When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.
This is Cara Marshall (Lady Cara Outworlder to the people of Narenta), a high school senior plucked from Earth and brought to Narenta to serve as the Three Peoples' deliverer from some particularly vicious sorcerers.
Cara is not pleased with the unplanned trip -- or her role.
As she might put it, "They've got the wrong person, and they're going to get me killed because they won't admit it! ... Ahh! I'm missing Rich's lesson on playing Quark Brigade!"
So much for vacation, Cara.
One hundred years ago on the world of Narenta...
Prologue – “Into the Place of Three Tombs”
“We won't need any more torches.” The old enchanter gestured toward the sparkle of blue reflecting off the cavern walls ahead. “Stream light will serve to guide us now."
Nortis bowed toward Lord Thaddis, then dropped the new torch he had just retrieved back into the moldy wooden chest by the wall. The partially-spent torch in his other hand cast sporadic light along the rough stone passage, picking out seepage paths and ice-edged pools underfoot. Nortis checked the rope knotted about his arm and examined the bonds on their prisoner’s slender wrists. As she strained away from him, little puffs of vapor escaped from under her voluminous hood, marking her rapid breaths.
She murmured, "Please! You're in peril! He isn't-"
Nortis fumbled for his dagger in alarm. He hissed a furious, "Silence!" intending to add more, but the telltale quaver of the single word convinced him that was pointless. Could there be any action borne of more folly than threatening a sorcerer, even one bound?
"What did she say?" Thaddis was already several yards ahead of them, the enchanter's bent silhouette defined more by the blue glow ahead than by the flickering torchlight.
"J-just 'Please!’. And I think she started to threaten me. Or us."
"Hmph! She can't harm us, Nortis. Trust me." Lord Thaddis turned and resumed walking toward the glimmering Stream.
Nortis used his forearm to blot his sodden leather sweatband. Then, drawing a determined breath, he nodded and tugged the rope.
Why had he told the enchanter only some of her words? He shook his head. Everything was confused - not as it should be. Though he loved and revered his master, he yearned to be finished with this task. To return to their home in the northern forest, the enchanter in his study and he taking care of his lord's needs and his modest retreat.
In all his travels, he had never visited a prison chamber devised for sorcerers, nor had he ever had charge of a follower of Wenos Zex. How vulnerable and fragile the bound Neroli female looked as she walked beside him. Who would think such malevolence could be spell-cloaked so thoroughly? Why did she keep up the pretense even now? What had she meant about ‘peril’? And the words, ‘He isn't’. Who? Lord Thaddis? He isn't what? Would to Alphesis he had let her finish her words!
And finish a spell of destruction as well? No, not possible. Thaddis said she couldn't harm them.
He was one of the Alphesaic Order sworn to defend the land from all forms of evil. That should be all the assurance he needed. It wasn't. Not today. Peril? The prisoner could easily guess that. Their peril would only increase when they reached the prison - home already to three Zexian sorcerers. Between parallel Streams was the hidden door Thaddis would have to open in order to incarcerate this newest offender. Could one or more of the prisoners get out during that brief time, and overcome his master?
Since his left hand no longer held a second torch, Nortis thrust it within the pocket of his woolen jerkin and gripped the silver amulet he had hidden there. With his fingers pressing the sacred seabird hard against his palm, he hurried toward the great Stream. The soft footfall of the Young One whispered beside him, but Nortis counseled himself to refrain from looking towards her. If she spoke again, he simply wouldn't listen.
As the enchanter drew closer to the sparkling blue light of Alphesis' Stream, he paused and lifted the five-sided wooden box he was carrying until it was above his head.
Nortis drew a breath, anticipating the chime-like language of blessed enchantment he had heard on a few precious occasions. Thaddis glanced toward him. Then, muttering guttural words mixed with hisses and whistles, he tossed the box upward as if aiming it at the rough-chiseled ceiling.
Nortis shuddered at the hideous sounds coming from his master's lips -- sounds only Zexian sorcerers would speak. This was nothing like the language of enchantment. Like the slow unfolding of a nightmare, his master's cloak darkened from enchanter blue to sorcerer dead black.
Horror ripping through him, Nortis stared at the colorless cloak. This was no trick of the light, no shadow cast by Stream-light. The prisoner struggled against the rope like a thrashing fish. Then voicing a cry of pain or despair, she squatted on the cavern floor and pressed her hands to her chest. With the hood over her bowed head, she looked like nothing more than a pile of quivering cloth.
He isn’t, she had said. How could she know more about his master than he did? Simple. She knew herself innocent, maybe guessed the real reason Thaddis wanted her. What was inside the box? Implements needed for a ritual?
Nortis collapsed against the icy wall for support. Loosed by his shaking fingers, the remaining torch clattered on the stone floor of the passageway. As the torchlight sputtered and died, Nortis saw Thaddis plainly for the first time. He had lied to himself even more thoroughly than Thaddis had lied to him. How could he have ignored the peculiar sounds behind locked doors, the scrolls whisked out of view when he entered the enchanter's study -- so many warning signs, so many hints about what his master had become? Too late now.
Thaddis, the sorcerer Thaddis, glanced back toward him and demanded, "Nortis! I told you to forget the torches. Bring the prisoner here. Quickly!"
Nortis pressed himself even harder against the chill stone at the brief glance, but Lord Thaddis was already facing the floating box and the Stream just beyond it. Lifting his hands again, the sorcerer spoke once more in Zexian chant, then thrust outward with his hands, palms forward. The waiting box ceased its hovering and obediently floated away from the bank out over the flowing stream light. Muttering in approval, Thaddis nodded as the box proceeded on its slow journey toward the far bank of the Stream.
Nortis scrabbled at the wall for balance. Cold malevolence flowed past him-Lord Thaddis striding toward the prisoner in his keeping. His knees seeming to melt, Nortis collapsed onto the cold stone floor. He barely felt the rope being loosed from about his arm.
Thaddis drew away, this time accompanied by the soft patter of a second set of footfalls. Yanking on the rope of the whimpering prisoner, Thaddis called over his shoulder, "Come along, Nortis!
Or I'll give them two instead of one!"
Nortis scrambled to his feet. His fingers and palm a solid fist about the amulet, he tottered toward the blue-green Stream ahead. Its light dazzled him, even though the brilliance was partially cloaked by the two figures standing between him and the bank. He noticed that Lord Thaddis had his hood pulled low over his eyes. He had done the same thing earlier that day, complaining of the sunset glare when they left the trees of Kolora behind and before they entered the cavern. Nortis forced down the groan of guilt that throbbed in his throat. While he had wondered about his lord’s gesture, he had been more occupied watching for a threatening gesture from the prisoner. No. He just hadn't chosen to admit what it all meant. After all, Lord Thaddis had been kind to him. For his own purposes, he reminded himself. He was daemagos, a sorcerer. His grip on the amulet was so tight the sharp edges of the silver seabird wings were cutting into his palm and fingers. He had only one hope left. Not even daring to move his lips, Nortis voiced a silent cry for help to Alphesis.
He needed to do something, but what? How could he leave the Young One female a prisoner in the sorcerer's hands? It was so obvious now that she could have done nothing so evil it required her imprisonment between the twin Streams. Lord Thaddis must need her for a ritual. What kind of-
Nortis' thoughts stopped abruptly with his steps. He was at the very edge of the Stream. Thaddis and the Young One were somewhere ahead, hidden beneath the flowing blend of water and light so vital that the Ancients called it Living Water.
A "Stream" bisecting a Mountainway passage
The dark rectangle marks the far side of the Stream & the continuation of the Mountainway.
Nortis started down the broad steps, his feet, his calves and then the lower part of his thighs caught in the fierce swirl and eddy of vibrant light. He grasped the crystalline blue link chain that crossed the Stream from bank steps to bank steps, and took a great breath. Then he stepped forward briskly, continuing down the steps until his head followed the rest of him into the glorious swirl.
He felt the touch of the water calm him, as he struggled towards the other bank of the Stream. His thoughts slowed their frantic scurry through his brain -- slowed, clarified, focused. He didn't have the strength to stop a sorcerer. Only an enchanter could challenge one of them. He might, possibly, be able to get the Young One free. Strategies for freeing her played out in his thoughts, and he knew with a crushing certainty that even that was beyond him. But he had to do something besides follow the daemagos meekly and watch him perform...
"Watch and remember."
The gentle voice seemed to come from the surrounding water, or from inside his head. Only the water swirling against Nortis' nose and mouth prevented him from gasping. The chain was tilting upward and his right foot found the first step of the submerged staircase leading up to the inner bank of the Stream. With an unconscious nod of awed acceptance, Nortis climbed up the steps and gasped a lungful of air.
The sorcerer and his prisoner were a few yards further down the inner passageway. Nortis took a few steps away from the Stream's bank, then felt himself stop. This time his failure to continue wasn't due to fear. He knew himself to be in the right place. He stood. He listened...
(copyright, Sherry Thompson)
If you want to read the rest, I'm afraid you'll have to buy the book.
by Sherry Thompson
Oh, so very many spoilers! Trust me! You don't want to be here!
The majority of “Seabird” takes place in the land of Tethra, on Narenta, a planet in which enchanters and sorcerers work opposing forms of magic.
Narenta is populated by the Three Peoples: The Neroli, or Young Ones, peaceful forest-dwellers,
The Peralike, or Elders, refugees from a destroyed world, they resemble Earth humans,
The Chosen, intelligent seabirds, they dwelt on Narenta long before the other two races arrived.
Three sorcerers, once imprisoned but released by an enchanter-turned-sorcerer named Lord Thaddis, are plotting their return to power over Narenta, and the Three Peoples are in need of a champion. They are given an unwilling champion in the person of Cara Marshall, a young Earth woman who arrives on Narenta just as events reach a crisis.
The Prologue takes place in a deep mountain passage on Narenta.
Nortis and a captive female Young One are taken by Lord Thaddis to the prison where three sorcerers are imprisoned. He offers to free them with a blood sacrifice if they will grant him rule of Tethra. They agree, but then betray Thaddis by allowing him to be killed in a holy stream. The freed sorcerers pledge that Lord Thaddis’ heirs will peacefully rule Tethra for the next hundred years. This pledge buys them the time they need to gather power and plot to take over Tethra.
Nortis escapes his master’s fate, although he loses a seabird-shaped amulet in the process. Having been instructed to watch and remember all that transpires, Nortis writes down his experience and sends the scroll to the Throne of Wisdom, on the Isle of the Chosen.
Part One begins just over a hundred years later on Earth.
While on vacation, Cara Marshall buys an intriguing silver seabird-shaped necklace. Shortly after making the purchase, she finds herself in the idyllic forest of Melwood on the planet Narenta. Here, she meets a group of Young Ones. The leader names Cara an “Outworlder” and tells her that she has been called to their world to serve as a champion for the Three Peoples. Cara denies she has a mission on Narenta, saying that the Narentans will have to deal with their own problems. She demands to be sent home, but the Young One leader refuses to comply. Ignoring a number of warnings and ambiguous explanations, Cara insists on going south to seek out enchanters amongst the race of the Elder Ones, whom she hopes will assist her in returning to Earth.
On her way south, events (including a run-in with the sorceress Rabada) cause Cara to have second thoughts about leaving Narenta. Finally, she makes the decision to go back to Melwood, and from there east to the Isle of the Chosen. Along the way, she is kidnapped, but is rescued by a huge osprey-like bird. She loses consciousness soon after being rescued.
Three days later, she awakes to find the seabird, Kataro, awaiting her recovery. The next morning, they begin the journey toward the Isle of the Chosen, knowing that they are pursued by enemies including the sorcerers, ruthless werewright warriors and vicious serpent-hawks.
As they travel east, Kataro gives Cara much-needed information about the predicament of the Three Peoples on Narenta. Cara asks Kataro about her alleged mission as Outworlder, and Kataro guesses that it involves the re-capturing or killing of the sorcerers whom Thaddis released 100 years earlier.
On their journey toward the Isle, the Outworlder and the seabird confront and narrowly escape several enemies, and they are joined by two enchanters and a few warriors. Cara discovers parallels between the Narentan world and her own, as well as startling differences. Once on the Isle of the Chosen, Cara formally accepts her Outworlder duties. Alphesis provides her with additional information needed for her mission, and urges her to rejoin the friends who have accompanied her thus far.
Part Two opens with Cara and her allies aboard a Peralike naval ship, racing toward the Tethran capital.
On land, the sorcerers and their invading armies are heading south as well. Cara hopes that, together, she and her friends will be able to defeat these enemies of the Three Peoples. Newest amongst her companions is Harone, the son of people who befriended Cara in Part 1, and who died because of their connection to her.
During their flight toward Fiori, Cara and her friends must confront many dangers, facing both the deaths of companions and the betrayal of one they judged to be a friend, all the while learning about each other and forming bonds of trust and loyalty. Simultaneously, Cara develops increasing sympathy and concern for the peasants and artisans whose lands are being put to the torch behind them.
Once in Fiori, Cara meets with the Tethran king and the convened Order of the Scroll Enchanters. Then she presents herself to be tested by a high-ranking enchanter at the Ancient Armory, thus confirming she is one of their Order. Passing the ordeals successfully, Cara takes possession of the Sword of Living Water, one of four ancient weapons fashioned by Alphesis. The Sword will help her to destroy the three sorcerers.
Returning to her friends, Cara is dismayed to find that the Sword causes dissension between herself and Harone. However, they resolve their argument about who has more right to wield the Sword and return their focus to their mission.
Ensuing events suggest that Cara is a seer. Many of her dreams since her arrival on Narenta have had elements of prophecy. Once convinced of this, she begins to think about how this power might aid her in her championship of the Three Peoples. Her first serious trial involving her power nearly ends in disaster, but Cara pledges that she will continue making use of the skills she has been given.
In addition, Cara uses the Sword in battle for the first time. Beginning in self-defense, Cara quickly develops a commitment to protect those around her. Although she finds that the Sword brings terror to their foes, several of Cara’s companions are killed or severely wounded in the battle.
Along with the remainder of her company of friends, Cara reaches the last stages of her journey to find the three sorcerers. She takes leave of all but Harone, who will accompany her further in order to avenge his parents’ deaths. Finally, his own mission fulfilled, Harone bids farewell to Cara and she continues on the last leg of her journey alone.
Cara’s power as a seer saves her in her third encounter with Rabada, but she learns things from the sorcerer that leave her shaken. Even so, she knows she must face one final test before being able to fulfill her task. It is only when Cara realizes that Alphesis passed through fire to vanquish his foes that Cara summons up her courage and does likewise. She confronts the danger and performs her fated mission: the destruction of the life essences of the sorcerers.
Before returning home, Cara must pass the Sword on to another. After finding a suitable guardian for the Sword, she is finally free to go back to Earth. Free, yes, but now reluctant to leave. In the end, Cara finds herself in her bedroom, holding a Narentan mystical stone and her seabird necklace in her hands.
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