Joni Parker

Author of The Seaward Saga, The Chronicles of Eledon and The Admiralty Archives  • 

The award-winning, critically acclaimed epic fantasy series from author Joni Parker.

2019 Book Excellence Award (Noble Magic)
2018 Book Excellence Award finalist (Gossamer)
2017 John E. Weaver Excellent Reads Award winner for YA: Fantasy (Spell Breaker)
2017 Book Excellence Award finalist (The Blue Witch)
2017 International Book Award finalist (The Blue Witch)
2016 Book Excellence Award finalist (Spell Breaker)
2020 Book Excellence Award Finalist (Curse of the Sea)


My name is Joni Parker and I was born in Chicago, Illinois. When I was 8, my family moved to Japan so my Dad could join the PGA (Professional Golf Association). He attained his dream and we stayed there for over four years before we returned to the States to live in Phoenix, Arizona. My dad worked as a pro at a small golf course, but my parents divorced shortly thereafter. I attended Camelback High School and went on to college. Rather than complete a degree program at Arizona State University, I opted for a tour in the Navy. Upon completion of a three year stint, I got married and returned to college, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and an MBA in finance. After a short period of employment as an accountant at Gulf Power Company, I went back in the Navy this time as an Officer. I stuck it out for nineteen more years and retired as a Commander. My husband and I spent a few years living in our motorhome, criss-crossing the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, my husband passed away, so I went back to work, this time for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. After seven years, I retired for a second time to devote my time to writing. I now live in Tucson, Arizona with my sister.

In addition to writing, I enjoy swimming, listening to audiobooks on long drives across country, my daily walks, and taking classes on writing.

The Black Elf of Seaward Isle

Book One of the Seaward Isle Saga

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Trapped on an island, shipwrecked time travelers struggle first to survive and then–to escape. Elves, Dwarves and mortals mingle in a world filled with pirates, political intrigue and magic. Their fates rest in the hands of one young woman, the orphan Lady Alexin. Part Elf and a descendant of a Titan ancestor, she trained as a warrior, to avenge her parents' deaths, unaware that only she has the power to save them all.

THE BLACK ELF

The noonday sun made the walls of the city of Riesa sparkle as if diamonds were embedded in the solid granite walls. They protected the inhabitants from tidal waves and seaborne attacks along the southeastern coast of Seaward Isle. Riesa looked like a nice place to live, filled with streets and houses and large city buildings. I didn’t know how many people lived here, but it was my new home.

I was born on this island thirteen years ago, but this was my first trip to Riesa, the city of the Scinthians. Four years ago, a Scinthian Scout adopted me, and during that time, we’d traveled across the island several times on foot. It was a relief to be here, but was it really going to be my home? Not based on my last four years when we wandered from here to there and back again. Not even based on my time before I met the Scout when my parents were murdered, and our home was destroyed. After that, I lived at the all-boy’s Sword Academy in Nyla, the only girl among them. I had yet to find any place I called home.

My Scinthian mother, Scout Nora, was a tall, blond woman with a muscular build. She carried a sword and could hunt with a bow. She intrigued me the first time I saw her, but the circumstances of my adoption were questionable. The headmistress of the Sword Academy and I didn’t get along very well because I was part Elf. She thought I was a freak with these tufts of blue hair in my ears, marking me as a Water Elf. She treated me horribly, so when the Scout offered to adopt me, she gave me up for one gold coin.

The Scout led me into the wild where I met our traveling companion, the Dwarf Sarina. We were the same height, even though I was only nine. Sarina wouldn’t tell me how old she was, but she was much older than me. Over the years, I’d grown considerably, and she now had trouble reaching my shoulder. I enjoyed her company once I got used to her sense of humor.

On the first day we met, she called me the Black Elf because I had black hair, even though I didn’t have pointed ears. What marked me as an Elf were the tufts of blue hair in my ears. I hated the nickname. Later, I found out it had another meaning—there was an arrest warrant for an Elf who dealt in dark magic. His name was Mellen, and he was the Black Elf.

The three of us stood on the ridge overlooking the city. We’d just finished our trek across the island to get here in time for my Presentation Ceremony. I wasn’t sure what that was, but all Scinthian children had to do it when we turned thirteen. Lucky me.

As Scout Nora stood next to me, she recounted the Scinthian arrival on this shore for the umpteenth time. Fortunately, she didn’t notice when I rolled my eyes as I listened to the story again.

“Over a thousand years ago, our ships were tossed and turned by those storms, and we barely made it to shore,” Scout Nora said. “The Dwarves came to help us and carried the injured to shore from our ships. We settled here, and they helped us build this city.”

“Aye,” Sarina said. “I remember it well.”

“You do?” I stared at her. This was the first time Sarina had ever said that. “Scout Nora said it was almost a thousand years ago.” Maybe I could catch the Dwarf in a lie. I’d tried many times before, but had never succeeded.

Sarina chuckled. “I’m well over twelve hundred years old, lass.”

“You are?” My eyebrows rose in shock. She was definitely older than I was. Maybe she was joking, but she wasn’t smiling. Instead, she had this dreamy look on her face, like she remembered that day.

I had trouble imagining anyone over thirty who could still be alive. Twelve hundred years old was ancient. How could she be so energetic? “Scout Nora, how old are you?”

“Old enough.” She grimaced. “I told you before, it’s not polite to ask a woman’s age, Alex. Let’s go.” She turned to the right and led us down the ridge over a worn path.

Since their arrival on the island, the Scinthians had sent scouts out to search the island for Mother Gaia’s grandson, the Titan. I didn’t know who Mother Gaia was, but I vaguely remembered a class in the Sword Academy about myths and legends. She was some goddess in ancient times who ruled the Earth with her husband. The problem seemed to come about when they had children, and their children had children. It ended up in the War of the Titans, and somehow, Seaward Isle had a minor role in it. The problem for the Scinthians was no one knew the grandson’s name or what he looked like. They’d been searching the island for centuries, to no avail. Essentially, they were looking for a ghost.

Undoubtedly, the Titan arrived on this island the same way as everyone else did. His ship must have crashed into the barrier rocks, and anyone who survived waded to shore. No one understood why all the ships ended up here, nor why most of them came from Earth. That’s just what happened. One day, someone a lot smarter than me will figure it out.

As I stepped down the ridge, I took in a breath of fresh air and gazed up at the clear blue sky. There wasn’t a cloud above me. Birds chirped in the trees as if they didn’t have a care in the world. But it was a different story out at sea where a line of black storm clouds crossed the horizon. No one could get through the line of unrelenting storms surrounding the island, so no one could go for help. We were all trapped here.

As I watched lightning flash in the dark clouds, a ship with a triangular sail popped out of the rain clouds. The purple sail was on a large three-masted ship called a corsair, a pirate ship. Five two-masted ships called frigates followed behind it, and smaller coaster ships with a single mast came up behind them. A chill ran down my spine, and a feeling of dread gripped me as the fleet of pirate ships headed in our direction.

Pirates were the scourge of the island. If it weren’t for them, Seaward Isle would be a peaceful, lovely place to live. But the pirates brought with them all the crimes of humanity, and no one could stop them. Not even the Kings of the island or the Elves.

“Scout Nora, pirate ships!” I gasped and ran up behind her as I pointed out to sea.

“What?” She was near-sighted and stared blankly. “Where?”

“Out by the storms.”

“Only a Black Elf can see that far.” Sarina squinted as she looked out to sea.

“Sarina, I asked you not to call me that,” I said.

“Why not? It’s true. You have black hair, and you’re an Elf. That’s good enough for me.” She grinned. She still thought it was funny and knew it would get me riled up. It did.

“Are you sure the sails are triangular?” Scout Nora asked.

“I’m positive,” I said. “And they’re purple.”

She sighed. “How long before they get here?”

“Two hours. Three at the most.” I was guessing. It all depended on the wind and currents. The pirate ships were fast and cut through the sea like butter. But if the prevailing wind pushed against them, it would take longer. I looked at the trees and saw the wind was coming in from the sea, not in our favor.

“Mother of Earth!” Scout Nora ran down the ridge to the city gates to inform the guards.

Sarina held me back. “How many ships?”

I looked back out at the horizon. “One corsair, five frigates, and ten… no, twelve coasters.”

“How many men can they carry?”

“Corsairs can carry up to thirty, not including the crew. The frigates twenty each and the coasters about ten. So that’s about two hundred and fifty.” I added them up in my head. I think that was about right. The numbers for each ship had come from my days sitting in a classroom at the Sword Academy.

“Blastfire!” Sarina shook her fist as her eyes narrowed.

“How many Scinthians are in the army?” I asked.

“Officially, a thousand, but most of them are Scouts. They may not even be here.” She grimaced. “Tell the Scout I’ll notify the Dwarves.” She took off running to the ridge north of the city and disappeared into a cave. The Dwarves had entrances to their mine inside these caves on the north and south sides of the city. Sarina had planned to come with us and use the southern entrance, but the sighting of pirates had changed her mind.

When I caught up to Scout Nora, she pulled me inside the gate. I told her about Sarina, and she nodded. She’d already told the guards, and they had sent one guard to the top of the wall to confirm my sighting. They sent another to the command post to raise the alarm. As we headed away from the gate, the guards closed it, using large wooden beams to brace it shut.

Tangled Omens

Book Two of the Seaward Isle Saga

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In Book Two of the Seaward Isle Saga, young Alex takes on her new role as a Tracker, an elite soldier of the King's Army. After Alex goes undercover in the market in Agana to gather intelligence, she encounters the pirate spy known only as the Horseman at the tent of the renowned fortunetellers, the Witches of Winden. When she returns to her command and reports the incident to her superiors, she's assigned her first Tracker mission–find and kill the Horseman or die trying. Without any clues as to his real identity, she pieces together his trail, which leads her deep into the pirate stronghold. There, she must go it alone, confronting danger and intrigue around every corner.

TANGLED OMENS

“Hey, sweetheart, how’d you like to make some money?” A man with a toothy grin and stringy hair leaned into my face. His breath smelled like stale beer, so I turned my head away. “It’s easy work,” he said. “Men will pay good money for you.”

“No, I have enough money.” I raised my hand to stop his advances and looked away, only to stare at the back of the head of the man in front of me.

“Come on, love.” The man stroked my hair. “I’ll treat you real nice, not like those other blokes. I’ll get you a new dress instead of these rags.” He grabbed my chin and turned my face toward him. “You’ll clean up nicely. Black hair, blue eyes. Looks good. You’re a little tall, but you’ll be lying down most of the time.” He laughed.

“Get away from me!” I swatted his hand away and rubbed my chin, trying to erase his touch. Although it was true I was wearing rags, it was part of my disguise. I’d bought the clothes from a rag merchant because no one needed to know I was a soldier from the Nyla Army Garrison. My commander sent me here to find out the status of Pashamon, the evil brother of King Agamon. He ruled the land of Pashkina, south of the Jade Desert. He openly welcomed pirates and threatened our safety up north in Nyla.

The man grabbed my arm once more, and this time, he pulled me out of line. “Come on. Let’s go, girl.”

“Let me go!” My voice was louder and angrier this time. I twisted out of his grasp and pulled my arm away. I didn’t want to cause a commotion or attract attention, but this man was darn right persistent.

“You heard her, man. Leave her be.” The man in front of me turned around and pushed him away as he raised his fist.

The first man raised his hands and staggered away. “All right, you can have her. If you change your mind, girl…”

“Get lost!” He waved a fist. “Beat it!” Then he turned to me. “Don’t pay him no mind, girl. He’s a drunk. He’ll make you turn tricks and leave you with nothing.”

“Thanks for your help.” I got back in line. My cheeks were already warm from the sun, but now they felt like hot coals.

“What brings you here, anyway? I ain’t never seen an Elf get their fortune read,” the man asked me. Now that I could see his face, he was pleasant-looking, not handsome, but not ugly either. The sun had tanned his face brown, with wrinkles around his eyes. He must have spent hours out in the sun like a fisherman. He called me an Elf out of ignorance. I was only part Elf. The other half of me was mortal.

“I want to see how they do it. I heard they were good.” And I needed a place where I could hear people talking without looking conspicuous. Dozens of people had gathered here, waiting for the witches to read their fortunes. The tent was in the middle of the market on the docks of Agana.

“I don’t know how they do it either, but they did a reading for me a few months back, and it all came true. I had the largest catch of fish ever recorded here in Agana. So, I wanted to get another one,” the fisherman said.

“They’re the famous Witches of Winden.” The middle-aged woman behind me joined our conversation. “I heard they just came back from Pashkina. Did you hear what happened?”

“No, what happened?” I kept a blank face as I turned to her, hoping she had the information I was looking for.

“Monsters invaded it.” The frightened woman covered her mouth.

“Not monsters—trolls and goblins,” the fisherman said. “Get your facts straight, woman.”

“It’s the same thing. They burned the place down.” The woman waved her fingers in the air as if they resembled flames.

“Them creatures don’t use fire,” the man said. “The soldiers used fire to drive them away, but it didn’t stop them.” He grimaced. “This is how rumors get started.” He groaned.

“Pashamon brought one of them to the palace here.” The woman pointed at the large, white building not far away. “It’s in the dungeon.”

“There?” I pointed to the White Palace where the King of Agana lived. Why would anyone bring a creature here? That didn’t make any sense to me. But then again, nothing this woman was saying made much sense.

“No, Pashamon couldn’t do that because he’s dead,” the fisherman said. “And there’s nothing in this dungeon because there ain’t no dungeon. I know because I helped build the place. Don’t you know nothing, woman? The King’s soldiers brought Pashamon’s body here yesterday. It was in two pieces, I heard. They’re going to have a funeral for him next week.”

The woman placed her hands on her hips. “Aw, they’ll just build Pashkina back and them pirates’ll be crawling all over the place again.”

“Not this time. The King’s declared it a dangerous creature zone. If the pirates want it, they’ll have to build it, and that won’t happen. They’re lazy bums.”

I was listening to this conversation closely. If Pashamon was really dead, the city of Pashkina could no longer be a pirate haven, and it wouldn’t be a threat to Nyla. My boss and foster father, Colonel Penser, could safely close the Outpost, the remote border station monitoring pirate activity to the south. I was the training officer there, and I’d like nothing more than to close it down. So would its commander, my Scinthian friend, Mala. This was good news, but I needed some corroboration.

Just then, some movement in the tent drew my attention. An old woman in a patchworked robe came out and leaned on her cane. She gazed at us in the line with one good eye; her bad eye was covered with a white film.

“Have your fortune read here. Meet Eclipse, Daughter of the Moon, who can peer into your future. Only one brassie will uncover your true potential.” The old witch tapped her cane on the wooden deck to draw more attention. She wore a hood over a mop of graying brown hair, surrounding a pale and wrinkled face.

The fisherman stepped forward and handed the witch a brassie. She took him into the tent and sat him at a table where a younger woman shuffled cards. The cards she used were regular playing cards, nothing special.

“That’s Aqua, Lady of the Rain, out there in front, and there’s Eclipse inside.” The woman behind me pointed to the young witch in the tent. “Eclipse is the Daughter of the Moon and the best fortuneteller in the world.”

The older witch, Aqua, returned to the front of the tent, so I handed her a brassie and asked, “How can you see into the future?”

“You’ll see. Eclipse can read your future with the cards.” Her high-pitched voice seemed to sing her answer a bit off-key. The old woman made me wait until the fisherman left the tent. He grinned and gave me a thumbs-up as he came out. Then Aqua sat me down at the table. Eclipse smiled with her large brown eyes. Her brown hair was curly and short. Her robe was also made of patches like the other witch.

I smiled back. “How can you tell the future?” I folded my hands on the table.

“I use these cards.”

“They look like regular playing cards. Aren’t you supposed to use some fancy cards for this?”

“You mean Tarot cards? I lost them when I went through the storm on the way to this island, but these work just as well.” Eclipse shuffled the deck and spread them in a line across the table. “Let’s begin. Pick a card.”

I drew the Ace of Clubs.

Eclipse raised her eyebrows, but otherwise, showed no reaction. “Put it down on the table.” She dealt four cards around it, face down. “The first card you drew tells me who you are. You’ve drawn a club that may be used for hunting, so you’re a hunter and a searcher. Since the card is an ace, you travel alone. You’re quite unique. Do you see?”

I looked down at my clothes. “You can tell that much from my clothes, can’t you?”

Eclipse continued on. “This card positioned above the Ace represents your career.” She turned it over. “It’s the five of Diamonds. That means you won’t have a traditional occupation since it’s an odd number, but you’ll become wealthy from your work.” She paused, looking at me with a bit of skepticism. “Are you an Elf? I’ve never had one come to me before.”

“I think I know why.” I propped my chin on my hand. So far, she didn’t impress me. What she’d said could apply to almost everyone on the island except the part about wealth. Very few people were wealthy here.

Eclipse turned over the next card. “This card is nearest to your heart and represents your love life and possibly, marriage.” It was the Jack of Spades. She frowned and shook her head. “You’ll experience great difficulty with love.”

“How do you know that?” I frowned. From all I knew about love at the ripe old age of fifteen, everyone had experienced difficulty with love. Who hasn’t?

“This card represents heartbreak.” She tapped her finger on it. “The spade is an upside-down black heart, and the Jack represents men. You must be cautious with your choice of men, but it also tells me you’ve already experienced problems in the past.” She gave me a wry grin.

“Does this include all men, even my brother?”

Eclipse agreed.

Well, she hit the mark there. My half-brother Beren never liked me, although he seemed to be getting over it.

“This next card tells me about your health.” Eclipse turned over a ten of Hearts. “This card means you’ll be healthy, and you’ll have more lives than a cat.”

“Cats have nine lives.” I shook my head. “How can I have more than that?”

Eclipse pressed on, not showing any concern. “This card is your future. The Jack of Diamonds.” She paused as she glanced back and forth between the jacks.

“So, what does it mean?” I waited for her to go on impatiently.

“It means you’ll find the man you’re searching for, which is the Jack, then become wealthy in the process—that’s the diamond, but there’ll be a lot of turmoil doing so.”

“Turmoil? What kind of turmoil?”

“Any kind. Two Jacks in the same circle mean turmoil, maybe fighting. It’s not a good sign and may involve two men pulling you in opposite directions.” Eclipse put her fingers on the two opposing Jacks. “It may even be a love triangle. I can’t tell for sure. Just be cautious.”

I furrowed my brow. A tangled omen. This reading was a waste of a good brassie.

Blood Mission

Book Three of the Seaward Isle Saga

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BLOOD MISSION puts the fate of kings and the safety of the inhabitants of Seaward Isle in the hands of a teenaged half-elf warrior, Lady Alexin. When the lives of Prince Darin and Lord Odin are threatened by the rogue Elf Mellen in a plot to kill them both and take over Seaward Isle, Alex trained as a tracker, is charged with her most dangerous mission yet–a Blood Mission. She will have to use her skills to hunt Mellen down and kill him, or die in the attempt. With dark magic, the power of the Shadows and a wizard on his side, will Alex survive her mission long enough to discover her own true destiny? The plot grows more complex when Mellen attempts a coup, and Alex discovers that he is kidnapping shipwreck survivors to enlist them as pirates, even as she is courted by a handsome Colonel, greedy for her inheritance. Will Alex be able to harness her own powers and free the inhabitants of Seaward Isle?

BLOOD MISSION

I’ve had nightmares all my life. Some were based on reality, but others were pure fiction, like the one where a dragon was chasing me. But I’d never had anything like this before. For the last week, I’d woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

Every. Damned. Night.

The pirate spy, known as the Horseman, was lying in his bed with a dagger sticking out of his stomach. When I pulled the covers back, his cold, dead body was soaked in blood. At this point, the smell usually woke me up, but this time, he sat up and pointed his finger at me.

“It wasn’t me!” I flung my hands in the air. It really wasn’t me—I didn’t kill the man, but I did see his dead body just as I described. This time, he turned his hand so his palm was facing up and fingers outstretched as if he was asking me for my help.

I was jolted awake when someone touched my shoulder. It was Colonel Penser, my foster father, checking up on me.

“It’s all right, Alex. You were having a bad dream.” He rubbed my shoulder—his voice soothed me. “You’re all right.”

I inhaled deeply as I sat up. “Thanks.” I rubbed my forehead, wiping sweat off my brow.

“I’ve heard it helps to talk about your nightmares,” he said. “What’s yours about?”

At first, I hesitated, but maybe he was right. He was right about a lot of things. “I was dreaming about finding the Horseman’s body in his bed, but this time, he sat up and pointed his finger at me.”

“Is that why you said you didn’t do it?”

“Yes. And then he turned his hand like this.” I demonstrated by turning my right hand so my palm faced up. “Like he was asking me for help.” I winced. “I’m not sure what that means.”

“You’ll figure it out after you think on it for a bit.”

“Yeah, maybe. Sorry, I woke you up, Colonel.”

“How about some breakfast? You haven’t been eating well since you’ve been back.”

“Yeah, I’m starving.” I hadn’t been sleeping well either.

After breakfast, I joined the Colonel at the Nyla Army Garrison, where I could meet up with my tracker trainer, Major Jonnbo. As we were training, a soldier came to find me to tell me the Governor wanted to see me. When I went to the Governor’s house, he enveloped me in a warm embrace. Since I was still considered a minor at age 15, I was his ward, and Colonel Penser and his wife were my foster parents. I loved them all.

He handed me a scroll. “This came for you late yesterday.” It was a royal invitation from the King of Northeast Forest to attend the funeral of Ambassador Hodges at the end of the month. Notably, the King had used my formal name and title, Lady Alexin of the Court of Northeast Forest, to let me know this wasn’t an invitation I could decline.

“This is really awkward,” I said to the Governor.

“I know. I feel the same way.” Governor Tyrone exhaled as he sat down. He had gotten a similar invitation a few weeks ago. “I was the one who assigned you the mission to kill the Horseman.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t know it was Ambassador Hodges when you assigned it to me.”

“And you didn’t either. I never should have done it.”

“But it was the right thing to do at the time. Besides, I didn’t kill him. He was already dead when I got there.”

“You’ll need a black dress for the funeral. I’m having a new robe made. Do you need some money?”

“No, I’ve got enough.” I had plenty of money left from my journey to Riverton. “I guess I’d better ask Mistress Penser for help make a new dress.”

***

Besides the Governor and myself, we had an entourage of ten soldiers, not to mention four packhorses. Our journey from Nyla took us five days, and the weather had turned cold. The first snowfall of the season had arrived in the form of large flakes.

When we rode into the walled city of Verity, mourning banners lined the cobblestone streets and flapped in the breeze. The homes had candles lit in the windows and had black wreaths on the doors. We stopped at the stables and dismounted. Our soldiers took our valises to the palace gate, where they were taken inside. As we were shown in, more people began arriving for the funeral. They were dressed in their finest mourning clothes, all in black. The mood was somber.

The Governor and I were shown to our chambers, where we changed clothes. I carefully shook out my black velvet dress, hoping the stitches wouldn’t tear apart. It had been a real rush job, but I only had to wear it for one day. The velvet was heavy and warm. I was sweating as soon as I put it on.

I tapped on the Governor’s door, and he took my arm as we headed into the reception room to greet the King and his family and express our remorse. Talk about awkward. We had discussed what to do on the way here, but actually seeing the family was another matter. After we greeted them, we moved as far away as we could without actually leaving the premises.

We endured the ceremony and the reception following. But the Governor wouldn’t let me leave until the next morning. If he had to be here until then, then so did I. He also offered to take my dress back to Nyla when he left, so I agreed.

***

The next morning, the Governor left with his entourage of soldiers, while I rode to the Scinthian encampment south of the city to resume my duties as their training officer.

Over the past few years, the Scinthian women had been training with the mortal army of Northeast Forest because a pirate attack had decimated their army. The women were descendants from a race of female warriors called the Amazons, and were from a land called Scythia in the mortal world. Their adopted land on Seaward Isle was known as Scinthia, in honor of their homeland. Years ago, a Scinthian Scout had adopted me before the pirates killed her and left me an orphan for the second time. My birth parents were murdered when I was four. The Scinthians returned me to the village of Nyla where I was adopted once more, this time by Lord Governor Tyrone as my benefactor, with Colonel Penser and his wife as my foster parents.

But here, the Forest Army had no room for the Scinthians in the barracks, so they lived in the caverns embedded in the hills south of the city. None of them seemed to mind, and they welcomed me back warmly. In no time, I caught up on the latest gossip and spent the evening with them, singing and dancing around a campfire. When I went to bed, I fell asleep quickly, feeling safe among my friends.

***

During the night, I woke up when I heard voices. I sat up, wondering if it was part of a nightmare, but I hadn’t been dreaming. Maybe, the girls were having an all-nighter. But the voices sounded male. Then I realized I was listening to Elfspeak, the Elf version of telepathy.

A few years ago, I’d discovered I could hear other Elves when they used Elfspeak. It’d started after I had spoken to a dragon, making me wonder what else he could have done to me. I listened to the voices until I heard a familiar one. The Elf Mellen. Not only could I hear him, but I could also see his face as he spoke.

“What’s the problem?” Mellen asked. “Why the delay? Must I remind you we have a Blood Mission to complete? The Prince still lives.”

“Lord Odin is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. We’ll kill them both and the guards, then we’ll get you out,” someone said in reply.

My eyes popped open when the conversation ended, and the faces disappeared. I didn’t know who the accomplice was, and I didn’t hear a name, but he had blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. Unfortunately, that description fit most of the Elves on Seaward Isle. From what I could deduce from the conversation, this Elf was someone familiar with the goings-on at Prince Darin’s fortress. An insider. And what in the hell was a Blood Mission?

Prince Darin was my cousin and the leader of the Water Elves on the island, and he reported to Lord Odin. They were the most powerful Elves on the island. So I could understand why they were targets. But who was Mellen’s accomplice? I didn’t recognize him.

I didn’t have time to waste and closed my eyes to Elfspeak to my cousin. Although I’d listened to Elfspeak many times, this was the only second time I’d used it to communicate. I closed my eyes and visualized Prince Darin’s face. That was the easy part. He was the most handsome Elf I’d ever met. Too bad he was my cousin.

I focused on his face and said, “Prince Darin, this is Alex, your cousin. May I speak?” It was proper to ask for permission to speak first, so I was following protocol.

But he didn’t reply, so I tried again. Once again, nothing. Why wasn’t he answering me? Was I too late? Should I contact someone else?

I tried to contact Lord Odin, but it had been so long since I’d seen him, I couldn’t recall what he looked like, other than his blond hair, blue eyes, and pointed ears.

Dammit! I had to do something. I couldn’t get back to sleep, anyway, so I got up. If I left now, I should be at my cousin’s fortress in Southport by noon tomorrow. I could only hope that Lord Odin wouldn’t get there too early in the morning.

I changed my clothes and scribbled a note for Major Nita, the leader of the Scinthian women, and left it on her desk. I ran through the cavern, stopping once in the kitchen area to pick up something to eat—a leftover apple turnover. Then I rode out.

***

As I crossed over the bridge into Riverton, the gray skies changed from a light snowfall to a torrent of rain and snow mix. My horse, Tattoo, didn’t appreciate being pushed so hard in these conditions. He was cold and drenched and muddy, but so was I. Whenever we get there, I’ll give him some apples to make up. I urged him on, but since it was still dark out, I knew I had time. The plot was to take place tomorrow, but according to the clock tower in Riverton, it was already tomorrow.

I rode through the city of Riverton and turned left for Southport. The eastern sky was turning light underneath the rain clouds, but the rain continued to pour down.

My cousin Prince Darin had just completed building his fortress along the coast, and it dominated the area. It must have been fifty feet high, made of solid blocks of gray granite. Round balls of stone stood along the top of the wall as if they could roll off and crush anybody below. Maybe that was part of the defense system. Even the windows were rounded. For now, the fortress stood alone, but in a few years, buildings and houses would fill the area as people sought safety near the Elf prince.

As I rode up to the fortress gate, the Elf guard held up his hand. “Halt! What’s your business here?”

“My name is Lady Alexin, and I’m Prince Darin’s cousin. I need to see him immediately.” I hoped he believed me. I was hardly dressed like a Lady, even though that’s how I identified myself. Under my dripping wet cloak, I wore my brown uniform of a Northeast Forest soldier.

Wait here.” He pointed at me, then called another guard forward. He closed his eyes for a moment to Elfspeak. When he opened them, he nodded at me as if he’d received confirmation of my identity. “His Highness said for you to go in. Dismount and leave your horse here. We’ll take care of him.” He sent the second guard to take my horse.

I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing the guard must have talked to my cousin. He was still alive. I slid off the saddle and landed in a puddle of water. My back and legs were stiff from riding for so long, so it took me a moment to straighten up.

“Has Lord Odin arrived yet?” I asked as I adjusted my rucksack on my back.

“His lordship arrived this morning and went to the King’s palace,” the guard said and pointed to his left. “Go to that door.”

The front door of the fortress was another hundred feet away. I sprinted through another cloudburst and knocked on the door. A woman servant opened the door and handed me a dry towel as I dripped water onto the floor.

“Welcome, Lady Alexin.” The woman saluted me in an Elf manner with her right hand over her chest and curtsied. Like so much with the Elves, it was proper protocol.

“Thank you. Your name, please?” I asked her.

“Eskin. May I take your weapons?”

“How’s Prince Darin?” I handed her my sword and Elfin Blade.

“Fine, my lady. He’ll be here shortly.” Eskin left, taking my weapons to the armory. Since she acted as if nothing was wrong, I felt relieved. The Prince was fine, so I must have gotten here in time to foil the plot, whatever it entailed. All I really knew was Prince Darin and Lord Odin were supposed to die today. I didn’t know how, but I assumed they would be together.

I dried off with a towel and took off my rucksack, quickly turning it inside out to find some dry clothes. I listened for footsteps and heard nothing. So, I quickly stripped off my wet clothes and put on some dry ones—a matching set to the clothes I was wearing—a pair of brown britches with a white shirt and brown jacket, the uniform worn by soldiers from the Kingdom of Northeast Forest, stationed in Nyla. Since I didn’t bring another pair of boots, I put on a pair of dry socks and set my wet boots by the fire with my clothes.

As I combed my hair out, Prince Darin stepped in. I smiled with relief. He really was alive. I greeted him with an Elf salute and curtsied deeply, a proper greeting when meeting royalty. I felt as though my mission to stop the bloodshed had already been a success.

“Thank goodness, you’re all right.” I was so relieved to see him, so I stood up.

“Of course I am. What are you doing here?” He folded his arms across his chest.

“I came to tell you…” I paused because he had an angry expression on his face, even before I said anything. How did he know what I was going to say? Or did he hate me? Did I do something wrong and not know it?

“Go on.” He tapped his foot impatiently.

Maybe I was overthinking this, so I told him. “I overheard some Elfspeak, last night.” I held up my hands. “I know you don’t like it, but please listen. The Elf Mellen was talking to someone on your staff about freeing the prisoners from the dungeon. They were going to kill you and Lord Odin first and then the guards. After that, they would release the prisoners.”

“The Elf Mellen is locked inside my prison. I would know if he was planning something.”

“Being in prison won’t stop him from trying something.” I didn’t know how else to convince him.

He held his arms out to the side. “Well, I’m still alive, so that was obviously a lie.”

“Or it hasn’t happened yet. It was supposed to happen when Lord Odin got here, and I understand he arrived this morning, but he’s at the palace.”

He gritted his teeth. “I thought I told you not to listen to our Elfspeak. It’s is an invasion of our privacy. I don’t like it.” He clenched his fist.

“I know, and you did tell me. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I was sleeping and woke up when I heard them. I thought it was important. When I tried to contact you in Elfspeak, you didn’t answer, so I got worried.”

“I’ve been busy.” He stared away from me, reluctant to believe me, but his anger seemed to ease. Then he exhaled slowly. “Very well. I’ll double the guards.” He placed two fingers on his forehead as he used Elfspeak. When he finished, he glared at me. “Did you hear what I just said?”

“No, Prince Darin. I wasn’t listening,” I lied. I did listen, but I didn’t want to piss him off again.

“I notified General Tarsin,” he said. “He’s on the way. Anything else?”

I thought for a moment. “Could you arrange a meeting for me with my Elf grandmother? I don’t remember ever meeting her.” I’d been postponing this meeting for as long as I could. After my parents died, I always thought my grandmother could have come for me, but she never did. I figured she just didn’t care.

“Lady Lestin? Of course, I’ll do that in the morning.” He had me sit on the sofa as he sat in a chair opposite me. He looked away, lost in his thoughts.

I couldn’t read minds, only Elfspeak, so I sat quietly. I bit my lip and slid my hands under my knees, wondering what I could say to him without pissing him off. The weather? I looked out the window as rain pelted against the glass. Anything I said would sound obvious—I didn’t want to sound stupid, either.

The Island Game: The Inside Story of Seaward Isle

A Seaward Isle Short Story

Buy Now at: Amazon

When a modern day reporter is stranded on the mysterious Seaward Isle, she begins an investigation into its location, its history and mythic origins even as she and her husband struggle to make their way in this strange, uncharted world. A prequel to the Seaward Isle Saga.

THE ISLAND GAME

Have you ever played the Island Game? You know the one: if you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you bring? Some of my friends came up with deep philosophical answers, like the Bible, but others were more whimsical, like mine. I wanted to take my blow dryer. They laughed at me. Imagine that.

“There’s no electricity, Olivia,” they said.

“I don’t care. Look at my hair,” I replied.

It didn’t matter. It was just for a laugh. None of us would ever be stranded. At least, that’s what I used to think.

I was born and raised in San Diego, California, a typical Millennial, and graduated from UCLA with a degree in journalism. I moved to the Big Apple for my job and decided early on to freelance, doing my own investigations and submitting them to news outlets. Soon after, I met John Richards, my architect husband, and we got married six months later. He was just starting out after graduating from Columbia University and had landed a junior architect position at a large firm in the city. Our jobs paid well, and we thought we were set until we ended up here on Seaward Isle.

John and I had rented a forty-foot yacht in the Mediterranean, one of those yacht-ations. It was a great deal, and we were having a blast. John was an experienced seaman, and I was his apprentice, but we were doing fine. Until one day, this storm appeared out of nowhere. We rode it out below deck, clinging to each other, but when the yacht crashed and took on water, we scrambled for safety, ending up on the shores of Seaward Isle. The place wasn’t on our charts, nor was it on any John had ever seen. Truth was, we didn’t know where we were.

We waded ashore and met a woman who lived in a hut near the beach. Becky was a middle-aged woman with curly red hair and bright green eyes. She wore a dumpy flowered dress with an apron on top. She had us sit down on the sand and handed us some towels to dry off.

“Thanks.” I lay down on the warm sand, catching my breath. The warmth comforted me after the shock of cold water from the ocean that had left me shivering.

Three men came over and handed us some cups of water. We gulped it down, as if we were dying of thirst. After they wrapped us in blankets, I huddled next to John.

“Welcome to Seaward Isle,” Becky said.

“Where?” John looked at her. “There weren’t any islands near us on the map.”

“That’s because it’s not on any map. You’re not where you think you are.”

“We’re not in the Med?” John asked, now uncertain.

“I wish we were. This island is in a place called Eledon, and there are Elves here. But even they haven’t been able to get off this island. More water?” Becky poured more water into our cups. She acted as if this island was nothing to be concerned about.

The cup I was holding was a ceramic mug with a rainbow on it. “Is this cup from Hawaii?”

“I guess. I found it among the debris from another shipwreck.” Becky checked me over for injuries. “You’ve got a cut here and some bruises, but I think you’ll be okay.” She checked John and nodded. “Why don’t you come up to the house and relax?”

“Can I get back to the ship and pick up a few things?” John pointed to the ship as it hung precariously on a rock. The forty-foot sailboat had an enormous hole in the fiberglass hull; it was propped up against some rocks and partly underwater. The mast was broken, and what was left of the sail flapped in the breeze.

“We can take you out in our rowboat,” one man said.

“Thanks. Name’s John.” He shook his hand.

“Sure, it is,” the first man said with a chuckle. “I’m Wallace, and this is Gorman and Turnin.”

“Where are you guys from? You look like cowboys with ten-gallon hats and all.”

“We’re prospectors. Part of the Yukon Gold Rush of 1892.”

“Hi, I’m Olivia.” I shook hands with the three men. “What do you mean Yukon Gold Rush?”

“We were on our way there on a ferryboat, but this storm came up out of the blue, and we ended up here.”

“Really?” Should I believe them? They did look like cowboys, but not the kind in movies. They looked like real ones.

John and the three men pushed the rowboat into the water and went out to the remains of our yacht, while Becky and I went into the hut she called home. The walls were made of stone, with a wood floor and a thatched roof. Inside, the two-room hut couldn’t have been over four hundred square feet. The larger room was the kitchen with a wood stove, a table with six mismatched chairs, and a mattress on the floor. The second room had a bed with a dresser. On the floor were stacks of old clothes, blankets, and an assortment of items recovered on the beach, including shells, but also some old laptops, cell phones, and other electronic gear.

“Does any of this stuff work?” I picked up a phone.

“No,” Becky said. “It’s useless, but we keep hoping for someone to show up who knows how to fix them.” She pulled me over to the table. “I have everyone who comes here sign my guest book.”

The old blue logbook had faded to white and had worn corners and some water-damage. Inside was a list of names dating back ten years.

“You’ve been here this long?” I asked.

“Actually, before that. I started it a year after I got here. It took me that long to figure this place out.”

I picked up a ball-point pen and clicked it.

“Found that pen last week on the beach. It still works,” Becky said.

“Let’s see, it was July 4th, 2011.” I closed my eyes to check the calendar in my brain.

“It’s July fourth, all right, but the correct year is 995. That’s the date we use on this island. It’s counting from the date the Elves were stranded here.”

I held up my hand. “You’re serious about these Elves. I thought you were kidding. There’s no such thing as Elves.”

“Well, tell that to them. Hey, they’re good-looking fellas. Not too many Elf women around, but a lot of men.”

“What else do we need to know about this place?”

“You’re in the Kingdom of Agana right now. To the north of us is the Kingdom of Northeast Forest, and to the west, the Kingdom of Southport. Almost everybody here speaks English, or as it’s called the common tongue. The Elves don’t know what England is.”

“Why English?”

“There’s a lot of Brits here. They were on a bunch of sailing ships that crash-landed on the beach a long time ago.” She paused. “Oh, and you won’t find any speedboats, only sailing ships, and no cars or buses, only horses with wagons.”

“How did we step back in time?” I shook my head as I finished filling out the book with our names and place of origin. As I leafed back through the pages, I found people from all different times and places. I rubbed my forehead, trying to take it all in.

“The boys are on their way back.” Becky looked out the window. “Looks like your ship is gone. That’s what happens to all the shipwrecks. They get swept out into deeper water. You’ll never find it again.”

I ran to the window and looked at the rock where the ship had been, but it was gone. She was right. “I thought maybe we could salvage the ship and sail it back out.”

“I wouldn’t suggest that. Look farther out to sea.” She pointed to a line of black clouds on the horizon. “You’ll never get past those storms.”

“But when the weather clears…”

“That’s the problem. It never does. Those storms remain around the island all the time. We’re trapped here.”

“Oh, my God.” I covered my mouth.

A few minutes later, John came in, carrying a black plastic bag dripping with water. “This is all I could get before the ship went under.” He dropped it on the floor and showed me all of our electronic gear and my blow dryer. I had to laugh when he showed it to me. I tossed it in the corner with all the other junk.

But not all of it was useless. We had placed our brand-new cell phone in a waterproof case, so when I touched the screen, it turned on. There were two bars.

“It works.” I dialed my mom’s number and heard it ringing. But she didn’t answer, of course, and the call went to voicemail. “Hi, Mom. This is Olivia. John and I were in a boating accident, and we ended up on this island. It’s called—” The phone cut off. I looked down at the screen. No bars. “Wait a minute, you worked just a minute ago,” I said to the phone.

“You’re the first one I’ve ever seen make any sort of contact.” Becky sighed. “I’ve got some soup cooking. Why don’t you all sit down and relax for a while?”

“Can we sit on the beach?” I pushed John to the door. I needed to talk to him in private.

We went outside and stared at the ocean. Waves crashed against the rocks, and we could feel the spray on our faces.

“Did those men tell you about this place, John?” I asked him.

“Yeah, it’s not good, Olivia. Let me see your phone.”

I handed it to him, and he tried calling even though there weren’t any bars. He leaned his head back and sighed when his face was splattered with ocean spray from a gigantic wave. Lightning cracked over our heads; thunder rolled across the sky, and the heavens opened up with rain.

John pulled me toward the hut, but we stopped when something crashed against the rocks. Another ship. This time, a large white cabin cruiser smashed against the rocks and broke into pieces. Debris flew all over the place, some landing close by. We covered our heads and ducked. As we stared out to sea, Becky and the three men ran out of the hut and stood next to us. As quickly as it started, the storm stopped. Seconds later, the damaged cabin cruiser sank underwater. No one got out.

John headed over to the rowboat. “Come on. We have to get the survivors.”

But Wallace grabbed his arm and shook his head. “When they go down like that, there ain’t no survivors, John. We won’t even get close to the wreckage. The current’s too strong.” He took off his hat and placed it over his heart. “God rest their souls.” His two friends also took off their hats and bent their heads.

Becky said a prayer and crossed herself.

As the four of them headed back to the hut, John and I stared out to sea a moment longer, hoping they were wrong. But within minutes, nothing was left. The ocean sucked everything underwater. Disappointed, I looked down at my phone. It had three bars, so I punched in 9-1-1 and heard it ring.

A woman’s voice said, “911. How may I help you?”

“Oh, my God!” The call had connected. “Yes, 911. My husband and I were in a shipwreck. Can you send help?” I clutched my hand into a fist.

“Where was your ship located?”

“In the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Italy.”

“I’m sorry, but this is Little Rock, Arkansas. You’ll have to call Italian authorities.”

“Can you do that?”

No response, only silence. No bars. Cut off again.

John looked up at the sky and down at my phone. “It seems like whenever there’s a shipwreck, we can get a signal for a bit.”

“But what good will that do? We can’t even tell them where we are.”

“You’re right. We need more information. I’ll turn the phone off to save the battery. Let’s go back inside.”

I stared at the beach for a little longer, hoping someone would surface in the water, but no one did. John pulled on my arm, and we headed back inside.

Map of Eledon

Map of Seaward Isle