Viv is lost and alone in the Rynth. Thris is gone, his ravaged body borne away by Ash and Ky, and without him, her chances of finding her mother are zero. She transits on but the next fold is equally perilous, and the one after that contains savage creatures, and men who delight in cruel games.
Ash and Ky deliver Thris’s mutilated body to Crystal Fold where the Principae heal him, but they return a very different angel to Ezam. Thris’s memory is smashed and all certainties destroyed. Furious at Thris’s failure, Kald orders Thris back into the Rynth and, as Shadow, Ky must go too. But terror consumes him and Thris’s health remains fragile.
Ash draws on the Blue Helixai’s resonance and is rewarded with visions of the Rynth, which he uses to aid Thris and Ky in their search for Viv. They find her, but Viv is so disturbed by Thris’s strange coldness, she decides to continue alone. On Kald’s orders, Thris coerces Viv back to his side, in an act that will deny him ascension for eons.
Viv journeys on with Thris and Ky, but after they’re attacked, finds herself alone in a fold at war. When she discovers a child survivor of a massacre, she recognises the chance to atone for the accident that jailed her, and pledges to take the child to safety.
During Angel Breath, the individual hero journeys of Viv, Thris, Ky, and Ash start to emerge. I wanted to explore how a skill set can be destructive in one situation, but life-saving in another. The skills Viv developed through her life on the streets and in the gangs, and which jailed her in our world of Moonsun, allow her to survive in the folds she finds herself alone in. In contrast, the skills that Thris has, as the strongest and most self-disciplined of the Dane, and as the obedient protege of a senior angel, help to destroy him.
Likewise Ky, who has similar skills to Thris, finds himself undone by fear, an emotion that doesn't exist in Ezam. Ash's testing moves from the Blue Helixai, to the Red, and then to the White. Like his friends Thris and Ky, he is tested physically, but it is the testing of his beliefs that proves most dramatic and dangerous.
The Secondary World
Angel Breath begins with Viv in Sand Fold. This deserted fold allows Viv the freedom and safety to learn to fly until she must escape a sand storm to Wheel Fold. This fold is highly symmetrical, with eight valleys fanning out from a central sacred peak, lake, and city (Ourassin/Astraal). Eight major rivers flow from the lake to feed each of the eight Vales, and each Vale contains a multitude of smaller vals (valleys) and rills (streams), which give their names to the setts (small settlements) and larger settlements. The landscape is Moonsun-like (our world), with similar length days, a sun, very dull stars, but no moon.
There is a band of extreme cold (Grey Fire) around The Wheel below the Leferen (forest of brittle, close-packed trees), that only the Stonash and urrut (creatures giant Highland cattle) can survive, and places of sliding, unstable shale (Icestone country).
The zadican (year) is divided into eight zadics, which are around 45 days long. The zadics are marked by, and named after, constellations that blaze each night (Fire Zadic looks like a wall of fire). The period between zadics is Vorash, a period of stormy weather, absent of constellations, when the 'system' recalibrates. There are also Call Zadics, which are brief constellations that appear to individuals, and 'call' these individuals to the sacred lake.
Viv finds herself in the Vale called Eshavale, fed by the Eshacade river. The human inhabitants are the Eshadi. Her first taste of Wheel Fold is in the Leferen, home to the Lefer, a mix of bird/bat-like creatures and human beings. The Lefer are sentient/intelligent.
Also in Wheel Fold (and Eshavale) are the Valen (humans); the Stonash (a variation on humans: short, thick-skinned, flat-faced, hooded-eyed); the Long-arms (long-armed variation of Stonash); gytars (bat-like creatures); horses (sentient, agile, can jump like cats and mentally link to their riders); mixed-blood descendants of the Angellus (angels); a variety of birds; and the fierce wild pig-like bears (maragh).
I connect powerfully to the emotion of music, both to write and to reflect on my stories. Metallica's - Nothing else matters captures the struggles that key Angel Caste characters endure and while the YouTube video is a tribute to Assassin's Creed, it mirrors the same desperate struggle.
According to Joseph Campbell, you must die to your old self to become your new self. For instance, you cannot be simultaneously a child and an adult. While this is a psychological, not physical 'death', it is never an easy process. Initiation rites are physically and psychologically painful for this reason. Afterwards, the boy is dead but the man lives (female initiation rites do the same thing but tend to use different methods).
Following the events in Moth Fold, Thris tells Ky: 'I am destroyed.' This is true. The confident Dane that left Ezam is dead (hence the tagline on the cover: 'To live, first you must die ...') In Thris's case, his death is a process.
The Principae appear to heal him physically, but his memory is shattered and his strength is fragile. His mentor orders him back into the Rynth and to use coercion on Viv, which he does. But to find Viv again, he retraces his former route, and although it's the same journey, he has the chance to make different choices. His later, non-coercive love-making with Viv thus becomes healing, and when he's forced to choose between obeying his mentor and saving Ky, he saves Ky. In effect, he breaks from his mentor's destructiveness.
Ky and Ash are in an earlier stage of their journey to their new selves: Ky still consumed by fear; Ash still struggling with the Helixais and his state as a Dane bearing the plumage of ascension.
Key to Viv's journey to her new self, is finding the child survivor of the massacre. Although a rift provides an escape route from the war zone, Viv decides not to abandon the child, or to take the child with her to another fold, but to deliver the child safely to her family.
The child (Poss), provides Viv with an opportunity to heal herself. Caring for Poss allows Viv to atone for the accident that jailed her, and to give and accept unconditional love. The little girl, lost and alone in a violent world, is the child Viv, and in loving her, Viv starts on the journey to accept and forgive herself.