Shadows of Ghosts carries readers to Enara, a kingdom at war with itself, where for centuries centaurs have been treated like animals because of their horse-like lower bodies; they've been forced to work as slaves in the southern agricultural provinces, and have been bought and sold like livestock. But a strong abolitionist faction has convinced many that centaurs' human torsos, heads, and intellectual abilities make them humans, who should be liberated from slavery and granted the same rights as any other person.
After four years of being forced to live in a remote village and having to keep his real identity a secret, Cal Lanshire, days away from his thirteenth birthday, is given the best birthday present he can imagine. He is told the war is almost over and he will soon be allowed to return home.
But then an old acquaintance unexpectedly arrives with news that changes everything. Cal's father, the king, has been assassinated.
Suddenly the outcome of the war and the very fate of the kingdom depend upon Cal being able to reach the capital where he will take his father's place.
With only his crafty best friend by his side and an escaped centaur slave to guide him, can Cal make it through an enchanted, hostile wilderness, past the assassins sent to kill him, and back to the capital before it's too late?
Cal walked on the bridge. With each step he took, he could feel the wooden planks under his feet gently bow from his weight, and he could feel the bridge casually sway like a dance partner each time he moved. The wind that was keeping the mosquitoes away seemed stronger now that he was on the bridge. Somehow he felt both afraid and overwhelmingly calm.
“Hurry up, slowpoke!” Mont shouted.
A beam of sunlight pushed through the clouds, and at the same moment Cal felt the planks disappear from under his feet, he felt himself being thrown to his right. One of the bridge’s rope handrails had suddenly snapped, and this caused the bridge to violently twist to one side. Cal had the strangest sensation that he was flying. He felt as if he was ascending to the sky, not tumbling downward.
The water slapped him, stinging his face, and then quickly engulfed him. He was blinded by the water’s murkiness; he could barely see the filtered light from above. His clothes absorbed the water and made him heavy. He felt as if invisible hands were reaching out in the darkness, grabbing his clothes, pulling him down. He was tempted to relax, to allow himself to sink. But no, he wasn’t ready for the darkness. Cal kicked his legs, bringing himself up toward the light.
When his head broke through the surface of the water, he inhaled and blinked the dampness from his eyes. Ellsben was waving wildly at him and shouting, “Swim! Cal, swim, swim, swim!” Mont was running toward the river, but Ellsben grabbed him by the back of the shirt, stopping him. Mont screamed Cal’s name.
Several long, black snakes slithered into the river. Once the snakes were in the water, Cal could no longer see them, but he knew they were coming toward him. On the other side of the river, behind him, he knew snakes were also slithering into the water.
Stefan Haucke, driven by the desire to learn about other cultures and the need for adventure, has traveled to over twenty nations. He rode a camel near the pyramids in Egypt, swam with sea lions in the waters of the Galapagos Islands, climbed the Great Wall of China, hiked near the Acropolis in Athens, went dog sledding in northern Michigan, and photographed polar bears in Canada.
Along his many travels, Stefan has successfully worked as a deckhand, a shepherd, a dispatcher for an emergency services unit, an electric meter reader, and an office manger. He has also found the time to study the literature and history of ancient Greece, Russia, and the United States, and loves reading folktales, fairytales, and urban legends. He also enjoys astronomy, and on clear nights can be found gazing at the stars and planets with his telescope.
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