Andrew P. Weston reviews the new Author’s Cut edition of Tempus Unbound by Janet & Chris Morris for Amazon UK.

Format: Kindle Edition

     Tempus the Black – Lord of Time, Commander of the Sacred Band, Avatar of Enlil the storm god – enters Lemuria on New Year’s Eve, not quite sure why his deity has seen fit to place him there.
Once inside, he becomes a guest of Chiara – the Evening Star – and is invited to a sumptuous feast where he is greeted by a number of other visitors who, as it transpires, are from different epochs of earth’s history. Mingled in amongst them is none other than Aškelon of Meridian, Lord of Dreams and entelechy of the Seventh Sphere; onetime husband of Tempus’ sister, Cime.
While the majority of the group believes they are there to determine the fate of billions in the present and future by undoing mistakes & manipulating events in the past, Tempus suspects events are being staged, for Cime had disappeared from the land of dreams, along with her deadly rods. Thus begins the hunt that sees the storm god’s avatar transported to present day – and 22nd Century – New York.
Tempus in New York! Can you imagine?
The culture shock itself leads to some rather imaginative confrontations. And that’s only the beginning, for there is an Archmage and his minions to kill.
Enmity is guaranteed. Combat is inevitable. Bloodletting abounds.
Along the way, old wounds are opened; long held grudges come to the fore; bitter lessons are learned; eternal stories come full circle; and Tempus discovers just how intimately his affairs are interwoven to that of his god.
Having read all of Tempus’ adventures, I have to say this is one of my favorites. Fast paced, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable, it adds a clever twist to his epic narrative and keeps his story as fresh today as it’s always been.
     Tempus Unbound, #2 in the Sacred Band Book series,  is available in a new Author’s Cut Edition from Perseid Press  in digital, trade paper, and hardback formats on Amazon worldwide, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere else….
     And if you’re not yet a fan of the Sacred Band books and series, here’s a thumbnail to whet your appetite:
“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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Tribulations Herculean and Tragic: Beyond Wizardwall by Janet Morris

see original on Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature:  https://www.blackgate.com/2014/04/08/beyond-wizardwall-by-janet-morris/este Adventures in Fantasy Literatureribulations Herculean and Tragic: Beyond Wizardwall by Jat Morris

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Beyond Wizardwall

Woe betide the soul who loves too much, wants too much, dares too much.

I finish my reviews of the 5-star, Author’s Cut editions of Janet Morris’s classic of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy, with the third and final book, Beyond Wizardwall. This was the toughest of the three to review because there is so much that happens and so much ground to cover. This is also the most dramatic, tense and emotionally powerful of the three books. Let me begin with a little recap in Janet’s own words:

Heavy snows had put the war against Mygdonia and its Nisibisi wizards into hiatus. Niko’s commander, Tempus, called the Riddler, had employed magic to bring his mixed cadre of shock troops (Rankan 3rd Commando rangers, Tysian ‘specials,’ hillmen of Free Nisibis, and Niko’s unit of Stepsons) back to Tyse for the winter. Fighting had ended inconclusively, with the Mygdonian warlord Ajami still at large.

They ride into Tyse triumphant and settle in to wait for spring, content with the season’s work. All except Niko. Everything in this excellent novel revolves around Niko (who is also known by his war name, Stealth), for what trials he endures and what tribulations he suffers are Herculean and tragic and form the core of this novel.

In the first chapter, he’s at wits’ end, quitting the Sacred Band after he gets rousted by a pair of arrogant 3rd Commandos, wherein things quickly turn ugly and he kills one of the soldiers. Niko escapes and goes into hiding at Brother Bomba’s whorehouse.

This is where the triad of Niko’s troubles begins. First, there is Askelon, the entelechy of dreams, regent of the seventh sphere and an archmage with delusions of godhood. He rules the sleep of all, from his ephemeral archipelago of dreams, Meridian. Then there is Roxane — shape changer, soul eater, and vampire-like witch, who devours the essence of life from hapless mortals. Finally, we have Enlil, the northern Storm Lord and god of the armies. All three come to haunt Niko.

Beyond Wizardwall Ace paperback-smallAskelon wants Niko for the purity of his soul, who steals his sleep and wants Stealth for an avatar. Roxane the witch, Death’s Queen, wants Niko’s body and a bit of his soul. And Enlil wants Niko as a representative on earth. Pulled in three directions by three powerful beings of higher octaves, Niko is being driven mad, which leads him into a whirlpool of drink and drugs. To make matters worse, Brachis, High Priest of Vashanka (the Rankan storm god who has disappeared), comes to hire Niko to assassinate Abikithis, the emperor of Ranke, for the good of empire, Vashanka, and Niko’s own soul.

Now, still searching for Niko, wanting him for the murder of one of their own, the 3rd Commandos trash Bomba’s bordello, but Niko manages to escape.

Enter Tempus: The Riddler wrestles with his own demons. Demigod and immortal though he is, he bears a curse of his own: those who love him die of it, and those he loves are bound to spurn him. And Niko, being his right-side companion in war and life, may suffer from that curse, as Tempus himself has long suffered from it.

The Riddler’s heart is troubled, for he has deployed Niko before, pushing him and using him to flush out Roxane the witch, but she’s still at large. Now Tempus fears that Roxane has again possessed Niko and is spying through his eyes. He needs to find Niko, not only to set things to rights, but to find out what Brachis the High Priest wants and to save Niko from the 3rdCommandos, the special unit Tempus formed and trained in his younger days.

To top it all off: there is much anger, competition, and jealousy between the Stepsons and the Commandos. Furthermore, Vashanka, the Rankan Storm God who once was Tempus’s patron, has disappeared. Tempus blames himself for the witch stalking Niko and he will finally bargain with Enlil — save Niko, leave Niko be, and take him, the Riddler, instead. Ah, but things are never quite that easy.

Enter Randal: Seventh Level Hazard Mage, who is also part of the Sacred Band, the only wizard with whom they agree to work. When he returns home, he confronts the mysterious suicide of his guild’s murderous First Hazard Mage. After Niko is found and rescued, Tempus orders Randal to keep an eye on Stealth, his one-time, right-side partner, to protect him and keep track of him. But as you can guess, that’s not going to be an easy task, either. And events are soon set into motion that will quickly throw Randal into the very thick of things.

Beyond Wizardwall hardcover-smallEnter Cime: The dangerous, seductive mage-killer, sister of Tempus in spirit, if not by blood. She breaks into the mageguild one night, casts a spell and seduces the First Hazard, and then murders him. She and Tempus will form a joint occupation to rid the world of sorcerers, except for Randal. If it was up to her, Cime would rid the world of gods, too. Despite her distaste for wizards, she will team up with Randal to help track down Roxane who, weakened and ugly and badly injured after the mage-war, wants a magical globe that Randal possesses.

Don’t forget: Roxane also wants Niko and she uses an innocent young boy named Grippa to get at him.

And then there’s Kama, Tempus’s beautiful daughter, a soldier with the 3rd Commandos, who falls in love with a Stepson named Critias, and who seems to have a secret agenda all her own. Needless to say, she manages to cause a few problems. What does she want? Whose side is she on? What does she seek, besides her father’s approval? What part will she play in the events to come? Jihan, the Froth Daughter of the god Stormbringer, also returns to complicate Tempus’s immortal life, and with her is the young boy with wizard’s blood, Shamshi, whose sad fate will eventually play out in The Sacred Band, which I previously reviewed here, for Black Gate.

As Fate and the gods would have it, all too soon things heat up further for Niko when he’s captured by priests and goes on trial in a kangaroo court designed to find him guilty of murder. He is tortured and maimed beyond all mortal endurance, and what he suffers in one tense, emotionally-charged scene will cut to the core of your heart as it cuts to the heart of Tempus the Riddler. And Tempus, near the end of his own wits, finds a way to capture Roxane, only to end up making a bargain with her to gain her help in saving Niko.

This is a novel of passion and love, powerful and character-driven from start to finish. It’s brilliantly conceived and executed, packing more in its 415 pages then the previous two books combined. Just to give you a sample of what else goes on: During a festival of songs, games, and physical prowess, there is a hostage crisis culminating in a surprising decision by Tempus, and what orders he gives to his Sacred Band. While the war between Ranke and Mygdonia is on hold for the winter, assassination is nevertheless in the air, and there’s a military coup in the works to put an old friend of Tempus’s on the Lion Throne of Ranke. But Ranke is doomed unless their missing god Vashanka is found, for without their god no hand at the helm of empire could be steady enough to put her back on course.

The Sacred Band-smallAh, but no strategy of war lasts long after battle is joined and everything seems to be going wrong, especially after Randal the mage decides to go against Tempus’s orders when he is sent to deliver a message to the Rankan mageguild and discovers, to his dismay, the truth about who the chief’s adepts of his guild just happen to be. There is also a very strange and highly unlikely, often pesky, little hornet and the “reveal” of what that creature is will catch you off-guard… and there’s this cool, orange-haired, gray-skinned demon named Snapper Jo who Roxane summons to serve her.

Beyond Wizardwall is a wonderful novel that expertly caps the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy in a surprising and satisfying conclusion. It’s a novel of complex characters caught up in complicated situations. Once again, Janet Morris gives us a literary classic of Heroic Fantasy. This is a textured novel, layered with themes of brotherhood and loyalty, love and betrayal, of the magic and majesty of horses, of boys growing into manhood, and the tragedy of those who die all too young. This is a novel filled with fine writing, exciting and talented writing. For example, here is Morris describing simply and most eloquently, the archipelago of dreams known as Meridian:

“Here was no life as men knew it, no days piling one upon the last inexorably; but a different life, a different nature, malleable and ruled by the flux of nature. Sometimes Meridian was beautiful, sometimes horrid, for it held every dream and every dreamer from all mankind’s befuddled flock.

These had no tomorrows, no yesterdays, but only dramas, lusts and fears and doubts — and joys, melodies to set its golden streets vibrating with the turning of the spheres. Meridian was one of the four metaphysical compass points of creation; as such, its existence was never wholly in one realm or another, but roving on a cosmic wind that changed with every dream and dreamer.”

Microsoft Word - 09 12 24 Sacred Band Cover white horse white foThere is plenty of action, humor, sex, pathos, magic, and mystery, as well, and the narrative moves as swiftly as a blood-bay stallion at full gallop. This is Heroic Fantasy at its best, the kind I favor, and this Author’s Cut, which has been revised and expanded for this handsome, brand-new Perseid Press edition is a classic of the genre. But above all, Beyond Wizardwall has heart and compassion. Janet Morris writes about people; her characters live and breathe with the kind of vibrancy and solidity I find inspiring and influential to my own work.

For in the end, without human conflict, without emotional drama, without character growth, without heart, all you have is a narrative. And the soul of this novel is this: we feel the humanity and compassion in Niko; we feel the pain in Tempus’ own heart, know how deeply he loves, how he fears that love. We feel his aching and longing, and what torments his soul. And even in the character of Death’s Queen, the soul-eating witch Roxane, we learn that she can love and that she, too, understands compassion. Once again, bravo Janet Morris!

Life to you, and everlasting glory.

Beyond Wizardwall: The Revised Author’s Cut was published by Perseid Press on November 17, 2013. It is 415 pages, priced at $24.99 in trade paperback, or $6.99 for the digital edition. Cover art detail from The Fall of Phaeton by Peter Paul Rubens.

Read my previous reviews of Janet Morris’ novels here [on Black Gate]:

The Sacred Band
Beyond Sanctuary
Beyond the Veil
Beyond Wizardwall

Beyond Sanctuary: Review on Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature of the Revised and Expanded Author’s Cut

see original article by Joe Bonadonna on Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature:  https://www.blackgate.com/2014/02/17/return-to-thieves-world-in-beyond-sanctuary-the-revised-and-expanded-authors-cut-by-janet-morris/

Return to Thieves World in Beyond Sanctuary: The Revised and Expanded Author’s Cut by Janet Morris

Monday, February 17th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Microsoft Word - 09 12 24 Sacred Band Cover white horse white foLet me start off here with a quote from my Black Gate review of Janet and Chris Morris’s novel, The Sacred Band:

The Sacred Band is much more than great Heroic Fantasy: it is classic literature, filled with sub-plots, a fine cast of well-drawn characters, insight and wisdom and recurring themes of honor, faith, brotherhood and love. This novel spoke to me on a personal level because it’s a story of pure human drama and powerful emotions. While the characters are larger than life, they are also richly-drawn and written with great depth of insight and humanity. What also rings true with the Sacred Band is their military tradition, their ethos. These characters are soldiers, warriors. They are not only mythic heroes, they are also everyday heroes; real people, everyday people who face extraordinary odds and foes… The Sacred Band has the sharp edge of reality, the harshness, the bitterness and the danger of the real world. Love, loyalty, honor — these are the ideals by which these characters live and die. This novel is epic in scope. It is mythic by heritage. It is positively Homeric.

Janet Morris’s Beyond Sanctuary is the first volume in a trilogy that includes Beyond the Veiland Beyond Wizardwall, and the events in this trilogy take place before The Sacred Band, the magnificent novel by Janet and her husband Chris, which I previously reviewed here for Black Gate.

Beyond Sanctuary is a complex novel and truly literary heroic fantasy. It is textured and layered, subtle at times, and yet always powerful. Like the best of all literary fiction, it has emotional depth and human drama, subtext and a philosophy that is expressed through the thoughts, words, and deeds of its characters, and not through narrative lecture and dissertation that slows the pace of narrative thrust.

This is a novel driven by eloquent, intelligent characters with real emotions and real problems, with plots and subplots born of the classical tradition… characters that speak to us, that have something to say. And the action never falters or loses momentum. Each chapter picks up more and more steam right up until the explosive finale of the attack on Wizardwall and the resulting aftermath that ends like the final note in a great opera or symphony on the last page.

Beyond Sanctuary Thieves WorldWar is brewing and the Rankan Empire hopes to flout Mygdonian expansion into their own lands and flout the mages of Wizardwall as well. And thus, Tempus the Black, also called the Riddler, decides that it’s time to join the fight, leave the sinkhole that is Sanctuary, and go up against the sorcerers and witches of Wizardwall. So he and Nicodemus, who is also called Niko, along with Janni, Critias, Straton, and the other Sacred Band of Stepsons, set out in pursuit of two powerful and ruthless foes: Datan the archmage and the Nisibisi witch Roxane.

This is the novel where Tempus first becomes involved with Jihan, daughter of a Froth God, who is in human form for the first time. This is where a young boy named Shamshi, who comes to play a major role later in The Sacred Band, has his mage-blood first awakened by Roxane’s caresses.

This is where young Niko, who is heartsick over having lost two battle-partners, loses his maat, his sense of balance and inner peace. And this is where Roxane first spins her web to attract Niko, to play her games with him… and wants to use Tempus to destroy Datan.

Ah, but Datan has his own plans to use Tempus — to destroy Roxane! No honor among thieves? There is even less honor among mages and witches.

If you are familiar with the classic Thieves World shared-world series, you will encounter many old friends and foes herein: Lastel (aka One-Thumb), Molin Torchholder, Hanse (aka Shadowspawn), Walegrin, Grillo, and so many others. Oh, and you’ll also revisit the Maze and that most infamous den of iniquity, the Vulgar Unicorn.

The gods, too, play a huge role in this novel: Askelon of Meridian, regent of the seventh sphere and entelechy of dreams and shadows; Enlil, Storm God of the Armies, who has snubbed Tempus; Stormbringer, the father of Jihan; and Vashanka, the former patron of Tempus, who has been left behind but not forgotten, and whose shadow, like those of all the gods, hangs over the lives of all the characters, for good or for ill, sometimes helping, sometimes interfering.

The main plot and the various subplots are complex and to go into more detail would only cause me to give away too many surprises and twists and turns. But I can safely say that you won’t be disappointed in the array of fantastic characters, the intrigue and Machiavellian maneuverings of priests and politicians, and the exciting siege of Wizardwall.

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris-smallDemon dogs, were-snakes, soldiers, demons, and the heroes of the Sacred Band — those warriors “of a higher octave of being” — all clash in mighty battle. Cime the Mage Killer, sister of Tempus, lends a hand. Randal, the allergy-prone enchanter and shape-shifter, so young and so eager to prove his worth, comes into his own and earns the respect of Tempus and the Sacred Band. Niko, too, who is still very young and uncertain, hopes not to disgrace himself in front of his elders and fellow members of the Sacred Band.

For me, the theme, the heart of Beyond Sanctuary, is untried youth, of untested boys growing into men, of recruits becoming soldiers, warriors and heroes. It’s a great treat for me to revisit this series, to see the threads and foreshadowing that begin in this first book of the Trilogy and evolve and grow through the next two volumes, and how they all play out, for better or worse, in The Sacred Band.

We see the hand of Fate at work here and the influence of the gods. And what I especially like is how Morris involves the gods, how they influence mortals, take on human form, become human and fallible, but never over-shadow the mortal characters or the story itself. Though not always seen, not always taking an active part, the gods are ever there, their presence always felt; this is all superbly choreographed in the classic tradition of Greek mythology.

Beyond Sanctuary is a wonderful novel, and this edition is a brand-new, revised and expanded Author’s Cut. This is a lucid, lyrical, and powerful story of love and war, loss and betrayal, life and death. Death is the price we pay for war. Grief is the price we pay for love.

Indeed. I’ve already started reading the second book in the Trilogy, Beyond the Veil. I urge you to start here, with Beyond Sanctuary, and don’t stop reading. Ever.

Beyond Sanctuary: Author’s Cut Edition by Janet Morris, Book One in The Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy, was published by Perseid Press on November 12, 2013. It is 398 pages, priced at $24.99 in trade paperback and $4.99 for the digital edition.

Read my other reviews of Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ novels here:

The Sacred Band
Beyond Sanctuary
Beyond the Veil
Beyond Wizardwall

Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature review of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

See original post on Black Gate here:  https://www.blackgate.com/2014/01/12/heroic-fantasy-with-the-sharp-edge-of-reality-a-review-of-the-sacred-band-by-janet-morris-and-chris-morris/

Heroic Fantasy with the Sharp Edge of Reality: A Review of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Sunday, January 12th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

The Sacred Band-smallThe Sacred Band
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Perseid Press (547 pages, June 2011, $24.95)

All three hundred of the Sacred Band of Thebes fought at Chaeronea in August of 338 BCE, and two-hundred fifty-four skeletons lie buried there today under a granite lion. Some still argue about the fate of the forty-six whose skeletons were not recovered. Plutarch says that they died together, and Philip of Macedon wept to see it. Another, later, view is that the remainder surrendered, were taken prisoner, or deserted. We tell a different story.

— Janet and Chris Morris, in their Authors’ Notes and Acknowledgments from The Sacred Band

And this is the premise behind this wonderfully rich, complex, dramatic and highly emotional epic of gods, demi-gods and Men. This is the story of how Tempus the Black, Favorite of Enlil, Storm God of the Armies, and the one they call Riddler, challenged the gods to rescue twenty-three pairs of Thebans, forty-six warriors who had been fated to die. And rescue them he did… Charon, Lysis and the other forty-four men of the original Sacred Band of Thebes… by opening a dimensional portal from Chaeronea to Lemuria, where they were taken, trained and made part of the greater Sacred Band.

This is the also the story of Nicodemus, who is called Niko and Stealth, a true weapon of the gods, of his own struggle with becoming the favorite, the avatar of a god, and his intimate relation with the goddess Harmony.

After training and orientation, the Thebans do their best to settle in, to become one with Tempus’s Sacred Band. But it’s difficult for many of them, because memories of the Chaeronean battleplain, memories of seeing friends and comrades die in a battle in which they were fated to die keep intruding on their thoughts.

Sanctuary Thieves' World-smallDreams of Chaeronea haunt their hearts and give pain to their souls. Various versions of the “mantra,” Long spears, thunking into flesh. Men staggering backward, impaled, weeping, are a recurring theme throughout this story, as men dream of Chaeronea and that far-away field of battle. What these survivors remember and what they suffer adds a personal and very poignant touch to this novel, for as we turn the pages we get to know these men, these warriors, these heroes.

Now, Tempus has plans for his new and greater Sacred Band: to return to Sanctuary, that infamous “border town between morality and immortality, its feet in hell and its fingers stretched up to heaven.” Sanctuary: the center of activity in the classic Thieves’ World Series, where I first discovered Tempus, known then as the Hell-Hound.

In Sanctuary once again, Tempus plans to settle old scores and tidy loose ends. But he and the Sacred Band get more than they bargain for when they return to that “place where anything may happen, and sometimes does, when wills are strong and mysteries invoked.” For instance, there’s the warrior Kouras, soon to become a favorite and an avatar of the god Vashanka, who once favored Tempus.

How Kouras deals with becoming one with a Storm God and his love for a girl named Shawme is just one of the many sub-plots that grace this novel, which owes so much to history, mythology and the sheer brilliance, talent and imagination of Janet and Chris Morris.

A young, hot-headed warrior named Shamshi, who has wizard’s blood, gets things going when he murders a harlot one night. Apprehended by the Band, he is stripped naked, sewn inside the hide of an animal, and placed on the altar of Enlil, the Storm God:

If no beast eats him in the night, then we free him in the morning. The lesson’s done. Punishment finished. He’s cleansed by the storm god of any taint. If the god sends a bear or a wolf or a panther to tear him apart, then that is Enlil’s verdict and no one interferes. But if anyone cuts him loose tonight or tries to save him, we hunt down all of them and kill them.

A Man and His God-smallSo Tempus says to his men. Harsh treatment? Not at all. This punishment is most fitting to the crime in the context of the novel and the world in which the Sacred Band lives. But Shamshi has patience, and there is one who walks in dreams and shadows who has his eye on the boy with wizard’s blood. Thus, when Shamshi is freed, he is now bound to his savior in body, mind, heart and soul. He then sets out on the road of vengeance, uses his skills as a warrior and some other talents and gifts and help he has been given, and begins to pick off the Sacred Band, one by one. But his main target, the man he feels has betrayed him, and the one he most wants to kill is Nicodemus: Niko, whose war-name is Stealth.

Now the manhunt begins as Sham preys on the Sacred Band, killing them with single-minded determination and cold-blooded ruthlessness. Night after night, men die. A stable burns one night and horses die in a very tense and moving chapter. Other powers are brought into play as Tempus and the Band balance duty with their personal manhunt. Old friends and comrades come to aid in the hunt: Jihan, daughter of a sea god and Tempus’s lover; Randal the Mage, Ischade the Witch, and even Cime, Evening Star of Lemuria and sister of Tempus, are called in to help.
But there is more behind this manhunt than just tracking down a rapist and a murderer, for the stage is being set for a coming battle, a battle for Meridian, the realm of Askelon, entelechy of dreams and shadows. This battle will test the Sacred Band as it has never been tested before, and they will be hard-pressed because worlds collide in this battle when Askelon brings Meridian to Sanctuary, and the battle becomes a shadow, an echo of the great battle of Chaeronea.

And in this battle, not only the mettle of the Sacred Band will be put to the test, but that of the original Sacred Band of Thebes, as well — those forty-six warriors who had been fated to die but were rescued by Tempus. They will not only be fighting both old and new foes, but old comrades, as well — comrades who died at the hands of the Mesopotamians. Tempus and Niko will be tested in this battle, too. To the limits of their skills and power, strength and endurance they will be tested. Question is: will Enlil the Storm God come to the aid of Tempus, his avatar?

Beyond WizardWall-smallAnd what of Niko? Will the goddess Harmony continue to watch over him? Guard and protect him? Can Askelon, a god himself, be defeated? And what of Shamshi? He’s a great character because, for all that he is evil, he is also one to be pitied. He is a victim of forces and powers beyond his understanding, as well as a perpetrator of heinous acts. He is a pawn in the hands of something greater than himself, a puppet and a tool used by gods and the Fates.

The Sacred Band is much more than great Heroic Fantasy: it is classic literature, filled with sub-plots, a fine cast of well-drawn characters, insight and wisdom and recurring themes of honor, faith, brotherhood and love. This novel spoke to me on a personal level because it’s a story of pure human drama and powerful emotions. While the characters are larger than life, they are also richly-drawn and written with great depth of insight and humanity. What also rings true with the Sacred Band is their military tradition, their ethos. These characters are soldiers, warriors. They are not only mythic heroes, they are also everyday heroes; real people, everyday people who face extraordinary odds and foes. They are true to all who have served in any branch of the military.

This is not sword and sorcery, this is not elves and dwarves and high-concept fantasy… The Sacred Band has the sharp edge of reality, the harshness, the bitterness and the danger of the real world. Love, loyalty, honor — these are the ideals by which these characters live and die. This novel is epic in scope. It is mythic by heritage. It is positively Homeric.

This is a 5-Star novel written by two highly-talented writers who have been around for a very long time, who have not lost their chops and their edge, and have not slowed down. There is so much in this novel to enjoy, so much I haven’t even touched on. All I can say is that this is classic stuff. Buy it. Read it. You’ll see.

As Tempus and the Sacred Band would say, “Life to you, and everlasting glory.”

Read my other reviews of Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ novels on Black Gate.

Publisher’s LINKS:

Audiobook:  https://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Book-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI/

Trade paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris/dp/0988755009/

YouTube Sacred Band (audio/visual book trailer):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sacred-band-janet-morris/1100390034?ean=9780988755000&st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Core+Shopping+Books_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP62465

Caught Between Rebels and the Empire’s Blackest Magic: Beyond the Veil: The Revised and Expanded Author’s Cut by Janet Morris

Originally posted on Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature.

Caught Between Rebels and the Empire’s Blackest Magic: Beyond the Veil: The Revised and Expanded Author’s Cut by Janet Morris

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris-smallI continue with my review of the 5-star, Author’s Cut editions of Janet Morris’s classic of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy, of which Beyond the Veil is the second book. Once again, she does not disappoint in this stirring novel of political and religious intrigue, dark magic, gods and men, witches and mages, and the price of love and war.

This is a pivotal book in the trilogy, where foreshadowing and story threads begin to weave in and out to form a tapestry, telling a tale of friends who become foes, enemies who become allies, and what fate lies in store for certain demigods and mortals.

Now, after the battle to win Wizardwall that took place in book one, Beyond Sanctuary, Tempus, Niko, and the Sacred Band are caught between the local rebels and the empire of Mygdonia’s blackest magic. Once again, “War is coming, sending ahead its customary harbingers: fear and falsity and fools.”

It begins with the murder of a courier on his way to meet with Tempus, and the arrival of a young woman named Kama, of the 3rd Commandos, (a unit of special rangers originally formed by Tempus) who seeks audience with Tempus, who is also known as Riddler. Her mission is to take 11-year old Shamshi, the young wizard-boy, back home to Mygdonia.

Shamshi, once a pawn in the game played by the late sorcerer Datan in the previous novel, is still under the spell of Roxane the witch, but is now being held as a guest-hostage by Tempus and the Sacred Band. Though he may be a child in the eyes of men, Shamshi is already plotting against Tempus and Niko.

He is guided and goaded by the “voice” of Roxane, who has been in hiding since the death of Datan, her former partner in crime, and the loss of Wizardwall at the hands of Tempus and his Stepsons. Roxane has her own agenda, of course: she is one of the most seductive, dangerous and deadly foes in this trilogy.

To further complicate matters, Shamshi is in love with Jihan, Froth Daughter of the weather god, Stormbringer; she has come to Earth to spend one year as a mortal, and Shamshi can’t wait to grow into manhood so he can take her for his own. Even though Roxane has already introduced him to the pleasures of the flesh, Shamshi knows he must wait to seduce Jihan, wait until he is a man full-grown when she will accept him as such, or so he believes.

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris-smallJihan, however, loves and cares for Shamshi only as if he was her own son. But she has fallen in love with Tempus, much against her father’s wishes, and wants to stay with him, permanently. Relationships, plots, and counterplots are complicated in this series and, oh… what tangled webs these mortals and immortals weave. “When men and mages fought gods in perverted theomachy, no one was safe, not on earth or in the heavens.”

Tempus, still without the patronage of Enlil, the Storm God of the Armies, is weakened and uncertain, and concerned for Niko, his right-side partner, whose life and fate hang in the balance. He sends young Randal, the seventh-level Hazard Class mage who proved his worth in the battle of Wizardwall, to the Bandaran Isles to find Niko, who has gone into retreat there. Together, Niko and Randal then travel to mystical and mysterious Meridian, where they meet with Askelon, Dream Lord and regent of the seventh sphere, who seeks Niko’s aid and offers him his patronage.

Reluctantly, Niko agrees to become the avatar of Askelon who says he wants “to secure the stability of the seventh sphere through its human connection, to prevent the possibility of someone threatening the right of man to dreams of comfort and healing.” But is that all the entelechy of dreams and shadows wants? Or does Askelon have a hidden agenda that is yet to be revealed? Are gods to be trusted any more than men?

And let’s not forget about Roxane, the snake-eating, soul-devouring witch whose grim shadow hovers over all. She wants Niko for her own; she seeks to regain Wizardwall for all her kin, and “to find out if Tempus is truly immortal and whether a Froth Daughter might be turned to drizzle upon the air.” And young Shamshi is her tool, her weapon against Tempus and Jihan.

As I stated earlier, this is a complicated novel, rich and complex in the machinations of its characters, whether they’re mortal, divine, or numinous, whose motives may or may not be what they seem. It begins with a mystery and keeps that going throughout the story. The reader knows only as much as what the characters know and learns things only when the characters learn them.

When the answers and revelations come, they hit fast and hard. There is also wisdom and philosophy in this novel, as well as a wealth of wonderful quotes. Janet Morris was determined that Beyond the Veil not suffer from what I call MBS — Middle Book Syndrome, and she has succeeded. More than that, halfway through the story, this novel goes from being as solid as its predecessor to upping the ante and raising the bar.

Now let me mention Janet Morris’s prose, her style, her approach. She is a musician, a bass player, and she writes with the ear of a musician. There is what I call “poetry of earthiness” in her prose, and a certain rhythm in her style. For example, here’s a passage, elegant in its simplicity, from a scene set in a whorehouse, that puts you right there.

Gayle was here now — beside her among the bubbly pipes and smoke. Candlelight flickered with the drafts, glimmering on cup and shield rims, on blades and armor; snatches of intrigue; lovers cuddling in corners; schemers whispering in booths nearby; wisps of low connivance leaking out from a dozen paper screens. Gayle must know something, be useful in some manner. This place he’d chosen was one for confidences and calumny. She began to open him up with canny questions and careful flattery.

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris hardcover-smallAnd here’s a bit about Tempus that reveals something of his character, something of his past, without giving away the mystery of the one they call the Sleepless One. His presence, whether or not he takes center stage in a scene, dominates all.

As a haughty young philosopher, ages ago, before the curse which had made him a tireless wanderer, bereft of sleep and love and what men call peace, Tempus had concluded that god is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and hunger… Further, that out of all things can come unity and out of unity, all things.

Tempus, Morris’s most famous character, her legacy character, is a stoic hero, a great warrior, a demigod… and philosopher. We get to know him, but not as well as we get to know the other members of the Sacred Band. Morris keeps the mystery, the enigma, of him there to tease us. He is not called Tempus the Obscure for nothing.

And for all the glory of its flesh and blood characters, the beauty of prose, the literary depth and textures and levels of this classic, there is no shortage of inhumans, once-humans, half-humans, magic-working, mortals fighting in the streets, mage war, embattled gods, fire-spitting demons, shape-shifters, and a rousing night raid that reaches a powerful crescendo. Oh, yes… there’s also a golden homunculus, a creepy little thing that becomes the whispering master of one recurring character, and nearly succeeds in doing to Tempus what few men, few mages, have ever attempted.

The final scenes involving a young warrior-woman who has found herself pregnant, and who is torn between keeping the baby or having an abortion, is played out perfectly, with restraint and delicacy, with compassion and humanity, and a deft touch that neither underplays nor overwhelms.

Once again, as I highly recommended the first book in this magnificent trilogy, I say that you will not be disappointed in this second book, Beyond the Veil.

Life to you, and everlasting glory.

Character Interview: Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Obscure, Favorite of the Storm God

see original post at:  https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/character-interview-tempus-fantasy/?platform=hootsuite

 

Character Interview – Tempus – Fantasy

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Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s):  Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Obscure, the Sleepless One, Tempus Thales, Herakleitos, Favorite of the Storm God, the Hero.

Age:  I’ve lived for centuries, in different countries, through different times, different dimensions.

Please tell us a little about yourself:  I am a mercenary of the storm gods, servant of the gods of war.  Sometimes I find my path solitary, but often I have warriors serving with me who also serve celestial purpose.  When I was young, I contested with a sorcerer to save my sister.  From this struggle came my curse and my immortality:  those I love are bound to spurn me; those who love me die of it; I regenerate any wound I take, except wounds of the spirit or the heart.  I’ve been thrust by gods and demiurges and even my sister from one world to another, so time for me is fluid. I was born in a lost place we called Azehur then, a philosopher-prince who loved the glory of truth above all things.  Now I go where the storm god of the armies leads, carrying him in my heart and in my flesh.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less:  Two meters tall, horseman’s body, eyes that show my age.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?  I have one; I wrote one; I live one.  The Sacred Band Ethos serves me most times.   At its core is this truth:  live by the Logos; fight shoulder to shoulder for freedom; honor those who die in battle.  In living I have found that character is destiny.  My character tells me this:  grab reality by the balls and squeeze.

Would you kill for those you love?  Without hesitation, I always do.

Would you die for those you love?  If I could, I would.  But death is denied me.  Once I offered to trade my immortality to save another, to no avail.  I live on, amid the strife on every battlefield, from war to war.  Some say no war I fight can be lost, no cause I champion fail, but that is mythos, not reality.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?  Strengths I have many; governing those strengths is my hardest task.  My weakness resides in loving too much, all my fighters, my partners, and the world the gods have made.  For untold years my weakness was my sister in arms, Cime; then for a time it became Nikodemos, my partner.  Love of life itself, lived with heart and soul, is weakness:  one must want neither too much to live nor too much to die.  Rage is power, yet rage is weakness. Only so much can be borne from men, so much from gods.  My greatest strength is knowing one simple truth:  in change lies all good, all rest.  Glory and wisdom are all around you, in every breath taken, yet no man can discover the limits of soul.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? I greatly prize my relationship with my Sacred Band of Stepsons, and with one special Stepson, Stealth called Nikodemos.  My relationship with my sister Cime, who was cursed with me so long ago, yet confounds my heart.

Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions?  Here too are gods:  in every creature free to breathe is proof of heaven. There is no animal that is not more noble in its way than humankind.  Horses are my greatest allies, friends and companions.  In a horse is nature’s greatest impulse, realized.  We breed some special horses in the Sacred Band:  Trôs horses, so fast they run holes in the wind; Aškelonian horses, created by the demiurge, who can run on water; we have even a ghost horse, who cannot die or be hurt whatever men may do.

Do you have a family? Tell us about them.  My Sacred Band of Stepsons is my family.  They mean the most to me.  Niko, my right-side partner, is the best of those, the closest to me.  As for my sister Cime …  some say we have no consanguinity, but we grew up together, fought a sorcerer together, staggered under our curses together; when we were younger and more angry, we wreaked great destruction together – her against sorcerers and me against human folly.  I have a mistress, Jihan, a Froth Daughter sired by Stormbringer, who begat all weather gods.  And I have a few sons and daughters, scattered here and there:  some of those are worth succouring, and so I do.

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you? I remember something from my youth, but you would not call those days my childhood, nevertheless, from earliest days I have taken the side of Reason against Unreason. I have spoken above of my encounter with a sorcerer, trying to protect my sister Cime, and the curses that fell upon both our heads because of that. If she hadn’t come to me to save her, would things have gone differently?  Would I have stayed where I was born, assumed my kingship?  Been content to philosophize and teach, but never act?  Probably not.  For war is all, and king of all… and all things come into being out of strife.  Unlike most, I know what gods and heroes are.  My curse and the warlike life I’ve led colors all: the battles I have fought; the dead I carry in my heart, from battlefield to battlefield, war to war. My battle with all sorcerers is not yet over; may never be.  Trying to help Nikodemos takes me back to my own young days of strife and fury.  The best men choose immortal glory in preference to mortal good. In teaching Niko, Cime and I have another chance to know the name of justice, to prove that opposition brings concord as we guide this hero, closer than any blood son to me, toward a worthy future.

Do you have any phobias?  No.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. When I am in battle, I am faster than any other upon the field.  If I am on a Trôs or other such horse, I can transfer my speed to my mount.  And, of course, any wound I take will heal, any limb regrow.

Tell Us About Your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live:  Now when I can I ‘live’ with my Stepsons in Lemuria, a seaside island citadel where time does not pass as it does elsewhere.  From there, with Cime’s mystic powers, I can stage any mission, fight in any place or time.  At this moment we are campaigning somewhere in ancient Thrace, Pelasgian times, at the whim of the storm-god Enlil, who shepherds us through all things.  War will be in the mix of it, with the god guiding us.  My Stepsons are skirmisher light cavalry; we fight with edged bronze weapons, primarily, against what hegemonies challenge us or displease the gods.  But a man is a warrior because of mind, not weaponry.  We fight with weapons at hand, against whatever confronts us, and mostly where the ancient gods still war.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? Many.

If so do you follow one of them? I believe in admitting that all things are one.

Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour:  Our world, as you call it, all that lies within humanity’s ken, is full of gods.  We are servants of history and its storm-gods, sworn to the gods of war.  Enlil is the foremost of these for my fighters and myself.  The worlds we know are polytheistic, and many wars we fight are actually theomachies – wars between gods or among gods and sorcerous humans, who warp the fates of simpler men.  Once I warred in a nearly godless future, to bring them the means to repopulate their heavens; this we did for people dying from their paucity of belief, prey to the lusts and greed and fears of others no wiser than themselves. As for myself, I am a simple warrior-philosopher; my relations with gods remain pragmatic:  when gods reside in my flesh and in my head, then they control the battle tempo, not I. Is this religion, when gods and fates and worse walk the earth?  Or is it reality?

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?  I mentioned that I go wherever the gods send me.  I have been in Akkad, in Sumer; I have been in Chaeronea, in Nisibis, in Mygdonia, in Thrace.  I have been in what you call 20th century New York City, and to a future of dying oceans and a place there called Sandia.  I have been to the ends of the earth, to Bandara, to Lemuria, to the City at the Edge of Time, and to Meridian, the archipelago of dream and nightmare.  To Meridian, I suspect the Sacred Band will soon return.

Name and describe a food from your world.  A posset:  spiced wine and cheese or milk and barley, sometimes with nuts and sometimes not; served often with lamb or fish or ox-tail.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world?  We have a surfeit of magic, sorcerers from every time and plane meddling with Fates and gods.  We have wars between wizards and gods.  We have sorcery to rival godhead.  Thus, because people believe more in evil than in good, it does.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.)  Our world, I once said, is an everliving fire, with portions of it kindling and portions going out. In age of bronze, we hear Plato’s musings about timocracy and democracy and tyranny, as well as the elusive republic. I have lived in earlier theocracies, oligarchies, and simple hereditary monarchies, often passed down through female lines.  Meritocracy I have seen but little of; Kakistocracy is, to my mind, a condition synonymous with governance by decree of any kind and especially with simple democracy:  people will choose those most like themselves, long before they’ll choose a person one bit better:  the foolish hate the smart and try to destroy them. This truth itself dependably produces bad government.

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?  Prejudice lives in flesh; the black dog hates the white; the roan horse hates the chestnut; in herds, mares of one color stick together.  How different, for humans?  People hate anyone different, and call them prey.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. The greatest myth is that wisdom is called by the name of Gods.  The legendary Gilgamesh sat beside the dead Enkidu seven days, until a maggot fell from Enkidu’s nose.

What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? What item would you not be able to live without?  Most of all, I need my war horses and the heroes who bestride them or drive them.  The items I need are loyalty, clarity, and justice.  The technology in my world depends on when you ask me:  sometimes we have bronze spears and war axes; sometimes we have iron flights and crossbows; sometimes we have fireballs, and armor forged by men and gods.  I have been where metal flies and chariots need no horses; in those places, man has become the slave of all he owns, afraid of having so much to lose – and thus has nothing.

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some.  We have a populous cosmos.  We have demons and devils and fiends; we have were-wolves and were-snakes and men and women who can change into any creature at whim.  We have undeads and necromants; we have dragons and rocs and creatures part-man who lie deep in the seas; we have Froth Daughters and Fates and Erinys and sphinxes and naiads, and creatures who lived before the gods were born and spawned them.  We have pantheons of gods, most of whom are jealous and bellicose, and deadly when they walk the earth.  We have gods within and gods without. We Stepsons ourselves are the weapons of the gods, some say.

Within your civilisation what do you think is the most important discovery/invention? That an intelligible light drives all things through all things, under a sun that is new every day.

Name three persons of influence/renown within your society and tell why they are influential (Could be someone like Christ/Mandela/Queen Elizabeth or a renowned figure from a non-human/fantasy world.)  First, Enlil, greatest of the storm gods of heaven.  Next, Harmonia, whom we call Harmony, who is Justice, and sometimes walks among my Sacred Band.  Next comes Maat who tends the Balance. For eons, Aškelon of Meridian, demiurge, ruled over the seventh sphere, realm of dream and shadows, but no longer – but that is another story.  And we have the Logos, by many different names, who some call the will of Fates and some call Thunderbolt.

Please check out further posts in the next few days for Tempus and his Sacred Band.

https://sacredbander.com/

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/beyond-sanctuary-heroic-fiction-review/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/character-interview-number-three-nikodemos-fantasymythic/

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTaDPNWAtHk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8FqgC4eK6A

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sacred_Band_of_Stepsons
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempus_(novel)

http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-quotes-about-sacred-band-ethos/reference

Here are book links in chronological order, beginning with Beyond Sanctuary, the Author’s Cut, first book in the Sacred Band of Stepsons Beyond Trilogy.  Beyond Sanctuary  will be free March 7, 8, 9, 2014):

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Sanctuary-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FPDG

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FIG0

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Wizardwall-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FH6G

http://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Tales-ebook/dp/B00BI175EY

http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY

Here are Kindle Single links (shorter Sacred Band of Stepsons fiction):

http://www.amazon.com/Man-His-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B008MZ1T14

http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Weather-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00BEJX8MS

http://www.amazon.com/MAGE-BLOOD-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B006ZK8PLU

http://www.amazon.com/Wake-Riddler-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B0087OSP0S

Here are the Audio book links:

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/A-Man-and-His-God-Audiobook/B00BEJ7LI0

http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Mage-Blood-Audiobook/B00CXVRDWM

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Wake-of-the-Riddler-Audiobook/B00AU7IQZE

Interview with the Sacred Band’s Ghost Horse

See original post at:  https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/character-interview-ghost-horse-fantasy/?platform=hootsuite

Character Interview – Ghost Horse – Fantasy

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Something a little different today, we get to meet not only a brave animal but one who has lived and died and lived again.

Welcome to Ghost Horse, from the Sacred Band Books.

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s):  Ghost-horse; the bay.  If you can hear me, you’ll know it.  I have no name in the way you mean.

Age:  thirteen years, interrupted by death and resurrection.

Please tell us a little about yourself:  A war-horse am I.  Strong and brave.  Straton’s horse am I, once found, then lost, then found again.  Of all the Sacred Band of Stepsons, Ace called Straton alone now rides me.  When he’s astride my broad back, nothing is impossible.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less:  Sixteen hands, blood bay war horse, broad backed and strong.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?  A moral code?  Bear my rider whence he must go, forever.  Run far and fast.  Bring my rider’s battle to his enemies.  Charge boldly; never falter; never hesitate; refuse no challenge.  Feel the love, hear the words of my human partner…

Would you kill for those you love?  I do.

Would you die for those you love?  I have done so.  And been brought back to life for my human partner’s sake thereafter.  Now nothing harms me, no metal cuts me; in any battle, my blood never spills. Nowadays I do not die for love; I live for love – the love of my human partner, Straton.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses.  Carrots and sugar-beets, those my weaknesses, which I dearly love.  Running over green grass, into battle, finding the safest path to victory for my rider, protecting him and all his Sacred Band:  these are my strengths:  As the only ghost-horse of the Stepsons, my place is always in the forefront:  with Straton I forge new ground; I bear him everywhere, unflinching.  Such service we have seen, such places far and wide, as few horses ever see.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Ace called Straton, the right rider for this broad back; the right partner for my battles.

Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions?  Do I like other horses?  As with men, some horses are brave, some cowardly; some generous, some churls.  I was bitten in the throat by a man who attacked me as if he were a dog, once.  So dogs are not my friends.  Sometimes a cat will bide with me, in this stall or that.  I like cats:  they give loyalty when deserved; they are rightly cautious.

Do you have a family? Tell us about them.  I have been a cavalry horse since I was two, and chosen from a band of captured bachelors.  Straton has brought me up; he is all I trust, all I love; he is my family.  Sometimes he finds me a mare or two, but battle is my greatest passion:  in war, Straton and I find our greatest joy.  Sometimes we run for the sheer bliss, over vast plains and through forest, with no enemy in sight.  Straton’s lover, Ischade, resurrected me after the dog attacked me, after the battle in which I was mortally wounded. She loves Straton; I love Straton, so Ischade is, in some ways, under my protection.  Up behind Straton she sometimes rides me, and then no place is too far, no goal to loft, for us three

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you? I remember the day Straton chose me, the look in his eye, the apple in his hand.  He sent me to other men, to teach me the ways of war, and got me back again.  We have thundered into so many battles, even the Battle of Chaeronea together.  With Straton astride me, I never doubt, I never fear.  Wherever he wills to go, I can carry him, be it to hell itself and back again.  This I believe because Straton knows it:  whatever my rider thinks, I know to be true.  Wherever he wants to go, I will take him.  Whatever he needs, I try to be.  So Straton gives me the wants, the needs, the courage of a man, and I show him the wants, the needs, the courage of a horse, and together we are indomitable. A horse wants to fight or flee, as does a man; deciding which is my rider’s task.  Making his wishes real, that is mine.

Do you have any phobias?  Dogs and the men who become them.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I have a spot on my withers where men can see into hell itself, and a spot on my hip where they can see into nothing at all.

Tell Us About Your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live:  The world in which I live is wherever my rider, Ace called Straton, wishes to go.  I have fought on Wizardwall, against the black mages of Nisibis.  I have fought on the battlefield of Chaeronea; I have fought in mystical Meridian.  Since I was foaled in Syr, I have been adventuring:  first among the other horses, until the mares cast us bachelors out; then in the high steppe country, and at last as a war-horse of first Straton and then the greater Sacred Band.  We fight in the forefront; we travel by cloud conveyance from war to war.  We have numinous allies to take us any place in space and time.  Except for my rider and the witch who loves him, all I care for is contained in Tempus’ Sacred Band.  And someday, Straton has promised me, we three will ride forever, away from witchery and angry men, in the green fields of the gods.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? A horse believes what he can see and feel, and is bred to tell what he can trust.  We have our gods, you know:  Epona, Poseidon, Hekate, and the war gods before them:  a war-horse gives his life into his rider’s hands, and that rider gives all to the gods.  My world is full of enemies, who’d eat a horse as soon as kill a man, and those enemies have rival gods.  So we war-horses fight on the side of right, as our riders see it.  And that will never change, has been the same since the first gods were foaled.

If so do you follow one of them? I follow the gods of Ace, called Straton.  As long as he lives, that will never change.

Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour:  I am a war-horse, so I go to war.  With Ace called Straton astride, I do the needful, all his gods command, since his gods are also mine.  I am a peace-keeper, so I ply angry streets.  I am an explorer, so I lope where no horse has ever gone before.

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?  I go where Ace called Straton needs to go.  I fight for him, with him, beside him.  I keep him safe whether we are in this world or another.  Anyplace a horse can go, I take him – even a world away.  I have spun in whirlwinds unto foreign lands, even Thrace and Scythia and on from there.  Not future or past or anywhere is barred from the Sacred Band of Stepsons, so in ranks we sortie.  Even Tempus, the Riddler, has commended me in public for my bravery, when I have fought in dimensions some horses never tread, and more farther realms lie just ahead….

Name and describe a food from your world.  Salt hay, tender and tan, bluest grass bitten right from the earth, roots and dirt and all; fat oats, steamed until their hulls break open; corn and molasses and flaxseed mashed.  My favorites though, are carrots with their green and lacy tops, and chunks of tender sugar-beet.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world?  Magic is the necromant who resurrected me, gave me a chance to come back to this world for the rider whom I love.  Some think magic is aught than natural; I say magic is the wind in your mane, yielding turf underfoot, and a rider on a mission.

What form of politics is dominant in your world?  Politics are for mares and men, not for stallions.  I will walk upon my hind legs to strike any enemy of my rider or my mares and foals.  I will trample jackals and lions and feral dogs.  I believe in giving one warning squeal, and a bellow of promise; then I strike, unashamed, to defend what is mine:  that is the extent of politics for me.  The rest is clacking of jaws and whistles on the air.

Does your world have different races of people?  We have humans of every color and belief and shape and size, just as we have horses as diverse.  In a herd of horses, as in a crowd of people, those who are alike band together against those of different nature.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. In ancient times, Zeus gave two horses to Tros, king of Troy, to console the king after the god had taken Ganymede for his young lover.  From those great horses, the best, the strongest, the fastest horses are sprung.

What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? We have chariot with metal-bound wheels and axles fitted with scythes.  Some of us wear armor, felt or scales of metal.  Some of us have iron shoes upon our hooves.   What item would you not be able to live without?  My rider.

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some.  This world is full of gods, mages, shape-shifters; and demi-gods, and elementals – even a demiurge or two and creatures who spawn weather gods and fashion fates.

Within your civilisation what do you think is the most important discovery/invention? Horsemanship, so that we and our riders can be better partners.

Name three persons of influence/renown within your society and tell why they are influential (Could be someone like Christ/Mandela/Queen Elizabeth or a renowned figure from a non-human/fantasy world.)  Hekate, goddess of race horses.   The Hippoi Athanatoi, the immortal horses of the gods themselves, offspring of the weather gods themselves; and all the Hittite god of horses, Tarhun, in and of himself a storm god.

Author notes:

Book(s) in which this character appears plus links

The Sacred Band  http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

The Fish the Fighters and the Storm God  http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY

Author name: Janet Morris and Chris Morris

 

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sacred_Band_of_Stepsons

https://www.facebook.com/TheSacredBand

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris

https://www.facebook.com/JanetEMorris

https://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings

https://www.facebook.com/fishfightersonggirl

https://www.facebook.com/SacredBandBeyondTriolgy

https://www.facebook.com/PerseidPublishing

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://sacredbander.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Janet-Morris/e/B001HPJJB8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

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