QSFer Gwenhyver has a new FF sci-fantasy book out: Jasyn and the Astronauts: Under The Ice Skies.
A sapphic swords & sorcery space adventure!
On a planet infected by ice, the power to create more is the last thing anyone needs…
JASYN is an explorer with a talent for reaching for the stars and upending weather systems with her emotions. She spends her days dreaming of adventure, hiding her power of ice, and definitely not thinking about what it’d feel like to be the snow on her best friend’s cheek.
ATALANTA is an archer and a recluse with a skill for making Jasyn’s heart glow as bright as a filament-fruit. They’ve lived in each other’s orbit most of their lives, but she’s just as magical and mysterious to Jasyn as all the galaxies under the Seven Suns.
When their world is forcibly upturned, a journey of discovery begins. Venturing across their ice and blight-infested home-world, they discover the solution to their out of balance world lies in the skies. Of course, with a tyrant Ice King intent on closed sky-borders and Jasyn’s demise, they have to survive long enough to get there, first.
Under The Ice Skies is the first leg of the journey in the Jasyn and The Astronauts series — a sapphic, swords & sorcery in space reimagining of Jason and the Golden Fleece — an adventure fuelled by wonder and good intentions, while navigating weather fronts formed of feelings along the way.
Climb aboard and begin the adventure today!
Excerpt from chapter 3, when Jasyn and Atalanta first meet as children. Context – Jasyn lives in the mountains, her parents are ill and she’s on a mission to find medicine (fever root). She has just slipped from climbing a cliff face:
THE ARROW WIELDER
Vision returns in tandem with a brain-hammering headache. Despite the pointy end of an arrow aiming at her, Jasyn’s attention fixes on the galaxy of colours bursting within the piercing eyes beyond.
Long eyelashes blink away the sleet.
Perhaps it’s because she has seen no person other than her parents, or that the figure is pointing a weapon at her, and she is wondering whether this is one of the ‘formidable carnivores’ her parents have warned about, but Jasyn cannot stop staring.
The figure’s face is difficult to read. Not cold, but calculating, as if she were the one staring down the arrow. Fewer layers, but still designed to keep the windchill out, her clothes are unlike Jasyn’s; bolder, brighter, patch-worked together in deep greens and bright blues.
The arrow-wielder’s hood toggles close to her scarf-wrapped neck. An orange glow from within the hood reminds Jasyn of fire, of heat. She feels compelled to warm her hands against the beacon of light, but refrains. Tufts of fringe protrude from under the stranger’s hood, her locks as dark and fascinating as the night sky. In pleasing contrast to their snow-covered surroundings, and to Jasyn’s own appearance, the stranger’s skin is darker in hue. Her cheeks are plump with youth, which makes Jasyn consider they might be about the same age.
The stranger angles her head, perhaps for an audible clue of any potential threats hidden in the mist, but her gaze never leaves Jasyn’s. Her hunched posture is that of someone used to hiding. When she steps forward, offering a hand, Jasyn doesn’t flinch.
Even the weather offers a moment of mist-clearing calm.
When Jasyn stands with assistance, the stranger’s hand warms hers, as if she were made to exist in inclement surroundings. Jasyn is shorter by a couple of inches, enough to be looking up into wary eyes.
With slow movements, Jasyn checks herself for injuries. Her head throbs and her back hurts but, judging from her ability to stand and move her limbs, she is in one piece.
Only, the Shard is gone from her pocket.
Before Jasyn can hunt the ground for it, the arrow-wielder is already darting into the blizzard, the cool glow of the Shard clutched in her hand.
“Hey!” is all Jasyn can uselessly think to say as she pursues the nimble figure across the boulders.
Not only does she need to find the fever root, fast, she knows full well that without the Shard her family will struggle to last in the mountains. Nature’s cruel irony: creating life-sustaining plants in similar design to poisonous ones. Without the Shard, foraging would be a near impossible task.
Which is why her leaden arms and legs force themselves to regain blood flow and conquer each obstacle in her path.
The frost-filled air cool against her cheeks, Jasyn runs faster and her heart pumps harder, warming her from within. If it weren’t for her parents’ lives hanging in the balance, she might find this challenge fun. It’s a thrill to put her skills to the test.
The arrow-wielder glides across the terrain. The ice in the air swirls around them, darting left and right, as if it, too, were joining in the chase. When Jasyn catches up, mostly because the arrow-wielder has stopped, she senses no threat, despite the quiver packed with arrows. This is too much like a game.
There isn’t time for games, she reminds herself with a growl of frustration as she snatches back the Shard. The arrow-wielder doesn’t retaliate. She watches, intrigued, as if waiting for Jasyn to understand something. Jasyn isn’t sure what it is about those galactic eyes, about her demeanour, but the combination invites her to simmer down.
The blizzard dissipates in an upward swirl, like rising smoke, unveiling the rock-sheltered peninsula in which they stand. And the tufts of grey-stemmed navy flowers.
As Jasyn recognises that the arrow-wielder’s intention is to help, not hinder, sunshine bursts through clouds, spotlighting them, side by side, in the sparse meadow of the much-needed cure.
By the time Jasyn has plucked enough fever root to make the medicine, the arrow-wielder has disappeared. And though Jasyn would love to discover where she’s run to, or where she came from, she has some parent-saving to be getting on with.
On her return journey down the cliff faces, she reminds herself that it would be foolish to have achieved the prize, only to fall to her death before completing her mission. A too-fast descent could result in an unwelcome ending. But so, too, could going too slow.
Striking a safe-as-she-can-manage-in-the-circumstance middle ground, she completes her descent and races back to her home cave. Her parents lie unconscious, but still shift the air with rasping breaths, clinging to life by fraying threads.
If only presenting the fever root to them like a triumphant trophy was enough for this battle to be won.
In following the Shard’s instructions on how to prepare the flower, Jasyn discovers what her parents have always known. Patience is not her strong point.
Still, she follows each step with care, crushing the leaves and petals, gathering the juices and mixing them with heated snow. She brings the bowl to her mother’s lips, then her father’s.
As a further stretch to her patience, all she can do then is wait.
Several days pass…
Once it is clear to Jasyn that her parents are not going to fall asleep and never wake again, once they are both on the cusp of their usual selves, she emerges from their cave to stretch her legs, to appreciate fresh air and open skies, and to go in search of the arrow-wielder.
Even though the evidence of their journey across the peaks has been lost to snowfall, Jasyn retraces from memory and her inner compass the path they took to find the fever root. When she happens across footprints, she’s in equal measure surprised, relieved and thrilled. Her feet pick up pace of their own accord. And, in only a matter of moments, she is leaping across boulders and dodging jagged rocks, her smile widening with each stride.
After a while, her inner compass twists. Her smile cracks as she skids to a snow-puffing stop.
Gwenhyver writes stories with fantastical elements and queer characters. Or is that fantastical characters and queer elements…? She lives in a village on Dartmoor, England, with her wonderful wife. When she’s not happily hermit-ing in her writing den, she’s likely roaming the moors or exploring cycle trails wearing too much hi-vis. Jasyn and the Astronauts is her debut novel series.