The Buried Symbol
(The Runes of Issalia #1)
by Jeffrey L. Kohanek
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: May 5th 2016
Black Rose Writing
Without a rune marking his role in society, Brock is doomed to an existence below the lowest rung of the social ladder. Unwilling to accept his fate, the teen risks his life to obtain a fake rune that marks him as a member of the Empire's ruling class. He then embarks on a quest to join an institution where the Empire’s future leaders are trained.
As a student of the Academy, he soon uncovers a chain of secrets kept hidden for centuries, secrets that expose cracks in the foundation of Empire society. Among his discoveries is a powerful magic, long buried and forgotten.
Brock’s compassion and sense of justice are seeds that sprout tight friendships and a blossoming romance. An unwillingness to be bullied earns him a dangerous enemy, becoming a feud that escalates to a climactic showdown.
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Recognizing his surroundings, he remembered the cave they had found to escape the rain. Early morning light emanated from the entrance, shedding light on Tipper, who lay asleep beside him. In the dim light, Brock noticed something near Tipper.
He leaned close to get a better look, finding bones he hadn’t noticed in the dark of night. Near the bones, rows of four parallel lines marked the surface of the rock. His chest constricted as he realized that something lived here, something large.
A howl echoed in the forest outside the cave.
Brock urgently shook Tipper.
“What? What’s happening?” Tipper blurted, sitting up in confusion.
“Shh.” Brock whispered. “Be quiet. There’s something out there.”
Tipper rubbed his eyes. “Huh? What are you talking about?”
A shadow eclipsed the light at the mouth of the cave. As Brock turned toward the entrance, his breath caught in his throat.
Against the light of the morning sky, the silhouette of a massive four-legged creature blocked the opening. Whatever it was, they were in its home and it was angry.
A low growl sounded, its ferocity rumbling in the small cave. The boys backed away, and Brock stumbled when he collided with a boulder near the rear of the cave. He scrambled to his feet as his mind raced. The beast blocked the only exit. Like the banshee attack at Glowridge Pass, they were trapped in a hopeless situation with no way out. His mind drifted back to that event and he reacted.
Brock scooped a bone from the cave floor and began scraping a symbol on the boulder: the same rune he had drawn on Hank.
The creature stepped forward, and Brock noticed the beast’s eyes, glowing an angry red. The smell of wet animal filled the cave, mixing with the smell of fear from Brock and Tipper.
Spurred by desperation, Brock closed his eyes and began pushing with his will. He felt the same force as last time, just beyond himself. Pushing harder, he latched onto it and his body grew flush with hot energy. A storm raged within, threatening to destroy him. He opened his eyes and poured the energy into the rune. It glowed bright red, pulsing as the boulder began to shake.
Brock backed from the advancing creature into the rear of the cave, against Tipper’s cowering form.
The boulder suddenly burst. Bits of rock pelted him, cutting hands held up to protect his face from the beast. The creature leapt back from the blast, dozens of small shards hitting its face and body. It growled in rage. Brock lowered his throbbing hand to see what had happened.
The boulder moved toward the beast. The round headless body of the rock advanced on four legs made of stone, emitting crunching and grinding sounds with each movement.
The hairy beast attacked, swinging vicious swipes with its huge paws. Sharp claws scraped the hard surface of the living boulder and bounced off harmlessly. The beast backed away, but the boulder continued to advance.
The beast attacked again, with little result as the boulder relentlessly forced it backwards. Suddenly, animal was outside, its red eyes squinting in the pale light of pre-dawn. It made one last swipe and then bolted.
The boulder turned the corner to give chase, one leg stepping over the edge, and it disappeared. The rumbling and crunching sound of a small rockslide followed as it tumbled away.
The cave became silent.
“What in the blazes? Brock, what did you do?” Tipper shouted. “What was that thing? What’s happening?”
“I don’t know!” Brock yelled back. He was breathing heavily, trying to calm himself. “I don’t know, Tipper. I had to do something, and it just came to me. I don’t know what it is.”
“It’s like what happened with Hank. You did it again with that big rock,” Tipper said.
“Yeah. I know,” Brock replied. “I wish I knew what it was, but I don’t.”
Brock grabbed his pack and headed toward the entrance. “Let’s get out of here before that thing comes back.”
Stepping outside the cave, he looked down. The rock-thing lay at the bottom of the outcropping, its legs broken off with the pieces still twitching. A shiver went down Brock’s spine.
“That’s creepy,” Tipper said.
Nodding, Brock began to climb down as the first rays of morning sun streaked across the valley.
The Emblem Throne
(The Runes of Issalia #2)
Release Date: October 6th 2016
As they strive to become Masters within the Ministry, Brock and his friends resume their training at the Academy, an institution founded on magic, science, knowledge, law, and combat. They soon discover an expansive web of conspiracies and deceit within the Ministry, hidden behind a veil of benevolence and piety. The exposure of one of those secrets forces Brock and his friends to flee the institution with their lives in the balance.
Joined by a fierce Tantarri warrior, the group embarks on a quest to locate a mysterious throne that has been lost for centuries. Guided by the cryptic words of an ancient prophecy, and backed by a forbidden magic that they are still learning to wield, they journey across the continent to save humanity from extinction.
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He stopped in the middle of the arena floor, dimly lit by the late-day sun coming through the glass panels in the ceiling high above. He glanced toward the stands, nodding to Brock and Ashland. Tegan had asked him to be sure to have a healer present. He had found two. The three of them were alone within the building until the door from the girl’s changing room opened.
With her hair tied back, Tegan had her sparring helmet under one arm and wooden sparring swords in the other. Cameron’s heart began to pound as he watched her long lithe legs stride confidently across the open floor. Rather than wearing the traditional sparring vest and trousers, she wore short brown leather shorts and a matching leather vest, leaving her flat mid-drift exposed. He thought she looked stunning.
She stopped just a few feet from him, flashing a devious smile. “Are you ready for this?”
Cam somehow pulled his focus from her body and mustered a response. “I don’t even know what this is.”
Tegan pulled her helmet down over her head. “This is about redemption, Cammy.” She showed a naughty smile, biting her lip. “I’ve had my way with you a number of times now, but not in the arena. Not for real. Losing to you in the championship last year still irks me. It’s time for a rematch.”
“You want to fight me here and now because of what happened last year?” he asked.
She smiled again, holding her short swords up. “Yes.”
Cam stared at her as he searched for a way out of her bizarre plan. Deciding she wouldn’t take no for an answer, he released a sigh and slid his helmet over his head.
“Okay. Let’s do this, then,” he raised his wooden longsword.
She attacked, spinning with her leading sword high and the following sword low. He slapped the high one away with his shield and blocked the other with his sword. Countering with a stab at her mid-section, he only found air as she dodged to the side.
Now caught in the flow of the fight, Cam forgot that he was fighting the girl of his dreams. Swinging, blocking, dodging, and countering all came naturally in a rapid rhythm. Back and forth, they exchanged blow after blow with neither gaining an advantage. Tegan’s speed and agility made her a difficult target. Her ferocious fighting style required Cam to react rapidly with little opportunity to attack.
As the minutes wore on, Cam could feel the hot wetness of sweat building under the metal helmet. He remained poised, concentrating on the duel as he waited for her to make a mistake.
After blocking a swift series of strikes from Tegan, Cam swung his wooden sword low, trying to catch her off-guard or knock her off-balance. She jumped and flipped backward over the sword as it swept beneath her. When she landed, she thrust hard at his exposed side. Cam had anticipated the move, having seen her use it before. Her swords slashed in vain as he spun away with his shield arm outstretched. The shield clanged off her helmet with a glancing blow, causing her to stumble. In a moment of concern, Cam let his guard down and took a step toward her. She dipped low and slammed her sword under his shield arm and into his ribs. He felt them crack as air shot from his lungs and a grunt escaped his lips. Pulling his shield arm in tight to protect his wound, he stepped backward.
Smiling, Tegan lowered her swords. “Got you.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I think I broke some ribs.”
Cam turned to find Brock and Ashland descending the stairs from the stands. He walked across the floor to meet them.
“That was a pretty spectacular duel,” Brock said as he drew close.
“Yeah. It could have gone either way,” Ashland said. “I think you may have some broken ribs, Cam.”
Cam nodded, holding his side tenderly.
“What about you, Tegan?” Brock asked. “That shield hit to the helmet made quite a racket.”
Tegan yanked her helmet off, her wet red hair sticking to her face. “Just a bit of a headache.”
Ashland stepped close to Cam, putting her hand on his bare arm. A moment later, Cam’s body shook with a chill, and he gasped for air. Thankfully, the deep breaths no longer hurt.
“Thanks for the healing.” Cam said as she stepped away.
Brock held out an apple. “Sorry, but it’s all I’ve got on short notice.”
Cam grabbed it and took a big bite.
“Thank you two for coming to watch,” Tegan said. “Thanks for healing him, too. We’re done here now, so you can leave.”
Brock shrugged. “It was no problem. We’ll see you guys later.”
Grabbing Ashland’s hand as she waved goodbye, Brock led her toward the stairs. Cam continued to nibble at the apple, now half gone.
Tegan turned toward him, her eyes scanning him from head to toe. “Nice fight, Cammy. Thanks for agreeing to do it and for putting effort into it.”
He shrugged, continuing to eat.
“Well, I’m going to take a bath. I stink.” Tegan turned to walk away.
Cam finished off his apple as he stared at her backside strolling toward the changing room. The door to the arena sounded, echoing in the large space as Brock and Ashland departed, leaving Cam and Tegan alone. She stopped and turned back toward him.
“Aren’t you coming? Bathing alone is quite boring.” She spun and continued toward the baths.
Cam considered her words briefly before he followed along. He never knew what this amazing girl was going to do next.
(The Runes of Issalia #3)
Release Date: April 27th 2017
Led by a boy named Brock, a small team of teens urgently assembles a force to confront an army of monsters, one that ravages and destroys anyone or anything in its path.
In a race against time, Brock attempts to train a group of recruits to wield the powerful magic known as Chaos, a magic that he himself is still learning to master. All the while, they must remain vigilant against a secret organization within the Ministry that will do anything to prevent the return of Chaos.
As foretold by an ancient prophecy, the human army must face and defeat their ancient enemy on the Tantarri Plains. For if they fail, all will be lost.
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Salina beamed with pride as she held the brightly glowing stone up in triumph. The other students held hands before their faces to block the bright light from their vision.
“I knew you guys could do this.” Brock said, encouraging them.
“You just need to keep at it. Feeding off raw emotion to grab ahold of Chaos the first time is the tough part. After that, it gets easier each time you do it.”
Salina laughed as she lowered the rock, not looking directly at it.
“I knew I could feel Chaos before, but I just couldn’t seem to get to it. When you had me reliving the fear I felt when they kidnapped me from the Academy, everything changed. I was suddenly able to reach it and draw it in. It felt like I ate a thunderstorm that might tear me apart. It was frightening, yet exhilarating.”
Brock smiled as he shared her excitement. “That sounds right. I shudder to think of what would happen if you continued to hold it in. I don’t think our bodies are made to hold that kind of energy for long.”
Jerome stood. “I want to try again. If she can do it, I know I can do it.”
Salina raised an eyebrow. “Do you think you’re better than me, Jerome?”
Jerome stepped closer, thrusting his chest out as he glared down at Salina. Brock jumped between them.
“Stop!” Brock shouted. “We’re not going to start fighting each other. The Horde is out there, killing innocent men and women. You can’t imagine how frightening they are. We need to band together to stop them, not fight each other over our own stupid pride.”
Despite Jerome being a head taller than Brock, he backed away. Brock could see fear in his eyes. He turned to see Salina step back. Looking to the side, he saw Wraith standing with her ears flat and her teeth showing a menacing grin. Despite the tension of the previous moment, Brock chuckled.
“Relax.” He said to the dog. “I’m fine.”
A rumble from the direction of the wall caught his attention. He turned to find Parker driving a two-horse wagon through the gate. The wagon turned toward the mess hall and slowed as Parker pulled on the reins. With Puri leading Parker’s horse, she and Cam rode in on horseback, following the dust tail left by the wagon. Brock addressed the small group of former Academy students.
“We’ve made some progress today. However, I think now is a good time to stop. Practice drawing the Light rune on your own, memorizing every line. We’ll meet here again tomorrow after breakfast.”
They nodded and thanked him as they dispersed. He stepped away, heading toward the wagon as it circled behind the mess hall. After a dozen steps, Wraith caught up to Brock before slowing to shadow him. When he neared the horses, he held his hand up for her to stay back from them.
“Where’s the driver?” Brock shouted to Parker as the wagon came to a stop.
Parker dropped the reins and jumped down with his bow in hand. The bangs of his dark hair were fluttering in the west wind, dancing against the Orderrune marking his forehead. Standing a half-head taller than Brock, Parker’s eyes met Brock’s gaze.
“It didn’t go as well as it did with the last driver,” Parker said as he met Brock. “I suspected problems just by watching this man’s demeanor. I tried the same casual approach you took last time, but his response to my first question was a crossbow bolt.”
Brock’s brows raised in concern. “You’re okay though?” Parker nodded. “Yes. I saw it coming and ducked. The bolt went over me and then he fired one that sailed between Puri and Cam before he turned the wagon and tried to outrun us.”
“Bad idea.” Brock said.
Parker lifted his bow. “Yeah. I put an arrow through his throat and he tumbled off the wagon. Puri caught the team and slowed the wagon while I checked on the man.”
Glancing around, Parker stepped closer and whispered, “He was marked with ink at his back hairline. It was in the shape of a hand.”
The Hand again. Brock was afraid of that. He suspected they might have an extensive network, stretching far beyond the walls of this compound. He would need to remain mindful of that and treat outsiders with caution until he was confident they were not compromised. An inspection of the previous wagon driver thankfully yielded nothing suspicious. This time, they weren’t so lucky.
“Grab some people and get the wagon unloaded.” Brock said to Parker.
“Cam, Puri,” Brock shouted. “Can you two make sure these horses get food and water? We’ll need this wagon for more supply runs.”
“Sure, Brock.” Cam replied, stepping beside one of the horses to unhook it from the wagon as Puri approached the other.
As they worked, Brock walked away. He waved his hand and Wraith followed. The dark specter of the future was looming on his mind. The confrontation with The Horde was coming fast; he could feel it. He had put it off as long as he could, but it was time to put things in motion.
Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses that imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire young adults and the child within us all. His first book series, The Runes of Issalia, began in May 2016 and will conclude in Spring 2017.
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