Anyia - It Begins
For over 14 years, Nagoan Village had been safe from Empress Zarina and her Thor Warriors. The magic treaty, although frail, had been maintained. To help maintain that treaty, Anyia’s father, the Chief, kept magic out of the village to protect them. Anyia grew up not knowing she had magic, but an earlier meeting with Amoonda changed that. With her magic awoken, she was now able to charge her battle stick, and her Kail training was more intense than ever. But it all might have been for nothing. Thor Warriors captured her mother and took her to Thor City to Empress Zarina to break the magic treaty. To get her back, Anyia must go into the heart of Thor City, the place of stolen magic, and face her enemies. The cost will be high, and if she wants to succeed, she will have to give up her identity, trust a stranger, and rely on new friends. Anyia, It Begins is the second book in an epic story of a young girl’s journey to follow her dreams. This book explores identity and trust themes and is an excellent addition to any fantasy reader’s collection. It’s perfect for readers ages 8 to 12.
Amoonda’s words ran through Anyia’s head as she swung, her grip firm. She inhaled the morning air, and the silent power in the pit of her stomach flowed to her fingertips and into the Kork wood of her battle stick.
“Empress Zarina … she has an army of them. Magically created. Most mind well, but some go rogue like that one,” Amoonda had told her after Anyia let the young boy go a few months ago.
Anyia had no idea that the boy was a Sif: so young and dangerous. It worried her most that Amoonda had told her no one could stop the second war from coming, yet she’d also said there would be those who would help defeat the Empress.
Anyia wondered who Amoonda could have been talking about. Everyone in Nagoran Village was content with staying protected under the Magic Treaty. She had no friends outside the village. Her best friend was her older brother, Anan, who she rarely got to see after their father, the Chief, made him a lead warrior as part of his training to one day be Chief himself.
On the other hand, Dek was someone she had spent a lot of time with over the last few months. Her father had assigned him to keep her out of trouble as a punishment for not following the rules and going outside the boundaries of Nagoran Village and the Magic Treaty’s protection. The thought made her laugh. She’d escaped from him more times than she could count, but when they did spend time together, they had a lot of fun and talked about everything.
Dek taught her how to make the best sandwiches, and she taught him how to fight. He was an okay fighter, but as he hadn’t grown up in Nagoran Village he had a lot to learn. They both loved to watch the warrior challenges at sunset: a friendly battle between warriors in which the best out of five won. To Dek’s surprise, Anyia entered a challenge herself, and it was after that battle she’d realized that they’d become great friends. “You were fantastic,” he’d told her, “although I wasn’t sure you were going to win. He had you a couple of times.” Anyia hit him in the arm, and they laughed and talked all the way home.
Taking in the fresh air again, Anyia finished her Kail stances and walked over to her third-story window. Looking past the royal courtyard and gates to the village streets, she listened to the people’s soft rumble as they got ready for their day. Children played while mothers talked and cooked morning meals beside their homes. The smell of baked bread floated through the air and field workers prepared tools to tend the berry fields. Village life, predictable and peaceful, never changed.
Further into the village, Anyia could see a group of Nagoran warriors standing around a crate shipment by the gathering room. She wondered who was moving in. Usually, Dek would have informed her of the comings and goings of the village. He was her eyes and ears. But with him on a new assignment, she hadn’t had anyone to do that for her. As part of her Yora training, it was her responsibility to go down and welcome the newcomers. She wasn’t looking forward to it, but it was something she couldn’t avoid.
“When you marry a Chief, you will become the Yora of his village,” her mother had told her on her first day of training as they’d walked down the village streets. “He cannot attend to the daily village needs, so that will be your job. You should look at it as a great honor. Be the friend and protector of the community and the right hand to the Chief. To understand this better, you will do the same here. This is our home, and you must make sure everyone feels comfortable: residents and strangers alike. Get to know the people. Make sure they thrive, and the village will thrive. Take care of issues before they get started. Be the person they talk to. It is a great honor. A great responsibility.”
This requirement annoyed Anyia. She wasn’t particularly social. Awkward really. She didn’t like being around groups of people, something she had in common with her mother. However, her mother was good at playing the social game and never looked awkward. Her mother’s ability to adapt was one of the things she admired, along with her grace and how well she spoke. All things Anyia needed to learn.
I can learn to be graceful, thought Anyia. She turned and walked over to the mirror and adjusted her red-and-gold royal dress. She held her shoulders back and smiled, but the awkwardness was all she could see when she looked at her reflection. So she quickly transitioned into a Kail stance: her natural pose. It was then she realized she still had her battle stick. She couldn’t take it with her, so she placed it in her secret hiding place behind the mirror.
Her battle stick was the perfect size, and when she whirled it, a soft swooshing sound radiated. It was the tone of her magic, and she loved hearing the soft hum of its vibration. She was also proud that she’d made it herself even though it wasn’t the easiest task, having had to sneak out one evening while Dek wasn’t looking to run back into the forest. She’d found a young Kork tree across the border in the Monko Region. It was risky, but she was able to go unnoticed. Well, almost.
Her brother Anan had walked up behind her as she’d walked through the royal courtyard on her way home. He said he’d been out walking to clear his mind. Anyia didn’t believe him, but she never asked. Then he’d handed her a set of carving tools that were a lot better than the tool she was prepared to use: a dull kitchen knife their cook had thrown away weeks before.
“Let me see it once you’ve finished,” he’d told her.
That night, she’d stayed up until every detail was finished and it fit perfectly in her hand. It was balanced, just like Amoonda’s. All those days of watching Mr. O’Day carving battle sticks for the Nagoran warriors had paid off.
Taking one last look in the mirror, Anyia relaxed and smiled to keep from looking so somber then headed out the door. Her walk to the gathering room was filled with people saying morning greetings. Being the Chief’s daughter, she was accustomed to this and really didn’t mind. Most of the villagers waved or spoke while others wanted to shake her hand and hug her as if she could bless their day. She always thought this need to touch her was odd, but she never showed it. They made her feel accepted and she loved that.
Once down the village streets, she stood in front of the gathering room, a tall domed building built from the oldest Kork tree to ever grow in the Land of Ethonia. It was grand and painted in the most vibrant reds and golds with an arched doorway double the height and thickness of any door she’d ever seen. Etched into the wood were simple line designs. She walked up to the door and stopped, feeling an urge to trace the Nagoran crest design with her finger. When she exhaled, she sent her powers into the wood, causing the crest to glow briefly.
“Are you going in?” she heard from behind.
“Anan!” yelled Anyia, recognizing the voice. She turned and greeted her brother with a big hug, almost making him drop the large crate he was carrying.
“Anyia!” he shouted in distress.
“Oh, is that heavy?” she asked as she squeezed him tighter.
After the second shout, she released him. “I thought you’d be gone for at least another month. When did you get back?”
Anan walked past Anyia to the center of the arched doorway and leaned up against it for support. He felt a small shock but paid it no attention. “Last night.”
“What was your mission? What did you do? Did you meet anyone interesting? Did you see a Camily or a pale girl … a Palan?”
“Anyia!” moaned Anan. He turned and walked into the gathering room.
“So … is that a no to seeing a Camily or a pale girl … or no you didn’t meet anyone interesting?”
“It means I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you, no, no, and yes.”
“So … yes to seeing a pale girl but no to seeing a Camily … right?”
Anan shrugged. “Yes, to seeing a pale girl, but it’s sad, really. To be drained like that is cruel.”
Anyia nodded in agreement. Being drained was cruel. She’d just begun to sense her magic and couldn’t imagine having it stolen by a Sif.
“So, where were you when you saw one?”
“Saw one … what?” asked Anan, preoccupied with looking through the crate.
“A pale girl.”
Anan looked up to see Anyia eagerly waiting for his response. “Nyle City Market Street. There’s a lot of them there, being that Empress Zarina’s ships still dock there.”
“Did you speak to one?”
“No. Why would I?”
Anyia sighed. She guessed he didn’t have a reason, but she was curious. Not being able to leave the boundaries of the magic treaty meant she didn’t get to see anyone who didn’t come to Nagoran village. Which also meant nothing exciting ever happened. Other than being captured by Thorians, meeting Amoonda, and letting the Sif go, which caused her father to have Dek escort her. But when she’d told her brother about what had happened in the forest, like Dek, he didn’t believe her.
“So what are these black blocks for?” she asked, looking around at the Nagoran warriors unloading the blocks from the crates they’d carried in.
“Are you serious?”
Not acknowledging Anan’s response, Anyia continued to scan the room. Anan groaned and pointed to a long wooden table.
“See that table over there?”
“Well, if you place a block on any corner, it will show you a piece of history.” He then placed one of the blocks in her hand. It was unexpectedly heavy.
“I remember,” Anyia said, tossing the block into the air. “They’re like the magic rugs that show you a location. The Grot told me all about them. I just never saw one before. You know how Father feels about having anything with magic in the village. Plus, if I want to know something, I can ask the Grot. He’s always … well, mostly … sometimes available … now and sometimes.”
“They’re not really like the rug. The rug is something for fun, something people bought from a magic shop. Blocks are our history. For as long as time has been, Grots have kept our history. Most of their knowledge interlinked with details, dates, and events, but that changed during the war. History started to be lost, so father sent out a request to all remaining Grots to put their knowledge into blocks.”
Anan grabbed another block and held it up. “Father has given permission for this to be the first historic building in the land of Ethonia so we can help repair some of the damage the war caused. It’s a great move. Nagorans, for the first time, will be one of the most educated people. Do you understand what this will do for our people?” Anan’s eyes filled with excitement.
“More studying. What fun … yay.” Anyia examined the engraved symbols on the block.
“You wanted change. Well, this is change.”
“This isn’t the change I was talking about,” Anyia said. She looked at Anan then tossed the history block up in the air, using her power to boost it a little higher.
“Well, it’s a good place to start.”
Anan, like Anyia, wanted change, but he saw change coming in the form of education, growth, and technology. For years he’d spoken about the need for progress and transforming the village into a small city. He thought they should be the voice for all the people in the Land of Ethonia and saw it as a responsibility they couldn’t ignore. But as usual, their father was holding to the traditions. Granting the gathering room to be the first historic building was the first time Anyia had seen their father actively move toward change.
Anyia began daydreaming about the gathering room being used for her father’s biggest events. How a table would line the wall filled with food and drink from all around the land, and the softest fabrics would be brought in from Mosa Village to drape the windows. Drummers would play festive songs as people danced, ate, and had the best time ever.
“So, how is your Yora training coming along?” Anan asked, interrupting her daydream.
“Fine. Last week Ma had me in the fields helping with the berry harvest. She said I needed to learn the process to understand the importance of maintaining good crops for trade, being that it’s the main income for the village. But what I really learned was that I shouldn’t bring a spicy apple to the field. Pepo bugs love them. I had them swarming around me the whole day. Usually, I wouldn’t mind, but that day, they were annoying.”
Anan shook his head as he listened.
“The week before that, she sent me to work in the kitchen to learn how to make bread. Dek and I ate everything I made. He showed me how to make the best sandwiches,” she said with a grin. “We made berry drinks too. It was a good week.”
“So, you haven’t taken the time to learn anything?”
“I learned things,” responded Anyia as she thought about how she could now push her powers out through her fingertips. She tossed the block back up into the air, and Anan reached over and rubbed the top of her head, frizzing it up to get her attention.
“Stop,” she yelled, pushing his hand away, barely having enough time to catch the block before it hit her face. “I hate when you do that.”
“Well, think … how can you help the people if you don’t know the people? Being a Yora isn’t just about understanding their jobs. It’s also about how everything connects to make a prosperous village. It’s about the community as a whole. It’s about serving the community. We all have our roles and work as one. That’s what Ma wants you to learn. She wants you to see the connections so that you can be a real help to the people.”
“Mani does it very well.”
“Mani … your friend?”
“Yes. Mani, my friend.”
“Oh, I learned something else. I learned that I don’t like her.”
“I spent time with her class to learn about our schooling process, and I think you could do better. She’s very bossy.”
“Mani is one of the sweetest girls I know. She’s smart, funny … and very cute.” Anan smiled. “And I like that she knows what she wants. Plus, she likes you, which is kind of hard to do.”
Anyia punched her brother in the arm. “I’m likable.”
“Ah,” Anan said with a grin. “You know I’m just teasing. You’re one of my favorite people. What’s not to like?” He reached over and grabbed her cheeks and pinched them before she could swat him away.
“Well, she ordered me around all day and had me do all the work while she sat and watched,” Anyia said. “And you know how bad I am at talking in front of crowds. She made me do that too. I could barely get a clear thought out without sounding nervous. It was horrible.”
Anan laughed. “She just wants you to get the full experience. Plus, we all know you need the practice.”
“Whatever,” Anyia said. “Well, I think she’s only with you because you’ll be the next Chief. She thinks she has a chance, but tradition is tradition and she’s not even an option.”
“You’ve said that about every girl who looks my way.”
“The truth is the truth.”
“Oh, I see.”
“That you’re jealous.”
“Is it?” Anan said. “She gets along with Ma, she knows everything a Yora should know, Father adores her, and she’s my fiancée.”
Anyia’s face dropped. “What?”
“She was waiting for me when I got home last night. The stars were out, and I walked her home and proposed. We’ll marry next season.” Anyia had never seen Anan so excited before.
“NO!” protested Anyia. “You can’t do that. She’s not the daughter of a Chief. What about tradition? Father won’t allow you to break tradition. He doesn’t let anyone break tradition.”
Anan grinned softly. “Things are changing. We can’t hold on to all our old traditions. Some of them don’t make sense anymore. Things changed after the war and they continue to change. If we want to grow, we have to change too. I’m talking to father more, and if I can get him to agree, I predict in a year our village could be granted the title of City. With the City of Ethonia in ruins, the Land of Ethonia needs a strong voice, and that voice has fallen to us. Can’t you see what that would mean?”
Anyia could hear the anticipation in Anan’s voice, his excitement and determination.
“Mani will be a great companion to help me through the transition when the day comes for me to lead.”
“Father isn’t going anywhere,” Anyia said harshly.
“I know, but when the day comes for me to step up, I’ll need someone strong like Mani. Plus, I love her.”
The sincerity in Anan’s eyes softened Anyia.
“I’ve always loved her,” he said.
“You’ve never said that about anyone before.”
“I didn’t realize it until this past trip. Out there, so much of the world is in upheaval. Even with the Magic Treaty in place, Empress Zarina is wreaking havoc. And her territory is growing. Slowly—but she’s getting stronger, and if we don’t do something, she’ll be unstoppable. Father is sending a troop of warriors out to secure the Monko Region later today. I’m leading them. If we take back Monko Village, we can really slow her down. Not a lot, but enough to give us time to come up with a more invasive plan. While I’m gone, I want the person I love—I want Mani—to know how much she means to me.”
“But Father can’t go to war under the Magic Treaty.”
Anyia watched as Anan took in a long, deep breath. “Some things are unavoidable. One day we will go to war—but that’s not today. Monko Region isn’t under the Magic Treaty. We wouldn’t be violating anything.”
Anyia thought back to Amoonda’s words. War was coming, and there was nothing her father could do to stop it.
“Get ready to be gracious like Ma,” Anan said softly. He then took the history block out of Anyia’s hand before she could toss it back up. She began to protest when she realized someone was standing behind her. She turned and saw a man with long, silver rope locks. A Grot. He had dark brown eyes with sparkles in them, which meant he was from Treelin. He also had what was called skin etching. Trying not to be obvious, she glanced down at all the intricate shapes on his arm.
“Hello,” he said in an upbeat, quirky voice. He held out his hand and Anyia shook it. “My name is Tayo. You can call me Tayo.”
Anyia beamed. She was always excited to meet someone from outside Nagoran Village, especially a Treelin. “Hi,” she said. “I’m … I mean, my name is Anyia, daughter of the Chief of Nagoran Village. If there is something … anything you need, please let me know. I’ll make you … sure you have it.”
Tayo nodded with a grin. “Thank you. I appreciate the hospitality. Your father has given me everything I need, and with the help of the Nagoran warriors, I’m sure I’ll have things up and running in no time. But please stop by and visit anytime you would like. This place is for you and for all who wish to use it.”
“Thank you. I’ll let everyone know,” Anyia said after taking a breath.
Tayo bowed before walking over to a group of warriors to direct them where to place things.
“Still not very gracious,” Anan said. “I guess I’ll just have to ask Mani to give you graciousness lessons.”
Anyia turned and punched Anan in the same arm as before. “You should have warned me.”
“I did!” he moaned, rubbing his arm. Anyia was pleased.
Anan was right though: gracious was something she still needed to master. She always got nervous talking to strangers, especially her elders. She was a warrior. Honor and courage were what she sought, and occasionally she loved hitting her brother in the arm to remind him.
“Well, I need to get as much done before the drums sound for the morning meeting,” Anan said. “If you’re going to be around, you might as well help.”
Anyia scrunched up her nose at the thought of unpacking crates. She was curious about the table and the new Grot, and she wanted to continue talking.
“I didn’t know there were Grots from Tremis,” she said.
“I don’t know … I guess I never thought about them having magic since they have Erow trees.” Anyia thought back to the Erow tree and the two Treelins who’d appeared and talked to Amoonda months ago in the forest.
“I don’t think anyone but the Treelins really know if they have magic. They don’t share their culture.”
“Yes, but if he’s a Grot, he’ll share. I bet some of these history blocks are about Tremis.”
“Maybe,” Anan said.
“Plus, we already know they use Erow trees for travel. I wonder if that’s how he got here?”
“No, we don’t,” Anan said. “Don’t go around starting rumors like that. As a Yora, you have to be careful about things you say.”
Anyia knew it wasn’t a rumor. She’d seen them appear with her own eyes. Just like she knew Amoonda was real, but she wasn’t going to waste her time trying to convince her brother. The truth was the truth, whether he believed it or not.
“You really need to pay more attention in your history class,” Anan said.
Anyia heard him speak but she was no longer listening. She was more curious about the history table and whether or not any of the history blocks were about Tremis, so she walked across the room to find out.
The table was plain with long thick legs. Anyia wondered if it was made out of Kork tree like the arched door, so she ran her fingers along its side. It was smooth and soft to the touch, not hard like Kork, and when she pushed her powers into the wood, she felt it bounce back. “Ouch,” she said, jumping from the shock.
Sticking her fingers in her mouth to soothe them, she walked down to the next corner of the table to a crate of blocks. Digging through, she found a block with the five symbols of the major areas throughout the Land of Ethonia: City of Ethonia, Nagoran Village, Tremis, the Monko Region, and Mosa Village.
She reached over to pick up the block but changed her mind when she saw a history block with a symbol that seemed familiar: four interlocking circles with one circle in the middle. After she placed that block on the corner of the table, the tabletop began to change. At the top formed the four interlocking circles with one circle in the middle, and below it, four words started to populate. But Anyia didn’t have time to read them because a loud sound rang out.
Ba boom boom!
The drums had begun and Anyia looked up. It was time for their father’s morning speech. She grabbed the block from the table and put it back before heading to the center courtyard with Anan and the rest of the warriors.
“Morning,” said the Chief. His voice was deep and carried through the crowd with ease.
Anyia stood by her brother and Sato, the lead guard. She scanned the crowd for Dek and her mother but didn’t see them. What she did see was Mani standing in the back of the courtyard with an elderly man and a tall, elegant middle-aged woman in a blue dress. The woman’s bald head was decorated in blue beads and her skin was pale—a pale brown with an undertone of gray. She was a pale girl … a pale … woman. A Palan.
“Uhhh … Anan,” she whispered.
“I see them too,” he replied.
(End of Excerpt)