Winter Solstice Book Sale

Season’s Greetings! I hope you’re all well, hanging in there and finding what peace you can in this unhinged world. By way of preserving my own sanity, I’m drinking coffee, listening to Seether turned up rather loud, and watching the sun descend into the trees at all of 2:30 in the afternoon, a hallmark of the upcoming winter solstice in this northern clime.

Winter Moon Raven, by F.T. McKinstryAside from the comforting idea of the sun emerging from the primordial darkness, one of the things I appreciate about the earth’s cycles is consistency. Whatever is going on, the sun rises, the sun sets, the moon waxes and wanes, and the solstices and equinoxes continue to mark the seasons. Barring some scifi cataclysm, this is something we can count on. It’s cold, it’s dark, but spring will come.

Our ancestors celebrated this, and so do we, in whatever way. Deep in our bones, we feel it. What better occasion for a book sale? Today through December 22nd, all five books in the Chronicles of Ealiron are on sale for $0.99 each. These books stand alone as individual stories that happen in the same world with some protagonists appearing throughout. Each book includes a map and a glossary.

Book One: The Hunter’s Rede. A swords-and-sorcery tale of one warrior’s transformation by the forces of war, wizardry, betrayal and love. In this tale, Lorth discovers his destiny when his homeland is occupied by a cruel warlord with no respect for the deeper powers of the world.

Book Two: The Gray Isles. Some fish stories should be taken seriously. Very seriously. In this story, Lorth sets off on a routine mission and is drawn into the cataclysmic fate of an Otherworld being that rules the sea.

Book Three: The Winged Hunter. An immortal hunter, a gardener, and some very naughty wizards. In this story Lorth must use his darker abilities to help two powerful wizards protect a maiden from a diabolical immortal predator bent on fulfilling a curse.

Book Four: The Riven God. His greatest challenge yet, Lorth falls afoul of a backwater monarchy stained by evil, a wayward princess, and a dark order of warlocks wreaking ruin. When the wizards declare war, the northern seas churn with unrest and a war god keeps his secrets.

Water Dark. In the calm, deep waters of the mind, the wolf waits. A tale of desire and deception told on a fairy-tale landscape of arcane texts, herbal lore, visions and disasters at the hands of the powerful. Water Dark is a standalone novella with a cameo appearance of Eaglin of Ostarin, a protagonist in the Chronicles of Ealiron.

These books are also available in paperback and on Kindle Unlimited.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The following excerpt is from The Hunter’s Rede, during a winter solstice celebration in the great forested hall of Eusiron. Lorth, a.k.a. the hunter, our deadly protagonist, uses the wild and beautiful occasion as the ultimate distraction from a dark agenda indeed. You know, it only takes one asshole to ruin it for everybody.

The hunter padded through the forested hall of Eusiron, circling to the north, light and darkness merged to unholy intention as he blended with the trees.

Beautiful and strong, graceful as a hind, the Mistress ascended the dais in the center of the Ofthos. The hall fell silent, awaiting her. She raised her face to the sky twinkling with the constellation of Laerstroc, opened her arms and spoke in the Dark Tongue. The words summoned the stars, caressed the heavens and lay like a yielding lover beneath the loins of a hungry god. The hall grew winter-still as the night fell into the darkness of the longest night, the death of light and the silence of a dormant heartbeat. Then her voice changed and suddenly shifted. Gasps, sighs and smiles rippled over the hall as everyone felt the rebirth of the sun. As the Mistress’s voice echoed away, the top of Lorth’s head grew warm, as if light shone on it from the inside.

The hall erupted into cries of celebration. Deep, drumming music shook the floor. The priestesses spun away from their places and began to dance, moving like clouds of smoke. Many of the guests had left their seats and stood mingling and watching the dancers.

Setriana stood with Barenus near an ash tree on the northwestern corner of the Ofthos. In his altered state, Lorth no longer saw her human features; she wore the face of the Destroyer in full. But she was no match for him, friend to the wolves and child of the mountains. She had made her last mistake by crossing into his territory.

Calculating the distance between every face, hand, cloak, goblet and tree, he descended into the darkness of his heart, through the sinuous movements of women, fire, smoke and the rush and cry of music and voices. He went deeper, until he wept Leaf back to life, Setriana into a muddy grave and Barenus to his sword; he cast the Faerins from Os and the Tarthian-Anglorean war into a steel-slime wreckage of blood and dirt; he descended until he forgot Leda, her ivory breast and hollow eyes until finally, he settled like frost on Icaros, his hands clutched over the rastric bite on his heart.

He stopped with a breath. The Princess of Tarth appeared through a gap in the trees, her arms folded over her belly. Her wolfish face seemed to grin, causing Lorth’s rastric scar to burn. She paused and turned, slowly, and met the hunter’s gaze.

Lorth’s heart hesitated on the edge, like a drop of water creeping, swelling, then moving to its fall. Take great care when stirring the waters of Maern, for you may not understand the consequences. Darkness flowed through his hand and into the knife in his boot.

Barenus looked up. So did Eaglin, his expression impenetrable.

In a flash as swift as a bat, Lorth threw the blade. Barenus deflected it with his sword, but he was not fast enough to stop the blade from clipping his lover in the arm. Setriana screamed and fell to her knees, holding her shoulder.

The hall erupted into a surge of blades and cries as the High Guard took up arms.

The Raven of Eusiron towered to the heights like a storm casting living shadows.

If you are under attack by a wizard, think nothing.

Absurd advice. Icy wind cut through the hall, and the stars swirled like water. As Lorth attempted to gather himself in the darkness, he discovered he was not alone there. He collapsed to the floor as it joined the stars and consumed him.

Stay well and enjoy the holidays.

© F.T. McKinstry 2020. All Rights Reserved.

The Warrior Within

Othin of Cae Forres

Othin of Cae Forres, Ranger of the North Branch

The primordial image, or archetype, is a figure–be it a daemon, a human being, or a process–that constantly recurs in the course of history and appears wherever creative fantasy is freely expressed. ― Carl Jung

I once kicked a hole in the kitchen wall. This happened some time ago, in another house, another life. I honestly don’t recall what triggered it. I was wearing a pair of Doc Martens, which made the act particularly satisfying. I can still feel the sensation of the wallpaper exploding as the sheetrock caved in.

I left that hole there for some time, like a sacrifice to a war god. Then one day I knelt there, fixed the sheetrock and lovingly pieced a matched swatch of wallpaper over the wound like a mother patching up a scraped knee. There, there. These things happen.

How This IsDon’t get me wrong, this aspect of my personality as gotten me into trouble aplenty. He’s rising to his feet now, yelling, “Yeah only with people who fucking deserved it.” Debatable; however, my inner warrior stepped up like a boss on the battlefield of my childhood, where I took on a legion of thousands-year-old collective beliefs designed to bully women into being safe and predictable. Girls aren’t supposed to kick holes in walls. Keep it under control, don’t threaten the Powers That Be or you’ll be sorry. No talking back. No swearing. No waving swords or apple tree wands. Throw your weight around and we’ll throw you out. Yada yada. At some point I pushed all that noise off the cliff into the sea.

I like my warrior.

Building a Better Battlefield

Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it. ― Lloyd Alexander

There’s this quaint idea that fantasy isn’t real, but only worthy as entertainment or worse, escapism. This is right up there with the idea that dark, extreme music makes people angry or violent ― another garden cart load of crap. As a child, unfortunately, I adopted and then chafed under these ideas because I wanted an escape and I wanted the truth. The whole thing just pissed me off.

In fantasy novels I found my warrior, alive and well and ready to teach me how it’s done. I started out reading books and watching movies, until the forces of an ever hungry and curious psyche drove me into writing. After many years cutting my teeth on worldbuilding, the development of writing skills and the maddening vagaries of the traditional publishing industry, an assassin named Lorth of Ostarin stepped out of my subconscious and into the light. “Would you rather kick holes in walls, or tell my tale?” he inquired. Four books later, Lorth has proven himself to be an exemplary spokesperson for my warrior side.

Lorth of Ostarin

Lorth of Ostarin

Since nothing is complete without music, this tune sums up Lorth nicely:

 

Variations on The Warrior Archetype

The term “warrior” can evoke many images, some of them simplistic; say, a person engaged or experienced in warfare. But there’s nothing simple about this archetype. There are infinite variations. Here are some of my favorites.

The Noble Warrior

Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur’s heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the sea to the kingdom of Gondor. ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Aragorn

Who doesn’t love this guy? He has legendary ancestors, lofty titles, powerful friends and a destiny. He’s done his time. He plays by the rules. His sword has an elven name you can’t pronounce. The golden standard by which all variations of the warrior archetype are defined, he can send you and your shit packing with a deadpan stare.

A Tolkien votary from a young age, I was properly initiated by Aragorn. But I was so innocent. Like a little hare beneath the gaze of a great horned owl.

The Initiated Warrior

A warrior acts as if he knows what he is doing, when in effect he knows nothing. ― Carlos Castaneda

In ancient Norse traditions there were berserkers and warrior shamans called úlfheðnar (wolf-hides), who underwent brutal, powerful initiations. In the wilds they lived like wolves, to reach a state of possession and thereby acquire the beasts’ strength, fearlessness, and fury.

Ripley vs. The Alien Queen

Initiation rites for warriors are as old as time. But sometimes, a person with a warrior’s soul may not be aware of what she’s capable of until put to the test. To my mind, Ellen Ripley of Alien fame fits this aspect well. A warrant officer and first mate of the Nostromo, she becomes the badass we all know and love as the crew starts to realize what manner of thing they’re up against. The sole survivor of a terrifying battle with a superior life form, she goes on to set the record straight for every scientist, android and military type who crosses her path. Who knew?

The Reviled Warrior

Nobody loves a warrior until the enemy is at the gate. ― Unknown

Geralt of Rivia

Geralt of Rivia, the protagonist of Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher series, is one messed up dude. Trained as a child by a dark order of warriors called Witchers, he develops supernatural abilities via rigorous training and a ghastly transformation involving sorcery and narcotics, thereby rendering him capable of hunting the nonhuman fiends and beasties that haunt the wilds. With the eyes of a viper, milk-white hair and a collection of scars, he is hated and feared across the land ― until some constable’s daughter ends up shredded by a harpy or something, at which time they are happy enough to hire him.

A thankless job, but somebody has to do it.

The Broken Warrior

He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior. ― Confucius

Elric of Melniboné

Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga is old-school sword and sorcery at its finest. The protagonist, Elric of Melniboné, is the reluctant emperor of a mighty race with a well-earned reputation for cruelty. Elric is born flawed, an albino with weakness he is only able to overcome with drugs made from herbs and such. Disgusted by his own people, he ventures into the greater world to find his fortune. But he serves Chaos, and wields a malevolent sword named Stormbringer that drinks the souls of its victims, an addiction to which our hero swiftly succumbs, as the blade gives him strength as nothing else can.

Thus tormented, Elric destroys everything he loves, slaughters his own race and at some point has no fucks left to give. He tries to destroy Stormbringer, to bury it, to hide it away. But of course, “What you resist, persists,” and it’s only a matter of time before he’s driven to pick it up again. So it goes.

I’m still rooting for him.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Finally, if anything sums up the more shadowy aspects of the warrior archetype, this song does. And well, you know, Seether. C’mon.

Sleep with one eye open…

© F.T. McKinstry 2018. All Rights Reserved.