Book II in the “King of the Trees” allegorical series authored by William D. Burt. (Softcover; 288 pages. Illustrated by Terri L. Lahr and Rebecca J. Burt.)
In this sequel to The King of the Trees, King Rolin and Queen Marlis are enjoying a carefree autumn picnic when they are trapped between worlds. Too late they learn the connections among a silver starglass, a handful of pearls and five ravens. Cut off from friends, family and each other by a mysterious malady, they learn to survive in a savage land where unwary travelers fall prey to strange and terrifying creatures. To save Lucambra and many other worlds from a devouring darkness, they must join forces with some unlikely allies. Only in losing all they have ever known and loved do they discover the faithfulness of Gaelathane.
Excerpt from Chapter 7: Limbo
“As I am, so you shall be also, river scum!” The spiteful slur resounded in Rolin’s ears as he spun round and round, falling into a lightless, fathomless pit.
As the absolute terror of unbeing seized him, Rolin reached in vain
toward a shrinking spot of light in the suffocating blackness. Instinctively he knew that if that portal vanished, all hope of rescue would vanish with it.
“Marlis!” he screamed into the soundless void. Faster he whirled in a
twisting vortex that was sucking him deeper into nowhere. Like a
drowning swimmer entangled in slimy seaweed, he flailed toward the
dwindling pearl of light.
“Gaelathane!” he cried. “Save us!”
“Fear not,” came the Creator’s calm, reassuring voice. “I am still with
you. Trust Me and use your staff.” His staff! Unsheathing it, Rolin aimed the bravely glowing wand at the portal.
Instantly, a brilliant beam shot through the nether hole, widening it.
Light flooded the vortex, which convulsively vomited Rolin out through the portal.
“Ugh!” he grunted, falling face first onto hard dirt. He had scarcely
caught his breath when something landed on his back, knocking the wind out of him again. Gasping, he crawled out from under the weight and rolled over. He was lying at the bottom of a deep depression filled with an acrid, yellowish smoke. A thin, cold rain was falling, pooling in the bottom of the pit. Marlis was nowhere to be seen.
Then he heard his wife’s frantic voice: “Rolin, where are you?”
“I’m over here,” he called back.
Silence. Then came the fear-thick words, “What are those?”
Now Rolin saw them, too: Brown, snaky things hanging out of the pit’s
raw walls. He drew back. There was no telling what savage creatures
might inhabit this strange world. Then as the choking haze cleared, he
recognized the “snakes.”
“Those ropy things are only roots,” he said. “See the fresh sap dripping
from their frayed ends? Now, where are you? I hear you talking, but I
don’t see you.”
“I’m right here, and I can’t see you, either!”
Rolin jumped at the loudness of the queen’s frantic reply. Thinking she
must have fallen into a hole, he staggered to his feet and headed toward the sound of her voice. All at once, he stumbled and sprawled headlong into a puddle of water.
“Ow! What was that?” squealed Marlis. “Rolin, where are you?”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he sighed, picking himself up. As he began
feeling his way back, another unseen obstacle tripped him up. Throwing out a hand to catch himself, he grasped a nest of warm, fleshy tentacles. Marlis screamed, “Help! Rolin! Something’s got my hand!”
“Aiiii!” he yelled, yanking his own hand away as if he’d touched a hot
stove. However, his hand was gone. The thing had taken it! Horror-stricken, he scooted backward across the dirt, jabbering, “My hand! My hand! My hand!”
By then, Marlis was crying hysterically. “Please, Rolin, do something! If this is another of your silly tricks . . .”
Rolin stopped short. If he had just lost a hand, where was the pain, and why could he still feel his fingers? He picked up a stone, though he
couldn’t see the hand that held it. His arm was gone, too. Both arms, feet, legs—his whole body—all had vanished. Rolin began to shake. He couldn’t see his own nose.