This week’s edition of our Olympia Extracts is one of our best sellers for the month of January! With a five-star rating, The Four Flames is one of those reads you’ll find difficult to put down. So, we thought we would feature Ariane’s book due to the popularity of it. We hope you enjoy the following extract!
Athena laid still in the middle of a large field in the countryside. It was her seventeenth birthday the following day and she told her parents she wanted to spend her last few days of being sixteen in the middle of the fields, laying on the dry grass, feeling the hot sun blaze against her pale skin.
Athena had, as Tomas always said, “an aura of such light surrounding her like a shield from the darkness of the world.” Even though she lived in poverty, and her house was merely a shack of one room shared among three people, Athena was always cheerful and never let her misfortunes dampen her spirits. She spent every sunny day out in the fields dreaming away and often thinking of ways she could help her sick father. Athena had tried many things to heal her father. When there were thunderstorms, she would always place vases, open boxes and jars outside to collect the rain water. She would then collect the water and boil it with special herbs and give to her father as a healing potion. Nothing, however, can cure the malice that comes with old age.
Today, however, Athena was only dreaming of a fairy tale.
She caressed her long brown hair, untangling any knots on the way down until she felt her waist. She smiled as she remembered a fairy tale she had recently read: In a huge castle with high towers covered in ivy, a cruel king had locked his daughter away in the dungeons, teaching her a lesson that writing fairy tales was a load of nonsense and a waste of time, whereas learning how to sew and helping in the kitchens was time well spent. One day, while she was crying, a young knight emerged from nowhere and he suddenly...
‘Athena, you must come NOW. Athena, NOW!’ her mother yelled from afar. Athena opened her large blue eyes, quickly got up and ran as fast as she could towards her home.
‘Agatha, we have to tell her now. We must tell her before I pass away. We should have told her on her sixteenth birthday. Tomorrow, she will turn seventeen. We have waited far too long.’
‘I can’t bear this, Tomas. We have raised her like our own. What if she leaves immediately? What if you die straight way? I will be left all on my own. In one day, it will be from three to one. You should have never seen her that day thirteen years ago because then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation!’
Agatha turned around, ready to unleash her usual flood of tears, but held them back as soon as she saw Athena running towards them.
‘What’s happening? Father, are you alright? Do you need any help? Tell me, I want to help. I need to help!’ Athena said desperately, catching her breath as she leant against the bedpost.
Agatha and Tomas looked at each other but remained in silence. They didn’t dare look at her. Athena, puzzled by their silence, started to worry even more.
‘What is going on?’ she demanded in a forceful voice.
‘Athena, we both love you very, very much. We want you to know that. You must,’ her mother finally replied, her voice gradually getting quieter.
Athena nodded, curious of what the following news could be.
‘Athena, we should have told you this on your previous birthday but we couldn’t bear it and with this illness of mine, I don’t think I will survive much longer.’
There was a silence for the next few minutes. Athena was too afraid to break it.
‘I found you near a river bank in front of the Naran Flame.’ ‘Have you heard of the Naran Flame before?’ her mother asked.
‘No, I haven’t, mama,’ Athena replied.
‘Please, Athena do not call me that. I have always insisted for you to call me Agatha. I still don’t understand why you never listen!’
Athena looked down and took a deep breath, feeling the lump at the back of her throat grow bigger.
‘Agatha, I think you have said enough. Athena, come here and sit next to me.’ Tomas said, patting the space on his bed next to him. Athena went and sat down, trying her best to fight the tears.
‘The Naran Flame is one of the Four Flames. They are found past that field you spend a majority of your time in. To get to the Four Flames, you cross the field and you will see a gate. Past that gate, there are four big hills. By the time you reach the fourth hill, you will see an inn on your left, a small woodland on your right and a volcano directly in front. It is a few days walk till you will see two bridges. Choose the one you feel is right. After you have passed the bridge, you must not look back!’
‘Father, why are you telling me all this? Must I leave?’
‘Athena, you must understand this is very difficult for both Agatha and me. However, it is your right to know where you came from. You deserve to know where you were born and where you lived at the beginning of your life.’
‘I don’t understand. Are you trying to tell me that I was born in the Naran Flame?’
‘Most probably. You see, there was a terrible revolt thirteen years ago. The Chamcoks tried to break through the Flame and they had somehow succeeded. They killed everyone in their path. I am not sure whether your real parents are still alive. I never saw them.’
Athena couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her eyes began to swell up and tears started to trickle down her cheeks, making their way down her neck.
‘So, neither of you are my real parents?’ Agatha and Tomas didn’t dare speak. They just looked down. ‘I don’t believe this. I truly cannot believe that you both are telling me
this now. It’s so...’ her voice broke off, followed by a series of muffled sounds. ‘Why did you find me there if you live all the way over here?’
‘Ah well, at that time when I was fit and up and about, I was a messenger. On that particular day, I was asked to deliver a message to King Agalaya himself.’ Tomas proudly replied.
‘I remember it like it was yesterday. I was leaving the inn and a group of Blucks came up to me. They told me to deliver a letter to the King. I obeyed them and set off immediately. They gave me a horse and I got to the Four Flames in only two days!’
‘Wait! I thought you said that the Chamcoks were the ones who-’
‘Yes, they were, but you see the Blucks and the Chamcoks are part of the same army, except the Blucks are highly trained and skilled soldiers. The Chamcoks are less skilled and more barbaric. They are just men who came from poverty, knowing that if they didn’t want to starve to death, they would have to join the army. That’s what makes them so ruthless. They kill to survive.
Anyway, the Blucks and Chamcoks are allies and therefore work with each other. They have one aim: to destroy the King and his descendants and to take control over the lands.’
Agatha looked up at Athena and told her a different story from the same day…
We hate to leave you on a cliff-hanger, but you’ll just have to get yourself a copy to find out what Agatha is about to tell Athena! To pick up your copy of The Four Flames, click here!