The Lands Beyond by Frances Hakkennes

Then (Starfall)

I sat at the window, anxiously tapping my toe on the floorboards as I slit the fish open. I plucked out the bones and set them aside, painfully aware of the sun dipping behind the snow dusted mountains. My pulse quickened as the golden sky faded to a dull purple. He wasn’t back. Yet. I had to keep faith in his promise. Shadows settled on the grassy valley as the low rumbles of hidden monsters echoed across the stream. The growls had started half a moon ago, and they had returned every night. The rumbles grew louder as the ground shook underfoot, they usually didn’t come so close. Then I realised that it wasn’t the monsters making the noise when I saw a pinprick of lantern light in the distance. My blood ran cold. I saw my little brother in his distinctive green cloak in front of a murderous avalanche. The golden flame faltered with my heart.

Hearing my name, I leapt into action. The door clattered behind me as I dashed towards the faint light, I had to save Barnaby. But even as I ran through the swaying grass I knew it was too late, the lantern shattered. The rubble clawed at his cloak, thundering after him as he desperately scrambled away, reaching for his face, then he was gone, pulled under by the avalanche. I stared straight ahead, unable turned reluctantly back towards my house as shouts filled the air, I had to escape. I pulled on my pale blue cloak and reached for my satchel. I stuffed it with supplies, slung my water bottle over my shoulder and strapped my dagger to my thigh. Sheets of rock tumbled down the mountainside. I clicked once with my tongue and my cat appeared at my ankles as I sprinted out the door into the stream of fleeing citizens.

We piled into canoes as stone shards rained down on us and began to row down the twisting river. Boulders sent tremors through the shivering water as rocks pressed in from the banks. The little fishing village nestled in the crook of LillyStream Valley, my home, was gradually being crushed to splinters. The bridge and the bell. Then the market. Now the houses. What once was a peaceful valley was now a pile of timber and nails under a layer of stone. I gripped the dark wood of the paddle and matched the rhythm of the other rowers. Tears welled in my eyes. My village, my brother, gone. This was the worst avalanche in centuries, and we were lucky to escape…