Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

After a bit of a dry spell, I have a new title with a release date and a cover!! Whoo-hoo. Maybe no one else is quite as excited with the news as I am but I hope some faithful readers will be glad to see a new Dierdre O'Dare story!

The title is of course the same as a classical music piece that I used to play at Halloween along with an old LP of Chinese opera and Night on Bald Mountain and a couple of other moody pieces. The Chinese opera was especially spooky sounding!! I am such a casual classical music fan that I cannot even tell you who wrote The Sorcerer's Apprentice but it's basically a cautionary fairy tale set to music in which the youthful apprentice  has been assigned many chores by his sorcerer master and tries to use a bit of magic to do them fast and easy with less than great results! Of course I had to put a twist on this theme when I wrote my own take on it!

The Sorcerer's Apprentice will be released on October 17 as part of the Making Magic PAX collection. I am betting the five stories will be great, hot and also evocative of the Halloween season with magic galore and a range of practitioners who maybe apply a bit of sex magic to their efforts ;-).

This is an unedited excerpt so be kind when you read; don't look for errors as I am sure there are some! But it will give you a flavor of the story, anyway. It is a wee bit droll in tone but there are serious spots too and a bit of romance and the mandatory happy ending. In between--well, you'll just have to wait and see!

Driz knew he’d received all the formal schooling he could expect. He was, after all, eldest of the three children of a hedge witch single mother in the ancient realm of Melcovia. After he had completed the mandatory four years of public school, deemed adequate for the average working class child of the realm, Mum had struggled to get him through the Mystik Magick Academy Charter School–ten long and costly years. But her strength and determination were  both exhausted. She also had to consider the two younger children now. Nothing had actually been said, but she clearly expected Driz to do well enough to assist his siblings. Right now, he had little to offer.
Graduation behind him, he cursed the excesses of his last two years in school, an error that had seen his previously stellar marks plummet far below the scholarship level. He’d discovered sex, alcohol and recreational drugs, which played hell with his studies. It began to look like his remaining choices were but two. He either had to find a normal, mundane job – the word sat on his tongue like an obscenity—or locate a free-lance practitioner of magick who would take him on as an apprentice. The school, he’d found, didn’t teach nearly enough to make him the top flight mage he aspired to become.
So far his search for a master had not been fruitful. Was there no wizard, sorcerer or magician left who could take Driscoll Darnell under a protective wing and help him develop the talents he felt sure would prove exceptional?
Life was no long good in Melcovia, especially for the magic community. The latest incarnation of the government seemed to have lost traditional respect for the magical arts. What few mages were left either found employment at one of the remaining schools of wizardry which retained a bit of the old cachet or went into hiding to escape hassling by the personal police force of Premier-for-Life, Monsante Congerson.
His Excellence had no use for magic. Everyone said he called it an anachronistic folly beneath his notice, although a minor nuisance at times. Thus the police hazing of any stray gifted citizen, clearly condoned if not encouraged. Every minor blip on the smooth road of the ruler’s life, he attributed to bad magic and sent his enforcers out to discipline any likely candidate. Such discipline could be harsh. Anyone with a whiff of magic soon learned to keep a low profile or seek protection within the ancient and sacred strongholds far from the capitol city of Melcorth.
Driz and his family resided in a suburb of that city, where Mum could work legitimately as a midwife and a nurse practitioner. Those professions were still acceptable if one kept the magical aspects beneath the notice of the officials. Someone had to deliver babies and deal with the cuts, bruises and breaks of juvenile escapades and the routine complaints of the elderly. Mistress Darnell did this very well.
To get Driz through school she had also moonlighted as a waitress in a local pub and beer garden but she was getting a bit too old for that. Customers favored the youthful, buxom and flirtatious with their tips and gifts, not a middle aged mother showing the signs of her struggles. When her gratuities dropped below the pitiful wages the tavern owner doled out, she had quit. Even that small bit of added income was missed. The family had not a penny to spare.
Out of school now for three fortnights, Driz began to grow desperate. His hands did not fit a shovel handle, he loathed the idea of carrying weapons with the military or the guard force to enforce the dictator’s edicts, and clerical work bored him to tears. What else was there to do? He decided to send out an urgent telepathic call for a master.
Surely somewhere in the realm, someone would hear and summon him. Carrier pigeons had to have a known destination and hand scribed letters a place to be delivered. He did not know one single magician to reach by either method except his old teachers, none of whom would do for his needs.
Summoning all the magical lore he’d gained in school, and with an urgent prayer to the Powers-That-Be, he lit a candle. He then stood it in a low vessel of water taken from a running stream and focused his sight on the reflection of the flickering yellow flame. He sent out his frantic mental call three times and then waited for a reply.


Corydon Callipsich Cremonis rinsed his bowl after cleaning the last of the soup from its rough sides. Although his life had come to this sad pass, he knew he was better off than many of his brother mages and sorcerers. Dom Tanguich, who held to his ancestors’ traditional respect for magical folk, allowed Cory a comfortable cottage on the grounds of the Tanguich mountain stronghold in eastern Melcovia and generally kept him supplied with such necessities as wood for his fire and food for his table. This might not make for a luxurious life such as magedom had once enjoyed but was more than adequate. Of course one could always conjure up a few pretties but that just wasn’t the same. Gifts and offerings were much sweeter!
In exchange for the support, Cory shielded the estate from the notice of the Premier and his minions and turned the feet of any who wandered their direction to other paths unless they brought good fortune rather than trouble. Beyond that duty, the Dom made few demands on him. Yes, he was fortunate--but lonely. Living here, cut off from others of his kind, made for an austere existence.
He wandered out to the stone stoop of his abode and watched the fading sunset. From what he could see, much-needed rain was not likely. Perhaps a small spell was in order. The Tanguich livestock required new grass and the crops in the fields down the narrow valley from the hilltop fortress were beginning to wither from the extended dry spell. Ambling back inside, he went directly to his work bench and dragged up a three legged stool. He planted his bottom on the solid wood and prepared to get to work.
After he selected certain herbs, an appropriate candle and several other implements, he began. Although his powers were substantial, magic was taxing work. When he concluded the spell, he sat back with a sigh, weariness settling over him like a cloak. Far removed from others of his kind, he had few ways to recharge his special energies. That worried him. Still, unless he had totally lost his touch, rain would fall before daybreak. The Dom would appreciate his supportive gesture, or so he hoped.
Just before he snuffed the candle, it gave an urgent flicker. At the same time, from its niche above the work table, his crystal ball emitted a startling flash of light. Whoa, what’s all this? He snatched the globe down and gazed intently into its depths. As a shadowy figure appeared there, a wisp of thought trickled through his mind. He focused his attention on the signals until a message shaped itself out of the vague whisper.
::Is anyone listening? I seek a mentor, a master, a high mage who is not bound to any university or post but works alone. I am a talented young man with magical ancestry and gifts of my own, but I need further guidance and instruction. I’m willing to work hard, be your total slave if necessary. All I ask is that you teach me!::
Pinpointing the location from which the plea came proved more difficult but after a time Cory determined the caller was somewhere in or near the capitol city. This contact seemed an odd coincidence, almost as if his wish for companionship had summoned a response. Perhaps it had. He focused on the dim image within his crystal ball, trying to make it clearer. The young man appeared comely enough and perhaps sincere in his wish, earnest, at least.
Without giving it a great deal more thought, Cory replied. ::You must make your way to where I am to prove your determination and latent skills but if you arrive at my door within a ten day, I will grant your wish.::
::Wait! Give me some hint, a clue to where you are, at lest what direction I must take.::
Cory sent the tiniest glimpse of the mountains behind the Tanguich holdings. The area was remote but a couple of the peaks were fabled enough for portrayal in paintings and exotic tales of adventure. That was more than enough of a hint. Smiling to himself, he cut the communication, extinguished the image in the crystal orb and placed it back in its space. If the gods were kind, perhaps he’d get what he desired and needed. Maybe the distant youth would also.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where the Thunder Walks

This article written a few years ago sheds some added light onto the background behind Gwynn Morgan's novel, Back to Tomorrow which we discussed here recently.. Few of Gwynn's books lack at least a subtle hint or two of paranormal things and they often crop up in Deirdre's tales as well.
I/we feel they are a real and valid part of life and have experienced enough of them myself to be a "true believer.". There is much 'out there' that we cannot see, hear, smell or taste, much less touch but we are given a hint now and then and that's enough for me to find these unknowns real!

Back to Tomorrow By Gwynn Morgan, Amber Quill Press

                                                        Where the Thunder Walks

Not for nothing do we have an old saying, "Good things come in threes."  Three is a number of great power and potent magic.  The idea of the triad runs through many primitive religions and was even borrowed by the Christians for their Trinity because of the amazing power inherent in the "Rule of Three."  Thus, it was no real surprise when a peculiar revelation came to me recently, one involving yet another mystical trine.
Almost everyone familiar with New Age beliefs and literature has heard of the energy vortex or power point located in Boynton Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona.  During the past ten or fifteen years, it has been widely publicized by the Dick Sutphen and others.  Perhaps less well known, unless one has traveled U.S. Highway Interstate Eight west of Yuma, Arizona, is a point known as the "Center of the Universe" where another group has built a huge pyramid and metaphysical center. 
I recently fell to thinking of these two places and suddenly realized there must be a third one!  I promptly dug out a state map.  First, I tried a pendulum.  I could scarcely believe my eyes when it hovered over the middle of Cochise County, in southeastern Arizona, where I now reside.
Then, with a ruler, I measured the distance between the two known points and then to the area the pendulum indicated.  I found it was almost exactly the same distance from Sedona as was the desert spot, and only slightly farther from the latter.  The exact spot is in the San Pedro Valley, north and east of the communities of Sierra Vista and Huachuca City.
Suddenly, it fell into place with an almost audible click.  Of course!  The Apache sensed a mystical atmosphere in the region and made it their special hideaway.  Even earlier, the Sopaiburi and other Amerind tribes frequented the area.  Their name for the region was the origin of the modern name "Huachuca" (pronounced Wa-CHOO-ka) and meant "Where the Thunder Walks."  How better could one describe a vortex of energy and power?
Although the name has in modern times been settled on a range of mountains along the southwest side of the Valley, I suspect these early denizens applied it to an opposite mountain area, now called the Dragoons.

Even deeper into the past, people were here.  Along the San Pedro near the modern settlements of Hereford and Palominas, on the ranch of Mr. Ed Lerner, a site has been discovered where primitive warriors killed mammoths.  Prior to this find, few even acknowledged man and mammoths coexisted, at least in the new world.
But at this site, some of the fine stone arrow and spear heads known as "Folsum Points" have been found embedded in mammoth bones.  This leaves no room for doubt that ancestors of Native American people actually killed mammoths, which perhaps were mired in mud or quicksand in that area.  More than one of the gigantic beasts fell prey here to Stone Age hunters thousands of years ago.
Mysterious hieroglyphics can also be found,  graven in stones of all the mountains which surround the valley, possibly left by the same folk who slew the mammoths.  Still earlier, southern Arizona was a plateau, higher than more northerly regions which were then a swampy forest, now preserved in part in the Petrified Forest in northeastern Arizona.
I grew up about thirty miles from the Sedona vortex point in central Arizona's beautiful Verde Valley.  At that time, I had no idea such things as an energy vortex existed, much less that one was near by.  I only knew "my" valley was a special place and its air often seemed to be charged with a peculiar intensity.  I rode horseback all over the hills and canyons of the region and absorbed its magic until it became an integral part of me, leaving a constant awareness of the 'otherness' which exists all around us.  Then I grew up and left the area and thought no more of it for many years. 
After wandering about for a number of years, I finally settled in Cochise County.  Here too is much natural beauty of the sort typical of the southwest.  This stark, rugged land holds many secrets and hidden treasures. 
Here too the very air sometimes seems to hold a special vividness but I gave it little thought until recently.  Once I 'caught on" I had to laugh at myself for being so slow to reach this awareness.  The whole region is infused with a special magic, and I had felt it all along, without really thinking about it. 
To the southeast side of the valley lies a range of mountains now called the Mules.  Some years ago, my husband and I, in a fanciful mood due to reading Tolkein and other fantasy tales, had christened this range 'The Sleeping Dragon'.
Viewed from across the valley around modern Fort Huachuca, it takes only a little imagination to see a great beast, tail curling near the Mexican border and head not far from the town of Tombstone.  Thus, the dragon has guarded at least two mineral lodes of great worth:  the copper mines of Bisbee which are also the source of the famous "Bisbee Blue" turquoise, and the rich silver lode of Tombstone. Since geologists know there are yet more rich mineral deposits to be found, other 'boom towns' may yet arise, unless the dragon wakes.
The valley is also steeped in history.  It is here the Spanish explorer Coronado first set foot in land which is now the United States, probably the first European to enter the region west of the Mississippi.  Here in the 1770s, about the time the Colonists on the Eastern seaboard tired of British oppression, the Franciscans established a 'visita' ‑ a small mission without a resident Padre ‑ at Quiburi, a Sopaiburi village on the west bank of the San Pedro River.  The ruins, a few melting adobe walls, are now inside the San Pedro Riparian Conservation area, protected by the Bureau of Land Management.
Sometime later, a plague wiped out most of the Sopaiburi and the influx of the warlike Apache drove the survivors to retreat to the region of Tucson.  For awhile, the people of Cochise and Geronimo had the area to themselves, but then the European Americans descended. 
Settlers began to arrive and the Army came, setting up camps and outposts which were later centralized to become the present‑day Fort Huachuca.  Intrepid ranchers such as Pete Kitchen and John Slaughter brought cattle from Texas to graze on the rich grasslands, wandering prospectors found valuable minerals, and "civilization" came to the San Pedro.  Ironically, most of these newcomers didn't have the sensitivity to realize they invaded a special place. 
Today thousands of tourists pass through to view the historical mining camps of Bisbee and Tombstone.  In 1996, Karchner Cavern in the foothills of the Whetstone Mountains will open, a new attraction to rival the wonders of Carlsbad Caverns if preliminary photographs are any indication. 
At Fort Huachuca, the Army trains soldiers in the modern 'magic' of Military Intelligence and Electronic Warfare, while the Army Communications Command develops and applies lasers and other state‑of‑the‑art technology.  All this where a century ago, the 'Buffalo Soldiers' and their officers flashed heliograph messages across the valley from the present day Huachuca Mountains to peaks in the Dragoons while the Native Americans they pursued used smoke signals and even more subtle and secret communications.
Mining has slowed greatly and there are few cattle ranches left, but relics of both remain, along with those of the earlier residents.  Thus, new links in an old chain are still forged with the passage of time.
Yet another peculiar coincidence links the three points.  The San Pedro River is one of very few in the continental U.S. which flows predominantly northward.  It joins the Gila near the towns of Winkleman and Hayden.  To the north, the Verde River flows south to meet the Salt River north of Phoenix.  South and west of Phoenix, the Salt joins the Gila.  The Gila crosses the state to flow into the Colorado, just north of Yuma.  Thus, a network of running water links all three sites, or very nearly so.  Given the geographical dispersion involved, this would hardly be expected, so it seems to have some arcane significance. 
As nearly as I can determine, the exact vortex or power point is on private land, east of the San Pedro River.  I do not feel free to disclose the exact coordinates.  Quite possibly the owner does not even know of its existence.  However, I can attest the whole region is alive with energies any sensitive person can feel. 
Each of the mountain ranges bordering the valley has its own special ambience, due to alignment with and proximity to the power point.  Natural wonders are many, and long term residents all relate tales of strange sightings and events, either experienced personally or related to them by trusted friends and kinfolk.
Last summer, I was pursuing one of my hobbies, taking pictures of the lightning during the approach of one of the region's typical spectacular summer thunderstorms.  Later, when I had the film developed, I found one picture truly amazing.  There in vivid clarity was a towering figure limned in lightning bolts.  It strode east, toward the exact power point, holding aloft a mask or skull, perhaps an offering to the Force which inhabits the vortex.  My camera had captured a specter too fleeting and too brilliant for the eye to perceive, giving me a likeness of the Spirit of Huachuca.  Indeed, this is Where the Thunder Walks, and I now have proof.
Though the true Seeker never fails to learn and question, there is so much that we do not yet know.  The exact nature of these mysterious sites falls into this category.  That they exist is definitely true; that our ancient ancestors often utilized them in some manner by constructing their most sacred and arcane temples and holy places in their vicinity is also.  Today though, how best we might utilize them is still in the realm of the unknown. 
Therefore, it is probably best the San Pedro vortex remains in its pristine state for the time being until our level of knowledge increases to the point where we can properly harness the potential offered by such wondrous resources.  Here, where there are strong links to both the past and the future, perhaps there is even a gate to other places and times or other realities.  Eventually a Seeker will come, one who is ready, and he or she will find the key, learn the combination, or simply open the door.             
Until then, the Dragon sleeps and the Point of Power waits, like Excaliber held in stone for the destined hand to raise it. But those of us fortunate enough to live in the area can smile a small secret smile when we hear the old timers' tales of strange phenomena.  We can also feel the vital energy and be 'charged' by the residual radiance of this special place Where the Thunder Walks.