Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Saturday, August 6, 2016
"The princess has escaped!" Click on the title below to hear a short snippet from BANDITS OF BASSWOOD...
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
John William and his new friend, Celeste are in the musty old cabin of a pirate ship... click the title below to have a listen!
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Hey All! I will be posting 30 second clips of my audio book, BANDITS OF BASSWOOD just to give you a nibble :) This is a great story for kids and the narrator really did an amazing job capturing all of the colorful characters in Azra's Pith - click on the titles below to have a listen!
JOHN WILLIAM MEETS CELESTE
CAPTURED BY BANDITS
Saturday, July 2, 2016
Once the wood was gathered, everyone settled in. The pop and crackle of the fire was beautiful music to John William’s ears. He sat back and put his feet to the flames. Stars spilled into the night sky. “The realm is a magical place.” He let out a soothing sigh. Not even Roman could ruin this moment.
“I think it’s time for some grub,” said Mundi, digging around in his backpack. He plopped a large pot on the fire and poured a canister of stew to the top. Within minutes, the stew bubbled over, filling the crisp evening air with a delicious aroma.
John William pulled out his map tools and sketched the details of the day… right down to the towering tree. Roman stretched his hands behind his head and propped his feet up to the fire. “So, what kind of trouble are you guys up to?”
“We are not up to any trouble; just a quest,” Mundi declared.
“Copia is hardly just a quest,” Ferdinand said. He stood up and stretched his pudgy belly. “Which reminds me; this is a serious matter; we need guidance. It’s a good thing we are close to Julien’s cabin. I will be right back. Please don’t climb any trees while I’m gone.”
“Copia? You guys really are crazy!” Roman scoffed. “Doesn’t matter, you’ll never find it without the medallion. Don’t you remember the scrolls, Celeste?”
Celeste bit her lip and fixed her gaze at her feet. Roman studied her suspicious posture. “You, you don’t have the medallion… do you?”
“Maybe…,” Celeste muttered and tightened her cloak.
“Oh, maybe… well if you do, the shadow jumpers can’t be far off,” said Roman.
John William choked on a carrot, nearly spilling his stew all over his lap.
Roman shook his head in a condescending manner. “You have no idea what you are dealing with – so typical for an outsider.” He grinned maliciously. “If you do have the medallion, maybe you should let John William hang on to it.”
“No, I will hold it.” Celeste replied in a skeptical tone.
“We are a couple of strong lads and one female I would never scrap with,” said Mundi, giving Celeste a nudge. “These shadow jumpers will stay away if they know what’s good for them. They sound like forest foxes to me. Those little fur-balls can come off as feisty; just throw some leftover stew bits their way. You will have them eating out of your hands.”
John William put his stew down; he’d suddenly lost his appetite. “Do you happen to know anything else about shadow jumpers?” He already knew what they looked like – and what they were capable of.
“No, I’ve never actually seen one; I’m smart enough to leave the sacred past where it belongs – in the past!” Roman seemed to be relishing the moment as John William squirmed in his trousers.
“Fair enough,” John William replied.
“Roman, I found the medallion and I will hold on to it until we reach copia. If it bothers you so much, please feel free to leave.” Celeste shot Roman a cold stare.
“Sorry, Celeste, I’m just looking out for you.” Roman gave her his most pitiful expression.
She stiffened. “I don’t need, or want you looking out for me.”
John William broke in to stop the familiar argument. “Well, this has been a fun bit of catching up; but I’m ready to get some sleep.”
“Great idea; I’ve got a little grub in my belly and now it’s for some shut eye.” Mundi rested his head on his backpack and draped a coat over him like a blanket.
“Goodnight.” Celeste threw her hood over her head and curled up next to the fire. She looked at Roman who was still watching her in a possessive manner. “Go to sleep, Roman.” Under her breath, she added, “I’m not marrying you now or ever.”
John William couldn’t help but smile as he slid down by his tool bag.
After a short while, they were all curled up around the fire. Mundi snored like a lumberjack while Celeste slept peacefully through all the creaks and groans of the forest. John William kept one eye on Roman.
“Don’t worry; I will keep watch. Just go to sleep.” Roman sat with a smug posture in the firelight.
“That’s what I’m afraid of. I don’t trust you,” said John William.
Roman rolled his eyes and got comfortable on the ground. “Fine, I will go to sleep and you stand watch. Be careful… you don’t want those nasty shadow jumpers to grab you up.” He laughed under his breath.
John William tried desperately to stay awake. His head nodded from one shoulder to the other. It was no use; his eyes were like lead bricks. Roman appeared fast asleep; so he gave in. All was peaceful as the moon glided across the sky. The events of the day caught up to him and he drifted into a slumber.
Much later, his dreams turned dark. He tossed and turned, trying to warn Celeste about the shadow hovering over her, reaching into her cloak. It seemed so real….
Monday, June 27, 2016
“I found help!” John William heard Celeste’s sweet voice and peered down at the forest floor. Three specks lingered around the base of the tree; the smallest was green and the tension building from his agitated state was felt all the way up the tree where John William sat helplessly.
“How in Azra’s name did you get up there, boy? We have not even started our quest and you’re already in trouble!” Ferdinand shrieked and paced around.
“Yes, sorry about that. I’m not sure what came over me. I had no idea I was such a good climber.” John William fidgeted. More branches broke around him. “Perhaps you can you help me down?” His voice squeaked.
“Sure, you’re such a fantastic climber; why is it that you can’t manage your way down?” the hopper asked with his long-fingered hands on his hips.
“Hey, up there! I’m Mundi, I have some rope; do you want me to toss it up to you?” A strapping young man, around the same age as John William, stood next to Celeste. He had an oversized backpack loaded with supplies draped over his shoulders.
“Yes, please!” John William extended one arm, hoping to catch the rope. Mundi tucked his long brown hair behind his ears and gave the rope a good spin before hurling it upwards. John William dropped his arm in disappointment. The rope wrapped itself around a branch halfway up the tree.
“It’s much taller than it looks,” Mundi mumbled and scratched his head.
Celeste morphed into her bird form and fluttered to the end of the rope.
“That rope is too heavy, young lady! You’ll drop like a stone.” Ferdinand scowled, waiving his gangly arms in the air.
Celeste pinched the end of the rope with her beak and yanked it loose from the branch. The weight of the rope caused her to bob and dip. She flapped her wings faster and faster. Soon enough she was making a steady climb.
“That’s it, Celeste! Almost…” John William reached down and grabbed her up just as her wings tuckered out. “Don’t worry, I will help you down.” He placed her in his coat and tied the rope around the tree trunk.
“Here we come!” John William gripped his hands around the rope and squirmed down, inch by inch. Once he realized the trunk was strong enough to hold him, he slid down the rope as if he were on a fireman’s pole. “Woo hoo!” He hit the forest floor with a thud. “That might just be the last tree I ever climb!” He held out his hand to Mundi. “Thank you, Mundi.”
“Think nothing of it!” Mundi gave him a firm handshake. “Where are you all headed? The hopper asked for all this stuff!” He twisted his back around, revealing a fat, canvass backpack. “Not sure where you are going to keep everything. The backpack stays with me.”
Celeste popped out of John William’s jacket, ruffling his red scarf, and transformed. “We are going on a dangerous quest. Thank you for assisting us. I’m sure we will manage just fine.” She started easing the backpack off his shoulders to unload the supplies.
“Weren’t you a bird just a second ago? That is some trick – you’ll have to teach me that one. Did you say dangerous?” Mundi rambled out his questions and enthusiastically heaved the backpack up. “Count me in!”
John William gave Celeste a shrug. She let out a defeated sigh. “Okay, fine; you can come. Please, don’t tell anyone!”
Mundi perked up. “You got it! Mums the word! You need someone strong like me around.”
“Yes, yes, the more, the merrier; now lets get a move on! We are burning daylight,” said Ferdinand in an agitated tone.
“Mundi, it’s time to pack up and go home!” A screechy, nagging holler frightened the birds away.
“Sage, tell dad I’m going on a quest! I’ll be home tomorrow!” Mundi shouted with his boisterous voice. It echoed off every surrounding tree. John William and Celeste glared at him with similar scowls. “Oops…,” Mundi cleared this throat. “Sage! It’s a secret quest – so don’t tell anyone… got it?” Don’t worry – I’m sure my sister won’t tell anyone.” Mundi gave them both a sly wink.
“The entire realm will know before the day is over!” Celeste rolled her eyes and started walking east.
“I’m a big guy, but she scares me.” Mundi snickered. “I was minding my own business, taking these supplies to my family’s shop, when she ordered me to come save her, um… friend.” He gave John William a playful nudge.
“Just friends.” John William’s face burned as he glanced at Celeste.
They walked along to the clang of Mundi’s backpack and more of his rambling. “My father’s name is Mundi, my grandfather’s name is Mundi, my great grandfather’s name is Mundi, and I’m pretty sure my great, great grandfather’s name is Mundi. Our family runs a few shops in town. We sell anything. If you need it, we have it! One day, the Mundis will run the whole darn town.”
John William and Celeste looked around cautiously with every step. The forest carried a tune of strange sounds. Trees creaked as they swayed about, and the creatures made their own unique squeaks and chirps. John William had mixed feelings of comfort and concern. He took a deep breath to squeeze the tension out of his chest.
“We should stop soon,” said Ferdinand, watching the sun fade behind the trees. A raven flew overhead and landed on a nearby branch. It watched them pass before flying to another branch just ahead of them.
“I think we’re being followed,” Mundi whispered.
John William frowned. “I was afraid of that.” He had a feeling he knew exactly who it was. The raven fluttered down to join them. “Oh great,” he muttered with an eye roll. Through the raven’s feathers sprouted a midnight black cloak on a young man with hair and eyes to match.
“Okay, now I know my eyes aren’t right today. This is the second time I saw a bird turn into a human, or a human turn to a bird!” Mundi shook his head.
“Hi, Roman,” said Celeste with a polite smile.
“You look beautiful, as always, Celeste.” Roman brushed a clump of her hair off her shoulders and winked with an arrogant grin.
John William eyed the young Empyrean, not much older than Celeste, with unease. Compared to other Empyreans, peaceful by nature, something was a little off with him. Besides, he seemed to claim Celeste like she was some sort of trophy to be had. Celeste mentioned to John William she was well aware of Roman’s intentions to marry her and rule Verhonia.
He approached John William, looking him up and down with a snarl. “I see you have made the unfortunate decision of returning to the realm. I knew you weren’t all that smart.”
“I don’t know what your problem is with me; but I’m sure Azra’s Pith is big enough for the both of us.” John William stood tough with his chest out and arms folded.
“This is his home; he lives in Verhonia at the palace, Roman. He was invited by King Paraclete,” Celeste declared.
John William blushed. “I was?”
“I thought you knew that already.” Celeste nodded with a sweet smile.
“Oh…? Your father has taken a shine to him? How quaint,” Roman sneered.
“If you can’t be cordial, then I shall have to ask you to leave,” said Celeste firmly.
“I can be friendly. What are we doing? Setting up camp? Lighting a fire? Please, allow me to help.” Roman smirked mischievously and collected twigs for the fire.
“This should be a delightful night.” John William knew the only motive for Roman to stay was to throw trouble his way. Strange creatures with glowing, green eyes and sharp claws already had him on edge. Having to worry about what Roman was up to only made things worse.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
“No!” Celeste shrieked.
Cold, clammy fingers brushed John William’s neck. The beast wrapped his claws around John William’s scarf and dragged him through the dirt. John William let out a gagging cough as the grip tightened across his throat. His face went from bright red to purple. Celeste lunged for the creature’s ankle and gave it a good yank, giving John William just enough time to squirm out of his scarf and run to the nearest tree. The creature was right on his heels. Hugging the tree, he pulled himself up branch by branch to the very top. “Help!” he shouted as the creature snarled and clawed at the medallion.
“I’m coming!” Celeste morphed in to a vibrant red robin and fluttered up the tree. John William wrapped the medallion around his wrist to secure it. He stomped the heel of his shoe at the creature’s face.
Screech! Its eyes narrowed to an angry squint. A low, menacing growl moved through its jagged teeth. It grabbed hold of the medallion and yanked it about. John William mustered up every ounce of strength for another stomp. This one hit it square in the nose. His shoe squished into the beasts face splattering goo up his pant leg.
“Hurry!” John William strained. The leather strap holding the medallion tightened around his wrist. “It’s not letting up!”
Celeste little wings fluttered faster. She finally reached them and flapped her wings in the beast’s face. It remained undeterred, keeping its grip in the medallion. A cloud blocking the sun drifted away, allowing rays of light to shine on the treetops. Once a ray hit the creature, it let out a hiss and vanished. Celeste perched on the branch next to John William.
“Maybe we should not mention this to Ferdinand.” With one arm hugging the treetop, he wiggled around to locate the path of sturdy branches he’d used to get up the tree. Crack! The flimsy trunk buckled.
The more he moved, the more it cracked. Branches under his legs broke off and fell to the forest floor. “Okay, let me take a minute to think about this. I’m afraid I might be stuck unless I fall and break every bone on the way down.” John William wrapped his arms and legs around the tree’s tip as it swayed back and forth in the breeze.
Celeste made her way to the ground. “I’ll get help!” She shouted, adjusting her cloak after a quick transformation.
John William let out a sigh. “I can’t wait to hear what the old hopper is going to say about this.” He watched the medallion shimmer in the sunlight and thought about Ferdinand’s warning. They weren’t the only ones interested in the lost city.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Saturday, May 7, 2016
“What a year it has been.” Twelve year old John William thought to himself. He sat in his uncle’s cozy living room with a dusty old book on his lap and his favorite fluffy dog, Sam sleeping at his feet. It was an eventful year; he discovered Azra’s Pith, the most wonderful place imaginable. He was captured by pirates, resulting in a battle John William could never have conjured in his wildest dreams.
He missed the fresh smells of the lush trees in Copious forest and the stars splashed across the sky, reflecting off the river at night. He missed the magic that made every moment extraordinary. More than anything, he longed to see his best friends, Celeste and Ferdinand. All of the adventure in Azra’s pith made being at his uncle’s house rather uneventful. After his father’s mysterious disappearance a year ago, it was just the two of them, and Sam, Uncle Andrew’s fluffy sheep dog.
John William’s mother had passed away from illness a couple years back. Loss and heartache were becoming unwelcome friends in John William’s life. He was determined to find his father as long has there was a sliver of hope that he was alive.
On occasion he would visit the Drake estate up the road, the home he once shared with his mother and father. It was run down from neglect over the last couple years. He still enjoyed perusing the old books in the grand study. He also felt compelled to look after Shrewee, the old creature living in a secret hatch carved in the ceiling. He never stayed too long as the memory of his parents presence in the now empty home stung too much. The disappearance of his father ate away at John William every minute of the day. He needed answers and knew exactly where to find them.
He glanced through his reddish brown curls at his uncle who was sitting directly across from him immersed in a book. That awful tension returned to his chest. Taking a deep breath was not clearing it out anymore.
Like a lead brick, it sat without budging and would most likely remain until he got down to the bottom of things and he had a hunch that he should start with his uncle’s arms. If what he discovered in Azra’s Pith was correct, they carried something significant. He let out a subtle cough, pretending to clear his throat. His uncle briefly glanced up from his book.
“So, do you know what I’ve noticed? You never wear short sleeves. In all of my twelve years, I don’t recall ever seeing your arms without sleeves.” John William glanced at his uncles long sleeves securely buttoned at his wrist.
“Is that a fact? Huh, well maybe it is because I have no arms… just feeble wooden toothpicks under these sleeves.” His Uncle Andrew replied with a chuckle.
John William was not interesting in joking around. “Can I see?” he asked.
“Pardon?” Uncle Andrew’s light hearted smile faded.
“Your arms… can I see them?” He asked again in a serious tone. He was growing inpatient. Since returning from Azra’s Pith John William learned quickly that his Uncle Andrew has an unhealthy habit of brushing important matters under the rug.
“What is this about, John William?” Uncle Andrew played with the buttons of his shirt cuffed at his wrist.
“I think you know what I am looking for.” John William slammed his book shut and thumped it at his ankles causing Sam to twitch and snort in his sleep.
“Oh? Is that so?” Uncle Andrew unbuttoned his cuff and pulled one sleeve up to expose his arm. “See…? Here it is − my bare arm. Is this what you expected?”
John William sat back in his seat. What he saw was not at all what he expected ─ claw marks and scars covered it from fingertip to elbow. “Can, can I see the other one?” John William did not usually carry a harsh tone with his uncle; but he could not help it. The betrayal he suspected his uncle was guilty of was unforgivable in his eyes. “I told you where I was when I returned. You have yet to say a word about it. Why do you pretend Azra’s Pith does not exist?”
“Oh, we are speaking of this again?” His uncle sighed and shook his head. “I’m pretty tired; I think I’ll turn in for the night. We can discuss it tomorrow?”
“No, no we can’t. Please, your other arm… I need to see it.” John William stiffened his posture.
“Okay, John William, you win.” His uncle undid the button around his wrist, loosening his cuff.
John William scooted to the edge of his seat and watched with anticipation as Uncle Andrew rolled his sleeve up his arm, one perfectly creased fold at a time. Once the fold reached his elbow, his uncle extended his exposed arm.
John William gasped. “So it is true; you are a guardian.” Marked permanently on his arm was an intricate pair of feathered wings − the symbol of the guardian. John William leaped from his seat and clutched his uncle’s arm. The same claw marks and scrapes covered the entire length both arms.
Uncle Andrew pulled his arm away and covered it before any more details could be seen. “It was never my intention to deceive you or your father. You must know that his happiness has always been top priority for me. Any knowledge of this would have destroyed him. He wanted more than anything to be a guardian, like our father. I thought it was best if kept secret.”
John William’s anger faded to empathy and curiosity. He returned to his seat and sat back in a huff. “You’re right, Azra’s Pith is everything to him.”
“I don’t know why our fates were not different; and not a day goes by with out me wishing it was Chrissy who was given the role instead of myself.” His uncle grabbed a picture of him and his brother from the table next to his chair. The name Chrissy was a term of endearment John William’s uncle had for his father, who’s actual name was Christopher. They were always very close; all of the Drake boys shared a love of adventure. John William looked up to his father and uncle with great admiration. Of course, this year has shattered every certainty he held in his world. Every step going forward was into the unknown.
“I believe he is searching for Copia,” said John William.
“I don’t doubt that; he will have a lot of trouble finding it without the rest of the map,” his uncle replied. “If he still alive, that is....”
“Well, that’s the thing, I’m pretty sure he has the complete map. I found his tracing tools at the Ruins of Stonewood.”
“What? He always was a clever fellow.” A broad smile stretched across Uncle Andrew’s face. “He left those behind on purpose; I’m sure of it. He wants you to find him.”
“I need to find the other half of the map… remember? That night in the study?” John William raised his brow. The night before his father disappeared he showed them the half of a map to Copia. “He has that map; I need to find the stone it is carved in. It was broken off at the ruins.” John William pulled a tattered sheet of paper with the outline of a portion of a map. “I found this part of the stone at the Ruins and traced it.”
“Yes, I do remember that. I had no idea he had that map. Your grandfather must have slipped it in that book… crazy old coot.” Uncle Andrew replied in a discouraged tone.
“Why don’t you come with me? We can find him together.” John William smiled.
His uncle’s face hardened. “I can never return. I barely escaped with my life the last time I was there.” He rolled up his sleeve, revealing the scars on his arms. “I can not emphasize the dangers enough. Copia holds tremendous energy ─ some good, some extremely evil. It must never, ever be found.”
“What are those scars on your arm?” John William asked reluctantly.
“The claws of hundreds of shadow jumpers… vicious beasts that hide in the shadows. They hunted me relentlessly when I had possession of the medallion.”
“You mean the Copian Medallion?” John William’s asked.
“Yes, being the fool that I am, I tried to take the medallion out of Azra’s Pith. I thought it would be safer here. Once I traveled through passageway, the Medallion vanished.” He rubbed his hands together and took a deep breath. “When I returned to look for the medallion, it was gone. I still have no idea what happened to it.”
John William Cringed. “Well… I think I might know who has it now.”
Uncle Andrew jolted up in his seat. “What do you mean, who? My hope is that no one has it.”
“My friend, Celeste may have found it. Don’t worry, she is keeping it safe.” John William squirmed.
Uncle Andrew’s usual warm, friendly face turned stone cold. “She is in danger as long as she holds the medallion. This matter is not to be trifled with. She needs to hide the medallion somewhere it can never be found… by man, creature, or magic.” He stood up and stepped over to a large painting of
hanging on the wall. Fern Forest
“Um, is everything okay?” John William watched with a puzzled expression as his uncle gripped the frame.
“Speak of this to no one ─ not even your father… especially not your father.” He swiftly pulled the painting from its latch revealing a cabinet tucked into the wall.
John William gasped. “How long has that been there?”
“As long as I can remember; your great grandfather shared it with me after my first trip to Azra’s Pith,” said Uncle Andrew. The cabinet let out a high pitch squeak as he swung it open. Inside was a cluttered pile of rolled up papers, books and other objects in the shadows John William could not make out. Just as he stood up to get a closer look, Uncle Andrew snagged a group of rolled papers and hastily shut the door. “Some things are better left unseen.” He muttered.
John William let out a disappointed sigh. “Fair enough, I suppose. What are those?”
“I’m hoping there is another copy of the map in this stack. If not, you might be out of luck.” Uncle Andrew carefully peered through each role of paper without opening a single one.
John William fidgeted anxiously. He wanted so badly to see what was on those papers. “Can’t I have a quick look?”
“Just as I suspected ─ your father has the only copy.” His uncle muttered, ignoring John William’s request. He stuffed them all back in the cabinet, and pulled a small leather sack out before securing the door shut.
“What is that?” John William asked.
Uncle Andrew tossed the sack over to John William. “Go ahead, open it.”
John William pulled the straps along the top and loosened the slack. Inside was a deep blue stone, so clear he could see his fingers through the stone. “Amazing…,” he stroked the smooth surface.
“It’s a locator stone.” Uncle Andrew’s eyes sparkled. “Your grandfather gave that to me. He said it would only work for Guardians; but at this point I think it’s your only hope. It certainly couldn’t hurt to try.” He took the stone and examined it.
“How do I use it?”
“All you have to do is take it out of the sack. As long as you are in Azra’s Pith, it will show you the way. Hopefully your grandfather was wrong.” He handed the stone back to John William. “Keep it safe; and when you’re ready, use it well.”
“I will… I promise.” John William secured the stone in the sack and extended his thin limbs to a good, long stretch. “I’ve been seeing the sparks in Fern Forrest… no sign of Ferdinand yet, though. I hope he returns soon.”
“If you know Ferdinand like I do, he arrives at the exact time his intends to, he’s never, ever late, and he does not like to be kept waiting.” Uncle Andrew smiled. “Does this mean you will be leaving me and Sam again?”
John William nodded. “I have to.”
“I know; you better get some sleep. I will help you prepare in the morning.”
John William shuffled to his room and sat at the base of the window. The rays of the moon pierced the trees giving
a magical glow. He pulled the
locator stone from the pouch and held it to the moonlight. “I know you are out
there, pop. I promise I will do what ever it takes to find you.” Fern Forest
* * * *
Friday, May 6, 2016
On a bright, beautiful afternoon a red robin fluttered through
dodging the sunbeams as she made her way to the passageway. This was not an
ordinary bird; this was a young Empyrean Wizard by the name of Celeste. Of
course, Empyrean Wizards lived in an extraordinary place where fantastic
creatures and magic were a part of every day. Copious Forest
All Empyrean Wizards have a bird form appropriately coordinated with their personality. This particular Empyrean was fearless and kind. She also had a knack for finding adventure and what ever trouble may accompany it.
Celeste perched on her favorite boulder for watching the passageway… the magical opening for people to enter Azra’s pith from the other side, as she like to call it. Her vibrant red feathers transformed to reveal wild hair the same shade of red as her feathers. “Today has to be the day.” Her green eyes twinkled. She gazed in anticipation at the base of a large tree. “Someone is going to leap through at any moment. I just know it; and I will be the first to say hello.”
A prickly chill traveled down her spine. She squeezed her arms across her chest and soothed her goose bumps. “Something isn’t right here.” Celeste glanced around, feeling an evil energy draped around her. An angry groan rumbled through trees, breaking branches and sending twigs flying. “It’s the Rive!” She gasped and scrambled behind the boulder. As the dark spell made its approach the moan went from a groan to a vicious roar. A wind funnel in the shape of a pair of long, wretched claws came into view. It plowed through trees and tossed dirt in the air. Celeste’s cloak whipped around in a frenzy. She crouched behind the boulder and gripped her hands around the base. Rocks and tree branches shot passed her.
She felt her body lifting off the ground. Inch by inch, her fingers slipped from the boulder. “Oh no!” Her head throbbed from intense pressure as the wind consumed her.
“Where is it? I must find it.” The Rive whispered sharply, bringing a sting to Celeste’s ears.
“Where is what? What are you talking about?” She shrieked.
“Where is it? I must find it!” The Rive’s whisper was now at a rattling shrill.
Celeste closed her eyes and fisted her trembling hands. “I have to channel the élan. Come on Celeste… concentrate. I can do this!” A warm, vibrant energy burst through her cloak. The dark spell let out a hiss and instantly vanished, dropping Celeste to the forest floor.
The wind removed layers of dirt and debris from the forest floor. As she sat on the boulder, something caught her eye. A slight glimmer shined through a clump of dirt. She scooped up the clump and scraped the forest coating off it until all that remained was a medallion with strange markings. It chimed and sparkled in her hands. Celeste stuffed it in her cloak and cautiously looked around. An excited giggle slipped out just before she morphed back into a robin and flew above the trees.
A short distance away in a dense part of
, sat a quaint wood
cabin with a stream of smoke drifting out of the chimney. The cabin was as warm
and inviting as the jolly, old wizard living within its walls. Copious
“Will you just look at this garden?” Julien’s extra large frame cast a shadow over his entire garden just in front of his cabin. His brown hooded robe could pass for the sail of a boat. “I don’t like to brag; but not everyone can make carrots such as these.” He smiled at his dearest friend, Ferdinand the hopper, exposing a broad gap in his front teeth.
“Well, I suppose, if you say so. Speaking of delectable carrots… how’s that stew coming?” Ferdinand rubbed his pudgy green belly with his long fingers as he lounged in Julien’s porch chair; which was big enough to be a deck for the tiny hopper. “Look at me; I’m practically melting away. I may very well starve sitting here waiting for your stew to simmer.”
“Patience, all in due time, old friend… and I’m quite sure you will be fine to skip a meal or two.” The old wizard stroked his bushy, brown beard and raised his brow at Ferdinand’s protruding gut.
Before Ferdinand could respond a vicious shriek and cackle rumbled through the forest causing the branches to tremble. The hopper leaped from his seat with startled bulgy eyes. “What in Azra’s name was that?”
Julien’s jovial expression turned heavy and the color left his cheeks. “It came from the shadows… impossible.”
“What ─ what are you talking about? What is impossible?” Ferdinand fidgeted in the fold of Julien’s robe.
“Not to worry, Ferdinand; I’m sure it was nothing more than the forest letting out a moan in her old age. We all feel a creak in our joints from time to time.” Julien scooped Ferdinand up with his large hand. “Come, a warm fire and a pot bubbling over with stew awaits us inside.”
The old wizard glanced over his shoulder at the shadows through the trees with a concerned crinkle in his brow. The last time he heard that shriek and cackle, vicious shadow jumpers were on the move.
One Year Later
“Celeste! Pay attention!” a pair of large hands clapped together in front of the young fiery redhead’s face.
Celeste sat up and pushed her hair out of her eyes. “Sorry, Elder Meg.”
“Learning the scrolls is necessary for all Empyreans. The Copian scrolls are the most important of them all. This is no time to day dream.” Elder Meg raised her brow. “Those who don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it. I know you are only twelve years young; but this will make complete sense when you are no longer a fledgling.” She cleared her throat and continued. “Long ago, during the age of Azra, a majestic city thrived deep in the heart of
. It was carved
into a hidden canyon of gold. The city served as home to Gavinkin, beings with
the powerful wings of a hawk and bodies of a man. Empyrean wizards also
frequented the golden canyon.” Copious
Celeste rested her chin in her hands and gazed at the clear blue sky. It was a perfect day for an adventure; but all Empyreans had to learn the history of Azra’s Pith. Empyrea held thousands of years of the realm’s history in ancient scrolls, all of which Celeste was expected to memorized throughout her lifetime. She let out a sigh as Elder Meg carried on.
“Copia was abundant with anything one’s heart might crave, which attracted all types to its gates. Only the persistent were able to find it. The gold canyons hid in the thickest part of the forest behind a steep rock wall and a flowing waterfall.” Elder Meg placed her hands on the old wooden desk in front of Celeste. “Young fledgling, can you tell me who Imperius the Great is?”
“Um… yes, yes, he’s a cursed sorcerer,” she blurted. Celeste sat back in her seat with a proud smile, feeling impressed with herself for knowing the answer.
“Very good, Celeste; but there is more to the story. As a young man, Imperius was lost and wandering the forest when he found the gates. He did not look at all like a great anything. Filthy old rags barely hung on his scrawny frame of a body. He dabbled with magic and performed in towns he visited to get by. It was not real magic, but sleight of hand tricks used for entertaining and the occasional pickpocket when he was really hungry. When he saw the golden city of
Copia, he was determined
to stay. ‘I will be full and rich for the rest of my days. I have found home,’
Celeste’s eyelids grew heavy as Elder Meg droned on.
“The citizens of Copia welcomed him with open wings as they did anyone who entered the golden canyon. Imperius the Great had anything he desired… food, riches, but there was something even more special about Copia. Imperius was able to perform real magic with ease. He felt a strong energy force flowing through him. The power was intoxicating and he wanted more.
“He discovered the source in a trusting friend, an Empyrean wizard who lived in the outskirts. Empyrean wizards and Gavinkin harnessed the energy of the élan and used their powers to keep a peaceful balance in the realm. As the days went on, Empyreans and Gavinkin disappeared while Imperius became more powerful. One can only imagine his methods.”
Eyes closed, Celeste did imagine. She pictured Imperius sneaking up to wrap his robe around his victims and absorb them. Shuddering, she blinked awake.
Elder Meg nodded. “Yes, Imperius the Great was quickly becoming a sorcerer and losing any remaining human qualities. Dark creatures rose from his magic. The once great city grew overrun with shadow jumpers. Giant black bird beasts known as murks flew in and terrorized Copians. The citizens’ peaceful energy shifted to greed, envy, and hatred. Fighting broke out in the city walls.”
Celeste felt herself drifting off to sleep again. Everything Elder Meg said ran though her head like a wild dream.
“Xavier, an elder Gavinkin and the keeper of Copia, appealed to Azra, the most sacred of all the Empyreans. It was too late; a clash of power brought the city to ruins. Shadow jumpers and murks consumed everything in their path.
“Azra discovered Imperius dwelling in a hole in the rock wall outside Copia. The sorcerer was surrounded by the empty shells of Gavinkin and Empyreans. Imperius had drained their energy and left them for dead.
“Ultimately, Imperius was no match for Azra. ‘Your existence here ends now. You will live in darkness for eternity,’ Azra ordered. ‘Your only way out is to be consumed by the light of the élan.’ With that, the butterfly curse was set, imprisoning imperious to eternal darkness. The dark sorcerer was not seen or heard from and most likely died in that very cave.” Elder Meg cleared her throat.
Celeste gasped and her eyes snapped open. “Sorry, Elder Meg. It won’t happen again.”
“I should hope not.” Elder Meg replied with a stern glare. “Now, where was I? Oh, yes… the creatures he created from dark magic remained in Copia. Azra pushed the canyons together, sealing off the crumbled city. Shadow jumpers scurried out of the ruins. Xavier fell to his knees. ‘Copia, our city, it’s gone forever.’”
Elder Meg’s fingers tapped below her collarbone. “What do you think happened next, Celeste?”
Celeste grinned. “I know this one. The medallion!”
“Yes.” Elder Meg smiled and leaned forward, pretending she had something hidden in her hand. “Azra handed the keeper a medallion. ‘This will unlock Copia. You must wait until the shadow jumpers are no longer present. Whatever you do; keep it hidden.’
“With a broken wing from the fall of Copia, Xavier was forced to stay in the forest around the canyon. He waited the remainder of his life to unlock the city. Shadow jumpers stalked him relentlessly, trying to snatch the medallion. In his final days, Xavier took a long journey. His destination was the
The land was flat and nothing obstructed the sun. High Valley
“In the middle of a moonless night, the elderly keeper of Copia went to sleep and never woke up. He did not make it to the
. The medallion lay
in the dirt of High
Valley , buried by the
elements of time. A young man, not from the realm was exploring and came across
the medallion. His virtue and intentions proved pure. Azra appointed him the
role of the guardian in Azra’s pith. His role was to protect the medallion and the
lost city and keep them from being discovered. Since then, the role has been
passed down; in each generation a new guardian is selected.” Elder Meg paused
and squeezed Celeste’s shoulder. “My dear, it is our responsibility to protect
the realm. Xavier spent his life keeping the Medallion out of the claws of
Evil. We must do what we can to ensure that it remains that way and that Copia
stays lost forever. She knelt down and stared intensely at Celeste. Copious
“Have you noticed a change in the élan?”
Celeste replied with an un assuming shrug.
“It is ever so slight; but it is present. It feels like the calm before the storm. We have reason to believe the medallion has been found. All we can do is hope it is in the right hands and that we locate it before the realm goes into chaos.”
“What, what do you mean by chaos?” Celeste scooted back into her seat.
“Don’t think for an instant that those shadow jumpers will ignore the medallion. They are drawn to it. If they get their claws on it, Copia and the evil locked inside will be freed.” Elder meg brushed Celeste’s hair over her shoulders. “This was a very important lesson.”
Celeste swallowed the lump in her throat, giving her Elder an acknowledging nod. “Okay, I understand.”
“Good…,” Elder Meg replied with a sweet grin. “That is all for today, dear. You are free to go.”
Celeste stood up and adjusted her red cloak. “So, the Medallion is still out there? Shouldn’t we try to find it? You know, to keep it safe.”
“Yes, but not you, flegling. The Copian Medallion is said to have strange powers.” Elder Meg packed up her things and affectionately pinched Celeste’s nose. “Who knows what could happen if such power ended up in the hands of a curious young Empyrean who seems to find trouble at the drop of a hat.”
Celeste smiled and fidgeted nervously.. Butterflies stirred in her belly, thinking about her discovery a while back after her encounter with the Rive.
She has managed to keep her possession of the medallion a secret, only sharing her find with one person. That person was John William; her friend from outside of the realm. He was still away; but a day did not escape Celeste with out the thought of his return. Each morning she woke up and wondered if that was the day he would arrive. In spite of the dangers, she intended to help him get to Copia and find his father. The Copian Medallion would most certainly be a significant part of their quest.
* * * *
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
The room fell silent. John William let out a yawn. “Well, I think I’ll head off to bed.”
“Not quite, John William.” His father glanced up at the mysterious hatch in the ceiling. “You are the perfect size to fit through that opening,” said his father with a raised brow.
“What? Must we do that tonight?” John William whined.
“We must.” John William’s father snagged the lantern from on top of the mantel. “That book contained the most valuable information in this study. I have been dreaming of Copia since I was a boy. Now, I have a map.”
“Half of a map,” John William muttered.
“Maybe the other half is up there. We need to find out whatever it is. Courage, my boy… you must show your courage here. This is the best part of our lives! We are making an extraordinary discovery in our own home.”
John William huffed and dragged his feet over to the ladder. “I don’t like climbing this old thing.”
“You’ll be fine. I will be right behind you with the lantern.” His father gave him a nudge.
“Fine…” John William clutched his hands around the rails.
“Relax, son.” He rubbed John William’s white knuckled hands. “This is just another walk in the park. You can do it.”
“Okay, let’s get this over with.” John William took one step, then another; then he closed his eyes and climbed until his head hit the ceiling. He pounded the hatch with his fist repeatedly with no results.
His father climbed up behind him. Thud! He gave the ceiling one good hit. John William ducked his head and the hatch flew open. “Here, take the lantern.”
John William looked at his father’s excited smile. He swallowed the lump in his throat and grabbed the lantern. A chill hit his arm the instant it moved across the threshold. He used his elbows to boost his body through before he could talk himself out of it. “It is tight up here. My head hits the top; and the smell… it reminds me of Uncle Andrew’s old tree fort.
“Yes, yes… but do you see anything?” His father huffed.
John William moved the lantern around every part of the opening. “Aside from some scratch marks in the wood, it is completely empty – not a single trace of anything.”
“Maybe I should come up.” His father took another step up the ladder.
“Those scratch marks – they are from a rodent, right? Like a cute little mouse?”
“Yes, John William; don’t worry.”
John William crawled deeper in. Something in the wall caught his eye. He narrowed his eyes to a squint. “I, I think I see something. No, it can’t be.”
“What is it?” His father blurted.
Thump! “Did you hear that?” John William gasped. He jolted the lantern around. “I’m not alone up here.” A dark shadow darted across the wall, accompanied by more thumping.
“Look out! I’m coming down!” John William stumbled through the hatch in a frantic fit, barely getting one arm around the ladder to secure himself. The lantern hit the ground; glass shattered everywhere.
“Fire!” His father slid down the ladder and covered the wreckage with his coat, followed by a vase full of water and flowers, extinguishing the flames.
John William perched at the top of the ladder, watching his disappointed father catch his breath. “I’m sorry.” He closed the hatch and stepped lightly down to the floor.
“It’s okay; I was never really fond of that coat anyways.” He paused and smiled at John William. “You did well; I’m proud of you.”
John William felt his dad’s reassuring hand ruffling his curls. “Now can I go to bed?”
“Of course, we have an early start tomorrow… rest well.”
“Thanks, you too.” John William glanced up at the ceiling, and shuffled out of the study.
“John William… you are certain you did not see anything?”
He paused before turning the corner. “Yes. I just heard something. Maybe it was a rat?”
“Most likely; goodnight, son.”
John William waved and continued on. He did see something; at least he thought he did. What he saw was so peculiar it must have been his eyes playing tricks on him. It was a small red door with a well-used brass knob set in the wall on the other end of the space where there was enough shadow to keep it out of sight… but there was no way he was going back up there tonight. His father would have to find out another time.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2016
The sun dimmed to a subtle orange glow as it drifted below the tree line, marking the near end to another day in
. That meant
trouble for the present guardian of Copia. He pulled his sweat-drenched cap off his head, exposing his dirt crusted reddish brown curls. The shadows cast
from the trees were like giants looming over him. Copious
He glanced around and found comfort in the birds chirping, indicating the area was safe. “Another journey is almost complete, and this will be the best one yet.” The guardian reached into his pocket and eased a medallion adorned with intricate carvings out by its leather strap. “You will be safe with me for the rest of my years.” He rubbed his fingers along the surface.
The forest fell silent. “Who’s there?” The guardian shoved his hat on his head. He peered into the shadows. The surrounding trees trembled as an eerie breeze blew through. A bitter chill shot up the guardian’s spine. Snap! Twigs and other bits of forest crunched a short distance away. “Show yourself!” The surrounding trees rumbled and the echo of vicious snarling closed in on him.
He raised his trembling hand to the branch in front of him and shifted it over. As he peeked through the gap, hundreds of squinty green, glowing eyes stared back. He tried to scream but no words came out. His body froze as they slowly crept toward him. “Shadow jumpers!” He glanced around for an escape. Before he could make another move, the beasts pounced.
Razor-sharp claws and teeth engulfed his body, pulling him to the ground. He wrestled and kicked as claws tore through his clothes. The medallion was yanked from his grip; but the strap tangled around his wrist.
A sliver of moonlight pierced the trees and its reflection bounced off the medallion. The shadow jumpers hissed and pulled away. Seizing his opportunity, he leaped to his feet. Claws ripped at his back as he weaved through trees. He felt the medallion being grabbed and pulled repeatedly.
The guardian burst through a thicket of branches into a small, sparse pocket where the moonlight shined through, unobstructed by tall trees. The vicious beasts squealed, and with in seconds, disappeared back into the shadows.
Breathless and battered, the guardian collapsed to his knees. “Well, this is a fine mess.” He examined his torn, blood-soaked shirt. The medallion still dangled from his wrist. “Some guardian I’ve turned out to be.” He untangled the strap and slipped the medallion into his pocket.The trees in front of him rustled. “Oh, not again…”
A pudgy green creature with long, gangly limbs and bulgy eyes stumbled into view. “There you are! What kept you? How much time to you think I have to twiddle my fingers around waiting for you?” The frog-like creature tapped his foot with fisted hands on his hips.
“Oh, am I late? Sorry about that, Ferdinand.” The guardian grunted and groaned as he struggled to his feet.
“What happened?” Ferdinand’s eyes bulged even more.
“Oh… this?” The guardian held out his arm, revealing his wounds. Scratches and cuts covered the symbol on his arm, making it unrecognizable.
Ferdinand inspected his arm. “Your guardian symbol – I can’t even make out the feathered wings under all of your blood. Clearly you tangled with something in a nasty disposition.” Ferdinand narrowed his eyes to a suspicious squint.
“I can’t get anything past you. Yep, that bush I fell into was terribly angry with me. It chewed me up and spit me out… so to speak.” The guardian slid his torn sleeve over his cuts. “I suppose my guardian wings have been clipped. It is time to go home and nurse my wounds, wouldn’t you say?” Telling Ferdinand about his encounter with the shadow jumpers would only cause him to panic.
Ferdinand huffed. “Well, since you are late and have kept me waiting, I’d say the hour has come and gone. Now follow me; let’s get this over with.”
He followed Ferdinand to the thick base of a beautiful tree dripping with emerald leaves. Specks of twinkling light popped off the trunk until a portion of it dissolved into a hole large enough to hop through. “This is it.” He shielded his eyes from the intense light bursting through the trunk.
Ferdinand lunged into the hole and disappeared. The guardian clutched the medallion sitting nice and tight in his pocket. “If this works, Copia will be safe forever.” He took a deep breath and backed up to get a running start. At full speed, he dove headfirst through the hole. The light embraced him as he traveled through before shooting him out the other side. He took a tumble into
and lay on his
back, staring at the night sky. Fern
“Until next time, my friend!” Ferdinand shouted. The guardian gave him a hearty wave and watched him leap back through the tree. In seconds, the trunk closed up and all that remained were a few lingering specks of light.
“It is so good to be home.” A broad smile spread across the guardian’s face. He rolled around on the forest floor, absorbing the familiar smells. “Oops, I almost forgot…,” he chuckled and shoved his hand into his pocket. “Oh no!” All that remained in his pocket was a bit of dirt and a few tiny lint balls… but no medallion. “It’s gone – how could it just… just disappear?”
He scoured the ground for hours with no luck. “What was I thinking… trying to take something that sacred out of the realm? Azra’s Pith is doomed.”