It is Easter, 1973 and twelve year old Sebastian Duffy has some serious self-esteem issues. He is beaten by his parents, bullied at school, steals from his friends and still mourning the death of his brother. To cap it all, strange things have begun happening around him and he is finding it hard to distinguish dreams from reality. After a nightmarish assault, he wakes in the Gloaming, a shadow world inhabited by ghosts. There to greet him is Porrig, a creature from Hibercadia, a magical realm crafted from Celtic dreams. Inhabited by Fir Bolg, Tuath and Milesians, it has been overthrown by brother gods from another dreamworld. One brother, Phobitor, is a tyrant and even the Tuath, who took to their underground sidhe millennia ago, are concerned. Sebastian discovers that he alone can save Hibercadia by finding an enchanted spear. Teaming up with the Hibernauts—a mercurial sorceress, an orphaned druidess, a taciturn warrior, a snuff-sniffing leprechaun and a lovelorn poet—he embarks on a fantastical quest, but can he succeed when he is yet to find his magical potential or even his courage, and half the realm is bent on his destruction?Sebastian and the Hibernauts: Beyond the Gloaming
“An odious accusation from a traitor’s lips,” roared Conall, his jutting face suffused with anger. “You sent us to our deaths, just as you sent my father to his. Woe to me and woe to him! Return alone is it, when you returned from battle without him? Return alone is it, when Meliance lies buried in excavations of the earth? Return alone is it, when someone must perpetuate the House of Keepmoat? You even snatched his daughter from his dying hands. Do you think I would have my sister wedded to a poltroon such as you?”
“For pity the House of Keepmoat should have you as its heir,” said Petipace gravely, shaking his head, “For pity poor Maelgrim, my constant friend, nay, brother for none were closer and he died in my arms. You inherited his bravery, but little else, boy. You are right on one count, though,” he continued, raising himself to his full height. “I should have gone to Penogledd, for either I left the mission in the hands of a traitor or a halfwit.” He paused for a second, raising his finger to forestall Conall’s explosive outburst. “Which are you?”
“Pick up your sword, you fossil-faced fool,” demanded Conall, stung to the quick and barely able to contain himself. “Pick it up!” he screamed, pulling on the hilt of his own. “It is time your gizzards saw daylight.”
“With pleasure, you ignorant knave,” replied Petipace, coolly. “The king shall not hear of this,” he added, directing his eyes to Sebastian as he stooped to collect his sword. “Such satisfaction between knights is an inalienable prerogative, reportable to no one.”
His voice failing him, Sebastian nodded weakly, gripped by fear. The vision swam before his eyes, superimposing itself upon the scene. He thought he remembered battlements. The two men stepped back several paces and threw themselves on guard. No sooner had they raised their swords than Conall leapt at Petipace.
“It’s all about balance,” remarked Petipace breezily, neatly sidestepping the lunge.
The exchange clearly infuriated Conall, for he let out a yell and drove at Petipace.
“And don’t just thrust like this young gommel,” he continued, dancing nimbly around his increasingly enraged opponent. “Bide your time, assess the situation. Keep your feet well apart when you move, and have a strong defense like this,” he said, deflecting another blow. “You must keep your sword at the ready, point it at your assailant’s throat, elbows bent and close to you. That way you can parry...like this...and this...and that,” he added, as he continued to frustrate Conall, while standing fast. “Sometimes one must know when to give ground. By being aware of your surroundings and anticipating when to do so, it can work to your advantage,” he shouted as Conall charged, unleashing a torrent of invective as he did. Petipace drew back several paces then stood firm, sword aloft. The weapons made a tremendous clashing sound as the two men engaged, wrestling each other fiercely, neither willing to concede ground. They were some distance from Sebastian now, but he could see the sweat flying from their contorted faces, hear their unnaturally low groans, like bulls locked in combat. He watched in horror, expecting Petipace to fall at any second. Instead, Conall let out a roar and forced his way past him, both of them turning in the process before falling back some distance. Petipace instantly regained his stance, his heaving chest betraying his exertions.
“Knowing when to maintain your distance is important, but knowing when to strike is crucial,” he panted, gulping in air as Conall edged toward him. “Young cockerels like this wantonly tire themselves out with no return. Old foxes conserve their strength and rely on experience. Letting an opponent turn you round as I have just done is one of the deceptive arts of swordsmanship, especially when he thinks he has won the point, especially if you have studied the terrain. In that way you can engage—”
He suddenly lunged, his sword racing to his opponent’s heart. Conall reeled back and to the side, parrying manically as Petipace came at him. He fell against the parapet and tottered backwards between two merlons. Realizing the danger, he dropped his sword and beat at the air with his hands, trying to regain his balance, to keep from falling through the embrasure. Sebastian watched in disbelief, leaning this way and that in a vain attempt to prevent him plunging to his death. He appeared to hover for an unfeasibly long time before gravity lost interest and delivered an imperceptible shift to the equation. Conall began to fall from the roof.
I cannot say just how much I have enjoyed this book; you are a very accomplished writer with a wonderfully rich imagination. Your use of the English language is amazing and your ability to create the many different speaking styles in the book and to maintain them is remarkable. You have an incredibly inventive mind and readers will come to love the many wonderful creations in this novel, it is jam-packed with the most wonderful and inventive characters; new, exciting and beautifully realised.Praise for Beyond the Gloaming
~The Oxford Editors
An imaginative epic...an intricate and fully realised fantasy world with a big cast of likeable characters that are charming, well drawn and endearing, with wonderfully apt names. The depth and breadth of your high-voltage imagination, and the richness of the world you create is very impressive.
~Sam Mills, author of Blackout, The Boys Who Saved the World, and The Quiddity of Will Self
Author Brendan Murphy
Brendan Murphy was raised in Sheffield, England, with dreams of becoming a writer, and has written every day since he was nine years old. After reading medicine in London and psychiatry in Manchester, he moved to Australia in 1999. He is an Associate Professor at Monash University and has written widely on youth mental health. His nonfiction work on the development of football in Victorian society, From Sheffield with Love, was published in 2007. He lives with his wife, Katrina, and their children, Sebastian and Violette, in a sprawling property built for the composer, Dorian Le Gallienne. They share their garden with a mob of kangaroos, a wombat, two possums, any number of creepy crawlies, and some very feisty kookaburras. In 2013, he was signed to Assent Publishing for a six-book deal. Beyond the Gloaming, the first Sebastian and the Hibernauts adventure, will be published by Assent imprint, Phantasm Books in 2014.
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