The owl that roosted on the guard tower hooted once and was silent. A white crescent moon idled among clouds adrift in the night sky. A late breeze bore the scent of new hay upon the air, shivered the bending grasses beside the road, and rustled through the leaves of the black trees. The castle slept, but common men did not. From the town below a dark mass speckled with orange sparks flowed murmuring up the road. As the crowd of men drew nearer their voices lowered, and the breeze bore only low whispers and the soft shuffle of many feet on the hard earth of the road. Their torches flickered and flared in the wind, orange light gleaming upon steel of pitchfork and axe, spear and sickle. Faces glistened pale with cold sweat. They stopped at the drawbridge, holding back from setting foot upon the weathered boards, and they waited. The owl twisted her head to look down on them, and hooted once again. Receiving no answer, she spread her wings and ghosted into the forest. With muffled squeaks and a dull clanking of chain the portcullis began to rise. In a few moments an urgent whisper sounded and the men came on, slowly at first and then in a nervous rush, sticking together. They were through, into the castle courtyard, and then came the challenge. Count Valczisty stood atop the main stairway before the door, dressed all in black, and snarled down at them, “Who comes to seek me in the night?” “We are from Strogoborg! We come to cast you down, monster!” a leader shouted back. “Free Strogoborg!” others joined in, chanting, “Free Strogoborg!” Valczisty Vuk squared his footing and drew a slim sword from a scabbard at his hip. He turned his head and called into the castle in a penetrating tone, “Jasna! Mam’ka! Take the child and go quickly, I will follow.” Then he faced the mob and raised his sword. “Come! Who will be the first to die?” The men in the courtyard exchanged looks. Many hesitated, but their leaders did not. They mourned their lost ones, they feared for their children, and they were resolved, even at the cost of their own lives, to end the rule of Valczisty in the district. They knew that there were enough of them to mob the count and bring him down, even if he changed form. And the moon was not nearly full. The leaders screamed their ancient battle cry and charged up the steps, and as they moved the others followed. At that moment the slim dark form of Jasna, Countess Valczisty, stepped through the door to her husband’s side. “You cannot hold them alone,” she murmured, her tone firm and unafraid. “Jasna – no!” the Count shot back, but she only grinned fiercely up at him, eyes reflecting the amber light of the peasant’s torches, and drew her own sword. “Yes, my love. Now!” And she engaged the leaders, spearing one through the throat and twisting aside in a supple move to evade the plunging silver arc of an axe. Battle was joined, the two in the stone doorway against two hundred.
MY BOOK REVIEW:
Eloquently written, the voice of this author is unique and strong. This is an enjoyable read from start to finish. The plot moves along transitioning from key moment to the next.
I began reading this story enjoying the folklore touches the author introduced. As the story progressed, I became more and more enthralled. What a fantastic story! Very well written. Flowing plot, beautiful character arcs, but way too short!
This story should be turned into a YA novel. It would even get traditionally published if the author was so inclined to having it done. If you want a new twist on a werewolf story, this is it.
Very well researched (for language and traditions), setting is beautifully laid out, just enough mystery to keep you reading, building and building to its unexpected conclusion. I’m just not sure about the opening part of the story and why it was used. Makes me think, there must be more hidden away somewhere in the author’s pile of stories <wink> <wink> What a premise!
I am very impressed with this writer and expect wonderful things to come in the future.
I give this book: