Storm Without End (Requiem for the Rift King) by RJ Blain @rj_blain #excerpt #fantasy

14 Feb

“Do you think they’ll actually go to war this time?” she asked, lifting up the missive and waving it in the air. The vellum crinkled, giving it the appearance that it had been read and considered several times.

“That isn’t our concern,” Breton replied. He hesitated before continuing. “It wouldn’t surprise me. Kelsh and Danar have always been at war. The question is whether or not it’ll be official this time. Unless they call the Council, we can do nothing.”

“If we don’t find him before someone else does, they’ll go to war with us.” Her brow furrowed as she picked up one of the root quills and dipped it in ink. The scratch of writing was the only sound in the room until she finished the reply. “We’ve been practicing since it happened.”

Breton didn’t need to ask what she spoke of. Something was happening, but he didn’t know what. No one did. He wasn’t certain if he could call it evil, but it wasn’t good either. There was one thing he was assured of: Whatever caused the feeling was dangerous and it was affecting all of the Guardians.

“Do Arik’s Queens feel it too?”

Riran nodded. “We want to help find him, but we can’t risk our mares. None of us have geldings or stallions. But, we can free you of this work and make it so you can go out and find him for us.”

She refused to meet his eyes, staring down at the vellum as though it held the secrets of the world within the letters written on it. The corners of Breton’s mouth twitched up.

“By ‘you’ do you mean me or the Guardians as a whole?”

Riran thrust the sheet of vellum at him. He took it and read through the document. The message from Kelsh was neither report nor letter, but the vague sort of missive that Breton hated the most. It wasn’t addressed to a man. It wasn’t even addressed to the Rift King or His Majesty. Even worse, the tone of the writing was so dismissive that Breton wanted to shred the page.

The sight of Kalen’s handwriting partnered with the careful and neutral tone of the Rift King hurt. The pressure in his chest grew until he wanted to lash out from the frustration of it all. She’d done it just right, even mastering the flicked curl added to many of the letters. It was a Kelshite habit that Breton hadn’t quite managed to convince the Rift King to remove from his writing.

“Are all of you this proficient?” Breton asked.

“Yes,” Riran replied.

“Get this mess cleaned up and I’ll think about it,” he said. He lifted Gorishitorik from the desk and held the old sword in the crook of his arm.

“We’ll need a few days.”

“Fine. Oh, Riran?”

The woman looked up from the stack of papers in front of her. “What is it?”

“Scheme against Kalen again and I’ll separate your head from your shoulders. Understood?”

Riran paled and jerked her head in a nod. Inclining his head, Breton turned and walked through the room, not caring how many of the stacks he bumped against on his way out.

StormWithoutEnd

Kalen’s throne is his saddle, his crown is the dirt on his brow, and his right to rule is sealed in the blood that stains his hand. Few know the truth about the one-armed Rift King, and he prefers it that way. When people get too close to him, they either betray him or die. The Rift he rules cares nothing for the weak. More often than not, even the strong fail to survive.

When he’s abducted, his disappearance threatens to destroy his home, his people, and start a hopeless and bloody war. There are many who desire his death, and few who hope for his survival. With peace in the Six Kingdoms quickly crumbling, it falls on him to try to stop the conflict swiftly taking the entire continent by storm.

But something even more terrifying than the machinations of men has returned to the lands: The skreed. They haven’t been seen for a thousand years, and even the true power of the Rift King might not be enough to save his people — and the world — from destruction.

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Genre – Fantasy

Rating – PG – 13

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Serving Time (The Timemakers Trilogy) by Nadine Ducca @NadineDucca

24 Jan

CHAPTER 3

Eneld lay between the tangled sheets of his bed, curling a lock of Katherine’s raven hair around his finger. A brilliant crescent Earth hung low in the sky, only the tip visible through the bedroom window.

He ran his hand down her back. “Just five more days to go.”

Katherine stirred. Her warm body pressed against his. “Done packing?”

“Almost.” He glanced at his travel box, which sat in a corner of the bedroom. He could already imagine it going around in circles on the luggage retrieval carousel at Mars Spaceport. Like every other piece of luggage, it would be coated in a fine layer of rusty dust. That damned dust got everywhere.

The comm-link on the nightstand beeped, startling him. “You have a new—” His hand darted out to silence it.

“Who is it?” Katherine snuggled up against him, her eyes still closed.

“Just a reminder I programmed. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.”

She looked up. “Pre-Mars vaccines?”

“Yup.”

“They’re using the new versions on you, right? The ones with the reduced side effects?”

Eneld grunted. “They’d better.” He couldn’t imagine spending the rest of his life seeing the world in black and white. A “minor side effect,” “only ten percent chance of ever happening” was what those bastards down at the Lunar Base CDC claimed.

Still, he had to admit that visual impairment was the lesser of two evils—far better than becoming nesting meat for the latest form of Martian parasite. Every few weeks, someone came across a new species among the vegetation, almost always in the most unwitting and unfortunate of ways.

A chill tickled his spine. He needed a distraction, quick. He drew the covers away and pulled Katherine on top of him. “C’mere, you.” He cupped her breasts and plunged his face between them.

Between shrieks and giggles, Katherine cried out, “Watch those manners!” She tugged back and arranged the sheets around her, lifting her chin in mock defiance. “What would the Team Leader say?”

Eneld grinned. “Nice rack.” He squeezed her breasts.

“Ow!” She slapped his hand.

Uh-oh. Too much. He’d better make up for it, fast. “Sorry, babe. Come here.” He tried to press her down against him, but she shrugged away and sat up, straddling him.

She pulled a strand of hair away from her eyes and quietly stared at him.

Eneld set his hands on her thighs. “Hey? Come back.”

After a little bit, she said, “I was just thinking. You know…down in the lab, there are people who’d kill to be you right now.”

“Someone thinks mighty highly of herself.” He grinned. “But I guess my bed is pretty comfortable…” He ran his hands up her thighs and squeezed her warm ass.

“I’m not talking about that—although you should know I do have other options.” Katherine wrinkled her nose. “I meant Rusty and Spinach. I wish I could be there when they start tunneling.”

Rusty and Spinach were twenty-foot-long biometal earthworms. Along with a couple hundred smaller offspring earthworms, they had been shipped to Mars to chip in with the Soil Restoration Program—“restoration” synonymous to returning the rich Martian soil to its former barren state.

Eneld shrugged. “You won’t miss much. Worms release their payload… New wasteland here… Run for your life there…”

“And the jungles will finally stop spreading. Imagine what it’ll look like. The rusty soil against the wall of ferns.” Excitement glimmered in her eyes.

“Yeah…” Eneld held her gaze, not so sure about his own feelings about the project. Like Katherine, he’d grown up amid horror stories of the genetically engineered Martian jungles. As a child, the swift fly-by images of the endless green canopy had fascinated him. Nothing like that existed on Earth anymore.

After graduating from university with a degree in robotics engineering, he had traveled to Lunar Base Technological Center to specialize in biorobotics. Three years later, his head still full of dreams, he had accepted the office of Team Leader of the Martian Soil Restoration Program. At that time, he’d believed his team would find the ultimate solution to the red planet’s problem.

However, by the time Eneld came into office, the various branches of the Martian Terraformation Project were immersed in finger-pointing battles, because, despite their efforts, the jungles had spread over three quarters of the planet.

Every attempt to control the wilderness had ended in disaster. Be they rugged adventurers or the meek lab rat type, the last three Team Leaders to visit Mars had vanished into the foliage. Now it was Eneld’s turn to go.

He sighed. “I don’t know why we don’t just call it quits.” Yes he did. Mankind wasn’t going to give up halfway through a conquest, no matter the difficulties.

Katherine opened her eyes wide. “What? Don’t be silly! This time we got it.”

“Listen, Kathy, that’s what everyone’s been saying for the last twenty years. And look where we are now. We shouldn’t even be calling Mars the ‘red planet’ anymore.”

Katherine pursed her lips. “The problem is that the teams before us used the wrong techniques. Trying to wall in the jungles was simply ridiculous, and hacking away at the trees taught us how virulent their sap is. Spraying—we both know how that turned out.”

“Another Team Leader gone,” Eneld mumbled.

Katherine poked his chest. “But this time we’re getting it from below. Rusty, Spinach, and all the other earthworms will attack the root of the problem, literally. The jungle won’t suspect a thing.”

“You’re talking about it as if it were some beast we’re trying to hunt down.”

“In a way, it is.” Her black eyes locked onto his. Katherine was one of the few engineers who held the assumption that the entire Martian jungle functioned as a mega organism, each plant and crawly critter working together to feed, grow, and, come the day, procreate. That spectacle would be anything but pretty.

Eneld sat up against the headboard and nuzzled her neck. “Enough talk. I’ve got something better we can do.”

But Katherine drew back. “All this talk about Mars making you nervous?” She chuckled. “Get over it. You’re going there in less than a week.”

“I know, okay? I don’t need you to constantly remind me.” He shifted. Katherine was starting to feel heavy.

“You think Marsworms are going to burrow into that little head of yours?” She walked her fingers across his chest and tapped his forehead. “We’ve got vaccines against them, you know. Good ones.”

A knot formed in Eneld’s stomach. Sure, Katherine could joke about Marsworms—she wouldn’t have to spend the following months wearing earplugs and resting in short naps with one eye open.

“We might have a vaccine to inhibit Marsworm larvae growth,” he muttered, “but what about the constrictor ivy? We don’t have anything against that.”

Remote-controlled bots sent into the depths of the jungle had discovered a macabre garden of human-shaped bush sculptures. Some were huddled on the ground, while others were forever locked in a panicked run, legs apart, arms spread. Dozens of colleagues had died, smothered by the ivy. Those images had never reached Earth, but Eneld, as the new Team Leader, had been forced to sit through a disturbing movie session.

Katherine leaned over him, her breasts hovering deliciously close, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “Tell you what. I’ll go instead. Just appoint me, and I’ll get the job done.”

Eneld reached out to grope her. “Huh? You?”

“Well, since you’re obviously having second thoughts about it… I am the most experienced worm-wrangler—after you, of course.” She smiled and slowly rocked back and forth.

Eneld squeezed her breasts, a lopsided smile forming on his lips. “‘Worm-wrangler’ is a terrible name.”

“Then you come up with one.” She bent down and planted a quick kiss on his lips. Her hair smelled of coffee and cream.

”You’d have to study all the regulations.”

“I’m a fast learner.” She kissed his forehead, her breasts grazing his chin. “You can teach me. I’m sure you’re an excellent teacher.”

“You’re just buttering me up.” Eneld chuckled.

She drew away. “Aw, you got me. Still…I’d do anything not to let an opportunity like this slip by.”

Eneld let his head drop against the headboard. She’d said it. Opportunity. He wanted to groan every time he heard the word. Opportunity was what had pushed him to leave Earth and accept a job on the moon. An even greater opportunity was what now drew him into the sputum-coated jaws of Mars. What was he trying to prove to the world? That he was some sort of savior? The knot in his stomach tightened. He gently pushed Katherine aside and lowered his feet over the edge of the bed.

“What’s wrong?”

He rubbed his forehead. “I…uh…I’ll be right back.” He stumbled to the bathroom. With a push of a button, the door locked after him. He leaned over the sink and took a deep, shaky breath.

Damned Soil Restoration Program.

Living on the moon was pleasant enough; he enjoyed having the crescent Earth hanging over his head, its oceans winking down at him. But Mars…Mars was war. His heart thumped against his chest. How fitting that man’s attempt to domesticate the god of war should go so askew.

And they weren’t turning back. No matter how many of them died trying, they wouldn’t give up until they conquered what they had set loose.

He glared at himself in the mirror.

Or it kills us all.

As much as he hated to admit it, he could really use a fix. He opened the medicine cabinet and took out a small, chromed case. He popped the lid off, slid the tab, and a fine line of white dust emerged. It tickled and stung as he snorted.

He tilted his head back. That was damned good stuff.

Throx was illegal in almost all regions of the system, but Eneld dedicated a generous portion of his salary to keeping acquaintances in the right markets. When he left Earth to go to Lunar Base, he took along a short list of recommended dealers. Buying his fixes on the moon wasn’t a problem. The population of Mars, however, was comprised of only a handful of nerve-wracked scientists, most of who screamed and covered their ears if you approached them too suddenly. Not the type of people you could buy throx from.

When he asked his usual dealers if they knew who could supply him on Mars, they all shrugged and gave him the same curt response: StarCorp. The quote the company offered was steep, but if he cinched his belt a little, he could afford it. Nobody else dared deliver to Mars, anyway.

He rubbed his nose and looked down at the case. Without giving it a second’s thought, he slid the tab again and another white line emerged. He stared at it, suddenly hesitant. Change was coming. It was searching for him, fumbling around with outspread arms, stubbing its toes against the furniture. He could feel it inch toward him the closer departure day came. Maybe he should call it quits. Maybe Mars was the change he needed as well as an excuse to stop snorting throx. He’d miss the giddy arousal each line caused, but he’d save a lot of money.

He let out a quick sigh and snorted the line. A sharp pain needled him between the eyes, and he pinched the bridge of his nose. The blanket of red dust on his travel box, the biometal earthworms, even the tangled jungles all faded into irrelevance. Change might be coming, but throx would always give him the same carefree high.

When he returned to the bedroom, Katherine was dressing.

“Whoa, hey, leaving already?”

“Yeah. I’ve got a lot of work. And may I remind you of your ridiculous no-sleepover policy.” She poked his chest.

“I know, I know.” Eneld wrapped his arms around her waist. “But can’t you stay a little longer?” He undid a button on her shirt, his lips brushing against her neck. “C’mon…I’m leaving soon…”

He felt Katherine relax in his arms, her warm breath against his ear. “All right, if you insist.”

Good girl. Her hungry lips traveled down his neck and chest. He gently urged her lower. A brainiac in the workshop and a total slut in bed, Kathy never needed much coaxing. Eneld glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Almost eleven o’clock. He’d have to take round two easy if he wanted to make it to his early appointment. Throx could only go so far.

Serving Time

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Genre –  Science Fiction/Fantasy

Rating – Adult

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Website http://nadineonwriting.blogspot.com/

#SciFi #Excerpt from Superhuman Nature by Brandon Overall

21 Jan

He turned back to the apple and tried to shift the focus of his thoughts to mimic how he had felt.  He thought about the apple the same way he thought about his arm, or his toes.  He wiggled his toes and moved his arm up and down and tried to capture the sort of sensation it gave him to know that these parts of his body were under his control.  He looked at the apple and tried to imagine how it would feel for the apple to be part of his body.  He commanded the apple, as part of his body, to roll off the stump to the left.

Neil’s eyes tracked the movement immediately.

The apple rolled off the stump.  He watched it fall to the ground almost in slow motion.

“YES!” He exclaimed, “FUCK YES, I DID IT!!”

Neil felt the rush of excitement.  His heart started beating faster and he got a sudden burst of energy…until he felt the breeze.  The damn wind had blown it off.  His mood sank almost as quickly as it rose.  He picked up a stick, threw it at the can, missed, and sat down on the ground, defeated.

Neil tried for another 20 or 30 minutes in an attempt to make something…anything happen to the apple and the can, but nothing worked.  He decided he was tired of wasting his time looking foolish and walked over to the stumps to retrieve his produce, feeling embarrassed.

As Neil was walking towards the apple, he felt a tickling sensation on his cheek and heard a buzzing noise.  It took a split second for him to realize that a bug had landed on his face, and a split second longer for him to raise his hand to try to swat it off.

He was too late.  He felt the sharp pinch and realized that the bug was a bee, and his cheek was throbbing with pain.  His temper immediately flared from the sudden sting.  He knew he needed to swat off and kill the damned bee, so that’s what he did.  Instead of raising his arm to do it, he reflexively used the other part of his body – the new part of his body that he hadn’t used before – the red spherical part of his body that he sensed had untapped potential that could be used in this very situation to kill a bee.

Before he realized what he was doing, he felt a baseball sized object smack into the side of his face, explode into tiny juicy pieces, and knock him to the ground.  He laid in the dirt and leaves, staring up at the sky.  He tasted something on the corner of his mouth.  It tasted sweet, and then it dawned on him what it was that hit him in the side of the head.  He had just killed the bee with an apple.

SuperhumanNature

Superhuman Nature is Brandon Overall’s first novel. It was written and published during his first deployment to Afghanistan as a 2nd Lieutenant in late 2013.

Neil Hitchens was a senior ROTC Cadet in college. He was just weeks away from graduating and becoming an Officer in the United States Army, until a strange dream set off a chain of events that would twist his life into something he could have never prepared for.

In the days following his dream, several strange happenings occurred that he began to suspect were the result of his own actions. Before long, he discovered that he had the ability to control the world around him with his mind.

What started out as an unpredictable ability quickly evolved into an extraordinary power that had the capacity to change the world. It didn’t take long for the government to find out what Neil could do.

They knew having such limitless potential on the side of the US Military could give them limitless political influence, and they would stop at nothing to get Neil to do their bidding. They would find out what happens when you back a dangerous animal into a corner.

Neil spent his whole life believing he would amount to greatness, but he never expected how greatness could corrupt even the most innocent of minds.

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Genre – Science Fiction

Rating – PG-13

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#Humor #Excerpt from The Three Sisters by Bryan Taylor

16 Jan

I remembered how much I hated Catholic School, but how much I had enjoyed entertaining my classmates when the sisters were gone from the room. I had endured Catholic School, and I knew what it could and should be like, so I convinced myself that if I could put up with the convent for a year or so, I could spend the rest of my life, or at least a few years, reforming Catholic School from within its very bowels. I knew every trick in the book the terrorists in training, as the sisters referred to us in junior high, could think of, and if my students even thought about misbehaving, I could stop them before they converted their plans into reality.

Of course, my first choice for a Catholic career would have been to become an exorcist. I had seen The Exorcist when it first came out in 1973, and let me tell you, if I had been in that house with Linda Blair, she would have known that she had met her match. If she had thrown up on me, I would have slapped that little bitch so hard, her head would have spun around like a top until it levitated off her torso. I knew I had more balls than either Jason Miller or Max Von Sydow, and after I was done with her, she would have been begging for mercy. Fortunately for the possessed of the world, the Catholic Church doesn’t allow nuns to become exorcists, and a movie version of Coito the Exorcist was never made. This was just another example of how equal opportunity would have helped the Catholic Church to fight evil in the world.

I told a priest I had gotten “the calling” to become a nun, and he sent me to some nuns. I met with the sisters, and being the inquisitive type that I am, I asked them what was expected of a postulant. The sisters told me they expected a nun to have the seven cardinal virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. A nun should be between sixteen and forty with a spirit of heroic generosity and common sense; be in reasonable health; have stability and a desire to give oneself utterly and unconditionally to God; be able to get along with others; be distinguished by Christ-like charity; have a limpid simplicity of the soul, selflessness, unquestioning loyalty, prudent zeal, an orderly mind, gracious courtesy, an adaptable disposition, solid piety, and the saving grace of a good sense of humor. It was Academy Award time. Feigning repentance from my wicked past and throwing in a few lies, I told them that was me all over, and a month later I was accepted into their order.

To be honest, I was of two minds about going into the convent. The optimistic side of me, the part that was full of youthful determination and ambition said I could succeed. After all, Vatican II had been introduced ten years before, and we were living in the modern age, the 1970s, when the Church might actually replace a medieval church with a modern church. Then there was the pessimistic side of me which was convinced of the futility of my Icarian ambitions. If I went into the convent, I would be fighting two thousand years of established hierarchy, and this was certain to be a lost cause.

I felt like I was in one of those cartoons where the angel and devil whispered in the character’s ears trying to convince their alter ego of their point of view. I wavered back and forth until the week before I entered, and finally decided to go through with it. Even if it didn’t work out, I figured, I could always leave. I was still young, and if my worst fears were realized, I could always leave and change the world in some other way. Everything else in the world was changing, so why couldn’t the Catholic Church?

TheThreeSisters

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Genre – Humor, Satire, Catholicism, Politics

Rating – R

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Website www.threesistersnovel.com

The Soul of the World (Legends of Amun Ra #2) by Joshua Silverman @jg_silverman

5 Jan

SEVEN YEARS LATER…

Caerus Anius pulls the throttle of her urban terrain vehicle. She grips the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white. The large rear tires turn, spitting out dirt as it accelerates into the Erebus forest on Potara. This is a forbidden place, long thought to be haunted and ruled by Achlys, the spirit of the eternal night. She enchants the forest, keeping it in eternal darkness and an unholy mist. According to legend, Achlys was the embodiment of misery and sadness. She is a pale, sickly looking woman with bloody cheeks, long nails, and white hair. Yet, despite the warning, this is where Caerus Anius drives.

The Erebus forest is located thousands of miles from northwest of the Thothian empire. Along Thoth’s southern border are the Olympic Mountains, which butt against the ocean. The Olympic Mountains are identified by Mount Parnassus at an elevation of over forty thousand feet. It is a massive empire which, over the course of thousands of years, has dominated the Hellenes.

Once, it was led by the Priesthood and became the most advanced society. Then, almost two thousand years ago, the Amun Priests’ power dwindled. The monarchies of the High Priests were replaced by the Ephors, a republican government. Since that time, the Amun Priests have been thought of more as a cult than a religion. Most Thothians discount the Amun Priests’ beliefs with a wave of their hand. They are called ‘mystics’, ‘magicians’, or ‘zealots’ of a long forgotten time. Yet, the historical impact of the Amun Priests cannot be ignored, despite their irrelevance.

The tallest building in the empire is the Great Temple of Amun, located in the southern district of Amun. Built into the face of Mount Parnassus, anchoring it to the mountain, it is home to the Amun Priests. The exterior of the Temple, from the ground to peak, is covered in hieroglyphics and Egyptian sculptures of the gods and the lesser deities. Outside, on the ground floor of the sandstone Temple, are two hundred-foot high crystal statues. One is sculpted in the form of the Egyptian sun god, Ra. The crystal statue of Ra is sculpted as a man with the head of a hawk. Above his head is a sun disk. He holds the Scepter of Seth in one hand and in the other, Ankh, the symbol for the ancient word ‘life.’ The second crystal sculpture is of Amun, which is the god to whom the Temple is dedicated. He was revered as the King of the Gods in Egyptian culture and was depicted as a man with the head of a ram.

The UTV zips along the dirt road. Cruising through the forest of eternal darkness, the gentle hum of the engines does nothing to stop Caerus’ nagging fear of the child in the back. It’s her third child, a third boy. But this one is different, this one was never meant to be born. When Caerus saw what the boy was, she knew she had to get rid of him. He was far too dangerous to keep. He had to be taken somewhere safe.

The woman pushes on the throttle, decelerating as she drives through rougher terrain. The hoot of the owls and the caw of the crows unnerve her very soul. Outside of the windshield, the forest floor is covered in a white mist. Caerus manipulates the buttons on the dashboard. A needle rises from the hood and a red light sweeps over the landscape. An electronic display of the topography appears over the steering wheel, allowing Caerus to see where she is maneuvering. This should have never have happened to me. Why did I bear this child?

She hears a beeping on the display, indicating a house to the right. From its looks, she has no doubt that this is the house she seeks. She maneuvers towards it, parks, and steps into the mist. The chill in the night air hits her, sending a shiver up her spine. The hairs on her arm rise with fear as the owls and black crows cry above her head, hidden by the dark trees that sway under the breeze. The UTV hisses as the door opens. Caerus lifts the child, covered in an emerald green blanket, out of the car and tucks him in her arms.

A large, sheer crystal sphinx looms up, almost hidden from sight and covered in an overgrowth of dark forest shrubs, leaves, and vines.

Beyond the forty foot sphinx is a clay doorway covered in the same vines. A porch light hangs over the door, illuminating the immediate area. The doorway itself is arched in ancient Egyptian style architecture and between the two lotus bud columns, one on each side of the arched heavy oak doorway, lies a maze of ferns leading like a path out to the sphinx.

The front door opens with a loud creak, startling her. She puts her hand to her chest to quiet her pounding heart. Looking in the doorway, she sees a clean-shaven old man with dark eyes and dirty white hair. His white robes expose his grey haired chest as they came to a point. Over the white robe, the old man wears an emerald padded coat with gold trim, extending to the floor.

“Leukos?” she asks the man in the doorway. “Leukos Trismegistus?”

“I am,” he replies. Caerus moves closer. She holds the child to him for inspection. Leukos Trismegistus takes the child into his arms. She exposes the child’s forearm to Leukos.

“Do you see it? Do you see the symbol?” she asks.

Leukos holds the child into the light. On his forearm is a birthmark of two dragons, their heads wrapped around each other. One head faces the sun and the other faces the moon. The blood drains from Leukos’ face, though he keeps his composure in front of Caerus.

“I see the symbol,” he says.

“Well?” asks Caerus with both dread and anticipation. It would do no good for Leukos to lie to her; in fact, it would only make matters worse for the Hellenes.

“You have borne the child with the symbol of the Emerald Tablet.”

Caerus’ face goes slack. She pushes the child into his arms and backs away. “Then you take him. Keep him secret, keep him safe, Leukos. He’s far too dangerous with his brother.”

“His brother?” Leukos asks.

Caerus struggles to speak. “He bears the symbol of the Heart of Gold. His older brother is already with the Priests of Amun. They must be separated, Leukos.” She grabs his forearm. “Promise me you’ll take care of him.”

Leukos appraises her in the dim light. She has risked her life to come to the enchanted forest to save her last child. The prophecies by the oracles foretell a time when the bearer of the symbol of the Emerald Tablet would fight the bearer of the symbol of the Heart of Gold to decide the fate of the world. The two people who bear such a mark would be brothers.

Caerus’ first child bears a birthmark with an uncanny similarity to the symbol of the Heart of Gold. The brothers are destined to fight each other, and only one will prevail. Leukos nods his head.

“You will never see him again,” he says.

Caerus nods, swallowing. “I know, but it is for the best.”

“Then you know his destiny is to fight his brother. The boy’s fate is sealedby the gods.”

Caerus weeps. Only one of her sons will prevail, forced to kill the other. But which son, she doesn’t know and, even if she did, how could she ever choose between her children? No, this way is best. The other brothers do not know of this child yet, and it’s safer for them to never know. In the end, she is saving both of her son’s lives.

“Swear you’ll protect him with your life,” she squeezes his arm again.

“I swear, Caerus.”

She kisses her child goodbye.

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Genre – Science fiction, Fantasy

Rating – PG-13+

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Website www.legendsofamunra.comwww.joshuagsilverman.com

Beyond Neanderthal by Brian Bloom @BrianB_Aust

3 Jan

From Chapter 3 – Skiathos Story

‘Which reminds me,’ Patrick said as the waiter left, ‘of a Greek holiday I had on Skiathos.’

Samantha knew he was trying to lighten her mood. She also knew she was in for one of his long, drawn out but usually entertaining stories and leant back in her chair.

‘I was on this little island swimming and sun-baking in the late summer. It was September and everywhere you went there were swarms of wasps across the island.’

‘Sounds like hell,’ Samantha said. ‘I can’t imagine what you and your girlfriend were doing on a wasp infested lump of rock.’

‘Who said I was with a girlfriend?’ Patrick feigned indignation. ‘And my God, you bankers are a breed apart. I say the word “hot”. You hear the word “hell”. I say the word “island”. You hear the word “rock”.’ He paused, momentarily lost for words. ‘Let me try again.’ He picked up a spoon and held it in front of his mouth like a microphone, cleared his throat, then continued in a melodramatically hushed voice. ‘The island was ablaze with bougainvillea, contrasting magnificently with the muted tones of the verdant olive trees.’ His hand swept panoramically through the air.

‘The sun shimmered off the roughly plastered white walls of the sleepy villas. And below them, the sea sparkled like a rippled mirror. On the hilltop, the domed roof of the little church was a blue so bright that it seemed the whole sky had been squeezed from it to form the background of God’s canvas. There was music in the air … a sense of magic was interrupted only by … the buzz of wasps.’ Then, Humphrey Bogart style, he said, ‘Got the picture sweetheart?’

Samantha could not help but smile back at him with. How could she not help but like him so much. ‘Okay’ she said leaning towards him. ‘But wasps? What should I be thinking when I hear the word “wasp”? White Anglo Saxon Protestant?’

‘Aarrgh!’ Patrick struck his forehead with the flat of his hand. ‘I’m not going to answer that.’

‘What’s the matter darling? Wasp get you?’

‘Okay. You asked for it. The barefaced, unadulterated version …’

Patrick gave her a wicked look as he took a swig from the glass of wine the waiter had poured for him to taste.

Samantha looked at him in mock disgust. ‘You cretin. You’re supposed to discreetly swirl that around in your mouth and taste it like a sophisticated gentleman of the world. I can’t take you anywhere. Give you a billycan of tea, a loaf of damper bread and a lump of meat and you’d be as happy as Larry.’

He ignored her outburst and winked at the waiter. ‘It’s great,’ he said. ‘The lady doesn’t drink, so you can just fill my glass.’

‘Ignore him,’ Samantha said quickly before the waiter had time to respond. ‘He hasn’t been allowed out for a while. And yes, I will have some wine, thank you.’

Patrick fixed his green-eyed gaze on her as though he was about to pin a butterfly to a corkboard. ‘Get you Gertrude,’ he said. ‘This is my story, and I’m on a roll here. And like I said, the bare facts ma’am, nothing but the facts.’

‘Okay,’ she said. ‘I’m having fun. Keep going.’

He took her hand that had been lying innocently on the table near the stem of her wine glass and squeezed it playfully.

‘Here’s where it gets interesting,’ he said. ‘The island is so small that tourists hire these Vespa scooters for a few bucks a day to travel from one end of the island to the other. You know, the Italian scooters with the splashboard in front where you put your feet. It’s like driving around on a slow armchair with one wheel front and back.’

‘Uh Oh.’ Samantha laughed, her hand flying to her mouth. ‘I’m starting to see where this is headed. Tell me, what were you wearing after your swim?’

‘You got it in one, sister,’ Patrick said with a laugh. ‘The answer is that I was wearing a pair of wide legged shorts with nothing on underneath, and this bloody wasp flies straight up my pants leg.’

‘No way!’

‘Wait! There’s more.

Beyond Neanderthal

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Genre – Thriller

Rating – MA (15+)

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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.

#AmReading – Across Eternity by Aris Whittier @ArisWhittier

2 Jan

Across Eternity by Aris Whittier

Amazon

Logan Richards is doubly blessed. Not only is he a genius but he has a rare gift, he remembers things and not just from this life but all his lifetimes. He lives a life of wealth and luxury and has never lacked any material possession. There has never been an obstacle his intellect couldn’t overcome. But Logan has a problem: every night he dreams of the same woman, a woman he has dreamt of all his life. He knows she is real and he is determined to find her and convince her she belongs with him, forever.

Amber Lewis, a waitress for a five-star restaurant in Dana Point, California, is overworked and stressed. Her sister’s death has left her weary and wondering if there’s something more to life than mere existence. Then, one evening while working she meets Logan Richards, a chivalrous man who feels deeply familiar.

Fate has brought them together, but will their growing love prove strong enough to resist the forces that could pull them apart?