Friday, August 4, 2017

Batesville - Oldenburg Auto Tour

Batesville - Oldenburg Auto Tour
Batesville - Oldenburg Auto Tour 

Are you looking for a great vacation idea? This nifty little road trip takes the visitor from the Village of Spires, Oldenburg and on to Batesville, Indiana. Combine history, culture, wine tasting and marvelous dining in one fun trip.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

A Visit to Indiana Dunes State Park

A Visit to Indiana Dunes State Park
A Visit to Indiana Dunes State Park

Indiana Dunes State Park, located on the shore of Lake Michigan, offers the sightseer unique opportunities for hiking, picnicking, camping and swimming. Prospective visitors can glean all the information they need to enjoy this beautiful, inimitable area to the fullest from this tourism guide.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Indiana History Story a Day – August

An Indiana History Story a Day - August
An Indiana History Story a Day - August

Indiana possesses a rich history that is fun to read and learn. An Indiana History Story a Day, like the Indiana Bicentennial History Series that preceded it, presents Indiana history in an easy to read “this day in history format” The thirty-one stories in the August edition include:
August 05, 1816 - First State Elections
August 07, 1791 - Battle of Kenapacomaqua
August 16, 1862 - 72nd Indiana Infantry Regiment Mustered
August 26, 1938 - Cornfield Conference Began
August 31, 1949 - Final Meeting of Grand Army of the Republic Soldiers - Civil War

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Short Indiana Road Trips - Volume 3


Short Indiana Road Trips - Volume 3
Short Indiana Road Trips - Volume 3

The Indiana Road Trip Travel Guide Series includes many places in Indiana for Hoosiers to go on a fun road trip. Short Indiana Road Trips - Volume 3 features twelve destinations that can provide a wonderful experience for those short weekends we all treasure.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Colonial American History Stories - 1215 - 1664

Colonial American History Stories - 1215 - 1664
Colonial American History Stories - 1215 - 1664

Colonial American History Stories - 1215 – 1664 contains almost 300 history stories presented in a timeline that begins in 1215 with the signing of the Magna Carta to the printing of the first Bible in Colonial America in 1664. The historical events include both famous ones as well as many forgotten stories that the mists time have obscured. These reader friendly stories include:
June 15, 1215 - King John I signs Magna Carta at Runnymede England
October 19, 1469 - Ferdinand and Isabella Marry, Uniting Aragon and Castile
August 3, 1492 - Christopher Columbus Sets Sail On His First Voyage
July 22, 1587 - Lost Colony Established
June 14, 1623 - First Breach-Of-Promise Lawsuit In Colonies
August 29, 1619 ? - First Blacks Land at Jamestown Virginia


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Thursday, June 8, 2017

An Indiana History Story a Day – July


An Indiana History Story a Day – July
An Indiana History Story a Day – July

Indiana possesses a rich history that is fun to read and learn. An Indiana History Story a Day –July like the Indiana Bicentennial History Series that preceded it, presents Indiana history in an easy to read “this day in history format” The thirty-one stories in the July edition include:
July 04, 1778 - Clark Takes Kaskaskia Without Firing a Shot
July 8, 1863 - Morgan's Raiders Cross the Ohio River
July 16, 1907 - Orville Redenbacher Born
July 21, 1862 - New Albany Race Riots
July 29, 1861 - Formation of the 19th Indiana - Black Hat Brigade

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Rich Woman's Dog - Ten Funny Stories

Rich Woman's Dog
Paul R. Wonning

Ten Funny Stories Complete Collection
Ten Funny Stories Complete Collection
Bernie Fuller was a dog. He enjoyed women. In fact, Bernie enjoyed a lot of women. Being a dog did create problems. Right now his problems were named Kate and Melanie. His amorous activities with Kate the previous night extended into the morning hours. He overslept. He awoke, looked at the clock and bolted from bed. He could tell from the look on her face that Kate wanted him to stay. He showered, dressed and roared off on his motorcycle, leaving Kate pouting in her bed.
Now he was late for his breakfast date with Melanie. His head was still clouded with wine, and his judgment was hazy. He gunned the motorcycle as he sped down the straightaway. The curve came up faster than he anticipated.
Too fast, the motorcycle entered the curve. Its rubber tires clawed at the loose gravel. The bike left the road, vaulted the ditch and slammed into a massive oak tree. A flock of crows resting in the tree were startled into flight by the impact, crying "caw, caw, caw,” as they flew off. Centrifugal force flung Bernie into a woven wire fence, which was nailed to the base of the tree. A honeysuckle vine covered the fence, bright with yellow blooms. It hummed with bees gathering the nectar. He fell at the base of the fence. His blood flowed, enriching the fragrant green grass beneath him. He was conscious only of pain. Blackness swallowed his last vision of the blue summer sky.
Bernie opened his eyes. He raised his head and glanced around at an unfamiliar room. Why was everything so tall? He realized that he was lying on a pillow in a box on the floor. He looked down at his hands. Instead of hands he saw furry little white paws.
"Strange," he said. But what he heard was "Arf."
A heavy set woman wearing a brightly flowered dress entered the room. The crow’s feet around her eyes betrayed a much different age than indicated by her youthful looking blond hair.
"What's wrong, Cuddles. Is my little baby hungry?" she asked as she looked at him through eyes heavy with mascara. The air was thick with her perfume.
Cuddles? What kind of a name was that?
“Arf,” he heard himself reply.
The woman left the room. Bernie could hear the sound of a cupboard door opening. The whirring sound of an electric can opener was followed by the clink of a can lid snapping open.
As he pondered his predicament, a scene which happened a few weeks earlier played through his memory.

The room above the Lester’s garage smelled of cigar smoke and stale beer. Bernie was playing poker with the boys, a cigar clenched between his teeth. The cards in his hand formed the worst hand of the night, and that was an accomplishment. His rent money lay in front of Moocher. He glanced at his remaining cash, strewn on the table in front of him.
He removed the cigar from his mouth and tapped it on the ashtray, knocking loose the powdery ashes on the end.
“I’m out,” he said, throwing his cards down. “This hand stinks.”
“You can’t quit after the cards are dealt,” Moocher said. “You have to play this one out.”
“I already lost my rent. If I lose this hand, the power company will shut off my electric.”
“You should have thought of that before you called that last bet,” Davy said.
Bernie looked at his tiny pile of cash on the table and thought about the dilapidated state of his finances. "When I die, I want to come back as some rich fat old lady's dog,” he said. “Just lie around and sleep all day. Then eat chopped steak out of a silver bowl. What a life."
   
His mind fast forwarded to the last thing he remembered. His motorcycle was a twisted wreck. He could see the blue, cloud studded sky. The scent of honeysuckle filled his senses. He could hear the sound of buzzing bees. Pain devoured his soul. Then there was blackness. He looked again at his furry little white paws. His lighthearted wish had come true. He hated yappy little dogs. And now he was one.
He looked back up at the lady. This is a dream. He wanted to pinch himself. But he had no fingers. Only furry little white paws.
"Come on, Cuddles, I’ve put your favorite treat in your bowl," he heard the woman call.
He went into the kitchen, his claws clacking on the hard tile floor.
"There you go, Cuddles," she said, placing the dish in front of him.
He looked at the disgusting mess in the bowl. He wasn't going to eat that. It didn’t even smell good. His sensitive dog nose detected a savory fragrance emanating from the nearby dining table. He jumped up on a chair. A steak and baked potato stared up at him from a plate on the table. He lunged at it.
"Bad boy, bad Cuddles." exclaimed the lady, as she swatted him on the behind. "Go eat your own food and get off the table."
Bernie sulked back to his dish, looked at the contents, and turned up his nose.
A short time later, he heard the lady calling, "Cuddles, Cuddles, come here. We have company coming this afternoon. It’s time for you to get dressed."
She began tying a lacy blue ribbon around his neck.
What the hell. This sissy stuff wasn’t going to fly. He snarled and snapped at her.
"What is with you today?" asked the woman. After a brief struggle she got the ribbon on him. She slipped some lacy little socks on his feet.
He ran into another room and tried to gnaw the ribbon off, but he couldn’t get to it with his teeth. The socks prevented him from digging his claws into it. He wondered what his poker buddies would say if they saw him in this sissy attire.
The doorbell rang, and he scampered off. He found himself staring up at the doorknob, jumping and barking in excitement.
The woman went to the door and opened it. A lady with frizzy red hair stood smiling on the step. Bernie, or Cuddles as he was now known, could see another lady with gray streaked dark hair pulled into a pony tail standing behind her.
“Hello, Buella,” said the red haired one through lips heavy with scarlet lipstick.
"Hello Myrtle. Hello Gert. Come on in," Buella said.
The two entered the house, purses hooked on their arms. Gert pressed her host's hand as she entered, and said, "It’s so nice of you to have us over."
"It is my pleasure. I really enjoy our little weekly games. We are still waiting on Kay. I do hope she can make it."
Great. A hen party. He wanted to gnaw a chair leg.
The doorbell rang again.
“That must be Kay,” Buella said as she opened the door. Outside stood the hottest chick Bernie had ever seen. Short skirt, black stocking covered long legs and high stiletto heels. He could feel his juices boiling. This party was starting to liven up.
As the women chatted, Buella served refreshments. This prompted discussions about recipes and other topics of little interest to Bernie.
Finally, the women sat down to play cards. Bernie laid down where he could get a good look at Kay’s long legs, her slim ankles crossed under the card table. Finally his hormones got the better of him. He scampered under the table mounted the legs and started humping furiously.
"My word," exclaimed Kay. She kicked him off, her spike heel digging into his side. "What a naughty dog."
He retreated with a squeal.
Buella was horrified. "Oh, I am so sorry," she exclaimed. "Cuddles hasn't been acting himself today." She picked him up and carried him to a closet. She put him inside and closed the door.
Well, this was a really crappy day. First he got killed. Then he woke up as a stupid poodle and had to eat dog food. When he finally got a hot chick in his clutches, he got kicked and stuck in a closet. What else could go wrong?
After a while, the conversation and laughter outside stopped. The closet door opened.
"Come out, Cuddles, you bad dog. I guess I have to make that appointment after all".
Buella crossed the room, picked up the phone and dialed a number.
"Hello, Family Vet Services? I need to make an appointment for my doggy, Cuddles. Yes, I need to get him neutered."    
Neutered. Now wait a minute. This wasn't working out at all the way he thought it should.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Adventures of Toby and Wilbur Bear - The Beginning Begins

The Adventures of Toby and Wilbur Bear
Paul R. Wonning
The Beginning Begins
The Adventures of Toby and Wilbur Bear
The Adventures of Toby and Wilbur Bear
There are no bears in Indiana, let’s get this clear from the beginning. At least that is what everyone says. But the next time you hear an odd rustling in the forest at night, or find strange tracks, remember this tale of how bears came to Indiana.
This story centers on the peaceful little village of Trestletown. Trestletown is in the southeastern corner of Indiana. Here the wild hills tower over Laughery Creek as it meanders through the hills of southern Indiana on its journey to the Ohio River.
Trestletown is on the banks of Laughery Creek, just where the rail line crosses the creek on a bridge high above the stream. The town features all the ordinary homes and businesses common to a small Midwestern town. It has a grocery store, gas stations, restaurants, taverns, and most important of all - a hobby shop.
The adventure begins when Ferguson, “Fergy” to his friends, and owner of the hobby shop, decided he needed a vacation. So he closed the shop, hurried home and began tossing all the necessary gear into the camper. Then he stood scratching his head, thinking that he forgot something. He looked around and then remembered the most important thing of all. He picked up his bewildered wife Laura and threw her in the camper, too.
Vroom! They were off to Tennessee for some hiking and camping, in the Great Smoky Mountains. They found a nice mountain campground and set up camp.
Since it was late when they arrived, Laura and Fergy were tired. They ate dinner, watched the fire awhile and got ready for bed. Fergy was too tired to take the scraps left from their meal to the garbage can. So he just wrapped them in a napkin, and left them on the table, beside the cooler, thinking he could clean up in the morning.
Toby and Wilbur are two small bears that frequent the forested mountains near the campground. They are smaller than normal bears, just cubs that never grew up. Some say it is because they ate the rare leprechaun berries when they were cubs. Mischievous and hungry, they stayed near the campground because the food was agreeable. They also found that there was always something interesting to see. They watched with interest as the tired couple went to bed. Northerners were always easy, they usually left something good to eat out, at least until they learned about bears.
 As soon as the lights in the camper went out, the two small bears scampered out of the brush and began rummaging through the leftovers. Toby found a cooler, which he promptly overturned. It came open, and the two bears felt like lottery winners. They were having a good time making a big mess, when the noise they were making woke up the campers. Fergy came out with a flashlight, sighted the two marauders, and began yelling at them.
The bears grabbed what they could and made out for the forest. Laura and Fergy watched them scamper, a little wiser about bears, and with a big mess to clean up. It wouldn’t be as easy for the bears on their next visit.
Fergy liked to set up some of toys from his shop at the campsite. He always lined the picnic up with drinking birds, radiometers, Newton’s Swings and gyroscopes. It amused him and the children in the campground. He set up his usual menagerie of novelties and set the drinking birds in motion. The early morning light took care of the radiometers. He and his wife then took off for a mountain hike.
Toby and Wilbur were out foraging that morning.  Toby’s stomach remembered the large cream pie he had seen at Fergy’s campsite. They returned, finding the campsite deserted, and no food in sight. But the stuff on the picnic table caught their eyes. What was all this? The two bears had seen nothing like it in their lives. They watched the incredible drinking bird bob up and down at a glass of water. The radiometers spun, and the Newton's swing fascinated Toby. All those gadgets enthralled Toby. Wilbur had an unpleasant premonition that life was about to take an unpleasant turn.
Toby looked at all the stuff on the table. He watched the radiometers and drinking birds, and wondered at how they worked. He picked up a hand boiler. The liquid inside boiled at his touch, amusing him. The two bears were absorbed in all the interesting toys.  They didn’t hear Fergy and his wife until they entered the campsite. Startled, the bears took off into the brush leaving two bewildered campers behind. Bears!
Over the next several days, the bears scored hits on some of the other nearby campsites. They continually checked out Fergy’s site as well, but the couple had learned their lesson and had everything put away. It was the cooler that Toby had eyes for though. Toby remembered that it held ham, chicken, some wonderful cookies, and some of Laura’s special home made cream pie! The pie especially made Toby and Wilbur’s stomachs growl whenever they thought of it!
On their last day, the couple was cleaning up the campsite, getting ready to leave. With everything put away, they decided to take one last stroll around the campground before leaving. It was such a beautiful place and they couldn’t get enough of it.
As they left, Laura forgot to close the camper door. The two hungry bears were watching from the forests edge, and they saw their opportunity. The bears entered the camper in search of the cooler. There it was.
But before the bears could knock the cooler down, they heard Fergy and Laura returning. A broken shoelace had cut the walk short, and now the return to Indiana was imminent. Fergy closed the camper door, jumped in the driver’s seat and started the camper. From their hiding place under the bed, the bears watched Laura change shoes and get in the passengers seat of the camper.
And they were off! Toby and Wilbur looked at each other in consternation. What were they to do now? They decided to hide until the camper stopped, and jump out at the first available opportunity.
Only the camper didn’t stop! Gassed up and ready to go, the trip from Tennessee to Indiana took about six hours to complete. It was the longest six hours in the two bear’s life. Pulling into their driveway, Fergy suggested waiting until morning to clean out the camper, as it was late. Laura agreed, taking only the cooler and other food along to the house.
“Leave the camper door open overnight to air out,” Laura said, “It smells like musty socks in there”.
Fergy agreed, and the left the door open to air it out.
The two bears left their hiding place, and looked out the door. It was night, but they could tell they were a long way from home. They left the camper and scampered off into the Indiana countryside.
There are no bears in Indiana? There are now, but is Indiana ready for Toby and Wilbur?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Demon of Death

Demon of Death

Patiently, the demon drifted in the still, murky water as it waited and watched. Jason made love to Cindy on a rock in the middle of the haunted pond. His lust sated, Jason relaxed. It was the last moment he would be happy. The demon struck.
Its first act was to kill that which Jason loved. That was just the beginning of the horror.
The supernatural, occult fantasy fiction thriller, Demon of Death, reveals the depths of depravity of demonic possession. The demon resurrects inside Jason’s body to launch a murderous rampage of death.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Chicken House - The Ricky Huening Stories

The Chicken House

Ricky paused before he opened the door. He knew the house wasn’t haunted. But there were spirits in there. The reason for his presence flitted through his mind. His aging grandparents were no longer able to care for this place and they were going to have a sale to auction off their belongings. They were moving to a retirement home. Gone would be his grandfather’s workshop and garden. Gone would be his grandmother’s canning pantry and home made cakes and cookies and everything else that was grandma’s.
His grandparent’s small house stood on the other side of the driveway. He turned. He could see his grandmother in the kitchen window, as she bustled about making something or cleaning something. She waved at him and he waved back. He turned back towards the door.
He went in. The front porch was loaded with stuff. His Dad had called it junk. But Ricky knew better. He walked through, past the steps that led down to the damp, dirt floored cellar. He opened the door and entered the kitchen. Here. Here is where the spirits were. He paused. The house always had its own smell. It was not a bad smell. It was a good smell. As Ricky breathed the air, he realized he was smelling time. This house was a microcosm of time. Time lent its fragrance to the air.
His great grandparents had lived in this house. The family called it the chicken house because it his grandfather built it to raise chickens. When his great grandparents sold their farm and retired, he converted the unused building to serve as an apartment for his parents. There were five rooms in the simple building. These included two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and one end, closed off to the apartment, served as his grandfather’s workshop. A small bathroom bordered the kitchen and main bedroom.
He and his mother and father had lived in this house briefly, in 1963, when his father had sold the farm. They lived in the apartment from November until February when the contractor completed their new home. His family’s spirit was here, somewhere, flitting amongst the others.
To the left was a bedroom. A spirit called him and he went in. His great grandmother’s quilting frame was still set up. The quilt she had been working on when she died still stretched across it. The quilt awaited her hands, unfinished, in the thirty years it waited. Ricky could still see her sitting there, her fingers deftly working the needle through the fabric as she stitched the colorful scraps of fabric together into wondrous patterns.
A quilt, one of her creations, lay upon the bed next to the quilting frame. He ran his fingers over it. For extra income his great grandmother had sold these quilts, shipping them to customers in the forty eight contiguous states. When Hawaii and Alaska joined the Union, a family friend had arranged for someone in those two states to order a quilt from her. Before she died in 1961 she had completed and sold, at age 95, quilts for customers in all fifty states.
More spirits called to him. He turned. Pictures of his great grandparents stared down at him from a wall. They were large, charcoal portraits, lifelike and spooky in the silence. The other wall contained similar charcoal portraits of his grandparents, composed when they were quite young. Their youthful eyes followed him when he left the room.
To his right was the living room. A spirit stood in the doorway, beckoning him. Ricky smiled and entered the room.
More memories cluttered this room. A wooden table stood at its center. A library table, his grandfather had told him, purchased at auction form a library that was remodeling. Ricky felt the smooth, dark table. More spirits, this time of students reading or writing as they sat near it. The table was stacked with old books. Ricky picked one up. It was a German volume, brought along in a trunk, and packed amongst his great-great grandparent’s possessions as they voyaged from Germany to their new home in America. A phonograph stood on a stand by the table. It was a wind up model, which his grandfather assured him still worked.
He fingered a box of harmonicas. His grandfather played these when he was younger. His eye wandered. A broad axe stood in the corner. Ricky went to it and picked it up. The blade was rusty through years of disuse. His great-great grandfather had used this axe to cut the trees to clear his farm and shape the logs to build the log cabin they lived in until they could afford to build a larger, more comfortable frame house. He could feel the spirit of not only his great-great grandfather, but also of the trees that it felled and the logs it shaped.
He left this room and walked to the last one. Here was the room he slept in when they had lived here. The rickety bed stood on one wall. A huge display case with glass doors occupied the other wall. He opened one of the doors. There was a hookah pipe, purchased by his grandfather at a sale somewhere. Other items of interest lay scattered amongst its shelves. There were more books and old National Geographic Magazines. Three large glass jars on the bottom shelf attracted his curious fingers.
When farmers plowed with horses, they saw things that the plows unearthed. His grandfather and great grandfather filled these jars with Indian arrowheads which they picked up and pocketed as he plowed. Ricky picked an arrowhead from the jar and felt its flinty hardness. He could almost sense the Indian warrior on a hunting trip who lost this arrow, shot either at prey or at a warrior from another tribe during some nameless battle of long ago.
Ricky left the room, and walked out the door. He went to his grandfather’s workroom and opened the door. He stared into the dark interior. The blended fragrance of cedar and other woods flowed into his nose. His grandfather’s tools littered the wooden workbench. He could still hear the low rumble of the electric jointer and the powerful whine of the table saw. He glanced at the saw and marveled at his grandfather’s ingenuity, converting an old sewing machine to a table saw. The contraption worked very well under his grandfather’s practiced hands.
He could hear the crunch of gravel in the drive, then the clump of opening and closing car doors. His father and brother had arrived. The sale was tomorrow. Today they would clean out this old house, lining the items up for sale on planks placed on sawhorses. They would auction off his grandparent’s lives. Ricky wondered if the spirits would accompany the items to their new homes, or if they would wander, homeless, in the trackless canyons of his mind.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Visit to Chain o' Lakes State Park

A Visit to Chain o' Lakes State Park
A Visit to Chain o' Lakes State Park
A Visit to Chain o' Lakes State Park

The ten lakes, nine connected by a channel, are the best reasons to visit Chain of Lakes State Park. Then, add a fabulous campground, comfortable family cabins and intriguing trails to the mix. These amenities total up to a wonderful vacation or get-away weekend in Indiana's lake country.
A Visit to Chain o' Lakes State Park will give the prospective visitor all the information they need to enjoy this wonderful Noble County Indiana State Park in northeastern Indian

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Sample Chapter - Chapter One - The Rise of the Pirate King

The Rise of the Pirate King 
Paul R. Wonning
Book 1 - Fall of Sylvanhaven
Looming Disaster

The Rise of the Pirate King
The Rise of the Pirate King 
Bees hummed as they gathered nectar from fragrant wildflowers and the cadence of birdsong filled the sunny meadow. A family picnicked in this meadow, nestled near the hemline of the forest, unaware that danger lurked nearby. A small boy wandered among the wildflowers, gathering blossoms to make a bouquet for his mother. There were blue flowers, white flowers and flowers of many other colors. It would be a wonderful bouquet and the boy could not wait to see his mother’s smile when he gave it to her.
A gruesome scream punctuated the golden air. He turned towards the awful sound. Before his terrified eyes, he saw a narl fling itself on his mother, ripping her throat with its sharp, canine teeth. Another jumped upon his father, killing him before he could draw his knife. The boy cried out as the narls surrounded him.

Tarque drew himself from the memory. After all these years, he still envisioned the scene. His parents were dead, eaten by narls. A peaceful, happy time had ended in sorrow and death. His last memory was of a vortex of air lifting him high in the air, away from the snarling, snapping jaws. His world evaporated into darkness.
His steed cantered down the road to Vintown. As he entered the capital city of Sylvanhaven, he sensed the excitement in the air. Workers busied themselves erecting tents. Colorful banners flew from poles along the streets. Shouts filled the city as the people prepared for the festival. Aromas of pastries, sweet meats and other culinary delights filled the air. The parallel between his memory and the state of the kingdom was apt. Peace and prosperity reigned here in the most powerful of the Six Kingdoms. The people were happy and gay, unaware of the calamity that gathered beyond the horizon.
Seven days. He had seven days. He had to convince the King to change the festival. If he could not, then catastrophe would ride through the kingdom like a knight through a potter's shop.
He rode his horse along the wharf. Ships from all over the Six Kingdoms lined the docks. Dock workers loaded and unloaded cargo. The sound of prosperity rang in the air, and the people were happy. He could see the King's Docks from his vantage on an overlook along the wharves. Crews were outfitting six ships in port for their next voyage. Banners and flags flew from the newest ship, the Queen Sand. After the Festival, the ships would form a flotilla that would visit each of the capitals of the other five kingdoms. The purpose was to introduce the Crown Prince to the other kingdoms. All the other nations feared Sylvanhaven’s might.
He turned his path, following the Road of the Crystalcrest along the River Fleet, which led him to the palace of the King. As he entered the Courtyard of the Crystal, he looked with scorn on the heresy. The Fountain of Arii stood in the center of the plaza in front of the palace. Water brought by aqueduct from upstream gushed over the glistening crystal and fell in a cascade to the white basin below, forming a pool. A sparkling stream exited this pool and made its way back to the River Fleet. Workers toiled in the sun, erecting the platform from which King Bern Vin would oversee the festivities.
This was the source of the calamity. The kingdom had strayed from the Covenant upon which it rested. The Kings had become proud and shunned the old ways. As the people strayed, Arii's power waned. His protection would soon fail and the creature would escape.
He turned and looked again on the clear, cold waters of the River Fleet. The river sprang from the real Crystalcrest, the abode of Arii, near the crest of the Crystalline Mountains. The river coursed through the heart of the kingdom, blessing it with Arii's presence. This road, the Avenue of the Kings, followed the course of the river to its source on Crystalcrest. It led through many cities and hamlets that drew their strength from the traffic along the river.
In seven days the Crown Prince would turn ten, the Age of Awakening. He would be of age for the Quest of the Covenant. Dedication of the children to the service of Arii took place during the Quest on their tenth birthdays. This year it would be a special occasion because Crown Prince Bearl would take part.
In the old days, the Festival took place at the true Crystalcrest. Arii looked into the hearts of the children and saw their potential. He inscribed there their life's work, assigning it by the desires of their heart and their natural talents. Then that evil wizard wormed his way into the heart of Karo, the father of King Bern Vin, and the Quest of the Covenant ended.
Tarque recalled his last audience with Arii. He was growing weaker as the people drifted away. The strength of the creature he held captive grew stronger. If the Prince attained the Age of Awakening and did not come to Arii, then Arii's power would fail. When his power failed, then Gwaum would escape. The kingdom would fall.
Tarque turned his horse to look again at the Palace. His audience with the King would be this afternoon. He was not optimistic about his success. The king was obstinate and proud. He had warned him many times in the past. This was the last warning. If he failed, in seven days Arii would pass from this realm. The monster would awaken. The Kingdom of Sylvanhaven would fall.
What would happen to the other five kingdoms was anyone’s guess. The power of Sylvanhaven was all that kept the peace. Without that power, Tarque feared that the Six Kingdoms would descend into chaos. It would be a terrible time like that which preceded the Covenant. That was what he was working to prevent.
He wheeled his horse around, spurred him to a canter. It was time to secure his quarters, eat and prepare for his audience with the King. Tarque soon arrived at his destination, the Crystalcrest Inn. He dismounted and gave the reins to the livery boy who came out to greet him.
"I will need the horse in four hours," he instructed the lad.
At that, Tarque climbed the steps and entered the inn. People eating their noontime meal crowded the inn. Tarque caught the innkeeper's eye.
"Ah, Tarque, you have arrived. I received your yuhma bird with its message. I have readied your quarters."
"Thank you, Darel," said Tarque. "I need to prepare for my audience this afternoon. I will have a light lunch, and then retire to my room to clean up and dress."
"I will have fresh washing water in the bowl, some soap and clean linen. Do you want to eat now?"
"Yes, I will have some soup and cheese."
"You may dine in my private room. I know you will want privacy to rest after your long journey."
"Thank you."
Tarque followed Darel through the door at the back of the room, sat down at the plain wooden table. He looked out the window. The alley that passed beneath the window appeared dark and abandoned, matching his mood.
A plump middle-aged woman soon appeared with a bowl of soup, a plate of cheese and a glass of dark ale. Tarque ate in silence and washed the meal down with the ale. He arose and climbed the stairs to his quarters. The cooing of birds met him as he opened the door. His eyes lit on his yuhma birds, which were in a cage near the window.
He walked over to the cage and said, "Ah, my little beauties. I see you are awaiting me."
He opened the cage and withdrew one of the birds. He scooped up some grain that was in a bucket near the cage. He allowed the bird to feed from his palm while he stroked its feathers. Then he walked to the window, opened it and released the bird.
"Fly away, my friend. Fly home. I will return in a couple of days to tend you and your friends."
He watched the bird fly away. Yuhma birds were one of his specialties. The great wizard Nerza first perfected the art of using the birds.. They served as messengers between him and the few remaining followers of Arii. There was always one here, with Darel. The innkeeper used it to communicate with Tarque in his faraway home on the mountain. Tarque had others around the kingdom. They helped him maintain contact with the small, and dwindling, adherents of the followers of Arii. Rockheads the people referred to them, with derision, in reference to the pendant adherents wore. A small piece of the Crystalcrest of Arii affixed to a chain worn on a necklace hid them from the King’s Crystal Eye that he used to watch the people of his kingdom. The Rockheads only wore this adornment during the Quest, but the name stuck as word of it spread.
Devised by Tarque’s predecessor, Aron, at the cost of his life, the charm’s magic was all that had kept Gwaum at bay. Even that seemed now to be failing.
Tarque removed his dusty traveling clothes. He washed himself at the washing stand and toweled himself dry. He gazed at himself in the mirror. His face was still unlined, and his black hair still jet-black, with only flecks of gray. He thought of that time in Niru, almost twenty years ago, and the girl who was with him. They had accomplished much in that silver-lined time long ago. Then he had to leave. He wondered what happened to her.
He laid down on the bed to rest. His thoughts dwelled on the state of the kingdom, and he worried about his audience with the King. The Kings of Sylvanhaven had become proud and arrogant, forgetting the source of their power. King Bern Vin was the latest, and the most arrogant of the line that dated from Bearl, the first King. It seemed fitting that the King named the Crown Prince, destined to be the last of the line, Bearl, after this first heroic King.
The sun's shadows shifted to reveal the passing of the noontime to early afternoon. Tarque arose from the bed, pulled his dress robe from the bag. He shook it, pulled it on and tied the sash. He left the room and descended to the street. The livery boy saw him come down the steps and darted out the door ahead of the old wizard. He appeared in a few moments with the horse.
Tarque placed a copper coin into his dirty hand and said, "Thank you lad. I will be returning later."
"Thank you, Sir," said the boy, with a grateful look at the copper coin in his hand, and then at the wizard who rode away.

Tarque arrived at the palace and nodded to the guards. They allowed him to enter. A page appeared.
"I am Tarque, and I have an audience scheduled with the King," Tarque said.
The page nodded, intoning, "He is expecting you, Guardian. Follow me."
Tarque followed the page down a long, curtained hall. At the end of the hall were two massive wooden doors. Elaborate candelabras stood on either side of the door, guards beside them. One of the guards inspected Tarque's face.
"Your staff, please," the guard said.
"Be careful with it. It does not like unfamiliar hands."
The guard took it, his eye catching the golden star that shone bright on the handle of Tarque’s staff. Fear flickered across his face as he placed the staff in a golden bucket near the wall. He then opened one of the doors. Tarque walked into the throne room. King Bern Vin sat on his throne and watched him approach, his face portraying the boredom he felt.
Tarque walked toward the king, stopped and bowed.
"Greetings, King Vin."
"Greetings, Tarque. What dire news do you bring me today?"
Tarque took a deep breath, looked into the eyes of the King, and said, "Again I bring you warning, King Bern Vin. The power of Arii grows weaker. The Quest of the Covenant has dwindled; those in his service are few. His ability to protect the Kingdom is flagging."
"You speak of old legends and tales, Wizard Priest. We are strong. No power can oppose us."
"There are ancient powers that dwell in this land," answered Tarque. "These powers are such that your knights cannot defeat. Arii has been holding these evil powers at bay. But his strength wanes."
"You have warned of these dangers," replied the King. "Your predecessor Aron carped about them, also. My father Karo grew weary of his maledictions, as I grow tired of yours. The dangers you speak of have never occurred."
The wizard drew himself up to his full height.
"Your son, Bearl, is ten years old next week. It is time that the Prince took the Quest of the Covenant. He is of age, Sire."
"You mean the trek to that forsaken rock on that faraway mountain?"
"Yes, Sire. The Prince must take up the old ways. It is the only way to avert disaster."
"Nonsense," said Bern. "The festivities are all planned. No child has taken that Quest in many years. His dedication will take place at the Fountain as planned."
“You went to Crystalcrest when you were ten. You felt the presence of Arii.”
The King smiled.
“Yes, I did go on that worthless trek. This Arii you speak of, he did not appear to me. That is why my father instituted this ceremony. He sensed that Arii did not touch me. Thus, his power has waned. This ceremony is closer to the capital and brings commerce to the merchants of the city.”
"Your artificial ceremony at your imitation shrine will not suffice. He must travel to the Crystalcrest of Arii at the source of the River Fleet. He must dedicate himself to Arii. This is the only way to save the Kingdom."
"No," snarled the King. "I want to hear no more of your prattle about ancient gods or nonexistent ghosts who threaten my kingdom. The time of your magic is gone, Wizard. Go back to your mountain lair and worship your god. We have our ships and knights. No one can threaten us. It is now the Age of Men. Your time has passed. There are few wizards of your kind left, and they grow fewer by the year."
Thus dismissed, Tarque left the audience with the King with a sour taste on his tongue. He knew beforehand that his plea would be in vain, but he had to try. On the way out, he saw Aeoric, the captain of the King's guard. For a brief instant, their eyes met. Aeoric guessed the turmoil in Tarque's eyes. But he said nothing as Tarque passed on his way back out to the street.
As he exited the palace, he paused to look over the square in front of the palace. It was already busy with preparations for the festival.
His eyes rested on the Fountain. King Karo Vin, the father of the current king, constructed it under the direction of that other wizard. That wizard had caused great harm before Tarque and the girl had stopped him. His eye wandered to the great tower that rose above the plaza. It was still there, inside that tower, awaiting the rise of its creator. But Tarque had greater immediate problems.
Many of the people in the outlying communities still adhered to the old ways, at great risk. The King kept a watchful eye and persecuted any he caught going to the mountain with their children. The numbers of adherents was small and getting smaller as the years passed. His predecessor Aron had managed to shepherd a small group of Sylvanhaveners into maintaining the Quest. However, the numbers were never large and not enough. Arii needed the King and all the people or his power would fail. And if Arii failed, then danger reigned.
Tarque's mind settled on the one fact uttered by the King. His kind was getting fewer. Few Wizards of the Golden Star remained. Such was the state of things. There were other, lesser wizards and witches scattered around the Six Kingdoms. His mind lit on another Order, the Order of Solaun. He had seen one of these women lurking behind the throne. So, King Bern Vin was under the influence of one of these. The Kingdom had fallen far since the days of Bearl and the first kings.
He rode back to the Crystalcrest Inn, dismounted and handed the reins to Resh, the groom. He entered the inn. It was late afternoon. The evening crowd had not started to gather, so it was easy to find a table near the back of the great room. A small fire crackled in the fireplace, providing warmth to the room.
Darel saw him enter and soon appeared with two glasses of ale. He placed one in front of Tarque and sat down. He took a drink of the frothy liquid and sat down.
"I take it that you were not successful," he noted, seeing the displeasure on Tarque's face.
Tarque picked up the glass, took a healthy pull at the amber liquid, and said, "I have failed. There is no hope."
"What will you do now?"
Tarque's eyes wandered around the great room.
"I must confer again with Arii. You must contact the Rockheads here and tell them to get ready to flee. When the storm arises, it will flood the Kingdom. There will be little time."
"Where shall we flee? The other kingdoms will not welcome the Sylvanhaveners. The will not want us."
"I do not know, Darel. Tomorrow I will arise early and hasten back to the Mountain. I will talk to Quinn at Bridgetown, and warn him of the impending disaster. I will send word to you after consulting with Arii."
"I will contact the followers," said Darel.
"You must also contact Aeoric. He must save the Prince."
"The Prince? Why must you save him? He is a spoiled brat."
"The Prince is the heir of the Covenant between Arii and the heirs of Bearl. If there is to be hope of defeating Gwaum, it lies with the boy."
"I will send word to my cousin Aeoric. He is the only Rockhead in the King's court."
"I will dine early tonight, Darel. Then I will retire to my quarters and rest. Tomorrow I will depart before the sun rises. I must get to Bridgetown by midday."
"Most of the followers are there."
"Yes, but they are few."
"And they are getting fewer."
Tarque drained the mug of ale, placed it back on the table and stood. "I will take a walk, now," he said. "When I return, I will dine. Then I will go to bed."
"I will have a plate of food ready for you."
Tarque stood up. "Thank you, Darel. You always anticipate my needs."
"We have been friends for a long time, Tarque."
Their eyes met. "We will soon be in exile, my friend. Hard times are coming."
At that, Tarque left the table and walked into the street. 

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