Dreams of the Dark Sky by Tiny LeCount Myers: Excerpt & Legacy of the Heavens Box Giveaway
Inspired by Scandinavian indigenous cultures, DREAMS OF THE DARK SKY takes place during the aftermath of a devastating clash between gods and men, where two unlikely allies—one immortal and one human—must band together to survive.
“My Finnish grandfather told me stories about fighting in World War II,” Myers says. “About hiding in the snowy forests for weeks and how it felt like he’d entered another world. My fascination with this other world hounded me until I began to write this series.”
A few years ago, Tina received a letter from her cousin Björn in Finland: “I am writing to you about your grandparent’s grave,” the letter began. “My father and uncles paid it the last time, but they are gone. Do you have any interest to come to Finland some time? The summer is best on the island as you probably remember. Your picture is on the wall with your grandfather and grandmother.”
Writing the series led Tina on an incredible journey to reconnect with her Finnish family and the land of her mother’s birth. Inspired by her family’s homeland, Tina set The Song of All and DREAMS OF THE DARK SKY in the forbidding fringes of the tundra, where years are marked by seasons of snow, and humans war with immortals in the name of their shared gods.
The war between men and immortals that raged across the frozen Northland of Davvieana has ended. For men, the balance of power between Believer and Brethren, between honoring the gods and honoring the sword, has shifted to favor priests over Hunters.
But it is the legacy of one man’s love for his son that shapes the lives of all who survived.
While Irjan, the once-legendary immortal hunter, has saved his son’s life, he cannot save Marnej from the men who will make him a killer, nor can he save the immortal girl he’d promised to protect from the secret of her birth.
Raised by Irjan among the immortals, Dárja has been trained to fight by a man who once hunted her kind. Prisoner among the humans, her hatred for them is challenged by the chance to give Irjan what he has always wanted?his son Marnej returned to him.
Together, Marnej and Dárja, human and immortal, must find a way to trust one another if they are to live long enough to learn the truth behind the secrets and lies that have forged their lives.
Excerpt from Dreams of the Dark Sky by Tina LeCount Myers, published by Night Shade Books Books. Copyright © 2010 by Tina LeCount Myers
Dreams of the Dark Sky is the second book of the Legacy of the Heavens.
The first, The Song of All, introduced readers to the worlds of the Jápmemeahttun and the Olmmoš.
First among those created by the gods, the Jápmemeahttun lived in harmony on the fringes of the tundra until their numbers grew so large that they overwhelmed their lands. As they struggled to survive, the gods took pity and gave them a gift. The Jápmemeahttun would live their lives in two halves: the first as female and the second as male, and as one soul prepared to leave the world, another prepared to give birth. The life force of the gods would pass through the old soul into the unborn, giving the baby life and turning the mother’s gender to male in the process. In this way, balance was soon restored to their population.
When the Olmmoš humans walked out of the east with their odd ways and their strange animals, the Jápmemeahttun welcomed them and taught them how to live upon the ice and snow and find light in the endless darkness. But over time, the humans grew wary of their guardians, whose lives seemed to stretch on forever. What started as an affinity between two peoples ended in enmity as the humans rebelled against the authority of those they called the Immortals.
For generations, battles between humans and Immortals raged on, until the Immortal Elders discovered the Song of All. Believed to be a gift from the gods, the Song of All acted as a veil to shield the Immortals from human eyes so the two tribes could live in the same world and never interact. This fragile peace held for almost a hundred seasons of snow, until the Brethren of Hunters began to seek out the reclusive Immortals to regain their wartime power, now challenged by the priestly Order of Believers.
Raised by the Brethren, Irjan had avenged his family, slain by rogue Immortals, by becoming the most skilled among the Hunters. He eventually grew weary of bloodshed, though, and fled to live a peaceful life as a farmer, husband, and father. But when he came upon his wife and infant son moments before they died, Irjan suspected the Brethren. Even as he mourned his wife’s death, Irjan tracked the Immortals deep into the snow-covered forest in the hope that their legendary powers would bring his infant son, Marnej, back to life.
The Jápmemeahttun life bringers Aillun and Djorn had journeyed together to their Origin to give birth. The inherent danger in this sacred ritual was compounded when they heard a human voice within the Song of All. As Aillun started to give birth and Djorn, the ancient warrior, began to die, Irjan ambushed them. Thrusting his infant son into the light emanating from the old Immortal’s body, Irjan brought Marnej back from the dead. But Aillun’s subsequent death left Irjan responsible for Dárja, the infant Immortal she had birthed.
Dávgon, the Brethren leader, dispatched his best hunters to bring back the traitor Irjan to serve the Brethren’s cause or forfeit his life for his earlier betrayal. Irjan, to elude his former comrades, set off for the Northland, where he had once safely traveled. But Irjan’s skills as a Hunter had not prepared him to care for two infants, and he was forced to rely upon the aid of strangers. Drawn into a Brethren trap, Irjan’s life was saved by
Kalek, an Immortal healer who had been heart-pledged to Aillun. Together, Irjan and Kalek protected the infant Dárja, but could not prevent the Brethren from kidnapping Marnej.
Kalek soon learned that Aillun had made Irjan Dárja’s guardian. Torn between his duty to his people and his lost love, Kalek brought Irjan to the Immortal Elders and what he thought was safety. The Elders knew what Irjan had not yet accepted—the human Hunter, in fact, had dual heritage, and possessed the unique ability to enter the Song of All as if he were a Jápmemeahttun. But his arrival among them bound the Elders to choose between protecting their kind from the humans and respecting Irjan’s right to live as one who had both human and Immortal blood. Their compromise to imprison Irjan temporarily staved off discontent.
While imprisoned, Irjan consoled himself with his friendship with Kalek and his responsibility for Dárja. However, he continued to harbor plans to rescue Marnej from the Brethren, who would turn his son into a killer. Irjan escaped at the first opportunity, forcing Kalek to choose between his new friendship and his tribe. Convinced by Irjan that his son’s freedom would serve the Immortals, Kalek fought alongside his friend until he was wounded. When it became clear there was no hope of rescuing his son, Irjan chose to save Kalek’s life, returning with him to the Northland, where he and Dárja were reunited. Irjan spent the next sixteen seasons of snow as a prisoner, teaching Dárja what he knew best—how to fight.
Dávgon, the Brethren leader, aware of Marnej’s Immortal blood and the unique abilities he possessed because of it, used Irjan’s now-grown son to track the Immortals and foment war between the two tribes. When Marnej entered the Song of All, the Immortal Elders realized there was no hope for peace. Dárja, who had grown into a skilled fighter, ardently supported the call to war. However, the revelation that she would never experience a fully Immortal life because of Irjan’s interference in her birth confirmed her fear that Irjan had always loved his son, Marnej, more than her. Determined to prove herself a true Immortal warrior, Dárja secretly joined the warrior ranks to confront the humans, unaware that Irjan had also joined as a last attempt at redemption.
When the Immortal warriors used the Song of All to attack the human soldiers in the Great Valley, Marnej pushed his way into the mêlée, anxious to demonstrate his loyalty to the Brethren. While Dárja fought her way through the human ranks, Irjan gave his life to protect his Immortal comrades when the tide turned against them. Decimated by the human victory in the Great Valley, the remaining Immortal warriors withdrew into the Song of All while Dárja was taken prisoner. At the Brethren’s fortress, Dárja and Marnej confronted their shared past and discovered, to their surprise, the potential of their tenuous future.
LOST TO THE SONG
Kalek picked at the meager meal of stewed rabbit and bitter greens. He ate out of habit, out of a healer’s instinct to sustain his body, but, more and more, he wondered why he bothered.
A suppressed giggle broke through the hushed atmosphere in the dining hall. Kalek looked up from his bowl. Two young nieddaš sat with their heads together. One had a hand over her mouth. Her shoulders shook with laughter. The boaris scattered about the dining hall continued to eat. The old showed no interest in the lives of the young.
Once a lively center for sharing meals, the dining hall had become cheerless in the moon cycle since the battle with the Olmmoš. It was impossible to enter a common area and not think of those who had died defending their kind in the last battle. The Jápmemeahttun had believed the power of the Song of All would preserve peace by keeping them safely hidden. But the Olmmoš could not live in peace, and Kalek cursed the day they had walked out of the eastern dawn. He had not been born yet, but he knew the songs from before, when their kind had thrived in balance with the world around them.
Look at us now, he thought. The few Taistelijan warriors who had survived the battle stood out among the nieddaš and the boaris. They were thankful to be alive, but they lived with the heavy burden of guilt. Indeed, it seemed that those who sought out healers, like himself, suffered less from an illness of the body and more from a sickness of the spirit. Increasingly, the old spent more time alone, listening to the Song of All, waiting for their time to end. They seemed to prefer the chorus of the wider world to the melancholy of their own immediate one. Yet, when called upon, they honored their duty as life bringers. They traveled to their Origins without complaint. Old and wise, they must have known that when their spirits left this world, new souls would likely not replace them.
But what alarmed Kalek most was not the pervasive sadness among the old, but the changes wrought among the young. Although the youngest still ran about playing innocent games, the older ones left childhood behind for hard work.
Wood for fires still needed to be chopped. Metal and leather still needed to be wrought. Animals still needed to be butchered. And fields still needed to be plowed. The survival of their kind depended on these tasks, which meant survival depended on the nieddaš, who were now the majority.
The necessary new duties had made many of the older and more capable nieddaš sullen and silent. They exhibited a harshness that had not existed before the battle. Still, when the time came for these nieddaš to return to their Origins and give birth, they struggled, restless and fearful, because what had once been a rite of passage had become, to their minds, a death sentence.
No one wanted to speak about what was happening, but none could ignore the fact that few nieddaš returned from birthing. Once, a nieddaš could expect to be a guide mother in the course of her life. Now she could only hope to be one. Kalek had seen the sidelong glances of those who still had no babe to love and nurture. And they all felt the palpable desperation as the songs of the guide mothers were sung less and less.
Despite his calling as a healer, Kalek found it hard to offer counsel to those nieddaš who came to see him. In their sad faces, he saw Aillun, his beloved first heart-pledge, who had traveled to her Origin what felt like a lifetime ago. Believing she could save them both from sorrow, Aillun had not shared the truth of the quickening within her. At the time, Kalek had told himself his wounded heart justified his harsh last words. But really it was his injured pride that had made him growl like a trapped bear. Later, though, when Aillun failed to return from her Origin, he would learn what real heartache was. He would not be the one to send these innocent nieddaš to their death in the Outside.
“You have pushed your food from one side of your bowl to the other many times, Kalek.”
Startled by the voice, Kalek looked up.
“Lighten your heart and be done with your meal,” Okta said.
Kalek dropped the wooden spoon. He looked deep into the eyes of his mentor. A milky whiteness grew in them now, but the ancient healer’s gaze was still sharp and penetrating. He could not lie to his mentor, his friend.
“What are we doing?” he asked, hopelessness flooding his question.
Okta raised his unruly eyebrows. “We are surviving. As we always have.”
Kalek’s despair turned his gut sour. “To what end, Okta? We are defeated.”
Okta patted his apprentice’s hand. This was by now an old conversation between them.
“Kalek, even in defeat, there can be life.”
The young healer shook his head, his focus on the bowl in front of him. “We are all just waiting to die.”
“It has always been so,” Okta said gently.
Kalek’s head shot up. His pale, feverish eyes bore into Okta just as they had the day of the battle, when Kalek had found Irjan’s body. Nothing in the young healer’s training had prepared him to see his friend and lover broken and bloodied. It did not matter that Irjan was part Olmmoš and had once hunted their kind. He had fought and died like a true Jápmemeahttun warrior. Then, as now, Okta knew that Kalek’s giant frame could bear much, but anguish threatened to crush his soul.
“Fine words meant to play with one’s thoughts,” Kalek said. “They are not an answer.”
Okta nodded his head, allowing the reproach to stand.
The old healer lifted his cup. He wished he could ease his apprentice’s pain. He wanted Kalek to regain his spirit, to see beyond the death of friends and comrades, and the death of those he had loved. Aillun first. Then Irjan. Okta drained his tea, then placed the cup down.
“There are no words I can offer you, Kalek, that will be sufficient,” he said. He stood and gathered his bowl and cup. “I will return to my chambers and then go out to gather herbs.”
The ancient healer did not wait for his apprentice to answer, and Kalek did not try to stop him.
The knock upon the apothecary door stopped Okta at the garden’s threshold. He considered ignoring it, longing to be outside where the rhythm of life pulsed, unchanged and welcoming. But a healer could not ignore someone in need. He backtracked through the crowded room filled with pungent herbs and distilling tinctures. He opened the door, surprised to see the Noaidi.
“Einár! This is unexpected. Are you feeling unwell?”
The Elder shook his head. “May I enter? I wish to speak with you.”
The formality of the Elder’s request placed Okta on guard. While the two shared a friendship that spanned ages, Einár was the head of the Council of Elders and the gods’ Oracle. For the last several seasons of snow they had not agreed on much, but in the vast span of their lifetimes, this was but a small matter.
“I have not seen much of you since our return,” Okta said, standing back to allow the Elder’s hunched frame to enter the apothecary. When did Einár become so thin? So frail? he wondered.
“My time now is mostly spent with the gods,” Einár said with a matter-of-factness that belied the onus of being the Noaidi. “I try to understand their wishes, and our future.”
Okta hesitated. “And . . . what do they say?”
Einár clasped his hands in front of him. The sleeves of his pale-green linen robe fell down across his gnarled knuckles. “They say many things, but I am not here to speak of the gods. I am here to speak to you of Dárja.”
Okta winced. The name cut him like a knife. His hand rose to his chest where the weight of responsibility rested heavy and immutable.
He was to blame for what had come to pass, at least in part. He had been angry and callous when he had last spoken to Dárja. He had told her she would always be a nieddaš. That she would never be a mother. Never be an almai. Never be a warrior. He had been blunt and brutal, and he had immediately regretted it.
Despite all his training as a healer, Okta had not understood what it meant to live a singular life. His had been a Jápmemeahttun life. He had been a nieddaš. He had given birth. He had handed his child to her guide mother, then embraced his life as an almai. When asked, he had become a warrior. He had experienced it all, as his kind was meant to. But Dárja was unique, and Okta had failed her. They had all failed her.
“I have heard her song,” Einár said.
The calm pronouncement set Okta back on his heels. He braced himself on the edge of his scarred work table. Disbelief clouded his thoughts, but his heart pounded.
Dárja had disappeared the day the Taistelijan had marched to battle. He did not doubt she had wanted to prove herself worthy to be a warrior. To prove him wrong. And he was wrong. He was wrong to keep his doubts about her future to himself for as long as he had. He could have helped her. They all could have helped her. But the truth remained hidden for too long, too painful to relive.
Okta met the Elder’s gaze. “She is alive, then?”
“Yes. I have heard her song.”
Okta’s elation made him eager to tell Kalek. The news would give the young almai the encouragement he needed. It would light the way back from the darkness that had consumed him.
Einár raised a hand to caution Okta. “There is more. I have also heard the song of Irjan’s son.”
Whatever hope had welled within in the ancient healer was dashed. “Marnej,” he muttered, remembering Irjan’s son, whose very existence had threatened what little peace remained to their kind. Silently, he blamed the boy, So much life lost. So many lives changed. And Marnej at the root of it all.
“I do not know what this means,” the Elder continued, “but I leave you to make the choices you feel you must.” He paused, then added, “The way you have always done.”
Okta staggered back at the impact of this judgment. He glanced at Einár, expecting to see condemnation. Deep folds shaded the Elder’s weary eyes. Okta’s shame bloomed hot. He had just quietly denounced the Olmmoš boy when he should have castigated himself. Blame rested with him, not Irjan’s son. Okta plopped down on the bench beside his work table. He was too old and he had seen too much to deny his attempt at playing a god. When Irjan had entered their lives, Okta had been adamant that, as half-Jápmemeahttun, Irjan deserved to live. But there was a part of him that now wondered if their kind might have been spared the recent tragedies had he just let the Taistelijan warriors track and kill Irjan in the very beginning.
“You have always listened to your heart, Okta,” Einár said. “Sometimes for the betterment of us all, and sometimes to our detriment. But we are so few now.” The Elder paused as if he chose his next words with care. “I am compelled to caution you. The actions of one will impact us all.”
The Elder withdrew from the apothecary, closing the door behind him. Okta sat, taking stock of the news. The knowledge that Dárja lived was both a profound joy and a subtle agony. Selfishly, he wanted to see her determined young face peer around his door again, if only to exonerate him for his part in her misery. But if that came to pass, he would once again have to cause her heartbreak. He would have to tell her of Irjan’s death on the battlefield.
Young. Headstrong. She will only see her part in it, Okta thought woefully.
He could not say Dárja had been wrong to blame Irjan for what had happened. Irjan’s actions had altered the course of all their lives. In trying to bring his son, Marnej, back from the gods’ embrace, Irjan had doomed the life bringers, Aillun and Djorn. The life force created by a boaris at death was meant to help the nieddaš give birth to her child and then allow her to transform to almai. Djorn did not have the power to sustain life for more than two souls. Marnej had been reborn, but Aillun died. And Dárja had been denied the life force she needed to mature fully as one of their kind.
When Irjan had pleaded to join the warriors leaving to fight the Olmmoš, Okta had recognized a man desperate for some kind of redemption. While he did not agree with the need for bloodshed, he respected Irjan’s desire to be a part of it. He had not talked Irjan out of fighting. Rather, he had helped him, and embraced him, and watched him ride into battle. His heart had ached for the man. Half Jápmemeahttun and half Olmmoš, Irjan had labored to do what was right and had suffered for love.
Kalek was right to agonize over how to tell Dárja this truth, he mused to himself. If she were to walk through his door right now . . . The thought disappeared almost as soon as it formed.
Okta leaned forward to rest his hands on his knees. The anticipation kindled by Einár’s news flickered briefly before reason snuffed it out. Dárja may be alive, but she could easily be a prisoner or pursued by the Brethren of Hunters, by Marnej even. Okta was certain that, despite the distant connection between Dárja and Marnej, if their songs were heard together, then it could only mean she was in danger. Marnej had been raised as an Olmmoš. Raised to be a Piijkij, like his father, he had sworn an oath to kill their kind. Marnej might be Irjan’s son, but he was also a Hunter.
Okta wanted to act. He wanted to do something. But Einár’s warning stung his conscience like summer nettles. In the past, Okta had sent Kalek out to meddle in the affairs of the Olmmoš, believing it to be the best course of action. And he knew if he told Kalek that Dárja’s song had been heard, his apprentice would rush into the Outside to try to find her. Kalek was as much a guide mother to the girl as Irjan, even if Irjan was her chosen biebmoeadni.
Okta wrestled with his thoughts. The reasonable part of his mind said it would be futile to send Kalek out to save Dárja. She could be dead within days. But the truth was that he could not bear the thought of losing Kalek. He had risked his apprentice’s life twice, believing the chance for peace was justified. But never again. Kalek was too dear to him and the future was now too uncertain to risk anything on some notion of pride.
Okta still sat with his hands upon his knees when Kalek entered the apothecary. If any misgivings persisted, they disappeared the instant he saw his apprentice. Framed by his pale, lank hair, the young almai’s doubt-etched brow overshadowed his face. If the gods possess pity they will place no more demands upon him, Okta thought, then silently promised, Nor will I.
“I thought you had left to collect herbs,” Kalek said, surprised to see Okta.
“Yes, yes. I became distracted and delayed,” the ancient healer said, staying within the bounds of truth.
Kalek passed by his mentor, briefly touching Okta’s shoulder. “Come, I will help you.”
Okta watched Kalek’s sure, fluid movement around the apothecary. How different their paths had been. He remained grateful that Kalek had not had to fight in the war. Too young for the ancient battles and too valuable for this last stand, Kalek had been spared. But even as he praised the gods for this small mercy, he knew that the young almai had not really been spared. To watch one’s kind slowly die over a lifetime might prove to be a greater cruelty than witnessing comrades killed in battle.
“Thank you, Kalek,” Okta finally said. “I much prefer your company to my own.”
A feeble smile graced the almai’s face. “That is only because you are so old and your own company so familiar.”
“True,” Okta agreed with a knowing laugh, “I find that, in your company, I need to bend less to pluck the right herbs.”
Kalek took the thin woolen cloak from its worn peg. He held it out to Okta, who stood. Kalek’s smile lingered, but it did not reach his eyes.
Legacy of the Heavens Box Giveaway
To celebrate the release of Dreams of the Dark Sky, Night Shade Books and Wunderkind PR partnered up to create these gorgeous Legacy of Heavens limited boxes, and they want to give you a chance to win one too. Inside the box you will find:
—one copy of THE SONG OF ALL (Book 1)
—one copy of DREAMS OF THE DARK SKY (Book 2)
—a special Tarot card and personal note from the author
—Special Finnish mint candy, a favorite of the author and a reminder of her grandfather
—a Luke Birch scented candle that evokes the Finnish Forests that inspired the books
Open to residents of the US only. This giveaway will run until April 8. Good luck!