Strengthening Spirit

The Ethra Born series started with Gathering Darkness and continues with Strengthening Spirit.

Strengthening Spirit is now available on Amazon, in Kindle ebook and paperback.

The first chapter is below. Check out the book trailer here.

In an ancient forest,

A sickness is spreading,

Ancient spirits weakening,

And old friends trapped.

A healer is summoned

But becomes entangled

In a past long lost

And a future out of reach.

In an ancient forest,

Tangled paths converge

On the journey to Strengthening Spirit…

Karnoss Forest is ancient, vast, a place in which few dare to tread. But a sickness is spreading through the Forest, weakening the ancient forest spirit. Karnoss calls for Lowenna. She is a healer. She is Ethra born. She must find the source of the sickness and heal the forest. She must leave behind her home, her family, her humanity. As tangled paths converge, she must risk everything to survive.

Karnoss stag

There was a knocking on the door.

Lowenna looked over her shoulder, her hands in the sink, a clean plate and a washing cloth in her hands. Hope dropped her pencil and leapt up from the table, abandoning her drawing.

“I’ll get it,” she sang, racing for the front door. Lowenna rinsed the plate and handed it to her husband. Theo took the plate with a smile, his emerald eyes soft with love. He handed her the drying cloth to wipe her hands and picked up another from the worksurface.

Lowenna followed her adopted daughter out of the kitchen and along the hallway to the front of the Temple of the Goddess. She had been looking after Hope since her parents died when she was not even a moon old. She fondly stroked her daughter’s mane of fine black hair before looking at the man who stood on the other side of the open doorway.

The man had swirling blue tattoos across his tanned cheeks, black hair pulled back into a single braid down the length of his back and serious brown eyes. Lowenna’s eyes widened in shock.

“Haan,” she greeted the Poacea herder, raising her right hand to touch her forehead. Hope frowned at her, not recognising the greeting gesture nor the visitor.

Haan returned the gesture. “Yasso grada, Lowenna,” he said gravely. He put out a hand against the doorframe, his body slumping with weariness, tight lines of worry pinching the corners of his eyes.

“Come in,” Lowenna invited, leading the way to the kitchen. Hope closed the door behind them.

Theo’s face mirrored her own shock when he saw Haan following her. He shakily raised his right hand to his forehead. “Yasso grada, Haan,” he said, his rich voice conveying welcome and surprise.

“Yasso grada, Theo,” Haan returned the greeting.

“Haan, have a seat at the table,” Lowenna suggested, filling the kettle. Theo placed four cups on the worksurface and spooned in tea leaves. Hope hopped up on to the worksurface to reach the jar of cinnamon biscuits.

“Haan, this is our daughter, Hope,” Theo introduced her.

“Nice to meet you, Hope,” said Haan politely. “I’m Haan, an old friend of Lowenna and Theo.”

Hope took the jar of biscuits to the table and sat next to Haan. “Nice to meet you, Haan,” she said. “Would you like a biscuit?” She offered him the jar.

Theo placed his hand on Lowenna’s shoulder. He tilted his head, his black hair falling across his forehead. She could read the question in his eyes. She shook her head; she had no idea why Haan had come to visit them. He sat at the table with his head in his hands, weariness and tension in his posture. Tension filled the kitchen, the sounds from the rest of the healers’ temple, muted. Golden summer sunlight was fading into twilight, bathing the kitchen with a soft golden glow. A black bird sang loudly in the herb garden outside.

The kettle whistled and Lowenna poured the hot water into the cups. Theo and Lowenna carried the tea over to the table and sat opposite Haan and Hope.

“Thank you,” said Haan, accepting the tea and cradling it between his calloused hands. He drew in a deep breath and sat up straight.

“I am Haan, eldest son of Rajad Suhkbatar, first of the Lightning Foal herd,” he introduced himself formally and Lowenna remembered how important it was in their culture to exchange names and perform proper introductions. “It is many years since you spent the winter with our herd but we remember you, and our second, Baer, often speaks of how you healed his son, Petri.”

Memories flooded Lowenna. She recalled the winter that she, Theo and their friend, Kael, had spent with the Lightning Foal. She had been there when Haan had received his sacred tattoo to celebrate his first hunt as a man of the herd. She remembered that distant midwinter night of celebration in the hall of the Tatau Brotherhood, although more than ten years had passed since that time.

“The Black Stripecats did not agree with our decision to allow you to stay with us,” continued Haan. “The deaths of Dansk and Jaghatai caused dissent between the herds. Then we found out that the Temple of the Tatau Brotherhood had been destroyed.” Haan shook his head sadly. “No survivors, so much lost. If several young members of the brotherhood had not been spending time with the herds, we would have lost even more of our culture and I would not now be wearing these tattoos.” He touched his cheek with a proud tilt of his chin at the same time as sorrow marred his brow. “The Lightning Foal travelled into the south west of the Poacea and did not return to the horseshoe cliffs for many winters.”

Haan stopped speaking. He stared morosely into his tea cup, his head slumped and his face tense.

“Hope, will you get Haan something to eat, please?” asked Lowenna. “Bread, cheese, fruit.”

Hope jumped up and moved around the kitchen, putting a selection of food together on a plate.

When Hope left the table, Lowenna asked Haan, “What’s happened? What’s wrong? Why are you here?”

He looked up into her clear hazel eyes.

“It’s Rajad,” he said in a pained voice. “He’s gone missing.”

There was a moment of shocked silence. Lowenna’s world rocked. She fell down a rushing grey tunnel into the future. She saw trees and stars and a pair of luminous eyes, a strange mahogany brown swirled with holly green.