Adventure

Chapter reveal: ‘Flight of the Blue Falcon’ by Jonathan Raab

flightTitle: Flight of the Blue Falcon

Genre: Fiction – Adult

Author: Jonathan Raab

Website: http://www.warwriterscampaign.org

Publisher: War Writers’ Campaign, Inc.

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About the Book:

In FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON (War Writers’ Campaign; July 2015; PRICE), a chewed-up Army National Guard unit heads to a forgotten war in Afghanistan where three men find themselves thrust into the heart of absurdity: the post-modern American war machine. The inexperienced Private Rench, the jaded veteran Staff Sergeant Halderman, and the idealistic Lieutenant Gracie join a platoon of misfit citizen-soldiers and experience a series of alienating and bizarre events.

Private Rench is young, inexperienced, and from a poor, rural, broken home. He’s adrift in life. The early signs of alcoholism and potential substance abuse are beginning to rear their ugly heads. He wants to do right by the Army, but doesn’t quite know who he is yet.

Staff Sergeant Halderman has one previous combat tour under his belt. He got out, realized his life was going nowhere, so re-enlisted to serve with the men he knew, and to lead the inexperienced guys into combat. He is manifesting the early signs of post traumatic stress, but is too focused on the upcoming mission to deal with it. He sees the Army for what it is—a big, screwed up machine that doesn’t always do the right thing—but he doesn’t think all that highly of himself, either.

Second Lieutenant Gracie is fresh, young, excited to be in the Army, and trying to adjust to the new to the military and his life as an officer. Although he faces a steep learning curve, he is adaptable and has a good, upbeat attitude. As he tries to forge his own path, he nonetheless turns to the experienced NCOs in his unit for guidance and support. He must continually make tough decisions that have no “right” or textbook answers. Yet these decisions are catalysts enabling him to grow in maturity, experience, and wisdom.

Preparation for combat is surreal: Rench is force-fed cookies by his drill sergeants. Halderman’s “training” is to pick up garbage in the blistering heat of the California desert for four days straight. Gracie contends with a battalion commander obsessed with latrine graffiti.

Once they reach Afghanistan, things really get weird.

FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON is the story of three men who volunteer to serve their country. It’s about what it means to be a soldier, to fight, to know true camaraderie—and to return home.

This is a war story. This is their story.

Only the most unbelievable parts are true.

ONE: SAND HILL

Private Zachary Rench

Rench knew there was trouble coming.

His battle buddy, Private Arturo, had come bounding into Third Platoon’s bay, a sheen of sweat on his dark forehead, a look of terror in his brown eyes.

“Anybody five-foot-four or shorter,” he gasped, holding on to the door frame for support. Hot, humid, unforgiving Georgia air flowed into the bay, shattering the illusion of comfort provided by the air conditioners. They whirred with exhausted effort.

Rench, like the other privates in the bay, stared at him with indifference. Many of them shrugged and then went back to cleaning their M-16 rifles. Arturo wasn’t a drill sergeant, so they didn’t have to listen to him.

“Uh, okay,” Arturo said, standing up straight and sounding off with his best drill sergeant imitation. “Listen up, Third Platoon! Drill Sergeant Bond wants anybody five-foot-four or under down to the company training area.”

No one moved.

Arturo’s eyes bulged with desperation. Panic and anger crept into his voice. He ran his sweating hands over his waistline, wiping his palms on his gray PT shirt. His belly held a stubborn layer of fat that managed to linger on, seven weeks into the mad animal kingdom world of Basic Combat Training.

“Seriously, this is serious,” he stammered. “Seriously guys. Five-foot-five and under. Five-foot-six! Five-foot-seven! Come on guys, no kidding!”

Some of the braver privates, realizing that this problem was not going to go away (and knowing that, even if they didn’t go downstairs to meet some terrible fate, some terrible fate would inevitably come find them) and neither was Arturo, hastily reassembled their M-16s and began to move toward the open bay door.

The heat embraced them. They walked into hell.

Arturo’s eyes fell on his battle buddy, Rench. Private Zachary Rench was white, five-foot-six (or -seven, depending on how straight he stood up), with tired, dark brown eyes, and ears that stood a little too far out from his shaved head. At nineteen years young, he blended right in with the majority of dumbass privates interned at Sand Hill.

But you couldn’t always blend in. Sometimes, the day had your number. Sometimes, your number was fucked.

Rench sighed and stood up.

Seven privates from Third Platoon jogged down the winding concrete steps to the company assembly area below. Warm wind carried the scents of Sand Hill—cut grass, sweat, and fried food from the DFAC—through the open-air square.

The concrete radiated waves of shimmering heat. A mural of the infantry combat knife against a baby blue background was painted in the center. Around the edges of the mural, the cheap paint had begun to curl in twisted little fingers of frustration.

The seven privates fell into a straight line formation in front of three drill sergeants, who stared at them with a menacing disinterest. There were three cardboard boxes on the ground before them. The shortest drill sergeant spoke up first. His sunglasses reflected the golden rays of the sun reaching through the barracks’ towers. A withering scar ran along his left cheek to the edge of his lips.

“Privates, God has not been fair to you,” he said. His voice was the sound of a truck driving over gravel. “Life has been difficult. You have been denied much. Because you are short.”

Rench, standing at parade rest with his hands behind his back, his legs spread shoulder-width apart, and his eyes straight forward, didn’t understand what the fuck this was all about.

“Today, you get a chance to grow up,” the drill sergeant continued. As Rench’s eyes adjusted to the bright light of afternoon, he recognized Drill Sergeant Bond as the man speaking. A real nasty, hateful son of a bitch, who liked to force the privates to PT until someone passed out from exhaustion and the medics had to come in.

“Today, we will help you where God failed you,” Bond said, pushing one of the boxes forward with his desert tan boot. “Eat up.”

Bubble wrap and wax paper reached up from within the open cardboard flaps. Inside were small, brown, glistening cookies tightly packed in blue and pink plastic wrap.

“Eat the cookies, privates,” Drill Sergeant Bond said.

No one moved. Bond kicked the other boxes toward the line of frozen soldiers. He kicked them like he once kicked detainees, back on his first tour, back when shit was still fun. They weren’t allowed to call them prisoners in Iraq. They were detainees. You couldn’t kick a prisoner. But you could kick the fuck out of a detainee. But these boxes didn’t have hard heads and soft stomachs.

“This isn’t a trick, privates,” Bond said. “Go ahead and eat.”

The other drill sergeants chuckled.

“Now.”

The rank broke and the privates descended on the cookies like eagles descending upon field mice. Their hands, black with carbon from cleaning their rifles, searched for delicious, sugar-laden morsels to shove into their emaciated, feral mouths.

Rench approached the cookies slowly. Arturo stood with him, looking at him for support with a What the fuck should we do here painted on his soft brown face.

When Rench glanced up to see Drill Sergeant Bond’s eyes on him, he dropped to his knees and reached for a stack of white macadamia nut cookies.

The first few bites were wonderful. Sugar, fat, carbohydrates—all things that his underfed teenage body had been denied for weeks. He practically swallowed the first two cookies whole, and saw that many of the other privates had already finished entire stacks and were searching for more.

Rench pulled himself out of his sugar-euphoria and saw Drill Sergeant Bond looking at his watch. The relief and excitement Rench experienced when he took his first bite vanished, as he thought back to Bond’s words:

“This isn’t a trick, privates.”

Which meant, of course, that it was a fucking trick.

He nibbled a chocolate chip; he chomped on a peanut butter disc. The other privates started to slow down as their stomachs began to rebel against the sudden onslaught of sweetness.

Like a voice from heaven, Drill Sergeant Bond made his doomsday pronouncement.

“You have two minutes to finish these cookies.”

Rench’s heart leapt through his rib cage. The others froze. He wasn’t surprised, not really, but the other privates—stupid bastards—suddenly realized how screwed they all were. Privates were always screwed, no matter what.

“Go ahead, privates. Finish those cookies. But if you don’t finish in two minutes…”

More snickering from the other drill sergeants. Crossed arms and flat-brim campaign hats and clean uniforms. Hard faces with predatory smiles.

“You better hurry up,” one of them said. “Time’s a-wasting, assholes.”

The privates tore into the cookies with a new fervor, desperately choking down as many as they could as fast as their bodies would allow. Arturo gagged; Rench chomped into two cookies at once.

“One minute,” Bond said.

They had managed to clear one and a half boxes’ worth, but a whole other box remained, and there were broken stragglers scattered along the ground, their colorful plastic wrap twisted and discarded along the concrete like used condoms at a Wal-Mart parking lot.

“Thirty seconds,” Bond said.

Rench’s stomach twisted into a knot of pain and acid, and he swallowed back the urge to vomit. And yet, more cookies remained. And yet and yet.

“Time!”

The privates stopped eating. One private looked around, his face smeared with chocolate and grease, wondering how something so good had gone so fucked so quickly.

“You have failed,” Drill Sergeant Bond said. “There’s a ton of cookies left. I tried to help you out, privates. I tried to give you a leg up. But you did not listen. You have failed me and failed yourselves and failed the Army by not completing your mission.”

Labored breathing, gurgling stomachs. Running cadence echoed from far away, songs of war and death.

“Position of attention, move!” Bond barked.

All of the privates stood up, ramrod straight.

“Toe the line at the end of the CTA!”

The privates scrambled over to the edge of the assembly area, next to a wilting garden, and lined up.

“Ya’ll played sports before, right privates?” Bond asked, walking smartly over to them. His shadow loomed large.

“Fuck no, they ain’t played sports,” another drill sergeant piped in. “Look at these midget motherfuckers. Gay-ass motherfuckers. Ain’t none of them ever made a team.”

Rench stared out at the lined breaks in the concrete of the assembly area, evenly spaced, ten meters apart. He felt dizzy and his stomach grumbled in pain. He would have to be careful to avoid the brick columns that supported the barracks overhead. Smashing his face wasn’t on his list of things to do while he visited the great state of Georgia.

“You better run your asses off, privates,” Bond said. “Suicides, go!”

The privates groaned as they trudged forward, stopping at each line and returning back to the garden. Rench’s legs burned with lactic acid. Cookies and bile churned up into the back of his mouth, and he burped and farted with comical volume with every labored step. No one noticed; everyone else was too busy trying not to shit their PT shorts.

“Stop!” Bond hollered out. The privates skidded to a halt. The stench of sweat and shit lingered in the air. Someone was moaning. Someone else was mewling in half-words and mumbles.

“You have sixty seconds to…” Bond started. He looked up from his watch. “What is that noise? What the fuck is that noise?”

Rench’s body was frozen at parade rest. He wouldn’t allow himself to look behind him, to look at the private who shivered despite the heat, who sputtered despite his fear, who cried despite his pride.

Drill Sergeant Bond stalked over to the shuddering private.

“What—what the hell is your malfunction?” Bond demanded, his anger echoing off columns of brick.

“Drill Sergeant… D-D-Drill Sergeant…” the private said.

“You shit your pants, didn’t you?”

“Y-y-yes, Drill Sergeant.”

Rench closed his eyes, thanking whatever god there may be that it wasn’t him. This time.

“Hole-lee fuck,” Arturo said, despite himself. Bond whirled around. He was a flash of ACU camo and fingers and fists and spittle and rage.

“You! You and all the rest! Get upstairs to the bay, right now! You have sixty seconds, sixty goddamn seconds, to get your promasks, don them, and return to the start line!” He pointed a quivering finger toward the edge of the assembly area. The finger floated in front Rench’s right eyeball, which had begun to twitch.

I could probably bite it off before they could stop me, he thought.

“Go! Go, motherfuckers! Run!”

All of them—except for the private who had shit his black (now black and brown) PT shorts—scrambled toward the staircase. They bounded up, spilling over one another in a wave of flesh and stink.

Inside the bay, the other privates were still cleaning their rifles.

Rench ran to his wall locker, Arturo panting right behind him.

He spun the combination as fast as he could. Little white numbers smearing together. Cold metal. His gray PT shirt sticking to his back.

Rench dug through his rucksack for his promask. He found the green bag, faded from years of use by stupid privates like him, and stained with mud. He threw the strap over his shoulder and clipped the string around his leg.

“How much time we got left?” he asked Arturo, who slammed his locker shut, his own promask bag hanging from his hip.

“Ten seconds.”

“We should go.”

“We’re not gonna make it.”

“Does it matter? We were never gonna make it.”

“We should go.”

They ran toward the rear stairwell, careful to keep their sneakers away from the painted line that ran in a rectangle around the open bay, just a few feet shy from the bunks. Inside that rectangle was the “kill zone”, and anything that went inside was dead fucking meat.

The privates weren’t dead meat. Not yet. For some of them that would come later, on nameless streets in Iraq or lonely stretches of road in Afghanistan. But for today, they were alive, and it was good to be alive, even if you were just cleaning your M-16 for hours at a time or force-feeding yourself cookies or shitting your shorts in front of your drill sergeants.

Arturo and Rench heard Drill Sergeant Bond scream, “Time!” when they were one flight up from the exit. Arturo cursed and they bounded down the rest of the way to the company training area.

The private who had pooped himself had disappeared. Arturo and Rench were the first ones down. They ran to the edge of the garden and lined up while the others jogged down and filed in next to them.

“You were late, dicks!” Bond’s voice rasped and broke, as it often did when he yelled.

“Gas, gas, gas!” he said.

The privates popped open their cases and pulled out their promasks, donning the black rubber masks with practiced speed. Rench pressed his palm to the canister and inhaled. Condensation from his breath began to fade away from the plastic eyelets. He had a good seal.

“Five seconds!” Drill Sergeant Bond said. Rench and Arturo had managed to don their masks; the other privates weren’t so lucky. “You two,” Bond said, pointing to the dicks who still struggled with the straps of their masks. “You’re dead. Privates, the rest of you run the sprints, but carry your buddies. They’re fucking dead because they’re stupid and you’re all stupid because you couldn’t eat the cookies in time and you had to eat the cookies because you’re fucking short and your recruiter failed you because you’re so fucking short and he let you in the Army anyway. Being in the Army doesn’t make your dick bigger, morons. Small dick is for life.”

Drill Sergeant Bond paused to stare at the privates, their insect faces black and grotesque.

“Pick up your buddies and run the suicides. Go, go, go!”

The survivors picked up the prone bodies and limp limbs of their comrades, putting them in two-man carries that dragged the casualties’ feet along the ground. They pumped their legs and dragged their dead friends toward the lines in the concrete. First line. Back. Second line. Back. Third line. Back. Last line. Back.

Repeat.

“Back to the line!” Drill Sergeant Bond said. The privates rushed back to the edge of the garden. “Your idiot friends are alive again. Stand up on your own, dicks.” The dead privates came back to life. Everyone breathed heavily into their masks, their eye ports fogged over. Rench looked at the garden and saw a sunflower growing out of a pile of woodchips. He wanted to stomp the life out of it.

“All clear!” Bond said. The privates took their masks off, carefully replacing them in their carrying cases.

“Now you know I’m serious when I give you a mission, right?” Bond asked.

“Yes, Drill Sergeant!” they answered in exhausted unison.

“Good. So when I give you a task, you’ll complete it, right privates?”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant!”

“Good.” He glanced at his watch. “You have three minutes to finish the rest of the cookies.”

The privates groaned.

“Eat up, privates. Time mother-fucking-now.”

Rench suppressed the urge to vomit. He clenched his butt cheeks tight against a suspicious fart. He stumbled over to the cookies.

Sugar, chocolate, butter, and salt. They made mockery of his determination and willpower.

The drill sergeants smiled. The privates choked back vomit. Sweat dripped onto concrete. The sun set over distant green hills, and everywhere was beauty and misery.

Rench suddenly realized that coming here had been a mistake.

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The Stolen Herd by K. Madill – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Title:  The Stolen Herd
Author: K. Madill
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (February 20, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1482640023
ISBN-13: 978-1482640021
Kindle:B00GBQ9V8O

Purchase at http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00GBQ9V8O

About the book:

Mandamus is only a foal when his herd is captured by the terrible Rakhana Army. Rescued and raised in secrecy, he knows nothing of his heritage until a dreadful incident in the woods brings him to the attention of the Forest council – and everyone else. Sent away for his own protection, he is determined to seek help on behalf of the many animals who have gone missing from the forest, including his own family.

With the help of a troubled man and a stout-hearted bat, can Mandamus save his fellow creatures before it’s too late?

First Chapter:It was a pale spring morning when a green butterfly failed to save the Alsvid herd. The wind, brisk in the early hour, carried the small creature in its swiftly flowing current. The sun had not quite risen but lit the edges of the world, colouring the sky a still and sullen grey. The butterfly, whose name was Gideon, pulled out of the rigid breeze and swirled down to the empty field below. Landing on a fat coneflower, he hungrily searched for food. An inky black bat swooped and darted behind him.

Gideon took a deep gulp of nectar and then shook his head sadly. He turned to the bat that had landed softly next to him.

“Well, Arkas,” he said gloomily. “I tried.”

Arkas nodded sympathetically and dug around the flower bed, as if he hoped to find something tasty.

“I should have put an arrow through Arion’s heart,” said Gideon, plucking half-heartedly at a petal. “His…and the rest of the horses. They’re all are as good as dead now, anyway.”

Arkas chirped in agreement then scrounged up a strawberry and stuffed it in his mouth. He had begun rooting around for more when a rumble of thunder shook the sky. The ground began to quiver and the trees that lined the meadow swayed wildly from a sudden, howling wind.

“They’re coming!” yelled Gideon over a sharp crack of lightning. “Let’s go, we have to find Daleth and Mareva.” He dove into the air and sped away while Arkas flapped closely behind.

 

* * *

 

Mareva awoke with a jolt. Her mate, Hengist, flicked one gray ear at her movement but did not wake. The cave was quiet in the early morning. The queen mare took a deep breath. The tangy smell of smoke reached her nose and lit her senses with an uneasy spark.

She shook her chestnut coat and stepped carefully through the sleeping horses of her herd to the entrance of their cave. Looking out, she faced a long stretch of white sand and deep green sea. As she listened to the rush of the surf, her instinct began to nag in slow whispers. She listened closely, and then crept out of the cave. A cold wind whirled around her, bending the flowers and tearing the leaves from the trees. Shielding herself behind a gnarly oak, she peeked down a worn path to a clearing where several figures were gathered. 

Are those humans?” she asked herself, drawing a deep breath. “Yes…that is the smell of man, but…it’s different somehow.” She inhaled again. Her nose picked up the scent of unfamiliar horses—a dusty smell that didn’t match the burnt-grass odour of her herd, the Harena. She moved closer for a better look, jumping when thunder crashed closely overhead. A storm was coming.

“Do you smell that?” asked a voice from behind. Her younger sister, Daleth, a golden mare with amber eyes and a pearly mane, had followed her. “That is the stench of man and his fire.”

“It doesn’t smell like a regular man,” Mareva said with a puzzled frown. “And that fire is black—that’s not a normal flame. There is something else… a strange scent I would not associate with humans.”

Daleth studied the clearing through narrowed eyes. She flared her nostrils, testing the air for herself.

“You are right, Queen Sister,” she agreed. “It smells like an animal that has lain dead in the sun. It is the Rakhana Army, the Silver City’s most dreadful pick of soldiers, led by that reprobate, General Caucus. That’s him there, the tallest one. I’ve tasted that scent before.” She pushed her sister with her muzzle. “We should wake the others and hide further in the cave.”

“Not yet,” said the queen, for her instinct had begun to whisper again, telling her to wait… or she would miss it. “Miss what?” she thought as watched a terrible scene unfold in front of her.

The Rakhana had caught a herd of horses, trapping the terrified animals in a ring of black fire. With fat whips, the men lashed any horse that tried to dash out of the blaze. General Caucus, his face hidden by a glinting silver mask, had cornered the herd’s king. The stallion reared and struck, but the man quickly leapt out of the way and jabbed the horse with a long stick. A jet of blue flame stunned the creature and he crumpled to the ground. Men swarmed the horse, tightly pulling ropes around his thrashing form. The general attacked the stallion’s mate with bolts from his weapon until she too collapsed, only with a loud ‘snap.’ He stood over the mare and watched her flail on the hard ground.

“Oh, no,” Daleth whispered in horror. “Her leg is broken.”

General Caucus pulled a small, silver ball from his cloak and aimed it at the wailing mare, who scrambled to get to her feet. A thunderous boom rang across the field and the mare was still. He kicked at her limp form and then strode away to where the stallion lay struggling against the ropes. Mareva strained her ears and fought to pick up what the man was saying, but his words were lost under the stallion’s furious whinnies. The sisters huddled miserably together.

The moon still cast its faint light across the land as Gideon and Arkas reached the beaches.

“What pretty green wings,” said Daleth dryly, spotting the butterfly who landed at her side. Arkas squealed and flapped over to Daleth. He nuzzled the large horse affectionately.

“Daleth,” Gideon said breathlessly. “It is good to see you, old friend; you too, Mareva.”

“Never mind that,” said Daleth impatiently. “What are you doing here, Forest Man? You’re only a lucky charm for humans. Anytime I see you, it usually means trouble.” She tossed her head warningly at him.

“Gideon, what is going on down there?” asked Mareva anxiously. “Who is that herd?”

“It’s the Alsvid. That fool, King Arion, came here to make a deal with Queen Asura. She wanted animal Bonds with his herd for her soldiers of the Rakhana. In exchange, she promised them immortality.”

“What?” Daleth shrieked. “Immortality…has he been bitten by a rabid fox? How ridiculous!”

“I thought the Alsvid were dead against Bonding,” Mareva murmured.

“So did I,” answered Gideon. “But her falsehoods fed his large ego. He actually believes his herd legends about being created for the Gods and he was lured by the lies of Asura and that wizard of hers.”

“Oh, don’t tell me that scoundrel of a magic maker, Dazra, is still hanging around and stinking up the castle?” Daleth hissed. “Why he and Asura weren’t beheaded for killing their human king is beyond anything I’ve ever…”

“They weren’t beheaded because they rule the Silver City now, in his place,” Gideon interrupted. “Most people still believe their lies about him dying in a riding accident. An accident while atop your back.”

“Hmpf,” Daleth snorted. “So, they’re still up to their two favourite pastimes, trickery and untruths, are they? I see nothing has changed since I left.”

“It’s gotten worse,” Gideon answered grimly.

“Did you not tell Arion what that so called “queen” has been doing to the animals in the Silver City?” Daleth asked bitterly.

“Of course I told him,” came the reply, followed by a soft pop.

Where a butterfly had been only moments before, stood a tall, lean man. He had a bony face lit by fierce, green eyes. His long hair was the colour of tree bark and he wore a green cloak that brushed the tall grass. Arkas flew up and roosted on his shoulder.

“You’re getting old, Gideon,” said Daleth, studying the lines on his face.

“If Arion was coming to make a deal with the queen, then why are the Rakhana rounding them up?” asked Mareva quietly.

“Because she had no intention of giving them immortality,” Gideon said angrily. “She just plans on turning them all into warhorses. I came to warn him that it was the army coming to meet him, not her, but he didn’t believe me. What a fool.” He watched the soldiers with an expression that was both miserable and furious.
“Oh, no,” Mareva whispered, “the entire Alsvid—finished.”

“Not quite,” said Gideon turning to her. “I managed to do one thing right today and that’s where you two come in.”

“What do you mean?” Daleth asked.

“I took his foal.”
“Good heavens, you did what?” gasped Mareva.

“I took him,” Gideon replied. “Like I said, Arion wouldn’t believe me when I told him the army was on its way. I stood there arguing with him as the minutes ticked by and with each one the Rakhana grew closer. So, I changed to my butterfly form and teased his foal into following me. He’s so young; there’s no way he could have made the journey from here all the way to the Silver City. The first time he tried to lay down to rest, the Rakhana would have just left him there…that or killed him.”

“Where is he?” Daleth asked.

“I hid him in that brush, just over there.” Gideon pointed to a clearing further up the edge of the forest.

“Oh, Gideon, his son…” Mareva whispered unbelievingly.

“He’s your son now,” said Gideon. “Mareva, I need you to keep him here at the beaches and raise him as your own.”
“Wait a minute, you mean you want us…?” Daleth began.

“Daleth,” interrupted Gideon, “I don’t trust anyone else to take him. There’s more to this and I don’t have time to…” he stopped short, as if taking a cue from the worried looks on their faces.

“There is a legend,” he said as the violent wind that whipped his hair, “about a man who rides a ‘white-eyed steed; Alsvid are the only horses to have white eyes, as far as I’ve seen. I must keep him safe. What if he is the horse from the myth?”

“A legend,” Mareva muttered. “But if the legend is about a man and men are rounding them up then wouldn’t—”

“No,” Gideon interrupted shortly. “I need you to trust me, Mareva. Now, tell no one he is here except for the Forest Council, do you understand me?”

Without waiting for their answer, he and Arkas disappeared in a rush of green smoke.

“Good old Gideon,” said Daleth with grudging affection. “Always running around sticking his nose in everyone’s business—turns out it was a good thing, this time.” She turned to Mareva. “You stay behind me and if I tell you to run, you do it, no matter what. Let’s go find that foal.”

Daleth quickly led her sister in the direction that Gideon had pointed. As they reached the small clearing, Mareva caught the fresh-morning scent that always accompanied a young horse. She pushed past Daleth and poked her face into a small hillock.

Huddled in the weeds was a small, shaggy foal. His coat was the deepest shade of midnight and his hooves were as black as coal. He would have looked like a perfectly ordinary horse if not for his white, glowing eyes that shone like two full moons in the dark morning. He looked up at Mareva’s looming figure and gave a surprised snort.

“Daleth, my goodness,” Mareva whispered in amazement. “Look at this!”

“Let me see him,” said Daleth, shoving Mareva aside. She eyed the odd shape on the colt’s flank—a white spiral, bordered with a scattering of tiny, silver spots. “There is his mark,” she muttered. “Alsvid, indeed; we should get him to the cave.” She stared back out at the Rakhana army.

The Alsvid had stopped fighting and were grouped miserably under a swollen storm cloud that had settled solely over them. Under a shroud of pounding rain, the soldiers bound the horses into a long line. The largest soldier led the limping king stallion to the front of the row and began dragging the horse away.

“That is not a fight we can win,” Mareva said warningly, after seeing the blazing look on Daleth’s face. “And if the Rakhana see you, you will be caught too. Come, Sister, we have to get this foal to safety.”

“Quickly now, little one,” Mareva whispered to the small horse. He shakily got to his feet and they rushed him to the trees outside their cave. Here, they looked him over.

“An Alsvid,” Daleth said wondrously. “I’ve never seen one before. Look at those strange eyes. Oh, how I hate leaving them to this. Now that the army has them, who knows what dreadful things fate has in store for them.”

The foal sank to his knees and laid down between the sisters. Mareva began to wash his coat with soft, gentle licks. Comforted by the queen horse’s affection, his strange eyes grew heavy, and with a deep sigh, he fell fast asleep.

“Look at that,” said Daleth quietly. “He’s settled right in already. How lucky for us too, what with no foals this year.” She swished her tail and gave the foal a small push with her nose.

“I worry about what Hengist will say.” Mareva said with a frown. “Bringing a strange male into the herd will seem like a challenge to him, don’t you think? He won’t like it at all.”

“Well, that’s too bad for Hengist, isn’t it?” Daleth answered, laying her ears back. “You are the Queen of the Harena herd and your stallion will do as you say, if he knows what’s good for him. Besides,” she added, “Gideon told us to take him and trust me—you do not want to go against his wishes.”

Seemingly satisfied with this reasoning, Mareva finished grooming the foal. “There you are,” she whispered. “You don’t need to worry; we are your herd now.”

“I wonder what his name is,” Daleth mused. “Gideon, that twit, he forgot to tell us.”

“Now, now,” chided Mareva. “Gideon might not have known it himself. This poor, little fellow; he must have one. I hate the thought of changing it on him.”

“Well, he can’t tell us what it is and we have to call him something,” Daleth said logically. “What should it be?”

“I don’t know,” answered Mareva as she got to her feet. “You’ve never had a foal. Would you like to name him?”

Daleth looked pleased. “Well,” she replied, licking her lips. “My Bonded human used to shout a very strange word just before he led his army and me into battle. I don’t know why he said it—it didn’t seem to have any effect on the enemy, but he did it every time. I always loved the sound of that word. To me, it meant victory.”

“What was it?” asked Mareva.

“He yelled, ‘Mandamus.’”

“Mandamus,” murmured the queen. “What does it mean?”

“He told me that it meant “we command,” in a very old human language, spoken before creatures decided to use the Common Words that we and the humans share now.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Mareva said with a frown. “That sounds dangerous to me, naming him after a human battle cry. It could bring all sorts of problems and we don’t want that for him.”

Daleth snorted. “Right, well if you think this little guy is going to go through this life without running into any problems, then guess again—no one gets off that easy. For starters, he is the last of the free Alsvid… I’d say his troubles have already begun.”

“‘We command,’” said Mareva thoughtfully. “Shouldn’t it be ‘I command’?”

“Absolutely not!” Daleth answered. “Who should be allowed to command on their own? You said I could pick what we call him; now, let’s name him.”

Mareva smiled at her sister’s stubbornness. “Mandamus,” Mareva said softly, touching the foal’s forehead with her muzzle. “By the Goddess Epona, we will call you Mandamus.  Mandamus of the Harena.”

The sisters stood over the sleeping foal and listened to the fading sounds of his herd being forced away. When the sun finally rose on that dreadful morning, the Alsvid and the army were gone.

About the author:

Karai MadillA chronic “head in the cloudser” K. Madill lives in a rickety house on a well treed street in British Columbia, Canada.  When she’s not hanging out with her best equine friend in the woods she can be found trying to stay upright on her roller skates or mediating the affairs of her various furred and feathered friends that rule the aforementioned rickety house. 

K. Madill’s website: kmadill.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/K-Madill/161159890706088

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KaraiMadill1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20643483-the-stolen-herd

 

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Categories: Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures by Joe Sergi

Sky-Girl-Front-CoverTitle: Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures
Genre: Young Adult Superhero Fantasy Adventure
Author: Joe Sergi
Publisher: Martin Sisters Publishing (May 28, 2013)
Pages: 272
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1625530277
ISBN-13: 978-1625530271

Buying Link:  AMAZON

Being a teenage girl is hard enough, but for DeDe Christopher, it is proving impossible.

In addition to cliques, books, and boys, she has to worry about capes, apes, and aliens. Last year, DeDe discovered that she possessed fantastic abilities that were strangely similar to those of a comic book character named SkyBoy.

With the help of her best friend Jason, a self-professed comic geek, DeDe accepted her legacy and became Sky Girl. Now, DeDe must learn what it means to be a heroine as Sky Girl faces the all too real enemies and allies of SkyBoy, including the clever Quizmaster, the beautiful Penny Pound, the enigmatic Jersey Devil, and the magical MissTick.

DeDe must also face personal challenges as she discovers the secrets of her late father and his connection to Skyboy–secrets that will affect Sky Girl’s destiny.

Book Excerpt:

Jason turned toward the tunnel, watching with a mixture of fear and excitement as the figure emerged from it. DeDe had run up against several villains in her short career as Sky Girl, but this guy was the big one: Professor Z. He was the cream of the crop, the greatest at being the worst. After all, Professor Z was the villain that had beaten SkyBoy. Jason squinted as the villain stepped into the bank from the tunnel.

An overweight, masked teenager dressed in black spandex and a black cape exited the Z-Gate. The ill-fitting spandex failed to fully cover his mid-section, and his stained white undershirt poked through. The tunnel vanished as quickly as it had formed, causing the villain to trip over his cape and sprawl out on the bank floor. As the villain regained his footing and tried to stand, Jason noticed that the fiend’s cowl-like mask had shifted and sat askew, so that one eyehole was blocked.

“Aw, man!” exclaimed the villain.

Jason cleared his throat, and the teenager in spandex turned to look at him. He smiled as his eyes met the villain’s uncovered one. ”Um, hi. Are you a super villain?”

“Hi. And why, yes, I am,” he said as he readjusted his mask.

“You know, they never mention in the movies how hard it is to keep the mask on.”

Jason nodded knowingly as he remembered DeDe’s many complaints over the summer during their mask trials. “I know what you mean. You know, a little spirit gum will hold that thing right in place.”

“Really? Spirit gum? Like the circus guys use? I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks.” The man smiled and then looked over at the wall.

“Well, okay then. Nice meeting you. I have, you know, villainous work to do.” He moved toward the vault.

Jason threw up his hands. “Wait!”

“Yeah, what?”

Jason stared at the overweight spandex-clad teen. “Um, you cannot just rob the bank.”

The villain stared at him. “I cannot? I mean, I can’t?”

Jason rolled his eyes. “Duh. First you have to announce your fiendish intentions and tell everyone your name.” Jason looked around the bank. Only the old woman remained.

The villain appeared to think for a moment. “Well, okay then. I guess there is some merit to that.” The villain took a deep breath and attempted to sound menacing as he spoke. “I’m Alex, and I’m here to rob this bank.”

Jason stared at him with an annoyed look.

“What?”

“Alex? Really?”

“What’s wrong with Alex?”

Jason glanced at his watch and hoped the police would be there soon. “It is a little plain. You want a name that invokes fear, like Professor Z, or Evil Brain, or Commander Chimp.”

Alex pursed his lips in thought. “I know—my mother always wanted me to be a doctor. So call me Doctor Doom!”

Jason shook his head from side to side. “That name is taken by a Marvel Comics villain. Trust me, you do not want them coming after you for infringement. They are owned by Disney now.”

“What about Doctor Destiny?”

“Nope. DC Comics.”

“Doctor Midnight?”

“No way.”

“Doctor Horrible?”

“Joss Whedon used that one. Neil Patrick Harris played him.”

“You mean that Doogie Howser kid?”

“Yeah.”

“I loved that show. How about Doctor Strange?”

“Marvel again.”

“Doctor Evil?”

“Oh, come on. You are not even trying now.”

The duo’s debate was cut short by the sound of sirens. Alex peered out the bank window. “Aw man, now the police are here. I didn’t even get to rob the bank.”

Jason smiled. “You had better go. You do not want to face them without a name.”

Alex, the nameless villain, pressed a button on his gauntlet and the tunnel reappeared. “Yeah, I don’t really have any weapons either.”

Jason chuckled. “Going back to your evil villain’s layer?”

Alex looked confused. “You mean my evil villain’s lair.” He stressed the last word. Jason pointed into the tunnel, and Alex read his spray-painted sign. “Darn it! You know, I thought I might have spelled that wrong.” Alex raced down the tunnel as the police broke into the bank. Jason watched as the glowing lights of the Z-Gate shrank away and vanished.

Jason threw up his hands as the police approached him. He could hear the security guard began to groan his way back to consciousness. “He is gone now. I do not think he took anything.” “Did he say who he was?” one of the officers asked.

Jason smiled. “Not really.”

Categories: Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE OVUM FACTOR by Marvin L. Zimmerman

Title of Book: THE OVUM FACTOR
Genre: Fiction/Adventure/Thriller
Author: Marvin L. Zimmerman
Website: www.theovumfactor.com
Publisher: Synergy Books

Summary:
Destruction of Earth’s ecology threatens the survival of humanity. With time ticking away, a clandestine think tank of scientists and world leaders has identified our last hope – the controversial research of a Nobel Prize – winning professor aimed at unleashing the power of a unique molecule that can alter the course of human history.

When David Rose, a young investment banker from New York, is assigned to evaluate the professor’s research, he soon becomes swept up in a whirlwind of international espionage, assassination, and sabotage. David finds himself on a journey that takes him to the unexplored depths of the Amazon in order to fulfill two ancient prophecies for saving mankind and at the same time to realize his own destiny.

From New York to Califonia, from China to the slums of Rio de Janerio, and into the Amazon, the search for the mysterious source of this rare molecule will take you into the heart of the unknown and unseen forces of nature.

Ask the Author:

“The Ovum Factor is a unique blend of high concept thriller with Indiana Jones’ style adventure, Michael Chrichton’s scientific twist and the intrigue of the Da Vinci Code. Can you give us examples of why this is so?”

The Ovum Factor combines the imaginative scientific premise typical of Michael Crichton with the tense intrigue of a novel by Dan Brown – all told in the swashbuckling style of an Indiana Jones adventure.

A Noble Prize-winning professor from Caltech discovers a unique new molecule that will vastly increase the brain development of babies while still in the early fetal stage. He hopes that a future new generation of geniuses will offer humanity our best hope for solving the almost insurmountable problems we have created, including irreversible climate change, destruction of the natural world and imminent pandemics by virulent new micro-organisms.

The only problem is that this miraculous molecule is so complex in its chemical structure that it has so far proven highly elusive to synthesize in the laboratory. Ultimately, the only recourse is to find its only natural source which has been established to be a rare plant used by a reclusive Indian tribe living somewhere in the immense Amazon rainforest.

Parallel to this central theme, there is never slackening intrigue as assassins and saboteurs working for ultra-conservative groups try to stop the research at all costs. There is also international espionage by foreign agents whose only motive is to profit from the immense commercial value of this extraordinary molecule.

Apart from its important underlying message about the impending environmental apocalypse facing humanity, The Ovum Factor is also a thrilling adventure. The unlikely hero, David Rose, a young New York investment banker, finds himself stranded in the most remote part of the Amazon. He must battle his way past hostile Indians and the unforgiving jungle as he tries to find the source of the mysterious plant. His seemingly impossible challenge is made even more difficult when he comes to realize that he must succeed to save the lives of those he holds most dear.

As David’s journey toward his true destiny unfolds, there are constant twists and turns that will lead to an ending no one could have anticipated.

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Categories: Adventure, Fiction, Thriller | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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