Blog Tour: Lobizona by Romina Russell Garber

 

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela
Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her.
As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s
Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a
small life in Miami, Florida.


Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her
surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her
mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally
without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her
past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried
within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal
past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh
consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a
lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to
belong.


As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real
heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s
not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.
 

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. No payments made between me and the publisher.
 
I’ve been eyeing this book since I saw it on Twitter and I am surprised to get an advanced copy. I am so thankful for this. I am so thankful for the extra free time due to quarantine. In all honesty, I am not much of a fan of werewolves stories because the previous books I’ve read didn’t catch my attention that much – first impressions right? Anyway, this book is really different! It has this charisma where you just want to read it. I love the book cover as well, it is attracting and the illustration is really awesome.
Lobizona, it started with a very interesting chapter. It got me hooked easily and it was honestly hard to put down the book. All I wanted is to turn the pages until I get to know all the mysteries hiding from the story. How will the character discover her true self? What would be her reaction? What is her future? Things like those are in my head until I was able to discover the answers in the book. I liked how the story were made, the twists of the story was shocking especially that one near the end. I didn’t expect that turn.

Manu is the main character in this story and she only wanted to live normally. She’s been hiding all her life with her Ma and all she wanted is to become a citizen so she won’t be discriminated and no more hiding from the authorities. But, her life changed in an instant when she discovered some of the things about her life, her true nature and soon her future. There are other interesting characters as you go along, Catalina, Saysa and Tiago are some of Manu’s close friends who helped her discover herself. Every character are interesting and the power they poses is something else. They might not know their full capacity yet but it does sound like promising and amazing. Also, isn’t it cool that they have a school for werewolves, witches and other creatures? I seriously can’t wait for everyone to fully discover their true nature especially Manu she recently discovered hers and I’m curious what else can she do. How powerful can she be?

 
“Our trust in each other is the only thing they can’t take from us.”
Before I end this, I do suggest that this book is really worth reading. I’m excited for the next one and the book twist is really something I didn’t expect. I have a feeling that Book 2 will be more exciting! Also, more Tiago and Manu story.
My Rating
Romina Garber is a NYT/International Bestselling YA author who also writes under pen name
Romina Russell. Born in Buenos Aires and raised in Miami, Romina currently resides in Los Angeles but would much rather be at Hogwarts. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—“College She Wrote,” a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core. For more information about her books, follow her on Twitter/Instagram: @rominagarber.
 

 

Blog Tour: Music From Another World by Robin Talley

It’s summer 1977 and
closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her
strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County
church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt
relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet
is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist
Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes
everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and
carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place
she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of
lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide
the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay
fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must
rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply
personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44786181-music-from-another-world

 
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. No payments made between me and the publisher.

Music From Another World is another interesting read from Robin Talley. I don’t know who was Harvey Milk before I read the book, I had to Google search him and boom… things become clearer from my end. I had no idea he got a big name during this time and I think, I’m gonna thank him now for fighting what he knows was right. These days if he’s still around I could say he’s gonna be happy for the results. 
Being a Catholic and having a strong belief, reading the book somehow made me question things before people get the idea of “open mindedness”. While reading, I was like does this really happen before? but deep inside I knew these things happen until now that’s why some people are so afraid to “out”. Some treat them like a curse or worse. I’m not sure where and how did they get that idea. But, in my personal opinion, straight or gay, you’re still human. You might be different from others but so what? People should value the humanity more. I think now is not the time to discriminate gays or bi. Acceptance is the answer to these issues. It may not be written in the holy book or any book before that gay exists because that term doesn’t even exist before, right? 
I think the book taught me a lot of things, I really had a great time reading it. It was intense on some parts, there were lots of what ifs in my head like; what if their parents found out? what if someone tells their secret to others? – I feel afraid for them, I feel afraid for people who’s in a close minded family or environment, who knows what will happen to them? I like this phrase from the book and I one-hundred percent  (100%) support it. 
“You are who you are, and you don’t care if other people don’t like it.”
One more thought before ending my review, maybe people experiment on lots of things because they don’t feel accepted on who they really are. Some change because they feel neglected. Maybe, that’s what we need to understand from here. I hope, as the days go by, people will accept more what kind of society we are in nowadays. To be honest, I’m happy that there’s pride celebrations, but some countries doesn’t accept that yet. I hope one day, they all do. 
“I want to be proud of who I am, the way you are, but how? How do you make yourself feel something when everyone around you believes the exact opposite?”
My Rating

I live in Washington, D.C.,
with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound
dog. Whenever the baby’s sleeping, I’m probably busy writing young adult
fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth
conversations with friends and family about things like whether
Jasmine’s character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

My website is at http://www.robintalley.com, and I’m on Twitter and Tumblr.

Bookworm Life while in Quarantine

Hello bookworms!
Welcome to another random thoughts post. I believe, we’re all experiencing the enhanced community quarantine due to Covid-19. No schools, employees are on work from home mode, no one should get out of their homes unless getting your necessities (e.g. groceries, medicines, etc.) but all of the malls are closed. Is it just me or anyone here thinks it’s also a relief for the environment? and for our tiring social life? I have this introvert side soooo I am so much affected and relieved, thanks to social distancing (kidding). 
On a serious note, I am worried for most people specially the affected ones. I’m having this anxiety every time I go out of the house until I return. I keep on telling myself that I can’t be sick since I am prone to asthma and allergies. I think, this virus is not just affecting our lungs or physical aspects of life but also mentally. I hope and pray that people like me, specially those mentally challenged people are okay. This will all be temporary. You guys will be fine. Just stay at home and always practice the proper hygiene and every thing will be alright. I may not be in a proper position or an expert to tell all these things but, at least just a reminder for some, I could help. 
So, for this blog entry, I’ll share my routines as well on how to fight my own anxiety. Some might not be applicable to others but at least you’ll have some ideas. 
  1. READ BOOKS – since I started working at home, all I’m thinking was, finally I could get some time with reading. I have a lot of pending books to read and my TBR is very long so maybe this is the time to read them one by one. I also made a list specifically for this quarantine days. 
  2. CLEAN YOUR BOOKSHELVES – during this time, I am putting this task as one of my priority because I really can’t remember when was the last time I had my shelf cleaned up. Aside from that, it’s a sad thought but I need to let go some of my books so I have to sort them out.  
  3. WATCH ON NETLIX – do you have some movies or tv series that’s been added to you list for a long time? I guess now is the time to start watching those. I did the same thing and during my free time that’s the only thing I do. 
  4. DO YOUR JOURNAL – have ever think of making a journal? to some it’s called diary and yes I still do that. There are plenty of guides or ideas in the internet (e.g. Pinterest & Instagram). If you’re artsy, there’s a pretty type of journal that could be your guide. 
  5. DO YOUR HOUSE CHORES – this, I think is really important. I guess it’s time for some of us to throw those old clothes, old items from our home. Aside from that, it’s time to sanitize things around the house and make time to rearrange things based from your perspective. 

So far, aside from work, I’m doing #1 and #3 and over the weekend I could finally focus on the other things. I still have work stuff to do and that’s an 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM kind of work, I just do breaks if I feel tired or something.

Anyways, may you have a good health always and please, take care. If you’re sick, make sure to get it checked right away. Don’t wait for it to get worse, okay?

Book Review: Me Myself & Him by Chris Tebbetts

When Chris Schweitzer
takes a hit of whippets and passes out face first on the cement, his
nose isn’t the only thing that changes forever. Instead of staying home
with his friends for the last summer after high school, he’s shipped off
to live with his famous physicist but royal jerk of a father to prove
he can “play by the rules” before Dad will pay for college.

Or . . . not.

In
an alternate time line, Chris’s parents remain blissfully ignorant
about the accident, and life at home goes back to normal–until it
doesn’t. A new spark between his two best (straight) friends quickly
turns Chris into a (gay) third wheel, and even worse, the truth about
the whippets incident starts to unravel. As his summer explodes into a
million messy pieces, Chris wonders how else things might have gone. Is
it possible to be jealous of another version of yourself in an alternate
reality that doesn’t even exist?

With musings on fate, religion, parallel universes, and the best way to eat a cinnamon roll, Me Myself & Him examines how what we consider to be true is really just one part of the much (much) bigger picture.

 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29752011-me-myself-him

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. No payments made between me and the publisher.

I’ve seen this book from Facebook and Twitter so, when I got the chance to request this on NetGalley, I really didn’t think twice and try to get a copy and, it’s an honor to have my request granted. I was really curious about this book since from the start, as far as I remember, I haven’t read a book with an alternate universe yet (and if I do, it’s not a lot since I can’t remember LOL). Anyway, this book was a good read. It made me realize some things personally especially when I’m thinking about life and what’s the worse thing that could happen…right? 
I like the characters, especially Chris. I feel like you really traveled to his world and how he thinks. It’s sort of confusing at some points but everything is good. I somehow can relate to his life about his dad though. I knew how hard things are and how to pretend everything is okay but it’s not, and one day, it will just feel like everything is alright and things are working well. I think, there’s no such thing as permanent when it comes to this. Good things happen, yeah?
“A problem is a problem, and when it’s not addressed, it gets worse. Sometimes, that’s not about the substances, but about the way our choices impact our relationships with other people. Everyone’s here for their own reasons.”

I really enjoyed reading this book, a parallel universe where you have other possibilities yet, both endings could turn out good or it could be the opposite but whatever is the outcome, I think, it all points back to the decisions we made.

Anyways, I am looking forward for more books from Chris Tebbetts. I really had a great time with this one and the book cover is interesting. I loved it. Once again, thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity.

“I don’t need every little thing to be predictable,” she went on. “I know God has a plan for me, and that’s very comforting.”
My Ratings

Blog Tour: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45045129-tweet-cute

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. No payments made between me and the publisher.

This review has been a week late since I was having an issue with my blog plus I got tons of work last week so I didn’t get the chance to go online and draft my review. Anyhow, I still want to thank the publisher for accepting me to be part of this blog tour. The moment I saw the book, I knew I’d like it instantly and it would be a good first book to read for this year 2020. And yes, I wasn’t wrong at all. The first few chapters got me hooked already. The flow of the story was too cute to ignore, I couldn’t stop reading. I love the Twitter war, the Weazel app and of course the friendship made outside of those two. It’s funny how two people meet in unexpected ways. Aside from the story, I love the book cover, it is really catchy. 
I will never dislike young adult books especially books with a story like this. It’s been a habit of me to read this kind of genre, it lessens the stress around me. I love the characters a lot. Pepper is some kind of a rich kid who’s dealing with her own family issues and Jack, is the same thing. These two are already inseparable since they officially met during the swim team meet (At some point, I’d like to thank Jack’s brother Ethan, for making him do some of his work. LOL) Their charisma is something you’ll enjoy watching, it’s like watching a love team bloom. Jack is such a smart kid yet shy, imagine having self thought on coding and building amazing apps? It’s a real talent. Pepper is such a great baker though, I honestly imagine all her and her sister’s (Paige) dessert invention, I wonder what’s the taste of a Monster Cake. The way they described it, it was really delicious! ALSO, they’re fighting for Grilled Cheeseburgers… OMG every time I read that, I am craving for burgers instantly!

I do recommend this book to other readers. I’m sure they would instantly love this. I can’t wait to have a physical copy of the book. I must search the local bookstores around, seriously can’t wait!!! I am really honored to be part of this. I do enjoy doing book reviews like this, it’s fun and worth it.

“It’s weird, how you have no idea how far you’ve come until suddenly you can’t find the way back.”

Emma Lord is a digital media editor and writer living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, grilled cheese, and a whole lot of love. Her sun sign is Hufflepuff, but she is a Gryffindor rising. TWEET CUTE is her debut novel. You can find her geeking out online at @dilemmalord on Twitter. 

 

Hey It’s 2020!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 
It’s the start of another decade and we should welcome 2020 with a positive attitude. Have you set any New Year’s Resolution? I kinda stopped doing that personally because I end up not following any of it (LOL). Anyway, I still have my book goals set for this year, I’m planning to read thirty-five (35) books and I have my Goodreads account to help me track it. I’m also trying this new app, Bookly because I’m personally enjoying the timer. I also made a list of my first three (3) books to read.

Also, I’ve decided to try and read my other books from my TBR list on both kindle app and personal book collection for this year. I’ll try my best not to buy too much book! I think it’s time to pay attention on what I currently have before getting new ones!!! Wish me luck!

Another thing, I’ve been too busy last December 2019 so I wasn’t able to celebrate my blog anniversary and I wasn’t able to host a book giveaway so please stay tuned for next month’s announcement for that. 

Lastly, I’d take this opportunity to apologize for not being able to answer every email or tweets regarding book reviews. I really have a lot on my plate right now with work getting really insane lately and some chores that I needed to finish at home. Hopefully by this year, I could sort things out so that I could finally dedicate time on doing book reviews and blog updates. I really miss my reading habit.

Blog Tour: Seven Letters by J.P. Monninger

Kate Moreton is in
Ireland on sabbatical from her teaching position at Dartmouth College
when she meets Ozzie Ferriter, a fisherman and a veteran of the American
war in Afghanistan. The Ferriter family history dates back centuries on
the remote Blasket Islands, and Ozzie – a dual citizen of Ireland and
the United States – has retreated to the one place that might offer him
peace from a war he cannot seem to leave behind.

Beside the sea,
with Ireland’s beauty as a backdrop, the two fall deeply in love and
attempt to live on an island of their own making, away from the
pressures of the outside world. Ireland writes its own love stories, the
legends claim, and the limits of Kate and Ozzie’s love and faith in
each other will be tested. When his demons lead Ozzie to become reckless
with his life—and Kate’s—she flees for America rather than watch the
man she loves self-destruct. But soon a letter arrives informing Kate
that her heroic husband has been lost at sea, and Kate must decide
whether it is an act of love to follow him or an act of mercy to forget.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263484-seven-letters?from_search=true

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. No payments made between me and the publisher.

I’ve been honored to be part of this book tour so I’d take this opportunity to thank the publisher for the invite and for sending this book in exchange of an honest review.

As you all know, I have the habit of not reading the blurb fully, I will just read the book and wait for that feeling of wanting to continue or stopping and not finishing the book (so far this doesn’t happen much). For Seven Letters, the moment I read the first few chapters I fell in love with it already. I feel like reading and traveling with the character at the same time. The way the sceneries and people were described in the book, I feel like I am actually there. I haven’t read a book that has featured Ireland until this one and I felt giddy, I guess I should put that as my travel destination in the future. The book is beautiful.

I enjoyed reading each characters as well, especially Kate and Ozzie. Can this book be a movie? I’d love to watch them in the big screen. Reading their story is just amazing. You know, meeting a stranger and falling in love in a new place where people doesn’t know anything about who you are. Their story was impossible for my mind to grasp but of course stories like this really happen in real world right? It’s just beautiful and it’s like a fairy tale story. Also from the book, the challenge of what will happen in the future hangs in the air but Kate and Ozzie with their dog Gottfried are just enjoying the present. Future will come for them but together, they will face it. Kate is a sweet lady who decided to visit Ireland to continue her research while Ozzie, is the grandson of one of the rich people in Ireland, he was once a soldier but he decided to quit and stay in Ireland. The story of Kate and Ozzie are pretty much one of a kind.

On a serious note, I do hope this really become a movie. I think it would be beautiful in the big screen. The book is already a masterpiece what more if we’re watching it right? Also, I would love to see who will be Kate and who will be Ozzie.


My Ratings

JP MONNINGER, author of
The Map that Leads to You, is an award-winning writer. He has published
novels for adults and teens and three works of nonfiction. The New York
Times Book Review has said of Monninger that he “comes to writing with
his five sense wide open”. His work has appeared in American Heritage,
Scientific American, Readers Digest, Glamour, Playboy, Story, Fiction,
The Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated and Ellery Queen, among other
publications. He has twice received fellowships from the National
Endowment for the Arts and has also received a fellowship from the New
Hampshire Council for the Arts. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in
Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso, from 1975-77. He is a Professor of
English at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire where he lives in a
converted barn near the Baker River.

Book Feature: Shadowland by Robert B McKnight

BLURB:

Shadowland is a book about stretching your imagination into another universe that’s here on our own planet. There are creatures that live among the world’s population, without detection. What happens when ordinary people come face to face with them?

In the 1990s, a dark discovery was made deep in the shadows below Raymond and Sandy Watson’s quaint little home in Cleveland, Ohio. Ray and his band of cohorts; he was not sure if they all qualify as friends; delve deep into the Shadowland to discover its secrets. In the process of pursuing the mysteries below Ray’s rec room, they battle with issues of greed, friendship, loyalty and love while trying to outsmart and outrun death. Some are winners. F.L.I.C.K.E.R. Some are losers.

FLick…er…

Wanting more from Shadowland than they initially obtain, Ray’s group enlists the help not of hired mercenaries, but a team of experts from E.F.F., Environment First and Foremost, and archaeologists from the Cleveland Natural History Museum. Everyone was searching for treasure but for very different reasons, some for the historical perspective of finding ancient artifacts and others, like Ray, for the pure power of the riches. Team leaders Laura Hatch and Bernie Edelman command the excavation with volunteers from the museum led by the minuscule Dr. A. E. Slattery and a team of Cleveland State University archaeology students led by the tall beanpole Professor Engstrom. What they find does include a long list of archaeological treasures, but also death and darkness in Shadowland.

The group’s journey into the world of science fiction reveals a secret world that they try hard to understand. They must work together to preserve not only their own lives, but perhaps the fate of the world. In the present day, does Shadowland still exist in the depths of the earth?

FLICKER…….

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48202463-shadowland?from_search=true

– – – BOOK EXCERPT – – –

Ray stood transfixed, inside a ring of fire. He was looking up at a giant statue. In all his childhood nightmares, in all the fire and brimstone preaching he had endured as a child, in all of his adult life, he had never imagined the ugliness that towered above him. The stone creature was gigantic…forty, fifty feet, maybe more in height. The feet of the beast were cloven. The body nude and muscular. The face was frozen into a sneering smile. Long flowing tangled locks adorned the head, crowned by what looked to be horns from the ground level. The statue seemed to stare down on this mere human with an arrogant air, despising the puny surface creature at its feet. Ray had trouble focusing on the statue, with the fires surrounding the stone Goliath flaring to new heights. Ray had to squint to get a better look at the face. Wait!!! What was that flash? Ray tried to lock out the devilish dancing flames from his view. He tried to ignore the demonic shadows that darted about, just out of reach and conscientiousness. He tried to concentrate on the face staring down in disdain. “There it goes again,” he said out loud. The right eye of the beamouth gleamed when the flames hit just right… not gleamed, sparkled. The right eye sparkled like a diamond.

ROAR…FLASH….FLICKER….FADE…FAde…fade…..fade.. 

Amazon BUY link


Robert B. McKnight has had a long and varied life.

Bob is a 1958 graduate of The College of Wooster with courses at Case Western Reserve University and Illinois University. He served in the U. S. Air Force as a recreation specialist and combat defense air policeman. He was stationed in Texas, Montana, Illinois and as far as Reykjavík, Iceland.

He has written articles for magazines, written humorous greeting cards for American Greetings, designed a brochure and catalog for an industrial sales company, sold advertising and written for The Cleveland Press newspaper. Most recently he has written, produced and directed commercials for an ad agency including one that was Emmy-nominated.

To round out the various types of employments, he has also spent some time bottling produce in a factory, driving a tour bus and selling appliances .

In the theatrical world, Bob started out by winning a play-writing award in college. He has now directed over 100 plays and shows and written five produced plays and musicals. He was the director of the Willoughby South High School drama department for several years.

Bob is a sports enthusiast that currently lives in Ohio with his wife Carole not far from daughter Michelle’s family of five and son Douglas’ family of three. He coached softball for 14 years and basketball for 4 years in youth league. He enthusiastically follows all Cleveland sports teams, plus Ohio State football.

Author Website: https://themcknightmares.wixsite.com/mysite/books

Book Feature: The Dragon’s Rising (Ancient’s Armor, #1) by Nathan Ayersman

Falkier Inalumin has
spent the past six years imprisoned by the king whom he had served under
as a scribe. He hadn’t attempted to escape even when the opportunity
arose until one night when a stranger comes to break him out of prison
at knifepoint.

After his escape, he is granted the power of the
Dragon Sword, a weapon imbued with the power of one of the Ancients who
created the world. He is also tasked with assembling a suit of armor
imbued by the rest of the Ancients so that he may kill Rakar Gorxand, a
man who had been granted a set of armor by the Ancients which was
corrupted by the evil he was chosen to eliminate.

On this first
leg of Falkier’s journey, he becomes a mercenary, learns a sword style
which allows him to fight without sight, and faces off against a man
with the power to weave the fabric of the universe.

 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47808236-the-dragon-s-rising
— BUY LINKS —
— EXCERPT —

The men woke early the next morning. Swagin had drunken himself stupider the night before, so Falkier and Jofalk had needed to haul the Dhorn into a room above the tavern. They doubted that he would notice they had paid their bill from his pocket with an additional small fee for themselves. The burly man’s face showed the wearying effects of the previous night as he and Jofalk saddled their mounts in the light of early dawn. Falkier would have offered to help out except that he had no idea how to prepare an Aoun for travel, and the tavern owner’s young son was helping Jofalk with his bay.

Watching the men get ready to leave, Falkier pondered over all that had happened in the last two days. He’d been rescued from prison by a mysterious man, became an accomplice to the deaths of six men, been saved from being captured or freezing to death in the woods twice, joined a band of mercenaries, and received a sword from his dreams. The sword was slung over his shoulder, a weight that was becoming more familiar than when he had woken with it the previous morning. He was still unsure how it had gotten there. If his dream was to be trusted, it was a sword given to him by the Ancients, but for what purpose? And why had they picked him? Though his imprisonment had been unjust, he was still an escaped prisoner and far from the most moral person in the world to deserve such an honor.

The cloth wrapped around his hand was stained with blood. The X-shaped wound had started to scab over, but he kept the cloth on it in case it opened again. He had been perturbed when he discovered that it had been ultimately unnecessary and would mean nothing if he was rejected by The Archer, but Swagin had been adamant that Falkier would be accepted since he needed to repay a debt. Jofalk had asserted that, as Archer’s protégé, he could convince their leader to accept a new member. The Archer could be very welcoming to people when he wanted to be, and Jofalk knew how to hit his soft spot. Falkier held onto that idea as he mounted Olorn with Swagin.

The Bronze Bulls mercenary guild was located in an abandoned stronghold a day’s ride northeast, so they hoped to get there by nightfall to allow The Archer to evaluate him. According to Jofalk, Archer had started the Bronze Bulls not long after Falkier had been imprisoned following a botched assassination attempt. After narrowly escaping with his life, Archer’s reputation as the perfect assassin was marred and nobody would hire him. He had been training Jofalk for years and decided to expand his horizons by bringing together a group of young non-nobles who had shown the potential to be great warriors. Swagin had been the first recruit and had been initially paired with Jofalk to help him acclimate to the mercenary life. Upon seeing how well they complemented each other, they were permanently made a team, and The Archer modeled his following choices after them. Since then, the Bulls had slowly grown to a point where it could compete with other mercenary guilds.

The Bulls competitive edge stemmed from their ability to be customized to the task at hand. Whereas most mercenaries were simply strong-arming fighters, every member of the Bulls had a skill that they specialized in, like spying or robbery. Jofalk’s specialty was assassination at range while Swagin’s skill was unarmed combat. As a unit, they could handle most combat situations, which is why they were given their escort mission. The two were also sent on missions where the employer seemed unlikely to pay, as both made more than adequate debt collectors. 

Swagin had revealed, while deep into his drink the previous night, the real reason they had not escorted their employer back was that he’d failed to pay, so Swagin beat him bloody, took the gauntlets, and left him in the woods. Falkier had been taken aback by that revelation but didn’t find it unexpected considering their line of work. Their sharing of this information had actually made him more comfortable trusting them.

As they reached the crest of the hill out of the valley, Swagin turned his head to Falkier. “Prepar’ fur a hasslin’. We got sum king’s boys comin’ dis way.” Three men were riding towards them. Falkier could pick out black tunics bearing a silver crescent moon, the royal sigil of Grent Corine. Surely they were looking for the escaped prisoner. He pulled his shirt up to cover his nose and shrank down behind Swagin. Maybe they wouldn’t notice him and they wouldn’t bother stopping the mercenaries. If only he could be that lucky. The rider in front, a thin man with a groomed dark brown mustache, raised his hand to halt them. 

“Good morning, men.” The man’s comrades, one with hair black as coal and the other a shaved head, fanned out to his sides, further blocking the road. Falkier could see each had a sword hanging from his hip. 

“Marnin’.” Swagin nodded his head to the man. “We dun’ want any troubil. Jus’ travla’s minin’ ar businuss.”

“A man escaped from the prison west of here a few days ago. We are searching for him so that he may be captured and brought to justice.” Falkier could feel the men’s eyes staring at him. They know. They’ve got to know it’s me.

“Dun know anathin’ ‘bout anathin’. Jus’ headin’ home afta’ visitin’ a friend o’ ars in Tise Dews.”

“There is a reward for anyone who has any information about the man or his whereabouts,” the blackhaired man added. “Three bronze spades for information, six iron marks for turning him in.”

“Six iron marks?” Jofalk cocked his eyebrow. “The price an escaped prisoner is usually only a few spades. What did this man do to deserve such a reward?” Falkier was hoping that this reward wouldn’t sway the mercenaries to turn him in. His heart in his throat, he tried to shrink himself even farther, trying to avoid the rider’s attention.

“The man’s crime was sedition, but during his escape, he killed six guards,” the mustached rider answered. “This is a dangerous man we’re dealing with.”

“Pris’ner showed up yer guards? Boy, does that make m’feel like m’taxes er spent well.” 

“Your taxes?” The mustached man’s voice carried restrained anger. “Neither of you sound like you’re Corinian. If I had to guess, I’d say Dhorn and Sadetian.”

“Thas right. Ah was born in th’ mowntuns o’ Dhor Isten, but me ‘n Jofalk work ‘ere in Grent Corine.” Swagin reached into a pocket in his vest. “’Ere’s m’ papers t’prove it.” He handed a folded piece of paper to the man. Jofalk did the same.

The riders paused to look at them, nodded, and handed it back. Falkier couldn’t help but think that it would have taken far longer for them to have read foreign workman’s permits. Though the five countries of the continent held an alliance, you had to get the permission of a foreign government to work outside of your native country. Falkier had crossed paths with those documents as a scribe for Lord Siphem, and he knew they were very wordy. Either the riders did not care that Jofalk and Swagin had permits, or they were unable to read. 

“Now, as ah said, we know nuthin’ ‘bout nuthin. If we see yer boy, wull b’ sher t’let ya’ know.” Swagin kicked Olorn to continue on, but the riders continued to block the way.  “Hold on a second. What’s the deal with your friend here?” The mustached man gestured towards Falkier. Falkier raised his head to look at them. If they hadn’t arrested him yet, they probably didn’t have a description of him. “Why have you been so quiet?”

“I figured that Swagin and Jofalk were more than capable of giving you men all the information you required. As you can likely tell from my accent, I am Corinian, and so I don’t have any work or travel papers to display.” Falkier managed to keep his voice confident and calm, despite the pounding of his heart. 

The mustached rider nodded. “You are right. As a Corinian, you don’t need to show us foreign work or travel forms.” The two men at his side drew their swords in unison. “However, as of three years ago, Corinians are required to carry identification with them at all times to be presented immediately to any law official. You wouldn’t know that, though, since you’ve been in prison until yesterday.” He gestured to his men. “Seize him!”

Falkier found himself rolling off the back of Olorn as Swagin leaped from his seat, bellowing, “No king’s boys er gun’ take m’ blood brotha’ Falkeer while Ah’m livin’!” He threw himself at the shaved man, completely ignorant of the piece of iron the man brandished. Falkier got to his feet in time to watch as Swagin knocked the sword away with his forearm and slammed his other fist into the man’s face. Olorn’s heads hissed as they snapped at the black haired man with long, razor-sharp fangs. Jofalk directed his horse away from the commotion, nocking an arrow to his bow. The mustached man dismounted and drew his sword, ducking an arrow in the process. He dived away from the rampaging Dhorn and Aoun, locking his eye on his prey, Falkier.

Falkier pulled the sword from its scabbard, the weight foreign to his hand. If it really was a sword meant for him as the dream said, shouldn’t it be more comfortable to hold? The knuckle-bow on the thumb side of the hilt seemed out of place and close to unnecessary. Why make them bladed to begin with? The only time a bladed knuckle-bow would make sense is if you were hitting someone with it, and isn’t the point of a sword to keep a little more distance from your opponent?

Falkier would have other times to question how functional his Ancient-given weapon was for him, as
the mustached man swung his sword at Falkier’s feet, causing him to step back out of the way, barely blocking the follow-up swing. He swung at the man, who easily parried and struck at Falkier’s leg. Clearly, he’d been trained in swordsmanship.

Falkier winced as the blade sliced across his thigh, blood soaking the leg of his trousers. He struck back, stabbing at the man’s stomach. The mustached man moved the blade out of the way with a flick of the wrist and smacked Falkier’s wrist with the flat of his blade. Falkier’s grip faltered for a second, but he recovered enough to pull his sword back in front of him. All the while, the mustached man watched him, smirking. Was he playing with Falkier? The man blocked Falkier’s next couple swings with ease, retaliating with a few nicks on Falkier’s arms and legs. This is pointless. He could kill me without breaking a sweat. He must need to take me in alive, so he’s just letting me wear myself out.

Falkier looked at the longsword in his hands, a supposed gift from heaven he was destined to wield. He was no great warrior, how could he ever do anything with this piece of metal. He couldn’t even find a comfortable way to hold it. 

Touch the black gem in the pommel and say ‘Vatinp, yqab’, a voice growled in his head. It was the voice from the woods before he blacked out.

Falkier obeyed, putting the fingers of his right hand on the pommel. Despite the freezing air around it, the gem felt slightly warm. “Vah-tinp, ee-cob?” Falkier said, the words feeling odd in his mouth. Whatever was supposed to happen, didn’t.

No! ‘Vatinp yqab!’ Say it with more confidence!

Falkier took a breath and focused. “Vatinp, yqab!”

Warmth flooded through Falkier’s body, and his wounds stopped bleeding. He watched in amazement as the sword transformed in his hand. The leather of the hilt took on a scaled appearance. The blade broadened into that of a falchion, the end becoming rounder and the top edge becoming blunted. The thumbside knuckle-bow disappeared, while a hook grew downward from the hilt over the blunt edge. The hook bore a jagged edge that gave it an appearance resembling the jaw of some sort of carnivorous beast when paired with a matching adornment that extended along the bladed edge. Falkier’s eyes and mouth felt strange, almost like they were also going through some sort of transformation.

The mustached man’s eyes widened in terror. “Are you some sort of demon?” His stance quickly became more aggressive as he began striking at Falkier. 

The newly-transformed sword felt easier to handle, and Falkier was able to protect himself, catching the man’s blade across the blunt edge. After a few more swings, Falkier managed to hook the man’s blade. He twisted his wrist and wrenched the sword out of the man’s hands. The sword clattered to the ground, and Falkier rushed him, punching the knuckle-bow that still remained on the bladed side of his sword into the man’s throat. The man wheezed as he collapsed to the ground. Falkier put the point of his sword to the
man’s throat.

“So this is how you managed to kill six men on your own,” the man croaked. “Demon magic.”

“I was not alo-“

The man spat at Falkier. “Kill me, you worthless cheat. I would rather die than listen to you try to corrupt my ears with your lies.”

Falkier drew the sword back to deliver the final blow and stopped. He’d never killed anyone before. Swagin and Jofalk had already finished the other two men off and were rummaging through their possessions. He looked into the man’s eyes, defiant and prepared for what was to come. The sword descended, opening the man’s throat. Watching the man’s body collapse in a pool of blood, Falkier ran his tongue across his teeth and was surprised to find all of them sharp and pointed. He raised his sword and looked at himself in the blade’s reflection. His eyes were the color of polished brass with slits for pupils. Smiling confirmed that his teeth had all grown to sharp points. I really do look like a demon.

Not a demon, the voice growled, a dragon. Touch the black gem again before your comrades can see. 

Falkier obeyed, and the warmth rushed out of his muscles. The sword remained a falchion, but the leather hilt lost its scaliness and the hook lost its jagged edge. Falkier looked at his reflection on the blade again and was relieved to see that his eyes and teeth had returned to normal as well. What is going on? What happened? Who are you? There came no response.

“Gud wark, Falkeer.” As Swagin approached, Falkier could see that his hands were bloodied and his handwraps hung tattered from his wrists. “Strip ‘em o’ his valubuls quickly so w’can git goin’ ‘gain. Gotta be quick if’n we wan’ t’be home by night.”

Falkier sheathed the sword and kneeled down to the man, careful to avoid the blood pooling around the body. Falkier dutifully searched the man’s pockets and found a purse full of tarnished bronze coins bearing the image of a shovel. Spades were the second least valuable coin after the copper penny, so the purse wasn’t an amazing find. Falkier also stripped the man of his swordbelt and a chainmail byrnie he’d worn under his tunic. Falkier strapped on the swordbelt, replacing the man’s scabbard with his own, and put the byrnie on underneath his two layers of borrowed clothing, leaving the prison shirt underneath. He stood to see Swagin sitting on Olorn rewrapping his hands and Jofalk putting an arrow back into his quiver.

As Falkier remounted Olorn, he saw the bodies of the other two men. Falkier’s opponent lucked out getting away with just an opened throat. The man with the shaved head’s face was broken and bloodied, while the other man had his throat ripped out and a hole through the side of his head where an arrow had been ripped out. These three men had only been doing their duty, trying to seize a prisoner, and they paid with their lives.

“Why didn’t you two give me over to them?” Falkier asked his companions. “Surely, you figured out that I was the person they were looking for. You could have made some money from it.”

“We knew you were a prisoner from the moment we met you,” Jofalk replied. “It wasn’t our job to hunt you down, and you clearly needed help.”

“Yah, you was ah pitiful thin’, you was,” Swagin added. “An’ now tha’ yer one o’ us, der ain’t no price we’d take fer ya’.”

“Then all I can do is thank you.” All the worrying that Falkier’d done had been for nothing. They’d known all along that he was a wanted man, so he’d had nothing to worry about by trusting them. It would have been nice if they had given him a sign they were on to him sooner, though, but that’s the past now. He touched the cut on his hand they’d given him. “Maybe I’ll stay with the Bulls even after I manage to save your lives.”

The three men turned their backs to the bloody scene and continued riding down the road. The sun had not yet reached its peak, but they still had a way to go. Falkier couldn’t help but think to himself that his future laid ahead somewhere down that road. He looked at the Dhorn and the Sadetian he rode with. If they were any indication of what his future as a mercenary was going to be like, the future was bright as the sun in the sky above them.