The Onyx Crown is an exciting foray into the world of African fantasy. From the searing heat of the desert to the vastness of the savannah, it tells the story of three children–Sania, Gesi, and Jorann who grow up in a pre-medieval era of wars and successions, not fifteen years after the greatest king in the history of the continent has been deposed and assassinated. They must overcome the traumatic circumstances of their birth as well as many dangerous trials to fulfill the destiny bestowed upon them as infants. Can mere children use their courage, wits, and uncanny abilities to defeat legendary warriors, entire tribes, provinces, and kingdoms–allowing them to lead the worthy to the greatest prize of all, the Onyx Crown?
The Equinox Hunt was the once-every-ten-moon foray into the chakkha, or jungle, made by only the most celebrated hunters of the Nabii tribe of Numeria. It’s primary purpose was to keep the beast population to manageable levels, and stop them from foraging into the grasslands, but had long ago become a reliable way to create fortune for some Nabii tribesmen (simply called ‘the Hunters’), and their families.
Although wealth and riches beyond all imagination could be found beyond the gates of the chief Nabii citadel, Abir City, if the Hunters knew where to look, for most families it was more likely that they would return to the gates destitute, starving, and missing several family members.
K’Nan knew this as well as anyone. He knew he was looking at mostly dead men. Damn men are such fools, he thought. Most of these hunters were already successful enough to provide for their families, own property, perhaps even bribe for themselves a pathetic position on the council. Success was never enough, and, in fact, it spurs on the hunger drive for more success.
This time, he th ought, things just may turn out differently for them. Why he had decided to lead the Hunt this year was a puzzle even to himself.
He knew better than to rely on the nonsensical rumors that had been trickling out of the wilderness for the last year and a half. Tales of mythical beasts and fearsome fighters attacking the Numerian migrants seemed just that, more myth than reality, except…
Except he’d also dreamt of them for the last ten years of his life. He could probably count the number of peaceful nights he’d slept in that time quite easily if he stopped to think about it. There damned sure hadn’t been many.
How could he sleep? The unimaginable horror of some of the things he’d seen during those dreams weren’t easy to forget—man-eating beasts, blood thirsty warriors, and infants dying in the wilderness.
It was this last dream, the one about three infant children that spurred him toward the savannah. The innermost reaches of the savannah were referred to as the chakkha—the destination of the Equinox hunters, the Win-Daji.
“Why does it bother you so much?” he said to himself. “It’s just a dream like any other, and those other three are long lost now.”
And yet here he was. All because of a dream.
He shook his head at himself. “When will you finally give up hope?”
The winds started blowing even more briskly now, bringing a mini-sandstorm to the town gates. Instinctively, everyone covered their eyes and faces, through conditioning more than fear.
It was apparent that they were in no danger from sand this far from the wilderness, but hiding from it was a habit both born and bred in them from childbirth. Heat can indeed kill you, but in the wilderness you learn to fear the sand much more than the heat.
Luckily for the Win-Daji, the summer had not begun. In the summer, sandstorms morphed from deadly catastrophic—it was widely known that the one approaching would last for many months and be one of the hottest ever recorded.
The hunter talking with the sentries now was unique enough to catch K’Nan’s interest. This man was tall and pale-skinned (a rarity this far south) with a scar leading from the corner of his left eye to his left ear, a love kiss from a Deluthian rhino most likely, K’Nan’s imoya, or spirit, told him.
He wore his hair in the traditional Nabii tribesman style, shaved on the sides with a strip of hair about two inches high down the middle. On his hip he carried a crescent sword, very worn and very menacing, and two bows slung carelessly across his back.
Tied around his left thigh was a two-cubic-long dagger with a polished bone handle covered with notches. This man has done some killing, thought K’Nan, and without a doubt not confined it to beasts.
Whatever he was arguing with the sentries about must’ve been important. Gradually all of the other Win-Daji and Halanbi moved closer to them to listen in. Some were nodding and raising their weapons. Every now and then there’d be a little shout of encouragement from the group. Meanwhile the guards were shaking their heads all the more emphatically.
K’Nan ended his reverie and motioned his two companions, Semri and Semarion, to follow him down the rocky path toward the gates. The steadfast twin brothers hastily complied.
They had fought and hunted with him the better part of the last five years and were two of the only people he felt he could really rely on, despite the fact that they were not full-blooded Numerians. So, he’d asked them to accompany him, without telling them the true reason.
What are you so worried about? He asked himself. Aren’t you K’nan the Savage Slayer, a legend in all three territories of the savannah, defender of the Numerians, the scourge of all Panthia? How many countless men have died under your two-bladed spear, deservedly all?
How many beasts have you saved these wretched villagers from? You’ve dined with tribal chieftains between both seas, shared their spoils, and bedded their daughters. How could a life as full as yours end so quickly? Have you forgotten what the prophetess told you?
Alan Hurst is an author and entrepeneur. Hurst who spent most of his childhood reading Asian wuxia fiction, Marvel comics and encyclopedias is delving into trilogy territory with THE ONYX CROWN. He briefly studied religion at Harvard. Later, he settled in Washington, DC where he founded a software consulting firm, hosted the Urban Nation Radio podcast, and occasionally played the World Series of Poker. When not writing or enjoying time with his family, he prefers to take his Ducati motorcycle out for the occasional spin!