Kings of Kal'brath Book 2
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Mother is angry.
Humanity will pay for their tresspasses, but only Elan can save them from complete extinction.
Fifty years after Mother's awakening and the resulting cataclysm, humans have become an endangered species. Continents changed, islands were lost while others rose from the sea, and landscapes were changed forever.
The Summerland's Elves were called forth by Mother's will to clean her wounds, rid her of the filth that humans left behind, and somehow save those who had survived the world-wide catastrophe.
Elan, however, has more on his plate than just saving humanity from extinction. The Nymph population has sent assassins to hunt humans to finish what Mother had started. Their true goals unknown, Elan is fighting a war that he doesn't truly understand.
Amid the hidden war, Elan struggles against his desires and his duties. His true love, Jenna is may not survive the soul-bond that most elves only hope for. However, Linolde, who wishes to marry him, is arrogant, abrasive and only wishes to mate for his power.
- Race Against the Dark
- Healing Wounds
- Twilight's Children
The First Book in the Mother Duology.
The Kings of Kal'brath series is a string of stand alone novels and duologies set in the same universe where Mother, the sentient planet, cradles the races of three parallel worlds: Adradis of the elves and other magical races where the continent of Kal'brath resides, Earth of the magicless humans, and Morka of the magic-negating bashkai. Each book brings back favorite characters for more fun, romance, and gripping adventure.
These light fantasy romps are sure to be favorites you will want to read again and again.
Elan was one of the first to hear the plea. Mother was awake, and she was angry. He felt her tremors as she rose from her deep slumber. A ripple, as through water, riddled the land. A call from the Elite demanded all elves within the world herd the beasts through the gates, from predators to the helpless.
Mother’s words rang in his ears. “My children, flee to the Summerlands. Take what you can of my beasts. Save my children.”
Her words came punctuated with ground tremors. She coughed on the smog that polluted her air. She choked on the oil, garbage and toxic waste that polluted her water. Her temper flared in volcanic bursts and wouldn’t be held off for long.READ MORE
Elves raced against time, going to every remote corner of the earth to open the veils. With great care, they herded every beast through these portals to the Summerlands. And when the last elf was through, and the gates closed, Mother’s temper exploded.
The most dormant of volcanoes blew their tops along with those most active. Ash and fiery rain spewed onto the earth in all directions. Lava flowed and coated the land in a thick crust of dead black scabs and living red blood. This was only the beginning.
Watching through the scrying bowl, Elan witnessed every detail. Earthquakes shattered the land. Mountains leveled to nothing and others formed anew as the world’s armor shifted and collided into buckles of scarred earth. Buildings fell, broken and twisted into unrecognizable forms. Fires spread and humans tried to flee to safer places. The highways clogged with traffic. Accidents littered every street and thoroughfare. As most tried to get to higher ground, some found this an opportunity to loot deserted buildings for their treasures and money.
The earthquakes lasted for three years, hitting all the world, from below the seas, to the highest mountain, changing the entire landscape. Each time the land settled, great waves washed over the land. Every country was already without power and running water. Water lines had burst. Oil refineries and gas stations exploded into gulfs of fire. Every pause, water came in to clean the land and extinguish the flames.
The world was dark, and each new sunrise brought with it new death tolls. Those still lucky enough to be alive tried to hide their mounting terror as they searched in vain for their lost loved ones and prayed they hadn’t suffered the fates of their neighbors. There was no building left standing. Children had died in their schools. Entire families perished in the safe houses meant to keep them alive through such a catastrophe. Military and private bunkers lay in caved-in ruins. Firetrucks that had tried to respond to the distress of the people laid crushed under the weight of fallen trees and buildings.
Elan’s heart hurt. Tears flowed down his face as he witnessed women searching in vain for their children and husbands. Children’s agonized wails pierced his heart as he watched them rock over their dead parents as they failed to wake them up. Husbands and fathers carried their deceased families, trying to find a bare patch of land to bury their losses. He couldn’t watch anymore and turned away from the scrying bowl. It was too much to bear.
He ran to his father and begged for days to be allowed to help the humans, but each time Kennan turned him away. Forced to watch once more from the scrying bowl, Elan mourned the fact he was powerless, no matter how much magic he could wield. He couldn’t go against Mother’s will. She was angry, and her punishment was absolute.
In just three years, the earth was little more than rubble and shards of glass. Rivers of lava divided the land into segments. Roots had come up from underground and wrapped around vehicles, roads, highways and anything else they could surround, and squeezed. What stores of gasoline and oil remained had ignited, setting everything left ablaze.
More earthquakes split the world’s largest landmasses into chunks, separating them forever. Deserts were now harbors. Forests were growing at exponential rates. New mountains had formed and reformed through the continuous land upheaval. What few humans prevailed against Mother’s wrath hid where they could. Most didn’t know what to do, some lived with their battery powered camping gear that perhaps lasted a week, some prayed in frantic whispers and desperate shouts to their gods to save them, others cursed their gods for the hell they were in.
Elan begged to accompany his people back through the gates. The surveyors took great surveys of each landmass. Kennan led the first expedition, sending Elan with the surveyors to help chart the new landscape of Earth. King of the Summerlands and an Elder, Kennan was Overseer of Earth. As the land’s most powerful magi scanned the land, Kennan sat on a convergence of ley lines and listened.
Mother was fully awake, and in her first conscious thought after her purge of the land, she was in agony. She couldn’t breathe. As Kennan communed with her, even Elan could hear her voice, soft as a spring breeze, gentle as a mother’s coos to a child, pained as a woman in labor.
“Return me to when I was young, my Children. Take these abominations that have scarred me and return them to whence they came. Get the refuse out of my veins. What has happened?”
“You have slept, Mother,” Kennan’s voice rang through every elf’s mind. “The humans chased us off into the Summerlands with their machines and their lust for war. Their bombs and cars choked us. We didn’t know what to do, but leave them to their destruction and hope they killed themselves off or created their own peace.”
“You left me, Child. It is up to you now. That which has been erected by humans, destroy. That which has been destroyed by humans, rebuild. That which has been humans’ greatest blessings unto me, strengthen. Hide from them no more. You are their elders. They are but short-lived children. You were born to care for me and protect me. You have failed. Make sure this never happens again.”
“As you will it, Mother, so it shall be.” Kennan’s voice was shaky, unlike anything Elan had ever heard from him.
With new purpose, Kennan formed the deconstructors—magi who were the most powerful in controlling and reshaping the elements. These elves came from all over the elf world of Adradis, and under Kennan’s direction, banded together in groups. Kennan sent them to all the corners of earth in the human plane in a combined effort to renew Mother’s body on the realm of Earth. Where they could create, they could also destroy with their magic. It was the destruction they sought. Anything the humans had made, from buildings to cars, highways to sidewalks, they reduced these and more to base atoms.
The process had taken fifty-three years. Elves still found the earth inhospitable. The air was too hard to breathe. The deconstructors worked with magical filters over their noses and mouths. They urged mother to grow dormitories for them to dwell in during their work and begged for more trees to filter the smog from the air.
With most of the rubble gone, water magi pulled water from oceans, rivers, lakes and streams to wash away the dust left from their work. Still, they sought hidden garbage sites that lay hidden and filled over with dirt. For the surface, these were the last remnants of the toxicity humans had left. Aquatic elves, called mermaids by the humans, worked in the seas to rid the ocean of sunken ships, submarines and other underwater hazards—similar to the ends the deconstructors above still pursued—while salvaging what lost beauty they could find.
Through all the deconstruction, Kennan allowed only a few things to be saved and preserved. Sites such as the great sphinx of Egypt and the pyramids to the Stonehenge in what used to be England—these wonders he ordered left untouched, and they remained surprisingly whole from Mother’s razing. Such ruins had been made before the world went to such terrible chaos. Paintings and sculptures they salvaged and brought through the gates to the Summerlands. The sculptures in the sea they left to become reefs as the human sculptors meant them to be. They kept their promise, saving the beauty that the humans had made, while wiping the ugliness from the world.
While the deconstructors worked on the last reserves of human filth, the Elders worked on reconstructing Mother’s veil. Her atmosphere had reached dangerous levels and needed mending. This feat would take centuries.
With the mass reforestation that Mother nurtured into full bloom in such a short time, the air became clearer. It became easier to breathe the air every day. Any human found, the elves rounded up into colonies built for them. They cataloged and governed them. Elan watched with dismay as his brethren quashed revolts with magic that the humans just could not fathom. Something had to be done.
“It has been fifty-three cycles since Mother has taken her children back to a new beginning, my Lord.”
“I know this, Elan.” Kennan sighed as he met Elan’s eyes. “I know your plea all too well and have heard it dozens of times this cycle alone.”
“Then why do you still refuse? Kennan, the humans are lost. They don’t know Mother like we do. They can’t hear her. They still think she is just a planet, they don’t know she is sentient. They don’t know how to care for her. They’ve lost this base instinct. Just because she punished them doesn’t mean we should let them all die off.”
“And what then, Elan? Let them regroup? Let them regain their electronics, machines and factories so they can kill her off again and fill her with their precious garbage, smog and acid rain?”
Elan rolled his eyes. “Teach them! Teach them how to live, Kennan. Teach them instead of fleeing to our realm every time they piss you off.”
“Such eloquence, Child. You will do well to know when to hold that tongue of yours.”
“I am not a child. The humans, Kennan, the humans are children. They will not know any better unless we take the time to teach them, and guide them. Would you have killed me fifty three cycles ago if I had missed my mark in archery?”
“You are my child, Elan, lest you forget that fact. You are barely an adult. We took fifty cycles to render their machines, cities and refineries to atoms. The landfills are still being managed. Mother’s wrath and the deconstructors laid their homes to waste. I am quite surprised they are still alive. It was Mother who demanded this, Elan. Who are we… who are you to go against Her will?”
Elan frowned and folded his arms across his chest. “I am an Elf. Mother said that the humans should be punished, and razed her surface on her own. Who are YOU to tell her that wasn’t enough? Who are YOU to tell her that the entire race should be eradicated because YOU are afraid they will make her do it again?”
“Enough.” Kennan’s voice went hard. “I will hear no more of this. You are done.”
“I am nowhere near done, Kennan. Not even close.”
“Why do you hold these humans in such high regard, Elan? Answer me that.”
“They are alive. You taught me from a babe to respect and love life, from the smallest ant, to the largest tree. Or, did you forget teaching me that, Father?”
“I also taught you to respect your elders, and to hold criminals accountable for their actions.”
A smirk spread onto Elan’s face, and he closed his eyes, tilting his head down. “So, even though we have no euthanizing laws for most criminals, and since no single human did the damage on purpose, you are damning an entire race to death for something their forefathers started centuries ago in the name of progress. I’m not even sure I want to be an elf anymore. Not with bigotry like this in the ruling force.”
Kennan stared at Elan for a long moment, his eyes narrowed. He stepped across the room, his crimson and gold robes floating about his ankles and bare feet. With a sigh, he stopped over an onyx bowl and poured water into it from a crystal pitcher.
“Come, Elan. Gaze with me.”
His voice was firm. “Come here. Now.”
Elan felt power in those words. It was raw and even though Kennan’s voice never rose above a soft conversational tone in all the years Elan had been alive, he knew the Elder was cross. Finding his feet disobeying him, he stopped just in front of the scrying bowl and looked down into it.
Kennan touched the center of the water with the pad of his right hand’s middle finger while his left hand held the sleeve of his robe out of the way.
“What do you see?”
The water swirled with images. Humans screaming and then vaporized as an atomic bomb went off. Nuclear weapons exploded. Bodies flitted by in grotesque poses from the numerous ways they were murdered and maimed. Homeless men and women begged for food and clothing from the rich who ignored them. Parents beat children to death. Husbands beat wives. Wives beat husbands. Children killed their parents. Rowdy men and women forced animals to fight each other to the death for sport. Wealthy owners beat their horses for not performing well in races. Puppies drowned, tied in burlap sacks. Bound kittens lay mangled after being run over multiple times with a tractor. Laughing boys buried cats in a yard and mowed over their heads. By the end of it Elan shook with quiet sobs and hugged himself.
Kennan didn’t stop the images, but skirted around the bowl to hug Elan from behind. He pressed a kiss to the back of his neck and rested his forehead there.
“Are you sure you want to save people capable of these atrocities? This… this is their nature. This is what they have evolved into. In a few cycles, they will remember that they were a race of engineers, scientists and geniuses. They will find more ways of rebelling against us. What then, Elan? What do we do then? Do we fight back harder and risk them hurting Mother again? Do we hide and let them reclaim this land so that Mother is forced to eliminate the ones left? What do you suggest we do?”
His breath hitched in his throat, and for the first time in a century, Elan turned and pressed his face into his father’s hard chest and cried. “I don’t know.”
Gasping, Kennan hugged Elan hard and guided him over to a chair. Without a word, he pulled his grown son onto his lap as he sat and held him like he had so many epochs before. They sat in silence for a while, the only sound being Elan’s soft sobs. A messenger came in, but Kennan waved him away. It wasn’t until Elan relaxed a little that Kennan stroked his hair and spoke, gentler than before.
“My son, your heart is bigger than your body. I understand your concerns. I do. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have asked our deconstructors to set up colonies for them. The humans ignored them, used the wood for building and kindling. They do not want to learn. They reject change and call us tyrants.”
Elan clutched to Kennan’s robes, his body shuddering as he whispered, “I don’t know what to do.”
With a sigh, Kennan hugged Elan tighter and leaned his forehead against his son’s. “I want you to go with the deconstructors. Find the waste pits the mortals call landfills and help with the cleaning. Render bodies to Mother as I taught you. Plant a seed for every human you find and take them to the colonies.”
Nodding, Elan coughed and tucked his face in the curve of his father’s neck. This earned him another tight hug and stroke of his hair.
“When you return, we will talk of this further. Hopefully we will both be less emotional.”
Frowning, Elan pulled away just in time for a tear to drop from his father’s cheek to his own. Lifting a hand, Elan caught another of his father’s tears and stared at it, fascinated.
“I’ve never seen you cry before…”
A musical chuckle rumbled in his father’s chest, and he kissed Elan’s forehead. “As much as you’d like to think I am, my son, I am not made of stone.”
“I know.” Wrapping his arms around Kennan’s neck, Elan hugged him properly and sighed. “Thank you.”
His father was only too happy to hug back, his hands rubbing along his spine. “I love you, Elan. Never forget that.”
“I won’t. Not ever.”
Elan stood before the gate. Foregoing the robes of his station for more rugged attire, he wore form fitted leather breeches, well-made leather boots with thick soles, and a green and gold embroidered vest, leaving his arms bare for the late spring heat. The deconstructors wore similar fashion, though the head of the expedition kept her robes to be more easily distinguished from the rest of the elves.
The head, Linolde, was a beautiful woman, and one whom Elan greatly respected. She was one of his first teachers in the magical arts. He stood next to her now, and even though he was not her equal in talent, he was tentatively her equal in power.
“Open the gates.” Linolde’s words held similar power to his father’s, though her voice was a little more abrasive. Two deconstructors stepped up to the gates and held out their hands. Magic glowed within their skin and focused in arcs onto the gates. The gates themselves looked like ordinary trees, but with the magic of the deconstructors, they came alive to become doorways from the Summerlands of the elves to Earth—two of the three known planes of Mother’s existence.
With the gates now open, the deconstructors filed through. The trees rippled with each body that passed through it as if they walked through a screen of water. Elan was the last to go through, his heart racing in his chest. The last time he had enjoyed the Earth side of the gates, the world had been filled with the roar of motor vehicles, the stench of exhaust, and the scorching heat from asphalt under foot.
As he emerged on the other side, a smile came to his face. No more black-top wound through the landscape in heat-trapping ribbons. Birds sang a chorus in the trees. The air wasn’t quite clean yet, but it was crisper and smelled much better than he remembered. Looking around, he chuckled softly.
“It’s beautiful. Such a remarkable difference.”
Linolde turned a toothy grin on him. “Better than scrying, isn’t it? You can’t really appreciate what we’ve done here through a bowl of water. You have to be here—feel it. We’ve made a spectacular difference in a very short amount of time.”
Elan nodded and headed to a tree, placed his palm on the bark and closed his eyes. The forest was alive—living, breathing and feeling. Elan could feel the love in the forest pulling him in like his father’s hug until his forehead rested against the bark. With a sigh, he chuckled and shook his head.
“It never gets old.”
“What doesn’t?” Linolde rested a hand on his shoulder.
“No matter where the seeds come from, whether from here or the Summerlands, the resulting trees on this side of the gates are always… so glad to see me. Does it feel the same way to you?”
She giggled and looked at him as if he’d just told her he grew another set of genitals. “You definitely are your father’s child, Elan. There is no mistaking it.”
His grin turned sad as he pulled away from the doting tree. “It is unfortunate for you that you can’t feel such joy from the forest you help to cultivate. I couldn’t imagine not feeling such things.”
Linolde giggled again and with a light touch, flicked the tip of his tapered ear. “Come on, Lover Boy. Stop flirting with the lovely trees and let’s get some work done.”
“Where are we going first?” Elan stepped away from the tree and flipped his braid back over his shoulder.
“To the East. We’re currently in what used to be Pennsylvania in the North American continent.”
“Ah, I remember that place. It was one of the prettiest places I had been before the razing.”
“Yes, I remember as well. Though, much has changed, Elan. Stay close. The landscape has transformed dramatically since you were last here. It is almost a completely different world to what you knew.”
Elan nodded and let Linolde lead the way. As she had said, there was nothing he recognized, and he had traveled the entire state more than once in his youth. Humans were never one of his main interests, but exploring was high on his scale of things to do. Every time his father had gone through the gates, Elan had begged to go with him. He was rarely denied.
Lost in his own thoughts, he mentally cataloged what he saw. A map formed in his mind, and when they stopped to take scans, Elan pulled out a ledger his father had given him and drew the map his mind created along the way. When he finished, writing appeared under it, his father’s elegant script was unmistakable.
“Ah, good. I have copied this to our records. It will be verified when the cartographer goes to make her scans. This should help greatly. When you next have a few spare moments, Elan, I would very much like you to give me readings from the forest.”
Elan laughed and scrawled a few words. “My first reading… I was laughed at. Why do so few elves not understand our bond with the forest?”
“That will be a lengthy discussion, my son. For now, suffice it to say, that you and I are gifted.”
Linolde called the scans to a halt. They had found a dump site nearby, and it would be an arduous trek through some steep paths up the mountain and down into an uncharted valley. Closing the ledger, Elan stuffed it back into his satchel and marched on.
“Kennan keeping tabs on you?” Rynhon murmured next to Elan’s ear.
Rubbing it, Elan laughed and swatted his face away. “Not keeping tabs as much as I am giving him information as I come across it.”
The deconstructor cuffed him on his shoulder and smirked as he fell into step at Elan’s side. The elf was beautiful for a man with broad shoulders and a small waist, wavy black hair that flowed to his thighs and piercing green eyes that twinkled with amusement more often than not. He was nearly the same age as Elan, if a few cycles older.
“They told me you were coming on this trip, and I thought you were just here for the sight-seeing tour.”
Elan laughed and bumped Rynhon’s shoulder with his own. “Kennan does not approve of such things, Rynhon. You know this as well as anyone.”
“Then why are you here? Surely you aren’t here to actually get your hands dirty.”
“That’s a particularly snide remark coming from my closest friend. May I ask what brought that on?”
Rynhon wrinkled his nose. The amusement had left his eyes. “It’s nothing. I’m sorry, Elan.”
Frowning, Elan circled Rynhon’s waist with his arm and pulled him closer. “It’s something, or you’d not have said it.”
“Mmm, I don’t know. It’s just that Kennan has been keeping you to himself these last few ages. You being here makes it seem like there’s something of importance going on that no one else is privy to.”
Grinning, Elan gave him a squeeze and let go. “I have my orders, Rynhon. But, it isn’t as grandiose as you make it seem. I’m here to catalog what I see, plant a seed for every human we come across, and help out where I can.”
“He seriously sent you here to plant seeds and document humans?”
“I suppose you could put it that way, yes. Is there a problem with that?”
Rynhon wrinkled his nose again and glanced down the sheer drop that was the side of the mountain they were crossing. “No. I’m just concerned. It’s treacherous out here for such a quest. But, it isn’t my place to question your orders. It’s just good to have someone to talk to on trips like these.”
“Oh, and I suppose dodging cars while riding horses was safe as babes in bassinets.”
“Not quite, but this has its own dangers.”
Elan nodded. He’d heard of some of those dangers. Humans still having guns and ammunition with them, traps laid out for elves, or even traps laid out for animals that elves get caught in. There were many things to watch for.
His thoughts were pierced by a woman’s scream on the other side of the ridge. Every elf in the company surrounding him, even Rynhon, took an offensive stance. Elan frowned and bolted, running as fast as his legs could take him. Hearing footsteps behind him told Elan that the rest were at least following him, whether to help, or to catch him and make him calm down, he didn’t care.
The scream was one of pain. He knew that scream. Looking down the side of the ridge, he saw the fresh jags of rocks and jumped. Skidding down the side of the ridge was one thing, avoiding the jagged rocks was another. Holding his hands out at his sides, palms down, he concentrated his magic to his feet. Soon, he was standing on a glowing blue disk that moved away from the mountain and shot him down toward the dense canopy of trees that banked the slope.
When he found solid ground again, the disk disappeared with a thought and he broke into a swift run. The scream echoed against the rocks again, giving him a new direction. When he broke through the underbrush to a small clearing, his heart pitched into his throat.
The clearing couldn’t be over ten feet in diameter. In the center, a woman was lying on her back, writhing in pain, her leg caught in a rusted bear trap. Her children hid behind trees, the youngest, a girl who barely came up past Elan’s hip, looked at him with wide, tear-filled blue eyes and shrieked.
“Mommy, get up! It’s a long-ear!”
Elan frowned and lifted both hands. “I won’t hurt your mommy, child. Be brave.”
Taking a few tentative steps toward the woman, he paused as she crawled away from him. The chain that anchored the trap, however, kept her from going far.
“Miss, stop. You are hurting yourself more than is needed.”
She buckled and sobbed. The little girl darted for her, but her elder brother caught her by the hand and hauled her back behind the tree again. Elan sighed and made his way to the mother’s side, placing a hand on her stomach after gently rolling her over.
“My name is Elan. I will help you, but I need you to cooperate. What is your name?”
“Jenna.” She kept her eyes closed, and her lips pressed into a thin line that wobbled with her sobs.
“Jenna. My friends are on their way down the slope. They…” He looked at the little girl again and smiled. “They are also long-ears. I need you to take slow deep breaths. I’m going to grab your knees and drag you closer to the tether so there is less strain on the trap.”
She nodded and pulled her arms to her chest. Elan tried to be gentle, but she screamed in agony as he bumped her leg on accident. Just then the deconstructors came into the clearing with Linolde leading, gray eyes flared with that inner fire of magic.
“Elan, are you mad?”
“She’s hurt, Linolde. Watch your tongue. Rynhon, can you mend her leg once we get this trap off her?”
Rynhon jogged over and looked along her leg, feeling in a few places. “It’s broken. I won’t know the extent of the damage until we get it off. Bina, can you get this trap off her without taking her leg with it?”
Bina, a young-looking elf woman, short in stature, grinned at him and bounced over. She looked and acted young, but she was almost an era older than Elan, and three times as powerful. “Get your paws out of the way, Rynhon.”
“Bina, try to be a little more professional. These people are frightened enough.”
“Oh, yes, sorry Elan. Move aside so I have less to work with.” When the two were out of the way, she flashed her pretty grin at the woman. “Right, Jenna, was it? I need you to lay very, very still. Breathe slow and deep and keep your leg still, no matter how much it hurts. Can you do this for me?”
Jenna nodded, and Bina held out her hands. A soft glow started in the center of her palms and radiated to her fingertips. After a long moment of the magic gathering, it focused out from her fingertips to the bear trap. The red light slowly engulfed the rusted metal, and once encased, the light’s intensity grew until the metal was no longer visible. Too bright to look at, Elan averted his eyes to the woman’s face, and once the light ebbed, he looked down and the trap and tether were gone.
Jenna’s leg looked like a hunk of raw meat on a snapped drumstick. Elan’s attention was once again on the children as the young boy fought to keep the small girl behind the tree. Holding out a hand to them, Elan smiled. “Come, children. I’m sure your mother would be comforted with your presence. She’ll be fine soon.”
Suddenly, they weren’t fighting anymore, and the little girl did her best to climb her big brother like a monkey on a tree. Chuckling, Elan smirked. “Or not. Watch from over there.”
Jenna started to relax until Rynhon prodded her leg. Taking the woman’s hand in his own, Elan smiled down at her. “Let him work, Jenna. Everything will be fine.”
Tears streamed down her cheeks, and she looked up at him. “Why are you doing this?”
Sighing, Elan gave her hand a squeeze and thought on that. “My father taught me to love life, from the smallest ant to the tallest tree, Jenna. No matter what your kind might think, we are not your enemies.”
“Elan…” Rynhon’s voice was abnormally soft.
“What is it?”
“There’s so much damage I can’t heal her properly here. It will take time… hours, maybe a few days. She needs to be transported to a colony so I can work on her where we’re all in a bit more comfort.”
Elan sighed and gave Jenna’s hand a squeeze. “Rynhon has bound your leg to stop the bleeding. I need you to tell your children to obey us so they don’t hurt themselves or get lost. We’ll get you cared for, but it is a good distance to the nearest colony.”
“Elan…” It was Linolde this time.
“Linolde, Rynhon and I will take Bina with us, and go on our own. Meet us at Claxis at nightfall with your reports.”
“This isn’t your call, Elan.” Something wasn’t right. Elan turned to her, his eyes narrowed.
“And it is yours, Linolde? Or did you forget your place?”
“Don’t use that tone with me, Child. I taught you.” Her voice was dangerous.
“Do not forget that this Child is also three classes above you in the caste, Linolde. You will do as I say, or I will have you removed from the team and send you back through the gate. Now, you have a mission to accomplish. Do what you can toward it, and at nightfall, I expect to see you and the deconstructors at the colony. Do I make myself clear?”
Her eyes bored into him, and it took two deconstructors to bow to Elan before she even blinked. Snorting, she whirled around and headed off, barking orders to the deconstructors behind her to follow.
With her gone, Elan laughed and covered his face. He took a moment to sober, but when he did, he smiled down at Jenna. “I do apologize for you having to see such a display. Come, call your children and we will be under way.”
Looking confused, Jenna furrowed her brows and looked over at her hiding children. Voice raspy with pain and a need for water, she tried to call them over. Without realizing it, she moved her leg and erupted in another hoarse scream of agony that made Elan’s stomach pit.
“Land’s breath, Elan… knock her out before she goes into shock.”
Nodding, Elan rested a hand on her forehead and stroked his thumb along the bridge of her nose. “Sleep, Jenna. When you wake, we will be in another place.”
She was powerless against the spell, and as it took hold, her entire body went limp in one instant. Both her children darted from their hiding places, the girl screaming like a wild child.
“You killed my mommy! Get away from her!”
Bina caught the girl and Rynhon rounded up the boy. Both wrangled the children over to their mother so Elan could explain. “Look at her chest. She is breathing. I put her in a deep sleep so she doesn’t feel the pain. I promise you, we will get her safe, and get her help, but we need to be able to count on you both to stay close so we don’t lose you. Can I get your names?”
The boy frowned and stared at his mother, then turned a hard gaze on Elan. For as young as he was, his eyes spoke of maturity beyond his years. “I’m Sam, this is Alyssa. Mom’s gonna die, isn’t she?”
Elan flashed him a cocky grin. “Not if Rynhon has anything to do with it. Keep hold of your sister and try to keep up. If she needs to rest, Rynhon or Bina can carry her.”
Reaching down, Elan got an arm under Jenna’s shoulders and one under her knees and with gentle care, lifted her up as he stood. It took him a moment of gentle shifting before he had a good hold on her, but he managed. While they had been talking, Rynhon had splinted her leg for the journey, and now made a few adjustments to the makeshift bandages.
“Let’s make this quick, Elan. The rust on that trap could give her what they call tetanus. It’s nasty from what I have seen, so we need to hurry.”
Bina grinned. “We could always gate there.”
Elan frowned. “I’m willing to risk my father’s wrath on a great many things, Bina, but the sanctity of the gates is not one of them… for now. Let’s move.”
Starting a quick pace, Elan deftly moved through the trees due west for the Allegheny Colony, Claxis. Sam and Alyssa were good about keeping up and proved to be almost as deft at forest travel as the elves were. For a child as young as Alyssa was, he half expected her to complain every few hundred feet, but she kept silent and watchful as if walking long distances were the norm.
When they neared a river, Elan looked back to Rynhon who nodded and jogged ahead of the group. By the time they made it to the bank, a glowing translucent bridge crossed the expanse. Elan walked across with calm assurance while Bina tried to herd both frightened children over it.
“It is safe, Sam. The longer you take, the more energy Rynhon needs to maintain the spell. Come along,” Bina urged.
Sam nodded and took hold of Alyssa’s hand and half dragged the wailing girl over the bridge. When all were across, it vanished and Elan continued walking.
“Thank you, Sam,” Elan began. “We need Rynhon’s energy and magical strength at its best so he can work on your mother when we get to the colony.”
Sam fell into step with Elan on the side supporting Jenna’s head. Alyssa tagged along behind him, a hand gripping the back of his shirt. They walked along in silence for nearly half a mile before Sam looked up and started asking questions.
“Why aren’t all long-ears like you, Elan?”
Taken aback, Elan laughed and glanced down at him. “Are you like your grandfather was? Is your sister like your mother?”
His face scrunched up at that and he went silent again, but the silence didn’t last. “Why have the other long-ears—”
“Sorry. Why have the other elves been so mean to us?”
“Mean? What do you mean, ‘mean’?” Elan furrowed his brows, but kept his eyes on where he was going.
“Well, every time we came across a lon—an elf, they treated us like we were animals, like we were dumb.”
“Ah, I see.” Thinking on that, Elan stepped over a fallen log and sighed. “How old are you, Sam?”
“Fourteen cycles… Fifty three cycles ago, Sam, long before you were born, Mother awoke. The earth beneath your feet is alive. She thinks, she feels, she suffers. Your kind had scarred her badly in the last few epochs, and when she awoke, she was angry and razed her surface, killing many. My kind, however, have forgotten that if Mother wished for humans to be eradicated from her, she wouldn’t have left survivors. They view you wrongly as criminals for what your forefathers have done.”
“But you don’t.” Land’s breath that boy sounded so old.
“No, I do not. We are old, Sam. I turned fifteen hundred and four this cycle, and I am barely out of my puberty. Rynhon is eleven cycles older than I. Bina is one thousand and four cycles older than I. Your race… has to grow up so fast, and then you are gone. Such short lives, but you think of it almost as an eternity. Time moves in different ways—or we perceive it so—for our races in some aspects, Sam. I view your race… as children. You need to be taught how not to hurt Mother, how to care for her, and how to listen to her. Only with this base understanding will our races ever truly get along.”
“Then why hasn’t any elves taught us?”
“I don’t yet have an answer to that, Sam. Not yet. When I have it, I will let you know.”
Sam grinned and looked up at him. “For an old man, I’d thought you’d have all the answers.”
Laughing, Elan shook his head. “With age comes wisdom, not omniscience.”
“Uh… what’s that mean?”
“Omniscience means you know everything, all the time.”
“Oh. Okay.” He looked up and tangled his fingers in his mother’s short hair. “Isn’t mom heavy?”
“Would you like to carry her and find out?” Elan smirked and glanced over at him.
“Uh, no thanks.”
Chuckling, he shook his head. “No, she is not heavy. In truth, she feels too light. How long have you lived outside of the colonies?”
Sam went silent for a long while. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet and held a hint of fear. “We came from a colony to the south, when Alyssa was still tiny. Dad called mom a horn because Alyssa didn’t look like him like I did, and beat her. We left not long after, because the colony leaders said he wasn’t doing nothing wrong, and mom shouldn’t have been a horn.”
Elan frowned, a brow perked. “Hor—oh. Oh dear. How old is your sister?”
“She’s almost eight, will be in the winter.”
“Seven cycles in the forest alone? I’d not be surprised if you told me the three of you were half elf.”
Bina laughed at that. “It doesn’t take a human to be half elf to overcome adversity when it’s forced on them, Elan. You should know that by now.”
“Yeah… what she said.” Sam’s grin was lopsided and warmed his entire face. It looked better on him than the frightened scowl.
“Look, through the trees.” Elan motioned ahead with a jut of his chin. “The colony is just ahead. We’re almost there.”
Sam grinned again and looked behind him. “Good, maybe then Alyssa can sleep in a bed instead of on Rynhon’s head.”
Looking back, Elan chuckled. Alyssa sat on Rynhon’s shoulders. The elf’s long hair lay braided about his neck like a scarf, and the girl was bent over his head and out cold.
“She looks good on you, Rynhon. You need children,” Elan teased.
“Shush, you. Just because I’m good with them doesn’t mean I want any.”
“Pity.” Smirking, he turned to Bina. “Would you run ahead and let them know to get a bed ready in the infirmary and some food for the children?”
Nodding, Bina took off through the forest and disappeared through the trees. It took the rest of them another fair few long moments to breech the edge of the forest. The gates to the colony were open for them, and as they made their way inside, the people watched them with poorly disguised contempt. One man came over and tried to take Jenna out of Elan’s hands, but Bina caught him across the chest with her staff.
“You touch either of them, Mister, and I’ll take your hands off.”
“She belongs with her own kind.” He was gruff and almost mountain-like. His arms were large from hard labor, his skin weathered and leathery. His eyes were hard and impassive.
“Well, my Lord… if you, by chance, have a capable surgeon who is willing and able to tend her leg without amputation, then be my guest. Otherwise, kindly get out of my way and lead us to the infirmary so that my friend can heal her wounds. You will better spend your aggression on getting these dear children some food.”
The mountain man narrowed his eyes and looked at Jenna’s leg for a moment, then stepped aside. “Get her fixed and get out.”
Alyssa was awake by then, still sat on Rynhon’s shoulders. Sitting up straight, she put her little hands on her hips and frowned at the man. “Mister, you got a stick up your butt, or did someone pee in your porridge this morning? You sure are ornery.”
Bina burst into a fit of giggles, and Rynhon followed suit in a merry cackle. Elan couldn’t help but chuckle, but bit his lips together to keep from making quite as much fuss as his two companions. “Alyssa, that wasn’t very nice, but I thank you for sticking up for us. Bina, lead the way, please, since this gentleman refuses to cooperate.”
Bina picked her way through the throng of people and once she found the infirmary, Elan was finally able to lay Jenna down on a clean cot. Rolling his shoulders, he allowed himself a moment to stretch, and took Alyssa from Rynhon so he could get to work.
“Sam, why don’t you come with me. Bina will make sure Rynhon and your mother are protected while he works on her leg. Right now, I bet you two are hungry.”
Alyssa nodded and tucked up close to him, still sleepy from her nap. “Is mommy gonna be okay?”
“If Rynhon has anything to do with it, darling, she will be fine.” Elan rubbed her back and once they were in a cafeteria, he sat down with her and settled her onto his lap. “What would you like?”
“I dunno, what they got?”
A worker came over and stared Elan down. “The kids can eat. We don’t got food for the likes of you.”
“Your kindness knows no bounds, my Lady. I am fine for the moment. The children will get what they desire.”
Alyssa wasn’t having any of it, though. “Lady, why you gotta be so mean? This nice elf ain’t done nothing to you. He saved my mommy, and his friends are healing her all better.”
Sam sat closer to his sister on the wooden bench. “Shut it, Lyssa… you’re going to get us into trouble.”
“I don’t like it here. People don’t have any manners,” Alyssa groused.
Snorting, Elan buried his face into Alyssa’s auburn curls and laughed. He took a moment to compose himself, but with a clear of his throat, he sat up straight again and took a deep breath. “All right, settle down, sweetheart.”
“You’ll do well to teach them kids when to shut up, long-ear.” The woman scowled and went to the back without their orders. When she came back, she had two plates of broiled fish and roasted vegetables on a tray, and a large bowl of fruit and nuts. Setting them on the table, she flipped the tray up under her arm and frowned at them. “I hope you can pay for that.”
“Pay? You mean you have currency here? That has been outlawed.” Elan started to dislike this place just as much as Alyssa did.
“Yeah, you been away a long time, long-ear. Things have changed. We ain’t listening to your ‘laws’ no more.”
“And what exactly is your currency, Madam?”
“Agnes, go back to your kitchen,” an elderly man spoke up and came to the table. The woman frowned and bustled off in a huff. When she was gone, the man gave a rueful grin. “I apologize for her. She tries to swindle bartering things from any elf she sees. I’m Alfred, the colony’s current leader.”
Elan nodded, still wary. “I am Elan, and these children are under my sole care until their mother is healed and healthy enough to care for them herself.”
“Ah, I heard of her. What happened?”
“Bear trap,” Sam spoke up through his mouthful of fish. “Kind of silly, since game meat’s outlawed.”
“So is fish, Sam,” Elan reminded.
“Oh yeah…” He set the fish down and frowned at it. Elan patted his shoulder and pointed at the fish. “Don’t let its sacrifice go to waste. Finish eating.”
“We are humans, Elan. We need meat. We don’t get enough nutrition from plants and what the elves so sparingly give us.” Something in Alfred’s tone didn’t sit right.
“Yet, other colonies are getting along just fine with the meat we provide from animals that are not endangered. Somehow yours is different?”
“Damn right this colony is different. Our men and women work. We need more than just your table scraps.”
Elan perked a brow. “However, you produce only for yourselves. Other colonies produce for everyone, including neighboring colonies. So, your point is invalid. Would you care to try again, Alfred?”
Alfred purpled with rage. In a huff, he turned and hustled out as he muttered something about ‘business’ he had to tend to. When he rounded the corner out the door, Alyssa puffed out her cheeks and frowned.
“I don’t like him,” she said, hands on her hips. “He’s hiding something, Elan.”
“Ah, from the mouths of babes.” He chuckled and ruffled her curls. “I get that feeling too.”
“I’m not a violent person,” Sam admitted, “but that man made me want to punch him in the face.”
“Well, aggression does come with your stage in life, Sam,” Elan said with a grin. “If you need to haul off and hit someone, just make sure it is me… and that I am not holding your sister at the time.”
“Why would I ever want to hit you,” Sam asked incredulously.
“I quite like sparring,” he replied. “I find it fun, as well as relaxing.”
“Meh… It might be good to learn how to protect mom and ‘Lyssa, but I got no real interest in it.”
“Perhaps something else to cool your steam, then,” Elan offered with a tilt of his head. “I may have a few options, but we will visit those later this evening. You and Alyssa will most likely be in my care for a few days while Rynhon works on your mother.”
“I can live with that,” Sam agreed. “Doubt there are any open units, though. This place looks pretty packed.”
“Yes. Yes, it does.” Elan sighed and looked around. “We will erect our own unit, then.”
Sam’s eyes widened as his brows tried to find his hairline. “Build one before nightfall? Are you insane?”
Elan grinned and shook his head. “No. I’m magical.”COLLAPSE
Bonnie Mitchell on Amazon ★★★★★ wrote:
This book takes place generations, 53 years, since Mother (the Earth) decided to purge mankind from her. She was furious that humankind had desecrated her while she was asleep and her temper snapped. There were natural disasters, continents were reshaped, oceans were reshaped and humankind was just about wiped out. The elves were charged with reconstructing the earth and restoring Mother to full health. Any humans who survived the purge were rounded up by the elves and kept in colonies.
Elan is the Prince of the Summerland, son of Kennan, the King and Kennan was the elf who was at the forefront of the healing (ie reconstruction) efforts. Elan and Kennan didn’t see eye to eye on how the humans were being treated and what happened to them. Elan actually didn’t speak to his father for 53 years because of that. They reconciled when Kennan showed Elan exactly WHY the humans needed to be kept under a firm hand and kept under watch. Because they would do the same thing and the Mother would have to take drastic measures.
The story truly begins when Elan goes through a gate to what used to be Pennsylvania. Kennan wants him to plant seeds and document the humans. Almost immediately, he hears a scream and when he goes to investigate, he finds a human woman caught in a bear trap….with her children hovering near her. A fear of the elves (the little girl called him long ear) is present in the children and in the young woman but the elves are allowed to help her out of the trap. They learn that her name is Jenna and her children’s names are Sam and Alyssa. One of the elves, Linolde, objects greatly to Elan helping Jenna but she is put in her place by Elan.
They take her to the Allegheny Colony to be healed and Elan bonds with her children and learns that Jenna has been living on the outskirts of the colony. They fled her husband and the colony that she came from because her husband believed that Alyssa wasn’t his (because she didn’t look like Sam). She was beaten and stoned but managed to escape. Certain people in the colony (I believe it was her ex husband) followed her colony to colony and would stone her. Finally, she started living in the woods and moving as soon as she found out they were at the colony she was near. So, to be honest, life sucked for her until she met Elan.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for them once they get Jenna situated into the colony. Sam is attacked by a wood nymph, Linolde is acting up and, when Jenna’s leg is healed, Elan is told by the Mother that she needs his seed to make a baby with him and that she was his mother (which was a huge ewwww moment for me) and Elan and Jenna soul bonded (which means that they are basically married in the Summerlands). They were unsure if she would survive the bonding….seeing that this is the first time that it has happened. But she does.
They (and the children) go back to tell Kennan what happened. He is overjoyed and he dotes on the children. Elan has to go back to the colony and while he is there, Kennan and Jenna are attacked. While they are being attacked, Sam and Alyssa are taken to some ruins and then they are trapped inside a magical house where they can’t get out.
The rest, well you have to read the book to find out what happens. The wood nymphs are featured heavily in the last part of the book. Lugh, the King of the wood nymphs, did remind me of a tantruming 3 year old….lol.
The ending was perfect. All of the storylines were wrapped up in a satisfactory way and I loved seeing a certain elf getting her just dues!!!
**I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it**
Wonderful, absolutely wonderful.
I loved this story it was almost as good as the first in the box set. I love elves and magic and love and the bonds and helping humans and there is so much going on but it turns in so well. You would think with all that is involved it would be chaotic, but on the contrary it is so smooth and seamlessly written. I refer this to anyone who loves fantasy and elves and magic. It's a Wonder!