Sara from Eryri: Sons and Daughters of Aquila

Overview

It is 1588 in Eryri, an isolated village deep in the mountains of Wales. For as long as she can remember, twelve-year-old Sara has had a kinship with animals. Happiest in her hilltop hideout where she can peer down into the village below, Sara knows a strange traveling star has forever changed the way her elders think about their future. But when an old man relays the legend of Eryri's beginnings to Sara, he unintentionally fuels her defiant and adventurous spirit.

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Sara from Eryri: Sons and Daughters of Aquila

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Overview

It is 1588 in Eryri, an isolated village deep in the mountains of Wales. For as long as she can remember, twelve-year-old Sara has had a kinship with animals. Happiest in her hilltop hideout where she can peer down into the village below, Sara knows a strange traveling star has forever changed the way her elders think about their future. But when an old man relays the legend of Eryri's beginnings to Sara, he unintentionally fuels her defiant and adventurous spirit.

Decades before Sara was born, giant eagles claimed the skies and meadows around her village. When humans intruded, the birds abandoned Eryri, but left with a chilling warning: if humans ever again invade the sacred places of the eagles, they will destroy the village. But it is not long before curiosity wins over common sense and village laws. As Sara sojourns into the wilderness in search of the eagles, she soon discovers that Wales is a perilous place. After she is captured by giant birds who threaten revenge, Sara desperately befriends a squirrel and eagle who quickly become her allies.

In this captivating fantasy tale, Sara and her newfound friends must rely on their newly discovered powers as they embark on a death defying mission to save Eryri from destruction.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781450289498
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Sara from Eryri

Sons and Daughters of Aquila
By Dan Martin

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Dan Martin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-8949-8


Chapter One

Sara huddled behind a thick cover of gorse to catch her breath. A morning breeze riffled through the wild grasses around her. She turned to gaze anxiously at the landscape she had just crossed. Locks of hair blew across her face, and her eyes, freckles, and hair blended into a single color, like dark, shiny copper.

She rested only a moment and then sprinted along a pitch of purple heather that stretched far above her to the top of a grassy knoll; her thin legs, like saplings of willow, strong and full of the vitality of youth, carried her quickly to the summit. Far below was her village. She gazed smugly across the circle of stone huts until she spotted her own. It wasn't hard to find, built at a strange angle to the others, like an afterthought, and standing farthest from the village square, an area enclosed by stone cottages, like solemn sentries guarding a common captive.

The high crest of heather and gorse made a perfect hideout. As far as anyone knew, she was still somewhere in the village, carrying out the routine of a twelve-year-old girl who was not to leave the ring of cottages. She had simply told those in the village that she was working in the fields that day, and she had told those in the field that she was doing her regular chores in the village, and then she had created her own excitement.

From her lofty hideout, she could keep track of everybody, and no one ever knew the difference. Always, she made the journey on her own; she really didn't have friends in the village anyway, which was fine with her. Besides, her best companions were the wild animals whose homes could be found in the wilderness around Eryri: the small groves of oak, the open meadows, and the underground burrows.

For as long as she could remember, she had had a kinship with animals. She found that if she concentrated her thoughts in a certain way, focused on an aura of light around the creature, and sensed willingness from the animal, their worlds would merge in a mystical way, and they understood each other's minds. It didn't always work, and it didn't work with every kind of animal, but when it did work, it worked marvelously well. Others in the village could do the same thing. So, why bother making friends? Sara needed no other companionship than the wild animals that were willing to cooperate with her.

Occasionally, a kid in the village would show interest in being her friend, like Ceir, the baker's son.

"Where were you yesterday?" he had recently inquired after studying Sara for several moments with a long, hazel-eyed gaze. "I looked in the village, the fields, and all over for you," he persisted. "So, what did you want?" she replied caustically, returning his stare. Ceir had a predictable set of expressions whenever he talked to her: suspicious, puzzled, or adoring.

"Oh, nothing. I was just wondering," Ceir replied with a long sigh followed by a suspicious gaze as he turned slowly and walked away, his cuffs dragging in the dirt. His woolen trousers were always too big for him.

Ceir could definitely be a challenge, but Sara had more than one strategy for dealing with him. He enjoyed the baking that she would steal from her mother's oven to share with him under cover of an unused lambing barn. Such snacking times provided an opportunity to set down some ground rules. If Ceir were going to be difficult about where she went or what she did, why should she snitch cookies for him? She would then take off on some new errand, leaving him to puzzle over the new proposition.

But again, today, as he had so many times in the past, Ceir had tried to follow her. As usual, she had found a way to leave him behind. First of all, she never took the same path out of the village, which always seemed to confuse him. Second, she could run a lot faster than he could, leaving him far out of sight by the time she reached the first slopes of heather. It wasn't that she didn't like Ceir, particularly, it was just that if he knew where she went, sooner or later he was bound to tattle, and she wasn't about to give up her freedom.

Sara settled into her hilltop hideout and peered down at a small group filing into the village square below. They huddled together on wooden benches and chairs of willow. Soon she figured out who they were: the old men of the village, who called themselves elders. From their arm waving, restless bounding in and out of their seats, striding about, and nose-to-nose sparring, Sara knew that a hot debate was going on—and she knew exactly what the topic would be. These days nobody talked about anything else.

How long had it been since a strange new star had moved across the sky—two years? Magus, an elder who always had more to say than anybody else, had spotted the star when it first appeared above the western horizon; he called together the old men of the village to cipher the meaning of the strange new event. The rest of the villagers looked on, watching the hazy ball of light and waiting anxiously to find out what it all meant.

In the beginning, Magus's eyes had shone with wonder. "Perhaps good news is on the way," he exclaimed as the star inched its way above the horizon into a black, moonless night so studded with brilliant starlight that Magus and the old men looked like dark, tilted statues studying the heavens.

But faces of the elders became grimmer as the nights passed. Aquila, the great celestial eagle, was first on the course of the traveling star; the star's long tail painted an arrow across the talons of the giant fowl. On the second evening, the cone of light streamed across the dagger of Orion, the hunter. By early dawn, the strange star had faded into the rising sun.

"It is a terrible omen," Magus told the villagers, his face a mask of fear. "The traveling star has penetrated two powerful constellations, spending two nights in the sky, which means that two summers hence, an unspeakable tragedy shall come to pass. I have never witnessed a portent filled with so many terrible signs." He declared in a shaking voice, "The future will surely bring events so vile and far-reaching that Eryri shall never be the same again."

Sara had asked her father what he thought about the strange new star, since he had appeared rather calm and aloof as the nightly debates raged on among the elders.

He answered her in his usual gentle way. "Perhaps things of the heavens simply have their own cycles of purpose and destiny," he replied thoughtfully. "All we can do is wait and see."

Most villagers, however, had waited with great anguish and dread as the second summer came upon them. But Sara chose to give little heed to the dire predictions of the elders. First of all, the "star" had looked to her more like a long spear of light than a real star. The elders simply fretted too much, she decided. So far, in fact, the summer had been particularly beautiful, and another warm day had come to the mountains.

Sara stood up and brushed the grass from her shift. Today she had something in mind far more interesting than watching old men argue. She gazed along the crest of the hill until she spotted her destination: a tall limestone cliff that formed its foundation on the hilltop before rising, tall and magnificent, into the sky.

She had sought out the cliff because it was a challenge. She easily tired of the routine of the village: weaving, cleaning, and tending the crops. Since turning nine, she had managed to sneak farther and farther away, and no one but Ceir even noticed she was gone. So far, from what she could tell, he kept his suspicions to himself. Now she created her own adventures.

Her first fascination had been the river. Everyone had warned her never to go there alone, but she didn't listen, and she was glad she didn't.

It wasn't long before she figured out where the fast-flowing current of the river broadened into calm pools, ideal for bathing. That was where she learned to swim all on her own. The skill came naturally to her; she could easily dive to the very bottom and explore the sandy folds, feeling sure that no one else had ever seen them before. She would dive from the top of the riverbanks and try to slow down time so she could feel and remember the sensation of flying, but the drop was always too fast to hold onto any real sensation of flight.

Over time, she had grown tired of the river. The shining, white limestone cliff seemed to beckon and challenge her. What was up there? No one, she was certain, had climbed to the very top. She knew there were a few who had set out to climb it, but no one had made it to the top—or she would have heard a lot of boasting by now.

It was midmorning when Sara arrived at the base. She stared into the sky, shielding her eyes from the sun and contemplating the magnificent wall of limestone that rose straight above her to the clouds that rolled past the summit. She gathered her nerve and began the climb slowly, securing each foothold on narrow ledges of stone before feeling above her head for a handgrip—most often a crack in the rock wide enough to place her fingers inside—brace her palms on the stone face, and lift herself higher up the limestone wall. The crags were barely a few inches in front of her nose, and slowly they moved below her as she ascended higher.

Her excitement grew as she continued up the vertical face. Climbing was not so difficult after all, she decided. All one needed was a good sense of balance, strong leg muscles, and feet small enough to fit the narrow ledges. She had probably already climbed higher than anyone else. That notion gave her new energy as she clawed her way even higher, managing to find narrow toeholds that stood firm and handgrips that held strong.

A cool morning breeze had kept her refreshed in the beginning. But after an hour of climbing, the sun had grown hot, beating against the rocky cliff, thinning the air in the crowded space between her and the face of rock. At times it was difficult to breathe.

She could barely imagine how far she had come, but knew she must not look down. She pushed on with determination, moving steadily higher. When she had first begun to climb, the sun had cast her shadow far to her right-hand side. Slowly the shadow moved before her, and she could watch the movements of her own arms and legs, mirrored straight in front of her as in a game of copycat.

By noon she encountered the lodgings of hawks and falcons, their nests of sticks and feathers anchored in broken rows across the rocky crags. She began to visualize how far up the cliff she had climbed; the brushy nests were scarcely visible from the ground. Surely she should be near the top, but when she tilted her head back, there was gray rock as high as she could see. A falcon circled past her, screaming a loud protest, but she had no time or energy for him. She began to fear only the dizziness that was beginning to affect her balance.

Twice a handgrip had failed, and she had nearly slipped. More often now, she hurried to step on a foothold without fully testing the strength. She barely escaped a fall as chunks of rock burst loose, pounding their way down the rock surface with a terrifying echo. Worst of all, she was losing strength.

Her fear grew. What if exhaustion overtook her before she made the summit? She pushed the thoughts aside and continued ever higher, one narrow foothold at a time, one craggy handgrip after another. Now her legs were beginning to tremble as she balanced with only her toes and the balls of her feet holding her onto the cliff. Desperately she resisted the natural temptation to look down, thoughtlessly seeking some level of comfort from the sight of the ground, but knowing only a sheer drop-off awaited, the sight of which would send panic surging through her, robbing her strength and threatening to tear her off the rock face.

"Hold steady," she whispered, commanding her legs to stay strong. "For your life, you must hold on!" She reached as high as she could up the steep cliff, hoping to locate a ledge wide enough for her to rest, but there were only narrow crags and thin cracks in the wall above her. She swept her hands across the cliff beside her, feeling for a wider ledge that could offer her relief. Instead, she gouged the side of her hand on a jagged rock, which began to bleed. The slippery blood made a secure handhold impossible.

She crouched against the cliff finding a position that gave her failing legs a moment of relief.

"Hold steady," she repeated in a lower voice, emulating the voice of her father. "Stay calm, and you will get through—but you must not wait. Use what strength you have left to find a safer place." She stretched as high as she could; her blood-soaked hand could only explore the surface, as it could no longer hold a grip in the thin cracks. Her fingertips nudged a blade of grass.

Relief poured through her. Maybe it was the top. She must hang on, to savor her strength, to feel for a solid clump. She reached higher, and her bloodied hand encircled a shrub. She tugged it experimentally, and it held firm. With the last of her strength, she pulled herself to the top and lay exhausted in the grass, her heart still pounding.

She squeezed her wound with a handful of grass until the bleeding stopped. Finally she gained the strength to examine her newfound land.

The high plateau was wedged between three converging cliffs. Stands of purple foxglove covered the narrow plain; a pair of robins flew past, dodging to miss her. Sara started along the lip of the cliff, and a cloud of swallows scattered from brown, hanging nests.

For the first time, she allowed herself to look down. The village had shrunk to a circle of huts that she could easily cover with the palm of her hand when she stretched forth her arm. Worn trails, like spokes on a giant wheel, ran out from the circle of cottages to fields all around, and the river ran past the edge of the meadows in a thin, twisted rope. Herds of sheep formed pale clusters along the river and then thinned into white speckles scattered across the checkered fields.

Beyond the meadows and cliffs was a long shadow of shrubs that yielded quickly to an immense, dark forest, which moved higher up the slopes and eventually vanished into the rugged apron of the mountains. The mountain ranges seemed to run on forever. The wilderness was beautiful, but sinister and dark; the village was barely a speck of human life in a never-ending vastness.

She walked the top of the cliff, a measure of pride beginning to form inside her. She was certain no one else had ever seen the village from such height, and no one else had conquered the shining limestone cliffs. But gradually her mind turned to the daunting task of getting down. She walked the full span of the cliff, looking for an easier route. She discovered at the very end, where the cliff dropped from the edge of the plateau, that outcrops of boulders, invisible from the ground, led most of the way down. They would offer her a place to rest on her return, and now she would also have gravity helping her down.

Chapter Two

Afternoon was fading when Sara made it back to the grassy knoll. Workers in the fields below had set down their hoes and begun moving slowly back up the trails to the cottages. The sun had sunk low in the sky, touching the tallest mountain; she would be back in time for the evening meal, and she was starving. She licked her fingers and used the moisture to wash away the remaining blood on her hand, straightened her woolen shift, and brushed away smears of dirt and limestone from the climb. With any luck, no one would have even noticed she was gone. She headed down the long hill to home.

Her cottage was cool inside. Its wooden shutters stood wide open, and a cool breeze moved through the house. She walked across the floor to her own room, which was separated by a stone partition from the main living area and her parents' bedroom. She pushed open the shutters on her window to allow a breeze to flow through. She joined her mother in the living area and sat down on a bench at the table.

"Did everything go okay with the field work today, Sara?" her mother queried, with no suspicious undertones, which was a great relief for Sara. None of the excuses she had rehearsed on the way home had made much sense anyhow.

"Just a lot of hard work," Sara said, "and my legs are very tired."

"Well, I am glad you could make yourself useful; there is always a lot of work to be done around Eryri."

Her mother was stirring the contents of a heavy cauldron hanging above the hearth. The sound of breaking bubbles and the steamy aroma of wild parsnip and mutton filled the cottage. Sara's mother looked a bit disheveled; a damp lock of dark hair hung down the side of her face.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Sara from Eryri by Dan Martin Copyright © 2012 by Dan Martin. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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