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The Blade of the Crescent Moon

The Hall of the Palace Guarde was an ancient an honored place. It was made of stones hewn from fine quarries from all over the archipelago. The outer walls gleamed with the naturally occurring sparkle within the marble, and granite. The inner rooms were inlaid with rare and exotic woods. There was a library with priceless tomes of Immaculate pedigree. There were private rooms for conferences downstairs and upstairs rooms to accommodate the weary traveler, also of Immaculate pedigree. The high ranking and well to do officers of the Elite Sorcerer’s army came here to impress each other with their accolades and fine acutrements. The jeweled swords they wore had mostly never seen battle. More important even than impressing each other, these fine weapons served the purpose of impressing the officers with themselves.

Weapons crafted by Stradivarious, or Fabrige, there were rapiers, dirks, broadswords, spathas, cutlasses and scimitars. Many carried lengthy stories of the exploits of previous owners; sorcerers, brigands, princes, slayers of hideous beasts. One such weapon was the blade of the crescent moon. Fashioned into its rain guard was a jewel: a diamond in the shape of the new moon. It was a long, thin, double edged blade.

The fable went that it was among the first of the thin bladed swords that would come into fashion in the centuries to come. It was fashioned to be lightweight, fast but able to stand up to sparring with heavier blades. Currently, its handle was a leather wrapped around a sturdy iron hilt. The blade had been used by pirates, princes, sorcerers and thieves.

Its current owner, Captain Branghost, had acquired it in a shop while stationed in the farthest reaches of the archipelago in the south east. He had been searching for a blade that was both beautiful and legendary. There were fancier swords, bigger swords, more expensive swords, but few had such a distinguished pedigree. The captain had never used in combat. Whenever he had to go into the field, he used a regulation bastard. This sword was for the Hall. The captain came here when he could. He liked to be around the elite. Of course there was no “Royal Guard”, nor had there been since Incarnate had become Sorcerer Supreme. There was no higher rank in all of Fawn of the Ta Sea. The kings and queens had all bowed down to Incarnate as he defeated island after island. Here on Fawn, the Hall and the Palace had become the sorcerer’s headquarters. It was said more plans were laid at the Hall. Incarnate himself traveled extensively and was rarely here. His own castle, the Black Keep, was Incarnate’s home and he spent most down time there. Incarnate rarely held court, though when he did, he came to the Palace here in Fawn.

Captain Branghost finished his brandy, which had been served to him in a jeweled goblet. He stood at the bar a moment longer, looking at himself sidelong in the polished silver mirror on the wall next to the bar where he stood. His dark mustache was loosing its curl on one side and the captain decided it was time to call it a day. He smiled at his comrades, most of whom smiled back. The captain, like many the the elite “Midnight order,” had a backstabbing reputation. It would not do to cross him. He was zealous in his work, which was collecting zeros as he referred to the riff raff that filled the prison camps. They were the rebels, the undesirables, the homosexuals, the deviants, the poor, the darks, the malformed. There were so many. The problem was they were allowed to exist on the fringes, breeding like vermin. They had to cross some line to be erased. The captain was given broad discretion when it came to determining what that line was, but still, they seemed to come in unending supply.

The captain stepped out into the night to discover a cold drizzle had come on since this afternoon. He wrapped his cloak about him and set off for home. He began loose his cheery disposition as the rain crept inside his uniform. Like most officers, he wore the helmet d’shon, which showed his rank and caused everyone he came into contact with to show him great deference. It’s size prohibited the captain to don the hood of his cloak and did not offer him equitable protection. He was debating taking it off so he could put his hood on and so was deep in thought when he collided with someone on the street.

“Look where you’re going, you oaf!” he said, without really looking.

“Beg your pardon, sir!” said the young boy, who was about to flee for his life.

“Stand to, boy!” said the captain in his captain’s voice. “Where are you going in such a rush?”

“Oh, home, sir! I just wanted to get out of the cold.” The boy was dressed in rags, no cloak or coat, his face filthy. He was skin and bones.

“You think you can just run into an officer of Incarnate’s elite and expect to go home unscathed?” bellowed the captain, warming to his sudden evening’s entertainment.

The boy fell to his knees, “Please, sir, I’m just trying to get home! I meant no harm.” He clasped his hands together, pleading. Pathetic.

Captain Branghost was already bored. There was no spirit in this one. He pulled his sword, unsure if he was going to beat the child or run him through. The boy saw the sword and let out a scream that immediately gave the captain a headache. He raised his sword, still unsure how he would employ it, when he got a surprise. A lithe figure, dressed in black, stepped between he and the boy. Things were looking up again. The intruder wasn’t more than a boy himself.

“Well, let’s hear it!” said the captain. “‘Oh, let the poor boy go! He’s just a boy! He’s unarmed!” Here the captain employed what he thought of as a stage woman’s voice. He was already telling this tale to his friends in his head.

The brigand drew his sword, slowly, still silent. It was chipped and without any shine. The edge was probably as dull as the finish. Captain Branghost smiled.

The captain brought his sword down, aiming for his opponent’s blade. He assumed he would chop it right in half, but the lad was quick and parried by catching the attack at the cross guard. Then he kicked captain Branghost in the stomach. The captain staggered back but recovered quickly. Probably this ruffian had been in a scrape or two but he had never faced a captain in the elite army before! Branghost stepped back into the fray slashing at his opponent furiously, never giving him an opportunity to take the offensive.

Branghost decided the boy had no formal training but had learned to handle himself, probably on the streets. He must be a thief. Perhaps a highwayman. The boy they were fighting over was long gone. If he did have a home to go to it wasn’t in this district. The boy was probably homeless and was a cut purse. Maybe these two were working together to rob passersby, and they had made the wrong mark.

The captain could tell his foe was desperately looking for an opening, so he decided to give him one. He pretended to slip in the rain and feinted left as if he were losing his balance. The fool went for it and lunged. Branghost pulled the thief by his wrist, using his own forward momentum against him and throwing him off balance. He placed his blade at the whelp’s neck.

“Say ‘goodbye,’ zero.” He said.

Instead of his foe’s eyes filling with fear as he had expected, they grew furious upon hearing this. No matter, just a moment…

Suddenly, there was a searing pain in the captain’s calf. The thief used the moment to break free. He had turned his sword down and stabbed Branghost in the leg, even as his sword arm was pinned. Treachery! The time for banter was over. The cut wasn’t deadly but is was more than a scratch. It was hard to put weight on that leg now. He held his blade up and waited for an attack.

Zero. That’s what the man who had taken Danse had called them. They must be from the same regiment. Yendor could see that this man was a superior swordsman. He had gotten careless with his feint, but Yendor wouldn’t get so lucky a second time. The officer was extra cautious. He was hurt, but not badly. Yendor was under strict orders not to use magic or he could expose the coven. They only ever practiced in their cavern where they couldn’t be detected by the sorcerers. The wizards would be furious that Yendor had even defended the boy at all. Keeping the coven safe was their highest priority and not even the life of an innocent boy was worth exposing them. They dreamed they’d save humanity one day, but how no one knew.

Yendor had stabbed the guy’s left leg so Yendor circled to his left, forcing the man to reposition that leg repeatedly. Yendor feigned an attack a few times but the officer was not fooled. Yendor felt energy flowing through him as when he had during the concert. He realized he had never held back before. He wasn’t sure that he could. It would be better to do it on purpose than let it come out accidentally. His back was actually burning now with the unreleased force.

Branghost could see the boy trying to figure out what to do next. He was preoccupied. He might not get a better opportunity to attack. He lunged and thrust at Yendor’s chest, and Yendor, surprised pointed his sword at the officer and a bolt of lightning pulsed from it, striking the captain in the chest. The captain fell to the ground, smoking. Yendor saw the sword. It was beautiful. He had never seen anything so beautiful. And now it was his.

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The Wizards

As far as Yendor could see, he was the only witness to the parade. The sun had come out and shone upon them in that way that looks like a blessing from above, streaks of sunbeams spotlighting the park. They had staves topped with crystals, some glowing, others plain. Their holy garments were trimmed with sigils of unknown meaning which gleamed in the light. The procession came complete with choreographed gestures and chanting in archaic languages. It was glorious. One man held a brass pole atop which flowed two banners hung from a crossbeam. One banner was a deep blue with a dragon etched in gold, the other was a brilliant orange with a tiger outlined in black embroidery. One kept time on a drum while another accompanied with a flute.

When they were done, the one in red, who had winked at Yendor, turned to him and gestured for him to join them. Yendor came out and walked to them as if in a trance. His very being felt like it was covered in pins, he tingled all over. His ears were hot. The sensation was similar to when he had met Danse.

“We don’t usually have an audience.” Said the man in red. “I’m Nicholas. These are my compatriots.”

“I’m Yendor.”

“We shall have a feast, which is only symbolic, I’m afraid. And then we shall have another procession. Will you join us?” His smile was warm and genuine, and Yendor had not seen one in a long time. Even the Solstice folk had not seemed so welcoming.

“Aren’t you late?” Yendor asked.

“Not at all. The ancients kept a different calendar. We go by the old ways.” A table had been set up and the food was being laid out. It wasn’t a lot, but it was fancy. Cheeses, expensive meats, wine.

The conversation Yendor wanted to have was dangerous but what choice did he have. He had been taught his whole life not to talk about such things. He had nervously talked with Danse about these things, but that seemed almost a lark between friends. This felt official, but he had to do it. “You’re wizards.” He said.

Nicholas said nothing, but his smile did not falter.

“I am also. That is I want to be.” Yendor felt very hot. He voice trembled and he shook a bit.

“Are you now?” said the man in purple. Like Nicholas, he had a beard. They appeared to be of an age.

Suddenly Yendor felt like a child being questioned by an elder.

“Yendor, this is Konstantine.” said Nicholas. Konstantine did not have Nicholas’s smile.

Yendor remembered his actions at the detention camp. He looked around and came to his senses. He could probably take these old men if they gave him trouble.

“I am.” He said with confidence.

“You’re a wizard if I say you are.” said Konstantine sternly. Nicholas seemed to demure to him.

“When I was born, I was delivered by Gwenchlan. Who told my parents I was to be a wizard. Do you gainsay him?” Yendor said. He hadn’t meant to speak like that. He wasn’t sure where that came from. Had he ever even said the name aloud before?

“He has a tongue, this one.” said a woman wearing blue and silver. She didn’t sound critical, but amused.

A man wearing a claret color stepped in. “Where did you hear that name, whelp?” This one was hostile. Yendor knew how to respond to that.

“My master told me, as I was given up to him upon the news.” Yendor stood a little taller.

“Speak to us with respect, or not at all!” demanded the wine colored wizard, imperiously.

Yendor was ready with a retort, when Konstantine intervened. “That’s enough.” he said. “I’ve not heard the name Gwenchlan in an age. It is not well known. How did you find us, then young Yendor?”

Yendor calmed himself. He had had little interaction that wasn’t violent in some time. “I sought you out. I came from Elphendor here to dawn to the library to find clues. The song of the Goddess, told of the parade of the solstice. I reasoned that since these traditions were popular in ancient times but no more, that they were wizard traditions. It was coincidence that it took me so long to find the right clues that it was time for the solstice.”

“There’s no such thing as coincidence, boy.” said the woman in blue.

“He is a spy!” said the claret colored one. “We are found out! This foolish adherence to tradition has been our doom!”

“I’m not a spy. I am a wizard. I need training. My power is unmanageable.”

Nicholas laughed at that. “What power is that, young wizard?”

“He has no power.” Claret said.

“Be quiet, Ambrosius.” Said the woman in blue. “I am Sapphosia.” She said. She produced a red crystal from within her garments. The coven took a step back, seemingly anxious at seeing it. “would you hold this crystal? It is the root, the muladhara. It is the beginning.

“Fool! You act impetuously. We must fly before his sorcerers arrive to destroy us forever!”

Sapphosia rose to her full height, stretched out her arms and held her scepter topped with a matching blue crystal which was now glowing furiously. “I said quiet!” So brilliant was the glow that beyond it all seemed dark. All the coven bowed before her. After a moment all returned to normal. Yendor’s heart beat within his chest. What have I gotten into? he thought.

She turned to him, smiling, to calm him. “Will you take the stone?” she asked.

He took it from her.

“Can you light it?” She asked.

The crystal was the size of a pebble. Yendor closed his fist around it, unsure how to proceed. He opened his hand and held the crystal aloft. Nothing happened.

“You see, he is a fraud!” hissed Ambrosius. Everyone glared at him.

Yendor strained, but still nothing happened.

Ambrosius could hardly contain himself. He shook his head. Yendor could hear the winter birds chirp in the nearby trees as the seconds passed. Some of the wizards shifted the weight from one leg to another.

Finally, Ambrosius could take it no longer. “He is a nothing! He dooms us. Let us forget our task and tarry here no longer.” Ambrosius moved to snatch away the stone and as he did, Yendor’s temper flared. A bolt of lightning came down from the sky and lit the stone a blinding white. Ambrosius leapt back in the nick of time. “Sorcerer!” he said, pointing.

“You see, I have trouble controlling it.” said Yendor.

Another woman, wearing brilliant white with white shiny sigils trimming her garments came forward. “May I?” she asked. Yendor nodded. She took the stone, which shone still. “It is not hot.” she said. “Yendor, I am Hildegard. We are the Coven of the Sacred Deer. Perhaps we are all that is left of the wizards.” She gestured to the others. “You have met Nicholas, Ambrosius, the priestess, Sapphosia, and our leader Konstantine. In the orange is Brigitte, wearing yellow is Tertullian. That fellow clad in green is Isidore. In the black is Aphrahat. He looks gloomy, but his harp and his cooking will bring you warmth. In the indigo is Taliesin. Wearing forest green is Ygraine.”

“That is eleven.” Said Yendor. “I thought there was supposed to be twelve. Plus the devil of course for thirteen.”

“The Goddess is thirteen. It is the evil one who calls her the devil.” said Sapphosia.

“Perhaps you will be our twelfth.” Said Hildegard.

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#AlwaysChooseLove

the faerie TreeI am a scatterbrain. Maybe I have a condition: ADD or ADHD. I don’t know. I flit from subject to subject. Lately I have been concentrating on Faeries. I am in the process of writing and illustrating a children’s book about faeries. It will be written in part if not wholly in some form of verse. I could conceivably write it in verse and prose and claim the whole thing was “free verse” which in part took a prose like form. I’ve read some modern poetry which seems to me to be prose. Incidental reminiscing of mundane events, beautifully rendered and proffered as poetry in the latest poetry journals which I leave on the shelf unbought because I don’t identify with it. It doesn’t touch me or move me. So, whose going to identify with faerie poetry written in some archaic style that people don’t even read anymore? I will I guess.

I’ve eluded to my process before; it’s rather backwards. I’m sketching faeries, writing whimsical verse with a fountain pen in a beautifully bound sketchbook. I’m approaching my subject elliptically, sneaking up on it, as it were. My son has nightmares, so I’ve decided that I am going to have the faeries chase out the nightmares. That’s basically the plot as of now.faerie Knight

I’ve also discovered that the faeries wear armor and live kind of like gypsies; in fancy wagons and stuff. So, it’s slowly taking shape in the fog. The nightmares themselves may be creatures of the otherworld too. My hope is reading this book, children will go to bed, feeling they have the power to drive away nightmares. Psychologically, if one feels they need not fear nightmares, then that is precisely the case. It’s all very FDRian.

So, now I have to come up with the dark creatures, which shouldn’t be a problem, given the genre; there’s probably more scary creatures in the otherworld than friendly ones. I’ll probably have a child for the fae to protect, and maybe Danu herself will make an appearance. That’s why I started this post with the bit about being scatterbrained. I wanted to abandon the faeries and court the Goddess for a time; but in the space of a few paragraphs I see the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The Goddess by the way is Love. whether she is Danu, Devi, Gaia, Demeter or Isis. Or Jesus, or Krishna for that matter. Whatever name you worship: #alwayschooselove.wiccan-grail-001

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Faerie Sketches

I’ve been working on a new series of faerie sketches for a children’s book. Some are more finished than others. Most of them are in a little 5×7 sketchbook that my wife gave me as a gift, so the sketches are kind of small. These newer ones are being done with water soluble graphite, watercolor pencils and markers. They are helping me to flesh out the story. I’ve also been writing some poetry for the book, but again, more as sketches or ideas that may or may not end up in the book.

All I can really tell for sure is I probably won’t do the finished pieces in watercolor pencil and marker.

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Marina

 

Marina was born on the night of a surging storm. The clouds hid the moon, but the sky was lit intermittently by blue crackling lightning. It  was neither cold nor warm. The whole of the sky was filled with dark, thundering clouds, rolling in the wind. These things didn’t frighten the newborn Marina; she was a raindrop. The whole world was rain.
For a time, the wind blew Marina in the clouds where she was born. In the diffused electric light of the lightning behind the clouds, she could see the other baby raindrops whirling around in the high winds of the sky, playing in the clouds.
Marina played in the clouds, too. Weightless and small, she flew around and around, whirling and dancing in the safety of the clouds. Sometimes the wind would slow down, and marina would fall, laughing gleefully almost to the bottom of the clouds, but then she would catch another gust of wind and go soaring back up into the clouds.

When the lightning lit up the clouds, you could see marina, clear, and round, and pure, spinning up into the highest part of the clouds, only to be lost in the millions of baby raindrops swirling in the sky.
Once the wind blew Marina above the clouds where the moon shown its cool, distant light over the surface of the clouds, stretching as far as the eye could see. The clouds glowed in the moonlight, and swirled and danced in the wind. Marina realized the clouds were made of tiny dancing baby raindrops, and that she made up a very small part of clouds. She never wanted to leave.
Marina danced among the clouds, and began to grow. Tiny bits of mist through which she danced became part of her.
As morning came, marina began to fall beneath the clouds. The cool grey clouds began to blur. All around marina, there were millions of other raindrops all falling through the endless sky. She became friends with many of the raindrops around her. Some became part of her life.
The storm began to grow cold. The rain cascaded into a wind that was getting bitter from blowing for so long in the distance, lightning was shattering ice.
Marina’s heart was born. It solidified into crystal ice. Marina took shape as only marina ever would. She sprang out in six directions at once. All around her, rain was blossoming into snow.
Marina swirled, and danced, and floated and, fell. all with vigor new to her. For the first time she looked where she was. Marina sparkled in the diffused morning light in an endless sky of glittering snow.
Far above were the distant massive storm clouds of her birth. Far below she could see glittering blue. Marina wondered what future awaited her in the vast blue expanse.
Marina saw a brilliant light at the end of the vast expanse of clouds. The sun was breaking through the grey above. Great shining streaks of light poured through the sky. Marina felt the glorious warmth of the sunlight and melted back into a clear shining raindrop.
Marina and her friends basked in gleaming morning sunlight. She could see light pouring through her and her friends creating an arcing rainbow that stretched to the sparkling sea below.
Marina and her friends wondered about the sea and what it held for them. Marina seemed to have an inner feeling that the sea was good, almost like a memory.
Quite unexpectedly, marina came upon the sea as she plummeted into the vast unknown; she realized that she had been here before. She became the sea. Once a drop of water enters the ocean it is no longer a drop of water but part of the greater whole. Marina felt her self lap on distant shores; she welcomed the rain that swelled the ocean. Marina had come home.
Far away, in the sky a tiny bit of mist becomes a  swirling baby raindrop, dancing in the clouds.

 

Own your copy here.
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On the Hunt

faerieEPSON024What mysteries lurk beneath the surface, looking outward, unseen; waiting to be discovered? My work methods are unorthodox. Try as I might to sit down and devise a tale of my own making, I find it’s a bit like hunting. Not that I have ever hunted anything except cats with my childhood dog; Heidi. Nevertheless. One has to pick up the scent, track one’s quarry. I have to lay in wait, sniff the wind. It’s a merry dance, the hunt. I do research, I conceive a subject; in this case faeries. I devise a format: a picture book. I want it to be in verse, but not the verse of picture books. They’re all so much the same.
My research takes me to medieval poetry. I skip Victorian because that’s where everyone hunts for fairies. But I’m not looking for the story. I’m looking for the voice. I’m looking for something antiquated. Something to give a flavor of a treasure long-lost and discovered anew. In medieval verse, there was a taste for alliteration as much as if not more than rhyme. I find I’m not ready to unravel sonnets and the tricks of language that make poets from Shakespeare to Shelly thought great. Wordsworth’s genius eludes me. I find I like Taliesin.

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To lure my prey I paint some of my subject. I write endless babble without any plot or destination in mind.


Then, back in the real world, my one year old is having nightmares. I feel this is my legacy. He has his mother’s eyes, and his father’s untamable imagination. Perhaps the faeries can be called upon to drive them away. I’m generally unconcerned with whether fairies are mischievous as conceived in the Christian era or minor nature gods as seen previous to that. To me all things are manifestations of the Source: Love. In fact, along the way as I fill my sketch book with non sequiturs and rubbish, I hit upon a new mantra: Always choose love. It becomes my hashtag. It is to be a guiding principle in all I do and create, so that when I am done here, I won’t have left only rubbish behind. Looking back on my work, one could argue that it has always been my mantra, just latent, undiscovered. So my faeries will be bringers of light.
I may be getting closer, but still the hunt goes on.faerie

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The Lady in White

Now available as a nook!

Before the internet, finding pictures of Saint Bernadette to illustrate took some research. When I found them, I felt like I found treasure. This book is the result

The story of Saint Bernadette and her vision of the Virgin Mary.

The day Bernadette’s life was to change forever, started out like most others for Bernadette; She was cold. Then something happened that she couldn’t believe. Nobody could. Find out what.
This is a short picture book, beautifully illustrated with watercolors. Get your copy here.
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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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The New Adventures of Young Robin Hood

The sheriff went pale with shock. “You let Marian go and take me instead! If you can!”
“And who might you be?” yelled the sheriff.
“Why I’m Robin! Robin Hood of course!” and with that, Robin beat a retreat back the way he had come.

Join all your favorite characters and meet some new ones in this new retelling of the classic folktale.

Available here.