Songlines, A YA Fantasy, by Carolyn Denman





Title: Songlines
Author: Carolyn Denman
Genre: Clean YA Fantasy

We belong to the Earth, Lainie-Bug. We were sent here in human form for a reason. If you don’t know what to do, then just be human.

Right. Like that was ever a simple thing to do.

In the heart of the Wimmera region of Australia, an ancient gateway is kept hidden and safe by a creature so powerful that even the moon would obey her commands – at least it would if she had any idea that she wasn’t just a normal girl about to finish high school.

When a mining company begins some exploratory sampling near Lainie’s sheep farm, a family secret is revealed that makes her regret not having learned more about her heritage.

What she’s told by their farm hand, Harry, can’t possibly be true, but then the most irritating guy in class, Bane, begins to act even more insane than ever, until she can no longer deny that something very unusual is going on.

When Harry doesn’t return from his quest to seek help to protect the area from the miners, Lainie sets out to discover the truth of her heritage, and of the secret she’s been born to protect.

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‘Noah!’ I called as loudly as I could with my chest heaving. The shadowy outcrop turned out to be part of a rocky bluff that marked where the ground fell away towards the river. Like the bones of the hill were sticking out and the flesh under it had all crumbled away. ‘Noah, I’m coming!’

I fought my way through some bushes that sat above the outcrop and then headed downhill again until I found a way to climb up onto it. The rocks felt rough under my frozen fingers and my boots had good grip. I could hear Harry calling my name so I called back to him, but didn’t stop. When I reached a level spot I stood up, balancing one hand against the rock above me while I looked around. If Noah had been hoping to find shelter up here he would have been disappointed, although it looked like there might be a bit of an overhang farther along. I stepped over a deep crevice filled with runoff from the temporary waterfalls above me, and then jumped up to the next boulder. Some loose rocks came away under my fingers as I reached for the one after that.

I managed to hold on, wriggling on my belly until I was sprawled over the top of it. Another deep crevice lay below me, filled with fallen rocks and debris, and among it all was the body of my best friend, lying in the hail. Was he even alive? I could barely see him in the gloom. Something looked very wrong with the way his right arm was sticking out. It looked like he’d tried to jump the gap to reach the overhang for some shelter. How was I supposed to get to him? I kept calling to him, but he didn’t move. What if he was dead? Because of my stupid obsession over that newspaper clipping? I blinked water from my eyes that wasn’t all rain and wriggled over to my left, where a small rock gave me a bit of a step down. From there I couldn’t see any way to get closer.

‘Lainie, stop moving,’ Harry called from above me. He still sounded calm. Nothing ever fazed him. He must have found a way to climb the opposite side of the outcrop because he was on the far side of the crevice, under the overhang. He was using the torch he’d grabbed from his glovebox to inspect the rocks, looking for a safe way down.

I crouched where I was, shivering and angry. Why had Noah come out here? He didn’t even believe me about the diamonds. I peered down at him, trying to see if his chest was moving, but he was too far away and it was too dark. All I could see was how pale his face looked in the gloom. Even his blond hair was dark when it was so wet.

‘I need you to stay where you are,’ Harry told me. ‘Everything will be fine but we have to be careful and take our time.’ He looked at me for a long moment, as if trying to decide something, and then he turned and looked to the north, and let out a big sigh.

‘Harry, we can’t take too long,’ I called through the rain. ‘The police will take hours to get here – if they can find us at all. I know you have rope in the ute, but where would we even tie it? I think – ’

Harry tucked the torch into his back pocket and slid down the series of rocks, agile as a possum, landing in the crevice without so much as a stumble. A few small rocks skittered away, the sound of their passage lost in the wind and rain. He squatted down next to Noah, blocking my view, and I couldn’t breathe. Please be alive, please be alive…

I jumped a bit when the torch came back on again, and watched impatiently while the farmhand inspected Noah from head to toe. Then he rolled him onto his side.

‘Noah, mate, wake up.’ Harry’s voice was the eye of the storm. A safe haven in amongst the chaos. ‘If you can wake up, we can get you home much sooner,’ he crooned. ‘Back in your own bed. Home with your family.’

Listen to him, Noah. Wake up.

‘Come on, Noah. You can do this,’ Harry continued with calm determination. ‘It might hurt for a while but it’s better to face the pain now. Trust me. The longer you try to avoid it, the worse it will get. Wake up.’

Was that movement? It was so dark now. And so cold. How long had he been lying there?

Harry stripped off his oilskin jacket and then his shirt, but didn’t stop talking. ‘Noah, I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise.’ He tucked the jacket under Noah’s head, and then took his face in his hands, as if it would somehow force him to listen. ‘I can take you home.’

Something about the way he said ‘home’ settled in my chest with a soft bump. The word seemed to be filled with so much meaning. Comfort and healing and warmth and family…and something more. Something tantalising, mysterious…


Carolyn lives on a hobby farm on the outskirts of Melbourne with her husband, two daughters, and her parents. The fact that she always has at least three of her pets following her around at any one time in no way means that she is the fairest in the land. They probably just like her taste in music.

As well as writing stories for Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways magazines, Carolyn is also the author of the YA Australian fantasy series The Sentinels of Eden.

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