Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: ‘Bible Bands: Rubber Band Jewelry’ by Katreina Eden

bible bandsBible Bands is a fun, educational how-to book for children who love making jewelry. Not only does it teaches how to make lovely designs, but it also strengthens children’s faith by combining hands-on creativity with Bible verses and stories.
Rubber band jewelry seems to be the hottest new craze, so Eden’s book comes at the right time. Though at first glance, when you look at the jewelry, it might seem complicated and difficult to make, especially for kids, the author demystifies it with simple step-by-step instructions accompanied by colorful photos. I found the language and descriptions clear and straight-forward, easy for most kids to understand, though the younger ones will need guidance from an adult, at least at first. There are over 12 designs, from the simplest to the most elaborate.
Eden incorporates faith with verses and symbols, such as a blue and white pattern to symbolize Christ’s baptism, a heart design to remind you of God’s love, and a multi-colored weave to match Joseph’s coat of many colors, among others.
Bible Bands doesn’t come with the looms or bands, but you can find these at most craft shops. This will make a lovely gift for any child, especially those who are into crafts. It is also a good book for those long summer and Christmas holidays, as it will keep children entertained for hours. Recommended!
Find out more on Amazon.
My review was previously published in Blogcritics.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Interview with Laurence St. John, author of YA fantasy 'Metatron: The Mystical Blade'

Laurence A. St. John was born on January 11, 1965 in Toledo Ohio. Laurence has one older brother and two younger sisters. Laurence along with his parents, brother and sisters moved once while growing up to Genoa Ohio, just south of Toledo. While attending Genoa Area schools, he was active in track, football and baseball. Later, after he graduated from Genoa High School (Comets) in 1983, he worked for a few manufacturing companies.

At the age of 23 and after three years of dedication, hard work and sweat, in 1988, Laurence received his first-degree black belt (Shodan) in Tae Kwon Do. This gave him the self-confidence and perseverance needed to surmount anything that came his way.
When Laurence was 25 years old he fell in love then married the love of his life, Julie in 1990. He then adopted her two young wonderful children Joe and Jan shortly after. 

Out of high school for nearly fifteen years and after persuaded by his former manager, Laurence attended Owens State Community College where he obtained an Associates Degree in Microcomputer Business Systems while working full-time. In addition to computer classes, he enjoyed composition classes where he could free his mind and write what he wanted. 

While working in the steel processing business for almost fifteen years, Laurence's place of employment changed hands, for the third time in 2006; fighting for his job, again. In the same year his first granddaughter, Kendall, "Papa's Angel" was born. He described this as one of the most uplifting moments of his life. In addition, it was during this time when his emotions were running wild; he became inspired as well as determined to write his penned-up thoughts on paper. 

Nearly four years later, he had completed his first middle grade fantasy novel, Metatron: The Angel Has Risen. His latest book is Metatron: The Mystical Blade.

Laurence currently lives in Northwood Ohio with his wife of 24 years, Julie. His son Joe is married to Cari and they have three daughters, Kendall, Sadie and Harper. His daughter Jan is married to Andrew and they have a son Eli and a daughter Evelyn. Laurence currently holds the position of Administrations Manager at Precision Strip, Inc. in Perrysburg Ohio, where he works full time. He continually writes in his spare time; weekends and after work, and is endlessly inspired by his five grandkids Kendall, Elijah, Sadie, Evelyn and Harper. 

For More Information:
About the Book:

Thirteen-year-old Tyler Thompson is on the verge of becoming a superhero, but he must prove himself so he can earn the remainder of his superpowers and fulfill his destiny.

When his grandfather, Benjamin, is held prisoner at AREA 51, where the eternal powers are presumed to be hidden, Tyler attempts to penetrate the base’s heavy security. However, Dr. Mason Payne, the evil scientist who killed Tyler's father, has insidious plans of his own.

Hunted by an unknown entity, Tyler races against the clock to retrieve the superpowers, rescue his family and help the others who are depending on him. And when all hope seems lost, help comes in a power he didn’t know he possessed—a mysterious weapon known as The Mystical Blade.

For More Information

  • Metatron: The Mystical Blade is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
  • Watch the book trailer at YouTube.

Q: Thank you for this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

A: Hello and first thank-you for having me. I appreciate it very much. My writing started in my head when I was probably around seven years old. I had these cool characters and stories in my head but I never acted upon them. I was too busy playing sports and being a kid. In high school then college I took writing classes that gave me the freedom to finally follow through and my penned-up thoughts. When my first granddaughter, Kendall, was born, that was the push I needed and became inspired to write my first novel METATRON: The Angel Has Risen. 

Q: What fact about yourself would really surprise people?

A: I’m very claustrophobic. When driving through tunnels it freaks me out.  

Q: What scares you the most?

A: Something terrible happening to one of my grandkids that I can’t do anything about. That would probably kill me.

Q: What makes you happiest?

A: Being with my five grandkids Kendall, Eli, Sadie, Evelyn and Harper. They are my whole world and my writing inspirations. Whether one of them is playing tee ball, soccer, cheer, dancing, or karate the smile on my face could be any larger. 

Q: What are you most proud of in your personal life?

A: There are several; graduating from high school, receiving my first degree black belt, getting married, adopting my two kids Joe and Jan, graduating from college and publishing my first novel.

Q: What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?

A: Getting published traditionally was the hardest for me. After I received over 100 “no” replies from publishers and agents, I finally received my one “yes”.

Q: Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you? 

A: When Jarod, a ten year old boy walked up to me after a church Christmas play a year ago and asked me, “Are you Mr. St. John who wrote the Metatron Book?”  “I replied, yes I am, did you read it?”  “He replied, yes I did and I loved the book and the story – thank you for writing it!” That is when I knew I was a successful writer.

Q: Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

A: My new book METATRON: The Mystical Blade is about thirteen-year-old Tyler Thompson is on the verge of becoming a superhero, but he must prove himself so he can earn the remainder of his superpowers and fulfill his destiny.

When his grandfather, Benjamin, is held prisoner at AREA 51, where the eternal powers are presumed to be hidden, Tyler attempts to penetrate the base’s heavy security. However, Dr. Mason Payne, the evil scientist who killed Tyler's father, has insidious plans of his own.

Hunted by an unknown entity, Tyler races against the clock to retrieve the superpowers, rescue his family and help the others who are depending on him. And when all hope seems lost, help comes in a power he didn’t know he possessed—a mysterious weapon known as The Mystical Blade. 

This is the second book in the series which explains the continually story of how he received the remainder of his powers and the challenges he had to overcome.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

A: I like to watch scifi movies, or lay by the pool with a beverage or just have a quite dinner with my wife Julie.

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

A: It’s an inspiring story that everyone can relate to - In a race against time, who will reach the eternal powers first – Tyler or the devil’s most ruthless warrior, Black Shadow? I believe that people are always looking for inspiration in their lives. The story of Tyler Thompson will capture their hearts and minds.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

A: Start a social media following right away. Begin networking with other authors, editors and agents. And. When submitting manuscripts do not get discouraged; you will get rejected many times. Believe I yourself and rise above your doubts.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

First Chapter: Lieutenant Henry Gallant by H. Peter Alesso

Title: Lieutenant Henry Gallant
Author: H. Peter Alesso
Publisher: Video Software Publishing
Pages: 320
Genre: Science fiction space opera
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

In an era of genetic engineering, Lieutenant Henry Gallant is the only Natural (non-genetically enhanced) officer left in the fleet. Many of his superiors, including rival Anton Neumann, have expressed concern he is not up to the challenge. However, his unique mental abilities have proven essential to the defense of the United Planets in its fight against the Titan invaders.

Serving on the first FTL prototype, the Intrepid, on its maiden voyage to Tau Ceti, Gallant finds a lost colony on the planet Elysium. Cyrus Wolfe and his son, manipulate planet politics against the democratic opposition led by James Hepburn and his granddaughter Alaina. Wolfe has allied himself with an ancient Artificial Intelligence which had lain dormant on the planet for millennia, but is now willing to protect the colonists against the Titans.

With Alaina’s help, Gallant discovers the ancient AI has a sinister ulterior motive and he matches his unique and exceptional mind against the complexity of machine intelligence to escape the ultimate trap and prevent the extermination of humanity.

In Lieutenant Henry Gallant, one man pits the naked human mind against the perspicacity of machine intelligence.

First Chapter:

Gallant ran—gasping for breath, heart pounding; the echo of his footsteps reverberated behind him.
He hoped to reach the bridge, but hope is a fragile thing.

Peering over his shoulder into the dark, he tripped on a protruding jagged beam, one of the ship’s many battle scars. As he crashed to the deck, the final glow of emergency lights sputtered out leaving only the pitch black of power failure—his failure.

He lay still and listened to the ship’s cries of pain; the incessant wheezing of atmosphere bleeding from the many tiny hull fissures, the repetitious groaning of metal from straining structures, and the crackling of electrical wires sparking against panels.

Thoughts flashed past him.

How long will the oxygen last?

He was reluctant to guess.

Where are they?

He heard the clamor of dogged footsteps drawing closer even as he rasped for another breath.
Trembling from exhaustion, he clawed at the bulkhead to pull himself up. His hemorrhaging leg made even standing brutally painful.

Nevertheless; he ran.

He heard the clamor of dogged footsteps drawing closer even as he rasped for another breath.
Trembling from exhaustion, he clawed at the bulkhead to pull himself up. His hemorrhaging leg made even standing brutally painful.

Nevertheless; he ran.

The bulkhead panels and compartment hatches were indistinguishable in the dimness. Vague phantoms seemed to lurk nearby even while his eyes adjusted to whatever glowing plasma blast embers flickered from the hull.

As he twisted around a corner, he crashed his shoulder into a bulkhead. The impact knocked him back and spun him around. Reaching out with a bloody hand, he grasped the hatch handle leading into the Operation’s compartment. Going through the hatch, he pulled it shut behind him.

He started to run, then awkwardly fought his own momentum and stopped.

Stupid! Stupid!

Going back to the hatch, he hit the security locking mechanism.

It wouldn’t stop a plasma blast, but it might slow them down, he thought. At least this compartment is airtight.

Finally able to take a deep breath, he tried to clear his head of bombarding sensations. He should’ve been in battle armor, but he’d stayed too long in engineering trying to maintain power while the hull had been breached and the ship boarded.

Now his uniform was scorched, revealing the plasma burns of seared flesh from his left shoulder down across his back to his right thigh. He had no idea where the rest of the crew was; many were probably dead. His comm pin was mute and the ship’s AI wasn’t responding. He had only a handgun, but, so far, he didn’t think they were tracking him specifically, merely penetrating into the ship to gain control.

Gallant tried to run once more, but his legs were unwilling. Leaning against the bulkhead, like a dead weight, he slid slowly down to the deck.

Unable to go farther, he sat dripping blood and trembling as the potent grip of shock grabbed hold. The harrowing pain of his burnt flesh, swept over him.

Hope and fear alike abandoned him, leaving only an undeniable truth; without immediate medical treatment, he wouldn’t survive.

I’m done.

Closing his eyes, he fought against the pain and the black vertigo of despair. He took a deep breath and called upon the last of his inner resolve and resilience . . .

No! I won’t give up.

Exhaling and opening his eyes, he caught sight of a nearly invisible luminescent glow of a Red Cross symbol, offering him a glimmer of hope. He stretched his arm toward the cabinet.


He heard a cry of agony and only belatedly realized it had escaped his own lips as he strained to pull away twisted metal from the door to a medical cabinet. Reaching inside, he grabbed a damaged medi-pack.

Painstakingly he used the meager emergency provisions to stop the bleeding and to infuse blood plasma. His limited mobility prevented him from reaching awkward areas, but he managed to insert an analgesic hypodermic into his raw blistered flesh. Finally, he crudely bandaged his suffering body.
He relaxed momentarily as the medication coursed through his veins working to stifle the worst effects of shock and blood loss. His parched throat demanded . . .


He looked at more cabinets, but was unable to make out their markings in the dark. Stretching his fingers, he opened the nearest one, groping for something familiar inside.


He opened the next.


And another.

Yes. Finally, he snatched a half-buried survival kit. Greedily he drank and even managed to take a few bites of an energy bar.

A surge of adrenaline helped him shift his position to sit more comfortably as his mind came into sharper focus.

As he examined his surroundings in the faint light, he spotted an interface station. He was about to reach up and patch into the ship’s AI to get an update on the ship’s defensive posture when he was disturbed by the dismal clangor of footsteps.

He held his breath. Are they coming this way?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Darkest Side of Saturn by Tony Taylor Book Blitz - Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

THE Darkest Side of Saturn
Title: The Darkest Side of Saturn
Author: Tony Taylor
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 492
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Ebook
 Purchase at AMAZON

 It’s 1997 at a mountaintop observatory in Southern California where spacecraft navigator Harris Mitchel and astronomer Diana Muse-Jones discover a dangerous asteroid which may hit the earth within two decades. As the asteroid tumbles through space towards an uncertain impact, Harris and Diana fight bitterly over how to announce their discovery. When Harris goes public to a skeptical world—at the cost of his and Diana’s careers—he sends their already turbulent relationship into a blaze of conflicting passions. As his notoriety builds, a fanatical preacher and his unhinged followers stalk him while an obnoxious radio personality provides disruptive help. Harris becomes an unwilling Pied Piper for his own overzealous followers hungry for belief and eager for guidance into an uncertain and tumultuous future. In this science fiction drama the characters battle each other in contests of Damn your world view! against a background of hard science, religion, romance, metaphysical speculation, and the forces of nature versus human passions and dreams. Meanwhile an asteroid hurtles through the solar system and global salvation or disaster hangs in the balance. “A courageous and visionary work … an instant classic.” —BlueInk Reviews
Tony Taylor spent a long career navigating NASA spacecraft—including Voyager, Cassini, Mars Polar Lander, Galileo, and MESSENGER—to every planet in the solar system. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and earned an MS in physics from the University of Arizona. Tony and his wife, Jan, live in Sedona, Arizona.

Tony is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins September 1 and ends on September 13.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, September 16.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 8, 2014

What is Growing Out of Your Ear? by Angela Graham Book Blitz!

Title: What is Growing Out of Your Ear  
Author: Angela Graham
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Pages: 24
Genre: Children's Fiction
Format: Ebook
Purchase at AMAZON

It is summer and Angela eats a bowl of cherries. After she swallows some cherry pits, her Grandpa warns what will happen -- “A cherry tree will grow out of your ear.” Angela thinks that is silly. Do you believe a cherry tree can grow out of Angela’s ear?
 Angela Graham lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband, two lively children and their dog. She has enjoyed writing stories for her children since they were young to inspire the love of reading. Angela’s stories add a humourous twist to real life. This story is motivated from Angela’s own childhood.

Angela is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins September 1 and ends on September 13.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, September 16.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Jesse Giles Christiansen: 'Good books are planned'

Jesse Giles Christiansen is an American author who writes compelling literary fiction that weaves the real with the surreal. He attended Florida State University where he received his B.A. in English literature, and holds an M.A. in philosophy from Georgia State University. He is the author of Pelican Bay (book one in the Captain Shelby Series), an Amazon #1 list bestseller, outselling Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. One of Christiansen's literary goals is to write at least fifty novels, and he always reminds himself of something that Ray Bradbury once said: "You fail only if you stop writing."

His latest book is the literary fiction/magical realism novel, Captain Shelby.

For More Information
About the Book:

There are places even the sea cannot go…

In coastal Denmark, a young man named Nereus builds a longship and leaves at age
eighteen to discover a new, enigmatic land. Faced with unimaginable obstacles, he crosses the North Atlantic, only to be captured by the Skraelings, the Inuit indigenous people who seek revenge on all settlers because of a "Great Red Man" who murdered many of their family members.

Many years later, Nereus is hired by a group of Irish settlers who are fleeing the tyranny of King Henry VIII, and he takes them across the North Atlantic to the New Found Land. A fierce battle ensues against the sea, the Little Ice Age, and the vicious Skraelings.

When Nereus falls in love with Laura Hodges, fiancée to the group’s leader, William Brockelby, he becomes embroiled in a dangerous love triangle…until the formidable mystery surrounding Captain Nereus H. Shelby is finally revealed.

For More Information

  • Captain Shelby is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Can you tell us what your book is about?

Captain Shelby is a prequel to Amazon international list bestseller, Pelican Bay. It dives deeper into the mysterious history behind the strange fisherman from Pelican Bay, starting when he was just a boy in Denmark, then splaying into various subplots. The main story focuses on a group of Irish settlers fleeing the tyranny of King Henry VIII who hire Captain Shelby to take them across the Atlantic to a newfound land. When the fisherman falls in love with the group leader’s fiancée, Laura Hodges, a dangerous love triangle escalates until the formidable mystery of Captain Shelby is finally revealed.

Why did you write your book?

Captain Shelby is my best character yet, getting me published and kicking off my career. He’s a character so big, wanting so much room to grow, I felt a whole trilogy was needed. Eerily, the conceptual outline of the trilogy wrote itself; I already have the third book fully conceived, and will start writing it next year.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I lost my father when I was only four years old. I believe that Captain Shelby, while fictional, is a compilation of all the male role models of my life and literature so far—the father and grandfather I never knew, Santiago from Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, an uncle I adored who spent twenty-six years in the Coastguard. He also encompasses my awe and thirst for mystery and for the paranormal.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

Good books are planned. Very good books have a pre-written outline. Great books write themselves.

Your book is set in 8th-16th centuries.  Can you tell us why you chose this time period?

In Pelican Bay, when Ethan and Morgan begin researching the enigma of the old fisherman, they come across the Journal of William Brockelby, which details the journey of a group of Irish settlers leaving Ireland in the early 1500’s and venturing to a Newfoundland. Captain Shelby’s mortal life takes us back to the Viking Era. The prequel is simply the logical historical extension of this history.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes, yes, and yes! I had to spend many months researching Early Modern English, ancient Ireland, Viking Sagas, and early Greenland. This was my most difficult novel yet … but well worth it!

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

William Brockelby, badly injured, is on his way to receive further medical care, but his life is fading in and out, like a pale sun on a cloudy day. He lies in an old, horse-pulled cart with a young woman who, in the bright sun, appears to be a curly red-haired earth angel. He thinks to himself, “If this be me angel, the Lord hath an Irish sense of humor.”

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Writer’s block is a myth forged by authors who are dominated by noise about them, which they have failed to diminish or extinguish.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?


Which holiday is your favorite and why?

Halloween. I love scary stories and movies and creatures real or dressed up. J

What do you like to do for fun?

Play guitar (I’m also a singer/songwriter), watch movies, run, travel, and do any activity related to nature/animals.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

I don’t think it has happened yet. I’m waiting for it.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Don’t try to write something, just write … directly from the soul, as if your pen is a damn, and your soul a river.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows, by Andrew Cratsley

frontcover_444x664Title: Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows
Genre:  Fantasy
Author: Andrew Cratsley
Publisher: CreateSpace
Purchase at: 
An extraordinary coming-of-age fantasy tale written by a dynamic new voice in the world of fantasy, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows has garnered high advance praise. Kirkus Reviews notes that Cratsley “believably and authentically develop[s] his characters” and calls the book a “promising debut.”  In a Clarion Review,ForeWord Reviews reports that Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows “has all the color, imagination, and drama one might expect from the genre as well as emotional depth.”  Moreover, the review states that the book’s “fast pace and gaming-style characteristics may appeal to more reluctant readers and inspire future fantasy enthusiasts.”
About Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows:  At 120 years old, Corinth is young by elf standards.  But even as a young elf, Corinth is haunted by his sordid past. When he emerges from his solitude within the eternal forest around Enzlintine, Corinth is sent away to quell the troubled region plagued by Khalid, the Lord of Conquest.  But this will be a journey like no other. Corinth bands together with two curious companions—the human ranger Aventis and the oh-so-spirited Nadine—until the trio is captured by an insidious necromancer, Mortiscet. A vile dark elf who forces the group to help his daughter Rieka find a mysterious object, Mortiscet thrusts the group into increasingly dangerous circumstances. Can Rieka escape the clutches of her wicked and overbearing patriarch?  And what will happen when the group launches towards a frigid wasteland in search of the bane of the evil that stalks them?  On this perilous journey, they’ll have to battle assassins, ominous creatures and the forces of Khalid. Expect the unexpected—because sometimes, the best intentions come from the darkest recesses of the heart…  
A splendid and magical tale with a captivating storyline, extraordinary characters and a plot brimming with action, intrigue and adventure, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows is a fascinating read that captivates from page one. Resplendent with characters that come to life within the novel’s pages, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows is a beautifully-written, imaginative, and inventive tale.  With its strong central female characters, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows offers a refreshing diversion from fantasy tales that focus largely on male protagonists and male supporting characters.   
A mesmerizing work of fantasy geared towards young adults, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows will also appeal to adult readers of fantasy, as well as fans of such fantasy classics such as The Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter series.  According to Pacific Book Review,Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows has aspects to entice most any reader, whether lover of fantasy or not…. readers of fantasy will delight in Cratsley’s work.”
The Dawn of a Knight

As the grove shimmered under the gaze of the waning moonlight, the young elf basked in a glowing cloud of fireflies along the trails. A triumphant vigor carried his tired body like the nearby orange fire-burst petals on the wind. Never before had a stroll through the dense forest surrounding Enzlintine been so blissful, and its serenity urged him to lower the hood of his gray cloak. During these rare moments of freedom, the timeless charm of the forest swept away his worries. Leaving the barracks so early was unnecessary, but he was embarrassed by the thought of a late arrival. Not the sort of thing a sage knight should do, and certainly not him.
Heavy fog rolled in and devoured him as he strode deeper into the dense foliage. More knowledgeable of the terrain than most elves, Corinth refused to be deterred after his twenty-seven years of solitude within it. His 120th birthday promised long-desired responsibilities, but the choking mist consumed his elation over attaining adulthood. Although fog was natural in early spring, this sudden onset was peculiar. He knew he was close to the clearing, but the thought of imprisonment within a smoky prism came to mind when he struggled to see his hand in front of his face.
A soft gust whispered into his pointed ears and stopped him in his tracks. Certain no wind had brushed his face, Corinth looked down at his cloak, which hung just as limply as his strong, uneasy hands. The soft forest floor greeted his feet gently as his silver eyes swept his surroundings while he felt his way through. When he noticed his footsteps were unusually muffled, the sounds of nature perished. The cooing of mourning doves, the scratching of nearby brambles against his cloak, and even the pounding of his heart, which threatened to break through his rib cage, no longer reached his keen elven ears.
“Silence spell,” he mumbled. With a glance into the warm sky, his anxiety mounted as he wished for the light of the bright moon he knew was overhead. Resting his back against the nearest tree, he brushed his shoulder-length, ebony hair from his forehead and drew his long sword. Since the enchantment around him prevented the use of magic, he wondered if it was the work of Tessius. He dismissed the absurd thought as he considered a more sinister threat might be around him. Wary of the clearing ahead, he stopped at the edge of the tree line and gazed into the eerie place that usually soothed him. A pillar of moonlight illuminated the harsh fog, which swallowed their usual meeting place.
The sharp intake of breath meant to calm him revealed an unnatural scent carried upon the white mist. It was dirty, lacking the fragrance of flowers and pollen, which should have filled the air. He stowed his blade beneath his cloak and held it tightly, since exquisite elven steel shined brighter than silver. It was the first time he regretted this quality of his father’s sword.
With a solid defensive stance, Corinth kept his back close to the great oak just outside the clearing. Shadowy distortions appeared in the fog and leaped toward his chest as he gracefully sidestepped them. Anxiety sharpened his senses as he swung instinctively toward the glare of the amber eyes, which bulged when he ripped open the throat of the waist-high menace. A putrid scent filled the air as its pustules ruptured against his steel. He glanced quickly at his feet and found no trace of the dead, wrinkled goblin, which meant it had been conjured.
Walking into the center of the vibrant clearing, Corinth relied on his sight since goblins could easily trace his scent. His fingers tingled with anticipation, and he dared not blink as his silver eyes studied the area. Two dusky blades lashed toward his toned body, followed by more pointed, snarling faces. Slashing forward with all his strength, Corinth parried the rusted short swords and launched one of the blades through the moist air. Although thrown back a couple of paces, he remained on his feet and glared at the fearful creatures. The goblins stared wide eyed at him when they landed, unable to compensate for his speed. After impaling the wrinkled forehead of the one to his left, he turned his steel and swept it to his right without pause. His lustrous blade cleaved through the other creature’s rib cage as it attempted to retrieve its weapon. Narrowly evading the cold, iron weapon at his feet, Corinth felt the rusted edge scrape his boot. Restlessness clenched his chest when he studied the area, wondering from where the next strike would emerge.
A reflection loomed in Corinth’s blade, enticing him to spin around with a blind swing. His sword clashed awkwardly against the corroded iron, and he stared down at the toothy grin of the crazed goblin who parried his attack. The small, fanatical menace scraped its steel along Corinth’s weapon with surprising strength before Corinth could recover his slackened grip on the hilt. The goblin stared gleefully at his elven steel as it tumbled through the air. Kicking it across the bridge of its long, pointed nose, Corinth staggered when another creature leaped onto his back. He struggled to pry away the stubby, strong arms that grappled his neck as the flat of a blade slammed into the back of his knee. Tears poured from his eyes as he fell backward to the soft forest floor. The goblin on Corinth’s back swung around his neck and landed gracefully on his chest as Corinth hit the ground. Anger and terror ravaged his fit body as the tidal wave of creatures swallowed him from all sides.
After punching the devilish monster straddling him, Corinth sat up as it fell unconscious between his legs. Sharp blades poked his back before he could scramble to his feet, and a fierce kick to the ribs knocked him prone again. Sound returned with a surge of the hideous laughter of the goblin pack that towered over him as they pointed their swords at his angry face.
“Cowardly beasts!” Corinth sneered through gritted teeth.
“That is enough,” Tessius said as he calmly walked into view. The remaining creatures parted to allow him to approach. His long fingers stretched out, and his arm made a polite sweeping motion. “Un-accersi.” The creatures growled as they vanished, and the fog lifted. With a swish of his large hand, Tessius pulled down his brown hood, and his web of hazelnut braids fell neatly against his back. He smiled down at Corinth with his usually kind expression and extended his open hand.
“That was very good,” he said. “Can you stand?”
Nodding, Corinth accepted his master’s hand grudgingly. This was yet another training session, and he had failed what was perhaps his last test of skill. With a strong grip, Tessius squeezed Corinth’s shoulder as he walked toward the stone bench near the center of the clearing. Corinth gazed hopefully at his master for an explanation, while his pulse raced at the thought of this mockery before he looked at the ground, feeling mutinous.
“Come now, Corinth. This is a time to celebrate, not sulk.” Tessius chuckled and reached under his brown cloak. “Come here and sit down.”
Realizing that his attempt to hide his anger had failed, Corinth was unable to resist his protest any longer.
“I was outnumbered ten to one,” he grumbled. “You prevented me from using magic, and I could see nothing! How was I supposed to succeed?” Annoyed while Tessius surveyed him with amusement and interest, Corinth bit back his mounting anger.
“Simple,” Tessius replied as he paused to open his jug of elven mead, which always hung from his thick belt. “You were not supposed to succeed.” He held up his hand to silence Corinth before he could speak. “Sit down.”
Reluctantly Corinth took his usual seat beside Tessius, who removed two flasks from the sack on his right hip. Staring back in confusion, Corinth could think of no response as his master thrust the jug and flasks toward him. “Pour, and I’ll explain since you are of age now. I want you to drink with me and talk for a while.” Enticed by the polite gesture to pour, Corinth thought the sweet aroma had an inviting appeal, but the timing felt peculiar. Unwilling to test his master’s patience with more rudeness, he filled the flasks.
The mead soothed Corinth’s throat with a warm sensation. It was remarkably smooth, with the hint of a rare berry that grew locally. Sapphire eyes pierced him as he drank, and the calm demeanor the ladies of Enzlintine admired so much relaxed him. Faint traces of blue embraced the sky, which met Tessius’s gaze as he scratched his hazelnut braids. His bulky arm lifted his flask for another sip before he continued.
“Time and again your sword has shown no limits, and your technique can only evolve with real experience.” Curious as to why the moon enthralled Tessius so much, Corinth pondered what his master thought when his bright eyes fixed upon it.
“You intended to mimic a real battle?” Corinth asked. “It seemed like the usual kind of test, only different tactics.” His choice of words came more easily as the mead washed away his contempt.
“Your training has entailed the art of swordsmanship in the way known only to the elites of the elven guard, the sage knights. This has done nothing to aid you against what awaits you in the real world, since few share our principles of chivalry.” After pausing to empty his flask, Tessius held it out for a refill and smiled reassuringly. “If you had succeeded, the lesson would have served little purpose.”
“It would have shown I possess superior skill. Surely the lesson would have been as—”
“It would not have,” Tessius interjected. Mead spewed out of the top of the flask as he spoke, and Corinth shifted uncomfortably as it ran down his master’s arm. Tessius sighed and moved his flask to his right hand so he could shake the wasted mead off his left. “Many young sage knights fall to such perils soon after induction into the order; thus my reasoning for this lesson before giving you real assignments. Now that your eyes are open, you can proceed.” He chuckled at Corinth’s blank expression.
“You mean I was accepted?” The nearby doves scattered amid his excitement.
“Of course!” Tessius laughed heartily at Corinth. “This means greater responsibilities ahead, and as my disciple, you represent not only me but also our community. You will be officially inducted tomorrow, so be sure not to get involved in city business.” He cast a quick, stern look at his student before he lifted his flask to his lips.
“Yes, sir!” As Corinth watched the sun rise, his spirit blazed like the red sky as it enveloped Terranesit, the world in which they lived.
“Take the day off.” Emptying his flask again, Tessius stared into the sky and admired the glow of the new day. All the trees swayed gently in the breeze, and the woodland creatures scuttled about with their daily tasks. “Go visit Enzlintine. I know you miss it.”
“Yes, thank you…, sir,” Corinth replied, forcing a smile of gratitude.
“Out with it,” Tessius said as he stowed his flask into his hip sack.
“I wonder how the townspeople will…I mean to say—have they forgotten?” Intense heat swept over his shameful face as he searched for the right words. He wished he could avoid this conversation and immediately begin his duties.
“No,” Tessius said. “They are elves, after all.” He stared at Corinth’s crestfallen face and smiled. “So you made mistakes in your youth.”
“It was only twenty-seven years ago,” Corinth uttered as he swept back his uncooperative hair.
“And in that time you have grown more than any elf could be expected to. Yes, you will have to earn respect again, and as you know, it may be a slow, difficult process.” A patient smile swept over Tessius, who gave a few moments’ pause. “You were a rather petulant child who had too much pride to accept aid from those who respected your family, so you and your gang of friends hid in the old city, plotting petty heists.” He stopped for a moment to grasp Corinth’s shoulder, while he bore into his silver eyes again. “A shameful thing for any of our kind to suffer. However, you were doing the best you could on your own.”
Turning away slightly, Corinth found the sight of the sapphire eyes too much to look into; the act prompted Tessius to release him and stare at the falling moon. “Those days are gone, and you will now serve Enzlintine with the highest pride and honor that is possible for an elf.”
“I will do all that is possible, Master.” Little relief swept over his burning eyes, and the urge to start his duties consumed his thoughts.
“If you recall, your pleading went on for years before I agreed to teach you the secret arts. Only your will to learn, determination, and deep sense of remorse led you to where you are now. The pain you still feel from this tells me I have made the right decision in training you.”
Leaving Corinth to his thoughts, Tessius rose and disappeared behind the wall of vines on the east side of the clearing. The mead tingled Corinth’s lips as he pondered his master’s words, shuddering at the idea of another couple thousand years of guilt. Eager to escape his past, Corinth dreamed of heroism and noble servitude to Enzlintine.
He trudged north with little notice to where he stepped, aware that he was on a direct course toward home. A dense heaviness clung to his feet as he passed the training barracks where he’d lingered for so long. Newborn leaves and blossoms didn’t sweep him away as they should have as he walked the vast forest. Looking down at the vibrant sword he had inherited, Corinth wondered what his father would have said at his matching in rank at his young age.
Upon his arrival at the outer rim of Enzlintine, Corinth stared at what the elves called the “old city.” The ruins saddened him—as they did most of his kind—as he walked past the decimated buildings. Two hundred years of overgrowth nearly swallowed the remnants from the era of chaos. Restoration of their homeland had been slow as they had built outward while their race repopulated the forest. Keeping his eyes fixed on the cobblestone-and-alabaster road, he reached the stone archway next to the waterfall, which separated the ruins from the new city.
Sunlight glistened off the ivory buildings and mansions of the many aristocrats, artists, and musicians, reminding him at once of how beautiful Enzlintine was. Trees and gardens lined the vast structures toward the center of town as he strode by, waving at the local blacksmith. As he feared, memories of his last days in Enzlintine flooded his mind. He wondered how long it had been since his parents’ funeral when Tessius arrested him and took him into the solitude of his parents’ cabin, which was near the barracks. Recalling the many funerals of friends and family, Corinth remembered only sadness and was unable to discern what he had done at the time.
Greeted by the town square, a grid of well-kept trees and fountains, Corinth stopped on the short stone bridge. He stood over the moat and gazed at the most precious gift given to the elves, the Tree of Life. Granted by their goddess, Nartha, it was the sigil of their essence. The tree kept the entire forest fertile and immortal, and its great branches spread over the moat surrounding it. Its top was barely visible, and in the spring, it attracted doves by the hundreds. Most elves believed the tree blessed the city with prosperity, and they often held ceremonies, such as weddings, under its heavy branches. Although religion had never interested Corinth much, the tree always lifted his spirits, and today was no different. He rested on the grass of the small island and stared up for a while at the white blossoms, which floated toward the water surrounding him.
Feeling recharged, he wandered into the marketplace in the northwestern district, where the granite buildings, ornate with quartz and precious metals, were tightly packed together. The market was crowded as he passed, wondering where he should go next.
“Corinth! Is that you?”
Stopping in his tracks, he turned toward the sound of the familiar, sly voice. He caught a glimpse of the clothing vendor, who stood behind one of many booths along the street, and approached him apprehensively.
“It is! Ha!” he added, grinning at Corinth, who nodded curtly with a forced smile. “Where have you been all this time?” The scrawny vendor leaned over his counter and extended his bony hand.
“I was…removed, Besmyr,” Corinth replied as he took the vendor’s hand, unsure what to say to his old friend. The man had been the ringleader behind his childhood mischief and the last person he expected to find.
“I heard!” Besmyr said, ruffling his short, blond hair. Scathing looks from nearby vendors and customers pierced Corinth from all sides. “I was told Tessius arrested you personally.”
“Yes,” Corinth replied, glancing at passersby as his face grew warm.
“I spent a month in the dungeon, given my age, but I was worried when I heard that bloody sage knight had an interest in capturing you. Where have you been?”
“I was isolated, but after some years, I was relocated to the barracks.” The vein twitched in Corinth’s forehead, which burned as red as his tunic. He wished more than anything that he could have avoided this reunion.
“The barracks?” Besmyr asked with a suspicious frown.
“I started training after my punishment ended,” Corinth explained. It wasmy decision.”
“You wanted training…for what purpose?” His blue eyes flickered as his pale face reddened, and the casual conversation quickly resembled an interrogation. Corinth stood rigidly and glared back at him.
“To atone. Surely you are doing the same?”
“I’m sorry I was caught, but I make an honest living to avoid expulsion from the city!” Besmyr hissed, pulling his face up to Corinth’s. “You think I would live among humans?”
“You are not regretful of what happened?” Corinth’s heart raced furiously over the unavoidable conflict.
“Regretful I have been reduced to this living, and having to watch you puff out your chest like a pompous fool!” Besmyr snarled as he slammed his fist on the counter. “Why would being a lowly town guard make you walk about like a self-righteous buffoon?”
“I do no such thing,” Corinth said in a low tone, “and I am not a town guard. I am a sage knight.”
“A sage knight?” Besmyr blinked. “You’re full of…You have no crest.”
“I will be inducted into the order tomorrow, and I owe you no apology simply because I want to serve the city!”
“You sound just like that fool who arrested you.” Besmyr narrowed his eyes before an odd smile stretched across his face.
“You go too far!” Leaning closer to Besmyr, Corinth felt a slight tug on his belt and turned to find what had amused him. The elven child who’d pulled the purse off Corinth’s belt stood barely past his waist. Panicking, the blond boy sped down the street with Corinth on his heels.
“Serves you right!” Besmyr barked after him.
Pursuit of the thief through the marketplace was clumsy as Corinth attempted to dodge citizens with the same grace as the child.
“Boy! Everyone step aside!” Corinth shouted as he ran into a middle-aged woman, whose husband caught her as she fell. Shouting his apology over his shoulder at the angry elf, Corinth dared not pull his eyes off the child. As he sped down an alley to his left off the main street, the debris did nothing to help him gain ground. Wagons and carts vendors used to restock businesses blocked the narrow passageway, and the child passed them with impressive speed. It was the first time Corinth was thankful to be thinner and less muscular than Tessius, who could always break Corinth’s stance when he parried.
The small blond boy was almost in reach, and he dropped a bag of marbles as he rounded a corner. Unable to stop in time, Corinth braced himself with an outstretched hand as he trampled the tiny glass orbs. His left shoulder screamed in agony as he bounced off a stone wall and fell to one knee. Despite his robust training, a painful stab erupted in his side from the chase as he sprinted off once more. Ignoring the protest of his lungs and the bleeding from the cuts he had received in the alley, he cut across a vacant side street. Almost within arm’s reach, the boy ran down the alley between two men in brown cloaks. Huffing as he grabbed his knees, he stopped behind them and in front of a third man. The two men in front barred Corinth’s path as he slid to a halt. Handing over several coin pouches to the man in the back, the child scampered off behind him.
“That’s far enough,” hissed the man in the back. “He’s a good worker, and we don’t need little goodies like you turning him in.”
“Are you his employer, or are you lowly pawns as well?” Corinth wheezed, squinting for a better look at the faces under the large, brown hoods.
“I don’t see why it matters to you, foolish one. You don’t appear to be the town guard.”
The chuckling of the two men in front burned Corinth’s ears as the child’s footsteps drifted out of earshot.
“That matters not,” Corinth replied as he recalled Tessius’s warning to stay out of city business. “What you are doing is unjust, and I cannot watch you corrupt that boy.”
“What do you intend to do about it?” The man in the rear stepped toward Corinth so they could be face-to-face. Although he kept most of his face hidden, a black-and-gray beard fell out of the hood, tipping off Corinth that the man must be human, since elves couldn’t grow facial hair.
“You have no place here!” A violent explosion erupted in his chest as he shouted at them, unable to bear the thought of outsiders corrupting his home from within. The men burst into laughter, only antagonizing him further.
“You hear that, boys? We have another pompous elf to contend with,” the man scoffed as he thrust his dagger at the elf’s chest.
Sidestepping the stab, Corinth slammed his back into the wall behind him.
Illuminas caecae!” he snarled as he extended his left hand toward the bandits. The leader ducked and turned away, narrowly avoiding the flash of white-hot light, which burst from Corinth’s casting hand. The man to his right caught the full brunt of the spell and fell unconscious. He hit the paved road with a thud, while the other man shielded his eyes—but not quickly enough.
“I’m blind! I can’t see!” the cloaked man cried as he backed away and tripped over the crate behind him.
“Only temporary, I assure you,” Corinth said as he drew his weapon. “You cannot defeat me. Do yourself justice and—”
The leader spun around and hurled a pouch of sand into Corinth’s face. Intense burning consumed his eyes as he resisted the urge to scream and instead focused his energy on his keen hearing. Footsteps circled farther to his right, then paused. He pretended not to hear and held his breath as he waited for the side attack. Sidestepping gracefully, Corinth swept his elven blade and cleaved a deep wound in the man’s unarmored chest. The bandit screamed in agony and fell to the ground, heaving his last breath.
“Not so fast,” a man hissed from behind Corinth, who rubbed his watery eyes. Sharp pain erupted through the lower-left side of his back when he tried to turn. Hands wrapped in black leather grabbed his throat and prevented him from falling to his knees. Gasping for air, Corinth winced as painful tears filled his eyes. “I was watching from the shadows for my amusement, but I’m afraid I can’t let you capture my hirelings.”
Immense agony rippled through Corinth as the dagger in his side twisted before the man wrenched it back out. Laughter filled his pointed ears as he screamed. The hand that bound his throat released him and pushed him to the ground. He felt dizzy, and his eyes faded out of focus; a chill swept over him as the strength drained from his body. He rolled onto his back, unable to see the face of the cackling man who had stabbed him. Harnessing the last of his strength, Corinth raised his sword and pointed it at him.
“You still want to fight me? You can’t even stand!”
Trinus,” Corinth muttered, focused on the evil laughter. An unseen force knocked the man forward onto Corinth’s steel and impaled him. The pommel slammed into Corinth’s ribs when the rogue fell on him, but it no longer mattered, since Corinth felt no pain.
“Curse you,” the man gurgled into his ear, choking on his own blood.
Corinth twisted his blade one last time and heard the man fall silent. Darkness crept over him as he listened to the pounding of footsteps.