Monday, August 12, 2013

Spotlight: Shiloh by Helena Sorensen

Today we have an excerpt from Shiloh by Helena Sorensen. Shiloh is a fantasy set in a world full of legends and danger, with a little bit of romance sprinkled in. Check out the synopsis:

In a world of perpetual darkness, a boy is born who wields remarkable power over fire. Amos is no more than seven when he kills a Shadow Wolf and becomes a legend in Shiloh. He would be destined for great things were it not for the stories his father tells about a world beyond the Shadow and a time before the Shadow. Only madmen hold to such tales, and in Shiloh, they have always come to bad ends.

Amos is fearless. He walks with easy confidence, certain that the Shadow cannot touch him. Even his family is in awe of him. His father marvels at his skill with the bow, his mother thanks the gods that he has all the courage she lacks, and his sister, Phebe, worships him for saving her from an attack of the Shadow Cats.

On a trip to the village of Emmerich, Amos rescues the Magistrate’s son, Simeon, from the village bullies. Simeon, fair-skinned and pale-eyed like other Dreamers in Shiloh’s history, becomes Amos’s constant companion and dearest friend. Simeon becomes a part of Amos’s family, listening to fireside stories told in a way he’s never heard them before and learning to wield a bow and arrow.

The year the boys turn twelve, they are itching to prove themselves. An impetuous plan to steal a beautiful lantern goes miserably awry, and the lantern’s owner prophecies that Amos will be devoured by the Shadow. For the first time, a seed of fear is planted in Amos’s mind, and when his father is killed by a Shadow Wolf on the last day of the Great Hunt, the fear takes hold. If so great and brave a man as his father could fall to the Shadow, what hope has he?

Excerpt from Shiloh:

The door of the cottage swung open and smacked against the wall. Their father, a lean, hardened man with dark hair and eyes stepped over the threshold and tossed a heap of blood and fur on the floor. “Make some use o’ yerself, girl,” he said to Isolde.

He settled himself onto the bench by the table and waited for Rosalyn to serve him while Isolde took the day’s kill and hurried out into the gloaming.

She drew a dagger from the leather sheath on her belt. Her mother’s dagger. It was beautiful, its wooden handle inlaid with silver, its blade engraved with the sign of the Clan of the White Tree. Her mother’s clan. If only the dagger had proven its worth when Sullivan came to carry her away in the night. “You’ll serve me better when I get out o’ here,” Isolde spoke to the dagger and sighed again. She took her time skinning the rabbits, peeling away the gray-brown fur and setting it aside before burying the entrails.

She cleaned the blade in the spring, where frigid water bubbled up to bite at her fingers.

Then she carried the carcasses to the stable, where she placed each on an iron spit and leaned them against the wall in the corner.

Resisting the pull of the cottage, of her father’s silent will, she stepped up to the new foal, Echo, and stroked her neck. Sullivan had traded a large doe for the little foal, hoping she would one day replace his aging stallion. Isolde smiled as Echo shuffled and stamped on her spindly brown legs, and finally pulled away, taking the rabbits inside to roast on the hearth fire.

“It’s awfully close ta the Black Mountains, though, Da,” Rosalyn was saying, as she ladled another helping of stew into her father’s bowl.

“Ya know nothin’ of it, girl. Some o’ the finest hunters in the north go ta that lake. No end o’ bull elk there, they say, grazin’ in the meadows and drinkin’ from the still water. I’ll be leavin’ in the mornin’. You’d best pack my things.” 
“Do ya mean Lake Morrison, Da?” Isolde asked as she settled the spits over the fire. “I’ve heard stories of hunters disappearin’ near the lake, of strange things happenin’. Melburn says it’s…” 
“Speak the name o’ that fool mapmaker once more…just once.” Sullivan’s voice never rose. He spoke with complete calm, complete control. 
Isolde was tempted to challenge him, and she held his eyes with hers for the space of a single heartbeat. Then the moment passed. She took a bowl of stew and sat down at the table. 
“That man preys on ignorant men and silly girls. He draws ‘maps’ of he knows not what. Any fool can scribble on a parchment. I’d like ta see him brave the Hunter’s Path through the Whisperin’ Wood. See what he’s made of.”

Sullivan finished his stew and set the bowl aside. “I catch ya near his cottage again, Isolde, and you’ll be sorry.” 
The sisters exchanged the briefest of glances. They’d both been sorry before, Isolde more often than her sister. Rosalyn was always finding some way to make herself useful, even invaluable, to their father. But Isolde had never proven her worth.

Before long Sullivan was asleep in his cot, and Rosalyn as well, on the opposite wall. Soft night sounds filled the cottage: the playful crackling of the fire as it died away into embers, the creaking of the cots as sleepers turned and tossed, the roar of the wind coming down from the mountains. Isolde heard none of them. For her, the cottage was filled with a ringing silence. It was oppressive. At times, it was unbearable. On many nights, she snatched a lantern from the hook on the wall and made her way to the only place in the village where she felt she could breathe.

Fleete rested on a hill that, for the most part, rose gently from the surrounding landscape. Cottages, stables, and shops were scattered about in an erratic, disorderly fashion. The village had no real center, for just before the hill reached its peak, it changed its character, rising steeply to a rocky summit. There, an immense boulder braved the icy winds that whipped down from the white spires of the Pallid Peaks.

It was a hallowed place for Isolde. She loved the precarious climb to the summit, the sting of the wind on her cheeks, the empty, open darkness that lay all around her. A faint golden glow of fires and lanterns floated beneath her in an ocean of inky black. And she was lifted above them, free from the terrible gravity of her tiny world. 
As always, Isolde was grateful for Rosalyn’s skill with braids. Her hair was tightly wound away from her face, and even this wind could not pull it free. She settled into her usual place and stared out into the void. Once in a great while, there were bursts of blue flame that appeared in the distant mountains. It had been a hundred years at least since any of the Dragons had come down into the foothills, but they still lived among the

Peaks, waiting in snow and Shadow.

I’d risk any fate if only I could go and see the Dragons with my own eyes. Or the southern moors, or the western plains. Or the Hall of Echoes, or the Three Bridges.

She thought back to the many cheerful afternoons she’d spent in Melburn’s cottage, hovering over his shoulder as he drew and redrew his maps of Shiloh. The mapmaker had perfected inks of several different colors, and perhaps it was those that most fired Isolde’s imagination. She could still envision the green of the Whispering Wood and the rich blue of the River Meander. At times, when Sullivan had been hunting in some far-distant clime, Isolde had sat with Melburn as he listened to hunters and travelers give accounts of their journeys. He hung on their every word, and he paid them in Edanna coins, so they were always willing to share. Melburn had collected hundreds of accounts in the course of his life, and the best of these he had compiled into the Red Maps.

If I had one of the Red Maps, I could search the whole of Shiloh. I could find Valour’s Glass. And then…then…perhaps… Her thoughts wandered out of the mapmaker’s cottage and up into the Pallid Peaks and down through the Whispering Wood and back through a thousand years to the tale of her forebear. And she envied the wind its freedom and wished that her father might never return from Lake Morrison and imagined all the places in Shiloh where she might roam… until her toes were stiff with cold, and she rose and hurried back to the cottage and the warmth of the fire on the hearth and the softness of her woolen blankets.

For more about Shiloh check out these sites!


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