2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner
Winner Best Children’s Novel 2014: Preditors & Editors Readers Poll
Literary Classics Seal of Approval: Highly recommended for home and school libraries.
When thirteen-year-old Ethan Morus is forced to stay on his grandparents’ old farm, he expects to find weathered barns, rusty tools, and a creaky house in need of fresh paint. What he doesn’t expect is to hear a legend placing his family at the center of an ancient treasure hunt. Or find burial chambers protected by poltergeists, or a secret lair guarded by an ancient beast. And least of all, Ethan doesn’t suspect that powerful sorcerers are watching his every move.
They’ve found Ethan and believe he is from a line of treasure hunters who possess a rare instinct to locate powerful artifacts. Whether he has the instinct or not, Ethan is faced with a choice–search the Morus property and find what they want or lose yet another family member.
Mel closed her eyes and drew in long breaths as he passed. A hint of the sorcerer was all she smelled. He was alone.
She waited for him to near the summit, and when he was close she dropped to the ground and approached from well within the forest. When she reached the top, it was clear he’d already begun his conjuring.
The sorcerer stood in the middle of the hilltop, held his staff in front of him and spoke softly in the old tongue. He lifted the staff and slammed it into the ground. The earth groaned.
He looked to the sky. “Reveal.”
Mel followed his gaze. A faint shadow swooped through the clouds and she retreated behind a thick tree. It was the thunderbird—the harbinger of conjured storms.
From his messenger bag, a red orb rose into the air and wisps of wood fastened it to the top of his staff.
Mel glanced above and readied her throwers. She’d put out the thunderbird’s eye if it attacked.
The sorcerer gripped his staff with both hands and pointed the end toward the setting sun, the direction of Roseville. He lowered it slowly and spun, drawing a wide circle where grass shriveled. The smell of scorched earth forced Mel to hold her breath. She hated the smell of anything burnt and the old rock beneath the grass smelled like the burning of ancient bones.
Within moments, clouds rolled overhead. The orb’s red light pierced the early dark. The sorcerer grasped for the sky with his left hand and spoke an incantation that the wind swept away.
The last sliver of sunlight winked out, as if a shawl had been drawn over the sky. A fog chased up the hill like a tidal wave and clouded Mel’s view. The fog moved upward and the sky rippled with a surge of power. All heavenly lights darkened and Mel aimed a thrower in the direction of the sorcerer.
If he knew she was here and came looking for her, it’d be his last act on Earth. She feared no one. She was Hellish Mel.
J.R. Roper is the author of The Morus Chronicles, a fantasy series for middle grade readers. The first two books, The Hunter Awakens and The Spirit of Steel are now available along with a collection of short stories titled Mel & the Black Rider.
Roper’s work has appeared in ChildGood Magazine, Families First Monthly, and in anthologies by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, Horrified Press, and Thirteen O’Clock Press.
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