KINDLE & PAPERBACK VERSIONS (for puchase only)
What happens when a small, motley group of adolescents become embroiled in a struggle to save their peaceful homeland from a slow, systematic and deliberate menace? The pre-historic South Pacific island of Amity is secretly invaded by a small malicious crew of exiles from a distant star system. Sicarius, the leader of the exiles, realizes that the inhabitants of Amity were settled on the island eons ago by a galactic monarch; the same sovereign that cast him and his minions into exile. Using the superior technology of his star freighter, Sicarius plans to bring an eternity of anguish on the inhabitants of the primitive island. It's up to Princess Esther and the guardians of the island's inhabitants to discover how to stop the invaders. The princess soon realizes that a small, young, tight-knit group of prankish companions become invaluable in the fight for freedom from Sicarius and his malicious plan.
The bright sunlight broke through the young ones' bedroom window with a piercing beam finding its way directly into Rukbat's eyes, waking him from a deep slumber. He sat up in his bed with a start. "Wake up, everybody!" he yelled. The two other young hoopees were just beginning to stir under the covers as Rukbat bounded out of bed and began shaking his sleepy companions. "Wake up! It's the day!"
The aroma of sassafras tea, fried turtle eggs and fresh baked apple bread worked its way up the stairs and into the upper rooms of the small cottage. All three hastily put on their clothes and bounded down the stairs to the warm kitchen. "Well, it's the sleepyheads, awake at last," said Zamar. "Get washed up so you can eat."
"We ain't hungry", said Enif, eager to be on his way. "We'c'n eat on th' way."
"Never you mind that", scolded his mother. "You need to eat something before you set off, now git."
After quickly scrubbing their faces and hands, the three young hoopees sat down and began to inhale their food. "Slow down!" yelled Zamar. "You'll get the cramps."
"Where's Uncle Arneb?" asked Rukbat, while shoveling another egg in his mouth.
"He's getting the wagon ready for the trip. You'll be leaving very shortly," his mother answered.
At that moment Arneb came in the door while lighting his pipe. "Wagon's all ready to go," he said, as he blew a large smoke ring toward the young trio.
"You three carry these baskets out to the wagon," ordered Zamar, while shoving three overstuffed baskets at the three.
"When are you coming to the festival, Aunt Zamar?" asked Chort.
"It won't be long," she answered. "My sister Ozniy and her husband will be here soon to pick me up. Then we'll be on our way."
After loading the last basket of food on the wagon, Arneb and the three young companions climbed aboard and began their journey, making their way through the small streets of the village. There were many other wagons leaving Marleytown; all heading in the same direction; resembling a wagon train leaving for parts unknown.
The convoy made its way to the Kanah River, where some of the wagons turned either left or right to setup camp on the southern side of the river. The sound of music and smell of food being cooked let them know that they were headed to a party. Arneb's wagon kept going straight, crossing an old stone bridge to the other side of the river, then north towards the Hills of Nabulus headed for his brother Burley's tent. Burley was the chief spokesman for the hoopees and always had an extra large exhibition area put up for the festivals. After making their way through the tented areas, they finally reached his large open front pavilion.
"Greetings, folks!" yelled Burley, while lifting a large tankard in their direction. "Climb down from there and stretch your legs."
Arneb and the three young companions jumped down from their wagon and gave Burley a hug.
"Hey you hooligans!" came a young feminine voice from inside the tent. It was Bebay, their cousin. The three ran into the tent to greet their young relative and Aunt Ezbay.
"How've you been, Arneb?" asked Burley while resting his hand on his brother's shoulder.
"Pretty good - although it's tough raising a youngin' without a mother," replied Arneb.
"I'm sure it is - I know Zamar has her hands full with Rukbat and Enif," said Burley. "Come inside the tent. Let's get a tankard of nectar and enjoy a pipe."
Burley and Arneb were sitting in the tent deep in conversation when three well groomed, beautifully adorned stately horses came up to the tent entrance.
"Hail Burley!" came a feminine voice from outside the tent. Burley immediately recognized the voice and put down his tankard and ran outside to greet the visiting riders. "Good day to you, Princess Esther!" said Burley, staring up at the statuesque securian. The two riders with her were Bellatrix and Sadr, Princess Esther's closest aids.
"It's the princess!" Bebay told her cousins in a loud whisper. Chort, Enif and Rukbat all ran out to where Burley was standing and talking with Princess Esther.
"Well, hello to you, young ones," the princess said to the three. "And how've you been?"
"Great!" exclaimed Rukbat. "You gonna compete in the contests today?"
"A few." she replied, while smiling down at the three impetuous hoopees. "How about you three?"
"The slingshot contests," interrupted Chort.
"Well, I'll make sure I watch those," she said smiling.
"D'ya know lil' Anode?" asked Enif, while holding both hands over his eyes to shade them from the sun.
"Enif!" yelled Burley. "The princess has more important things to do than answer your petty questions."
"Oh, that's fine," laughed Esther. "As a matter of fact, I do know young Anode.
I'm sure he's not too far away. If I see him, I'll tell him you're looking for him." The three securians backed their horses away from the tent and turned them towards the judges' stand and slowly rode off.
Burley's tent was directly across from Elvinhouse which stood in dark contrast against the green Hills of Nabulus. In between his tent and Elvinhouse was the contest field. It was in a perfect location for watching the contests and, in a short time, would be filled with folks eager to watch the events to come and later in the evening it would be one of the main party places.
Time finally arrived for the start of the contests and many young hoopees were on ponies ready for riding contests. Some of the securians were on horses, willing to show off their equestrian skills also. King Regulas and Burley were seated on the judges' stage waiting to watch over the contests. "Let the contests begin!" announced the king.
The beginning of the funfest started with the young hoopee riders followed by the securians. After they had completed their riding competition and awards were handed out, it was time for the marksman contests.
First were the securians competing in archery. Princess Esther was first, attempting to hit a moving target; a melon that was flung by a small catapult. As she walked up to the firing line, she heard a familiar voice behind her saying "Good luck, princess." Esther turned to see Murzim bowing in her direction. "Luck has nothing to do with it, Murzim," she said while selecting an arrow from her quiver, then placing it expertly in her bow. She pulled the bowstring back and yelled "go!" The operator of the catapult released the melon. Squinting over the arrow and leading the flying object, she released the bowstring. The arrow made a slightly curved path and hit the melon dead center in flight.
"Well done," said Murzim, nodding to the princess.
"Would you like to try?" she asked. Murzim walked over to the operator of the catapult and whispered something to him then came back to the firing line, picked up his longbow and selected an arrow from ones that he had made himself. Murzim had instructed the catapult operator to use a smaller melon and increase tension on the catapult mechanism. Loading his arrow into the bowstring, he pulled on the heavy bow and aimed to the sky. "Go!" he commanded. The melon shot out of the catapult and quickly became a small dot against the background of the blue sky. Murzim let the arrow go; both the melon and arrow went almost out of site.
"Better luck next time, Murzim," said the princess.
Murzim turned towards one of the young hoopees that were standing by and told him to ride out and retrieve the target. He mounted his pony and hurriedly rode off towards where the target should have landed.
"Any bets, princess?" Murzim asked, while self-assuredly leaning on his longbow. Esther pretended to ignore his challenge and didn't look in his direction. The young rider came back with the target; with the arrow dead in the center. "Like you said, princess," laughed Murzim, "luck has nothing to do with it."
Other securians entered the archery contest; all doing exceptionally well. Now it was time for the slingshot contests. Enif, Chort and Rukbat all entered. First the targets (melons) were set at a less than challenging distance. The two brothers and their cousin hit the targets with ease; as did most of the other young hoopees who entered the contest. Next, the targets were set at a more challenging distance. Enif, Chort and Rukbat all hit the target. Some of the other younger ones did also, but many dropped out. The targets were moved further away. This time Chort was the only one who could manage a hit.
"Good going, young hoopee," Murzim told him.
"Thank you, sir," Chort replied, while giving Rukbat a smirk.
"Ha! That was pure luck," Rukbat said.
Now it was time for the moving targets; melons rolling down a long ramp. The contestants had to hit a rolling melon between two marks on the ramp. At first, the ramp was at a very shallow angle, so the melon would roll slowly from one end to the other. Then, to make it more challenging, one end of the ramp was raised a bit to make a steeper angle so the melon rolled faster.
Again, everybody who entered the contest got their turn to display their marksmanship. And again, Chort took first place.
All was not lost for Enif and Rukbat. Enif won the footrace for his age group and Rukbat won the rope climbing contest giving all three something to brag about.
It was getting late in the afternoon, and everybody was getting tired and hungry. The excitement of the day's contests was over and the folks were ready for some rest and relaxation before the evening's fun.
Burley and Arneb were sitting under the tent, leaning back in their chairs smoking their pipes and sipping from their tankards while Chort, Rukbat and Enif were resting quietly in back of the tent.
"This is a surprise," whispered Burley to Arneb.
"What's that?" said Arneb.
"We've got no bad reports about the youngins'," he answered.
"Humph! It's still early," warned Arneb, while giving a quick glance towards the sleeping trio.