An Empty Place, Synopsis

This is the complete synopsis that I'm sending out with queries that need one. Don't read this unless you've read my book!

The Cord binds the world . . . and the Paternach holds the strings.

A thousand years ago the skies darkened with massive rocks the size of mountains. When they struck the earth they opened a door to infinite power: the energy of the Talus. Now the "fallen mountains" are under the control of the Paternach. Government, corporation, the unblinking eyes of the father, the Paternach exploits the energy in the Talus. They power the world while sucking it dry, and leave a terrible plague in their wake.

But the Paternach's control is not complete. An old, secret war still rages on in a world of magick that lies just beyond this one. Three people who once struggled alone will find each other and fight for freedom, overcoming doubt and temptation, and finally know friendship in a cold world.

The fight begins in the wilds outside the Accelerated Cities.

A man wakes up in a dark forest. He has a terrible pain in his side. Symbols that seem familiar flash in his brain - and that is all he can remember. Worse still, he is not alone. First he is chased by a black helicopter, then by three strange hunters who claim to be his friends. The forest is unfamiliar and he flees blindly, certain he is mad. One encounter seems to confirm this: a great red spirit in the form of a cat speaks to him, guiding him. Before the spirit dissipates it calls itself 'Telebast'. He follows a huge electrical cable out of the forest.

In the distance there is a light on at a lonely house on a lonelier highway. As he is about to find shelter the hunters corner him. They reveal their monstrous faces, holding him down as the leader raises a knife, a magick blade: an athame. They say his name: Holm Aegis. He breaks free and the leader wounds him in the side - in the precise spot where he was already hurt. Holm passes out in the driveway of the lonely house. 

The house is not totally abandoned. In the morning a young woman wakes to find Holm unconscious in the driveway. Her name is Tad and she is an Agrat: people living off the grid, outside the control of the Paternach. The plague has devastated her home and she needs to find the cure. It's called the root, a plant that once lived on the source of the world's energy, the Talus, and it's the only thing that can save them. She knows the name of the one who has access: L- Darling.

Tad considers Holm innocent and child like, if half mad. They examine his possessions: a memory stick for a computer, a photograph of a child, and an ID card from Hundun Company. Nothing that will help him remember, nothing that can unravel the mystery of his memory. Tad is lonely from her long journey but finds it impossible to trust Holm: how can she know him if he doesn't know himself?

But the hunters come . . .  and Tad thinks maybe Holm isn't so crazy after all. Besides, she knows their enemies are the same: the Paternach is the enemy of all free people . . . even if she can't explain the others. They flee eastward, towards the abandoned suburbs known as enclosures that surround the dense population of the AC. The stitch in Holm's side worsens. He begins to feel a squirming, organic pressure in his body. He does not reveal this burden to Tad, perhaps so he does not have to deal with it himself.

The pair sneak past the Contractor guards at the enclosure gate. A hint of Holm's power is shown when he is able to suggest to the guard he is not who he seems. But Holm becomes confused, visions cloud his brain, and he becomes fascinated by the photograph of the child - a child he should recognize. He is compelled by the symbols - suggestions, a powerful force, vague glimpses pulling him to an ordinary house in the enclosure. Inside is a messenger - a guide - wearing a demonic paper mask to hide his identity. The masked man is an acolyte of Hundun Company, the secret organization of magickal adepts fighting an invisible war against the Paternach. He reveals to Tad he has been waiting for her arrival.

Again the hunters track them down and chase Holm and Tad, killing the acolyte in the process. After escaping the hunters once more, the pair search for access to the Accelerated Cities. Tad knows about the old underground train that ran to all the enclosures, shuttling Patern re-educators to all the schools. They find one such school and descend to the abandoned rails. On the way Holm's stitch has grown into a huge, writhing bulge . . . a parasite lives inside of him. Tad worries that he might die and they rush through the dark tunnel hoping to reach L- Darling before the parasite finally tears Holm apart.

They reach the first active shuttle terminal just as the thing bursts from Holm's torso. Tad calls L- Darling in the hope that she can help them. The tentacles of the parasite flap and shudder in a growing pool of blood.

The mysterious L- Darling has problems of her own, and her own reasons for wanting to intercept the rogue agent known as Holm Aegis. She suspects that Holm is a traitor and a threat to Tad's mission to bring the root to her people.  She receives Tad's call and instructs them to a safe house nearby, an abandoned dress shop. She rushes out to help them but enemies already close around her and she is intercepted by a Legless One, a demon of the shales. Through her shaleform, the version of herself that can walk the world beyond, she discovers her assailant's master: The Lid. She defeats the Legless One and finally steals into the streets to find Holm and Tad.

Holm and Tad make it to the dress shop. Darling arrives and performs a kind of psychic surgery, removing the parasite, and teaching Holm a little more about his powers. Darling discovers that a magick seal has been placed on Holm's memory, though she doesn't know the source. Darling believes they might find answers in the contents of Holm's pockets: the memory stick. They sneak out of the dress shop and use a public computer terminal to access the files on the stick. One file is a journal that Darling thinks might be useful and she prints it out to study later. Another file reveals a map of the Heles Mining Company. Darling puts something together from this file and hurries off, not telling her new companions where she is going or what she is up to . . .

After Darling leaves them the Contractors surround Holm and Tad at the Autoterm. Both are taken captive and Tad is tortured. Holm taps into his power and escapes, freeing Tad and leaving dozens dead.

Elsewhere Darling reads the journal stolen from the Heles Mining, learning the truth about Holm: he is, or was, a traitor. He had offered to steal the root for the Paternach in return for a cure for his son who was infected with the plague. Darling goes to the warehouse wear the root is kept and discovers that it had been wounded. She takes a piece of it, hoping it will be enough for Tad.

Tad and Holm flee through the city, hiding from the surveillance bots and the helicopter, until Darling is able to contact them. They meet at a coffee shop called the Circle of Will. Darling performs another surgery on Holm, this time to repair his memory. As they shalestep together he sees glimpses of his past: his induction into Hundun, flashes of blood around a dead woman . . . and his son, Harry. To destroy the seal Holm confronts The Lid on the shales. The grotesque demon offers Holm a chance to save his son's life . . . if he will fulfill his promise to sacrifice the root. Holm lies and agrees to take the root, but he doubts that when the time comes he can support his friends over his son, even if he doesn't remember him. 

Tad coughs into her hand and it is covered in the plague soot. She hides her sickness from the others as they travel to the mining company at the edge of the city. She doesn't want to interfere with their mission and she wont risk slowing them down. Holm faces the hunters for the last time. They give him the pelt of Materbelius a spirit dog that devoured his memory and it all comes flooding back.

The trio enter the mountain and descend into the Heles Mining Company facility. They face the Legless Ones again and Holm calls upon the power of Telebast - the spirit cat who has haunted his vision since he first awoke in the forest - to destroy them. They find a room with a corpse. It is Holm. The Holm they know is a gholem created from the severed left hand of the first man, by the acolytes of Hundun. Confronted with his own corpse, he finally remembers his death. Suddenly he becomes very hungry, and he realizes he must commit a savage  act to complete his unnatural resurrection. To the disgust of his friends, Holm devours the corpse. Once again something gestates in his belly as they descend to the very bottom of the mountain to confront the enemy.

Holm's son hangs from a terrifying wheel where Heles has bored into the Talus. His body serves as a bridge for the demons and the plague. Armando appears and calls on Holm to fulfill his promise: to trade places with his son and become the bridge between the worlds, bringing sickness and destruction. But Tad shoots the boy, making the deal moot. Holm's rage is interrupted as the root catches fire, triggering the birth of Telebast from Holm - the gholem, the vessel, the cocoon. The huge red cat devours Armando, giving Darling time to climb into the bore. She finds a small cyst spewing soot from the surface of the Talus. She cuts it from the holy stone.

Its meal complete, the cat flees; animal, spirit, monster . . . Holm? Whatever it is, the women follow up through a tunnel out of the mountain. Their wounds are severe, their grief even greater, yet still they press on. They emerge to a cool dawn as a storm hangs over the Accelerated Cities. The spirit Telebast awaits them and offers them a sign of hope before it fades, returning to its world.

But the women's quest is unfinished. The plague remains. The fight against the Paternach continues.

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