An Emerging Threat (The Seeker’s Burden) by Mark E. Lein

an emerging threat

 

Synopsis

An evil stirs, casting a shadow across the Islands. Two men begin quests to find the source of the darkness. One is a young scholar, given no choice but to follow the path ahead. Tragedy shapes him, nearly driving him to despair; an inner struggle pervades his journey. The other is a warrior forced to the task through a sense of responsibility. His royal blood and his knighthood drive his course. Their searches, though separate, have the same goal: to find whatever or whoever may be responsible for the darkening of their world. This book tells the story of their journey and the creatures, both friend and foe, that they meet along the way.

Excerpt

Oliver lost count of the platforms they passed before the swaying cart slowed. Ahead the overhead lights grew in size, brightening the area with an unnatural glare. For the third time he tried to get some information on what was going on. “Sirs, where are we going? Have I done something wrong?”

Stony, expressionless faces looked through him and no reply was forthcoming. Oliver sighed, slumped back in his seat and watched a large golden hued wall and massive gate creep into view as they slowed. They came to a stop on what seemed to be the bottom of the chasm, a flat stony surface covered in rock dust. Here, the rail line ended.

A cheerful looking goblin strolled up and engaged the cart’s braking system before looking the occupants over. “Welcome be to you young friend.”  He said to Oliver. “What brings you to the ‘Floor of the Sea’ as we call it?”

Before Oliver could reply one of the armored goblins spoke sharply in their grating language and the rail worker quickly backed away, his cheerful look fading into something closer to apprehension.

Oliver was led to the large metal door. Two torches stood on either side of an inscribed plate embedded in the wall. Just above the plate hung a rope. The leader of the soldiers reached up and pulled hard on the rope once and stepped back to join the other two soldiers. Nothing happened at first, then a low rumble of sound came from behind the wall and then silence once again.

Oliver started when the gate began to open. Slowly, the heavy door swung on silent hinges, opening into darkness. As the group moved through the gateway, small pinpricks of light flamed to life. Candles, hundreds of candles standing on narrow stone pillars, lit the space beyond the wall. Behind each candle stood a young goblin, alternating male and female. They were spaced every ten or so paces.

The illuminated area showed that they were moving through a cleft in the cliff face, winding as it followed the natural curves of the rock. A cold draft of air made Oliver shiver as they walked. The silence was just about to make him crazy when the trail widened and the line of candles ceased.

Ahead was a solid wall of darkness. The soldiers halted and stood quietly. Oliver waited with them, shivering in the subterranean cold, glancing at the solemn candle bearers around them.

The sudden boom of a drum shattered the silence as candles flared to life. Oliver drew his breath in sharply. The group stood at the entrance to a long natural cavern, not unlike the one underneath Sun Fire Citadel. The floor was not smooth, jagged rock shot up in all directions, making the room look as if a giant mouth had opened. At the far side of the cavern stood a score or more of goblins gathered around a single goblin seated on what appeared to be a throne. The hall was formed out of living rock, the throne itself little more than a shelf of stone bordered on each side by two round boulders.

Waved forward by another armored goblin that stood next to the throne, Oliver’s group crossed the distance between the entrance and the rough dais. The three goblins that had brought him knelt on one knee, plate armor folding smoothly as they moved. Oliver quickly did likewise, returning to stand upright with the guards. Only then did he meet the eyes of the goblin sitting on the throne.

He was old, not old like Oliver understood, more ancient than any human he had seen. He seemed a part of the stone chair that held him. The gray skin was creased and cracked, the features loose. His hair was but wisps of white strands that stuck out of the simple iron circlet on his brow. The eyes were different. Alive, even young, they pierced through Oliver and made him lower his gaze and redden in shyness.

“Welcome to the Deep Fallows young human.” The voice grated like millstones. “I am Bosgar, leader of the Goblin race. It is my great honor to meet you. I had grown worried I may not last until this day.”

Oliver stumbled through his reply. “Good sir, it is I who should be honored. Is there something that I have done wrong?”

The room erupted in coarse laughter, the sound reverberating off the rock walls as even the candle bearers joined in. “Nay tall one! You have done nothing wrong  and I am sorry for the secrecy of your journey here. My captain enjoys putting fear into outsiders in general and he had to be talked into allowing you this deep.” Bosgar pointed with a smile to the leader of the three goblins that had escorted Oliver.

With a hearty bellow of laughter the accused turned to Oliver and embraced him, squeezing the breath out of him. “You be a right solemn human, and it did me good to see you not quake in your boots!”

Released, Oliver stood in relieved confusion, a smile breaking out as the laughter and conversation continued unabated. The goblin leader raised a hand above his head and all fell silent. “Now as to why you are here, we must talk. We do not allow humans access to this place for sport. My scouts have reported that the Citadel called Sun Fire is destroyed and that you were the only one seen leaving the island.” At Oliver’s startled look Bosgar raised his hand reassuringly. “They followed you to protect you until you could come before me. I have need of understanding what danger is on our threshold. I understand loved ones may have perished, but please tell us what transpired on that dark island as time may be of great importance.”

Oliver spoke haltingly. “Sir, it is as you say, I am from Sun Fire. I had never left until yesterday.” Bosgar bade him and the others nearby take seats and then nodded to Oliver to continue. Oliver then spoke of what he had seen, relating the events as best he could remember, hiding only the details of the cavern and its secrets. Throughout his tale the goblins looked at one another and made whispered comments back and forth.

When Oliver finished his story, the goblin Leader stood and clasped his arms with an iron grip. “Child, you will be from this day, a part of my people, a son of a lost island. We weep with you in your loss and rejoice in your life. You are welcome to stay here and need only ask for anything.”

Touched deeply, Oliver wiped a tear threatening to escape. “Thank you honored sir. I know now, the world does your people unjustly in their reports. I can find no words to thank you and have nothing with which to repay your generosity.”

“Who among us said anything of repayment!” barked Bosgar. “Your repayment to us is to accept our help with a free heart. That is all we wish.”

Oliver was humbled and could not stop the tears that streamed down his face. He took a steadying breath, then remembered his quest. “I do have a request, though I am loath to ask it.”

Bosgar answered quietly but firmly, “It will be seen as an affront to our people if you hold your need back from us.”

Oliver bowed his head and continued, “I am looking for a way to the mountains across the Beryl Sea. Are there any among your people who can give me guidance before I must continue my journey?”

As he mentioned the mountains, he saw the surrounding goblins freeze with startled looks on their stony faces. “What do you have to do in the Shadowmyst mountains my good friend?” The guard captain slowly asked.

“Darrin” Bosgar intoned. “The asking is not a requirement I hold to. This boy has asked our help, we shall give it.” Beckoning a goblin dressed in a leather robe of some kind to his side, Bosgar whispered something to him. The leather clad goblin bowed once and quickly moved out of sight.

“I ask your forgiveness for bringing you here under darkness and so quickly. We cannot trust the eyes that linger where they should not in the sunlit world.” Darrin said softly as the gathering began to talk amongst themselves.

Oliver replied quickly. “Forgiveness is granted and your actions are understandable. Do not think on it further.”

As Darrin grunted his satisfaction the drum boomed again. All the goblins, along with Oliver turned towards the entrance. Two sturdy goblins strode in and made their way to the group. They bowed their respect to Bosgar before the lead goblin spoke. “Honored father, I and your younger son are at your command. We are understanding that a human has been welcomed.” He nodded his head in deference to Oliver. “We stand ready to fulfill the need that was brought before you.”

Bosgar clapped his massive hands together, pleased. “Well met my sons! Make our people proud by your actions in this.” He turned to Oliver and spoke, “Young sir, these are the two that will guide you on your journey to the Shadowmyst mountains. My eldest is Farl, the younger, Skrit. Our hope is that they will fulfill your need. But now!” He nearly shoved Oliver towards an opening in the rock wall to the side of the throne. “We feast on the bounty that comes from the ground and the sea!”

As they went, Oliver, still confused, asked Darrin, “Why are your people helping me? I am unknown to them, yet they provide guidance and protection as if my dealings are their own.”

Hurrying Oliver to keep up with the jovial procession, Darrin replied with a quick, “Ah lad, that be a tale for another time and from another’s lips. It be time to empty your mind and fill your belly!

Review by Angela 

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  I really liked the synopsis and thought it sounded like a good read.  It was even better than good….it was great.  It reminded me of The Hobbit a little bit in that there was a seemingly weak guy going on a reluctant journey.  But that is where the comparison ends.  The author isn’t trying to create his own version of The Hobbit; they just happen to be about a quest.  However, if you are a fan of Tolkein, then you will really like An Emerging Threat.  An Emerging Threat is a fantastical story for teens and non-teens alike.

The story is really well written and Oliver & Ethan’s worlds are easily visualized by the reader.  There are some cool gizmos and really scary sounding monsters in the story.  It was a fast read for me and I felt that it went by too fast!  I wanted to read more but there wasn’t any.  Mark needs to get the next book to me ASAP!  I must see what happens to Oliver and Ethan and their journey.  I must see what evil is controlling these nasty beasts and find out what is going on.  I give An Emerging Threat 5 books!

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