About the Book
Book V in the “King of the Trees” fantasy series by William D. Burt. WINEPRESS PUBLISHING: 2005. (Softcover; 224 pages. Illustrated by Terri L. Lahr and Becky Miller.) Includes glossary and pronunciation guide at the back for easier reading and for reading aloud.
Trapped in a phantom forest filled with deadly creatures of the cold, Owen son of Tadwyn leads Lucambra’s royal family into a forbidden faery kingdom. Sentenced to death for unwittingly destroying the hallowed Glynnspire Cave, Owen and his companions become the Spirewalker of Feirian’s unwilling guests. As the long awaited “shepherd’s son,” Owen is called upon to lay down his life to save his friends, restore the faery realm and revive lost souls. He is not alone, for a faithful ally in feathered guise will follow him to his appointed doom.
The Downs is a touching tale of sacrificial devotion and valor woven into a rich retelling of ancient legend.
Acceptance came hard in Swyndon for a flatlander with scarred ears. Whispers followed me everywhere, even onto the Downs, where I pastured Father’s sheep. He and Mother never had any children, so when a young fugitive from the Gray Death wandered bleeding into town, they were happy to take me into their home and love me as their own. Love me they did, though I didn’t belong.ow I screamed and thrashed when the bloody knife clipped my ears! Father held me down until it was all over. “I am sorry,” he said, though his eyes betrayed as much fear as sorrow. “When we found you, the Gray Death had stolen your memory. You mustn’t go out until your ears and head wound have healed. If anyone should ask, you are an orphaned flatlander.”
The life of a shepherdess is a lonely one, but I was content. My sheep accepted me, scarred ears and all. The Gadabout accepted me, too. He didn’t visit often, but his presence was always a comfort, both to my sheep and to me. And then there was the Boar.
To me, he will always be “the Boy.” He had a name, but everyone in the village called him “the Boar.” He earned the nickname. We were pasturing our flocks one morning when the biggest hog I’d ever seen came rampaging through the sheep, slashing left and right with his wicked tusks. As our animals scattered, the beast came for me and tore my shepherd’s crook out of my shaking hand.
Then the Boy appeared at my side. With his spear in one hand and his staff in the other, he brought that boar to its knees, but not before it had gashed his legs. Ignoring his bloody wounds, the Boy drove his spear through the hog’s back and into its heart.
After that, the Boy fussed over me as if I were one of his own sheep. He didn’t mind my scars, either, though I always wore my hair long to cover my ears. Still, one look at my face, and anyone could see I was an outsider. The Boy didn’t care what I was.
At the first hint of the Gray Death, he always sent me with my flocks back to the upland pastures. He often followed us to be sure we didn’t stray or lose our way. The afternoon sun casts a deceptive light on the Downs that can easily confuse the unwary.
“Off you go!” he would say, twirling his shepherd’s crook over his head ever so playfully. “You can’t stay here, else the Gray Death will catch you. You’re much too young for a sheepshun.”
Nobody, I have since learned, is too young for a sheepshun. I am so thankful no more sheep must needlessly die for the lost.
In my dreams, the Gray Death would call to me from across the Downs with the mournful hissing of wind-rippling grasses. Some days, I would stand alone at the breathing boundary between fog and sun, longing to fling myself into that cool, gray sea my friends so feared. I feared it, too, for it awakened in me dim memories of life before the Clipping, when I knew only the Cold.
“The Cold?” you ask. “Do you mean the cold of a winter’s day when the bleak hills huddle against wind-whipped hail and sleet? Or do you mean the cold of a stone floor on bare flesh when the fire has gone as dead as old bones buried under the bitter sod?”
“No,” I answer. “I mean the Cold that pierces soul and spirit like a thrice-frozen spear of sea ice. I mean the Cold that can sap the life-heat and living breath out of a body in seconds and leave her a solid lump of frozen flesh, senseless as a stone. The Cold.”
Still, as a shepherd snatches a lamb’s leg from the mouth of a ravening wolf, I salvaged one memory from the Cold: Melina.
My name is Melina.
About the Author
Having spent most of his teenage years vicariously adventuring in Middle Earth, the author is an avid fantasy fan. His first allegorical fantasy title, The King of the Trees, came out in 1998 (WinePress). Bowing to reader demand, he has expanded the series to include a total of seven titles to date, with more to follow. While still in high school, he began his writing career editing his father’s popular identification guides, Edible and Poisonous Plants of the Western/Eastern States. As an Assistant Professor in the Special Education Department at Western Oregon University, he served as a successful grant-writer and program coordinator.
Burt holds a B.S. in English from Lewis and Clark College and an M.S. from Western Oregon University in Deaf Education. In addition to writing books, he works as an RID-certified American Sign Language interpreter with over thirty years’ experience. His interests include reading, foreign languages and mycology. He is married with two grown children.
Buy the Book
Order Book 5 from the website (paperback, Kindle and Nook (epub) versions)—(autographed)