Record of the Sentinel Seer: Book One
Date Published: October 21, 2021
Publisher: True North Press
Abandoned in the wilderness as a child, Lekore lives with ghosts and fallen gods. Everything changes when he summons fire to rescue a traveling princess and her entourage. Wounded, he’s brought to a civilization unlike anything he’s ever known.
Caught in a net of silk and secrets, Lekore finds himself ensnared by court intrigue, midnight assassins, and a deviant faction of the Church of the Sun Gods—all hunting his blood and power.
He just wants to find the man who deserted him, until a storm rises out of the north, furious enough to destroy the city and outlying lands. Now Lekore must find the source of its wrath, deep in the wilds of the deadly Lands Beyond, if only he can flee a city that won’t let him escape.
“Gods protect me!”
As though in answer to Princess Talanee’s prayer, the flame of the holy torch leapt into a brilliant, churning arc. Intense heat and a deafening roar scored the air near her face. Flames encircled her without touching her skin, then stretched fiery fingers toward the Tawloomez warrior, who cried out as he and his fellows stumbled backward. They turned tail and dashed down the steps as the flames gave chase.
Talanee stood stunned, enthralled by the unending flame shooting up and out from the torch she held in trembling hands. She turned her eyes upward and found nothing but the brilliant sun in its sky to signify divine intervention. Could her prayer have worked? A breeze tugged at her hair, and she glanced down at the battlefield. The arc of fire had reached the bottom of the tower, and all the Tawloomez warriors cowered, corralled within it.
Talanee started down the steps, gripping the torch in her hands as it poured forth the terrible wrath of her beloved Sun Gods.
At the bottom-most step, she stopped. The Kel soldiers had flinched back, even Lord Lieutenant Rez, though he held his sword before him.
A breeze breathed across Talanee’s neck, but the fire of the torch maintained its vigil over the trapped Tawloomez, unerring despite the rising wind that tossed her hair. She resisted the urge to release the blazing torch with even one hand. Her eyes followed the trail of her hair in the sky—and she spotted him.
A figure perched on a ruined wall across from the tower. He was slender, barely a man, with the palest, longest blue hair she’d ever beheld, and eyes of red like all the Kel race, but these eyes blazed as though they held the wreathing fire. A tattered black cloak billowed behind him in the growing windstorm. One arm rose before him, hand splayed.
As she watched, he snapped his fingers into a fist. The fire of the torch died. The wreath of flame wisped into smoke and vanished.
The Tawloomez had seen the young man, too. With a cry, one heathen jabbed his finger toward the stranger. “Akuu! Nu jas Akuu-Ry!”
The Tawloomez stumbled backward, eyes wide, nearly wild, some dropping their weapons. They fled from the young man, racing northwest. One stumbled on grit and struck his knees, then dragged himself upright and sprinted on.
The Kel soldiers, still stunned, didn’t rally to cut off their retreat.
In the ringing silence that followed, Lord Lieutenant Rez dragged long strands of blue hair from his perspiring face as he found his voice. “See to the wounded!”
Talanee released a low breath and let her numb fingers drop the cold torch. Her eyes returned to the young man upon the ruin. His gaze met hers across the wide space. His brow creased, and he threw out his hand as the slap of feet sounded behind her.
She whirled to face a lone, charging Tawloomez, scissor knife in his hand, its several blades glinting under the dazzling sun. Her fingers gripped the torch, prepared to brandish it like her missing sword.
The wind changed direction. The strange young man from the ruin landed on the packed earth beside her, as though he’d taken flight upon the breeze to reach her.
He lifted a narrow, curved sword against the Tawloomez. Metal sang across the air as their weapons struck.
The Tawloomez gritted his teeth and spat out the same foreign phrase, this time like a curse word: “Akuu-Ry!”
The young man took a single step forward, and the Tawloomez’s brown eyes widened, the green paint of his face shimmering as though to reflect his fear.
“Leave, Tauw-Nijar, and I shall not do you harm,” said the young man in lilting tones.
The Tawloomez snarled and threw a long sliver of metal at Talanee. She yelped and tried to dodge as the young man shoved her aside. The tiny, glinting object caught his arm. A hiss was all the noise he made, but he sank to his knees and the sword clattered from his hand.
The Tawloomez sneered and swiped the scissor knife at the boy’s throat, but an arrow pierced his chest before he met his target. He grunted and fell, his swinging arm catching the young man’s shoulder, biting into the flesh in three distinct stripes.
A second arrow sank into the heathen’s chest, and the warrior crashed backward against the white stone stairs. Blood bloomed across his snake-bone necklace and down his front. He offered up a last gurgling breath, then his eyes turned to glass.
Talanee allowed the satisfaction of his passing to shiver across her skin, then she turned to the young man kneeling beside her. He looked up to meet her stare, and for a moment Talanee couldn’t move. His eyes still wielded that strange light like a fire burned within him, yet the clarity there made her feel as though he had stripped her bare to see every thought, every lie, every desire, every fear.
His eyes flicked to the dead Tawloomez. His hand snaked out for his sword near the fallen warrior.
“Don’t touch it. Don’t move.” Rez’s voice rang through the ruins as he raced across the field, red cape flowing behind him, to join Talanee and the strange young man. An archer ran with him, another arrow nocked and aimed at the stranger.
The young man’s fingertips brushed the sword. As Talanee looked on, the weapon vanished. Gone, as though the very air had swallowed it!
The stranger staggered to his feet. His pale hair, long and straight, rippled like water as it settled down his back and against his ankles. He offered a strained smile and raised his arm into the air. The wind howled, drawing his hair into a whirlwind, carrying the scent of wild things. He bounded upward, and the wind lifted him into the sky, above the tower, above the armored soldiers and Sun Priests, above Talanee and the grasslands. He leapt impossibly high and moved away in an arc, as though he could fly.
“Halt!” Rez slowed his pace and came to a stop beside Talanee, eyes lifted heavenward as the archer’s second arrow missed its mark. “By the Sun Gods, what is it we’ve seen?”
Talanee shook her head. “The very will of the Sun Throne, Lord Lieutenant. What else could it be?”
“Was he real?”
Talanee’s eyes lowered as she sought an answer. Blood stained the scissor knife lying beside its dead owner. “I think he was.” She traced a rising sun before her chest. “Sun Gods be praised. I think he was.”
Rez stirred from his watch of the sky. “Should we…try to complete the ceremony again, Your Highness?”
Talanee glanced at the fallen torch. “I don’t think we have to, Lord Lieutenant. The rite was already accepted, or we wouldn’t be alive.” She glanced around for the priests and found several slain, blood staining their white robes, while the rest cowered beneath the carriages. No one protested her assumption.
Next time, the Holy Hakija had better send his Sun Warriors rather than these cowards.
Rez eyed the priests and nodded. “Then we should return to Inpizal, Your Highness. There are wounded to tend, and we must report all that’s happened.”
“Of course.” Talanee stooped to pick up the torch. “The king needs to know. And we should consult the Hakija.” She picked up her hem and glided toward her carriage, where Keerva and her other handmaids huddled inside, waiting. Talanee glanced back toward the tower. Her gaze drifted north, where the young man had vanished in the air.
Would she ever see him again, or had he traveled from the very Sun Throne to aid her and her people?
About the Author
All of her fantasy worlds connect with each other in a broad Universe, forged with great love and no small measure of blood, sweat, and tears. When she’s not writing, she’s napping or reading a book with a mug of hot cocoa close at hand while her quirky cat Wynter nibbles her toes.
Learn more at www.mhwoodscourt.com