Thursday, January 10, 2019

Curse of the Sea, Book One of the Admiralty Archives by Joni Parker


CURSE OF THE SEA by Joni Parker, Fantasy, 287 pp., $14.99 (paperback) $3.99 (kindle)




Title: Curse of the Sea, Book One of the Admiralty Archives

Author: Joni Parker

Publisher: Village Green Press LLC

Pages: 287

Genre: Urban Fantasy


A NATO training exercise goes terribly wrong when five warships from
different countries are mysteriously transported to Eledon, the Realm of
the Elves. The warrior Lady Alexin is charged to escort the troops back
home to London in the year 2031 with the aid of the Wizard Ecstasy and a
magic shrinking potion. Yet, when the authorities question her story,
Alex is detained and imprisoned under suspicion of terrorism. Caught in a
web of politics, betrayal and bungling bureaucracy, the confusing world
of the future will push her magical gifts to their limit, and her own
future will hang in the balance, caught between “justice” and the place
she calls home.


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Chapter 1

CURSE OF THE SEA

The fogbank loomed like an
impenetrable barrier, blotting out the moon, stars, and any vestiges of the
early morning sun. The seas, which had been choppy, calmed. The crew on the
wooden Elf ship, Kite, tensed, not
knowing what lay ahead as the ship sliced through gray walls of mist into eerie
silence.
Alex stood on the bow as the
primary lookout. Moisture condensed on her face and water dripped off her chin.
Long ago, she’d proven to the crew that her vision was better than theirs under
these circumstances. Pulling her long, black hair from her face, she revealed
the blue tufts in her ears, marking her as a young Water Elf. But her ears were
rounded like a mortal’s; her eyesight exceptional, that of a Titan. Wiping her
face, she grimaced through the discomfort of wet hair, wet skin, and wet
clothes, narrowing her blue eyes to pierce through the murkiness.
Alex wasn’t a member of the crew,
but a frequent visitor. She’d used the ship several times in her capacity as
the Keeper of the Keys for the Council of Elders, so the crew knew her well.
The Kite was a small, maneuverable
warship in the Water Elf fleet called a coaster, made of Arethus wood for
maximum strength with a single mast and a crew of ten, all skilled seamen,
blond, good-looking, and formidable warriors, trained in clandestine
operations. The crew taunted Crestan, the ship’s captain, about his close
relationship with Alex. He didn’t deny it, but cautioned them about teasing
her. The sword she wore on her side and the Elfin Blade strapped to her right
thigh weren’t for decoration. Alex could be dangerous.
Tendrils of fog wrapped around her
head, enveloping her in a shroud. Waving at it only made it close in tighter
around her face. She didn’t fear death; maybe she was too young and na├»ve to
worry about it. A shiver ran up her spine; she had trouble catching her breath
and her hands felt clammy and cold.
From behind, her grandfather, Lord
Odin of the Tree Elves, chanted a spell to lift the fog—his voice clear and
strong. Comforted, Alex breathed easier and returned her gaze to search for
Seaward Isle, but all she could see was more fog, the curse of the sea.
It
should burn off soon.
 

*          *          *

Faraway on the mortal world of
Earth, the American aircraft carrier, USS
Gerald R. Ford CVN-78
, sailed majestically at the head of NATO Exercise Hunter Dawn 2031 in the middle of the Atlantic
Ocean. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance
of nations formed in 1949, sponsored these exercises to maintain readiness and
improve cooperation. In 2031, Hunter Dawn
was the largest one held in decades, involving fifty ships and submarines
from twelve different countries.
From the British Royal Navy, Vice
Admiral Sir Malcolm Teller observed flight operations from the carrier’s bridge
as a jet aircraft took off. He was in command of the NATO exercise, the first British Admiral to be
selected in years. Over the last few decades, the British fleet had scaled back
its presence, citing the high cost and continuing economic woes. Still, a few
members of the British Parliament pressed for more influence and his assignment
was the result. At fifty-one, Teller was the one of the youngest three-star
Admirals in the British fleet and the only black man holding that rank. He
wasn’t sure if he was setting a new precedent as a black man or following one.
It didn’t matter to him.
With contained excitement, the
Admiral watched the jet take off—the sound was so loud he felt it to his core.
It rumbled and roared like a caged beast. Unbelievable…and
the precision!
All the sailors and aircraft moved around the flight deck in
a magical dance.
Before the launch of the next jet,
the captain of the ship, U.S. Navy Captain John Delacruz, stepped up to the
Admiral and leaned close to his ear. “I need to show you something in the CIC,
Admiral.”
            “Certainly.
What’s wrong?”
            “Follow me,
please.” He led the Admiral from the bridge to a locked door for the Command
Information Center,
known by sailors as the CIC, the heart of naval operations at sea. Access was
strictly limited, even to the crew. The Captain entered the security code, bent
his head down, and stepped through the watertight door. The Admiral wasn’t
quite as tall, but he bent his head just the same. He’d been on enough ships
over his career to have old scars on his forehead from these low doorways. The
Captain led him over to a radar screen.
“Admiral, this is Chief Petty
Officer Lawson. He’ll explain.”
            The Chief
stood at attention and pressed a button to replay the latest radar images.
“Yes, Captain. Admiral Teller, sir, about fifteen minutes ago at
zero-nine-thirty hours, we detected a squall line of bad weather heading for
the rear of the formation. Our radio operators notified the five ships at the
rear and they acknowledged. Once the squall line passed, we attempted to resume
radio contact, but there’s been no response. We can’t locate them by radar,
either. They’ve disappeared, Admiral…all five ships.”
            The Admiral
gripped his chest—it felt tight. “We still need verification.”
            “I took the
liberty of contacting our submarine, USS
Casa Grande
, to check it out. So far, nothing… no contact.” The Chief
pointed to the radar screen as a bead of sweat trickled down his face. “They
should be right here, but nothing’s there, sir. It’s like they vanished into
thin air.” He replayed the images on the radar screen.
            Admiral
Teller touched his forehead, not sure he understood the man clearly. “There
must be an oil slick or some other debris. There always is.”
            “There’s
nothing, Admiral.”
            “Is there
any other way to confirm it?”
            Captain
Delacruz intervened. “With your permission, Admiral, we can send our helos over
the scene to look for debris. They’re already in the air on plane guard duty.”
“Do it.” Admiral Teller took a deep
breath but had a sinking feeling in his gut.
He ran his hand over his head; guilt washed over him like a tidal wave.
He’d ordered the five ships to the rear as part of the exercise. Oh my God, what have I done?

*          *          *

Six months before, Alex had fixed
the Elf grid for the Plane of Eledon. The fog indicated the process of
restoring the island to the grid was working. But it was already the end of
June. Shortly after it began, the Mentors, the Elf Guides, had issued a warning
not to use the entry points to the island, but since then, they hadn’t said a
word.
Alex agonized over the island’s
fate, hoping the people living there survived. When she’d initially repaired
the grid six months ago, she didn’t know the process, but then again, no one
else did either because it had never happened before. For over a thousand
years, the island had been in limbo, part of Eledon and yet not. Encased in a
“bubble,” it clung to Eledon by the use of entry points, or wormholes—the
situation had been deteriorating until Alex solved the problem. Yeah, right, I fixed it all right. Look at
all this fog.
Her face went hot with guilt as she glanced back to the
bridge, making out her grandfather’s purple cloak and his long, blond hair.
The
fog was lifting.
Her grandfather, Lord Odin, the
leader of the Tree Elves and a senior member of the Council of Elders, had
suggested this exploratory voyage to the island and enlisted the aid of
Crestan, the captain of the ship Kite,
to sail into the unknown.
            “See
anything, Alex?” her grandfather asked through cupped hands.
            “Nothing.
It should be here. Are you sure you used the right spell?” She heard his
affirmative response and turned around. Seconds later, a faint image emerged
through the fog—a wooden ship sat dead in the water. “Ship ahead!” Alex whirled
around. “Crestan, turn now!”
            Crestan
squinted and waved his hand to the left. “Turn port, forty-five degrees.”
            “Port,
forty-five degrees,” came the confirmation from the boatswain at the wheel
which spun like a top, so fast the spindles were a blur.
            “We’re
clear.” Crestan breathed a sigh of relief. He recognized the other ship’s
markings. “A Rock Elf ship.” Alarmed, he closed his eyes to report it to Prince
Darin in Elfspeak, a form of elvish telepathic communication. The Prince was
Alex’s cousin, in charge of the Water Elf fleet, the largest in Eledon. He was
intensely interested in Rock Elf movements near the island and not without
reason.
            “Your
Highness, this is Crestan. May I speak?”
            “Where are
you?”
            “Near
Seaward Isle. We’ve spotted a Rock Elf ship in the fog.”
            “Very well.
Keep your eyes open for more.”
            “Yes, your
Highness.” Crestan opened his eyes. The conversation had barely lasted a few
seconds.
            Alex made
out another shape. “There’s another one. It’s really big!” She stood on her
tiptoes and extended her hands as high as she could, but her arms weren’t long
enough.
            “Where?”
            “Ahead of
us. Can’t you see it?” She pointed up. A large, gray mass blended into the
mist, but its straight lines gave away its presence. A klaxon blared.
            Crestan
gasped as he heard the klaxon and detected the gray hulk, simultaneously.
“Right full rudder!” He ran to the wheel to help his boatswain spin it faster.
They narrowly missed the ship, but it was so close Crestan could reach out and
touch the hull. It was made of metal, not wood. Painted on the side in large
black letters was the name HMS Camelot.
            “HMS Camelot?” Alex furrowed her brow.
“King Arthur didn’t have ships like that.”
            Lord Odin
came up to her. “What kind of ship is this? It’s made of metal. What’s it doing
here?”
            “I don’t
know, but Camelot was the name of King Arthur’s castle. His ships were made out
of wood, like ours.” Alex shook her head. A few years ago, she’d seen his ships
on her last visit to the mortal world and had even met the man. “Whose ship was
that behind us? The wooden one.” She hoped it wasn’t a mortal ship.
            “Rock
Elves. I’ve already notified Prince Darin,” Crestan said.
            “Oh, no. Do
they have a lot of them?”
            “At least a
hundred. Lord Boulder increased their fleet before he died, but none of their
ships are built with Arethus wood.” Crestan bowed to Lord Odin; the Tree Elves
had supplied the special wood.
            “Unfortunately,
we know what the Rock Elves want.” Lord Odin sighed. “They want Seaward Isle.”
The Rock Elves used to live on the
island, but abandoned it when it became unstable. Now that it had returned to
Eledon, they wanted it back. Neither Lord Odin nor Alex intended to let them
have it.
            Slowly, the
Kite cleared the bow of the Camelot, only to find a flotilla of
small rubber boats with men in orange life vests, picking others out of the
water. Alex leaned over the bow, her face and black hair still dripping as she
surveyed the situation below.
            Crestan
came alongside. “All stop! Throw out the sea anchor. Begin rescue operations.”
            Alex
pinched her nose. “It smells like gasoline.” Years ago, she’d witnessed another
shipwreck near Seaward Isle with a similar smell. The pungent odor irritated
her breathing. Even her grandfather covered his nose and mouth with his cloak.
The crew ignored the smell and
focused their efforts on rescuing as many as they could. It was the law of the
sea—sailors always helped others in distress, except in battle, but sometimes
even then. They lowered a rope ladder and dropped their only lifeboat in the
water. As survivors came aboard, Alex handed out towels and blankets and gave
them water while her grandfather checked them for injuries.
To Alex’s surprise, the sailors
spoke the common tongue, the language spoken on Seaward Isle. Alex approached a
middle-aged man with dark eyes and dark hair, graying at the temples. He wore a
wet uniform with multiple gold stripes on his shoulders, obviously an officer.
            “My name’s
Alex. Are you in charge?”
            “Yes, I
am.”
            “Are you
hurt, sir? You’re bleeding.” She pointed to his forehead.
            “Just a
scratch.” He dabbed it with his fingers. “Thank you for your assistance. You
said your name was Alex, correct? My name is Captain William Jonas, British
Royal Navy. I’m the Commanding Officer of the HMS Camelot. We were participating in NATO Exercise Hunter Dawn 2031. Where are we?”
            “You’re off
the coast of Seaward Isle. We’re not exactly sure how
you got here. This wasn’t supposed to happen anymore.” She cast a concerned
glance over her shoulder. “This is my grandfather, Lord Odin—he’s the Tree Elf
representative on the Council of Elders.”
            Captain
Jonas extended his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, sir.” He paused and stared at
him. “Did you say Tree Elf?” He laughed. “Marvelous job of makeup. Your ears
are even pointed.”
            “But I am a
Tree Elf, Captain.”
            The Captain’s
smile vanished as he stared, his mouth ajar. “How did you get here?”
            “The
correct question is how did you get
here? We live here in Eledon. This is the Elf ship, Kite, and this is the captain, Crestan. You’ll notice his ears are
also pointed because we’re Elves. Unfortunately, the crew doesn’t speak the
common tongue as my granddaughter and I do.”
            Upon
hearing his name, Crestan saluted Captain Jonas in the Elf fashion with his
right hand over his chest and a nod.
            “Honored to
meet a fellow seaman.” Captain Jonas returned a crisp salute to the brow, palm
out, British-style. He swallowed hard. “The common tongue? You mean English?”
            “Yes, it’s
spoken on Seaward Isle. My granddaughter and I lived on this island for many
years, but Crestan and his crew did not. The island was populated by mortals
who’d been shipwrecked here, just as you are. But we haven’t had any shipwrecks
in years. We just repaired the Elf grid, so this would never happen again.”
            “Apparently,
it did. So, what do we do now?”
            “Let’s get
you and your crew to shore and figure this out.” Lord Odin turned away. “Take
us to shore, Crestan,” he said in Elf.
            Crestan
waved two fingers over his head, followed by other verbal commands to his crew.
            “Turn two,”
Captain Jonas said. “At least that’s the same.” The nautical signal told the
crew to begin ship operations, which they did. They raised the sea anchor,
lowered the sail, and caught a light breeze.
            Once
moving, Crestan sent out a distress call, using a pink conch shell. It was a
long wail followed by two short blasts, notifying anyone within earshot of the
accident scene. The ship sailed ahead, throwing lines over the side to tow the
rubber boats behind it.
            Alex
pointed to the right—the fog was lifting. “Grandfather, there’s more gray ships
over there.”
            Captain
Jonas nodded. “Yes, four more ships from the countries of the United
States, France,
Canada, and Italy,
with over seven hundred sailors including ours. How deep is the water here? And
where are you taking us?”
            “I don’t
know how deep it is, but the city of Agana
is just ahead.” Alex pointed forward.
            “Agana
on the island of Guam?
That’s impossible. That’s in the Pacific Ocean and we
were in the Atlantic.”
            “No,
Captain. This isn’t the same Agana.
I’m not sure where the name of this city came from, but…you’re not in the
mortal world anymore.”
            “What do
you mean we’re not in the mortal world?”
            “You’re in
Eledon, the world of the Elves.”
            “Impossible!”
He stared at Lord Odin. “How did we get here?” His eyebrows raised high.
            Alex shrugged.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to explain.”
            Lord Odin
rested his hand on the Captain’s shoulder. “Eledon was created by our Mentors,
our guides, when we were sent away from Earth over ten thousand years ago. Our
journey took us through a wormhole, so we’re probably quite a distance from
Earth.”
            Captain
Jonas turned pale and touched his forehead. “This isn’t possible.”
            “I’m afraid
it is.”
            “How do we
get back…to Earth?”
            “I’ll ask
our Mentors for help. They can make an entry point to the mortal world, but it
can take some time. Meanwhile, we need to take care of you and your crew.”
            “How am I
going to explain this to them?” The Captain muttered; his eyes wide and mouth
open. He shook his head slowly. “Surely
this must be a mistake.”
















Joni was born in Chicago, moved to Japan, and returned to live in
Phoenix, Arizona. After joining the Navy, she lived in Lakehurst, New
Jersey where she met her husband, a career sailor. They moved to
Jacksonville, Florida, from there to Pensacola, Florida where Joni
attended the university. Upon graduation, she returned to the Navy and
was stationed in Naples, Italy. From there, the Navy sent her to live in
a number of U.S. cities and even spent a year with the U.S. Army at
their Command and General Staff College obtaining a Master of Military
Arts and Sciences. Upon her retirement, she traveled the country in an
RV with her husband until he passed away. She returned to the workforce
living in Dallas until she discovered a passion for writing fantasy
novels. She retired for a second time and now lives in Tucson, Arizona.




Website Address: http://www.joni-parker.com


Twitter Address: @ParkerJoni


Facebook Address: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJoniParker

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com

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