free and gathered the others. He and Ravishan waded back through the deep snow to the bridge and their shelter beneath it. He lay the bark strips down for the tahldi. The big animal gently nudged its velvety nose against John’s hands. It licked traces of salt and sweat from John’s fingers. Then it lowered its head and began chewing the white cambium free of the black bark.
He and Ravishan waded back through the deep snow to the bridge and ducked into their shelter beneath it. Ravishan crouched on the dry brush floor in front of him. He handed John a parchment-wrapped bread roll and then continued unpacking the contents of his leather satchel.
The roll was still warm. John bit into it and hot meat stuffing filled his mouth. He gulped the roll down quickly. Ravishan handed him a second one.
“Isn’t this yours?” John asked.
“I ate mine in Nurjima. Both of these are for you.”
“They’re good.” John didn’t know if he would have thought so a week ago, but he had eaten very little in the past four days. Most of his meals had consisted of dry bread and hard cold cheese. Now the succulent warmth of oily meat delighted him.
Ravishan waited until John was finished eating. Then he handed John a sheaf of papers. John wiped his hands on his thick wool pants and then took the stiff pages.
John stared at the three leaflets, taking in the bold black press type and fine inky drawings. They were bounties for the capture of criminals. The picture of John was rough, but it didn’t need to be all that detailed. Men as big and blond as he was were relatively rare.
However, the picture of Ravishan was so closely observed that it could have been his portrait. Even the proud, challenging expression was perfect. The reward for his capture was a small fortune. The third poster struck John as a jumbled combination of the two of them. As John read the man’s crimes and description he realized that a bounty had been placed on Fikiri as well.
“You found these in Nurjima?” John asked.
“They were posted all over the dock slums.” Ravishan picked up the poster of John and studied it.
John tried to ignore the anxiety that slowly spread through him. If they couldn’t go to Nurjima, John didn’t know where he and Ravishan would be safe. He had hoped that his distinctive build and coloring would not stand out too much in the Eastern dock community of Nurjima. From there he had thought they could make their way south. But these wanted posters ensured that people would be looking for him even there. And Ravishan would be easy to recognize.
“This picture doesn’t look like you all that much,” Ravishan said. “Your eyes are different and your chin is sharper.”
“But this really looks like you.” John found himself gazing at tiny lines that perfectly captured the curve of Ravishan’s lips. “It’s almost as if you sat for this.”
“I think I did.” Ravishan scowled at the picture. “At the Black Tower there was a priest who drew several pictures of me. They were going to be made into etchings for the holy texts.”
Ravishan moved closer to John. The light smell of some distant bakery still clung to him.
“Fikiri looks a little cross-eyed,” he commented.
“Yeah, a little,” John agreed. “I suppose that’s good for him. He’s less likely to be recognized.”
“If I’d known that the drawings would be used to advertise the price on my head,” Ravishan said, “I would have crossed my eyes and grimaced the entire time.”
John nodded. He hadn’t even considered that this might happen. He’d grown so used to the isolation of Rathal’pesha that he’d failed to think of how quickly the Payshmura could communicate across great distances.
“We can’t make straight for Nurjima,” Ravishan said.
“No.” Word of their crimes would be spreading out from all three of the Payshmura strongholds. It would circulate fastest around Nurjima, where the multitude of printing presses and railroads would make the church’s reach omnipresent.
“If we travel along the western mountains we won’t encounter many people,” Ravishan suggested.
“It will take too long to cross the mountain passes, especially at this time of year.” John shook his head. As soon as Laurie gave birth she would be made into an issusha. That gave them two months to reach Umbhra’ibaye before Laurie was flayed alive.
“If we take the roads east through the Bousim lands, it’ll be faster, but every villager will notice you.” Ravishan glanced meaningfully to the picture of John. “There aren’t any Easterners left in those lands. You’ll stand out like a tahldi in a goat pen.”
“There has to be another way.” John heard the crash of thunder high up in the darkening clouds. Outside the shelter the snow was falling harder.
Ravishan remained quiet for several moments. He studied John.
“Even if we could reach Umbhra’ibaye in two months,” Ravishan spoke in a slow, almost cautious tone, “I don’t think that we could save Loshai.”
“What are you talking about?” John demanded. “We agreed on this yesterday.”
“No, I said that I would try to travel south. But now I don’t think that even that would be a good idea.”
“We have to help Loshai,” John said firmly.
Ravishan lowered his head. “How?”
“What do you mean?”
“How are we going to save her?”
“We’ll break her out,” John snapped.
“I know you don’t want to hear this,” Ravishan said. “I was hoping that we could just reach Umbhra’ibaye and you could see for yourself how impossible it was. But it would be madness to travel south now.”
“We can find a way,” John insisted, though he had no idea how. There had to be a way to jump the trains. Maybe they could travel at night. He could dye his hair…
“Jahn, you’ve never seen Umbhra’ibaye, but I have. I’ve tried to reach my sister there,” Ravishan spoke softly. “The walls are heavily guarded. The inner chambers are black catacombs full of traps. Even I can’t move through the Gray Space there.”
“I don’t care. I won’t leave Loshai there to die. I have to get her out. I…” John wanted to declare that he would crush Umbhra’ibaye. He would tear down the walls and rip open the hidden chambers. But even as he thought it he realized the stupidity of his plan.
Laurie was inside Umbhra’ibaye. If he unleashed the Rifter’s power against the convent, he would bury Laurie under tons of stone and earth. He hadn’t been able to control his power well enough to break himself out of a prison cell. He couldn’t even stop the storm that he had created. How could he expect to protect Laurie inside Umbhra’ibaye if he brought the whole place down?
“I can’t abandon her,” John said at last.
“You can’t save her,” Ravishan said flatly. “You’ll just end up getting us both killed.”