Authors: W Book Excerpt Publishers: M

491. Children of the Desert Moon~ Glenda Woodrum

Available from Mundania Press LLC
http://mundania.com/

Children of the Desert Moon
Trilogy Information

Yhnez is a child of prophecy born in a land bound tightly by tradition. A tradition given to her people in the dawn of time by their Goddess, YhnYhnay to the first Ih’mah of the im’taym’i people.

But no race can exist for millennia without parts of their age-old traditions being put aside or forgotten, and no way can continue unaltered in the face of those bent on ending that way of life. No land can resist the ravages of despoilers without help from the people who dwell there.

And the verritaym’i-the dragon-riding enemies of the desert tribes-are bent on the destruction of the im’taym’i, just as they are bent on the decimation of a new threat to themselves and their ancient way of life…

Invaders have come from beyond the desert and everything is about to change.

Book One: Lady’s Daughter
(1-59426-212-8) Trade Paperback-$16
(1-59426-213-6) eBook-$6

Where the im’taym’i people are the gold of the desert sands, Yhnez is pale like moonlight on white flowers. It is that difference that causes the Mother of her birthtribe to cast her out. Alone, without even food or water, no one expects her to survive.

But Yhnez has something greater than food or water. She has faith. And guided by her faith in YhnYhnay, the Goddess Moon, Yhnez sets off into the desert unafraid.

Yhnez isn’t the only child lost and alone in the desert, and is through Yhnez and her faith in the YhnYhnay that these Children of the Desert Moon are destined to become more than just a rag tag group struggling to survive.

CHAPTER ONE
Day One
Oasis of the Sighing Palms
Aleea, Sifa, Eesah and Vel

The faintest pastel pink and citron tinted the eastern horizon, promise of the heat to come as the desert warmed from night’s cooler touch.

On the crest of a hill, a solitary figure crouched, grinning ferally as he watched an encampment spread below as if viewing a platter of fine delicacies laid out for him alone.

Darkness still lay in the spaces between the tents which had been set up in a graceful curve around the oasis. An arc that ran from the eastern edge beside the grove of date and ki’i nut palms, around the southern end of the deep pool, to the western most side of the grove of trees. The tents were a study in subtle contrasts between two of the nomadic desert tribes that had come together to trade their light-boned horses, sturdy young men, and gossip.

One half of the camp was composed of striped tents done in ivory and white. That side housed a fairly large tent adorned with black tassels running around the entire dwelling where roof met wall, stopping at the doorway which was covered by a piece of black and ivory striped fabric. Black was used exclusively by the Sisterhood of the Dark Moon, the female warriors whom, along with the men, defended the tribe from hostilities.

Another tent of this larger, wealthier tribe was adorned with tassels of gold which designated the abode of their ruling Ih’mah, the tribe’s Mother who led them. A second similar tent, smaller, but with far more golden decorations belonged to their Ih’mah’ah, the birthmother of the ruling Ih’mah. Though her days as absolute ruler of the tribe were over, she was given much respect and her opinions were still valued and sought. It commonly to her that the younger women went when they wished to choose a valuable and well matched husband. So it was in most tribes in this rolling land of harsh climate and stark beauty.

Married women’s tents made up the rest of the ivory and gold camp. These dwellings, large enough for the extended families they housed, were decorated with appliquŽd or embroidered additions to the fabric on each side of the entryway as the whimsy of the woman dictated. There were cactus blossoms, small lizards, horses in various bright colors, twining vines, the fronds of five different palms, branches of dates, sprays of flowers, bunches of ki’i nuts, birds of all colors, sizes and types.

The tents of the unmarried young women were adorned with tassels the soft lavender hue of sifa cactus flowers, while those of the unmarried men were plain, but in good repair. The tents of the nearly grown boys were faded, stitched together from old, patched sections of canvas.

The second half of the camp was composed of pale, cream hued tents, a single white tent in their midst marking the dwelling of their tribe’s Ih’mah. A tent just large enough for two people was marked with a bit of black cloth fluttering from the central pole. They were a smaller tribe and less wealth was immediately visible until one took note of the find quality of their possessions. However they did have finely bred horses, and no lack of extra boys to trade.

Though both nomadic tribes shared the same desert, worshipped the Lady of the Moon, their goddess, and were very matriarchal in structure, they were different enough in their interpretation of the Laws of that Goddess that they had not made a single mixed camp as was sometimes done. A clear line of demarcation existed between their dwellings, a space about ten feet wide that created an open path between the two tribes.

The hills of sand to the south were clearly visible down this path, if anyone had chosen to look at them. On the crest of a dawn-painted dune a large shape appeared. It was followed by quite a number of smaller figures, the whole group briefly visible, until they vanished down the slope once again obscured by the rolling landscape. But no one had seen the figures, no one had been looking out from the camp.

Stretching and rubbing at sleep mired eyes, the younger males of both camps, scarcely more than children, crept from their pallets to begin the day’s labors. Though each was different of build and feature, they were all of one kind. Their hair ranged from the palest white-gold to near brown, eyes going from the deepest, richest metallic gold through to a warm amber, skin from the palest milky white to a deep golden hue.

First they would see to the demands of their own bodies after the night’s rest, then it would be on to the day’s tasks: preparing the morning tea, cooking food for the tribe’s unmarried women and young children, gathering ripe dates and ki’i nuts from the swaying trees, mending clothing and whatever else needed doing.

Already some of the unmarried men were leaving their shelters. Like the adults of both tribes their faces were marked with tattoos, some more elaborate than others, but none as elaborate as those on the faces of the married women, or their husbands. Now was the time their day’s labors would begin, the search for meat, and the entertainment of the women. To be a male was to learn obedience. To be pleasing to the women who owned them. To hunt. And to learn the arts of love; the control necessary to be a good lover. Only the very best would ever father children, and only the best of those could aspire to marriage. Even marriage to a low caste woman was better than being unmarried. An unwed male could be sold to another tribe by his tribe’s Mother. He could be disciplined by any woman of the tribe, for any infraction, no matter how trivial. Unmarried men could be traded for horses, food, or another male…. But once a man was married, only his wife could dispose of him. Competition among the men was very intense. Even to be a woman’s second or third husband was a goal to be attained, a safety to seek. Many men among the tribes never got the chance.

The light of day was strengthening, the rising warmth a herald to the coming heat, and the awakening of the rest of the people.

A group of twelve fine-boned children, the youngest a male toddler just learning to walk at the tender age of four years, the eldest a pre-pubescent girl of fourteen, came boiling out of one tent in the wealthier encampment. It was an occurrence taking place all over the oasis, but these children were all part of one family group, two sisters sharing five husbands. Wealthy, as such things were counted among their people, they lacked for nothing. Their mothers were of the healer’s caste and were well respected so they had no lack of possessions: carpets, horses, fine clothes and rice, dried fruit and beans from beyond the desert.

All twelve children were clad in the flowing garb of the desert, though none had donned their headcloths, or veiled their laughing faces. Unbound hair, in varying shades of paler gold, fell around their shoulders. Eyes the color of new minted gold coins, shining, metallic, sparkled with the innocent glee of children beginning a fresh, unspoiled day.

Slender, petite Aleea was the oldest. Extraordinarily beautiful as her people counted such things, stood holding a blanket, waiting for the rest of the children to gather for the day’s play. As they had done for the past four days, they would play at being adults, conducting themselves after the manner of a tribe, with Aleea acting as the Ih’mah, a position she would never hold in reality. But it was a game and she was the eldest so the rank fell to her, just as the position of Ih’mah’nai-Dark Mother-fell to her younger kinsister, Eesah, the only one of the twelve who wore the black of the Sisterhood of the Dark Moon. For her the color was no longer a matter of play as she had been accepted into training. Someday she would be a woman-warrior in truth, though she might never be the Ih’mah’nai, born of a healer as she was, and just as petite as her sister Aleea.

Following behind them came a boy-child about six years of age. Fine-boned, delicate for a boy, he had the promise of masculine grace and beauty that would assure him a marriage, even if his skills were only average. Already a favorite in the camp, little Vel was his birthmother’s only son. Grandson of the Ih’mah of the wealthier tribe, the heebai’noo taym-Red Canyon People-he would bring many horses, or perhaps a juma’im, the one-horned horse-like creatures prized by the desert people as mounts, in trade some day. Vel was bloodkin to Aleea and Eesah because his father was owned by Aleea’s birthmother. Though they shared no actual genetic relation, he was their brother all the same. He glanced into the darkness of the tent, looking for any sign of his real mother, but he could not see her or either of his fathers. They were still behind the privacy wall that the adults had put up during the night.

Across the camp another group of children was assembling, preparing to create a second tribe that would interact with Aleea’s group.

Among them was a girl who hurried away to join Aleea’s tribe, for they had grown to be good friends in the short while they had known one another. A small loom and several partial skeins of brightly colored thread, most in shades of yellow and orange, were the girl Sifa’s prize possessions. Her mother was of the weaver’s cast and had named her daughter for the cactus flowers she so loved for their scent and color. Sifa would follow in her mother’s path, becoming a weaver, a skill her nimble fingers were already proficient at to such a degree that she had traded some of her woven belts for sweets and a container of tea. In addition to her loom and thread, she carried a doll of a type common to the desert tribes. It was garbed in the manner in which babies were clothed, but it was faceless, so as not to catch any living soul in the rag and straw ‘flesh’ of an imitation child that would never grow because it was not alive.

Aleea turned to peer inside her mother’s tent, “Venyhn, where are you?”

“I’m coming,” he replied. He bore a close resemblance to Aleea, but had a male’s greater height and breadth of shoulder, though he too bore the stamp of their mother’s delicate build. He was carrying several lengths of striped cloth, a few sectional poles and a carpet that would become the home of Aleea and her tribe. Venyhn struggled to keep all of the objects from falling, but he was now strong enough to carry the load, something a short year ago he could not have accomplished. Fastened in his belt were his prized possessions, his first real sword and a hunting knife. At the corner of his left eye a dainty filigree leaf had been etched into his flesh to show his skill as a hunter. The brilliant green contrasted strikingly with his ivory skin and shimmering golden eyes. Not yet a man, he was no longer accounted a child either.

“Hurry, Venyhn, before it starts to get hot,” Aleea urged her brother. “We’ll need water for tea,” she told him.

Venyhn nodded and gestured to one of their younger male siblings who hurried to the girl with the pots, knelt before her, hands out to receive them his head bowed to show polite respect. She passed them into his care and joined the other girls in selecting the place their play camp would stand that day. He set all but the largest pot aside, rose to his feet and scurried off, heading for the pool. To him went the duty of preparing the tea and meals for the girls, acting the part of a male of their tribe, practicing for the duties that would be his once he was grown.

Venyhn quickly set up the tent where the girls would play, and then hurried to get more water and take care of their horses. He was the eldest son, though not the oldest of his mother’s many children. He had a pair of twin sisters who were older. but they had both gone away to learn healing with a closely related tribe, the heebai’ethee taym-the Red Valley People. He would not see them until the following summer, nearly an entire year away.

He glanced up and saw a horde of raiders, coming over the closest southern dune. There was no mistaking them for another tribe, or even for renegade tribesmen for they did not wear the flowing garments of the im’taym’i people. The beings running toward them could only be verritaym’i, the dragonlords, for they wore little more than the ritual tattoos which covered their bodies in serpentine patterns.

“VERRITAYM’I!”

The girls looked up from their toys, fear turning their cheeks ashen. Hoping someone was playing a prank, knowing no one would make such a horrible possibility into a mere childish game.

Panic gripping his heart, fear choking his breath, the boy ran back toward his mother’s tent to warn her, but seeing his siblings and their group of friends, he ran to them instead, one word pouring from his mouth over and over like a prayer: “Run! RUN! RUN!”

Venyhn hauled them to their feet, shoving them in the opposite direction from the approaching raiders. “Aleea, Sifa, Eesah, all of you” he cried, “RUN!”

His incessant shouts of alarm alerted others to the danger, and the entire camp erupted into a sea of running, screaming chaos. Women and children raced away from the attackers, streaming through the palm trees and out toward the desert. A handful of adult males followed to act as their rear guard. In the hope of protecting the women and children as they made their escape, most of the men, and all of black clothed members of the Dark Sisterhood ran headlong in the direction of the enemy.

Screams rose over the camp, slicing through what had been a cool morning’s peacefulness. Fierce, yellow-eyed males ran into the camp, slaying any men they saw, killing youngsters wherever they found them, attacking the fighting women in clumps, seeking to destroy everyone and everything they could not use.

Seeing that they would not have the opportunity to run away, a large number of women and children gathered near the oasis. With the deep water behind them, and the warriors of two tribes in front of them, it was the best defense they could find.

The people of the two tribes fought, the Sisters of the Dark Moon standing shoulder to shoulder with the males of both tribes. Fighting and dying, trying to save the lives of the women and children huddled behind their defensive line. They were outnumbered, but could still drive the raiders off if they could make the cost of the raid too high by killing a sufficient number of verritaym’i before they themselves died.

Then a new scream rang in the air. Angry, challenging. Hope died in the hearts of even the bravest warriors and the most courageous of the Sisterhood.

Its long neck raised, mouth gaping in a grating sound of fury, heavily muscled legs propelling it forward at a speed that could easily overtake any horse, a dragon charged into the fray. The beast was a fearsome sight with it’s snapping jaws and vicious talons. Atop its sinuous back sat a tattoo covered rider, his sand bronze eyes blazing with a wild mix of hatred and lust….

Dragon and Dragonlord.

They raged into the camp, tearing tents down as they raced toward their prize like a deadly storm. Between the dragon, its lord and their prize was an unbroken line of warriors. The raiders would claim their prize, the females behind that line, by killing those that opposed them.

Though there would be no stopping a dragon of such size, the warriors had nowhere to go, and none would be shamed by trying to flee.

“Hold your ground!” the Ih’mah’nai of the Dark Sisterhood cried, lifting her bloody sword over her head. “Hold your position and fight for the lives of your mothers and sisters!”

Reviewed by Wateena at Coffee Time Romance
Children of the Desert Moon Book 1: Lady’s Daughter is an amazing adventure where each of these character’s quest is just survival. Ms. Woodrum does an excellent job of painting a picture so vividly you can feel the heat of the sun and the grit from the sand. Dragons, healers, and spirits are only a few examples of the exotic creatures you will find in this tale. Exceptional characters with depth and determination, along with an engaging dialogue, all adds up to a very entertaining read.

To purchase Book One of the Children of the Desert Moon Trilogy, Lady’s Daughter use any of the following links to these fine retailers:

http://mundania.com/books-ladysdaughter.html
http://fictionwise.com/ebooks/eBook37642.htm
And at Amazon, just search for Glenda Woodrum for the print book

Glenda Woodrum
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