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Heart of Ice

by Logan Chipkin ©2010, Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-935232-28-5, 306 pp
 

Kuro Taa has always known he was unlike other children his age. But when the fifteen-year-old is confronted by an ügaar—a being of a foreign realm—Kuro realizes just how unique he is. Now caught in  a conspiracy that would lead to chaos and war, Kuro must act swiftly, if only to save his own hide. With a handful of allies, Kuro embarks on a journey across the frigid Cyre Tundra, a region that practically invented the blizzard. Amid monstrous creatures, trained assassins, violent nomads, and a mysterious dark force in his own mind, Kuro is walking on very thin ice indeed…

The book is comprised of 33 chapters.

Chapter One

I’ve always been different.

My last name, for starts. I’m probably the first human to have a last name in who knows how long, not that I’ve ever given enough of a damn to check. It’s all water under the bridge in my eyes.

Eyes…eyes that look like tiny black holes in my reflection against the still waters of the lake. Eyes that have always been just a shade lighter than the shadows themselves. Eyes that have seen unforgettable sights, some terrible acts.

There’s been plenty of good, too, don’t get me wrong. But I suppose it’s just human nature to remember the bad before anything else.

My reflection melted into countless ripples as a pebble broke through the lake’s surface. I jumped just a bit from surprise. Looking behind me, I saw Art grinning to himself.

“Why so nervous, Kuro?” Artemis’ cocky smile could have been used as a light with teeth like those, always easily visible. Even during a dark night such as this.

I blinked and turned away from the lake. Reflections don’t teach me much about myself, anyway. I’ve had the same straight black hair down to my earlobes since I could remember. The same nose pressed closely to my thin face, with nostrils that curved slightly upwards. The same…everything. I haven’t changed a bit throughout my fifteen years of existence, at least not physically. Mentally…well, that was another story entirely.

“I’m not nervous, jackass,” I said, with enough gravity to show my friend that I was not in the best of moods. “Just a little pensive.”

Artemis wiped the sweat from his pale-skinned forehead. “Shocking,” he muttered with a sarcastic bite. “What are you thinking about this time, huh? Sedating Diyana and dragging her unconscious ass outside again?”

I chuckled loudly despite myself. “That was quite the prank, wasn’t it. In all fairness, she had it coming. Big time, Art.”

He whipped out his bow, the muscles in his shoulders rolling smoothly. He then pulled out an arrow from his backpack, pointed to a particularly thin branch, and let the flimsy piece of wood fly.

The arrow hit the exact branch Artemis had targeted. Most people would have been impressed, but I was used to it.

My friend whooped and hollered, as if in front of a crowd. “Every time!”

I gave him an obnoxious yawn in return, expressing both my boredom and my disdain at his bragging. I glanced up at the crescent moon, sharp as the head of a scythe. Well, that was the image that always crept to the surface of my mind. Inherent violence—we all have it. It’s just a matter of dosage.

“It’s getting late,” I told Art. “We’ve been out here for hours, and I’m ready to get some sleep.”

Artemis shook his head, then nodded, as if debating with himself over what to do. “Alright, you pansy. Have it your way.”

With that, I joined his side and we began to walk away from Ghostly Lake and into the Pines. The lake didn’t acquire such a name by having souls swim within its depths, I promise. No, ghosts did not exist, do not exist, and never will exist. When you’re dead, you’ve done your part and that’s it.

The Ghostly Lake was named so because during daylight hours it always has a thin coat of mist hovering over it, constantly stirring and swirling in every which way. This gave many people the impression of spirits moving over the water.

Our trek through the Pines was like any other walk of ours through the huge forest at night. Watch your step, don’t walk into that tree trunk, jump over that vine. We could practically make it home blindfolded. Of course, at such a late hour we nearly were anyway.

As we maneuvered around a particular tree, a rank odor assaulted my nostrils. I stopped dead in my tracks, choking from the smell.

Stars, what is that?

It took Artemis as few seconds to realize that I was no longer by his side. When he noticed, he turned his head toward me. “What’s wrong?” he called.

My jaw dropped. “You really can’t smell that?” I asked, astonished. “Damn, it reeks.”

Now Artemis was directly in front of me, eyeing me as if I just grew another head. “Dude, I think you’ve finally taken a whiff of your own pits. Now come on, let’s go.”

“I don’t think so, Art,” I said seriously. “We’ve traveled in these woods hundreds of times during the night. When was there ever a horrific scent like this in the air?”

“Never. And Kuro, there’s no smell now. It’s all in your head!”

Ignoring my friend, I pursed my lips and tried to look around carefully. Between the lack of stars tonight and the widespread canopy above us, it was difficult to see any details of our surroundings.

I had to draw upon Synergon.

I sighed, knowing that using the mystical force would drain my energy. Synergon is an interesting experience. One out of every four beings can exploit it. And by beings I mean all life forms—animals and plants included. Yes, Synergon is elemental to the land of Roto.

Morah always told me that I had potential regarding Synergon, but I usually just shrugged off her assessments. There was nothing to ponder. Should my capabilities expand and flourish, so be it. If not…oh well.

Synergon is a magnificent form of energy, one that has no comparison. The science of the magical stuff is quite simple. It exists in the world around us, flowing and shifting constantly through both space and matter alike. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to experience Synergon are known as Enablers, and we could utilize it in infinite ways.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

“Come on, Kuro!” Artemis yelled in frustration. He wanted to go home, and I couldn’t blame him. But I had to know what was causing that terrible smell.

I felt the Synergon around me, using inherent ability just as I would to gauge the temperature. It was like a sixth sense, feeling and harnessing the mystical energy. There wasn’t an extraordinary amount of it here tonight. Luckily, all I needed to do was improve my vision. Such a simple task, even a small amount of Synergon could support it.

I held up a hand to silence Art, and I summoned the Synergon around me with my will and my skills. I felt the beautiful energy slide through my pupils and settle inside the confines of my eyeballs.  Untouchable and untraceable by any physical means if so desired. Gotta love it.

I could sense Artemis staring at me, impressed. Judging from previous experience, he was probably looking at my now glowing eyes. I did not need Synergon to know that my best friend always stared dumbfounded when I took advantage of it. He was one of the many that was unable to use, sense, or manipulate Synergon in any way. I almost pitied all of the non-Enablers. They didn’t know what they were missing.

I looked up at the sky, my vision so much clearer now. One star seemed to wink at me, shining more than the rest for just a moment.

As if any of the stars gave a shit about me.

I turned my head to my immediate surroundings, hoping to find the source of the rancid odor. I saw a squirrel resting on the branch of a nearby tree. I watched as a few leaves drifted through the air. I was just getting ready to call it quits, when I saw it.

Drops of blood.

A faint, thin trail of blood that led from a seemingly random spot of soil caught my eye. I considered that to be the answer, the cause of the smell, but I quickly killed that theory. I well knew the smell of blood. The liquid of life certainly had a unique tang to it, but I never found the smell awful.

I walked over to the little droplets and kneeled down. I put a dirty finger to the blood. Sticky and wet. In other words, it was fresh.

Suddenly, my heart began to pound.

I rose back up and found Artemis standing silently beside me, curiosity etched across his face. “What? Kuro, what is it?” His voice wasn’t laced with fear, but it certainly wasn’t full of lollipops and sugarcanes.

I put my blood stained finger right in his face, so he could smell, feel, nearly taste the stuff. “I’ll give you three guesses.”

Art’s eyes widened, ocean blue irises swallowed by black pupils. “What the hell?”

I lowered my hand and said, “Fresh, too. The question is, where does the blood trail lead?”

My friend’s previously hesitant expression morphed into one touched by adrenaline and excitement. I knew that if I baited him the right way, Art would want to embark on a new little quest. Of course, it was my idea to go home in the first place, but my unexpected discovery changed those plans.

I checked out both directions of the trail. To our right, I could see that the splotches were shrinking, yet becoming fresher and fresher as the trail continued. To our left, I saw the blood grow progressively thicker, but drier as well.

Hmm. Time would indicate that something, perhaps the source of the odor, was moving in the direction in which the blood was fresher.

“We’re going right,” I said authoritatively.

“Lead the way, Kuro,” Artemis said, with pure lust for adventure.

I nodded. “Stay close behind me so you don’t get lost.”

I began to walk at a slow pace, Artemis following me, me following the faint yet fresh trail of blood. After a minute, I began to realize we never even made a turn.

Artemis broke the thick silence after another few minutes. “Hey Kuro, have you ever been in these parts of the Pines?”

I looked around for a moment while we walked. “Come to think of it, I don’t recognize any of this.”

Before Artemis could respond, I saw something that caught my breath.

“Holy light!” I exclaimed in utter awe.

For several feet in front of us, a tree lay on its side, sliced evenly near its roots.

“What is it, Kuro?” Artemis asked anxiously.

I didn’t answer him until we reached the severed tree. Even Art could see something so obvious right in front of our eyes.

“What the hell?” the muscular boy exclaimed, if not curiously then amazedly. “What could do this, besides a sword? And who would be out here at this hour?”

I looked closely at the tree, both the rooted and toppled parts. The only item of significance I noticed was that the drops of blood simply continued over the smooth surface of the defaced tree. By now, though, they were so faint that I had to strain to see them, even with Synergon supporting me. We were certainly near the end.

“A sword, Art?” I answered his question with a question. Pardon me for being rude.

He chuckled. Beads of sweat flew from his forehead, despite the lukewarm temperature. “Well, it’s either a sword or the hand of God himself.”

I made eye contact with Artemis. “There is no God, Art. Someone had a blade, and it must’ve been big enough to slice this tree in one swipe.”

“Damn,” was all he said in response.

We continued walking, the odor growing stronger and viler. I saw through the trees that on our left was the Ghostly Lake, somewhat far away. And since we were moving south when we were on our way home, that meant that we were heading east, towards the Cyre Tundra. Of course, we were nowhere close to the blizzard realm, but it was always good to get a perspective.

Another minute passed, and the trail finally ended. I stopped walking, as did Artemis.

“The trail ends here,” I told him. “But there’s nothing…” I looked around us, spotting a few trees, some small animals, and…there! Past the group of pebbles in front of us was a hill of dirt, about four feet high and three feet wide.

“Artemis!” I said, emotion in my voice. “That small hill, see it? Something’s hidden inside of it!”

We ran to the pile of dirt. Shit, Morah was going to kill me when I got home. No matter. I’d rather die living than live dying.

“Do we just, um, dig?” Artemis asked.

I answered by thrusting a hand into the large clump of dirt. The effort was harder than you would think thanks to the energy I was sacrificing to improve my vision.

“Yea. Art, help me out.”

We dug together. It didn’t take long, and halfway through the pile we saw part of what was being hidden.

Blood, bone, and fur.

Artemis had to walk away and puke upon seeing the half-decayed, half-chewed cadaver. His tall frame was doubled over, and he was making noises I would rather not remember. The putrefying body didn’t bother me in the least bit, even though I knew it should have.

“I’ll finish, Art.”

“Thanks.”

By the time we completed the digging, my hands were covered in dirt, blood, and guts.

I looked over at my friend. “Are you okay now?”

He nodded and walked back over to me. “Yea, thanks.”

We both studied the corpse. Upon seeing its dead face, I knew that it was a bear. Its chest and stomach were ripped open, and its limbs were torn apart by what appeared to be bite marks. Bones popped outward at awkward angles.

“Someone was either hungry or just plain sick,” Artemis said.

“I think I’ll go with hungry,” I said. Working from there, I figured out the rest of this mystery. “This explains why the trail got fainter and fainter. Someone must have carried this bear—already killed, maybe half eaten—from the west. By the time the person got here, there was barely any blood left to fall. The only reason we touched blood was probably because we cut into places that weren’t already split open while we were digging.”

Artemis nodded. He may have acted like a stupid athlete, but he was capable of thinking when he wanted to. He understood what happened, I was sure.

“And the killer saved some for later,” Art inferred, “judging by the amount of the bear left. Plus, he hid the carcass for a reason, right?”

I nodded. “He didn’t want anyone else taking his game.”

“He—or she, I guess—must have been pretty strong to carry a bear that far.”

“No shit,” I said. “Remember the sliced tree? Or rather, it could have just been a human who’s really good with Synergon. Maybe he’s a Master.”

There was silence for a long moment. Then, Artemis said what neither of us wanted to admit.

“Unless we aren’t dealing with something human.”

I was beginning to regret this whole journey. What did either of us really gain in the end? So some swordsman was lurking in the Pines, savagely killing and eating animals. What did that have to do with me?

I shook my head. Always finish what you start, I believed. And this certainly wasn’t over.

“Kuro,” Artemis said suddenly, “how the hell did you smell this thing from so far away? I didn’t start to smell it until we were only minutes away.”

“I have a good nose,” I answered simply.

It was insignificant. I smelled the cadaver, and here we were. Period.

“Maybe—” Artemis was cut off by a loud noise that came from our right. It sounded like the howling of a wolf and the growling of a bear fused together and lasted for several seconds.

Both of our eyes widened in very real fear, as we realized that the noise was getting louder and louder.

“Artemis!” I yelled, despite the fact that he was right next to me. “Run!”

"The descriptions are good and I could visualize the scenery as well as relate to the characters' personalities. The plot was adventurous, with never a dull moment. I liked how Logan created creatures that were so imaginative and vivid."

Jahanara Kabir

"The book reminded me of a movie. I was literally amazed."


Eric Sinclair-Alegria

 

"While out of town over the weekend, knowing I would have three hours to kill, I started reading your book. From the first page, to where I am at this time in the book (post-avalanche), I was taken into a world in which my imagination is vivid with your incredible descriptive writing. For two days, I could not wait to get back to reading. But, as I always do with a great book, I slow down so it will not end. You have achieved an incredible level of descriptive success, from the human condition to the environment, in which your story resides. Your storytelling “voice” is exceptional. Thank you for the escape ! I will be first in line for your next book."

Michelle Flack

 

"Honestly. I thought it was very good. I liked the development of the characters and the storyline.  More importantly, my son is reading it right now:) I think you have a great journalistic future."

Ms. Darlene McGlashan, Teacher, Atlantic City High School


"Logan Chipkin's book is an intriguing mixture of imagination and creativity, taking you through a different world only seen within the pages."

Hannah D'Amico

 

"Extraordinary...as if I am reading books from my favorite authors like Gary Paulsen or Eion Colfer."

Max Simon


"Honestly...this piece of work surpassed my expectations."

Mir Shithil

Heart of Ice is simply a fantastic novel. It is very well written with solid characters, and has its own unique fantasy world that enthralls you as a reader. The best part of the book is definitely the main character Kuro, but then again who doesn't like a kick-butt fifteen-year-old wielding a battle axe. Oh, and he has his own dirty little secret, but I guess you're just gonna have to read and find out, hehe...Enjoy!

Austin Small

Logan Chipkin began writing fiction when he was fourteen. Heart of Ice is his third novel, but the first to be published. He lives in Margate, New Jersey, with his two parents, Joel and Robin Chipkin, and his two sisters, Chloe and Lanie. Logan is a senior at Atlantic City High School, home of the Vikings. He credits author Jim Butcher as his inspiration and his role model. Logan hopes to pursue a career in creative writing as he advances to college.

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