"I really enjoyed "Among the Ancients" and seeing how Bryce reacts to being swept to a different reality and how it changes him. I like how the author connects the past with the present and uses strange phenomena we hear about today." - JMM Amazon Review
Among the Ancients
$16.95 USD Trade Paperback / Ebook Coming Soon
When construction worker Bryce Kendlar is pressured into a vacation sailing from Miami to Bimini, he expects the worst of the adventure will be the days spent in close quarters with his ex-girlfriend and his brother’s new in-laws. Then he witnesses the strange phenomena of the Bermuda Triangle.
Beneath a sky with three moons, some on board the yacht are murdered, others kidnapped, and Bryce faces a surreal adversary who leaves him to fend off death in an alien forest. Despite the dangers surrounding him, he’s determined to rescue his brother and somehow return home. A woman lost to the Bermuda triangle years before reveals he must ally himself with Kynly, the Keeper of the powerful sword-staff Sektora, to find his brother. He soon discovers Kynly has seen him in visions of their world’s future, visions of destruction and despair.
With no idea why, Bryce becomes a target for those who kidnapped his brother, and he is left powerless to do anything but stay with Kynly and the Nalus Knights she leads in the battle against their foes.
The adventure Bryce finds himself tangled within on the other side of the Triangle will leave him changed forever…
Bryce never thought he could hate anything as much as he did the constant motion and total expanse of the water. The ocean breeze felt sticky cold on his skin when he faced the honey-hued sunset. He leaned against the silver railing at the back of the yacht—the aft deck, maybe. Bryce didn’t know a thing about boats or the ocean, but he somehow let himself get suckered into the trip from Miami to Bimini with his brothers’ in-laws, and Bryce’s ex-girlfriend.
He’d been stupid to let his mother coerce him into baby-sitting Ryder. Married to Kara a month, Ryder was far from boyhood. He was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, but Bryce couldn’t tell his mother that. Not this time, which was peculiar unto itself.
Ryder’s announcement of his planned trip had sent their mother on some kind of worry frenzy, and something in her gray-blue eyes made it impossible for Bryce to ignore. She was truly worried, worried so deeply he saw it shadow her for days, lightening only a little when Bryce finally agreed to accompany Ryder.
He blinked away the memory and sucked in ocean air, never a big fan of the smell. It always reminded him of soggy, week-old laundry and dead fish. Despite his opinion, nothing lingered questionable. Nothing other than the recollection of his mother. She had hugged him a little too tightly the night he stopped in to give her his house key. She told him to take extra care, called it "woman’s intuition," but said nothing more.
It was all so strange because she had never fussed after her boys. She never directly put Bryce in a position to look after his little brother before either. He’d done it all his life, of course, only because his extra few years in age and dark strong features inherited from their mother’s Spanish great-grandfather awarded him a stature not many chose to challenge. Ryder took after their father’s side being blond, blue-eyed, and not nearly as ruggedly built. Not that it made any difference when they were grown. Not now.
"Hey, you all right?"
Bryce spun from the sun, startled by Samantha’s smooth voice. She grinned, deepening the dimple in her cheek. "Sorry, should’ve known you were daydreaming."
"No, I’m fine," he said.
She studied him with her chocolate-toned eyes. Golden rays danced in the wind-brushed highlights of her hair. Sam was a beautiful woman, inside and out. He tasted the last sweet drop of ice tea on his lower lip and directed his eyes from her, back to the water. He needed another drink, something stronger than sugar saturated tea.
"What?" she said.
He shrugged. "Not a thing."
Sam sighed and leaned against the railing, shaking her long hair down her back as naturally as water would flow from a turned glass. "I know that look, it’s something more than nothing. Has been since you stepped on deck."
Bryce grinned, doing his best to erase the "look." With most everyone else, he could hide everything, but not with Sam. From the day he’d bumped into her, rushing from his trigonometry class his senior year of high school, she had the uncanny ability to gaze right into him.
"Nostalgia," she said. "Regret?"
"Now you’re putting words in my mouth."
"No, just asking."
Damn Kara for getting him on her boat, firmly in her trap surrounded by the serenity of ocean air, sunset, and Samantha Canton.
"Not exactly," he said.
What he felt had all been said before. He did love Sam. He’d grown with her, been through so many years, so many changes with her. He’d been the one to notice their relationship hadn’t evolved like Kara and Ryder’s had, but she felt it too. What it was exactly, neither of them could fully put into words. All he knew was he loved Sam, loved her as deeply as he loved Ryder and Kara, but it wouldn’t go beyond that. Sometimes he wondered if it mattered; sometimes, seeing her like she was, bathed in dancing daylight, he hated himself for needing more. Yet news of her new guy didn’t upset him like it should have.
"I hate how everyone else acts, is all," he said.
"They’ll learn," Sam said. "Hard for them to understand it, I guess. We were joined at the hip for a lot of years."
"Understand it?" he said and wanted to smack himself the moment the words found voice.
A spark of sunlight played along the surface of her chocolaty eyes. "Yeah, I do. And so do you. Besides, we’re good." She grasped his hand. "We are, and we don’t need to worry about anyone else."
Didn’t stop him from feeling totally stupid. There wasn’t a man alive who wouldn’t want Samantha Canton—law student, smart and sassy—to share their life, their home, their bed. And he had walked away from it all.
"We can’t help the way things are. Stop torturing yourself over it."
"No. I mean, I’m good," he said, but he wasn’t sure he would ever forgive himself. He had cursed himself to a life alone for something he didn’t understand.
A loud sneeze followed by a jarring honk interrupted the slapping of ocean water. Bryce turned to see Kara’s younger brother and mother round the corner from the front deck.
"His allergies," Margie Sterling said. She guided Evan by the shoulders. She cooed to him and wiped his shaggy brown hair from his forehead. Evan seemed to melt into her. "I have the bed all set up for you, dear. We’ll get you settled in and you can sleep off this attack."
"Those new pills your doctor sent aren’t helping," Evan said. His voice scraped through Bryce, more irritating than nails on a chalkboard. Bryce stepped out of their path, pressing heavily on the railing, whatever seafaring people called it. Another blast of a sneeze shook through Evan. Bryce hoped it was allergies and not some disgusting illness the kid would surely share with all of them before their journey was out.
Ryder appeared beside him and chuckled. "Told you I needed another sane soul on board."
"Uh huh," Bryce said, peering down at Ryder from the corner of his eye.
Ryder pulled his hands up in defense. Ice swirled in amber liquid and clinked the glasses he held in his raised fingers. "I’m just as much a victim here as you."
Bryce accepted the drink.
"Victim?" Sam huffed, but couldn’t completely conceal her slanted smirk.
"What’s the big deal anyway? A few days in close quarters with these people, then sunny, worry-free beaches galore," Ryder said.
"No big deal except this whole thing was forced down my throat," Bryce said. He wished he had learned to say "no" a little more easily and consistently, but again, the worried look in his mother’s eyes haunted him.
"I know the Heimlich," Ryder said. "We’ll be fine."
Bryce hoped his brother knew more than their mother this time and sipped from his glass, surprised to taste the delicious bitterness of beer. He eyed Ryder again. Ryder smirked.
"Mrs. Mom wasn’t watching. What she doesn’t know won’t kill her. Just keep it in a fancy glass."
"Oh, you’re bad," Sam jested. "Tricking the mother-in-law already."
Bryce sucked down more beer.
"You’d be surprised." Ryder winked.
Bryce leaned casually on the railing, crossed his ankles, and breathed deep. Frothed waves lined the yacht’s wake as if it were liquid smoke painted gold with sunset highlights. The rush of water filled the silence.
"Cards?" Ryder said. "You think you can handle a few rounds of poker?"
Bryce swirled the plastic-encased ice and savored another swallow of beer before he spoke. "We allowed to play such a game on a high and mighty yacht?"
"Ha, ha. I’ll go dig up my deck." Ryder pulled the glass from Bryce’s hand. "And get you a refill. Give you enough of these and I might stand a chance."
Bryce grinned, but only shook his head. Having one too many of anything was far from his mind. He glanced out across the smooth liquid horizon. The sun’s lowering reflection quivered with a rainbow of colors on its surface. The play of hues captured his senses, pulling him into the awe of it. As much as he hated to admit it, stepping away from home, bills, and job to view such beauty eased away some tension. But a new, unexplainable and foreboding angst grew.
The glimmer of a sharp spark shifted in the distance as if something reflected the fading sun rays. He squinted, trying to see if another ship or boat occupied the waters with them, but dusk fogged his view. Deciding it didn’t much matter, Mr. Sterling had his craft totally under control, Bryce strode from the railing to the large table set a few feet away.
Sunlight beamed through misty clouds and over Kynly’s hands, serene, beautiful, though it couldn’t erase the melancholy flavor haunting her. She felt—poisoned. She struggled to steady her grip on the knife handle. Ribbons of gray skin curled damp around her knuckles, parting from the meaty root onto her silver blade. She usually enjoyed preparing her nightly meals, but this evening was different. Something hung wrong in the air.
The feeling had accompanied her through two complete solstices, but the last few mornings, she awoke almost ill from its increased potency. No amount of walking among the trees helped her find a reason. No amount of mingling with the animals made anything more apparent. And there was no one left to talk with who would understand.
The ugly feeling grew heavier with each motion of her blade. The atmosphere felt thick, solid. Her hands trembled. She felt her grip on the world slipping.
Screams exploded in her mind with the suddenness of a slap. Faces twisted in pale moonlight, eyes squeezed closed in puddles of tears, mouths stretched wide in agony. Kynly felt their pain and fear. The shock of it knocked the blade from her hand. It clattered against the stone shelf where fresh cuttings of her meal lay. The room, a room she built with her own hands, swirled around her. Blue light of the universe flashed.
A Terajek awakened.
Emotions wrenched her soul. Fear, agony, then overwhelming triumph all so alien and true it drew bile to her throat. She clenched the wood of what she knew to be a chair and willed the vision away. She recalled it well enough and needed to not view it all again. She should have expected it, should have seen beyond her mind’s denial.
Death flew near, many deaths resulting from terrible pains. The Ri’Nafeen. Their future victory tore through her psyche and forced stinging tears into her eyes. Her throat constricted, fighting against awful air, air she knew belonged miles away, maybe a world away, but she tasted it no less.
Her knees weakened. Only because she fought against the nature of her mind. Only because she didn’t want to see. The floor liquefied beneath her palm. She forced her lips to open further, forced her mind to obey her will. She needed the energy of another living being to keep hold of her physical form and not slip into the terrifying future.
"Dvari," she gasped.
Claws clicked wood. She heard it, felt motion in the true air. Dvari brushed her side. She leaned against him and savored the river-washed smoothness of Dvari’s glider. He swept her cheek with his snout and lapped her ear with his warm tongue. Drool dribbled down her neck. The sensation pulled her conscious mind from the edge of the spirit abyss. Screams stretched thin as colors regained crisp hues. She sat on the wood floor of her preparation room, wiped away disgusting drool, and blocked Dvari’s hyper kisses with her hands.
"End," she said, her breaths growing easier. Sweet forest air, sad but loving, caressed her cheeks between Dvari’s affections. "Yes, thank you. Now end."
Dvari huffed in her face and scampered back a step, his claws clattering on the freshly cleaned floor. She usually didn’t allow Dvari into the preparation room. His size and impulsiveness led to a large mess more often than not. She hoped her need for him now didn’t give him false ideas.
Her hands still quivered when she turned them over, inspecting her fingers and the juice-filled lines etched through her palms for any cuts from the slip of her knife. They were hands the color of the forest’s goldenwood trees, so much like her mother’s, not digits the color of the pale afternoon sky, smooth and sleek like her father’s.
Tears boiled onto her lashes, tears of loss and resentment. She didn’t want the visions or knowledge her father had left her. They all weighed too heavy, especially when she felt so meager and insignificant without him, yet she couldn’t betray him or his dying wishes.
"Help me, Father," she whispered to the sweet breeze. She desperately needed his guidance and unaltered love. "Help me do what you asked."
She left her meal unfinished in the heat and thick humidity. Dvari rushed through the passageways with her, down the circular stairwell throat of her home and out into lowering daylight. The quiet woosh of the windmill filled her ears along with the faint rush of the watermill beneath the preparation room to her back. Feather-soft clouds hovered before her, broken only by the tallest trees pointing their foliage fingers to hidden stars.
The path flowed familiar beneath her feet. Stones led downward, stacked as shallow steps. Through one turn and another she followed them until the forest canopy grew near.
She leapt from the mountain side and slid her slim fingers over and around the silken skin of trees she knew as well as any other living thing in her forest until she landed solidly on the woodland floor. Dvari swooped down beside her, his gliders folding to his sides the instant he worked his stout legs to keep pace with her.
She needed to reach her mother and have her call together the council members quickly. They would want to know of the Terajek’s reactivation, a reactivation Kynly had warned of for years. Even before her father’s death.