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Cover by Terri L. Lahr. Illustrations by Rebecca J.
Burt and Terri L. Lahr.
Llwcymraeg translations by Lyn Mererid.
Packaged by WinePress Publishing, P.O. Box 428,
Enumclaw, WA 98022.
The views expressed or implied in this work do not
necessarily reflect those of WinePress Publishing. The author is ultimately
responsible for the design, content and editorial accuracy of this work.
No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any way by any
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prior permission of the copyright holder, except as provided by USA copyright
For my beloved wife,
Johnnie Calista, who made room in her life for Lucambra.
“. . . and it came
about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he
lived.” Numbers 21:9 (NASB)
athed in sweat, Rolin son of Gannon jerked awake.
Was it a dream, or had the King of the Trees just left him a message? Shakily,
he slipped out of bed and went to the table by the window. Sure enough, sixteen
lines of spidery script gleamed on the polished tabletop, as if engraved by
moonbeams. As the flowing words slowly faded, Rolin copied them onto a sheet of
parchment. Then he spread his hands over the table, hoping to preserve the
writing until Queen Marlis could see it.
At his touch, the
letters blazed up, searing themselves into his mind. Rolin staggered backward
as a long, shuddering BOOM shook his
soul and splintered his senses. The disquieting sound disturbed his dreams for
Chapter 1: The Shattered
apa, I’m bored,” fussed Meghan, playing with the
buttons on her father’s green tunic. “It’s raining and the griffins are too
sick to fly.” Her gaze wandered around the Hallowfast’s throne room before
coming to rest on a bank of tall cupboards. Eyes brightening, she asked, “May
we look at some spasels?” She dimpled at Rolin and batted her eyelids.
Seated on his throne,
the king laughed. His youngest daughter’s pixie moods never failed to pluck his
heartstrings. “Of course, cariad,” he
replied. After Meghan hopped off his lap, he unlocked one of the cupboards and
searched among its crate-crammed shelves until he found a box labeled THALMOS.
“Here we are,” he said,
setting the box on the floor. “Since the torsils are leafing out, maybe we’ll
see something of Beechtown in one of these.” He smiled at Meghan. “Go ahead,
Meghan lifted the lid
off the box. Inside, twelve glassy balls of assorted shades and sizes nestled
in separate niches like so many dragon’s eggs. Meghan’s mouth made a breathless
“O” as she leaned over the box, her flaxen hair spilling into it. Removing the
darkest of the polished balls, she held it up in a sunbeam, where it glowed
like liquid amber. She selected another of the misshapen spheres and frowned at
its flattened bottom.
“Why isn’t this one
round, Papa?” she asked plaintively, her sea-green eyes pouting. King Rolin
chuckled. “I haven’t turned these spasels for several months and they’ve
‘melted’ a little.”
“Why, yes. They may
feel as solid as glass, but the torsil sap they’re made of still flows slowly,
even in this cool room.”
“Like that candle I
left on my shelf?”
“Just like the candle,”
Rolin agreed. A few months earlier, Meghan had molded a crude candle out of beeswax.
Now it was already drooping like a snow-burdened fir.
A shadow passed across
Meghan’s face. “How can we unmelt them? I want to see what Grandfather Gannon
is doing on the other side. Maybe he’s lonely and missing me.”
Her father tossed a
lopsided sap ball into the air and deftly caught it. “Where is it written in
all the lore of Lucambra that spasels must be round?” he said archly. “They’re
only more compact that way and the images are truer. I think it’s high time I
taught you the finer points of spasel care.” Holding the ball so that its
underside faced Meghan, he pointed to the flat place.
great-grandfather Bembor and I didn’t turn these spasels every so often, they’d
all eventually ‘puddle out.’ After that, it’s well nigh impossible to restore
them to their original shapes. That’s why we give each one a quarter turn when
it’s starting to settle, like this.” Rolin returned the ball to its
compartment, flat side facing left. “Now you try it.”
After gamely turning
several spasels in their cubbyholes, Meghan pounced on a caramel-colored,
potato-sized specimen. “Which one is this?” she asked.
“If I’m not mistaken,
that is one of Lightleaf’s,” said Rolin. “It should give us a good view of the
valley.” He felt a twinge of homesickness as he recalled his many happy hours
spent combing Beechtown’s hills and vales for herbs and mushrooms.
Meghan put the ball to
her eye. “I don’t see anything.”
Her father smiled. “Of
course not. You have to warm it first.”
With puffed cheeks,
Meghan lustily blew on the spasel. Gradually, a creamy fog curdled in its
center, giving way to bright, swirling colors like windspun showers of autumn
Anxious to see what new
scenes the spring’s first spasel-warming might reveal, Rolin peered over his
daughter’s shoulder. “What do you see?” he asked her.
Meghan’s nose wrinkled.
“Just a big, shiny snake. I don’t like snakes, Papa, ’specially big ones.”
“Neither do I,” said
Rolin, staring into the spasel. Sure enough, a silvery serpent was winding
through it, flanked by familiar landmarks. The “snake” was at least a mile
Lucambra’s king rubbed
his eyes and looked again. Recoiling in shock, he accidentally knocked the
spasel out of Meghan’s grasp, sending it crashing to the floor in a hail of
“Oh, no!” Meghan
wailed. “It’s broken!” Her face shrank into a tearful mask of misery.
“I’m sorry,” said her
father as he swept up the fragments and dropped them into the box. “Don’t
worry, my sweet. We have lots more Thalmos spasels. Now run along and play with
your brother and sister.” He pulled on a long, gold cord dangling beside his
throne. Somewhere in the bowels of the Hallowfast, a deep-voiced gong sounded
and footsteps clattered up the tower stairs. Then two green-cloaked men burst
through the door.
“Hail, Gemmio and
Opio,” Rolin greeted the brothers, who were among his most trusted advisors.
“Is all well in my kingdom?”
“All is well, sire,”
said Gemmio, the taller of the two.
“I hope you’ve summoned
us here on urgent business,” grumbled Opio, panting heavily. “It’s a long climb
up those stairs, and you interrupted a fine game of chess.”
“One that you were
winning,” Gemmio dryly reminded him.
“The exercise will
strengthen your lungs for flute-playing, Opio,” Rolin retorted. “Now then, I’d
like you both to pack up and go to Beechtown at once.”
“The torsils are
scarcely in leaf yet, and the spring market is still weeks away!” Opio
“I realize that,” Rolin
growled. “I’m not sending you to Thalmos for sewing needles or cooking pots!
Meghan and I just had a look-see into one of Lightleaf’s spasels. There’s
trouble brewing in Beechtown.” Then he described the sap ball’s images.
The brothers blanched.
“What would you have us do?”
“I need your eyes and
ears over there. After you find out who is stirring things up, bring me back a
report. In the meantime, do try to stay out of mischief. I’ve bailed you out of
enough scrapes already!”
The brothers nodded,
their floppy hoods flouncing like jack-in-the-pulpit blossoms.
“Very good,” said
Rolin. “By the way, if you see my father, give him my love and tell him to stay
out of Beechtown until all this has blown over. He’ll be safe with his bees up
in the hills.”
Once Opio and Gemmio
had departed, Rolin returned to the box of spasels. With shaking hands, he
lifted out another sap ball and gently warmed it with his breath.
About the Author:
Having spent most of his teenage years vicariously adventuring in Middle Earth, the author is an avid fantasy fan. His first fantasy title, "The King of the Trees," came out in 1998 (first edition). While still in high school, he began his writing career editing his father's popular identification guides, "Edible and Poisonous Plants of the Western/Eastern States." As an Assistant Professor in the Special Education Department at Western Oregon University, he served as a successful grant-writer and program coordinator.
Burt holds a B.S. in English from Lewis and Clark College and an M.S. from Western Oregon University in Deaf Education. He is an RID-certified sign-language interpreter with over 40 years' experience. His interests include reading, foreign languages and mycology. He is married with two grown children.