Sunday 27 December 2015


Below is Book One in an epic fantasy series with a unique arctic setting. 
I am told all fans of fantasy will enjoy these five novels.
Title: The Calling
Series: Alaana's Way
Author: Ken Altabef
Publisher: Cats Cradle Press
Release Date: 30th October 2014

BLURB from Goodreads
An insatiable fever demon... 
A restless Wind spirit... 
A treacherous shaman... 
A golden walrus... 
And one courageous young girl. 

In the frozen north, a land of deadly weather and unforgiving spirits, the shaman is all that stands in the way of disaster. When Alaana is called upon to become shaman for the Anatatook people she discovers a kaleidoscopic world where everything is alive, where the tent skins whisper at night and even the soapstone pot has tales to tell. She faces vengeful ghosts and hungry demons as she travels the dangerous path to becoming a shaman. 
And there's just one other problem. Girls aren't allowed to be shamans. 



The sight of her sister’s body lying so pale and motionless on the sleeping platform made Alaana’s heart twist slowly in her chest.  Her father stepped back, his expression frightful, and the world suddenly turned colder than ever before.
Alaana had never seen her father afraid.  Kigiuna was a strong man, a successful hunter and a good provider for the family.  Even during winter’s long unbroken darkness when a sense of helplessness settled over them all, when there was little to do but sleep and tell stories in the dim glow of the soapstone lamp awaiting spring’s dawn, he was never afraid.  Framed by shoulder-length hair, wavy and black, and the sparse, curly beard that hung from his chin, Kigiuna’s face was usually quick with a smile.  But now his voice sounded strangely high-pitched and his eyes were wild in their sockets.
“The snow has already melted,” whispered Amauraq, indicating a little puddle pooling on the ledge where the melt had trickled down from Avalaaqiaq’s forehead.  In contrast to her husband, Mother’s fears were well known to the entire family.  She feared that her children wouldn’t have enough to eat, and she feared that her husband might die out on the hunt, victim to a treacherous stretch of ice floe or the mauling attack of an enraged bull walrus or the inexorable pull of the ever-present, numbing cold.  She was afraid when the storms blew against their tents, and she was afraid when the blubber in the lamps ran low.
“Melted already?” asked Kigiuna.  He placed a hand along Avalaaqiaq’s cheek.  Despite a thick layer of sleeping furs, a violent shiver wracked the child’s body as she slept on the driftwood platform.  “She’s burning from the inside.  Look at her skin.”
Alaana squeezed in for a closer look.  Her father’s words had not been meant for her.  She and her brothers were quickly shoved away.  Alaana had only a fleeting glimpse of the oozing blisters that riddled Ava’s face.
“We need the shaman,” said Amauraq in a tone so heavy with desperation it broke Alaana’s heart.
Kigiuna turned to Alaana’s eldest brother.  “Maguan,” he said, “The house of the angatkok is not far.  Bring him quickly.”
“Alaana, you go with him,” added Amauraq.
Relieved at finally having something to do, Alaana raced out the tent flap, close behind her brother.
“Maguan!” she called out, but her brother neither hesitated nor turned back.  Alaana wanted to ask if Maguan thought Ava was going to die, but was glad the opportunity passed.  To give voice to such a fear would surely bring an ill omen to the family.  The idea was too painful to even think about.  Not Avalaaqiaq.  At eleven, Alaana was only two winters younger than Ava, and being so close in age the two were nearly inseparable.  They were forever running races along the beach and wrestling in the snow, and Ava had promised to teach Alaana to use the slingshot just as soon as Maguan had finished teaching her.
Alaana was not swift enough to keep pace with her eldest brother, who was already a man, but it felt good to push herself.  The exertion left her less time to worry about Ava.  Weaving a path through the Anatatook encampment, she darted between sod houses and tents of stretched caribou skin.  The chill of spring’s evening had hardened the day’s melt into an uneven surface that stabbed against the soles of her mukluks, threatening to turn an ankle at any careless step.
Of the three shamans who served the Anatatook, Civiliaq was closest at hand.  He sat perched atop a large rock at the bend of the river, giving himself a tattoo with a slender ivory needle and a pot of ash.  His clean-shaven face betrayed no pain as he dragged the needle, dipped in the black soot, under the skin of his forearm.  Thin streams of blood trickled from the many punctures he had already made.  Despite the cold Civiliaq always went bare-chested and barefoot.  He enjoyed showing off both his natural ability to generate heat and the impressive tattoos that covered his upper body and arms.
Angatkok!  Angatkok!” shouted Maguan.
Civiliaq acted as if he could not hear them, taking up his clay pipe.  As he put the long stem to his mouth the bowl sparked to life.  The shaman drew a short puff of thick black smoke. 
“Does one hear some little bird calling one’s name?” he said as if to himself.
“Please,” shouted Maguan, “My little sister is sick.  I think she’s going to—” Maguan stopped short, but although he had not said it, his words confirmed Alaana’s dread.  He too thought Ava might die.  “She’s on fire!”
As Civiliaq stood up, the many charms strung about his neck tinkled to life.  He gazed down at his two worried visitors.  “On fire?”
“Father said she’s burning up.  Snow placed on her forehead melts faster than in the pot.  Please come.”
Civiliaq took one last puff of the pipe and wound it around his forehead just below the ornate black-feathered headpiece he wore.  The rigid stem somehow went around his head without breaking.  This was one of Civiliaq’s favorite tricks for impressing the children but Alaana had no time for it now. 
Civiliaq pointed a long, black crow feather at Maguan.  “It’s good you came to me,” he said.  “Was that your idea, boy?”
“My father’s,” replied Maguan.  He held back from adding that the choice was based on the fact that of the three shamans who served the Anatatook, Civiliaq had simply been the closest at hand.
“Ah, Kigiuna,” said Civiliaq, nodding thoughtfully.  “Let’s go then.”  He gathered up his medicine bundle and the things he had been using for the tattoo, moving much too slowly for Alaana’s liking.
“Hurry, please,” Alaana whispered.
With his gangly, long-legged stride the shaman followed them back to their tent, stopping only for a moment at his house to pick up a small round drum.

“We’ve done nothing wrong,” said Kigiuna.
“Someone must have,” returned Civiliaq.  He bent over Ava with an intent look on his face.
Kigiuna flushed at the shaman’s rebuke.  His anger slowly dissolved into a look of sincere reflection as he pondered the awful question as to whether he might have broken one of the taboos after all.
Civiliaq gently stroked Ava’s cheek, then pulled his fingers quickly away as if they’d been burned by the blisters.  He cocked his head and sniffed, drawing attention to an odd smell in the tent, sickly sweet, much like the cloying scent of the red poppy.
The shaman shook out the contents of his medicine pouch, emptying a small clutter of objects onto the packed snow floor beside the sleeping platform.  The soapstone lamp had been turned out by Amauraq, Alaana’s mother, as she thought to help cool Ava.  Civiliaq reached for the lamp.  As he tapped the end of the wick it immediately sparked to life.  He sprinkled some dried herb into the simmering pool of seal oil and a mellow woody scent began to overwhelm the sickly odor in the tent.
Sitting cross-legged before the shelf, Civiliaq began to sing.  He beat a tiny drum in rhythm to his chant, gently at first, then more forcefully as the cryptic words of the song came faster and faster.  His eyes closed, his face set in deep concentration, his breath came quick and strident between the lyrics.  His slender neck and shoulders trembled wildly, setting the many necklaces and amulets to a jangling accompaniment of his healing song.
His eyes popped open and Alaana noted a deep look passing from the shaman to the unconscious girl on the slab.  This was the look, she knew, which shamans used to see into the spirit world.
Suddenly Civiliaq leapt straight up and began dancing around the little room, jumping and thrusting his legs out to the sides, knocking Mother’s cooking things from their places and tumbling the lamp onto its side.  Whooping, he spun around three times and launched himself at Ava.  With the tiny drum held tightly to the child’s forehead, the shaman pressed his lips against the drumhead.  He came up with a mouthful of black ichor.  He spewed the ghastly liquid at Kigiuna’s feet.
He also spat out a small stone, sending it rolling across the floor.  It came to rest close to where Alaana was standing.
“The evil is drawn out,” announced Civiliaq.  “I can’t yet say whether she will live.  We must still discover the cause of this malady.  But that is for later.”
Alaana stared down at the little stone.  Where it was not splotched with the black ooze she saw a distinctive shade of brown lined with reddish streaks.  She remembered playing with that very stone the day before.  She had seen Civiliaq pick it up just as he was entering the tent.
“You took that from outside,” Alaana said, pointing to the stone.
“Don’t be ridiculous, girl,” said Civiliaq with a congenial smile.  “Everyone saw me draw it from your sister’s body.”  He began gathering up the feathers and dried herbs that went into his medicine bag.
“Alaana!” shouted her mother. 
“But I saw him pick it up outside!  I saw him!”
Civiliaq whirled around.  This time his face was anything but congenial.  “Does a little bird question her shaman’s methods?”
“She certainly does not,” said Amauraq.  She grabbed her daughter’s arm, but Alaana twisted away.
Alaana was caught in a terrifying situation.  She knew what she had seen, but everyone wanted her to be quiet.  And yet she didn’t want her sister to die because of the shaman’s faulty healing magic.  This was too important.  For the first time in her life she didn’t care if she angered her parents.
“You lie!” she said.  Then her father was coming toward her, the angriest look in the world on his face.  Alaana cast a final glance at poor Ava, still lying asleep on the ledge, before she darted out of the tent.  She ran through the snow until she could go no farther.  By the time her father had finished apologizing to the shaman, she was long gone.

Crouched among the ice and rocks at the river’s elbow, Alaana fought back the tears.  Except for Ipalook, who was seated atop an upright umiak at the bend of the river keeping watch for the salmon run, there was no one else in sight. 
The rocks in the stream glistened with a stunning mosaic of spring color.  Patches of moss speckled the gray surfaces with delicate circles of orange, green and black.  The water sparkled in the sunlight, a joyous dance of spring, as it sent frothy bubbles in eddies and whirls about the stones.  A pair of old-squaw ducks called softly from the opposite bank.  The running water answered with a soothing whisper, a muffled conversation which dangled just beyond her realm of perception, telling of age-old mysteries trickling down from the north.  To Alaana, the river was both fascinating and profoundly beautiful.
She thought also that her sister Avalaaqiaq was beautiful.  Her face was perfectly round when she smiled, her teeth perfectly crooked when she grinned, and her laugh an irresistible tickle that ran up and down the spine of anyone who heard it.  And now she lay dying. 
Alaana leaned forward so that her tears would plop down into the eddy pool between the toes of her mukluks.  She didn’t want Ava to cross into the distant land, to leave and never come back.  But there was nothing she could do about it, and attacking the shaman hadn’t helped.  Alaana knew her father must be furious with her; she cast a nervous glance over her shoulder.  She wasn’t afraid of her father’s anger; she was more upset that she had caused Kigiuna pain and embarrassment.  She had never meant to do that.
“We all make mistakes,” said an unnaturally deep rumble of a voice.
Alaana turned to see Old Manatook standing behind her.  The fact that she had observed no one approaching when she’d looked over her shoulder just a moment ago did not seem strange.  That was the way with Old Manatook.
From his imposing height, Old Manatook’s gaze washed sternly down on Alaana like cold water running down from an iceberg.  The old shaman had an impressive beard as perfectly white and curly as his luxurious hair, a broad sloping nose, and dark sympathetic eyes.  He wore a hoary old parka whose caribou hide had faded almost completely white and a luxurious set of trousers made from polar bear fur.
“But then again,” said Old Manatook.  “No one likes a disrespectful child.”
“I don’t care,” spat Alaana.
“Sun and Moon, this one’s going to be trouble,” the shaman said, turning his head.  He had a strange habit of talking to his left shoulder.
“I saw him pick up that stone,” said Alaana.  “I only told what I saw.”
“You shouldn’t question things you don’t understand.”
“Then how am I to learn anything?”
“Trouble,” said Old Manatook to his left shoulder.  He turned back to the girl.  “In matters of faith,” he said, “skepticism will get you nowhere.  There’s good reason a shaman uses such a stone.”
“To fool people?”
Old Manatook cast a self-righteous glance at his left shoulder.  His mouth gaped open then closed again as if he had decided not to speak at it this time.  He returned his stern gaze to Alaana.  “Certainly not.”
“Then why?”
“It’s not something I can explain.”
“You could if you wanted to,” said Alaana.
Old Manatook huffed.  “It’s not something for girls to know.”

As a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America member, my short fiction has frequently appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I also had stories in Interzone, Buzzymag, Abyss & Apex, Unsettling Wonder and Ominous Realities. 
ALAANA'S WAY, my 5-part series of epic fantasy novels is published by Cat's Cradle Press. Described as "cutting-edge fantasy from the top of the world" the arctic setting and unique characters will bring something new to even the most jaded fantasy enthusiast. 

You can preview this work and others at my website
or you can follow him on Twitter and Goodreads.

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