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An Emerging Threat
The Seeker’s Burden
Mark E. Lein
Genre: High Fantasy/ Epic Fantasy
Number of pages: 176
Word Count: 33,000
Cover Artist: Glen Wilkinson
An evil stirs, casting a shadow across the Islands. Two men begin quests to find the source of the darkness. One is a young scholar, given no choice but to follow the path ahead. Tragedy shapes him, nearly driving him to despair; an inner struggle pervades his journey.
The other is a warrior forced to the task through a sense of responsibility. His royal blood and his knighthood drive his course. Their searches, though separate, have the same goal: to find whatever or whoever may be responsible for the darkening of their world.
This book tells the story of their journey and the creatures, both friend and foe, that they meet along the way.
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Chapter 12: To Meet A Ruler
Oliver lost count of the platforms they passed before the swaying cart slowed. Ahead the overhead lights grew in size, brightening the area with an unnatural glare. For the third time he tried to get some information on what was going on. “Sirs, where are we going? Have I done something wrong?”
Stony, expressionless faces looked through him and no reply was forthcoming. Oliver sighed, slumped back in his seat and watched a large gold- en hued wall and massive gate creep into view as they slowed. They came to a stop on what seemed to be the bottom of the chasm, a flat stony surface covered in rock dust. Here, the rail line ended.
A cheerful looking goblin strolled up and en- gaged the cart’s braking system before looking the occupants over. “Welcome be to you young friend.” He said to Oliver. “What brings you to the ‘Floor of the Sea’ as we call it?”
Before Oliver could reply one of the armored goblins spoke sharply in their grating language and the rail worker quickly backed away, his cheerful look fading into something closer to apprehension.
Oliver was led to the large metal door. Two torches stood on either side of an inscribed plate embedded in the wall. Just above the plate hung a rope. The leader of the soldiers reached up and pulled hard on the rope once and stepped back to join the other two soldiers. Nothing happened at first, then a low rumble of sound came from be- hind the wall and then silence once again.
Oliver started when the gate began to open. Slowly, the heavy door swung on silent hinges, opening into darkness. As the group moved through the gateway, small pinpricks of light flamed to life. Candles, hundreds of candles standing on narrow stone pillars, lit the space beyond the wall. Behind each candle stood a young goblin, alternating male and female. They were spaced every ten or so paces.
The illuminated area showed that they were moving through a cleft in the cliff face, winding as it followed the natural curves of the rock. A cold draft of air made Oliver shiver as they walked. The silence was just about to make him crazy when the trail widened and the line of candles ceased.
Ahead was a solid wall of darkness. The soldiers halted and stood quietly. Oliver waited with them, shivering in the subterranean cold, glancing at the solemn candle bearers around them.
The sudden boom of a drum shattered the silence as more candles flared to life. Oliver drew his breath in sharply. The group stood at the entrance to a long natural cavern, not unlike the one underneath Sun Fire Citadel. The floor was not smooth, jagged rock shot up in all directions, making the room look as if a giant mouth had opened. At the far side of the cavern a score or more goblins stood gathered around a single goblin seated on what appeared to be a throne. The hall was formed out of living rock, the throne itself little more than a shelf of stone bordered on each side by two round boulders.
Waved forward by another armored goblin that stood next to the throne, Oliver’s group crossed the distance between the entrance and the rough dais. The three goblins that had brought him knelt on one knee, plate armor folding smoothly as they moved. Oliver quickly did likewise, returning to stand upright with the guards. Only then did he meet the eyes of the goblin sitting on the throne.
He was old, not old like Oliver understood, more ancient than any human he had seen. He seemed a part of the stone chair that held him. The gray skin was creased and cracked, the features loose. His hair was but wisps of white strands that stuck out of the simple iron circlet on his brow. The eyes were different. Alive, even young, they pierced through Oliver and made him lower his gaze and redden in shyness.
“Welcome to the Deep Fallows young human.” The voice grated like millstones. “I am Bosgar, leader of the Goblin race. It is my great honor to meet you. I had grown worried I may not last until this day.”
Oliver stumbled through his reply. “Good sir, it is I who should be honored. Is there something that I have done wrong?”
The room erupted in coarse laughter, the sound reverberating off the rock walls as even the candle bearers joined in. “Nay, tall one! You have done nothing wrong and I am sorry for the secrecy of your journey here. My captain enjoys putting fear into outsiders in general and he had to be talked into allowing you this deep.” Bosgar pointed with a smile to the leader of the three goblins that had escorted Oliver.
With a hearty bellow of laughter the accused turned to Oliver and embraced him, squeezing the breath out of him. “You be a right solemn human, and it did me good to see you not quake in your boots!”
Released, Oliver stood in relieved confusion, a smile breaking out as the laughter and conversation continued unabated. The goblin leader raised a hand above his head and all fell silent. “Now as to why you are here, we must talk. We do not allow humans access to this place for sport. My scouts have reported that the Citadel called Sun Fire is destroyed and that you were the only one seen leaving the island.” At Oliver’s startled look Bosgar raised his hand reassuringly. “They followed you to protect you until you could come before me. I have need of understanding what danger is on our threshold. I understand loved ones may have perished, but please tell us what transpired on that dark island as time may be of great importance.”
Oliver spoke haltingly. “Sir, it is as you say, I am from Sun Fire. I had never left until yesterday.” Bosgar bade him and the others nearby take seats and then nodded to Oliver to continue. Oliver then spoke of what he had seen, relating the events as best he could remember, hiding only the details of the cavern and its secrets. Throughout his tale the goblins looked at one another and made whispered comments back and forth.
When Oliver finished his story, the goblin Leader stood and clasped his arms with an iron grip. “Child, you will be from this day, a part of my people, a son of a lost island. We weep with you in your loss and rejoice in your life. You are welcome to stay here and need only ask for anything.”
Tell us about yourself.
I am an avid reader. You might say an extremely passionate reader. For as long as I can remember, I read. Whether it was historic America or Europe, Narnia, Middle Earth, or the Four Lands of Shannara, I spent hours of each day of my childhood in the worlds authors had created. Before kids, my Mother had been a high school English teacher and she taught me and my siblings the joy of reading. By the time I was 12, she had read A Tale of Two Cities, The Hobbit, Les Miserables, and Where the Red Fern Grows to us, among many, many others.
Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Arthur Conan Doyle were as influential in my life as Louie L’Amour, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Timothy Zahn, Isaac Asimov and Dr. Seuss.
When did you start writing?
I wrote for fun in high school and college, thinking I was a better writer than I truly was. I attempted poetry, short stories, and even a song or two with little to no success. I wrote in some ways because it was easier than to verbalize. I never was good at speaking in public. When I did, to include briefing Generals as an Army officer, the number one thing I did to prepare and have success was write a “speech” to make sure I truly internalized what I had to say. Yes, writing has helped me speak.
What do you write and why?
For a couple years I had a blog where I wrote Non-fiction posts about experiences (to include time spent in Africa and Iraq) and beliefs. For the last year or two I have focused on writing Fantasy.
What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Surprising myself. As I write about a character for example, I keep finding more small details about the character that I never thought of before, small nuances and traits. It keeps me involved and interested to find out what will come out of my head next! The ever involving and living world is what keeps me coming back.
Tell us about your current and future projects.
An Emerging Threat, Book #1 of The Seeker’s Burden series. Forthcoming books: Path of Darkness, Book #2 of The Seeker’s Burden series. The first draft of book #2 will be complete in Early February and I hope to publish it by April 2014.
Tell us about the fantasy world in The Seeker’s Burden series.
The Tri-Islands are generally peaceful and inhabited with several normal and not so normal living things. There are humans, the largest kingdom is Astar, direct descendants of the first humans to come to the land. The human enclave of the Seekers are scientists who study the solar realm and attempt to contain its power. The Savoq are a tribal and nomadic race of human that inhabit the south. They are in constant war with each other.
Then there are Goblins who inhabit the hill country in the West and are renowned for their mining and metal works. The humans and Goblins have a wary peace, only having contact through trade. The last race in the Islands is the Ash. Little is known about them, only whispers and tall tales.
The world is set in a typical Epic Fantasy medieval setting with a couple exceptions, mostly relating to the more Science-focused equivalent of magic. There is also a bit of steampunk.
What is a fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book?
I used past experiences to build parts of the world. The Savoq and their lands are based off my time in Iraq and Kenya, while a few of the situations the characters go through are ones that closely resembled ones that I lived through. See if you can guess which. 😉
Where can we contact you and/or buy your book?
About the Author:
Mark grew up in small towns across the country, spending most of his childhood in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains of Northwestern Arkansas.
Throughout his life, his favorite books have been sci-fi and fantasy, anything Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Terry Brooks and a little Isaac Azimov.
Graduating from college in 2004, he became an Army Infantry and Intelligence Officer and continues to serve to this day. While deployed to Iraq for 14 months back in 2007-09, he began writing with this book in mind. His civilian work includes Intelligence Analysis and providing expertise with military training programs.
He now lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife of 9 years, Emily, and his three children, Oliver, Lucy, and Alexander.