Only days from the release of the first book and the launch of this series. I am beside myself with excitement and Kathi is sitting net to me, putting final polishing on the chapters, giddy as well.
This has been a long road of incredible challenges, with our family welfare hanging on the hope that I won’t suck as a writer! Woot! And to think: it’s only the beginning. So here we are, about to release and I still don’t have a clue how we are going to tell people about the book.
Well, here’s a gift–CHAPTER ONE of Prelude to a Hero. Hopefully it will motivate someone out there to tell a friend and if you happen to be a book blogger, I will have eBook copies available in every format for the asking, just shoot me an email.
Remember, stop by www.wantedhero.com on May 6th and buy yourself a copy of the novel for only $.99. It will also be available through Amazon.com.
Who are you?
I am the storyteller.
I’m the friend, the neighbor, the stranger on the street.
I’m the one who watches, contemplates and shares.
But, who are you?
Soon, he remembered. Soon we will see the face of the Hero! His stomach leaped. How many times had Shea heard his father speak those words? Hundreds? Thousands?
He had walked this scorched stone path with his arms tied over his chest, enduring the parched winds, while staring at the back of his father’s robe since he was nine. That is when his father had discovered his gift for discerning truth. Then Shea’s father, as the High Elder, began instructing, requiring him to follow and observe.
Having grown, his eyes were now fixed upon his father’s hooded head. Just as the High Elder predicted, the people and Council had spoken and his only son took the life pledge of service in the Iskari High Council. Being only sixteen, Shea was honored to be the youngest elder in their history. Days later, Shea privately exulted as he received the crucial calling as the one who would confirm the royal bloodline. The Ithari would then be bestowed upon its rightful heir. The Hero. How many generations of High Elders had walked this path of sagging steps, each hoping they might be the one to see Him face to face?
Habitually ignoring the growing din, Shea allowed himself to be lulled by the rhythmic scratching of his father as he scuffled along, the childhood memories he enjoyed of Dark Lord Mahan and the Hero tumbled from one to another. “Naughty children are sent to Unrest and given to Mahan,” the gentle threatenings tugged at the corner of his lips. All mothers had warned their children of such things. But his mind eagerly dwelt on his father. He cherished the long evenings spent wrapped in thick arms, on his father’s lap, in front of a popping fire, while the scratchy fibers of his father’s robe made his cheek itch. Shea brought his hand to his face while the encompassing adoration filled his chest again and he embraced echoes of whispered tales about the heroes past and the one hero yet to come. He knew now, as he always had. This time Mahan will fall.
The childhood traditions had created an unfaltering bond between father and son. But Shea and his father spent much time in silence these days, the inexplicable desire to find acceptance burdened Shea’s every thought. It was time for the Hero to be retrieved and his father dared suggest they should act against tradition and reason! Often Council meetings were adjourned following raised voices, conflicting views, without resolution.
After all these years and the stories of his purpose, Shea felt cheated. Indignation threatened to suffocate him, he clenched his teeth. He thinks I’m still a child. He was being robbed of his greatest privilege and purpose by his own father. He doesn’t trust me.
The uncaring wind whipped around him wailing in vain as it snapped the hood from Shea’s naked skull. Blinking his watering eyes, he lowered his chaffed head and pushed on up the long callous path to the edge of the Pinnacle.
Mimicking his father, Shea stood erect on the ridge that thirstily lunged out over the boundless chasm. Just beyond his outstretched fingertips the chittering grains of sand whizzed and whirled and echoed from every direction, like swarms of angry hornets, yet only the scathing wind assaulted him. The violent ballet beckoned as he peered over the ridge to watch where millions of worlds dwelt together within the raging storm. It was here that, those who had the eyes to see could look upon the inhabitants of distant lands.
Shea stood back as the High Elder drew in a deep breath through wide nostrils, closing his wrinkled eyes. The sand before them pulsed, gathering in trails, as if magnets attracting sand were dancing in the chaos. Pouring in from the storm, the sand quickly organized itself into many conversing figures.
Once, he had questioned his father about why they came. He answered, “There is one in the sand with a rosy aura. This is the life and movements of a young man who has been placed upon a strange world, Earth, to hide him. He is the one I observe. It is my calling to protect him.” Years of bedtime tales and dreams suddenly took root and sprang to life in his young soul. Shea leaned forward squinting in vain to peer deeper into the magic, hoping to see the boy’s face–to look in his eyes.
Generations of High Elders had been watching over the young hero since he was a helpless baby, placed in the arms of adoring parents who would never know where he really came from; waiting for the day when the Hero would awaken Ithari, the Gem of the Gods. It was time. The young man was needed now, to come home, reclaim his birthright and save his people.
Even now, for the hundredth time, Shea’s shoulders sagged, disappointed. He did not have this gift and could not even see the coloring his father spoke of.
Soon, Shea sighed.
While the High Elder was engrossed, something peculiar caught Shea’s eye. Stray grains of sand were tumbling up the path across his feet, unaffected by the wind. A piercing apprehension seized Shea’s gut. An evil spirit? Here? How…..?
Perplexed, he watched the slithering strands accumulate into a churning mound behind his father. Should I…? His mind went blank. It was seeping into a dark, blood-red mud, then molding itself into the form of an asp with a flickering tongue to taste the wind.
Only when it slithered around his father, rising to meet the sands of Earth did Shea find his voice. “Father!” he warned, screaming above the din.
Startled, the High Elder’s narrowed eyes darted to his son and back to the sand. Calmly, he stretched out a hand, quickly waving through the scene to sever the link to Earth. The figures collapsed into swirling streams, launching themselves back into the chasm once more.
Except for the asp. Unaffected, it twisted and turned, encircling the old man’s chest. Shea gagged at the metallic odor of blood and steaming sand smothering the air while the snake probed around his father’s face and brow. Shea waited, holding his breath as the High Elder concentrated with a lifetime of practiced skill to clear all thoughts from his consciousness. It lingered, waiting for some weakness to snatch that would betray the hero’s location to its dark master. The moments stretched past. And then minutes.
Exploding with repressed uncertainty, Shea impatiently commanded, “Ish-Krothi Umballa!” and briskly thrust his hands through the sleeves of his robe. His fingers gripped an invisible sphere that he stretched and forcefully hurled at his father.
The asp sparked, bursting into flames and fell tinkling to the unyielding stone.
“No!” cried the High Elder, eyes narrowing and face flushing red. “Now the Dark Lord will know we hide something from him!” He looked at the small shards of glass around his feet, the red residue slowly fading from the shiny surfaces. The creases in his forehead deepened, his lips pressed together in a tight line.
Instantly Shea realized, too late, the consequences of his actions. As a boy he had waited long hours for his father to return from council meetings specifically designated to protecting the hero. As a member of the Council he learned the challenges of weaving intricate deceptions of ignorance or complacency to keep prying eyes of shadow at bay. Now in one hasty breath the methodically orchestrated plans had been compromised.
A deep frown on his face, the High Elder turned sharply, yanking the hood over his head he attacked the steep winding path. Knowing they could not converse on the matter until they were far from the sand and wind, Shea anxiously kept pace with the High Elder’s lengthy stride until they were just outside Sanctuary’s walls.
“Father, I …”
Raising a hand, he neither slowed nor turned. “Control and unity, young man,” he cut in a cool tone. “This is always about unity and self control. That is how we will defeat the enemy. Not with a careless display of personal power and parlor tricks!”
“I’m sorry, Father,” Shea justified.
The High Elder slowed, the edgy tone causing his rigid pace to falter. He stopped to study Shea’s face with a piercing gaze. Moments passed, but he said nothing.
“Truly,” Shea insisted softly. “I sought only to keep the boy safe.”
The small wrinkles in the corner of his eyes offered a faint a smile as the High Elder slowly exhaled. Shea was young. Sixteen was too young, in his opinion, to carry such a burden. The High Elder’s role as a father was now secondary to the calling of an Elder. However, youth and inexperience were no excuse for irrational behavior and stepping outside one’s calling.
“Young Elder, you have forgotten your place, doubted my calling, and challenged my stewardship.”
At the formal address, Shea squared his shoulders, pain flickering in his eyes. “High Elder, I do not doubt your position NOR would I dare to challenge your stewardship,” he emphasized in lowered tones. “I have only opposed the decisions on retrieving the boy. There is too much risk involved. Thus, I believe this important task should only be entrusted to the Council as a whole. The bloodline will need protection. Our protection.”
It was the same argument.
“We are too arrogant in our own abilities, because we have knowledge and powers,” fortifying his point with volume. “Insanity!” Shea watched his father turn his head from side to side then raising his hands to the sky, anguishing, “Mahan has already enslaved half…HALF!…of this world!”
Pleading, eye to eye, “Elder, ….” sighing patiently, “Son. Do you not remember he lives because the last hero had compassion for his friend? Mahan is cunning and his influence grows in ways we can only measure by destruction and death.
“Have you and the others truly convinced yourselves that we are beyond destruction? Or even worse… corruption?”
Chin raised to the challenge, “And what of your plan, Father?” Spitting venomous condemnation into his words. “Will you really send a selfish, free-willed outcast to retrieve our last hope for all creation? One who shirks his responsibilities, subsisting in pubs to return so intoxicated that he often mistakes the pig pen for his cottage? He can’t even find the bathroom in the dark!”
The High Elder couldn’t help chuckling at his son’s accurate perception of one of Sanctuary’s longest residents. “No. Dax can find the bathroom in the dark…he simply finds it inconvenient when intoxicated and therefore, chooses not to.”
“That’s just…sick,” grimaced Shea.
“Nevertheless, it does not disqualify him for the task at hand. We all have a purpose. Remember how he suffers and what has been taken from him. It should soften your heart, if nothing else. He knows what’s expected and understands the gravity.”
Shea was unconvinced. “You misplace your trust in a fool, father.”
“No, son.” The High Elder smiled, placing a confident had on his son’s chest, “I trust a friend.”
Resigned, the young elder lowered his head and closed his eyes.
Patting his son’s shoulder, the High Elder grinned wide. “Have confidence. The Dark Lord will never suspect what is about to happen…..and we will do what has never been done before.”
Shea sighed, muttering under his breath, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”