About the Book
One major obstacle stands between seventeen-year-old Prince Korram and the throne that is his birthright: Regent Rampus. Temporary ruler of Malorn, Rampus has no intention of giving up his position when the crown prince comes of age – or of allowing the prince to live long enough to reach that age.
Desperate to build an army of his own to stand against the regent, Korram treks into the Impassable Mountains to try to recruit the one segment of Malornian society not under Rampus’s control. But can he lead a band of untrained hunters and gatherers to victory against the full might of the Malornian military? Or will they all be crushed by the grasping hand of the regent before the prince can claim his rightful throne?
Korram saw the snowcat shift a little on the rock. Is it getting ready to spring? His heart pounding anew, he took a quiet step forward, and then another. He had to get closer, just in case.
Now he stood right at the bank of the stream, only about ten feet behind the creature. It was perched out in the middle of the water, maybe eight feet from the edge. What was he supposed to do? He supposed he could wade out to the rock it was on, but he didn’t fancy battling a powerful animal in the middle of a river, let alone at the brink of a waterfall. That scenario didn’t seem likely to end well.
The snowcat shifted again, gathering its hind legs under its body. Its tail, stretched out behind, twitched a little. Korram had seen Sir Fluffle gather himself just like that before he lunged at a squirrel in the palace garden.
This is it, he thought desperately. I have to do something now! But he wouldn’t panic and throw his spear this time. Gripping the weapon with his right hand, he snatched up a loose pebble with his left and flung it at the cat, yelling, “Over here!”
The snowcat turned its head, saw him, and bared long gleaming teeth in a snarl. Korram felt a stab of guilt at the glimpse of a red stain on its chest, and knew the cat was indeed angry and in pain. He gripped the spear in a two-handed stance as he had seen Ernth do, bracing his feet. “All right, come on! Over here! Let’s get this over with.” He wasn’t at all sure which of them would survive the encounter, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do.
But the snowcat did not leap across the water to attack him. It turned its head once more to stare over the cliff, and Korram saw its muscles bunch and ripple as it shifted position again. It was going to leap over the waterfall! Ernth had said snowcats were clever. Apparently it had made the choice between the enemy who was ready for him and the one who was not.
“Hey! Hey! Over here!” Korram yelled again, dashing forward along the bank and waving his arms. But the beast paid him no attention, and Korram knew there was only one remaining course of action, one chance he had to save Ernth’s life. Without pausing to consider the consequences, he leaped into the water and splashed his way toward the rock where the creature crouched.
The streambed was slippery underfoot, and icy water rushed into his deerskin boots, filling them and slowing him down. The current was stronger than he had expected, and for a moment Korram was afraid he would be swept off his feet and over the falls. Desperately he braced himself against the force of the water and lunged forward.
He was only one step away from the rock when the snowcat sprang. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as Korram saw its body lengthen, its forelegs reaching out and over. Desperate, he leaped too, spear extended. His other arm stretched out in a frantic attempt to grab, to hold the creature back, to slow it down, to somehow stop what could no longer be stopped. He felt the tip of his weapon strike flesh as he seized a handful of thick fur. The animal was still leaping, pulling him forward with it, but he was half on top of it now, and he could feel the bulging muscles of its haunches rippling beneath his chest.
It gave a strangled cry, half snarl, half scream, and whirled around, flailing its claws at him. Korram struck out with his spear again, still clutching a handful of fur. Then he felt his ribs hit the edge of the rock, and he realized that his head was lower than the rest of him and that the snowcat’s momentum was pulling them both over the edge.
He had a quick glimpse of Ernth balancing on a boulder at the foot of the falls, poking his spear through the curtain of water, and of the astonished expression on his face as he caught sight of Korram and the snowcat toppling over the edge toward him. Then there was no time to notice anything else before Korram felt himself tumbling through the air, still clutching the writhing animal, a curtain of water shimmering all around them.
About the Author
Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published six books (three YA action adventure/fantasy and three anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.
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