Caden and Amicus are two ordinary boys who spend their days racing and practicing their archery. But changes are coming to their peaceful village in the Land of Neo—not the least of which is a young girl named Ella who is staying with Sequor, the wise old bear that dwells just outside their village home.
Soon after Ella arrives, strange things begin to happen. Creatures they’ve never seen before, both good and bad, begin filtering into their realm. And it’s up to Caden and Amicus to protect their village and to make sure that Ella can complete her mission. Will they be able to hold off the evil that threatens everyone they know and love?
This is book two in the Land of Neo series.
Targeted Age Group:
Book Price: 1.99
Caden ran down the hillside faster than he should have. The loose pebbles slipped under his feet and he waved his arms frantically to keep from somersaulting the rest of the way. He tried to slow down, but that just caused him to trip and run even faster. Just when he thought he was about to get his balance, his shoe hit a rock and he vaulted into the air. For a moment he felt exhilaration as he flew, but it quickly turned to terror as the ground came closer. He landed with a thud that knocked all the breath from his lungs. As he gasped for air, his friend Amicus caught up with him and began laughing as he passed him by.
“Ha! You thought you could beat me. But as usual, you tried too hard. See you at the finish line!”
Caden raised his head and tried to issue a challenge, but he still couldn’t get enough air into his lungs to speak. He did his best to stand up so he could continue the race, but soon realized the race was over for him today.
He limped to the finish line, which was the tree at the bottom of the hill, not more than twenty yards from where he fell. Amicus stood there leaning against the tree and panting, but with a big smile on his face. “Don’t worry, Caden,” he teased. “I’m sure you’ll win someday.”
Caden still couldn’t speak, but he managed a smile. He wanted to say, “You can count on that,” but he’d have to show Amicus instead of tell him that he’d eventually beat him. Amicus was a year older and had longer legs than Caden, but Caden had been consistently gaining ground since they began to race daily a year ago. And he would have beaten him today if he hadn’t slid on that gravel.
Amicus dropped to the ground and starred at the blue sky, and Caden did the same. For a while, Amicus took deep breaths and Caden took shallow ones, trying to get his lungs to open back up. Finally, their breathing evened out, and first one and then the other sat up. As they did, they noticed Sequor watching them.
Sequor was a bear, but not just any bear. He lived in the woods not far from the boys, and they had seen him walking the woods since they were tiny. When he lumbered by, Caden’s mother would always say, “He’s the wisest being in the forest. Always show him respect.”
Caden remembered being afraid of him at first because he was so big. When he was about five years old, he told his mother so.
His mother had said, “Oh, no. There’s no reason to be afraid of Sequor. He’s as gentle as they come.” Then she tilted her head and gave Caden a smile, adding, “Unless, of course, you are doing something you shouldn’t. Then you should be afraid of him, as he will take you to task for it just as I would.”
After that, Caden never felt afraid when Sequor walked by, except for once when he’d climbed the neighbor’s pear tree to steal some of the delectable fruit. Just as he’d picked yet another perfect pear, he looked down and saw Sequor standing at the base of the tree looking up at him. It startled him so much that he dropped the fruit—and Sequor caught it without bruising it a bit. The great bear balanced it in his enormous paw and continued to look up at Caden, waiting for him to come down. Caden trembled from head to toe looking into Sequor’s eyes, and he suddenly remembered his mother’s words. He climbed down and stood next to Sequor with downcast eyes. Sequor simply placed the fruit in Caden’s hands and said, “I think you know what to do with this, young Caden.”
Caden nodded solemnly and slowly walked up to the neighbor’s house. Sequor stood and watched as he knocked on the door. When the door opened, Caden handed the fruit to the elderly woman who’d lived there as long as Caden could remember. She looked at him with a smile and said, “Why, Caden, thank you for picking this for me. I noticed that it was ripe and perfect, but I couldn’t reach it, even with my fruit-picking pole.”
Caden felt relief sweep over him that she wasn’t angry, and was about to walk away when he looked back at Sequor, who stood there frowning at him. He knew handing her the fruit wasn’t enough. “I’m sorry, Miss Atis. I picked your pear intending to eat it myself.”
Miss Atis smiled and nodded her head. “I know that, dear. I know.” Then she patted him on the arm and added, “Thank you for telling me the truth.”
As Caden gave her a small smile back, she said, “How about if you pick all the pears that are too high for me? You can give me half and take half home to your mother. She might even make a pie out of them.”
At this suggestion, Caden’s smile widened. And it wasn’t just because he might get a pie out of it. It was because it felt good to have done the right thing. And it felt even better to have folks around him who made sure he did the right thing. The glow of it went all the way to his toes. Since that day, he’d never been truly afraid of Sequor again.
But lately Sequor seemed to be watching him most days. He wondered why. Amicus wondered too. “Why does that bear constantly watch us? It gives me the creeps.”
Caden answered, “He has his reasons.”
Amicus looked at him in surprise. “Then what are they, if you know so much?”
Caden shook his head. “I don’t know what his reasons are, but I know Sequor. And he doesn’t do anything without a reason.”
Amicus stood up. “Well, let’s go ask him.”
Caden shook his head again. “He’ll tell us when he’s ready.” And he stood up, too, but began to walk away from where Sequor was standing.
Amicus caught up with him and said, “What? Are you chicken?”
Caden didn’t even bother answering, but kept on walking.
Amicus punched him on the arm. “You sure are weird sometimes.”
When Caden still didn’t answer, he added, “I’m going to go practice my archery. Want to come?”
Caden shook his head and walked further into the woods.
He hadn’t gone far when he met a little man about a foot tall whose braided white beard reached his knees and contrasted with his bright red hair, round nose, and purple eyes. Caden was particularly fond of the little men who were yet another example of Neo’s wide variety of amazing creatures.
“Hello, Mika. How are you today?” Caden asked cheerfully. Seeing Mika always made Caden feel happy. The man had that effect on almost everyone.
“I’m fine, young Caden. And you?”
Caden smiled. “I’m fine too. Where are you headed?”
“I’m gathering firewood farther out today.”
“Want some help?”
Mika smiled and nodded. Caden knew his help would make it quick work for Mika. Gathering firewood was just a matter of picking up sticks for Caden.
As they worked companionably together, Mika asked, “Have you heard about the new bear in the woods?”
Caden looked up in surprise. “There’s a new bear? There’s never been any bear here except Sequor. The rest are all up in the mountains.”
“Not anymore. At least one has come down and is taking up residence on the other side of the forest.”
“I’ve no idea, young Caden,” Mika replied as he picked up another stick that was a small log to him.
“Is he like Sequor?”
“Well, he’s a bear . . . ,” Mika responded with a grin.
Caden grinned back. “I mean, is he wise and good?”
“Let’s hope so,” Mika answered.
How is Writing In Your Genre Different from Others?
Fairy tales and fantasy allow you to address the truly important themes of life such as courage, temptation, integrity, and perseverance. Trying to talk about those in a contemporary novel just sounds preachy, but in a fairy tale it’s a natural part of the story.
What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Writers?
Keep writing and get advice from an expert. Don’t be afraid of criticism. It will make you a much better writer if you take it to heart.
JoHannah Reardon has been a writer/editor for over 20 years. She has written 11 books of many different genres. The Land of Neo series is her children’s favorite.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’ve loved fairy tales as long as I can remember, so I wrote the Land of Neo series for my children – and for all children everywhere!