Half Awakened Dreams: Volume II of the Carndir Saga
The sequel to Dragons Unremembered: Volume I of the Carandir Saga
Thursday, October 29th at 8:30 EDT - Book launch on Facebook Live. Visit the Cape Split Press page on Facebook for the link.
Half Awakened Dreams: Volume II of the Carandir Saga picks up eight months after the end of volume I, Dragons Unremembered.
King Ryckair and Queen Mirjel pursue Baras, the evil dragon, who has escaped. Together, as equals, they must complete a subduing spell with the power of the magical crown of Carandir. It alone can return the dragon to eternal sleep. Baras waits, wounded and in hiding, but his power grows each day. Soon, he will rise fully to visit a reign of terror upon the world.
The monarchs have matured and grown emotionally apart. They each question their devotion to one another and recall former lovers from their past as they wonder what might have happened if circumstances had been different.
Mirjel is unable to conceive an heir. This sows seeds of anxiety among the populace, allowing banished royalty to return and seize control of their former holdings. They call for "Pure Carandirians" to rise up against new comers, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Courage and cowardice compete as those who are different encounter prejudice and oppression, forcing many to flee as refugees.
Ryckair is abducted by magical creatures who blame him for Baras' escape and Mirjel must both rule the monarchy alone and seek to rescue the King before Baras awakes fully.
There are new cultures, new fantastic creatures and new songs set in a gender balanced world where women and men have the same rights, opportunities and authority. Complex characters must examine their own lives to find inner strengths and overcome weaknesses as much as confront forces from the outside.
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The wind rarely stopped blowing fine dust over the high desert plain on the North Continent, across the Great River from where the palace of Carandir sat and east of the new Carandir border after the western lands, north and south, had been reunited. The stream of air passed through brambly branches of low thorn bushes, parched now in the summer heat. It had been a month since flash floods of a short spring had temporarily filled dry washes and ravines to overflowing, bringing with them a surge of life as dormant plants sprang into bloom for a few weeks in a colorful display of flowering spectacle. Insects waking from hibernation pollinated blossoms that dropped their seeds on the barren soil to wait for the rains of the next season.
Shara rode in one of the seven wagons the Dharam exiles had been given. Her long, red hair had been cut short in an attempt to find relief from the heat. She suckled her eight-month-old infant son, Dhamar, the unknown and illegitimate son of Ryckair, now King of Carandir and the Western realms.
Her son's name was drawn from the tongue Shara's ancestors had spoken before they adopted the Carandirian language. It meant, "The people's leader."
The Dharam, headed by the deposed king, Masalta, had been given wagons filled with grain, dried meats and barrels of water. They had nearly run out. Shara's body was leaner than before, yet she was allotted extra provisions to produce enough milk for the baby.
The relentless wind blew against the wooden sides of the wagon as she remembered her fine rooms in the palace at Kackar when she was a princess of the Dharam and where she had first entertained Ryckair. He had arrived like the answer to a wish, a strong leader, still unsure of himself, who she could mold to oppose her father, Masalta. Ryckair had been the perfect tool.
The babe stopped feeding and began to cry. "Hush, my darling. You are the heir to Carandir. You will wear the dragon crested crown one day, my dear one." She spoke with the distinct inflection of the Dharam speech with the vowels held long and the letter "r" carrying a strong trill.
Shara dipped a rag into a pail of water and wiped it over her son's face and back to cool him. Her thoughts formed the face of Ryckair in her mind, when he was still a prince of Carandir. She had known her greatest joy when she helped him overthrow Masalta and personally placed her father's crown on Ryckair's head. He had vowed to make her his queen. Now, she cursed him, along with the woman Mirjel who should have died.
The papers the sorcerer carried said that Mirjel's end was inevitable. Ryckair had no right to blame her for convincing him that it had already happened. Had he thought that Mirjel was in imminent danger of dying, he would have run to her side to be captured and killed by his twin brother, Craya. It was Shara's deceit that saved his life, yet he refused to see that.
Shara admitted to herself that she had used him at first, though she had liked him from their first meeting. He brought wit and sophistication to the dour and cheerless Dharam. She had not expected to fall in love with him or any other man. There had been no choice but to send the target poison to kill her rival, Mirjel. Ryckair had not seen this princess of the south for years; knew nothing of her true feelings for him after their separation. It was inconceivable that Ryckair failed to understand this. How could he not? How could he banish her?
Dhamar slept in Shara's arms. The wagon hit a bump. The babe woke and began to cry again. She brought him to her left breast. It had once been gorged with milk that had slowly become depleted as the Dharam's rations ran low. Dhamar took the nipple in his mouth as his mother held his back in her right arm while cradling his head in her left hand. "Oh, that the Carandirian Batu had never come to reveal that Mirjel lived. Had she actually died in her fall, we would be living in the palace overlooking Lake Hasp. Water everywhere with green grass. Imagine it, my sweet one. That will come."
The wagon stopped. Masalta, still claiming the title of King of the Dharam, climbed up into the bed. His obese form had slimmed with the dwindling provisions and he looked much older. "How is my heir?"
Shara smiled as she held Dhamar up to her father. "Heir to two lands."
Masalta took the child into his arms. "You will lead the Dharam back to the west and take your father's lands as well."
Shara took the baby back. "Not if we die in this desert."
Worry in the Monarchy
The Inn of the Singing Cow, within the small village of Temen, sat in the Barony of Nemtanka on a main trade route extending from the Barony of Lanteler to the north, where the royal palace stood atop the rock pinnacle just off shore of Lake Hasp, to the southern Barony of Arana, on the border of the kingdom of Karaken, a nation that continued to stage skirmishes with Carandir over land claims.
The outside of the building was yellow stucco with an oak door and tall, narrow windows that admitted light but could not be crawled through.
The tavern owner, Namar Reesa, a short, squat man with close cropped hair that was speckled with gray, had one rule; patrons could discuss anything except for politics or romance, because both subjects could bring brawls that broke up the furniture.
Yet, he could not stop the whispers of the merchants, travelers and local people concerning The Queen.
Three patrons sat at a table; a woman with long, dark hair that she constantly brushed away from her left eye, a silk merchant who came through three times a year and a man with deep crevices in his face and two missing teeth.
The silk merchant offered a toast. "To The Queen's birthday. I plan to be in Meth for the celebration. The local taverns always bring out the best brew then."
"Thirty-nine," said the old man quietly.
"And still no heir," whispered the woman. She leaned into the table as her hair brushed the surface.
The merchant squinted as he looked around the room. "Those are dangerous words. They will get us tossed onto the road at least."
The old man chuckled. "If everyone who spoke of the barren queen were shown the door, there would be no customers in this inn."
The merchant flinched, then gave a tepid smile. "Still, the celebration will be good for business. The Queen herself wears a pair of silk slippers that I brought her two years ago. Everyone wants to emulate her."
"Everyone did," said the woman. "Now, everyone wonders if there will be a monarchy when The King and Queen fly to the Dragons' Halls."
Reesa came over to the table as he wiped his hands on a towel. "Another round? How about some stew to hearten you for the road?"
"You keep a quiet establishment," said the woman.
"That's how I like it," said the inn keeper. "Peaceful. A comfortable place to welcome travelers."
The old man looked down at the table. "How peaceful will it be when no one wears the crown?"
The merchant nearly choked on his drink.
Reesa said, "Do you want me to throw you out?"
The woman pushed her chair back. "You'd have to throw all of us out."
The silk merchant cleared his throat. "I'd like some of that stew."
The old man said, "You've heard the talk as well as anyone here, as well as anyone across Carandir."
"And I don't want to hear it in my inn."
The woman brushed back hair from her face. "Thirty-nine, barren and The King won't divorce her, won't even take a consort."
Reesa clenched his fists as he held the towel. "That's not the way of Carandir."
The old man looked up from the table. He stared into Reesa's eyes. "Maybe ways need to change."
The inn keeper pointed to the door. "That's it. Out. The lot of you."
The merchant cradled his mug in his hand. "That stew really sounds good."
The three stood, the silk merchant last. The woman raised her voice well above a whisper. "You think you can stop the worry, the fear for the future? What will happen to the children? What will happen to Carandir? We'll go, but the problem remains. Staying silent won't help. We need an heir. The Queen will never bear a child after her fall. Her womb is dried up. Soon our homeland will be too."
The old man and the woman walked out. The silk merchant stayed behind. "It has been a long time since I ate."
Reesa stared at the door, then back to the merchant. "Oh, shut up and eat some stew, you coward."
Two Women Defend their Barony
Two Lusar women, Sheriff Arota Deshara and her deputy, Frothey Lenar, of the township of Ventara, faced five of Luja’s men. Arota wielded a rapier and Frothey a broadsword. The men all carried short, double edged swords. The sheriff and deputy stood back to back in the town square. Frothey was tall with long arms and was able to keep three of the men away. Arota parried the fourth’s clumsy sword cuts.
“Charge in,” said one of the men. “There’s only two of them.”
“We’re trying,” said another.
One of the men gave a raspy war cry and leapt for Frothey. With a practiced stroke, the deputy knocked the man’s sword aside and raked her own blade across his abdomen. He screamed and fell to the ground while holding his belly. The remaining men moved back.
The attacker facing Arota pulled a dagger and pointed its tip at her as he held a sword in his other hand. He jabbed with his long blade. The Sheriff deflected it and returned a strike that sank the tip of her rapier into the man’s sword arm. He grimaced and dropped the weapon. Arota pulled the rapier out of the man’s flesh. “Drop the knife and surrender.”
The man panted hard and gritted his teeth before raising the knife and driving forward with a guttural shout. Arota drove her rapier into his chest. The man began to fall, but as it did, he drove the dagger into Arota’s side to the hilt and sliced down through her flesh. She dropped the rapier and collapsed to the ground.
Frothey shouted, “No!” She swung the broadsword and sliced through the neck of one man, then bit a deep cut into the remaining man’s sword arm. He dropped the blade and clasped the bleeding wound. Frothey sliced again and opened a gash across his midriff.
She knelt to Arota’s prone body and took the sheriff into her arms. “Can you hear me?”
Arota opened her eyes. Frothey saw the intense pain on the wounded woman’s face. The deputy said, “Oh Ilidel. We have to find a Daro.” She started to remove the knife, then realized it would cause more bleeding.
The wounded sheriff’s face twisted as she clenched her jaw. “Frothey. End the pain. Send me to the Dragons’ Halls.”
Frothey breathed in short gasps. “There is a Daro outside the village. I’ll put you in a cart.”
Arota stared into Frothey’s eyes, her gaze suddenly intense. “I love you, Frothey.”
Tears flowed down Frothey’s cheeks. “I love you.”
Arota shivered. “I’m cold. Hold me.”
Frothey placed her arms around Arota until her body went limp and she stopped breathing.
The deputy continued to hold Arota’s body. Frothey’s lips were pursed as tears seeped from her closed eyes. After what seemed a span, she kissed Arota’s forehead and laid her gently on the ground. She then rose slowly. With shouts and curses, she hacked the bodies of the men until they were masses of gore.
She sat on the ground as the sun set, neither moving nor speaking, all the while, staring blankly ahead. When the last rays of the sun illumined the blood-soaked ground, she found a shovel and dug a grave off the road. After wrapping a cloak around Arota’s body, she gently lowered the sheriff into the grave and covered her with dirt.
As the sun disappeared, a pale, quarter moon rose. Frothey continued to stand beside the grave. With one last look at the mutilated bodies of the men, she sheathed her sword and dagger, then set off into the forest.
Readers will easily be hooked into the exciting blend of mobilized armies and political intrigue
Wimsett’s book presents an exciting plot of palace intrigue and political machinations spanning a continent. The novel is second in a planned series, picking up where the previous entry left off, and ending with movement toward the next act. The book features strong writing that helps illustrate the vastness of the fictional world and depth of the novel’s lore. The plotting of the political drama is carefully plotted with reveals that are timed satisfactorily. The book unapologetically embraces fantasy staples and tropes… a captivating read within an immersive world that is clearly established as its own universe… the motivations of the characters are complex and variable. Readers will easily be hooked into the exciting blend of mobilized armies and political intrigue.