Into The Maelstrom (Gennebar Rising, Book 2)
SciroFant Books, 2017 September 20
310 pages (paperback)
FIC009020 / Fiction : Fantasy – Epic
Kindle $3.99 (ISBN 978-1-77342-009-7)
Paperback $11.99 (ISBN 978-1-77342-006-6)
Hardcover $21.99 (ISBN 978-1-77342-025-7)
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Cosmic powers have awakened in young Arol, and he seeks understanding from the sage Bernarro, but is thrust into the ongoing war when his mother is sold into slavery. Arol sets out to free her, and along the way reunites with his best friend Zorn. Together, they must use his untested abilities to strike a blow against the occupation.
“[Geller maintains] a tightly paced plot from beginning to end. An epic fantasy tale set in
an ornately crafted universe.” —Recommended, Kirkus Reviews (refers to the complete Gennebar Rising trilogy: Books 1-3)
Clint Geller is a research physicist at a US government laboratory near Pittsburgh, PA, where he lives with his wife of 31 years. He has received awards and recognition for
his non-fiction writing, but Gennebar Rising is his first foray into fiction. It won’t be his last.
The story reflects Dr. Geller’s lifelong love of science and his inexhaustible wonder at the natural world, his love of history, his Jewish ethnic roots, and his zeal for interrogating blind faith and revealed “truth” under the hot light of reason and evidence.
“If you’ll pardon the question, where are we going, master?” Arol asked as Bernarro veered off the narrow path behind Cleft and began picking his way up the side of the precipitous gorge. The improvised route was so steep that Arol had to crane his neck almost at right angles to his shoulders to see where the high cliff looming above him met the sky.
“To demolish a few myths.”
Arol frowned. His master was in one of his cryptic moods that morning. “Myths?”
Two curious villagers leaned on their hoes to watch from their small field beside the mill as the travelers strayed off the beaten trail that traced the streambed. The residents of Cleft were always pleasant and respectful when Bernarro walked by, for his hostess Chliadne was as beneficent a landlady as they could hope for. But the villagers gave her mysterious frequent visitor as wide a berth as they could without appearing impolite. Some said he was impervious to time, and that scared them. The elders said he had walked the earth much the same as they saw him now, even when the oldest living villager’s grandparents were small children.
Master and pupil had struggled many hundreds of feet up the treacherous, boulder-strewn slope before Bernarro ventured to explain himself further. By then both men were wiping perspiration from their brows. “It is a strange thing, Arol, a paradox, that often the more one sees the less one knows. Yet the more one knows the more one sees.”
Arol’s eyes crossed. “That explains everything,” he replied. Even Bernarro had to chuckle.
“What I mean is that simplistic, comforting misconceptions and false beliefs—myths, Arol—wither and fade in the light of knowledge. As one replaces prejudices and presumptions with actual facts, articles of faith that seemed beyond question one day may appear less certain, even doubtful the next. As a man progresses in learning, the list of beliefs he holds absolutely certain always decreases, never increases.”
Arol climbed several steps in silence, digesting Bernarro’s explanation. “Alright,” he allowed. “So I think I can understand why you say that the more one learns, the less one knows. You mean knowing in the sense of being absolutely certain,” he said, looking to his master for confirmation. Bernarro rewarded him with a satisfied smile. “But what about the rest of it? Why is it that the more one knows, the more one sees?”
“The lesson will be worth more to you if I let you puzzle it out for yourself. So why don’t you think on that a while, and then when you’re ready, you can tell me your ideas.”
Arol accepted the assignment in stride. “Are we climbing all the way to the top?”
“No,” Bernarro explained. “It gets too dangerous up ahead. But fortunately, the place I want to show you is almost at hand.”
A few dozen steps later Bernarro came to a stop and sat on a rock to catch his breath. “Here we are,” he said, loosening the daypack from his shoulders.
Arol saw nothing especially unusual about the particular place where Bernarro had chosen to stop. The view was a bit dizzying, but otherwise that particular spot seemed no more or less noteworthy than any other in the vicinity. The question on his face obviated words. Bernarro ignored Arol’s bewilderment. He drew a waterskin out of his daypack, took a long drink and then handed it to Arol. The morning sun had climbed higher into the sky as they had scaled the slope, and the opposing cliff no longer shaded them from the sun’s direct glare. It was hot.
“Patience, my boy,” the kozem said, “and with a bit of luck I will produce for you a marvel from this hillside that you apparently consider so unremarkable.”
Arol knew his master too well to doubt his ability to do just that. Bernarro’s aquiline eyes swept the cliff face. After several minutes he pulled a tool out of his pack that looked like a combination hammer and pick. Tucking it into his rope belt, he rose from his rock. Then he stepped a short distance to a narrow ledge skirting a steep dropoff and began gingerly edging out along the thin stone lip. “Follow me, if you please, Arol—and do watch your step. It’s a long way down.” His pupil required no urging to be careful. Arol did his best to submerge his fear of heights, following dutifully behind his master.
In a short distance they came to a long horizontal seam in the cliff face about at shoulder height. The crumbly, buff-brown layer was an arm’s length or so thick and had a different texture than the darker, umber strata between which it was sandwiched. Bernarro drew his pick-hammer and eyed a vertical crease in the rock amidst the seam. There was a bulge in the rock face there that was just a bit smaller than a human head. He studied it for a few moments. Then he whacked it smartly with a short swing of his arm. The hill responded with a dull thunk and a puff of dust. A small shower of pebbles chattered down the slope. Two more judiciously aimed blows succeeded in freeing the protruding clump from its perch. Bernarro could just barely hold it with one hand while he replaced his tool in his belt with the other. With a motion of his head, Bernarro signaled Arol to retrace his cautious sidling steps along the ledge back to safer ground. As Bernarro seated himself once again on his favored rock, Arol squinted at the dubious treasure his master had prized from the hillside.
Bernarro studied the ordinary looking tan lump like a gem cutter regarding a priceless raw jewel. Then he laid it on the ground and drew the pick-hammer once again from his belt. “Let us see what secrets Nature will deign to share with us today,” he said, bubbling with optimism, as he began to strike the rock gently and precisely along a pre-existing crack. If it had been anyone else expecting to find treasure inside a seemingly random clot of hardened dirt, Arol would have been certain the man was daft, or at least senile. He held his breath expectantly, though for what he didn’t know.
The rock broke along the flaw into two smaller lumps. Something pale and whitish peeked out of one of the fracture faces. Bernarro picked up the broken halves and beamed. “Fortune has smiled on us today, my boy. Look!” Bernarro exulted, showing the treasure to Arol. “What do you make of that?”
Arol regarded the cloven rock and his eyebrows rose. Before coming to live at the Sacred Temple, he had grown up along the Gennebri sea coast in a small fishing village. The margins of the beach near Ebel Pelek were always piled high with sun-bleached, sand-blasted fragments of fluted spirals not unlike the one that nestled in the rock in Bernarro’s hand. Arol reached out and took the newfound wonder from Bernarro’s outstretched palm. The fine stippling and subtle toning he was accustomed to seeing in the folds of similar shells somehow had been drained away, but not by the sun. Some other strange process had been at work. “How did you know where to find this?” he asked.
“I didn’t exactly,” Bernarro let on. “But I know that particular seam is full of them. I just played the odds.” Bernarro regarded his pupil. “So I’ll ask you again, if I may. What do you make of that?”
Arol squinted. “Well it’s a seashell, obviously enough. But what it—or they—are doing here, I haven’t a clue.”
“When likely explanations are lacking, son, one must consider progressively less likely ones,” Bernarro suggested. “Speculate,” he encouraged.
Arol stared at the object for long moments lost in contemplation. “Well, perhaps this particular creature somehow lived on the land,” he offered without much conviction.
Bernarro’s lips pursed and his chin wrinkled. “Perhaps, I suppose. There are snails that live on land. But is that really the most likely remaining possibility? The shape of this particular shell would be very awkward to have to drag along the ground. Creatures are intimately adapted to their habitats, Arol. Their diets, their appearances, their defenses, their means of getting around, even the way they breathe, all are a piece with their specific environments. So how would a creature like this one, with a shell adapted to life in the sea, thrive on the land? A fish ‘drowns’ in the air just as we would drown in the water. Suppose I told you I have seen imprints of fish skeletons and fins in this same rock seam?”
Arol stared again at the rock and its unlikely captive. Then he looked up, taking in the lay of the land and the dramatic cliffs around him, trying to tame his incredulity. “Perhaps then this land had been beneath the sea?” he proposed.
Bernarro nodded. “As astounding as it may seem, that is likely. There are many other remains of living creatures in that layer of rock, Arol. All of them, I believe, lived in salt water, just like the former owner of this shell here. They died on the sea floor and were covered in mud and silt that eventually became rock, while all but the shells, or bones of the dead creatures rotted away.”
“But how could that be? One would have to climb at least a thousand paces above the sea to get here.”
The kozem’s cavernous aquamarine eyes scoured the hillside until he found the spot he sought. “Look there,” he said pointing. “Do you see that rock face that seems like it broke loose and thrust up from the hillside just yesterday? It’s the one that’s more vertical than the slopes above and below.”
“Well, it looks that way because it is in fact a rather recent addition to the landscape. That upthrust appeared a hundred or so years before you were born, during a particularly powerful shaker. I was here both shortly before and after it happened. The slope simply split asunder and that side rose straight up those five or so paces to expose that new vertical face. That’s why it still looks so clean and straight now. The elements haven’t had as long to eat away at it and spoil its pristine, almost faceted appearance, like they have the much older rock faces around it.”
Arol regarded the dramatic jutting wall of stone with new eyes. “So you’re saying that a shaker lifted this entire land up out of the sea? That would have to have been the biggest shaker ever,” he said, wide-eyed at the prospect. Having experienced far smaller, yet still quite violent temblors, the thought of one so unfathomably more powerful made him shiver. “Perhaps the Holy Scrolls speak of it somewhere. The scholars speak of a great flood . . .”
“Or perhaps many, many smaller shakers lifted this land out of the sea,” Bernarro suggested patiently. “Look there, and there, and there,” he said pointing to different smaller, somewhat more timeworn ledges than the one he had indicated earlier. “This slope on which we sit is the work of many, many shakers, Arol.”
That seemed more likely, Arol thought. “But how long would that have taken? The Holy Scrolls say . . .” but Arol hesitated.
Another smile flirted with the corners of Bernarro’s mouth. “You’re asking all the right questions. Do continue. What do the Holy Scrolls say?” The lesson was heading in exactly the direction Bernarro had wished.