In a hilly backwoods world where the sword and ax rule, over-sized youth Ford Barlow’s morality balances upon the edge of a knife. Though good at heart, the horrors of battle have warped his immature mind and a lack of love has isolated him. Tragedy forces Ford from his home and clan, thrusting him into the arms of a band of boy thieves. Adventures abound in a woodland hideaway, where Ford seems to have found a new home and new people to call his own. However, companionship, magical forest beings and fairies’ loot are not enough to distract him from the burden of guilt weighing him down. When the violent life presses in on him once more, Ford must decide between good and evil, life and death.
Targeted Age Group:: 18-25
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I grew up reading Tolkien's work and playing Dungeons & Dragons, so when I developed a desire to write, I inevitably began writing fantasy books.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Ford Barlow, my main character, is a version of the kids I grew up in my hometown. These were latchkey kids who developed their own moral compass, the needle of which could swing wildly about at times. You never knew how they might react in any given scenario, so you just hoped for the best.
This might be the end, the end of them all. A prospect daunting and exhilarating to Ford Barlow, a woodcutter’s giant of a boy running wild alongside friends and family over a lumpy field and wondering all the while if this thrill within him were born from eagerness for victory or fear of death. His untutored mind, all but untethered by a spirit finally set free, could hardly cope with such weighty ponderings, least of all at a time like this. Thoughts of valiant victory torn from eviscerating defeat dizzied his senses. Vague notions of what it was like to stab and be stabbed by spear or sword flooded his vision blind. Then he tripped over a jutting rock and fell on his face.
“Get up.” His father’s level, but insistent command propelled him to his feet as much as the man’s calloused hand hoisting the boy by the arm.
“Hurry!” his nerve-rattled brother Leoffred cried, while pulling at Ford’s other arm.
“Get down, get down!” Ford begged of the dog sniffing, licking and jumping on him. His enormous wolfhound Stinky would not be put off until he knew his master was unhurt.
“Make haste or get left behind!” bellowed a marchog, an armored warrior on horseback corralling the nearly two hundred other men, women and children bounding through high, bearded grass. All of the people, including a half dozen trained marchogs, belonged to the fork-bearded, red-faced Barwnig Blackoak, a sturdy and tenacious clan chief. Their fire-breathing barwnig rode at the fore, whipping his ax over his head, rallying them with whoops and cheers so robust he went hoarse. There wasn’t a boy among them who didn’t want to be him.
All of his people were happy to fight, but this chasing about the countryside after the Staneards, an unwilling and elusive rival clan, had gone on much longer than usual for a simple dispute between two local chiefs. Disregarding a border they claimed to be erroneous, the Staneards had made a quiet grab for a parcel of arable Blackoak land to add to their rocky territory. When roaming Staneard sheep were found repeatedly grazing on the wrong side of the border, Barwnig Blackoak mustered a force upon the disputed spot. The Staneards met them, but outnumbered they turned and fled. Demanding reparation, the Blackoaks gave chase. Normally with these feuds a bargain was struck, otherwise a brief battle ensued with the side taking it hardest on the chin relenting. But the Staneards were playing a new game and the chase had carried on for nearly a week now. With each passing day the people grew more restless, anxious to end this dispute and go home where work and families awaited.
Back and forth they tread over the fields of friend and foe with nights spent sleeping in forest and orchard. The footpaths traversed between villages could be counted in miles, but now it looked like the chase might finally end. A scout, Gil of Iselbryn on his cranky pony, reported the Staneards hiding in a village over the next rise. Forgotten were the aches and pains from days of trekking all over the land, the monotonous waiting for a scout to return, the boring afternoons foraging from hastily deserted villages. All around Ford people of the earth like himself, enthusiastic as hungry dogs after a wounded deer and armed with axes, knives, spears, and even farming tools, sprinted through a sunken field, a shallow bowl of a valley rimmed by squat, tree-lined hills. Silvery-skinned birches stood in a row along the western ridge, dicing the horizontal afternoon sun and causing it to flicker between the trees and partially blind them as they ran for the north rim directly ahead, a steadily rising knoll fronted by a head-high wall of bushes.
“Halt!” shouted Barwnig Blackoak. “Halt!”
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