ML Bellante’s The Munnari War: Novel Three
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For now, try the Prologue.
Ayascho sat on the ground, his back against his resting tree. It was Master’s Day, the day of rest, on the Tondo Estate, and he was enjoying his leisure. One day in ten was set aside for man and beast to rest from their labors. It had taken him a while to become accustomed to how hard he was now expected to work. Back at his Batru village, deep in the Wilderness, he hunted one day in ten. The remaining days, he languished in the village, safe from the gorga’s threat, at least until the outlander had arrived. Tondo, the outlander, had changed everything. Amazingly, he had singlehandedly killed the gorga that had plagued his village for so many rains. That was a great blessing, but Tondo had kept secret Ayascho’s act of cowardice during the beast’s attack on his hunting team, and now he was in Tondo’s debt. Only an extraordinary feat could free him from his self-imposed debt of honor. He would follow the visitor until an opportunity arose by which he could redeem himself.
At first, Tondo had been his enemy because the outlander had nearly strangled him, but over their long passage from the village to this strange new land, they had grown to be as close as brothers. They had faced many perils together, and more than once, Tondo had saved his life, as well as the lives of the king’s men who had fetched him.
He clutched the gorga fang under his jerkin, and he smiled. He and Tondo had killed a second gorga threatening another Batru village. He had learned that he wasn’t a coward after all. He had been steadied by the outlander’s calm in the face of the charging beast and bolstered by Tondo’s threat to put an arrow in his backside if he ran again.
Now, here they were, in a land far from the village. It had taken them nearly two-hundred days to make the journey. Just as they had arrived in the kingdom, they had heard the sounds of battle. When he and Tondo arrived at the place where the fighting had just ended, he witnessed Tondo do an extraordinary thing. He had brought a dead man back to life by contending with the gods and breathing life back into him. As it turned out, the young man was the prince of the kingdom. When they were brought before the king, Tondo was rewarded with a title and given an estate with many slaves. For the life of him, Ayascho could not understand why anyone would want to be a slave, but over the intervening days, he had learned slaves had no choice in the matter.
On the estate lived the previous steward’s woman and daughter. Tondo had allowed them to remain and reside in the huge lodge that was their home, known as the manor house and often called the Big House by the slaves. He, Tondo, and their new companion and friend, king’s counselor Idop, had moved into the guesthouse. It was also a huge lodge, much bigger than the family lodges in his village, but smaller than the manor house by more than half.
His thoughts turned to the village’s pretty young women, and especially Nita. He wondered if she had caught the eye of another young hunter. The thought chased away his smile. He thought about the pretty Anterran, Mistress Oetan, Ootyiah. She was the stunningly beautiful daughter of the previous estate master, who had caught Tondo’s eye. For many days, Tondo and Ootyiah could be seen strolling together, arm in arm, along the ocean cliffs, sometimes embracing. However, Ootyiah’s mother had put an end to their evening meetings, declaring that such an unchaperoned relationship was scandalous. Although his friend didn’t say much about it, Ayascho could tell that Tondo was not too disappointed. It appeared to him that Mistress Oetan’s views on slavery were distressing to his friend. Any feelings Tondo may have had toward the pretty Ootyiah disappeared when he intervened as she was about to punish the slave girl, Maaryah, by striking her with a whip called a slave-beater. Tondo had blocked the attack with his hand but was badly injured. He now carried a scar across his right palm as a reminder of his act of mercy.
Ayascho could see that Maaryah was developing strong feelings toward her new estate master, but Tondo seemed mysteriously oblivious to that. He showed no interest in any estate woman after his encounter and chastisement by Lady Oetan.
Tondo is certainly an odd one, Ayascho thought. He wasn’t Batru, and he wasn’t Anterran, although he looked like one, mostly. He even had three names. Most people Ayascho knew had one name, like himself. Some even had two names, like the young estate mistress. But Tondo had three, none of which anyone could pronounce. That was why the Batru chief had named him Tondo, meaning the visitor. Ayascho had noticed, too, that the visitor thought differently, and he had great knowledge that would sometimes spring forth like a dam bursting in a stream, often confusing everyone who heard his strange ramblings. After the three temple priests had arrived to train them, Ayascho had seen Tondo contending more than once during their lessons with the master scholar, Varios. Even the priest seemed overwhelmed by Tondo’s proclamations. But he did have the inner-power, the power that gave men extraordinary abilities. Tondo had it, the two master priests had it, and even he, Ayascho, had it; awakened somehow by Batru’s messenger, Tondo.
It wasn’t long after the three priests arrived that Ayascho noticed a wagon approaching carrying two men. One was another priest, a master carpenter, and the other was a man with black skin, even darker than his own. As it turned out, they had been sent by the Sutro Seer to build a large boat, something never successfully accomplished in the history of the kingdom. Everyone said it was impossible because all previous attempts had resulted in failures. The boat either sunk or fell apart; however, Tondo presented the master carpenter with new ideas, unseen before, and a boat model to work from. Estate workers were soon collected, and work began on an entirely new and unique design that held the promise of success.
After the first harvest was secured, Tondo had granted the slaves their freedom and paid them for their labor. Ayascho’s heart lifted at the thought, for that was the way things should be. The great god, Batru, had given his children the freedom to choose for themselves to act with goodness or wickedness, and a slave had no ability to choose. Now they could, and most had chosen to remain on the estate and work for the kind man who had freed them.
Ayascho closed his eyes and was about to fall asleep. Suddenly, a worrisome thought literally shook him awake. When the priests arrived, they had warned of a coming era of threat. They said the Sutro Seer had sent them to train Tondo, Idop, and himself in preparation to meet this looming danger. What it was, no one could say, but they, even the priests, could feel the rising menace as they continued their studies and sword training. They all knew they were preparing for a climactic event that would change the course of history.
ABOUT ML BELLANTE
Michael L. Bellante was born in 1946 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He earned his high school diploma from Clayton Valley High School in 1964. After graduating, he joined the United States Army and became a paratrooper. He served eighteen months with the First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Viet Nam. He concluded his enlistment with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After his honorable discharge, he took advantage of the GI Bill and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from California State University, Hayward. He was employed by Pacific Bell, where he served as a craftsman in central offices, eventually becoming a systems analyst for the company’s computer systems. He retired from Pacific Bell in 1996 and went to work for Hewlett-Packard as a software design engineer, retiring for the last time in 2008.
After his retirement, Michael’s children encouraged him to write a book because they had enjoyed his storytelling when they were young. He accepted the challenge and began writing just to see if he could do it. He didn’t stop until he had completed a seven-novel series entitled, The Munnari Chronicles (Novels One, Two, and Three are published with Novel Four coming Fall of 2021).
Michael and his wife Denise were married on the day man first walked on the Moon. They are the proud parents of seven children. They currently live in Antioch, California.