Thornbear By MIchael G. Manning
Book/Novel Author: MIchael G. Manning
Book/Novel Title: Thornbear
Summary & Review
Gram lives in the long shadow cast by his father, the late-hero, Dorian Thornbear.Struggling to find his place in a world where politics and wizardry appear to have replaced the need for men of might and main, he must make his own mark.Trapped within the seemingly safe confines of Castle Cameron, Gram faces both love and tragedy.His choices will define not only himself, but serve to remind others of his family’s legacy, and the reason only a fool threatens those a Thornbear protects.
It was a warm day, almost too warm, but for the breeze whistling through the trees as Gram rode through the woods that encircled Castle Cameron. The sunshine was too cheerful for his mood, though, so he sought the darker shade of the forest rather than following more traveled trails or the open glens. He had brought his bow with him, though he had no real expectation of using it. He had come on a whim, seeking solitude. Without hounds or huntsmen, his chances of spotting game were slim. He merely wanted the quiet that only the forest could provide. The limbs were low and riding beneath them had become difficult so he dismounted and led his horse, a calm mare named ‘Pebble’. Her name was based more on her placid nature than upon her relative size. She was one of the many horses in the Count di’ Cameron’s stable, but Gram frequently chose her when he decided to ride. She wasn’t the fastest of horses, but she was rock steady. Somehow he felt a kinship to her because of that. Gram stopped. The trees were close and the air still. Despite the bright mid-morning sun, it was almost dark in the dense cover. He gave Pebble’s lead a quick loop over a small branch to keep her from wandering. The limb wasn’t big enough to give her any trouble if she made a serious attempt to escape, but that wasn’t the point. She knew as well as he did how such things worked. With hardly a glance at him she began to crop the sparse grass within reach of the tree. Reaching across her back Gram pulled his quarterstaff from where it was tied next to his bow. The six-foot rod of solid oak felt comforting in his hands. He had brought it, not from any particular need for protection, but rather as an outlet. Moving a good distance from Pebble, he made note of the trees and limbs around him and took a deep breath. He shut his eyes and straightened his back, smelling the air as he filled his lungs. Wood and bark, decomposing leaves and musty earth, those were the scents that predominated. They helped him to clear his mind as he held the staff in front of him, one end planted in the dirt while the other pointed toward the sky. In his mind he could see the trees around him, remembering what he had seen before he closed his eyes. Motionless, he remained that way for an unmeasured time until at last his body felt the moment had come. Without warning he shifted, and the stillness was replaced with a rush of explosive speed. The staff in front of him vanished, disappearing into a blur of grey and brown as his arms acted to guide it around him in a complex play of movement. It passed the low hanging branches without striking them; and while it was a lengthy piece of wood, it never quite struck the saplings that encroached on his space. Gram danced with the flow of the wood, letting its momentum pull him along. His eyes were no longer closed, but wide instead, taking in all the light around him. He turned and stepped, moving forward and then back, now to one side and then to the other. The quarterstaff never stopped. As he went, it passed over his back and then across his front, coming to rest under one arm here and then rebounding in a reversal of motion. Gram moved, but the world around him was untouched.
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