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The Hunterís Rede
The Chronicles Of Ealiron - Book One
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-868-0
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Medieval
eBook Length: 292 Pages
Published: September 2011
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

Lorth of Ostarin is an assassin trained by a wizard unknown to his kind. He is paid very well to employ both the primeval darkness of a hunter and the ordered light of a mage, an uneasy combination he does not question until he returns home after a long assignment and trips into a turbid river of war, politics and the violation of all he holds dear. Lawless and adept, he picks no sides and takes no prisoners. When his wolfish ways get him imprisoned for crimes he did not commit, he discovers the deeper source of his ability and falls in love with a priestess who frees him to his fate. But the rift in his heart widens under the forces of love, loyalty and the occupation of his realm by a warlord who honors neither hunters nor wizards. To reclaim his homeland, Lorth must bow his head to death itself, a sacrifice that will transform him into the most powerful hunter the land has ever known.

Reviews and Awards

The Hunter's Rede

"I was especially impressed with the magic system Ms. McKinstry developed. It had a certain subtlety and authenticity that I've seen lacking in other fantasy novels. F.T. McKinstry weaves together an engaging tale of suspense, magic and romance that's well worth seeking out." - David Lee Summers, Editor of Tales of the Talisman and author of Owl Dance

"Lorth is an interesting character. I was given lots of glimpses inside his head, which allowed me to see just what was going on. He sticks to his own code, and he never seems to waver. His responses to certain events are believable and stay true to his character without becoming predictable." - Erica Lane, Fantasy Book Lane

"...one of those old-school pulp fantasy tales that hits all the right notes. F.T. McKinstry has built an interesting world here, with a fascinating system of magic, and put an interesting protagonist at the forefront. Lorth is a great character, reminiscent of such pulp heroes as Conan, Elric, and Fafhrd." - Bob Milne, Beauty in Ruins

"Clear. Solid. Powerfully interesting. I was engrossed in the story and enjoyed the events which occurred very much. The action was well-placed, the story well-paced, and the plot events interlaced... The use of symbolism and the Old One was also inspired and the secrets doled out just right." - Jason P. Crawford, Author Alliance

"The magic system itself is fleshed-out and creative, using patterns and divine interventions to provide for a wide range of uses without turning into a heavy-handed plot device... The Hunterís Rede is a thriller set in a magical realm, where wizards and hunters lay traps for one another, and where the word of either a god or a mortal can mean the difference between life and death." - Alex Willging, Mr. Rhapsodist

"The author has a great ability to tap into modes of magical or shamanistic thinking and make them come concretely alive. Various power modes unfolding in Lorthís mind often strike the reader with uncanny force. A major strength of this novel is the sense-drenched depiction of internal psychic events." - Michael D. Smith, author of the Jack Commer Series

"The very beginning of the story grabbed me right away...I enjoyed this authorís dialogue as it flowed well and didnít slow the story down. F.T. McKinstry is a talented writer who writes in a very poetic style. Her use of similes and metaphors gives her work a unique feel... her descriptions were beautiful, interesting, and unique all at the same time." - Fantasy Book Review

"The writer has a wonderful, flowing, articulate style that doesn't stall or drag along. She paints great imagery with a superbly developed main character, an excellent cast of characters around him, and a well thought-out system of magic...a great story about assassins, non-traditional wizards, powerful magic, men at arms, swords and arrows, royalty, relationships, and political intrigue... This book can be read as a stand-alone novel and it won't leave you hanging." - Review on Amazon The very beginning of the story grabbed me right away...I enjoyed this authorís dialogue as it flowed well and didnít slow the story down. F.T. McKinstry is a talented writer who writes in a very poetic style. Her use of similes and metaphors gives her work a unique feel...her descriptions were beautiful, interesting, and unique all at the same time. - Fantasy Book Review
I was especially impressed with the magic system Ms. McKinstry developed. It had a certain subtlety and authenticity that I've seen lacking in other fantasy novels. F.T. McKinstry weaves together an engaging tale of suspense, magic and romance that's well worth seeking out.

- David Lee Summers, Editor of Tales of the Talisman and author of Owl Dance
The Huntersí Rede, Book One of The Chronicles of Ealiron, offers an absorbing look into the psyche of a hired assassin with limited but well-disciplined magical powers. Making his way through kingdoms at war and encountering treachery, grief, comradeship and love, he begins to understand that he must move beyond his allegiance to the rules of the Hunterís Rede which have served him so well for so long.

Sometimes the creation of an entirely new fantasy or alien world, with all its history and complexities, presents problems for the reader struggling to make sense of all this new input. Not so this novel. There is no clumsy, heavy exposition, and the straight chronological narrative, all focusing on the point of view of the main character Lorth, leads you easily through setting up the world in your mind. It would really have strained this narrative to have to undergo flashbacks to other charactersí point of view, other times and places; the straight chronology centered in one character provides a strong backbone for this book. A detailed but not overlong glossary at the end of the book also helps nail this world down.

Itís as if Lorth is visiting various solidly-delineated theater sets upon which the actors emerge. These settings have an emotional resonance that ground you in the narrative. The story itself is fast-moving action; when Lorth muses about the magical realm and his role in it, his ruminations dovetail well with the story, never slowing it down. The book also deals with the problem of magic and what limitations it may or should have. For instance, if a given wizard has too much power and can always win by wrinkling his nose like Samantha in Bewitched, whatís the point of any novel dealing with magic? Wizards and other magicians in this novel definitely have limitations.

The Hunterís Rede itself is a set of rules or advice for assassins like Lorth; itís detailed and is brought to bear on the Lorthís consciousness at crucial points, but you donít have to memorize the rules. They just unfold and make sense at the right time.

Lorth is fascinating in that he doesnít possess infinite magical power, just enough for his needs as a skilled assassin. Heís a sort of a junior varsity magician who can make mistakes and act impulsively, and finds himself in all sorts of trouble as he flees from his pursuers and must use his excellent hunterís reflexes to cope. Yet itís gradually revealed that he has unique and unruly wizard capabilities that he needs to come to terms with, and that he has a major role to play in this world.

The author has a great ability to tap into modes of magical or shamanistic thinking and make them come concretely alive. Various power modes unfolding in Lorthís mind often strike the reader with uncanny force. A major strength of this novel is the sense-drenched depiction of internal psychic events.

I am much looking forward to the next volume in the series, The Gray Isles.

-- Michael D. Smith, author of The Martian Marauders

The Hunterís Rede (Excerpt)


PROLOGUE

Warm rain caressed the babargon trees that crouched on the rise overlooking the Anglorean outpost deep in the Tarthian jungle. In a land with no winter, the autumnal equinox had just passed; the new moon hung like a stagnant pool above the woolen cloud cover. As night stole the last of the light, fog settled into the shadows, muting voices, hiding movement and sinking its teeth into the imaginations of tired, wounded warriors.

An assassin gazed upon the captainís tent with the patience of a praying mantis. He did not need light to know where it stood. Unseen and unknown to all but the few who paid him, his tall, lean body draped between the weeping trees, he waited, his mind caressing the glimmering watch-web he had cast around his post to warn him of any unwitting intrusion.

In his homeland of Ostarin far to the north, they called him a hunter. Here, they called him kavítib, which in their fluid tongue meant warlock, in no good terms. Icaros, the wizard who had raised him after the earth took his mother away, once said, There is more to being a wizard than pretty tricks! The Keepers of the Eye know the minds of gods.

The hunter was far from that. But his tricks, such as they were, proved good enough for the Tarthian nobility. They had hired him for being lawless and without loyalties, a servant of the Old One, the primeval, feminine force of cycles, birth and death who knew all things even beyond the timeless ramparts of gods. Even so, he would not be the most skillful, highest paid assassin in Sourcesee without the things Icaros had taught him. He knew things beyond his multifaceted training as a warrior, things only wizards knew.

For seven years, he had hired out his services to the warlords of Tarth, an empire of wet, wooded lands that had as many boats as carts, a desolation of brackish marshes, towns on stilts, jungles dripping with moss and the warm, fragrant nectars of constant rain. All manner of life grew here, every kind of creature that crept, slithered, swam or flew, humans notwithstanding. These were bronze-skinned, tall, with rounded noses and deep-set eyes the color of swamps, eyes that knew the mysteries of things that flowed. Dominated by the Great Reson Fen near the borders of Anglorea, Tarth was known for its concoctions, everything from rich, heady drinks to narcotics, medicines-and of course, poisons.

He reached up and touched the orange-sized scar on his neck, a five-rayed star left by a near-fatal spider bite. A Tarthian woman had found him gasping and burning in the hazy shadow of a willow tree that leaned over a quiet brown-black river. Like images from a dream, he still remembered the way the water pulled on the long, thin leaves hanging down, the scent of jasmine, the feel of the womanís hands on his face, chirruping birds, croaking frogs and the numbness in his arms and legs. She had dragged him away from the water and into an unpleasant hollow that smelled as if the mud itself were rotting there. He never knew what she had done to him-let alone why-but on the other side of a seemingly interminable delirium he had awaked, alone, weak and, amazingly, alive.

He had not known the face of his own death before that, though he knew death in every part of his nature, being the hand that so often dealt it. Now, the spider bite lived in his body as a presence just below the surface of thought. It sensed the nature of events around him, and intensified when anything came along to which he needed to attend.

He had never learned the name of this spider, but he had learned that the deadly creatures lived only in the swamps that fed the headwaters of the Mroc. While following the straggled path of the company below, he had captured one and brought it to this hidden outpost. With a word, he had crept as a whispering shade into the captainís tent and respectfully loosed the spider into his blankets. The warrior was a man of little note, not the kind of top-heavy lords and commanders whom the hunter usually targeted. His orders had been specific with this one. Keep it quiet, keep it hidden.

The war had begun in the distant southwest, beyond the Red Forest River, where the borders of Tarth dried out and the stony, brushy hills of Anglorea stumbled up and ran with fresh winds as if relieved to get out of the rain. The hunter had left his goldís worth of blood on those stones, and in the mud and pools of the forests, silently and without a thread of emotion for those whom his aristocratic employers had picked to die. He could not have said what the war was about, exactly. A hunter did not concern himself with that. He had crept like the nameless spider into the underground, into the shadows of warriors, lords, horses, whores and swords; into the moaning, oil-darkened recesses of the war machine and there he practiced his art. He cared little for where the river of life flowed or why.

He had become the river, rising and falling to the rhythm of the Hunterís Rede, an unwritten set of codes, shades, they were called, designed to guide assassins in their work. But it was more than that. Shades of gray between the darkness and the light, the Rede whispered the wisdom of the wild. After so many years, it had rooted into his animal mind as primordial instinct.

As he waited for deathís exhale, feeling the water on the slick black trunks of the babargon trees soaking into his cloak, the hunter wondered, as he did every year at this time, why he remained in this land. Though his lords paid him well for the things he knew-things they feared to know-he had lost his lust for coin and the accomplishments that grew from the fertile soil of conflict. His rhythm had become a rut in the mud, an inexorable cycle, like the void between the sun and rain that drove living things to breed.

He stared into the dark, every sense alert for the alarm that would tell him the spider had done its work. Rain fell, frogs croaked, and bats ruled the skies. The jungle drank until intoxicated, and then drank some more. After a time, the encampment below grew still, an invisible, silent heartbeat in the writhing arms of the jungle. Trusting to his senses, the hunter dozed, his thoughts flowing like the river beneath the willow tree.

Snow blanketed the mountains, brilliant leaves of ash, birch and maple flew on the cold autumn air and winter constellations sparkled on the horizon of an indigo sky. He walked between the shadows of hemlock trees to the howling of wolves.

Icaros tossed a piece of wood into the hearth. "Go where ye will," he said in his deep, lyrical voice, his eyes shining with sad twilight. "But your bones are in the mountains, boy."

"I act from knowing," the hunter replied, quoting the Shade of Instinct.

Two mighty ravens rose from the ground before the door and took to the air, flying north. Thick snow swirled from the sky and enveloped them.

Silence descended as a swan, white as ice, and landed in a pool with a velvet rustle....

The hunter opened his eyes with a start as the spider scar on his neck flared out with pain. Without moving, he looked down at the encampment. Nothing stirred; no voices, sounds of tent flaps or stomping feet disturbed the night.

Until something stepped from behind the tree at his feet.

A boy stood before him. Strange, thin and pale with dark green eyes and flaxen hair, he shimmered in a layer above the physical; there, and yet not. The hunter searched his memory for a phrase in Aenspeak, the wizardsí tongue, used to reveal the nature of a thing. The child said something that the hunter had not heard in a very long time: his name.

Lorth! the specter spoke into his mind. You must return to Ostarin. The Mistress of Eusiron has need of you!

Lorth remembered the words: "Moridrun fore sarumn." But the messenger had power beyond his; the command fell like a handful of weeds as the boy disappeared, leaving behind only a breath, faint as the warm fog rising in the pre-dawn light. Go now!

The hunter blinked into the jungle, stunned.

Eusiron stood in the heart of Ostarin a hundred miles north of Os on the Wolf River. He had studied swordsmanship there as a young man but had known only as much about the Mistress as any blade in service to the realm. Beautiful, mysterious, she ruled with the hand of the Old One, and held herself as inaccessible as a star, a lover to the gods. Why would she summon him? No one in Eusiron knew who he was, let alone where, after two decades.

He moved his gaze to the Anglorean captainís tent, afloat in the mist. A predator catching the scent of prey, he studied the shadows, sensing a change. He heard a voice-and then a telling shout, followed by men rallying to alarm.

The owl flies near.

The hunter grabbed his things and slipped from the shelter of the babargons. But he did not head west to deliver his report and collect his pay.

He went east, towards the port of Searf.

Given the ruthless complexity of the Tarth-Anglorean war, Lorth knew his royal employers would by no means release him from their service. Indeed, they had been eager enough to take advantage of his addiction to the jungleís throb. But the quality of his nature that made him an attractive tool to the Tarthian lords also prompted him to answer his eldritch summons with all the conscience of a wolf trotting away from a watering hole. Like the wolf, he stood to the Old One alone, and while he might take a drink, he was still wild.

Tarthians. Too much water, and not enough shores. The Shade of Fate whispered to him as he settled his mind on the shrouded light of the rising sun: I owe nothing.