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Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.
This stand-alone novella is set in Faearth, the world of The Unfinished Song. Available here ONLY.
The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over 70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.
A young boy leaves his village to become a cavalryman with the famous King’s Third regiment; in doing so he discovers both his past and his destiny.
Gifted and cursed with a unique memory, the foundling son of a notorious traitor, Rhodri joins an elite cavalry unit stationed in the harbour town of Northpoint. His training reveals his talents and brings him friendship, love and loss, and sexual awakening; struggling with his memories of his father who once ruled there, he begins to discover a sense of belonging. That is, until a face from the past reveals a secret that will change not only Rhodri’s life but the fate of a nation. Then, on his first campaign, he is forced to face the extremes of war and his own nature.
This, the first part of The Art of Forgetting, is a gripping story about belonging and identity, set in a superbly imagined and complex world that is both harsh and beautiful.
The first gleam of dawn found Rhodri back on the river bank, while most of the town still slumbered. Mounds of stone, abandoned the previous night, were heaped near the edge of the water. He coerced the early-rising wherry pilots to deliver it to the top of the dam. The river was peaceful, sparkling silver in the morning light. It was hard to imagine it as the scene of yesterday’s violence, if not for the splashes of blood staining the stonework, and his own vivid memories.
By noon, the dam was almost complete, the water on the south side of the barricade considerably lower than that on the north. No sign of the demon. Rhodri hoped it had fled downstream in the night, but his reading suggested that once a territorial creature like that latched on to a place, it would die rather than leave it.
The river on the north side drained away into two deep channels that ended in hastily-dug ponds. They were keeping the water away from the houses, for now, but soon they would be swamped. The King’s Third needed to work fast. The water slowly drained away downstream of the dam, unveiling broad swathes of gravel and patches of dark, sticky mud. Fish thrashed in the dregs of the water as the cavalry gathered on the bank, weapons drawn. Rhodri squeezed the hilt of his sword, anxious to see what they faced. And still the water level dropped, with no sight of the demon. A ripple of impatience ran through the crowds of watching townsfolk. They had come to see blood spilt, and if the demon wouldn’t bleed for them, they would find another target.
The water dropped another inch. In the depths, something stirred, a ripple running crosswise to the current. The hilt was slippery in Rhodri’s hand, point drooping as he tried to hold it steady at Garrod’s command. He could cut and run; it would be easy, compared to facing what lay beneath the surface of the water. But his captain had ordered him to hold the line, and years of training, of drill morning and night, bell after bell, obeying Garrod’s every word of command, had changed him to his core. The discipline driven into his mind overpowered his body’s instinct to flee so strongly it was barely more than a fleeting thought, instantly overridden. Captain Garrod said hold the line. The line would be held, until death or fresh command released him. Beside him he could hear Nik’s heavy breath whistling through his teeth, hear the jingle of mail as his leg twitched in the stirrup, but he kept his eyes on the water, on that treacherous ripple that ran the wrong way.
The gravel of the riverbed crunched under Liberty’s hooves. The circle was slowly tightening. If the creature was to make a move, it had to be soon. The rippling had increased, the surface of the water agitated, broken up until Rhodri wasn’t sure what he was looking at. Sweat prickled his scalp, trapped under his helm. This was not like patrolling in Northpoint, where the enemy was visible, understandable. This was fighting magic, a beast that might not act in any logical way, that had unknown power. Nik whimpered softly at his side.
Hold the line hold the line hold the line hold
The surface of the pool exploded, an eruption of water white and freezing and blinding. Beyond it, through the mist, the spray, Rhodri heard a horse scream, a howl of pain, a voice yelling orders. Nik was yelling too, and Rhodri caught the cry and echoed it in his own throat, exultant, furious, released from the tension that had held him still. The line, moving as one, pounded forward down the sloping bank, blades levelled, cutting a swathe across the drying riverbed.
There was water everywhere. It was like riding through a nightmare storm, a waterfall, that churned the gravel to mud. It was in Rhodri’s eyes, his ears. He was deafened by the pounding on his helmet, blinded by the torrent. He had lost Nik, lost the Captain, had nothing but the feel of Liberty plunging forward between his knees, ears flat, teeth bared, and the cold, slippery leather of his sword hilt against his palm. In the rushing white ahead, it struck squealing softness, an inhuman sound, and the water rushing around him turned red. When he breathed in, he tasted copper.
“No!” He struck out again, fighting more than the beast, fighting his own evil memories that sought to trap him and drag him under. His blade stuck, ripped free. Something tore loose and was flung away, and the crimson rain deepened to black.
Which way was back? There was only the mud, the rain, the endless slashing against an enemy that seemed to be everywhere at once, hiding behind its shield of falling water. Liberty backed up, one step at a time. The torrent was thinning; Rhodri could see the blood-streaked faces of his companions, teeth set in morbid white grins, like the faces of skulls. There was grass beneath his hooves, and when he wiped his eyes, he could see the far bank of the river. The black water pattered down, lightly now, and in the sludge at the bottom of the stream a bloodied lump of flesh writhed as squealed, hissing through razor teeth, scrabbling in the last of the water as if it was a blanket it sought to hide under. Blood pulsed from a dozed slashes in its hide, and gobbets of pulsing flesh were scattered up and down the riverbank. Its body shimmered and bulged, as if its skin was too thin to contain the surging currents held within, and it was sucking the water around it back into its body, healing its own wounds, raising its savage head to snarl at the watchers on the bank. It was down, but it wouldn’t stay down for long.
Download The Art of Forgetting: Rider on Amazon.
Bronwyn and Blayke are two strangers being drawn into the same war. Their world is facing invasion from the Third Realm. While they move unknowingly toward each other, they are watched, hunted, and sabotaged. When the Dragon God interferes, it seems their world, Talia, will succumb to the threat. Can they learn enough of the tricks of the Realms before it’s too late, or will everything they love be destroyed?
The young Realmists’ journey pushes them away from all they’ve known, to walk in the shadows toward Vellonia, city of the dragons, where an even darker shadow awaits.
Download Shadows of the Realm, the first book in the The Circle of Talia series, on Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Smashwords. It’s only 99 cents for the next two weeks!
In a lonely brick farmhouse a child named Blayke slept under cosy blankets. He dreamt of splashing in warm summer puddles. His nostrils filled with the scents of grass and earth.
He reached dirty fingers into a puddle at his feet and tried to grab a slimy frog. The touch of his fingers on the water sent the frog dashing away, chased by the black clouds racing across the surface of the water, mirroring the sky.
Thunder boomed again and again. Thick clouds marched to its beat, effortlessly smothering the sun. Blayke’s fingers sank further into the darkening puddle until his fingers touched something rough and icy — too large to close his hand around. Blayke tried to let go of the object but his hand was stuck. Adrenalin flooded his body. He tried to shake the object loose, but to no avail.
Fat pellets of water erupted from the sky, soaking him in seconds. He looked up, squinting his eyes against the pouring rain. He bit his lip against the urge to cry. Every instinct told him to run. Thunder closed around him; lightning struck meters from the quickly expanding puddle. Blayke leaned back, twisting his whole body in a vain attempt to break free. Sweat from his exertion mixed with the rain on his face.
His palm peeled away from its anchor, leaving layers of skin behind. Blayke fell back, landing with a splash on the sodden earth. He stared at his bleeding hand, what had happened?
The ground vibrated beneath him, the tremors matching the slow and powerful rhythm of the thunder. The puddle boiled, bubbles of mud bursting to the surface, contaminating the balmy air with stagnant wafts. Blayke scurried away from the deepening water on hands and knees. He scrambled to rise but the jerking earth toppled him.
He was now at the edge of the seething pool. He watched the water drain away into the ever-growing cracks forming around its edges – the unseen depths hungrily sucked the liquid, draining it as quickly as the sky could dump it there.
The earth gave a final, violent tremor. An ebony creature surged forth amid the cacophony of trembling earth and breaking sky. It towered menacingly over small boy and tall trees alike.
The giant creature’s bellowing screams assaulted Blayke. He huddled on the ground, gasping for breath. His bleeding hand throbbed, and the beating rain stung the back of his neck. Blayke scrunched his eyes tight, and prayed to every god he had ever heard of to make everything disappear; the rain, the thunder, and the monster. Fear of impending death made him cry.
Rain battered him, but the earth ceased shaking. The creature’s commanding voice replaced the primal screams that made the downpour seem a whisper. “I have come to take you. Look at me and behold your destiny.”
Blayke lifted his head against all will and instinct, compelled by immense power within the voice. A colossal black dragon stood close, too close, dwarfing the small human as an ancient oak does an ant. The creature stared at Blayke with penetrating silver orbs.
The boy’s eyes, once fixed on the nightmare, could not move. So this was it, his death was here, so soon. How could that be? Tears flowed again as he realized his short life had existed just to fill the belly of this dragon, a special dragon no doubt, but still a dragon. Blayke took comfort in the warmth of tears that mixed with the rain on his face, as the giant creature reached toward him with massive claws.
It snatched Blayke, with one swift and powerful gesture, and thrust him into a mouth full of sword-sharp teeth.
Blayke woke screaming, feeling as if he were choking on his own blood. Arcon ran to Blayke’s room, arms raised, ready to fell any intruder who would dare harm his boy. Relief at the absence of an attacker was short-lived as he tried to sooth his terrified nephew. Blayke sobbed in his arms as he described the nightmare in vivid detail. Arcon knew this was a prophetic dream, marked by the Dragon God no less.
The dangerous and terrifying times foretold by the First Circle were nearing, and his nephew’s nightmare confirmed the worst. Arcon, one of the most powerful Realmists ever to have lived, and member of The Circle, prayed they would be given more time to prepare; their lives, and all life on Talia, depended on it.
Blayke eventually fell asleep and his uncle retired quietly to his study, where a hot cup of tea and mesmerizing flames in the hearth could not dilute his fears — the evil they had banished over a thousand years ago would return; it was already on its way.
Child of Fate climbed slowly but steadily up the charts until in early 2013 it exploded and was selling like crazy. I was quick to use this as a springboard and wrote the sequel, Victim of Fate, early in 2013. Silver Dragon followed and the trilogy continued to perform very well. Unfortunately, a trilogy ends at three books but I still had more stories to tell.
That meant I had to start a new series about those characters. The new series was longer and dealt with established characters coming to terms with their rise to fame and power, as well as the repercussions of what happened to them in the Blades of Leander trilogy already. The new series was called Order of the Dragon, and it began with Isle of the Ape and then continued with Chasing the Dragon and Sands of Betrayal. And now, as of today, I’m excited to announce that it’s completed with the release of Dragonlady.
But does that mean that this foray into medieval fun and games is over? Well, read the book and find out! Order of the Dragon is completed, but there’s always opportunities for more adventures to spring up at any time.
With the Order of the Dragon in retreat Alto’s thoughts turn to home and his future with his betrothed, Lady Patrina of Kelgryn. But the future, once a shining light guiding him through a dark tunnel, has grown cloudy with indecision and confusion.
One last torch in the darkness remains, directing him to revisit some of his darkest times and put to rest the ghosts of his past. The ghosts he finds are more than memories, they’ve been given flesh and blood and are reaching out from beyond for him.
Defeated but not destroyed, the silver dragon has been watching and waiting. Her plans, years in the making, are coming to fruition. Only one man dares to defeat her, but Alto is the man she waits for so that she may spring her trap and rule from her mountain throne forever.
To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
They say the world used to turn. They say that night would follow day in an endless dance. They say that dawn rose, dusk fell, and we worshiped both sun and stars.
That was a long time ago.
The dance has died. The world has fallen still. We float through the heavens, one half always in light, one half always in shadow. Like the moth of our forests, one wing white and the other black, we are torn.
My people are the fortunate. We live in daylight, blessed in the warmth of the sun. Yet across the line, the others lurk in eternal night, afraid… and alone in the dark.
I was born in the light. I was sent into darkness. This is my story.
They entered the shadows, seeking a missing child.
Torin swallowed, clutched the hilt of his sword, and gazed around with darting eyes. The trees still grew densely here–mossy oaks with trunks like melting candles, pines heavy with needles and cones, and birches with peeling white bark. Yet this was not the forest Torin had always known. The light was wrong, a strange ocher that bronzed the trees and kindled floating pollen. The shadows were too long, and the sun hung low in the sky, hiding behind branches like a shy maiden peering between her window shutters. Torin had never seen the sun shine from anywhere but overhead, and this place sent cold sweat trickling down his back.
“This is wrong,” he said. “Why would she come this far?”
Bailey walked at his side, holding her bow, her quiver of arrows slung across her back. Her two braids, normally a bright gold, seemed eerily metallic in this place. The dusk glimmered against her breastplate–not the shine they knew from home, but a glow like candles in a dungeon.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Yana has been strange since her parents died in the plague. Maybe she thought it would be an adventure.”
Despite himself, Torin shivered. “An adventure? In the dusk? In this cursed place no sensible person should ever enter?”
Bailey raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Why not? Aren’t you feeling adventurous now?”
“No.” He shook his head vehemently. “Adventure means sneaking out to Old Garin’s farm to steal beets, mixing rye with ale, or climbing the old maple tree in the village square.” He looked around at the shadowy forest, and his hand felt clammy around his hilt. “Not this place. Not the dusk.”
They kept walking, heading farther east, deeper into the shadows. Torin knew what the elders said. Thousands of years ago, the world used to turn. The sun rose and fell, and night followed day in an endless dance. Men woke at dawn, worked until the sunset, and slept through the darkness.
Torin shivered. He didn’t know if he believed those stories. In any case, those days were long gone. The dance had ended. The world had fallen still. Torin was a child of eternal sunlight, of a day that never ended. Yet now…now they were wandering the borderlands, the dusky strip–a league wide–that was neither day nor night, claimed by neither his people nor the others…those who dwelled in the dark.
A shadow darted ahead.
Torin leaped and drew his sword.
Read the rest of this excerpt here. Download Moth on Amazon.
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A bastard king loved by his people but despised by the aristocracy struggles to hold his kingdom together even as a rival plots to steal his throne. King Jarvin Ollander seeks anyone who will aid him and finds it in the most unusual of allies.
When his stomach rumbled powerfully once again, he decided that he was going to just have to do a snatch and run, hoping the proprietor would not see him or care enough to raise too much of a fuss. His luck was off today, he could feel it. The way things were going, the crowd would resume their normal pressing mass the moment he struck and a watchman or the baker would grab and beat him.
Azerick’s stomach ordered him to stop whining and get down to business. He moved casually toward the stand where numerous, fresh baked loaves of bread were stacked on the table and sticking out of baskets, filling the air of the market with their mouth-watering aromas. His stomach ordered him to move with haste.
Azerick sidled up to the table, ready to grab a large, round loaf of black bread when the baker looked right at him. “What are you doing here? Why did you have to pick my booth? Go on, take the bread and be gone with you. Nobody’s going to want to come to my stand now, defiler.”
The street rat looked at the baker in confusion then glanced over his shoulder as the crowd moved away, watching him warily and muttering.
“Beware death’s shadow.”
“Do not let his shadow be cast upon you or you will die”.
“All die who get near him. We may all die now.”
“What are you people talking about?” Azerick demanded.
“Cursed! He is cursed to lose everyone he befriends.”
“I am not cursed! What are you talking about?”
“His family is all dead. Friends all dead. He is cursed, cursed by the hand of Sharrellan.”
“He is the hand of Sharrellan, delivering her touch of death to all who comes near.”
“I am not cursed! I am not the hand of death!” he shouted, but the crowd drew away from him and continued their droning.
Azerick grabbed the loaf of bread from the table, casting a glare at the baker and everyone around him. He half expected the baker to change his mind and demand that Azerick pay for the bread, but his face had gone purple, black splotches stood out against the plum-colored flesh, and his tongue protruded, swollen and blackened like a plague victim.
The street rat threw down the loaf and ran. The street-clogging populace parted like the water at the bow of a swift-moving ship to let him pass.
“Beware death’s shadow, beware the hand of Sharrellan,” the people’s mantra continued as it followed him, chasing him away like a swarm of relentless bees trying to drive him from their hive, the chanting sounding like mimicry of the bees’ angry buzzing.
Azerick found himself near the docks and burst into Peg’s shop, not knowing where else to go. “Peg, what is going on around here?” Azerick asked as he approached the long counter where the old sailor sat minding his store and watching for customers.
“Now why did ya have to come back here, lad?” Peg asked as his face purpled and black splotches began spreading across his visage. “Hasn’t old Peg treated ya right since he met ya? Ain’t he done nothin’ but help ya?”
“Of course, Peg, I know you have. What’s wrong?”
“Then why’d ya come back and kill me? Look at me, boy. Already your foul curse is on me. Ya killed me, boy. Ya killed me sure as sure. Go on now and let me die in peace.”
“No, Peg,” Azerick wailed, “I did not want you to die, I did not mean to!”
“Meaning don’t mean nothin’ when you’re dead. Go on now, I can’t hardly talk no more,” Peg slurred around his swollen, blackened tongue.
Azerick ran from the store, sprinted down the harbor front past the long piers and moored ships until he saw a ship with someone he recognized shuffling about on the deck.
“Bran!” Azerick called out as he ran the length of the long dock. “Bran, you have not left yet. I don’t know what is going on. Everyone is acting strange and dying. I think the plague has come to Southport. We need to get out of here.”
His friend turned toward him, his face already showing the signs of death. “It’s no plague, Az. It’s you, you are the plague. I was too slow. Everyone on the ship is dead already. I suppose it doesn’t matter now anyway. Andrea is long dead, killed by your curse when she met you, just like the rest of us.”
“No! I did not kill her! It is not my fault!”
“Yes it is. Do you know why she was out the night the slavers took her?”
Azerick shook his head.
“Her father put his hands on her again. He did that sometimes when he was really drunk. Just his hands. They fought and she ran off even though she knew it was dangerous.”
“No, no, no,” Azerick moaned, not wanting to hear it.
“You could have kept her safe, Az. You knew what it was like for her, but you kept your nice, safe little haven all to yourself. You were safe from the depredations of the city above. You let her die. Your selfishness let her die,” Bran accused him.
“It is not my fault!” Azerick vehemently denied. “I could not keep her safe! I could never keep those around me safe! They all died: mother, father, Jon and the others, they all died.”
“Now you begin to see,” Bran told him. “Everyone around you dies. Your family died because you are cursed, and Andrea died because you were a coward, because you were too much of a coward to try to keep her safe. Better to let others take her. That way you would not feel the weight of responsibility. Your conscience could be clear. She would be dead, but you could deny culpability. But you know the truth. You know it was your fault.”
Azerick barely heard Bran’s last words. His own thoughts were echoing inside his head too loud for him to focus upon his friend. I could not keep her safe! I could never keep those around me safe! They all died: mother, father, Jon and the others, they all died.
“They all died because I did not keep them safe. I may not have been able to save father, but I should have been there for mother, Jon and the others, and Andrea,” he said, talking to himself as he left Bran on the ship.
Azerick awoke in a cold sweat, somehow knowing it was not the nightmare that woke him. Someone was coming. He heard someone open the trapdoor hidden beneath the burned out timbers of the tanner’s shop followed by a sudden cry and thump of a body hitting the stone. He sprang out of bed, grabbed his knife, and prepared to defend his home. If the gods cursed him, then his enemies would suffer under the spell of his shadow as well. He would make certain of that.
“Old things come again and new things surface.”
Faced with a looming war, the riders have no choice but to leave the safety of Galdrilene and reach out to the nations for help. But the Shadow Riders are doing the same and not all nations are opposed to their rule.
New discoveries are made, old wounds are reopened and betrayal hides among welcoming smiles.
As one nation begins to unravel it’s clear that some choices, even those made with the best of intentions, can have devastating consequences.