Yeah! for blog hops. The saga continues. 🙂 As you might recall from the many, many post, Angel Haze is doing a blog hop for her up coming releases (Bloodletter and Legacies of Talimura). Lots of prizes, so be sure to stop by her place. It ends July 31, so don’t miss out. As a side note, Ms. Haze is giving a copy of Bloodletter right here. If you haven’t, be sure to enter that giveaway also.
Today, Ms. Haze has decided to treat us with an excerpt from her YA Fantasy. Woot!
Debonair, a witch from the Unspoken-of Lands, has meddled in the forbidden practice of magic and created an army of nightmarish proportions. When sixteen-year-old Astanyx and his two best friends return from a hunting trip to find their small town of Polca reduced to smoke and ash, they find themselves thrust into a battle for which they haven’t been trained.
With the help of his comrades, including an esteemed warrior, one of the last great wizards and a princess they’ve sworn to protect, Astanyx must fight to unite the kingdoms of the humans, dwarves and elves. He must ask forbidden questions that no one wants to answer, questions about Talimura’s dark history. As Debonair’s brutal warriors lay siege to the kingdoms, Astanyx is driven to pursue a fateful quest for a blade powerful enough to defeat the malevolent witch before she destroys the three kingdoms and unleashes an unspeakable ancient evil.
Legacies of Talimura: War of the Witch
Smoke and Ash
You’re surrounded, Astanyx thought as he waited silently behind a bush, his hands steady, pulling back the string on his short bow. Barclay was positioned twenty feet to his left and Ramza to his right, each armed and ready, waiting for the opportune moment.
Sweat beaded on his brow from the late afternoon sun, but Astanyx made no attempt to wipe it away. A single wrong move and it would all be over. The forest gave them cover, but it gave their prey cover as well. None of the sixteen-year-olds had a shot, so they waited.
The horacle was hidden behind a tree. It was bigger game than they would normally take on but, once they had come across it, Barclay had insisted upon hunting it, refusing to back down. He claimed that stumbling upon a horacle—a distracted horacle—was too fine of an opportunity to pass up. They had had little luck hunting in the forest that day and Barclay refused to return to the village—return to his father—with little more than a few rabbits. Astanyx couldn’t allow his friend to foolishly attempt to take it down without help, and so he and Ramza had agreed. Patiently, they held their positions.
Every few seconds, the tips of the horacle’s horns poked out from behind the side of the great tree, greedy growls becoming muffled as it tore its fangs into the flesh of a rabbit.
It pushed the mutilated rabbit forward with its nose, exposing the beast’s head. Ravenously, it continued to tear its meal apart, wolfing it down as if it hadn’t eaten in weeks. The shine and thickness of the horacle’s fur and thick muscular frame told him otherwise. It was merely in the horacle’s nature to be gluttonous and ferocious.
Slowly, it stepped forward, unaware that with each passing second, it was creating an opening for a shot.
The three boys waited with their bows. A few more seconds and Astanyx would have a shot. His body was still as he stared at the horacle with unblinking eyes.
Snarls and growls continued to escape the beast as it exposed its midsection.
One more second. . . .
A twig snapped, breaking the silence, giving away one of the hunters’ positions. Astanyx’s heart skipped a beat as the horacle’s head shot up, baring its teeth, clenching its three-inch claws. The horacle’s nostril flared as it caught Astanyx’s scent. Their eyes met and the roles of hunter and hunted instantly became reversed.
He stared with wide eyes as the fiery-eyed beast, blood dripping from its jaws and muscles rippling, began to charge toward him. Stiffness spread over him like a plague, beginning with his feet as it worked its way up. Astanyx managed one shot just as the hundred-pound beast leapt for him.
His arrow pierced the beast between its eyes just as Barclay’s arrow struck the horacle’s side. The beast released a ghastly shriek as it drew back in agony before it collapsing to the forest floor, a few feet away from Astanyx. He let out a breath, momentarily fixed on the horacle.
Barclay jumped from his hiding spot, dagger in hand, and sliced the horacle’s throat. He laughed and turned to Astanyx. “See? What did I tell you?”
Astanyx narrowed his eyes, his lips parting slightly as he slowly looked up in disbelief. He could hardly suppress the wave of emotions as he watched Barclay nonchalantly wipe the blood from his blade. Shaking his head, Astanyx turned to Ramza who rolled his eyes, both aware they had encountered an unnecessary close call.
Barclay cut down a branch from the great tree, one that would be strong enough to carry the horacle back to the village.
As they tied the horacle’s feet to the branch, Astanyx turned to Barclay, unable to hold his tongue any longer. “I don’t see why you had to take it on. We came out to hunt rabbits. It’s foolish to hunt a hunter just for food.”
“For Shiva’s sake, you could have opted out.”
“Don’t use the goddess’ name in vain,” said Astanyx. “Besides, I wouldn’t allow you to do it on your own.”
“I could have handled it. I killed it, didn’t I?” Barclay said with a smirk.
“We killed it,” Astanyx corrected him.
“Quit your bickering,” Ramza said. “Let’s just bring it to the village. We are already late. They’ll be expecting us to return about now.”
Given the circumstances, Astanyx would have preferred it to be Ramza on the other side of the branch and not Barclay, but he said nothing as they headed east through the dense forest, across the creek and up a hill. They had ventured farther than they had intended and had consequently delayed their return trip to the village by a few hours.
Though he tried to focus on the trail ahead, more than once Astanyx almost threw Barclay to the ground as he tripped over roots that could have easily been missed. Nonetheless, his gaze remained fixed on the beast. Even in death, the power and ferocity of the animal did not diminish. Every few seconds, he caught himself staring at it, watching for any signs of movement, half-expecting it to merely be unconscious and suddenly awaken and attack.
The image of the horacle as it charged at him, eyes burning with fury, blood dripping from its jaws, about to make him its next meal, flashed before Astanyx. What if their arrows had missed? What if two arrows hadn’t been enough? He shuddered, shaking his head of these thoughts. They hadn’t missed.
Even as the beast hung lifelessly from the pole, he wasn’t used to being this close to a predator and a horacle, nonetheless. Squirrels and rabbits were his main catch. His glance went from Barclay to the beast and back to Barclay who was walking proudly ahead.
Astanyx growled. “You could have got us all killed, and for what?”
Barclay looked back over his shoulder and scoffed. “I never miss.”
“There’s a first for everything.”
“Lay off it. Our fathers will be proud.”
“Our fathers would be proud of anything we brought home.”
“Speak for yourself,” Barclay muttered. Then, as if realizing he’d spoken aloud, he confidently added, “This separates the men from the boys.”
Astanyx rolled his eyes. “There is a fine line between bravery and foolishness.”
“Ramza?” Barclay called out. “Please tell me that you at least side with me.”
Five paces ahead, Ramza slowly turned, momentarily catching Astanyx’s gaze before turning to Barclay. “It was a close call. Astanyx has every right to be angry. Remember, it was him who the horacle charged at. If that had been me, I’d be in need of new trousers.”
“If he hadn’t of stepped on that twig, the horacle would’ve been dead before it even noticed we were there,” Barclay said.
Astanyx opened his mouth but Ramza spoke first. “I believe that was my mistake.” Barclay was silent, not knowing where to go with the conversation. “I will say this, though. The horacle will make a fine addition to the feast and,” Ramza said with a smile, “the ladies will be quite impressed as we stroll into the village with this on our shoulders.”
The grin on Barclay’s face matched that of Ramza’s. “How I love Shiva’s Festival.” He laughed. “I believe Claire will be the lady of the night.”
“The chief’s daughter,” Ramza said nodding. “Her beauty surpasses even the most delicate flower.”
“Is she not a few years older than us?” Astanyx asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” Barclay snapped.
“I believe she’s interested in—” Immediately, Astanyx regretted ever opening his mouth.
Barclay’s eyes burned with anger. “There’s always something with you, isn’t there? Nothing is ever good enough.”
“That’s not what I said,” Astanyx said.
“It’s the horacle, isn’t it? You just can’t let it go.”
Attached to the pole, Astanyx had no choice but to listen as Barclay reamed into him.
This wasn’t the first time that Barclay’s brash actions had resulted in a near miss. He’d always seemed on a mission to prove himself. However, his efforts had more than doubled in the last few months as the year marked his sixteenth birthday.
Ramza had apparently grown tired of his friends’ bickering and was now several yards ahead. Astanyx found himself wishing he were by his side to mediate the situation and lighten the mood. Ramza, with his walking stick in hand, was nearing the top of the hill which Astanyx and Barclay had only begun to climb.
For a few minutes, he disappeared out of sight. Suddenly, he reappeared at the top of the hill and came barrelling down the hill. “The village!” he cried. “The village! Something’s happened!”
“What?” Barclay and Astanyx asked.
They immediately dropped the horacle as they sprinted up the hill. Astanyx’s heart was racing, fists clenched, arms pumping, anxious to see for himself.
“What happened?” he yelled to Ramza who was almost at the top of the hill. “What did you see?”
Ramza kept running, not so much as glancing over his shoulder.
“Ramza!” Astanyx yelled again, but his friend was too far ahead.
How long had they been gone, he wondered. What could have happened in that short amount of time?
Suddenly, Astanyx caught a hint of smoke and then, as both he and Barclay reached the top of the hill, they stopped short, dropping their jaws. Over the tree tops, thick clouds of smoke hovered over the village of Polca.
We shouldn’t have left! We shouldn’t have stayed out for so long! Astanyx thought frantically as he raced down the hill, tumbling over his own feet.
As they neared Polca, Astanyx could smell the smoke clearly. The whole town was ablaze.
“What happened? Who did this?” Astanyx cried, nearly out of breath. There was no response.
He coughed, inhaling smoke and the stench of burnt flesh. What few buildings hadn’t already burned to the ground were collapsing. The fire had spread across the entire village. Little was left but burnt and burning buildings, smoke and ashes floating in the wind.
“What do we do?” Ramza asked.
His mind was spinning. “Search for survivors!” Astanyx shouted, numbness and nausea threatening to overcome him. It wouldn’t help him save anyone . . . if there was anyone left to be saved. He shook his head of the thought and focused on finding his family and any other survivors.
Shaking, he ran through the village past burning buildings, and dodging falling objects. He searched for his father—for anyone—but there was no sign of life. Blood and burnt wood stained the ground. Garlands and trinkets made in preparation for the Shiva Festival had been scattered and destroyed. Arrows stuck out of the earth. Soldiers had been here. Someone had come and destroyed Polca.
Again and again, Astanyx called out to his father, his only family, but there was no response.
The smoke grew thicker, stinging his eyes as tears began to well up as the heat of the fire licked his skin.
As he turned the next corner, he gasped. Surrounding the center town well, the dead had been decapitated, their heads staked around a fire to invoke terror. Those who hadn’t been staked had been piled up and burned. He stood, tense, his body shaking as he watched the flickering flames. Slowly, he scanned the burnt and blackened faces of those mounted on stakes. He was able to recognize only a few of them—eyes wide, mouths agape—while others were burned or mutilated beyond recognition. A single tear ran down his cheek as he prayed that his father was not among the poor souls.
He was about to turn away when he noticed, at the base of the fire pit, an odd-looking skull with tusks.
A loud crack startled him and he turned to see Farmer Wilton’s house collapse a few feet away. The walls hit the ground, momentarily breathing life to the blanket of ash beneath it. The ash wisped across his face. His shaky hand slowly wiped it away.
Soon, there would be nothing left of Polca. Sadness and confusion enveloped him, scrambling his mind. They were all dead. There was nothing left. Even the livestock was missing.
He kept running, anxious to see if his father had survived the attack. Since their house was at the far end of the village, perhaps that distance was enough to keep him out of harm’s way. Astanyx swallowed hard. His father would never cower in the hours while the town was under attack. He would have fought to the death to protect their home.
Suddenly, Astanyx heard what sounded like a wheeze. He gasped. A survivor! Although, he dreaded the thought of abandoning his search for his father, he couldn’t ignore someone in need of help.
Astanyx ran in the direction of the sound, anxious, eyes darting in every direction and he found Thomas, the local blacksmith, trapped under some wood. A building had collapsed with him inside. His face was blackened with soot and smeared with blood. Astanyx tried to lift the piece of wood from Thomas’ chest but it was too heavy.
Thomas was shaking, his skin ashen as he gasped for breath.
Thomas opened his mouth to speak but no words came out.
“What happened?” Astanyx anxiously asked again.
“A-all . . . d-dead,” Thomas said softly enough that Astanyx was unsure if he had heard him correctly. “All . . . dead.”
“They burned their dead and . . . staked ours.” Thomas wheezed. His chest fell heavily. “Those they didn’t kill . . . they enslaved.”
“Who did this?”
Thomas didn’t respond. He seemed weak, moments away from his last breath.
“Who did this?” Astanyx repeated, but Thomas had stopped shaking and his eyes had rolled back into his head.
“No!” he cried, shaking Thomas slightly, hoping there was still life in him, but he remained still. “I need to know!” He lowered his head, balling his fists.
“Astanyx!” a voice called out from behind him.
It was Ramza, with Barclay at his side. Their eyes were wide, stricken with horror.
“Did you find them?” Astanyx asked.
They slowly nodded, sadness swelling in their eyes. No further words were exchanged. None needed to be. Their expressions revealed their heartbreaking news. Ramza and Barclay’s families were dead, gone with the rest of the town.
The three of them searched the remainder of the town like zombies, mouths agape, trembling with the revelation of each new horror.
“Father!” Astanyx called once they reached the far side of town where he and his father lived. Despite the odds, he refused to believe his father was among the slain.
Suddenly, a shiver ran up his spine. Through the crackling flames, he saw remnants of what used to be his home. He swallowed, clenching his fists at his sides, and stared at the pile of rubble. All that he had ever known had been destroyed. His mind went numb.
He lowered his head.
Then, he heard something—a muffled sound that could have been human or merely a gust of wind. He stood motionlessly, straining to hear over the wind and crackling flames. As he was about to dismiss it, he heard it again. A voice! Someone was alive. His breath caught in his throat as he attempted to pinpoint where the sound was coming from. He zigzagged along the road, following the call.
“Where are you?” he called.
“Over here.” The voice was close.
“Where?” He frantically searched the road and the fallen buildings.
“I’m here,” the voice said. It was closer but weaker, seemingly coming from his right.
Astanyx turned and saw a pile of rubble. He tore through it in search of the survivor, Ramza and Barclay following suit.
“Where are you? Where are you?”
“Astanyx,” the voice said. “Is that you?”
His eyes widened at the mentioning of his name, at the familiar voice. Fear and anxiety rushed through him as he lifted a board to see his father’s face. “Father!” he cried.
He turned to his friends. “Help me get this off of him!”
The three boys carefully lifted the board that had fallen onto his father and tossed it to the side. His father was lying on his back, his clothes blackened by ash, gashes across his arms and a broken arrow protruding from his stomach. He was breathing heavily, with little strength left in him.
Ramza and Barclay both knelt at his side.
“Let me help you,” Astanyx said as he reached for the arrow.
His father shook his head and winced in pain. “Astanyx, my son. You . . . must . . .” His voiced trailed off.
His father cleared his throat. “You must go to . . . Windham. . . . Warn the . . . King.”
“Tell him it . . . it—” Suddenly, his father was gasping for breath, grimacing as he clutched his stomach, every breath causing him immense pain.
Astanyx fought to keep his emotions from spilling over. “What, Father? What do I tell him?”
His father’s eyes closed and his breathing slowed. Astanyx shook uncontrollably, his mouth dry and his muscles tensed, believing for a moment that he had lost him. Ramza placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. Then, his father opened his eyes. Astanyx let out a breath.
His father winced and took a deep breath. “I did my best to take some of them down. They weren’t soldiers. . . . They were monsters.”
by Angel Haze is available at:
About the Angel Haze
I’m a Canadian author who is an avid reader of fantasy, thriller, and mystery novels. I write both fantasy and thriller novels. My free time is spent dancing, fitness training with P90x, watching movies and Game of Thrones. Legacies of Talimura: War of the Witch is co-authored by my husband, Slade Sewell. Slade grew up as an only child, and, therefore, developed an active imagination. His free time is devoted to the three things he loves most: hockey, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and RPG games.