Spotlight: D James Larsen’s Artifact of Creation – The Awakening

2ndcover_4Author, D James Larsen, has graciously shared the first chapter of his Short Stories Series Book #1 with us. Read below… You can find Artifact of Creation- The Awakening on Amazon.

What people are saying about the Artifact of Creation:
– A New Precedence In Sci-Fi Fantasy Literature
– An Infectious Tale of Fate & Destiny
– A New Author With Promise

A hidden power born of ancient bloodlines. One Journey One Fate One Destiny…

After his home is invaded by mercenaries, Asher is forced to run for his life with the Artifact of Creation. Alone, desperate, and afraid Asher must learn to harness the power of the Awakening, an ancient magic born from the bloodlines of mankind’s predecessor race.

Will Asher be able to unleash the Awakening and save his family?

What are the mysterious Artifacts of Creation and why do mercenaries seek to obtain these fabled relics?

Download now, and find out in this gripping science fiction fantasy anthology.

 

Chapter 1
Asher shoved his tool into the dry ground, splitting the hard soil in preparation for the spring planting season. Beads of sweat dripped off of his face and onto his dirtied shirt. He and his grandfather had labored through the course of the day, clearing new land to expand the area to plant more food. Their village had grown considerably over the last few months, most of which were refugees from the Federation Wars near the southern border. There were many more mouths to feed and barely enough cleared land to sustain them.

“I believe we did a good day’s work laddy,” His grandfather said. “Let’s call it a day.”

Asher shoved the tool into the dirt, more than ready to be done. His stomach rumbled for want of food, his body ached and his skin was burned from the heat of the day.

He brushed by his grandfather and sat on a nearby stomp of wood. His grandfather followed after Asher, concerned by his grandson’s sudden change of behavior.

“What’s wrong laddy?” His grandfather asked. His joints cracked and creaked as he sat beside Asher. Asher shrugged in response, he was lost in thought.

Below the field that they tended to, Asher could hear the sound of blacksmiths clinking metal amid the buzz of conversations that took place from the people in his town. He watched farmers tend to their livestock, taking special care for them in order to sustain the village. Asher loved the town he grew up in but he no longer wanted the simple life that his small town offered. Often times he would spend his wishing he could find a more meaningful purpose for his life. He could not tell where the need to leave the comforts and security of home originated. Perhaps it was the stories his mother would tell about the distant lands she and his father had seen while they served together in the Federation Wars. Or perhaps it was the tale his grandfather recounted about searching out an ancient artifact that was a fabled myth, told as stories meant for amusement by travelers that would pass through his small town. Asher loved the stories when he was younger, but as the years of his childhood left and he matured into a young adult, he doubted the validity of his grandfather’s stories. Asher was drawn to the realism surrounding the stories his mother told.

Asher sighed and looked to the sky as he often did, and watched scuffs of clouds float by. The white of the clouds were intermixed with hues of oranges and purples, the colors were reflections from the setting sun in the late afternoon. On the horizon, Asher could see the glistening waters of the ocean. It reminded him of how vast the world was, it only furthered his desire to search out a new life for himself.

“I suppose I don’t feel like I belong here.” Asher finally said after a few moments of silence had passed. “I want my life to have more meaning then just…” He trailed off feeling ashamed for what he was about to say.

“Then what laddy?” His grandfather asked. “You can tell me it’s alright.” He rested his callused hand on Asher’s shoulder with a smile of reassurance. Asher let his gaze fall.

“I want something more meaningful in my life then just clearing trees and planting seeds.” He turned to his grandfather. “Perhaps I should enlist in the Federation Wars. I could be a pilot on a Federation Airship like my father was.”

His grandfather sighed. “Asher we each have our place in the world. Those soldiers would not be able to fight in battle without the food we provide for them. Your place is here in Shady Vale working beside me and helping your mother.”

“But that’s not fair. Father, mother and even you had a life beyond the Vale. How can you expect anything different from me?” Asher saw that his words had an effect on his grandfather. His grandfather now seemed lost in thought as he considered the weight of Asher’s words. “Grandfather you left the Vale to seek out the artifact. You followed ‘him’ … the one you called Gaphii’el …. because he asked you too. You know I could not do anything less than what you or my father have done. Or were the tales you told, simply bed time stories for my sister and I?”

Asher’s words were heated, and to his grandfather, they felt full of accusation. His grandfather left the stump of wood he sat at and paced in front of Asher, trying to decide what words of wisdom he could offer his grandson. “Asher, those stories I told you and your sister are true. Asher you must understand, I did not seek out the artifact because I felt some desire to explore a new life, I left because I was convinced of the growing evil that Gaphii’el had spoke to me about. Your father and mother had no desire to be soldiers either, they were asked to. Your father and mother, even myself, did not go looking for danger, we went because we did not have a choice.” Asher looked at his grandfather, and then let his head drop to his arms that were folded about his knees. He saw little point in arguing with his grandfather, his words did not change who he was or what he felt.

Just then, a terrible roaring sound echoed above them in the sky. Asher and his grandfather looked to the source of the sound. A great airship flew overhead. Its outline was a massive silhouette of dark metal, it was large enough to block out the light of the sun, it cast a shadow upon all of Shady Vale. Wind funneled from its thrusters as it made a gradual descent and rested upon the outskirts of the Vale. Men and women from the town, abandoned their chores to investigate the airship after it landed.

The cargo door of the airship opened and armed men, dressed in grey armor, marched out of the ship. The soldiers quickly circled about the ship and held their weapons pointed at the town’s people. Orders were shouted for the people to keep their distance. Among the soldiers was a masked man with a long trailing cape. The masked man descended from the airship, his cape billowing in the wind.

by D James Larsen, All Rights Reserved

You can learn more about this author on FACEBOOK TWITTER @DJamesLarsen

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Thalia and Earth – New Release by Mari Collier

FreeValley is pleased to announce a new release, THALIA AND EARTH, by our loyal follower, Mari Collier. This is Book 5 in the Chronicles of the Maca. Earthbound, Book 1 received an Amazon Best Seller Badge for being #1 on Kindle’s Western/Sci-fi Best Sellers for three weeks last year! Thanks for sharing this excerpt with us, Mari…

Portrait-1 mari collierYears ago, I started writing a novel and realized I wasn’t mature enough nor educated enough to finish it.  Over the years it was resurrected and buried a number of times.  It eventually grew into Gather The Children. Then a strange thing happened. The families featured in Gather The Children insisted that everything be recorded.  The result is the Chronicles of the Maca which has grown to five published novels. I’m currently working on Book 6, but it remains untitled. I’m seriously thinking of Murder in Thalia. Thalia is the planet of the stranded alien on Earth who recreates his House and returns to free Thalia from bondage. Now it is time to return to Earth to verify that all is going well with his remaining Earth family.

Before they can return, the Sisterhood regroups and attacks. When Thalia is calm and peace restored they return and find all is not going well. Some members of the family are unaware of their planetary origins, others try to hide it, one member wants to destroy the family corporation, another hides a secret of other interplanetary contact, and one has the ability to kill with his mind.

THALIA AND EARTH COMPLETE_TCCThe following is an excerpt from Thalia and Earth. It is Book 5 of the Chronicles of the Maca.  Earthbound, Book 1, Gather The Children, Book 2, Before We Leave, Book 3, and Return of the Maca, Book 4.

The excerpt is from Thalia and Earth, Chapter 24 and is entitled Earth 1976:  Mind Death

David Krampitz sat at the walnut desk staring intently into the darkness of the massive wooden door. His large, work calloused hands were curled into tight fists resting on his knees. In his mind, he could see the car racing past Buster’s Roost, the four occupants were intent on reaching the highway to Oklahoma. He concentrated on the driver, a man with straight dark hair, brown skin bronzed by sun, dark eyes focused on the road to make sure no boulder had rolled onto it from the last rain. And then David went deeper into the man’s mind. They became one as he gripped the steering wheel and tromped the gas pedal. David twisted the steering wheel to the right and drove the auto to the edge and over, the waves of fear and nausea generated in the man’s mind washed back into David’s mind.

The man fought to regain physical control, but lost. The car plunged downward, rolling over and over until it crashed into a huge outcropping of rock.

David swiveled in the wooden chair and turned the desk light on. The yellow glow spread over the desktop and outward onto the floor. His breathing was heavy and his two hearts were pounding; pounding as if he had been in that car and survived. He stood and walked over to the built-in walnut gun cabinet with banks of drawers on the side and two doors on the bottom. He opened one of the doors, retrieved a glass and a bottle of whiskey. He poured the glass half full, gulped it down, and returned the bottle to the shelf. He looked up at the painting above the door.

“I don’t drink whiskey, but I just took a swig of your expensive bottling that’s been setting in this house for over thirty years. Is that how you handled any guilt? Why didn’t you leave a journal or instructions on how to exist without destroying other people? Old timers say you killed men, but that was openly. Did you kill men in the dead of night when no one could charge you with murder? Did that spaceship take you away from all the memories?”

The gray eyed man in the painting made no reply.

Copyright, Mari Collier. All Rights Reserved

Since leaving the home we had in Snoqualmie Valley, where FreeValley Publishing is based, I’ve published three anthologies (one is Twisted Tales From The Northwest) and the five novels. I tried a vanity press before it was so easy to publish on Amazon and then had a small press publisher. I’m now back to semi-independent, but the experience with the new company has been wonderful. Happy reading and writing to all.

http://maricollier.com/

https://twitter.com/child7mari

https://www.facebook.com/Twisted-Tales-From-A-Skewed-Mind-124947397618599/

NOTE FROM FVP SITE EDITOR: If you’re interested in having an excerpt of your published or soon to be released novel featured on our site, please email me through Contact Us. We’d love to see what you’re up to and help get the word out on your new work. Anything posted on FVP remains the sole property of the author, and the post is free of charge and spam-free afterwards. We enjoy helping our fellow authors. -Sheri J. Kennedy, editor

GATHER THE CHILDREN – New Release by Mari Collier

FreeValley Publishing is pleased to spotlight Mari Collier‘s new release novel, GATHER THE CHILDREN. This is Book Two of the Chronicles Of The Maca and the sequel to EARTHBOUND, Book One.

Gather the Children coverFifteen-year-old Lorenz rides into Arles, Texas in 1865 leading a buckskin horse draped with the body of a wanted man he has gut shot.  He intends to collect his reward.  He’s broke, lonely, hungry and hate-filled.  He knows he is a freak with his two hearts and know that his ability to control the minds of others when he is enraged can’t be natural.  If he doesn’t get the reward, he’s ready to kill again.  One man stops him:  a six foot, nine inch, two-hundred eighty pound man.

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter:

“Hey, Marshal, better come right quick. Some kid’s hauling in a dead man.” Zeke Cawley stuck his head in the office long enough to yell and then yanked his head back through the door like a turtle retreating into its shell.

Town Marshal Franklin sighed and put down the rattan fan he’d been using to create a futile breeze and shoo the flies. He straightened, brushed the dust from his worsted, brown jacket, and jammed his hat over white locks. At fifty-five he was old for his job in Arles, Texas and he knew it. Eighteen sixty-five had not been a kind year. There had been riots in Houston and Galveston; hungry people fighting for supplies. Once there had been only hardened adventurers passing through his town.  Indians and Comancheros might cause concerns, but they remained well outside the town limits. Now he dealt with men who were probably Jayhawkers, Nightriders, or Redlegs. There were bands of hungry, angry men coming home from the War:  men coming home to a home no longer there. Not content to let matters alone, Congress was considering a Reconstruction Bill.

Franklin stepped into bright, June sunshine and stood alongside the others gathering around some kid on an old, dapple-grey horse. The kid was leading a gaunt roan with a body wrapped in a tarp and draped over its swayed back. The boy sat rod straight, Henry rifle ready, body tensed, his lips a dead white slash against tan skin. The kid looked ready to shoot if anyone came too close or moved too fast.

To ease matters, Franklin pushed his hat back, stepped slowly forward, and asked softly, “Well, where did y’all find him?”

The boy’s weathered hat covered long, curling, black hair that hid most of his features except glowering, grey eyes that raked the crowd. Boy seemed the right term for there wasn’t a beard yet and at the distance of four feet it was obvious he hadn’t bothered with bathing. Franklin felt that the kid wouldn’t bother shaving if he didn’t wash.

The boy fixed hard eyes on him, then on the star, and back to Franklin’s face. “Ah didn’t find him.  Ah kilt him. He’s Butch Zale, Comanchero. There’s a five hundred dollar reward and ah want it.” The voice was cold-edged hard.

Franklin was startled. A murmur swelled and flowed through the crowd. “We’ll need to take a look.  Zeke, pull that body down.”

Zeke didn’t like the job. His movements were rough and jerky. “Gawd, he’s done gut shot him. Somebody give me a hand.”

The people were more interested in looking than touching. They watched, but no one moved.

“When did y’all shoot him?” asked Franklin.  He had to keep control of the situation.

“Yesterday mornin’. Ah’d been followin’ him.”

Franklin squinted against the sunshine pelting downward and was thankful he hadn’t had to go after Zale if he and his group had truly been that close. The idea of this kid sneaking up and getting away without a scratch was preposterous. Still, it was best to proceed with caution as long as the kid sat there ready to blow away anybody that moved wrong.

“Where did y’all take him?”

“In a gully by the foothills. They tho’t they wuz hid.” His voice had become a reasonable tenor that wasn’t cracking. Franklin revised his estimate. Possibly the kid was about sixteen or seventeen.

“We’ll need details for identification. I heard Rolfe is in town. Somebody go find him,” commanded Franklin.

“No need to look, Marshal,” came an answer.

The crowd parted for two men moving closer. “Ve been vatching.” A stream of brown, tobacco liquid erupted from between the lips covered by a blond and graying mustache, expertly missing the bystanders. Rolfe, ex-mountain man, sometimes wolf hunter, now a cattleman, still wore his buckskins and moccasins. A bowie knife hung from the waist of his short, blocky frame. The man beside him towered over Rolfe and the crowd, his huge, lumbering body swaying almost like a bear. He stood more than a foot taller than Rolfe and was equally wide. Unlike Rolfe, he wore boots and duck trousers, his dark blue, collarless shirt was covered at the neck by a blue bandana, and the wide brim hat of a cattleman sat square on the large head.

Franklin nodded at the two. “Take a look and see if it’s Zale.”

Rolfe walked over and squatted, peering down at the crumpled form while the big man stopped a few feet from the kid and his rifle, seemingly watching the crowd and it’s wonderment at the developing tableau with amused, brown eyes.

The kid was grinding his teeth at the delay. “How’s he gonna know if’n it’s Zale?” He shot the question at Franklin, but kept shifting his glare between the ex-hunter and his waiting friend.

“Believe me,” assured Franklin. “He knows.”

Rolfe stood and nodded to Franklin. “Dot’s him. By damn, poy, I couldn’t haf done it better. He died slow.” Rolfe’s voice was filled with admiration, the blue eyes hard and knowing. Like his friend MacDonald, Rolfe was now studying the young man.

The boy jerked his gaze back to Franklin. “Now, ah want that reward!” His voice was harsh and reward came out like ree-ward.

Franklin shifted his weight to relieve the pressure on his corns. “It don’t happen quite that fast. First there are papers to be filled out, then…” he stopped as the Henry rifle was pointed directly at him.

“You son-of-a-bitch! I killed him. It’s mine!”

Franklin stood opened mouth at the authority ringing in the young voice, the sudden change of language, and the rifle pointed straight at his heart. No one saw the huge companion of Rolfe leaping the distance separating them. MacDonald shoved the rifle upward with his right hand and used his left to drag the young body down with a thud. Franklin caught the horse and handed the reins to Zeke. The boy rolled and went for the revolver at his side, flinging it up toward the giant when a knee caught him on the chin. With ease, MacDonald reached down and pulled him upright, turning the body and clamping his left arm around the boy. With his right hand he crunched down on the boy’s right hand, extracted the revolver from the boy’s suddenly loose grip, and flung it to Rolfe. Then he removed the other revolver, ran his hand over the boy’s back and flipped a knife from its hidden sheath. Rolfe caught the knife while MacDonald ran his huge hand over the boy’s front pockets and pulled out a pocket knife.

“His boots, Mac, his boots. He’s probably got another knife in his left one.” Rolfe was watching with professional interest.

“Aye.”  MacDonald leaned his weight into the skinny body and bent the boy over and tightened his grip. “Be still, damn ye,” he said mildly enough. He shifted his hold to the right and fished up the knife from the boot sheath. Only then did he release the boy.

The kid came up with fists clenched, chest heaving. He gauged the size of the man and his strength and knew he had lost, but rage boiled through him, unreasoning and unrelenting. “God damn y’all fuckin’ son-of-…”

A huge hand exploded on one side of his face and then on the other, stopping the flow of words. He stood swaying, dazed, the world heaving, but he would not go down. His eyes cleared and he could feel the silence in the crowd, waiting, wanting more violence. He flicked his tongue to the side of his mouth where blood seeped.

“Can ye hear me now?” The voice was low and rumbling with the music of a different tongue.

“Yeah.”

“Then ye nay ere say such words to me again; nay ere in the presence of ladies.”

The boy stared upward and sucked in his breath, partially to finish clearing his mind and partially in wonderment. Where did this big bastard come up with the right to tell him what to say? God, he thought, look at the size of him. It was wonderment, and he still didn’t have his money. The marshal’s voice cut into his thoughts.

“Thank y’all, Mr. MacDonald. Zeke, haul the remains over to Doc Huddleson and get Mr. Mallory over here.”

“I’m right here, Marshall.” Mr. Mallory stepped from the crowd. His Justice of the Peace office was next door, and at the first buzz of excitement, he had joined the rest of the lookers.

“Fine, I need y’all to take a statement from this lad and from Mr. Rolfe.”

The boy let out his breath, hardly believing what he was hearing. “Ah gets my gold?” he asked.

by Mari Collier  All Rights Reserved.

Find GATHER THE CHILDREN on Amazon

Connect with Mari Collier at www.maricollier.com

World Con is Here! And We are at World Con!

It’s exciting to have World Con, aka Sasquan, nearby in Spokane, WA this year! There’s a great co-operative indie author book booth at Con, so be sure and check out the titles available from talented up and coming writers. FVP author Jeffrey Cook will be there to meet you.

Some of our FVP authors have books at the booth. Here are photos of the display taken and sent to us by a couple of our supporters…

Rachel's books - photo by Casondra Brewster

Rachel’s books – photo by Casondra Brewster

David's books - photo by Thomas Alexander

David’s books – photo by Thomas Alexander

Vicky's, Kennedy's, and some of Jeffrey's books - photo by Casondra Brewster

Vicky’s, Kennedy’s, and some of Jeffrey’s books – photo by Casondra Brewster

Broad Table View - photo Casondra Brewster

Broad Table View – photo Casondra Brewster

Fantasy in Flight – Spotlight on New Novel by Kelly St. Clare

bestFANTASY IN FLIGHT is Book Two in The Tainted Accords by Kelly St. Clare. Upcoming Release!…Look for it on May 24th, 2015! Or you can pre-order on Amazon.

See the Sneak Peak Guest Spotlight Sci-fi YA snippet below….

IMG_2697

Kelly, is a New Zealander who is now based in Australia. It is our pleasure to present this spotlight, and we thank Kelly for sharing this snippet with us!

Sneak Peak of Fantasy of Flight (The Tainted Accords: Book Two)

by Kelly St. Clare

His eyes are crazed as he swings his sword down on me. I parry the blow with crossed swords, but I’m still forced back several meters by the fury he puts into it. Every thrust I block or push aside makes my arms tremble. And his blows are as rapid as I remember. But his anger has taken away his calculation and calm.

He swings wildly and I dart beneath his guard, slicing his right thigh. He bellows and jabs his blade my way, catching my upper left arm.

We rain blows on each other in our deadly dance.

I cannot hear anything other than his breathing and I cannot sense anything other than his intentions.

I operate solely on instinct.

All Rights Reserved – by Kelly St. Clare

3You can also find Book One FANTASY OF FROST : The Tainted Accords on Amazon

Learn more about Kelly St. Clare and these books at kellystclare.com or on her Facebook page

If you are interested in sharing your stories or novels with us, please contact me at freevalleypublishing@gmail.com  It’s free, and you keep all rights to your work. We will not reproduce or share it other than on this home page.-Sheri J Kennedy, site editor

Man, True Man – Spotlight on new novel by Mari Collier

Man, True Man CoverWe love to spotlight authors we’ve met or who support FVP’s site with comments and are interested in sharing their work with us. Mari Collier’s book, MAN, TRUE MAN is available on Amazon Print & Kindle.

A spaceship crashes into the planet Tonath.  The lone occupant, a mutant with two hearts, survives and fights his way to the sunlit part of the planet.  A passing freighter finds him and takes him to the Western Starshift Institute of the Way where the Teacher resides.  Tonath is a planet being torn apart by the forces of nature.  Only the Teacher can predict the movements of the Stars and interpret the prophesies.  Will the Teacher be able to recognize True Man and True Foe in time to save Tonath from a thousand years of burning?

You can find out more about Mari and her writing at maricollier.comPortrait-1 mari collier

Here’s the first chapter of Man, True Man, by Mari Collier

A PLANET DIVIDED

The man knew he was in trouble as his ship squalled in protest against the physical forces that had battered the shields into oblivion and was now shredding the metal surrounding him. Outside the atmosphere had thickened to a liquid gray-green gelatin.  The forces of two conflicting dimensions were pulling and stretching the ship’s seamless construction, the stress thinning the hull rapidly. He knew the dangers of a one man flight, but had risked it. When he awoke from his last sleep, the anomaly was there, no longer a subject for hypothetical conjecture in the halls of science:  A planet caught between two different space time dimensions existed with life forms.

He locked himself into the scouting craft, his brain calculating the approximate length of time it could sustain him once the main structure failed. He shrugged mentally. Life was life, no matter how long sustained.

He switched on the life support systems and sealed the hatch. A bitter smile snaked across the lean face, the scar on the right cheek barely discernable since his last rejuvenation. What a hell of an end:  alone with none to mourn his passing. He had been looking for a new land, not too raw, but a promising land with enough technology to insure more than a primitive existence. He wanted a place where he could match his strength and his wits against nature and physical weariness permitted sleep to overtake the loneliness.

He felt the ship buckle. A quick glance at the instruments showed he had plummeted through the atmosphere into the ocean. With a final, protesting metallic shriek, the outer craft disintegrated, swept away into the roiling, green liquid.

The smaller craft was undamaged, but the vibrating from the force of the rolling water made the craft yaw and the wind pitched the craft as he broke the surface. He kept adjusting the craft’s balance while piloting toward the land mass, hoping that it was more than just rock. Land would offer some measure of safety. The planet circling the sun had shown promise of blue and brown belts. The scanners indicated a safe environment for human life and then the storm had swept in and caught his ship in the changing atmosphere.

Beads of sweat dripped from his dark, curly hair as he looked down, his grey eyes roved the panel, hoping for some reassurance. There was none. Already the craft’s interior lights were dimming and he could hear the metal buckling. The waves caught the ship, first tossing it upward to slam it down into the froth, and then spinning it towards the rocks. The man had fought and knew he had lost.

With rapid motions he belted a sheathed knife around his waist and tied a rope over it, looping the rest around his shoulder; a rope of twenty feet, no more. God knows, they’ve saved me before, he thought. Within seconds the small Scout rammed into the rocks and broke, hurling him into the outside.

Wind and green water tore at his body, knocking him flat and tossing him nearer the rocky shore. One brief glance showed him the high green rocks were being scoured by moving water. Still he struggled in the water and prayed to the God taught to him so long ago. As if in answer, the waves lifted him higher, swept him over the crags, and slammed him headfirst onto the rock covered ledge.

Gradually the wind died as the green rain continued to pelt the earth. He came to and looked blankly at his hands, moving them in front of his eyes as if they were some disembodied tool of strange complexity. The heavy air rasped at his lungs and irritated his throat. His clothes were wet and reeked with the odor of the sea. He looked down at the grey-green water foaming around his perch. Obviously, he had come from the water. What if the sea rose higher?

It was, the brain decided, a bad place to be and time to leave. He glanced upward and realized there was no other way and began to climb. Hand pull by hand pull he brought himself to higher ground, his head and body protesting every inch.

Once at the top, he fell forward, panting, looking at the water pounding at the rocks below, the weaker limestone crumbling while the heavier rock glistened dispassionately, oblivious to the forces beating against it. His breathing slowed and he stood.

His head throbbed and he noticed his hands were caked with blood. Gingerly, he probed at his skull, wincing with nausea. It’s been cut, he thought, the whole left side felt swollen. I wonder where I am, or how the hell I got here. Then a larger puzzle hit at his core. Who am I? He looked down and discerned he was male, not female, but trying to think of his identity increased the pain. His knees met the ground. Not good, he thought. Just keep moving to some place safer.

He looked at the surrounding strange foliage before moving. He saw green scraggly bushes growing out of ground that seemed covered with reeds or grasses. The ground cover blending into higher shrubs and then becoming a forest of brownish green trunks heading towards where? He forced wobbly legs to move and headed into the forest away from the sea. Once there, he leaned against a tree and considered what he knew.

Nothing, he concluded; nothing but blurred images from a past that wouldn’t focus. He knew there had been a storm and a ship. But what kind of a ship? He gulped at the unsatisfying air. It was heavy, irritating, and his lungs seemed filled with phlegm rather than oxygen. Once again he examined his hands, the green light casting a jaundiced color where instinctively he knew pink flesh should be. He shuddered.

“Water,” he muttered. “First I have to find water.”

This much he knew. Man can live without food, but lack of water on the prairie would kill. Prairie? This wasn’t a prairie, but the principal remained the same. Men and animals cannot live without water. He wondered if animals could exist in this forsaken land. He felt the strength flow back into his body and flexed his arms and hands. He felt himself and discovered a good body. He could survive. Some dim memory of survival said he had survived worse. But where? Can’t think about it. The process made his head hurt and his vision blur. He knew survival depended on all senses being alert and he began to listen:  listen to what the forest could tell him.

It was quiet and he was alone. No, not alone. Even on this green, dappled world life fed, propagated, and died. He heard scuttling in the underbrush and spotted an insect, a brown creature with splotches of green and then the forest began to talk to him. Birds flew and chortled in the background, the wind whispered, and the leaves rustled back, the very earth seemed to quiver with the arrival of a new comer.

The bark on one tree was dislodged and he bent over to examine the ground. There was a narrow path that had been beaten down by hoofs. A game trail like those he knew from somewhere long ago. Animals were food and animals knew where water flowed. He had a knife and a rope:  tools that animals did not possess. He began following the trail. The pain made his vision blur and his knees wobble, but he kept going, one dogged step after the other.

As the trail led downward, he passed vegetation he could not name. There were huge trunks wrapped with corded vines, ferns that belonged in a climate forever damp, and everywhere the shallow green light highlighted darker shades of green. He stooped once to examine the soil and sniff it. It looked like moss, but it was moldy, dank smelling earth. Then he saw the faint imprint of a larger hoof not obliterated by the others, nor washed away by the rain.

A horse! God, a horse. A horse could be caught and ridden out of this green hell. There had to be a sun somewhere.

The bleeding from his head and hands had quit, but he desperately needed to find water. Follow the trail, he told himself. It means water. Steady, hold your pace; you know you can go for days once you find it.

Hours later the pool appeared in a low area; green, rippling water welling up between green, granite like stone. He circled the spring before approaching. It was obvious that animals watered here, although now it was quiet and devoid of animal life. Was it too early for them? There was still light illuminating this world. He lowered his head and drank, then spat. The water tasted bitter, but not brackish. It was more like the air that didn’t satisfy and had a sting to it. He forced himself to drink. There were no dead mammal bodies lying here. Then he washed the wounds on his arm and head before retreating to the trees.

Back in the forest, he selected the moss and ferns that resembled some he must have seen or used sometime somewhere. Sheer instinct guided him now as he applied the mosses to his wounds and used the vines for tying the improvised bandages. Once finished, he used the heavier vines to fashion a small snare and covered it with the fern fronds. It was as though his hands remembered how to do this while his brain could not. He hoped his smell would not be so alien as to drive any creature away. With luck, the strange smell might make them curious. He then used the rope to pull himself up into a tree and lash himself into a crook. Light or no light, he needed sleep.

He awoke to the light of green-grey moonlight and the feeling of being totally lost and disorientated. Then he remembered the pool and the snare. Something gurgled below and then skittered away as a small animal squealed. He loosened the rope and leaned over. Something was thrashing in the bushes where he had hidden the snare. He rappelled to the ground.

The caught animal was no larger than a rabbit, but its teeth were sharper, the ears shorter, more like a rat’s, and it was busy chewing at the vines clutching its forelegs. It probably has green fur, he thought, as he approached. The creature struggled and hissed, baring long teeth. He threw the knife, impaling the animal and ending its struggles.

He set about skinning his catch, wondering at the two musk glands in the hind quarters. Strange, musk glands aren’t part of a rabbit’s anatomy. On some level, his mind could still reference past events. Where did I learn to skin an animal so efficiently? Instantly, the throb returned to his head. Quit thinking, he told himself and carried his catch up to his perch.

In the morning, he woke early and watched the rising sun spilling its green-gold rays to illuminate the darkened world with lighter shades of green. In one direction (he presumed it northeast if the sun rose in the east) he could see golden haze spread out like an arc. That would be his destination. There had to be a safe earth away from this green world and air that clogged his lungs and his head.

It took considerable effort to light a fire with rock flints and his knife before the dry fern fronds caught flame and his small fire burned bright and clean. Once cooked, the creature tasted like slime. His stomach protested, but the food stayed down. He scaled the tree again and marked the lay of the land by the high rock towers to point as a guide. He clambered down the tree, coiled his rope, and drank from the bitter pool. He began to run at a steady lope toward the northeast. His arm was better, but the head still throbbed.

He spotted a camp about midday. It was deserted, but man, or man beings, had left their imprint. Their sign was like a letter to him. They had used furs to sleep on. A few scraps of grease and splintered bones were scattered about the fire pit. These were beings not worried about an enemy. They had also ridden horses, or hoofed creatures.

What kind of man beings lived here, he wondered. If they slept in furs, were they primitives? He examined a long strand of hair from the ground. Was it black or dark green? In the canopied forest he could not determine its color. He straightened and considered. It would be best to keep away from them. They couldn’t possibly be like him and certain to be distrustful of any stranger. Hunger and thirst gnawed at him. He sniffed the air. There it was:  water on the air. He knew water should be near a camp. Primitives would not befoul the water or scare away game by camping too close.

He found the spring several yards away. It was green water again, but water. He bent to drink his fill. He would survive.

Once sated, he continued in the general direction of the far off golden glow. His movements were slower now, the air sticky, scraping at his lungs. At nightfall, he sought another high tree after setting his snare and eating the last of his cooked meat.

Morning brought a soft, green light filtering down through trees and rocks and showing an empty snare. His hands seemed overcast with green and he was afraid that if he had a mirror it would show green eyes in a green face. Careful, he told himself, sanity can slip away. He lowered himself to the ground and squatted. Then he sat still, letting the forest and ground talk to him. Something big was stirring, silencing the wild life.

The morning sound of birds had stilled. When he first looked out from his perch, there had been a large, dark bird swooping in the sky. It had not been a familiar hawk, but the outlines were similar. Now the bird was gone and the forest was quiet, too quiet. Something or someone was hunting and he moved behind a boulder. Wildlife became quiet when man hunted, and instinct told him that he was the hunted.

Some mechanism, deep within him, enabled him to ignore the throbbing pain in his head. Instead, he concentrated on the clopping hooves bringing the beings nearer. The vibrating earth carried the news that there were two quadrupeds. He slunk closer to the ground, easing the knife into his right hand, waiting until he could smell the stink of rancid grease before moving enough to tense his muscles.

The two approaching dark, horse-like creatures each carried a biped being clad in furs and buckskins. One leaned over towards the right, watching the ground for changing signs. Indians on mustangs his mind whispered, they’re tracking me.

They stopped when they realized his stride had changed and they caught his alien man-scent. With a scream they rushed forward swinging their clubs of rawhide wrapped sharp stones. Tomahawks registered in his mind and the muscles in his legs bunched and launched upward. His knife flashed and a yell tore from his chest as he leaped to meet them.

The quadrupeds reared and screamed, his unknown odor frightening the beasts into a frenzied fight to flee. The man jumped and caught the weapon arm of the being on his right, the extra weight causing the horse-like creatures to collide. No longer was he thinking consciously, but patterns of training and past deeds worked his muscles and his hands. He pulled the man down and forced the knife through and across the throat, then flung the man from him, stuck his knife into the sheath, and picked up the tomahawk as the other regained control of his beast and wheeled toward him.

He flung the tomahawk directly into the male chest. The being toppled from the bolting creature and in a second he was on top, driving his knife down into the heart, or where the heart should be. Realizing that perhaps this being was different, he used his knife to rip the throat and stomach of the man beneath him and rolled to the side. There was no movement from the two prone beings and a darkening teal liquid pooled the ground beside them.

The reins of one quadruped had caught in the vines and underbrush. The beast was pulling, but the reins remained fast and the creature quieted. Good, he could use it for transportation.

He turned to look at the slaughter and felt no revulsion. It was as though the scene was a replay of long ago events and he knelt to examine the victims.

They were small, compact men with muscular builds, dark, green hair and eyes, olive skin, and wide chests. The chests were probably necessary to utilize the air that dragged at his lungs and left him feeling in need of more. He stripped a rawhide vest off one and put it on. He did not bother with the bows or quivers of arrows. He emptied the bundle tied to one waist and sifted its contents.

The contents of a small, leather pouch smelled like pemmican. He sniffed at the lump and cautiously chewed a bit. It was tough and bitter, but whatever the dried contents were they would sustain life.

The other man had a twisted rawhide rope wrapped around his shoulder and slung under his arm. The man removed it and then coiled it loosely, fashioning a noose at the end. Slowly, he approached the horse caught in the bushes.

The horse had caught his smell and was trying to rear, its eyes rolling wildly. The man’s head was still throbbing and his arm was bleeding again, but he started twirling the rope over his head, keeping the noose moving in a circular motion. The lasso whirled over the beast’s head and settled around the neck. He dashed in and leaped on the beast’s back. There was no saddle, but he managed to slash the longer reins free, grasp the mane, and dig his knees inward to send the creature loping along the bank towards the light.

Bushes and rocks blurred as he urged the creature forward and he fought for control. The golden light crept closer and he knew there were others following. They would want revenge for the olive bodies lying in their dark life-liquid.

The air seemed to lighten and turn a softer, yellow-green. Something whistled past his head as he guided the beast towards the hazy light. There had to be real life sustaining oxygen in that golden light.

Half-way across a low, running river he broke through into brilliant sunshine. He was temporarily blinded and almost lost control of the beast as it fought his every move. He had managed to turn the animal towards the opposite side again when something thudded into his back. Another missive hit the animal. The animal rose on its hindquarters and he slid into the stream.

The cold water revived him and he used his hands and knees to crawl to the sunlit side. He could hear his pursuers screaming at him, but they were not following him. He gulped in the air:  real, life giving air. He threw back his head to howl his survival and liquid gushed down his back and his legs buckled. He forced his way up the bank onto beige sand strewn with white and brown-rose boulders.

He rested. Pain wracked his body and thirst burned his throat. Did he dare go back for water? It was a necessary decision or soon it would not matter. He tried to stand and instead sprawled onto the ground.

All Rights Reserved – by Mari Collier

If you are interested in sharing your stories or novels with us, please contact me at freevalleypublishing@gmail.com  It’s free, and you keep all rights to your work. We will not reproduce or share it other than on this home page.-Sheri J Kennedy, site editor

Find Your Perfect Match – Books by NW Authors

Several of our FVP authors and some of our author friends will have books available at Norwescon from April 2nd – 5th. You can see them here and find them online.

We’ve created cards to help you find your Perfect Match. Remember these are for hooking up with the books, not the authors…but we love you too! If you’re at Norwescon, be sure to stop by and see us in the Dealers Room.