by Laurel Richards
Three strangers brought together by war.
The Ulanesh—vicious soldiers from the underrealm—are invading the forest and destroying everything in their path. Standing against the enemy, Evrenor is a captain in the Quennin army and has been tasked by his king to find allies. He enlists the aid of the ancient sea sorceress Valkaria, whom he wakes from a curse that has entombed her at the bottom of a lake for a thousand years. She must regain her powers after a millennium of disuse or else watch everyone around her die.
Evrenor finds another ally in Damir, a woodsman whose people are so reclusive that outsiders consider them myths. The tree-talking woodsmen can blend perfectly with the forest, and they are deadly with their daggers. Damir is ready to take down the enemy, but he has to strike before the vision he’s had of his own death comes to pass.
An awakened sorceress, a mysterious woodsman, and a cunning army captain—will their combined forces be enough to vanquish the enemy?
Content/Theme(s): Magic, Sorcery, War, Sword fighting, Archery
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Excerpt & More
It was a week’s march to the Lake of Whispers, the depths of which concealed the man Evrenor sought. Some said the sorcerer had been buried in water for a transgression against the gods. Others claimed his body had been placed in the lake by his men after a great battle had been lost. The truth was they knew very little about the last of the mighty sea sorcerers, and what they did know resided in the book now in Evrenor’s hand. Out of all the Quennin warriors, Lord Ynduras had chosen Evrenor for this difficult task. He would not fail.
Watching for the enemy at every step, Evrenor and a small force of his most trusted men had traveled the long and treacherous route to the lake in the hope of rousing the ancient sorcerer and enlisting his aid. Even now, the enemy Ulanesh grew in numbers and spread across the land. The Ulanesh were a large and brutish race, and all attempts to reason with them had been rebuffed with violence—in some cases ending in death for the emissaries who had dared approach them. The desire for conquest was all that drove the dark, beast-like soldiers. Which meant war was inevitable.
To fight an enemy with such superior numbers, the Quennin would need all the allies they could get. That included an ancient magic-user, whom only a scholar like his king could have even known existed. Lord Ynduras’s orders repeated in Evrenor’s mind: “Take this book and travel south to the pool they call the Lake of Whispers. There you must recite the incantation so the sorcerer will hear the call and wake from millennial slumber.”
The shore came within sight, and the winds already carried the murmurs for which the Lake of Whispers had been named. Evrenor had reached his destination. He and his fellow Quennin halted in front of the water and looked at the glossy pool that lay unmoving before them.
“Is there anything we should do to prepare?” Pharanor asked.
Evrenor gripped the tome more tightly. “No. We only need this book to guide us. Just be ready for whatever happens.”
The men inclined their heads. They were stalwart companions—warriors he trusted with his life.
Evrenor walked to the edge of the murky water and looked at the mirrored surface. The lake might have been beautiful if it had not possessed quite so haunting a vestige, but it seemed to hold a certain promise. The shore was soft and foul-smelling, and he hardly drew a breath as he opened the old and crumbling book and ran his fingers across the page. Although he could not understand the script, his talent for languages was one of the chief reasons he’d been chosen for this mission. He carefully reviewed the sound of each foreign word before he began to speak in a slow and steady cadence.
“Nalevte. Nalevte. Ng te sumardes sa. Al anam aste quia. Al losun aste quia. Brea ut soji, Ososhi. Spira.”
He didn’t have to comprehend the words to feel their power. As the last syllable left his lips, the whole forest went unnaturally silent. Even the insects were hushed, as if they, too, were waiting for a response. A breeze wafted across the surface of the water and blew the musty odor of the ancient pages in Evrenor’s face. He didn’t blink.
After a moment, a subtle motion caught his eye. The bits of sediment that had hung suspended on the glassy surface of the lake suddenly began to skim away from the shoreline. It was as if they were drawn by the pull of a nearby waterfall or had turned into water bugs that skittered and dove. The first sound reached his ear—the soft churning of water. It emanated from the center of the lake.
As he watched, ripples began to span out from the epicenter, growing stronger until a bubbling froth ensued. A concussive surge like muffled thunder blasted through the air, sending his men staggering back a step. In the middle of the watery broil, a body slowly floated to the surface. It was bound in black cloth, so its features were concealed, but he could make out the shape of a head and arms. At last, the turmoil ceased, and the lake resumed its dormancy except for this one obtrusion at its surface.
Evrenor closed the book and stared at the mysterious figure. “Hyvril,” he called to one of his soldiers.
The man hesitated a moment but then strode forward.
“Come with me.” With a deep breath to steady himself, Evrenor stepped onto the muddy bank.
Hyvril stayed by his side, and their boots sank deeply into the clinging muck. They had to force each foot forward as they waded into the cool, dark water. Their cloaks floated on the surface behind them, but the depth posed no challenge to their height. As they reached the shrouded form in the middle of the lake, the water only reached their forearms, and they easily took the body in tow. The figure didn’t stir as they dragged it back to their waiting comrades.
After hauling the body onto the dry land beneath the trees, they laid it gently on the ground. Evrenor bent to pull the wet cloth from the face. A quick tug unmasked the man, and he jolted in surprise.
“It’s a woman!”
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