Sunday, May 28, 2017

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

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. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Legend of the Wizard Tarque - Epic Fantasy Series

Legend of the Wizard Tarque
Part I - Glade of Death
Chapter One
Aron’s Fear

Legend of the Wizard Tarque
Legend of the Wizard Tarque
The wizard Aron stood on the summit of Crystalcrest and gazed at the valley of the River Fleet. The vast green valley stretched out to the horizon as it followed the river that carved it.. Dark figures moved along the road that followed the river's course as it wound its way along of the Crystalline Mountains on its way to the sea. The last of the pilgrims were departing and he would again soon taste the flavor of loneliness. Each year the crowds came here bringing with them their ten-year-old children as they completed the Quest of the Covenant. Then each year they departed, leaving Aron, the Guardian of the Covenant, to his solitude.
Crystalcrest glimmered in the setting sun behind him. Arii, his task complete, had vanished back into its recesses. The royal standard came into view far below him. This had been a special Quest, as Prince Karo Vin, son of King Theros Vin, had turned ten.
His thoughts centered on the boy, Prince Karo, the reminder of his problem. Aron was getting old. He had not married and had no son. There was no heir to the post of Guardian of Covenant. His mind shifted to his nephew, Bernall. The boy was now almost five. It was time to begin his training. But Bernall was far away and the boy's mother, Cyndi, would not allow him to train the boy.
His brother, Mikal, had deferred to his wife, and the boy remained unaware of his heritage and calling. He and Mikal descended from a long line of wizards, though the skill did not manifest itself in Mikal. Aron had felt the boy’s power. He knew that his essence was that of a great wizard. The legends of their family lore told of a descent from Arii himself that dated to the time of the fall of Gwaum, many generations ago. According to family legend, the stone cottage, Stone Haven, of Aron's boyhood, had been in the family for many generations. Legend said that it had been the dwelling of Arii's mentor and uncle, the great wizard Nerza.
He turned as a slight sound tickled the evening air. Arii had reappeared, the silver mist of his presence shimmering in the golden sun.
"Something is troubling you, Aron?"
Aron bowed his head, and then directed his gaze at Arii. "Yes, Arii. I am worried."
"You have no heir, Aron. Is that your concern?"
"Yes, Arii. There is no one to take my place. In not so many years, I will join the other Guardians in the place of rest. I will leave you unattended."
"Do not fear, an heir will come to you, Aron."
"How is that to be, Arii? I have no wife. I have no issue."
"You have a nephew."
"But Cyndi and Mikal will not allow me to train him."
The silver mist swirled in the setting sun, creating an iridescent halo in its fading light.
"A time of trouble is coming to Sylvanhaven, Aron. I looked into the soul of Prince Karo Someone has poisoned him against me. I could not take a part of his essence," said Arii.
"How is that possible, Arii."
"That I do not know, Aron. I know only that some wizard is at work in Vintown."
"Who could it be, Arii?"
The mist swirled, reflecting the sun in a dazzling array of iridescence. "There is only one wizard that would dare to challenge me."
Aron's mind roved over the possibilities with no wizard coming to mind. "Who would that be, Arii."
The name stirred Aron's interest as Arii said, "Gault."
"Gault? No one has heard of him of for many years. Many think that he is just a legend."
"He is not a legend, Aron. He still lives. He is the same Gault that your ancestor Aris battled so many years ago."
"He would not dare challenge your power. To weaken you is disaster. Gwaum will awaken."
"He thinks he knows how to control Gwaum. He does not know Gwaum's power as I do."
Aron allowed this thought to simmer in his mind as Arii continued, "You must travel to Vintown and visit the king."
"You want me to stop Gault?"
"I fear it is too late for that. If it truly is he, his presence has already poisoned the royal household. If it is not he then we must discover who it is that dares to meddle with the Covenant."
"It has been too long since I visited Vintown. I will leave tomorrow."
"The more haste, the better, Aron. There are other things happening that will need your attention."
Aron gazed at the silvery mist and asked,"What are these things, Arii?"
"They will reveal themselves to you as needed. There are powerful forces at work, Aron. You have much work ahead of you."
At this the silver mist spun, forming a vortex that descended into a crevice in the Crystalcrest. Aron's audience with Arii was at an end.

As twilight encompassed his mountain home, Aron completed his evening tasks. The feeding of his yuhma birds gave him great satisfaction. The magic of the birds took many years to master, but the rewards were great. He enhanced their homing characteristics with his magic. They enabled him to maintain a communication network around the Six Kingdoms. With a special incantation, he could set a bird aloft and it would find any person that Aron knew. It surprised him that his network of friends in Vintown had not alerted him that there was a problem at the palace.
If he was going to Vintown then he must inform Hale, the proprietor of the Wharf Side Inn that he was coming so he could prepare his quarters. He went in his cottage and wrote a short note. After returning to the cage of yuhma birds, he tied the rolled up note to one of the bird's legs and sent the bird aloft. The bird cooed, circled, and then flew off to the east, into the gathering darkness.
He walked the short distance to the stable. He patted the flank of his favorite horse as she fed at the trough. Again, he glanced eastward towards Vintown on the coast of the Great Sea. It was a four-day ride on a horse. But this special breed, enhanced by breeding and magic, could make the journey in two days. His ancestor, Aris, had begun the work of breeding this special horse. They were especially sensitive to the spell of the wind that propelled them along. Their special qualities made them able to gallop for long periods under the influence of this spell.
The horses had their limits, of course, as all magic had limits. If pressed too hard for too long a period, the horses would die of exhaustion.
However, these horses had rested well. He could make Bridgetown by tomorrow night. After resting in the stables and satisfying their immense hunger, they would be ready for the next day's ride. He would be at Vintown by evening of the second day.
The possibility of Gault at the palace troubled him. No tale of Gault had emerged for many years. He had seized control of the Grand Council, many thought by murdering Grand Wizard Annos. No one had ever proved the charge.
Aris had known that Gault was seeking immortality. Zerena, of the Order of Solaun, had achieved this.
He remembered Zerena from his dealings in Niru, the Hidden City. She was old. Many said she had known and been the lover of his ancestor Aris. If so, she would be quite old. Aron did not think she looked old at all. She appeared to be in her mid twenties with luxuriant golden hair and penetrating blue eyes.
She was the head of her own order, the Order of Solaun, which had become a powerful Order on Six Kingdoms. She had managed to get it represented on the Council. The women of that order used magic to maintain their youth. They worked to maintain the peace by becoming consorts and mistresses of kings and princes. They used the powerful lure of sex to influence their lovers.
Aron was not sure if it was their influence, or the power of Sylvanhaven that suppressed the warfare among the Six Kingdoms. Maybe it was both. Nothing was ever simple.
His thoughts returned to Gault. If it was he, then he had returned from obscurity and somehow discovered the secret of immortality. His ancestor Aris had driven Gault from power.
It could not be Gault. Of that he was certain.
The encompassing darkness interrupted his thoughts. He glanced towards his dark cottage. He would take his evening repast and sleep. He must get up early tomorrow and begin his journey.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sample Chapter One - Wizard's Tales - A Summons

Book I – Wizard’s Tales
A Summons

Wizard’s Tales
Wizard’s Tales
The arrow flew straight to its mark. With a grunt, the stag charged off into the underbrush with the young wizard in close pursuit. Eran soon found the dying beast and dispatched it with a well-placed thrust of his dagger. He smiled as he thought of the savory meal that he and the other residents of the small cottage at the top of Crystalcrest would enjoy this evening. There would be plenty to smoke for storage since the animal was a big one.
After field dressing the animal he began dragging the carcass down to the trail to his waiting steed.
Eran loved the hunt. He had spent years honing his skills with the bow and prided himself on his skill.
After reaching his horse, he slung the stag across its back. The cottage was close, so he determined that he would just walk the horse along, leading it by the bridle.
As he walked along his heel caught on a protruding rock and he fell. He felt something in his ankle snap and a searing pain radiated up along his calf. He tried to stand but could not. He sat back down. The distance back to the cottage now increased in his mind. He did not want to crawl.
He lay back on the ground, closed his eyes and opened the channel that he had used so many times before. She would be here soon.

Keera paused as she tended her herb garden. She reveled in the potpourri of fragrances exuded by the multitude of flowers. She brushed her hand against the mints, releasing their delicious scent. The hum of bees filled the quiet summer evening as they tended their duties among the blossoms. Butterflies flickered about. She could hear the cries of the hawk as it flew in circles overhead in its relentless search for prey. She could hear Aunt Jara humming a sweet melody as she tended the vegetable nearby. She arose and turned. The view, though she had seen it many times, still caught her breath. The River Fleet fell into its valley, cascading across the rocks as it fled its source below the Crystalcrest just a short distance above.
Aris and Turis were away, in that far away cottage on the road to Cleery in Torne. Aris was completing his studies as a Wizard of the Golden Star. She sighed when she thought of him. Though raised as brother and sister, she knew that they were not. She wondered if he thought of her as his sister. She hoped that he did not.
A familiar feeling touched her mind. Eran. He needed her. She closed her eyes and allowed his thoughts to find her. She could see him lying along the road, pain flooding his body. She opened her eyes and glanced towards Jara.
"I have to go, Aunt Jara. Eran needs me."
Jara turned and glanced at Keera.
"What is wrong, my dear?"
"I don't know. He is lying on the trail below the cottage. He is in pain."
She hastened towards the road.

Jara stood watching the girl walk away. She was still uneasy about the girl's ability. Jara had trained Keera as a healer. She had used the knowledge to combine it with that other skill that appeared as a natural gift. Jara knew that it was not a natural gift, though. Her mother's ordeal at the hands of the Mind Readers had influenced her and had absorbed some of the magic of that forbidden order. She and Turis had managed to hide her ability from the Grand Council of the Five Orders. The training as a healer had been a ruse, a cover for her real abilities. The skill involved forbidden magic. Vella and her Order of the Mind Reader’s near victory over the Council had reinforced the need for the ban. The members of that sordid order all died at the Battle of the Crystal so many years before. All died, except Vella. She had disappeared. Nuvan Gra, a Wizard of the Golden Star, had taken up the quest to find her. So far, his hunt had been unsuccessful.
She wiped her hands on her apron, stood up and hastened to follow Keera. If Eran was hurt, Keera might need her help.
Descending the road, she soon found Keera kneeling beside her brother. She watched as the girl bade her brother to lie flat on the road. She touched her brother's forehead and closed her eyes. After a few moments, she removed her hand, stood up and took her brother's hand. The young man arose and stepped gingerly on his foot.
"It is better, Keera. Thank you."
"The bone will still be weak for a couple of days, Eran. It will be best if you do not put your full weight on it. I will help you mount the horse. You must ride back to the cottage. I will find a suitable branch from the forest for you to use as a crutch and we can prepare this stag."
Eran smiled and allowed her to help him into the saddle and the three returned to the cottage.

Morning broke across the valley, the deep shadows of the lower elevations melting away as the sun crept higher in the sky. Keera glanced at the western sky. The sun's light would not last long. Dark clouds were appearing on the western horizon. She glanced up to see Eran, hobbling on his makeshift crutch, and coming out of the house. His face lit with pleasure when he saw her.
"It is a wonderful morning, Keera."
"For not much longer, I fear, Eran. There are storm clouds to the west."
Eran's eyes flicked to the western sky behind her. "Yes, the upper slopes of Crystalcrest are already under assault from the rain."
"I have only to pick a few more sprigs of these herbs, Eran. They are so much more fragrant when gathered in the morning."
Eran lay his crutch on the ground. "I don't think I need this anymore. My foot feels fine. I will help you carry those baskets into the cottage."
Keera opened her mouth to protest when she saw a flickering bird gliding high in the sky above her. The hawk whose cries she had heard the night before circled above the bird.
"A yuhma bird is here, Eran. It was probably a message from Turis. That hawk may get it before it can deliver its message."
Eran turned and looked up to see the hawk begin its dive. He dropped the crutch, withdrew his wand and conjured a whirlwind that spun the bird around, disorienting it.
The confused hawk fell to the earth, unhurt. Eran knew that the hawk would awaken, disoriented, after he had retrieved the yuhma bird.
He lifted his hand to allow the yuhma bird to light on his finger. He unrolled the parchment and studied the writing it contained.
"It is from Turis. He requests that we come to his cottage in Torne immediately."
"I would love to go, Eran. I have never been to that cottage."
"I don't think it is good for us both to leave."
"I want to go, Eran."
"You would leave Aunt Jara alone."
A voice from behind them said, "I will be fine here. The two of you should go."
Eran turned to face Jara, who was standing behind him. "If you think you will be fine here?"
"I will be. Does Turis say why he wants you?"
"No, he doesn't. It just says we should leave as soon as I can."
"Give me that note," said Keera. She held the note in her hand, running her fingers over the parchment.
"Something worried him when he wrote it," she said. "I can sense his concern in the parchment, but I cannot tell what bothered him.
"Then the two of you should go right away," said Jara. "Whatever it was is substantial. It takes something serious to worry Turis."
The brother and sister began walking towards the cottage to prepare for their journey.
Jara said, "Just be careful, Keera. Do not let anyone see your ability."
Keera smiled and nodded. The two young people disappeared into the cottage.
Jara watched them go inside the building. She felt uneasy. She did not have Keera's ability. She did not need it. Rumors of events inside Torne had reached her ears, even here at this remote spot. There were events that involved the brother and sister's uncle Ruther. Turis had feared that something would erupt. Perhaps that something was happening now.