Authors: Caryn Moya-Block
Shadow of My Heart
Book One of the Shadow-Walker Tribe Series
Caryn Moya Block
Published by Bledri Books
Cover Design by
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
To my parents, Edward and Patricia,
and to my ancestors back through the ages.
Thank you for making me.
Thanks go to my fans, who encourage me on a daily basis. To Bette Hileman, my editor, I couldn’t do it without you. To my Beta readers,
Judith Dreyer, Paula Scott Luddy, and Lisa Pugh, who aren’t afraid to tell me if something doesn’t work. Thanks also to Pen-to-Paper, the writers’ group of Windmore Foundation for the Arts and Fran Cecere for your friendship and support.
Thump thump, thump thump,
the tribal drumbeat echoed the rhythm of fourteen-year-old Raven Darkwood’s heart as he faced his final and most dangerous test. Would the Shadow Dimension accept him as one of her own? If she did, a mark would be burned into his chest to the left of his heart, symbolizing his entrance into manhood and acceptance as an equal at the tribal-council fire. If not, he would be exiled from the tribe to make his way in the world alone.
Raven had gone through all the rites of purification in the Inipi Purification Lodge under the guidance of his mentor, Quiet Thunder. Now, crouched before the sacred fire, he waited outside under the stars. The drumbeat drowned out the sounds of the night and Raven’s racing heart. When Quiet Thunder, shaman of the tribe, signaled for the test to begin, Raven’s stomach clenched. He wasn’t sure if he was excited or fearful.
Quiet Thunder said the ritual was painful if Shadow accepted you. But Raven knew the process would be excruciating if she did not. He stood up, his naked body covered with sweat.
Quiet Thunder wore his ceremonial robe and threw a bundle of sage onto the flames. Soon, the pungent odor filled the air. He chanted a prayer of gratitude as he put two fingers into a pottery bowl and smeared a sticky black mixture of herbal paste onto Raven’s chest. Then, with a nod he motioned Raven to return to the sweat lodge.
Raven let the smell of the burning sage in the air permeate his being to clear his aura and center his mind as he entered the sanctuary alone. He reached with his mind’s eye and peered at the shadows lurking in the lodge. On the edge of one shadow he saw a wavering, a tear where he would enter the Shadow Dimension. He put out his hand and felt along the edge until a cold breeze brushed his skin. Then, putting his palms together, he inserted them into the coldness. Gasping, as his palms disappeared, he slowly pulled them apart, creating an opening in the darkness.
The next part required a leap of faith. To trust not only that he could do this, but also that Shadow Walking was his birthright. In his mind, he pictured a world of twilight and walked into the darkness.
A blast of cold hit his naked body, still hot from the sweat lodge. He gasped, and wisps of blackness swirled around him and into his mouth and nose. More swirls of black mist wrapped around his feet and legs. The swirls grew in size and number until he was wrapped from head to toe in strips of swirling darkness that blocked his sight of the wavering landscape of Shadow.
His muscles stiffened. His breathing became shallow with each breath of black mist that entered his lungs. Was he going to die? Some tribal members never returned from their first trip into Shadow. Was that his fate as well?
To calm his mind, Raven began to silently chant a prayer of thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. If this was his end, he wanted to celebrate the life he had lived and honor his beloved ancestors. He bowed to the four directions, called the four elements to his circle, and they answered. From the east came a soft breeze that blew the black mist away from his body. From the south a flame appeared to warm the air until he could breathe normally. From the west a fine warm mist coated his body. From the north a shimmering quartz crystal appeared in the darkness. The crystal began to glow brighter and brighter until a beam of light shot out and landed on his torso, to the left of his heart. Burning cold hit his chest. Pain exploded through his body. Raven sank to his knees with a groan.
Blinking to clear his tears, he looked around. The pain ended as quickly as it had begun. The wisps of black mist still wrapped around his body but grew thinner until only a few touched him. They became light caresses of coldness. He kneeled in a world of twilight. It seemed as if someone had drawn a cloak over the sun.
He turned to look for the sweat lodge and could see it sitting there in darkness. He could see it, but a veil of wavering shadow separated him from its physical existence. He reached out but couldn’t touch the hides that covered the walls.
His body still ached from the extreme cold, but the pain seemed more manageable. He rose to his feet and looked down at his chest. Instead of the black goo Quiet Thunder had smeared on him, a black raven in flight was now burned into his skin. He touched the symbol lightly and hissed at sudden pain from the inflamed area.
The tribal teachings said that when a Nuni Nagi warrior had physical relations with his true mate, the symbol burned into his chest would burn again.
Closing his eyes, he centered his thoughts and looked with his mind’s eye for an exit out of the Shadow Dimension. Near the bottom of the sweat lodge a shadow wavered. Raven felt near the edge and found the doorway. Then, he pictured the sweat lodge in his mind as it should appear on Earth and walked through the shadow, stopping on the other side to close the portal.
The blast of heat that hit his skin from the sweat lodge burned almost as painfully as the cold of Shadow. Raven quickly opened the door flap and stepped outside into the cool evening air. The drums stopped, the sudden silence was deafening. A group of warriors stood around the entrance, armed with bows and knives and wearing ceremonial robes. Raven stood waiting. Each warrior came forward and inspected the symbol on his chest. Quiet Thunder, the last to come, smiled and clapped Raven on the shoulder.
“Well done, Soaring Raven,” he said.
Sixteen Years Later
“Why is there always someone trying to take over the world?” Raven Darkwood asked as he fastened the single-handed crossbow to the strap on his belt.
“Power? Greed? But don’t complain too much. Without these power-hungry weirdoes, we would be out of a job,” his best friend, Joseph Running Bear, answered while strapping his own equipment to his belt.
Out of a job? Raven couldn’t imagine not working. Running his hand over the different compartments in his black-leather uniform, he checked to make sure all of his specially made equipment, including the new digital recorder made of all-natural corn resin, was in its proper place. He didn’t want anything to disintegrate in the Shadow Dimension.
Between supervising the offices of Isanti, Inc., and carrying out spying assignments for General Holland, he didn’t have time to breathe. Then, there was Isanti Quiet Thunder, his mentor and foster father, who constantly reminded him of the prophecy about finding a wife. How was he supposed to find a wife, when he didn’t have time to date?
“You ready? Turn off the light,” Raven directed.
Joe nodded abruptly as he walked over and switched off the light in the safe house located just outside the city of Ahvaz, Iran.
One of the best things about being a Shadow Walker was seeing perfectly in the dark. Finding the deepest shadows in the room, Raven felt for the tell-tale cold breeze that would signify an opening into the Shadow Dimension. Finding a small hole near the floor, he pushed both hands in and stretched the opening to a comfortable size to walk through. Glancing once over his shoulder at Joe, Raven nodded and walked out of the safe house, passing through the walls as if they were made of smoke.
It took only a moment for the biting cold of the Shadow Dimension to seep into every cell of Raven’s body until he ached with it. Staying warm in this dimension was impossible, even with the specially made uniforms they were wearing. Joe followed through the opening, then turned to close the makeshift door. It wouldn’t do to let one of the shadow beasts from this near dimension to Earth pass through. They wouldn’t survive long in the light, but they could cause panic if someone saw them.
Raven looked around the strange landscape that shifted and writhed with eddies of darkness. The room in the safe house could still be seen faintly from this side. He could move great distances through this dimension with just a thought, or walk following the contours of the Earth plane.
Moving through Shadow was always a test of fortitude and endurance. Members of his Indian tribe had been doing it for centuries. Raven and Joe had entered this near dimension of ghosts and shadows many times since they were boys. It never got any easier.
I hope Derek has plenty of hot coffee waiting for us when we get back,
Joe sent telepathically to Raven.
I’ll be a human Popsicle by the time this op is done.
Their mission tonight was to record a meeting between the terrorist Faheed Adar, a known member of the Quds force, and the people helping him smuggle weapons-grade uranium into Iran.
As Raven and Joe walked through the city, the streets were exceptionally quiet. Even with the distortion of the Shadow Dimension, there should have been city sounds around them. The mandatory curfews the government imposed were keeping people off the street. Raven could only be thankful. There was something very disorienting when a person walked through you. He tried to avoid it if possible. Joe and his younger brother Derek often teased him about it. But now that wouldn’t be a problem until they got to the compound where the meeting was taking place.
Finally arriving at the gated entry point, Raven looked around at all the lights set up in the courtyard. It was a good thing this was just a listening mission. Without a shadow to walk through, he and Joe couldn’t leave the Shadow Dimension. Guards walked the perimeter of the compound armed with machine guns. The only sign of Raven and Joe’s passing would be a cool breeze as they made their way to the meeting room.
Raven had memorized a map of the building and led the way through the gates and outside walls of the building that stood solid on Earth. When they arrived in the proper room, he moved close to the outside walls. If someone did walk through the space where he was standing, he would feel a cold spot, but nothing else.
It shouldn’t be too much longer before the meeting begins,
Raven sent telepathically to Joe.
I think they are waiting for Faheed Adar to arrive. Once we hear who is supplying them with weapons-grade uranium, the general can close down the supply line
Just then, the door slammed open, and Adar entered, followed by a Caucasian man wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap low over his face.
What have we here?
Joe asked excitedly.
Could this be the supplier?
Why is he acting so suspiciously? It’s almost like he knows we’re here listening,
Raven pointed out.
While in this dimension, they could see and hear everything happening on Earth as if looking through a foggy mirror. But they couldn’t manipulate anything physically on the Earth plane without crossing into it.
Adar started talking excitedly, and a search of the room began. Soon the men in the room turned over every chair and checked under the table.
They’re looking for listening devices. The general may have a traitor in his circle. How could they know we would be here tonight?
Joe asked, sending his thoughts to Raven.
At least they have no way of discovering us here in Shadow,
This is disturbing news. The general will have to be briefed immediately.
Raven centered himself and reached across space and time with his telepathy to find the youngest member of their team, his brother, Derek “Red Hawk” Darkwood.
Derek, inform the general we have a leak in security. Adar was told we would be listening today. Keep it quiet and speak to him directly.
Will do. What is your ETA?
Unknown at this time. Depends on how long-winded Adar is.
The men in Adar’s group started to right the chairs and sit back down. Adar approached the Caucasian man and slapped him hard across the face. His baseball cap and sunglasses flew through the air and landed on the floor. Both Joe and Raven could see the face of the blond-haired, blue-eyed man. Raven memorized his features and would sketch his likeness for General Holland on his return to base.
Flipping on the recording device, Raven positioned himself to receive the best sound quality. Voices recorded in Shadow had a hollow echo. He didn’t want to miss a word.
Adar finished admonishing his troops about possible security leaks. He then described the details of where the next shipment of weapons-grade uranium would be acquired and when it would be expected to arrive.
Raven smiled in satisfaction as the men left the room. This information was exactly what the general needed to shut down smuggling of uranium into Iran. A special unit would be sent in to stop the illegal shipments and arrest the persons involved.
I think we got what we came for,
Raven sent telepathically
I recognized the Farsi words for uranium and supplier. Let’s get back and report in.
Raven and Joe pictured the operations room at their headquarters in New Mexico and warped through the Shadow Dimension until they could see their fellow teammates in the dimness. The lights in this room were always turned off as people stared at computer screens. Picking an unoccupied spot, Raven and Joe stepped into the room through a quickly made portal.
Derek looked up with a smile. He went over to the coffee machine and grabbed two cups, which he handed to Raven and Joe.
“You made good time,” Derek said. “The general is waiting for you in your office.”
“Why don’t you join us?” Raven suggested as they fell into step and headed down the hall.
Joe sighed as he drank his coffee. “Nothing tastes better than a cup of hot coffee after walking in Shadow,” he said. “I never feel like myself until it fills my stomach with warmth.”
“Maybe that’s why it’s called a cup of Joe,” Derek teased.
“You’ll make a good wife someday, Red Hawk,” Joe replied. “You make a darn good brew, just the right amount of cream.”
“All right, cut the chatter,” Raven said. “We’ve got a sticky situation here. Any idea who the leak in the general’s organization might be?”
“Anyone who saw the orders could be the one,” Derek said. “It might be that cute blond who works as his secretary.”
“You mean the cute blond you’ve been trying to get a date with, don’t you?” Joe asked.
“I’ll be happy to check her out. I mean look into the situation,” Derek said.
“The general will decide what he wants done,” Raven said. “He may have an idea of the identity of the blond-haired man meeting with Adar, once he sees the sketch I’ll draw up.”
They stepped into the elevator, and Raven pushed the button for the sixth floor above ground of the Isanti building. His office, apartment, and conference room were located on the top floor.
“Quiet Thunder called me again yesterday,” Raven said. “It’s time to prepare for the continuation of our tribe and for the prophecy to come true. The Nuni Nagi Tribe will be extinct if we don’t find the right women to mate.”
“He just wants to retire and give you the helm of Isanti, Inc.,” Derek complained. “Sometimes I wonder if there really is a prophecy. All that doom and gloom and needing to find a special woman to mate.”
“Don’t be disrespectful,” Joe said. “Quiet Thunder has mentored us since we were young. If he says there are special women out there we need to find, then I believe him. That man has powers I’ve never seen before. I saw him make a branch produce fruit in one day by holding it in his hand. He actually handed a piece of fruit to me to eat. I wasn’t sure whether to eat it or run away. He can be a spooky old man at times.”
“Let’s talk family business later,” Raven said as the elevator door opened. “Right now we have to brief the general and help him track down a traitor.”
Raven remembered the day he met the general while in college. The general’s son, David, was his roommate. Raven and the general hit it off right away. Raven liked and highly respected the older man.
“I brought the general some refreshments while he waited, Mr. Darkwood,” Katherine Sloane, Raven’s administrative assistant, said as they entered.
The general had recommended Katherine when her husband was killed in Afghanistan. Derek had been particularly insistent that Raven hire her. For the past few years, since her arrival, things in the office had smoothed out, and Raven appreciated every minute that she was in his employ.
“Thank you, Mrs. Sloane. I’m sure he appreciated it,” Raven said. “Please make sure we are not disturbed while meeting.”
“Hey, beautiful. Miss me?” Derek said smiling.
“I just saw you an hour ago, Mr. Red Hawk. I’m sorry, but I’ve been too busy to miss you.”
“Ouch. You always aim for the heart, Katie,” Derek said, clutching his chest.
“Come on, Derek. Stop flirting and get in here,” Raven said in exasperation. Why did his brother always have to flirt with the help? Opening the double doors, Raven walked into his office. The silver-haired general stood up and walked over to shake their hands.
“What information do you have for me, Darkwood?” General Holland asked.
“Here is the recording of the meeting, Sir,” Raven said, handing over the recording device designed by Isanti, Inc., to survive passage into the Shadow Dimension. “Let me get a paper and pencil so I can sketch the possible supplier. The meeting was interrupted by a thorough search. Someone tipped them off to our presence. This man came in wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. He may be their contact in the U.S. But someone must be supplying him with information. How else did they know we were coming?” Raven asked as he handed the finished sketch to the general.