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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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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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Tale of the Fae

image
Alaw’r Dŵr Prepares Her Attack

When a man sets out to tell a tale, he wants to entertain with adventure, action and fun. He cares not of lofty goals or higher ends. Yet tales have a way of telling themselves; at least when they are told correctly. Unseen turns and hidden paths reveal themselves with each step. Shadows shift as our eyes adjust, and then there is a flash of light as confusing as the darkness before. In the end we may have told a different story than we set out to, but it is the one that wanted to be told. We care not, so long as there is adventure, action and fun.
The road was familiar even at night. The houses, the neighborhood, the shops and bars were all known. This was home. Wandering home from somewhere, he became lost. The streetlights cast a garish glow that did little to dispell the stark and encroaching shadows. Once again he was alone in the night in a strange place. The breeze chilled his skin as it stroked his face and moaned through the sycamores. Leaves rustled and unseen whispers could be heard. Without warning a horse seemed to bear down on him, rider unseen. It was too close, too sudden; he would be trampled by the mindless beast.
Rhyder sat bolt upright in bed. Another nightmare. His wife beside him, his son in his crib across the room. The feeling of fear and disorientation hung over him, but slowly faded. He drank the water from the table by the bed and drifted back to sleep. Moments later the baby, his son, woke screaming. Rhyder leapt up and picked up his son and held him to him. The crying was unconsolable. When at last he had calmed his boy and gotten him back to sleep, he found that sleep for himself was elusive. With a heavy heart he realised his son had inherited his nightmares.

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Robin Hood 1

The stones of the castle wall had been searingly cold for months. Since October really. September if you thought about it. The fireplace threw off some heat to the room. The braziers helped. The kitchen was warm sometimes. The torches and the candles did little to keep the gloom at bay and nothing in the way of warmth. Nothing though, could dispel the cold of the thick stones that comprised the building proper. The thrushes on the floor didn’t really provide any kind of barrier, and had to be replaced constantly with fresh ones or they just became litter.
Even a stocky and bear of a man as William Brewer wore his heavy boots everywhere except to bed. Like his grandfather, he was known as Big Bill Brewer, and as sheriff, he used his weight to intimidate the subjects in his care. He stoked the fire himself, mindful of the winter’s stockpile. It wasn’t unlimited. Although he was on his way to becoming a baron, he was at this time just a sheriff albeit; High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, it was a position, not a noble title.
Though fortified by a thick wall and built of heavy stone, the fortress wasn’t really a castle in the proper sense, though everyone referred to it as the castle. It kept out the bandits, but not the cold. He had but a few servants and with his wife, who was as formidable as he was, performed many of the household chores himself. Weary from a long day of suffering fools, he put out the last of the candles, took off the boots and climbed into the cold bed, and prayed for sleep as his foul breath came out in chattering plumes.

e i h

High in a sturdy and ancient oak, there was another house of wattle and daub. It was invisible from the outside, though inside it was aglow with homemade candles. This room was much smaller though that had its advantages. For one thing, it was much easier to heat. The simple furnishings were cunningly fashioned in such a way as to fold away at night to make room for a bed. Marian sat in a chair in the corner and watched Robin lay it out. He started with three thick comforters, one from his childhood and two from hers. He laid them out in the meager space, centering them to provide both Marian and he equal cushion. Upon these, he laid several more blankets of varying size and shape, centering each one carefully and smoothing out any wrinkles. There was the course wool blanket made by the Smith wife in the village, there was the blanket won at the fair as a boy. There were nine layers all told, made fresh every night.. At this point, Robin lay down two down pillows, a gift from a family in town when they heard they had none. Finally, Robin lay down a few more blankets to cover them and they lay down to cuddle and keep each other warm. Marian blew out the candle and marveled how she had come to live in a tree in the forest with an outlaw.
The day they came to evict Robin from his childhood home, he was already gone. He had taken everything so Big Bear Brewer would get nothing. He had spirited his meager belongings into the woods, weary of the thieves that populated the forest, but willing to take his chances. Bill had threatened Robin with imprisonment, as well as seizing his property if there was trouble. Robin wanted trouble, but he had been talked into fighting another day. He had planned on watching from a hiding spot, but couldn’t bear it. In his minds eye, he saw the Bear arrive with a handful of deputies. He saw himself loose arrow after arrow into each man’s heart. Then he would be a murderer. His great great grandfather had built that house before the Normans had come, and now one of Brewer’s men lived there.
At first, the taxes had not been much. They were levied, it was claimed, to support the office of the sheriff, who protected the subjects of the realm from outlaws. As far as anyone could tell, the only outlaws sheriff brewer went after were the ones who’s crime was not to pay the ever increasing tax. Tax was supposed to go to paying for services such as roads, or actual law enforcement, but everyone knew Bill sent some to the crown for the privilege of being sheriff, and kept the rest to fill his coffers. The nobles could pay the crown directly and thus escape Bill’s tax with a writ of exemption, but the lump sums required for such a writ was too steep for the commoners. Some of the nobles would complain from time to time, to the realm, at the bequest of the servants who worked for them, that Bills methods were corrupt.. But Bill was wily, and hid his money in “monestaries” he gave to. He would retire to them one day, and find them nicely furnished and waiting for him.

The first night in the woods, there was no tree house, no Marian, no blankets and not much sleep. As a Yeoman, and the son and grandson of a Yeoman, Robin was no stranger to sleeping in the woods. It was just very different when it was not by choice. He built a fire to cook the rabbit he had caught for dinner. there was no biscuits or coffee or beer that night. He set his leanto and his thin bedroll and said to himself; “Here’s your new home Robin. Nice view, but a bit draughty.” The water from Spritescreek had been bracingly cold, and had never tasted better.
Robin found it hard to keep his mind from wondering how he could regain his property, his reputation, and his place in Nottingham. Yet, the forest was alive with sound that kept him from forming any concrete plans. He thought he heard voices and clumsy movement in the trees. Then at one point, it was quiet. A hush fell over the forest. It was louder than the noises that preceded it. Robin quietly pulled the thin cover off him, and silently moved to look out of his tent. He expected to see a murderous brigand. Instead, he saw a stag. Regal and lit by the moon. When he saw Robin, he didn’t dart away, but lowered his great antlered head, revealing a star filled sky with the effect of a cascade of celestial light showering down upon them. Silently Robin approached the deer and placed his hand on the muzzle of the noble beast. It was a singular moment in Robin’s life, as if the forest welcomed him and offered him protection. Once again, the stag bowed and with a lingering look from his shining black eye, he turned and disappeared. Slowly the forest came back to life but without the clumsy ghosts he had heard earlier.
When Robin woke in the morning, he wondered if he had dreamt the incident, but there in the soft dew covered ground, was the unmistakable deer track. From that moment on, whenever doubt or fear entered Robin’s head, any uncertainty about the future; he remembered that night and that provisioned him with such courage as to forge ahead, no matter the odds.

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Marina

Marina is a baby raindrop floating in the clouds. Follow her on her journey through life as she makes friends, becomes part of a community, blossoms into a unique individual and contemplates life in this short, poetic story about life. Beautifully illustrated with aquatint etchings. This is not your typical picture book. Order your copy here.

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Books

 

Currently each of these books are available on amazon.com. Click on an image to find out more and to order order your copy today. My author page is here. This page displays information on books I have published. To see more about books I’m working on, or anything else in the “book‘ category, click here.

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Robin Hood #37 The Sheriff, Marian

Sheriff James Brewer was ecstatic. No one had ever seen him so giddy. It was frightening. The sheriff would look wistfully up into the distance and talk longingly of Robin’s summary execution. Then his eyes would refocus and he would engage people around the room on what kind of tortures to subject Robin to first. They would have to start him out slow, they didn’t want to overdue it too quickly, his pain might become to intense to register further torture. He might expire. The sheriff wanted to see Robin weep. He wanted to see Robin lose control of his bowels, of all his bodily functions. He wanted to clear a field big enough for all of Nottinghamshire to gather to witness the humiliation, lest anyone think such behavior might be tolerated. he’d heard of such public tortures in London. Spies or traitors would be disemboweled in front of their families and the countryside would gather and buy souvenirs to mark the occasion.
There would be a public trial where the sheriff, an expert at trials, would explain how Robin had perpetrated these crimes on the people themselves. Which, when you stop to consider that the sheriff was a public servant and the money Robin stole was the public funds, was actually true. The public would be screaming for Robin’s head. Why, the sheriff would find himself in the awkward position of having to protect Robin from the people of Nottingham. He’d seen such things before with his own eyes.
This was call for a celebration. He would feed the entire shire for a day! He would send to his coffers and get enough petty cash to pay for a feast. He could recoup the cost by collecting a tax. It was all over. It had been a long slog, but there had never been any doubt that the side of law and order would win in the end.
He could dismiss that army of rabble. That was actually a relief. They were never quite under his absolute control. They were always going too far, causing trouble, raping killing. The sheriff was of the mind that a little of that went a long way.
And he had won! Now there would be no more opposition. Ever. The peasants of the shire would think twice before they risked life and limb to stand up to the sheriff of Nottingham! To think he had actually feared Robins numbers. It had been all too easy to capture him after all. Robin was foolhardy. That was the problem with most leaders. They were either too weak and timid, or foolhardy. Not Sheriff William Brewer. He had acted wisely on every count. Why he was undefeatable! He would impose new taxes. New tariffs. He would invent new names for new types of taxes. He would retire early and buy a title, it could be done after all. King John was sure to face rebellion at some point, he was such a weakling. He would simply back the winner, and he would have his title. Until then he could live like a king himself in one of his monasteries. This would actually turn out to favor his fortune in the long run.

It began to rain early before dawn the next morning. The clouds had gathered in a cold, biting breeze. Not a blistering wind, but a gentle breeze that curled around you so that you were chilled to the bone before you knew you were cold. The rain began the same way; a gathering mist, swirling and cold, growing heavy and collecting the folds of your clothes until they were damp and clinging to your gooseflesh. Then a slow gentle drizzle, which had grown by the time the sky had lightened, into a steady, unrelenting downpour.

Marian and Tuck went to an inn to dry off and figure out what to do. Marian was disheartened. It seemed to have happened so suddenly. It had been a dangerous game. Somehow treating it as a game had made it doable. If she had ever cause to take the deadly actions they took to seriously, she found she hardly had to nerve to carry them out. Robin’s plan seemed so fraught with holes. How could he have believed it would work. Was he hurt? Undoubtedly.
This was not the first time she found herself surprised to realize how much she had come to care for Robin Hood. He had barged his way into her life with his swashbuckling ways and without asking he had taken a place in her heart. She had witnessed over the course of the last year, how the entire shire seemed to galvanize with hope. Nottinghamshire had been beaten for so long, they had forgotten what is was like to live a life without tyranny. The sheriff had slowly choked the energy out of the shire. At first it had seemed necessary; there had been truly dangerous outlaws in the greenwood, they had been murderers and thieves. The had molested the women and beaten the men and set fire to the towns. It had been quite similar to what was happening now, only less intense. In fact, in retrospect, realizing that the sheriff was behind the current crime wave, Marian wondered if the first crime wave, all those years ago when she was just a girl, had been the sheriff’s doing; to make the populace accept his heavy handedness. Or was the current set of marauders just a grotesque imitation of a genuine crisis? It mattered little either way.
The sheriff had come in with an iron fist and rooted out the bandits. The shire became a place of law and order. There were many hangings in those days. All that work had been costly. The sheriff had had to levy heavy taxes to cover his expenses. Though the crime had died out, the taxes had continued. The sheriff had to maintain vigilance against lawlessness lest the crime return. Yet the taxes went higher still. To pay for upkeep, cover inflation, and etc.. There had been some call for the sheriff to account for his costs, and those who made those calls turned out to be criminals. The calls soon ceased to be made. Then the sheriff claimed that the crown was calling for higher taxes, yet those who traveled abroad could find no trace of other shires increasing their taxes in like fashion. No one dared complain anymore. It was obvious what happened to complainers. People were taxed out of house and home. They just disappeared. No one knew what happened to them.
Then Robin had come from nowhere. At first he was said to be another outlaw from the forest. The sheriff had never truly rid the forest of them. And as the homes in the shire had emptied, the forest seemed to grow thick with outlaws. What choice did they have? But Robin had been different. From the beginning, there were tails of him robbing the rich and giving to the poor. When Marian had challenged Robin to help at the orphanage, she had never expected him to take her up on her offer. Yet he had. He had taught the children to fish and shoot and live off of the land. Robin had taught boys and girls alike. This was unheard of. Girls were supposed to learn to spin and keep a household, not to handle hunting tools. Robin had said that the children of the orphanage were not likely to grow up to be lords and ladies and ought to learn to take care of themselves as best they could. This had impressed Marian as much as anything else. It had been her own assessment of matters as well. She taught girls as well as boys to read and write, and math and history. Father Cedric had not cared for this but it was never his place to say one way or another. Tuck also supported her in her teaching methods.
Then Robin had risked his life to save the orphanage. That had taken some daring. She still had the ribbon from that day. It seemed so long ago, yet whenever she took the ribbon out to look at it, it was still bright yellow. Somehow with all that had happened, she expected it to be faded and frayed. Her arrest and escape. She had not been surprised to see him there ready to rescue her. She had never been one to wait for someone to rescue her. Since then her life in Sherwood Forest seemed Idyllic and tranquil, although at the time, it had seemed anything but, what with the raid on Lincoln’s castle and all. Robin proved himself again to be fearless and selfless. Finally, and most recently, she had risked her own life initially to return to teaching, but ultimately to spy on the sheriff. It had been in an attempt to rescue her once again that had gotten Robin captured. Since Robin had become destitute he had committed himself to rescuing people it seemed. She had learned of the story of Tom and his little girl. Now Robin needed her help, and she wasn’t enough. There was no hope.
She refused to believe that. If Robin had taught her anything, it wasn’t about archery or living in the forest, or swordsmanship. It wasn’t even about helping others. It was that there was always hope. As long as you still breath there’s hope. She would think of something. If she had to dig a tunnel to get Robin out, she would do it. And if she had to do it herself, she would do that too.

 

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