Take a sneak peak at the first book in my new YA fantasy romance series, The Chronicles of Tanithor: Age of the Oracle! You can start reading A Bounty of Secrets and Rebellion chapter 1 below and don’t forget you can order on Kindle here.
A Bounty of Secrets and Rebellion Chapter 1 – Griff
A light breeze blew through the trees as Griff paused in the thick of the Hoken forest. The smell of musty earth penetrated his senses as he took a quick breath. He had been running, but something had stopped him in his tracks. He stuck out his bottom lip and puffed a breath of air up to his forehead, displacing the light brown curl that was hanging over his eyes. Silently he crouched down, bare toes gripping the soft, green forest floor and listened intently. The sun was directly above him, but under the canopy of thick leaves, a green light radiated through the forest.
Turning his head toward the source of the noise that had stopped his flight through the trees, he stood up quickly and adjusted his direction before bolting off again. His footsteps were light and his breathing controlled as he silently sprinted through the forest. He heard the babble of the brook before he saw it, and he came to a stop as his dark green eyes darted to the left and right, examining his surroundings. Making a quick decision, he crouched low and began to slowly advance toward the stream.
Choosing a pair of trees that were joined together at the base and arching out away from each other as they reached to the sky, Griff concealed himself behind the wider of the two and took a slow, calming breath. Reaching up over his right shoulder, he pulled an arrow from the quiver at his bare back and placed it in the bow in his left hand.
Slowly and quietly, he turned to face the gap between the trees, his eyes narrowing in on the large elk that was currently drinking from the shallow stream. Setting his feet, he raised the bow and readied his arrow to fly at his command. He took a deep breath, and, at the top of the exhale, let the arrow loose. There was a thin whistling sound as the arrow threaded its way through the trees before sinking into the heart of its target. A loud thud; music to Griff’s ears.
With a wide smile of victory, he bounded up to the animal, completely abandoning the effort of reticence. As he crouched down next to the creature, Griff solemnly uttered a prayer to the All God for the sacrifice of the animal. He then pulled his arrow out and began to prepare the elk for transport.
A loud snap pierced the air, and Griff swiveled toward the sound while smoothly loading an arrow as he prepared to shoot. A familiar tune sang through the trees. He lowered his weapon and returned a short whistle. Just then, his brother Alo emerged from the dense forest.
He was shorter than Griff with long, silky black hair that hung flat and grazed his bare chest. His eyes were a deep black which gave him a fierce look. Dressed similarly to Griff, Alo wore no shirt or shoes. He had on brown, animal skin pants that fit snuggly over his muscular legs. Draped over his chest and hanging at his back were both his bow and arrows. At his waist, he carried a knife on one side and a hatchet on the other.
Alo paused a few paces away from Griff and straightened his back, putting his right hand over his heart and turning his eyes down. Griff responded in kind as they spoke the Hoken greeting and then Alo said in a silky, deep voice, “Chief wants to see you.”
Griff scanned the forest until he found that for which he was looking. “Whatever it is, I didn’t do it.”
Alo rolled his eyes as he watched Griff. “That would be a first.”
Griff hoisted a sturdy log over to the animal. “Help me with this, would you?”
“You took him down; you take him home,” Alo replied coolly, crossing his arms.
“Do you want to eat or not?” Griff grunted, placing the log next to the prone animal.
“I’ve already eaten.”
“So have I, but I’m still hungry.”
“You’re always hungry,” Alo retorted with a sigh as he bent down to help tie the elk’s limbs to the log.
“I’m a growing boy.”
“Boy is right.”
“Have you forgotten that I’m a year older than you?” Griff snapped. At eighteen years old, Griff was older than Alo by a year. He lifted one end of the log over his shoulder as Alo raised the other end. Together, they slowly made their way back to the village.
“How could I? You remind me almost daily,” Alo shot back.
“That’s because you seem to forget every day.”
“And you seem to forget every day that I will be the next chief.”
Griff looked skyward. Contrary to tradition, the chief had chosen his second-born son to secede him. Griff hadn’t really cared for the position in the first place. He realized his propensity for getting into trouble on a regular basis made Alo the better pick. Plus, Griff was wild and free and preferred it that way. He wasn’t jealous or angry about Alo being selected. In fact, he recognized his little brother’s natural leadership tendencies and thought he’d make a great chief. What he didn’t like was that Alo loved to lord it over him.
He was about to put him in his place when a sweet, sing-song voice called out, “Are you two fighting again?”
Griff stopped and turned toward the small, petite girl who was headed their way with a bright smile on her face. She had her hair braided, as she often did, in a single pleat from the top of her head down to the middle of her back. The black strands shimmered in the sunlight, making her hair seem iridescent. The color tones rippled from black to blue to purple as she walked through direct sunlight.
Griff and Alo set the elk down and respectfully offered Halyn the Hoken greeting before Griff replied quickly, “I wasn’t fighting, I was reminding.”
Alo barked out a laugh. “So was I.”
“Is that what you two are calling it these days? Almost all of Elu can hear the chief’s sons bickering from a mile away,” Halyn replied with a wry smile to Griff.
He caught her eye and his heart skipped a beat as Alo said smoothly, “Griff seems to always forget that I’ll be the next chief.”
“How could I? You remind me almost daily,” Griff volleyed back.
“Is this really how you want to spend your time, boys?” Halyn reprimanded, putting her hands on her hips with a stern frown. Griff loved how her forehead furrowed when she got serious. The effect was disarming.
Griff was about to jab Alo with her use of the word ‘boy’ when Alo stepped up and kissed her on the cheek. “Forgive us, Halyn. We were just heading back to Elu. Would you walk with me?”
Halyn looked directly at Griff, an apologetic look in her eye before she glanced back to Alo and said, “I’d be happy to.”
Griff clenched his jaw as he hoisted the log back onto his shoulder and quietly led the way to Elu village. Alo carried his end of the log as he and Halyn followed along sharing meaningless chatter behind him.
When they had reached the heart of Elu, Griff’s shoulder was raw from carrying the dead weight of the elk. He deposited the animal at the cook’s hut and quickly parted ways with Alo and Halyn, making some excuse to clean up before seeing the chief.
He made his way to the outskirts of Elu village where a large tree with thick, dense leaves stood stoic. Climbing its low, broad branches, Griff found a smooth hollow in the tree that was completely obscured from view. With its abundant leaves and the position of the branches, no one would know someone was hidden within.
Griff let out a breath and leaned his back against a tree limb. He pulled his knees up to his chest and stared off into nowhere in particular as he rubbed his aching shoulder. Suddenly a rustling sound diverted his attention to a pair of small, brown hands that gripped the seat of the hollow. Griff smiled and reached out a hand as Halyn’s face appeared just below his position.
He carefully hoisted her up and then made space for her in the small hollow as she took a seat across from him, peering at his shoulder with concern. “Would you like me to take a look?” Without waiting for him to answer, she leaned forward and started gently probing his shoulder with her small fingers.
Her touch sent shivers down his spine as he replied quietly, “It’s all right, just bruised.”
She nodded once in confirmation and leaned back, pulling her knees to her chest as she mirrored his position. “I’m sorry about Alo,” she said quietly.
He frowned and looked away. “I don’t want to talk about him.”
“He’s your brother, Griff.”
“I know that.”
“We can’t just ignore this.”
“Ignore what?” he snapped, then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn’t know what he could say. There was nothing he could do. The Oracle had spoken.
“What would you have me do?” Halyn whispered.
Griff met her eyes and his heart melted. They had been best friends since Griff first met her in the healer’s hut. He had been twelve and she was nine, almost ten, she liked to point out. He had fallen out of a tree and gashed open a spot above his eyebrow which resulted in blood streaming down his face. It had been his first major injury, and the amount of blood he saw pouring out of his head made him dizzy with worry.
She had remained calm the whole time, telling him made up stories to keep him distracted while her mother sewed his wound shut. It wasn’t long thereafter that he found himself in the healer’s hut again this time with a shoulder injury. He had prodded at a wild cat’s baby kittens just to see what would happen. As the years went on and Griff’s mischief got him into one scrape after another, Halyn got really good at healing. He was pretty sure everything she knew she had practiced on him first.
His love for Halyn came naturally as he spent more and more time with her. About a year ago, she had suggested that he come visit her without being covered in blood. He took that as a sign that she might have feelings for him as well. He didn’t need an excuse to see her. Eventually, they found this tree and would spend countless hours seated in this very hollow. They talked, laughed, and just enjoyed being together.
When Griff’s father had chosen Alo as his successor, Griff had no idea that the Oracle had already determined Halyn’s fate. He had no idea that she would be expected to marry his brother. Apparently, everyone knew, even Halyn. Since he was the oldest son, she had thought Griff would be the future chief. It wasn’t until Alo told him he’d be marrying Halyn when he turned eighteen that Griff discovered the Oracle had promised her to the future chief.
Griff clenched his jaw. “There’s nothing that can be done. You’re the future bride of the future chief. That’s it.”
Halyn blinked and looked Griff in the eyes. “But that’s the future. What about now?”
Griff had never told Halyn he loved her. When he found out she was to marry his brother, he was glad he hadn’t. It would have made everything more complicated. He looked into her deep, brown eyes and said solemnly, “Now, you are my best friend and that’s the way it will stay.”
Griff ducked into the chief’s hut and gave the Hoken greeting as his father returned the gesture.
“Griff, my son!” the chief said with a smile, coming forward to embrace him. Griff smiled widely back, returning his father’s warm embrace. He had the same dark, black eyes and long black hair that Alo had, but, to Griff, it turned his father’s features more comforting and inviting as opposed to firm and fierce. Behind him, Griff saw Alo standing in the corner with his arms crossed and his brows drawn together.
“What’s wrong with Alo? He looks like you just condemned him to a journey of solitude for six months.”
The chief chuckled, and the beads on his feathered headrest jangled. “It is a short journey and not in solitude, son.”
Griff eyed his father suspiciously, not sure he was liking where this was going. The chief gave Griff a loaded look. “I need you two to go and see the Oracle.”
Griff instantly shook his head. “No, Father. Please. Don’t make me go there. That lady gives me the creeps.” Not to mention the fact that she was the one responsible for Halyn’s fate.
The chief lowered his eyebrows in reproach. “Griff, the Oracle is a great woman, and you would do well to speak honorably of the All God’s chosen.”
“Can’t you just send Alo? I’m sure he doesn’t want to travel with me anyway. That’s why he looks so grumpy,” Griff replied, waving a hand toward his brother.
“Please, you two act like you can’t stand a simple two-day journey to Pavati. You’ll be there and back before you know it,” the chief said warmly, guiding Griff over to stand by Alo.
“The last time we went on a two-day journey together, Griff set the forest on fire, and we nursed burns for weeks,” Alo replied irritably.
“That was an accident!” Griff shouted in defense. “I put the stones around the fire like I was supposed to.”
“But you didn’t dig the hole first in your haste to get something cooking so you could eat!”
“Funny, you were just as eager to eat that turkey as I was. Plus, I don’t remember you making an effort to dig the hole either!”
“You’re always thinking of your stomach!”
“No, I’m not!”
“Yes, you are!”
“That’s enough!” the chief roared. Griff and Alo immediately went silent. “You two will journey to Pavati to meet the Oracle,” their father declared firmly. “She has requested your presence and you will not delay. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Father,” they each replied sullenly.
Just then, Halyn stepped into the hut with embalmed leaves. “Alo, I have the treatment you requested for your shoulder.”
Griff’s mouth twitched. Alo was such a baby. She walked over and started placing the leaves on the shoulder he had used to cart the elk.
“Halyn, my dear, how would you like to journey to Pavati with my boys? The Oracle has a message for them, and I believe they could use your presence as a buffer along the way,” the chief said with a wink at Halyn.
Her eyes met Griff’s for the briefest moment and then she focused on her ministrations as she said, “I’m not sure anyone can buffer these two, but I’ll do my best.”
It doesn’t stop there! Read the second chapter here
I hope you enjoyed A Bounty of Secrets and Rebellion chapter 1, book 1 in the Chronicles of Tanithor: Age of the Oracle series! You can read this book for FREE on Kindle Unlimited (with your subscription) OR you can purchase the eBook or hardback copy on Amazon! Hardback copies include an exclusive bonus chapter not offered in the the eBook version. Order on Amazon, here.