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At the Library

Yendor was not sure what he was looking for. He had come to the city, decaying, decrepit, ancient, crowded and yet thriving, looking for some scrap that had been missed over time by the sorcerers. There was a history that was forbidden, but it hadn’t always been so. Before Incarnate there were archives and records and deeds and an insurmountable amount of information that had to give some clue about what it was like before. When there were wizards, when there was more to magic than sorcery.

The library had seemed the obvious place to start. Of course that would be where the purge had started. Surely anything revealing what wizards were, where they lived, what they believed had been eliminated from such a public and obvious source. But Yendor had to start somewhere.

As a musician, he knew about subversive lyrics. Code words to fool those who didn’t know how to listen. Often they were so ubiquitous that you never noticed them. they hid in plain sight. Why did the children’s song start out about flowers and end up talking about ashes and falling down? Because that children’s rhyme was about the plague, that’s why. That was really more of a forgotten knowledge than a forbidden one, but the idea was the same. Learn to look at things from a fresh viewpoint. Nobody knew it was about the plague because everyone grew up singing it. Children’s stories were full of incongruous, frightening scenes; were they all allusions to hidden meanings or was there something in the way storytellers crafted children’s stories that made them put in these dark passages? Did children need them to develop their minds? Musicians were storytellers but Yendor had never heard a solid answer to the question which hardly ever came up.

Deep in one of the basements, on his third day, lit by an odd Smelling candle, in a nook in a room long forgotten, he found an ancient poem about the winter solstice. The poem caught his eye, because the solstice was approaching, and it would be his first away from friends and family. The hand that had scribed the poem was lyrical, but the letters were an ancient form that seemed stilted to Yendor. It was an odd combination that distracted him so he had to read the first stanza several times before he could make sense of it:

“Wrapped in an azure raiment, She whirled, colourring every cheak. Warming each heartt with Her Light, singing to all individually. Mary, she is.”

The archaic spelling aside, the story was well known, but the poem was not. It told of Winter herself, merry in her blue sky, her cold wind howling in everyone’s ears, making their cheeks rosy with cold swirling wind. But this poem described Winter personified, which was not unusual, but the idea of being warmed by her was different. Nowadays it was the celebration of her that warmed people’s hearts. She brought cold, but also the promise of light to come; as the longest night of the year, the worst was over, the next night would be shorter; the coming days longer, ostensibly warmer. This poem said she was the light, and the howling wind was singing… It was odd enough for Yendor to copy down.

As he dug deeper, he found another poem in that same unique hand. This time it was signed “Sumessence.”

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Yendor the Wizard

I’ve been working on this story since I was fifteen. Recently, I’ve taken it up again in earnest. I have some new ideas and I just have to make time for it. This character’s name is Yendor. I don’t want to give too much away but the story is called “The Song of Yendor,” so he may have a prominent role. You can read some of the story here

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Lausaw The Sorcorer

Danse and Yendor walked through the woods, headed east with the stream, which would lead to the next town. Yendor had been a traveling musician all his life and he knew how to find civilization and how to avoid it. There was a road they could have taken, but Danse was sure there would be soldiers patrolling them, alerted to the forbidden magic that had happened at the harbor. Yendor wanted to head into the hills, just he and her an begin training. She insisted there were some preparations they had to make. They had both just abandoned their lives for each other without really thinking about the consequences. Yendor’s training as a musician was more or less complete and probably wouldn’t be utilized much now anyway, except perhaps as a cover or to earn a roof over their head. musicians in a troop scheduled performances at fairs and worked out accommodations, provisions and logistics ahead of time. Usually some kind of payment could be secured over and above what the crowd decided to spend its pennies on. Whether it was a charge to attend the performance or passing a hat, a troop was too big to sustain itself on the fickle whims of a crowds passing fancy. The base payment was usually only enough to sustain the troops tour from fair to fair, and the crowds pennies helped to make life a little more livable. Like most people, musicians eked out a living that kept them from starving and not much else.

Lone musicians could not count on anything but the hat. And they were vulnerable to robbers both high and low, whether the sheriff made up a fine for a permit that he invented on the spot (fines are always more than fees, usually a person had to pay both, so it is in the sheriff’s interest not to bring it up until the violation has occurred), or a sorcerer charging for a blessing that wasn’t sought, or a real thief, who at least isn’t pretending to be something else.

They had precious little money between them, and Danse wanted to outfit them with weapons, provisions and necessities like a tent, cooking ware and other things of weight that Yendor knew he would end up carrying.

When they got to town, they found the marketplace and got themselves a meat pie to split, realizing they would soon either be living off the land, or Yendor would be spending as much time supporting them as a musician as he did training to save the world. Maybe more. Watters had always said that the bulk of life is spent doing the work needed to live it. Until now, that had meant chores like doing dishes, rolling billets, printing flyers, cleaning up camp, or mending tents, clothes, costumes, instruments. People thought being a musician was playing music all day. This just isn’t the case. Musicians lives, artists lives, everyone’s life was spent doing chores. Even clergy like the sorcerers had to fill out reports, keep endless records, gather tithes, and darn their socks, while shoring up for winter, which was coming by the way.

Townsfolk had homes that kept out the weather, but travelers lived in tents. Watters would say winter just means moving the fire inside. Many travelers carried their winter things all year round. Some had winter homes, that they stayed in. some stored their winter things in halls rented for such purposes. Some sold their furs in the spring and bought new ones in the fall. Watters had liked to carry things in a spare cart that invariably got damaged, stolen or worn out, so that there was always the expense of new things and the burden of carrying things all year. There were less fairs in the winter, but people still wanted to hear music. This was actually the best time for a lone musician and the troop would often split up for the winter. Watters kept a stash of money hidden from robbers like most travelers. Sometimes the robbers found it, sometimes not. Usually thieves only wanted money because they too were travelers. “Thieves couldn’t make a living staying in one place, not unless they went into government,” Watters would say.

They got most everything they needed. She had a long stiletto dagger that had been in her family. He got an old sword, double edged, short handle, small guard, nothing fancy. She could tell it was well made. The one he wanted she said would break in its first fight. “Showman.” she said, shaking her head as if he’d picked out a prop that would glitter for the audience. She wasn’t wrong, he guessed. The tent he picked out. It was his turn to know what was needed. Treated canvas that had been given a layer of lacquer to keep out the weather; He would find the right trees, and boil some sap for another layer. the poles were Ashwood, heavy but solid. He and Watters had used tent poles to fight off bandits on more than one occasion. People often went for lighter wood that was easier to carry, but Yendor trusted the hard wood. They got a few pots that could double for roasting, stewing, frying or what was called for. They got forks that Yendor thought could be used to pitch hay, and hunting knives for table knives. Everything had two uses and everything was second-hand. That’s how it goes, playing in a band, thought Yendor.

They kept going East, heading for the Wyvern Hills, and pitched the tent early so Danse could snare something for dinner, and Yendor could make the lacquer for the tent. They found a clearing in the lee of a hill, a little plateau that gave them a view of oncommers but shielded them from the wind at the same time. They had just finished the rabbit stew when they heard horses. The soldiers crested the hill and left room for the sorcerer bringing up the rear.

“Well, well, what have we here?” the sorcerer, dressed all in black, was reed thin but had a resonate voice in spite of that. “Outlaws I’ll wager. They had to have circumvented the road and gone quite a bit out of their way to sneak up the hill like that. They hadn’t just happened along.

“We’re travelers. Musicians. Not outlaws.” said Yendor.

“I know who you are.” said the sorcerer as the soldiers drew their swords simultaneously. “I am a sorcerer of the order of the mace, on the business of Incarnate.” Sorcerers loved to recite their credentials. Yendor wasn’t familiar with the order of the Mace, but it didn’t sound good. They were never “Order of the pansies that grow in the Spring by the roadside in the field.” It was always “Order of the plague,” or some nightmarish name meant to drive fear into the hearts of ordinary people.

“We have been sent to find you. Did you think your …performance… would go unnoticed?” They were still on their horses. The firelight demonized their faces as the sky glowered in the twilight. “I know not what evil magic you follow, but only the Sorcery is lawful. Any use of magic, or even the ability to use magic other than by a sorcerer is heresy. You corrupt the souls of all who fall in your shadow.” Now he stood in the stirrups and dismounted. “I am Lausaw, come to remove your scourge!” He pulled a glowing orb of slick protoplasm from the air about him, dripping its green, electric slime, and aimed to throw it at Yendor. Danse moved faster than a deer and was between them, her dagger slicing at the pulsing fireball. He had already committed to throwing it and it was cleaved by the dagger. Lausaw grabbed her by the wrist, trying to wrench the knife from her hand, as she kicked him in the back of the knee. Yendor was up and had his knife, but his sword was in the tent. The soldiers were down from their mounts and came at him simultaneously. Yendor had thought to stab the sorcerer as he fell but had to change course. He turned to put space between the soldiers and himself, but that was a mistake. Thinking he was fleeing, they thought he was a coward and charged harder.

Now heat came from Lausaw’s hand, burning Danse’s wrist. She fell to her knees screaming and dropped her dagger. Lausaw curled her arm behind her back and they both got to their feet. He got his other arm around her throat. “Heretic!” he shouted. “I have your woman!” Yendor turned and the soldiers flanked him. “Surrender!” Lausaw called. “or I’ll kill her right here.”

Yendor had only been a wizard for a day. He didn’t know anything. For a fleeting moment he was beaten. There was no way out of this. But then a fury rose up in him unbidden. Perhaps this fury has arisen in everyone in such times; the inability to accept the situation. Usually followed again by resignation at the futility of it. But this time, Yendor’s fury escaped captivity. He shouted and a curling, freezing whirlwind formed on either side of him and he released them to devour the soldiers. Each a mirror of the other, the winds turning one clockwise the other counterclockwise. The soldiers swords were ripped from their hands, their limbs thrown and twisted like ragdolls, they were sucked high up into the air and thrown into the darkening night.

Lausaw redoubled his grip on Danse, using her as a shield. He had no idea what Yendor could do. He wasn’t doing anything that Lausaw recognized. Yendor wasn’t following any teaching Lausaw knew of. Lausaw didn’t know it, but Yendor wasn’t following any teaching at all. The sorcerer held Danse but he too was held. He could do nothing while he had her. She struggled, writhing like a viper. Yendor Picked up one of the swords dropped by the soldier. better than his in every respect; lighter, sharper, longer, better made, plainly. Out of the dark, lightning came down and struck it, filling it with power and wrath.

“Stay back!” screamed Lausaw. Then, eerily, the sorcerer’s horse came to him and knelt. Lausaw crabstepped back to it, pulling Danse with him. He struggled into the saddle, and the horse got up. Yendor sprung toward them, but without removing his grip on the girl to take up the reins, the sorcerer turned the horse and trotted into the night. Full dark had descended and Yendor had no idea which way they had gone. He went to the campsite, stirred up the fire and pulled out a brand. He could find no tracks. “I hate magic!” he said.

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Danu Goddess of the Primordial Waters

“Rolled in the midst of never-ceasing currents flowing without rest forever onward.” Rig Veda1,32,10.

Halloween is coming, and with it, Samhain, the ancient, pagan holiday from which it is derived. Samhain is the Celtics holiday which marks the coming of winter and the death of the deciduous plant life for the year. By extention, it also memorializes all the life that has past that year. This passing from the life of Spring and Summer to the death of Fall and Winter is where the idea of Ghosts and Otherworld creatures roaming our world comes from.

The Goddess of the ancient Celts is called Danu. You will be told that this Goddess is specific to the Irish Celts, but the river Danube which runs through Germany is named for her as well. There is another water Goddess even farther from Ireland named Danu. In India. While researching Danu, for a painting this Halloween I found mention of her, and the belief by some that they are the same Goddess. I found that the Indian version of Danu, which is in the Rig Veda, has been demonized just as the European one has. In India she is the mother of Vitra the dragon, who is defeated by indra. Finding out she’s a dragon only makes me like her even more. Here is an abstract painting of her, rendered in ink in honor of Inktober.

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Friends Always

When I was a kid, there was a phrase that meant “great!” It was, “Out of sight!”. “Man, this cheeseburger is out of sight!” usually, “out-a-sight!”  I was going to to call this painting “Friends are out of sight!” because friends are great, and each of these 3 friends are there for each other even when they are invisible. Ghosts dissappear, black cats can’t be seen in the dark, and the moon seems to disappear once a month. With these three particular friends, they are still right there even when they can’t be seen, but real friends are there for you even when they’re not actually there. You know they will stand up for you, and encourage you, and protect you even when you are apart. Now, that’s “Out of sight!”

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Requiem The Dragon

How did I end up living in a tent, dressed like some cosplayer from some medieval drama, complete with swords, daggers and cloak? Certainly the gypsy fortune-teller had a lot to do with it, but it started with the cloak. Back when I lived in reality, My wife, my son & I all decided to dress as Jedi for Halloween. Oh, it was my idea. I got some brown wool cloth on clearance at the local fabric store. I was all, “I’m bringing cloaks back!” They’re warm, they look cool, I’ll get my wife to make me one and I’ll wear it all the time!
I never wore that thing after Halloween. Until it came time to leave.
That first night, I knew it would be cold. I couldn’t afford a motel. I took the cloak, but it over my puffy coat, and took the dagger from the cutlery store in case I ran into trouble. That dagger was a show piece. Meant for display. It was a miniature of a two-handed sword. I was going to display it but it never got put up. The sheath was made of wood. Not very practicle. I feared if it came down to it, the blade would probably break.
I was wrong. That thing is still one of my deadliest weapons. Sharp, long and as strong as any blade twice it’s size.
Anyway, of course it snowed that first night. My wool cloak really came in handy. I lived in Oregon so there are woods everywhere. I just found a wooded area and crept into the lee of a bush, wishing I wasn’t sober. Morning found me back in town at Starbucks, wondering what I was going to do with my life. I felt no motivation for anything. I had spent my life to that point working one low paying job after the next, trying to get work that my art degree had prepared me for. Then I got married and we had two children, and now that part of my life was over. I was never going to work for some bullshit low wage job again. I had basically chosen to be homeless, and I was trying it out.
I’ve found a lot of homeless people have similar thought processes. It’s a hard pitiless existence, and whatever pride we can find, we hold onto.
Those first days are kind of blur. Did I go to the fortune-teller that first day? was it later? I’m not sure. In the past, I had avoided them, even though I was fascinated by the idea of them. I figured they were mostly fake, expensive charlatans, and if some were real and I got one of those, I didn’t want to know what they would say. Now, it didn’t matter. Hitting bottom can really open your eyes.
I still had some cash on me, and I was pretty out of it, mentally. Going to a psychic when you don’t have a roof over your head is a poor financial decision. But desperate people do weird things.
I was wandering the streets as the sun sunk down, bathing the town in the sacred blue glow of twilight. There was a small house among the commercial buildings nestled back behind a small yard. There was a neon sign in the window. PSYCHIC. I’d never seen it before. Maybe it appeared from another dimension. Maybe you see things when you’re walking that you don’t notice when you’re driving. I felt compelled to go in. What did I expect? An old lady in a flannel shirt with big crystal rings? A man with long hair in a ponytail and a calm voice with cds of himself playing singing bowls for sale on the side?
She was small. Smaller than me, and I’m 5’4″ and thinner than tin foil. She had on a pale blue blouse. The kind that has a big neck with elastic so it can be worn at the shoulders. She had a patchwork skirt that showed her ankles when she walked. She had the scarf over her hair and the hoop earings, and olive skin. Now Gypsys are from where? They’re called Roma, which sounds like Rome or Romania. My money would be on Romania. Gypsy is short for Egyptian, but I think that’s like calling Native Americans Indians. Her eyes were mesmerizing. Were they big? I think so. That’s how I remember them, but my memory plays tricks on me.
“I am Olga.” she said as she answered the door. She gave me the once over, Cloak, slept outside last night, no shower, no shave, although I have a mustache and goatee, so that’s not as noticeable on me. People either stare or look away. She didn’t seem to think I looked out of sorts.
“How much?” I asked, ready to bolt if it was more than a ridiculously small price.
“Have a seat,” she said, and smiled at me for the first time. Maybe all is not lost, I thought. “Have a glass of wine with me.” she said.
“I don’t drink.” I said.
“This isn’t a regular glass of wine. It’s special.” She pulled out an unlabled bottle with a wicker wrapping around the bottom and two glasses. It was red. She didn’t pour an excessive amount. Well, I’m already homeless. I thought, and she smiled as if she had heard me.
“You are on the Path.” she said.

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The Silver Bough

Though she be small, she is mighty and fierce. Discount her fury at your peril for her purpose is just & her will is unbreakable.

Alive is a land which lurks in the mist

Afar is a font where the fairy folk fly

Many are the men who murmur, “It does not exist.”

For fear of the foe who flit by the eye

Some say the secret to seeing the fae

Is to speak what you seek at the end of the day

As the daylight dusk darkens & purples the sky

The stars start to sparkle & you solemnly say:

“Ethereal elves, spirits & sprites, pixies & brownies and fairies delight

Dryads & naiads, sirens & sylphs;

Tuatha de Danann, Come visit tonight!

 

A light hum emanated for the dew covered daisies and daffodils springing in the meadow

A glinting, gleaming gossamer flicker of flying, flashing feathery fluff

Was the only glimpse of the sundrenched lemon drop sprite

Spinning lazily in the early morning light.

 

As the slow, sultry summer sings sunny, slothful Saturday

The shadows sweep silently, stealthily, sinkingly, towards sunset

The twinkling twilight tells its tale of the tail end of the day

And darkness descends.

🌄🌌

When dusk’s disc disappears, drowning in darkness

Shadow upon shadow shields the secrets seeking solace, silently safe from sight

Never knowing comfort Hardly hearing howling horrors

Hiding, biding, biting

crawling, calling, bawling

Through the night.

Falling fearful foul, freak fancies flying; filled with fiery fright.

Call the faeries all the fae, luminous and bright

glimmering with glamour

glittering and gossamer

and glowing with delight

Banishing the  banshee

Shining hope and joy

And life & love & light.

🌑

 

On that moonless dark night

Oh, how the nightmares come

In mists and in shrouds

With long curving fangs

And glistening malevolent eyes

Beating their bat wings

The gargoyles growling tails

Twitching they descended upon the babe, to feast upon his fear

The Fae, they were waiting

Ready with bows & blades

& pikes & spear to defend the boy child from the demonic host

In that babe’s room of smiling suns & plush bunnies, the battle ensued

Silver flashed in the dim light and arrows flew

Sharp teeth & claws, forked tails & gleaming eyes

The battle was fought and shone in the sleeping babe’s dreams

Shrouded in shadow, the muffled thumps and clash of blades frightened the child

As any haunting horror

The grand production featured the fae and the demon battle

The violence fed the fevered visions of the innocent.

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The Trail of Ghosts

The sorcorers had come for the dragons in the early days. Before Incarnate even. They came with their greed and their small minded prejudice. They judged dragons to be evil so they could point to an enemy to rally people against. Dragons were hunted and feared. They were nearly invincible, such was their power, longevity & wisdom. Their compassion was unmatched, yet man found a way to test its limits and go well beyond. The shortsighted cruelty, the unnecessary violence. The relentless pursuit of dragons to the ends of the earth, seeking their utter annihilation. All to justify their need for control.

Dragons were hard to kill. A dragon can withstand an entire army of humans in a straightforward battle. Which is probably why humans refused to engage in them. They claimed to be reasonable and compassionate; indeed, this was the definition of “humane”, but they did not behave that way. It was not in their nature at all.

Entire forests were burned to hunt them down. Their young, murdered in the shell. Starvation, dehydration, madness. Waged generation after generation. Until the few dragons left lived as ghosts, invisible, without leaving any tracks, no traces. Living in the most inhospitable climates, in the darkest secret places, almost resembling the monsters they were depicted as.

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