It’s far too long since I featured Diane Solomon here on Linda’s Book Bag. Last time she was here I interviewed her about her book 88 Guys for Coffee. Before that Diane wrote a super guest post all about the rewards of creativity that you can read here. That post was to celebrate her first book in The Ravenstone children’s series, The Secret of Ninham Mountain, written with Mark Carey. Today Diane is sharing an extract from the second book in the series, The Twain.
The Twain is available for purchase here.
The Ravenstone: The Twain
Nadia and Aidan Shaw, 13-year-old twins from Cold Spring, New York found a magical black Celtic stone, the Ravenstone. It pulses with the light of shamanic power and is a vehicle for time travel! Armed with the power of the Ravenstone and their own special gifts, the twins plunged back to the fifth century, where they encountered Native Americans, ancient Celts, warring princes and a shape-shifting raven. Determined to retrieve a now-extinct healing plant, they had to depend on their courage, their faith in their friends, and luck… or was it destiny?
In the much anticipated sequel to The Secret of Ninham Mountain, Aidan and Nadia experience a terrifyingly real vision of a massive earthquake which threatens their mother’s life. The mission to save her grows in scope as they investigate, and their subsequent trips across time and space force them to face unimaginable dangers. They must rely on their growing skills and all the powerful magic of the Ravenstone in their urgent need to stop the disaster facing the earth. Will they succeed? And at what cost?
Although this sequel does stand alone, it provides a richer experience to have read the first book, entitled The Ravenstone: The Secret of Ninham Mountain.
An extract from The Ravenstone: The Twain
July 25, 2016
Heathrow Airport, London, England
“British Airways Flight BA830 to Dublin will soon be boarding at Gate 16. All passengers for Dublin please proceed to Gate 16.”
The tinny voice boomed from the broadcasting system of Heathrow Airport, near London in England. Nadia was standing behind her parents and sister in the line to check suitcases. She glanced behind her to see Aidan shoving his phone in his pocket and pulling his case closer to the counter.
“It is almost 3/4 of a mile to Gate 48! And we even have to take a tram to get there!” He had to call out over the noise of the passengers and announcements.
“How did you figure that out?”
“There’s an app for that…” he said with a grin.
She shook her head, fighting back a grin of her own. Her twin was proud of his reputation as a geek and kept up with all the latest in tech toys. He loved that he could find out just about anything with his phone. It was his “key to the universe.”
During their week in London, her brother had been an endless font of information. When they rode the London Eye, he described how this largest Ferris Wheel in the world had come to be built on London’s Docks on the River Thames. He explained how “Shandy” came about. Served in English pubs, it consisted of half beer and half ginger ale and was served to kids over here. Yuk, she thought. She preferred good old Coke.
At the Tower of London he read out loud horrific descriptions of the torture that had occurred in medieval dungeons. Through Aidan she learned the history of the amazing Royal Crown Jewels. And with what she called “ghoulish glee” he described the cutting off of Queen Anne Boleyn’s head. Although King Henry the 8th of England had been dead for close to 500 years, Nadia shivered. The whole thing was beyond creepy.
“OK guys, we’re next. Not long now. Be ready with your bags.” Their mom’s voice cut into her thoughts. Nadia pulled her wheelie-bag a little closer and plopped down on it. At least she could sit for a minute while the people in front of them checked their bags.
Her mom said, “I can’t believe I am finally going to see the Book of Kells. It’s not far from where your dad will be speaking. We can go before his lecture, this afternoon, while he is meeting with the people from the college.”
Nadia sighed. “More lines to stand in,” she muttered.
Heather chuckled. “Don’t be grumpy, Nadia, it’ll be fun. It is unique, a masterpiece. There is only one in the whole world and it will be incredibly cool.” She paused and glanced at their mom. “And Mom has wanted to see it forever…” Gen nodded and smiled at her daughter.
“Since I was in college…” Gen said. She put her arm around Nadia and gave her a quick hug. “I know – being a tourist is exhausting. But, who knows, maybe you two will gain an appreciation for ancient Irish artifacts.”
As her mother turned back toward the counter, Nadia shot Aidan a conspiratorial glance. If only her mom knew.
It was less than two weeks since the twins had returned home from 459 A.D. They had realized immediately upon their return that their actions had changed the course of their lives. In fact, they had changed history. But, since they had lived through both histories they retained memories of both. For a while they confused their memories of their “First Life,” as they decided to call it, with memories of this new, altered life. They had just begun to wrap their heads around this new reality when the whole family took off on a trip to London, and now Dublin. In a way the trip was helping them. Being in London was new for everyone so it wasn’t as obvious when Nadia and Aidan misspoke.
Nadia wondered if the fear and shock that followed their near-fatal encounter with Kane would ever leave her. She had terrifying nightmares when they returned to the current time, one of which suggested a different ending to the story. She was falling, falling, torn from Aidan, yet still able to see Kane’s face, as she hurtled into the abyss. One night she cried out so loudly her mom rushed into the room to comfort her. Gen had asked who Kane was. Nadia just clung to her mother and sobbed.
However, with every passing day the memories of their First Life faded and they began to feel more and more that the only life they had ever known was the one they returned to, the one their actions had changed forever.
Nadia was determined their First Life memories should not fade completely away and she took it upon herself to write a journal, with every detail she could recall of their incredible adventure. She and Aidan had hidden this journal in the drawer under the old mirror, with the Ravenstone, for safekeeping. She called it “The Ravenstone: The Secret of Ninham Mountain.”
So much had changed. Their dad was now a rock star in the science community. After toiling for years to find a cure for the rare disease that had taken his mother, Dr. Michael Shaw came into possession of an equally rare plant. The Black Fern had yielded many medicinal compounds and properties. Nadia and Aidan’s dad was now the chairman and CEO of the Black Fern Foundation. He was happy, fulfilled, and in demand.
Watching him now, laughing with her mom about something, Nadia grinned. She realized he was back to the dad she remembered when she was little: fun, joyful, and full of life. The fact that the twins themselves were responsible for the mysterious plant’s appearance on their father’s desk absolutely thrilled Nadia. But of course, they could never tell him.
The trip to London was a blast. Nadia loved it all; they saw cathedrals and museums and the gorgeous Parliament Buildings. Even Mom and Heather got a kick out of visiting Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station where Harry Potter was supposed to catch the Hogwarts Express. They trekked along narrow cobblestone streets, wandered along the famous outdoor markets of Portobello Road, ducked into old world shops and pubs and tried to understand what the people were saying. Same language, ha, she thought. English sounded very odd over here.
But now they had been walking and standing all morning and Nadia’s feet hurt. She wanted to get on the plane and veg out for the flight. All morning she had felt out of sorts, a kind of foreboding and darkness overshadowing her every thought. At least I get to sit here and rest for a minute.
“Nadia, honey, can you reach into my bag and find my aspirin, please?” Her mom spoke from just in front of her, and Nadia stood up and popped open the flap on her mom’s handbag, hanging on her shoulder. She rummaged around.
“Wow, Mom, you have a lot of stuff in here!”
“Don’t you start, too. Your father said he doesn’t know why I pack a suitcase when everything I own is already in my purse. He never lets me forget the day he found duct tape and Gummy Bears in my bag.” Gen chuckled. “One never knows what one will need,” she added in her terrible attempt at a Queen of England accent. “Oh, and while you’re in there, pull out that peach-colored envelope. That’s the invitation I told you about… for my class reunion in Dallas. A woman I went to school with, now an artist, made the card. Isn’t it beautiful?”
Nadia handed her mother the little bottle of aspirin, then pulled out the envelope. She found the card inside, a beautiful hand-painted flower in lilac and purple and pink. “Wow, really cool, Mom. That’s gorgeous.” The ornate calligraphy spelled out an invitation to the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Dallas, the following weekend.
She didn’t hear her mom’s reply, for the dark cloud that was stalking her all morning closed in around her. Suddenly she felt incredibly dizzy and practically fell back down on her case.
She could hear Aidan mutter from beside her, “Whoa…”
She glanced over at him and the dizziness got even worse. “Aidan, do you feel that?”
Everything around her began to dissolve. The other passengers, the kiosks, and even the airport walls faded out of focus. Turning forward, hoping to regain her balance, Nadia watched as the baggage counter and then her parents and sister Heather began to slip away, morph, then finally disappear.
In their place there now stood huge buildings, like a busy section of some bustling city. Directly in front of her stood what appeared to be a high-end luxury hotel, with a carved granite facade and towering marble pillars. There were flags flying over the glistening curved glass entrance which was graced with an ornate fountain in front of the doors. Even the sidewalk was made of polished granite. The enormous center tower was faced almost entirely with reflective glass and seemed to touch the clouds. A skyscraper.
And even more bizarre, what began as a vision was now quite real. Nadia and Aidan were standing on the sidewalk in the blazing sun facing the hotel entrance. Behind her she could hear the roar of city traffic and could feel the wilting heat from the sun above and the pavement below.
All this happened in just a few moments. She felt Aidan grab her hand and all of these new sensations surged and intensified.
We are clearly not in London anymore, Nadia thought. But where?
A man with a briefcase walked past Nadia so fast and close she feared he would knock her down. Yet even though he was looking straight at her, it didn’t appear as if he saw her at all. What on earth is going on, is this a vision?
“What’s happening, Aidan? Are we in interstitial time again?” Nadia’s heart was pumping.
“I can’t tell… It feels so real, but I don’t think anyone can see us. I have no idea where we are though, do you? Do you recognize anything?”
She shook her head, hard. She looked around and spotted a street sign on the corner. McKinney Avenue, it read. Where was that? The dizziness was gone now, but she was so alert her skin tingled. What was happening to them?
Before she could say anything further to her brother, a deafening crack rent the air and the earth seemed to shift under her feet. Glancing down, she saw cracks forming in the pavement, but then the noise in front of her yanked her attention back. The enormous hotel tower was swaying and vibrating, and as the building undulated, cracks opened up in the front wall.
For just a moment, she fought another bout of terrible dizziness, then Nadia watched in horror as the huge glass doors shattered as if in an explosion. The enormous sign over the entrance way now read “The Ritz Car” instead of “The Ritz Carlton,” as it broke away from the building and a chunk of the sign fell with a crash to the pavement below. The two uniformed bellhops ran for cover, then disappeared in a cloud of dust and rubble.
But that was just the beginning, now the entire building began to crumble.
She looked over at Aidan who was shouting at her and shaking her arm. She couldn’t hear a word he was saying over the noise of the splitting concrete, glass, and granite.
“Oh my God, Aidan, what’s going on?” she screamed.
Then she stared back at the hotel, which was tumbling down in slow motion right in front of them.
Aidan leaned over to her ear and hollered, “We’ve got to get out of here, it’s an earthquake!”
And they were right in the middle of it.
But where should they go, where could they go? Chaos was all around them. They stood frozen and watched in stunned horror as the beautiful skyscraper in front of them dissolved into enormous piles of stone and glass. In the cacophony, the rubble fell all around them, but nothing touched them. Dust blew up in waves and clouds, blocking their view. Within seconds they couldn’t even see each other. Before she realized what she was doing, Nadia tore her hand from Aidan’s grasp to cover her mouth.
Standing lost and alone in the clouds of dust, Nadia began to sob in terror. Then the noise slowly began to fade, and suddenly, she could begin to make out her mom and dad just ahead of her in the check-in line.
She groped for Aidan’s hand and cried out in relief. As the sights and sounds of Heathrow Airport slowly returned, she reached up to wipe the tears from her cheek. She expected to find stone dust and grime all over her face but it was smooth and dry. Even the tears had been part of the vision. Or whatever it was. She couldn’t stop shaking. She was still clutching tight the invitation from her mom’s handbag.
Aidan’s arm came around her shoulders and he gave her a squeeze. He was breathing hard and was clearly as shocked as she was. But there was no dust or grime on his face, either. They had just been standing in the middle of an earthquake – a big one – but they were not hurt or even touched by the debris.
“Oh, man.” Aidan shook his head.
Nadia said, “Well, was that a dream? You know, one of those waking kind of things?”
“Oh, you mean a lucid dream?” He shook his head. “I don’t think so, unless it was someone else’s dream and we were in it by mistake. That felt way too real.”
“And, hey, just like at American Stonehenge, it seems like no time passed, again. Look, we are no closer to checking in our bags. Time stopped again, Aidan.”
He nodded. “You’re right. But what was that all about?”
“Oh, no!” She was staring down in horror at the invitation in her hand. “Aidan, look.” She held it up for him to see.
Aidan’s face paled.
Nadia felt as though she’d been punched in the gut. She could hardly breathe. That is where Mom is going. OK, you have to pull yourself together and stop shaking. She was grateful time had frozen during their ordeal so she had a moment to collect herself. Her breathing had not yet returned to normal when Gen turned to them.
“Good grief, sweetie, are you all right?” Gen reached out to place the back of her hand on her daughter’s forehead. “Are you sick? You’re as white as a sheet!”
“So, Aidan, what are we going to do?”
After the brief flight from London to Dublin, they had checked into adjoining rooms in a small hotel in the heart of the city, near Trinity College. Dad was going to be a guest-speaker at an international workshop later that afternoon. They had not found a moment during the flight, or the cab ride to the hotel, where they could talk without being overheard. But Nadia’s mind had been going a mile a minute about the earthquake they had just experienced and she knew Aidan was thinking of little else as well.
Nadia covered her confusion and shock as best she could, after the horrible vision, but her mom kept asking her what was wrong. Oh, how she longed to tell her, to warn her! But what could she say that didn’t involve telling her mother about the Ravenstone? Using the stone might be the only way to save her. Or she and Aidan had to somehow convince her not to go to Dallas. They just had to.
Aidan had come to the room Nadia was sharing with Heather, to grab a private moment to talk. When their older sister headed for the bathroom and turned on the shower, they found their opportunity.
“OK, that gives us plenty of time,” said Aidan, nodding toward the bathroom. “Every time Heather takes a shower the water table drops.” He pulled his iPad out of his backpack and began signing into the hotel’s Wi-fi.
Nadia said, “I can’t believe we were in the middle of an actual earthquake –happening right around us! And oh my God, Mom is going to be there! In that very hotel!” She repeated, “Aidan, what are we going to do?”
“Hang on, hang on, Nadia, we don’t know it is going to happen when Mom is there–”
“Seriously, Aidan? You think this is a coincidence? Give me a break. Why else would we see it? And why would the vision start the instant I touched that invitation?”
“OK, OK, you’re right. Good point.” Aidan chewed on the inside of his cheek. “But let’s try to be calm about it. We aren’t going to help by throwing a fit.”
Nadia knew her twin was as upset as she was, but she also knew he had a different way of dealing with stress than she did. Aidan slowed down and got all analytical. She took a deep breath and focused on being calm.
Aidan said, “What I don’t get… is how is this even happening? We don’t have the Ravenstone and we’re thousands of miles from all of the places of power where we’ve had visions before. You know, the mirror, the chamber–”
Aidan carried on, oblivious of Nadia and what she was trying to tell him.
“If only we had the Ravenstone.” He groaned. “We could go back and do something to stop this.”
“Aidan, hang on.”
Nadia hauled her suitcase up onto the bed, zipped it open and hunted around through clothes and shoes.
Aidan muttered on, not paying attention to her. “We could stop Mom from going… or do something!”
Nadia turned to face her brother. “Earth to Aidan!”
He looked at her and his eyes focused on the object in her hands. He blinked and she saw the lights come on in his brain. Nadia was holding the Ravenstone. “How –how did that get here?”
“I brought it, boy genius.”
“But we talked about that! We agreed it wasn’t safe!”
Nadia grimaced and searched around for a reply.
“How on earth did you get it through airport security? Where was it? Was it in your backpack? It must have shown up… it must have looked like a weapon!”
I’m not going to be put on the defensive, now, she thought. I am glad I brought it. There was power, safety, somehow, having it with us. “Well… it wasn’t in my backpack. It was in my suitcase. I rolled it up in pajamas and tucked it between my shoes.”
Aidan stood up so fast his iPad fell to the floor. “Geez, Nadia, what if the airline lost our stuff? What if they sent it to Singapore or something?”
“Now you need to calm down. Mom and Dad are going to hear you.” Nadia motioned to the door joining their rooms.
Aidan glanced at the door as well. “OK, OK.”
Nadia continued, “I know we decided to leave it at home in the mirror. But, at the last minute, I just couldn’t leave it behind. I just couldn’t! I don’t know why. I just had to bring it.”
He stared at her in silent disbelief.
“It gives us options, Aidan. Come on, just a minute ago you said you wished we had it. Well, here it is.” She watched her brother, as the anger slowly drained from his face.
Pressing her advantage, Nadia said, “You know we would never have even seen that vision if we didn’t have the Ravenstone with us!”
Aidan nodded slowly. “OK, you’re right.”
Nadia took a deep breath. “So, how do we stop Mom from being in an earthquake?”
“I don’t know,” her brother replied. “But, don’t worry, we just have to think about this…”
“Well, we can’t just grab the Ravenstone and head off somewhere, we don’t even know where to go, where to start.” Nadia was pacing back and forth in the tiny hotel room.
“Right,” he replied. “But we have to stay calm.”
His sister nodded. She sighed, then flopped down on the other bed, right across from Aidan. “I feel so alone over here. We don’t have Patrick in the mirror… I feel like there is no way we can figure this out.”
Aidan scratched his chin and scowled. “There is a way, there has to be. Look at everything we figured out before. Just don’t panic, Nadia, we have time – Mom isn’t going until next weekend. So we have a few days. Besides, with time travel, maybe that doesn’t matter anyway, we can always go back, after it happens, to before the earthquake.”
“No!” Nadia sat up straight. “I don’t want this to happen. At all. It feels like too big a risk, Aidan. I don’t want to be stuck trying to undo it. I want to stop it before it happens. It’s Mom!” Nadia was near tears.
Aidan swallowed hard and nodded. “And you know, there’s another piece to this.”
She took a deep breath. “I’m listening.”
“Even if we could stop Mom going, we can’t let all those other people die.”
His sister’s eyes opened wide.
Aidan continued. “We can’t just save her. We have to somehow stop the earthquake from happening at all.”
There was silence for a moment. They stared at each other, then Nadia looked down at the stone in her hands. It began to glow with a deep golden-red inner light. Then it pulsed slowly. Is this the way the stone tells us we are on the right track?
About Diane Solomon and Mark Carey
Diane Solomon enjoyed a wonderfully diverse career path that included her own variety show on BBC TV in England and major tours with Glen Campbell and Kenny Rogers. Her highly successful singing career has given way to her lifelong dream of being a writer.
Mark Carey is a retired biologist. As a scientist he was immersed in the probable, in retirement he pursues the possible and considers the improbable. He has dabbled in voice-over work and sculpting and is a lifelong, devoted naturalist.
The Ravenstone: The Twain is their second collaboration as authors. The first was The Ravenstone: The Secret of Ninham Mountain, book one in the Ravenstone series.
They live in New Hampshire, in America, on untouched acres of forest and streams. They spend many hours designing gardens and meadows, playing with their three dogs, and watching wildlife. This involves saving turtles from pups, and plucking the occasional porcupine quills out of a little English Cocker Spaniel’s face.
You can follow Diane on Twitter @dianesolomon and Mark @MarkCareyWriter. You’ll find them on Facebook and Goodreads and can visit their website for more information.