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  • Writer's pictureC. L. Schneider

Indie Book Spotlight: Surviving the Last Refuge, by R. R. Hutchinson

Updated: May 31


What are you to do when the world freezes over? Survival is all that matters. Only the lucky few from around the world who found their way through a honeycomb of caves and stumbled upon the only place left unfrozen, The Bowl - the remains of an enormous supervolcano - succeed in keeping humanity's flame lit. Their descendants live alongside the other species who similarly found their way to safety or else lived there all along, including the bear-like Ananeptide and the diminutive, subterranean Crinochin who are native to The Bowl's central region where the volcano's magma still boils.

Julius Dominguez and his Ananeptide colleague Nothro Grafanc's quiet woodcutting life in the snowy, forested outer territory of Thorntuft is interrupted by a summons to receive a mysterious award in the caldera-centered capital of The Bowl, Dralcea. All is not what it seems, and the truth will entangle their fate with that of others drawn together from their disparate lives, causing a frantic race for survival and the unearthing of long-hidden secrets along the way. Julius and Nothro find The Bowl hides many more secrets yet to be discovered about their people and the past which will affect all of their futures...



Julius looked over to Cronto, who appeared to be trying to shoulder the burden of protecting them all by himself. ‘So, what now? We aren’t from the city. Where should we go?’

‘Well, neither am I,’ Cronto said. ‘It doesn’t seem wise to stick around here though, that was hardly the welcome to Dralcea I expected. The most important thing is to avoid any more guards – with that call to arms they will be out looking for us now. I’ve seen them patrolling the streets ordinarily so it must only be a matter of time until we come across them, looking for us or not. Any suggestions for avoiding them?’

‘Tipping carts over in front of them seems to flummox them in our experience,’ Julius replied. ‘Other than that? Run like hell. But really...keep out of the way, stick to the smaller streets and alleys. Avoidance must be the surest way to survive.’

Nothro suddenly exhaled heavily, making Cronto jump slightly; a breath from his large lungs was a noticeable event. ‘Won’t be easy with eighteen of us.’

‘No, you’re absolutely right. We will need to be exceptionally cautious and keep quiet.’ A look of deep sorrow crossed Cronto’s face and he cast his eyes down. ‘What has happened here today? It started off so clear and bright, but now it has been sullied by a downpour.’

Julius sought to divert this sour mood; they had no time to waste reflecting on what they had been through, at least for the moment. ‘Cautious or not, some of these lot need a rest. We need to get somewhere out of the way so they can have a breather, or they simply won’t be able to keep going. This city is built like a maze, maybe we can lose them? Or at least cause confusion. It could even be fun,’ Julius smiled wolfishly.

‘I really don’t think messing with them is the way, we want to get away from them, not closer. And if they were to catch us? Do you think they would show any mercy after what they did to us all back there, and what we in turn were forced to do? No, not a good plan. But your huge friend there raised a vital point. We cannot stay together – even if those guards being sent out to apprehend us have no idea how any of us look, they could realise who we are by the simple fact of us being a large group. Add to that the fact that several of us have weapons, and we must be quite recognisable,’ Cronto said.

Julius saw Nothro looking displeased to have been referred to as ‘huge’, but then saw the small upturn of his mouth and knew he was flattered that his insight was recognised. A young woman from the following group jogged up and stopped dead in front of Nothro. She did not seem at all intimidated by his size.

‘Just where are we being led? We seem to be running away – isn’t it about time for you to go on the hunt, rip a few of them apart to teach them a lesson? You have the claws and teeth for it,’ Ryx said to Nothro.

‘It doesn’t bode well for your immediate future when you start tearing people into multiple different parts, funnily enough,’ Julius commented from Nothro’s far side. ‘They had some sort of ranged weapons back there too, I’ve never seen anything like them. Didn’t even look as though you needed a good aim with it. Don’t you think he would make quite a sizable target?’

‘Ryx, don’t go volunteering other...folk to go into battle,’ Skula said, looking at Nothro. 'I've met a few Ananeptide in my time running the pub and always found them to behave with the utmost respect and politeness. Perhaps they are more likely to go all or nothing when it comes to drinking galumph, compared to humans at least, but they've never been violent on my watch. I wish the same could be said of my own species. At least when there are Ananeptide in The Crimson Duck, the humans are scared into behaving impeccably. That's an

invaluable commodity in our business.’

‘Yes, I've never had to chuck an Ananeptide out, luckily for me,’ Ryx said with a grin.

It was at that moment that the first armoured figures appeared at the top of the steps they had descended mere moments before.

‘Over there, on the parade ground!’ the man at the head of the  guards yelled, audible to the escapees. ‘That must be them! Form up, guards!’ he bellowed with his hand raised in the air to focus their attention.

Almost all the escapees turned to look at the guard yelling, as did most of the citizens wandering around the space who had up until that moment ignored them. That suddenly changed and those even remotely near to the disturbance backed away whilst staring in wonder at what they could have done to draw the ire of the Dralcea Guard.

‘Oh, damn,’ Cronto said. More guards filed into view at the top step leading from the street and fanned out along its length. Most carried the weapons they had seen used to devastating effect only minutes before, but even the remainder held more familiar arms, particularly spears.

Julius and his companions instinctively backed away at the sight. They were being cut off at a rapid pace and the only place they could retreat toward were the barriers encircling the far end of the curved space. Upon reaching that limit, the reality gripped them with icy certainty.

There was no safety to escape to.


About the Author

R. R. Hutchinson works in higher education and lives in Leicestershire, England with his wife and two border collies. He has always loved reading and wrote a couple of children's books whilst at school, although those are limited to just the individual hand-written and hand-drawn copies he still has, on a bookshelf somewhere.

He is currently working on the as-yet unnamed sequel to this first novel, Surviving the Last Refuge, and hopes to have it published in the very near future. He can be found on Instagram @r.r.hutchinson, on Twitter/X as @R_R_Hutchinson, and on Facebook as R. R. Hutchinson, Author. These usually feature writing-related posts and quotes, but sometimes his fungi, landscape and other photography makes an appearance too!


Purchase and Connect

*Surviving the Last Refuge (Book 1 of The Bowl Series) is on sale for ONLY .99, or read FREE with your Kindle Unlimited subscription.


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