Christmas Tea with Mr. Tumnus

Dear Diary,
I am spending the Christmas holidays at my Grandmother’s house. I helped her decorate the tree yesterday and today we are awaiting guests. But guess what happened just today morning?

Well, I better start at the beginning. You probably remember how I and my three cousins found a door inside granny’s wardrobe last summer. You know the green one with all the colorful dresses granny wore when she was young. I had just intended to borrow the red and white dress to dress up like a summer Santa, but then I decided to try looking for matching shoes deeper inside the wardrobe. But instead of matching shoes I found a magic country hidden far inside the wardrobe! My cousins and I had the most wonderful adventures there during the summer. But that is a story for another time. However, one of the many creatures we met there was the fawn Mr. Tumnus. He is a lovely fellow with the coziest little house situated just beyond the lamppost. Well, a few days ago I got a letter from him! It was an invitation to a Christmas Tea Party on Christmas Eve morning!

As today is Christmas Eve I got up early, dressed in my prettiest frock and borrowed a brown fuzzy coat from granny to shield me from the cold Narnian winter. Then I opened the green wardrobe and went inside. I was rather excited because Narnia is not always there, but thankfully today it was! The forest looked so lovely with tall evergreens frosted with white silvery snow. The forest is really thick but the lamppost lights it up beautifully. I love how the warm yellow light flickers and creates golden shadows on the snow. I walked slowly in the new deep snow towards Mr. Tumnus’ house. He had lit red lanterns outside his house and the small windows flamed cozily behind cream lace curtains. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Beavers were there too! It’s been so long since I’ve seen them! Mrs. Beaver had knitted scarves for all of us for Christmas. Mine was pink and purple, my favorite colors. Mr. Tumnus’ scarf was red and yellow, the colors he likes best. There was a wonderful spread of cinnamon cakes, chocolate cookies and peppermint tea. And Mrs. Beaver had brought her famous marmalade roll. My contribution was ginger biscuits that granny and I baked yesterday, and they all loved them! Mr. Beaver dipped his biscuits in his whiskey coffee and was happy as a horse the whole morning! After the tea Mr. Tumnus played his flute for us. The Narnian carols are rather strange, but very beautiful, and when you hear them you can’t help but look at the flames blazing in the fireplace and then the most magical thing happens! You can see shapes in there! The flames start changing and whatever the music makes you think of appears in the flames! I saw flying unicorns migrating together over the ocean seeking the colder climate of the north where they can fly among stars even in daylight! Those images made me very dreamy and I wished I had brought my sketchbook so I could draw them. Maybe I will make an attempt at it later today.

Mr. Tumnus hadn’t brought a Christmas tree because all the trees in Narnia are like living creatures, they even sing in the Dawnlight if you pay proper attention. Instead of a Christmas tree there were garlands of cones and sugared red autumn leaves and apples and cinnamon sticks hanging in the windows. It was so beautiful and smelled delicious! After the tea we all went outside to see the snow fairies dance among the trees. They can be hard to spot because they look a little like mist when they move, but if you squint your eyes you can clearly see their beautiful little shapes, almost like icicles with snowflakes for wings and dewy cobwebs for clothes. They look especially beautiful when the golden sun rays hit their little bodies. Mr. Tumnus played his flute again and they really loved that! It was absolutely magical!

But then it was time to head home. Even though time is different in Narnia I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. And the beavers wanted to go too so I decided to keep them company along the trail. But the trail was actually gone because so much snow had fallen the last hour! I thought I would have to wade my way through the forest. But the beavers told me to let them walk first and with their fat tails the patted the snow down so that it was all flat and perfect for me! My boots made that lovely sound they make when you walk on hard flat snow. None of us talked the whole way we just stayed silent and listened to that lovely boot music, and just as we came up to the lamppost I could hear the church bells chiming from the open wardrobe door. The beavers smiled and stayed and listened for a while while I bid them goodbye and disappeared back into the wardrobe. There I hung up my brown fuzzy coat and went right over to you dear Diary to write it all down, so that I would never forget my Christmas Tea with Mr. Tumnus.

Wait, now I can hear granny calling from downstairs. I better go and help her prepare for the guests. Talk to you later! And Merry Christmas!

Yours truly,
Trini.

* The above artwork is by the beautiful artist Pauline Baynes

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C.S Lewis and me

I frist encountered the magical world of C.S Lewis through the BBC Tv-series “The Chronicles of Narnia” from 1989. I must have been just 5-6 years old, or even younger, when Narnia became the name of my own magical world. I made this world so detailed and vivid that when I first read the books in their original form I was quite let down. C.S Lewis’ writing was very straightforward and to-the-point and lacked the detailed descriptions that I have also craved in books. Nevertheless, he is the father and creator of this enchanted world with all its magical inhabitants and adventures, and for that, he has my absolute admiration, gratitude and utter respect. He has inspired my imagination to take flight ever since I was just a very little girl through his books; unabridged and complete, and abridged picture book versions.

The BBC series that introduced me to the wonderful world of C.S Lewis was normally telecast during Easter in Norway, as a morning treat for kids. My family and I spent our Easter in a sailing boat at sea, and it was only my uncle who had a TV in his boat, so he made us pay an admittance fee in candy in order for us to watch the series. Something we happily did, even though our storage of candy was quite limited.

My favorite parts of the series are the scene in Mr. Tumnus’ house when he and Lucy take tea for the first time in the first book, the scene in the magician’s house when Lucy makes the magician and his subjects visible in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, and when Eustace and Jill first meet the marsh wiggle in “The Silver Chair”.

The port keys to Narnia have always fascinated me. And all my life I have been looking for enchanted wardrobes and magic oil paintings of mighty ships at sea. Even the lamppost that is the first Narnian landmark after you’ve entered the magic Wardrobe has made me take hundreds of photos of Narnia-looking lampposts in the real world. I specifically remember one Wardrobe I found in an artsy hotel just outside Venice when I went there with my best friend to celebrate my 21st Birthday. It was magnificent, and yes, I did try to look for a magic country inside it.

When the “new” (well not so new anymore) Narnia movie came out, I was soooo excited. I spent hours on the Disney website playing Narnian games and watching trailer-clips of the upcoming film. But I was a bit let down when I first watched it in the theater. It was, as most modern movies are, fast-paced, action driven and computerized. The action bits (like the battle) were blown way up, and it had even added action scenes that were not there in the books. Having said that, I loved the four young actors who played the Pevensie children, they were all brilliant, and I wish I could have cast them in the BBC series, but I would have kept the old witch, played brilliantly by Barbara Kellerman. She is way scarier than the witch in the Disney movie.

The magic of Narnia will always fascinate me. It is not only a part of my childhood, it has become the totem pole of my imagination. I will always keep looking for secret doorways in paintings and wardrobes, and turn around to marvel over old lampposts. Narnia has become a part of me, of who I am, and that is all thanks to the wonderful C.S Lewis, who said so brilliantly: “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.” If only in my dreams.

The Water Sprite’s Garden

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I gazed into the garden pool,
Searching for my golden ball, but as
I stared into the vastly blue
I began seeing odd things, strange bits
Of woolly courage entangled on the
Garden floor. A fairy door left open,
Spilling sing-song diamonds and wet
Tears; the floral head of a goblin,
Scattering in the grass. I lay down
Where they fell, in garden beds of glass,
Where transparent corn flowers
Shone like icicles. And here he came,
The fish-lord, along a path of salmon
Pink scales, faint and gentle
Did he glimmer. He stopped when
He saw me, and for a moment,
The garden spun, like glass wheels, and
Pearls, white and golden fell
From his lips. And then the vision
Was gone, and left was the vastly blue,
Stealing into my veins, a loveliness
Neither of me or another. But the song,
Oh, that haunting song, ghostly and pale,
Pushed through the cotton fields and beckoned,
Like a full-bodied leaf traced by tender lips,
And I found a path of crushed sand, and the
Soft current of the song tripped over
My own lips. It was then, within one of the
Fairy doors, I saw
the mad old-woman’s face,
Something, a finger or a tiny fish,
nibbled at her cheek,
And I screamed, for that time-beaten face
Was exactly like my own.

The Wizard’s Spell

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Art by John Howe

I wrote this story for my cousin, who loves the Fantasy Genre just as much as I do. When we were kids I wrote him stories all the time, and it was so much fun! To inspire this story he gave me three words: An old woman, a dog and a forest, and I had to include all of them in my text. I had so much fun writing this, and I hope you will enjoy reading it too!

He walked over to her quickly, shook her old calloused hand, and thanked her for her effort in the Kolkaran battle. She was dressed as she had been when they had first met, her criss-crossed face half hidden in a long muddy brown cape, her whole appearance dark and foreboding. She greeted Reeves courteously, but showed no sign of affection. Dagda Mora was not a woman of sentiment, she was a spell caster, and today she had won a war for her people. Well, they weren’t really her people, but she hated “the other ones” more, and consequently made her decision.

Reeves had been followed into the hall by Baylin, and a number of woods-men warriors seeking merit after the day’s battle. He had none to offer them. He knew there would be more battles to come. Dagda Mora sat down at the head of the table, enjoying her position as the eldest, Reeves motioned for Baylin to sit down next to him to the old woman’s right. Baylin was from the Westland and his lean, but strong built, had gained him the leadership amongst the men. Baylin’s thin brown eyebrows were raised in concentration as he studied the old woman who had, against all possible odds, been the heroine of the battle. “We need a weapon,” stated Reeves, and pierced his blue young eyes into Dagda Mora’s shadowy black. “And what makes you think I can produce such a weapon?” Croaked The old lady. “You are the spell caster, and I saw what you did on the battle field today.” Dagda Mora gave a hoarse eerie cackle that made Baylin jump in his seat. “I’m not a witch, you foolish boy”. Dagda Mora’s face had turned black and ugly with the torrent of rage produced by the inarticulate insult. “You can do it, and we both know it.” Concluded Reeves, unmoved by the charged atmosphere.
Dagda Mora broke into a violent laugh. “Of course I can, but what’s in it for me?”

For a brief moment Dagda Mora and Reeves locked gazes, as if to judge each other’s intentions. Dagda Mora smiled coldly at the young warrior, challenging him with her expectant silence. Baylin knew instantly that Reeves was inviting trouble, and that everyone in this room and beyond would end up paying for the foreboding favor. Reeves stood up determinedly and cleared his throat. Dagda Mora shot him an annoyed but bemused gaze. “What will it be, dagger boy, out with it!” She demanded blackly. “You will receive whatever payment you choose.” “Ha!” Cackled the old woman and broke into a roar of laugh. “So be it, gentlemen. I will claim my payment when I find it suitable.” For some reason, this particular answer, terrified Baylin more than any amount of gold, silver or even blood. A sense of foreboding filled his lungs and made him heave for breath. Reeves sat back in his chair, relaxing quietly in his seat, a barely audible sigh of relief escaping his lips as he coolly thanked the old woman for her cooperation.

Outside the assembly hall darkness had spun it’s black net of invisibility around the small houses and cottages in the village. The air was cool, and washed over Baylin’s hot grim face like a wave of chilled water. The shadowed moonlight barely made its way in between the eaves of the snug houses. Baylin leaned idly against the wall of the long wooden building housing the assembly hall. The meeting had concluded, and Reeves had asked him to wait for him. The tall chieftain was still inside making preparations with the old witch. Baylin knew that they could not expect to postpone the inevitable battle for too long. They were living like prisoners in Kolkaran , while the enemy prepared his battle plan.

Reeves looked quietly at his brother of arms, who stood lost in thought, staring at the play of moonlight and shadow on the darkened earth, and he felt a sense of betrayal, had he promised the spell caster too much? But then again, how could he have done things differently? She was their only chance. Reeves wished he did not have to involve the young warrior in this matter. But he had no choice. Baylin was his best tracker, and without a tracker they could not enter the Forest of Roan Mor.

Reeves was forced to call a second halt, only minutes after their journey through the forest had begun, to allow Dagda Mora another rest. The two men sat quietly down at the side of the trail and listened in dismay to the old woman’s panting. The roll of thunder, still distant, had been announcing its arrival for some time now, and Reeves did not like the slow pace they had to keep for the sake of the spell caster. Soon, the storm would be upon them, and the trail would disappear in mud and darkness. Baylin glanced over at the exhausted witch, her face was bloodshot and wet from perspiration, he could hear her moaning through shallow breaths. He looked at her and felt that this quest would fail and he himself would pay the price for this failure. It angered him, the whole idea of this journey was crazy, but he was loyal to Reeves and would remain so till his last breath left his body, something he suspected would be soon if the old witch didn’t decide to turn herself into a crow or something else that would suit her haggard exterior. But even then, could this old woman really save them from the warlock of Gundaban’s army? He had his doubts.

Reeves’ sudden whisper of warning startled Baylin who instinctively drew his sword, but Reeves shook his head and motioned for them to follow him under the cover of the leafy trees. There all three flattened themselves against the damp earth and waited anxiously for whatever had caught the Chieftain’s attention. A moment later they heard the distinct sound of paws dragging along the trail from the direction in which they were headed, a huge black animal came out of the darkness ahead of them moving in the direction of their hiding place. Reeves had to restrain Baylin from drawing his sword again and charging forward. The animal pacing steadily towards them was no ordinary dog, it was a Black Varg, a northern creature triple the size of a wolf. What it was doing in these parts Reeves could not tell, but whatever the reason, their best chance of survival was hiding and hoping the beast would pass them by.

A stillness settled over the forest, broken only by the expectant breathing of the three huddled together under the tree. Baylin glanced back at the trail they had come from. The path seemed undisturbed save for the deep footprints they had themselves made just a few minutes ago. Dust and fog swirled in the dark light. Nothing seemed to move. Baylin hesitated for a second, then Reeves motioned him to slowly get to his feet. Baylin moved quickly onto the grass followed by Reeves and a reluctant Dagda Mora. Baylin looked for any movement in the dim obscure light. But everything seemed to be shrouded in a grayish light. They were about midway to the trail now, and Baylin let out his breath heavily. Then the darkness in front of them moved and seemed to surge upwards and from out of the shadows a big black monster emerged. Doglike in appearance, the creature charged forward, filling the empty space before them with its enormous body. A shriek of fury escaped its clenched jaws and pierced through the forest. Long clawed paws reached for the Warriors followed by pointed yellow teeth and burning staring eyes glaring at them viciously. Baylin and Reeves reacted instantly, drawing their swords and pushing the old woman behind them. Reeves got the first hit, his sword cutting through the monster’s exposed flesh. The Varg reared back in pain, and Baylin quickly seized the opportunity to stab it again. But to the men’s shock their swords seemed to only scratch the surface of the creature’s flesh. It’s retaliation was quick and merciless, with a roar it charged forward against the men. Reeves managed to dive out of its reach, but Baylin was not so fast, and he screamed as the monster’s sharp teeth dug into his right forearm. Another scream boomed through the forest as the Varg made a second attack burying the claws of his paw into Baylin’s left arm. Baylin fell to his knees. Reeves charged forward, but was prevented by a surprisingly strong arm holding him back. Dagda Mora.

Then, just as Reeves was about to turn and fight off the spell caster, a blinding aura of blue light that caused Reeves to squint and shield his eyes overwhelmed the forest. Reeves was momentarily blinded, but fought hard to regain his vision. He blinked and rubbed his eyes fiercely until he could make out the form of a man standing at the edge of the forest. His hands were raised and blue streaks of light shot out of his extended fingers, striking the black dog with such force it reeled back from Baylin’s unconscious body. The Varg snarled and snapped it’s huge jaws , but before it could compose itself for a counter attack, the hooded figure , partly hidden behind the trees, raised his hands again and a new arrow of light hit the dog a second time. Baylin’s body slumped heavily to the ground as the Varg finally let go of its prey, wheeled about and scurried away from the piercing blue light with a long whimpering cry of dismay. Dagda Mora let go of Reeves’ arm and he charged forward to examine his brother of arms. Baylin had sustained some serious wounds and was bleeding heavily, but he was alive. ” I can help with that, ” said Dagda Mora, surprisingly softly, and lightly touched Reeves’ shoulder, he spun around fiercely, ready to tell her off for keeping him back, but before he could open his mouth the man who had saved them appeared by his side. “This is neither the time nor the place to exchange unpleasantries, warrior. Pick up your friend and come with me. Quickly!” ” Do as he says, boy!” The rough tone of an old wicked witch had returned to Dagda Mora’s voice. “I demand to know who this man is, and why he is ordering me about before I go anywhere,” responded Reeves while heaving the body of Baylin unto his back. “Watch your tongue, you fool, this is the wizard Roan Mor himself, the lord and caretaker of this forest.”

“Roan Mor!” Reeves couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The legend of the wizard of Roan Mor was well known in Kolkaran, as it was anywhere in these lands, but surely it was just that, a legend! “There is no time, young warrior, quickly now follow me!” The wizard took the lead and reluctantly Reeves, carrying Baylin’s body, followed, with Dagda Mor making up the rear. They walked briskly until they came to a huge oak standing tall at the banks of a still blue lake. The wizard tapped his walking stick thrice at the lower trunk of the tree, then, to Reeves’ amazement, a door opened under the vegetation. In a hushed voice the wizard explained to the astonished warrior that this was the secret passage to the underworld of the woods, the labyrinthine tunnels, indistinguishable to anyone who did not know what to look for. And so, the company passed through the door, and found themselves standing on a damp ground of solid earth. Roan Mor motioned them forward along the narrow earthen corridor with patterns of roots snaking alongside the thick brown walls. A few minutes later he halted before an abrupt barrier with the look and texture of bedrock. The wizard gently touched something in the Rock and a hidden door swung open to reveal another passageway. Roan Mor stepped inside and Reeves reluctantly followed. When all three of them were inside the passageway the stone door closed noisily behind them.

Reeves noticed that the air inside the passageway was more comfortable and easier to breathe, and the dampness of the walls and ceiling had diminished. The wizard kept leading them further and further into the passageway until they reached the end of the tunnel. An iron door was fastened into the Rock in front of them. Roan Mor reached into his pocket and fished out a big brass key which he inserted into the door’s lock. The door swung open with a hard metal thud that echoed through the deep silence of the tunnel. The company stepped into a large chamber fashioned like a hall or some kind of parlor. “Welcome, guests, to my humble abode.” Roan Mor reached out his hand and gave a theatrical bow. “This is where you live?” Asked Reeves with an undisguised surprise to his tone. The wizard smiled and nodded his head. ” You may relieve yourself of your burden here, warrior,” said Roan Mor and pointed to a wooden bed in the corner of the room. Reeves realized that the “burden” was Baylin, and he carefully lowered the young warrior’s body unto the readymade bed. Dagda Mora quickly came to his aid and started, with soft gentle hands, to examine Baylin’s wounds while she was muttering something under her breath. ” Come sit, my friend.” Roan Mor motioned for Reeves to sit next to him by a table where two mugs of cold beer had mysteriously appeared out of thin air. ” Now, tell me, what are you doing in my forest? And why was a Varg from Gundaban following you?” ” it wasn’t…” Started Reeves, but Dagda Mora interrupted him. ” You know damn well what we are doing here! Don’t play games, old man! We’ve come for your spell!”

” My spell is it,” the old man chuckled as though this amused him thoroughly, “and what spell might that be, old friend?” Dagda Mora shot him a dark and threatening look. ” Oh, give it up you arrogant fool, there is only one spell that can save us all from the warlock of Gundaban, and there is only one man who knows how to cast it, or should I say, undo it.” ” I see…” Said Roan Mor, the bemused look had gone from his eyes, replaced by a hint of annoyance. ” And why would I….what was it you called it…..undo….?….this spell?” Dagda Mora’s temper flared up and she spat the words at the wizard as though they were a curse….” Because the warlock of Gundaban is about to make mincemeat out of this entire world, and unfortunately, or should I rather say fortunately, the entire world includes you too you useless old man. You can’t hide away in your tunnels forever!” Roan Mor was not very impressed by this speech, he simplyshrugged his shoulders and sighed, ” can’t I? And by the way, what makes you think I’m hiding….and another thing, my dear lady, when did you all of a sudden turn into a hero? I dare say, there is something else in it for you, besides pure altruism, I mean. Tell me young chieftain, what did you promise the old spell caster in return for her help?” Reeves looked from the fuming Dagda Mora to the cool nonchalant wizard next to him, ” anything she wanted,” he replied firmly. The wizard broke out in a loud hearty laugh, ” well then, noble lady, do inform us, what is that you want desperately enough to want to break ice with me?”

“Enough of your games! You’re avoiding the real question, will you undo the spell or will you not?” Dagda Mora gave the wizard a challenging look. Reeves had had enough, he rose from his seat and spoke, with all the authority he could muster. ” Now, will you two please stop mucking about, and tell me what this spell is and how the undoing of it is going to help my men defeat the Gundaban Army?”. Roan Mor looked up at the towering Chieftain, surprise emanated from his squinting eyes and he reached out a hand to motion the warrior to sit back down. “Easy now, boy, that tone will get you nowhere in my house.” Dagda Mora sighed impatiently. ” if you will not tell him, then I will. Long ago this forest was the dwelling place of a clan of powerful Wood Sprites, they ruled these parts without interference, but then as the battles of the black armies broke out, a wizard crossed the boundaries of their territory and cursed them. He stole their life force and trapped it inside a seed. Nobody knows where the seed disappeared to nor the wizard, but not long after, a forest of trees rose up from the ground where the Wood Sprite’s territory had been, and this forest became the forest of Roan Mor.” Dagda Mora kept her eyes fixed at the old wizard, but he betrayed no visible sign of emotions. “So,” began Reeves in astonishment, ” you are that wizard?” Roan Mor looked into Reeves’ eyes and nodded his head. ” yes, yes I am. But what Dagda Mora here has failed to include in her story is why I put the wood sprites under a spell. You see, this particular clan was a warrior clan, dark and mysterious and notorious for their, what shall we call it….inability to die….” ” immortality?” Interjected Reeves. ” No, not immortality, they simply didn’t get hurt or wounded by weapons. So naturally that would make them a very powerful alley. And that is exactly what the warlock was trying to do, to convince them to join his army and eventually his rule. Now, Wood Sprites are fickle creatures, selfish of course, and they like to play for the winning team, and I could simply not risk it. Without any sense of moral there was no telling what they would do. I suspect they would choose to play for the team that offered them the biggest prize, which would of course be the cunning warlock. So I did what I had to do to protect the people of these lands. Your ancestors, young Chieftain.” ” So if that is true,” said Reeves, glancing over at Dagda Mora, still sitting on the bed next to the unconscious Baylin, “how will undoing the spell help us now? Will we not be faced with the exact same dilemma all over again?” ” No,” answered the spell caster and stared straight into Roan Mor’s liquid blue eyes, ” because I know something he doesn’t.”

“Oh, I’ve heard the old tales too, Dagda Mora, but they are just that, old tales.” Roan Mor chuckled and dismissed the old woman with a lazy wave of his sinewy hand. “What tale?” Asked Reeves, a little annoyed now at all the half-dropped hints and secrecy between the two spell casters. “Oh, it’s not a tale, it’s something that happened long ago,” Dagda Mora looked triumphantly into the wizard’s inscrutable eyes, then turned and gazed at the expectant young Chieftain. “As I said,” she continued, “long ago…the wood sprites, the ancestors of this particular wood sprite clan trapped in the Roan Mor trees, were attacked by an army sent by none other than the warlock of Gundaban. The attack was cowardly, it came at night and was aimed at the sleeping youngsters and the females. It was over in an hour. Few survived. The Wood Sprites attempted retaliation of course, but the warlock is cunning, and he keeps himself and his followers protected by walls of black magic, once inside those walls nothing and no one can penetrate their defenses. The Wood Sprites still carry the thirst for revenge as an inheritance passed from one generation to the next. That is why I know that given a chance they would ally with us against a common ancient enemy.” ” Well, yes, that is the tale,” interrupted Roan Mor, “but I have seen no evidence of this to be true. None.” “I have, ” replied Dagda Mora with a firm finality to her old hoarse voice, ” I have seen the attack with my own eyes.” Roan Mor flinched, his eyebrows arched and he studied the old woman’s face with obvious sign of astonishment. “How…..?” Began Reeves, but Dagda Mora dismissed him. ” That will have to remain a mystery to you for now. But believe me the tale is true, and the Wood Sprites would do anything to get their hands on the Warlock of Gundaban .” Roan Mor regained his calm disposition and said with a calm cool voice: “well, that my friends, changes everything. I didn’t know your magic ran that deep, Dagda Mora, but I know a liar when I see one, and you are not lying.” ” I certainly am not!” Spat Dagda Mora offendedly. ” So, will you help us?” Interjected Reeves impatiently, ” will you undo the spell and free the wood sprites?” Roan Mor closed his eyes in contemplation, then took a long sip from the now luke warm beer and nodded his head determinedly, calmness settling over his wrinkled face, ” Yes, young Chieftain, I will do as you ask. It seems we must all lay our trust in the hands of the Lady Dagda Mora if we are to succeed in this dark quest.” Dagda Mora winced, stuck up her nose and gave a sharp satisfying ” humph”.

Reeves and Roan Mor were walking briskly through the damp forest. Dagda Mora had been left behind to tend to the wounded Baylin. Reeves was glad of it, the old woman moved too slowly for his patience. The wizard and the warrior were moving through heavy mist and rain, at times staggering on the uncertain footing of the wet mossy ground. Reeves felt his mind begin to clear and his sense of purpose return as he walked rapidly next to the wizard. The seed had been buried somewhere north of the tunnels, that was the only information Roan Mor had given away, but it was enough to give Reeves hope and a renewed strength in his muscles. Reeves’ eyes searched the darkness about them for any sign of Vargs, but he saw nothing but empty black space. Then abruptly he picked up a sound, the rushing throb of water, perhaps a waterfall or a river. Moments later they stood by the pool of a descending cascade of white foam and blue water gushing unto banks of slippery rock. Roan Mor began moving closer to the thundering waterfall, peering into the hollow gloom behind the steady spray of cold water. Reeves followed the wizard without question, his eyes still searching the whereabouts for Vargs. The mist had begun to thicken and it would not be long before the visibility would be obscured into oblivion. Roan Mor led him closer to the enormous shower pouring into mists of rainbows, then he halted and indicated in gestures, to avoid being muted by the roar of water, a small break in the waterfall. Quickly the warrior pulled his hood unto his head and together the company of two pushed off into the cascade of water.

The water was cold and aggressive and with terrific force it wet the two men to the core. Reeves felt his bone going numb, but pushed on until they were both safely on the dry open space behind the cascade. Almost immediately Reeves felt the chill of the humid gloom cutting through his skin. It was another tunnel. Or perhaps not a tunnel, more like a cave with stale mossy walls and tomblike atmosphere. Roan Mor was moving slowly forward into a corridor leading up to some kind of iron door. Reeves followed him. Forcing down a knot of despair that this hollow room had conjured in him. Roan Mor approached the iron door and fished out a key from his robes. He unlocked the door with some difficulty, but finally the heavy iron gave in and Reeves helped Roan Mor to push the door open. Inside the door a dark room, looking like some kind of old dungeon, came into view. This was a place that would terrify most humans, lifeless and lightless with a clammy chill that cut into the bones. Glancing behind him in desperate search for light, Reeves could see to his horror that the day was dimming and the darkness of night would soon blacken the place entirely. Gritting his teeth he moved forward after the wizard. Then, to his astonishment he could suddenly see a faint light glimmering in the distance. Freezing into a motionless statue he squinted his eyes to get a better look. He could see it clearly now, it was weak, but it managed to break the darkness just enough for Reeves to see his own feet and hands. Roan Mor motioned for him to follow, and slowly paced towards the tiny flame. In carefully timed steps the two moved down the slippery corridor, like blind men seeking a flicker of light. Then, as thunder in a still night, exploded a thudding noise like the sound of a tomb being closed. Reeves looked panic stricken behind him into the empty blackness, he could see nothing, but realized with a rising feeling of terror that it was the iron door closing behind them. They were trapped.

Reeves paused, staring blankly at the wall of blackness that barred their way out. Then he turned and fixed his eyes on the mysterious flickering light ahead, ignoring the desire to run back the way they had come from. He locked the thought in his mind that salvation lay in the light alone. Reeves clutched the handle of his sword tightly as if trying to draw its strength, and followed the wizard further into the graying shadows of the dark tunnel, not once looking back into the dead silent of the shut walls. Minutes, that seemed like hours passed, before the chieftain and the wizard finally stood in the fringes of the lighted mist, cast by a tiny brass lamp fueled by a sweet smelling oil. They paused, studying the mystic lamp that marked the shrine of something that still remained invisible. Reeves waited impatiently for the wizard to proceed. ” There is madness in this, young Chieftain. Mark my words. You better pray the old spell caster is right.” And with those words Roan Mor lifted the lamp as though it was nothing but a cold mug of beer and poured its content into his mouth. Then, everything went black.

Reeves stared at the empty blackness where the wizard had stood. He carefully reached out his hand, and to his relief he could feel the rugged fringed fabric of his companion’s cloak. “Are you okay?” He whispered anxiously to what he gathered was the form of the wizard. There was no reply. Then suddenly he detected a faint, almost inaudible whisper: ” we must go on.” Reeves looked into the darkness, but nothing seemed to move. A few moments passed before Reeves felt something grab hold of him and pull him into the blackened haze.

Reeves could only make out vague shadows around him, as he stumbled after the wizard. There was no sound, only the thud of their boots and scrape of shingles. There was a damp dense mist about, giving Reeves the feeling of being slowly choked to death. Roan Mor moved faster as the tunnel deepened, giving Reeves the illusion of walking downhill. They walked for must have been hours in this blackened world of half-life, blurring their senses and confusing their understanding of time and space. Then at last the deep gloom began to draw back into a grayish haze and the contours of a rough and curt landscape rose out of the haze. To Reeves’ amazement he discovered that they were no longer inside the tunnel, but outside, breathing natural air again. Then abruptly the gray haze faded and the darkness was behind them. It happened so quickly Reeves was completely caught off guard. He stood in shocked silence as he discovered that the land surrounding them was the Forest of Roan Mor! The earth stretched away to the south, broken by wisps of grassland, and far ahead, shrouded in dusty sunshine, towered an oak above a blue familiar lake. ” How….?” Began Reeves in utter astonishment, but Roan Mor just tiredly dismissed him with a wave of his old pale hand. ” There is too much in this world you know nothing about, my young friend.” And with that he walked, rather briskly for such an old chap, towards the invisible entrance of his home.

Reeves, and the now fully recovered Baylin, stood a good distance away from the two spell casters in the dark wetlands of the forest of Roan Mor. Dagda Mora stared fixedly at the croaked over shape of the wizard, muttering inaudibly to herself. Amid the starkness of the scene Reeves could see the wizard for what he really was, an old weather beaten man weighed down by too many years of trials and tribulations. But there was a soft glow to his features, coloring the view of his being like a significant spark of a moment of exceptional extraordinarity. Then the vision exploded, and both Baylin and Reeves jumped and reached for their swords, but this was not something beatable by brute force, at least not that of a man and his iron sword. Suddenly a force, like an electric current seemed to strike at the wizard, hurling him several feet from where he had stood. Reeves forced himself to keep watching, unable to move, and before him was a light so intense he had to shield his eyes, it seemed to emanate from the wizard’s entire body, surging upwards from his open mouth. Beyond it, he could see Dagda Mora, her gaze fixed at the light pulsating feverishly. There was a sense of eagerness to its movement, as it strained to be released from the body holding it imprisoned. For a moment, the two warriors, the young Baylin and the Chieftain, struggled to comprehend the shock of the revelation happening before them, and they made no effort to advance or come to the wizard’s aid. Then their concentration shifted to the trees, completely immersed in the terrific light, their tall shape cleared with frightening sharpness, and abruptly their form seem to change, revealing contours of faces, arms, eyes. The flow of light went on endlessly. Reeves and Baylin recoiled in the mystery of what they were seeing, they simply could not accept the truth of the magic happening before their very eyes! Yet, they had to, their senses persuading them with the clarity of the vision in front of them. They could not sensibly deny this reality. The spell was being lifted, the curse broken. The trees had returned to their original form. They were no longer trees, but living breathing Wood Sprites standing as tall as their previous wooden form, glaring at the dwarfed wizard who had held them prisoner for so long.

Then a shadow descended upon the forest. The bright light emanating from Roan Mor dimmed sharply. Standing erect at the clearing, tall against the misty horizon, was a massive form shrouded in dust and haze. Instinctively, Reeves knew that this was the Chieftain of the Wood Sprites. His face was dark and deep set, and a green beard grew sluggishly underneath a mouth twisted in contempt. His eyes were fixed on the little wizard lying helplessly on the ground, completely fatigued by the undoing of his own spell. Reeves cried a warning to the old spell caster, but he was too late, the Wood Sprite Chief had already closed his claw-like hand around Roan Mor’s limp body and was, with tremendous ease, hoisting him into the air. Both Reeves and Baylin drew their swords and charged against the Wood Sprite, but Dagda Mora, who everyone seemed to have forgotten, stopped them by lifting her hand and freezing them into motionless statues. Helplessly they had to watch the scene unfold, paralyzed by the old woman’s powerful spell. The Wood Sprite held a iron-like grip around the wizard’s body, slowly squeezing the life force out of him, like the wizard had once done with him and his people. He wanted it to hurt, he wanted his capturer to feel terror, panic, fear, but the wizard showed no sign of any of these emotions, he just remained calm and dispassionate. The struggle was almost over for the old man when a shrill voice cried out. A voice that echoed authority and command. It was the voice of Dagda Mora.

The words were foreign to the two warriors, but the Wood Sprites seemed to understand, their chieftain hesitated, and his grip around the wizard’s body loosened slightly. The features of the Wood Sprite Chief twisted in recognition of the words, and his eyes widened in surprise. Then abruptly the unconscious form of the wizard was dropped to the ground, whether in anger or surrender was hard to tell. Reeves stared down at the crumpled form, suddenly he felt the spell holding him back lifting, and he darted to the wizard’s side, hurriedly checking his pulse for any sign of life. Now Baylin was there too, cradling Roan Mor’s other thin hand in his. “Is he alive?” It was Dagda Mora, still standing at the same spot, just a couple of feet away from the gathering of Wood Sprites. “Yes, but barely,” replied Reeves weakly. Dagda Mora sighed in relief.

As the mist thinned, Baylin could see that the forest was no longer a forest, but an open wasteland populated by hundreds of Wood Sprites. Before him Dagda Mora was kneeling over the limp body of the wizard muttering incantations. “He’ll be alright,” said Reeves reassuringly, “the spell caster knows what she’s doing.” ” What about the Wood Sprites?” Asked Baylin, ” What will happen to them?”. ” They will fight with us. Dagda Mora was right, they hate the warlock of Gundaban, and will do anything to have their revenge over him.” Baylin nodded. ” And what about Roan Mor?” ” He is too weak to fight in any battle, besides, Dagda Mora says battles are not his thing. He prefers to stay out of it.” Baylin snorted, somehow he found that hard to believe. ” And Dagda Mora?” “Will have her payment now…” Dagda Mora had come up beside the two warriors, standing as tall as she could against the black backdrop of a brightly starry sky. She had finally come to claim her share. Her promise fulfilled, there was nothing else to do but to give in to her demands. Whatever they were.

” Fifty years ago your father Treyan, Chieftain of Kolkaran, swore an oath, he would protect his land and people, no matter what. The promise was a black one, tied together with unbreakable magic, magic he extracted from Briannen Jain, a very powerful wizard, powerful and corrupted. If Treyan ever would break his promise and retreat from a battle, even if it was to protect his people, he would die. Treyan naturally became obsessed with winning, but he was no more than a mortal man. Again he went to Briannen to bargain another spell out of him. Briannen refused. But he had a weakness: gold. Treyan knew this and bribed the wizard with all the gold in his kingdom. So Briannen gave him a spell. A cunning one. When I met Treyan he was wandering the forest hunting game. He was alone. I didn’t know who he was, and I agreed to help him catch his dinner. I used a spell to lure the game closer, and Treyan was grateful for the help. But it wasn’t the game he was interested in. It was me. I had revealed my magic to him, and Treyan needed that magic to make himself invincible, so he bound me and my magical services to him and to his ancestors for as long as I would be alive. I helped him win many battles, as I have helped you win your battles, Reeves. But time has come for that bond to be broken, and for you and your people to fight your own battles. That is my price. That is what you will give me.” Baylin looked at Reeves, the shock was apparent in his eyes, ” brother, you can’t, we need her, without her magic we will never defeat the warlock!” Reeves stared at Dagda Mora, his eyes were solemn and unblinking. ” It is a fair price, Spell Caster. And I apologize on behalf of my late father, he was wrong to trap you, and you are right. It is time for Kolkaran to fight her own battles. I release you Dagda Mora. You are free.” The old woman’s haggard face broke into a satisfied grin, and she bowed her head in greeting and left, her shadow lingering on the barren land as a new sun rose from the white peaks in the distance.

Reeves and Baylin helped Roan Mor back into his house, where they left him with the company he mostly preferred, his own. ” Now what?” Asked Baylin as they stood side by side under the tall oak they now knew so well. ” We return to Kolkaran and prepare for battle. The Wood Sprites are already marching on Gundaban, we will not let them go to battle alone.” Reeves put his arm around the younger man’s shoulder, and together they started the long walk back to Kolkaran.

Note: You are more than welcome to save this story on your device. I know on Apple devices you can save the page as a PDF in iBooks. Then it will read like an E-book. I’m sure other devices have similar options.

For more John Howe art visit: http://www.john-howe.com

Writing Inspiration – The Magic of Storytelling

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Do you love writing and storytelling, but sometimes get stuck staring into a blank paper, impatiently waiting for that brilliant idea to pop like the famous light bulb?
Then you should go on reading, for I might have a few solutions to your predicament.

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We all get stuck in our writing, even the most famous writers have the occasional attack of Writer’s block. So don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that writing is not your thing, you just need a little inspiration!

I have a few techniques for overcoming Writer’s block that I am going to share with you now. The first one is turning to my friends and family for help. My cousins have been inspiring my writing since I was a kid! What they will do is to give me 3-4 words that they want me to include in the story, like for example: a cat, a beach, a witch and a deserted town. And I have to include ALL those things in my story. Last time I was home, one of my cousins raided her old toy box, and brought me fifteen things to include in a story! I photographed all those things with my phone and went home to work on the story. Often when I write these kind of stories I keep the person who gave me the inspiration in mind, trying to write something that they will like and that will entertain them. When my cousins were small I would make them the heroes of the story! Sometimes I was a little wicked and created Ghost stories to spook my most scaredy cat cousin.

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I also get mails from my family where they include photos of something inspiring they have seen while traveling, like an old wooden door or a hollow tree, which I then proceed to write a story about. What I like the most about this kind of writing is that it forces me out of my own comfort zone, and I have to write about things I don’t usually write about. That really get my creative bubbles popping! It also makes me write to please, or rather entertain, someone else, which in this context is a very good thing!

Do you sometimes feel that that first sentence is just impossible to write? That if you could just manage to come up with a good beginning, then the rest of the story would flow easy peasy lemon squeezy? Well, that is not always the case, but a good first sentence does help! And do you want to know a secret? Sometimes when I am stuck with a blank paper staring mockingly at me, I borrow a sentence from another book. Perhaps not the very first sentence of the book, but something in the middle. You can always go back and change the sentence afterwards, or just erase it completely.

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Another piece of writing magic that has really helped me through Writer’s block was learning that I didn’t always have to start at the beginning. What I mean with that is that you don’t always have to start with the name and description of the character, the plot or where the story is set. You can just start in the middle of the action, the part which makes you excited to write. You can always go back and change the beginning afterwards, or you can just let the story unfold as you go along, so that the reader will come to know the characters and the plot little by little. Sometimes that is even more exciting!

For me, it also helps to write in installments. Perhaps just 300 words on a story a day. This might not work for you, but I find that in the pauses between the writing my mind keeps working, coming up with new ideas, changing the plot etc. In that way my writing keeps fresh, and the story evolves in a more creative way. It also helps me to not get overwhelmed. If someone told me to sit down and write a book of 300 pages in just a couple of sittings I would become so stressed and anxious I wouldn’t have been able to write anything at all! In the spaces between your writing time, you can always do things like draw, look at images online or in books, go out in nature, or read books about similar topics to your story. It will really help you get new ideas!

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And lastly what I want to say is, don’t worry so much about your writing being good, or whether or not it will get published or receive a good grade. Writing is about storytelling, and it is the story that is the most important part of any book! So take joy in the making up of stories and characters, that is where your creativity will soar!

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And you know, for me, it is just as much fun writing for my cousins or a friend or my brother, as it is to write for a children’s magazine. Actually, sometimes, it is more fun, because I know the reader, and I will keep smiling to myself as I write, imagining he or she laughing, or getting spooked or aww’ing over something sweet.

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Writing is like creating magic ! So what are you waiting for, bring out that wand and let’s start creating!

Creating your own Troll forest

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Real trolls are hard to come by, doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but they are shy things preferring to stay out of sight and far away from humans.

So what do you do then when you want a proper Troll forest, perhaps for a photo shoot or for a Safari for your friends, or just for plain fun! You make your own!

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I did exactly that! I might even use these photos to illustrate a book or a story!

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It’s pretty simple to do, you just find some figurines or toys in your attic or someone in your family’s or friends’ attic, then you go on an excursion to search for the perfect forest!

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Try to find a forest with lots of little holes or caves in it, somewhere with dense tree population and lots of shrubs and bushes. That’s a perfect place for trolls to live!

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Then you just position them where you want them to, and click away! It’s fun for younger kids to go on a safari and try to spot the trolls!

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And to all you teachers out there, this is such a fun school project! The kids get to go outside and use their creativity and imagination! Especially for younger kids, this will be such a fun thing to do! Perhaps they can even write a story about the troll(s) afterwards!

Have fun! 😊

The Lost Tales of Silver Forest

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Art by: Svein solem

The darkness sparkled on a canvas of white stars and tiny specks of snow drizzled dazedly upon the roof of Elsie’s house. Elsie yawned in her sleep and kicked the duvet unto the floor. Not long after, she started shivering and woke up abruptly. “That better not have been you, Foxnap Longbeak!”, she shouted annoyingly into the blackness. A tiny red-capped House Elf appeared from the invisibility of the murky courner of Elsie’s bedroom. “What!? What is this now? Accusing me of this and that! Me!? The sweetest House Elf in all of Northland!”. Elsie sighed, that he was not, but it did look like he had been sleeping. She slipped into her clothes and decided to get up, it was just an hour before sunup and she might as well make the best of it. “Where are you going now?”, asked Foxnap grumpily, he fixed his cap, tied his scarf around his neck and carefully released his long grey beard from the scarf knot. Elsie didn’t reply, she knew he would follow her no matter where she went. Outside the grass shone with hoarfrost and the sky lay dreaming in a deliciously soft bed of blue and indigo. “I’ll start milking the cows first,” thought Elsie to herself. It wasn’t as though Foxnap would bother to do it, even though as head House Elf, it was supposed to be his job. Elsie’s wooden clogs made a crunching sound in the frozen grass, the only sound audible in the quiet bliss of winter, but then suddenly, something else disturbed the silence. It sounded like some sort of snort. Elsie looked up, and there, at the edge of the Silver Forest stood a tall handsome stag staring at her.

The stag bowed its majestic head in the direction where Elsie stood, lifted it’s hooves and kicked loosely in the powdery snow. Elsie could see that it was a red deer, the messenger between worlds. The red deers’ forfather was Dvalin himself, the one true messenger of the ancient gods. Elsie bowed her head too and quickly cast the rune of Onn, the symbol of the hidden and mysterious. The stag acknowledged her greeting and gave a snort before it turned and headed back into the forest. Elsie’s grandmother had taught her about runes and their ancient symbols, she had showed Elsie how to see beyond her eyes and how to follow signs. The rune Onn belonged to the hare, the friend and helper of Dvalin. Now the stag turned back and looked at her. “What is that thing doing?” Sniffed Foxnap behind her. “Shoooo! Shooo!”he called out, but the stag did not move. Again it bowed its head. Elsie felt herself drawn to the stag. She became the hare, secretly cloaking herself in white invisibility . “stop that at once!” Shouted Foxnap, “we are NOT following that thing!”. Foxnap had clearly lived too long surrounded by the comforts of the farm. There was not much wildless left in him, but protective, he was. ” We have to,” whispered Elsie. “Can’t you see that it is calling me?”

Elsie turned towards the forest, making her way through the crisp grass with Foxnap at her heels. The stag started moving slowly, stopping, waiting, then moving again. Elsie was slow, careful, but not hesitant. She kept the rune Onn at her fingertips. Soon, the lampost marking the border between people and beast, village and wilderness appeared before them. Elsie had never been this far into the forest before. She had been warned, there was magic here, magic beyond the ancient familiar runes of old…Elsie came to a halt…someone was there at the courner of her eye, just beyond her visibility, something or someone watching her…The stag was gone. “Let’s get out of here!!” hissed Foxnap, not grumpy anymore, his voice was full of anger, warning, danger…But Elsie was frozen at the spot, eyed glued to the stranger watching her….

“Come over here, little girl!”. The stranger called out, beckoning for Elsie to approach him. Elsie quickly cast the rune of Huathe, the seer in the dark. “Rune magic, will not help you here, child,” said the stranger, “but if it is light you want, then so be it.” He stepped into the soft glow of the lampost and Elsie gasped. “You are a Grimlin!” she exclaimed. Foxnap grunted unhappily, a wolf-man was not something he had expected to meet in this forest, but then, there was a lot he did not know about the Silver Forest. He stepped infront of Elsie protectively and drew his little silver knife. ” You won’t be needing that, Elf, hurting the girl is the last thing I want, she is too valuable for that. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gwan, and I am indeed a Grimlin, one of the last of my kind in Silver Forest.” Foxnap lowered his knife reluctantly, but remained positioned infront of Elsie. ” And my name is Elsie, and this is my family House Elf, Foxnap. We followed a stag and ended up here, but now the stag seems to have disappeared.” Gwan nodded, ” I sent the stag to fetch you here. Silver Forest needs your help.” Elsie was just about to ask why, when she was interrupted by a deep piercing howl from the forest, and suddenly a flock of grey wolves appeared on the hill. The wolf leader blotted his yellow teeth and growled menacingly…

“Don’t be afraid, Elsie, the wolves are under my command. They are just put off by the Elf, we did not expect him to come with you.” Foxnap looked midly offended and put his hand on Elsie’s shoulder. “Where the girl goes I follow,” he stated. Elsie rolled her eyes, but secretly she was glad of Foxnap’s company here in this unfamiliar place. Gwan smiled, and nodded his head, “I can see that, House Elf, she is a lucky girl.” Foxnap was not sure if Gwan was being truthful or pulling his leg, but he decided to keep his mouth shut. For now. The wolves descended and formed around Gwan. They looked rather like an army of canine soldiers ready to jump the throat of any potential threat. Elsie shivered. She was glad the wolves were on their side. “Listen, Elsie, I have much to tell you, but not here, there are spies everywhere, even here, so close to the border. Let’s move quickly before they catch our scent.” “But….” protested Elsie, but she was cut short by a strong gust of north wind whirling up loose snow and rattling the heavy snow clad spruce trees so that a kind of white mist spun a web of invisibility around them. Elsie felt Foxnap’s hand in hers. “Come quickly!” said Gwan from somewhere in the mist, and before Elsie knew what was going on she had been lifted up on the back of a wolf, and the beast was running madly deeper and deeper into the Silver Forest.

Elsie held on as tightly as she could while the wolf leaped over rocks and branches. The mist was still too thick to see anything. “Elsie! Elsie, are you okay?” It was Foxnap, calling her from somewhere inside the mist. “Yes, yes I am. How about you?” she replied. Foxnap just grunted, obviously not happy with his means of transportation. But at least they were both safe. For now. As the Silver Forest grew denser and darker, the mist lifted, and Elsie could see the silhouette of a house appearing infront of her. The house looked gloomy and abandoned, with its aged wooden walls and darkened windows. The wolf’s pace slowed down as the house grew taller. Elsie felt something eerie and ghost like creep up on her, a feeling of dread, making the hair on her arms stand up as shivers went rapidly down her spine. The wolf came to a full stop right outside the old mansion-like house.

“Put me down this instant!” It was Foxnap and he was not happy having been carried, not by one of the wolves, but by Gwan himself. Gwan laughed and obeyed the House Elf’s order. “None of the wolves were willing to take him,” explained Gwan to Elsie. “Poor Foxnap,” thought Elsie, he was really not having an easy time of it out here in the wilderness. “Let’s go inside,” said Gwan and approached the door to the house. Elsie shivered again, but did not protest. “Stay behind me,” whispered Foxnap fiercely, and stepped infront of Elsie. She did not mind obeying him. The door made an old tired squeaking sound before it gave in and opened. Inside, a long dark corridor appeared and at the end of the corridor, another door. There were no lights and all Elsie had to guide her steps was the sound of Gwan and Foxnap walking infront of her. Finally, as the second door opened a tiny arrow of light shot through the corridor, and Elsie could see that the walls were covered with strange moss clad paintings. The door was pushed aside by Gwan and revealed another room, bathed in golden candlelight, and at the very end of the room sat a man, or was it a man? No, when Elsie looked carefully, she could see that it was a woman, a very old, and very witch-like woman staring straight at her with black raveny eyes.

“Come here, girl. Don’t be afraid.” The old lady beckoned Elsie to come closer. Her fingers were long and thin and crow like. Elsie hesitated, but Gwan gave her an encouraging look. “Go on, ” he whispered, “she is friendlier than she looks.” He gave a little soft laugh. Foxnap came to stand next to Elsie, “we’ll go together,” he squeezed Elsie’s hand and smiled. The old lady was waiting for them in her high royal chair. “I might not look it now, but I was once a beautiful Wildwoth. The wisest of them all. My beauty has been taken by the Mare people, but my brain is still intact.” She gave a small smile. Elsie looked at the old lady. She looked nothing like a Wildwoth, rumored to be so intoxicatingly beautiful that they could lure any man, beast or woman into their midst. ” Who are the Mare people?” asked Elsie. ” The mare people are why we have called you here, my dear. They are the darkness that lies upon Silver Forest. They consume everything that is good and beautiful in this world, until the only thing left is…..darkness, hunger, want….” The Wildwoth shivered and her smile disappeared. ” Is it because they hate the goodness and want to have the world for themselves? .” Elsie knew the stories of old, how conquerors and warriors and kings had tried to plunder and steal Northland, but they had always failed. ” Not exactly, ” answered the Wildwoth. ” The Mare people are so drawn to everything good and beautiful, because they themselves are nothing but empty shells. They want to posess all beauty, but their greed and their want never ends for as soon as they touch something good it disappears. Nothing and nobody can come in contact with a Mare and live to tell the tale.” ” So then, it is hopeless,” sighed Elsie. The Wildwoth smiled, ” for me perhaps, and for Gwan and your House Elf here, but for you Elsie, it is not.”

“But…” Stuttered Elsie, “what is so special about me?” The Wildwoth smiled again, and her eyes twinkled slightly. ” You, Elsie, have the ancient Rune Magic.” “But Gwan said Rune Magic was not going to work here in Silver Forest.” Elsie was confused and gave the Wildwoth an uncertain look. “That is not entirely true, child. For if you know the Rune Magic, you will also posess the lost tales of old, and that, little girl, is where the true magic lies.” Elsie opened her mouth to say something, but the wildwoth was not finished talking. ” Gwan, take Elsie, and the House Elf, to Ash, he will know how to help her. I will send Arn, my most trusted friend ahead to let Ash know that you are coming. But go quickly, my friend, we have no time to lose.” Gwan nodded, and before Elsie could ask another question, she and Foxnap were guided back out by Gwan. Outside, the wolves were waiting for them in the snow. The air was crisp and cold, and not very inviting. Gwan lifted Elsie up on one of the wolf’s back and just as they were about to take off, Elsie heard a shrill cry from the air above, and when Elsie looked up, she saw a majestic eagle sailing the wind above the white frosted peaks. ” Arn,” said Gwan and smiled. “If the wildwoth’s must trusted friend was an eagle,” thought Elsie to herself, “then who, or rather what, was Ash?”

The wolves carried Elsie and Foxnap deeper into the snow clad forest. The mist had gone, but been replaced by an eerie silence, as though the forest was holding its breath, waiting for something to burst out of the night. The winter darkness lay thick upon the forest, even the exquisite Northern Lights did not penetrate the wild green canopy of the Silver trees. The wolves did not move quite as fast this time, they carefully chose their steps, perhaps afraid of losing their precious cargo. Ice blanketed the rocks making them shimmer beautifully, but dangerously. All of a sudden Elsie thought she saw something moving in the shadows, something tall and dark, but when she looked carefully, it was just a tree. The wolves stopped abruptly, aware of the sudden movement. And then, the tree moved again, but there was no wind to shift its tall shape, everything was still and quiet. Elsie felt her heart starting to beat faster, louder. The tree was, clumsily and slowly, moving towards her!

“Good evening, Ash.” Gwan strode nonchalantly out of the shadows behind Elsie. ” Ash!!?” Elsie’s eyes widened and she stared unbelievingly at the tree. ” Ash is a…a tree!?” ” I am no tree!” Came the angry reply from the tree. ” I am a Tree Lork.” ” A Tree Lork!?” Elsie had heard about these mythical creatures in stories and fairy tales, half man and half tree, the Tree Lorks were a terrible sight to behold, ancient and fierce and no friend to man or beast. ” And this is the creature you have chosen to teach Elsie?” Foxnap’s voice was shaking with anger. Ash looked at him with eyes ready for the kill. ” What is all this nonsense, Gwan. Arn told me to expect a young wizard, not a little girl and an obnoxious elf.” ” The girl is the wizard,” replied Gwan, ” and it seems the Elf comes with the bargain, whether we want him or not.” Foxnap hissed and was about to fire another insult at the Tree and the Grimlin, when Elsie hushed him with a pleading look. ” She knows the ancient Rune Magic,” explained Gwan to Ash. Ash looked at Elsie suspiciously. ” Well does she now, so let’s see it then!” Elsie hesitated, but what choice did she have, it seemed, if she did not impress this Tree Lork, she would never learn the magic behind her magic. She steadied herself, closed her eyes, raised her hands and formed the rune of Nuin, the rune signifying secret passageway to the hidden and unknown,the rune belonging to the Ash tree, the tree where the warlocks of old wrote down their mystic knowledge to preserve it from the darkness. The air seemed to light up around them, it pulsated and shifted and opened, like a door someone had pushed aside, there were voices in the still wind, whispering riddles. Ash backed away from Elsie, clearly astonished by what he saw. ” Enough,” he said eventually, sternly and with finality. ” We will take her to the painted caves. They will test her, and if she can break the codes written in blood, she will pass, and I will teach her.” ” Codes written in blood!? What is this barbaric test!? Elsie will undergo no such test!” Foxnap could not hold back anymore. This had gone too far. ” it’s okay, Foxnap, I will do it. I will take the test.” And with those words filling the air, Ash led the way to the painted caves.

The Panited Caves were not far. The Wolf pack came to a quiet halt outside a slick grey wall covered in red shapes. The air was a bit thicker here, like it contained too many secrets to hold. The snow was absent, and yet, it felt colder. Elsie climbed down from the wolf’s back and approached the wall. She could see that the paintings were old, perhaps over 3000 years. Foxnap came to stand next to her. ” I don’t like this, Elsie. Not one bit,” he whispered anxiously. ” I know,” replied Elsie, “but I can feel that I must do this. It’s important.”
“Yes, it is my child, more than you understand.” It was Gwan who spoke. He put his hand on Elsie’s shoulder and gave her an encouraging smile. ” Well, this is it,” Ash’s voice did not carry any warmth or friendliness, it was simply on point. “And she must go alone.” These last words were directed at Foxnap, who looked as though he was about to burst into an anger fit at any time. Elsie nodded. She touched the paintings with her fingers. Here was the great elk, looking tall and majestic, and wolves…being hunted. There was also a bear and…Elsie looked carefully….a lynx? Elsie knew that the bear was the balancer beteween the spirit world and the human world, old spirits often took the shape of a bear when they wanted to visit the world of men. The elk was the carrier of knowledge and old wisdom, and the Rune of the Elk would help the caster of it find their own inner wisdom. The lynx gave the power to see the spirits and reveal the hidden secrets, and the wolf was the strongest protector. So then, why were the humans in the cave paintings hunting the wolf? Elsie took a deep breath and entered the cave.

The cave was dark and humid, blanketed by a wet damp cold that tore at Elsie’s limbs. It was an unwelcoming feeling, making Elsie hesitate. But she could not give in to fear, not so soon. Elsie raised her hand and cast the rune of the wolf. A formless figure appeared next to her, it was not exactly visible to the eye, more like a mass of energy and vibration not bound by matter. Elsie could feel the strength pouring into her, and she became calm again. The cave turned into a tunnel leading Elsie along black moist walls and a slippery hard floor. The wolf walked next to her, making no sound only a slight vibration. Suddenly the air shifted, it was no longer stiff and stale, but surging with energy, there was a tiny flash of light, and then, the empty air formed into a big black bear. Elsie screamed and the wolf leaped at the bear, but the wolf was no match for the bear, and soon it was whimpering on the cave floor. The black bear beckoned Elsie to follow it, and then she remembered the rune of the bear, the bear was a messenger, a spirit in animal form. Elsie patted the invisible wolf and together they followed the black messenger deeper into the cave.
Soon, the tunnel widened into a room. The bear signed for Elsie to hide, and then with a flicker of his paw, the room changed. Colors started taking shape, a soft light started glowing. The shapes took form, and Elsie saw to her utter horror that the cave was filled with ugly looking, loud, boisterous and terrifying Dwargs!

“Are they really Dwargs?” asked Elsie, her voice was shaking with fear. Dwargs were hateful, stupid, unpredictable creature who killed for sport. Her guide, the black bear, shook his head, and spoke, not out loud or by moving his lips, but inside Elsie’s head: ” These creatures are not Dwargs, they are what human beings will become if the Mare people are not stopped. These are only illusions, shadows of what will be, if you do not succeed, Elsie.” Elsie felt her whole inside stiffen, and her heart skipped a few beats. “Me….? But….I am just one girl!”. ” No, my child, you are not. You are not alone. Look inside you, look at the ancient runes, they are a part of you, look behind them, what are their stories? What are they telling you?” Elsie looked down at the wolf beside her. Even though he was invisible, he was just as real as herself, like an extension of her own courage. She looked back at the Dwargs, they were now no more than disturbances in the air, potentials not yet realized. And it dawned on Elsie that magic was no more than seeing the hidden potentials in the world that no one else saw, and fulfilling them. ” Everything is at its core nothing but energy and vibration, Elsie, governed by cerain laws. Learn these laws, and you can change any outcome. These are the lost tales of how everything came into being.” Elsie pondered these words while the black messenger guided her back into the tunnel and towards the entrance she had come from. As the soft starlight from outside penetrated the cave, the bear’s form dissolved and Elsie was alone again. The wolf leaped into her heart and Elsie knew she had passed the test. Outside the moon shone on the white snow and her friends were waiting for her. Elsie took at deep breath of the fresh night air just as Foxnap bolted to her side and gave her a rare and endearing hug. She was safe. For now.

When Ash saw Elsie appear in the cave entrance his dark wooden eyes opened wide and he gave Elsie a beady look of shock and astonishment. ” She passed the test,” he declared, trying to hide the tone of surprise in his voice. Foxnap stared at him and said darkly: ” Well, of course she did, you piece of a stick, she is MY Elsie after all.” Ash chose to ignore the rudeness of this remark, and turned to Gwan instead. ” You were right about the girl. I will take her to the swamp and teach her. We leave now.” Gwan nodded and looked proud. ” We will ALL leave,” added Foxnap, and put his arm protectively around Elsie’s legs. ” I’m sure we will,” replied Ash dryly, ” but this time, the wolves will not do, we need bigger beasts for this journey. The wolves should stay and guard the cave. I sense that something dark is on your tail and will soon try to enter the cave.” Elsie gave Foxnap a worried glance, somehow she knew that Ash was right. ” Very well, Ash,” said Gwan calmly, ” what do you suggest?” Ash looked at Elsie, who knew the answer instantly. ” Bears. We will call the bears.” Ash nodded, ” you do that, Elsie.” Elsie lifted her hand and cast the rune of the bear, and not long after a group of big brown bears came striding out of the shadows.

Elsie woke up abruptly from the deep sleep she had fallen into on top of the bear’s soft warm back. The air had suddenly changed, it was colder, solidified like ice, moving fast towards them. Ash, whose tall shape was walking next to her, looked at Elsie and nodded, “Yes, there is someone there. Why don’t you use the Owl Rune to see who it is.” Elsie lifted her fingers and formed the rune of Huath, the Owl’s rune, the one who could see in spiritual darkness and guide you out of it. Immediately a majestic white snow owl ascended from Elsie’s hand, it tried its wings and circled above Elsie’s head a couple of times before it set off into the darkness. This time, to Elsie’s astonishment, the owl had not been just energy and vibration, but it had taken full form and been filled with matter. The owl had been very much alive and breathing. Elsie looked at Ash who, for the first time since Elsie had met him, gave a small fleeting smile. They continued into the forest and Elsie was just about to fall asleep again when the Snow owl returned. She came to sit on Ash’s huge black arm seeking Elsie with her liquid amber eyes. When Elsie met her gaze she saw what the owl had seen. A bodiless crooked and terrifying head filled the sky above a small farm Elsie recognized as her own home, it gave an ice cold shriek before it dissolved, but Elsie could feel its cold bleak energy heading towards the forest. It was hunting her. “And that, my child, is a Mare,” said Ash calmly. He had apparently seen the same vision as Elsie. Elsie froze, ” but it’s coming this way, it will catch me!” ” And that is why we need to speed up, the swamp is not far, you will be safe there.” Ash snapped his fingers and the bears started running, and with Gwan in the lead, the whole party disappeared into the wintery darkness.

The swamp was just that, a dark cold and damp swamp. Why Ash chose to live here Elsie did not know or understand. Perhaps it was the tree in him that enjoyed the humidity. There was a little cottage there too, much too small for Ash who preferred the wild outside, but it was a warm and cozy little house designed solely for the purpose of guests. Ash served them some creamy mushroom soup and barley beer for Gwan and Foxnap. The food was delicious, and Elsie could feel it strenghtening her. ” We have about two days,” declared Ash. ” That is hardly enough time,” replied Gwan, ” why the rush, Ash?” ” In two days the Mare tailing us will reach the swamp and Elsie needs to be ready.” Elsie almost choked on her soup. ” Two days!” She cried out, ” What can I possibly learn in two days!? ” ” A lot,” came the somber feelingless answer. ” But first Elsie need her sleep,” interrupted Foxnap, and none of the others protested.
The next day Elsie woke up with a knot in her stomach, she was anxious about the day and frightened of the Mare closing up on them. Ash didn’t give her much time to prepare herself, right after breakfast he declared that the lessons were about to begin. ” Elsie, ” he said and gave Elsie a serious look, ” You must know by now that all magic follows laws, laws that we cannot manipulate. You have seen greed, greed is based on vanity and a want for power and control, this kind of greed is a thirst that cannot be quenched, it will ultimately consume itself. The greed of the Mare people is based on lack, on emptiness and a desire to fill that emptiness, this has led to jealousy, an idea that everyone has what I don’t and I need to take it from them to get it.” ” What has this got to do with magic?” interrupted Elsie. “Everything,” came the dry answer. ” Magic says that everything that can happen will happen, sometimes with a little help. There are endless potentials just waiting to burst forth and be realized. They want to be fulfilled. There are basically two types of energy, the energy that creates and the energy that destroys, both are necessary for life to exist. But as you probably have guessed by now, the Mares are made up of energy that destroys, not to break down and recreate, but to consume. Do you understand? ” Elsie nodded. ” So I have to destroy the destructive energy?” She asked uncertainly. Ash shook his head. ” You cannot destroy destruction with destruction. You cannot fill emptiness with more emptiness. Emptiness is nothing, so there is nothing to destroy.” Elsie looked puzzled. ” Think, Elsie. Use your intelect. Think.” But Elsie was blank. It seemed an impossible task.

” Let us try something more practical,” suggested Ash. ” I want to you to cast the rune of the Lynx. Not just to summon its energy, but to summon the lynx itself.” Elsie concentrared and lifted her hand to form the rune of the lynx. She felt it take shape inside her, then externalize and find form and matter to fill it with, and then suddenly, a beautiful white lynx came striding majestically out from behind the trees. ” Good, Elsie. Call it over here.” Elsie did, and the lynx came to stand next to them, looking up at Elsie with deep knowledgeable eyes. ” Can you tell me the tale of the lynx?” asked Ash. ” It is the animal who helps us solve riddles, find the answers to secrets and discover knowledge within.” ” Yes, exactly,” smiled Ash. ” Now I want you to try to become the lynx, to feel her energy within, to be her, to unite with her and feel her every molecule, her every vibrating cell, to see, hear and experience the world through her eyes. Not just in spirit, but in form as well.” Elsie concentrared again. This time it was tricky, she had never done this advanced magic before. She focused on the lynx, its energy, its being, the way it was created, she focused on the tale of the lynx from its very creation, and suddenly she was not Elsie anymore, she had four paws and the world looked and felt entirely different. Her senses were sharper and her energy pulsated faster. “Good.” She could hear Ash’s voice from far away. “Now come back to your own form.” It took all of Elsie’s energy to return to her own body and being. Ash smiled at her. “One last lesson, and then we are done.” Elsie was panting, and fatigue seemed to have taken her over. But she steadied herself, and lifted her hands, ready for the next rune. ” Now do the opposite, draw the lynx into you, let the lynx take your human form, and feel your human emotions.” Elsie looked astonishingly at Ash. ” How…?”, she began, but Ash interrupted her, ” just try, Elsie, trust your instincts.” Elsie closed her eyes, and invited into her, the tale of the lynx.

That night Elsie dreamt that she was fighting the Mare, but no matter what she did, no matter what rune she cast, she could not defeat the Mare. But just before the world persihed, and she with it, an elk appeared, it calmed her and told her to listen to the forest and what it was whispering, but before Elsie could hear anything more, she woke up, bathed in sweat. “Ash?” she asked at the breakfast table that morning, ” why was I chosen to defeat the Mare people, what is so special about me? Surely, you, or Gwan or the Wildwoth, are much more capable and skilled than to me fulfill this task.” ” That is a very important question, Elsie. What did the elk in your dream say?” Elsie looked at Ash with shock and surprise in her eyes, ” How did you know…?” ” Never mind that,” replied Ash, ” answer me, what did he say?” Elsie had never heard what the elk whispered in her dream, but all of a sudden she just knew, she could feel the elk inside her, talking to her. ” It says that I am happy, fulfilled, loved. It says that there is no lack or greed in me, that I am…whole…enough…worthy…” Ash looked at her approvingly, ” And that, my dear, is exactly why you were chosen”

Elsie thought about Ash’s words for a while. What did he mean when he said she was whole? It was true that she felt…loved. She did not feel that she needed something to feel…what was it Ash had called it….worthy? Was she in truth happy? She was often sad, angry, frustrated and upset, but that always passed, and she went back to…well…yes…happy in a way. ” But Ash, ” said Elsie, ” what about you? Do you not feel happy?” Ash looked at her and his eyes grew sad and colorless. ” I have seen too much wrongdoing and acts of terror, Elsie. I feel so helpless, there is nothing I can do to change it. Perhaps in a way I have lost faith in the world. Too many people turn to greed when they have an opportunity to. It saddens me, and…yes…it takes away my hope, my trust in love and goodness.” Ash sighed. In her mind Elsie saw a man, looking very much like Ash, but without the part of him that was tree and wood. He sat with his head in his hands in what looked like utter despair. Elsie felt compassion wash over her like a tidal wave and she wished to take the man’s pain away. ” But, Ash,” said Elsie suddenly, ” wouldn’t that make me the perfect target for the Mare people? You said they are jealous of happiness and seek to consume it?” ” Yes, Elsie, that is why you have them on your tail.” “Them?” Elsie had never heard him use the word “them” before. “Are there more than one? ” she asked Ash unsteadily, her shaking voice betraying her fear. But before Ash could answer her question, the trees outside uttered what sounded like a cry of terror, and the air froze solid with bleakness and stale hopelessness.

Gwan and Ash got up abruptly and hurried outside. The air was so thick they could hardly breathe. “It’s too soon,” said Gwan nervously, “she is not ready.” “She has to be,” replied Ash, “she is our only hope.” Through the darkness they could spot the shadowy silhouettes of the Mares. They were many, perhaps in hundreds! Elsie had come to stand in the doorway, she was shivering both with fear and cold. “Quickly, Elsie!” called Ash, “cast the rune of the wolf, it may stall them for a while.” Elsie raised her hand and cast the rune. Multiple wolf shapes shot out of her fingers, they seemed bigger and more menacing than regular wolves, and without further instructions the whole pack headed for the forest and the oncoming army of Mares. Ash and Gwan retreated back into the house, only Elsie was left standing in the doorway, frozen with fear.

” Get inside!!” yelled Foxnap from inside the cottage. But Elsie could not. Her legs would not move an inch. She just stood there staring the the menacing shadows getting closer and closer. Now she could see the rune wolves attacking the shadows, there were loud screams of horror, branches were cracking, snow disappeared, and the air was frozen solid with sheer terror. It did not take long, the wolves were no match for the Mares. ” Eeelsieee!!” shouted Foxnap again, but still, Elsie could not move. She watched as the Mares vanished from the shadows and their liquidy form became solid. They were a terrible sight to behold. Ash came out from the cottage and tried to shoot at them with a bow and arrow, but this seemed to just anger them more. ” Try the bears, Elsie!” he yelled desperately at Elsie, and Elsie cast the rune of the bear. A huge black bear, more than tripple the size of a human, shot out of Elsie’s fingers. It flung itself at the Mares and a gruesome battle commenced. But then, to the cottage dwellers horror, the Mares shifted form, they emerged with each other until they became one big terrorizing entity . In this form, the bear was easily defeated. It whimpered slightly and went back to its invisible spirit being. Now, the giant Mare looked directly at Elsie, and with a terrifying roar it stepped into the swamp and towards where Elsie stood.

” come inside!!” Foxnap’s voice was a desperate scream now. But Elsie still didn’t move. ” I’ve got to try to fight it! ” she shouted back. ” Nooooooo!!” Roared Foxnap, ” You aren’t ready! Even Ash said so! ” ” But there is no time to get ready!” Replied Elsie, ” I’ve got to try, Foxnap! ” Foxnap, Ash and Gwan came to stand next to her as she faced the oncoming Mare. ” You can do it, ” whispered Ash into her ear. ” just remember what you have learned.” And Elsie remembered. She closed her eyes and conjured the images of the lynx, the bear, the wolf, the owl, and then the Dwargs and the future that would await her friends if she failed. She raised her hand and made an ancient mysterious rune, and then, she opened herself up…she mustered all her power and strength and invited the Mare to merge with her spirit. The Mare did not need much persuasion, this is what it had waited for…to suck the pure innocent spirit out of the girl. But then, that is not what happened….the Mare was confused, it was being held fast, it couldn’t consume or drink dry, it could only….feel…feel Elsie’s spirit, and the light of that pure spirit was so bright…it filled the Mare, and it was no longer empty, it couldn’t hold the light…it was growing…expanding…and then it exploded…

Elsie had neither shape nor form, she was just light dissolved in space. Floating, flying, diving…then she heard a faint voice…”Elsie! Elsie it’s time to return. Elsie!” She moved towards the voice, let it guide her, then she felt solid ground and she was again bound fast by matter. She had a body, her own body, and next to her stood Ash, smiling. “You did it, Elsie, the Mares are gone.” Elsie was confused, what had happened…” You filled them with your wholeness. By inviting them into your soul, by using empathy, you finally made them stop wanting, and when that stopped, the Mares could no longer exist.” Elsie blinked, had she really done all that? ” Eeeeelsieeeee!!” Foxnap threw himself into Elsie’s arms, ” you’re alive!” Elsie smiled and patted Foxnap on the back. “Yes, yes, I think I am.” Gwan also came to join the party, and the four of them just looked at each other and smiled.
” Elsie, let’s go home,” said Foxnap suddenly. “Yes,”replied Elsie, “let’s go home.”