Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Storm Seed

 High adventure and mystical intrigue await…

Storm Seed

Sacred Band Series Book 7

by Janet & Chris Morris

Genre: Epic Fantasy

INTERVIEW

What is something unique/quirky about you?

 We breed Morgan horses. We consult with Morgan breeders to help them choose breeding combinations to achieve a desired result.

We are also song writers; Janet plays bass guitar and Chris sings and plays guitar. We have an album on MCA records. Look for Christopher Crosby Morris on Soundcloud or N1M.com

Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

Janet wrote her first book in 1975 and Chris was the first one to read and comment on it. Their marriage survived. A routine emerged where Chris would read aloud all the new drafts and we would make edits on the spot. After a few books Chris’ ideas became frequent enough that we agreed he should have credit for writing, whereas before we had kept separate Janet’s storytelling and Chris’ songwriting. The rest, as they say is history.

Who is your hero and why?

Heraclitus of Ephesus, a pre-socratic philosopher, whose Cosmic Fragments foreshadow our knowledge of reality and how to perceive it. Among his precepts is the statement that change alone is unchanging. We’ve worked Heraclitus’ fragments in here and there throughout our books.

Which of your novels can you imagine being made into a movie?

All of them. We write cinematically, our books are vivid adventures undertaken without knowing the destination. I, the Sun, The Sacred Band, Outpassage and M.E.D.U.S.A. are particularly suited to film. The Threshold Series is a feast of opportunities for today’s special effects creators.

What inspired you, to write Storm Seed?

We were fascinated by gene splicing and invitro and other reproductive technologies and set out to explore a culture trying to preserve itself underground through experimentation with those techniques. It actually makes for some great adventures when you consider that everything alive may be reproduced artificially some day.

Convince us why you feel Storm Seed is a must read.

Today there are forces at work trying to limit reproductive possibilities and freedoms and may be leading to this sort of scenario that we wrote about in Storm Seed. We all need to get smart on these things because our lives inevitably will be affected by them.

Who designed your book covers?

Most of our covers, including Storm Seed, are realized by Roy Mauritsen, a gifted graphic artist.

Advice to writers? 

As for advice to writers, here is all we know: write the story you want to read. Start at the beginning, go to the end, and stop. Seriously. From start to finish you must inhabit the construct in a manner that makes the reader choose to continue; if you, as the writer, can’t feel what it’s like being there, your readers can’t either. So close your eyes, look at your feet where they are standing on the story’s ground; tell me what you see. Tell me what you hear. Ask at the end of each paragraph ‘what happens next?’. If you lose touch with it, wait until you’re back inside it. Tell the story that comes to you, and from you, to me.

EXCERPT

[excerpt from Storm Seed: TALE OF THREE WOMEN]

Deep under the sea, where a volcano grew slowly and warmed the water, they kept the child.

In a submarine cavern where phosphorescent sea life gave the only light, Jihan would visit her son at feeding time. Here currents brimmed with salty nutrients, and tiny fish schooled round like rainbow garlands among starfish-encrusted columns.

Far below sun and sky, sleepless sharks stood guard over him. Mermaids were his nannies, and squid rocked him in their arms.

Such a childhood should have satisfied any son of a Froth Daughter. Jihan called her boy Cyrus, partly after his father. She found him giant seahorses to ride. He had catfish and dogfish and electric eels to play with, and manta rays to race him through the cavern’s sweep. But Cyrus never felt a father’s love, so Jihan told him stories meant to teach him who and what he was.

Nor had Cyrus ever felt a grandfather’s love, for Jihan’s father was Stormbringer himself, lord of wind and wave, who had never approved his daughter’s marriage.

In Stormbringer’s opinion, this fruit of Jihan’s union constituted an affront to nature. So the boy grew tall in his cave at the bottom of the sea, away from society.

Never a happy child, Cyrus’ temper grew worse as he grew older. One day his mother swam down to see her son and found three mermaids dead: eviscerated, floating near the cavern’s ceiling in red eddies of their blood.

“Cyrus,” she’d called for the wild-eyed child, hoping to find him hunched in shadows, his white hair flowing round him like seaweed. “Why did you do such a thing?”

“Let me out of here, Mother!” an errant current burbled.

How many times had Cyrus begged her to do just that? She hunted for the boy in the cave, then along the seafloor. She called on whales and porpoises to search to the surface of the sea. She enlisted nymphs and mermen to ask far and wide for news of Cyrus.

Eventually, Jihan realized that the voice she’d heard was merely an echo of her son’s voice, ringing in her own guilty mind. She had to find him.

But she couldn’t. Cyrus had escaped, and now his trail was cold: The boy had disappeared.

Jihan summoned her bodyguard of sharks and mermen to gather up the murdered mermaids. The sharks feasted upon the corpses with all due ceremony, until only the mermen’s tears remained, mixing with the currents that still whispered, “Let me out of here, Mother!”

But Jihan had promised her father, Stormbringer, she never would release him. And now her son was gone.

So Jihan went to see her father, who ruled the tempests and the waves.

When he heard her tale, the sea around her father grew cold. Stormbringer shook his massive, seaweedy head. “You brought this upon yourself,” he thundered, so that the whole seafloor quaked. “I warned you not to bear the child of a human.”

But Jihan had borne the child of an immortalized man named Tempus, perhaps a demigod himself. And she had brought this child into a world where he was different from all other creatures.

“Nonetheless, Father,” Jihan said, looking Stormbringer in one red and brooding eye, “I must find Cyrus. He has his father’s temper and your blood in his veins. He is too angry and too powerful to be abroad in the world of men.”

“You’re sure that’s where he is?” As her father spoke, the sea around them began to roil and warm. Currents caught her and spun her around in her father’s midst.

“I’m sure,” she called to the rising waterspout that was Stormbringer. “That’s where he’s gone. He wants to find his father.”

There. She’d said it.

As if that statement were more than he could bear, Stormbringer grabbed her in his waterspout arms and whirled her about and cast her out of the depths.

Up into the air she came, as if the sea itself would spit her out, reject her.

Light blinded Jihan for an instant; waves slapped at her, and she was afraid.

But then the sun on her scales reminded her body how to change itself, and the surface of the sea buoyed her until her limbs shone bronze and supple in the light of day as she swam for shore.

*

The witch called Roxane brooded in her bower near the end of everything, watching sunlight sparkle on the watery wheels surrounding the city at the edge of time.

It had cost her greatly to come so far. Now she rested. She sat every day in the woods and watched the gleaming city, with its electrum spires and its privileged folk— watched and waited.

Sometimes caravans arrived—but not on any regular schedule. Roxane bided her time. Once she’d been a mighty witch of awesome power, a great enchantress. Now she was a refugee. If not for her burning need to find the man who’d caused her downfall, she might have died of her misery.

But Roxane did not die. Although trapped for a time in hell itself, she’d survived—and eventually escaped to work her way here, feeding on the souls of sheep and rats and rabbits, and the occasional snippet of rumor that leant strength to her heart.

She would find Nikodemos, her beloved, the human who’d deserted her. Then she would begin anew.

So she promised herself each sunrise when she woke, and this morning was no exception. Today, as on every day since she’d escaped her prison in hell, she pulled herself out into the sunlight and revealed her battered body to the heavens.

Naked, she raised a fist to the skies and renewed her vow: revenge served as Roxane’s wellspring, her truest love. To wreak vengeance, one needed strength. And for strength, one needed inspiration. The man called Nikodemos, ghost from her past, would ever be Roxane’s inspiration.

This morning, having found not only two rabbits but an unwary wanderer to feast upon the night before, Roxane felt greatly strengthened.

The wanderer with whom she’d slept soon became the corpse upon whom she slept. The poor fool gave her all his vigor as he died. This morning, when she’d pulled herself out of her poor bower of fir into the light, her legs almost held her. They were no longer twisted; nor were they weak and lame. The hands she spread today in the sunlight boasted smooth, white skin—not the chicken skin of old age.

A few more days, a few more fools, and she’d be ready to approach the city’s gates and bespell the guards to admit her.

But not yet; not until she became as beautiful as ever she’d been. When she saw her Nikodemos again, she’d find no pity on his handsome face. She’d not look into his eyes and see there only memories of her reflected glory.

She must become the old Roxane, Death’s Queen, once more. And now her complete resurrection was certain, its accomplishment merely a question of time. She’d known that being so close to Niko would inspire her.

That passion had dragged her across mountains and deserts and seas where any lesser sorceress would have died. Eating scraps, she’d remembered power. Bathing in lust, she’d remembered love. And she’d promised herself that she’d reclaim everything she’d almost had— starting with Nikodemos.

This was the only fitting thanks to the powers that had fooled fate and old enemies to set her free. Free she was, and abroad on the land once more.

Soon even the sky would shudder under her influence, and she’d fly high in the clouds once more—take wing whenever she chose.

Sitting in the sunshine, she made a fist and closed her eyes. Gathering her legs under her, she sat cross-legged and naked in the daylight. Below the crest of her hill stretched a meadow; in that meadow would she make her beloved appear to her.

She willed it so. She envisioned him beside her there. She called his name. She conjured a gem of power to manifest within her tight-closed fist.

The gem she summoned yet existed— somewhere. Her enemies had not destroyed that shard of eternal strength; only cast it far away from its accustomed place in her hand. So it would come to her, because she willed it.

She called the shard. She called the man. She called her power. And above her head, clouds scudded across the morning sun.

In her mind’s eye, she saw the meadow’s end, where the last moat that ringed the city gave way to unhallowed ground.

And there she swore she heard a cry of delight, a tinkling laugh, and then another. But still she kept her eyes shut. Still she willed the shard of power to come to her. Still she held her outstretched fist before her.

And then she felt it: first, a sensation of spinning, as if she and the clouds and the sun were whirling while the earth stood still. Then came a prickling, a burning in her groin that welled up and out, into her extremities and into her head.

At last she felt coldness in her fist.

Only when she felt that cold did Roxane open her eyes.

Above her head, the sky was bright but white, completely overcast, giving the land a surreal quality and stealing every shadow from the meadow.

Her fist too seemed white as snow. She opened it.

There, in her palm, glittered a cold and tiny stone, hardly more than a blue pebble, too small to make a decent ring, barely enough for an earring.

But in her palm, there it rested: a smidgen of the jewel of power; a fragment of the shard which had belonged to the greatest archmage of them all. Dominion over all the beasts of the field and the laws which they obeyed long had been the prize of any who possessed it.

Now, in her sorely diminished state, even a pebble of power could be enough . . .

She nearly cried out in delight. She shook her head and raised her face to the sky, as if to a mirror. And she smiled, conjuring all the beauty she’d once possessed.

Full of triumph, about to return to her bower to rest, she heard that laugh again.

This time, Roxane looked down into the meadow. And there she saw not her beloved Nikodemos, but a child and a woman playing amidst the clover.

A child and a woman: what an opportunity they presented. She mustn’t worry who they might be; mustn’t be disappointed if they were simple travelers, or city folk taking a stroll.

But her heart knew that these were more than vulgar folk as she scurried into her bower, seeking her rags.

Rags were not the attire best suited to such meetings, but Roxane would waste no power on vanity.

Before heading down the slope, she paused only long enough to drop the pebble into the rabbit-fur pouch she’d made for amulets and tie the pouch around her neck.

Surely, whomever her passion had summoned to the meadow wouldn’t care if she did not look her best.

She still limped a bit, favoring her right side. A white streak like a lightning bolt yet showed in her raven hair. But down she hobbled, not standing straight or switching her hips. Let these see how time had ravaged her. She’d been the last sight of too many mortal fools to let appearances stop her.

The fires of hell and her own determination had scourged all vanity from her flesh.

When all is lost, one merely begins again. With her eyes fixed firmly on her prey, Roxane hitched her way painfully downslope.

The curly-haired boy saw her first and said, “Look, Nanny, a witch!” The brat must have been four or five. Children always saw the truth. Because of this, they were far more dangerous than adults— and more nutritious to a famished soul such as hers.

“Hush, don’t say such things, dear,” said the nanny, who had golden hair and a comely form and a dress that soon would replace Roxane’s rags. “It’s merely an unfortunate beggar woman. It’s good luck to give alms to the poor, dear.”

The blonde woman raised a hand and waved to Roxane and smiled.

Then, bending down over a wicker basket, the nanny said, “Here, Prince, take the unfortunate woman one of these rolls and a bit of this cheese. It’s important for royalty such as you, Highness, to learn charity and compassion. Run along, now.”

Roxane was sure she’d never had a better day. Didn’t these foolish city folk realize that, beyond their walls, evil reigned? Hadn’t they learned not to trust in humanity? Didn’t they know enough to fear strangers, and all who had less than they?

“Here’s a treat for you, Madame,” called the nanny, as the child came scampering Roxane’s way, dressed in wide-eyed innocence and silk.

Roxane nearly hesitated. Might this be a trick? It seemed too easy. She cast a glance at the city. Was some archmage in there, trying to trap her while she yet was weak? But no, this was the city, the city of knowledge and wonder at the edge of time, which surely had cleansed itself of all evil long before Roxane came.

And the boy, upon reaching Roxane, held out a perfect hand to her, grinning. “Madam Beggar, here are your alms.” Baby teeth gleamed.

Roxane took the crusty bread and the creamy wedge of cheese and then let them fall, holding tight to the child’s hand instead.

“What’s your name, little one?” she asked.

The boy said, “Prince Nino, son of Queen Tabet and her consort, Nikodemos—”

A cry of joy tore itself from Roxane’s throat. Forgetting all about the nanny and the nanny’s fine dress, she fell upon the child and swept him into her arms.

The child screamed. The nanny screamed.

Ignoring their screams, Roxane fed, feasting on this choicest morsel that fate could provide.

The nanny rushed at them, but Roxane was already stronger. Her feet hardly touched the ground as they began to change.

She lifted the boy, and herself. Holding him, she swooped across the meadow as her shoulders became winged. Those wings took to the air. She flapped upward, her grip on the child becoming the grip of an eagle’s talons. The eagle wore a rabbit’s fur pouch around its neck, and its wingspread was twice that of a man’s height.

The prince who dangled from her talons hardly struggled any longer; there was too little life left in him for that.

When the bower of fir that had been Roxane’s home for so long was right beneath her, she dropped the child, and dived downward in his wake.

Then she caught an updraft and circled above the meadow to see if the nanny would follow.

But the woman yet wept in the grass, a splotch among the clover. Roxane’s eagle eyes saw every crenel on the ramparts of the electrum-towered city, and none there remarked her.

Before she returned to her fir bower to finish her feast, she soared high over the city and hovered there, watching from her perch on columns of air.

Thus she witnessed the commotion below, when the nanny at last reached the city gates crying that a witch had taken the queen’s son. She saw the queen hasten into the courtyard.

And she saw her beloved, Nikodemos, come running to take Queen Tabet in his arms as she fainted.

All the emotion coming up from that place was a further delight, choice manna, and Roxane’s wings grew stronger.

Best of all was the moment when, circling low in delicious danger to catch a glimpse of her lover’s face, Niko looked up as the shadow of her wings fell over him.

Then it was time to go: the nanny was screeching; Niko was pointing; on the ramparts, guards aimed crossbows and spears her way.

She called out once to her beloved in her eagle’s voice before she beat the air and soared out of reach.

Of course, he couldn’t know what she’d said. But Roxane knew that, in his heart, Niko would realize she was back.

In the meantime, there was a feast waiting for her, a warm body with fresh-cracked bones and salty blood. Niko would thank her, one day, for all that Roxane was doing—and would do—to free him from entrapment by some scheming queen.

With every bite her beak tore from her prize, she felt better. She no longer worried about returning to human form. She had enough sustenance, in this one catch, to bring her nearly back to health.

After she’d eaten her fill, she’d fly off with her prey, north a bit, where no hunters would find them until she’d consumed every sumptuous bit.

And then she’d be ready to unite with her lover once again, beautiful and full of power. All she’d ever been.

Even Niko would see the truth of her resurgence. She’d make sure of it.

 

Hot off the presses, the final "lost" volume of the iconic Sacred Band series in an all-new Author's Cut edition.

High adventure awaits in Storm Seed by Janet & Chris Morris:

- Travel with the Sacred Band of Stepsons to a future undreamed.

- Meet the changeling son of Tempus and the Froth Daughter.

- Learn what it takes to become a dragon.

- Bring gods to a godless realm.

Tempus the Black, avatar of the Storm God, and his partner Niko reunite the Sacred Band for a mission to a dying world. And from there -- should the gods allow -- to mystical Lemuria. -

 Praise for the Sacred Band series: "Janet Morris, Tempus (1987), and, with Chris Morris, Tempus Unbound (1989), The Sacred Band (2010).

"A fantasy series about the Sacred Band of Stepsons, an elite army modeled on the fourth-century B.C.E. Sacred Band of Thebes. The stories explore the fraught personal relationships of mixed hetero- and homosexual troops, only sometimes paired, as they fight for their commander, the immortal Tempus. Morris includes archaeological and historical details, from physical items to social practices, religion, and philosophy, to create a fantasy world that is, in many ways, more historically accurate than many popular accounts of antiquity." -- Robert W. Cape, Jr, in Classical Traditions in Science Fiction, Brett M. Rogers & Benjamin Eldon Stevens, eds., Oxford University Press


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About the Authors


Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Christopher Crosby Morris (born 1946) is an American author of fiction and non-fiction, as well as a lyricist, musical composer, and singer-songwriter. He is married to author Janet Morris. He is a defense policy and strategy analyst and a principal in M2 Technologies, Inc. He writes primarily as Chris Morris, but occasionally uses pseudonyms.

 

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Giveaway

choice of print or ebook copy of Storm Seed , $10 Amazon giftcard – 1 winner each!

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

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