Thursday, June 5, 2014

Prince Of Malorn by Annie Douglass Lima

One major obstacle stands between seventeen-year-old Prince Korram and the throne that is his birthright: Regent Rampus.  Temporary ruler of Malorn, Rampus has no intention of giving up his position when the crown prince comes of age – or of allowing the prince to live long enough to reach that age. 

Desperate to build an army of his own to stand against the regent, Korram treks into the Impassable Mountains to try to recruit the one segment of Malornian society not under Rampus’s control.  But can he lead a band of untrained hunters and gatherers to victory against the full might of the Malornian military?  Or will they all be crushed by the grasping hand of the regent before the prince can claim his rightful throne?


Excerpt

PROLOGUE
Ernth whistled cheerfully as he strolled around the edge of the meadow beside the grazing goats, spear in hand. Out of habit, he kept glancing back and forth to watch for predators, though there were no concealing bushes or boulders close by.
His friend Otchen and Otchen’s sister Jenth patrolled the meadow’s other side, and Ernth found his eyes straying in Jenth’s direction. He and Jenth had both earned the honor that came from succeeding in the Rite of Acceptance the previous spring, an ordeal Otchen had faced a year earlier. The three of them recounted tales of their experience over the campfire nearly every night, staying up late laughing and boasting about the dangers they had faced long after everyone else had gone to bed.
The friends had gotten to know each other much better since mid-autumn, ever since Otchen had arranged for Ernth to spend a year with his family. Now that he had been Accepted, Ernth had the right to temporarily leave his own family and travel with anyone who would have him. But lately he had been discovering that he enjoyed Jenth’s company even more than her brother’s. And Ernth was nearly certain that Jenth felt the same way about him. There was just something special about the way she smiled at him, the way she teased him now and then.
The stillness of the autumn morning was shattered as a small figure came tearing up the slope toward them. “Guess what! Guess what I found!” the boy panted. Otchen and Jenth’s brother Rith, though not old enough to have his own spear yet, had taken his staff and gone prowling around to make sure nothing was lurking on the hillside nearby. Or so he said, but Ernth suspected the little boy really planned to enact one-sided battles against make-believe dangers from his own mind. Rith had quite an imagination, and his face was full of excitement now.
“What is it?” Ernth demanded as he and Jenth and Otchen hurried over. Was this another one of the boy’s games?
“There’s a Lowlander village close by! It’s right over there!” His eyes wide, Rith pointed downhill in the opposite direction from their camp.
The others frowned. “Are you sure?” his sister demanded. “Or are you making things up again?”
“No, this time it’s true! It’s just around the side of the slope. There’s twenty-five buildings. I counted!”
The other three glanced at each other uneasily. They hadn’t known they were in Lowlander territory, and it was not a pleasant realization. Of course, this being late autumn, the family had been traveling on the mountains’ lower slopes, since many of the high peaks were covered with snow already. In the spring when the weather grew warmer, they would move higher up, where melting snow would thicken the grass into the lush carpet that was the most nourishing for their goats and horses. But for the next few months they would have to travel the foothills, and it was not unusual to encounter Lowlanders there. Ernth’s family had occasionally traded with them, even venturing into Lowlander towns now and then to buy needed supplies. But it was never a pleasant experience, and his older relatives had warned him more times than he could count not to go near them if he could help it.
“If there’s really a village close by, we should warn the rest of the family,” Jenth suggested. “They’ll probably vote to find somewhere else to graze the goats until we leave the area.”
“Do you think we should take the flock home now?” wondered Otchen.
“I’m sure we’ll be all right for the rest of the day,” Ernth protested. If they went home early, there would only be extra work for them to do down in the camp. “Besides, the Lowlanders don’t know we’re here. They won’t bother us if we stay away from their village.”
Jenth and Otchen nodded in reluctant agreement. Rith, however, was hopping from one foot to the other in his eagerness. “But I want to go back there. I hardly got to see it at all. I’ve never been in a Lowlander village before!”
“There’s nothing special about Lowlander villages,” Ernth told him. “They just have hard, square buildings with slanted roofs, and even their animals have to sleep inside.”
Rith wrinkled his brow. “Why would anybody want to live like that?”
“Because they’re Lowlanders,” Otchen told his little brother curtly. “That’s the way they do things. Now stay here with us and the goats. You’re not going back.”
“Don’t you want to see the village too? We could just go look,” Rith pleaded. “We wouldn’t let them spot us. There’s some rocks that we could hide behind uphill from the buildings.” He grinned at his sister. “Besides, I saw some fruit trees nearby!”
Jenth hesitated, running her thumb over the intricate carvings with which she had decorated the shaft of her spear. “What kind of fruit?”
“Apples. Your favorite! We could go pick some and not actually go close to the buildings. Then we could bring fruit back to slice up and dry for the winter, and the whole family would be happy, and I’d get to see the village one more time. Please?”
He gazed up at Jenth, wide-eyed, with a pleading expression on his little freckled face. Ernth had seen him use that look on his grandparents, who usually smiled tolerantly and gave in to whatever he was begging for.
His sister, not so easily swayed by his charms, frowned. “How close are the trees to the buildings?”
“Not close at all,” he hastened to assure her. “We’ll be safe. Come on!”
“We ought to stay with the goats,” protested Otchen. “It isn’t safe to leave them alone, and it definitely isn’t safe to get too near to Lowlanders.”
“Why don’t you stay with the goats,” Ernth suggested. “I’ll go with the other two to gather some fruit. Jenth and I have our spears, so we’ll be all right. The Lowlanders probably won’t even notice us.” Not that he particularly cared about seeing the village, but he hadn’t tasted apples since last autumn. His mouth was already watering at the thought.
Otchen frowned. “Well, I don’t like it much, but I suppose it’ll be all right. Don’t be gone too long.”
Rith led the way downhill, crossing the slope diagonally, the invisible path he followed curving around to the right. It wasn’t long until he stopped before a jumble of boulders on the shoulder of the hill. “Look!” he whispered excitedly. “You can see the village from here.”
Ernth crept forward, half crouching, and peered around one of the rocks at the scattering of buildings on the shallow slope before them. In between and beyond the structures were fields of shrubs, all growing in straight rows the way Lowlanders liked to plant them. From their size and shape, Ernth guessed that they must be the bushes with the little red berries that tasted all right but had that hard green seed in the middle. He had no idea why anyone would go to the trouble of growing those berries in such quantities when there were so many better-tasting fruits available. But then, Lowlanders often did things that made very little sense. Lowlanders themselves could be seen walking back and forth along the rows of plants, probably picking those berries.
Jenth came up behind him, and his heart thudded a little faster when she put a hand on his shoulder. “Where are the apple trees?” she whispered, staring at the village.
“Over there,” Rith told her, scooting forward to crouch beside his sister and pointing to the nearest of the structures. Sure enough, Ernth could see three trees laden with red fruit just beside it.
“You said the trees weren’t close to the buildings,” Jenth scolded.
Rith shifted uncomfortably. “Well, I guess I forgot. But there’s nobody around. I’m sure they won’t care if we go pick some. Come on!”
“They probably will care,” his sister told him, frowning. “Lowlanders never like it when we come close to where they live.”
“I’ll go with him,” Ernth volunteered, eager to impress her with his courage. “You can stand watch here and whistle if you see anyone coming.”
“Don’t be silly. I’m not staying behind while you two have all the fun.” Jenth hefted her spear. “Let’s go.”
They stayed low, darting from rock to bush. Though the Lowlanders had no reason to harm them, Lowlanders often did things without any discernible reason, and it paid to be careful.
The trees’ branches were heavy with fruit. Unfortunately, none of the three had anything to carry it in, and the pockets in their tunics would only hold a few apples apiece.
Jenth set down her spear, peeled off her deerskin jacket, and laid it on the grass beside the weapon. She started plucking apples from the lower branches and tossing them onto the garment. The other two followed suit, and soon they had three growing piles. Ernth grinned, picturing the dried apple slices they would be able to snack on through the winter. He always got so tired of dried meat and fish in the cold weather.
A glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye made him whirl around, snatching up his spear. A Lowlander man had appeared from around the corner of the nearest building and stood staring at them. “What do you think you’re doing?” the man yelled. “Get away from my trees!”
As if a person could own a tree like they would a piece of clothing. But the man looked angry, so Ernth raised his spear, just in case. Seeing his weapon, the Lowlander immediately backed away around the corner.
“We’d better leave,” Jenth warned. “He might be going to fetch his friends.”
Ernth bent to tie his apple-filled jacket into a bundle, doing his best to wrap the sleeves around it so the fruit wouldn’t all fall out. Jenth quickly finished doing the same and stooped to help her little brother, whose apples were rolling across the grass.
“Let’s go,” Ernth urged. They picked up their bundles and turned to head back the way they had come, but something made him pause and turn around again.
The same Lowlander had appeared at the corner of the building once more, but this time he was carrying a bow. Not a little bow like the kind Ernth sometimes used to shoot rabbits or birds for supper. A big, heavy bow, the kind that could bring down a deer or a wolf.
Or a human.
“Run!” Ernth yelled, his heart lurching in sudden fear. Would the man really try to shoot them? Probably; he was a Lowlander. Everyone knew that Lowlanders would do anything if they got angry enough, even kill people.
The three of them sped up the slope. If only we had our horses! Ernth could hear the man coming after them, dodging the trees to get a clear shot.
“You thieving vagabonds! I’ll teach you to steal from me!” he yelled. There was a twang, and an arrow whizzed through the air above their heads.
Rith screamed. “He’s trying to shoot us!”
“Give back my apples, you filthy thieves!” bellowed the man from behind.
Another arrow whistled past them, this one just to their left. Perhaps the man was only trying to scare them. Either that or his aim was really bad, but they had better not count on that. “Drop the apples!” Ernth shouted to the others, who were ahead.
He fumbled for the knot in the jacket he held. He didn’t dare drop the whole thing – this was the only jacket he had – but maybe if he let the fruit fall, the man would leave them alone.
Jenth had the same idea and was shaking hers free. Ernth stumbled as the ground in front of him suddenly came alive with rolling fruit. Losing his balance, he tripped and fell sideways, still clutching his spear with one hand and his jacket with the other.
There was another twang, and before Ernth realized what had happened, a wooden shaft as long as his arm flew past his right shoulder, its feathered end whispering across the sleeve of his tunic. He cried out, more from surprise than pain, instinctively twisting his arm to peer at the shallow wound where the arrow had ripped through his clothes and sliced a furrow in the flesh beneath.
In front of him, Jenth stopped, whirling around at the sound of his cry. “Ernth!” she shouted, her voice panicked. Seeing him on the ground clutching his shoulder, she probably assumed he was more seriously wounded than he was. Dropping her jacket, she adjusted her grip on her spear, eyes filled with anger.
“Don’t, Jenth,” he gasped as she barreled past him down the slope, spear aimed at the Lowlander. Ernth turned and saw alarm on the man’s face, quickly changing to panic as Jenth continued to charge at him at full speed.
“Stop right there!” the man exclaimed, his voice shaking, as he fumbled for his last arrow. Jenth either didn’t hear or didn’t care, and the man raised his bow once more.
“Jenth!” Ernth and Rith screamed in unison as her body jerked and then fell to the ground. Ernth scrambled to his feet and dashed toward her, ignoring the throbbing pain in his shoulder. The Lowlander, his face white, turned and fled the other way.
The arrow sticking out of her chest was like something from a nightmare. It didn’t belong, but Ernth didn’t dare yank it out in case he couldn’t stop the bleeding. Jenth’s eyes were wide, her hands fumbling weakly for the alien length of wood that seemed to be growing out of her body.
“Jenth, Jenth,” sobbed Rith, dropping to his knees beside his sister.
“Help me get her out of here,” Ernth ordered. He knew it was only a matter of time until the Lowlander returned with his friends, or with more arrows.
The two of them tried to lift her, but Rith wasn’t strong enough and Ernth’s shoulder shot spasms of pain through him every time he moved his arm. “Run and call Otchen,” he panted finally. “Tell him to come quick.”
But the light was already fading from Jenth’s eyes. Ernth held her hand, his other hand clasped over his own wound. Tears were streaming down his face now. It couldn’t end like this. What about all his plans?

“Ernth,” she whispered faintly, and then that was all. Her hand went limp in his, her eyelids fluttered closed, and she was gone.





About The Author

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published six books (three YA action adventure/fantasy and three anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Purchase Prince of Malorn at:



Annie Douglass Lima is giving away an e-copy of Prince of Malorn. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for an e-book only.
 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know my peeps would love this...um, that is AFTER I read it :)

mandn(at)wisper(dash)wireless(dot)com

Annie said...

I hope you and your peeps all enjoy the book! I purposely wrote it to try to appeal to a wide age range, from kids to adults. Thanks for stopping by!

Annie Douglass Lima

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