Another example of me venturing out from behind the reviewer’s desk to attempt something that passes as writing, also not edited and more than likely not going to be published this century. Think of all the billions these unedited unpublished manuscripts will be worth when I croak. well, maybe the Museum of Natural History will want them in about ten thousand years…:) Primitive writing….
This is the first chapter of a book I wrote for my kiddos, called “Tallharas Crew and the Centurion Egg.”
Cutting Wood for Maylin
“Tallharas! Where did you get off to now boy? You didn’t have to go all the way to Aelfhern just to get me a bucket of water,” Maylin said, standing before her modest hut with both hands planted firmly on her meaty hips.
Tallharas Crew stepped out of the shadows carrying the bucket of water his grandmother was waiting for. “Sorry Nana May, I was enjoying the morning.”
Maylin looked up disapprovingly at her grandson. “Someday you will learn that there is no time for such things. The only thing you will get with your head in the clouds is rained on.”
Tallharas sighed, but chose not to respond.
“Besides, you have already seen the inside of Brickerack once, which is nothing to brag about at your age.”
Tallharas set the bucket of water down before Maylin and waited patiently for her to finish.
“If we don’t get some wood chopped, we are all going to freeze to death. Make yourself useful, sweat is the only honest currency.”
Tallharas resisted the urge to roll his eyes and looked beyond his grandmother at the face of his sister, Onnica, glaring at him from the small front window of the hut. She was unhappy because he had been allowed to do chores outside the hut that day, and she had been told to clean up the space inside. Still, Tallharas considered, even at ten years younger than he, Onnica was the most mature seven-year-old he had ever met. Even so, he couldn’t complain about the fact that he was outdoors doing “the man’s work.” It was such a beautiful morning anyway; he never would have been able to stay inside.
“I guess I had better get to it then,” Tallharas said casually as he backed away from Maylin, “Got to go sharpen the ax.”
Maylin turned toward the house, but then thought better of it. “Tallharas,” she said to his retreating form.
He stopped walking but did not turn around.
“Get the wood and come right back, okay?”
Tallharas was used to his Nana May being a little overdramatic about his procrastination, but it was something else entirely he heard in her voice that morning. She sounded worried, perhaps even afraid.
“I won’t go anywhere else, Nana May.”
Maylin said nothing further, but she watched her grandson until he blended into the Adera Forest, trying to convince herself that the chill she felt about her shoulders was because of the cool morning air, rather than something more sinister.
The air was cool and crisp that morning as Tallharas stood over a fallen log, wiping the well earned sweat from his brow. Brushing a lock of dark chestnut hair from his blue eyes, he counted the piles of wood before him. Six bundles, that should be enough to get us through for a few days, he thought.
Tallharas stood silently for a moment, listening to the sounds of Arber Miller, the sheep farmer, speaking to Maylin. Arber had been left a widower the year before, and had decided that Maylin was fair game for his roving eye. Maylin often said behind closed doors that she would sooner have supper with one of Arber’s sheep. Maylin’s voice drifted through the forest to the ears of her grandson. He smiled as she gave yet another excuse to Arber about why she would be unavailable to get together with him.
Gradually, another sound began to overshadow the voice of his grandmother. A slight humming was coming from somewhere around Tallharas. He tried to focus on locating the sound, but it was impossible. The noise was radiating through the air around him. He began to notice a disturbance in the air that reminded him of heat waves. Soon, he had all but forgotten about the wood or returning home to rescue Maylin from her gentleman caller.
For a moment, Tallharas stood perfectly still. Things like what he was witnessing then were far from common in Cerus. He watched, as the disturbance became something more solid, eventually turning into a swirling, black mist that hovered above the ground a few feet away.
“What in the…” Tallharas wondered as he moved a careful step closer to the strange occurrence. The black shimmer warbled and stretched, until it blotted out all that was in front of him. Curiously, he extended a hand toward it. The hair on Tallharas’ knuckles stood on end as his hand neared the strange disturbance. He stopped for a brief moment, wondering at the sight before him. He tried to look around him to see if anyone else was near, but found it impossible to tear his eyes away from the swirling form.
Finally, he gave in to his curiosity and stuck his hand inside. Instantly, he felt the ground give way under his feet. Dizziness overtook him and soon he found himself surrounded by total darkness. “Nana May?” he called out frantically. “Onnica?” nobody answered him.
Tallharas could not see his hand in front of his face, but he knew that he was falling. He groped wildly for anything near enough to grab onto, but found that there was nothing around him. He seemed to be slipping into some kind of empty void. His frightened mind thought momentarily of what would happen when he reached the bottom, but the thought drifted away from him as a pinpoint of light became visible somewhere below.
Tallharas closed his eyes and held his breath, praying that he would survive the sudden stop he was about to make at the bottom of this shaft. He was surprised and relieved when he felt himself splash into deep water rather than hit solid ground with a bone-jarring crunch. His first thought was that he must have fallen into a weak spot in the ground. When Naomyn’s revolution first began, many of the people had built underground hideouts. Perhaps he had simply tumbled into one of them by accident. A voice in his head told him otherwise. “What about the strange light?” the voice whispered to him. Yes, what about it, he thought. He would not allow himself to think about the possibilities. He had already found his share of trouble for thinking that way. He never would have found himself inside Brickerack in the first place if it had not been for his insistence in learning more about his own magic. If only he had believed Maylin when she had told him there was a good reason why magic was not allowed in Cerus.
The water was cold and choppy. He could hear it falling somewhere nearby, but he could see little in the strange blue light around him. He tried to figure out which direction the waves were moving, which would have been easier if he were not so disoriented from the long fall. Maylin was going to kill him for this when he got home. She had just about broken them to buy the shoes upon his feet. Finally Tallharas managed to find his way to shore, which was a good thing; because he would have sworn that he had felt something brush against his hand while he was in the water, something rather larger than he was.
Tallharas climbed out of the water onto some slick slabs of stone. He coughed and heard the sound echo. He was obviously in some type of cave. Could there really be caves and water underneath the Adera Forest? The light he had seen from above was radiating from a crack in the stones a few yards from where he stood. He took a step toward it and felt his foot catch on something. Reaching down, he tentatively put out a hand and touched whatever it was that had tripped him. He felt a giant sucker. He felt along the thing a bit further and felt another, and another. He moved away a few steps and then walked along the edge of the thing. Eventually he came to the end of the giant tentacle. The stench was awful as he leaned down to investigate. He was now close enough to the source of the blue light to see what was around him. The tentacle had been severed, but not cleanly. Ragged bits of reddish-purple flesh hung from the tentacle. Something had attacked the beast this severed limb belonged to. This creature was enormous, but whatever had done this must have been even bigger. The thought sent a chill down Tallharas’ spine.
There was a clattering sound somewhere nearby, and Tallharas froze. He hoped that he was not about to discover the culprit. A pinkish mist began to settle in the air before the young man, and soon, he was no longer alone. An old man with white hair and eyebrows stood before him, his robes shining in the eerie blue light.
Tallharas could barely speak. He could hear the voice in his head telling him that this was impossible, that he could not have seen what he thought he had. There was no magic in Cerus.
“That was magic, the way you just appeared there,” Tallharas said to the old man.
The man shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t sneak anything past you, can I?”
Tallharas did not know what to say. He said the first thing that came to mind. “There is no magic in Cerus.”
“Ahh. But you are not in Cerus any longer. You are in Surec.”
“Surec. The mirror world of Cerus.”
Tallharas’ eyes looked wild. “You are playing a joke on me. This was all set up by my Nana May. She wanted to teach me a lesson about magic, am I right?”
The old man looked unconcerned. He snapped his fingers and a book appeared in his left hand. He turned a few pages forward and then a couple back, before clearing his throat and beginning to read aloud. “Mirror worlds, by definition, are worlds that lie parallel to each other. Frequently these worlds have many of the same characteristics, such as similar names, regions, and peoples, but they usually have one major difference. If one world is light, then the other is dark. If one is hot then the other may be cold, or if one is dry, then the mirror world may be wet. An important note on mirror worlds is that one world cannot survive without the other. If one world were to perish, its mirror world, by nature, would destruct as well. There has to be a balance between the worlds for both to survive.”
Tallharas stood quietly for a long moment. “Then you mean to tell me that all worlds have a mirror world?”
The old man shrugged. “Not all worlds. Some worlds are self-contained. It is only the worlds where magic can be found that have to deal with such delicate balances.”
Tallharas looked unconvinced. “First of all, tell me who you are. Then tell me why I should trust anything that you say.”
“My name is Demetrius. I am the guardian of destiny. I have a long history dealing with such sensitive things, but I do not have time for explaining where I come from right now. As for your second question, you should not trust anyone. You will soon learn that nothing is as it seems in Surec.”
“So what is the major difference between Cerus and Surec? The passage you read to me said that there is usually one major difference between the mirror worlds.”
Demetrius spread his hands apart and then clapped them together. The book disappeared to be replaced by a handful of tiny, glowing butterflies. “In Cerus there is no magic allowed. Surec is a magic land. Those without magic will not survive here.”
“But I do not-” Tallharas began to protest.
Demetrius put his hand up to silence him. “Then you had better learn fast, or you will not find your way out of here alive.”
Tallharas turned to see two giant, yellow eyes staring at him from the water. He heard a pop! And Demetrius disappeared. The gigantic reptile stared at him with hunger. Tallharas had a feeling it was going to be a long day.
The light within the cavern was brighter then. Tallharas didn’t know if this was because of Demetrius, or if it was just his imagination, but he could clearly see his opponent slinking through the murky water. The tail of the beast rose from the water menacingly and thrashed down suddenly, causing a giant wake. The crocodile-like reptile disappeared momentarily beneath the waves.
Tallharas crept behind a pile of slimy, weed-covered rocks and tried to catch his breath. The old man had said that he would have to find his magic. What was he to do? He had lived his life in Cerus, where magic was not allowed. He had never been able to practice his magic freely. He knew little about how to make things happen and even less about how to stop things from happening. He thought back to the one time he had felt the surge of energy, right before Naomyn had appeared and taken him to Brickerack. What had he been doing? The thought should have been clear to him, but it was not. The only clear thought in his mind was that he had to survive.
He peered around the side of the rocks and his heart felt as if it were going to explode from his chest. The croc was out of the water. He searched around him desperately for anything he could use as a weapon, but it was useless. Other than a few pebbles and some seaweed, there was nothing near him at all.
Tallharas thought of his mother then. Part of him had always believed that she would protect him and Onnica from harm. It had been years since her death, but he had seen her face many times in his dreams. He prayed silently that she would deliver him from the evil he faced.
The crocodile-creature neared the pile of rocks, its breath stinking and hot. Tallharas looked behind him. There was nowhere for him to run. If he moved, he would back himself against a wall. He began to feel the change in himself slowly. He felt almost as if her were growing. The sensation was not painful, but rather exciting. Heat spread from the center of his belly, down through his loins and out to his fingertips and toes. He was glowing slightly. He did not know what to do. If he was wrong about his abilities and he faced his enemy, he would not survive.
He was not given a choice. The reptile crept around the rock and came face to face with its intended prey. It was then that he saw the large spanning wings on the back of the beast. He was head on with a Crogan. He had heard tales about them back in Cerus, before they had been told not to speak of such things. Crogans were cousins to the dragon. They lived only in darkness, for their eyes were blinded by the light of day. Tallharas was thankful that he had spent so many hours listening to the storytellers when he was younger.
The giant, useless, wings flapped terribly, causing a wind within the cavern that threatened to knock the young man from his feet. He steadied himself against the rocks as best he could. The beast snarled a low, guttural growl and reared back onto its hind legs. Tallharas tried to think fast, but was still struggling with how to begin what he must do. If only he had been allowed to discover this part of himself before now.
The Crogan thundered down onto its front legs once more, causing the cavern to shake and bits of rock and dirt to fall from the ceiling. Then, the beast opened its mouth to reveal many rows of sharply pointed teeth all glistening in the pale light. Up close, the yellow eyes looked milky, as if they were covered in a glaze. Tallharas recalled looking at the cataracts in Arber Miller’s eyes. Yes, that was it. That was what he had to do.
Tallharas backed up until he had nowhere else to run. The Crogan crept forward, its forked tongue flicking out hungrily. The young man could feel the energy surging inside him. This was what he had been trying to remember, this was what he had felt before. He didn’t know any incantations or words to command the beast, but he knew what he must do. Somewhere inside him was a certainty.
The Crogan lunged at him, mouth open. Tallharas raised his hands above his head and spread them out in an arc toward the beast. For a few dangerous seconds, nothing happened. He was nearly certain that this was the end for him. He closed his eyes and then forced them back open. If this was the end, he wanted to see how it happened, no matter how terrifying it might be.
From Tallharas’ outstretched palms, a bright light streamed. First as a narrow beam, then more fully, as a searchlight. The light was like nothing he had ever seen before. It appeared purer that the morning sun, brighter than the rays that warmed his world. Soon, the light was a shield all around him. A solid wall of luminescence divided him from his attacker.
The Crogan screeched in pain and wildly clawed at its eyes, backing away toward the water it had come from. Soon, the only sign of the beast was the bloody trail leading to the water.
The boy let out a long, slow, breath. The light from his palms dimmed and eventually disappeared. Looking at the wall behind him as he tried to catch his breath, he saw a depiction of the beast that someone had carved long before. In this scene, a ray of light was aimed at the beast as it fled in terror. “This would have been useful a few minutes ago,” Tallharas said breathlessly to nobody in particular. He looked toward the water and still saw no sign of the Crogan.
Walking around the cavern, he noticed that where there had only been solid rock before, there was now a small hole with a point of light at the end of it. He would have to crawl through, and it would be a tight fit, but perhaps this was his way home. After all, he could not be that far away, what had felt like minutes of agonizing falling had in reality, probably only been seconds. He would give it a try. Anything was better than staying there and waiting for the return of the Crogan.
Tallharas was covered in mud and cobwebs by the time he managed to squeeze through the other end of the small hole. It took him a moment to right himself and rub the spots from his eyes to look around. He was in a forested area, but definitely not in the Adera Forest where he had come from. Giant green vines hung everywhere he looked. The trees were twisted knots of moss and bark like nothing he had ever seen. He glanced around at the grassy lands he stood in, noticing first the brightly colored red and orange mushrooms that grew in clusters, and then the narrow, cobbled pathways that led all directions beneath the trees.
The air was cool and moist, unlike the dry heat he was used to in Cerus. A pool of water had collected in a depression a few feet away, and he quickly scooped handfuls of the clear water to his mouth. He did not recall a time in his life when he had been so thirsty. As he bent low to scoop the remaining water he could, he felt a sharp pain in the back of his neck.
“Who-” he began, but the question was cut short by another pain, this time in his back. He turned to see if there was someone behind him, and found a couple of acorns lying on the ground nearby. That was what had hit him, he thought. He scanned the lands around him carefully, and felt another acorn hit him rather hard, in the back of his head.
A call pierced the silence. A mostly black monkey with a brightly colored red and blue face jumped down from a branch overhead and swung to the ground on one of the many vines. He carried an armload of acorns.
“It was you!” Tallharas said angrily. The monkey’s eyes grew wide and he shook his head from side to side.
Tallharas shook his fist at the monkey. “I don’t need this right now. I am sure you find this little game entertaining, but I have more important things to do.”
A twig crunched behind Tallharas and he froze. Not more monkeys, he thought. Soon, he discovered that it was not.
“Do your people always speak to monkeys?” a voice asked.
Tallharas whirled around at the sound of the voice. Before him stood a… well, he wasn’t really sure what it was. He had never seen anything like it.
“My name is Laslin, and I am and elf.”
Tallharas did not know what to say. “Excuse me, did you say, elf?”
“So you are a race of people that speak to monkeys and are hard of hearing?” the being asked.
“My people do not speak to monkeys, and we are not… what do you want from me?” he asked, flustered.
“I was simply wandering through the forest, looking for a meal, as I often do in the early morning. I happened upon the strange sight of a mortal speaking to a monkey, and thought I would stop to take in the spectacle. The question is, what are you doing here?”
Tallharas shook his head. He had never imagined that an elf would be so ugly. Back in Cerus it was common to believe that all magic creatures were beautiful. Even Naomyn, with all of her atrocious behavior was a sight out of a dream. This creature had black, leathery skin and red eyes. He wore leather armor that looked uncomfortable and hot. He stood at least a foot taller than Tallharas and every inch of him looked scarred and weather-beaten. A ring pierced his nose right between his oddly elongated nostrils and two sharp teeth gave him a frightening overbite. One of his eyes was obviously smaller than the other.
Tallharas decided that he might as well tell the truth. “Honestly, I have no idea what I am doing here. I was out chopping wood for my grandmother. I saw something strange and I approached it. After that I found myself in a dark cavern, with a rather ill tempered Crogan. That is all I know. I have spent the last few minutes being accosted by a monkey and trying to convince myself that there must be a way back to my home from here.”
Laslin looked overhead as if he were checking the weather. “I do not mean to frighten you, but I doubt that you will be finding a way back to your home any time soon. I myself, have been here for most of a season, and I am only beginning to learn how difficult a return home would be.”
A shiver ran down Tallharas’ spine. “You do not live here?”
The elf shrugged. “I guess you could say that I do now, but I didn’t, no. I was from a land about as different from this as one could imagine. My home was Sinoah, in the Five Kingdoms.”
“How did you get here? Did you see the swirling mist as well?”
Laslin propped his foot up on a stump and began to clean his fingernails with the tip of his knife. “I never saw a mist, or a light, or anything. I went to sleep one night, beside my parents and my sister, and I woke here, not too far from where we are now.”
Tallharas considered this for a long while. “So you have no idea why you were sent here?”
The elf smiled a crooked smile. “Oh, no. I have a very good idea of why I am here. What I am still trying to figure out is how to get out of here. The pieces are slowly coming together. I know that if I am going to succeed, I will have to find a way to outwit Naomyn.”
The young man’s eyes grew wide. “You mean to tell me that Naomyn is the ruler here? Then we are back in Cerus! I just have to find my way home!”
Laslin put up a large hand to silence Tallharas. “Don’t get too overexcited. We are not in Cerus, we are in Surec. Naomyn is ruler of Surec as well. That as a matter of fact, is why I am here. I and all of the other blood-born have been recruited by Naomyn.”
Tallharas was having a hard time keeping up with what he was being told. One thing at a time, he reminded himself. “So you are saying that Naomyn rules both Cerus and Surec? That would mean that she can pass freely from one place to the next, right? If we can figure out how she is doing it, then we can return home.”
“Naomyn is able to pass back and forth because she has powerful enough magic to do so. It is not so simple for the rest of us. We cannot harness the same type of magic that she can. Magic was her birthright. The fact that she abuses it daily is not the point here.”
Tallharas nodded. “Okay, we will deal with all of that later. You said something about you and all of the other blood-born? What are blood-born? Am I one, is that why I am here?”
The elf laughed outright. “You are a mortal. You were born of a mother and father of the human kind, were you not?”
“I suppose so, I mean, I know next to nothing about my father, but I suppose that he must have been a mortal.”
Laslin drummed his fingers on his knee. “My father once warned me that men were very wordy and it took them a decade to get to their point. I still don’t know how he did it, traveling with all those men. Here goes. The difference between a mortal and a blood-born, is that a mortal is born of a mother and father that are human. They may be magical or non-magical, but his parents were born as well. A blood-born, is a being that was born naturally, from his mother and father, but his parents were created. It does not matter whether they were created by white-magic or black, just that they were created rather than born.”
It took a while for Tallharas to absorb all of this. “So if you have a child, will they be a blood-born as well?”
Laslin nodded, “unfortunate in some ways and fortunate in others.”
“What does that mean?”
“A blood-born has much more freedom than a wizard’s creation. They do not have to answer to a master. They are free to live as they wish, and yet they still have the abilities that the wizard who created their parent’s passed on to them. However, blood-borns are not protected by the same elements of magic as those created by wizards. We are not immortal. We can die just as a mortal can.”
Tallharas sat down on a large, flat stone. “So, if you are not immortal, and you do not follow the command of a master, what would Naomyn possibly want with you?”
“Naomyn may have a lot of enemies, but none of them are as threatening to her as the wizards are. The wizards will always have creatures that are loyal to them, although there are many more free creatures than there once was before and event that happened before my birth. No matter what Naomyn may be able to do with her magic, she will never have the power to create new breeds as the wizards do. She must rely on the power of fear and intimidation to enforce her will over her armies. That is why she chose to bring the blood-borns to Surec. She could not enforce her will over the creatures of the wizards, because they are loyal only to one master. Even those who were set free from their service to the wizard that created them, such as my own parents, they are still a creation of a rival power that she cannot control.”
“So can she control you? The blood-borns I mean?”
“I suppose she figures that if she keeps us here long enough that we will eventually give in to her. As I understand it, some of us already have.”
Tallharas stood once more. “Why does Naomyn want creatures capable of magic roaming freely in Surec? In Cerus magic has been outlawed. Even those who came from strictly magical families are not allowed to whisper so much as an incantation without being imprisoned. I was told by someone, this fellow I met in the cavern, that the difference between Cerus and Surec is that in Surec everything is magical, and wouldn’t Naomyn hate that?”
“Upon closer inspection you might find that the mirror worlds of Surec and Cerus were not always this way. The difference now might be magic, but it used to be much simpler. Cerus was a world of magic once just as sure as Surec is today. You will discover it time what the difference used to be, but for now, that is much too complicated to discuss. What you need to know right now, is that Naomyn means to close the doorway to Cerus forever.”
“Close the doorway?”
“Yes. If Naomyn can close the doorway to Cerus for good, and extract the magic from that world into Surec, this will become strong enough to become an independent world. She will be the master of all who roam here, for the power of the wizards and other magical beings will not have sway over this land any further. It will be completely sealed off from the rest of the worlds.”
“Then what will happen to Cerus? What will happen to those who live there?”
“They will perish. There has to be balance between mirror worlds. If one world consumes the life force of the other, the weaker world will cease to exist.”
Tallharas looked out beyond Laslin. “I have one more question,” he said.
“What do we do first?”
The elf pulled a long, sharp sword from a sheath at his side. “We get you a weapon.”