Beyond the Rim of Light

Beyond the Rim of Light

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by Alex Stone

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Prologue - The Lamp

“Our lamp is spent, it’s out!”

-Antony and Cleopatra, IV 15

Clambering out of the shallow depression in the cave under Orm’s Monolith, Marissa Latham crept toward the flickering light. Pausing, she stared, unable to hope, to believe. On a rock ledge, a lamp wavered and popped. Carved, with layer upon

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Prologue - The Lamp

“Our lamp is spent, it’s out!”

-Antony and Cleopatra, IV 15

Clambering out of the shallow depression in the cave under Orm’s Monolith, Marissa Latham crept toward the flickering light. Pausing, she stared, unable to hope, to believe. On a rock ledge, a lamp wavered and popped. Carved, with layer upon layer of filigree, the lamp had two chambers, one encasing the other. At the heart of this intricate sculpture, a small flame danced on a wick that floated in a pool of shiny liquid.

She couldn’t identify the material of the lamp. It resembled stone, largely green with veins of gray. As she reached out to touch it, the light sputtered and died in a sudden cold breeze.

Lunging forward in the darkness, she grabbed for the ledge. Her fingers inched along it until her right hand touched the smooth, still warm lamp. A lamp, more than a mural, an artifact to take back with her, offered proof positive of rheo intelligence.

Something grabbed her wrist. She gasped and struggled.

Someone or something tore the lamp from her hand.

Jerking backward, she came free and fell to the cold stone floor. From the blackness, a loud shriek rent the air and echoed from the walls. Shrill trumpeting almost deafened her.

Her heart pounding, Marissa scrambled backward. Away, away from whatever inhabited the cave. Then she stopped. The lamp. She needed the lamp.

“Wait,” she cried to the faceless, nameless presence.

Echoes and then something like a whispered hiss answered her. The thing in the darkness threatened. Her muscles refused to move. Time stopped.

Another stealthy sound.

Fear foremost, she turned and ran. Her pulse raced and drove her toward the safety of the glowing lumina in the previous chamber.

With one quick grab, she scooped up the light along with her pack. Marissa sprinted toward the daylight certain a creature writhed through the cave after her. At the last moment, she remembered to stoop to avoid the low ceiling of the corridor entrance.

On her knees, she crawled as fast as she could toward the growing sunlight. Outside, she raced along the streambed. A hasty glance back revealed nothing followed her. She slowed, but off to her right, across the plain, a dark herd of rheos massed. At least a dozen of them galloped toward the Monolith at breakneck speed.

The team!

Desperate and breathing hard, Marissa raced back to where she had left her crew. She scrambled up the talus pile between the stream and the armored vehicle, dislodging scree and stones. As she crested the other side, she saw more rheos in the south, approaching even faster than the first group. Tesde, N’Bert, and Tad worked on the Monolith face, unaware of the threat.

Sliding down the talus, Marissa ran toward the three. “RHEOS!” She pointed across the fields.

About fifteen hundred meters from the scouter, the galloping rheos bore down on them. Tesde and Tad stared at her a moment before they too saw the approaching herd. When they did, they just stared. Marissa raced toward them. She tried to shout, but she had too little breath for it.

At last, she reached them. She shoved them toward the armored transport. “Inside! Now!”

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Melange Books, LLC
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Beyond the Rim of Light 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
MelanieO More than 1 year ago
Beyond the Rim of Light grabbed me from the first scene and kept me interested. At first I kept reading not so much to find out what happened to Marissa, but what would become of her Rheos. Stone's writing is artful, particularly her descriptions of the worlds of the novel, from the lovely Arden, to the hedonistic Satina IV. One particular minor character description stood out for me, he was a "plump period beneath an exclamation point of unassailable authority." Loved it. The plot and the worlds of this novel held me more strongly than the characters. Marissa starts as a head-strong xenobiologist on a quest to save a lovely world and a race of sentient beings who she alone fights for. She struggles against friends, lovers, and family, risking all relationships and the life she knows for these beings and this world, only to find she is not struggling alone. She also discovers that this race is even more amazing than she thought, living together without conflict on a world with a mysterious source of energy. Though I was not sure how Arden's mysterious energy is connected to the main character, Marissa's, newly triggered ability to travel throughout the worlds of the novel, it is a satisfying journey. Marissa is a well-developed character, irksome at times to me for her stubbornness, but by design I believe. My connection to her is cemented when she is faced with what she sees as her lover, Tad's, betrayal in her mission to save the Rheos. After this I am on her side and with her to the end. My favorite character was a small man, Galen, from a planet whose goal is to seek the truth. He drops flowery gems of wisdom, like this one on a trip to a theater performance on Satina IV - "How very clever. You delude yourselves into acceptance by pretending the reality presented doesn't matter. What clever ways you find to the truth." He can often be found pirouetting as he shares his truths. Iimages of how he feels and what he thinks appear in his overly long beard, which he can manipulate and morph at will. He's quirky and fun, and a loyal friend to Marissa and her gang. The first part of the novel has Marissa up for trial for her treacherous attempts to stop the Usian Confederation from reforming Arden to be used as a trade planet for a race of foreigners, the Delphians. After I had journeyed with Marissa through many pages to find out what would happen to Marissa when she is tried by her Aunt Uma, Ennunciator of the Will, and head honcho of the Usian Confederation, Stone ratchets up the stakes by introducing the Anomaly, and throwing Marissa into its mouth. Her initial description of the anomaly is another gem, "The cascade of colors from the anomaly battered and enveloped Marissa. Each separate band, each individual wavelength, palpable, like a swell in the water, passed her, and in its passing moved her deeper into the anomaly." Arden's purple savannah, sage and cinnamon scented air, and star-filled night skies, Satina IVs pleasure-seeking culture, Delphia's secrets, Galen's quirks, the Rheos majesty and Marissa's determination to save what has become her home and her family made this novel one worth reading. And as it ends, maybe one whose characters will return for another journey.