Stand at the edge of the photograph of this frozen, French monastery.
Watch it buckle and splinter into the decayed, old bridge in an angry forest, leading instead to a small island where a dilapidated cottage crumbles, the supposed home of someone you are convinced cannot be trusted and certain should want you dead. A sign to your right etched hastily into wood warns you to “Beware of Moat.” Do you chance it?
As an author I cannot force you to turn the page, though I can perhaps offer the following hint: If you are not ready for an adventure, skip the sixth board.
Book Club Discussion Questions
From Tara’s high school English teacher
1. The beginning of the book is a bit confusing because of the introduction of so many characters, actions, and change of setting. What does this confusion represent?
2. By the end of the book, do you think the following characters are good or evil?
C. Petra (from the casino)
D. Lady Imaan
3. Was the poison real?
4. Why does Lady Imaan act as she does at the end of the book?
5. How did the war really start?
6. How does the author’s artistic background show itself in the book?
7. Which anthropomorphic character in the novel is your favorite? Why?
From Chapter One, The Merman’s Mark:
A battle rages on the beachfront. The chance for victory is fading fast.
Ghostlike warriors rode the waves from the top, their glittering pearl and pale blue armour camouflaged against the frothy sea as they inched the waves forward as though on horses, trying to push past the humans’ defensive line…
Norbert looked to the scaffolds as he passed the sandbags, following the General’s movements with admiration. A strong, burly man jumped from scaffold to scaffold with the grace of a dancer, twirling his weapon as he knocked the mers from their waves. His blade transformed seamlessly from one sword to another as he cut through a shower of Nephil blades; they burst into shimmering powder as he hit them.
“RETREAT! RETREAT! Retreat to the next scaffold!” shouted General Cephas, waving his arm to the tribesmen. A surge of arms flew into the air, confirming the signal. The tribesmen began jumping to the row of scaffolds behind them.
“Come on then, that’s our cue,” said Crispin. They dumped the bags and ploughed through the sloshing sand, heading toward the next row while the Nephilim fired blades at their backs.
“Cephas, there are only three rows of scaffolds left!” shouted Imaan from the baobab. “We need arrows!”
“Aaronites change to arrows!” shouted Cephas, waving his arm in symbolic gestures as he climbed the scaffold. “Aim for the cut diamonds in their armour!”
The scaffolds glowed orange as the tribesman changed their weapons, lengthening them from both ends into bows. In less than a minute the sky rained metal as the humans shot their arrows at the mers, who screamed as they flung their blades with even more vengeance than before. Crispin ducked, just missing a blade as it whirled past his head.
“Sheesh, some days it ain’t great being a peaceful people,” said Crispin, throwing the next sandbag. “They’d better do their jobs up there.”
“They’ve reached the Kasbah! Cephas, they’re breaching the Kasbah!” yelled Imaan, pointing from the edge of the baobab. Her long hair was wild and tangled from the frantic pacing, her eyes fixed on the advancing mers. “The armies on the right are too many!”
Cephas spun around. “Octavites, Elites, double back to right! Defend right!” he shouted, jumping from scaffold to scaffold. “Humphrites prepare the next scaffold! All other tribes aim at the King!”
Norbert dropped his sandbag and ran toward the next row of scaffolds, ducking as a bloodied Aaronite crashed into the waters next to him. A cruel, thunderous laugh echoed behind him; it came from the mer King who stood half-submerged in the great centre wave, bare-chested and laughing. Another Aaronite dove at the King, but he clubbed him with his mace as though flicking a fly. Norbert trembled and ran.
“Bring him down, tribes! Bring him down NOW!” shouted Cephas, flailing around. He shot three arrows at once, all aimed at the mer King’s chest. They hit their target but bounced harmlessly away.The King smirked, challenging him.
“Humphrites, again next scaffold!” cried Cephas, shooting more arrows.
The Humphrites poured toward the row behind him. As they ran a terrified scream echoed out; Cephas looked to the baobab.
“They’re breaching the wall! Cephas, the mers are entering the Kasbah!” shouted Imaan.
Cephas roared. Every human not fighting was huddled in the Kasbah. If they did not force surrender soon, the entire human race would be slaughtered.
“COME ON TRIBES! For Aeroth! For humans! For your families! The death of a king merits automatic surrender! BRING THIS MER KING DOWN!” Cephas shouted, jumping from scaffold to scaffold as he shot arrow after arrow. Norbert stopped dead in his tracks.
Charlie! The mers are nearing Charlie!
“Come on, Norbert, keep moving!” shouted Crispin, running with Loam. Norbert shook his head and followed them, running from the waves as they bit at his heals. As he ran, Norbert looked back just as the mer King rubbed the corner of his eye with his finger.
Norbert froze, falling forward as a Humphrite barrelled into him from behind. He pulled himself up and looked again, squinting as he focused on the small, greyish-black band on the mer King’s wrist.
“Is that our shield? Do the mers have Adam’s shield?” asked Norbert. Norbert bit his lip, looking from the King, to the scaffold, to the wave and back again. Then he changed direction, running straight for the watery wall.
Click the photos to see how it’s made.