Mountains of Mischief
Nobody messes with a Dalmyn wagon train. That is the credo of Dalmyn Cartage, and their drivers and guards are up to the task of keeping it that way.
Until Aleria anDalmyn goes out on her first assignment as wagonmaster and runs into a simmering quarrel involving an ancient boundary dispute and forbidden Mechanical weapons. And a Ghost Beast from an ancient tale, which Aleria would prefer not to believe in until the mutilated bodies persuade her otherwise.
Trapped in the suffocating depths of a crumbling mountain fortress by an ambitious and relentless foe, Aleria struggles to survive as her small party gets whittled down and her confidence in her ability to do her duty fades.
Even the sturdy presence of her guard Captain, Erlon, with his hand-and-a-half sword, and the handsome but diffident Kolwyn anLlannon, inheritor of the lore of the Old Ones, can protect her party if she makes the wrong move. And then there are the two unknown horsemen dogging her footsteps. Do they have contact with a traitor in her own camp? Who can she trust?
And where in her crowded life is there a time and a place for the love she craves?
Heralded by advance readers as the best book in the series, this novel steps up the action considerably, without losing the fine characterization and quirky humour of the earlier books.
My Review: 4 Stars
What I liked about the previous books was that they had a grimmer undertone to the classic fantasy story. This one didn’t have that grimness, but I found I actually ended up enjoying it more. The story and characters were more interesting.
Here’s a strange realization: who knew running a caravan could be so interesting? The entire book is basically about Aleria handling a wagon train, and I found it surprisingly fascinating. Gordon did a great job of keeping the story grounded in reality while throwing in the bits of fantasy that makes it such an awesome genre. The story is solid, has decent suspense, and keeps moving at a steady pace.
The only problem was the climax: there was none. The big build-up to the confrontation ended with a whisper, instead of a bang. I felt cheated and disappointed by that lack of high-intensity ending.
That being said, the story was overall well-written, clever, and engaging. A GREAT book indeed!
Here’s a Taste:
Aleria had no idea how to read the time by the stars, but she could see that they had moved quite a bit. She considered going back into the fortress but, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a movement down below her balcony. She searched the spot, but there was nothing. Staring at things in the dark made them look like they moved, so she let her eyes roam across the area.
There! Another movement in the shadows. Got him.
Now that she had his direction she could follow his route as he made his way towards the barricaded entry. She heard the slither of cloth over tree bark, and then he was stumbling up the staircase.
She slipped back inside and waited.
After a while, there was a scraping sound in their old camp and the flash of flint on steel. A torch flared. She looked around in the dim light that spread into the hallway outside, but her hiding place stayed dark. The only route is down the corridor. If he comes in here for any reason…
But Lexing was on a mission; he did not pause. He strode, sword in hand, away down the corridor to the west. She slipped out and followed at the very edge of his torchlight, confident that his flame-seared vision would not detect her in the darkness.
As she expected, he made the correct turn to take him to the west end of the fortress. He must think we were looking for the jewels out at this end. He’s had almost two days in here to get his bearings and read the footprints in the dust. Now things get interesting.
She hurried ahead and caught the glow of his torch as he turned again on the proper route. Soon they were in territory unfamiliar to her, but he strode with confidence through a lower archway. As his torch lit the entrance, she could see that this tunnel was different. More rounded and natural. Could be the original watercourse. If I was looking, I’d choose that one, too.
Sure enough, when she entered this tunnel it soon deviated, twisting and doubling back, widening then becoming narrow. She moved faster, confident that his torch would warn her.
Then she flashed her lantern beam on the dusty floor and stopped dead. Most of the tracks here are the Beast’s.
She pointed her lantern back down the tunnel. Nothing but the blank wall of the last turn. She flashed it ahead. Same view. Well, I guess if I go forward there’s the chance it’ll eat him first. He must know it’s up here. He must be headed for its den! There’s only one way he would dare do that. She followed, deeper and deeper into the mountain, the rock looming heavier above her as she went. She held her fear firmly in check and paced on.
Then she heard a light “clack” behind her, like a nail on stone. She straightened, every sense alert. A faint, fetid smell brushed her nose. The wind blows up this corridor. The Beast is behind me!
She pointed her lantern back, but there was nothing there. Turning, she hurried forward. The light of Lexing’s torch splashed the wall at the next corner. She waited, her heart beating wildly, until it faded. Then she moved ahead again.
When she turned the next corner, she saw a dark hole in the tunnel wall. She poked her lantern in. It was a small room, hollowed out like an eddy in the banks of a stream. She glanced ahead. Lexing’s torch. She sent her lamp beam behind her.
Two eyes, spaced far apart, flashed in the darkness.
She slipped into the room, put her back to the wall and drew her sword but kept it down by her side. Lantern in one hand, sword in the other she waited, calming her breathing, relaxing her muscles, preparing herself for battle. A stillness came over her, and she breathed a silent thanks to Master Ogima. Whatever happens, I’m ready.
The light sliding of talons on the uneven rocks became louder. Click. Clack. Silence as the Beast traversed flat floor. Click. She did not shine her lamp on the door, but on the wall of the room beside her. If it didn’t like light, it didn’t want a beam shining in its eyes. She would save that for a desperation move. As if anything could be more desperate.
There was a thickening of the darkness in the doorway, and a huge shadow paused outside. The gleaming eyes turned on her. She stayed dead still. There was a snuffle of breath as the animal drank in her odour. She couldn’t stand it. She had to do something.
“Hello there, boy. Nice kitty. Um…happy hunting.” Well, that was sufficiently stupid. I hope he isn’t intelligent enough to notice.
The head cocked to one side. Then the eyes swung away, and the shadow was gone. The clicking faded. She breathed again.
She stood there a moment, but then her knees had no strength and she folded down against the wall. Suddenly she needed all the light she could get. She twisted the lamp fully open, disregarding what it did to her vision.
She kept the light open until her breathing slowed and she realized that there was nothing to see, anyway. She closed the lamp down to a slit again and sat.
What do I do now?
There was a shout from up the tunnel: a wordless blast of sound. It was answered by a roar the like of which she had never heard. The man’s voice sounded again, rising and rising into a scream of agony, sharply cut off.
Then there was silence…
About the Author
Brought up in a logging camp with no electricity, Gordon Long learned his storytelling in the traditional way: at his father’s knee. He now spends his time editing, publishing, travelling, blogging and writing fantasy and social commentary, although sometimes the boundaries blur.
Gordon lives in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, with his wife, Linda, and their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Josh. When he is not writing and publishing, he works on projects with the Surrey Seniors’ Planning Table, and is a staff writer for Indies Unlimited.
Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mountains-Mischief-World-Change-Book-ebook/dp/B017JF493W/
Connect with Gordon on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gordonalongrenaissancewriter/