Teenage twins Lynx and Laurel Raven are on a mission. After being told by their grandmother that a family heirloom is missing, the twins head to their uncle's house on the Gulf of Finland for a two-week stay, hoping to find the valuable stone tablet that their uncle supposedly snatched from her house. But when their cousin's eccentric tutor gives Laurel a strange book to read and their aunt reveals that their ancestors were shamans, their search takes on a new sense of urgency.
The twins quickly locate the tablet in their uncle's office and manage to solve an ancient Finnish puzzle-which activates dormant technology and transports Laurel to Nodyynia, a world at war. As she struggles to survive, Lynx sets off to find her with the help of a guardian shaman who is convinced Lynx is a prophet destined to destroy a dark shaman poised to awaken from a lengthy sleep stasis and seek revenge.
In this spellbinding fantasy, as the guardians prepare for an invasion, a portal begins to open; it is up to Lynx to do whatever it takes to find his sister and stop an evil shaman before he destroys the universe.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.13(d)|
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DARK SHAMAN AWAKENING
By N. H. Fennecus
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 N. H. Fennecus
All rights reserved.
The gravel crunched as the Mercedes made the turn into the mansion's parking courtyard. Lynx elbowed his twin sister, Laurel. She looked up from her book and tried to smack him in the arm, but Lynx was prepared and swatted her hand away.
"Just thought you'd wanna know we're at Aunt Nora's," he said with a smirk.
"What, I couldn't have figured that out when the car stopped?" Laurel bent down to get her purse from the car floor.
"There could be a tornado outside, and you wouldn't notice. I bet you're reading one of those chick books. Are you at the part where the vampire tells the stupid girl he can't live without her and they kiss? Like that would happen. He'd just drink her blood and turn her into a corpse. Hey, now that would be a story I would read—well, actually, I'd just wait for the movie to come out."
"Shut up. It's not that kind of book. I'm reading one of the novels we'll cover in Finnish literature class this year."
Lynx rolled his eyes. "Maybe no one clued you in, but they don't give extra points for having read the books over summer vacation."
"And maybe if you read more and prepared for class, you wouldn't have such lousy grades. I'd rather not see you at a burger place after graduation."
"I'm touched that you care. I'll give you extra fries, being my sister and all."
"No, you idiot, I don't want the embarrassment of showing up with my university friends and having to tell them you're my twin brother. They might think there's something wrong with me."
The driver turned around and put his arm around the front passenger-seat headrest. "We've arrived at the Zykes' residence."
"Oops, I guess we both missed it. See, it's your fault, Laurel—now we've wasted this man's time, all because you were too involved in your romance novel." Lynx grinned, watching Laurel's face turn red.
She pushed her door open and got out.
Lynx shrugged at the driver, opened his door, and came around to the back of the Mercedes. The trunk had been popped open. Lynx reached in to grab his faded blue duffel bag. Laurel was struggling to lift her luggage. She swung the heavy suitcase down awkwardly, dropping it onto her brother's foot.
Lynx sucked in his breath in pain. He kicked the suitcase off with his free foot. "Damn it! Watch it!"
"If you'd helped me lift it out, that wouldn't have happened."
"Maybe you shouldn't pack everything you own. We're only here for two weeks, and they have this new invention. Maybe you've heard of it—something called a washing machine?" He slammed the trunk closed and followed Laurel as she wheeled her suitcase up the ramp to the concrete landing. Lynx set his duffel down and looked up at the imposing metal door.
Laurel pressed the doorbell. They heard a muffled buzz. "I hate coming here," she said, looking down at her shoes. She lifted her right foot onto the suitcase and tried to remove a drop of pine tar from her dirty white canvas sneakers. "I'll need a new pair next year; these aren't going to make it." She sighed.
Lynx shrugged. "It's not so bad if you can just avoid the family. Hey, at least they have really good food, all the cable channels, and the latest movies and games." He frowned. "I guess I'll have to skip some of that, since this time we have something we need to do." Lynx lowered his voice. "If Grandma's right, and Uncle Zykes stashed it here somewhere, we'll be looking for a while. This place is huge."
"I hope it's here, not in some bank vault where we can't even get close." Laurel pressed the button again, holding it down longer. "Come on, people, I need to go. Why do they always make us wait so long?"
"We're the peons, remember? 'Elp, 'elp! I'm bein' oppressed!"
Laurel smiled at the Monty Python reference before the look of annoyance returned. "I know we're not Aunt Nora's favorites, but you'd think her only sister's kids could get better treatment."
"I'd settle for money and gifts. It's not like she can't afford it, being married to that Russian zillionaire."
Laurel crossed her legs. "Being stingy with her money isn't the worst of it. I hate that she looks down her nose at me. You know what I think? I think she was always jealous that Mom was the smarter one, so she thought she'd do one better and become the richer one." She shook her head. "It's kind of sad in a way."
"I dunno, she seems to have gotten the better deal. If Mom was a doctor or a lawyer instead of an anthropologist working for the University of Helsinki, she'd make more money. We wouldn't be sent here while she goes and digs up old crap to research and put in museums no one ever goes to."
The locks clicked open.
"Finally," Laurel grumbled, uncrossing her legs. "I really gotta go."
An attractive, young, blonde woman in a blue housekeeper uniform opened the door. "Yes, can I help you?" She looked past them, as if expecting some responsible adult to appear.
Lynx was content to hang back and let Laurel do the explaining while he admired the view. He wondered if the young woman would consider dating a seventeen-year-old.
Laurel rearranged her face into a sweet smile. "Hello—you must not have been told we were expected. I'm Laurel Raven, and this is my brother, Lynx. We're Mrs. Zykes's niece and nephew."
"I see. But why, then, are you at the delivery entrance?" The woman smoothed her white apron with her hands several times. Her eyes darted between the twins as she tucked her hair behind her ear.
Lynx stepped forward. "We'll wait here. Just check that it's okay, and come back to let us in."
Her cheeks flushed a warm pink. "Yes, of course." She shut the door softly in their faces, looking apologetic.
Laurel leaned against the wall, crossing her legs again. "Did I mention I really need to go?"
"So quit flapping your lips about it and go. There's a nice bush right over there."
She punched his right arm, hard.
He shoved her back.
Laurel shot him a dark look before pointedly turning to face the door.
After several silent minutes of waiting, the door opened again. The young housekeeper stepped aside to let them pass. "Come in."
Laurel pushed past Lynx, rolling her heavy suitcase over his still-throbbing toe.
Grimacing, Lynx bent down to massage his toe through the worn sneaker leather. Once the immediate pain receded to a duller ache, he hobbled into the long service corridor and shut the door. Laurel's voice was already receding up the stairs as she urged the housekeeper to hurry and show her to her room, so she could use the bathroom. He dropped his duffel. Great, more waiting, he thought as his stomach rumbled to remind him that breakfast had been eons ago.
Lynx stepped into the kitchen, which was just to the right of the entrance. The large indoor grilling station was sizzling. He stood by the door, trying to find a familiar face. He smiled when he saw her in the far corner. She was sharpening a large knife in a machine.
Lynx walked around the prep stations until he stood beside her. "Hey, what's for lunch today?"
She paused, still holding the knife in her right hand, as she tucked an errant purple lock of hair under her cap. Her smoky, heavily made-up blue eyes looked at him in recognition. "Lynx, right? Nice to see you again." She put the knife down and cleared her throat. "Well, today the kitchen is serving moose burgers, hunted by Mr. Zykes himself last season. The burgers are loaded with a chanterelle and morel mushroom medley and a garnish of lingonberries on a graham roll. I'd tell you about the grilled vegetables and salad, but from what I remember, you're pretty much a carnivore." She smiled, flashing sharp, white teeth.
"Sounds great." He looked past her to the grill, the source of the delicious scent of charred meat.
"Hang on a sec," she said with a wink. She hustled over to the cold storage room and returned to hand him a small, plastic- wrapped package. "This sandwich roll should tide you over until lunch."
She picked up the knife and waved it at him. "Now, you'd better scram. Chef doesn't like people loitering about his realm."
Lynx hustled back out to the hallway. He took off the plastic wrap, shoving it into the side pocket of his duffel, and ate the roll in four bites. He wished the housekeeper would hurry up to show him to a room. He could have found it himself if she'd just have told him which room in the staff wing he was staying in this time. What was taking so long?
The housekeeper reappeared around the corner. "Follow me," she said, leading him up the stairs.
She walked past the landing that led to the hallway with the servant and staff rooms. "Hey, wait! We usually stay over there in one of the unused rooms."
"The staff wing is fully occupied currently. We've had some additions to the full-time security staff recently."
She didn't offer any more information.
This was a new twist. The isolated staff wing was located all the way at the opposite end of the house from the private family wing. Aunt Nora had made it clear many times that she didn't want him and Laurel wandering around her space.
"Mrs. Zykes has approved your use of a guest suite. You'll be near your cousin."
"Great." He was sure the sarcasm wasn't lost on her, as the housekeeper turned around and gave him a disapproving look.
Lynx chewed his lip. Having Nikolas next door might make sneaking around looking for it more difficult, especially if Nikolas got nosy. He followed the sound of her heels clickety-clacking across the red granite floors. These floors were definitely not going to make it easy for Lynx and his sister to sneak around at night. His eyes wandered upward. The young housekeeper had nice calves.
He shook his head. He had to concentrate on his surroundings. The long, wide corridor was lined with locked glass museum cases filled with ancient artifacts. He noticed some bronze jewelry, a variety of ceramic pottery, and a case full of arrowheads. As he walked by, Lynx glanced at the contents, scanning for it. He was looking for a granite tablet.
Grandma had called the home phone last week when Mom was at work. She wanted them both on the line. He had never heard Grandma that upset. She asked if they remembered when she had shown them a stone tablet last Christmas. It had stick-figure carvings of animals and people on the top, she reminded them. Lynx remembered the color of the granite more vividly: a clear red, with no veins. He almost hadn't believed it was granite until he touched the cold surface and felt the weight of the stone. Grandma had told them the tablet was very old and valuable. It had been handed down for generations, and one day the twins would inherit it. Now it was missing. Grandma couldn't explain how, but she knew it was Uncle Zykes who had sent someone to take it from her house. She had made them promise to get the tablet back.
The cases were too full for Lynx to casually examine them on his way past. He'd have to come back later to look at each one. Lynx shifted his attention to the passing rooms. The moving wall partitions had been left open, giving him a view into the dining hall. The smoky-black metal-and-glass table was surrounded by too many chairs to count. Connecting rooms were arranged with groupings of leather seating. A grand piano was tucked into an alcove.
He tried to imagine the parties his cousin Nikolas could have at his house. If Nikolas actually went to school, he'd be the most popular kid there. He was too good for that, though—only the best private tutors for Lynx's cousin would do. Nikolas had a great party house, but Lynx wondered how many friends his cousin really had. He shook it off. No way was he going to feel sorry for Nikolas living in this mansion, when he had been stuck sharing a room with Laurel until Mom had finally found an affordable three-bedroom apartment when they were ten.
The housekeeper stopped as another staff member stepped out of a side hall and motioned for her to wait. The man asked her a question about the banquet setup for an upcoming party. As she replied, Lynx waited, soaking in the light flooding in from the seamless, floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Expansive terraces continued the endless seating options outdoors. The Baltic Sea glimmered between sparse granite islands. Some islands almost drowned, barely providing resting spots for seagulls; others were tall enough to cover the masts of passing sailing yachts.
He wondered again what Uncle Zykes's real business was. Few jobs paid enough to allow someone to afford this kind of palatial house. It was a house Lynx could easily picture presidents and CEOs of major corporations being entertained in. From what he'd overheard Aunt Nora saying over the years, that was exactly who they had built the showcase house to impress.
Uncle Zykes's business empire, Z Corp, was a conglomerate with its hands in many key industries. No one had ever seen any proof of wrongdoing, but the activities of Z Corp had a fishy stench. Mom had brought up the latest news about Z Corp over dinner at home many times; she read all the news articles surrounding Nora's husband and his company. She had described to them the many scandals involving Z Corp—how key witnesses and reporters had met with unfortunate accidents or sudden aversions to talking before anything could be proven. Mom's constant complaint was that she didn't like Uncle Zykes, but she had no choice: she had to send them to Nora's when fieldwork took her away. Grandma was just too old to handle them for long periods of time.
The staffer left, and the housekeeper resumed walking.
"Is Uncle Zykes home?"
"Mr. Zykes is away on business."
"Good." Lynx flushed. "I mean, it's good that he's busy ... good for business, that is."
She gave him a quizzical look. "I suppose so."
They walked toward the heavy wooden double doors that separated the family wing from the rest of the house. Lynx glanced through the open doorway to his right. The plaque on the door read "Security Office." His eyes met the stare of a strong-jawed, uniformed man behind a desk.
After Lynx passed the doorway, he asked, "Did you say there's more security staff?"
"I guess no raiding the cookie jar at night?"
She stopped to look at him and smiled. "If it's cookies you crave at night, I suggest that you stay in your room and call the kitchen to bring you something."
Lynx wondered briefly whether acquiring the tablet had prompted Uncle Zykes to increase security, but that seemed paranoid.
The housekeeper opened the family-wing door and led him down a wide metal staircase to the private dining and living rooms. They continued down another display case-lined hallway running the length of the inland side of the house, past the dual master bedrooms and Nikolas's suite of rooms.
"Here you are. Your sister is in the room next door."
Lynx closed the door, turned around, and tossed his duffel on the floor. He peeked in the doorway to his left. The lights came on automatically, reflecting off the bathroom's gleaming stone and tile surfaces. The bedroom had a desk, a separate table to eat at, and two armchairs facing the wall-mounted TV, which was also viewable from the large bed. Unlike the staff quarters, which faced the access road and parking area, this suite's large windows offered a view of the Baltic seascape. He turned from the vista to the sound of a knock at the door.
"Come in—it's open."
Laurel swept in, surveying the space. "My room's bigger."
"Good for you."
"Anyway, Mom just sent a text to check whether we made it.
I said yes, but to prove it, say cheese." Laurel clicked her cell at him. "There—now she can see what nice digs we got too. Won't she be surprised?"
"She's not the only one," Lynx said, looking out the windows at the Gulf of Finland.
"Listen to what she just sent: Spoke to Nora. Nikolas's tutor started lessons already. Both of you can join. Great opportunity. Not a request. Love, Mom."
"That sucks! School isn't supposed to start for another two weeks." He banged his fist on the desktop.
"Well, according to Mom, school starts now."
Lynx kicked the empty trash can into the opposite corner of the room. It made a satisfying clatter.
"Nice—real mature. Unless you want to lose your allowance for who knows how long, I'd show up for tutoring."
"How are we supposed to look for the tablet now?"
Excerpted from DARK SHAMAN AWAKENING by N. H. Fennecus. Copyright © 2013 N. H. Fennecus. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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