The Select Few

Brent’s Cove, Newfoundland. The place I was born, and then lived-in for ten years before moving to the big city, St. John’s. Childhood offers its own protection from the atrocities of life, but I think most people who lived in the cove felt safe. Even in St. John’s, where I spent by early teenage years, and Montreal where I went to University, and found my first “real” job, I was subjected to very little regarding the grievous affairs of the world. News of such events was given a scant ten or fifteen minutes on the six o’clock TV news, with maybe a few minutes extra on the eleven o’clock news. Anyone under thirty years of age scarcely listened to either.

That’s not to say we did not have world issues to contend with: The Cuban crisis, the Vietnam War, race issues, managed to find their way into our Canadian lives; even my university was the center of a race confrontation where the entire computer system was destroyed, education grinding to a halt for a week or so. Those were all troubling events, but the news surrounding the circumstances moved into the shadow as the days sped by. The reason for that was not our unconcern for what was happening to others; we returned to reacting to the stimulus of our day-to-day lives: the homes we lived in, the people we encountered, the streets we drove on, the sidewalks we walked on, the stores we visited, the workplace, the nightclubs. All else came as outside news and had but a tiny window and a wisp of time to capture our attention.

I mention this, as today we are all inundated with every grim and grizzly encounter that might take place on a planet with 7.5 billion people. I don’t believe we were meant to take on the impact of every depraved situation that a bloated planet of people might conjure up every few seconds. Yes, the speed of information being as it is, that is exactly what is happening—a vast network of interested parties pushing to claim your next second, and then sell you something: maybe an ideology, maybe the latest drug, or maybe, something more sinister, to riddle you with fear. I vote that the latter has a heavy set of interested parties. Fear is a powerful motivator, even if the most likely outcome of a sustained fear is a debilitating state of mind.

We greatly need to understand, believe, accept that we all still live in Brent’s Cove; but we just don’t know it. Now, I’m not so naïve that I accept putting on blinders and ignoring the rest of the world is a solution to anything. Rather, I am equally confident that focusing on your own neighborhood, your friends, your family will have the best possibility of keeping your town, city, or suburb safe and livable, and your mind uncluttered with the constant fear that is being promulgated by the excess of media. Realize, be aware, that when you tune-in you are being sold, set-up for some purpose. Expose yourself to only what you deem relevant and necessary, then tune-out and return to your Brent’s Cove.

So ends part one of my intention.

Part two has to do with  the Selected Few behind the curtain? Yes, they have been there since the commencement of the industrial age, and, in all likelihood, before that. Up until the Internet they knew we were not looking.

But the internet did come along.

From the radio, to the TV, to the Internet, it took less than a century to take the relative freedom and anonymity that folks had to live their own lives, and have them quickly become totally dependent on the system and the paycheck. That, my dear friend, was orchestrated to happen by the Selected Few. We were being corralled by advertising and marketing even as the Sears catalog sat in the outhouse so we could wipe our ass with it. The radio began the propaganda of the “good life;” the TV took over as best it could.

The Internet is the monster.

The big push came after the second world war, and by the time the eighties were upon us, it was quick becoming that two people were required to work to sustain a household: that a university education was a prerequisite for any type of well-paying job, that every family needed a big house, two cars. Soon enough the cost of an education, the cost of insurance, the cost of maintaining a household, was all too often a numbing day to day burden—the noose as tight as could be without total strangulation.

I won’t pretend I’m some well-informed economist. Nor will I for a moment believe that it is only in the past year or so that our world had become unhinged in leadership and direction. What I refer to above took time and planning. The game has been “afoot” for some time—the Selected Few behind the curtain pulling the strings and pushing us all to work longer and harder, spend more, expand, drink in the Kool-Aid of consumption.  Behind the curtain the same old game continued —the Selected Few—People of extreme privilege and power doing  whatever they feel needs to be done to extend that power and wealth.

The media took a pot shot at a few, mostly irrelevant fodder in the big machine; now and again a mighty figure might seem to fall—my favorite is Martha Stewart; of all the corruption she becomes one of the few hung out to shame—give me a break. WE, THE People were oblivious to it all.

The Internet changed that.

There were always a few on the people’s side who tried to warn the rest of us—a Ralph Nader of sorts. They were few and far-between with little access to mass media. That lack of access has ended. The many, many sins of humanity against humanity now hangs out in shame like a Monday morning wash hanging on a clothesline in some long ago era. Those who seek to stay hidden have less and less places to hide; their affiliations, their avarice, their power is being more and more exposed, and so they become more desperate.

Be careful. This is not a time to celebrate. The Selected Few who need to stay behind the curtain have adopted a new game. What they cannot take away, they will add to; they ensure we are fed on a minute-by- minute basis: fear and division.  Fear mongering, as the machinery of our broken institutions make their final gasp at serving the few—the citizens of Rome looking down upon the staged performance of its paid for and owned gladiators; but, no one dies here, it’s all about posturing, the misguiding presentation of cows humping cows, nothing more, nothing less.

The Internet is a monster of resurrection and doom. It can and will deliver one or the other. Let’s ensure it’s the outcome we desire.

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The Male Image

The right to use image – purchased

I have always been in touch with my feminine side, or so I used to think. I enjoy and work better with women than I do with men. I’m as sensitive as a humming bird attempting to stand still, but I purposefully carry along a few tortoise shells in case I need to protect myself; and I have been known on many occasions to drag myself back up even when my good friend, Whiskey, said he could be of no help.

I was lucky enough, in my earlier days, to be part of a very successful international firm in accounting, and for many years I followed the winding stairs to the top; even making it up a vast number of floors before an absurd notion overtook me: I hated it. Not the work. That was fine. It was the culture. Then it was mostly men. But the road to that final floor was clear. It was who you know, and who knew you. What you knew was at that point irrelevant, as it was assumed you were an expert or you would not have made it this far. It was all about jousting for the favor of the powers above who would invite you up that last set of steps. I could not do it, so I quit.

It’s a long way back to that time, and I am more than pleased that I had the wisdom to make that incredible decision. Yet, for some time I questioned what it was that was so to my dislike. My search for that answer took some time, but indeed I found it. Rather than share how I found that answer I would like to share two short anecdotes that I hope will give you the answer.

I was in the presence of a well-know dressage teacher (there with my wife who rides natural horsemanship there days) and he and I were at one end of the arena as a screaming match erupted among a few of the attendees. He turned his back on what was happening and came over to me. His words rang clear what was going on in the corporate world I had almost gotten lost in. “It’s okay, Russell. Let’s you and me chat. …That there is nothing more than cows humping cows.”

The next story has to do with a webinar I took some time ago. It was on spirit, soul, and how we are all in need of growth and change. Wonderful, thoughtful, and helps point the way back on the path if one is into that sort of thing. The two got into a discussion of a need for the feminine to take over the planet. The elder of the two, and perhaps the more seasoned in knowledge of what we males tend to project, was adamant; No, we are in need of the masculine. What we have witnessed thus far in our history is nothing more than ego driven, cruel, selfish, power hungry males taking what they can before they are consumed by their own fear. The masculine should be the nurturing, protective father. We need many more of those.
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How much do you pay for a high fructose corn syrup soda

If someone does not like what I write, that is their right. But then, move on.

And people should know they have not earned some special right to read a book for free, listen to music for free, watch a movie for free, or consume any other form of art, for free. It behooves me to comprehend how people look at artists. Just this morning I saw a post on Face book bemoaning why a band would want to be paid… they should be happy to have a place to showcase their music…Really?

I can only talk for myself. I am self-published. I will be the first to agree that my first book might not have earned the endorsement of Ernest Hemingway, and even the second and third might not be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. But, before someone trashes me as being without credentials, that I am tossing out worthless trash, and wasting their valuable money ($3.99) and time to read the book, let me give them my story.

I have enjoys the art of writing for most of my life. As a child I loved stories, and as soon as I could, I became an avid reader, and I am still one to this day. I have always loved poetry, and since my first infatuation with a long-ago beautiful young lady I have written poetry.

I never could spell, and hated to research in the local library, so it was not until the internet and Word that I became prolific at writing short stories, songs, and more poetry. Some five or six years ago I got the idea of writing a novel. Okay, I’m a gamer, even at my ripe age, and I love the Fantasy genre, from Terry Brooks to the great late Robert Jordan. So, it had to be fantasy.

I spent a year writing that first novel. I found an editor for $600 or so, a cover for $200 or so and off I went to self-publishing. A lot has happened since then: I wrote a second book, went to a lot of online courses on how-to-write ($1000 or so, in total); began writing a third book, purchased a lot of how-to-write books (between ten and twenty books)… from deep pov, who’s pov, head-hopping, hooks, plot, pace, character building, world building, et al. I also found a new editor who was excellent at his craft and a great teacher.

After all of that I went back and rewrote the first, paid an editor to once again make it less than a grammar catastrophe, rewrote the second book, once again had it edited, and finally, produced a third book. With new covers, reviews and the like I invested some $6,000 to $8,000; I’m afraid to compute an exact tally.

What I have ended up with is a three book series that has taken five years, lots of research, hard work and effort, not to mention the out-of-pocket expenses over and above those listed above, i.e. advertising, marketing, website, etc.. I am proud of what I have accomplished, and I believe the products I have created are worthy of being called art.

I have had some good reviews and I am pleased that a select few enjoy reading my book. But one review was bitter in its intent and lacking in its credibility. I did not attack it as I have learned that the few who write such shite do so with the expectation of stirring up the pot for their own benefit. Still I would like to say a few things:

My books sell for $3.99. Most people belong to some group or club; my bad review came from someone who managed to get the book for free, from someone else who had gotten it for free. Even at $3.99 how much ire do they believe they have bought, no matter how bad they might judge my book? A soda drink at some fountain made with high fructose corn syrup and laced with ice and water costs more. That drink is a health risk at best, and half gets tossed away in some garbage bin, along with the plastic mug that helps pollute the planet, yet no one ever complains about the waste of money. However my free book has in some way given a person the need to be outrages. Whatever.

I get lots of folks who, once they learn I have written a book, ask for a copy. They would love to read it, as if they are doing me some favor. Yes, I give away copies and usually make a request that they might add a review should they find the book to their liking. I can count on one hand how many folks follow through. And that’s fine. We have not signed a contract, after all. But, please, no one is doing me a favor. The thousands of hours I have put into these books are indeed my own choice. I have a day job, thank the gods, and I have a wonderful family and friends who support my efforts. I ask for no more. I write this not to complain, rather to clarify a few facts about writers. I don’t for a moment believe I am alone in what I have experienced.

So, where do I go from here? I will keep on writing. I read lots of other books, and I pay for each one I read. I listen to music and pay a monthly fee to do so. I recognize the hard work and effort that goes into art. And I do my best whenever I meet an artist to understand and recognize the efforts they have put forth.

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Seals of the Ages

I have spent a fair amount of my life reading, and I joyously remember being read to as a child. I’ve dabbled in writing poetry and songs, short stories, and the like. I stayed away from writing novels for one reason only, well two: One I can’t type with more than two fingers, and more importantly, I can’t spell for the life of me. The internet and computers changed all that, and as the years wore on I could no longer contain the itch, and off I went tapping one key at a time, two fingers proving to eight others how little they were needed.

I recently completed my first series: Seals of the Ages, three books that stand alone, each with its own special story, yet connected in a bigger and hopefully more profound and intriguing way. I made some missteps along the way. Like most new writers I though myself ready and able to tell a story, all because I knew grammar and the difference between a verb and an adverb. I might give myself some credit, that the premise of my story was sound, but I had much to learn about the craft. As book two reached completion, and as I continued searching for perfection by taking courses and devouring everything I could find on the craft of writing, something clicked, not exactly a eureka moment, but damn close: first, there is no such thing as perfection, but there was a way to write better.

That moment made me tear apart my first book along with the second, and find an editor who would understand the strange place I had put myself in, and next beg his help that I might produce something that would be meaningful and enjoyable to the reader.

In the end I wrote five books to produce a series of three. The few readers I had (dare I say) captivated along the way were as confused as could be, and I offer a great thanks to them for allowing me to take my journey at my pace and in a manner where I could be proud of what I might accomplish.

About the books. It would appear I have a particular fondness for female characters without even having chosen to proceed that way. The story I started out to tell turned out to be more complex and far reaching than I had even planned. The first book, “The Druid and the Flower,”  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00STTTIAW went somewhat the way it was planned, yet the characters took hold and took me on a more elaborate journey than I had envisioned. This first book has a slower start than the other two that followed, such that even with the many changes I made having honed my craft somewhat, something inside me held me to leave the central part of the story alone, as it now belonged to the world. (albeit a small one).

The second book, “Ashima,”  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ABC6T2Y took on a life of its own. While the first book dealt with the time after the Great Collapse of civilization somewhere in the twenty-second century, the book, Ashima, introduced the seeds of Magic in a select few offsprings of the central characters from the first book. This second book does not sit and ponder what is to happen next, instead it dives in on a number of fronts, allowing a variety of circumstances and groups to converge at lightning speed on what can only be another Armageddon.

 

The third book, “Riddle of the Keep”   https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WV867J6picks up where the second lets go. Well, yes, there is a twist there as well. The Guardians whom you meet in book one, and again in book two have done what was necessary for the Earth Garden (not a word used in any of the books) to survive. The story is fast paced and filled with surprise, the irony being that I caution readers to slow down and not miss a hidden agenda I have buried in the long journey to this point in time.

 

This third book brings the saga to a point where the Earth Garden is on a new and hopefully enlightened path. The journey goes on, and it might in some future undertaking have another story to tell, but the full breakdown and reintroduction of humanity along with some new attributed give a fresh start to a Garden that might have lost its way.

 

I hope you get a chance to read my books. I have put my very soul into their being readable and enjoyable. Just ask my editor; he now has to dye his hair to look young.
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He is nothing like me

Universe

Perhaps I look to others to define myself

My reflection in the mirror only points to a stranger:

someone I might know; but I have been with him so long I might not remember what makes him me.

That wrinkled brow, where did it come from?

The gray, the bitter pain inside my being, it was not put there by my will.

A deepening fear has grabbed hold of me.

That can’t be my doing.

No, the mirror gives a poor reflection

And so I look to find what best defines me.

Look at him, the beggar in the streets; there because of his own doing no doubt; nothing like me.

Look at him, wanting everything for everyone, as if some cornucopia got found; nothing like me.

Look at him, expecting to be treated like the rest of us as he burns the flag, but he is nothing like me.

Look at him, raging at a world he feels has betrayed his kind; nothing like me.

Look at him, kissing another man while walking down the street; he is nothing like me.

Look at him, telling me his God is dead; he is nothing like me.

Look at him, holding his gun like some phallus that has been cut from his body; he is nothing like me.

Look at him, ideas and speeches that alienate the masses; he is nothing like me.

Look at him, believing science has all the answers; he is nothing like me.

Look at him, believing God has all the answers; he is nothing like me.

Look at me, believing only what a special place in time might give reason for me to believe. Each one I saw; each one I observed; each one I listened too did their dirty work upon my soul, to where even the mirror does not know who I am.
And the least of what I should forget; eternity has had its way with me.

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Nocturne of the Red Wolf

red-wolfwww-pinterest-com
Courtesy of Pinterest

Someone posted a piece on the voice of the Gray wolf. I’m a gamer, even at sixty-five.  Many years ago I was part of starting a guild in the game of World of Warcraft,(WOW). The name of our guild was/is Nocturne of the Red Wolf. I have great memories of mostly young men and women coming together for a few hours, once or twice a week, and sharing a great deal of camaraderie as we fought the mighty evil lords of the dungeons. The guild members were kind enough to carry my meager efforts.  So, I write this for them.

He arrives with intent, but first he howls upon the moon filled night, when most of men and beast might be bedded down against the darkness.

It is his time to hunt and prowl the shadows. None who wait with anxious heart for the sun would understand.

Nor does he care for the stories that have gone to myth and risen again, that he should strike some ancient fear into the souls of men. If he were to ponder such things, he would deduce that it’s not his presence that swipes them cold with sweat when the howls penetrate the night; it is their own sins which devour them.

He ignites in them their memories—how festering the taint of evil doings can become, especially when such memories are reclaimed in the mid of night, where, desperately deprived of humanity, a soul finds itself consumed by the darkness.

He howls to tell his pack where he roams, or as a precursor of what he searches for, or perhaps a knowing tell to others like himself who may have strayed into his home; another time they might be welcome, but not tonight; he has too many matters to attend to, and the moon will not wait for what he must do.

And so he howls again. The answering howls sail in repetitious echo on a nocturne sheet of midnight where such deep soulful songs have found the only place they might be written.

 Even the Gray would not challenge him here; he might be the smaller of the two, but ability increases with age and he has been the leader for some time. His penetratingly high-pitched wail tells more than what he is; it tells who he is. Hunt by the moon, rest as the yellow sun lights up where eyes can see beyond the sense of smell. Four cubs to feed and another winter chill has set in to fight against his need, and made the rabbits go to ground, not only to protect themselves but to keep warm. There are no berries to sustain him; even if there where it is not food enough for a family of five, and a pack behind that must eat to survive.

He has not met more of his own kind for a long time, ten seasons maybe. Yet the Gray wolf and the coyote have come upon his path a number of times. One fight he had to rest a full moon’s wane into darkness before he could hunt again. From that incident he has learned to move and then stay awhile to establish a new territory, hunt, grow strong, and only then move on to repeat the process.

 One of his new litter would most certainly be leader by the time they find where they need to be. He little understands why he knows that, perhaps a far off scent of something on a distant northern wind that made its way this far down, perhaps a long lost dream of wondrous lights in the night sky, perhaps a great connection to the earth mother, her energy a mark of where his pack might be best cared for.

 To him it is becoming more urgent, many scars upon his hide no longer hidden by his winter fur. There has to be another place where noise and searing light does not invade the walk of night upon the land, to where the rancid smell of burning decay does not sail upon the evening breeze, to where the spoils of all that had been disregarded does not block the mountains in their pile upon pile to tear at the very heavens in silent screams of distorted and unnecessary death and decay.

 Tonight’s sky holds no magic lights. They are still far from where he must take them. No matter, tonight his need is more immediate. All who hear him sound his intention into the night will do as required. Any movement will be his and what he seeks.

The light of the full moon dances on his fur as he slips from tree to tree, a touch of red in the yellow light, a glimpse for what is to come.

His brothers should be with him, but he is desperate; his pups and mother must eat first, and it is upon him to provide. The pack would have to wait. He will do this alone. One of his howls told them that. It might be the howl is used to tell the pack to lay hidden, in wait, as he explores the territory, or challenges a foe. It matters not. They will stay put until he tells them different.

 The tipping of the offshore wind ticks in a change. The scents of what came his way from the south now drift in from the north, and so he changes his direction. It is against his nature to hunt upwind, there he would be the prey. At first he smells the remnants of his own travels as he goes back along the way he came, and then new scents catch his interest. It is unlike him to be tricked by a change in the wind. Anxious is not a usual part of his hunting skill. Yes, his cubs must grow, and one must become leader if they are to survive. But tonight holds none of that as an immediate possibility.

 No howls now, the night is silent: specks of red gliding past trees and boulders, barely moving the water as he crosses the stream, up a small hill, full motion. He knows when he hits that he must forfeit something in return for his need.

 He strikes and moves back, legs protected, without them he is useless as a bird without wings. The first trust had been to the neck, and he smells the blood. It excites his need to kill, only because it serves his need to eat. A sharp claw flashes across his hind quarter, and he fights against the urge to retreat and find easier prey—his payment had been given.

 Sometimes, there is a defining point in what must be and what might be. He rolls away and looks for the light of the moon, circling until it appears; there it it, the beast who fights him reflecting the moon’s glow in his eyes. He knows where he has to strike. No hesitation, a mighty leap, jaws as wide as might devour the entire universe. All of creation bears down on his determination. There is no longer a separation of prey and predator, they are locked in combat, one to eat, the other to die. Screams and growls announce the progress of the winner and the loser, and then stillness.

 The red wolf staggers to his feet and licks the blood upon his maw. Perhaps that a rabbit would serve easier prey, next time, might be his through should urgency not be his master. He pulls the carcass along the ground, the moon recording every movement. He stops but once to howl, and she answers in return. The cubs raise their heads and do the same, if lacking in skill; doing the best they can to call him home. He quickens his pace even as another test of his survival flashes from the moonlight upon his hindquarter.

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Holyholidays

Winter

Yesterday I took a ride into the city: lights and more lights, a glittering waste of precious energy, forgetting the money throw away on presents, and the lost time spent on the impossible task of fitting any one purchase to any one person. I wondered who had started all this? Probably some greed ridden shop where nothing sold for the year, and they needed some last minute effort to save the year.

Childhood. So odd to think that I was ever a child. So long ago. I held a belief in Santa Claus back then. Well, that was a different time. And then again that was not a time when I did the shopping; all the shopping was done for me. Well, not just for me, for my two brothers, and my sister; they were also part of the spree. My mom and dad did all the work. Did they enjoy those Christmases? They said they did, and one year there were sleight tracks and reindeer hoof marks. My father never explained how he had done it.

Ya, that was a time of magic. But that magic was nothing more than a child’s greed for new toys, and all kinds of food, and being treated special, and…

The first desperate beginning to Christmas was somewhere in the sixties, northern Vermont, and word came as my mother made a turkey soup from the leftover thanksgiving dinner. My brother, Des, was killed in action, in some place whose name I can no longer recall. That Christmas started out bleak. There was talk of not getting presents, of lights not being put up, or trees adorned. My father insisted that Des loved Christmas, and that all the chatter would be the complete opposite of what Des would have wanted.

I cannot remember a more sacred Christmas. The lights were all there, the tree, the presents. But there was something more. It was probably the last time that our entire family, with extended members, gathered for the Midnight Vigil. The red of Christmas was everywhere, bows and candles, scarves and hats, pins and broaches, all to signify the red heart of Christmas. All our family recognized who had given the greatest gift that year.

Of course things changed after that. The new progressive world took our family apart: My brother to Chicago, my sister to Boston, and I went off the Huston. The homestead stayed in Vermont, and there my mother passed away on a summer’s day, a woman in her middle age, but cancer knows no friend. That Christmas we all went to be with our father.

We talked among ourselves that it would be a difficult Christmas for dad, and we even told the children to be cognizant of his mood and demeanor.

It turned out to be the opposite of what we anticipated. The tree was adorned, the lights flashing, and presents where wrapped and underneath the tree. Dad explained that for him and our mom Christmas was a very special time of family and sharing, a time to allow abundance even if none existed, a time to proclaim love and compassion for the world. Dad added that one of the greatest gifts of family is tradition. The family allows one to belong, to be embraced by a common outpouring that might extend to all of humanity.

That Christmas was followed by many others where we gathered, rejoiced and renewed the grand ritual our family, now greatly extended, had come to embrace. My dad’s definition of family was anyone wanting to be a part of our tradition, so it was not uncommon to find new acquaintances singing along at the prerequisite carol session.

The anchor was of course our dad, and some years ago he passed away. The old homestead was soon sold off, and we siblings became busy with our personal lives, to where the ritual of gathering for Christmas was forgotten.

My two girls are married with young families of their own. Those kids have an abundance of toys all year long: play stations, x boxes, tablets, movies galore. I’m not sure anyone reads anymore.

I tend to shy away from the lights and all the pageantry, the greed as I see it. I insist that no one buy a present for me; it’s just a waste of money.

Then just this morning, something very strange happened. Two little monkeys showed up at my door. One of the little monkeys has a gleam in his eye, one that I often saw in my father’s eye when he was especially happy, as when we gathered for the holidays. This little monkey handed me a package as did the other, her tiny curls just like my daughter when she was at her age.

I opened up the packages, and each had the same message. “Our mother told us you need to come to our place for Christmas dinner. Your sister and brother will be there, as will  many more who want to, if only for a short while, change how we view the world.”

Perhaps Christmas has not changed at all. Perhaps it has been only me.

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Series Complete

Please don’t tell anyone, but my three book series, Seals of the Ages is complete. The last book, Riddle of the Keep, is back from editing, and will be available in the next few weeks.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image22414277

The first two, The Druid and the Flower, and Ashima take the reader on a special journey, some hundred years or so after the world collapses from an economic disaster. The few who remain build a new world, only to find that the remnants of the past cannot so easily be put aside. Each book stands on its own story, no cliffhangers at the end. That cannot be said about the end of any chapter, as each give good reason to jump into the next.

In the final book, Magic has come to humanity. But the Seals that were there to protect this newly healed world are about to fail. What was old must become new again; what was hidden must be show. An evil force wants nothing more than total destruction; one man, the Druid, and his small band of followers are the only obstacle in its way.

Loss, love, adventure, betrayal, Magic, conflict, soul gripping choices, and that’s just the first few chapters. So please, don’t tell anyone. Here is how the last book starts.

 Chapter 1 – The Hunt

 

From the Book of Last Days

What is the greater sorrow?

Is it when many grieve for the one,

or when one must grieve for the many?

 

“Sean, let me go with you, please?”

“For the umpteenth time, no.”

Brendan rubbed the horse’s nose. “He’s going to miss me. How’s he going to get a carrot without me around?”

Sean tightened the cinch strap. “You spoil him. He needs a rest from all your carrots.” The look on Brendan’s face told him he had said enough.

Brendan’s head went down. “Oh, come on. Let me come. Jason won’t mind.” He looked over at Jason, who was already in the saddle. “Will you?”

Jason looked down at Sean, and then back to Brendan. “It’s your brother’s decision. I would take you any—”

“No. How many times do I have to say it?”

Brendan kicked the ground and ran off, as his father and mother came out the door. His mother grabbed him and gave him a hug. “It’s okay, sweetie. We’ll make a rhubarb pie, and you can have all you want.”

“I don’t want any rhubarb pie. He’s mean. I hate him. And I hate his horse.” He tore away from his mother and ran inside the house.

“I’ll go talk to him,” Sean said.

“You’ve done enough,” his father put his hand up. “He’ll be fine.”

“Sorry.” Sean hung his head.

“He just wanted to go hunting with his big brother,” his mother added. “What do you expect when you tell him all those stories?”

“Next time. I promise.”

His parents exchanged glances. “The two of you go on,” his mother said.

Sean kissed his mom on the cheek and gave a shame-filled glance to his father. His father patted his shoulder. “Have a successful hunt.”

Sean and Jason headed off.

“Hey, Sean,” his father called. “Don’t forget about the vest.”

*****

The hunting had turned out more successful than planned. They got what they needed a few days ahead of schedule.

And last evening they had celebrated his birthday and the success of the hunt. He wore the vest as he had promised his father and mother. It was a vest that held a secret, a most important secret, they had informed him, which was why his father had reminded him to wear it on his twenty-first birthday.

 What a disturbing dream, but in some strange manner it wasn’t a dream. It came from the real world, from events he had lived; yet another part of him told him he could not have done so. His parents said there would be more to explain when he returned. There were things he needed to know and see, but first he must experience the knowledge of the vest. The vest was passing along real memories, impossible memories.

What the hell did castles have to do with what he needed to know? There were certainly no castles around here, or anywhere else in the world he knew of. The old Ruins were the remnants of a castle. When it had been built or who built it was now lost to the ages. His mother used to read them stories of those lost ages, stories filled with incredible technology: flying machines, boats that went under water, weapons of immense power, which in the end all but obliterated that age. It was hard now to tell the facts from the myth. His world had none of that; the most powerful weapon now was a sword or a bow. Of course, Magic was a whole other matter.

He chuckled. All this was probably a side effect from Jason’s bad cooking. He looked over to where Jason still snored on the other side of the small fire pit, a pit barely holding on to its last smoldering coals. He tossed a few pieces of wood and the fire started up again; a few larger pieces, and it was back to being a productive fire, chewing at the wood like an animal who hadn’t eaten for a long time. He grabbed the kettle, and walked down to the river. A morning wash was in order; the water was invigorating on his hands and face, with one last scoop of water back over his hair.

Such great autumn colors, the deep red of the oak leaves and the yellow of the birch stood out against the stands of evergreens and the rolling hills on the other side of the river. The oak looked stately and strong, which was why he preferred it when he needed to craft any intricate designs in his woodworking projects; its strength made it easy to work with.

Mixed in with the oak trees was a smattering of maples; that wood was hard and difficult to mold, but he so loved the fine grain, a grain that made any piece of furniture stand out. A few elms with their purple hue stood in a stately pose close to the riverbank; they added a special beauty to the landscape, and held a color in contrast to the reds, yellows, and orange that dominated the area. Farther down the river a young buck was taking a drink. On either side of the buck, a number of small trails went off into the woods, no doubt used by the local fauna to access the river. He wanted to stand there and take it all in until the sun went down. The buck lifted his head, caught a glimpse of him and darted back into the woods, a clear indication that he too should get on his way.

It was sudden and real, another flash inside his head, a blue light blocking the entrance to that castle door. Someone was there outside the door, someone he knew, but older … no, younger. It made no sense, two men in the same place, a younger and older version of the same person, someone he knew … get a grip. Okay, he would do the cooking from now on.

Could it really be that the vest was planting memories inside his head? His father had explained there would be things to show him on his return, things that made up his heritage.

He filled the kettle and headed back, placed it on the fire, and readied the dark roasted beans for a morning brew. He smiled. His mother had ground the beans for him, saying he would be too sleepy to do it himself. He glanced at where the bucks were skinned and drained, hanging high as they cured, the skins drying nearby in the crisp autumn air.

Jason sat up. “Mornin’. Brew ready?”

“Slow down, big fella,” Sean answered. “I was up half the night keeping the fire going so you wouldn’t freeze to death.”

“You just like watching the stars,” Jason said. “And you need me for an excuse.”

“Watching stars. It’s amazing I could see any with the noise hammering my head from your snoring,” Sean said. “I did have some weird dreams, however.”

Jason made his way to the river for his wake-up wash. Sean had the morning brew made and poured when he returned. “Here you go.”

Jason took the mug and sat on a piece of log near the fire. “That dream of yours … you probably had a nightmare about the last buck we took down.”

Sean bowed his head. “Ya, I felt bad about that one. Didn’t know he had a buddy.”

“They all have buddies, or mates, or parents, or whatever bucks have. He’s food, not fun, you know that.” Jason took a gulp of his brew, and threw a piece of wood on the fire.

“I know. Still, the other buck looked at me as his buddy fell, daring me to kill him as well; it was not one of my finer moments.” He looked over to where the venison hung. He had insisted he skin and prepare him alone, and Jason had accepted what he’d needed to do.

“Look, you and I know that if we find a fawn while on the hunt it’s going home with you; that goes for lost young wolves, foxes, wild turkeys, and even baby skunks, not to mention the blinker. Your brain might be six feet above the ground, but your heart is much closer. And if my memory is correct, I’ve been on hunts with you where each of those events has happened.” Jason refilled his mug, and topped off Sean’s. “So don’t be too hard on yourself. Killing’s hard stuff, but necessary.”

“Ya, I suppose you’re right … I’d almost forgotten about that blinker mouse.” He shook his head. “Sniffy … ya, Sniffy. He loved to disappear and then reappear again. That mouse knew he had Magic. He hung around for quite some time before my dad made me let him go.”

“I wonder why,” Jason said. “One second he would be on the floor, and the next second he could be in one of your pockets looking for a treat.” A hot spark flew down near his boot. He stomped it out. “Well, all the meat we need is hanging over there. You want to head back home?”

“Hell, no. Plus the meat can drain for a couple of days in this cold. And it’s my birthday week,” Sean answered. “I could stay out here forever. You got something you need to get back to?”

“All right, then. It’s not our fault we’re such good hunters.” Jason laughed. “And our families don’t expect us back for another couple of days … you going to tell them you’re moving out?”

“I’m not moving out. Just need a place of my own. A room next to the wood shop. I want some alone time.”

“Try living at my place. Even the house gets into the screaming,” Jason said.

“Would drive me crazy.”

“I love it. It’s my family. Been that way all my life.”

Sean shook his head. “I just need alone time. Or maybe I’m selfish.”

“What do you want for breakfast? Bacon, or bacon? Eggs, or eggs?” Jason returned with a cast-iron frying pan, ample strips of bacon, and one big hand cradling four eggs, with room to spare for another one or two.

“I love my family, too. But it’s time to get out on my own.”

“We are out on our own. Even have to cook our own breakfast. You made the brew, I’ll make the breakfast. Sit back and be alone while I cook you up a feast … Oh, what was that dream of yours? About women, I hope, and one of them playing with that curly hair of yours.”

“Nothing so exciting. It wasn’t a dream. I thought so at first, but no. This was different. It’s still there—a vivid memory of an enormous stone building, like a castle. Magic, of some sort, was at play, and a person who was both young and old. And, get this, I was totally aware of why he was that way.”

“Must be my cooking,” Jason said.

Sean laughed. “Now, there’s a thought.”

They finished breakfast, cleaned up, fed the horses and the pack animals, checked the meat and hides, and replenished the wood supply for their fire.

Sean had already tucked his birthday vest back inside his pack, so as not to soil it. An older, darker-colored vest now covered his shirt, one more suitable for hunting and working.

By midday, minus their bows, they were back out tracking animals, with a minimal invasion of the animals’ habitat, as their real hunting was over. Late afternoon they went for a ride along the river, did a little fishing, and carried back a few hardy brook trout for dinner. As the sun dipped to the west they were back at the fire, each with an ale in hand.

“What’s next for you?” Jason asked. “Set up a woodworking shop here in good old North Wind Clearing?”

Sean clinked his mug against Jason’s before he took a swallow. “Well, maybe that trip we talked about.”

“Port Tern?”

“Ya. Check out the craft schools, learn a little more about woodworking, maybe metallurgy—I could use a good sword. Plus, it’s time I saw a big city. Time you did.”

Jason nodded. “I’m in. But Vera’s not going to like it.”

“We’re just friends.”

“You might want to let her know that,” Jason said. “My guess is she sees it differently.”

“I’ll talk to her before we go … It’s time we both went our own way.” Sean took a long measure of his ale. “I hate confrontation.”

“If you’d stick to an ale and a kiss only now and again, you wouldn’t be in this mess. And more ale than kisses.” Jason had a grin on his face that lit up like a harvest moon. “We’re both destined to inherit our farms from our fathers, so I say we get a year or two of travel in before we fulfill our duties.”

“Oh, I know what’s expected of me. But maybe I can do more with woodworking than I can with a farm. Maybe my little brother should get the farm; he loves the place even more than I do.”

“He loves his big brother. We should have brought him along; you—”

“No, he would have been a nuisance,” Sean said.

“Okay, okay. Someone is feeling too smothered by his family.”

“Sorry. I love him. I love them all. But I need to be alone for a while and sort out my life.”

“Hey.” Jason picked up the keg and refilled Sean’s mug. “This is getting way too serious.” He raised his mug. “To adventure, ales, and new kisses.”

Sean took another long gulp. His friend’s heart was as big as he was tall and broad. And his friend loved to hunt as much as he did. Leather boots up to the knees, a knife tucked in the right one, pants down inside the boots, a leather belt and a leather tunic; he very much looked the part of a hunter. Best friends didn’t come any better. “You’re the best.” He held up his mug. “And to my family, may they always know I love them and never know that they love a selfish brat.”

*****

A few days later and their week of hunting was over, the time gone by much too quickly, and the last few days a grand vacation; they were now on their way home. He should be jubilant, and he was, but as he rode along he could not shake the notion that something was amiss. What could be wrong?

He let go of the feeling, hummed a song as the horses trotted along. There was nothing to worry about—a beautiful day, an easy gait for the stallions. He would have his own place, talk to Vera, and maybe find some woodworking course in Port Tern.

 It was a little before noon when they arrived at the diverging path that gave them each a different direction home. They split the meat and pelts, slapped each other on the back, gave hugs that comrades would give to comrades, and headed off on their separate ways.

Sean smiled now as he rode on alone; a picture of his family came into focus. He would soon show them the bounty of his efforts; they would be pleased, and later, just before bedtime, he would share the stories of the hunt with his little brother.

The familiar smell of the cool salt air hit him as he turned around the last set of hills. He halted his horse and pack mule and took a deep breath. “Ah.” He patted his stallion on the neck and continued on past the huge lake where he often fished. Maybe he would take his brother fishing tomorrow, after all the chores were done. His brother was such a pest, but he loved him more than life itself. He knew he should be spending more time with him, and he would from now on; it was one of the things he had promised himself as he sat around the fire pondering his next journey. Down a low hill, and the road allowed him a glimpse of the ocean. He was almost home.

He entered the Bearagan farmstead and dismounted; odd, a dead silence. Where was Frizzy? She should have barked her welcome by now. Blood all over the steps leading to the house. Something was wrong, very wrong. The main door stood open. He ran inside. It was as cold inside the house as outside. The door had been open for some time. More blood, Brendan on the floor. Sean’s legs gave way, and he crumpled to his knees. “Nooooooo…” His brother’s face was cold to the touch, the color gone from his cheeks. So much blood; where had it all come from? There, a stab wound, and another, stab wounds all over his small body. The tears came, streaming down his face. What had happened? His heart pounded; he shook his head and rubbed the tears away. His mother had slid down the wall, one hand still holding a knife, blood on the wall, one of her arms completely cut off. Should he pick it up? Oh, dear gods! His two sisters lay nearby, their hair matted with even more blood. They had suffered the same fate. A few inches from his older sister’s head, a hair band sat in a pool of blood. He looked down again and touched his brother’s chest; bending low he kissed his forehead. The rusty essence of blood saturated the air. He sat back on his heels and shut his eyes. He gulped, pain exploding in his chest; a silent scream made his head pound even more, forced his mouth wide open, his face arcing to the ceiling. He rocked back and forth, holding on to his brother, forced his eyes open again and stared at the scene, helplessly transfixed in some impossible moment that would not pass. He wiped more tears from his face.

He looked from one family member to another. A jolt of realization hit him; his father was not here. He pushed to his feet, and rushed from room to room. “Dad … Dad?” He continued calling as he wandered from the house to the barn, and there he stopped abruptly, one more scene straining to break his grip on reality—his father lying faceup on the ground, sword in hand. Beside him, Frizzy lay on her side, blood on her maw, her fur covered in blood. He fell to his knees for a second time, picked up the sword, and gently placed his father’s hand upon his chest to meet the other hand already there. He held the sword against his own chest, opened his mouth, and looked up, making no sound other than a desperate release of air.

He could tell from the freshness of the blood that they had been killed only hours before, sometime before the light of morning. A broken lantern lay next to his father’s body. It had all happened at a time when he should have been here to help protect them.

He cried some more for them, and then he cried for himself. His selfish act would forever haunt him.

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Transition

The wind has more to it than summer might want to be a part of; this is no gentle breeze, soothing and soft to usher in a sunny day where children might frolic in the park, or an old man with shorts and sandals might walk his dog in a slow stole, so slow that the dog would look up now and again to let the old man know they were all but not moving.

Hawk

Of course there were signs of what was ordained to happen before this morning. Not an omen of ill winds, though some might see it that way. It is more a celebration of what the summer has accomplished.  Some weeks ago the dogwood and the red oak had turned crimson along with the maples; the birch and hickory, not to be outdone had picked gold and bright yellow as their favorite hue, with the mountain maple picking a color in-between the others. Even until now, they have all held their leaves. One or two might have fallen, but the rest have held fast, a small rest in time and change where one season might get ready for the next.

It makes me wonder if there should be a time for people to ponder their seasons with greater speculation and planning; after all, there is but one turn of that wheel, and there is so much to learn should progress be measured by knowledge gained, or time well spent, or better still how much love was given to all that was encountered, especially should that measure be exacted by having lived the opposite of such encounters.

Nature does not do it by measurement, though I have heard that the turning of the leaves might be a signal for creatures that live with the trees to prepare for winter; the trees care about what sit upon their branches and live upon their leaves, to at least give them counsel of things to come. Much smarter than humanity.

We give more importance to the next sale of shovels and plows, pictures and warnings of old storms, fear of some cold that would not be feared but for having been delivered in a manner to do just that, as if we do not know enough to shelter from the cold as we do from the heat, such nonsense allowing us no place to sit on the bridges that must be crossed over, no time to contemplate, ponder, meditate on done and yet to be done. It’s why the time moves so quickly at the end. Where once only pulled along by what might be, now we are pushed and pulled as in some frantic race, pushed by all behind who dare not look at what is to come, pulled by a dire need to lay it all down, find refuse from what is finally understood might well have been a meaningless pilgrimage to nowhere.

The seasons know best, and the wind is purposeful in its job. There’s no reason to rush ahead to what is destined to be; let the transformation be as natural as day into night, or night into day. It’s not to destroy, rather to be what it is, an arbiter of change; and so, the leaves sail down and rattle on the ground, sweet smells lift and make the big Dane sniff the air. The Rat Terrier is more concerned about what makes the leaves move—monsters maybe. I chuckle with delight when a tiny whirlwind of leaves gives the Rat Terrier reason to jump to where you might think his next jump will be on the big Dane’s back, for refuge. Of course it could be the pup in him is having fun with the boy in me. The big Dane lays down on a clump of leaves and takes it all in; his time in dog years is past mine. He’s saving his energy to race the Terrier about the yard but still another round.

The sun gives a special sparkle to the ripples on the pond where leaves have gathered to take a final washing. This is a special time, transition from one season to another. The next season is no better no worse than the one before; each knows its duty and its way. Preparation is the key. You cannot take the leaves of summer into the heavy snows of winter, every birch knows that, and many bear the scars of having misread the change.

We could learn much from nature, were we not so human.

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