Today I thought I would give my book Daughter of Light & Dark a bit of promotion hope you enjoy.
This is the story of Montayna, a young woman born of both light and dark magik who never knew her parents. She earns her freedom with a bit of magik even she was hardly aware of, but her skill is growing and she needs to find answers. Who is she? Where did her powers come from? To find those answers she sets out on a journey of discovery, both inward and outward, of dark mysteries as well as light. Will she master them, or they her? Inexperienced and facing incredible dangers in the course of her quest to defeat the darkness that is spreading inexorably across her world, her journey takes her through a landscape of wizards, elves, faeries and wolves, as she throws herself headlong into the fray to challenge the malevolent designs of a powerful Dark Lord. It is a journey that will eventually change Montayna as well as the world around her.
I stood on the plains of Martouk, a planet seemingly dry and devoid of life, and I experienced a sense of awe. I had been a slave for as long as I could remember, sold from one owner to the next, though my last owner hadn’t been so bad. Compared to the others he’d been a prince. When I was younger, I had taken many beatings, but I was tough even then. Sometimes I think I was born tough. One thing I learned at an early age, it didn’t do to make close friendships with anyone because a slave could be sold at any time and for no reason other than an owner’s whim. I had seen too many heart-wrenching ordeals to ever let that happen to me. I had been sold to Draalen because my previous owner said I was rebellious. If you call standing up for myself against the other slaves rebellious, then yes, I was rebellious.
Draalen was a traveler, and he moved from town to town with his troupe of people, half slaves and half frees. He was also an entertainer, and in this barren place anything that helped take your mind off life was a good thing. I also discovered that Draalen was a healer. He was known and well-liked, and people sought him out wherever we went. Of course, the best thing about him in my opinion was he treated his slaves well.
I couldn’t believe I was standing here, a free woman, something I never thought would happen to me. How did it happen? Well I saved Draalen’s life, that’s how. We were traveling between towns and had to go through the Duron Pass, a place to navigate with care. We were all on our guard but obviously not enough. I suddenly sensed danger. I don’t know how, but I become aware of significant events before they ever happen. This ability has saved me countless times.
I called out to Draalen to pull back, and to my utter amazement he did. Later, he told me that he couldn’t say what made him heed my warning, but it saved his life and prevented an ambush. They had been waiting on top of the pass. “Sand bandits” they call themselves, and their success lies in not being detected until too late. The bandits pushed a huge boulder over the side, but my warning avoided any deaths or damage. They must have thought it prudent to leave, for we never sighted them again. Draalen was very grateful, enough to give me my freedom. He knew he would have been right under the boulder when it fell if not for my warning.
I couldn’t believe he would free me. Most other owners would have just given a slave some extra rations. Maybe it was finally my turn to be lucky. Draalen invited me to stay with him as a free, and he offered to pay me a fair wage. Although it was tempting, I had never experienced total freedom and solitude, and I wanted to try it out. Draalen said anytime I chose to return I could, and there would always be a place for me.
I knew I didn’t want to go back in the direction I had come ─ too many painful memories. I had heard that to the North there was lush green vegetation. I couldn’t imagine what this would look like, for where I came from was so barren. So, I headed North. It was a strange feeling not knowing what was ahead for me, and a little unsettling, though exciting at the same time.
The next week was uneventful. Draalen had given me food for a few weeks and camping gear. I hoped one day to run into him again, as he was the first person who had ever showed me kindness.
When I awoke this morning I had a sense that change was coming. Once again that strange ability was in operation. I packed up my camp and headed north. Apart from wanting to seek out green and fertile land, I couldn’t explain what made me choose that direction, but it felt like the way I needed to go. After walking for an hour or so, I crested a hill and came upon a village. I walked into the main square and found a well, but nobody appeared so I drew some water for myself. Scanning the area as I drank, I tried to appear casual and relaxed, although in truth, my insides were in turmoil. This would be my first contact with people as a free woman, and I knew it was essential that I appear at ease with my situation. It was the beginning of my new life, and I must not begin it in fear.
As I sat on the edge of the well, a girl approached. She appeared to be about my age, but shorter, which is not unusual, since I am 180cm tall. Her hair was golden blonde and cropped short, her eyes very large and almost an aqua color. She appeared quite comfortable with herself and her surroundings, and obviously had no problem speaking to strangers. When she smiled her face lit up like a beacon, and I instantly felt relaxed and at ease. I knew this was some sort of talent she possessed, but I was prepared to go along with it for the moment.
“You’re a stranger here. Welcome to our village. My name is Luca.”
I realized I was still feeling very apprehensive, but I took a breath and held out my hand. “Hi, I’m Montayna. Yes, I’ve never been in this area before. I’m passing through. Would I be able to replenish my supplies? I am able to pay.”
Luca smiled at me again. “Oh yes, that will be fine. Are you in any haste? I do not see very many new people. Please come to my house and share my meal with me.”
There was something about this girl I liked, and I really didn’t have anywhere else to go. Being free and able to choose where I went and whom I was with was such an experience, I knew I was going to enjoy this new life. I agreed to join her, although as we walked through the village I became more aware of the absence of other people. Maybe they were indoors for their noon meal. That feeling washed over me again. Change was on its way, and very soon.
In Luca’s cottage, I looked around in surprise. It was very bright, the walls lined with row upon row of jars. Seeing my look, Luca smiled and explained. “They are herbs. I am the healer here.”
“Why are there no other people?”
“They were waiting to see who you were. We’ve had some trouble, and they are very wary of strangers now.”
“How could they let you approach me alone? You’re just a girl.”
Luca smiled. “Oh I am stronger than I look. I’m not only the healer, but I also have other abilities that help my village, and unless I’m mistaken you have some unusual skills too.”
I looked at her, stunned. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she said no more about it, and I was not in a hurry to ask. I suppose that came from not wanting to draw attention to myself.
The rest of the day passed with Luca telling me of the townsfolk and the life she led. Never once did she ask me about myself, as though she was aware that I did not want to discuss my life. The time passed quickly, and Luca offered me a bed for the night. I had enjoyed my day with her and decided it would be nice to stay in a real cottage.
When Luca showed me where I was to sleep, I was once more surprised. It was a room completely to myself with a soft feather bed and warm downy covers. I had never seen anything like it. When I climbed into the bed, it was indescribable, the softness, the comfort. Snuggling down, I savored the pleasure and drifted into blissful sleep.
When I awoke the next morning, I sat up with a start. Where was I? A smile crept onto my face as I recalled the events of yesterday. I snuggled under the covers for a few more minutes, part of me wishing I could stay here for all time. Then reality settled back in. As I got up and dressed wonderful food smells drifted in from the main room. Inside, I observed Luca humming quietly to herself. A very large smoky-gray cat was sunning itself on the windowsill, and as I walked silently into the room the cat looked up at me. It had the most piercing dark eyes I had ever seen and looked as though it knew everything I was thinking.
Without turning around, Luca said good morning. How could she have known I was there? She had her back to me, and I had entered so quietly, which was something I had a knack for. She dished out food onto two plates. It smelled wonderful when she turned with the plates in her hands and smiled at me.
“Good morning, Montayna. Did you sleep well? That bed is very comfortable, isn’t it? I have slept in it myself. Sit down, my friend, and eat.”
“You’ve been very kind to me, Luca. Do you do this for all the strangers you meet?”
“No, I am hoping to persuade you to stay a while. As I said yesterday, we have had some trouble, and I believe you may be able to help me.”
I felt momentarily panicked as I did not like drawing attention to myself. That was how I survived as a slave, and my freedom was still fresh enough for me to forget that I could do as I pleased. Luca watched me as I struggled to hide the emotions racing through me. I felt the cat rub herself on my leg. Her piercing eyes looked right into mine, and a wave of calm washed over me. I could almost hear her say that I had nothing to fear. I reached down and stroked her soft silky fur, and she moved over to the rug where the sun streamed in and curled up for a nap.
We ate our breakfast making small talk. Even though I was nervous about what she had said, I was enjoying Luca’s company. I’d never had a friend; I never dared to. Cruel owners took great pleasure in taunting slaves who formed personal attachments. It was much safer to be alone.
When the cat sat up, Luca became alert. Someone began banging on the door, calling out to Luca. She opened it, and a tall dark man entered, his hair jet black and his eyes dark, almost black. He had olive skin, and look about him, ruggedly handsome. When he smiled it was as though the room came alive. I judged him to be a warrior, even though he was dressed as a farmer. There was something about the way he held himself, as if ready for action.
“They’re coming,” he said. “A messenger bird just arrived, and the message says they are two days away.”
Once again that feeling washed over me. Something that would affect me was about to happen. This time I somehow knew it would involve me and that even if I wanted to I couldn’t avoid it. Luca smiled calmly.
“Montayna, this is Oren. He is a good friend, and we have need of good friends right now. When I said yesterday we had been having trouble…well, it seems it is returning sooner than I thought. There are raiders who live in the hills, and they have begun venturing down into the villages. If you wish to move on I will understand. This is not your fight. If you choose to stay, you will be most welcome, and we would be forever grateful.”
I knew I was meant to stay, and be involved somehow. “I’ll stay, but you don’t have two days; they will be here tonight.” As soon as I said it I was stunned. How could I know that? Oren looked as stunned as I felt, but Luca was smiling.
“We had better get prepared then,” she said.
Luca didn’t seem to think it unusual that I would know this. She discussed with Oren about hiding the children and the other defenses they would make, then he left. She said, “I told you there were things about you. I am surprised you have not used these abilities before.”
“I don’t know what you mean. I sometimes sense when something unusual is going to occur or if something is not quite right, but how could I know so precise a fact as someone arriving sooner than expected?”
“You are going to learn a lot about yourself, I would think. Do not worry, and just open yourself to any possibility. You are safe here with me.”
“You seem to know a lot about me, Luca.”
“I had a teacher once who was very wise and had many wondrous abilities. I journeyed to her lodge to train with her, and she taught me well. I was aware of her presence even after I returned home. I knew she was to have a child, and then one day I felt her no more. You look just like her. Do you know who your mother is, Montayna?”
My mind was in turmoil. Here was someone who might know who I was. I didn’t even try to mask my emotions, but I found myself telling Luca everything. My instinct told me I was safe here. When I finished, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted from me.
Luca embraced me. “I believe you are the daughter of Ooscha. I bid you welcome to my home.” She bowed to me and said. “My home is your home. When we have time I will aid you in tracing your origins, although I am certain I am right.”
We began preparing for the arrival of the raiders. All the people of the village worked in a steady methodical manner, as though they had done this before. No one showed any panic or undue haste. Luca and I helped set up various traps, and they were so well camouflaged the raiders would not know they were there. Luca said they would also only be used as a last resort.
I wondered what help I could possibly be and asked Luca as much. She said not to worry, that it would work itself out when the time came, that she and I would confront them, that all our other preparations were only a backup. When she saw the look of shock on my face, she smiled.
“It will be all right, Montayna. You’ll see, the two of us alone will probably be all we need.” I quietly thought she was mad. Sure, I could take care of myself, but to confront a pack of raiders intent on robbing the town was utter madness. I did not want to show any fear, and besides I had agreed to stay and help, but I felt sick in the pit of my stomach.
When all preparations were finished, we settled down to wait. Luca suggested we rest and conserve our strength, a wise suggestion if we were to fight later. The time passed quickly when suddenly I knew they were coming. At the same time I had this thought, the lookout came to say the raiders had been sighted. Oren checked in briefly to say all was ready. Luca told him that she and I would speak to them, and this did not appear to surprise him. Oren and his men were added backup in case we needed them. They would be watching the outer perimeter to make sure no one came up behind us.
We did not have long to wait. Within ten minutes they rode in, orderly and quiet. As I watched from the window, I sensed an evil coming from the man at the head of the group, Luca said. “Trust your instincts, Montayna. You will know what to do when the time is right.”
She walked out to meet them, and I followed, with no idea how the two of us alone would cope with a group of thirty armed men. I trusted Luca knew what she was doing. I hoped she did, because my life had changed so much in only a few days, and I hoped I lived long enough to experience more.
Luca appeared confident and strong, her small size apparently no hinderance. “What do you want in our village?” she asked.
The evil man laughed, towering over her as he sat atop his great black horse. “What’s wrong with your men that they send a little girl out to us? Are they so weak they think we’ll take pity on you? We want food and money. You had best call them together, little girl, because the sooner you give us what we want, the sooner we will leave. Who is that other woman back there? Do you think two women can stop us?”
All of his men laughed in a loud, leering way, that made my skin crawl, I had heard that laugh many times as a slave. No matter what man made it, they all meant the same thing by their thoughts. I wondered how we would get out of this without getting hurt.
“We are not giving you anything,” said Luca. “You may water your horses and then ride on.”
Once again they laughed. “And who’s going to stop us, little girl? You two?”
“Yes,” said Luca, “if we must, but I have no wish to cause harm to anyone, so please ride on peacefully.”
The leader was very angry and drew a large knife from his belt. Luca flicked her hand, and the knife spun away. I was stunned, as were the raiders.
“What trick is this, little girl? Do you think you can best me?” the leader roared.
Luca had managed to stir his anger to greater heights. Now what were we to do? Some of his men began to get down from their horses. Luca smiled at me reassuringly, although I have to say I did not feel at all reassured. I had only just gained my freedom, and here I was putting myself at risk. I must be mad.
Luca whispered to me, “Trust your instincts. You can do this, and they will not best us.” She looked at the leader with a quiet smile. “I would suggest you leave our village now and never come back.”
“Are you threatening me, girl? Do you think that trick is going to stop my men and me from taking what we want? In fact, I think we’ll take you girls as well. My men can have a little fun.”
The anger bubbled up inside me. I had watched men and their abuse of women all my life and felt powerless to stop it. I had once dreamed of having a good man to love and a home, but it had only been a dream. Now, since I’d gained my freedom I wouldn’t let the cruelty of an evil man take it from me again. My mind began to race with thoughts of what I would like to do to them. When I realized one of them had been circling around behind us, I thrust up my hand as though to push him away. To my amazement he slammed backwards into the wall of a nearby cottage. Luca was smiling, and the leader was scowling.
“I think,” she said, “two girls just may be able to make you leave.”
With a roar, he launched himself at her, but she stood there calmly. When he was about 60 cm from her, he appeared to slam into a wall which could not be seen. He picked himself up and howled at his men to get us. I had no idea what I should or could do, so I flung my arms out and watched as they were slammed into walls and thrown about. It all seemed to be over very quickly. They remounted their horses, and the leader glared down at Luca.
“Don’t think this is over, little girl. I’ll be back, and when I do, you and all those who are still here will be sorry you ever did this.”
Luca smiled at him. “I would not advise it, for we will not be so lenient next time, but if you feel you must prove yourself, then so be it.”
The raiders wheeled their horses about and galloped from the village. I sank to the ground where I had been standing, hardly believing what had happened. How had I done those things? My mind was racing, and I had so many questions. Luca sat down beside me.
“Thank you, Montayna. I knew you could do it, I knew I was right about you. Are you all right? You look a little pale?”
“How did I do that? I felt a surge of power run through me, and thought of pushing them back and then it happened. Does it mean every time I raise my hands I will knock someone down?” I sat there with my aching head in my hands.
Luca stood behind me and began to massage my shoulders and neck, all the while humming quietly to herself. She continued this for some time until my pain began to ebb away. Once again she sat in front of me and handed me some water. As I sipped it slowly, she explained.
“What you did is called the ‘Skill,’ and you need not fear it. You will not knock people down. You only feel this way because you unleashed the power wildly without knowing how to direct it. I am sorry we had no time to prepare you beforehand. Now that we know you have this gift, I will be able to show you how to use it appropriately. Would you please stay a while so I may help you?”
“Yes, I think I must. I would also like to know more of the woman you think was my mother. I don’t know where I came from. I was always a slave and believed I was born into slavery. There is so much I need to know.”
Luca held me for a while. “You may stay as long as you wish, and I would be honored to help you. Today we will rest and tomorrow we will begin.” She stood and called out. “It is safe to come out now.”
The people of the village began to emerge from their houses. An older man came up to us and bowed to Luca. “Thank you once again for protecting us, and thank you also for aiding our protector.” This last part he directed to me as he inclined his head.
The villagers began talking about what had occurred and smiling among themselves, although none came near us. As I watched them, I realized they cast furtive glances towards me, some of them even showing fear.
“What is wrong with them, Luca? Why are they afraid of me?”
The elder said to me, “I beg your forgiveness, young warrior. We have never seen such force as you unleashed, and they are a little apprehensive. No disrespect to you either my lady. We know your great abilities, but even you have not used such force.”
Luca smiled. “None taken my friend. I know it appeared a violent power, but Montayna has not yet learned to harness that part of herself, and there was no time to teach her. Please reassure the villagers, and with your agreement, Montayna will stay a while so that I may help her develop her skills.”
“I believe I can speak for everyone now. You are most welcome, Montayna. You helped save our village, and you will always have a place here. Stay as long as you wish. If there is anything that you require, and if it be possible, we will help.” He inclined his head to us both and departed.
Luca and I went back to her cottage to rest, and she made us some herb tea. “This will revive us. It is made from a variety of herbs, and is also one of the many things I can teach you. The villagers will prepare food for everyone, and as soon as the children come back, we will give thanks for our safety.”
We sat quietly and drank our tea, each with our own thoughts. I felt such peace here. I had no need to speak, and I somehow knew Luca would wait until I had questions. But where to begin? We had been sitting for some time when there was a knock at the door and Oren strode in, smiling. A look of relief flickered across his face when he looked at Luca, and I realized that he felt very deeply for her.
Over the next few weeks, we settled into a routine. In the mornings we would rise, go down to the river to meditate and welcome in the day. Luca taught me the different properties of plants and their uses for healing. In the afternoons we worked on mental exercises, which Luca said was essential for directing the ‘Source’. She asked me not to attempt to use my ‘Skill’ until I had a sense of how to control it.
Occasionally, Oren and his men would come to the village, but mostly the days drifted peacefully into each other. As the weeks passed, Luca began to tell me her story and how she knew Ooscha. She had no proof of her passing, only that she had no sense of her any more.
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