Orphan Ethan Hawk has spent the past twelve years sequestered by his uncle. His only friends are two weapon masters sent to train him in ancient warfare. Tired of being isolated, Ethan does not know his uncle is preparing him for a prophecy written in blood on another world. Then one fateful night, a would-be assassin dies a hard death, and Ethan learns the secret of his heritage.
Ethan's family is from Bonshea, a world vibrant with magic and haunted by war. Ethan learns his family safeguards one of six Kingdom Gates connecting Bonshea and Earth crafted by Bonshea Powerstriders a thousand years earlier. But malevolent evil lives in the desperate kingdoms of Bonshea, and Agrinor's beasts are preparing to break the world again. Honoring his uncle's last wish to protect the Hawk Gate and defeat Agrinor's evil legions, Ethan returns to Bonshea to protect the Hawk Gate and prepare House Hawk for a cruel war of howling magic and honed steel. But he knows there are those who will do anything to eliminate the last Hawk.
In this fantasy tale of blood, steel, duty, and honor, prophecy twists fate and destiny rides a restless wind as descendants of legendary men and women face the same horror as their ancestors.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.15(d)|
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BADMOONRISINGThe Gates of Bonshea, Book I
By Paul Hardt
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Paul Hardt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMIDNIGHT CLOUDS ROILING WITH SHADES of deepest purple threatened spring rain. Rumbling thunder, they rolled arrogantly through the Vermont night, carelessly shadowing a luminescent full moon. A multitude of stars joined the intermittent moonlight illuminating layers of darkness in the forest below where silvered trees tossed by restless winds cast swaying shadows on the mountain trail and the young man running upon it.
Ethan Hawk ran the mountain, immersed in the rhythms of night. He was a wolf, running tirelessly, exulting in his strength, at home in the forest of his father's. He felt a gust of cool breeze and smiled. A little rain wouldn't bother him. This mountain was the one place he could escape the Willholden Military Academy in the valley below. He had been here two months. Just one stop among many ordered by his uncle. He often wondered how it would feel to have a home and family. He didn't remember his parents, and he was beginning to lose memory of his uncle. He had been five years old the last time he had seen Bonigar Hawk. Military academies around the world had been his home for the past twelve years. Ethan chased thoughts of his uncle away. He was here to lighten his mood, not dredge up that stuff.
Blue eyes wide to catch the light, black hair wet with the sweat running down his hardened, lean body, Ethan challenged the mountain. He leaped, spun, and kicked. Crack! A dead limb two feet over his head splintered. He found the spot he wanted and landed, rolled, and then flipped over a storm-downed tree lying across the path, laughing with the joy of muscles that flexed and sang with what was no longer a challenge. He loved running at night! At night the forest shed its familiar cloak and assumed another, hinting at things unseen and mysterious slipping through the secrets of darkness. Here his imagination could run free, unfettered from the boring life in the academy below. Here he was not the shelved vassal of his uncle.
A Whip-poor-will called forlornly in the sighing of wind-tossed leaves, and a Barred Owl hooted, answered by another. Ethan slowed to a walk to listen, and then stopped altogether when the Whip-poor-will ceased abruptly in mid call, and the owls fell silent. Something had frightened the birds. Ethan quietly stepped into the shadow of a nearby maple, unsettled by a sudden, unknown dread. Angry with himself, he tried to shake off the feeling. Don't be stupid. There is nothing to be afraid of in this forest. If he was lucky, he might get to see what had spooked the birds. He scanned the forest, annoyed for being frightened, but he couldn't shake the growing apprehension coiling in his stomach. Moonlight fell like a silvered blanket on the mountain, but wind moaning through trees tossed shadows swaying and shifting, groping the forest with suddenly sinister gloom.
Ethan put his back to the trunk of the maple and slowly circled it, a prickly shiver running down his arms. He knew this forest well, and something was wrong. This was not the same forest of a moment ago. He felt it like a cold breath on his skin. Something bad was close. It was as though he had mistakenly taken a secret path in the dead of night into a forbidding forest where the rules were different. Because he knew now, was certain. Something dreadful hunted the night—something evil. He caught a glimmer of movement, and a dark shape stepped out of the shadows into moonlight.
Ethan grunted quietly and crouched, trying to be small in the darkness. A frantic voice in his mind whispered, Don't move!
It was man-shaped and rangy under a concealing cloak that billowed in the gusting wind, weaving with shadows like spider silk or the fabric of night. Large, yellow eyes burned above narrow lips and glinting teeth in a pale face the color of bruises fading to yellow. savagery. Its hands were a jaundiced yellow, like old ivory; the fingers long and slender ending in black claws. Each hand gripped a wickedly curved blade, the edge flashing silver in the moonlight. It moved like a wolf into the shadows, disappearing; and then it reappeared like a phantom, its glowing, yellow eyes scanning the darkness with the fevered heat of a hungry predator.
Cold fingers raked Ethan's back and grabbed his thoughts and squeezed. Gods, what was it? The thing could have stepped out of a bad nightmare! Had it seen him?
The creature lifted its scarred face to scent the air—and turned toward Ethan.
Ethan's rolling stomach clenched. The thing was here for him! He forced himself to breath and tried to break the panic rooting him in place. He thought of flight, but somehow knew the creature would just run him down. Straining for some sound from the thing, he only heard wind moaning through trees.
The creature cackled quietly and yellow eyes flared in darkness.
It had seen him! Ethan's eyes frantically searched the forest for a weapon—anything would do! But there was nothing, just the night closing around him, no longer friendly, threatening untold secrets. Cold sweat slid slowly down his back. This thing meant to kill him!
The creature stepped toward him and hissed in a voice forged of pitiless malice. "The time is come, boy. The harvest is due. The moon will see blood this night, and flight will avail you nothing! You are marked, and I have traveled far." Cackling evilly, the thing rushed him, yellow eyes burning violence, teeth bared in grinning anticipation!
Ethan grunted from what felt like a physical blow as terror slammed him hard. He knew from one heartbeat to the next that he had no chance against those wicked blades! But he wasn't going to just stand there and let the thing kill him! No, he had one chance. Take one of those blades! He was halfway to the creature when steel glinted in the moonlight, and a dagger thudded into the thing's chest! Again the glint of steel, and a throwing star spun into the creature's throat! Ethan desperately slid to a halt, scrambling now to stay out of the reach of those wicked blades carving the air.
Gagging on the steel in its throat, the creature staggered forward three strides, stumbled, and crashed to the ground. Yellow eyes wide in disbelief, the thing gurgled and clutched its throat, legs thrashing uselessly, black blood spraying its life into the night.
Ethan watched it die, drew a shaky breath, and searched the shadows.
"Do you ken he came alone?" asked the man slipping from the shadows to his left.
"Aye,'tis the way of the Bojuke to do so, as you well know," said another to his right.
Ethan released a long held breath. "Bjorn—Lodi—how are you here? I mean thanks and all ..." Ethan frowned. "What is that thing?"
Bjorn walked over to Ethan. In the darkness, his thick body and very broad shoulders made him look shorter than his six feet. He sheathed a bastard sword in a blur of steel. Bjorn's hands were quicksilver when he wanted. Brown eyes and white teeth flashed in the moonlight.
"Aye, laddie. Enjoying the night?"
Ethan glared at Bjorn.
Lodi called out from where he was searching the dead Bojuke. "No House marks him that I can see." Lodi cleaned both throwing star and dagger on the Bojuke's cloak. Lodi was just taller than Bjorn and not as wide. Lodi was all whipcord muscle and honed reflexes. He glided through the night and handed Bjorn the dagger.
Lodi always made Ethan think of green and ancient forests. Tonight his silver-blond hair fell below his shoulders in a silken mass contained with leather ties. Almond-shaped, emerald-green eyes focused on Ethan. "And what was your strategy for this encounter? You could not have outpaced him."
Ethan ducked his head. "I planned to roll, take his feet, and then close."
Lodi fixed him with a scathing stare. "Are you armed?"
"No," Ethan said, shifting his feet uncomfortably. He knew what was coming next.
"You had lost before you started without steel to hand," Bjorn said, his brown eyes mirroring the rebuke he just got from Lodi. Bjorn laid a big hand on Ethan's shoulder. "Let this be a lesson, laddie. You must always be ready to defend yourself. It is when you least expect it that bad things happen."
Ethan grimaced from a lecture he had heard before. How was he supposed to always go armed? Besides, steel was heavy to carry when you ran.
Bjorn shook his head and looked up at the moon. "We best get started. We have a far piece to travel."
Ethan clinched his fists, glaring at them both. "Wait! What is going on? You can't just jump out of the night, kill that—that whatever it is—and then say, Let's go. Tell me what is happening!"
"Lad, you'll do your foot a mischief if you stomp around like that," Bjorn said, grinning. "All will be revealed, but not here."
Bjorn turned to Lodi. "We can't leave the likes of a Bojuke for the locals."
Lodi pulled a flask of dark liquid from a pocket, poured it over the corpse, and carefully picked up the two Bojuke blades.
"Let's be off, lad," Bjorn said, turning down the mountain.
Smoke billowed from the corpse, and then white heat flamed the night. Ethan shielded his eyes and followed Bjorn. How had they known? His stomach knotted and churned. He knew nothing of this.
They climbed into a black Hummer and drove back to Willholden. Bjorn talked at the headmaster while Ethan changed into sweats and grabbed his few belongings. They loaded back into the Hummer and took off.
"Where are we going?" Ethan asked from the back seat, trying to understand what was happening to him.
"Your uncle has a wish to see you, lad," Bjorn said.
"What's going on, Bjorn?" Ethan hadn't seen his crazy uncle in twelve years.
"It's important, Ethan. Bonigar will tell it."
"Well, what was that thing? Where did it come from?"
"All will be revealed. Sit back and learn patience."
Ethan glared at the back of Bjorn's head, sorely tempted to swat it.
Lodi turned and grinned at him. "He looks mad enough to bite, Bjorn."
Bjorn chuckled and waved his fingers at Ethan, keeping his eyes on the road and his other hand on the steering wheel.
"Be at peace, Ethan. Your uncle will reveal all," Lodi said, and turned to face the road again.
And that's all they will tell me, Ethan thought. He knew from long years of unanswered questions they would not say more. Bjorn Iron Fist and Lodi Skyfire were good at keeping secrets, and they had always been a bit of a mystery themselves. They had not seemed to age in the years Ethan had known them, but had looked exactly the same for as long as he could remember. While Ethan grew up, they had stayed the same. From the time Bonigar Hawk had sent Ethan away, Bjorn and Lodi saw him every month, along with the rest of the tutors sent by his uncle that badgered and challenged him with their knowledge. But Bjorn and Lodi didn't come just once a month. Bjorn and Lodi also came on holidays and during summer breaks. Ethan spent holidays and summer breaks with either a blade or a gun in his hand.
They were expert in hand-to-hand combat and skilled with firearms. If you could think of it, Bjorn and Lodi could shoot it well. They were masters of honed steel. Those two could kill you with a blade so quickly and in so many ways it was scary. They had skills no one else knew anymore. Ethan thought that to be true because he had spent more than one summer training with blade masters in India and the Philippines where men still fought mortal battles with steel. But no matter who Ethan trained with, none of them could match Bjorn or Lodi. Of course, when he asked them about it, they just ignored him like they always did when they didn't want to answer his questions.
They had hammered on him for twelve years, and he loved them both with a fierce heat burning deep in his heart. They had shaped who he was. Bjorn and Lodi valued truth to yourself, honor, courage, and compassion for others—tempered with a ruthless bond to those you called friend. They had never answered questions about his uncle, and Ethan assumed they were honor-bound to not do so. They would not start now. He scowled and muttered, "You do make me mad enough to bite."
Ethan stared out the window and saw his face reflected in the glass. He looked scared. I am scared! He had a feeling he was about to learn things he would rather not know. Ethan wondered what his uncle wanted with him after twelve years, and a familiar anger swept through him. He had decided long ago his eccentric uncle was not altogether sane. For the past twelve years, Bonigar Hawk had forced Ethan to delve deeply into ancient military campaigns, battlefield tactics, and weapons now obsolete. Ethan had an uncomfortable feeling he was about to find out why.
That thing had almost killed him—would have if not for Bjorn and Lodi. What kind of creature was a Bojuke? Why had it singled him out for death? What made him a target for a creature not of this world? Ethan frowned. How had Bjorn and Lodi known the thing was hunting him? He shook his head. Maybe his uncle had some answers. He was only sure of one thing. Well, two things really. A creature not of this world had stepped out of the night and changed his life forever. And he was never going anywhere again without a weapon easy to hand.
Chapter TwoSOMETHING LARGE WAS POKING HIM in the shoulder. Groggy and disoriented, Ethan awoke to find Bjorn poking him with a big finger. "Awake with you, lad. We have landed." Ethan stretched and climbed out of the plane. He wasn't surprised to see Estoy Talendor standing next to another Hummer.
Estoy was a walking encyclopedia of the logistics and tactics of war. Estoy's scathing remarks on Ethan's understanding of such often left him feeling inadequate and dumb as a rock. Ethan smiled and waved. Estoy stood ramrod straight as usual. His grey-streaked, fiery-red hair waved wildly about his head in the gusting wind. Little silver bells dangling from both of his ears tinkled and winked in the dying sunlight. Ethan had asked about those bells once. He had never found the courage to ask a second time. They seemed a part of Estoy now. Ethan had no idea how old Estoy was. Estoy was in his twilight years, but he had a rigorous mind, sharp from exacting use. Like Bjorn and Lodi, Estoy was a valued mentor and was family as far as Ethan was concerned.
"Hail and well met, Ethan," Estoy said, placing both hands on Ethan's shoulders. "I know you have been questioning these two unmercifully, but have patience and all will be revealed."
Ethan smiled. "I am really tired of hearing that, Estoy. At least tell me where we are. These two won't tell me anything except all will be revealed, have patience, and just shut up."
Estoy's smile widened. He motioned Ethan into the Hummer with a wave. "That's good advice they give you. Follow it, and all will be revealed."
Bjorn and Lodi laughed, Bjorn slapping Ethan on the back with a blow nearly bringing him face down onto the rear seat of the Hummer. "Get in, lad. The sooner we leave, the sooner Bonigar can explain."
Ethan scowled at Bjorn and found a seat. They weren't going to tell him anything anyway.
Bjorn drove them from the private airfield. They were in mountains thick with trees. There was little traffic on the double-lane highway, and they passed no towns. They topped a hill, and Ethan was looking at a large estate enclosed by high stone walls. Armed guards patrolled the area outside the walls, some with Rottweilers on leash, others in teams of two. Bjorn drove them to a heavy steel gate leading into the estate, stopping next to a guard house. Security personnel manned the small structure dressed in grey and black camouflage combat fatigues like the other guards.
"Welcome to Blackthorn Manor," said the large, bronzed-faced man at the gate. A Sig Sauer P226 pistol rode his hip, and a Hecklor & Koch HK416 assault rifle slanted across his chest secured by his equipment harness. Ethan knew the weapons well because Bjorn and Lodi had trained him in their hot and lethal roar of gunpowder and bullets until his fingers cramped.
"We are pleased you are finally home," the guard said with a smile.
Ethan frowned at him wondering if the guard could use those weapons.
"Aye, he is safe and sound and bristling with questions I would divert to his kin." Bjorn said.
"He awaits you at the house," the man said and passed them through the gate.
The manor house was a mixture of old and new. Huge stone blocks home to a healthy growth of lichen and ivy made up what appeared to be the original and middle portion. Chimneys dotted its roof, and Ethan guessed it held three floors judging by the windows. Two L-shaped wings of more recent construction flanked the middle structure with stone. A lush green lawn surrounded the building with more of the mountain pines growing in solitary age. No flower beds or carefully trimmed, picturesque hedges were present. The area offered clear fields of vision for the watchful eyes of guards patrolling the compound.
Excerpted from BADMOONRISING by Paul Hardt Copyright © 2012 by Paul Hardt. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Really, really enjoyed this book. It was an entertaining read full of creatures, good guys, bad guys and great adventures. A fantasy, Badmoonrising is a wonderful mix of characters that you want to win and villains you want to fail. Grab a copy and enjoy it.