Stuart J. Whitmore, Author

The Vengeance of Mirickar

[Cover of The Vengeance of Mirickar]

Mirickar is on the hunt. His quarry: An age-old foe that others deny are even in the kingdom. Mirickar knows better. The kurakvin murdered his parents and he couldn't even give them a decent burial. But Mirickar grew up on a farm and doesn't know much about combat.

His mission of vengeance is complicated by not being the only survivor of the kurakvin raid. Sraikura, the adopted girl from the neighboring farm, just wants to run and hide. Mirickar reluctantly goes with her into the forest, intent on ensuring she will be safe before he continues his quest. She begs him to stay with her, insisting that a mysterious magical power in the forest will protect them both. Protection isn't what he wants. Protection won't rain vengeance on his parents' killers. Before they can agree on a plan, a tragic accident takes Sraikura away from him, leaving Mirickar to question all of his actions and decisions.

A chance meeting with an old warrior seems to open an opportunity for Mirickar to learn to fight. To be successful in his hunt. But the old warrior thinks it's folly, and he presses Mirickar with troubling questions. Can he really find any kurakvin to fight? If so, will he prevail? And to what end?

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Chapter One

Mirickar looked up in surprise. The low boom he heard from the direction of his home triggered his curiosity. He pushed back the stray strands of his long, dark hair and considered abandoning his chore. The urge to return home, to ensure that everything was in order, was offset by not wanting to face the ire of his mother. She would be disappointed if he returned with his basket only half filled, if there was no good reason for it. He was sure to hear about it if he did not return with a full basket of the greens and mushrooms that she used in cooking.

"Perhaps father dropped something large and heavy," he mused as he looked down again, seeking out the plants his mother liked most to add to their meals. Approaching his eighteenth summer, he looked forward to more challenging and exciting tasks than foraging.

He had not collected much more when he heard his name being called urgently in the distance. He knew before he looked up that it was not his parents. As his gaze shifted upward again, he was not surprised to see Sraikura, but his curiosity was mildly fueled by the apparent urgency in her approach as she ran across the open field toward him, her wild red hair streaming behind her, flapping her hands in agitation as she ran.

Sraikura was around his own age, but other than age and looks she was largely a mystery. The Kehnmark family, whose farm bordered his parents', had found her hiding in the forest as a child. Despite their efforts in the years since, she never seemed to lose the feral nature she showed when she was first found, nor did she gain much ability to speak or to comply with normal manners.

"Mirickar!" Sraikura yelled again as she drew near. "Mirickar!" The way she said his name, the last letter was almost entirely dropped.

"What is it now, Sraikura?" he answered when she reached him. After growing up with her, he knew she could become agitated at seemingly simple things. One time, she had been in tears and clung to him for a reason he had never grasped, apparently having something to do with a leaf floating away on a stream.

"Home! Home! Bad! Bad men! Home!" Sraikura cried out, grabbing one of his arms and pulling at him. "Home!"

Curiosity gave way to alarm. Her speech was worse than usual, and despite the confusion that seemed to swirl around her, Mirickar had never known her to raise a false alarm. Thoughts of greens and mushrooms were gone in an instant. He following her at a run across the field toward their homes...

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