Blurb- Gods, Dragons, a mercenary with a blade and no memory of his past…. The world of Tiamhaal is alight in war. Men ruled by kings slay their opposition in the name of their God, but there are others who claim the Gods are little more than scorned Dragons of ages past. Scar has come to find the truth, but is the truth an absolute certainty, or is it just the skewed memory of a forgotten kingdom?
My Rating- 5 Meows. It’s the Cat’s P.J.s!!!
Omg! I was not expecting this kind of story from The Dragon of Time, Gods and Dragons.
Yes, It’s an action-packed, fantasy adventure, and yes, there’s a ton of action right at the beginning, a ton, but it seems to me that it was used to portray how savage the Zmajans are compared to the rest of the people of Tiamhaal. Meow-kay…let me back up!
Scar is a mercenary. He is amnesiac, but can handle a blade better than anyone. He only wants to learn of his origins, and so Zoltek, king of the Zmajans—people who are in the worship of Zmaj, the All God, hires Scar to fight the Kulshedrans, people who worship the God of Truth, and in exchange, Zoltek is supposed to ask Zmaj about Scar, but…but…but…things are not simple.
Sigh, they never are, especially when big, burly, bald, muscley dudes are swingin’ swords at their enemies….
So, like, if you read the blurb, it hints at the fact that the Gods being worshipped might not be Gods, right? And it’s, like, called Gods and Dragons, so spoiler alert, most of the people in the world are unknowingly worshipping Dragons! They don’t even know it!
Here’s the deal, Scar doesn’t really care about whatever he needs to do, so long as he can learn of his origins, but after a betrayal, he actually switches sides, and he starts fighting for King Gilgamesh of Satrone, worshipper of Kulshedra, but this is before anyone figures out that some of the Gods are Dragons, and then things just get down right crazy-cat!
I won’t spoil the story because you have to read it. There’s a reason this fantasy “tail” of epic-cat proportions has mucho great reviews, and I guess it won some kind of contest, too, but listen to this reading, and then get this book.
Gods and Dragons, or I guess The Dragon of Time, there’s a sequel out, so the series is The Dragon of Time series, and this is where it’s at. This is the new fantasy series, and it’s all about Dragons, and Gods, and emotions, and turmoil. I’ll be diving right into the next fantasy book, Dragon Slayer, so read this book, and we can chat about it!
Blurb- Melanie Hamilton brings home the bacon by inking tattoos at New Orleans’s Mansion at Mystic Isle, a resort in the middle of the bayou that caters to fans of the peculiar and paranormal. But when a guest of the resort, a millionaire’s widow, is poisoned, and Melanie’s close friend is arrested for the murder, things go from hectic to downright dangerous.
Genre- Romance? Supernatural thriller? Mystery?
My rating- Didn’t finish it 😦 Belongs in the litter box
Here’s Mystic Mayhem in a nutshell. Mel works as a tattoo artist in a renovated mansion done up for parlor tricks; Voodoo rituals, seances, dark performances, etc. The mansion caters to rich people who want to believe in the spirits of the dead floating all around, and just anyone into the “dark” arts.
Mel is hot for an employee named Jack, and her best friend, Cat, also works there. Early on in the book, Mel’s friend, Fabrizio, who does seances, as a parlor trick, is hired to perform a ceremony to contact the spirit of a rich widow’s husband. During the ceremony, the old woman dies, and when authorities investigate, they eventually, after a slow, tortuous process sans any real investigation, come to believe Cat was the killer, even though if they had dusted for prints, which they didn’t seem to do during the time they spent in the seance room, the room they didn’t even bother to cordon off, they would not have found Cat’s prints because she was never in the room, nor did she handle the clams or the plate on which the clams were served, which are the supposed murder weapon, and even if she had touched anything, everybody else would be a suspect, too, including the chef, who was instantly eliminated….
I was quite a few chapters in Mystic Mayhem before Cat becomes the lead the suspect, but for me, it just doesn’t add up. Apart from the overly flowery and metaphorical writing–everything is a metaphor or a simile. Everything is like something else–this is a direct recounting of things that happen before they happen, as they happen, and again after they happen. I just didn’t like it.
She fell in step beside me as we double-timed it along the riverfront walkway to where the dedicated ferryboat for The Mansion at Mystic Isle bobbed against the old-fashioned wooden dock. We jumped onto the brightly painted flat-bottom boat with a few minutes to spare.
George, the ferry conductor, swept off his Mystic Isle cap, offered a toothy smile, and gave us an exaggerated bow. “Miss Hamilton,” he drawled. “Miss Gabor. Glorious mornin’, ladies. Dat f’sure.”
Mid-July. It wasn’t noon yet, and the temp had already climbed to the high eighties. There wasn’t even the slightest breeze, and the humidity was no less than killer. You almost had to pull the air apart like a curtain just to walk through it. Yep, a glorious day, all right. My T-shirt clung to me like wet wallpaper. The light complexion that went along with my strawberry-blonde hair wasn’t ideal for life in a place where the sun beat down like my own personal heat lamp. I was thankful for the ferry’s canopy.
While I was sweating like a hooker in a front-row church pew, Catalina bestowed a smile on George that was cool as aspring mist over a clear lake. No wonder he was nuts about her.
The only other passengers were a few of the dinner kitchen staff and the hotel’s voodoo priestess (her official title) who ran the Who-do Voodoo We-do Shop at The Mansion.
The Mansion at Mystic Isle was where Cat and I worked. Located in Jefferson Parish across the Mississippi from New Orleans at the edge of a bayou, the main building was an old plantation house set among cypress trees and expansive green lawns. It had been handed down through the Villars family for centuries. Not all that long ago, Harry Villars, the down-on-his-luck, but no less genteel and stylish owner, had the brilliant idea to turn his liability into an asset by repurposing the place into a resort where folks dedicated to the supernatural and all kinds of magic could come and get their creep on.
The Mansion was decorated like the haunted house we’ve all seen at that theme park—you know the one. Ours was similar—creepy organ music when you crossed the threshold, drafty hallways, creaky doors, secret passages, even fake cobwebs. The whole shebang, chère. Harry Villars sank every cent he had into it and crossed his fingers that the place would raise him to the ranks of the solvent—then he hired all of us, a complete cast of soothsayers and charlatans, to convince hotel guests the supernatural stuff that went on at The Mansion was the real deal. But just between you, me, and the gators, it’s not.
Cat was the gypsy fortune-teller, and did she ever look the part. Flashing dark eyes, long, flowing locks the color of cappuccino. Her lips always looked as if they were stained persimmon without any lip-gloss, and her size Ds were nothing short of a masterpiece. When she left our apartment in the French Quarter to head to work, she dressed like any regular twenty-eight-year-old knockout, but once her shift began at the resort, she was decked out in layers of gauzy jewel tones and bling, lots and lots of bling.
Me? I was the designated artist at The Mansion’s Dragons and Deities Tattoo Parlor. My work costume was a slinky black gown with a V-neck, empire waist, and a big stand-up collar that fanned all the way around the back of my neck from one collar bone to the other. I think the effect was intended to be darkly glamorous, but most days I felt more like the Count von Count Muppet than Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I would have preferred that free and easy Stevie Nicks look Cat pulled off, but it wasn’t in the cards—not when I was forced to wear a full bib apron on top of that gorgeous creation to avoid spraying ink all over it.
When I walked out of college with my degree in fine arts, I never would have suspected tattoos would be my groceries, and I still don’t consider myself to be your typical tattoo girl. No leather bustier or nose ring, and the only tattoo on this girl’s milky skin is a tiny Tinker Bell on my right shoulder.
(Here I have to interrupt the excerpt- as a lover of tattoos, I can tell you a fine arts degree won’t get you working in a tattoo parlor. Holding a vibrating piece of metal that needles into moving, human flesh is an art for which you have to apprentice! A skill set not all extrapolated from oil paintings on canvas, which Mel does.)
The boat motor revved. The signal horn blew, and the ferry pulled out into the strong draft of the mighty Mississippi River, brown as liquid chocolate and churning like a whirlpool. Cat and I leaned against the railing, shoulder to shoulder, and I turned my face into the wind created by the movement of the boat. It cooled me off a little.
“You look nice today,” Cat said.
Oh. My makeup must not have been running down my face like melting Häagen-Dazs yet. “Thanks, Cat. So do you.”
“Well,” she said without the slightest bit of arrogance, “I look nice every day.”
I nodded. When you’re right, you’re right.
“You hoping to run into Cap’n Jack, girl?” Her voice was sly.
I bumped her shoulder with mine. “You pokin’ fun at me?” It was true. I had taken extra care with my makeup and hair that morning. Some VIPs were checking in at Mystic Isle today, and I knew the manager, Jack Stockton, would be up front and present to take care of them.
“Poking fun at you? No, girl, no way. Settin’ your cap for a man like that is some serious stuff.”
A man like that.
Jack Stockton—Cat and I had taken to calling him Cap’n Jack—was the recently hired general manager at The Mansion on Mystic Isle. The story was he had been the golden boy moving up the corporate ladder at an international chain’s premier property in the Big Apple when disaster struck. The hotel chain’s CEO had arrived in New York from Frankfurt for a look-see at his crown jewel. The grapevine rumored that Jack Stockton met a stunning blonde with a provocative Marlene Dietrich accent at the hotel lounge. The two hit off and wound up back at his place. The next morning Jack discovered the blonde was the boss’s twenty-five-year-old bride of only six weeks. They didn’t even let him clean out his desk, and once the story got around, poor Jack couldn’t even walk into a hotel without turning every head in the place. At least in the Big Apple.
But New York was a far cry from the Big Easy.
The Mansion at Mystic Isle was just getting a foothold, and the idea of having a man as capable yet desperate for work as Jack Stockton sat just right with Harry Villars, who needed someone with monster talent to manage his supernatural resort project. The weird goings-on, unusual clientele, bizarre employees, and rumors of hauntings at our beloved place of employment had already driven off three general managers. I had high hopes for Jack.
He was smart, experienced, and would probably do whatever it took to make the place a success. And besides, Harry Villars was gay. It wasn’t likely Jack would get caught in bed with Harry’s significant other, my good friend the Great Fabrizio. Still, Jack would need every bit of skill and cunning he could muster to get this albatross on solid ground. I think Ifell in love with him the first time he lifted that chiseled chin and showed me that smile.
Saying Cap’n Jack was easy on the eyes was an understatement of Biblical proportion. Dark eyes, slightly almond-shaped. Smooth, swarthy skin. Full lips that slid easily into a lopsided sexy smile and short, dark hair my fingers itched to lace themselves into. The Fifth Avenue suits he wore to work every day appeared tailor-made to fit his athletic body but still somehow looked out of place on him. My mind’s eye insisted on imagining him in boots, jeans, and muscle shirts. And when he came to me in my dreams, he wore a lot less.
He was a really nice guy whose New York ways made him a duck in the desert among the laid-back, slow-talking New Orleanians, Cajuns, and swamp rats at Mystic Isle.
On his first day at The Mansion Jack stood in front of the entire staff and told his tale about the consequences of looking for love in all the wrong places. He made sure we laughed at what had to be a difficult and embarrassing incident in his life and made us all as comfortable with him as he was with himself. Honesty and good humor were just about the two sexiest traits a man could have. And Jack had both—in spades.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked his sophisticated style, so much that whenever he even walked into the room, I came apart like a house of cards in a wind tunnel. At least that was how I felt. He made me warm and cold, excited and nervous, happy and scared all at the same time.
The whole story is rather choppy. Mel and Cat get to a place. Then, the writer sets up the event by explaining everything. Then, Mel and Cat go there to experience the event, they stop, and the writer tells me about everyone. and their business, and their history, and everything else, which has nothing to do with the actual story or the events taking place. I did not like this story at all. Every time I was about to get into it, it stopped, and the writer told me everything about everything before the event happened, so what was the point? Blech!
Like I said at the beginnning, I actually didn’t finish it, which is pretty rare for me, but I just couldn’t make whiskers or tails out of this thing. Was it a comedy? A romance novel? A supernatural tale? Some kind of mixture? Mixing genres is fine, when it works. It didn’t matter what it was, because it wasn’t really a story, a book, it was someone prattling on about their day as though I could project my feeling into theirs, and I just couldn’t.
I didn’t feel any suspense, any love, any fear, nothing. This story was words on a page, like a friend trying to act out a movie she’d seen by telling me all about it, and then stopping the story to tell me about why something was the way it was. Really, blech.
As always, when I don’t like something, it doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Here’s a review by someone who did like it-
What a fun mystery! And it’s set in my favorite city to visit, NOLA! Well, technically most of it is in the imaginary Mystic Isle Resort, but it’s still on the bayou. The characters are just too much fun, and the humor is excellent. The mystery plot is well executed with many interesting twists, and the locale descriptions are clear. The publisher’s blurb is adequate and is no spoiler. Looking forward to the next book with great anticipation!
I don’t know about the above book review. If you ask me, this person didn’t read it, but take a chance…if you dare! Mwahahahaha!
Teacher Misery perfectly encapsulates the comical misery that has become the teaching profession. Morris’ strange, funny, and sometimes unbelievable teaching experiences are told through a collection of short stories, essays and artifacts including real emails from parents, students and administrators.
Genre- Non-fiction, memoirs
My Rating- 4.5 Meows nearly purrrfect
The first thing I have to point out is the arrogance of the writer, who claims: “I have advanced degrees and know how to properly write and edit”, yet she starts numerous sentences with conjunctions, which I believe to be incorrect. I would not have even touched on this, since it is the only technical problem throughout the entire book, but the fact that she claims to understand proper writing and editing merited my nitpicking, but it’s only nitpicking. Oh, and all the rave reviews are right at the beginning of the book, so you must acknowledge how great the writer is before your endeavor….
Pomp aside, Teacher Misery: Helicopter Parents, Special Snowflakes and Other Bullshit is actually very well written and structured, and most importantly, entertaining. It is basically a compilation of trials and tribulations met during the course of a teaching career. Some events are funny, some understandably frustrating, and some are downright horrifying, and this book has given me a new appreciation for teachers.
I think it’s a natural assumption to believe teachers don’t have to put with much, but they really do. Parent e-mails, unruly students, stupid staff members, ridiculous PC rules, and other nonsense can certainly drive a person mad, especially when paired with crappy pay, but the book is much more than that. It artfully points out facets of ridiculousness most would never impart onto a teaching career, like other peoples’ views, which one does not normally have to consider…unless that “one” is a teacher!
I honestly don’t have much to say on this book, not because it was lacking in any area. As I said, it’s well written (aside from my cat peeve of beginning a sentence with a conjunction, which is employed specifically to tie together two ideas in ONE SINGLE SENTENCE). It’s informative, and entertaining, but this isn’t the kind of book I normally read, you know, one with, like, a plot, a cast of characters on an adventure, a bad guy with which they deal. This is a collection of events, a collection of life experiences, but Morris certainly gets the job done, so I’ll say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it to the point that I had to force myself to stop in order to get my own stuff done!
Really, anyone who wants to be informatively entertained, and especially on the tribulations of teaching pitted against the simple-mindedness of know-it-alls, should read this wonderful book. Maybe, the rave reviews at the beginning aren’t so bad, but I think they belong in the back, or, like, on the back, like the back cover, but I digress….
Here’s an excerpt, and I chose this one because I know some of you probably think I’m a furry, but I want to clarify that I am not a cat, I am a human, and I don’t have a fursona. I just really like cats, but do enjoy the excerpt. It’s furrr-ightfully funny!
I have had the interesting experience of teaching “furry” students. For those of you who don’t know what a furry is (I certainly didn’t before I had them as students), allow me to explain. According to Wikipedia, “Furry Lifestylers” refers to a group of people who have “important emotional/spiritual connections with an animal or animals, real, fictional or symbolic.” Being an animal lover myself, this seemed like something I could relate to. But this goes way beyond loving animals. Furries see themselves as “other than human” and “desire to become more like the furry species that they identify with.” I mean, I really love dogs. Some might even say I’m obsessed with them. But I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be one.
Furries take their furriness very seriously. They feel a deep kinship with a certain animal, and dress like that animal all the time, even at school. Many wear parts of the animal such as the ears and tail, or fake paws and an animal head. Each furry has a “fursona” or set of animal personality traits, which they use to role play in various forms, on the internet or at conventions, for example. These conventions, such as Anthrocon or ConFurence, draw thousands of people who share similar interests.
My first furry came to school on the first day wearing white ears and a long white tail pinned to the seat of his pants. It was so long that it dragged on the floor, picking up dust mites and other debris. I wasn’t sure what his deal was, so I didn’t ask himabout what he was wearing. He offered that information for the class soon after.
I paired the students up and asked them to interview each other as a typical first day of school activity. The poor girl who was partners with the furry had a hard time keeping a straight face during the interview. Next the students had to introduce their partners to the class. They merely had to share the names, nicknames and hobbies of their partner. When it was time for the furry and his partner to present, they both stood up. The girl turned bright red before she spoke. “This is Herbert. He likes to be called… umm… Zorra. He says he’s a fox and-” Here Herbert interrupted with an irritated clarification. “I’m a silver fox.” She held back a laugh and said, “He’s a silver fox and is also… umm… He’s pansexual? That’s it.” At that point, most of the class was laughing. Herbert was extremely annoyed. I tried to defuse the situation by asking a few clarifying questions.
“Herbert I think we are just a little confused. What do you mean when you say that you are a silver fox?” He took a deep breath and said, “I embody the spirit of a silver fox.” The class was silent and waiting for my reaction. I calmly responded. “Okay, and what does it mean to be pansexual? I’ve never heard that word before.” He was slightly less aggravated now that he saw I was merely curious and seeking knowledge. “Pansexual means that it’s possible for me to be attracted to anyone.”
I quickly realized that I had gotten myself into a sticky situation, and I should have just moved on to the next group. But I was genuinely curious. “So it’s like someone who is bisexual?” I said, giving the class a serious look that meant theyshould not laugh. “No,” he said. “I’m pansexual. I don’t subscribe to labels. I’m just attracted to whoever I’m attracted to, regardless of what gender or species they identify with.” Another kid yelled out, “That means he’s gay!” Before I could answer, another kid said, “No! That means he has sex with animals!”
“Okay, that’s enough. Thank you for sharing Herbert and for being so open with the class. I appreciate it, and I learned something new today.” Before he sat down he said, “Yeah I’d just like to say one thing. I’m sick of being called Cat Boy. I am not a cat; I am a silver fox! These are two very different animal spirits.” Another kid yelled out, “Whatever Cat Boy!” and Herbert sat down with his arms crossed in anger.
The next day I met Herbert’s furry girlfriend. Her name was Alice, but she insisted on being called Loculo, which is Latin for “coffin.” She would not answer if you called her anything but Loculo. Loculo wore ears and a tail, but she also wore fake paw gloves. She refused to have anyone interview her, and she introduced herself to the class. She said that she was a wolf trapped inside a girl’s body and that she identified with a gray wolf in almost every way. She also said that she is very selective about her “pack mates” and relates mostly to herbivores. No one questioned her or said a word, including me. Something told me that for this student, her “fursona” wasn’t just a phase.
A few classes later I gave the students an assignment to create a fictional, future biography with an illustrated cover. This exercise was meant to be a way for them to picture what they might be successful at and well-known for later in life. I hadthem share their covers. Many students had silly, unrealistic drawings and ideas, but they had a lighthearted approach when sharing with the class. When Loculo shared her cover, the fear in the room was palpable. She stood up and showed the following drawing.
There is a drawing in the book at this point, which I can’t show, but you get the idea!
Cayneian is more gory than Dead Rising, and that should say it all….
Blurb- A man stands resolved. Dysart, clan Bloodhammer, has returned to the island of Volgunther to purge it of the evil called Salamandrus. He has given his tongue, so that he may speak no contracts. He has given his manhood, so that he may not know his power as a man. He has given his mind, so that no God may take pity upon him.
Wielding the forbidden power of Sang Daemanus, Dysart imbibes the blood of Daemons to cast his spells, to grow his strength, to fuel his powers, but will he be able to stave off the bloodlust before the evils upon the island claim him?
Genre- Fantasy? Horror? Absolute freaking gore fest???
My Rating- 3.5 Meows ’cause I’m a scaredy cat!
M’yeah, turn Dead Rising into a horror fantasy based on a blood drinking brute who has been granted daemonic powers, which he uses to battle the very daemons that gave them to him!!!
So, what’s the problem with the story? It was just very, very gory. I have read Dennis stories before, as you all know, and like his writing style very much, but this book was a little different.
First, it had a bit more of an archaic tone, but this is fantasy, so that’s fine, and I actually enjoyed that aspect very much. A breath of foul air considering the YA fantasy I’ve read lately, but there was too much action, and too much blood spattering, entrail pulling, skull crushing gore!
If you have a weak stomach, stay away. I literally fought off a few gags and cringed once or twice. It’s that descriptive.
That’s it, though, the gore and heavy action slowed the story down. I’d suggest cutting a few pages of that brutality from the story, but gore fans, go for it!
Here’s the story: Dysart, a descendant of the original inhabitants of the island of Volgunther has reached the island, from God knows where, to cleanse of the evil that lives within its bowels, the daemon Salamandrus, a daemon born of flame, but which for some reason grants the powers of Sang Daemanus, which is, like, ritualistic, satanic, blood magic, so yeah, a wicked bad “tail”.
On the island, the daemon, who seems to be trapped somehow, still has influence. It sends waves of monsters to terrorize the unfortunate people who crash upon the island’s shores, and they can never leave because monsters even inhabit the sea, and there is constantly terrible weather, and the sun never rises!!!
Dysart meets other stalwart men and women who wish to fight the daemon, but only Dysart has found a way to free the daemon, so that he can kill it.
I honestly don’t even to know how to feel about the story. It’s very, um, bitter sweet? The writing is immaculate. The story’s idea is unique. The characters are absolutely wonderful. The scenery is totally frightening. The monsters are crazy, but I was consistently slowed down by the level of violence and gore.
I will recommend this book to those of cast iron stomachs, but if you cringe from a paper cut, stay away. I mean, people, and monsters, are literally torn in half by Dysart’s daemonic strength and bare hands! Still, overall, it was a great story that I think will haunt me.
Here’s a review by someone who enjoyed it a little more than I did-
First, I have to state that this novel is loosely based on a Dennis short story called Expedition, but like really loosely based. Secondly, this is another fantasy, horror, slasher mix, and a wild one at that. There is a lot of action, and a ton of gore, there’s even a mildly intense sexual abuse scene, so beware.
The main character is Dysart, a member of the Cayne, the people that used live on the island of Volgunther, and oddly enough, he’s mute. His tongue was cut out before the story even started, but he can use magic to talk, but it isn’t really magic. it’s called branding and it’s all based on blood magic, something I’ve never heard of before.
Dysart is on a rather honorable quest though. He wants to kill the demon salamandrus who has not turned the island evil, he’s also the demon that gave Dysart the power of blood magic, so the whole story is really intense.
After Dysart crashes ashore, and all his men and gear are at the bottom of the sea, he meets an old ranger or scout, and learns that there used to be a town nearby, so Dysart goes off in search of the town because he needs blood and a plant to make a special magic, but when he gets to the town, it’s already destroyed, and there he meets my favorite character, the pyromancer Randall, who’s gay, no less, but that’s not really important.
Randall is looking for a gem or something, so the two become quick friends in order to travel safely to an abby, and there, they meet some knights that are trying to keep the isnald [island]safe. Well, undead attack, there’s a theif [thief]there, that Randall believes stole his gem, and then they all work together to kill the undead. After that, Randall, Dysart, the theif [thief] Pattius, and a knight called Marcus travel together in search of the knight’s barracks, the order of the cross, or the ordo et crucis.
It seems like tehre’s [there’s]a ton of latin involved because the knights are really just crusaders, and demon magic is called Sang Daemanus, or blood of demons, so it’s all very dark and sinister. I kept imagining something out of Spawn, really, like that real dark imagery. In fact, the sun never shines the entire time. It’s always night, but a new problem arises when Marcus leaves in fear for his sister, and then randall tries to kill Pattius, but Pattius ends up stabbing Randall and running off, so Dysart gets Randall to the barracks, and then when Randall gets healed, they journey by boat to make it to the plains where Dysart is supposed to be able to get the plant to make his magic. Of course a sea monster attacks, and they all get split up again.
Without trying to reveal too much, I have to say that while this was absolutley amazing story, one of the best I’ve ever read, there was a bit too much action and gore. Like every page there was fight scene, or almost every page. I think there were one or two chapters that didn’t have any action, but even so, the action is almost a neccesity because the island is evil and the demon unleashes a bunch of monsters to try to kill Dysart, so he has to fight his way to the castle where the demon is.
All in all, if your stomach isn’t too weak, this is a great book.
The farther east Dysart walked, the more difficult it was to hone in on the settlement’s glow. Something was obstructing its view. Feeling uneasy, he opted to skulk. Low to the ground and deliberately slow, he eased forwards.
After painstakingly crawling over small, grassy hills, he noticed a thick plume of smoke obscured the glow. Burned to the ground, no doubt. He narrowed his eyes in wonder of the forthcoming predicament.
Having no choice but to at least investigate, he skulked onwards. Over a handful more hills he saw—still from a distance—remnants of a township. Thick, black smoke rose from the charred buildings. Erratic flames crackled.
He waited patiently for a moment. Only a fool runs in lacking knowledge…and I’ve already blundered once. He saw nothing. There was no movement whatsoever, so he pressed closer, rounding the hills to avoid a direct approach. From behind a large stone, he scoured the scene.
Mangled corpses lay upon the soil. There were only a few dozen or so. It had not been a large town. Salamandrus did not allow for the flourishing of jubilation. A voice came upon him, carried by the wind. He squinted. Here’s something. A figure burst forth from the remnants of a wooden building. Smoldering flames lapped the structure’s floor behind it. Dysart observed.
“Too late,” the figure growled.
It was obviously a man’s voice. Whosoever he was, he crashed about quite brazenly, nearly frantically. Kicking wreckage about, and tossing flaming cloths, the man checked buildings. In the meantime, Dysart made a tedious approach.
A flurry of high-pitched howls halted his tracks. With axe in hand, he remained cautious. To his surprise, a dozen, short, wolf-like men scampered from the eastern hills. What manner of beasts are these?
Inner turmoil brewed. He was uncertain as to the beasts’ devices, but wondered over the man’s safety. Argh…I’d rather not see death come to anyone, but certainly, breaking the contract is my priority…if I get myself killed…. He allowed his thoughts to trail away, engrossing himself instead in observing how the mysterious man fared alone. He’s been here longer than I and survived. He must know there are beasts round this island.
His observations gave rise to new speculations. The brownish wolves, which ran on two legs with tail fluttering, barged into a building. A mere second later, they ran back out aflame. The man came from the building as well. From his hands, he flung balls of fire.
“C’mon dogs!” he cried out. “Are the little houndlings scared?” Upon impact, his fiery spells exploded to engulf the houndlings. Whimpers of pain and fear followed fire. “Ah, ha-ha-ha-hah!” the man cheered.
His hubris birthed a new predicament. While a portion of the houndlings had indeed sought him directly, more had circled round the smoky piles of rubble. One beast set upon the man’s back with a mighty leap. Its weight floored him, and the others joined in.
Dammit, Dysart cursed his benevolent heart. He ran, crashing through brush, over rock, and down the hill. Reaching the first houndling, he gripped dark, furry hide with his right hand. With his left, he brought the axe into the skull of the beast. Flinging it aside, he kicked another off the man, who rolled over, embraced a beast, and it erupted in flames. Coming to his feet, the fellow dropped the burning carcass before throwing a glance Dysart’s way. Two, more houndlings sidestepped, glaring and tiptoeing round the warriors.
One licked its snout and sniffed at the air. The other brandished claws before lunging forth with a full-bodied twitch of corded muscle. Dysart took a knee to drop to a better vantage point. He swung horizontally, spilling blood from the creature’s throat. It fell over dead as the other hopped into the air. The man with fire held both palms out. Billowing, orange blazes reduced the enemy to cinders.
Seemingly safe, the men looked upon each other; each wondered if the other was a threat. Dysart steadied himself. Can never be too cautious here. The man clad in bundles of black cloth eased back his hood. A surprisingly young face was revealed. The man had high cheekbones and angular features.
“I guess I owe you my gratitude,” he said.
The incandescent embers from the town’s remains cast a swaying glow about them. Dysart nodded then slipped his axe into his belt. The man offered his hand. The warrior scrutinized it with an arched brow.
“No fires,” the man joked with a smile. “My name is Randall.” Dysart shook his hand. “And you are…?”
He ignored him to search the wreckage. Randall gave a half-hearted shrug before following through the ruins of homes. Inside one building, Dysart’s foot went through the weakened lumber. He grunted in aggravation.
“Easy, mate,” Randall advised and lent support by lightly holding Dysart’s elbow. “What’s brought you out this way?”
A severed tongue in cheek remained his reply. Randall winced from slight irritation then placed his hands on his hips. Looking about, they spotted burned furniture and little else, so Dysart moved to another structure.
Much larger than the others, the building held immense tables and many chairs; evidence of a place for social gatherings. The long, yet smashed and charred counter with ruptured, smoldering barrels, identified it as a mead hall. Dysart kicked some of the rubble around. Got to hurry before the blood turns.
He grew impatient. Throwing splintered wood from behind the counter, he spotted an intact, glass bottle. Holding it aloft, the brown liquid inside sloshed around.
“Oh, there we are,” Randall said with a grin. He snatched the bottle from Dysart, popped out the cork, and quickly emptied its contents into his mouth. There was but a little left. “Apologies.” Randall wiped his lip then offered the rest to the scowling man. He made a motion with a hand to his mouth. “Right,” Randall beamed.
He finished the liquor. Dysart then motioned for the bottle and made a quick dash outdoors. Randall shrugged indifferently before deciding to run out after the stranger. Outside, he found the mute cradling a houndling.
From the ravaged throat, he collected several ounces of blood. Randall eyed him with distaste. Before he opened his mouth to ask a question, Dysart sank his teeth into the wound. Deep gulps of lukewarm blood drizzled down his gullet.
“Whoa,” Randall shouted. “What manner of man are you?”
Dysart winced then gave a roll of the eyes. He dipped a finger into the bloody throat hole of the beast. Then, with fresh blood, he scrawled the rune for speech on the side of his neck. Once more, the piercing scream emanated from everywhere then localized from within Dysart. Randall was in awe.
“Steady, Randall,” Dysart growled. “I’m the descendant of this island’s original inhabitants. My…practices require copious amounts of blood.”
Randall was speechless. He followed as Dysart dragged the wolf indoors. Utilizing a smashed crate as a chair, he continued the draining process. Soon the bottle was filled and he replaced the cork.
“Are you, are you really one of the Cayne?”
“What’s brought you here?”
Dysart gazed into his eyes. After an obliging frown, he glanced at his newly recovered wounds then wiped blood from his mouth and replied.
“I watched in horror as the practice of Sang Daemanus twisted my people. This power is nearly limitless, but,” he trailed off with a look into the darkness through the damaged wall. With a deep breath through the nostrils, Dysart rubbed his ribs. The blemish had vanished and his mood livened. “It changes us. Animal blood is effective, if weak. Human blood is potent, if unsavory…but Daemon’s blood…Daemon’s blood makes us unstoppable.”
“Daemon’s blood?” Randall whispered. “Is there such a thing?”
“Of course there is, and though rare, we have ways for which to come by it…awful methods. Here, however, it would seem it is rampant,” he replied with a shake of the bottle.
“You think those wolves Daemons?”
“I don’t think it. Their blood proves it. Already, it courses through me. Now, I’ve been wondering since your display. What’s brought you here?”
Randall smiled then chuckled. He sat next to Dysart, though there was little room. Their shoulders touched.
“Oh-ho, you think perhaps it was I who started this town aflame?” he retorted. Dysart did not smile. Randall nodded, knowingly. “Certainly, one might think such,” he answered then stood before continuing. “No, alas, I assume the very same thing that’s brought you here. I was told there was a settlement. When I arrived to find it reduced to ashes, I decided to seek out whatever useful tools may remain intact.”
“Are there many people on this island?”
“Not sure, friend,” he whispered. “I’ve been here some time. Though with no sun, it is difficult to discern how long.”
“I might use your help,” Dysart said.
Randall lowered his eyes to Dysart’s. Embers glowed within the young man’s very soul. A strange power this boy carries.
“We might all provide help to one another, but…most here are lacking resolve. The island has bested them,” Randall fretted.
“I feel this rune of speech will fade soon. Though forged of Daemon’s blood, without esper oil, it cannot last long. My grandfather suggested the esper leaf was once abundant on this island. Have you heard of it?”
“Hmm,” the young man tapped his index finger against his cocked mouth. “I think the cleric may have your answer. She…is not altogether well, however.”
“Take me to this cleric. Without the proper reagent, there is no possibility of my reaching Salamandrus, the evil which presides from beneath this island,” Dysart demanded.
“Blast, I had not planned on backtracking. Nevertheless, I owe you for saving me. Let us rest and restock. Surely, these homes have some supplies intact.”
The rune upon Dysart’s body sizzled then evaporated. He took the dagger from his belt, and with it, neatly removed the longest, sharpest tooth from the beast.
“What’s that for?”
Dysart did not reply. After a moment’s respite, they stomped through the remaining homes. Some of them still bore flaming tapestries from their rooves. It was a mystery how the fires originated, but on the island, the most likely answer was simply Salamandrus. Perhaps, because the men were thankful for what little light the dying embers provided, a heavy rain set in and left them in complete darkness. The steady rapping of large droplets grew obscenely loud.
Randall, drenched, held quivering arms about his torso and shouted over the rain, “We’ll freeze to death.”
Remaining undaunted by the dark, the rain, and the cold, Dysart secured some hard, leather canteens, twine, and fresh clothing. After stuffing it all in a newly found travel pack, he turned to Randall. Practically indistinguishable from the surrounding darkness, the pyromancer raised his black hood. A voice in the darkness was all that remained of him.
“This rain probably won’t let up. We need to set our feet to the northwest. It’s a hike, but hopefully the movement will keep us warm. Come now.”
He crashed blindly through the damaged home. His awkward steps were in part to wearing clothing burdened by rain and in part to shivering uncontrollably. Dysart, however, did not shiver; drinking blood—and Daemon’s blood in particular—made him nearly impervious to all manners of affliction.
Reaching the outdoors, Randall oriented himself then set off. They marched steadily through sloppy mud, over and down hills, for many an hour. The rain, as Randall had predicted, did not lessen by any means.
Weary muscles forced groans from the pyromancer. Occasionally, he stumbled. Not Dysart; every step was a firmly planted stride. When a structure in the darkness drew his attention, he gripped Randall by his clothing. Startled, the young man relinquished a gasp.
“What is it?” he spoke into Dysart’s ear.
Daemon’s blood gave more than resistance to affliction, it also provided the imbiber heightened perception, better hearing, better sight. Dysart had spotted a den, a large hole dug into the bottom of a boulder. He dragged Randall along then gave a grunt while pointing.
Randall howled, and with a flaming display, shot plumes of fire at the den. The firelight revealed it was devoid of beasts.
“Clean. I don’t see any remains either,” he shouted. “Good sight, friend. How did you ever see it through this damnable darkness?”
They scurried into the den. It was a small space. Even scrunched together with their knees to their chests, their feet remained under rainfall. At least the water flowed away from the depression. Randall produced dried meat from a satchel he kept beneath his robes.
“Well,” he started while munching, “won’t be too much longer before we enter Etmire Abbey. Sometimes there are others there. They call themselves the Order of the Cross or Ordo et Crucis. The Abbey is a sort of refuge on this damnable place. Now that the town has been obliterated, it might bode well to return.
“Truthfully, I came from there only recently. You see, a thief has lightened my burden in a most inappropriate manner. I thought he might have passed through the town. Perhaps, meeting you is a boon. Ah, who knows?”
After chomping incessantly at the dried meat, Randall grew quiet, but the rain continued crashing down around them.
Blurb- The Kinship rides victorious into the small village of Minhaven, just in time to celebrate the Winter Festival. Their leader, Glak, brings with him both hope and spoils from battle, but also some distressing news. Though Minhaven’s greatest threat has finally been defeated, a new one is emerging to take its place.
The enemy Glak describes has not been seen in hundreds of years, yet somehow it has been haunting Elowyn’s dreams. Has Braeden’s cruel reach followed her from Tyroc’s troubled borders into this remote wilderness? If so, there is no place left to run, and the Kinship is preparing to fight an enemy more sinister and powerful than they can possibly imagine.
Past becomes present, as prophecies long buried continue to emerge, revealing their truth to the coming generation. The Era of Peace has ended. The Era of Awakening has begun. While Morganne seeks guidance from the crumbling pages of ancient tomes, Elowyn tries to find her place within a community for the first time.
Despite the impending danger, Morganne and Elowyn decide to make their stand with the people of Minhaven. As they plunge into the depths of history, prophecy, the wilderness, love, fear, hope, faith…the girls begin to learn more about who they are, and who Aviad is calling them to be.
Genre- Young Adult Fantasy
My Rating- 2.5 Meows room for im-purrrr-ovement
The story picks up with Elowyn and Morganne. After Journey to Aviad they settled down in Minhaven, a township in the mountains. During the winter festival some warriors show up to share in the rejoicing. Everything seems quite nice, despite Elowyn’s frightening and prophetic dream.
As it turns out, the beasts from her dream had begun to attack a neighboring community. Worse, they are related to the Hounds of Alazoth, and to Braeden. Glak, the warrior of Minhaven, even claims that the beasts may be from a different time, from the days of the Prophet.
There isn’t too much more to tell without spoiling the story. I’m sad to say that I enjoyed Ancient Voices a little less than Journey to Aviad, maybe even a lot less. Even though I still love Elowyn as a character, her fright, her determination, her willfulness, too often were the times that absolutely nothing was happening. There was a lack of action on Elowyn’s part even though her sister, Morganne has a bigger role.
In the end, I think if about 50 pages were cut from this book, it would have hit me a lot harder. Instead, it seemed to me like a friend droning on about mundane details rather than providing me with factual accounts of events, or even worse, it seems like the other characters, the warriors, are going off, seeking adventure, and then they recount the adventures to Elowyn, and then Reid recounts it to me.
Here’s an excerpt from a chapter I enjoyed. I still found it too interpretive, which demeaned the excitement-
Morganne might have comforted herself with the thought that this tome contained nothing more than the overly imaginative ravings of a crazed monk. But she knew all too well that the prophecy within it had already come to pass, that Gareth and the others had been right all along. Morganne could hardly bear to read through some of the pages, which brought the horrors of the Rift to life with unspeakable clarity. One drawing in particular held her captive; the Chest of Sorrows seemed to protrude from the page, covered with the forlorn faces of all those who had tried to open it without success. There had been so many from across the ages, that their cheeks were squeezed tightly together. Hollow eyes and tormented expressions grabbed at her heart while starved, bony fingers reached out toward her in desperation. For a moment, she forgot that she was only looking at an image of the chest, and not the chest itself. She could almost feel herself being pulled in, those twisted fingers grabbing for her hair, her clothing … her soul.
She felt a sudden tug on her dress and barely stifled a shriek as she slammed the book shut. Adelin had awoken from her nap. Her round face and wide blue eyes were fixed on Morganne as she teetered on the edge of melting into a startled wail. Clearly, this was not the reaction she had expected in response to her timid tug. Morganne quickly whisked Adelin up in her arms and hugged her tightly, a wave of relief sweeping over her. She wrapped the book up and tucked it away, knowing that she would need to gather her courage before she would be ready to read from it again.
Even with the book well out of sight, she could not escape her fears so easily. She tossed and turned on the narrow bed that she shared with Adelin, envious of Elowyn sleeping peacefully on the rug by the fire. When she did manage to sleep, she dreamed of the Crevasse and the Rift. She dreamt that she was being dragged into the bone room by a host of beasts like the one Glak had brought back from the mountains. They placed her before Alazoth’s altar, face to face with that horrible stone chest. They wanted her to open it, to condemn herself into becoming one of those lost souls, staring out mournfully into the abyss through all of eternity. She was promised wealth, prestige, power, beauty, even immortality…but nothing could entice her to share the fate of the forlorn faces on that chest. She resisted, realizing that she was lost in a nightmare from which she would eventually waken.
When morning came, Morganne rose from bed pallid and weary. She wrapped the book to take it with her, secretly hoping that she would not be asked to continue reading it, even though she felt compelled to by its obvious importance. She laid it on the table before Jadon, saying, “This is a dark tome you have given me.”
Jadon did not seem surprised. “The old tomes can be difficult,” he responded, “not in their translation, but in their message. They are scribed by men living in desperate times, whose hearts are made heavy by the suffocating weight of the Shadow’s presence upon the world. Such men are given voice by Aviad so that they may speak the words we need, but do not always want, to hear.”
“Indeed, there are many things written in this tome that I do not want to hear. I fear these things are no longer prophecy, but have come to pass in our generation.” Morganne went on to describe what she had read, hoping the information would push Jadon into action.
“Knowledge of the Chest of Sorrows is common, and has been recorded and copied in numerous tomes, though I have never before heard it described in such a way. What makes you believe that it has been opened?”
“The Hounds and their Master have been seen around Tyroc … or so I have heard,” Morganne said carefully. “Alazoth’s release was also revealed in visions given to my former teacher and a group of monks in his order. They left their monastery seeking answers and guidance, but I do not know where they went, only that their travels took them westward. More I dare not say. I have many more reasons to think that the beasts gathering just beyond Minhaven are not here by chance, but that they are connected with the opening of the chest.”
Jadon nodded, absorbed in thought as he leafed slowly through the pages of the tome, his eye finally resting on the image of the chest. He stared at it for a while, mesmerized as Morganne had been, before quietly closing the book and giving it back to Morganne.
“What should we do?” Morganne finally asked.
“Nothing,” Jadon said softly.
“Nothing?” Morganne could hardly believe his response.
“Does the tome give instruction on how to defeat the beasts?”
“No. It does not mention them at all. Mainly it warns that the chest and the Rift will be opened, releasing Alazoth and his armies into the world. It describes the Deep Woods, the Crevasse, and the Rift in frightening detail. The monk who wrote the tome said that Alazoth’s release will usher in a time of great trial for humanity that could very well be the end of days.”
“What would you have me do?” Jadon asked.
“I don’t know,” Morganne said in a flustered tone. “Tell your superiors and the rest of your order, tell the people, the Kinship…tell everyone so that they might prepare for what is coming.”
“Certainly I must tell my superiors,” Jadon said in his usual understated way. “The Kinship and the people already know of the beasts and are preparing for Minhaven’s defense should the worst befall us. The heavy snows will protect us for now, but many are frightened by what may await us when spring thaws the mountain passes. Should I bring more terror upon them with no offering of hope to see them through it? What can one do against a prophecy already fulfilled? Nothing more than pray for strength and wisdom, and hope that Aviad will give us instruction at the proper time.”
Morganne gaped in disbelief at the way he seemed to calmly accept this fate without feeling the need to do anything but pray.
“Perhaps there is something more in the remaining tomes that could be of help to us,” Jadon said encouragingly, noting Morganne’s despondent expression. He handed her a new tome just as the bells began to ring.
“Now that you have a fair understanding of the old language, there is no need to meet every day. Take whatever time you need with these tomes. Do not only translate them. Study them. Lift their message to Aviad in prayer and see what other insights He reveals to you. When you have questions or have finished a tome, you know how to find me.” Jadon then quickly ushered her out through the gate.
Morganne’s sewing tasks bore the brunt of her frustration as she tried to put the tomes out of her mind and catch up on the work she had left unfinished the previous day. The pressure bearing down on her heart to act was becoming unbearable, yet she had no clear direction for that pressure to vent itself. She kept asking herself if it was Aviad trying to direct her as He had before in Evensong, or was it her own fear getting the better of her? Perhaps she could not fault Jadon, for he had not come face-to-face with Braeden, or felt the threat of conjured storms lashing out at his roof. Until now, he had remained secure, insulated from the steady march of the Hounds that were now descending upon the southern shores of the Sovereign’s realm. He seemed content to wait for some divine instruction before entering into the looming battle.
The whole book is like this, uninspired and cliched; yeah, there are chapters with more action than others, but it isn’t the kind of action you’d expect. Furthermore, the fact that Reid already released one novel before this one, at least one, maybe more, I’m not sure, I really expected the story to be smoother to be more…I don’t know, alive.
There were different characters, and some different things happened, but there was really nothing to keep me going, except hoping to learn more of Aviad and his connection to the main characters.
Now, as is the case when I find a book I didn’t enjoy, I always want to express that just because I didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Here’s a review from someone else-
The second book in the Wind Rider Chronicles, Ancient Voices: Into the Depths by Allison D. Reid, is a[s] captivating as the first book. Whereas in the first book we learned more about Elowyn, in this sequel we learn more about Morganne as both young girls continue to find their path and purpose in life. The tale takes place in Minhaven from one Winter Festival to the next. In the course of that year, Morgan[ne] has the opportunity to read and interpret the sacred texts while Elowyn tries to fit in with the community. Both learn self-protection; Morgan[ne] with a sword and Elowyn with the bow. The hardest lessons are to accept Aviad calling especially without knowing exactly what that calling is. I am looking forward to the next sequel in hopes that the calling is revealed and to see how the girls carry it out.
End of anonymous review
So, m’yeah, it’s worth reading if you like softer novels. There’s certainly some descriptive violence, but it isn’t action or gore. Like again, imagine me telling you that my friend got beat up, and that’s the gist of it.
Blurb- Threatening clouds and fierce storms besiege the city of Tyroc. More frequent and powerful than ordinary storms, young Elowyn, a weaver’s daughter living in the outskirts of the city, senses something disturbing and unnatural about them. She soon realizes that the storms are but a warning sign of much more frightening things yet to come.
Terrifying wolf-like creatures emerge from the depths of the wilderness at the bidding of a dark master. His name found only among the crumbling pages of ancient texts, the re-appearance of Alazoth and his Hounds is a dark omen for the people of Tyroc and beyond. Only legends remain of the heroes and prophets whose blood was shed ages ago to banish him into the abyss, which should have remained his prison for all time. How he has been released is a mystery, but all the old stories agree that death and destruction are sure to follow.
With the Hounds inching closer each day, the city of Tyroc caught up in religious and political turmoil, and her home life no less turbulent, Elowyn has nothing left to rely on but her meager courage and a budding faith in Aviad, the Creator. She and her sister, Morganne, set out on a remarkable journey that challenges everything they have ever known about themselves, the world, and the path that Aviad has laid out for them.
Genre- Young Adult Fantasy
My Rating- 3 Meows, certainly worth perrrusing!
My Review- A story of Elowyn, a young, willful child, who enjoys sleeping in the woods, away from her family. Her journey begins shortly after a messenger of some sort is killed the previous night. She finds a strange coin, stumbles across the messenger’s prints, and fearing for her safety, returns home to find her sister weaving. Later that night, as another storm comes in, she wakes to find the ghost of the man who was killed.
Fearing a curse, or worse, (ha! I made a rhyme!) Elowyn returns to the woods to dispose of the coin. Along the way, Alazoth’s Hounds, the beasts that killed the man in the woods, accost her, but she is saved by a young man, Einar, who turns out to be part of some rebel group.
This is all taking place during a sort of regime change. The sovereign has died suddenly, and though he left two sons, one seems unfit to lead, and the other is not yet old enough, so there is some political turmoil, which ties into the oncoming blackness–the coming of Alazoth, Master of Destruction.
I do have some complaints, the usual complaints. There was too much explaining (sometimes, but not all the time), which made it feel like someone was recounting events that yet someone else had experienced. This kept me from feeling directly connected to the tale on occasion. It was almost like I was a third party to whom the tale was being related, also, as is the case with a ton of books meow-a-days, and that includes indie and mainstream, too much would and could, which also kept me at arm’s length, and, of course, too many sentences beginning with conjunctions–if a sentence has to begin with a conjunction, the previous sentence probably shouldn’t have ended, right? Overall, it really felt like a friend was recounting their DnD adventures to me, which isn’t terrible, of course.
On the plus side, none of my personal complaints ruin the story. It just wasn’t a 5 meow book for me. It is a wonderful tale, and I think, young adults especially will enjoy sinking their claws into the adventure of Elowyn. This is perhaps the best possible compliment I can give: I do recommend reading this book, mostly because I really liked Elowyin, who is a solid character and really drives the story on.
When Elowyn finally roused herself, late in the warmth of the morning, she let out a great sigh of contentment. She ate a small breakfast then approached the basin with great curiosity as she remembered her dream. She immersed the tips of her fingers in the cool water, looking up at Aviad’s image. There was no sound, no movement. She reminded herself that it had only been a dream after all, and yet she wondered if the elements of her dream were instructions meant to be followed. This was a peculiar place, no doubt still touched by the presence of the Ancients from when it was a sacred site. Perhaps it would be best to do as she had been told, just in case what she had experienced had been more than a mere dream. She cupped some of the water in her hands and poured it over her head. The drops ran along the length of her hair and down her face, dripping off her eyelashes, nose and chin. She looked up again at the carving, smiled brightly and skipped off into the trees humming to herself. She felt as though all of her burdens were lifted that morning. Her body felt light, her spirit refreshed.
Elowyn decided to do something she had not done in a long while. She called it tree sailing. Morganne called it utter madness. And just past her camp, standing in a patch of soft, springy green moss, was the perfect tree for it … tall, but not too tall, strong, flexible, and with a great number of canopy-like branches fanning out from the trunk. Elowyn scrambled up the tree, inching forward on her belly across the strongest of the overhanging branches, grabbing the smaller ones to her chest. She pushed herself forward as far as she dared, hanging on with her whole body. As the wind caught the branches, she was swayed up and down. It was the closest she had ever come to experiencing what it must be like to sail on the ocean—something she had always felt a great longing to do. Once caught in the rhythm of the tree and the breeze, she could close her eyes and relax without any fear of falling. She felt so free suspended weightless in the air. It was almost as though she were part of the tree itself, growing tall and graceful, joining the wind and sky in their daily song, year upon year, age upon age. Time seemed motionless, meaningless.
Elowyn had been in the tree for a long while when her senses slowly became aware of movement below her. Peering through the leaves, she saw someone moving about where her camp was. His form seemed familiar, but she had to be sure … yes, it was Einar. Finally he had come! She called out to him, laughing as he looked about unable to find her.
“Up here,” she called, “in the tree!”
Einar seemed both startled and amused at the same time. “By the Sovereign’s name, what are you doing up there, child?”
“Can’t you see?” Elowyn smiled joyfully. “I am riding the wind!”
Surely if anyone could understand this unique habit of hers, it would be Einar. He shook his head at her but did not scold. That beautiful, wondrous, youthfulness that she had recognized in him only once before, shone through his features.
“You are indeed a most unusual child …” Einar looked around the ruins as Elowyn eagerly climbed down the tree to retrieve the helmet and bow. “I see that you have not sat idle while you waited for me. Making a new home for yourself?” Elowyn could see that Einar did not regard this place with the same reverence she did. As his eye roved from crumbling wall to fallen pillar, he saw little more than a jumble of old masonry.
“It is a special place … it seemed to need me. Everyone has forgotten it.” Though Elowyn said this with the utmost humility, she could feel her face growing warm.
Einar began to laugh in that jaded tone of his, until he saw the crestfallen look on her face. “Aye, such a tender soul. I suppose if I had been forgotten for hundreds of years, I would want one such as you to find me again.”
“I was hoping you could tell me what the carvings mean. They are all about people and places I don’t know, except, of course, for Aviad. He is everywhere.”
Einar seemed a bit uncomfortable as he scanned the numerous images spanning the walls. “I’m afraid I will be of little help to you in that regard. I have not put much thought into the old tales of Aviad and the like.” He shrugged.
To Einar it all seemed no more than a fairy tale, and a dangerous one at that. How long had the Temple leadership interfered in the affairs of the Sovereign for the sake of its own gain? How often had they swayed the people, based not on the issue at hand, but simply on their word and desire? He thought the Temple leadership to be imminently corrupt, and the people who blindly followed them to be no better than drunks, addicted to a never ending supply of ale, packaged neatly and sold as religion. However, he could not say this to Elowyn, her innocent face raptly gazing into his, desperately craving his wisdom and approval.
“Perhaps one day I shall be able to introduce you to a friend of mine who knows of such things.” Quickly changing the subject, he put on the brightest expression he could manage and said, “Come now, sit with me and show me this bow that you’ve found.”
As Einar sat down, the breeze lifted his cloak, revealing a heavy bandage wrapped around his left arm from elbow to shoulder.
“You’re hurt!” she exclaimed. “What happened?”
Einar quickly covered his arm with his cloak. “Let’s just say we ran into some … trouble, two nights ago. We had to move camp, which is why I am so long in getting to you. My sincerest apologies for the wait. It could not be helped.”
Elowyn’s ears attended to every word. This was the first time he had ever mentioned “we” or “camp.” Again, she wondered about him. Where did he go? Where did he live? Did he have a family? Why was he always so secretive? What was he hiding? Perhaps in showing him what he had come for, she would get some answers.
Pulling the bow out of her sack, Elowyn handed it to him. All of the joy instantly left his face, and he held it close to his body with his head bowed heavily.
“Please, tell me again exactly what you found, and where you found it.” His voice was low and somber.
Elowyn recounted the tale of that last night by the stream, of finding a stray coin, which led her to find the helm and the bow and the arrows. She told him about the tracks she had found, and what she thought they meant, which seemed to be confirmed by the attack on her the next day. She showed him the helm as well, and he wept over it when he saw the crest.
“It is finished then. My friend is lost, and so is the accursed quest that sent him to his death. There is no hope to recover either, the Hounds and their Master have seen to that.”
Elowyn shuddered at the mention of the Hounds and their elusive Master. “The night of the storm, one of those Hounds was scratching at our cottage door. It left a footprint. The last two nights that I have been here, their sounds have drawn closer. Einar, what are we to do if they come to the cottage? It is only my mother, two sisters and I. We are not warriors, and we have no weapons to fight off such horrific beasts. I told my sister the print was from a wolf, so as not to scare her. But I am scared.”
“If you were not, after what you have seen, child, then you would be a fool.” His words troubled her. She had expected him to say something comforting, or at the very least give her some practical advice.
Einar rose and said abruptly, “I must take my leave, and report back what you have told me. I am sorry.” Elowyn felt her heart being squeezed by a mixture of emotions. Sorrow first, for she felt the loss of Einar’s friend, who apparently meant much to him. Second, hurt, for she had anticipated that once she brought Einar what he asked for, he would be more open with his own business. Instead she found him even more closed off, and curt with her in a way he had never been before. She knew it was not because of anything she had done, but it left her sore just the same. Third, fear. Einar was the closest thing to a brother, or even a father, that she had ever known. She wanted him to make things right, to protect her, to assure her that she was not in danger, or tell her what to do, just as he had given her instructions on how to use the dagger. Though Elowyn knew she was miserably clumsy with it, at least she was not completely vulnerable so long as she carried it. There was always a chance. But now she was left feeling helpless, paralyzed. She handed him the bow and arrows with the helm.
“Keep them, or give them back to your friend’s family. I do not want them any longer.”
“Thank you,” Einar nodded. His eyes had grown cold, and all the muscles in his face hardened. She felt as though she were standing with a total stranger.
“When will we meet again?” Elowyn asked, hoping that he would look at her, and that she would be able to see some remnant of the kind gentility she had come to know in him.
“Soon,” was all he would say. Then he departed, vanishing into the trees, as was his custom. Elowyn felt hurt, and betrayed, and very uncertain about Einar. She had done his bidding, waited at the ruins patiently for two days, knowing that if it had taken a week or more for him to come, she would have waited. This was not exactly the way she had expected his visit to turn out. She sat in front of the little basin and cried until the hurt gave way to a quiet resentfulness. She decided that if she was going to continue meeting Einar, she wanted to know more about him. She needed to know that she could trust him. “Next time I see him,” she vowed to herself, “I will demand some answers.”
But then as she stared at the ground, she noticed something. A footprint, deep and clear. It was Einar’s. Glancing in the direction he had gone, she saw more. The ground was still extremely soft from all the rain the storm had brought, especially in the thick wooded places where the sun did not reach. It would be impossible for him to leave no tracks on a day such as this, no matter how great his skill. She sat and debated for a moment. Was it right to follow uninvited? What if she were caught? Surely he would be furious. It would be his fault though, wouldn’t it? If he had been more honest from the start, she wouldn’t need to sneak after him looking for answers. And then the most dreaded thought of all; what if she followed him, and did not like what she found? Was it better to know than not know? She told herself that she would just follow a short bit, to see in what direction he had gone. But curiosity grabbed hold of her; she could not stop herself. She needed to know, once and for all, what his secret was, and she might not get the chance again, for she realized that she did not have the ability to follow him any other way undetected.
Einar was heading well away from Tyroc, up along the ravine but more to the west. Where the soil became thin and sandy, his footprints were shallow and difficult to follow. Several times she thought she had lost the trail, only to pick up traces of it again further ahead. Eventually she came to the bottom of a long, sloping valley. On the other side, a steep hill crested and she could not see what lay beyond it. Many separate plumes of smoke rose above the hill, and Elowyn guessed that they came from the camp he had spoken of. She eased her way slowly along the edge of the trees, not wanting to draw attention to herself if anyone was on the lookout. As she got closer, she began to hear the bustling sounds of an active camp—axes at work, people calling out instructions to one another, bits and pieces of casual conversation, and warm greetings passed between friends. Elowyn strained to see, but was not yet close enough. The camp was masked by thick, tangled underbrush, much of it sporting nasty looking thorns. Carefully she inched herself up a nearby tree so that she might get a better look.
The camp was full of makeshift tents, many of which were windblown with patches sewn on to cover the rips. It was a bedraggled group she saw—most dressed in what were once fine sturdy clothes, now worn thin with use. A group of men were digging a large pit on the far side of the camp against a rock face. The rest were busy setting up tents, preparing food, and taking care of other menial chores. Several seemed to be wounded. There were no women, and no children.
One man was tied up against a tree near the edge of the encampment. Elowyn wondered who he was, and why he was being held prisoner in such a way. Then she saw Einar emerge from a tent. He strode over to the prisoner and had some sort of argument with him. She could not hear what they were saying, but both seemed very upset. The prisoner spit on Einar, and instantly several large men rushed over to pull Einar away before he had the chance to strike him. An older man approached who had an aura of authority about him. As he and Einar spoke, the man’s expression grew increasingly concerned. He dismissed the other men and motioned in Elowyn’s direction. At first she panicked thinking she had been seen, but then realized that he was motioning to a tent near to where she was hiding. Perhaps if she could get close enough to it, she could finally hear what was going on. Elowyn slithered down the tree as quietly as she could and crawled over toward the back of the tent where she could hear but not be seen.
“I realize it is tempting Einar, but you know that is not our way, and it is not yours either. I have known you since you were but a lad bouncing on your father’s knee. Worry not, Justice will be served tonight at the appointed time, and I have decided to give you first rights.”
“I fear even that will not be enough to quell my grief, my lord. It festers deep within my soul. It haunts me, consumes me … I cannot rid myself of it.”
“Aye, and so it shall be … for a time. You know that we all share the same grief, for all of us have lost these past months, in one way or another.”
“Yes, my lord. I do not mean disrespect to you or any other in this camp.” Einar’s tone softened, “I beg your patience, for this latest news is a fresh wound that I must learn to bear.”
“Indeed. And now that we are in private, I wish to hear of it. What news do you bring?”
“Nevon is dead. The Hounds have devoured him.”
The two men fell silent for a few moments before the elder finally asked, “How do you know that he is perished?” Einar relayed to him the whole tale of tracking his friend as far as the clearing where he had saved Elowyn from the Hound. He told him of their rapid advancement and of his inability to travel any further east because of their numbers and the encroaching storms. He told him also of what Elowyn had seen, and of what she had found and returned to him.
“This girl you speak of, can her word be fully trusted?” Elowyn bristled slightly at the question, listening intently for Einar’s answer.
“Yes, my lord. I have worked to slowly gain her trust, and she has proved herself to be honest and forthcoming with what she knows. I have found no reason to doubt her sincerity.”
“And she knows not who you are or where you are from? One careless word to the wrong person…” Elowyn saw the shadow of the elder rise and begin to pace with what she perceived to be anxiety.
“No, I have been careful not to reveal myself, though I am not sure how much longer I can continue to question her while leaving all of her questions unanswered. Eventually she is sure to become suspicious.” Elowyn’s ears perked with great interest at this remark, wondering if his secret would now be revealed. Einar’s answer made her wonder about the sincerity of his friendship. True, he had saved her when she was still but a stranger to him, and he had showed her kindness. But what if he was only using her to glean information for whatever purpose he was tasked with? The other man continued with his questioning.
“There was no body? Not even a trace of one? Even for Hounds, that is strange. And no sign of the package he was carrying either? Of course, he would have held it close to his body and well hidden. If the Hounds’ Master has Nevon’s remains, so also he must have the package. If that object is now in his possession … I fear to think of what may become of us.”
Einar spoke once again, his voice carrying an edge that meant he was trying desperately to stay his anger. “Despite our disagreements in the past, I know that you and Nevon both truly believed in the quest, and I am sorry that it failed. But with all due respect, I cannot believe that my fate, or that of the world, rests with any single object.
“Ever since we found the dying monk in the forest, the men have been rattled and uneasy. His presence, his tales, his relic, and most of all, this quest, have been a distraction from our true purpose here. What do we go out and tell the men? How many of them have hung so much upon this that they will now give up all hope that they can save themselves? Nerves are frayed enough. We are weary and wounded, and our families, our very lives, have been taken from us. Is that not enough pain to endure?
“There is plenty of evil to be fought right here, with Braeden’s wicked deeds, his evil magics, his outright manipulation of the courts, and of the people, too, for that matter. Have you forgotten that he was recommended to the Sovereign by the Temple? If he is what the Temple represents, then I want no part of it—its relics, its monks, or of its so-called deities.”
“You know not what you say,” the elder man interrupted with a slight growl to his voice. “Think what you will in private, but speak not against the Ancients in my presence. How convenient that you believe so readily in the powers of evil, but not in the ones that might save you.”
“How am I to do otherwise?” Einar challenged. “The fingers of evil reach far, and deep. I can see their workings all too readily. The dark minions call out, and they are answered and aided. Every day they grow in number and strength. Those of us who can see through the darkness, those of us who are willing to stand against it—who answers when we call out in desperation? The most righteous people I have known in my lifetime, those most devoted to the Ancients, and the Temple … where are they now? What help has come to them? They are all either dead or suffering in exile while their families are trapped on the other side of that damned city wall. I for one will not stand idle, waiting for some unknown power to save me. Whatever has become of the relic Nevon carried is of no real consequence to me. As long as I have breath, I will continue to fight, on my own terms. I believe in the power of my bow more than in the wisdom and power of the Temple or its god.
“Let us assume for the moment that all who serve in Temple are truly innocent of corruption. How wise can they be if they are duped by such a blatant scoundrel as Braeden, even that they recommend him to the Sovereign with their highest praise, so that he was the one chosen to shape the heirs and the future of all Tyroc? How powerful can their deity be to allow one such as Braeden to defile the Temple for so many years? Once again, my lord, you are like a father to me, and I respect that we differ on this greatly. But now that Nevon is dead, and I am no longer bound by my oaths to him, I must speak my mind, at the least just this once, even should you cut out my tongue and hang me by it for doing so.”
Elowyn listened to the long silence that followed with great anxiety. Would the other man really do such a thing? Then she heard him speak in a low voice.
“I will not deny that to hear you speak thus fills my heart with the greatest sorrow I have ever known. Such bitterness is poison only to the soul that bears it. You are still filled with youthful rage, and given our circumstance I have no cause to blame you for that. So long as you do not destroy yourself with it, you may yet live long enough to know the folly of what you have just said. You have spoken your mind to me openly, and I know that nothing I say will change it. But I now want your oath, that you will not speak with the other men in a way that will cause dissent among them.”
“That is an oath I gladly give. I have no desire to inflict the doubts I suffer upon my brothers. They may cling to their fantasies for as long as they wish. If things continue to go as they have, those fantasies may soon be the only comfort they have left. And now I must also ask a boon of you, my lord, if you will hear it.”
“What sort of boon?”
“That should you decide to send out another to recover the relic, and finish the quest Nevon began, you would consider sending me.”
“What?” the elder said with utter astonishment. “You? After all you have just said? Why would you of all people desire to be sent on such a mission?”
“Because I know these woods better than anyone here, and I am familiar with the patterns of the Hounds. I have no desire to see yet another brother given up to them as a sacrifice. But mostly because I can think of no better way to honor Nevon’s memory than to take up the quest he believed in enough to die for. Besides,” he added, “I know the girl Elowyn and how to find her. She may need to be questioned again in the future about what she has seen.”
“You really are arrogant,” the other voice chuckled gruffly. “All the same, it is a noble gesture, and I know that Nevon would be deeply honored. But I am not sure that we can spare you here. It is partly your knowledge of this region that has allowed us to survive for so long against such odds.”
“If this relic is all that you believe it to be, what difference will it make if our little band lasts another week, or another month? The Hounds draw closer each night, and we have not the strength to fight them off for long. It is more likely that we will perish at their Master’s hand than at the hand of Tyroc. The only other option we have is to abandon this place altogether, with no hope of serving justice and reclaiming what is ours. I doubt that most of these men are prepared to leave just yet. That certainly is not our way.”
“No, it is not. I must consult with the other commanders about all of this. Your request will be seriously considered. In the meanwhile, gather the camp and make all necessary preparations to take care of Mavek. I want that sordid business finished before night falls. Are you still completely certain that you desire first rights?”
“Aye. I have thought carefully on it and I will accept the burden. My soul will not be able to mend until the deed is finished and I may lay the visions that haunt me to rest.”
“So shall it be then.”
Einar and the other man parted company, leaving Elowyn to sort through everything she had just heard. Could it be that this was the renegade group everyone was talking about? Clearly they were not welcome in Tyroc. Yet they spoke of some great wrong that had been done to them—they spoke of justice, and honor, and of fighting evil. Those were not the words of common criminals, nor bloodthirsty murderers. What was the purpose Einar had spoken of? What was the quest on which his friend had perished, and what sort of mysterious package had he been carrying?
Elowyn’s feelings about Einar in particular were rather mixed. She was shocked to hear him speak against the Temple, and most especially against Aviad. She expected such words from her mother, whose only care in life was her loom, but she did not expect it of Einar. How could anyone who knew and loved the wood as he did, not know the hand that had so lovingly made it? Most of all, she wondered what “sordid business” Einar had agreed to carry out. There was nothing for her to do but sit and wait while the camp made their preparations, and hope that she was not caught. There was no turning back now.
Near to where the prisoner was tied, a great bonfire was being lit and torches were being staked in a circle around it. Elowyn crept slowly around the outskirts of the camp to get as close as she dared to the prisoner, so that she would be able to see, and possibly even hear what was going on, without being seen herself.
As evening closed in, the torches were lit, and a bell began to ring. Not a cheery high-toned bell, but rather a low, mournful one. It was the kind of bell that was rung in honor of the dead. The men approached the prisoner one by one, each dropping an unseen object into a container near his feet before gathering around the fire and waiting in silence.
Soon after came a group of men in dark robes. Among them was the man she had seen earlier with Einar, and she guessed that these were the other commanders he had spoken of. Each of them also dropped something into the container. One of the commanders then took the container and poured out its contents at the prisoner’s feet so that all could see. They were little stones, about the size that could be squeezed comfortably into your fist. All of them were dark in color except for two, which were white.
The elder looked directly at the prisoner and said, “Your peers have judged you.”
“These men are not my peers,” the man snarled. “My peers are now in the castle of Tyroc, making ready to either rescue me or avenge me if I am dead.”
“You willingly joined us. You accepted our rules, lived among us as a brother, and took your oaths with us. When you found those oaths to no longer be convenient, you went behind our backs and betrayed us to our enemies. Innocent blood was spilled because of your actions, and that we cannot accept. You well know the penalty.”
“I did my duty.”
“And now, as much as it pains us, we must do ours.”
The elder then turned to address the men, but Elowyn could not make out the words, as he was looking away from her. After a few moments someone emerged from the crowd dressed entirely in black, and with a hood and mask covering his face. He carried a black bow and black-feathered arrows. He received some sort of blessing from the man who had spoken, and words of acceptance from the rest.
“Which one of you cowards has been appointed to the task?” the man provoked angrily. “Which one of you am I to curse with my last dying breath?”
The man in black approached the prisoner, close enough that Elowyn could clearly hear the response, even though it was no more than a low seething hiss. “It is I, my old friend.” The voice was unmistakably Einar’s, but never had his tone seemed so frightening to her.
“Three friends have I lost, friends that were like kin to me. One perished of his own will delivering dusty trinkets for holy men. He was slain by a horde of nameless beasts, and I have no way to truly avenge his death. But the other two … they were betrayed by you, whom they once trusted and called ‘friend’ and ‘comrade.’ I have tried to forgive, but I cannot. What you have done breaks every code of honor and decency we strive to follow. It is the worst form of treachery one man can inflict upon another. Fear not that I have been unhappily appointed to this task; I have asked for it. I desire it.” Einar’s voice trembled with emotion.
The prisoner snarled at him. “I am not sorry for what I have done. Do what you will to me, my death will not bring them back.”
“No, it will not. But it may allow their spirits to rest. I know it will greatly ease mine.”
Einar kissed the first arrow, nocked it, and drew the string back tight with practiced perfection.
Blurb- A man witnesses a murder. The deceased speaks in riddles. Vertigo settles in….
Adja wakes to learn he’s got the mojo. The old woman teaches him the ways of Voodoo. He must stand alone, under the guidance of Bear, against Snake, a villain, a murderer, an innate force, but there are other forces amidst the crack between the worlds.
Are you brave enough to journey…to the otherside?
Genre- ??? Horror? Speculative Fiction? Urban Fantasy? Like, I really don’t know how to classify this one, but on Smashwords it’s listed as: Fiction » Urban Fiction » Visionary & metaphysical
My Review- Meow-kay…. The protagonist, who is never actually named but referred to as Adja, is kind of a dufus, party-boy loser, who seems to have a friend in the real estate business, and together, they go to party in New Orleans, but almost immediately, while running to a liquor store, he stumbles across a murder. After the murder, the dead man’s mojo goes into Adja, he passes out, and he wakes up to find an old Creole woman tending to his health. It turns out she’s the grandmother of the murder victim, and since the victim chose to give his mojo to Adja, she takes him as her pupil to teach him the ways of Voodoo in order to survive, in order to exact revenge!
This is not actual Voodoo, not that I know actual Voodoo, but Dennis, the author, states that it is a fictional rendition of Voodoo, which includes hexes, charms, shape shifting, and even astral travel! Super neat-o!
Meow, the book is broken down into 4 short stories, and each serves as either a chapater or its own tale. In the first tale, Adja learns the prelims of Voodoo and goes to take on the man who killed the old woman’s grandson, and what struck me as cool is that no one in the entire book has a name! They are called by either their animal guide or something else; i.e. Adja, J, Snake, Bear, Eagle, Old Woman, etc. No one turned into a cat though 😦
The second story consists of Adja doing a favor for Bear, his guide. The favor is to find friends among the tribes and track down Dire Wolf, a ghost spirit, woooooo spooky pooky!
In the third story, something has happened to Bear, and Adja–with no more powers–has to find a way to help Bear by travelling directly into the spirit world, the Otherside, as it is called throughout the book.
Finally, in the fourth story, Adja has to battle a mysterious spirit that is trying to steal his body.
Never, never ever, in my life have I read something like this. All I can do is provide you with a reading from the book, which I think you’ll enjoy. Tall Tale Tv does a great job here, and I suggest that both readers and writers check out the website. readers will get to hear interesting stories, and writers can get free readings of their stories. No one loses!!!
Now that you’ve heard an excerpt, I strongly recommend that you guys at least download a free sample from Smashwords. Of course, you can also buy it right here.
Thanks so much for reading my review of Otherside by Dennis! Smooches!
The first point I need to make is that I was not able to find this volume on Barnes and Noble or Goodreads, which are where I also like to place my reviews, so I will have to settle for Smashwords and my blog!
Price for The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson- Free!!!
Blurb- This second volume of The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson has been produced so that additional material, discovered while sorting through his papers, can be made available.
Those who knew Edward will, no doubt, be able to identify with many of the images and emotions he expresses and will hopefully take pleasure in exploring these additional poems.
For those who did not know Edward personally, we hope that reading this small volume of poetry proves to be a rewarding experience.
Genre- Poetry, Collections
My Rating- 5 meows!!! It’s the cat’s pajamas!
My Review- This is a collection of poems. You obviously don’t have to read the first collection. It’s tough, however, to review a compilation of poems. I will say this. They were all very nice, but two poems stuck out, so I’ll provide them both as an excerpt, and give a review of those two poems.
MARCH IN THE BORDERS
The red fields lie
open to the dry March wind –
rolled flat and burdened with seed –
corn, wheat, barley and rye.
They wait for life, rain-awakened.
And always they sweep the eye on, up
to a sea of hills,
wind-tossed and bare –
or suck sight down to
deep-clefted and filled with trees –
a hundred years old or more –
where vision follows the circling bird
down and down into
the blue depths
of a Chinese pattern of peace.
I sit on top of Ruberslaw
and feel myself like a windhover
hang in the air,
but where he sees and clutches with
his eye only the quivering blade
and threads the vole’s individual,
all- excluding heart beat
I see all at a rolling endless sweep of the eye.
And while the kite-kestrel
tugs at the taught thread of sight
that draws him down suddenly,
I am made one with all that I see –
give myself to the prey of my eye
to be devoured by it.
It seems to me a man is looking out at a newly planted field of crops. He knows the barren field will sprout to life with rain.
Among the new life, those seeds that are or will sprout, there are old trees, wise trees that have seen it all.
While children see only what is obvious, what is right before them, an old man knows how to see everything around, all at once, but there is beauty in both views. One is sweet, innocent, the other is wise and learned, yet the old man gives in to his coming death.
It’s so sad.
Here is the last true countryman who
across the wide fields;
carries a pick-axe on his face,
head hammering it hard
into the firm ground, then,
with his battered brains,
staggers awkwardly about the furrows.
Yet, in a moment, he
becomes the graceful ballet dancer
of the skies, as spread-winged
he flies upwards
mounting the invisible staircase
of air, to a height, where,
with a twist of the wrist of flight
suddenly he falls off the edge
of the wind, tumbling
sweeps over grasses and swoops
up to a tangle in the tall trees’ hair,
his nest, a scribble in the topmost
branches. And there he sits
and smoothes the rumpled wind
with velvet cawing.
Yet he is never ‘rook’
but always ‘rooks’ –
leaves sprouting from one living
a sky-shoal netted with rook calls.
But on the ground again, in meek
ploughman fashion, he follows
the sharp share of his
It seems to me that a bird is working very hard to find food in the ground. It may move awkwardly on land, but is graceful in the air.
A bird, although a work of art in the sky, can’t remain there, and it retreats to its home, in the tree. Even in the tree, in fact wherever it is, the bird is more than just a bird. It’s a part of everything around it, and everything is a part of the bird.
Nevertheless, even the greatest, strongest, or most beautiful of living creatures has to work for food.
I think it’s semi allegorically likened to the lives of men, but not individual people. I mean men as a collective. We are all beautiful. We are all a work of art. We are all a part of each other, and since we all have to work to eat–work to live, that is–we are all equal.
Alright, so, all-in-all March in the Borders and Rooks were definitely my favorite poems in the collection. There were actually two more I was going to include, but then the review would have dragged on, and then I would have wanted to include more poems, and so on. Truthfully, I’ll say this, there were only three, or maybe four, poems that I didn’t like, but when it comes to poetry, I never “dislike” a poem, so the ones I didn’t like, I didn’t not like them, they just didn’t speak to me.
If you enjoy poetry, I think you’ll enjoy The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson – Volume II. I’m sure you can even get away without reading The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson – Volume I, but I may go back and read those as well.
First I have some Goodreads recommendations to handle, though! See you next time, hunny bunnies!
Blurb- John Lay is recruiting a new member for Phoenix crew. In order to educate her, he recounts the story regarding his first mission with The Bureau. It was then that he met with an exceptional group of people, and it was then that he first learned of aliens, and closed door political ties to piracy.
In joining The Bureau, Lay and crew infiltrate the Illuminati’s base of operations, witness the destructive properties of alien tech, and uncover the truth about Montrose’s involvement in alien pacts.
The mission takes a turn for the worse when the undercover crew is discovered, and worse, pirates start overtaking Apollo.
Genre- Scifi, short stories
My Rating- 4 meows!
My Review- I liked this little scifi short story. Well, not exactly a short story. It’s long for a short story. This appears to be in line with the Lokians scifi novels, but I can’t really tell where it fits in, and I think it may be after the 3rd novel, which is still in “re-release prep mode” I guess.
Any-meow, Ambassador Lay, who used to be Admiral Lay, is speaking to a new recruit for Phoenix Crew, which was led by Captain O’Hara in the novels, and he relates to this new gal, Chang, the story of his Bureau dealings back when he was a Lieutenant.
It was really a blast. I got to learn a little more about a super mysterious figure, John Lay, and why he is the man he is, and even a little bit about how The Bureau operates. They’re the secret organization who deal with extraterrestrials in case you haven’t read any of the books.
Unfortunately, there was something missing in this story. I think maybe it should have been worked out more thoroughly. It just felt a little blah, a little blank, in some areas, and I wasn’t quite as sucked in as I had hoped. To date, the first novel, Beyond the End of the World, is still my favorite in the series, but Apollo was really neat.
There were no aliens though. I mean they were mentioned, but no one interacted with them. I did like seeing some of the characters as their younger selves, and I loved how the colony was portrayed, but all-in-all, the whole story just needed more, of, well, itself. It needed to be longer and have more descriptions and interactions.
The action was sweet. The dialogue was cool. The characters were amazing, and maybe that’s why I wanted more…. I’m also used to all the planet-hopping from the other two novels. You know, as I write this review, I start to feel like Apollo was DLC for the Lokians series. That’s really what it boils down to for me, and it was great DLC, but I’m pumped about the next “game” in the series, which will hopefully be released soon.
No doubt, this is a great addition the Lokians scifi series, and I’m still trembling, waiting, to see what happens in the 3rd novel.
Excerpt from Apollo, a Lokians Short Story-
At 08:30 hours, market region was thriving with people getting breakfast or going to work. Thomson made for a seat at a café’s patio area. There, he ordered a beverage and set up his palm-top computer.
“Recon, Eyes. How copy,” he asked.
The others moved into an alley on their way to Hal’s. “Eyes, Recon actual. Lima, Charlie,” Lay answered.
He led the team past a furniture store then cut a right going down a sidewalk. Hal’s was in sight. With the bay door raised, impact wrenches resonated from workers making adjustments to the craft engines inside. Lay and crew stepped up the walk to the main door, pulled it open, and made for the counter. An insidious man looked at them.
“What I can do for you,” he asked with a Costa Rican accent.
“We’re the engineers you’re expecting,” Lay said.
“I not expecting any engineers,” the man grunted.
“Well, I think your supervisor is, so why don’t you go get him,” Reno snipped.
The man smacked his lips before exiting the side door. Then he walked out of sight. Lay motioned with his head and Reagan deftly hopped over the counter, discreetly placed a camera underneath it then hopped back.
“Eyes, Recon. Visual?” Lay whispered.
“Affirmative,” Thomson answered.
The Costa Rican reentered with a hulking, dark skinned man. His enormous bottom jaw did not imply he was an intellectual.
“You in charge, mate,” McClure asked.
“No. Boss is not here,” the large man answered.
“Look, we made a deal to take a look at a particular weapon,” Lay started. “Our contact, Mister Navarro, said to be here at 8:30. We’re here. Where is he?”
“You got it all wrong, ese’,” the Costa Rican said with a wave of his hand. “Navarro is the name used for a deal in progress. There is no Navarro.”
The two employees turned to look at each other. They laughed heartily for a minute. Lay’s crew grew agitated.
“Is all right, man,” the Costa Rican said. “You know Navarro, you good with us. I’m Jaramillo. This is Rodrigo. C’mon back, I show you the thing.”
The men led Lay’s crew into the back. Along the way, Reagan managed to place two, more cameras. Each time, Thomson acknowledged the activity. For the most part, the front of the shop was laden with craft engines, smaller ones, likely belonging to the vessels of businessmen. Military crafts were only ever handled by servicemen. The scent of machine oil permeated the air.
“Right this way,” Jaramillo said with a motion of the hand.
Beyond a door, they all stepped inside a large warehouse. All manner of cases lay open, covering several tables. Armed men carrying shiny rifles guarded the entrance, and the only other exit at the rear of the room.
“This is it, man. This is the thing,” Jaramillo gloated.
Lay looked at the incomprehensible piece of machinery. It looked like a conical turret only the tip didn’t end with any kind of aperture. He looked at the others. Reagan palmed a camera over to Reno on his way to the table where the machine sat.
“Navarro, or whoever our contact is, didn’t say what it does,” Lay muttered. “It doesn’t look like any weapon I’ve ever seen.”
Rodrigo frowned and looked at Jaramillo, who chuckled. “No, no, man,” he laughed. “Is not a weapon. Is a shield.” By pressing a button, a wavering energy flashed throughout the room. Quick as it came, it vanished. Rodrigo, who was on the same side of the shield as Jaramillo, pounded against it. “Nothing can penetrate this thing.”
Reno pulled out her sidearm and fired a red beam at it.
“Holy shit. Esta loca?” Jaramillo screamed.
“Relax,” she groaned.
“Seriously, Reno,” McClure griped. “Give your mate a fair warning.”
“We just, we just needed to make certain is all,” Lay stuttered.
Jaramillo, in overly dramatic fashion, made an exorbitant effort to adjust his clothes and hair. “Yeah, yeah. Of course.”
“I won’t lie to you, boys,” Lay said. “I’m not overly impressed. It’s just a field generator.”
Rodrigo and Jaramillo laughed. “Oh yeah,” Rodrigo asked.
“Is got different settings, man,” Jaramillo chuckled. “See here? You can set it to where you can shoot through it, but they can’t…you know, whoever it is you shooting at.”
“But don’t fire,” Rodrigo said, staring holes into Reno.
She smiled. “Yeah,” Jaramillo added. “Also, this setting makes it to where anything that comes in contact gets vaporized.”
Lay took a long inhalation. Reagan nodded approvingly. Jaramillo and Rodrigo shrugged indifferently.
“So what do you think?” Jaramillo gave a jaunty shake of the shoulders. “This something your boss wants replicated?”
“Where did you get it,” Reagan asked.
“Heeey, c’mon, now, chico. I can’t tell you that.”
“Shut it off. We’re done here,” Reagan barked then made to leave.
Jaramillo grimaced while Rodrigo shut it down. They all looked at one another. Reagan was already halfway across the room. Jaramillo gave chase. When he did so, Reno twitched her nose to Lay, who arched his brow in reply.
They all shared a laugh and gathered back at the table. Reno then went to pretend to console her partner.
“There’s only more thing I need to see,” Lay demanded.
Jaramillo pursed his lips when Lay’s eyes grew fierce. “Sure, man, what is it?”
“I need to see how much heat this thing can take. I mean, if it only holds up to laser guns, what good is it?”
“Heh, what do you want us to do, fire turrets?” Rodrigo joked.
Lay whipped his head around then looked to McClure, who was uneasy, and rubbed his head. “Let’s all shoot at it for a few seconds,” Lay grinned.
Jaramillo wrung his hands before answering, “Hey, man, I want to help you out, you know, and everything, but that’s not safe. I mean–”
“We’ll walk, and your boss won’t be pleased. Let’s move it over there, to the back, and shoot the shit out of it,” Lay persuaded.
“Uh, yeah, yeah, okay,” Jaramillo conceded. “Horale’, let’s shoot this thing for the engineers, comprende’?
“Reagan, you done whining,” Lay asked.
He shrugged and returned along with the two guards by the door. Reno capitalized and placed the last camera in the room before joining them in the light show. After shooting the shield for close to thirty seconds, they all shared a laugh.
“So,” Jaramillo started. “You buying this thing or what, man?”
“We didn’t come here to buy, mates,” McClure answered.
“What the Hell do you mean?” Jaramillo yelled.
“Relax,” Reno interjected. “We’re not authorized to make the purchase. Our boss will contact you guys, and he’ll make the purchase…pending our approval, which you have.”
“Yeah, uh, okay, but you can’t go round talking about this thing to no one, comprende’?” Jaramillo asserted.
“We’re all adults here,” Lay agreed with a nod.
They all chuckled for a minute. Lay observed the purveyors’ body language. Guess this was easier than I anticipated, he thought.
Blurb- My dad always says “Don’t be upset by misfortune because you never know what adventures it might bring.”
My adventure started when I accidentally dropped a cannon ball I had been inspecting at Seaboyers’ Emporium (est. 1800) and cracked the corner of an old trunk. The proprietor of the establishment insisted that I buy it. Once I got the beast home I discovered it concealed a flask with a bizarre poem hidden inside. And that was just the beginning…
Genre – Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating- 3 meows!
My Review- Jean Baptiste is a young Knights Templar who was stranded while his order fought with the King of France, Philip the IV. He has a friend who is a talking raven called Yngvi. On top of some history regarding the Knights Templar, there’s a touch of Norse Mythology, and everything seemed great when I first began reading, but then something kept happening, and I wasn’t able to put my finger on what it was…until the second chapter.
Every other word is would or could. Yngvi could guess that’s where Jean would want him to do whatever. The king would think he had been misled. The cats would go out all night, but they could come back whenever. It isn’t direct. I have read many books, and this always peeves me.
Yngvi guessed that’s where Jean wanted him to do whatever. The king thought he had been misled.
I’m not a writer, but I know what I like. I also dislike sentence fragments, and I dislike beginning sentences with conjunctions. Did this writer not go to school and learn FANBOYS? I don’t know, but with a name like Nadudvari, she may not be a native English speaker, so I didn’t detract any stars from my rating for my own personal peeves.
Any-meow, the story bounced and back forth between Jean, an actual Knights Templar, and Nicky, a young boy who loves his cats. It’s funny because I have recently read another novel that was broken up like this, and I thought it was such a unique thing done only by Dan Brown, but I guess it’s more prevalent than I knew. My issue, though, is that one story, the one of Jean was far more exciting than the story of Nicky and his cats, at least at the beginning, and I found myself wanting to skip one of the Nicky chapters for the Jean chapters.
Obviously, the two stories come together, and then the issue is a non-issue. One has to also consider the fact that this is a young adult fantasy novel, probably for someone around the age of twelve or thirteen, and I…being a little older than that, prefer something a bit more challenging.
All-in-all, though, I found it to be an entertaining and well thought out story. Not my favorite fantasy or young adult novel by far, but a decent read. You can also find someone else’s take below.
I added the other review because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s preconceived notion of Nicky and the Lost Templar. It isn’t a bad book at all. It just boils down, for me, that this is not my cup of coffee.
Anonymous review- I read this book because I’ve always had a fascination with the Knights Templar. I read long ago of how the Templars came to Nova Scotia so when I saw this, even though it is written for the younger set, I wanted to see what it was about.
It’s a really good read. The perspective is from a young boy and I thought it would be fairly normal, but (to my happiness) the book involves smart ravens, a lost treasure, mystery, mysticism and a bunch more.
The author must live in Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada or nearby. The geographical reporting is accurate. I went on Google Earth to see.
The historical aspect is very fascinating and I learned new stuff about the Templars from this book.
I would recommend Nicky and the Lost Templar to any one, though the best age set is teen readers. On top of it all, this story is one of adventure, where Nicky finds not only treasure, but discovers wisdom in his quest. The ending is surprising and this book left me feeling positive. There is also a glossary at the end which is a good source of knowledge. The author wisely realized that kids don’t know the things adults do, and the glossary gets them up to speed. A solidly recommended read from this reviewer.
Excerpt from Nicky and the Lost Templar, a young adult fantasy novel- 1307, northwest Atlantic
It was a rare day without wind on the island. Autumn had been walking among the trees, leaving a riot of red and yellow in her wake. Long stretches of pine, fir and spruce remained green, as did the grass, at least until the first frost. The air smelled deliciously of sea and tree sap. To the north, pewter clouds were gathering, promising snow. To the south, the sun was radiating cheer and warmth, unperturbed by the change of seasons.
A man was standing on the shore with his feet firmly planted on a slab of granite. He had a long dagger strapped to his hip and a knife tucked behind his belt. The leather tunic he wore had extra padding on the left shoulder, giving him an uneven look. His hair had grown long again, as had his beard, and since he was not into braids, he would have to trim both of them soon.
He shielded his eyes and looked intently toward the southeast. If a ship were to enter the bay, it would come from that direction. Today the horizon was empty, which was disappointing. But Jean Baptiste de Saisi was not one to despair. A ship would come next year; he was sure of it. In the meantime he could explore the mainland and map the coastline or add more booby traps at the treasure sites.
The thought of the treasure brought a wry smile to his face.
The king of France had been scheming to get his hands on the fabulous wealth of the Knights Templar for a long time. When their Grand Master received some rather disturbing reports, a decision was made. They would relocate everything somewhere safe, as far away from Paris as possible. But nowhere known was safe. One of the knights, Sinclair, suggested a mysterious land far to the west, and so to the west was where they sailed. It would have to be done in stages, without arousing suspicions. Jean Baptiste had come in the second wave, on a ship that carried an entire library of priceless scrolls.
Gold was easy to hide. It could go underground and even underwater because it did not corrode. Scrolls were a different matter entirely, and these were so ancient and delicate that they had to be handled and preserved with utmost care. At the suggestion of the Order’s alchemist, they were sealed in clay jars filled with mercury. If kept dry, away from fire and earthquakes, they should last for hundreds or even thousands of years.
Jean Baptiste doubted the king of France would be interested in scrolls. He was heavily in debt and needed all the gold he could get. But his hands would close around nothing but air. Jean Baptiste had a foreboding that the vengeful monarch would not take it kindly – not after they had declined his request to become one of them and join the most prestigious and powerful order of all times. They answered to no one but the Pope, who, if the secret reports were true, was slowly becoming the king’s puppet.
They could … what … run? Stay in the west? The proud knights could never face such humiliation. No, they would stand their ground and fight.
Were they fighting at this very moment? Is that why they did not return for him?
He studied the horizon once more and saw nothing but grey sky blurring into one with grey ocean. What a strange fate his was, to become stranded here, so far from home, guardian of a secret treasure. Jean Baptiste sighed. He needed to occupy himself with something or he would go mad. For one, there was the pressing need to survive the oncoming winter.
The wind was picking up, whipping his hair around his face. Jean Baptiste could not make a ship appear, but he could pray for his brothers and the success of their mission. He went down on one knee and bowed his head. His quiet words unrolled like a banner in the relentless wind. Perhaps someone in heaven was listening.
In a nearby fir tree a raven as black as midnight was eavesdropping. It was Yngvi of Clan Rune, who claimed to be descended from the god Odin’s ravens, Hugin and Munin. Yngvi’s grandmother reminded him of his illustrious ancestry on a regular basis. He had no qualms about spying on everyone, including Jean Baptiste. Was it not his duty to see and to report, just like Hugin and Munin had done?
Yngvi knew he could just ask the mysterious man anything he wished to know, but it was far more interesting and challenging to ferret things out. For example, he knew where a certain squirrel had hidden its nuts for the winter – just like he knew where Jean Baptiste and his associates had hidden theirs. The precious hoard, however, was protected and sealed. There could be anything down there, Yngvi mused – magical runes, ancient spells or even echoes of a curse.
They were strange things, words. And, stranger still, Clan Rune knew lots of them. All ravens could speak common raven, of course, but how many could discourse in Old Norse or L’nui’sin? None outside Yngvi’s clan – at least not in this part of the woods. These ravens were special. And Yngvi was further enhancing the clan’s reputation by learning a new language. He struggled with it, but it was only a matter of time before he could speak through his beak “like a born Parisian,” whatever Jean Baptiste had meant by that. He shook himself out of his reverie. It was getting nippy, and he blew on his toes to stay warm.
When Jean Baptiste stood up and brushed off the grass and sticks from his pants, the raven swooped down and circled around him. The sun’s rays made his black feathers shine blue. He beat his wings leisurely to prepare for landing and, slowing down, grabbed for purchase.
“Yngvi, my raven friend!” Jean Baptiste smiled. “That was quite the dramatic entry. You are as quiet as a shadow.”
The raven gave no reply, but the knight could tell he was pleased with the comment.
“I hope you can perch in greater comfort now.”
Jean Baptiste waited for Yngvi to sink his claws into the shoulder pad. They were like knife points, and he bore their scars from earlier encounters.
“Let’s walk. I want to look at the island to the north.”
Yngvi knew it was the one that housed the knights’ treasure. He had made discreet inquiries with some crows farther down the shore, and they had confirmed that the men had been busy in more than one place. This island, however, was the only one near which they had left a guard. It had to be something important. Knowing about it made Yngvi’s beak tingle. He and his cousins had been about to do a reconnaissance when an insufferable eagle decided to move to the island, making it off limits to the ravens. For now.
Presently, he was enjoying the ride on Jean Baptiste’s shoulder. They set out on a narrow path winding among solitary rocks and heath the colour of rust.
“So what is new in Seal Cove?” Jean Baptiste asked. He knew the ravens lived in the forest behind the cove even though they frequented this island as well.
Yngvi sifted through the thousand new things from this morning, such as air currents, temperature and food availability. He chose what Jean Baptiste might find interesting.
“An eagle on the island to the north,” he said levelly.
“How fitting that an eagle should live there! But you are not enthused?” the knight shot him a sideways glance.
Yngvi puffed up his feathers and ground his beak. He thought about how the ravens would have to chase the eagle away from their nests come springtime and how much harder it would be for smaller birds to compete for food. He searched his ever-growing vocabulary for the French word for a bully.
“What do you call a swift, unexpected death from above?” he hazarded.
“A good one,” the knight nodded his head firmly. He believed in a warrior having an honourable end, not one at home in bed. But he had an inkling it was not the same if you were a small furry creature and your last word was squeak.
“Does the eagle make you worried, Yngvi?”
“Handsome, fast, arrogant, aloof … What do you call that?” the raven answered with a question.
“A born leader,” Jean Baptiste answered. “Why, this eagle is a king of all birds.” He made an all-encompassing gesture with his free hand.
Yngvi’s raspy voice rose by an octave.
“We ravens never voted for him. This ‘king’ could not win a single riddle contest, let alone spell his own name,” he said acidly.
Jean Baptiste raised his eyebrows.
“Can you spell your name, Yngvi?”
The raven replied, indignantly: “I am Yngvi of Clan Rune! I can spell my name and write it at midnight with my wings tied behind my back.”
He did not add that his grandmother had actually made him do that on several occasions.
“Show me how you write your name.” Jean Baptiste wanted proof.
They were almost through the forest now. The sound of the surf crashing against big rocks was getting louder. Yngvi felt a wave of relief. While he enjoyed riding on Jean Baptiste’s shoulder, seeing all those tree trunks struggling for space and light made him claustrophobic. He was a free spirit from the sky, and he needed to see its blue infinity on a regular basis.
Jean Baptiste took a few more strides, and then they were on the shore. There was a small beach, and the raven could guess that was where he would be asked to write his name. Without prompting, he took off and, wings outstretched, landed softly. There was a flat patch of sand begging for someone to doodle in it. Jean Baptiste watched in polite silence as Yngvi took great care drawing strange symbols with his big toe.
When the raven had finished scribbling, he hopped onto a rock and started grooming himself. Jean Baptiste came closer and scrutinized Yngvi’s name. In his life he had seen many different types of writing – even hieroglyphs and petroglyphs – but none of them resembled these.
“What kind of symbols are they?” he asked finally.
“Why, runes,” Yngvi said matter-of-factly and dislodged the last grain of sand from his feet.
The knight bent down and traced the runes, committing them to his memory. Runes? Riddle contests? Where had these ravens come from? Jean Baptiste shook his head.
“I am speechless, Yngvi. Your name looks very mystic, very beautiful.”
Yngvi tried not to look smug. The runes were magical symbols obtained by the Norse god Odin from the well of wisdom under the world tree Yggdrasil. He had given up an eye for them too. And while he was nursing his empty eye socket, a pair of ravens that happened to be sitting in the tree had taken a quick drink from the same well. Too smart now for their own kind, they were left with no choice but to enter Odin’s service. They flew over the world, watching and listening, and reported everything back to the god. Such glorious times!
Jean Baptiste gestured for Yngvi to perch on his shoulder again. A wave came rushing ashore, washing over the runes, smoothing the sand as if to invite more writing. Yngvi felt tempted, but his empty belly reminded him that he was rather hungry. He eyed Jean Baptiste’s left ear and gave it an affectionate peck.
“Ouch, no biting of ears, please. Here, you can have this.” A piece of flat bread was produced and passed to the bird. Yngvi caught it deftly in his beak and chewed in quiet concentration.
Jean Baptiste turned and studied the island ahead of them. It was a massive piece of white rock, forested on one side. Its steep slopes rose from the ocean in a ring of fog. The vault – the secret archive. It would last forever.
“Say, Yngvi, would the new eagle attack people if they disembarked on that island?”
Yngvi finished his snack and cleaned his teeth with a claw. He would have to relieve himself soon, but he was too well bred to do it on Jean Baptiste’s shoulder. Now, a gull would not hesitate – even that self-proclaimed king of all birds would probably unload himself anywhere, but Odin’s ravens had standards.
“I would not go there when the eagles have young ones. But even eagles have to hunt, and I could tell you when this one is away and the coast is clear.”
Jean Baptiste thought it would be interesting to have an attack eagle on the island, but the bird was probably wary of humans and would not care about being trained.
“Excuse me,” Yngvi flapped his wings and flew out of sight. Jean Baptiste moved on; the raven would catch up with him later. He traversed some big boulders with caution. A sprained ankle or a broken bone was not something he could afford right now.
Rocks, yes. He had been wanting to take a closer look at a particularly interesting rock on the other side of Seal Cove. It resembled a small pyramid. Was it natural or man-made? It would make a good landmark if you knew what to look for, like the oak trees the knights had planted at a decoy treasure pit on another island.
He made a mental note about the things he would do. One, learn runes. Two, investigate the pyramid rock. Three, cut his hair and trim his beard. Oh, how he wished for a hot bath …
The wind was gusting now, and it was time to return to his home for the winter, a cozy dugout in the side of a small hill. The ocean was getting rough, its heaving surface slate grey, its waves menacing. Two black shapes were gliding on the wind: One would be Yngvi, and the other was probably his cousin. They were headed for the highest place this side of the island, the top of his hill, which Jean Baptiste liked to use as an observatory.
When he climbed it, the ravens were perching on a pine bough swaying in the wind. Yngvi gave a piercing croak and spilled the news:
“The L’nuk are coming. Cousin Alvis has seen them. They are local hunters.”
Jean Baptiste assumed Alvis was the shy raven that had come with Yngvi. Eyes in the sky. He had to make sure they would always be his allies.
“I am grateful, Alvis, for this warning,” he said solemnly. “How many are coming? When will they be here?”
Alvis shifted his weight, and Yngvi inclined his head toward him. Some kind of communication passed between them, although no sounds were involved. Jean Baptiste waited patiently for a translation.
“A small band of 30 in eight canoes,” Yngvi pronounced. “They will be here before the snowstorm. They are armed, but they are not expecting to find anyone here.”
“Understood. I do not wish to fight; however, I must be ready to defend myself.” Jean Baptiste was quickly reviewing possible strategies. Alvis’ forewarning gave him the advantage of surprising these L’nuk. He should avoid violence at all costs. He must have looked troubled because Yngvi fluttered down onto his shoulder.
“Our clan will protect you. Do not worry.”
Jean Baptiste’s weathered face cracked into a smile.
“Where is your sword?” he asked the raven.
“I left it at home.”
“I see. Then what do you propose to do?” the knight eyed the raven with interest.
“I will be your ambassador,” Yngvi said modestly. “I believe I have the L’nuwey medicine man’s ear.”
Figuratively speaking. Should he mention the tribe’s influential grandmothers?
Jean Baptiste was lost in his own thoughts. He was apprehensive but also intrigued. What did the L’nuk look like? Was the medicine man their leader? What would the other knights say if they found out that a raven had saved his hide?
Thanks for reading this review of Nicky and the Lost Templar By Alessandra Nadudvari, a young adult fantasy novel!