Title: In Restless Dreams
Author: Wren Handman
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Sylvia is a normal girl with huge, normal problems–her mother’s attempted suicide; trying to make friends in a rich prep school where she doesn’t belong; whether or not to trust the cute boy with the dangerous eyes. She thinks that’s more than she can handle, but she tests the limits of her endurance when she learns that she is the long-awaited Phantasmer, a human who can change the fabric of Fairy simply by believing in a new story. Sylvia’s life is thrown off course as two warring Courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, both attempt to co-opt her gift to attack the other Court. All while she’s trying not to get kicked out of school for fighting. And it doesn’t help matters that the fairies begging for her help are both attractive young men–with their own agendas.
About Wren Handman
Wren Handman is a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright from the rainy west coast of Canada. Her newest novel, Command the Tides, is a fantasy action romance set in the invented land of Midvalen. Her short stories have been featured in such magazines as Crow Toes Quarterly, and such anthologies as Voice From The Planet. She is currently collaborating on the TV show The Switch, the world's first transgender sitcom.
Two sisters fighting for the throne and kingdom go from family to enemies. Lu, the fighter and fiercely independent one, and be readying herself to become the first female leader of the kingdom. But her hopes are shattered when her father makes the unexpected decision to give the throne to her younger sister's, Min, fiance. A fiance that has ulterior motives and plans to rule with an iron fist.
Lu is a very strong, but unfortunately stubborn, character. She has a picture in her mind of how things should be and struggles to accept it when that picture is shattered by events unfolding around her. Forced to make allies in unusual places, we are introduced to Nokhai, a man from a culture and magical background thought to have vanished. But they will both find out that he is far more than what he seems, and his race is far from disappeared.
While Lu is a strong and likable character, I felt drawn to the story of Min. The younger daughter that grew up in the shadow of her sister. When she discovers she could be so much more, the power calls to her and she finds herself in the hands of a skilled manipulator that would do anything to keep her under his heel and under his control. He sees her ancient magic as a tool to recreate the world under his rule and wipe everyone who opposes him off the face of existence. She struggles to find out who she is and what her place in the world will be.
This is the first book in the Girl King series, and while it sets the stage for an epic fantasy battle, it is an amazing story on its own as well. There is much more to come in the world, and I feel several surprise revelations on the horizon as the sisters battle each other for the title of King.
**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book**
Title: Dawn of a Legend (The Silvan #3)
Author: R.K. Lander
Book three in The Silvan, a best-selling series by award-winning author R.K. Lander. “Page-turning epic fantasy you will not be able to put down.”
A past to claim
A power to wield
A destiny to fulfil
To the enemy, Fel’annár is just a half-blood bastard, but to the Silvan people, he is their crownless warrior prince. Returning from battle in the mountains, he grieves for one who was lost, a death that triggers a mystery Fel’annár and his company of chosen brothers must unravel. But why do the trees speak of a beautiful monster?
Fel’annár will learn the ways of the Kah Warrior from a legendary commander while facing the disdain of another who struggles to accept this ‘ignoble son’ for who he is, not for what he represents. Meanwhile, Fel’annár’s royal half-brother reveals a plan to restore the Great Forest to its past splendour of multi-cultural harmony. But the Forest is falling apart under the final onslaught of a ruthless traitor and the Silvan people are turning away from their ruler. Can Fel’annár come to understand what role he must play in this plan before it is too late? Can the brothers put aside their resentment towards each other for tearing their families apart and learn to trust one another? Can love prosper in the midst of battle and hardship as dark enemies converge on the Motherland?
Danger lies in wait for an elf who is slowly coming to terms with his heritage, learning to wield a natural ability and accepting the nature of his unfolding destiny.
The greatest warriors of their time will come together once more—in the name of justice. In the name of love.
About R.K. Lander
I write epic fantasy for adults. I love battles, warriors, great adventures - elves, monsters and generally weird things, but above all, I love a good story with compelling characters.
My first project is The Silvan Series, with book three, Dawn of a Legend ready to launch April 2019. I hope you'll enjoy my stories and perhaps click the 'follow' button. And I would love to see you over at rklander.com. You'll find some story extras there and freebie if you're interested.
I really really wanted to enjoy this book. The concept of the land and magic is fascinating, and I loved it. An apprentice that has a hidden past, a chip on her shoulder, and more power than she knows what to do with right now - alright, let me have it. I want more.
But then I met Kayden. Who is a character that I DID NOT LIKE even after getting part of her backstory and learning a bit about why she was so cruel (yes cruel, not mean, but cruel) to everyone (yes everyone) around her. I didn't want to see her succeed. I wanted to see her get put in her place and in many respects she became the bad guy. Although at 50% through when I gave up, we hadn't met anyone else to fill the bad guy role, so maybe she will be.
Also, everything was about sex somehow. Kayden blackmails two instructors, gets accused of being the lover for another, assumes one is trying to get in bed with her just because he knocks on the door, and everyone is either flirting with her or jealous of her unusual beauty. Knock it off already! I get it - she's exotic and really pretty, but there can be other conflict that doesn't revolve around sex. That was what ultimately made me put the book down. I just couldn't anymore.
There were a lot of great things about this novel, but there were a lot of not very good things as well. I'd love to see a version with a more sympathetic Kayden. Still a brat with a chip on her shoulder, but some redeeming quality that lets me like her from the beginning. And find a way for her to blackmail, get her way, have conflict without it being about sex all the time.
**I voluntarily read a complimentary copy of this book**
Title: The Exercise of Vital Powers (Legends of the Order #1)
Author: Ian Gregoire
Some Lessons Must Be Learned The Hard Way.
Since its inception, The Order has been dedicated to the prevention of the misuse and abuse of magic. For seven decades this mandate has guaranteed peace and stability throughout The Nine Kingdoms. But a potential threat to the peace has emerged, and its source is much closer to home than the leadership of The Order may realise.
Arrogant, manipulative, confrontational and angry. Undesirable qualities in a person at the best of times, but more so in a young woman born with the power to bring kingdoms to their knees. Kayden Jayta, precocious apprentice of The Order, is all these things and more, yet wholly unwilling to acknowledge and rectify her many troubling traits.
Unbeknown to anyone, Kayden’s resolute determination to join the ranks of The Order is born of a secret that puts her priorities at odds with the precepts of the organisation, setting her inexorably on a collision course with the most powerful institution in The Nine Kingdoms.
If Kayden is to be dissuaded from walking the path she has chosen, averting tragic consequences in the process, two unanswered questions must be answered: What is the dark secret guiding Kayden’s actions? And, why has a legendary figure within The Order, with a secret of her own, taken undue interest in Kayden’s future?
Title: A Tale of Two Houses (Defy the Stars #1)
Author: Susan Harris
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Centuries ago, the royal house of witches in Vernanthia split into two factions: House Cambridge and House Montgomery. These two houses warred with each other for an age, causing widespread bloodshed and death. Those without magic--the Nulls—suffered the most. One day, a favored daughter of the Nulls was slain. With her dying breath, she cursed the covens to know no peace until love was possible between the houses.
That curse had long since been forgotten—until now.
Julian Montgomery is the reluctant Prince of House Montgomery and Rowan Cambridge is in no rush to become the Queen of House Cambridge. Both heirs long for freedom from their birthright obligations. When fate throws these two star-crossed lovers together, it sends them on a collision course with destiny that neither could have predicted.
Shakespeare’s classic Romeo & Juliet is reimagined in this compelling drama about two young people drawn by fate into an unwinnable situation. If you think you know how this story ends—think again!
Excerpt from A Tale of Two Houses
©2019 Susan Harris
Underneath the window, a trellis crept up the wall, vines of ivy weaving in and out of the wood. I cupped my hands over my mouth and breathed out to try and put some heat into them. My heart began to beat a steady rhythm against my chest as I placed a booted foot on the end of the trellis, my cold hands less painful than the pit of magic in my stomach.
Creeping up the wall, I managed a quick incline, resting my butt on the window ledge as I considered that I might just be mad enough to knock on his window and beckon him to open it up. The wind whipped my braid against my face as I lifted my head and gave a gentle tap.
Nothing happened, so I tapped again, this time hearing a heavy footfall come toward the window. For a split second, I feared that the Montgomery heir would open the window, pushing me to my death before I could even blink, but as I perched myself on the window ledge, I rolled my shoulders and braced myself for whatever reaction I received.
About Susan Harris
Susan Harris is a writer from Cork in Ireland.
An avid reader, she quickly grew to love books in the supernatural/fantasy and Dystopian genre. She writes books for young adults and adults alike.
When she is not writing or reading, she loves music, oriental cultures, tattoos, creepy snow globes, DC shoes, stationary, anything Disney, Marvel movies, psychology and far too many TV shows. If she wasn't awriter, she would love to be a FBI profiler or a PA for Dave Grohl or Jared Leto.
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I love the immense world that Kat Ross has created for The Fourth Talisman series. Throughout book two, Solis, the world continues to expand as we learn more about the Vatras, the Greeks, and the Valkirin. I learned more about the characters and places on every page, and the adventure continues to grow.
Nazafereen is in Greece with a mission. A tricky one that takes most of the book to accomplish. But as she navigates the solution to her problem, she is unaware that Darius is also in danger. My one big hang-up here was at the very end. I wanted is POV a little bit more. I was so used to seeing what was happening to him, and then bam, something happened and I only got a recap without many details. And the details sounded exciting.
Back in Valkirin, things aren't looking so good for Victor. But pay close attention to everything happening here. There's a big clue and I almost missed it, but now I'm curious to see how it all plays out. Even characters that appear to be secondary in nature have their chance to shine and play important roles here - which just brings the world to life even more.
I think what impresses me most about the series so far is that scale of the world that Kat Ross has brought to the pages. Details are polished and characters (even side ones) feel like they are complete people and not just used to push the story along. The way the storylines overlap and lives cross in unexpected ways remind of some of the fantasy greats.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**
Building the World of Bellona
by Jessika Fleck
Like all stories, Beware the Night, slowly evolved from a loose skeleton of a concept to a complete work in several stages. Originally titled, The Offering, the world in which Veda, Nico, and Dorian face Sun verses Night and all the shadows in between certainly didn’t materialize in my brain overnight. However, the setting was probably the first thing I was sure of when I began drafting the book.
I knew I wanted this story to take place on an island. In the beginning, it was a series of islands all surrounding the main island of Bellona and linked by sea and canals. It was a very cool concept but presented too many logistical issues to juggle. Plus, I definitely wanted Veda’s community to feel intimate and fairly small; a place where two very different groups of people have to work together to keep their community thriving. A place where everyone knows who the glassblower is and who sells bait at the market and certainly who to avoid and who to trade with. Thus, the single island of Bellona was born.
In the earliest stages of the story, I knew I wanted a society inspired by Venice with canals and tunnels and winding, cobbled walkways. Less grand than true modern-day Venice, but with all of the charm and mystery. My husband and I actually visited Rome and Venice on our honeymoon and literally found ourselves lost within the maze of streets and towering buildings and it was magical. So, I knew the sort of aesthetic I was going for—just a more rustic, darker version. The Romanesque touches came later with the addition of a coliseum and spectator style ceremonies. But instead of the rituals being a game and for sport (despite how those in charge might take advantage), I knew I wanted Bellona to have a more sacred relationship with its Offerings.
Once the main structure was set, I sprinkled the world of Bellona with unique details to make it its own. It made sense that fish would be a major resource and I loved the idea of a female main character who was a skilled fisher. Having hourglasses instead of clocks entered around this time as well. I really liked the idea of the characters using something old-world and different to keep the hour. The rest of the landscape: thick forests, long tunnels, underground caves, piazzas, and a dormant volcano naturally evolved as the story progressed. I adore this world so much (can you tell?)! I even attempted drawing my own map (on the title page of my pass-pages, no less)…
Title: Beware the Night
Author: Jessika Fleck
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
On the island of Bellona, they worship the sun. Seventeen-year-old Veda understands that keeping the sun content ensures plentiful crops, peace and harmony, and a thriving economy. But as a member of the Basso class, she never reaps those benefits.
Life as a Basso is one fraught with back-breaking work and imposing rules. Her close friendship with Nico is Veda’s one saving grace in a cruel world where the division between her people and the ruling Dogio is as wide and winding as the canals that snake through their island.
But when Veda’s grandfather is chosen as the next sacrificial offering to keep the sun’s favor, Veda is forced to see the injustice of her world. Turning away from the sun means she must join the night—and an underground revolution she’s been taught to fear all her life.
About Jessika Fleck
Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), is now available. Her next YA novel, BEWARE THE NIGHT (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) releases March 12, 2019. More at www.jessikafleck.co
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Title: The Council of Nereth
Author: T.J. Amberson
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Six months have passed since the Council of Nereth was formed. The land is at peace. The people are thriving, secure in the knowledge that Raelin, the evil sorceress who once ruled over them, is no more.Like the other members of the Council of Nereth, Edlyn has returned home to live and work, waiting for the time when the council will meet again. Busy serving the people and restoring the manor of her childhood, Edlyn keeps her deepest wishes hidden away in her heart.On Edlyn’s eighteenth birthday, a messenger from the capitol arrives to her home and delivers devastating news: Maddock has gone missing, and the worst is feared. Edlyn rushes back to the capitol to join the other council members in a desperate search for Maddock. Soon, a ghostly attack confirms the terrifying truth that evil forces are upon Nereth once again. With time running short, Edlyn and her companions must find Maddock and save Nereth before it is too late.
Council of Nereth Excerpt
©2019 T.J. Amberson
Suddenly, the Berax let out another screech, toppled off of Edlyn, and collapsed onto the leaves that covered the ground. Edlyn pulled herself to her feet. She froze when she saw the silhouette of a man crouched beside the Berax. The man swiftly raised an arm, and the flash of his dagger's blade caught the moonlight before he thrust his weapon into the monster's side again. The Berax was dead.
Edlyn staggered and dropped her sword, a torrent of emotions crashing down upon her.
"Maddock," she whispered.
"Are you hurt?" she heard him ask.
At the sound of his voice, Edlyn swayed again, the shock still so acute that she could barely reply. "I am not hurt."
Maddock came toward her. Like Edlyn, he was breathing fast. Once he got close, Edlyn could see that Maddock's clothes were dirtied and worn, and his hair had grown longer since she had seen him last. But Maddock's eyes—dark and penetrating—had not changed.
About T.J. Amberson
TJ Amberson hails from the Pacific Northwest. With a love of writing in several genres, TJ strives to provide well-written, age-appropriate, & original novels for tweens, teens, and new adults.
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Title: Shadow's Voice
Author: Natalie Johanson
Rose Trewin is on the run. Pursued by memories of her father, she runs from city to city, seeking normalcy. But Rose can’t escape her past, or the magic running through her veins, the magic that allows her to slip through the shadows unnoticed. The magic her father once used to mold her into a mercenary sent to destroy his enemies.
Now her magic is growing and changing, becoming something new and untamable. Rose is unable to rest. Wolves wrapped in fog follow her relentlessly along the countryside. Desperate, she uses her magic to escape, but the shadows are pushing her towards the center of a conspiracy.
Now, her country teeters on the brink of a civil war as a Lord Governor gathers power against the king. An enemy, with magic similar to her own, emerges in the chaos of political intrigue.
Faced with a country at war and a king brought to his knees, Rose must accept who she is and harness her powers in order to save her country and herself.
Excerpt from Shadow's Voice
Copyright © 2019
When moonlight filtered in through her window, Rose climbed from her stiff bed. With an angry sigh, she pulled on her trousers and stuffed her feet into her worn and cracked boots.
With the dagger in her bodice, she slipped into the hallway, peer- ing through the shadows in each room as she passed it. It was an easy enough trick, looking through the shadows as though they were nothing more than windows.
She found him back in his room, bent over at the short table in the corner. The soft glow from an oil lamp distorted any more details. Rose looked up and down the hallway, saw no one else, and stepped into the shadow casted by the still lit candles. She fell into the darkness, became part of it, and was in Gavin’s room. She didn’t know how it worked, where the magic came from, or why she could use it when no one else apparently could.
When she’d still attended the lectures at the small schoolhouse in town, before her father made her work, she was told there were different planes of the world. The gods lived in one, the world in another. Rose often wondered if the shadows were another plane, and that was what she was touching.
It scared her back then. It scared her still. Maybe if she wasn’t afraid of it, she’d know what she could truly do with it. Rose had never pressed herself with her magic. Never challenged herself.
She drew her small knife as she moved closer. She paused in the shad- ows, the cool mist that always seem to be present ghosting over her skin.
This would be difficult. His back was straight and rigid. Even through the loose sleeves of his shirt, long lines of muscle were visible. She had one shot, one try for this to be easy and finished. Good thing I’ve had practice. Rose moved closer in the light shadow.
With a deep breath, she fell out of the shadow.
The bed dipped as her weight suddenly appeared on it. The second she was back in the real world her hand whipped around his mouth and pulled him back against her, her dagger sliding across his neck a second later. She pushed him to the ground, her hands and arms covered in blood. There were splashes on the wall across from her.
She stayed kneeling on the bed, her breathing deep and raged. Gavin choked on the floor in front of her. She should say something. He stared at her as if he was waiting for her to say something. Instead Rose looked at her bloody dagger and stained arms. They never could stay clean for long, no matter how far she went.
Rose sank back into the shadows and stayed in them until she was back in her own room. A headache started between her eyes from the time in shadow, it had been a long time since she’d used her magic. A nauseous feeling settled in her stomach, but she didn’t think that was from her magic. With a sniff, Rose methodically cleaned herself in the small bowl and changed her shirt and bodice. Throwing her ruined shirt into the small wood stove, Rose locked it all away with the rest of her past. She’d see it again in her nightmares.
Quietly, Rose walked around the small room and gathered her things: a few changes of clothes, old and worn, her one good set of boots. Numbly, she blinked at the tears in her eyes and hauled her pack over her shoulder. Rose tossed the key onto the bed and headed off toward the servants’ stairs. Once outside, Rose heaved a sigh and started toward the edge of town. She was just passing the stables set behind the inn when the first tear made its way down her cheek.
Rose took a deep breath and pinched her lips together, but that didn’t stop the tears as she walked. She wrung her hands in her shirt, as if there was still sticky blood to be wiped off. Her breathing came back, the tears came faster, and Rose had to cover her mouth to stop the sob.
“Stupid,” she cursed herself and gulped down air. She let herself think, for just a second, while working the spinning wheel in Marg’s dusty little shop that she could stay. “You know better.” Oh, but it had been nice. The illusion of a normal life, working a boring job for too little coin in a small town. Rose took a deep breath, her tears slowing and her pace quicken- ing. She should’ve remembered it was an illusion.
Rose followed the uneven cobblestones past the old buildings, the cool night air blowing loose strands of hair around her temples. She just needed to go further. Rose scrubbed at her cheeks with her sleeves and cleared her throat. She walked through town, past the slaughter house at the edge, the smell of rotting meat following her into the fields. Eventually those faded, and with sore feet Rose walked into the tree line.
The crickets were loud around her and every so often she’d hear the hoot of an owl. The moon was large in the sky and provided light on the small trade road. And so, she walked and tried not to think of Gavin and the look in his eyes. Or his blood. She reminded herself Gavin had killed and robbed. His death was no loss. Rose thought, for a second, she hadn’t needed to kill him. She could’ve just slipped away without a word, but if Gavin sent word she was this far west . . . if her father turned his attention toward her after so many years. . . . Rose snorted. She would not go back to her father.
When her feet hurt enough to make her limp, she walked off the small road into the forest and settled against a large tree. She pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She let her head fall back against the rough trunk and closed her eyes. Rose sent a short prayer to the gods she wouldn’t dream and let herself sleep.
A hand on her shoulder woke her, her heart jumping into her throat. Rose palmed her dagger and had it shoved against the person’s ribs as she opened her eyes. The man kneeling above her stilled and slowly lifted his hand from her shoulder. Rose kept her dagger pressed against his ribs.
“You’re all right.”
Rose looked around before slowly sitting up and scooting back against
the tree. She kept her dagger raised. “What are you doing?”
“Checking on you,” the stranger said and cautiously moved backward on his haunches. “A young woman asleep in the woods. . . . I was check- ing to make sure you were not injured.”
Rose eyed the man, trying to point where she’d seen him before. He was familiar, but she couldn’t remember why. “I’m fine.”
About Natalie Johanson
Natalie Johanson has been interested in writing and reading since she first held a pencil. What first began a short story for her own reading turned into a world with a story to tell the world. When her time isn't being monopolized by her ferret, work as a police officer, running Dirty Dash races or reading she is writing.
Check out Natalie's website, nataliejohanson.com, for news, updates and more.
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Title: Rune's Folly
Author: Garen Glazier
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: February 5, 2019
By day, Tansy McCoy is a florist making charmed bouquets for the citizens of Junonia, capital of the Kingdom of Terranmar. By night, she’s an assassin and the keeper of the Dangerous Garden where deadly blooms grow. Together with the town tailor, butcher, baker, and metalsmith (just don’t call her a candlestick maker), she is part of the Guild, a secret group of spell-wielding thieves and mercenaries. Their task: consolidate all that remains of the realm’s fading magic under the ruthless King Zeno’s control.
Impetuous loner Tansy chafes under her Guild demands. She longs to quit her town and trade and head for the hills. Unfortunately, King Zeno has other plans. He wants to marry off his daughter to Terranmar’s famously reclusive wizard, Rune Hallows, and he’s willing to have the Guild kidnap him to make it happen. Fail to deliver the wizard and the consequences will be swift and deadly.
Reluctant but determined, Tansy sets out on the long journey to faraway Wentletrap and Rune’s desolate tower by the sea. To get there she must cross a swamp full of sinister surprises, battle a werewolf, and outrace a bloodthirsty band of revenants, while she wrestles with her own magical powers that seem to be expanding in unpredictable ways.
But reaching Rune’s tower is only the beginning. When Tansy learns the real reason behind the king’s contest, she’ll need to decide whether to give in to the growing forces of magic ready to reclaim Terranmar or embrace her newfound powers to save the kingdom.
Rune's Folly Excerpt
©2019 Garen Glazier
The tower was his retreat, the night his refuge.
During the day he was the subject of ridicule. The children stared. The old women whispered, shaking their heads as he passed by. He would curse them under his breath and pull his hood down.
Rune’s days were harsh, soured by the small minds and cruel tongues of the villagers that called Wentletrap home.
But the nights were his.
And most nights, by candlelight, he would shape with knowing fingers a crude little figure, a man, out of the red clay he gathered from the rolling hills just beyond the shore. He would thrust two arched sticks into the clay man’s back, and to these he carefully attached feathers. Albatross, gull, and osprey.
His ancient books kept him company, and they had taught him the right words. Whispering them into the sour-salt air, the wings of his creation would beat once, twice, and then the clay man, his homunculus, would fly. It would soar over the moonlit ocean until the morning came and the cruel sun cracked the clay, wilted the wings, and stole the magic away.
But before the blasted rays of daylight destroyed them, the homunculi would return to Rune’s tower bringing back ingredients from their journeys. Leaves, hair, teeth, sand, among other things. Most common enough, some rarer than rare. Occasionally, if Rune was lucky, clutched in one of the creatures’ tiny fists would be a shell. Always white, but of different sizes, shapes, and textures.
When the shells came back to the tower, Rune’s stern face would soften just a touch, and the barest hint of a smile would play across his lips.
Last night had been one of those delicious evenings.
And so, from his day amongst the rabble, he had recalled the particularly hateful sneer of Old Lady Turnbull, the baker’s wife. He hadn’t forgotten that brat Bilga and the mud she’d kicked across his shoes either.
With his lips nearly pressed against the chest of his little winged man, he’d given it one last set of instructions, breathing mischief into its heart. Then, as the homunculus zipped not east out to the sea but west into the village, Rune had walked down the spiral steps that ran along the curved wall of his tower.
At the bottom he repeated his route, but this time slowly. His fingers bumped along the shells that covered every inch of the wall, the intricate patterns glowing softly at first and then more brightly the further up his keep he went. From floor to floor he climbed until he stood once again on the uppermost story.
To the casual observer it would appear that here, too, the wall was carpeted with shells, but just above the casement of the large window overlooking the dark sea, a space no longer than a finger remained.
He held the shell to the wall and spoke the words he knew so well. When he took his hand away the shell stayed put, glowing so brightly along with the others that Rune could hardly bear to look.
The shells’ light reached its zenith and then dimmed, but an afterimage of the swirls and whorls Rune had so carefully rendered on his tower walls remained, dancing across his vision and filling the rest of his night with reveries of years past and lost love.
Now, as the first tepid rays of sun slid through the perpetual fug that surrounded his tower and the sorry little village nearby, he crossed to the western facing window and opened it wide.
Directly below him the curve of his tower plummeted to a rocky piece of land. As the tide was in, the sharp rocks and weather-beaten keep formed a tiny island half a mile or so from the shore.
High tide was Rune’s favorite time of day. He could rest peacefully knowing that none of Wentletrap’s citizens would disturb him. During low tide the swirling eddies of the black ocean would recede, revealing a greasy spit of land just wide enough for a single footpath. More often than not a shucker or fisherman or some other human flotsam would shuffle out of the godsforsaken village to cross the spit and stand at the bottom of his tower, shouting out in graceless tones for assistance, occasionally, or retribution, more commonly.
He expected Old Lady Turnbull or Bilga’s father would be paying him a visit later, dirty and grey and cursing his existence. Although it might be difficult for Old Lady Turnbull to make the trip herself, what with the swelling and the stink, not to mention the boils, so perhaps it’d be the baker himself. Rune might even give him the antidote if he came bearing a conciliatory basket of scones. Bilga’s father, on the other hand, was on a fool’s errand, for while baked goods might temporarily melt Rune’s cold heart, nothing could move him to offer a cure for the terminally obnoxious teen.
Smiling now, Rune stepped away from his territorial view of Wentletrap and its miserable environs. He was about to descend the stairs for a well-deserved cup of tea and early morning nap when a strange movement caught his attention out the opposite window. Quickly crossing the floor he tore open the casement and leaned out, certain he was seeing things. But no, there it was, flapping its smoking wings erratically as pieces of its legs and torso began to break off and plummet into the sea below.
It was a homunculus he’d sent out a few days prior. It hadn’t returned, which happened occasionally, and he’d given it up for lost. It should have been ashes by now, turned to dust beneath the sun’s merciless rays. Rune’s face hardened with concern.
As he watched, the little creature gave one last flutter of its wings and disintegrated, red dust and feathers blowing out to sea, but not before Rune reached out and caught the bundle the homunculus had been clutching in its tiny hands.
Wrapped with a black ribbon was a nosegay of purple flowers. Examining the sweet-smelling bouquet at a safe distance he saw the dusty spears of lavender, the dark hoods of wolf’s bane, and the round petals of oleander.
“Troubling,” Rune muttered to himself. “Quite troubling.” Then, “I wonder.”
He turned from the window and crossed to the stairs, holding onto the ominous flowers with just his finger and thumb pinched around the ribbon.
Leaving the uppermost floor, Rune circled round the stairs to his library. He quickly bypassed seven of the eight tall, double-sided bookcases that bisected the circular floor at regular intervals. Stopping in front of the last, he crouched down and used his index finger to pry a slim volume covered in red velvet from the bottom shelf.
Carefully he cracked open the cover of A Compendium of Flowers and flipped the pages, coming first to lavender. When Rune saw its traditional meaning his brows furrowed. When he got to the symbolism of oleander he gritted his teeth. And when he turned with dread to the page describing wolf’s bane he snapped the book shut, strode up one flight of the curving stairs to the kitchen and tossed the nosegay into the fire smoldering under a crusty pot of stew or potion. He couldn’t remember which.
As he watched the blooms crackle and blacken, his mind buzzed with the message his homunculus had delivered. Caution, beware. Future misfortune. All in the color purple for royalty.
Had the king discovered his plan? Rune was sure he’d been discreet, but Zeno had eyes everywhere, the suspicious bastard. Then again, the message was rather oblique, and subtlety was definitely not his majesty’s strong suit. As a rule, he skipped warnings altogether and went straight for punishment, harsh and swift.
No, this didn’t seem like the king’s doing. Maybe the color was just a coincidence, but something told him that whoever decided sending a message via flower would be the best means of communication would certainly never ignore their shade in terms of conveying intent or meaning.
Rune went through the names of the king’s various associates in his head, dismissing all of them as either too brutish or too dull to be the origin of the troubling flowers. He was still pondering the odd dispatch when a harsh voice calling his name blew in on the dank ocean breeze filtering down from the still-open window upstairs.
“Rune! You bloody mongrel! Show yourself!”
Ah, Bilga’s father. Was the tide out already?
Rune tossed A Compendium onto the podium that stood near the base of the stairs before vaulting them two at a time. Never one to back down from a colorful exchange, he didn’t want to keep the man waiting.
“What do you want?” Rune bellowed on his way up. “I hope it’s to apologize for afflicting the world with your brutish progeny.”
Mysterious messages would have to wait; verbal abuse heavily peppered with colorful insults was what passed for entertainment around here. Besides, he was almost done with his shells. One more and he could leave everything behind: the tower, Wentletrap, the whole stinking kingdom along with any and all parties dealing in floral threats.
About Garen Glazier
I have always called Seattle home and find the perpetual gloom to be a wonderful writing ally. I like coffee shops, bookstores, dancing in my living room and singing in my car. The opening scene of Up makes me cry. Three Amigos makes me laugh. Fashion magazines, croissants, and long, long baths are my guilty pleasures. They might occur separately or together. I prefer boxing classes to yoga, and I get some of my best ideas when I'm running. I loved school and spent more time than one really should getting a business degree in marketing and a master's in art history. In an ideal world I'd go to bed at 2am and wake up at 10am. I've never been an early bird, and I feel strongly that alarm clocks kill dreams.
Learn more at garenglazier.com.
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