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The Soul Cages
Our Price: 5.99 USD

ISBN-10: 1-55404-001-9
ISBN-13: 9781554040018
Genre: Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 304 Pages
Published: November 2002
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

THE SOUL CAGES is the story of Sarah, who as a child is captured by Valek, and taken to his soul cages on Solis. Valek is in the business of selling Solance, a mind reading serum that takes human souls as a major ingredient.

At the onset of the novel, Sarah and her sister, Amana have manages to escape the soul cages, only to be ambushed at the Allerton Circle (a gateway to another world). A mysterious man who arrives through the Allerton Circle, sporting a shield and a sword...


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The Soul Cages begins with two sisters, Sarah and Amana, running for their lives. They are about to be rescued from the soul cages, a hard labor slavery situation on the planet Solis. A despicable slave master named Valek runs the operation.

The two near their destination of an underground portal where a Minister Knight of Souls named Marion is waiting to rescue them, but Orono, a creepy guard of the soul cages, catches up to them and recaptures Amana's soul, trapping her in a hand-held, soul-catcher.

It breaks Sarah's heart to do so, but she must leave immediately with the Knight. She soon finds herself on an Arctic-like planet called Veloris, which is ruled by the frail Queen Zoe. A fearless woman named Zykeiah is about to be sworn in as a Minister Knight. Marion seems to care a great deal for Sarah, giving her special attention, but he seems to care a great deal for Zykeiah, also.

Meanwhile, Valek is bent on finding the escaped Sarah and the one who rescued her. It turns out that he's running a drug operation. The drug is called Solance, which enables people to read minds when they take it. Valek is becoming quite wealthy, secretly selling it to the leaders of the warring planets, Earth 3012 and Saturn Four, double-crossing each of them in the process.

The story's characters are memorable. Sarah has suffered for years in the soul cages, and though it is revealed to her on Veloris that she is a Chosen One with a larger purpose in the Pixlis Galaxy, rescuing Amana is her only wish. She also becomes racked with guilt because her presence on Veloris has caused anguish to those who have taken her in.

Where Marion is noble and courageous, Zykeiah callously uses salt mined by Solis slaves in her bath. She watches Sarah with narrowed eyes. Can she be trusted to carry out the benevolent duties of a Minister Knight?

Valek and his guard Orono are despicable right off the bat. We know we can't trust them. They don't even trust each other. But the extent of Valek's evil and power makes him a frightening menace to the galaxy.

Ms. Kurtz has a great talent for building the plot layer by layer, first with the idea of cages holding the souls of doomed slaves, then of Sarah's plight in worrying about her sister, all while a love intrigue involving Sarah, Marion, and Zykeiah plays out. Will the warring planets discover that Valek has been double-crossing them? And where exactly does the drug Solance come from? Do the Minister Knights stand a chance against Valek and his henchmen? What is Sarah's larger purpose in the galaxy? Many questions, I know, and most are answered satisfactorily, and as for the one that isn't, the epilogue leaves us with a juicy twist and the promise of a sequel.

The Soul Cages is highly imaginative, gripping fantasy. I highly recommend it!

Jeanne Allen, Science Fiction Romance
http://www.cpinternet.com/~jeeniec


The Soul Cages (Excerpt)


Chapter One

It was not the fact that it smelled like smoke, or the fact that dried blood stained it. It was the color, an ugly green that reminded Sarah of the time she ate too much gosha and threw up everywhere. That was long ago before the cages robbed her of her taste and every other sensory experience.

But she had finally tricked them, and now she had regained her flesh and could taste the bitter sulfur that saturated the air.

"Come on, Amana. It is cold here. Put it on," Sarah urged as she gestured the green wool coat toward Amana.

"It is green?" Amana whined.

"You are being silly. Put the damn thing on before he gets back."

"But?"

"Now! We have to get out of here," Sarah insisted as she turned to search the sinister gloom for Valek or one of his henchmen.

Wrapping the ugly green coat around her, she followed Sarah as she crept along the dimly lit passage of the cave. They passed several sacks of skins that had once been human. Where the eyes once were there were now only burnt, empty sockets.

Sarah shivered. Her fingers were so cold she could barely move them. Blowing on them only warmed them for a second before they would chill again. She and Amana had not been able to feel, smell or anything else in years before their recent reincarnation into fresh flesh. Sarah secretly relished the numbness in her hands and the stench of the cages that even as they hurried further away seemed to race after them. These were the only signals she knew to be real. The times when she thought shadows were only shadows, they turned out to be Valek's henchmen or worse, Valek himself. She could never tell until it was too late.

"Where are we supposed to meet them?" Amana asked softly for third time that night.

"At the Circle of Allerton. How many times do I have to tell you?" She pinched Amana's cheek and winked, alleviating the sting of her words.

Leaving the soiled cages behind, they could still smell the filth and stench of the closed-in cages. Built beneath layers upon layers of the rocky surface of Solis, no light reached them. Their eyes had grown used to the dimly lit tunnels and passageways.

They scraped and cut their feet as they traveled the rough trail to the Allerton Circle. The pain, something else they were not used to, was welcomed now that they could feel the stinging pain, the sharp points of rock ripping skin.

The Allerton Circle was a passageway to other worlds. Sarah did not know who built them, but the older souls of the cages told stories that these circles were gateways. She wanted to be anywhere but Solis. Anywhere but the cages.

It had been many rotations since they had felt anything at all, so they welcomed the stinging pain of cut toes and bruised feet. Pain was a joy. They did not stop for food or drink as they hurried, as if there were any such things close by to obtain. There was no time. Any moment could be their last, any wrong turn could lead them back to the pits.

The murkiness strangled any green vegetation from growing, leaving only fungi and lichens to flourish. By the time they reached the last row of cages, the ground was heavily laced with minerals from the planet's poisonous surface industries.

"I think I see the blue light of the circle!" Sarah whispered excitedly; her heart sped up in anticipation.

Scurrying toward the azure glow, they reached the circle, just as one other arrived.

Sarah gasped as she yanked on Amana's sleeve. Fear crept into her stomach and a screamed died as she opened her mouth and no sound escaped.

"Hello there," Orono laughed as his bulging ice-blue eyes sparkled in the bleak and dismal night. The wind howled around him like a choir of madmen.

She became even more aware of the frigid air as she stepped in front of Amana protectively... instinctually.

"What is he doing here?" Amana stuttered from behind her.

Amana's breath rasped quickly and she held tight to Sarah's top. Orono had captured Amana before and the horror of the cages was too near for the young girl to forget.

The low humming of the mines filtered through the air in a sort of tribal beat. When she had worked in the mines, Sarah had listened to the beat of the same horrible drums. Drums made of human skin. Shaking off the memory, she crouched in an aggressive pose with both arms extended out in a ready-made karate chop. No way were they going back without a fight. Too many had died already.

Orono smiled. Round and pudgy with a head much too small for such a bulky frame, his cheeks shook as they attempted to lift the heavy amounts of flesh to form his smile. It revealed three razor sharp fangs pointing downward toward a row of yellowing lower teeth. Despite the coolness of the air, his face was wet with sweat, giving his complexion the color of moist clay. The smell of decaying flesh followed him like a cloud of cologne.

"You know why I am here." He kept his smile plastered to his face as his chubby paw opened to reveal a tiny blue glass ball.

Upon seeing the ball, Amana began to scream. Her voice pierced the night sky like an ice pick through the heart, drowning out the sickening call of the drums.

Hysterical and screaming wildly, she began to cry as she ran blindly for the Allerton Circle just twenty yards away.

"No!" Sarah cried out as she reached behind her for the place where Amana should have been.

But she was too fast and Sarah fell hard as she tried, in vain, to snatch Amana's coat sleeve.

Just as Amana leaped for the Circle, Orono threw the glass ball toward her and its blue stream of light suspended her body in mid-air before releasing it to collapse into a lifeless pile of parts, very much like a sack of potatoes, to the dead ground.

Where Amana's honey brown eyes used to be were now empty black sockets.

"For the heavens, no!" Sarah screamed as she raced to the spot where Amana's body lay. The hated green coat now covered a mound of vacated flesh...emptied of a soul.

The blue glass ball pulsated with an eerie pink color as it returned to Orono's sweaty palm through the crisp air.

"Back to the cages with you." He laughed as he pointed at the ball where Amana's soul was now trapped.

Gently placing the ball into a velvet red bag, he removed another blue glass ball from the sack.

Smirking under his giant cheeks and puffy pink lips, he said to Sarah, "Your turn. Back to the soul cages!"

Just as the blue glass ball warmed to a soft pink, in Orono's grubby paw, Sarah felt a rough shove in her back and she fell instantly to the unyielding ground.

A towering, broad man wielding a metallic shield with a raised silver 'M' stood over her. The glass ball's pinkish stream smashed against his shield and reflected back into the blackness of Solis' night sky.

"In to the Circle!" he ordered. The commanding voice did not seem to come from the massive man, but rather from the heavens. Indeed the man could have been a young god; his eyes covered by opaque glasses; his head devoid of hair and his skin the color of warm cocoa. As he defended her, his full lips were pulled back into a sneer, revealing clenched white teeth.

Scrambling to her feet, she slipped on the slick surface, scraping the delicate skin of her knees in her hurry to reach the circle.

Orono directed the glass's stream towards her, not to be outdone, as she hurried and slipped towards the Allerton Circle.

The man in the black leather pants threw his shield in front of her and the light's stream was again deflected. He was saving her again in less than a few moments. He raced over to her and retrieved his shield. She got up and he joined her. Running along side her, the mystery man was the only thing between her and the soul cages.

Cursing, Orono adjusted his bulk and like a slow moving elephant lumbered towards the two. Heaving and huffing, he muttered curses as he hurried towards Sarah and her dark knight. His fangs ready to tear through the stranger's flesh.

"Whoever you are, you will surely despise the day you crossed me," he spat and swung a tight right fist towards the man.

Orono's fist landed squarely into the shield, knocking the man awkwardly and hard onto his back. He crawled on top of the man's shield, crushing the man beneath it with his extremely monstrous bulk, his fangs closing in on the man's exposed neck.

"For the heavens, into the Circle!" the dark man declared once more as he lifted the shield with ease as Orono went flying into a patch of grimy soil some ten feet away.

With her heart thundering in her ears, Sarah raced to the flickering glow of Allerton Circle and with one giant leap, was embraced by the tickling, dense feeling of the Allerton Circle's entranceway. She turned to look behind her and saw the massive mysterious man running towards the Circle.

Breathing heavily, he lowered his shield as he, too, entered the Allerton Circle.

Behind him, Orono cursed all the more as he, too, tried to enter the Circle. As soon as his foot slipped into the circle, smoke hissed and curled into the air. His face twisted in pain and mounting anger. He quickly retreated from the circle and growled in fury. The foul smell of burnt flesh floated into the Circle's ring.

"Bye-bye now." The man smirked as the image of Orono faded. The sheen of sweat glistened from his brawny shoulders and powerful chest. Hairless, his chest rose and fell in a hypnotic rhythm as he tried to regain his breath.

Sarah tore her eyes away from his torso and moved them up to the face of her rescuer.

"You had better hold on," he ordered as the whirling of the Circle began.

The mournful landscape blurred as the twirling increased, growing faster and making Sarah dizzy. Grasping for something, anything in which to hold on, she tried to stay awake and to keep her bearings. But the accelerated speed of the Circle grew to be too much.

It spun her into darkness.

***