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Archive for September 20th, 2019

Title: DREAD PIRATE ARCANIST
Author: Shami Stovall
Publisher: Capital Station Books
Pages: #437
Genre: YA Fantasy

BOOK BLURB:

While protecting the newborn griffins on the Isle of Landin, Volke Savan and his adopted sister, Illia, run afoul of the Dread Pirate Calisto, the same cutthroat who carved out Illia’s right eye. As a master manticore arcanist, Calisto’s strength and brutality are unrivaled. When Illia suggests they bring him to justice, Volke wonders if they’ll have what it takes to fight the corsairs on the high seas.

A fast-paced flintlock fantasy for those who enjoy How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

Praise for the Frith Chronicles!

Perfect for those who enjoy the Codex Alera series, the Homas Wildus series, and the Harry Potter series. Stovall is quickly becoming a name I look for.”

Seattle Book Review

An addictive series. Shami Stovall has produced a mesmerizing story of magic, intrigue, and true adventure.”

ManyBooks

Absolutely brilliant.”

Archaeolibrarian

Now continue the Frith Chronicles with the second book, Dread Pirate Arcanist!

Amazon —-> https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WK2H37L

 

CHAPTER ONE

A CELEBRATION OF GRIFFINS

Today the griffins of West Landin would choose who to bond with. The city officials gathered before the dawn, prepping for the evening celebrations. I watched from afar, on a rocky cliff that overlooked half the isle, the pre-morning winds disheveling my inky black hair. I had never visited the Isle of Landin before now, but I had heard amazing tales of their fearsome griffins since I was old enough to remember stories.

My pulse quickened with anticipation. For fifteen years I had imaged bonding with a mystical creature and becoming an arcanist. Eight months ago it had become a reality, but it hadn’t yet sunk into my heart and gut. Giddiness twisted my insides with each new breath.

While the citizens of West Landin would have to prove themselves to the griffins in a Trial of Worth, I had already been tested and found worthy.

I turned to the shadows next to me, well aware that my mystical creature—my eldrin—lurked in the darkness.

“Luthair,” I said. “Do you know much about griffins?”

“They are stubborn beasts,” he replied from the void of my shadow, his voice more sinister than his true demeanor. “And griffin arcanists are strong, courageous, and skilled at combat.”

“Amazing.”

As a knightmare, Luthair lived among the darkness, merging with it like salt in water. He didn’t need to materialize to speak, and he could slink along next to me without anyone knowing. While some would consider that creepy or unsettling, I enjoyed his presence and trusted him in all things.

I returned my attention to the sprawling city. Unlike the Isle of Ruma, where I grew up, West Landin housed thousands of people, had a massive port, and had constructed a seaside fortress to deter pirates. Their cobblestone roads, twice as wide as home, snaked beyond the city limits to a valley filled with sheep, goats, and horses.

When the sun rose, the oranges and reds of dawn cascaded over the island, washing it in a familiar glow. The Isle of Ruma had wonderful dawns, just like this one. The nostalgia overwhelmed me for a moment, so powerful it almost hurt.

I missed my adoptive father, Gravekeeper William.

The days spent as his apprentice seemed torturous at first, since I had never wanted to be become a gravedigger, but now I understood how much he had influenced my life. He had been the best father I ever could’ve hoped for. I last saw him after I bonded with Luthair, a short time after my fifteenth birthday.

“Volke?”

“Yes?” I replied, recognizing Illia’s voice straight away. I didn’t even need to turn around. I knew she would walk over to speak with me.

Sure enough, she ambled to the edge of the rocky cliff, one hand on the brim of her sailing cap. Then she offered me a smile.

“Are you out here daydreaming?”

“No.” I slipped my hands into my pockets. “I wanted to spot some of the griffin cubs. I’ve never seen one in person before.”

Illia sarcastically lifted an eyebrow. “You weren’t thinking about the Isle of Ruma?”

“W-well, I might have thought about it for a moment.”

“Yeah. I know.” She stared down at West Landin, her one eye unfocused. “I’ve been doing the same thing.”

The wind played with her hair, revealing the twisted knife scars on the right side of her face. Her sailing cap kept everything in place, so I didn’t catch sight of the old wound for long, but I knew it was there.

I still remembered the first night that Gravekeeper William had brought her home. She had been five years old, and the injury hadn’t yet healed. The pirate fiend who had taken her eye had cut in deep, damaging the socket. She had to rest in bed for weeks, her skin pale and dappled with sweat.

Illia glanced over. “Volke?” She frowned. “What’s wrong? You’re not thinking about home anymore, are you?”

“It’s nothing,” I said as I stared at my boots. Illia didn’t like having attention brought to her scars, and I didn’t want to upset her.

“You can’t hide things from me.” Then she smacked my shoulder and half smiled. “You’ll tell me sooner or later.”

Instead of arguing, I nodded and allowed the conversation to end. The morning sun warmed the isle, and the breeze brought ocean mists. I could’ve stayed on the rock cliff with Illia for the entire day, enjoying the atmosphere.

A small ferret-like creature—a rizzel—bounded up toward us, hopping along like only weasels could. His snow-white fur shone in the morning light, and his silver stripes had a metallic sparkle.

“Illia!” he cried out as he scampered over to her feet. “Why would you leave me?”

In a flash of sparkles and sorcery, the rizzel disappeared and then popped into existence on Illia’s shoulder. She stroked his head as he curled around the back of her neck, hiding in her wavy brown hair.

“What is it, Nicholin?” she asked.

“Master Zelfree wants us all to gather near the edge of the woods.”

“Right now?”

“He said before dawn, but it took me forever to find you.” He arched his back and squeaked. “I can’t believe you left me! I’m your eldrin! Arcanists don’t leave their eldrin—it’s unheard of!”

Illia chuckled, but gave no explanation.

All arcanists had a mark on their forehead—a seven-pointed star etched straight into their skin. Illia’s, while faint, had the image of a rizzel intertwined with the star, symbolizing her connection with Nicholin. When I touched my own forehead, I could feel the cracked arcanist star just below my hairline. Unlike Illia, my star had a sword and cape, representing my bond with a knightmare.

“Did you see any griffins?” Illia asked.

I had almost forgotten the reason I perched myself on the cliff. I shook my head. “No. I can’t see their aerie from here, and the bonding ceremony doesn’t start until dusk, so I’m sure they’re still resting.”

“Do you want to wait until you see one? I bet they’ll wander around town before the Trials of Worth begin. We can always tell Master Zelfree that Nicholin got lost or something. It won’t be a big deal.”

“I wouldn’t want to lie. Honesty. Without it, we cannot learn the truth about ourselves.” I said the last bit with dramatic emphasis.

Illia groaned. “Please, Volke. For me. Stop quoting that damn staircase.”

“You know I like the lessons from the Pillar. I think they’re good rules to live by.”

Nicholin crossed his little ferret arms. “You’re wrong. They’re lame.”

“What?” I balked. Then I turned to the darkness. “Luthair, back me up. They’re good, right?”

“Indeed,” he said, his gruff voice echoing from my shadow.

“See? Luthair agrees with me. They’re definitely awesome.”

Nicholin and Illia exchanged knowing glances and huffed in sarcastic exasperation. If it were anyone else, maybe I would be bothered by the mocking, but I knew Illia didn’t mean it. She gave me hard time, just like when we were kids. With all the nostalgia in my veins, I welcomed the teasing.

“I guess we have to find Master Zelfree,” Illia said. “C’mon. Let’s go.”

We walked away from the cliffside, seagulls serenading the dawn with a symphony of caws. The rocks created a natural path, making the trek down an easy one. Illia kept close to me—closer than usual—and I wondered if she was awash in sentimentality as well.

Today would be easy. As members of the Frith Guild, we had been called to the Isle of Landin to protect those attending the griffin bonding ceremony. Until the celebrations began, however, we didn’t have much to do. Perhaps Illia and I could convince Master Zelfree to allow me to reminisce in town.

“I’m glad we became arcanists together,” Illia said. “That’s how I always imagined it when we were younger.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

She smiled and took in a breath, as if she might continue the conversation, but the words never came. We got all the way to the edge of the trees before she turned her attention back to me. She met my gaze with her one eye. I think she wanted me to say something. Maybe about our past? I didn’t know, and the longer she stared, the more disappointed she looked.

Illia lifted a hand and covered the scars over her damaged eye socket.

“Uh,” I began.

Illia waited.

Nicholin perked up, his ears erect. “Hm? What’s that?”

My breath caught in my throat. What did Illia want me to say?

Thankfully, Master Zelfree emerged from the woods, saving me from the awkward moment. He sauntered over, bags under his eyes, his black coat and pants wrinkled from long hours of work. He ran a hand through his black, shoulder-length hair. His fingers caught in a few places, betraying the fact he hadn’t brushed it in a while.

If I didn’t know he was a master arcanist from the Frith Guild, I would’ve assumed he was a hungover drunkard who stumbled away from the festivities.

“Master Zelfree,” Illia said, her eyebrow high.

Unlike me and Illia, Zelfree had a strange arcanist mark—his star had nothing intertwined with it. His eldrin, Traces, was the shape-changing mimic, after all. The bangles on his left wrist were most likely her. That was how she had hid herself in the past.

“You two finally decided to show up, huh?” Zelfree said. “You’re late for the exercise.”

“What exercise?” I asked.

“Don’t worry. It’s something simple.”

Zelfree’s shirt—black, like the rest of what he wore—was open enough to expose his bare chest and guild pendant, a silver symbol that marked him as a master arcanist. My bronze pendant told the world I was an apprentice, but I wasn’t ashamed of my low status. I loved my pendant with every ounce of my being.

“You all have been through a lot,” Zelfree muttered. “And your training as arcanists has been erratic. For the next couple of months, everything will be simple. We’ll take it slow while I assess your abilities, and then we’ll work our way to more challenging assignments.”

“I thought we didn’t have to do anything until dusk?” Illia asked.

“We don’t have to do anything official until dusk.” Zelfree pulled a flask from inside his coat and unscrewed the top. “But I want you all to practice your magic in the meantime. I split the other apprentices into pairs and sent them on their way.”

Nicholin bounced on Illia’s shoulder. “On their way? Where?”

“I hid apples around the daisy woods and I want you to collect them using your magic and your magic alone.”

“What? That’s kids stuff! My arcanist and I can handle anything. We took on Gregory Ruma’s leviathan. We stared into the jaws of death and survived!”

“As an arcanist of the Frith Guild, you won’t always be fighting giant leviathans in the waves of the ocean.” Zelfree cocked half a smile. “Sometimes we’ll be asked to find missing mystical creatures or locate hidden caches. Since none of those things involve traumatizing duels to the death, I figured this would be a relaxing exercise to practice your basic magic.”

“They’re hidden throughout the entire wooded area?” I asked.  The daisy woods covered a few acres of the island. The task felt daunting, even if it didn’t involve combat.

Zelfree shrugged. “Apples aren’t native to the islands. They’re bright red, and I’ve placed them in precarious spots. It shouldn’t take the six of you long to find them all.” He took a swig from his flask. “Whichever team comes back with the most apples will get to spend time with the griffins before the ceremony.”

My chest tightened. “Really?”

“And the pair who finds the least amount will have to wipe down the deck of our ship.”

Illia and I both groaned. No one wanted ship cleaning duty, especially since the sailors would get a good laugh at our predicament. Arcanists stood at the top of social hierarchy, and seeing one swab a deck was a novelty—like watching a crown prince take out the garbage, or a knight commander cleaning all the training weapons. We’d be mocked for the entire journey home.

“Interacting with the griffin cubs sounds amazing,” Illia said.

Zelfree nodded. “The mayor of West Landin asked the Frith Guild to protect the new arcanists until they reached the mainland. We’ll be sailing with them all the way there.”

“Protecting them from what, exactly?” she asked. “You never told us why they wanted the Frith Guild.”

“Pirates are in the area.”

The statement killed all mirth in the conversation. Illia grazed her fingers over the scars on her face. I had seen her react that way a million times before, every time someone mentioned nearby pirates.

The last thing I wanted was to deal with sea thieves and cutthroats.

“Any questions?” Zelfree asked. He swirled his flask as he spoke, and I couldn’t help but take note of it.

I pointed. “I thought you said you were cutting back on the drink.”

He downed the rest of his “breakfast” and walked past us. “Don’t worry. I’ve limited myself to a single serving. Soon I won’t need it to wake up.”

Normally I was the tallest person in any group—six feet—but when Zelfree went by, he straightened his posture, standing an inch or so higher. I never noticed before, probably because he slouched most times. It surprised me.

“Okay,” I muttered. “I suppose we’ll get started with the apple hunt then.”

“Treat this like an urgent mission. The apples are baby mystical creatures. Recover them quickly and efficiently.”

My thoughts didn’t dwell on his statements long. The idea that I could see the griffins up close—before the ceremony!—excited me more than anything else. We had to find enough apples. It would make for a perfect day, and an amazing tale to write to William about.

Illia took my elbow and pulled me toward the trees, a smile on her face.

The slender daisy trees grew sixty to ninety feet into the air, and in dense clusters. Their wide canopies caught the humid breeze and rustled with excitement. The white trunks, striped with brown, would make it easy to spot something crimson.

I kept my gaze up, hoping to catch a glisten of fruit among the branches.

“I’m going to make sure you see those griffins,” Illia said as she let go of my arm.

“Me?” I asked. “But aren’t you excited too?”

“Of course.” She smiled, more to herself than to me. “When I was younger, griffins were my favorite mystical creature. I used to daydream that one would hear I escaped from pirates, and that it would think I was so courageous it had to fly to our island just to bond with me.”

Nicholin swished his tail. “I don’t know if I should feel jealous or sad that I’m not a griffin.”

“No, no, no,” Illia said as she hugged Nicholin close. “That was me as a little girl. Now I know I wouldn’t want to be bonded with anyone but you.”

He made an odd purring noise, like he wasn’t built for it, but still attempted regardless. “That’s right! We’re meant to be together.”

Still—I had heard the excitement in her voice. If Illia wanted to meet a griffin, I would make sure that happened.

Somehow.

Thirty feet into the daisy tree woods and I spotted a rodent hole. While Illia went off to check some shrubbery, I knelt on the dirt and examined the burrow. I had dug enough graves to recognize when soil had been freshly tossed, so it was clear to me the entrance had been tampered with by human hands. Would Zelfree hide an apple here, of all places? I thought he had said they would be clearly visible. Best to check, regardless.

“What’re you doing?”

The snide voice snapped me out of my concentration. I glanced up and all excitement curdled in my system. Zaxis Ren. He stood with his arms crossed and his green eyes narrowed in a condescending stare.

“I’m searching for apples,” I said.

“In the dirt? Like an animal?”

I got to my feet and brushed the soil off the knees of my trousers. “Sounds like someone hasn’t had breakfast.”

“Heh. You think you’re so funny.”

Zaxis confused me more than anyone else. We had known each other our whole lives, and while it had been antagonistic when we were young, I thought we had worked past that during our time in the Frith Guild. Still, he fluctuated back and forth on whether we were being cordial.

Today wasn’t one of those days, it seemed.

His phoenix, Forsythe, glided through the trees on scarlet wings edged with gold. Occasional dustings of soot rained down from his body as he moved, and he swirled around us once before elegantly landed on the ground next to Zaxis. Phoenixes had the bodies of herons, with long necks and delicate frames, but their majestic tails appeared similar to a peacock, with vibrant designs and curved feathers.

Zaxis’s arcanist mark had a phoenix laced between the seven points of his star. I admired it for a moment, remembering the Trials of Worth of our home isle. I had wanted to bond with a phoenix more than anything back then.

Forsythe’s gold eyes stared at me for a moment. “Good morning.” His voice was imbued with a regal cadence.

“Morning,” I replied.

Zaxis huffed and then motioned to a cloth sack of apples sitting behind him. “Forsythe, don’t bother talking to this biscuit. We have a game to win.”

From what I could see, Zaxis had already gathered four apples, all glistening red, almost the same dark shade as his hair.

“I’m not stopping you,” I said, motioning to the woods. “You can leave and keep searching if you—”

Illia stood from the nearby shrub, an apple in hand. “Volke, look. I already found one!”

“Oh, Illia,” Zaxis said as he brushed off his coat. “I didn’t see you.” He straightened his posture. “Beautiful island, right?”

She acknowledged him with a quick nod and then smiled at me. “I think we should hurry. If there was an apple here, I think the others might not be searching as thoroughly as they should be.”

“Okay,” I said.

Before I could return to searching the rodent hole, Forsythe investigated the burrow with his long neck and beak, rooting through the fresh soil. He grabbed the stem of a hidden apple and plucked it from the dirt. He set it at Zaxis’s feet and fluffed his feathers, revealing the bright glow of his fiery body underneath.

“I found one, my arcanist. Aren’t you proud?”

Zaxis flashed me a smirk as he stroked his phoenix’s head. “Oh, yeah. Good job.”

I gritted my teeth, half-irritated at myself and half-irritated at Zaxis. I should’ve ignored him and focused on my searching. Then I would’ve had another apple for mine and Illia’s collection.

Illia walked over and took me by the elbow. “C’mon. What’re you waiting for?”

“This is nice weather we’re having,” Zaxis said to her, smiling wider than usual. “Pleasant and cool without too much wind.”

“Uh-huh,” she muttered. She tugged my arm. “Volke?”

I nodded. “Right.”

I shot Zaxis a look before walking off, amused by his failed attempts at engaging Illia. Did he really think the weather would interest her? He wasn’t as suave as he thought, though I did feel sorry for him. Not many people tried to strike up a conversation with Illia. For both their sakes, I wish he had done better.

Once we had left Zaxis’s presence, I turned my attention to the shadows. “Luthair, help us look for the apples.”

“By your command, my arcanist.”

 

About the Author

Shami Stovall grew up in California’s central valley with a single mother and little brother. Despite no one in her family earning a degree higher than a GED, she put herself through college (earning a BA in History), and then continued on to law school where she obtained her Juris Doctorate.

As a child, Stovall’s favorite novel was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. The adventure on a deserted island opened her mind to ideas and realities she had never given thought before—and it was at that moment Stovall realized story telling (specifically fiction) became her passion. Anything that told a story, be it a movie, book, video game or comic, she had to experience. Now, as a professor and author, Stovall wants to add her voice to the myriad of stories in the world and she hopes you enjoy.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://sastovallauthor.com/

Blog: https://sastovallauthor.com/blog/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameOverStation

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SAStovall/

 

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