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Excerpt From An Arrow Against the Wind: Ath’s Choice

Introduction

Ath makes a choice that sets events twisting around his life.

With book 2 of The Bow of Hart Saga, more characters get point-of-view scenes. One such character is Athson’s father whose in quite a dire predicament. In this early scene, he’s  finds something and is forced to make one choice around which the lives of many characters in the book will revolve.

Excerpt


The rumble of collapsing stone faded to groans and squeals from the mass of surrounding rock. Ath half-gagged, half-coughed dust and grit from his throat. “Hello?” His hoarse whisper echoed ahead. An open passage. He checked his limbs by feel. Cuts and bruises, but nothing broken.

Ath crawled, but his chain pulled taut. His hands fumbled along the metal links. Who had held his chain last? Was it a buried troll? He felt around for a stone with a rough edge and enough weight to break the metal.

His hand passed over an object. Ath touched it. Rough edges, cold metal with teeth. His heart thudded. A piece of a file. He grinned. With this, he could escape.

Ath started scratching a link, his movement fast. He should make it quick, lest trolls come searching. Where could he go in this place? Where was a door? The questions slowed his fervor against the hard, thick chain.

Someone groaned.

Ath paused. He hid his short file in a pocket, a vast treasure. His hands trailed back along the chain. A large chunk of rock lay on it, and he slid it away with effort. He continued on along the chain. Rock fell near him. Ath cringed and covered his head with his arms. Silence settled around him. Just settling rock. Still, best not to linger longer than necessary.

He searched along the length of his chain. He touched a hand and drew back with a gasp. He touched it again. It was warm and felt human. Ath sat back with a groan. “Corgren!” He coughed, and it sounded like a shout in the silence of the tunnel. Ath trembled a moment, frozen in place.

Key! Did Corgren have it? He scrambled to the wizard and went through his pockets. Nothing. Ath pounded his leg with a fist. After a few moments, his frustration ended. So, it would be the file or nothing. He reached for his pocket.

Corgren groaned.

Ath froze again. If the wizard woke, he would take Ath’s prize. Then what? Ath felt around for a heavy rock. He’d have to kill Corgren and then use the file. He felt for the wizard’s bald head and lifted the rock with both hands.

Rock tumbled in the blocked passage as the corridor quaked.

The file might take too long. Ath’s face contorted with the effort of holding the rock. If it took too long, he might be buried. He grunted. Who cared if Corgren died?

Athson’s voice, now a man’s voice, flickered in his memory. Defiance. Had he survived? If so, he’d need Ath’s help.

Ath needed to escape Chokkra, and someone needed to lead him out. He needed the file—and Corgren—to escape. How, he didn’t know, other than that they had used him against Athson. He’d use the file little by little and break loose at the best opportunity. Preferably when Corgren took him to bully Athson again to get the Bow of Hart. He tossed the rock aside, his arms trembling. He’d help Athson at the right opportunity, and that would come in time.

He searched Corgren for broken limbs and found nothing but a bloody knot on his head. Ath dragged Corgren away from the rock, out of the choking dust. The chain clinked with his movements. He progressed with the arduous proficiency of a blind man. He felt for obstacles, lest he fall, until the occasional sound of settling rock faded.

Corgren coughed and groaned. He rolled over in Ath’s grasp.

“What are you doing? Where am I?” Corgren shoved Ath weakly away.

Ath stepped back. “There was a collapse. I pulled you away.”

Corgren hissed in pain. “That’s a nasty blow.” He went still and then pulled Ath close. “Why did you save me?” A trembling grasp reached for Ath’s throat. “You tried to kill me. This head wound.”

Ath struggled with Corgren. “Please, no! It’s the chain. We’re attached. I don’t think the trolls survived.” He waved his hand in a vague approximation of the collapse.

Corgren’s grasp loosened. A weak laugh echoed in the tunnel. “I suppose you want some thanks, some reward?”

Ath scrambled away. “No. It was just that rock kept falling around us.”

He heard Corgren rise with prolonged grunts. He pulled on the chain. “Well, since you want to live, come along.”

Ath followed. He squeezed the file in his pocket. He’d be ready if the time came. He shook his head. When it came. He coughed to cover a laugh. The file blazed like a candle of hope in his mind. When


About the Book

An Arrow Against the Wind is book two of The Bow of Hart Saga and is available at all retailers. Just click the cover below to use the universal link to find out more about the book at your preferred e-book vendor:

About the Author

P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. His first novel, The Bow of Destiny was named 2016 Book of the Year by Fantasia Reviews and is the first book of The Bow of Hart Saga. The sequel novel, An Arrow Against the Wind, was released in April of 2017. The third book of the series, The White Arrow, is due to be released during the Fall of 2017 now out! P. H. Solomon also authored the award winning short story, The Black Bag, which won best published short story at SCWC 2012. P. H. is also a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

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The Bow of Destiny Character Interview: Spark

SparkAs I mentioned on on release day, I added an animal character to The Bow of Destiny at the suggestion of a beta reader. What I settled on was a dog based on my German Shepherds and named him Spark. If you haven’t read the part of the scavenger hunt from Monday please take a look since it shares a funny way of communicating that my male dog has – his tail. That’s correct, when you ask him simple questions he wags his tail for yes and doesn’t for no. So Spark does the same thing. However, Athson is the only one who can see him besides, you, the reader. But, Athson doesn’t quite understand that Spark is communicating with him. Now that you know, you can read the book and understand something additional happening in the book.

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With that in mind, I decided to interview Spark for a bit of unique fun:

Q: How are you today, Spark? Er, I mean, are you well today Spark? (Gotta stick to the question rules!)

Spark: wag, wag, wag.

Q: So you’ve been with Athson since he was orphaned?

Spark: wag, wag, wag.

Q: Do other people see you?

Spark: no tail wag.

Q: Are you real?

Spark: wag, wag, wag.

Q: Is there a reason you follow Athson?

Spark cocks his head and lets loose a low growl.

Uh, right, we’re not getting int that now (and that question didn’t follow the rules).

Q: Let’s find out your favorite place. Do you like Auguron Forest?

Spark: wag, wag, wag.

Q: Do you like the Troll Heaths?

Spark: no tail wag

Q: Do you like Chokkra?

Spark: one, slight tail wag.

Hmm, guess he’s got an opinion that we can’t quite understand at the moment.

Q: Do you like Athson?

Spark: pants , wag, wag, wag.

Q: Do you have a deeper propose in the series?

Spark: cocks his head and growls again.

Uh, well I guess he doesn’t want to talk about that.

So that’s Spark and now you are in on the secret that not even Athson has figured out. I hope the interview was unique and fun and you’re a little intrigued with the book.

BOD Final

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IMG_4154-EditAbout the Author

P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title with more soon to come.

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Tuesday Tales: Shadow of the Beast Part 2

I’m now sharing some short stories on Tuesdays. Today, I continue with a story I may well include in a future anthology. This is part 2 of the story and I’ll share the next part next weeks. To read part 1, click here. This material is copyrighted so all rights are mine and this cannot be reproduced or used without permission (reblogs are welcome since it only uses a part of the content but if you want to reproduce the entire post you need to contact me for permission). With that bit of information, enjoy the story! Please forgive any errors…

Shadow of the Beast, Part 2

By P. H. Solomon

Sa-hatap waited while scouts confirmed where the search should go. All the while, the house stood silent as a guarded tomb and the lake of his meditational focus churned. Trackers stalked the akor-sunash for days into the Eshti Mountains. There, early snow settled and the beast stalked the forests and threatened villages.

The Court Governor ordered preparations. Enusat equipped Sa-hatap and his troop of guards with all his needs including his religious diet and horses. But Sergeant Gorcin carried a seeing-orb, allowing his superiors oversight of the mission.

Furled grieving banners waited at the city gates when Sa-hatap’s guards led him out of the capital. After five days, they traded horses for mountain ponies and climbed into the Eshti Mountains were snow shrouded on the ground and wolves howled under the waxing moon.

On the sixth day into the mountains they drew near the villages where reports of suffering from the monster’s ravages had arrived. Sa-hatap sat in his saddle focused in his prayers while the wind tore at his cloak and his meditations sloshed.

I sent Enusat to you. I sent you here.

Sa-hatap reined his horse to a skidding halt.

“You did what?” Sa-hatap’s words hung in the air with his misty breath.

The guards stopped, quizzical expressions etched on their faces. Gorcin twitched his hand at the seeing-orb. Horses snorted at the unexpected pause and stamped hooves on the snowy road.

“Why?”

The guards cocked their heads.

Why did you first refuse?

Sa-hatap flinched and he rubbed his hot cheeks. He hunched in his saddle and ground his teeth. Seddessans hated him. Why help them at all? But revenge wasn’t his way.

The guards eyed Sa-hatap.

He ignored them. “So I must do their foul work, is it?”

Not at all

“Come along.” The sergeant’s eyes narrowed. “Or must I lead your horse with you tied over the saddle? We must not delay.”

“What would you have me do?” Sa-hatap scowled and turned his hooded head from side to side. He rode to his death–regardless of the outcome.

“Come now.” The soldier hefted the seeing-orb. “We’ll send word to begin the killing otherwise.” Menace tinged the sergeant’s tone. A slow smile spread on his face as he urged his horse toward Sa-hatap.

Play a celebration song for the empress instead of a dirge.

Sa-hatap sat straight. They all deserved a dirge. But not his people. “Very well.” Sa-hatap kicked his horse into motion. Tension from the soldiers cracked like ice under the horses hooves. Sa-hatap turned in his saddle. “Are you coming or not?”

The soldiers eyed each other with unspoken questions behind their eyes. They shrugged their indifference to his oddities and flashed hand signals across their foreheads as wards against evil spirits.

A howl bounced around the wooded ridges.

“That’s no wolf.” The sergeant slouched as he rode alongside Sa-hatap.

“It’s what we came for.” Sa-hatap focused on the road ahead and practiced his meditations but Lake Winsu’s surface boiled with his anger.

The sergeant cast his gaze around the surrounding heights and muttered prayers to his god.

“If you are afraid then go home. But I ride toward the fear.” Sa-hatap kicked his horse into a faster gait. “Come along or we’ll miss the fun.”

Grumbling soldiers urged their mounts after Sa-hatap. He faced forward and treated the men like his personal command. A song needed playing and he eschewed any delay. Sa-hatap led his guards through several mountain villages amid echoed howls in the heights.

The sergeant caught Sa-hatap when they passed through the second village of low houses where smoked curled from chimneys. “We’ll never catch the monster chasing echoes.”

“It must come to me.” The mage grasped his sword-hilt.

The sergeant gaped at Sa-hatap. “What? You plan to bring it down on us?”

“Me. Just me.” He raised his head and the afternoon sunlight flashed against white peaks.

“Where? Here?”

Sa-hatap caught the sergeant’s hopeful expression. He urged his horse into a trot. “Stay if you want. This is not the place.”

The sergeant rode alongside moments later. “I cannot let you ride off. You’ll just ride on and we’ll be punished with your people.”

Sa-hatap hid a sly smile. He reined his horse to a sharp halt. He sat staring ahead at the snow-draped evergreens looming over the road. His horse snorted and stamped. His gruff tone escaped in a white cloud but he did not turn his head to the soldier. “I have given my word to see this done, magic or not, sergeant.” He turned his head. “But I must do this alone.”

“Tell me when. How can we make sure it is done?”

Sa-hatap heard distant desperation in the soldier’s question. “I will know when to stop and why. Then I must go on, but I will tell you where to watch. I will be in sight if you wish to brave the cold night–and the danger.” He urged his horse into another trot.

Behind him the sergeant swore but followed.

The next village lay blanketed by snow so thick only curling smoke from chimneys identified it. Sa-hatap halted.

“Here?” The sergeant wiped his mouth at the sight of the tavern door.

“Ale beckons all soldiers, no?” Sa-hatap avoided strong drink. But he didn’t blame the men’s desire after the cold day’s ride.

The wisp of a sound tickled his hearing.

He shushed the guards. Gusting winds fell on their ears but no other sound. The horses neighed and puffed mist. The guards grumbled and eyed the tavern door.

“What is it?” The sergeant’s cleared his throat and scanned snow shrouded buildings. “I’ve not heard the akor-sunash this last hour or more.”

Sa-hatap cocked his head. A musical tendril teased his ears amid the soldier’s mutters, the horses champing and the staccato whistles of wind through the buildings. “We rest here.”

The sergeant exhaled and relaxed.

“For a while. Get yourselves and the horses warm.” He nodded at the tavern with his last words. “I’ve someone to speak with.”

The sergeant opened his mouth but the words died on his lips at Sa-hatap’s stare. The soldier patted the satchel containing the orb. “Dismount.” The sergeant grinned as he slung the bag over his shoulder. “Don’t make me come looking for you, mage.”

Sa-hatap pushed through snow among the maze of buildings, fences and out-buildings. Strands of flute music served as his guide, the song louder with each turn. He arrived at a humble cote with a sheep pen attached, the song muffled behind the rough door.

Sa-hatap knocked and arched an eyebrow. Thickly crafted door. Moments of silence bespoke caution. The door’s bar scraped and a man of indiscriminate age peered out, his features etched by the wind and covered with a wiry beard. Sheep bleated in the dimness beyond the herder who clutched his fur-lined cloak over his wool tunic.

“Excuse me, sir, but your music drew me.” Sa-hatap pushed his hood back. Heat from inside brushed his face.

“They play music at the tavern.” The shepherd eased the door closed.

“Wait.” Sa-hatap stuck his foot against the rough wood.

Sinewy hands tighten around a solid shepherd’s crook with understated strength. “The creature smells sheep for a ways on these winds.”

Sa-hatap embraced his prayerful peace like placid water that lay beneath a subset. He cocked his head. Odd that it came with visit with a stranger “I mean no harm but humbly beg your assistance in my journey. Has the akor-sunash troubled your herd?”

“None of my flock’s safe. And they’re not for sale.” He squinted and pushed against Sa-hatap’s hold.

“It’s not meat I need, but the use of your flute.”

The shepherd glanced over his shoulder and pulled the door wider as he did. Sa-hatap caught sight of the plain recorder lying atop a low stool. The shepherd turned back. “You play?”

“I’ve been known to whistle a tune in better times.”

The shepherd chuckled with a wry wink. “Most times are worth a ditty whether dirge or feast day-song.”

Sa-hatap’s eyebrow twitched. Unexpected words mirrored from the Spirit-sword. He was led though he seemingly wandered. The shepherd beckoned and he entered.

The bearded man held out the flute. “Give me a tune, traveler.”

Sa-hatap took the instrument and ran his fingers through trilling notes, then eased into a song of celebration among his people. His host tapped his foot in time with the tune. Sa-hatap ceased and the shepherd grinned, showing missing teeth.

“What ya need this for?” The shepherd tapped the flute with a gnarled finger.

“I’ve a task that need’s music.”

“A funeral by your long face.”

“Perhaps, but not one of my choosing.”

“Take it then. People need a proper end. I’ll give it for a decent cause.” The old man waved his hands as he spoke.

“I beg the use for a night. Won’t your flock miss it?”

The shepherd grinned. “Ah, they know my voice and like it just as well. At least they will until I make another.”

“Let me pay a price.” Sa-hatap shook his purse.

The other man cocked his head and squinted. “Name it yourself. You’re a fair man, I gather.”

Sa-hatap laughed. “A copper and a blessing.”

“Done–the empress’s money buys plenty but a blessing is good for the flock.”

Sa-hatap finished his business and found the guards in the tavern, singing and sloshing their swill. Local patrons sat silent at their cups. The guards escaped their fear of the cold night to come. He shivered. Strong drink couldn’t save them if he failed. Sa-hatap tapped the sergeant on the shoulder. “We leave now. My business is done.”

The sergeant’s faced sobered. “Now?”

“Yes, it must be done tonight.”

The sergeant’s eyes narrowed. “My men are half-drunk. Is this a trick?”

“I could have left. You let your men celebrate, not me. I have what I need and there’s no time for delay.” Sa-hatap turned for the door.

Thanks for reading today. As usual, I look forward to your responses in the comments section to which I will respond as soon as I can. For more information about my writing, see the page about The Bow of Hart Saga or the Welcome page.