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"The old one will come. When he comes, his one true wife must carry within her a child of the old one who would be king. Only then can the heart be found and the evil of the world kept in its bounds."–The Prophecy of the Land
Sorann is the queen's daughter and training to be an empathic healer. Javert is a member of the wandering tribe called the Zingari and their future king. When Sorann's failed healer's magic test brings them together, they discover the prophecy governing the land is false. In order to prevent magic, and the Zingari, from being wiped from the land, Sorann must become Javert's wife and leave everything behind that she once held dear.
Tricked by demons, and followed by the queen's soldiers, they must find the fabled Wizard's Heart in the frozen Winter Valley.
What sacrifices will they have to make along the way, and will Javert ever discover the true meaning of the Wizard's Heart before his people and the love of his life are lost?
Standing in the makeshift shower, peace descended in a comfortable blanket. Nighttime birds sang and whistled to each other, a frog croaked bass, and the crickets formed the string section. Conceivably, Cryant lived far enough away from the city for the emotions of those in the city not to carry into his compound, to reduce the overflow from battering at her shell.
Sorann let down her guard, expecting a deluge of energies to cause her to feel dirty again. A dog barked and went silent. The pig grunted in its pen, perhaps upset at having its mud rearranged. But no feelings invaded her. In her palace rooms, a shield stayed in place to protect her from the invasion. Could the same be true of Cryant’s canvas?
Dim moonlight spilled in when she pushed the flap aside. She stepped outside marveling at the emotional vacuum she found herself in. Silly to think Cryant could afford the spell needed to empower a canvas to keep out the extended aura of others.
The sky above her wore a sprinkling of bright stars on an inky background. The cool night air caressed her skin. Goose flesh rose over her entire body. The hard ground under her feet felt warm with leftover heat from the day. The stones she stood on glowed in the faint luminosity of the yard light, wet here and there, the water from the shower ran in twin streams on each side of the stone path.
The clarity of her mind extended beyond her in the absence of others emotions and feelings. The world came to her in clear brightness--a veil of gauze lifted. She ran her hands over her stomach, her own skin felt different. The bumps caused by the cold felt alien and as she ran her hands over them, she could feel the tiny hairs on her skin, a chill shook her. She hadn’t even realized a barrier existed between her own hands and her flesh before.
Animal smells came to her, the scent of the soap was even stronger. Why did everything feel magnified? Perhaps subdued?
A result of the shell she kept in place? She’d lowered the shell before, and it wasn’t like this--not even in her rooms with their encasing spell. She spun around holding her arms out in the moonlight. She caressed her own arms, enjoying the feel of the gooseflesh on them. She laughed at the feel of the mud between her toes. She stepped off the path and took slow steps with her toes spread, so the mud curled as it squished between her toes. More laughter escaped her. Her hands traveled to her breasts, her nipples went hard in the cool breeze--had that ever happened to her before? Perhaps she hadn’t felt it?
“Sorann, you dressed?”
With a gasp, Sorann scrambled into Cryant’s robe. It stuck to her wet shoulders; luckily, it was over large for her. With quick movements, she wrapped her hair in the towel.
“Yes,” she called back. “I just need to re-rinse my feet. I . . . I accidently stepped off the path.”
“I’ve got soup on.” Cryant stood holding up the door flap. “Stay on the path.”
She quickly rinsed her feet in a clear puddle that remained on the platform under the barrel--the water mixed with mud creating patterns as it ran off her feet. Still puzzled, but prepared for the onslaught of Cryant’s life, she moved to the slice of light coming from Cryant’s doorway.
Cryant moved back so she could enter without touching him. Sorann almost tripped over the threshold. Nothing came from Cryant, no feelings, no buzz singing along her nerves in a stinging assault.
The upper wall revealed how the home stayed warm. Inside, plaster coated it, and, going through the door, she saw the wall consisted of two parts with what looked like straw stuffed in between.
The inside of his home held the aroma of potato soup and fresh bread. A slightly musty smell road on the tail of the soup. She rubbed her nose. Things in the room, a small wooden table with two chairs, a handmade broom leaning in the corner, two glow lamps, and a braided rug jumped into clarity. Things in her life were always fuzzy, smells, sizes, shapes, colors--all made so, she assumed, because of her constant battle to keep out the everyday life of others.
Perhaps the hog knocked her unconscious and this was the result? A dream? She pulled Cryant’s robe up around her neck, aware of how low the neckline rested over her breasts. The fabric carried a slight scent--a slight male scent. Cryant’s robe hadn’t been laundered since the last time he wore it.
“Here, sit by the fire,” Cryant told her. He stood near a makeshift clothesline stretched across the room. Using wooden clothes pins he hung her now clean clothes so they would dry.
Sorann carefully sat on the chair nearest the fire. Cryant finished hanging the clothes before he retrieved two wooden bowls from a homemade shelf hanging over a tin washtub. He spooned soup into both of them and set them on the table.
“Thank you,” Sorann managed. Questions tumbled through her mind. Why could she let her guard down in Cryant’s house? Why had she been so overwhelmed at first, but now--now since Cryant touched her in the pig pen--skin to skin, she didn’t need to be on her guard? Was it possible Cryant’s left over aura on his clothes allowed her a measure of control? Maybe Cryant himself?
Cryant picked up a small crate from near the fireplace and brought it to the table. He set the box on the floor in front of Sorann and set the thin towel covering the top aside. Small bird voices started up in a demand for food. Sorann pushed the chair back ready to spring away from the birds. She stopped.
“You saved the birds?”
“Some of them,” Cryant answered.
She peered back into the box. Birds. Young birds. The way they looked--one with a bandaged wing, another laying with its neck outstretched and its sides heaving as it tried to breathe.
“I can’t heal them,” Cryant said. His voice carried a note of sadness.
Slowly, Sorann reached into the box. She touched the gasping bird and almost shrieked when she felt its young body hit the pavement. Instantly, she knew about the bird’s broken bones, its injured ribs--the bird struggled in her grasp. She set him back in the box where he strutted around the other injured birds squawking and chattering at her.
“You healed him,” Cryant blurted. “But . . .”
Sorann reached into the box and one at a time she picked up the hurt birds. When she set them down they strutted about whole and healed. Cryant leapt to his feet and brought out a small cat from behind a curtain hanging around his bed.
He held the tiny black cat out to her. Sorann took the kitten in her hands and saw from the cat’s point of view the cart coming towards it and felt a flash of pain as the cart ran over the kitten’s leg and hip--her body didn’t feel as though she’d been run over. The cat’s feelings didn’t overcome her. She used her hands to completely surround the cat and in moments it struggled to be free. She let him go, and he ran to the box of birds and began batting at them. Cryant picked the kitten up.
“Out you go, but not in the street this time,” he said. He shut the crooked door over the curtain after he scooted the cat outside. “What they say about you, it isn’t true.”
Sorann looked up into his blue eyes. Lines creased his forehead, his thin face betrayed his puzzlement. She’d never noticed the shadow of stubble on his face before, or the tiny scratches, perhaps inflicted by an injured animal, like the kitten.
“It is true. I can’t heal. I get caught up in the emotions and can’t even diagnose what’s wrong because I feel as if all the things are happening to me. I don’t understand this at all. With animals, you aren’t supposed to receive the clarity to diagnose and heal the way you attain it with a person, but I didn’t expect to simply hold them and poof they are back to normal.” Her stomach rumbled, and she felt as if she’d eaten her last meal weeks ago.
“Eat, eat,” Cryant said and shoved both bowls of soup toward her.
She picked up the slightly bent spoon and touched a small bite to her tongue. Flavors exploded across her mouth, rich deep flavors of spices and onions she’d never experienced before. Spoonful after spoonful, each one a new adventure in taste and satisfaction until she cleaned both bowls of soup without a thought.
“Do you think the stories, you know from the Lost Lands, the ones about The Dark Towers are true?” He spooned more soup into the bowls.
Sorann glanced up at him and continued to shove food into her mouth. Her stomach kept begging for more with rumbles and demands she couldn’t ignore.
“I mean, the orange cat, outside, the one with three legs, sometimes, it almost feels like she is trying to talk to me.”
“The stories about those dark wizards turning their enemies into animals?”
Sorann chewed more food. She let out a small laugh. “I don’t think there is enough magic left in the world, dark or otherwise to turn people or animals into something else.”
“But isn’t that what we do with our gift?” He sat back and spread his hands on the table in front of him. He snapped his fingers shut. “Isn’t what we do magic of a sort? We take broken bones and turn them into whole bones, something other than what they were.”
Sorann stared at him a moment before she spooned more soup into her mouth. Around the food, she said, “Broken bone that was once whole bone, not something entirely different. Take the cat, where would all the difference in mass go?”
“Still, I think I would like a cat who could talk to me and could understand what I say.”
“I had a cat once, when I was small, I used to think she understood what I said. I think they do on many levels, if I can feel what they have eaten and their enjoyment, then . . .” Sorann shrugged. She looked up at Cryant after her spoon scraped the bottom of the wooden bowl.
“I’m sorry. You lied when you said you weren’t a good cook. I’ve never tasted anything, well, anything so full of flavors. I didn’t mean to eat all of it,” she added with a glance at the empty pot.
“Never mind. I have more friends in need, will you . . .?”
Sorann laughed, energy jumped along her nerves--she could heal. A miracle had happened this night--the speck of dust that sparkled with light--a wish fairy, if any still lived with the bounty on most things magic? Sorann laughed again, whatever had happened, she could heal. “Yes, yes, I will.”
Move over Harry, it's Sorann's turn. Howen creates a complex world into which the reader is quickly drawn. The norms and parameters are seamlessly woven into the vivid description and character interactions. The main character is well developed and solicits empathy and interest from page one.
This is a coming of age story cloaked in the guise of a fantasy novel, and comes with a bonus love story. Readers will zip through this book, trying to keep up with the adventure and high interest level only such a solid plot can evoke.
Book Bling gives this story 4 1/2 Stars!
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