Number of pages: 182
Word Count: About 56,000
Cover Artist: Darek Zabrocki
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.
Z’thandra stepped forward and lifting her chin proudly, met the gaze of the lead councilor.
“Yes, Sirs?” she prompted, hoping the disdain she held toward them didn’t leach, too obviously, into her voice.
“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.
About the Author:
When she isn’t being crafty, playing video games or procrastinating, Rhonda writes fantasy, YA and horror stories and poems. Also, she loves sushi.