Book Review of “Aphanasian Stories” by author Rhonda Parrish
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Author: Rhonda Parrish
Genre: Fantasy Short Story Collection
Three of Rhonda Parrish’s beloved Aphanasian stories brought together in one collection for the first time!
A Love Story: Z’thandra, a swamp elf living with the Reptar, discovers a human near the village. When she falls in love with him, she faces the most difficult choice of her life, a decision that will affect the Reptar for generations.
Lost and Found: Xavier, the escaped subject of a madman’s experiments, and Colby, a young lady on a mission to save her brother, must combine their efforts to elude capture and recover the magical artifact that will save Colby’s brother before it’s too late.
Sister Margaret: A vampire hunter and a half-incubus swordsman are hired by a priestess to kill the undead pimp that is extorting, torturing and murdering vulnerable girls.
About the Author:
When she isn't procrastinating or gaming Rhonda writes fantasy, YA and horror. She also maintains a blog at http://www.rhondaparrish.com and loves sushi.
From A Love Story:
"Z'thandra," he intoned solemnly. "This council has no choice but to find you guilty of recklessly endangering one of the village and causing him to fall into a pit and break his arm. It is our judgment you receive five stones. May Phrake have mercy on you and prompt your heart to sincere repentance for your deeds."
Z'thandra heard Ulda and Eerna both gasp at the severity of her punishment, but the sounds came as to her as though from a long way away. Her knees went weak and her entire body began to tremble. She reached out blindly for something to hold herself up with and sagged thankfully against Ulda as the woman thrust herself under Z'thandra's arm.
"You can't be serious?" Ulda exclaimed pointing a scaly green finger at the councilors. "Five stones? Criminals, real criminals, get less than that."
Five stones. Z'thandra didn't hear the council's response, or Ulda's if she made one. She was lost in her thoughts. Five stones. She'd seen it done before, once. After that one time, the punishment was so brutal she'd made whatever excuse she could to never attend a stoning again.
At dusk, right before the magic moment when the last ray of the day's sunlight slipped into memory she would be brought, her hands bound behind her, to the sacred clearing. There she would be made to kneel, in the center of a circle comprised of all the members of the village who were able-bodied enough to make the short downhill trek. All those who wanted to be included in the draw to be tossers would throw their mark into the high councilor's hat and he would draw out the allotted number – in her case, five. The tossers would have a few short moments to pick their stones from those scattered around the clearing and then, in the instant the sun slipped below the horizon, pulling its last tendrils of light down with it, they would throw them.
People, reptar, were occasionally stoned to death, but with a sentence of five stones the tossers would not chose rocks they thought would cause that – they would aim to hurt, not to kill. Those people who'd been stoned in the past were easy to recognize around the village, they were invariably scarred, disfigured and broken. Their hearts, their spirits and their bodies.
From Lost and Found:
Long after her slow, even breathing told him Colby slept, Xavier sat, gazing silently into the flames but not really seeing them. The fire crackled and danced across the logs, causing the shadows of everything, from Colby to the boulders that peppered the floor, to move and twist at its whim. All save one.
His own shadow stood fast, resisting the shifting light. Often when he moved to watch his slumbering companion, it hesitated before following suit. After some time his shadow stood and began to pace the small cave, though he himself remained seated by the fire.
"They're out there ye know," the shadow hissed.
Xavier let his head fall into his hands and sighed. "I know. I hadn't noticed earlier, but the silence betrays them. No insects chirp and no night birds call. I know they're there."
"She don't," the shadow stated flatly, jerking its head in Colby's direction.
"I told ye ta kill the guard. Least it woulda given ya a head start ‘fore they knew ye were missin'."
"I'm not a murderer."
"Bah, ye don't know what ye is," the shadow mocked, waving his tentacles derisively.
The shadow's dry laughter sounded like a desiccated corn husk being tugged off the cob. It sent shivers down Xavier's spine. He gritted his teeth and flexed the muscles of his tentacles, trying to blot out the sound and looked back into the flames, thinking. Even his tentacles stopped swaying and rested peacefully at his side.
The shadow continued to pace. Its tentacles flailed violently around it, and occasionally one pounded angrily into the palm of its hand.
"They're jus' waitin' till their backup gets here."
"That's what I thought too. You suppose they'll attack at dawn?"
"I s'pose it depends on how long they bin waitin'."
"I don't think they were there when I woke up, but I don't know. They could have been there the whole time I slept, just waiting for a sign that Colby wasn't alone."
"If they've 'eard ye talkin' I 'spect they know she's not alone an' they won't waste time."
"Yeah, I expect they do." Xavier sighed. Standing slowly, he moved closer to the mouth of the cave and peered out. The sky hadn't begun to lighten yet, but the stars had grown faint.
"Kill 'em," his shadow whispered, but Xavier shook his head.
"I'm not a murderer."
The shadow threw up its arms and tentacles, in exasperation. "Fine, be a martyr, but don't ferget the main thing 'bout martyrs."
"What's that?" Xavier whispered.
"They're all dead."
From Sister Margaret:
Bayne could be a bit of a barbarian at times; however, he owned the most unbelievable sword you ever saw and wielded it with an unparalleled skill. I knew where to find him; he was as constant as the sun, that one.
I opened the door to Llewellyn’s whorehouse and took a quick look around the tap room. Haven was, perhaps, the only city in existence where most anyone could be welcome. Only here could you see elves drinking with dwarves, or reptars drinking with humans. Even so, Bayne was never difficult to spot; even here, he stood out.
He had white hair—not blond like what you might see on a pure human, but as white as bone—and his eyes were an icy blue that made women go weak in the knees. Though he wasn’t beefy, I’d seen him heft full-grown men over his head and through windows without breaking a sweat. Rumor said his father was an incubus; if true, that would account for his incredible strength. Then again, how do you ask a man if he’s half demon? Walk up and say, "Hey buddy, you got horns under that creepy colored hair?" Not a good idea, unless you worship the Goddess of Pain. I never did find out how true the rumors were, but it didn’t matter: he could swing a sword like no one you’d ever seen, and he worked for cheap if you told him it was for a good cause. Yes, Bayne was the man I needed at my side for this job.
He was currently sitting up on a mound of pillows with a tankard in his hand and a gaggle of giggling whores spread out around his feet like a harem. I didn’t have time to admire the view; it was almost midnight, and I intended to strike at dawn.
"Bayne, you up for a job?" My voice cut through the inane chatter of the girls at his feet like a lightning bolt through a tree. He caught my eye and nodded, and I took a seat at the bar and waited for him to disentangle himself from his fan club. After stepping over the girls scattered around him, he swaggered over to me and plopped himself down on the stool at my side.
Intriguing mix of stories. I loved the mythological ideology behind the stories. When I was teaching one of my assignments was for my students to create their own world. It had to include the inhabitants, culture, religions, etc., everything that you would expect in a world and then to write myths or folklore for that culture. These stories remind me of that assignment. I would love to see the world that gave rise to these stories.
I think my favorite was the first story because it was so self-sacrificing and loving. You have to read it to find out how because if I told you it would give away the best parts of the story.
I give these stories 4 out of 5 clouds..
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