Oct 23, 2013

{Blog Tour} Dark Talisman by Steven M. Booth

She's been banished from her home without a word of explanation. Assassins are hot on her tail, and she's fleeing without a plan. On the whole, her future looks pretty grim. Then again, it's nearly impossible to catch a dark elf. And even tougher to kill one.                                                                              
Meet Altira. She set out to rob a sultan, and ended up stealing the deadliest gem in the world. Her mistake could cost Altira her life -- or save her race, and possibly the world as she knows it.                                                                                               
As Altira struggles to triumph over the vast forces arrayed against her, she acquires (mostly against her will) a rich cast of unexpected allies -- perceptive dwarves, giant Phoenix birds with mysterious powers, and ephemeral creatures made from nothing but air. Together they must find a way to defeat the army of assassins set against her, overcome the wrath of three nations, and forge allegiances with despised enemies, to reveal the truth to a people kept in the darkness for millennia.                                                                                                    
The first installment in The Guardian Chronicles, Dark Talisman takes us into the magical land of Salustra, where ageless Guardians are locked in an eternal battle with their mortal enemy: a Dark Lord intent on destroying their world.


 Chapter Seven

She lowered her pack to the floor and glanced around the room. Everything was three-quarters its proper size. The hearth was a bit too small and the chairs too wide and just shallow enough to be uncomfortable. The ceilings were low enough to engender a longing for trees and open sky instead of comfort and hominess. The overall effect of the dwelling was one of awkward crampedness, not to mention the smell. She took shallow breaths to avoid inhaling the noxious blends of boots too long uncleansed, overused Dwarven cooking spice, and eau de Dwarf.

Altira wanted to get what she could and be done with this pair. She dropped her pack on the far side of the chair and sat, squirming on the too-hard surface to put maximum distance between herself and Tyke, ready to leap for the door if the need arose. Marta considered her for a moment and then, appearing satisfied that this Dark Elf meant no harm, she turned toward the kitchen.

Altira, realizing Marta’s intent, called out, “I’ve already eaten, but I could use some water or fruit…or something.” She turned back to Tyke and continued. “And a traveling flask, if you have one.”

“Yes’m. Right away,” he said. Finally pulling off his boot, he rose from his chair. “Jus’ stay ‘ere. I’ll fetch it from the back.” He tottered down the hall, his remaining covered foot drumming a strange, lopsided rhythm on the floorboards.

Marta was busy in the kitchen placing some flatware on the stocky, too-short table when Tyke returned. He went to the kitchen for a moment then limped to Altira, offering her the filled water flask and a small bundle, wrapped in oilskin.

“Dat be some Elvish bread dat Marta picked up at da market las’ week. We been savin’ it as a treat for a special o’casion, but methinks ye could use it more.” He sat and grabbed his other boot with both hands and yanked it off. The smell was almost too much for Altira. Her eyes began to water as the aromatic Dwarf continued. “Oh, and we have some mulberries in the kitchen. I’ll wrap some of dose for ya.” Tyke threw his boot in the direction of the hearth and headed to the kitchen; the shoe nearly tumbled into the fire. Altira rose and backed away from the thing as though it were cursed.

How in the skies had she come to this place? Kicked out of Nar’oo, banished and chased by an unknown assassin, what had she ever done to deserve all this oppression? Well, she wasn’t dead yet, and at least her luck hadn’t completely abandoned her. These Dwarves might be ignorant and smelly, but Altira had to admit that they seemed willing to help when no one else would.

She glanced at the packet in her hands, confused by her feelings, then shoved the wrapped toma and the water flask in her pack. She stood just behind the chair, holding her kit by one strap, and stared into the hearth. The familiar dancing yellow flames spoke to her. They were a point of commonality. Fire was universal. It cleansed and renewed. The flickering ballet of golden dancers cavorted above the glowing coal embers as if they were solely there to entertain her. The fire was charismatic. Perhaps it wouldn’t be such an awful thing to remain here after all. But no, it wouldn’t take long for the Cirrian to find her. She needed to move on, and quickly. She who stands still too long lies still for eternity.



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