Ouroboros – final novel in the Dragon Witch Trilogy

Influenced by the work of authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi and N K Jemisin, Ouroboros is the third of a trilogy of epic sci-fi fantasy novels set on a world named Eco. The story centres on dragon-witch Caia Esvane and her troublesome daughter Leah. Aeons after inter-planetary war, an undersea city containing the remnants of an industrialised, authoritarian society emerges into a new Eden. There, magic is real and peoples live as part of nature. Subsequent events send ripples back in time and across the galaxy, leaving nothing unchanged.

Caia and Leah must find a way to go back in time to prevent catastrophe, as the original invaders return from across the galaxy. Hence Ouroboros.

The second Scitha invasion approaches

It is now fourteen years in the future and the second Scitha invasion finally approaches. This time, there seems to be no hope of survival for the nature-loving society of the Rift. Leah Esvane, now aged 21, is more gifted even than Caia. Feisty and passionate, she is also very like her mother – with whom she agrees on nothing. She is having a relationship with centurion Ross Zane, mostly as a secret protest against her mother’s prejudice. Youngest daughter Asha is now the troubled teenager. Asha is also a fire-witch and jealous of her older sister.

In desperation, Caia asks Leah to mind-join with the Scitha fleet and search for a Navigator to help disable the primary weapon systems, and buy some time. Leah will be there in thought only, but her dragon Whiteflame must destroy the Emperor Stone (primary weapon system). Leah agrees, but they both know that if Whiteflame dies, then Leah too will travel to the Outer Darkness and not return.

The mission is a success, but Leah’s presence is detected by the Scitha Prime and Whiteflame is fatally injured. Leah returns to her body but cannot be awakened. Caia has to go in search of her daughter accompanied by Ross. They follow Whiteflame’s trail to the world that lies beyond the Dragonseal, where she lingers between life and death. Whiteflame is on the point of death when Ross persuades Leah to return to the living, but the death of her soul-mate leaves its mark.

The return of Hedra Darke

Hedra Darke returns from the Outlands to City 5, and finds it much changed. She discovers that her daughter Electra still lives but has surrendered her sight and adopted the way of the feeler. The Feeler King has been sold into slavery. Hedra also discovers she is a grandmother. She tries to persuade her daughter to re-arm City 5 and to restore the AI. Electra reluctantly agrees to allow Hedra back into her life, but demands that she first travels to Centuria to rescue Den Zobe, the father of her son Jacob.

Hedra makes the long journey across the Outlands to the centurion fortress as a powerful ice-storm arrives. There are many land-ships sheltering inside as the flag-ship of Centurion Commander Hol Xan arrives with a fresh consignment of slaves. Amongst them is Timor Rohan, the self-styled Feeler King. Hedra locates Hol Xan as he is about to rape and strangle a young slave from the rift. She leaves him blinded and dying. Hedra also rescues a female gladiator, Nivalus, who has been repeatedly tortured by Hol Xan.

She learns that Hol Xan possesses Essence, and has been keeping her alive. The Feeler King is appointed commander and forms a pact with Hedra before she returns by land-ship with Den Zobe, Nivalus and the Rift family that helped her. On the way back, Hedra witnesses the falling debris and remains of the Emperor Stone.

Electra Darke – daughter of Hedra sees the light

Once reunited, Den Zobe takes Electra to the Birthing Chamber, a secret location deep in the city known only to feelers. The journey there is arduous and part of the test. Once there, Electra is finally visited by the all-seeing eye, and witnesses the Great Tree. She is given the ability to see with her senses, and her change is complete. Hedra meanwhile spends time with Jacob, who mind-joins and shows her his own experience when he learned to see. He tells Hedra that she is the one who is blind.

The Scitha reach Eco

The first Scitha scouts are already arriving, and Caia must find a way to save Eco, but this time, magic will not be enough. Others are intent on saving themselves, and the Feeler King uses land-ships to search for a second Emperor Stone rumoured to be hidden in the Outlands. He believes he can negotiate with the invaders and has once more changed sides, uniting with centurions.

Caia knows of the location of the ancient Electro-Magnetic Pulse weapon that defeated the first invasion and left Scitha ships scattered across the Outlands. It is deep in the forest below the remains of the airbase – a secret shared by her teacher and mentor, Aris Dol. And if it was made from the same technology as City 5, then maybe it might still work, but the knowledge of how to activate it has been long forgotten. She decides the only way is for someone to return to the time of the original invasion, but even she does not have the power to do such a thing. Only Leah can make the journey.

Leah mind-joins across time

As the conflict begins, Leah seeks a host 17,000 years in the past and mind-joins with fighter pilot Leanne Tai, effectively becoming her when Leanne should have died in a crash. Leah’s objective is to find the secret of the pulse weapon. Awakening within her host, Leah must come to terms with man-hungry Leanne Tai. And with the added complication of falling in love with John Mack.

Leah knows that her own body, asleep 17,000 years in the future, can only exist for a matter of weeks. Even though she is existing through Leanne, Leah can feel what’s happening to herself. She awakens in the same location, different time. The rotation of the planet and its location in space are the same. However, the Rift does not yet exist and there are no forests or wildlife, only city and food factories. The sprawling Birdsong air base sits where ruined buildings exist in the future. This is a world in torment – polluted, over-crowded and over-heating. The military base was not constructed to repel an alien invasion, its purpose is to defend resources.

The Birdsong Airbase

Leanne’s brother Verin Fon also works on the airbase, built where the Rift will one day exist. He is part of a team designing the survival space – giant underground hangars far below the surface. Leah’s future knowledge inspires him to build cities below the sea.

Society is plagued by in-fighting.  Polarisation has led to opposing groups of believers – those who blame everything on the sun (‘solarists’). Others who think that the clock has to be turned back and the current problems are a punishment (‘Edenists’). This polarisation also exists on the base, causing friction in the squadron.

The planet that will one day be called Eco is in trouble. A wall separates the Badlands from the remaining habitable areas controlled by the Consortium, and mass starvation is rife. Resource wars wage over the few areas that can still grow crops. All the insects are dead and many plants will soon follow. The pilots of Birdsong fly their aircraft along the great wall, attacking any incursions.

Leah finds the weapon

Leah shoots down a Scitha scout and is given a new security rating. She discovers that the forces of the Consortium have captured a sanctum – the ring-shaped ship flown by the People of White. There is only one occupant, a pale giant named Anestor. At her behest, he gives Verin the secret of ‘essence’, the Scitha biotechnology used to imbue all matter with living properties. Shortly after, Anestor escapes from the base. However, Verin is able to use essence to build a new artificial intelligence and design the survival cities, including City 5.  Additionally, Scitha technology is used to design and build a new EMP. It will be used to disable the Scitha fleet and all technology on the surface, but leaving the undersea cities untouched. The EMP will decimate any remaining societies.

As Leah gets to know John and his family, and assumes the life of Leanne Tai, her choices becomes impossible. She is invited to John’s house to meet his family, including his ex-wife, arriving inappropriately dressed. Also present are the families that will one day become the dynasties of City 5 – the Gores, the Banes and the Darkes.

City 5 prepares

Leah meets an aggressive and precious teenager called Heather, who will one day change her name to Hedra. Hedra’s father Robert is the airbase psychiatrist, who already suspects Leanne has changed but still wants to seduce her. Leah befriends John Mack’s son, Harry, who makes her use cocaine, and shares his fears for the future of the world. John’s daughter Vanessa is also there, wearing angel wings that were a birthday present from Leanne. He takes her back to the base and she learns more about him and what happened. She allows him into her apartment where they make love.

Back in the present…

Caia’s youngest daughter Asha has been guarding the unconscious Leah in a smoke-hut deep in the forest, assisted by her aunt Airdance. They are nearly discovered by slavers, until Asha uses wood-wasps and giant mantis to decimate them. Soon after, Nivalus arrives, explaining that she has to take Asha into the Outlands to find Anestor.

They eventually reach a massive ravine containing a cave system and a buried sanctum where Anestor is hiding the fabled Emperor Stone. There, Asha is reunited with Lucas and discovers his terrible injuries, sustained by being keel-hauled below Hol Xan’s land-ship. A Scitha ship crashes into the ravine but the crew inside are already dead, killed by a female Navigator called Dravi. She has been searching for Anestor for many years.

Anestor refuses to leave the ravine with Lucas, until Asha uses the power of the Stone. She destroys the land-ships and they capture the Feeler King with the help of Caia’s magic (sandstorm). Caia tells them to return to the city with all haste and with Dravi’s help, Anestor agrees.

Hiding the Emperor Stone from the Scitha

Once they have departed, Caia communicates with Darius, telling him he must bury the Emperor Stone. Under the cover of the sand-storm, he and fellow warriors take a land-ship and travel to the Great Ravine. Ross goes with him, keen to prove himself. They position the land-ship on the edge of the ravine. They use a laser-cannon to bring down a Scitha transporter, knowing it will crash into their ship. Both fall into the ravine but Darius is thrown clear. The resultant explosions collapse the ravine and Darius is injured but survives.

The search for the Electro-Magnetic Pulse weapon

Hath and Laura set out for the remains of the airbase to find the EMP. With them are ex-royals Cron and Elgin Bane, and Cheyne Dross, once the Chief Drone. The journey is perilous. Both Elgin and Cheyne fall victim to predators, but the survivors reach the underground complex. There, Cron remembers. They discover what happened the previous time the pulse was fired, and the fate of the hundreds trapped inside the complex. Cron shows them the EMP and stays behind to prepare it for firing. He tells them it must be detonated from the old control room in the city.

Leah and John Mack fight the first invasion

Harry Mack goes missing, and Leah is able to locate him using her powers. He is in an abandoned building used by drug addicts. Harry is already dead, but Leah gives him back life. He is in a coma and will never awaken. After the funeral, Robert reveals his suspicions of Leah and wants to have her hospitalised for experimentation. Leah has no choice but to kill him. Days after, the invasion commences and the survival cities begin to submerge. Leah and John fight alongside other Consortium squadrons to buy time, until Leah’s fighter is shot down. She is unable to eject her survival pod and lands near the airbase, where she waits to die.

Final showdown

Caia, Asha, Lucas, the unconscious Leah and Anestor are taken to the city by dragons, evading the Scitha despite injury. They meet Hedra Darke who decides to help them, but is fatally injured by Hol Xan before she kills him. They make their way to an ancient control room that was once used during the submergence, and where the EMP was activated from. Finally, as the Scitha Prime’s giant ship bears down on the city, Leah awakens.

She tells Caia that the key to fire the EMP is Hedra. They use her thumb to fire the weapon, as the combined forces of many dragons attack the mother ship, forcing it away from the Rift. Finally, the pulse weapon takes effect and the ships begin to fall.  The Prime’s ship crashes through the Darth mountains and slides down into the Outlands. It is already taking new form as a giant disk. The Scitha Prime is still intent on recovering the Emperor Stone but before she can do so, must face the combined powers of the three witches and the mighty dragon Firestorm.

The Scitha Prime fails

Her forces are wiped out as the mystical giant called the Great Tree returns, harnessing the powers of nature. At the end, the Scitha Prime tries one more time to kill Caia Instead, A sand worm drags her down below the desert surface to die. Eco has taken revenge.

A year after the war, Caia makes her way to the crashed mother ship. She walks alone with her memories, because Lucas is dead. He refused to take essence, saying it would change him. Caia is a grandmother now. Leah was with child when she awoke from her long sleep, and has called the child John in memory of the father. Leah is waiting with her baby when Caia arrives. Darius is also there, and Laura and Hath.

Anestor and Dravi, Nivalus and the surviving dragon-riders come to greet her. Anestor knees down and digs into the sand, retrieving a Magda Stone wrapped in lead – the very same he had buried 17,000 years ago.

Goodbyes and sad endings

He and Dravi say goodbye, and Anestor touches the head of Leah’s baby. The watchers retreat as he and Dravi enter the ship, and soon after, it takes off and flies into the sky. The sky tunnel closes, and Eco is safe.

Click here to read the first chapter of Ouroboros.