“Raino, please fetch some water for me so I can do the dishes.”

He didn’t want to go out into the dark night, but he wanted to make his mother
happy.

“Yes, Mother,” he said. Then he got a bucket from the corner by the door, put his
boots on, and stepped out into the cold night outside.

Raino looked at the stars. They twinkled overhead, cold and very far away. He
started to shiver. Both moons were glowing yellow in the night sky overhead; the
bigger moon was bright enough to light his way out of the village to the well. Raino
knew that he had to keep moving to make the shivering stop. He boldly trudged
out into the gloom.

He looked back at the warm houses with their windows glowing gold from the
candlelight. The roofs were composed of dried thatch, and in the dark night they
seemed like frail protection indeed. In those long ago days, the windows were
fragile.

Then he turned back and completed his trek to the well.

The well was made from stones hundreds of years ago. Moss glowed in be-tween
the cracks in the rocks. A rope hung over the well, with an old hook attached to
the end.

Raino reached up and swung the bucket handle onto the hook. Then he started
turning the old wheel, lowering the bucket slowly. It took a long time for it to reach
the bottom. During this time, Raino got more and more nervous. He turned the
wheel faster.

Finally, with a splash, the bucket reached the water and got heavier as the cold
water spilled into and filled it.

Raino let out a long, slow breath of relief. He started turning the wheel the other
way, this time with more effort because the bucket was full.

Deep in the forest, he heard an otherworldly scream. He looked up and let go of
the wheel. The bucket splashed back into the well.

As he stared into the meadows, he could dimly see the shining grasses between
him and the forest, while the black line of trees stretched from horizon to horizon, a
wall of darkness at the edge of the cultivated lands.

Raino heard the fluttering of thousands of wings as more birds than he could
count whooshed overhead, screeching a warning cry to the universe as they flew
past him. Raino watched their silhouettes dance across the shining stars, and his
fear was slowly transmuted into wonder as he stared at this dance, the wings
flashing past the stars and making the sky glitter with magic.

Raino stared into the darkness, listening as rustling disturbed the grass before
him.

He looked down at his feet and saw mice and squirrels and rabbits swimming past
in a river of flesh—panicked, scurrying flesh. As wolves and other large animals
began to crash past him, some missing him by a breath, he realized how much
danger he was in. He saw a large elk running toward him, fully trapped in panic,
with snot flying from his nostrils and foam flying from his wide-open jaws as it
screamed in terror.

He flung himself to the side, rolling out of the way, and as more large animals
stampeded past him, he stayed down. When the large animals were past, he
watched them running through the fields, headed for the large mountain in the
distance.

The discovery hit him with horror—they were heading for the high ground because
something was chasing them!

He ran as quickly as he could for his home, screaming for his parents.

They came running out of their house, Father with his pitchfork and Mother
brandishing a kitchen knife.

“Come see! There’s danger out here! The animals are going for the higher
ground!”

“What?” Father roared. “They only do that when they panic! This is bad!”

Raino’s father grabbed a torch with his free arm, plunging the torch into a fire pit
so he could use it to see and even drive away the threat, shouting for the whole
community to hear.

“Villagers, get ready! Something’s coming!”

Raino’s parents hurried toward him, brushing him into their midst as they passed,
because Raino felt safe with his parents by his side.

All the other villagers began to leave their houses too, answering the call, some
lighting their torches in the burning barrels left in the streets, others grab-bing as
many pitchforks as they could carry and handing them out. They raced forward,
into the night, trying to rally a defense as best they could.

As the villagers all crowded around, they felt the earth shake. They began to build
up a stronger formation, a circle that kept the center highly guarded. As they
prepared for the coming battle, they stared into the darkness, wondering what this
shaking menace would look like. Each man was eager for the first glimpse, but the
women silently prayed, far too wise to seek out the danger ahead.

Small lights danced across the meadows, a long line of red. Raino was mystified at
first because the villagers used crude oil lanterns that poured out nothing but
yellow light.

When the lights began to disappear and flicker back again, he realized they were
eyes. As the eyes drew nearer, the rumbling became an audible groan as the
earth shook, and soon the thunder of many strong legs pounding into the earth
drummed across the landscape in a frantic staccato rhythm. He knew there had to
be hundreds of legs hitting the ground, and too late his brain deciphered the
threat before him.

“Monsters!” he screamed at the top of his lungs.
Two hundred years ago in the magical realm of Santara, where
two moons shone overhead, there lives a young boy named
Raino and his parents in a small village. Evil surges forth, ripping
the town to shreds. Knights sent to destroy the monsters fail. All
that is left to do is try magic.

A young Lion-Person named Cato wanders out of the Forbidden
Forest, where his people have been trapped for centuries and
discovers the magical world of Santara, watched over by a
magnificent palace. At the marketplace, Cato meets Princess
Alzena, a woman who doesn’t want to be a princess. They quickly
blossom a friendship together but many circumstances tear them
apart, forcing Cato to go on a dangerous quest to stop his
transformations forever and free his people from the curse.

Will Cato succeed in ending the curse? The answers are inside…
The Curse of the Lion People!
"I read it to my 92 year old mother- she was
riveted. Lots of action, but Ms. Saari pays
attention to detail, giving descriptions of place
and clothing and emotions that take you right
in. So much imagination and creativity for one
book!" -Karen Hardman, Amazon review


"I purchased this as a B-Day gift for my sister.
She LOVED IT!!!" -Slider, Amazon review


"Melissa Saari brings delight and magic back
into the world, something that I and everyone
are thankful for." -Pat McDonald, Amazon
review
Book Reviews
Excerpt
Fiction-Fantasy

Available in Print & e-book
December 2017

$9.95/ $3.99

ISBN-13:
978-1-940707-98-3
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The Curse of the Lion People
Melissa Saari
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