In this excerpt, The Six are just entering the caverns and tunnels through the mountains. They are accompanied by the elf princess named Anusha, the young dragons named Ardopla and Parmaka who are the size of horses, and Griff, a young griffin. Again, a disclaimer – this is an unedited draft and may not be exactly the same in the published version.
The kids and the animals fell in line with Anusha at the lead. With all the twists and turns around blue stalagmites and stalactites and various blue knobs and stones, the kids were already worried about losing their way, but Anusha assured them they were headed in the general direction of east.
Soon they arrived at a huge arch that Anusha said they would pass through. Standing beneath it, Grayson looked up and estimated the thing rose at least two hundred feet.
He turned to look at Grant. “Arches are inherently unstable. Architects have special forms, special patterns to construct arches to make them steady and secure. You think nature knows the rules?”
Grant raised his eyebrows, “You worried it will collapse on us? It looks like it’s been here for a few years, like thousands. Chances are it won’t decide to collapse just as we pass under it. Just don’t cough, anyone!”
With a warning like that, of course, every one of them got a tickle, even the animals. Trying to speed along and ignore their tickles, they became more and more tense. Suddenly, Griff coughed long and loud. The whole group came to a standstill and peered upwards.
Grant laughed, “I was only joking about the coughing.”
The others just stared at him. Finally, Mady threatened, “You wanna get kicked off this team? You wanna find your way through this maze on your own?”
Grant merely grinned. He knew they wouldn’t kick him out of the group. Would they? His smile faded, and he mumbled, “Sorry,” just in case.
Passing through the arch brought them into a massive hallway or tunnel. Suddenly the blues were gone and the light was dimmer. Everything looked a gray-green
“Kinda dark,” Grant mumbled, still a little worried about being kicked out of the group.
“We’re now past the light from the cavern mouth, and this dim light is the lichen I told you about. Like I said, not bright but you can see where to put your feet – and no jokes, Grant,” said Anusha.
She looked at Grant as though expecting him to make a joke, anyway. He looked back with big, innocent eyes.
“We need to be alert. You never know what may be lurking behind the big rocks or in the crevasses in the walls,” said Anusha. “Will, maybe you can tell the animals to be alert, too.”
Now that was scary. Put on alert already! They were barely into the cave. And the dim light was hardly brighter than moonlight in the woods. Will glowed and went unfocused. He was mindspeaking to Parmaka, Ardopla, and Griff. He nodded to Anusha, and she led them forward.
Tense and worried after Anusha’s warning, they continued on their way, looking all around for monsters. It was hard to continue to concentrate on being alert, though. They were not yet accustomed to the dark and the floor of the tunnel was not smooth. Not at all. Stones, large and small, littered the path they were walking on. So although trying to be alert, watching their steps took part of their concentration. Walking through that rubble was noisy, too, so they were straining to listen for anything that might be sneaking around in there.
Suddenly, a loud screech echoed through the cavern! As tense as they were, the kids jumped, spun around, and shrieked. The dragons and Griff made weird noises and plastered themselves against the kids. Being bigger than horses, the dragons knocked the kids down. Seven kids on the ground yelled at the animals.
“Don’t step on me!”
“Move off me!”
After a few minutes, it was hard to know if they were yelling at the animals or at the each other. And the animals were still making frightened noises. The cavern echoed with all the yelling and stumbling around. Finally everyone was sorted out and back on their feet.
“What was that noise?” asked Leyton. “It was horrible.”
“Screechers,” Anusha said. “They can be mean and dangerous, but they may not be so near. Their screeches travel a long way.”
“Well, we made so much noise anyone within a mile now knows we’re here,” said Grant. “It was sort of like ringing the dinner bell. Dinner’s here. Come and get it.”
“Not funny, Grant,” said Mady. “I’m warning you. I’ll throw you out of the group with my ring.”
“So I’ll go invisible. You won’t be able to find me to throw me anywhere.”
“Come on, you guys,” said Will. “We’re all tired and tense. Ragging on each other isn’t going to make this trek any easier.”
Grant and Mady looked at each other sheepishly. They hung their heads. At the same time, like a duet, they said, “Sorry.”
Their heads shot up, and they grinned. Then they started laughing. Soon the whole group was laughing. Except the animals.
Garrett thought they were grinning. But it’s hard to tell when an eagle beak and two dragon snouts are grinning.
Again, a disclaimer. This is a first draft so it may change before publication or may be omitted entirely. Nothing is certain with first drafts.
Garrett may have sounded a bit apprehensive when he hollered down to ask what he should do, but now Leyton looked up into the tree and saw he was sitting on a branch swinging his legs.
“Garrett, what are you doing?” Leyton called, worried that his cousin wasn’t being careful.
Garrett grinned as he looked down. “Just waiting for you guys to decide how I should get down.”
Grant looked up. “Garrett! Are you secured to the tree? It’s dangerous up there.”
“Nope. Just sitting here. How dangerous could that be? Don’t need to be tied to the tree.”
Grayson sighed. “Garrett!” he called. “You secure yourself right now. Don’t be so cocky. You never know when you may slip.”
“Not me. I’m a good tree climber.”
Suddenly a raucous “Screee!” sounded loud and close. Garrett startled and slipped, “Whoops!”
Everyone on the ground caught their breaths and peered upwards.
“You okay?” Leyton called in a shaky voice.
“Yeah.” Garrett still sounded confident, although his confidence had slipped a bit. “Oh, oh. That feathered giant doesn’t seem happy with me.” With shooing motions, he yelled, “Get away. Go on.”
But the bird continued to fly directly at Garrett, actually flying against him, knocking him off his seat.
“Oh, oh,” said Leyton. “He slipped. He’s falling! Mady, do some magic!”
Thumbs playing nervously in her loose fists, she replied, “Leyton, I don’t know how to do magic.”
“Well, you did some last night. You have to save Garrett. He’ll break his neck!”
“Garrett! Don’t fall!” screamed Mady. “Hang on. Don’t fall.”
But it was too late. Garrett was already plunging through the air.
Suddenly Mady’s ring flared a bright blue, burning a path upward toward Garrett. Then her eyes flared a matching bright blue streaking toward the falling kid. Garrett’s downward progression slammed to a stop; he hung in midair with no discernible means of support!
He grinned down at Mady. “Hey, Mady, let me down easy, will ya?”
Still not quite believing she was making magic happen, Mady looked astounded. Shrugging, she held out her hands, palms up, making motions as though she would catch him in her cupped hands. “Come down, Garrett. Come down slowly and land gently.”
Now bathed in a gentle blue light that emanated from her eyes, Garrett descended slowly and lit as gracefully as a bird, still grinning. “Knew you’d do it, Mady.”
Leyton threw his arms around his sister and said, “Mady, that was great! You’re the boss! You can make magic happen!”
“Yes,” said Mady. “It appears I can, at that. But how?”
“Dunno. But you had scary blue streaks coming from your eyes.” Remembering that, Leyton dropped the hug and stared at her as if she were some sort of ghoul. The others were looking at her with some evidence of trepidation, as well.
Mady didn’t notice. She was moving her hands and appeared to be whispering to herself.
The completion of The Six and the Magic Circles is not happening as rapidly as I had thought it would. Things like illness and procrastination interfere with predictions, so no more of those; it’ll be published when it is published. I will say, though, that excerpts I share at this point are neither final drafts nor even guaranteed to be in the final project.
The darkness under the trees had lightened somewhat with the dawning of the day, and judging by yesterday it was unlikely to get any brighter, so The Six decided to break camp and be on their way. They could see, but like yesterday, a flashlight would have been nice.
With no water to spare, they damped the fire with dirt. Having no suitable tools, they scooped it with their hands adding to the grimy feeling they already had. All were anxious to get to the river to bathe. Satisfied that the fire was out, they strapped on their packs, then turned to look at each other.
“Who remembers which way we were heading before the fiasco last night?” asked Grant.
Grayson raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t say it was a fiasco. We survived it.”
Grant revised his question. “Felt like fiasco to me. Okay, who knows the direction we were heading before the excitement last night?”
As they looked at one another, it became clear no one knew.
“Toward the river.” volunteered Mady. Everyone just looked at her. “Well, no, I don’t know which direction that is.”
“You know, that could actually be helpful. According to the map, the river is not far beyond the edge of the forest. Maybe someone could shinny up a tree and try to spot it,” said Garrett.
Everyone peered up the trees to the canopy and swallowed. The canopy was a long way up and to spot the river, someone would have to climb beyond the leaves to the very top.
“Any volunteers?” asked Will.
Garrett grinned. “I think I know how to shinny.”
Mady looked at him in disbelief. “Garrett, that’s dangerous. And when have you shinnied up anything?”
“I shinnied up a rope at basketball practice.”
“Really. That’s a whole different kind of shinnying.”
Garrett shrugged, “Show me how and I’ll do it. I like to climb.”
Everyone exchanged a look, then Grayson said, “If he isn’t afraid of the height, he has the best chance of being successful.” He turned to look at the volunteer. “But are you sure, Garrett? Can you do it without falling from up there? It’s a long way up or down as the case may be.”
Grinning, Garrett simply answered, “Show me.”
First they unpacked blankets and tied thick pads to his front.
Then Will brought out the rope and made a sort of harness for Garrett to sit in, tightening it so he was secure. Next Will made two separate loops around the tree and secured the loops to the harness.
“Okay, Garrett, here’s what you do. When you put the first loop around the tree, lean back against the harness to keep it in place. Then keeping the line taut, you walk up a couple steps and put the second loop around the tree higher than the first. Lean back into that one and keep that one taut while you pull the first loop up, and walk up a couple steps and place the first loop around the tree higher up. Now lean into that one and keep up the routine. Think you can do that?” Will looked rather scared even though he wasn’t the one planning to make the climb. In fact, almost everyone looked scared, except Garrett. Garrett was still grinning.
“Piece of pie,” said Garrett.
“Cake,” said Will.
“Never mind. Keep your attention on what you’re doing. A misstep could mean a fast slide downward. It’ll be like rubbing against sandpaper. If that happens try to keep your face away from the tree. The blanket pads should help, but most likely, you will get hurt. So the best is to keep your attention on the tree and your mission.”
“Mission impossible,” Leyton whispered.
Undaunted, Garrett began his slow ascent to the top of the tree while the other five held their breaths. To his credit, Garrett was very careful and took it slow. The five finally had to take a breath. Then they took many breaths and held many more before Garrett finally reached the canopy where he had to free himself from both loops to get past the branches.
“You’re doing good, Garrett,” called Grayson. “Be very careful when you disconnect.”
“Don’t worry. I’m a good tree climber.”
“Don’t get cocky and overconfident,” Grant hollered.
“I’m fine,” Garrett retorted. “Whoops! Oh, oh.”
Five hearts hit the ground along with one of the loops.
“Oh, my gosh” said Mady clutching her chest. The others looked as if they were about to pass out.
Will recovered first and hollered, “Garrett, what did you do? You were supposed to disconnect the loops from the harness, not from the tree.”
“Guess I wasn’t paying attention.”
The five groaned. He wasn’t paying attention? Way up there and he wasn’t paying attention? Good grief!
“Well, pay attention, Garrett! You are in an even more dangerous position now that you are unsecured. Climb carefully. Try to go high enough to see over the upper branches and leaves. But don’t take any chances,” called Mady, staring into the treetops.
Feeling eyes on her, she glanced at the other four groundlings. They were staring at her. “Well,” she said in a lower voice, “At least not any more chances than he’s already taking.”
Garrett scrambled up the branches. Now he was in his element; he knew how to climb trees with branches! Soon he could see over the tree tops and peered around.
“I think I see it. I see the sun glinting on a silvery ribbon. Looks kinda small from up here, but I think it’s the river!”
“Okay, remember which direction and try not to get turned around when you climb down,” said Will.
Will looked at Leyton, “What?”
Leyton was pale. “Uh, how will he make it down with just one loop?”
“Garrett!” called Gray urgently. “Secure yourself with that loop and don’t try to come down!”
“Why? I can do it.”
“Garrett, you can’t do it with just one loop.”
“Oh.” The word was so faint the kids weren’t even sure they heard it.
“An abseil or rappel is done with one rope, isn’t it?” asked Mady.
Will looked at the other kids. Everyone shrugged. “I don’t know,” said Will, “But it seems kinda dangerous. I think rappelling requires cleated shoes or special knots or something. And I should think very good gloves. I don’t think Garrett should try a one-rope descent.”
For a while no one said anything. Silence seemed to descend over the entire forest.
Then the five heard a plaintive, “So what should I do?”
“Just hang on. We’ll think of something.”
“Like what?” someone whispered.
“I don’t know. Now I think we have a fiasco on our hands.”
from The Six and the Magic Circles
“At a juncture in time, the Land of the Faery and the Land of the Humans shall be threatened by loss of the Golden Flowers, even unto extinction. In that day, hope of survival for Faery and Human alike will be Six coming unto us in magic. The Six will face untold dangers in their quest for the Golden Flowers. Survival of The Six and survival of the two worlds depends on The Six and on their ability to wield the magic of the golden circles of beauty. The Six must find the circles lost to the ages and claim the magic therein. The Six claim the circles and the circles claim The Six. Never-the-less, without the wisdom of The Six, the circles are of no import. The strength of the link between the two worlds is such that Human and Faery will survive together with the Golden Flowers or perish together without the Golden Flowers. All, all depends upon the abilities of The Six.”
This is an excerpt from “The Six and the Magic Circles.” It’s in first draft as the book is in progress. It should be published by mid-winter. “God willing and the creek don’t rise” as the old saying goes. I’d appreciate any comments, corrections, or suggestions.
The next morning, tense and watchful, the Six and their pals moved quickly through the rocky foothills. The two dragons helped the effort to hurry. Taking turns riding kept the kids fresh and rested. The kids in the air were flying reconnaissance at all times. That was a word Grant used meaning watching for danger. All the kids were afraid the big cats would return and were very attentive.
The morning passed without incidence. At one point, the kids in the air spotted movement quite far away. From that distance it looked like it could be a horse.
“There are no horses in this realm,” said Anusha. “It’s likely a unicorn, though they’re more common in the foothills on the other side of the mountain.”
“No horses! What a shame,” said Garrett. But just the thought of a unicorn in the same area they were traveling cheered the kids and put more spring in their steps. Maybe they’d get to see one!
After a lunch of flower flour cakes, Grant and Mady were aboard the dragons while Leyton and Griff were also aloft. Flying was still a novelty for all of them, so they were doing a few air acrobatics and generally goofing around. But they continued to be alert.
Suddenly Grant spotted something. Catching the attention of the other fliers, he pointed ahead. Heads nodded. Yep. They saw something, too. Projecting as hard as she could, Mady thought to Will. “~Alert, Will! There’s something ahead! Looks big. Right on the path you’re on! Heading your direction~.”
“~What is it?~” Will, bathed in a golden glow, answered in mind-speak.
“~Looks like a cross between a Yeti and a grizzly,~” projected Grant.
“An urscade!” exclaimed Anusha when Will told her what they saw. “We do not want to run up against an urscade! We must get off the trail and try to conceal ourselves and our scent.”
“How will we do that?” asked Gray. “I mean, we can hide behind boulders, but how will we hide our scent.”
“Good question,” said Anusha. “In the forest, we elves scamper up and walk among the tree tops. No trees here, though.”
“Wouldn’t matter. We humans are more likely to get killed trying to scamper among the tree tops than we are in a stand off with a bear,” Gray shook his head and pressed his lip together.
“Don’t be so sure. You don’t know how fierce an urscade can be!”
Will had been listening to both the conversation on the ground and the mind-speak from the fliers. Now he spoke to the group on the ground, “We have some time to prepare. The creature is quite far ahead and seems to be ambling, walking slow. I would guess he doesn’t know we are here.”
“Let’s scramble over these rocks to the left. Looks like a lot of large boulders good for hiding over there,” said Anusha.
“Will it help to be hidden? How good is an urscade’s sense of smell?” asked Grayson.
“We can try hiding, but you’re right. The urscade is not likely to miss our scent on the path, and if it is interested, will have no trouble nosing us out.” Anusha looked frustrated, as she peered around trying to think of another solution.
Gray rubbed his face thoughtfully, looking unhappy.
“I could drop a shield,” said Garrett, “but I don’t think it work too well among the boulders and rocks.”
“You’re right. I think it’d perch crookedly on the uneven rocks and the creature could tip it over or crawl under it.”
Garrett said, “Well, what if we hide and then have the dragons and Griff pee on our tracks?”
“Garrett, be serious!”
Anusha brightened. “No, it might just work! At the least, it is better than just giving up or sitting behind a wobbly shield.”
So Will, surrounded by a golden glow, projected his mind-speak to the group aloft. The animals agreed to the plan and soon everyone was giggling. Even the animals seemed amused.
Quickly, the kids scurried to hide among the boulders. The three animals did their part and flew up to continue their reconnaissance.
Soon the urscade came to the spot where the kids had left the path to go hide. But he disappeared, following the scent on the back track. Just as the kids began to relax and think they were home free, the urscade reappeared, now following the scent up the trail.
This time he came off the trail toward the boulders where they were hiding until he got to the dragon and griffin urine. Then he snorted and blew and carried on, looking around in all directions. Spotting the kids and creatures flying in the sky, he bellowed. The kids could feel the vibration from the bellow throughout their bodies. It was fearsome! And that enraged animal was after them!
Carefully sniffing around, the urscade accidentally picked up the scent of the kids again. Making noises that suspiciously sounded like “Yum, yum,” he approached the hidden kids. They shivered.
From above, Mady rubbed her ring. Blue rays streaked down as she flung the urscade against a boulder. That succeeded in making the creature more angry! But now the urscade’s attention was divided between its prey on the ground and the danger from the sky.
More blue streaks! Another push by Mady! The animal flew against a boulder again! Shaking its head, the urscade now concentrated its attention on the pests in the sky.
Grant, still riding Parmaka, coaxed the dragon to the ground, landing within sight but out of reach of the urscade. The urscade shook its head. Angry, it lumbered toward the offending dragon, growling. It came close, almost within reach! Parmaka took to the air.
Meanwhile, Mady on Ardopla landed within sight but out of reach. Spotting them, the urscade bellowed, turned, and lumbered toward them!
“Ardopla!” Mady yelled. “Fly! It’s closing fast!”
Ardopla flew up, barely avoiding the urscade’s claws.
Now Griff got into the act. All three taunted the urscade. They had him angrily charging in all directions. Soon the creature was exhausted.
Mady made one more great effort. More blue streaks. Again she heaved the creature against a boulder. The urscade got to its feet again, but was wobbly and obviously defeated. It shook its head and made mewling sounds. Mewling! From such a huge creature. It was ludicrous, or would have been if the kids weren’t so scared. The creature had had enough, though, and lumbered off.
The kids on the ground stayed behind the boulders until the fliers told them the urscade was a long way off. Although it looked back and shook its head now and then, it kept shuffling away, no longer noticing the kids aloft.