The new cover…I started with a version of The Hobbit and the old cover and…went from there.  It’s available at Amazon.comSmashwordsB&N, and more, but the new cover won’t be up on some sites right away.

The Cliff House

by DeAnna Knippling

Ardahl is a weaver of magic and demons—of the power that flows through the land. But he’s a prisoner of the land as much as its master, a prisoner of the Cliff House, where the ruler of the land always keeps a trapped magician to summon water for the people. Now the land has twisted near the breaking point to feed them…but the princessa won’t let Ardahl stop squeezing it. Squeezing it dry.

There is something wrong with the valley. The roads, once laid straight from the Hill into the valley, have become sinuous esses of dry, red gravel. The red cliffs, blades of rock standing free in the valley, have bent like ribbons in the wind. Trees spiral like corkscrews until their bark and heartwood shatter. Every breeze kicks up dust devils, the air itself bemused.

It’s dawn. The rose-colored ley puddles against the twists in the valley, no longer able to hold them straight. The cold morning air bites my nose, but it will be hot as an oven by midday.

My godsdaughter Mira walks the dirt road from the Hill toward my cliff. She has blond hair that shines pink under the ley overhead. She carries a heavy basket that towers over her; she grasps it by the straps on her shoulders and leans forward to balance the weight.

The lid of the basket flops free, and a half-dozen loaves of bread tumble forward past her face. She leans further forward to pick up the bread, and more tumble out.

I smile. I’ve grown so used to dirty bread that I would miss the taste if she didn’t drop it.

Mira puts down the basket, picks up the loaves of bread, brushes them off, and returns them to the basket. She snaps off a twig, jams it into the basket lid to hold it shut, and shoulders the basket again.

She takes a few steps and vanishes. I wait. After a few more steps, she emerges from a twist in the land, a hundred yards closer to the cliff.

I can hear her panting under the weight of the basket now, the crunch of her boots on the rock as she climbs the path to the cliff. Finally, she’s directly underneath me.

“Good morning, Ardahl,” she calls up to me.

“Good morning, brightness.” I throw the rope down. She loops it under the basket’s shoulder straps and ties it.

I lift the basket up, hand over hand. I have a pulley attached to the ceiling, but I don’t use it. My arms have become strong over the years. I set the basket aside and toss down the rope. This time, Mira ties the rope under her arms and starts climbing the hand- and footholds up the side of the cliff. I no longer have to lift her; the rope is for my peace of mind only.

As she passes through the ley, she shakes her head a little but keeps climbing. She slides through the cave mouth and into my abode, curling her legs around and under her. The ceiling is low next to the mouth, and she’s finally learned to stop hitting herself in the head as she comes in.

“I’m so sorry, Godsfather. I dropped the bread again.”

“I saw that.”

“I brushed it off.”

“I saw that too.” I push myself backward into the wider part of the cave, pulling the basket along with me. The water skins gurgle.

I have never known a girl with a stronger back, from carrying water to me almost daily. I regret being a burden on her, but even more, I regret teaching her how to carry such heavy burdens.