Title: White Storks of Mercy Trilogy: Book One – Formation
Author: Joni Anderson van Berkel
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Time Travel, Magical Realism, Mythology
In a world where reality and fantasy coexist, a clairvoyant Sacred Stork from ancient Egypt named Tara recruits a group of diverse females and leads them on a mission to help humankind relinquish its destructive ways of violence and prejudice and instead embrace peace.
Known as the legendary White Storks of Mercy, these graceful birds hold the power to transform into women as they carry out their work. As humans they call themselves the Merciful Ones.
Throughout the course of their epic journey Tara’s jealous sister Reba, a telepathic Siamese cat with mind-controlling blue eyes, attempts to thwart her twin. Will these mystical beings overcome perilous odds to reset humanity’s moral compass, or will they be foiled by the ploys of a clever, manipulative cat and her supernatural spies?
White Storks of Mercy—Formation is the first book in a new trilogy by Joni Anderson van Berkel. Follow the mystical females as they travel through time seeking justice and cultural acceptance. It is filled with magic, mythology, mystery, and mayhem, and promises to thrill and enchant its readers.
Excerpt from the chapter entitled TREACHERY AT THE CHÂTEAU:
Zendala lifted the Siamese cat off her lap. She felt frustrated and disappointed. “It seems that your heart holds no capacity to forgive.”
Reba told a desperate lie. “All right, I absolve you!” She needed to keep her at Versailles and find another way to steal the magical amulets. “Meet me in the garden tomorrow morning. We shall talk in private.”
The ancient woman nodded and stood. “The queen insists that Maatkare and I sleep in her quarters tonight.” The pharaoh glanced at Reba with anxiety. Their plan to gain the magical jewelry through mental manipulation had failed. The secretive cat cocked her head toward the bag hanging from Bastet’s wrist that was filled with perfumes and potions. The goddess passed the pharaoh a small vial. Sekhmet refused to participate in the treachery and vanished.
Maatkare was unaware that Zendala had seen Bastet give her the vial. My second in command is up to something. Before they left the salon Zendala noted the life-size portrait of the Sun King and his family dressed as ancient Romans. She recognized her sister on the lap of the king with Bastet and Sekhmet looming in the background. Monsieur Champollion’s recollection now makes perfect sense. Maatkare figured that out and came to Versailles on her own to scheme with Reba against me. They are plotting treachery at the château.
The two Merciful Ones walked toward the Queen’s Apartment and climbed its marble staircase. The Swiss guards glared at the two foreigners because no one but the queen slept there. They opened the double doors leading to Marie Antoinette’s bedroom.
Zendala sighed. “Sleeping outside suits me best but I shall not offend the queen.”
“You deserve an indulgence, Chief.” I need to keep her here.
Maatkare noticed a cabinet made of oak veneered with tulipwood against a nearby wall. Above it hung a carved and gilded mirror. On the marble-topped sideboard an etched Baccarat carafe contained honey-colored liqueur. Eight short-stemmed snifters waited alongside. “I need a nightcap. Do you care to join me, Chief?”
Zendala sat down on a small sofa and claimed it for the night. The flowery pattern of its upholstery matched the rest of the room. “Why not celebrate, Maatkare? You led me back to Reba no matter the outcome.” She inquired with a wry grin, “Is it Bour Bon Cognac?”
The pharaoh lifted the heavy decanter engraved with floral intaglios, removed its crystal top, and whiffed the intense aroma. “I am certain that it is the finest available.” With her back to Zendala she reached into her pocket to remove the glass vial and poured its contents into one of the snifters. She put an equal amount of cognac in each. Maatkare did not realize that Zendala watched her every move from the mirror’s reflection. The pharaoh placed the snifters on the small silver tray. She walked back across the room and offered her the tampered drink.
Zendala smiled at the deceitful pharaoh and reached for the smaller of the two portions. “You need this more than I do. Reba’s impolite behavior shocked us both. I know that you intended a joyous reunion.” Maatkare took a seat on the armchair opposite her uncertain about how to remedy the situation. She lifted her crystal snifter. They chimed their glasses together and the ancient woman threw back her drink in a single gulp. Maatkare forced a small sip of the tampered cognac. Zendala commented, “We both know that ancient Egyptians love their wine and beer. Drink up!”
“In a moment.” She took her chief’s empty snifter back to the cabinet along with her own full one. The sneaky pharaoh filled Zendala’s glass again and placed it on the silver tray next to her own. Here we go again. She kept her eyes focused on the two snifters to recognize the one doctored with the sleeping potion. Maatkare placed the tray on the small table between the couch and the chair.
Zendala snatched up both snifters and took a whiff. Her golden eyes pierced those of her second in command. She handed Maatkare the tampered dram and pointed to the mirror. “I saw the exchange between you and Bastet as well as your effort to add her potion to my drink. You are not so clever after all. Now take your medicine.” The leader consumed the pure cognac. The pharaoh knew when to admit defeat and forced down her measure of altered port. She wasted no time retiring to the queen’s bed.
Whenever possible Zendala slept as a woman in the lotus position. She had learned in Tibet how to achieve a state of deep slumber and only needed the delta sleep of supreme stillness to wake up rejuvenated. A few hours of rest each night was sufficient.
Maatkare slept beneath the queen’s silk sheets oblivious to all. In the dark bedchamber the fireplace provided a warm glow. Zendala studied the flickering flames. Both hands rested in her lap and she closed her eyes to invite peace into her body, mind, and soul. The hours ticked away. On the nightstand next to the queen’s bed an exquisite gold clock chimed three times and woke the drugged pharaoh. Maatkare sat up and saw the outline of Zendala’s Buddha-like figure. “Where is Bastet?” She slumped onto the pillow and went back to sleep.
The cat goddess knew nothing about the mix-up with the drinks when she materialized behind the sofa and stood over Zendala. She wore a sinister silver mask depicting a grinning human face to disguise her feline head. Her eyes were illuminated with excitement and she peered through the cut-outs to examine her victim. Removing the cartouche and jasper is easy but how can I reach the ring of eternity when her legs are folded under her dress?
She decided to start by confiscating the leather band. She knew that Reba coveted the jasper stone the most. Her long arm pulled at the thong around the elder’s wrinkled neck. It got stuck beneath the thick white plait of hair. Zendala grabbed Bastet’s wrist with the speed of a Venus flytrap. She stared up at the silver mask and registered the lime-green cat eyes behind it. The ancient woman tightened her grip. It was clear on whose behalf the goddess attempted to conduct her burglary.
Bastet howled. “Let me go!”
“Release my jasper stone now! Inform Reba that she will never again get her treacherous paws on what belongs to me.” The cat goddess let her fingers go limp and twisted her hand free. She hissed in anger and vanished.
Zendala inhaled several deep breaths. I expected something but not this! She unfolded her legs and placed her bare flat feet on the wood floor to ground her unsettled energy. Her golden eyes remained open for the duration of the long night.
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People adore epic tales that involve clashing cultures, an exploration of morality, and stories set extraordinary places, times, and circumstances. White Storks of Mercy Trilogy: Book One – Formation offers a confluence of elements that readers love: unique characters, an original storyline, a clever blending of real life woven into an engaging imaginary world. The powerful message about peace on our planet meanders artfully throughout the story.
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JONI ANDERSON VAN BERKEL is a Colorado-born writer and artist who divides her time between Scottsdale, Arizona and Zurich, Switzerland. She is happily married to her Dutchman from Amsterdam.
She was educated at the University of Colorado and holds both Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture degrees.
Joni studied script writing in Europe and wrote her first screenplay, Bad Julia, with the late David Sherwin. She has spent more than ten years writing her trilogy. Joni has visited most places referenced in her book. The second novel of the epic trilogy will be out soon.
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