No magical secret society would be complete without its dedicated protectors. In the Stonebearer universe these are the Order of the Guardians. Not only do they protect the society’s interests, they also lead its defense in times of war and unrest. In this latest era of the world, they must step forward again to counter the dark forces rising up from the barrier between worlds.
Most guardians tend to stay at the Stonebearer stronghold, Amul Dun, to protect those living there against attack and to train and refine their skills. After the last war, far fewer guardians returned to the keep. Many were killed. Of those who survived, some stayed away because they sought peace deep in the isolated villages far from the cities.
A Stonebearer Guardian must possess the talent to strengthen both physical and intangible objects with their power. This means any weapon in their hands becomes unbreakable, any armor, impenetrable. As long as they have the strength to cast the glyphs, they are untouchable.
As with the other orders, guardians must train hard to develop their skills. They learn fighting techniques from those who have mastered various fighting styles over centuries of effort. Many legends have stemmed from lone guardians fighting against impossible odds.
The most notable guardians in Stonebearer’s Betrayal are Katira’s father, Jarand and his trusted friend who’s stood by his side in the worst of times, Issa.
If you missed the post talking about the overall structure of the Stonebearer Magic System, look no further!
Today’s guest is no stranger to magic. In fact, he’s one of those people whom I suspect might have a dose of actual real magic hiding inside him. Not only does he create magic with the stories and worlds in his books, he also has performed stage magic professionally. Does he have a trick or two up his sleeve? Absolutely.
Michael is here to day to share some of that magic with us and I’m super excited to have him.
Welcome to my blog, Michael. Glad to have you here. To get started why don’t you tell us a little about yourself. What’s the most interesting thing that most people don’t know about you?
Hello Jodi and all your excellent Jodians! It’s great to be
here! To answer your first question, I’ve been around the block a few times and
also the neighboring block and at least a small middle-America town’s worth of
blocks along with a few in South America and one or two particularly
continental and historic blocks in Europe. I guess that means I have gathered a
lot of different experiences, which is great as a writer. I can “write what I
know” on a fairly substantial number of topics. That’s true of most writers,
though, who make it out of the house once in a while and pay attention.
Probably the most interesting thing that many people don’t know about me
is—hold on—I can show you. Do you have an ordinary object? Something you don’t
need to get back? Ooo. How about that ring on your finger? Can I borrow that
for just a minute? Platinum and diamonds, you say? Wow, Jodi. That’s going to
keep your attention then. Ok. If you could just release the death grip you have
on that for me. Great. Watch as I place the ring here in the middle of the
table. I’m going to cover the ring with this napkin. Look. My hands are empty
now. You see the shape of the ring under the napkin? Swell. Go ahead and say
the word “Abracadabra” and whip the napkin away as fast as you can. Can you do
that? All right. Wait until you count to three. Not that it will make the trick
work any better, but three seconds will give me enough time to go stand over
there where it’s safe. Okay. Hold the corner of the napkin and one, two, three!
Are you okay there, Jodi? Yeah. I know. Most people don’t
expect to see a full-grown tiger appear on top of their kitchen table. So, if
you haven’t guessed, I worked as a professional magician for ten years or so.
That’s something I hint at but most people don’t know. So—oh—watch out there.
Yeah. Don’t touch his tail or anything. That tiger is faster than you are. No. You’ll
be fine as long as you don’t make any sudden moves. What’s that? Oh no. Thanks.
I’ll just stay over here by the door. You can lob those questions over the
tiger there and I’ll answer them.
Those who know you as an author are
very familiar with your distinct jacket, what’s the story behind it?
I have a few jackets that nobody would wear on a daily
basis. They’re part of my brand, which you’ll find a lot of authors worried
about. Mostly because their publishers tell them to worry about it. I do like
to look distinctive and, to be honest, it’s part marketing, part me wanting to
stand out from the crowd a little. The jackets also help me feel confident and
“authorial” in public. While I have been a performer onstage, feeling
completely at ease in the midst of people doesn’t come easy. Not that I want to
hermit up and become a recluse. Meeting with fans is really a pleasure and I
love talking about writing and stories with readers. Wearing the jacket helps
me feel the part in the same way that magicians and actors have a public
persona and wear clothes that fit how they want to be seen. Being an author is
the closest thing to who I really am as a person on the inside and there’s a
certain vulnerability that comes along with being real that way in front of
The jacket also gives me a chance to joke around. At one
time, I’d tell people that the jacket was made from my grandmother’s curtains,
because I like the brocade fabrics best. Now, however, I like to wait for
someone to comment on the jacket. Then I say, “Well, thank you. There are large
pieces missing from my grandmother’s couch.” That’s a better joke because I can
follow up with, “The nice part is I keep finding spare change and hard candy in
the pockets.” If you catch me at the right time, I’ll even pull a butterscotch
out of the pocket and give it to whoever I’m talking to. The jackets just help
me interact with people in a way that I hope they find disarming and
approachable. Readers are the best sort of people!
You have a brand new, exciting sci-fi novel coming out
(Yay!) Tell us about it!
Ah, yes! Wow! You’re very insightful. Are you a psychic
perhaps? I haven’t told anyone about that project yet, but here you are,
plucking thoughts out of my mind like a professional.
I have written some short stories in the sci-fi genre, but
all my novels so far have been fantasy. My publisher, Future House, was
contacted by a company that develops board games and computer games. They have
a super fun interactive card game called Master of Wills. The game is
set in a futuristic city with a number of opposing factions. Each faction has
distinct criteria that define their approach to winning and a lot of the action
centers on recruiting your opponent’s characters to join your side. There are a
whole bunch of different characters and various game mechanics and it was loads
of fun to develop a novel featuring the characters and settings from the game.
The title is Hollowfall, and I’ll leave it to readers to find out what
the title means. The game developer is Stormcrest, Inc. and I owe a big thanks
to Randy and Josh for letting me play in their sandbox. I’m working on the
final chapters of the novel and Future House has the title slated for
publication early in 2020.
Give me a sec here, Jodi. I’m going to check your fridge.
You should probably stay where you are. Oh good. Ribeye steaks. I’m going to
toss one of these babies to the tiger there. Wow. I’m not even sure he chewed
that. Better give him the other one just to be safe. There. That will keep him
busy for a minute. Next question?
Of all the characters you’ve written, which one is most
like you? Was it intentional?
Oh that’s an easy one. Everyone who knows me and reads my
novels gives me the answer. The main character in Got Luck and Got
Hope is a smart-aleck goofball with a big heart and, apparently, so am I. We
aren’t exactly alike. He’s a lot more skilled than I am and far better looking,
but we both have incredible magic powers and we are both deeply in love with
tall, hot brunettes. I think he’d appreciate the tiger.
I’ve lost count of how many times people have read one of
the novels and tracked me down to tell me they can hear my voice. Especially
when Goethe tells a joke. And, they tell me, the cornier the joke, the more
they hear my voice telling it. Not sure what they mean by that, so I’m taking it
as a compliment.
Was it intentional? More like unavoidable, I think, because
I constantly have unlikely situations and funny things to say and “Got”
provides an outlet. He’s perhaps a fictionalized version of me who is both an
improvement and more flawed. When he’s faced with a challenge, the actions he
takes feel most right when he does what I would do if I were in his situation.
I know that sounds self-serving, but he isn’t perfect either. He makes mistakes
like I do, and he has to learn, and he’s kind of a jerk sometimes, especially
with people who are behaving badly. Once in a while, he pulls off a trick that
magicians would recognize. To put it another way, when Got needs to do
something, I feel the scenes are more consistent to write and more authentic
when he does whatever I think I could do, assuming I were as well-trained and
competent as him.
I ask this question
to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space
and what’s the story behind it?
Hey, Jodi. That blood is from the steak, right? It’s not
yours? Ok good.
So, I’ve used the same little laptop computer to write
pretty much everything I’ve published so far. I have written all over the place
so my writing space is everywhere. Most often, however, I’m at home on the
couch with my feet up. Next to me, chilling out on the floor, is my eighteen-month-old.
140-pound writing buddy. One brown eye and one blue eye. Two extra toes.
Really, it’s my daughter’s fault. She wanted a little
sister. Or brother. When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, she
wanted a dog. So we have Appa. He’s a St. Bernese, which is the result of
breeding a Bernese Mountain Dog with a St. Bernard and it’s the next best thing
to a flying bison. We got him because he’s a handsome boy and always up for an
adventure. We really didn’t think about it much deeper than that until the
family we bought him from started laughing. They were first to realize the
Peter Pan connection. The Darling family has a St. Bernard. Funny, right? Now
we pretend like it was all part of a marketing masterplan and nobody knows any
different. Well, except you and your Jodians.
And he actually helps me write as well. One day I looked at
him with his tongue lolling out and him breathing in short bursts and I asked,
“Do you want the shirt that goes with those pants?” He didn’t want the shirt,
but the line made my family laugh and it’s now in a story.
What’s next? What are you working on?
Book three of The Behindbeyond series, Got Lost, is
set to debut in early September, so we’re going hard at final edits for that
one. The Hollowfall novel comes after that. Then I have a couple of new
novels in various stages of development along with the next book in the series.
Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter.
By Michael Darling
The girl with the sapphire eyes stood like a statue against the stones of the wall. She was alone on the far side of the room but didn’t seem to be lonely, staring straight ahead. Her feet were bare and filthy. Her dress was torn and frayed like she’d been chased by dogs and almost caught.
I tapped Faidh on the shoulder. Side-by-side we stood patiently in front of an altar. The hall around us had been decorated for a wedding. The wedding was scheduled for the following day. Realistically, it was only fun because I was here with the woman I loved.
Faidh turned in response to my touch. The hall was warm and her hair was pulled up off her neck. She was breathtaking enough to be the bride, although she wasn’t. I pointed behind us.
“See that girl over there?” I whispered.
Faidh looked, then nodded. “She has beautiful eyes. A little young to be out with no escort.”
“She’s been standing there for a while, and she hasn’t moved a muscle.”
Faidh kept looking. Then, “Are you sure?”
“I’m not even sure she’s breathing.” I replied. “She’s not watching anything going on. Or anybody. Just staring.”
Faidh looked some more. “Her clothes are a mess.”
“Someone here should know her, right?” The group in our rehearsal party wasn’t very large. Only ten or so people, and I was acquainted with most of them. As far as I knew, none of them had a teenage daughter. The girl was shivering now. She was a hundred yards away, give or take, but my eyes were better than most and I could tell. “There’s something wrong.”
“The groom’s place will be closer to the end of the altar, sire.” A hand on my elbow demanded my attention, forcing me to look away from the girl.
Bromach, my valet, had the difficult and ever-thankless job of keeping me from embarrassing myself in princely situations. I moved to stand in the spot where he wanted me. The view from the altar was spectacular, looking out over the cliff to a forest far below and gray-blue clouds in the morning sky.
“Lady Faidh, thy place is here.” Bromach pointed again.
Faidh nodded and stepped to the corner of the altar opposite me. She caught my eye and winked. I tried to wink back but I’d never successfully disconnected whatever link existed between my eyelids and only managed an awkward blink that also twisted my mouth oddly.
The ladies-in-waiting behind Faidh smiled shyly at me as Bromach guided them to their places. I nodded with a smile. Over the past hour, I’m afraid I’d given them rude nicknames. The lady nearest Faidh had decided to resurrect the bustle, but it didn’t quite fit her frame and she was constantly hitching it up and adjusting it, which seemed to give her derriere a rebellious independence. The second lady, to whom I was apparently related closely, had a pallor fairytale writers would call “milky,” and was so pale that the morning sun reflecting off her face was like a searchlight. Or a bat signal. The third had taken a nearly fatal blow from puberty landing on her all at once, instead of spread over the course of a few normal, socially-awkward years. Her acne was closer to road rash.
Thusly, I had dubbed them Creeping Booty, So White, and Ziterella.
Biting my lips for the purpose of smirk control, I chided myself at the same time. They were very nice girls. Polite and graceful. I was only here out of duty and it was wrong of me to make my own fun while I was stuck here.
Yet, their nicknames remained locked in my dark thoughts.
My gaze strayed back to statue girl. The color of her eyes was that deep blue shade of an ocean sky at dusk. Each eye appeared to have a small star twinkling with its own light. She stared at an empty space six feet above the floor. Her hands clenched at her sides as if she were carrying invisible buckets of water. She was shivering harder now. Quivering. Pent-up energy, perhaps, from standing stock still for so long.
Bromach continued to direct the rehearsal, ordering people around, sighing when he wasn’t happy and nodding to himself when he was. He looked to be in his element, running the show in the delicately appointed wedding hall filled with fresh flowers and lace.
Torn between duty and curiosity, I turned back to Faidh for distraction. “Do you wish our wedding had been like this? With all the pretty decorations and food and people? And a church only slightly less modest than Westminster Abbey?”
Faidh looked around, taking in the carved pillars and the crystalline ceiling, made entirely of faceted glass. She shook her head. “We got married under a cherry tree that never ceases to bloom. What could be prettier than that?”
“I’m glad our wedding was quick. It didn’t take a whole week like this one,” I replied.
“Our wedding was so quick, it ended before we knew it had begun.” Faidh laughed.
Curiosity won out. Before I’d taken three steps in the girl’s direction, Bromach called after me. “Sire! Sire? Where goest thou?” He sounded borderline horrified that I was abandoning my post. “Prince Luck! Please!”
Make that full-on horrified.
Halfway to the girl, I paused to look back. “Hang on, Bromach. I’ll just be a minute.”
He sighed. “Thy cousin and thy father will be most displeased.”
“One minute,” I repeated.
Bromach watched me with impatience and pickleface in equal measure. When he saw where I was going he marched in the girl’s direction, determined to get to her before I did. Maybe he was thinking he could get me back to my post if he got rid of her. It was hard for me to be critical. Bromach took his work seriously and his attention to detail meant I owed him my life.
With Bromach ahead of me, I said, “There’s something going on with her. She’s been standing like a statue for half an hour. Maybe longer.”
Bromach slowed at my words and I caught up to him.
We stared at the girl. She stared past us. Standing at arm’s length, I could see she was maybe thirteen years old. No older.
A long moment passed. “She’s mortal,” Bromach said.
She was also Stained.
At some point, the girl had been touched by magic, and the magic had marked her. A shudder shoveled electricity down my spine. Mortals with Stains didn’t often live long. I checked the pattern. It had squarish sections with little points like tridents coming out of them. I’d never seen this particular Stain before. It was subtle, subdued, and almost hypnotic to watch as the wide band of translucent light turned slowly around the girl’s torso.
Well, time has really flown Jodi! By the way, if people ask, only you and I will know if the tiger is real or simply an illusion. Have fun with that. What is definitely real is how much fun I had chatting with you!
You don’t happen to have a ball of wool around here, do you?
About the size of a beach ball? That would be a—no? All right then. Thanks
again for inviting me!
#1 Amazon bestselling author Michael Darling has worked as a butcher, a librarian, and a magician. Not all at the same time. He nests in the exquisitely beautiful Rocky Mountains with his equally breathtaking wife, their normal-if-you-don’t-look-too-close children, and a disturbingly large St. Bernese dog that looks like he stepped out of Peter Pan and is probably a furry-faced attempt to extend the Darling brand. Michael’s award-winning fantasy and science-fiction stories are frequently featured in anthologies. His first novel, Got Luck, was published in 2016 and the sequel, Got Hope, in 2017. Book three of the series, Got Lost, will be released in September 2019. Hot on its heels will be Michael’s first science-fiction novel, scheduled to debut in early 2020. Based on the popular computer and board game, Master of Wills, the novel is titled Hollowfall. Michael loves to meet people, both virtually and in real life, and he can be found online through your favorite culturally-accepted, stalker-approved social media site.
Be sure to check out Michael’s Tales of the Behindbeyond series, and his other works, over on Amazon!
About Tales of the Behindbeyond:
Police-officer-turned-private-investigator Goethe “Got” Luck is known for rolling with the punches and never taking anything too seriously. When he picks up a seemingly dead-end murder case, his life begins to take a crazy turn. Shot at, chased by people he has never met, and attacked by an invisible liondog, Got quickly learns that there is more to this world than meets the eye.
He discovers the Fae. The Eternals. They who dwell in the Behindbeyond. Once, they ruled over ancient realms, but over the centuries, their power dwindled. Now someone wants to restore their rule and subjugate humankind. All it will cost is thousands of human lives.
The clock is ticking. Getting the world out of this one will take a couple friends, more than a few well-placed insults, and a whole lot of Luck.
Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.
In the Stonebearer universe there are those who possess a magical power called the Khandashii. This power manipulates matter. Specific abilities and skills are determined by the strengths and talents of the user. Today we explore the Healing order of Stonebearers.
What’s the use of magic and the ability to change the reality of the world, if it can’t be used to help someone? For Healers, the call to help those who are sick or injured is the strongest and best way they fulfill the drive to make the world better.
Just like today’s medical professionals, to become a Stonebearer Healer requires rigorous study and training. They must have a working understanding of how the body functions down to the most minute details. Without this knowledge, using healing magic is useless.
Those who become Stonebearer Healers must have a talent in using the parts of the power that make broken things whole. With this power, healers can knit back together bones, ligaments, tendons, and tissues that have been injured. To some extent they can also draw away viruses, bacteria, and toxins.
Most Stonebearer Healers venture out into the world to ply their trade in small towns and villages, places where they can do the most good. The use of magic is feared by the world at large so this is a challenge. However, in life or death situations when there are no other options, they will use their power to make the difference.
Healers featured in Stonebearer’s Betrayal include Mirelle, Katira’s mother, Firen, the Head of the Healing order, and his assistant Cassim.
I would totally stick Bill Nighy in as Firen, but I can’t find him in anything but a suit and tie. Go figure.
If you missed the post talking about the overall structure of the Stonebearer Magic System, look no further!
The defining characteristic of books in the fantasy genre is the existence of magic and/or magical creatures. Last month, we explored the magic used by the Traveling order in Stonebearer’s Betrayal. This month’s focus is the Order of the Seekers.
For many, both in fantastical worlds and also here in the real world, the pursuit of knowledge is a lifelong process that is both gratifying and compelling. Researchers, writers, documentary creators, and news reporters (to name a few) all seek out the facts they need to prove a point, entertain, inform, or improve the world around them.
Seekers are no different, except they have magic at their disposal. Where a Traveler can manipulate the location of themselves, items, and others, a Seeker can use their magic to locate items and facts. Some seekers are rumored to even be able to peer into time itself and see the past or future to an extent.
Most seekers prefer working as historians and spend their days recording their insights on significant events. Some, however, choose to be informants and use their skill to uncover plots and learn the truth behind circulating rumors.
The darker side of those in the seeker order is the unsavory practice of extracting information from those who don’t wish to give it. Stonebearer society has strict rules governing when and if this practice can be allowed.
As we said when we were learning about Travelers, the use of the power is inherently dangerous. Seekers tend to be the safest of the five orders as it’s difficult to overextend oneself.
The most notable Seekers in the first book in the Stonebearer series are Bremin, the High Lady Alystra’s master spy and Regulus, Isben’s master and Wrothe’s first victim.
If you missed the post talking about the overall structure of the Stonebearer Magic System, look no further!
Back in January, I shared a little about the magic system that exists in Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Today I’d like to dive deeper into the magic system and talk more about Travelers.
Star Trek fans can appreciate the science and technology surrounding the idea of teleportation and how useful it can be. If you can move from one place to another in moments rather than hours, a whole new reality presents itself. With this ability, escaping from danger or running to the rescue can happen in a heartbeat. No prison can hold a Traveler and no location is secure, unless protected by a greater magic.
In the Stonebearer universe, the use of magic is dangerous and therefore those who possess it must use caution. Those who have a talent for Traveling, are able to manipulate objects and themselves through space using a series of magical symbols or glyphs.
The most important rule a Traveler must adhere to is that they can only send themselves the same distance they can travel on foot in the course of a day. Pushing to move themselves farther than this drains their energy beyond what is considered safe and they risk loss of consciousness or even death.
When sending objects, a Traveler must consider the items weight and the distance. The lighter the item, the further it can be sent. This is why Travelers tend to be great spies. Not only can they escape from danger, they can send messages to someone days away. The places they can travel to, or send things to, are limited to where a Traveler has visited personally.
The energy to work all magic, including Traveling glyphs, comes from within and can be replenished with rest and time. In an emergency they can draw this energy from other people, but avoid doing so.
In Stonebearer’s Betrayal, the most conspicuous Traveler is the High Lady Alystra. Not only is she the head of the Stonebearer Society, she is head of the Traveling Order. She uses her power to maintain lines of communication among the Society as a whole and has a network of spies that help her stay informed. Her head spy is Bremin, a member of the order of Seekers and her bonded companion.
Castle and monastery, church and fortress, Mont-Saint-Michel in northern France has been a bit of everything over its thousand-year plus history. Which is what makes it perfect material for a post here on the blog, where I seek to find magic everyday.
Mont-Saint-Michel at Sunset
I’ve mentioned it before, but I love ancient castles and churches. My Instagram is loaded with gorgeous pictures of them because they stir my imagination and tell so many stories.
I visited Mont-Saint-Michel when I was a young naive teenager. At the time, it was just another wonderful place to visit in a series of interesting places I’d been on a long trip through France. Looking back, I wished I had taken more time to soak in the history. I’m making up for that now.
The earliest history of the island extends back to the 8th century, when the island was called Mont Tombe. “Tombe” meaning grave in Latin evokes the feeling of a graveyard or a final resting place. There is a secondary, and far more fitting, translation as “mount hillock” meaning a raised place. For anyone who has visited the island, it fits this description well. From base to tip, the island rises over 260 feet out of the ocean, and all of it rocky unforgiving granite. I remember my legs burning as we trekked up the steep streets toward the monastery.
According to legend, in 708 AD Archangel Michael appeared to Aubery, bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church in the Archangel’s honor. The bishop repeatedly ignored this heavenly visitor, a truly bad idea, until Saint Michael burned a hole into the bishop’s skull with his finger. The church was built October 16, 709 and devoted to Saint Michael. Mont-Saint-Michel literally means “Saint Michael Mount.”
Saint Michael Iconography
The location of the island is unique as it historically it could only be reached during low tide and was surrounded by silty sand that was prone to becoming quicksand. This made the island easy to defend as the assailants couldn’t continue their fight for risk of drowning.
It was also halfway between the two power Duchies of Normandy and Brittany during the early Middle Ages, which made it the target of the two powers and through the ages it changed hands frequently. At one point it was invaded by Vikings.
Fast forward to 1204, the Breton Guy de Thouars, an ally to the King of France, tried to take the island in a siege. In the process, he accidentally set the main buildings of the monastery on fire, destroying the very same buildings he wanted to occupy. The King of France at the time, Philip Augustus, or Philip II, was horrified that a holy site was damaged in connection to him and offered funds for a major restoration and expansion which included many of the Gothic style buildings we see today.
Courtyard with Gothic arches
Throughout the following hundreds of years the island continued to be an area of dispute. Each successive conqueror added and destroyed parts of the island’s structures until we reach the present day. For more history, there are references below.
Modern day Mont-Saint-Michel can be reached by a long bridge built specially to allow the flow of tidewater underneath. Thrill seekers are still allowed to approach over the sand during low tide, however there are signs everywhere warning of the dangers of quicksand.
Do you have a favorite castle or magical place? Share about it in the comments below and I might do a feature on it in the future.
I swear I’m not teasing you about doing a cover reveal. It will happen, and it looks like it might be by next week’s post. This week we pinned down a few more needed pieces to create the advance review copies for distribution. If you love reading epic fantasy, and even better, love giving reviews, please send me a note!
Also, I’ll be at the Eagle Mountain Writing Conference this weekend. If you are there, come say hi!
Love staying in touch? So do I! Let’s connect. Pick your favorite platform, either here on WordPress, or you can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
The Kelpies are 30 meter tall (nearly 100 feet) horse head sculptures in Falkirk, Scotland and were finished in October of 2013. They opened to the public in April of this year. They commemorate the completion of a new extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal.
Historically, Kelpies are mythological water creatures that have inhabited Scotland’s waterways and lochs for thousands of years. They can appear in many forms, including human, but are most commonly associated with horses and are said to have the strength and endurance of 10 horses.
In the Falkirk area horses have played a major role in the economy and industry and were used to pull the wagons, ploughs, barges, and coalships along the canals. The sculptures pay homage to this heritage.
From the Wikipedia entry:
According to sculptor Andy Scott “The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures.” “I took that concept and moved with it towards a more equine and contemporary response, shifting from any mythological references towards a socio-historical monument intended to celebrate the horse’s role in industry and agriculture as well as the obvious association with the canals as tow horses.”
According to Scott the end result would be “Water-borne, towering gateways into The Helix, the Forth & Clyde Canal and Scotland, translating the legacy of the area into proud equine guardians.”
At last I’m going to share part of a fantasy story with you. This tale was meant to be a short story but as with most fantasy pieces I set out to create, it has grown during the course of the writing and now is begging to be part of something much bigger. I like it enough that it might become part of the novel trilogy I’m writing. Enjoy!
The fickle breeze of Autumn carried the scent of brittle leaves and the promise of early snow. It teased the deep hood of Lianea’s cloak and spun her earth colored hair into ribbons as she walked the ancient pathway. Here, folded deep within the Velchin wood, she sought a cure for the illness plaguing her village and her dear brother Liandro.
As she drew closer to the glade the sky grew darker, the air pressed up against her, stealing her breath. She clutched the handle of the short dagger she wore at her waist, knowing it would do her no good but reassuring all the same. With each step the dark press of air grew more eager, more oppressive. The village elder had warned her that there would be forces that would try to stop her from crossing into the glade, that she must not give them heed.
She forced her way through the stone archway and as she passed the darkness lifted. Inside the small glade stood an alter and statue of Izis, goddess of knowledge of the past and future, one hand cupped before her, the other over her heart. The green veined marble had been worn by the wind and weather, moss grew along the folds of her long robe.. Lianea felt the statues eyes upon her as soon as she had entered.
As prescribed by the elder, Lianea lit the tallow candle and cupped her hand around it as she set it into the small hole in the low alter. The flame seemed too weak in the failing light, too fragile for such a task. The townspeople had said the same about her when she demanded to leave and seek help.
On either side of the candle she set the four required items, a blue feather, the blood of a dying man, a silver coin, and a rose crystal from the mines of Turah. This last she admired in the flickering candle light, never having imagined that a place filled with such sorrow would contain a wealth of something so beautiful. There in Turah her guide had met his untimely end when he stumbled and fell from one of the high ledges in the mine. She set the crystal next to the vial filled with his blood.
Dusky twilight filtered through the branches as the moon made its journey across the blanketed sky. Lianea recited the first incantation as she poured the dark contents of the vial into the hands of Izis. As she did, a cold mist trickled into the glade. While reciting the second incantation she dipped the feather in the blood and then used it to draw the broken circle slashed with five lines, a symbol of submission and humility. The mist gathered around the statue, boiling and churning at Lianea’s feet.
With the third and final incantation she held the silver coin to the flame until it stung her fingertips and then pressed it into her outstretched wrist. She clenched her teeth, holding back a gasp of pain as the coin burned a circle into her skin. Izis required a token of suffering. As she spoke, the mist drew itself up around the statue, covering it like a shroud. It pulled the flame from the candle into itself until it began to glow with its own ghostly light.
Lianea’s heart raced, screaming at her to flee the clearing as the once statue came to life before her. She willed her feet to stay firm, she could not fail, not after coming so far. Liandro needed her to be strong. She placed the rose crystal in the palm of her hand and the other hand over her heart, the last offering.
A voice whispered through the trees. “Too long have I waited for an offering from the children of this world, too long.” The voice trailed off, but the presence of the spirit of Izis remained strong, studying Lianea. “You have suffered much child, I feel it within you. Speak your request. If it is within my power, I will grant it.”
Lianea drew in a breath, she was the last hope for Liandro and all those of her village who had fallen ill. If she failed, the sickness would claim them all, herself included. “Oh Great One, the people of my village are dying of a sickness. The elders have never seen it’s like. I petitioned them to leave and seek help.”
The mist rose up around Lianea, brushing her face. The gesture reminded her of times when her mother would stroke her cheek to sooth her. As the mist touched her a flood of images from the last few weeks filled her mind. People crying, clutching wives, fathers, and children in their arms before returning them to the earth. So many. Dark bruises covering arms, legs, and faces. People moaning, consumed by fever. Her own brother, pale and listless on his cot.
Lianea sagged to her knees, overwhelmed. The mist withdrew.
“There is hope little one. I will grant you knowledge of those who can help. You must seek them out.”
The mist rose towards Lianea’s face once more and she flinched as it brushed her skin. This time images of people she had never met and towns she had never visited filled her mind, teaching her and filling her with a peace she hadn’t known since before the sickness began. She knew what she had to do.