Saturday, May 7, 2016

Quest for Copia snippt *DRAFT* part 3 - Uncle Andrew and the Locator Stone

“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 Fern Forest hanging on the wall.
“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 Fern Forest 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.”

* * * *

Friday, May 6, 2016

QUEST FOR COPIA (part 1) *draft snippet* The Girl in the Red Cloak

On a bright, beautiful afternoon a red robin fluttered through Copious Forest, 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.
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 Copious Forest, 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.
“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. 

QUEST FOR COPIA (part 2) Snippet *DRAFT* - Elder Meg and the Copian scrolls

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 Copious Forest. 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.”
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,’ he declared.”
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 High Valley. The land was flat and nothing obstructed the sun.
“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 High Valley. The medallion lay in the dirt of Copious Forest, 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.
“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.

* * * *