Friday, May 30, 2014

A Taste of Tooth For Tooth by Kimberley Payne

TOOTH FOR TOOTH – A NOVELLA 
KIMBERLEY PAYNE

 
Chapter 1

My daycare provider’s apartment always smelled like a combination of applesauce and baby powder, and my daycare provider, Donna, smelled the same. She had hair highlighted red and a goldfish face with eyes set wide. When I knocked on her door, she shouted her familiar, “Come in. It’s not locked.”
I let go of Caitlin’s hand and gave her a tight hug before releasing her to join the other kids at the toy chest. Donna sat on the edge of a kitchen chair, feeding a toddler some banana goop out of a jar. Two boys played with dinky cars on the pale taupe carpet. 
 I reminded Donna, “I’m working till four again today, so I should be back to pick Caitlin up around 4:30.”
Donna looked up and smiled, revealing small white kernels of teeth. “We’ll be here.”
“Bye, Caity-Cat. Have a good day,” I called to Caitlin.
Caitlin looked up from her puzzle. “Bye, Mommy.”
I blew her a kiss and then signalled for her to take her thumb out of her mouth. Although she never did it as a baby, she’d recently started sucking her thumb.
Once outside our apartment complex, I zipped up my coat to protect myself from the biting wind. Usually, I didn’t mind the walk to work but days like this reminded me that winter was on its way. Twenty minutes later, I was glad to step into the warmth of the dental clinic.
From the cloakroom, I called to my co-worker, Connie, “There sure is a nip in the air.”
Connie’s brow wrinkled. “Yeah, it’s a change from last week. That’s what I hate about September. The weather changes from one day to the next. By the way, your mom says hello.”
I smiled and nodded. Mom and Connie talked on the phone almost daily since I started at the clinic. I think Mom must feel more in tune with my life when she can talk about me with Connie.
Today, Connie had pulled her unruly brown hair into a braid. She wore a tight jean dress with one gold bangle wrapped around her left bicep.
I took off my jacket and walked through the waiting room. That’s when I saw the petite, blonde woman sitting with her back straight, and both hands in her lap, twisting the handle of her purse.
She looked up and smiled. “Hi. I’m a little early.”
I continued past her and sat at my reception desk. I looked to the appointment book to see her name was Sarah Dowe and she was indeed twenty minutes early.
“Can I get you a cup of coffee while you wait?” I said and handed her a clipboard with the standard dental forms to fill out.
Taking the paperwork she answered, “No, thank you. I just brushed my teeth.” She smiled brilliantly. “I’m a little nervous. No offence to Doctor Mott, but I don’t like dentists.”
As if on cue, Dr. William Mott entered the room. His tall frame filled the doorway. He had full lips, high cheekbones and slightly sunken sea-gray eyes. Carrying a motorbike helmet and leather jacket, he wouldn’t be mistaken for a dentist.
“Bill, your ears must be burning,” Connie said.
Bill’s face creased in a smile. “Hmm. Three women talking about me? Please don’t stop.”
I could feel the heat rising up my neck.
Connie wagged her finger at Sarah and me. “These two were saying how they don’t like dentists.”
Bill’s smile faded, “Oh.” His eyes found mine. He looked like a pierced puppy. Sarah sat up straighter. “Oh my, no. I like dentists. You come highly recommended. It’s just that I don’t like dentist appointments. I mean, I don’t like dental work.”
She seemed flustered so I tried to rescue her. “Dr. Mott, Sarah is a new patient and will need a preliminary exam.”
His smile returned so that both dimples showed. “Well then, let’s get her set up with some x-rays.”
 The hygienist, Gail, walked with purpose down the hall. In her late fifties, she wore her slate-gray hair in a tight bun. I turned to Sarah and said, “Gail will take you to the room.”
“Thanks.” Sarah stood, handed me her paperwork, and followed Gail down the hall.
Bill winked as he passed my desk and again I felt my face flood with color.  I was relieved to have a solidly booked afternoon to keep me busy and focussed on work. I picked up the receiver and dialled.
 “Hello, it’s Heather Williams from Lakeside Dental Clinic. I’m just calling to get some insurance information for one of our patients. Paula Wagner.” I waited for their response. “Yes, she did give me some primary insurance numbers.” I read the numbers to the woman on the other end of the phone. “But you’re not showing anything? Okay. This must be really new. I’ll have to call her to get the right information. Thank you.” The numbers are probably from her dog license. I smiled.
I continued with my work but my thoughts returned to Bill and my regular daydream. I imagine us walking barefoot along the beach, with the sun streaking the sky brilliant blues, oranges and pinks. He’s wearing a white shirt that flutters in the warm wind. A lone seagull calls in the distance. The waves crash onto the beach erasing our footprints as we walk. He takes my hand and turns me to face him…
“Hi again,” Sarah said, her words jolting me from my thoughts.
“How’d it go?” I turned my chair to face her.
“No cavities. I need to book another appointment for a proper cleaning though.”
Looking up at Sarah, something about her smile twigged my memory. “Did you used to go to St. Anne’s High School?”
Sarah leaned over the counter. “Yeah I did.”
“Was your last name Kinsey?”
She raised an eyebrow in amusement. “Yes! Dowe is my married name.”
“I’m Heather. Heather Williams.”
“Oh, my goodness! Heather! I didn’t recognize you with the dark hair. You used to have blonde hair and braces. How are you?”
“Good, good. I’m working here now.” I smiled sheepishly. “Well, obviously.”
I’d known Sarah since we were “minor niners” in high school together. On the first day, she told me that although her teeth were perfectly straight, she wished she had braces like me. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to have to wear the ugly metal contraptions and immediately felt a warm bond with this new friend. She was shorter than me, with bright blue eyes and fair skin. Pretty and petite while I was athletic and tanned we looked like an experimentation in opposites. Later that same year, I dyed my hair blonde to look more like her.
The phone rang and I excused myself to answer it. After I hung up the receiver I asked, “Listen, do you have time to visit for a tea after work? I’ll be off at four and just live a short walk from here.”
“I’d love to. I have some errands to run and then I’ll return.”
“See you then.”
With two emergency appointments, the afternoon passed by quickly. By four o’clock I felt rushed to get my paperwork done. Sarah returned at ten past four. I held one finger in the air and called to her, “I’ll only be a few more moments.”
On our way home the earlier bright skies had clouded over and the chill was still in the air. I was happy for a drive in Sarah’s mini-van.
“I’ll have to wear an extra sweater to work tomorrow,” I said.
“Do you always walk to work?” Sarah asked as we drove past the commercial area. Next to the garden store was a patch of field, Bath and Body Works, the Bargain Dollar discount store, Holland Video, the pizza joint, and the computer store.
“Yeah, that’s why I moved close to work. You remember I used to be on the running team? I don’t run anymore, but I do love walking and hiking.”
“There are some lovely trails around Holland. But I admit I don’t get out as much as I probably should.” She laughed, a nice lilting sound.
We both giggled as we drove past the Lighthouse Christian Assembly Church outdoor billboard. It read:
Don’t let worries kill you.
Let the church help.
 I asked, “So what have you done since high school?”
“Oh, I went to Hope College, got married, had a baby. The usual. You?”
“About the same.” I didn’t feel like getting into the fact that my marriage ended only last year. We caught each other up quickly on parents, siblings, and our jobs.
“Here we are.” I pointed to my apartment. Sarah parked on the street in front.
When I opened the doors to the building, I was surprised to find Donna waiting in the hallway.
“Heather, we need to talk,” Donna said.
Her amber eyes, normally bright and animated, were clouded and wrinkles creased her brow.
What is she, the time police? I thought as I looked at my watch. “How’s right now?” I offered, a lump rising in my throat.
“It’s good. I have a sitter.” She exhaled.
“I should go,” Sarah said, twisting the ring on her left hand.
“No, please stay.” I grabbed hold of Sarah’s arm. As we ascended the stairs, Donna’s ominous announcement made my heart race with a surge of adrenaline. Had Caitlin hit another child? Kicked that little curly-haired boy? I hoped she hadn’t bitten anyone. But if it were any of these things, wouldn’t Donna have just told me? Why the secrecy?
I could never have imagined what Donna would tell me that day. The very thought made me want to retch.
#
Later that night, in my living room, my mother paced the floor. Her short hair, which looked more salt than pepper, swayed with her nodding head. “How could this happen?” Tears streamed down her face.
My father, a heavy-set man with graying curly hair, sat quietly, arms folded across his chest. Through clenched teeth he muttered, “If I ever see the man again, I’ll kill him.”
Still in a daze, I reached for the phone and dialed the number scribbled on the notepaper.
“Children’s Aid Society answering service,”
a voice on the other end snapped.
“H…Hello,” I stuttered, my lips stiff with the strain. “I got this number from a friend. Is this the correct number for reporting child abuse?” My mother let out a loud moan. I shot her a look to remind her that Caitlin was sleeping.
“This is the Children’s Aid Society answering service. Name?”
Did she want my name or my daughter’s?
“Name?” she repeated, louder this time.
“Heather Williams.”
My mother leaned over to my dad and remarked, “At least she kept her own name.”
“Address? Phone number?”
I gave them to her.
“Marital status?”
My voice caught in my throat. “Um, well, I’m separated.”
As if on the phone with me, Mom added, “She never should’ve married the man.”
“Married,” the voice on the phone countered, clicking away at the form.
“No, no. I’m not married. We’re separated.”
“So you’re divorced, then.” Her tone was flat, final.
“No.”
“Then you’re married.”
“No, I’m not. I’m separated. I no longer live with this man. I’m not married,” I said, sharper than intended.
“You’re either married or divorced. Which is it?” she retorted.
“Neither!” Who am I dealing with here? The blood rising to my face thumped in my temples. She has all the compassion of a boy stabbing a worm with a dull hook. I could see my parents exchanging looks of confusion.
“Fine. I’ll check off married. An advocate will call you tomorrow.”
I hung up the phone with a small whoosh of relief and shared with my parents the full conversation.
“This whole thing is such a nightmare!” my mother cried.
After many tears and hugs, my parents returned to their own home. Before leaving, they asked permission to tell my sister, Janice, and although I wanted to tell her myself, I agreed. I didn’t have the energy to go through it again. I assumed they would tell their pastor and the prayer people at their church, too.
Closing the door behind them, I sank down to the floor as tears poured down my cheeks. My cat, Blue-Casey, sensed my distress and hopped into my lap, circling twice before finding the right spot. I stroked his silver-blue furry back absentmindedly and began sobbing.
#
 I awoke the next morning to the phone ringing. It took me a moment to realize I had fallen asleep on the living room couch. Blue-Casey lay curled at my feet.
“Hello?” I answered hoarsely.
“Is this Heather Williams?”
“Yes,” I admitted in a small voice.
“My name is Megan Schwartz, an intake worker from the Children’s Aid Society.”
“Yes.” I sat up, still groggy.
“Can you please tell me why you called our service?”
With some measure of reserve I said, “My daughter. My daughter told the daycare provider that she was touched in her private parts. She’s been sexually assaulted.”
“Has she been to the hospital?”
I bit my lip. “No, I only found out yesterday and was told I had to call you. Do I need to take her to the hospital?”
“Yes. I can give you the number of a clinic where your daughter can be seen.”
“Can’t I just use our family doctor?”
“Yes, fine. I also need to meet with you. I have an opening on Thursday, September 5 at 9:00.”
“I can be there,” I said.
She hung up. I put my head between my knees. I felt as if a rush of wind had just burst into my apartment and taken my breath away. Was I having an out-of-body experience? Or a nervous breakdown? Everything seemed surreal. How could Rod have done such a thing? Questions thrashed around in my head like cod caught in a fishing net.
I reached for the phone and dialed Dr. Carmen’s office. I explained my reason for needing an appointment and the receptionist booked me for 3:30 the next day.
My bottom lip quivered. Now, what to do? What day was it anyway? I looked at the clock, then at the calendar.
I could hear my daughter stirring in the room down the hall. Tears welled in my eyes. How can I take care of this precious little girl when I can’t even focus? I went to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face.
Looking in the mirror, I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me. I turned away.
“Mommy?” Caitlin called from her bedroom.
“Yes, Caity-Cat. I’ll be right there.”
My instincts kicked in and I moved into autopilot-mother.


Friday, May 23, 2014

A Taste of The Birthing Tree, Book VII by William Burt

THE BIRTHING TREE
BOOK VII in the “King of the Trees” series

By William D. Burt

© 2010 by William D. Burt. All rights reserved. Cover and text illustrations by Becky Miller.
Rights to all illustrations transferred to the author, William D. Burt, from Becky Miller, by assignment.

WinePress Publishing (PO Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022) functions only as book publisher. As such, the ultimate design, content, editorial accuracy, and views expressed or implied in this work are those of the author.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any way by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without the prior permission of the copyright holder, except as provided by USA copyright law.

Scripture references marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

ISBN 13: 978-1-60615-043-6
ISBN 10: 1-60615-043-X

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2010922018


 In memory of Gordon Patterson, husband, father and educator; servant of God, and friend to all. Earth has lost a worthy soul, and Heaven is the richer.


There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
(I John 4:18, NASB)

  

PROLOGUE
N
ever should I have challenged these mountains alone. I have come to loathe the barren rocks and shrill winds of this place I call, “the Mountains of the Moon.” Only the moon’s light tempers its rugged desolation.
Ifor’s trail has since grown cold. I fear I shall never catch him now, for he must have turned aside long before crossing the plains. He may do us much harm with the book he stole from Winona. My only hope is to find a way through these mountains to a land where neither sorcerer nor turncloak can easily reach us. Perhaps then my people can live their lives without the threat of slavery.
When the moon looms behind these jagged peaks like a grimacing gork’s face, the cursed yeggoroth come out to hunt. Their horrible screeches and howls echo madly from cold stone. So far, those bloodthirsty creatures have not heard or smelled me, but the higher I climb, the more exposed I am to the sky.
Two nights ago, I was certain the yegs had found my hiding place beneath an overhanging rock, such was the racket they raised. Instead, I witnessed a fierce aerial battle between a pack of batwolves and some winged beasts more wondrous than any animals I have yet encountered in these unexplored regions.
Silhouetted against the moon’s pocked face, these creatures of the griffin kind resemble lions with owls’ heads and wings. The ferocious beasts tore through the yowling yegs as easily as my sword cuts through the crusted snow that slows my steps.
Foolishly, I left my refuge for a better vantage point from which to observe the fray. Swooping down, a yeg struck me from behind, and I hit my head on a stone. When I awoke, I found an invisible, trebly hooked crook rolled up in my cloak beside me.
The events following my brush with the yeg are so fantastic I have never related them to another living soul. Perhaps my knock on the head inspired this tale, which I have written down on strips of papery birch bark. When I doubt my sanity, I reread those sheets of bark and touch the three-pronged staff, which led me to a king mightier and nobler than I. As the sorc Swiftwing instructed me, I am burying this wondrous crook to prevent the king’s enemies from stealing it. When the time is right, I will unearth the hooked staff and follow it to the king’s hidden treasure.
In the event, however, that I fall in battle or for some other reason am unable to restore the king’s prized possession to him, I charge you who are reading these words to take up the three-pronged crook and carry on in my place. If you fail, Lucambra may be lost beyond all hope of recovery. May Gaelathane bless your labors and speed your way to the Mountains of the Moon.
In the Tree’s service, Elgathel, King of Lucambra.





Chapter 1: The Hallowfast Besieged
C
lang! Clang! Someone was ringing the Hallowfast’s new doorbell! Elwyn son of Rolin leapt out of bed and threw on his tunic and trousers against the early spring chill. Grabbing his lightstaff, he rushed out the door and down the winding staircase, joining several half-dressed Greencloaks.
“Make way for the rest of us, Opio!” shouted Emmer.
The stout Lucambrian obligingly flattened his bulk against the wall, allowing Elwyn and the other Greencloaks to squeeze by him. Breathing heavily, Opio followed them to the landing at the bottom of the stairs. The bell’s jangling grew even louder, as if some mischievous Lucambrian child were playing a prank.
“Who could be out and about at such an early hour?” Elwyn wondered aloud as he helped Gemmio unbar the massive door.
As soon as they opened it, a grim-faced Rolin pushed his way inside, followed by Windsong the griffin. The king’s long green cloak was smoking, and Windsong’s wing feathers were darkened with soot. A foul, acrid odor clung to the shivering pair.
Elwyn cautiously poked his head outside. He heard a thump, as of a heavy object falling to earth. For a second, the grass blades in front of the door blurred. Then they came back into focus.
Whipping out his lightstaff, Elwyn pointed it at the patch of grass. Yellow tongues of fire leapt forth to meet the staff’s light-beam. Even as the flames died, a petrified dragon appeared on the grass. Stinking smoke still curled from its gray, gaping jaws.
“Will we never be rid of these camouflaged creatures?” Elwyn muttered as he slammed and barred the door. “I can’t help wondering how they avoid crashing into one another.” Turning to his father, he said, “I petrified a cam-draig on the front step.”
“Good! You probably dispatched the same beast that was chasing Windsong and me,” Rolin remarked. “At this rate, we’ll be buried under dragon statuary.” Removing his singed cloak, he poked his finger through a ragged hole in the burnt fabric. “Drat that cam-draig,” he growled. “He spoiled my best cloak and nearly made breakfast of me and my mount in the bargain.”
“Why didn’t you use your lightstaff on him?” Elwyn asked.
“He was a smart one,” the king replied, rolling his cloak into a bundle. “He flew right above us, so close I could hear him breathing. If I had petrified him, he would have landed on us.”
“That draig must have been toying with you,” said Emmer. “If he had been hungry, he would have plucked you right out of the sky. A pox on that turncloak Larkin for opening Gundul! If it weren’t for him, those dragons never would have escaped in the first place. Now we can’t even go outside to fetch water.”
“I, for one, dislike being cooped up inside this stuffy old tower instead of hunting conies and squirrels,” Windsong said.
“I don’t blame you,” said Opio. “We are all growing restless. I don’t think I can face another dish of moldy vegetables. If only that cam-draig hadn’t spoiled the queen’s birthday banquet!”
“It’s a blessing nobody was inside the dining hall when the dragon stuck his snout through the window,” Gemmio said.
“Yes, but think of all the food he charred with his hot breath,” said Opio wistfully. “What a waste of good vittles.”
The pesky cam-draigs had held the royal family hostage in the Hallowfast all winter, and its occupants had “tower fever.” No one had yet devised a plan for outsmarting the wily dragons. Two weeks earlier, one of them had attached itself upside down to the Hallowfast’s outer wall with its head hanging just over the door. The creature’s chameleon-like skin mimicked the tower’s stonework so perfectly that nobody realized the dragon was there.
In the end, the cam-draig gave itself away with a fiery sneeze, and Sigarth handily dispatched it with his lightstaff. Even so, the petrified beast just missed him as it fell away from the tower.
Other draigs had taken to circling the Hallowfast on leathery wings, in hopes of nabbing an unwary two-legs hanging laundry out a window to dry. Marlis had nearly met her end that way.
“What were you two doing outside so early in the morning?” demanded the queen, who had just clattered down the stairs.
Rolin sighed. “I had hoped to catch the dragons sleeping. Instead, one nearly caught us unawares. It was all we could do to escape. We couldn’t get back into the tower through the sorcathel, because more draigs were guarding it. That left the door. Windsong and I had our hearts set on some nice, fat trout, too.”
“Bother the trout!” Marlis declared. “I’m just glad you and Windsong have arrived home safely, thanks be to Gaelathane. It’s a good thing we installed that alarm bell by the door, too.”
Throwing her arms around her husband, the queen made a wry face. “Phew!” she said. “You stink of dragon’s breath. Since we are short on bath water, I’m afraid you’ll have to scrub yourself with some mint leaves. Now, let’s all go upstairs and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Our resourceful cook tells me that he has prepared something extra-specially tasty for us this morning.”
“More Turnip Surprise,” grumbled Opio. “I can hardly wait.”
However cleverly Cook prepared them, turnips were difficult to disguise. Elwyn couldn’t stomach another bite of those mushy, pasty-white tubers. Aptly named, the lowly roots seemed to “turn up” at every meal—even in the breakfast porridge.
Since the dining hall still reeked of dragon, the Lucambrians took their morning meal in a cozy room adjoining the kitchen. After the banquet disaster, this breakfast nook’s outer window—like all the others in the Hallowfast—had been walled up with stone and mortar, courtesy of Toefoot and his friends. Afterwards, the gnomes had gone off to delve tunnels in the mountains.
Elwyn glumly reflected that he and his family were leading a gnome’s sunless existence inside their gloomy, torch-lit tower. Outside, the sun could be shining in a clear sky for all anybody knew. The prince yearned for just one breath of fresh salt air.
He and his companions entered the room to find Bembor, Meghan, Mycena, Gwynneth, Timothy, Medwyn and Scanlon already seated at the table. Hunger had carved hollows in every face, yet the Tree’s light still shone in the Greencloaks’ eyes.
Elwyn was surprised and pleased to learn the breakfast menu did not feature turnips in any form—baked, boiled, fried or stewed. Instead, Cook had sweetened the drab oatmeal mush with the last of the honey in the musty pantry. There was even a pitcher of thin chestnut “milk” to pour over the porridge.
Balancing bowls, spoons and saucers in his arms, Cook flounced into the room. A cheery cherry-clanner, he maintained a reliably rotund figure, whether he ate turnips or cake. “Has anyone seen the key to the scullery?” he asked sheepishly as he set the table for thirteen. “I seem to have misplaced it again.”
No one had seen the key. As if the dragons weren’t bad enough, small items around the Hallowfast were vanishing with alarming regularity—especially keys. The king set clever traps to catch the culprits, but they had outfoxed him at every turn.
“We can’t blame Larkin this time,” Scanlon remarked.
“Despite what he did to us and to Lucambra, may Gaelathane have mercy on that wretch’s soul,” said Mycena fervently.
“Could the glynnies be at fault?” Timothy suggested.
Gwynneth shook her head. “I have never known them to steal,” she said. “Besides, they have become our dearest friends.”
After Bembor had asked Gaelathane’s blessing on the meal, everyone dug into the pot of mush. Elwyn kept a watchful eye on his two sisters, certain that at least one of them was plotting to launch an oatmeal war. If so, he wasn’t about to be the first casualty. His mop of red hair made an easy and tempting target.
When stomachs were pleasantly full, the conversation turned to the unpleasant topic of dragons. Everybody agreed that lightstaffs were useless against a foe that could so cunningly blend in with his surroundings. The draigs were most dangerously invisible on moonless nights, when their skin turned a coal black.
“They breed faster than we can petrify them,” Emmer lamented, waving his spoon. “They’re devouring all the game, too.”
“Then why do they kill animals such as squirrels and leave their carcasses uneaten?” said Elwyn. On one of his rare excursions outside the tower, he had come across a family of squirrels lying under a fir tree as if sleeping. However, they were quite dead. Except for a few tiny punctures, their bodies were unmarred.
“It’s us I’m worried about, not a bunch of squirrels,” Opio growled. “We’ve nearly run out of water, not to mention rations. Someone needs to replenish our provisions, and quickly, too.”
“Are you volunteering, Brother?” Gemmio dryly asked him.
“I would if I could,” said Opio with wounded indignation. “Unfortunately, I am hobbled with a severely sprained ankle.”
Rolin said, “You saw what happened to Windsong and me this morning on our fishing trip. We nearly became dragon bait. If we can’t forage in Lucambra, we should try a different world. So far, I haven’t seen any cam-draigs in our Thalmos spasels.”
“I’ll go!” Elwyn cried. He jumped at any opportunity to escape the Hallowfast, even if it meant doing battle with dragons. Besides, he had personal reasons for wishing to visit Thalmos.
His mother frowned. “I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to send the heir to Lucambra’s throne into certain peril,” she said.
“If someone doesn’t go soon, we’ll starve,” Elwyn argued, his face flaming to match his hair. “We can’t send the king, since he’s needed here. Besides, I’m the swiftest runner in our family.”
“I used to claim that distinction,” said Gwynneth ruefully.
“Please, Father?” Elwyn pleaded. “At my best speed, I can reach Broadleaf the Thalmos-torsil in two minutes. I’ll shine my lightstaff into his branches to petrify any cam-draigs hiding there.” Rather than flying after their prey, the slothful dragons preferred to perch in a tree and wait for supper to come to them.
“Very well,” said King Rolin with a sigh. “Perhaps while you make for Broadleaf, we can arrange a little diversion on the sorcathel to draw away any dragons lurking around the tower.”
“I suppose that would be a good plan,” Marlis conceded. “Just don’t dilly-dally, dear boy. And while you’re in Beechtown, don’t look down your nose at any eligible Lucambrian maidens that may cross your path. Many of our people have been staying in Thalmos until it’s safe to return to the Land of Light.”
Elwyn groaned. His mother sounded just like Aunt Glenna. “What if I decide to marry a Thalmosian girl?” he said archly.
Marlis scooped up a spoonful of oatmeal and pretended to flip it at him. “You may marry a naiad, for all I care. Just make sure she loves Gaelathane and doesn’t track water on my floors. As the heir apparent, you have the responsibility of preserving the royal line. Thus far, I haven’t seen you taking that obligation very seriously—unless you have been courting someone behind my back.” Her eyebrows raised in an unspoken question.
The eyes of everyone at the table fastened on Elwyn. His face warmed, and he squirmed in his seat. “I’d rather hunt and fish and pick mushrooms,” he confessed. “Most girls are boring.”
His father firmly reminded him, “Nonetheless, you still must find a proper wife. You cannot allow the pursuit of personal pleasures to interfere with your princely duties. Please keep your mother and me informed of any likely prospects. And don’t forget to ask Gaelathane for His guidance in this crucial matter.”
“Yes, Father,” Elwyn meekly replied. “I can’t think of anyone suitable at the moment.” Inside, he was seething. He didn’t want to marry just any girl who batted her eyelashes at him. The life of a prince, he reflected, was not all pomp and tournaments.
“What about Kyleah?” Meghan innocently piped up.
Elwyn flinched. How had his sneaky sister known about the sugarmaster’s daughter? Had Meghan been spying on him?
Bembor winked at him, and Elwyn’s parents exchanged hopeful glances. “Kyleah?” they chorused. “Do you mean Kyleah of Mapleton, daughter of Larissa, Queen of all the Wood Folk?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Elwyn growled in as deep a voice as he could muster. He glared at Meghan. “Kyleah must be ten years younger than I. She’s just a child. Now, please stop playing matchmaker. I can find a girl my own age without any help.”
“I’d say you already found one,” Gwynneth said. “Otherwise, why have you been climbing so many Thalmos-torsils?”
Elwyn’s oatmeal spoon clattered into his bowl. Gwynneth’s guess was perilously close to the mark. Why couldn’t he have been blessed with like-minded brothers instead of nosy sisters?
“I’ve been hunting sponge mushrooms there,” Elwyn lamely answered. “Lucambra’s weather has been too dry for mushrooms to grow. Now stop pestering me with your silly questions!”
In truth, Lucambra had long been withering in the grip of a severe drought. Even summer thunderstorms were growing rare. When the sky flashed at night, it meant the cam-draigs were on the prowl, looking for prey. The dragons were always hungry.
Though he would rather die than admit it, Elwyn had been secretly keeping an eye on Kyleah. For the past three or four springs, he was always the first in his family to make passage—to the wooded hills above Mapleton. He was also the last to leave Thalmos during leaf-fall, at the risk of stranding himself there. Winter’s bitterest weather could not drive Kyleah from his mind.
Perched in a maple up the hill from Kyleah’s rebuilt cottage, Elwyn could watch her comings and goings at leisure. It would never do for him to drop by her house unannounced without some sort of plausible excuse—and he couldn’t think of one.
He also took care to return home with mushrooms.
Gwynneth saw right through him. “Sponge mushrooms grow under cottonwoods along the Foamwater, she reminded him. “The velvet-stem mushrooms you’ve been bringing home grow on maple trees in the Tartellans.” She smiled sweetly in triumph.
Elwyn immediately saw the wisdom in changing the subject. “It’s a good thing we broke into Larkin’s home-tree last fall,” he said loudly. “Otherwise, we never would have recovered our stolen lightstaffs and Winona’s parchments. Have you learned anything new from those parchments, Great-Grandfather Bembor?”
Bembor chuckled. “Not as yet. Aside from trying out a few of the queen’s tasty mushroom recipes, I haven’t had time to examine her jottings further. Besides, these old eyes of mine don’t work so well under torch light. I need real sunlight to read by.”
“I’m sure the dragons would love to find you reading by a window,” Medwyn quipped, and everyone laughed. The breakfast party’s mood sobered as Lucambra’s high chancellor offered a prayer on Elwyn’s behalf for safe passage to Thalmos and back.
Afterwards, Marlis gave her son several of Gannon’s empty honey sacks, along with a shopping list and a fistful of gilders. “Now off you go!” she told him, playfully shoving him out the door. As he turned back to wish her and the other Lucambrians farewell, a spoonful of oatmeal caught him full in the face.
“A perfect shot, that was,” crowed Gwynneth, grinning at him. Then she retreated into the kitchen and slammed the door.
Offering his boyhood friend a helpless shrug, Timothy said, “Your sister does as she pleases, and it pleases her to plaster you with mush. I’ll see you to the door and bar it after you. I’d love to come along, but I’m supposed to help stage the diversion.”
After cleaning the oatmeal off his face, the prince took Timothy down the stairs to his room in order to retrieve his lightstaff. Next, they descended the stairway to the landing, where Timothy paused to remove a slender chain from around his neck.
“I want you to have my griffin-whistle on your trip,” he told the prince, and he handed Elwyn the silver whistle on its chain.
“Thank you!” said Elwyn, looping it over his neck.

Timothy unbarred the door, and Elwyn cracked it open. Smelling no sulfurous dragon’s breath, he slipped outside. The door boomed shut behind him, and its heavy bar thudded home.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Taste of Night Stories by Kimberley Payne

NIGHT STORIES – A DEVOTIONAL ABOUT DREAMS

KIMBERLEY PAYNE


I’m a dreamer. Every night, I have at least one dream. Over the years, I have read dream interpretation books and dream dictionaries. However, none captured the true essence of my nightlife until I started to read the Bible and pray daily. Now many of my dreams come with an interpretation already in my heart upon waking in the morning.
The Bible is full of dreams. In the Old Testament, we can read of Jacob’s, Joseph’s, and Daniel’s dreams along with their interpretations (Genesis 28:11, Genesis 37-41, Daniel 2).We can read in the New Testament about Mary’s husband, Joseph’s dreams and Paul’s visions in the night. (Matthew 1:20, Acts 16:9).
I want to share with you eight of my dreams that I have had and what I felt the Lord told me through them. God is the only One who reveals mysteries and interprets dreams.



Dream One – Armed with strength
In this first dream, I took my young son to the doctor’s office in the evening. The darkness outdoors contrasted the well-lit office. After the appointment, we walked to the parking lot and I glimpsed a mother coming out of her townhouse onto the back deck. A dark haired boy cowered in the corner of the deck as she approached him. She shouted and waved a half-empty bottle of alcohol at the young child. This scene upset me and I decided to say something in defense of the boy.
I yelled, “Hey lady, leave him alone!”
At that, she stopped and turned her foul mouth on me. Her anger, that a stranger had the nerve to tell her how to raise her kid, came through in curses and profanity. However, as she yelled obscenities at me, I felt my arms rising at my sides, palms up. A light from somewhere behind me, beamed across the parking lot and shone onto her deck. She stood still, silenced. Although I didn’t talk we were communicating. She softened. When my arms gently came down, the light behind me dimmed and night stars appeared again.
I whispered, “He loves you,” and walked to my car.
God had used me as a vessel to communicate with this woman. For many years she had been an abusive alcoholic but when God spoke to her she changed dramatically. I didn’t do anything – God did everything through me.
Upon waking, I felt an awesome power. God told me in my spirit that if I approach someone head on, in my own strength, to change them I will receive a verbal lashing and maybe even worse. However, if I do not ignore a bad situation and approach someone in His strength, He will do the rest.
I felt God telling us that we should not ignore the injustices that are going on around us. However, we are also not to take on these same injustices in our own strength or by our own power. Finally, God can and will change people -- even those who seem unchangeable. His Holy Spirit will do the changing.
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect (2 Samuel 22:33