Today we’re hosting a tour stop on the Khantara blog tour by author Michelle Franklin. She’s graciously provided us with an excerpt of the novel, which I’ve read and enjoyed. You can read my review over here.
A Bird’s-Eye View
With great alacrity did the wren fly through the slender lane and over the boundaries of the Haanta settlement, his flight ever hastened by his high spirits and roused desire to obey and fulfill his master’s command. He had been a solitary bird, the only fey wren who had been used to frequent the small fountain at the Thellisian marketplace from the multitude of other birds he had been wont to see. His presence had been a novelty when he was arrived to make a nest for himself somewhere less dry than the southern border of Lucentia, but over time, his presence at the fountain had grown irksome to some of the male goshawks. His feathers were far too blue and far too attractive for comfort, and where he had been once met with cordiality by all the birds of the fountain, he was soon been made to suffer the sharp looks of any threatened male in the area. Though he did have interest in discovering a mate, his main object was to make a friend, one with whom he could enjoy common raillery and spring mornings, and one with whom he could be unpretending and guileless with his opinions.
He was at first confused when Khantara had called to him; the voice was resonant and so unlike the nattering, small voices of his kinsmen. He had gone in the direction of the voice merely to determine whose voice it was, and when he realized he was flying toward a dark grey moving tree with grey leaves and black bark, he was instantly intrigued by the prospect. He could use the talking tree as a shelter, ask it to share its grubs, use its grey leaves to make a nest, but the moment he was applied to for assistance, all his notions of making the tree his benefactor ceased. He would have to earn the tree’s benediction. It was all his secret delectation. He would deliver this message to the tree’s three Amhadhri, whom he assumed were three lesser trees, and he would succeed if only to quiet the chirping assertions of the passing birds, declaring that he was unworthy to hold such a fine feather in his beak.
The birds within the settlement, chirping at him against the humming din of the Haanta scriptures being sung from the temple and the procession of bards, were even more vehement in their protestations. Who was he to be carrying their friend’s prized feather, one which they themselves had never been allowed to carry? They, who had been the giant’s trusted companions and confidants since his coming to the mainland, superseded and supplanted by one estranged wren. It was not to be borne, his gliding by them and mocking them with such an award to display. They would have him know their displeasure. How offensive to gloat and boast his being considered for the one position for which they had all been trying.
The wren flew through the settlement, remaining well above the trees, his paces never abating as he looked down to view the varying-coloured trees, all engaged in their various activities and exertions throughout the assorted nooks of the place. He could not help but observed that only the males below seemed to be trees, and the females seemed to be quiet something else. They resembled the something elses that he had seen walking around the marketplace, only these had differing barks, almost no two of them alike, while their leaves were mostly white, grey or black. They decorated themselves with shells and trinkets, lined their leaves with dried flowers, and preened themselves with strange bristly articles passed along their boughs and across their bark. They were an odd race to him: never had he seen trees walk about so freely. He had been used to see their roots planted and their trunks still, but here they moved and walked about as the elves in Lucentia did. Their trills and chirps were unlike those of Khantara: some of the females sang melodious songs, some of the male trees hummed with them, and the rest chirruped to one another with tinkling sounds and made wide smiles with their beaks. He had been used to think trees did not have beaks; he knew that elves in Lucentia had mouths, but as these were trees, they could not have lips as others did. They sang so well and chirped so clearly; they must have beaks to make such tonal sounds. Perhaps they were not trees after all: the females wore silks over their bark and the men wore linens around their trunks. This was all most extraordinary, but it was not unwelcome. A change from Lucentia was what he wanted and a change is what he received.
Even more curious were the hundred or so males bending their trunks and flexing their boughs in the large field he reached at the end of the main avenue of the settlement. There were various implements about the yard, meant to grant them greater strength and durability, but he little understood the purpose of these contrivances though everyone seemed to be engaged with using them. He flew lower to assess this odd procession of movements and garnered some attention as he glided between a line of targets. He heard the whirring buzz of bees about him and suddenly lifted out of the way of an arrow landing in the target below him. He weaved and bobbed, dodging the various arrows seemingly coming to strike him, and to salvage the feather in his beak and save himself, he flew to the large construction at the far end of the yard, otufitted with weapons of gleaming metal and shaped redwood. There were strident sounds emanating form within the building: the grinding of metal against stone, the hammer of wood being borne into wood, but regardless of the unpleasant chatter, he perched atop the entranceway and wondered where he was to find these Amhadhri. They ought to find him, as Khantara had given him so little in the way of a description to follow, but soon he heard the word Amhadhri called out to one of the rather small trees near the targets, fingers were pointed in his direction, and the small tree with sienna bark and white feathers turned to him with a most concerned expression.
Khantara tells the story of the Den Asaan Rautu’s mother and father.
Khantara is a Haanta conquerer, meant to wage war and rule over the enemy nation of Thellis, but after vanquishing Thellis and occupying a construction of a Haanta outpost, he meets Anelta, a woman enslaved by her own people bearing a brand of servitude on her neck. Khantara contrives to save her from a cruel home and bring her to the refuge his people can provide, but how can he do so successfully when the eyes of Thellis are upon him?
About the Author: Michelle Franklin is a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many books about giants, romance, and chocolate. The author of many published fantasy stories and the Haanta series. Lover and promoter of classic literature.