Posted by: Farley | June 11, 2009

The Cleansing

Well that certainly was no fun, yesterday was the “day” I had been dreading since the previous “day” several years ago. One of the irritating things about aging is the medical stuff. Some time back, my doctor found out that my mother had died of liver cancer. It had spread from her bowel. He gleefully declared that I needed a colonoscopy exam at least every few years.

I know he was right and I knew that if my mother had of just been more upfront with her doctor and told him when she was having some problems, the cancer may not have spread and so on and so on …

Being “scoped” is a lot like a root canal – it’s reputation is far worse than the actual event. It certainly is no fun;  just a bit worse than having a baby. The 4 litres of soap you have to drink (yes it is a form of soap) is very trying. But you get through it and believe me – it gets through you!

After the procedure I was laying on my side in the recovery room trying to fart the Theme From Deliverance – did I mention they give you a strong sedative and pump you full of gas?  Then a long forgotten memory drifted through my hazy mind.

It was a hot August day. My cousin Glen and I were 14 and we were out on Rice Lake with in his dad’s 16 foot boat and the smoky old Johnson motor. With us was my cousin’s cousin from the other side of his family. His name was Ross and he was older than us by a couple of years, but had the maturity of a ten year old. He had the most annoying habit – he imitated Curly from the Three Stooges. Not once in a while, but every minute of every day. He had the voice and all the stupid finger moves and expressions like “nyuk-yuk-yuk” down pat. It was so frigging irritating … It was all I could do to keep from hitting him with an oar.

We were water skiing – sort of anyways. We didn’t have real water skis – we used a pair of wide old cross country skis we found in the rafters in the shed of an abandoned barn nearby. We had made a 40 foot tow rope with some line we had “borrowed” from some cottager. The boat wasn’t real fast pulling you out of the water but once you got up on the skis it was plenty darn fast. At least for the 200 or 300 yards before you fell.

Glen and I had been trying to ski all week with little success. Ross was too busy imitating Curly to bother and besides, he was scared of the water. He didn’t swim you know, and his mother had nearly drowned once, you know and yadda, yadda, yadda. We bullied and nagged at him and teased him like young boys do. There were four girls on a swimming platform nearby adding an enormous amount of pressure and sexual tension to the situation. Finally he caved and said he would try it. He made us promise we would drive the boat slow and stop if he yelled. We had one life jacket in the boat – it was pretty badly waterlogged and rotted out but we told him he would bob like a cork with it on.

Because he was afraid to actually get in the water, we sat him on the dock with the skis on, dangling just above the water. We told him no matter what “do not let go of the rope”. The boat was idling beside the dock, and with a cheery word of encouragement and a wave at the girls, we put the hammer down. We were used to the boat digging in and hauling the skier slowly up out of the water. That wasn’t the way it worked with the skier sitting on the dock.

The boat shot forward like a frightened deer. Ross was nervously sitting there looking at the girls going “Nyuk – yuk – yuk” when we hit the end of the rope. Instantly he accelerated to 30 mph and wonder of wonders he stayed on the skis. He wasn’t going to let go of that rope if his life depended on it. The skis started spreading apart and he leaned back. His butt was getting lower and lower and his legs spread wider. His bathing suit split apart at the seam from the crotch to the waste band. Then his ass hit the water.

I am told that on Rice lake they still tell tales about the blood-curdling shriek that echoed up and down the lake that day. Ross had invented the water-ski enema. He finally let go of the rope. We wheeled the boat around as fast as we could – he was screaming “my ass – my ass” in a most un-Curly-like manner.

One of the girls on the barrel raft was a trained lifeguard and she hit the water in a crisp neat dive and was beside him before we could get there. Suddenly she let out a shriek and scrambled madly back to the raft leaving poor Ross half sinking and still screaming unintelligibly about his ass. We drew up beside him and saw what had panicked the lifeguard. The late water was crystal clear blue but Ross was surrounded by a disgusting brown cloud of fecal matter. Glen, genius that he was, asked “Ross- did you poop in the water?”

Ross grabbed the edge of the boat in panic saying “pull me up pull me up – it hurts”. By then we realized what had happened. Glen said “no damned way. You will get s**t all over my dad’s boat – he will kill us”.

We made him hold on to the transom and towed him back to the dock. Somewhere along the way his bathing suit came off entirely. A coffee colored brown stain followed us all the way in. The girls met us back on the dock, and Ross stayed in the shallow water for a few minutes while I suppose, he emptied. We were all trying not to laugh at him. I threw him my towel to wrap around his naked butt. He was walking real slow and bow-legged. I teased him saying “that’s not the way Curly walks Ross – show the girls that little dance he does”

He lost it and started swearing a blue streak, girls or no girls. He threatened to tell Glen’s dad we had tried to kill him. I stepped forward with my arms out like I was going to hug him and said “awwwww Ross …” and reached down and ripped my towel off. All of us scattered and I ran the quarter mile home. I could hear the girls squealing and Ross bellowing. People were coming out of their cottages to see what was going on.

We probably would have got in a lot of trouble but Ross’s mom decided she needed to run him in to see the doctor in case, in her words, “something else got up there”. A fish I suppose. Our parents were drinking out behind the cottage and when we told the story the men were laughing so hard it kind of defused our mother’s concern. I don’t think it helped that they had long gotten sick of Ross’s Curly routine too.

Every cloud has a silver lining they say. This one had three. First, Ross never spoke to me again. Second, I laughed every time I thought of him. Third, the lifeguards name was Bonnie and she was the hottest little firecracker I ever met. We dated all summer.

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Posted by: Farley | June 8, 2009

A Very Personal View of Relay For Life

Mud Street.  Who in their right mind would name a street Mud Street?  The green glow on the dash said that it was 11:40 pm and I had promised to arrive ten minutes ago.  I peered through the windshield hoping to see a human I could ask for directions – something I only do under extreme duress.  No such luck!  I saw the boondocks – that’s all.  The boondocks of Stoney Creek!  I did notice that the sky was lit up off to my left and I gladly turned off the street called Mud.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s “Relay For Life” event was in full swing.  I was directed through the crowded parking lot and parked as close to the sound stage as possible.  I left my car and hurried through the maze of parked cars.  When I came to a pathway, I stopped and stared.  I had never seen anything like it.<!–more–>
This path was lined with glowing lanterns on both sides.  So were all the other walkways.  Not a few dozen lights, or a few hundred – but thousands.  Softly flickering beacons that emitted a living-warmth.  There was a light fog nuzzling the lampposts overhead.  This intimate ceiling shimmered with the reflected light.
I knelt down and looked closely at one of the lanterns.  It was a simple white paper bag with a candle inside.  I soon learned it was called a luminary.  On the outside was written the name Ron Spencer, a date, and a few other details.  Ron had lost his battle with cancer.  So had the next person, and the next, and the next … I looked at about 10 before I found a person who was listed as a survivor.
People stepped around me as I read name after name, my mind awash with emotion.  I rose and walked towards the music stage.  I felt a catch in my throat when I saw the word “HOPE” on a hillside spelled out with the seemingly endless luminaries.
I joined up with my band mates and we gathered our gear to get ready for the concert.  We had a half hour or so before we were to play.  When all was ready, I slipped away and meandered again along the paths of light.  The silvery warmth of the candles, the glowing fog, and the soft murmer of people walking and talking, sent my mind sliding down an old aching pathway of it’s own.
In July of 1987 on a similar warm night with a low fog and with a giant full moon that turned Lake Ontario to silver, I sat on a Toronto General hospital bed staring out the window.  My mother’s hand was in mine and I could feel her laboured breathing to the depths of my soul.  Her battle with cancer was lost at 3:42 that unbearably sad morning.
I found a lovely lady who took my $5 and gave me a candle, a bag and a marker.  She put her hand on my shoulder when she saw I faltered writing my mothers name.  I took my mother’s luminary and set it along the pathway overlooking the stage where I would be playing.  I wanted her to hear me play just once more.  I wanted her to hear the new songs I had written.
A karaokie band was on the stage.  I went and found my friend Garry and talked him into getting up on stage and singing with me.  We picked an old Johnny Horton song – The Battle of New Orleans.  We were awful.  My mother would have loved it.  She loved Johnny Horton.  And she loved me too.
I know some things about cancer:
In Canada today, more than forty percent of us will be diagnosed with cancer, and about 20% of us will die from it.
I know cancer can and will be beaten if we all help.
My thanks to all who were there.  You swept me off my feet, touched my heart and supported me when I faltered.
I especially thank my mother – the woman who gave me life, gave me the gift of music, and who loved me unconditionally.
Lost to cancer in July 1987.
<img title=”My Mother As I Picture Her” src=”https://farleycrabgrass.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/lynn-broten.jpg?w=293&#8243; alt=”My Mother As I Picture Her” width=”293″ height=”300″ />

My mother ... I miss you every day

Mud Street.  Who in their right mind would name a street Mud Street?  The green glow on the dash said that it was 11:40 pm and I had promised to arrive ten minutes ago.  I peered through the windshield hoping to see a human I could ask for directions – something I only do under extreme duress.  No such luck!  I saw the boondocks – that’s all.  The boondocks of Stoney Creek!  I did notice that the sky was lit up off to my left and I gladly turned off the street called Mud.

The Canadian Cancer Society’s “Relay For Life” event was in full swing.  I was directed through the crowded parking lot and parked as close to the sound stage as possible.  I left my car and hurried through the maze of parked cars.  When I came to a pathway, I stopped and stared.  I had never seen anything like it.

This path was lined with glowing lanterns on both sides.  So were all the other walkways.  Not a few dozen lights, or a few hundred – but thousands.  Softly flickering beacons that emitted a living-warmth.  There was a light fog nuzzling the lampposts overhead.  This intimate ceiling shimmered with the reflected light.

I knelt down and looked closely at one of the lanterns.  It was a simple white paper bag with a candle inside.  I soon learned it was called a luminary.  On the outside was written the name Ron Spencer, a date, and a few other details.  Ron had lost his battle with cancer.  So had the next person, and the next, and the next … I looked at about 10 before I found a person who was listed as a survivor.

People stepped around me as I read name after name, my mind awash with emotion.  I rose and walked towards the music stage.  I felt a catch in my throat when I saw the word “HOPE” on a hillside spelled out with the seemingly endless luminaries.

I joined up with my band mates and we gathered our gear to get ready for the concert.  We had a half hour or so before we were to play.  When all was ready, I slipped away and meandered again along the paths of light.  The silvery warmth of the candles, the glowing fog, and the soft murmer of people walking and talking, sent my mind sliding down an old aching pathway of it’s own.

In July of 1987 on a similar warm night with a low fog and with a giant full moon that turned Lake Ontario to silver, I sat on a Toronto General hospital bed staring out the window.  My mother’s hand was in mine and I could feel her laboured breathing to the depths of my soul.  Her battle with cancer was lost at 3:42 that unbearably sad morning.

I found a lovely lady who took my $5 and gave me a candle, a bag and a marker.  She put her hand on my shoulder when she saw I faltered writing my mothers name.  I took my mother’s luminary and set it along the pathway overlooking the stage where I would be playing.  I wanted her to hear me play just once more.  I wanted her to hear the new songs I had written.

A karaokie band was on the stage.  I went and found my friend Garry and talked him into getting up on stage and singing with me.  We picked an old Johnny Horton song – The Battle of New Orleans.  We were awful.  My mother would have loved it.  She loved Johnny Horton.  And she loved me too.

I know some things about cancer:

In Canada today, more than forty percent of us will be diagnosed with cancer, and about 20% of us will die from it.

I know cancer can and will be beaten if we all help.

My thanks to all who were there.  You swept me off my feet, touched my heart and supported me when I faltered.

I especially thank my mother – the woman who gave me life, gave me the gift of music, and who loved me unconditionally.

Lost to cancer in July 1987.

Posted by: Farley | June 7, 2009

HIN

They tell me there is no elven word that exactly means Grandchild – hin is a word which means child or child of love – it is the closest I could come for this poem ….

Hin

The rustle of your footstep at my door
Rouses me from sleep, I whisper you in
You are too proud to wake your sleeping mom
But certain of the comfort here within

I would not scorn the worries of your sleep
And will gladly calm you of your fears
The panic flitting on dampened cheek
Dark eyes brimmed with held back tears

We old share much anguish with the young
We worry life will breach our soft defense
The aching heartaches yet to come
And fear the loss of innocence

You now face the growing pains of youth
I deal with looming shadows yet to fall
Together we draw comfort from embrace
And share our love for visions that enthrall

I weave for you my dreams of unicorns
Of rabbits who talk and ponies at your call
Of fae and elves and wonderous spells
Of hobbits short, bearded wizards tall

And soon my dreams become your own
Then I must leave to go again
Where life is fair and friends so true
To the lands of ElvenGlen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The story behind the poem:

I found out when I was 14 that I could never have children. I was in first year high school and one day my mother told me I had a doctor appointment and to go there before school. Since I wasn’t sick I assumed it was some kind of checkup. When I got to our family doctors office, he came in and gave me a brief embarrassing exam which included groping my “boys” and telling me to cough. Then he told me I was to go to the local hospital for a test of some kind. They called me a cab and gave me an envelope with papers inside. My mom worked so I assumed things were busy down at the shoe factory, and since she was on piece work, she couldn’t take time off. “Time is money in the shoe business” she used to say.

I got to the hospital and went to the lab, and the lady there asked where my parents were. I told her my mom was working and she snootily took me to a small room with a chair and an examining table – handed me a glass beaker and told me she needed a sample. I told her I needed a toilet if I was going to pee – and she says “not that kind of sample – a sperm sample” and walked out.

Panic. I couldn’t believe my ears. There was no way in the world I was going to admit that I knew how to do that. I sort of thought I was the only one who even knew that was possible.  Sex education was hardly a science in my day.  After a while she came back and asked how it was going. I told her I didn’t know what sperm was. She was furious “damn parents” she muttered as she stomped off to find a doctor. So this doctor comes in and tells me what I have to do and how – in anguish I looked at the beaker and said “I could never hit that – I don’t know how to aim”.

He brought me in a couple of “Health In Nudity” magazines – the nurse was protesting in loud whispers that I was too young for pornography. They locked me back up in there for an hour or so. I finally came up with a sample and they shipped me back to school.

My best friend was Ron and he was half a year older than me and much wiser to the ways of the world. At lunch, he naturally wanted to know where I had been all morning. I was really quiet and he kept pressing me. Finally I swore him to secrecy and asked him if he gone to the doctors yet and given a sample. “A sample of what?” he says. I told him. “Jesus H Christ” he swore, “your doctor is a pervert!” I told him to shut up and threatened him with violence.

Within half an hour it was the main topic of conversation in school. At 1:30 pm there was a rap on the door of my home room. The school guidance counselor came and hauled me out of class. I got to the office and the public health nurse came running in; breathless. They demanded to know what had been done to me. They assured me I didn’t have to be afraid – the man would be put in jail. It was all too much for me – I burst into tears and shut down. They couldn’t get a word out of me.

The nurse took me into a small room with a couch and I lay down. Ten minutes later I heard my mother come into the office. She spoke with the counselor and nurse. I heard it all since there was just a thin door between me and them.

When I was 4, my appendix burst. Poisons drained into my abdomen and down into my scrotum. They fixed things as best they could but the doctors had told my mother it was unlikely I would be able to father children. But they wouldn’t be able to test for it until I was about 14. The thought had plagued my mother and she had to know – so she and the doctor decided that they would handle it as a routine test and keep me in the dark.

Some dark. There were 1500 kids in my school and about 1499 knew! So anyway, the test revealed that I could not have children. I achieved a sort of cult status in school. For some reason guys thought they could talk to me about masturbation since “I obviously did it professionally”. Girls seemed  giggley and kinda intrigued. And teachers hardly looked me in the eye for a year or so.  They all knew I was a nasty little masterbator.

I never did have children. But I think about it a lot. This poem was written about grandchildren. I saw a commercial on TV about a grandchild coming to a grandparent because she was scared, and I wrote the poem inspired by that.

I am sorry that things didn’t work out differently.

Posted by: Farley | June 7, 2009

Denial 101

My oh my things have certainly changed since Feb 2008 when I started this blog. Where to begin?

Back then I was working 12 hours a day and 6 days a week running my office as a financial planner and stock broker. It was income tax season and the market looked like it was recovering nicely. The economists and investment professionals were telling us to diversify into foreign (non-Canadian) investments, particularly financials and mortgage backed securities. That was the 100% wrong thing to be doing in retrospect. So much for my financial gurus.

My personal investments were always somewhat more aggressive than my clients – after all – I am a pro and can wheel and deal and watch things closely. Oops! I forgot about the possibility of getting sick and a major market downturn when I was incapacitated. That cost me over a quarter of a million dollars in retirement funds. Thank God, my clients who are generally retired, weathered the storm much better. They invested much more conservatively in bonds and guaranteed savings plans. Still, the average branch portfolio was down 18%. Mine was worse (sigh). Luckily the Canadian banks have done well and have recovered nicely and the averages are much improved.

Near the end of Feb 2008 my life was a zoo. Tax deadlines were approaching, my dad was very ill and my sister was worse. Shay – my real life niece was relying on me to help her through these tough times in our family. I felt like a force to be reckoned with – juggling these challenges and managing my clients money. In the meantime I was getting physically sicker and sicker and deeper and deeper into denial. I should have recognized the signs. Untypically,I had fallen asleep at my desk a couple of times when I was on conference calls. I went out for lunch one day and fell asleep in my car for 3 hours. I was having trouble keeping appointments late in the evening.

One Wednesday near the end of the month walked out into the parking lot to get into my car. It was about 11 am. I opened the door and fell inside panting and desperately trying to get my breath. I sat there for maybe half an hour waiting for the chest pain to subside and trying to breathe. I fell asleep or maybe fainted.

My office assistant came out and woke me up worriedly asking if I was alright. I assured her I was just over-tired and was going to head home for a rest. I started up my car and made my way out to the highway for the half hour drive home. Part way there I decided to drive directly to a hospital emergency department and hang out there for a bit in case I started to feel worse. In a stroke of pure genius I put on my four way flashers and drove in the slow lane ready to hit the ditch if needed. I keyed in 911 on my cell phone and kept it in my hand so I was “one button” away from help. Like a total moron, I drove like that for 35 km to my local hospital (passing a perfectly good hospital on my way).

Denial is such a funny thing – a very male thing I am told. Back in 1994 I woke up one Friday morning at 3am with a crushing pain in my chest. I was sweating and gasping for breath. I woke my wife and skidded down the stairs on my butt while she put on some clothes to drive me to the hospital. I refused to let her call me call an ambulance – I didn’t want the neighbours to know. When we got to the hospital they bombarded me with morphine and clot busters. I started feeling a bit better and told them I needed to go to work. They said no. I promised I would come back in on the Tuesday.

Finally a doctor dragged my wife over to my bed and said – “if he tries to leave – he will die. He is insisting on leaving – I will leave you to discuss this with him”. I will never forget the look on my wife’s face with the tears streaming down. I stayed in bed.
So back to last February, I made my way into the parking lot of the emergency department and parked illegally in a handicapped spot. I stumbled my way into the triage nurse. She asked what I was there for. I told her I just wasn’t feeling good and was going to sit in the waiting room until I felt better. I would let her know if I got worse. She had me on a stretcher and in cardiac intensive care in minutes.

Over the next 30 days or so I fought the good fight against blood clots that had hit my heart and lungs. I won, but not by much. A few months later I had a heart catheter and stent put in. Then another 3 weeks later – then another two stents a month or so later but one broke through an artery and caused a heart attack (my third). And it goes on and on and on.

What this all serves to do it explain why I haven’t blogged since Feb 2008 lol. I have been busy healing. My friend in SL, Serina is starting a blog and asked me what I would like to blog about. That caused me to look up what I had started here. Then I wrote this.

My motivation is different now. I remember thinking I wanted to provide a blog-home for some of the great poems and stories I came across in Elf Circle. But now I want write about current and touchy feely stuff – the things that matter to me now. I would like to explore events and things that interest or matter to me with flashbacks I don’t want to rant or sermonize or any of all that – I don’t care much about politics. I have my beliefs and opinions and an happy with them. It just isn’t important to me if others disagree with them or not.

So welcome to my new improved and renamed blog.

Posted by: Farley | February 27, 2008

Wings Of Fae – Farley Crabgrass

Shay In Flight

Updraft lifting soft
Setting forth from aspens branch
Rising, barely move
Whisper through the dappled leaves
Slipping earthly grasp
Soaring high on wings of fae
I sailing fly the shining sky

(A structured Japanese Choka )

Posted by: Farley | February 27, 2008

The Elf King & The Fae – Farley Crabgrass

Elf King & The FaeThe Elf King won the Crystalle lands
And in victory toured his new domaines
He came upon a lovely fae
Weeping by her love’s remains
Touched and saddened by her grief
He took her to his side
And over time he won her love
But she would never, be his bride …

The Elf King forged a brutal rule
In those charged and early days
But the loving, caring, patient fae
Slowly changed his ways
She gentled him and bore his child
Teaching what a man could be
I know this well and this I tell
Because that child was me

My father begged for her to wed
So the world his love could see
But she said no though he pleaded so
For my legitimacy
My son will ne’re the the Elf King be”
In her voice spoke strong and warm
“He ne’re will kill or treat folk ill
Nor bring the world to harm”

That lovely fae, peace loving fae
Went riding one winter morn
A chilling wind found it’s way in
And of her life was shorn
The Elf King, he was a broken man
His eyes had lost their light
And professing endless love for her
He too, died that night

Destined to my mother’s ways
Though the Elf King’s blood runs near
Protecting and defending folk
The course I choose to steer
Yet my heart yearns for tenderness
And at the dimming of each day
I wish I knew a love as true as
The Elf King and the Fae

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A recording of a musical reading of this poem is available on the following webpage (see the comment below for a working link – I can’t make this one work for some reason:
https://sites.google.com/site/in2bronte/Home/the-bardic-pages

Posted by: Farley | February 27, 2008

Full Silver The Moon – Farley Crabgrass

Full Silver The Moon- Drow

Full silver the moon …
The wolf’s eyes a’gleam
High on a rock
By a silver stream
A fairy child careless
Frolicked below
Singing and laughing
In the soft silver glow

Full silver the moon …
On an arrows sharp edge
Elven bow drawn
And aimed at the ledge
The wolf raises up
The attack now to start
But is felled by an arrow
Pierced through the heart

Full silver the moon …
It is the fairy child’s right
Never knowing, never caring
What happened that night
The Drow watches over
Elven lands in the dark
And saves us from harm
Till the mornings first spark

Full silver the moon …
All fantasy folk know
The night is much safer
In the land of the Drow

Posted by: Farley | February 27, 2008

Naughty Bits, Naughty Bits – Farley Crabgrass

Naughty bits, naughty bits
Tuck them away
If to Elf Circle
you come to play

Naughty bits, naughty bits
Cause such a ripple
When Elven folk catch
Sight of a nipple

The Guardians will come
And give you the boot
(Especially the lad
Exposing his root)

In ElvenGlen market
Free clothing is there
For visitors who
May need underwear

So come to our lands
If you’re feeling quite elfy
But don’t leave your clothes
Home on the shelfy
 

Posted by: Farley | February 27, 2008

The Tourney – Farley Crabgrass

The Tourney

Chapter One
 
“My boy is a chip off the old block” Elgeron declared loudly for the 10th time to no one in general.  The statement was greeted with cheers and good natured laughter in the Old Brass Buckle Inn.  High Guardian Commander Elgeron Goodwood was in his cups so to speak and boasting to his comrades.  His son, Tarn, was sitting beside him trying not to look miserable about being the centre of attention in the smoky boozy atmosphere of the inn.

You would think that Tarn would be proud to be held up so high amongst his legendary father’s friends and fellow Guardians, but he wasn’t.  His relationship with his dad had been difficult for both of them all his life.  His father was powerful elf – a force to be reckoned with athletically, in tournaments and especially on the battlefield.  He was a natural leader – the Queen’s own personal guard and Commander of the Guardian Forces.  Elgeron had fathered two lovely daughters whom he loved and treasured dearly, however he yearned for a son to carry on the family name.  When his wife had announced the late and unexpected news of an impending addition to the family he consulted with the witches and wizard in the region offering large amounts of coin if they could guarantee a male child.

One day, he was traveling in a wild and remote place called The Greening.  He had heard about a witch named Rosette who lived deep in the dark and dangerous swamps.  He decided to seek her out and confidently marched deep into the swamp.  He found her and expressed his desire for a male child. 
The witch Rosette took him into her cave-like home.  In silence, she gave him tea and motioned him to sit.  He drank.  Then reaching across the narrow plank table, took both his hands in hers, and stared down into the dregs of his cup. She said not a word for 5, 10, then 15 minutes.  Elgeron was tempted to speak several times but saw she was in a trance like state with her glassy eyes fixed on the dregs in the cup.

Finally she looked up.  She seemed to peer into his very soul.  Then she cast his hands aside and screeched “Be gone ye conceited bastard – ye shall get yer son but ye shall pay a great price – be gone ye – be gone”!

Shaken, Elgeron had stumbled out in confusion, intimidated as never before.  Her insane like bleating followed him “Ye conceited bastard, ye shall pay – ye shall pay …”.  She cackled.  He quickly mounted his steed and rode him hard through the swampy lands and did not slow till he was well out of the region.
The next few months went well. 

His wife’s apron strings become too short and she was smiling and content in her maternal mode.  Then in the third trimester the sickness started.  She became feverish from time to time, started throwing up and having intestinal discomforts.  She began losing weight and her eyes became hollowed and skin sallow.  When her due date came, she was weak and weary.  It was a difficult birth and for more than a day Elgeron had been forbidden access to his home while the midwives came and went.  The village white witch Persimmon stayed by his wife’s side throughout.  By the time he heard his son’s first cry, it was too late for his wife.  She died holding her baby boy in her arms

Tarn was a beautiful boy – the spitting image of his mother.  His bereaved sisters adored him and happily took on the task or raising him.  Elgeron could hardly look at the boy in his grief.  Everything about Tarn reminded him of his wife.  He threw himself into his Guardian and warrior role.  He traveled far and wide building on his incredible reputation for bravery and a fortune in bounty and power.  Late at night from time to time, Elgeron would awaken sweating from a nightmare hearing the old witches voice “ye shall pay, ye conceited bastard, ye shall pay”.

Tarn loved having two older sisters as mothers.  His sisters made sure he was cuddled and coddled and dressed up and dressed down and teased and tickled and generally spoiled.  But he knew his father only at a distance.  This became a problem as he left boyhood and grew toward adolescence.  When his father was home – which was not often – he felt a insurmountable restraint and barrier between them.  His father rarely looked him in the eyes and young Tarn’s hugs and expressions of affection seemed to make his dad uncomfortable.  Tarn began to feel inadequate in his father’s eyes.  Elgeron was at the peak of his power and held a prestigious position in the realm.  Every where he went people were polite and respectful.  When Tarn was with him, the men often asked him how his son’s weapons training was going. This made Elgeron uncomfortable, for indeed, he was doing no training with the boy.

When Tarn turned 12, his father was an honorary host of Elven World Archery tournament held every four years.  That year it was held in Avilion and he brought Tarn along.  There were competitors and spectators from far and wide and from cultures and worlds Tarn never knew existed.  The crowds were enormous and Tarn wandered through the tents and practice areas.  He noticed that the best archers did not seem to be the biggest men.  In fact it was the only tournament sport where men and women competed equally.  In the back practice area, he stood watching a young lady from some land called Firehawk, as she smoothly drew and fired arrow after arrow at the stuffed hay targets. 

She stopped for a moment and noticed Tarn.  She saw a stunningly good looking young boy with fine features and dark eyes watching her intently and she said, “Can I have you as my prize if I win?”

Tarn’s jaw dropped and he blushed beet red.  She laughed and asked if he wanted to try a shot or two.  He stammered, trying to say no thank you.  But she already was handing him her small bow and a handful of arrows.  He took them awkwardly too shy to refuse and too embarrassed to run.  She saw that he didn’t know what to do and kindly showed him how to hold the bow and notch the arrow.  When he drew on the target he was amazed at the strength required to pull the bow back.  His left arm quivered and shook with the strain.  When he let go the arrow it fell far short of target and the bow string snapped hard against his left forearm causing him to give an involuntary yelp.  She laughed and he did too grateful she was being so nice.  He tried a second time and came up short again  But with next arrow, she showed him how to straighten and lock his bow arm and instructed him to keep breathing softly instead of holding his breath. 

Something clicked in Tarn.  His bow arm was now steady.  The surprise at the effort to draw the arrow was gone and as he breathed, he felt himself becoming one with the arrow.  He wasn’t even conscious of releasing it.  It seemed his eyes were mounted on the arrow and he flew towards the target.  It soared a bit high and left from centre but thudded into the ring next to the bull.  “Good shot” smiled the girl and reclaimed her bow.

Memory plays tricks and in later years Tarn recalled that as his very first shot with a bow and arrow.  When he went to sleep later that night he played the shot over and over in his mind.  He felt the pent up power in the bow – sensed the trajectory of the arrow – felt the brush of feathers on his cheek – the thrum of the string on the release and the smack of the arrow striking the target hard and true.  That was the first of many thousands of arrows he would shoot.
 
Chapter 2
 
Callie Edgemoor, or Cal as her friends called her, laughed hard at the long string of bubbles flowing from the bubble stick her dog Spiker had snatched from her hand.  He was daring her to try and catch him by running in a big circle around her.  The bubbles surrounded them in the windless late afternoon.  She chased him, but laughed so hard she had to sit down to catch her breath.  Spiker trotted over a bit worried and dropped the now depleted bubble stick.  She put his arm around him and pulling him to the ground, they wrestled gently and lovingly.  “Spiker, I have to practice” she whispered to her loyal canine friend and stood up and returned to the shooting marks.  Spiker curled up near her feet content to watch his mistress for hours at a time.

Callie drew an arrow and notched it.  The soft swan feathers on the fetch caressed her cheek as she drew and held on the target.  She released the arrow and stood motionless as it streaked over the heather and buried itself dead centre in the bulls eye.  Three more followed – all spaced within three finger widths of the first arrow.  Cal turned and strode back 10 more paces and fired 4 again – and again – and again – all afternoon and into the early evening.

Callie was the first born daughter of the Farhaven miller.  Not poor and certainly not rich they lived from crop to crop grinding the grains and bagging the flour for the good elves of Elf Circle.  Born half fae on her mother’s side and half elven she had slightly elven facial features but the willowy body of a fae.  She had iridescent wings that caught the light and took her high and far when she chose to fly.  She wasn’t aware that she was uncommonly beautiful and she didn’t really like her reddish hair and full lips.  She thought her bust was just too darn big for a 15 year old too..

One day when she was about 10 she had been playing with Verl and Earl, neighborhood twins.  They decided to make bows and arrows.  The boys were a couple of years older than Callie.  They cut some willow branches and strung them with baling twine, and made arrows from some straight alder growing nearby.  They decided in their youthful wisdom that bows and arrows were not suitable for girls and refused to help her cut the willow.

She was sitting on a stump sniffling and feeling sorry for her self, when her uncle Nuke came by.  He immediately surmised what was going on and took her by the hand and said “come with me princess”.  He took his time walking through the forest searching out just the right tree.  He found a stand of yew – rare in these parts – and cut off a suitable branch.  It seemed bit thin to Callie.  Then he went back to the willow near where the boys were and cut off two more branches.  “Come to the shop, Cal” he said.

Callie spent the rest of the afternoon with her uncle peeling and trimming the yew into a flat stick about a fingers width thick and two fingers wide.  They trimmed the willow into slightly rounded pieces with a flat side.  Then melting glue over a small fire uncle Nuke helped her glue the three pieces together – the flat yew on the inside bracketed by the willow.  They bound the laminated stick together with dampened sinew which shrunk when dried by the fire and tightened the joints.  They let it dry overnight. 
“The yew will give it striking power and consistency, and the willow will give it flexibility and length.” Uncle Nuke explained.  “With care, this bow will last forever”.

The next morning Callie was up bright and early and watched uncle Nuke carve the bow.  Occasionally she took the knife and carved some too under his guidance.  Uncle Nuke sent her to pick 20 of the straightest pieces of alder she could find.  They had to be about the thickness of her middle finger.  Then he sent her to the duck pond and pick up all the duck and goose feathers she could find.  On her return, she gave a little gasp when she saw the bow.  He had carved the wood into a graceful and beautiful elven bow.  He fitted it carefully to her hand and trimmed it to the exact distance from her chin to the ground.

Then they made arrows for the rest of that day, scaling them to an exact thickness by drawing then through a piece of tin with a sharpened hole.  They affixed tin to the blunt striking end and fetched the arrows with the best of the goose feathers near the notch.  After they had oiled the bow and waxed it to a rock hard shine, they strung it up.  It was late and she took the bow and arrows up to her loft.  Exhausted, she fell asleep with them placed carefully them on the bed beside her.

The next morning came in a blink and she couldn’t wait to finish breakfast.  Uncle Nuke set up some straw targets and put a blanket over the fence as a back stop.  Callie began the long arduous process of becoming an archer.  She was fanatical about practicing.  Her fingers were raw for a month, her forearm seemed permanently burned by the slap of the string and her left arm and shoulder ached constantly.  By summers end Callie was better with a bow and arrow than Verl and Earl ever would be.  By the start of winter she could beat Uncle Nuke four times out of five.  By spring, she was unmatched in the village.

Callie had been raised by her Uncle Nuckmore.  When she was four the mill where she lived with her mother and father was struck by lightening and burned to the ground.  Her dad was badly hurt by a falling timber while fighting the fire and never really recovered.  His back injured and his spirit broken, he became a shadow of the father she had known.  One day he just didn’t get out of bed and stayed there till he died two weeks later.  Her mother did her best but she could not rebuild the mill.  They moved in with uncle Nuke, a confirmed bachelor.  Callie was not surprised not long after when a sickness took her mother.  She had all but given up.

Callie was a lonely child, and felt she never really fit in with the other children in the school she attended.  She developed a deep desire to prove herself and excelled in her studies.  When she discovered archery, she took great comfort in shooting.  She sought perfection and drove herself hard.  She insisted Uncle Nuke teach her the art of bow making and fletching.  She needed a larger more powerful bow now, and made one under his guidance.  Meanwhile, she made her skill with a bow pay, by supplementing their table with a generous supply of rabbits, pheasant, even ducks and geese.

Callie entered every public archery competition and event in Elf Circle that she could.  She took quiet delight in winning and soon had a collection of trophies and medallions.  Her dream though, was to enter the Elven World Archery Tourney.
Chapter Three

It was the grandest of events; The Elven World Archery Tourny was held every four years.  It was being held in Elf Circle this year because the reigning champion was Calgor DeSota – Archery Captain in the Elf Circle Guardians.  Archers from all over the world came to compete for the honour of becoming champion.  Mind you the $10,000 first place prize was nothing to sneeze at neither.  Each contestant had earned his place by competing in local qualifying tournaments.  Still there were 100 contestants – all proven archers.

Elf Circle had the right to enter two contestants.  Tradition had it that one would be from the ranks of the Guardians, and one from the general populous.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Captain DeSota would win the qualifying tournament.  In fact only a token number of Guardians competed knowing they had no chance against the reigning champion and the teacher of the Guardian Archery skills.  All were secretly amused when Tarn, now a 16 year old apprentice, entered the tournament.  Commander Elgeron took his son aside and said “Tarn, I am the first to admire courage, but I don’t admire foolishness.  You have no chance in this.  You are going to embarrass yourself, and more importantly me!” Tarn entered anyway much to his father’s disgust.

Amazingly Tarn won the first of the rounds at 30 paces, never once missing the bull with five arrows.  Captain DeSota however was not the least bit amused.  The next round was shooting from horseback.  To the wonder of all, including Tarn, they tied.  But the Captains grouping was deemed to be “tighter” and he was given the victory. 
The moving target round – where a leather target was rolled off a ramp over roughened ground was the most difficult.  Tarn hit the bouncing target with four of his five arrows and the Captain only three.  Tarn now had the spectator’s full attention.

The last round was firing with a crosswind at 75 paces.  Captain DeSota would have to win by more than two points but still there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that he would.  His years of experience and more powerful bow all stood in his favour.  And his mind was fully on winning at this point. 
Perhaps Captain DeSota had taken the competition too lightly, or perhaps his eyesight was failing a little with age, but after only three arrows, Tarn had won.  His three arrows were grouped tightly near the centre of the bull and two of the Captains arrows were just outside.  There was no need for the Captain to shoot his last arrow – he could not win.  There was shock, then much cheering – particularly from the other apprentices.

Tarn’s father, for the first time in Tarns memory, grabbed him up and hugged him.  Tarn fought back tears of emotion as his father, arm around his shoulder, paraded him around bragging and laughing – clearly overjoyed.  Tarn stole looks up at his father, thrilled to the core at the displays of affection from the man whose approval he most desired.

Chapter Four

One of the interested onlookers that day was Callie Edgemoor.  She was now 15 and had handily won the much smaller and poorly attended qualifying round for the general population of Elf Circle.  There had only been half a dozen entrants but that wasn’t surprising as Callie had won every non-Guardian event for the past three years.  While this gave her some respect, having the reigning world champion in the Guardian ranks, over shadowed her “lesser” achievements.  No one took her very seriously as a competitor.  After all, she was only a girl.  People thought it was “cute” that she was a good shot.  It made her want to spit.

Callie had seen Tarn practicing many times although they had never met.  He seemed to practice as much or maybe more than she did.  She knew he was good – very good in fact – but wondered why he drove himself so hard.  She was unknown and unrecognized in the community and lord knows, needed the money, but what was his motivation?  His father was a high and mighty big powerful rich guy.  She instinctively hated  them both.

She watched him closely when the competition started.  He was of medium height and slim but muscular.  He was very good looking, almost pretty – “Down hormones!” she thought.  She saw the steely muscles in his back when he drew and the rock steady pose when he fired.  Most of all she admired his total concentration.  She recognized it – he was becoming at one with his arrow.  And that alone worried her.  She became at one with her arrows, and thought of that as her secret weapon. 

As the tournament progressed she watched Tarn closely and noticed his father hovering nearby.  He was allowed in the competitor’s area; who could tell him he couldn’t be there.  Tarn’s father seemed somewhat upset when his son had his first turn, but as Tarn won round after round, he seemed to be genuinely amazed.  Tarn was a machine.  The only thing that seemed to distract him was occasional glances towards his father and his siters cheers from the stands.  He won and won and won again.  In the final round when he was matched against Captain DeSota, the captain was clearly rattled and Tarn deadly calm.  Callie knew the outcome before the first arrow was fired.  “He is good” she said to herself, “very, very good!”

About an hour after Tarn’s victory, she was surprised to be summoned to the palace courtyard by the Queen herself.  Callie knew the Queen fairly well by now.  She was always very approachable, charming and kind of hug crazy – but nice.  The Queen had presented her with numerous ribbons and small trophies from previous archery competitions.  But Callie knew the minute she walked into the courtyard that something was up.  The Queen seemed a bit flustered.  Tarn was there, sitting away from the others.  Commander Elgeron and Captain DeSota were standing with arms crossed waiting impatiently for Callie to appear. 

“My Lady” Callie curtsied.  “You called for me?”  The Queen nodded then made the introductions.  Callie curtsied again and when she looked directly at Tarn his face reddened and he quickly averted is gaze.  “Hmmmmmmm” thought Callie.

“Callie” started the Queen, “I assume you were at the Guardian qualification today, were you not?”  Callie said she was.  “Well as you know, young Tarn here defeated Captain DeSota” she paused to enjoy that statement just a little.  The Captains brow darkened in frustration and Tarn looked at the floor in embarrassment.  “Now we all know you have won the right to compete for Elf Circle in the World Archery Tournament coming up, but the Commander and the Captain have asked ….”

“Excuse me M’Lady”, the Commander interrupted, “but this is a waste of time”.  Turning to Callie he declared, “You must waive the right to compete and let Captain DeSota stand in your stead – for the good of Elf Circle!”.  He nodded and crossed his arms acting as if the situation was resolved.  The Queen flushed with anger at being interrupted.

Callie was speechless … for just a moment… then nearly shouted “Are you out of your ******* mind?” Then turned to the Queen said astounded “I am sorry my Queen – but … but …are you going to let them do this?”
It was the Commanders turn to do the chin drop – he had never been spoken to like that by a young lady – or anyone for that matter.  The Queen tut-tutted and said “I never agreed to anything Callie, only to ask you if you really felt you had a chance of winning – that is all dear”. 

Captain DeSota, sensitive soul that he was, chose to make things better by saying “Callie, I know your uncle doesn’t have any money, and I will gladly give you half my winnings.”

Callie was enraged, hurt, shocked and utterly speechless – she knew she was going to lose it.  For a moment she looked at Tarn – he looked positively miserable – and as her eyes filled with tears, ran from the courtyard. 
The Queen called out “Callie, wait …. “.  But she was gone. 

Tarn looked at his dad – then the Queen – and then jumped from his seat and he too bolted.

The Queen was furious and said turned on the two men… “Don’t you ever come to me with anything like this again!” and stomped back into the castle. 
The Commander and the Captain looked at one another in surprise – then the Commander shrugged and said “Well it was worth a try Calgor – lets go get a drink”.  “What about your son?” asked the Captain.  “He has some growing up to do – he will be fine” replied the commander and chuckled.  The men left together oblivious to the devastation.

Chapter Five

Earlier at the conclusion of the Guardian archery competition, Tarn could hardly believe he had won.  He basked in his fathers praise and the congratulations of the onlookers.  Soon he was surrounded by the other apprentices and chatting excitedly with them..  This was a big deal – the first apprentice ever to earn the right to compete in a World Tourney and to beat the Archery Captain too – woo hoo!  When his father said over to him and said “Come along son”, he had tagged along happily.  Captain Desota joined them and seemed suitably depressed and quiet.  Tarn was excited and a bit nervous when they made their way to the castle and into the courtyard.  He had met the Queen only once before.  She had made a fuss over how much he reminded her of his mother and he was embarrassed.

The Queen was very gracious, congratulating him, and as was her trademark, gave him a big hug.  She commiserated with the Captain at his loss and gave him a hug too – which clearly made him uncomfortable.

The Commander “ahemed”, and began to speak.  He said to the Queen that he wanted to take the other qualifying position from the general populous, and give it to the Captain.  “We can’t do that” she said sternly.  “That would be unfair.”  The Commander retorted it was in the interests of Elf Circle.   It would be a disgrace if they didn’t have the prior champion enter the tournament.  He said he was only thinking of the people and they deserved to have the best of their people represent them.  He reminded the Queen of all the benefits Elf Circle had gained by Captain DeSota’s previous victory, including having the next tournament in Elf Circle lands.

The Queen said “Well what about Callie?  The Commander said “Who is Callie?”  “The young lady who qualified in the competition for the general public,” said the Queen sternly.  “Didn’t you go to the competition?”.  The Commander laughed and said “Why bother – some unknown with no chance of making it through the first round, waste of time!”  The Queen said pointedly “Well I care.  She WON her event!”  The Captain blushed again.

The Commander pleaded and cajoled and went on and on.  Finally, in order to placate him, the Queen agreed to ask Callie if she was really serious about entering the World Tournament.  But she made it perfectly clear, the choice would be Callie’s alone.  She sent a messenger to fetch Callie and the three made small talk about civil matters.

Tarn’s head was spinning.  He had been horrified when his father said he wanted the Captain to take Callie’s place.  He felt resentful that his father wanted the Captain in the competition.  It made him feel like his father might just think it was luck that gave him the victory.  Tarn knew he had beaten the Captain fair and square and it wasn’t even that close.  He figured he could do it again, if it came to that.  He couldn’t imagine how Callie was going to feel.  He knew her although they had never met – she probably wouldn’t know him.  Tarn had been to several tournaments and watched her shoot.  It was just luck that they hadn’t competed against each other.  He had joined the Guardian Apprentice program when he was 14 and was not eligible to compete in non- Guardian events.  She in turn had entered and won every single public event since then.

A close friend of Tarns had developed a bit of a crush on Callie the previous summer and cajoled Tarn into going with him to watch her practice early one morning.  Her practice area was an isolated meadow near her home.  They hid in the trees and watched as she shot a hundred or more arrows with amazing precision.  Tarn could readily see why his friend liked her so much – she was beautiful.  The early morning sun inflamed her red hair and her pale white skin seemed to glow.  She had other charms that had even more appeal.  But what fascinated Tarn, was her concentration and consistency when shooting.  She was good – very good.  It was apparent what a lovely young lady she was to become.

A few weeks later in early fall, he had been walking alone in the hills of ElvenMoor.  He came up over a hill and saw her a few hundred meters away with her dog.  She was obviously hunting and had her bow out and an arrow notched.  Her dog was on point directly in front of a small swale.  Tarn thought, what does she think she is doing – hunting on the Queens land.  Suddenly a pheasant burst from the cover a good 30 meters away from Callie.  In less than a heartbeat she drew and fired.  It was an impossible shot – a pheasant flying hard away from her on a diagonal at that distance but her arrow streaked true and a cloud of feathers flew when the arrow brought the pheasant down.  Her dog barked and ran to fetch the bird.  Callie looked around to see if anyone had heard the bark.  Tarn ducked behind a tree just in time to avoid detection.

That shot haunted him.  He wouldn’t have dreamed of taking it.  A waste of a good arrow he would have thought.  But she had and made it count. When the next public tournament came up, he was there as a spectator.  And he went the recent qualifier which she won as well.  His friend had laughed at Tarn when he confided that he thought she was as good – if not better than he.  There was another thing about her that bothered him – he found himself thinking about her quite a lot, and in ways he was sure were unbecoming for an Apprentice Guardian.

When Callie came into the courtyard, after greeting the Queen, she looked him straight in the eye.  He quickly looked away – he felt embarrassed and miserable about what was to come.  He longed to shout at her not to agree.  He was shocked when she swore at his father and as startled as the rest when she ran from the courtyard.  It was all too much for Tarn.  The incredible emotions of the day, the embarrassment in front the Queen and seeing Callie humiliated, overwhelmed him.  Just like Callie, he jumped up and bolted from the courtyard.

Chapter Six

When Tarn ran out of the courtyard he looked to see where Callie had headed, but she was gone from sight.  He thought desperately and decided she would likely do just what he would under the circumstance.  He jogged off towards the hidden meadow where she practiced

Callie ran through the underbrush ignoring the branches tugging at her clothes and the scratches on her arms and legs.  Eyes stinging with tears she ran past her targets in the meadow and down to the big old willow hanging over the stream.  Hidden from the world in amongst its low hanging branches, she threw herself down on the soft moss, and sobbed.

A few minutes later Tarn came to the meadow.  He was disappointed not to see her.  He walked up and down the tree line and called her name.  No reply.  He worked his way across the meadow towards the giant old willow overhanging the stream.  He thought he heard something and went towards the tree.  “Callie?” he called out.  “Go away!” she croaked.  “I need to talk to you” he said and parted the branches.

She was now sitting and looked at him.  Her eyes were red and her face stained with tears.  “You – you son of a bastard – get away from here!”
“Callie – it’s not my fault – I didn’t want this – I didn’t know” 
“You did too you jerk – I saw it in your eyes when I walked in there” she said near tears again.  “You could have said something”.  She stared at him accusingly.

arn stood silent for a moment then said spoke bitterly “You think my dad would listen to anything I said?  He wouldn’t ask me the time of day.  Today was the first time he ever has even paid attention to me.  I hate him, I hate him, I hate him for this!”

He sat down hard and buried his head in his hands – his shoulders shaking and breathing ragged.  Callie looked at him curiously – he was just as upset as her.  She sat silent for a few minutes while he regained his composure.  She recalled how he had been looking to his father during the competition and how his father seemed angry and cold towards him at first.

“You don’t hate your father” she said at last. 

“Awwww … you don’t know anything about it Callie”  he stammered shaking his head.  “But you don’t have to worry – the Queen said it was your choice and only asked because my dad was being such a jerk about it and he said he thought that you wouldn’t want to enter”

“She said that?” Callie asked.

“Yeah, she said you had won fair and square and she wouldn’t dream of making you drop out – but she would ask in case you really didn’t want to go in it.  It’s a lot of pressure you know.”

Callie and Tarn sat in silence for a long time emotionally spent.  The warm wind whispered through the willows and the soft trickling of the stream had a calming effect.

Tarn turned to Callie and asked “You do want to enter don’t you?” 

“More than anything” she replied.  “More than I could ever say”

“Tell me why” he pleaded.  She sat quiet for a few moments, then spoke slowly in a low voice. 

“I remember my mother but not my dad.  I don’t know why I remember her and not him.  They died a few months apart – when I was about four.  I remember my mother saying ‘never give up Cal – always do your best – never let them take you for granted’.  But she gave up without my dad.  She just plain gave up and took sick and died.  I hated her for it.  For years and years I hated her.  My uncle Nuke took care of me.  He is wonderful.  I used to pretend he was really my dad.  He told me many stories about my parents and tried to help me understand that my mother had done her best, but her heart was broken, she loved my dad so much.  “More than she loved me?  I would ask – and he would get quiet and say no, but more than she could bare.”

She look Tarn directly in the eyes, “I swear I will never give up on anyone or anything as long as I live.  And that includes beating you in the Worlds Archery Tourny”.  Then she smiled.

Tarn held her gaze and was silent.  Time seemed to stop.  He reached over and stroked a strand of hair away from her face.  He could hear his heart beating.  Callie caught her breath as his fingers brushed her cheek.  She felt she was falling into his beautiful eyes.  She reached up and pressed her palm to his face.  They could no more help what happened next than stop breathing.  They leaned in and kissed.  Then clutching each other they rolled back on the moss, hands moving over each other’s bodies and mouths fused.

Chapter Seven?

The Glen was overflowing with folk.  The merchants were bouncing about anxiously keeping their shelves filled as sales had never been so brisk.  Vendor carts selling roasted mushrooms and chestnuts abounded.  One enterprising young elf was selling pine flavoured toothpicks to the older folk who tended to have gaps in their teeth that needed picking.  Minstrels and bards were everywhere – gathering tips in their hats and jars.  There was a huge line up of men and ladies in front of a great silken tent featuring belly dancing fae from the far south.  Much to their disgust, the matronly “Spinsters and Widows Group” had a near empty Slingo tent right next door.  They had started offering free pie to anyone coming in to play, but that didn’t seem to be helping.  Old widow Flatbottom was heard muttering “What do those belly dancers have to offer that we don’t?”  “Hmmmmm… good question” a patron said, “certainly not pie”.

It was the final day of the three day tournament and the weather was beautiful yet again.  The crowds were huge.  The entire sandbox in ElvenMoor had been converted to accommodate the spectators for the Archery finals.  Except for the final day, professionals like the Guardians and soldiers competed separately from the general populace.  In this way on the final day competitors from both groups would be in the final.  This made for a better show as the crowd loved to see the underdog non-professionals go up against the professionals.  Mind you it had been over 20 years since a non-professional had won – but still it appealed to the audience.

This year the Tourney had even more interest than ever before.  For the first time, two entrants in their teens were in the final.  Both were from Elf Circle – Apprentice Guardian Tarn Goodwood and Callie Edgemoor.  Tarn and Callie had shot their way through hard fought rounds that featured the best that the Fantasy World had to offer.  The top three from each grouping were entered in the final, Callie had qualified first in the non-professional rounds by beating Caveat Profible, a popular and very classy older man from the dark elf kingdom of Metatheria, and Standish Orlo, an uncommonly powerful dwarf from Forgend.  They were the three qualifiers from the non-professionals.
Tarn had placed second of the three qualifiers in the professional grouping.  The third place qualifier was Ruddy Bartholomew, a mercenary from Avilion who had come in second in the Tourney four years previously.  The man who had qualified first was half human – half elven, and was considered the top contender in the Tourney.  It was the first time that most spectators had seen him.  His name was Prince Dirk Vondreate and he was from the legendary warlike kingdom of Staaltharin.

And a Prince he was indeed.  The Dark Prince, as he was commonly known, was in his late twenties and the most feared man in the Fantasy World.  Staaltharin had been a warring hateful empire with a history of slavery and piracy.  For decades it waged war on other fantasy principalities.  The ruling family’s bloodline was tainted by human blood, or so it seemed.  They were a powerful kingdom, brilliant soldiers and totally untrustworthy.  That is until Foligar Vondreate came to power.  He was the eldest son of the King of Staaltharin, who to the great relief of the Fantasy World had mysteriously died.  Some said he was poisoned.  The King left behind his eldest son, Foligar, his second son Dirk, and his much loved younger daughter Gwendowlyn. 

Prince Dirk was the King’s favourite and most thought would be the King’s choice for succession had he lived.  The Dark Prince was cruel and ambitious and by the time he was seventeen had taken commander of the much feared Black Assassins.  These hated warriors used to specialize in assignations of the enemies of Staaltharin and were terribly effective.  Rumour had it that Dirk had poisoned his father to ascend to the throne but had misjudged the High Council.  To his dismay they applied traditional protocol and appointed Foligar king – in a large part out of fear of the erratic young Dirk.

As King, Foligar was like a breath of fresh air throughout Staaltharin.  He made peace with their traditional enemies and exchanged ambassadors with the larger principalities.  Elf Circle had been among the bitterest of enemies.  For the first time in memory, peace reigned throughout the Fantasy World.  Still the dark shadow of Prince Dirk was always lurking.

The ambassador from Elf Circle had a son of nineteen.  King Foligar had a sister of seventeen – the maid Gwendowlyn.  To the great concern of all they fell in love and she became with child.  The Dark Prince was incensed beyond all reason.  He had his sister locked up and placed the Ambassador under arrest and demanded he produce his son to be executed.  Fortunately Foligar came to intervene and took control of the troops from Prince Dirk.  He released the Ambassador and his son to return to Elf Circle and had his sister taken to a special home in the country.  But young love was not to be denied.

Gwendowlyn was not without friends.  She escaped the home and the kingdom with much inside help, and joined her lover in Elf Circle.  All this was just two summers before the Tourney.

King Foligar and the Queen of Elf Circle made peace again and the Queen placed Gwendowlyn under special protection and promised to see to her continued education and the rearing of her child, nephew to Foligar and Dirk. 

The Dark Prince was not heard from for nearly a year.  It was said that he had sworn to have vengeance or death during his time away.  But he seemed rational when he returned about a year later and now – he had earned his way into the Tourney representing Staaltharin. 

So this was a Tourney with a little bit of everything for the spectators – young new talent – old established warriors – a dwarf – and the Dark Prince with a score to settle.  Who could ask for more; the crowds were huge.

Chapter Eight

Tarn and Callie had been seeing each other whenever they could get away in the weeks leading up to the tournament.  But neither neglected their practice and in truth , both bore down harder in their training than ever before.  Tarn had been thrilled when Callie qualified for the final and cheered louder than any in the stands.  Callie had been equally thrilled when Tarn qualified but was apprehensive of the Dark Prince.  He had an evil power and was uncannily skilled.  She vaguely wondered if there wasn’t some magic afoot.  He was just too good.

The six competitors were joined together half an hour before the final was to begin.  They were read the rules and reminded of the protocol.  Tarn and Callie kept stealing glances at one another but had no chance to talk.  None of the competitors had any questions and they set about rechecking their bows and other equipment.  Each took a few warm up shots – except for the Prince.  He just moved near the entrance and scanned the crowd.

The excited buzz of the crowd grew to a roar as the leaders of each region that the finalists represented came into the arena.  They had special seating on the edge of the archery range.  King Foligar sat beside the Elven Queen and to everyone’s delight, she had Foligar’s young nephew on her lap.  When the contestants were brought onto the field the crowd roared with each introduction.  There was a noticeable increase in volume when first Tarn then Callie were introduced and an embarrassing quieting when the Dark Prince was presented.

The final tournament was made up of four rounds.  The first was pure target shooting at forty five paces.  In this match it was the grouping that counted.  A string was placed around the group and the shortest string won.  The person shooting the lowest score was eliminated.  The next round was from horseback riding hard down a track and shooting three arrows at straw filled dummies.  Again, the lowest score was eliminated.  The third was a series of bouncing leather wheel rolled down a ramp and over rough ground to simulate small game, which was the final elimination.  The final three competed for first, second and third shooting crosswind at seventy five paces into with special targets with very narrow scoring bands.  The winner would be the person to shoot the highest score.

They drew lots to start the first match and Callie was to shoot last.  The five before her all confidently strode up and shot with great precision except for one, the Standish Orlow’s last arrow fell low to the right and the crowd murmured – he would be out if Callie shot a decent grouping.  Callie toed the mark.  Her eyes were blurred and breathing ragged.  She was terrified.  She notched her arrow and drew but her bow arm was shaking and she brought the bow down again.  She heard the mummer of consternation from the crowd and the Dark Prince gave a derisive snort.  Tarn called out to her … “go to the meadow Cal”.  She knew what he meant.  She closed her eyes and pictured the meadow in her mind and her instincts took over.  She didn’t even remember shooting just a cheering of the crowd as she placed her group dead centre and probably tighter than all the others if a measurement was necessary.  The Dwarf was eliminated.

Next was the horseback and the dark Prince was up first.  His white stallion charged across the arena at a blistering pace. The arrows were in the air and quivering in the heart of all three dummies blindingly fast.  The crowd cheered in appreciation of the skill he showed.  No wonder they were so good at war in Saaltharin people thought.  It was a stunning display.  Callie was next and she mounted her painted mare.  The horse was a loan from a neighbour and while not fast she was smooth and nimble as could be.  Callie hollered “Gee” and the horse streaked across the track.  Callies first arrow was dead centre , the second a little high but still a kill and the third hit the shoulder of the dummy for a half point.  Tarn was next and had a perfect round as did Ruddy Bartholomew, At this point Callie was sick with worry.  If Caveat Profible went perfect she was out.  He charged across the ground the the first arrow was dead centre – the second was a kill but a bit low and third … missed by inches.  He was eliminated.

Commander Elgeron was worried.  Something was not right – he could feel it in his bones.  He scanned the crowd including VIP seating on the side of the range.  The elven Queen and King Foligar were too exposed to his liking.  And there was the matter of the “peasant”.  Shortly before the Tourney started, a poorly dressed man had been sitting close to the front behind the competitors.  One of the Guardians spotted something that didn’t look right.  He had confronted the man and the man had looked around as if for instruction, then let the Guardian lead him away.  Under his cloak he had a Saaltharin Black Assassin’s sword and several knives and poisoned throwing stars.  He protested he was there only to see Prince Dirk compete and it was against his vows to be unarmed, but the Commander worried that he was under cover for some other reason.  He doubled up the guard in a line behind the competitors with strict instructions to watch the crowd not the competition.  He dispatched Captain DeSota to the main gate which would be left open in case of an emergency.

Callie drew to go first in the next match – the bouncing and rolling target.  This was the hardest of the skills and in truth there was some luck involved.  But unlike the others, she had hunted small game for the table and if she missed she would go hungry.  She toed the mark.  The first target rolled off the ramp hit two small bumps and bounded high in the air only to be struck dead centre by her arrow.  She nailed the next two pretty much the same.  The crowd cheered long and hard.

Tarn was next and hit two out of three.  The Dark Prince next, and he too shot a perfect round. Bartholomew was last and missed with his first and third arrows.  Callie and Tarn had made the final three.
The crowd went mad with cheering and cries of support for Callie and Tarn resounded throughout the arena.  The competitors took a brief break but the buzzing of the crowd didn’t cease. 

Callie was stretching on the side nearest the VIP seating and the Dark Prince was on the opposite side.  Tarn walked over to her and gave her a hug much to the delight of the crowd.  She whispered “Don’t you dare let him beat you”.  Tarn smiled and said “Don’t you dare let me win”.  She chuckled and said “In your dreams buddy…”  and they both laughed.  She felt some of the tension in her ease.

Chapter Nine

When the gong was rung signaling the final match the cheering resumed.  The lots were drawn and targets placed at seventy five paces.  Fortunately the wind was from due west – right over the VIP seating so no change to the range had to be made.  Tarn was to shoot first – a decided disadvantage in crosswind distance shooting.  A hush descended on the crowd as he toed the mark.  He notched his arrow, drew and held steady as a rock.  He allowed for the wind – the bow string thrummed and the arrow arced towards the target – it was a long shot and the audience held it’s breath – the arrow whacked hard into the target – four inches from centre.  The crowd murmured appreciatively .  Tarn corrected very slightly and the second shot was dead centre.  The wind gusted and he took longer with his third shot waiting for the wind to settle a bit, when he let fly his third arrow he had to allow nearly a meter for wind drift – and this arrow too was dead centre.

Callie was watching carefully from the sidelines near the VIP seating well away from the shooting mark.  Like the hunter she was, she already had her bow out and her first arrow in her hand,  She watched Tarn nervously and at first was anxious he do well and then when he did, was anxious about beating him.  She glanced at the dark Prince and he had his back to Tarn looking into the crowd.  “Odd” she thought, He should be watching for the windrift.  He was next up and picked up his bow and pulled three arrows from the quiver an assistant held for him.  Something bothered Callie about that but she wasn’t sure what.

The crowd hushed as the Dark Prince toed the mark.  Foligar called out in support and Dirk looked to his left at the VIP seating where Foligar, the Queen and his nephew were sitting about 30 meters away.  Callie from her vantage point could see his face clearly and thought she was looking into the eyes of madness.  His hateful glare silenced VIP section.  Dirk notched his first arrow drew and fired in one easy motion.  His hugely powerful bow allowed him to take a lower arc than Tarn and the arrow whacked into the target very nearly dead centre.  His second arrow was notched and in the air while the first was still quivering and it too flew long and true and smacked into the target virtually touching the shaft of the first.

The Dark Prince notched his third arrow and drew the bow string back .  Alarm bells went off in Callies mind.  The arrow was a hunting tipped broadhead!  With horror she saw him swing to his left and let the arrow fly at someone in the VIP seating at virtual point blank range.  Callie’s reaction when she saw the broadhead had been to notch her arrow and start to draw – she did it unconsciously.  When the Dark Prince let the arrow fly towards the VIP section it was too late to stop him.  But years of hunting and instant reactions to hunting small game bursting out of the brush, prepared Callie – instinctively she fired her arrow – not at Dirk but at his speeding arrow crossing before her.  Dirks arrow had to travel 30 meters and Callie’s only ten.

The Queen watched in horror when The Dark prince turned and fired.  Helplessly she tried to shield the youngster on her lap – the shaft of death streaked towards them when a few meters away it was intercepted by Callie’s arrow.  The shaft shattered and the razor sharp hunting tip spun harmlessly off to the side and fell to the ground.  It was the shot of a lifetime – one in a million – impossible some said. 

Bedlam.  The Commander screamed to his people to sieze the Dark Prince but from the front rows of the crowd agents of Saaaltharin produced swords and weapons and attacked the Guardians .  The Commander and several others formed a human shield before the VIPS and started moving them back.  The Dark Prince seeing his plot foiled took four running steps and vaulted up onto the back of his white charger who had been conveniently held for him by one of this people and he galloped off towards the open gates at the far end.  Several Guardians rushed to intercept him but paid with their lives as he fired arrows from horseback easily clearing the way to the gate across the open range.

On duty at the gate was Captain DeSota with half a dozen men who were also under fire by hidden agents of Saaaltharin.  They apparantly had secreted bows and had been standing near the gates.  Two of his men were down and two rushed out towards the Dark Prince who was galloping directly toward them.  DeSoto saw them both fall from the Princes arrows and he dived off to the side between crates to avoid a similar fate.  The Dark Prince was amused to see the Captain dive for cover and didn’t give him a glance as he thundered past.  Perhaps he should have.

DeSota was no coward.  He knew the first rule in battle is not to get killed stupidly.  He had his heavy bow in hand and an arrow notched as the Dark Prince drove past.  He then stepped in the open, drew and fired at the rapidly receding target.  It was the second impossible shot of the day.  The arrow caught up with the rider at about one hundred meters.  The Prince had on chainmail which would have repelled the arrow but the arrow took the Prince in the back of the neck and drove the razor sharp barb right through his brain stem killing him instantly.

Chapter Eleven

The World Archery Committee had a problem.  There were twenty one people dead, six of them Elf Circle Guardians, and a number of serious injuries.  Only two Saaltharin assassins had been captured alive and those just barely.  About eight had escaped and were being hunted by the remainder of the Guardian forces.  It was doubtful that any would be taken alive.  The crowds were dispersed and mostly gone.

They agreed that the Tourney was cancelled and no winner would be declared.  The prize money was trebled and set aside to help the families of those who had died and were injured.  The committee commissioned a special commemorative medallion and awarded it to the five competitors who had made the final.

It was a topic of endless speculation among the people who were there that day.  Who had the Dark Prince aimed the arrow at?  Was it his brother Foligar – to gain the crown, the Queen to gain revenge – or his nephew to remove the stain from the family name and spite his sister?  Theories abounded but it would never be known for sure. 

Another topic discussed endlessly was Callie’s unbelievable shot, taking the assassin’s arrow out of the air.  Impossible some thought – witchcraft thought others – the will of the gods thought some and just plain damn lucky thought most. 

And who would have won the Tourney if it had continued?  Could Callie possibly had competed at that distance, could Tarn’s excellent score have stood up to the Prince’s third shot?  Some people even thought that DeSota could have beat them all and had proved with the incredible shot that had taken down the Dark Prince.

What was known for sure was the Elven Queen and King Foligar had since fallen head over heels in love.  And they felt they owed much of their happiness to Callie.  Callie was made Archery Instructor for the Queen’s own Guard with a permanent pension and granted title to the meadow land where she had practiced for so long.  She would never have to hunt for food again. 

Tarn was now a full Guardian and was taking Lieutenant training.  He and his father had a new respect for one another.  The Commander had finally come to appreciate that Tarn reminded him of his wife  He spent as much time with Tarn as he could.

… and Tarn and Callie? 

Well they are the reason this story was written – to commemorate their wedding vows.  They are to be married on the second Saturday in June.  They hope you can make it.

Farley Crabgrass

Posted by: Farley | February 27, 2008

The Arrow Song – Farley Crabgrass

The Arrow Song

Wondrous adventure can result from a noble mission with great planning, preparation and resources.  Adventures sometimes spring from a lifelong dream or a heroic odyssey.  But this adventure, the one you are about to read, happened to ordinary people on an ordinary day.  And the ordinary people become extraordinary indeed.  Our tale begins with a dream …

Chapter One:  Sage’s Dream
Perfect and so exciting …gossamer gown, flowing hair and translucent fae wings streaming out behind.  Bareback astride a unicorn, she seemed at one with her steed, skimming across the meadow.  In their wake flowers and butterflies sprang forth.  Bunnies scampered out of their way.  One brown rabbit with pink pads on his paws sat up and waved as she passed. The fae blew him a kiss.  (scratch, scratch)

The fae leaned in close to the neck of the charging unicorn and he soared over a small brook startling a duck family.  They squawked noisily and flew off leaving some feathers suspended in the air.  The fae laughed with glee.  (Scratch, scratch – a sound – intrusive – irritating!)

The fae on the unicorn seemed to hear it and turned her head frowning.  (BANG, BANG).

The fae started visibly at the inappropriate sound.  The unicorn even turned its head in mid-gallop – and soundlessly they popped out of existence.

Sage raised her head from the pillow.  Angry that the delightful dream ended so rudely, she shook her head to clear the last vestiges of sleep.  (BANG, BANG)
…again on her window.  She arose and peered out the dew misted glass.  In the predawn light below her window she saw …

  “Pynch!”  She muttered angrily.

Pynchon Oakgrove was below her window on the ground holding a long stick.  He had been using it to scratch on her window.  Then he started banging it when scratching didn’t seem to work.  She pushed the window up and said “Shhhhhhhh … you will wake the entire sim”

“You are supposed to up and ready to go by now”, he whined in a loud whisper, “Hurry up!”
Sage pulled back from the window and scrambled into her leafy fae pixie outfit with the rhinestone buttons and elven shoes.  She gazed into the long mirror.  I am getting big she told herself for the umpteenth time, disregarding her less than 4 foot height and tiny features.  I look much older than 11 she thought with satisfaction.  She ran a brush through her long reddish brown hair.  That hair had been the cause of her nickname.  Sage’s grandmother had labeled her almost from birth and the name seemed to be sticking.  She put down the brush, yawned and rubbed her sleepy eyes.  That somehow must have triggered dream images floating in the corners of her mind.   The mirror misted over.  She saw again the beautiful fae streaming through the meadow on the galloping white unicorn, and then slowly fading away.

That image – that instant in time – was to become a defining moment in her life.  Of all the unbelievable things that were to transpire that day, that vision would stay in her mind and change her forever.

Sage crept down the stairs and into the cold storage.  She placed some cheese and grapes in a small bag in her knapsack and tiptoed to the back door. There was a note stuck to it. “Sage” it read, “be sure and take your bow and quiver with you and DO NOT LEAVE THE SIM”.  Sage mentally stamped her foot.  “Elf rules” she snorted to herself as she took down her hand carved elven bow and quiver.  She put them on.  “How did she know I was sneaking out?” she muttered, “And I get tired of carrying this stuff”.

Chapter Two – Uncle Farley’s Canoe

Pynch was outside, hopping from foot to foot, anxious to be off.  He was a young drow, about the same age as Sage and only slightly taller.  He had on elven greens and carried a oversized sword on his hip. “Let’s go!” He said to Sage grumpily when she came out quietly closing the door.  She shivered “Its cold this early” she complained.  “Why did we have to start our adventure day so blessed early?”

“That is just the way it is with adventures” he declared in a loud whisper.  “Who ever heard of an adventurer sleeping in till noon.  That’s stupid!”  He turned and marched off towards the river bank. Sage shook her head and thought “boys!” and followed.

They scrambled down the river bank and Sage gasped when she saw what was pulled up on shore.  “It’s Uncle Farley’s favourite canoe” she said somewhat horrified.

“He said I could use it whenever I wanted”, said Pynch.  “I am pretty sure he knows I am going to use it today.   But he is away so I couldn’t ask him.”

Sage smirked at the obvious lie.  But she really wanted to ride in the canoe and climbed in.  “It’s your funeral” she said.  Pynch pushed the sleek craft out into the quiet river and clamored aboard at the last possible second. They drifted for a few minutes, then picked up their paddles and started paddling clumsily.  “Where to?” she said from the front of the boat, placing her paddle against the river bank to nudge them back into the flow. “To the waterfalls” Pynch said ducking an overhanging tree branch
They skimmed softly through the low swaying willows and were startled by the clatter of some ducks they surprised.  The morning sun turned the tree tops gold and warmed the air.  The scent of lavender from Lady Pammie’s pretty gardens wafted over them as they silently floated by.

Soon they could hear the deep-throated growl of the mighty Farhaven waterfall.  As they rounded the bend they felt the cool mist and the sound grew hard and defined. The canoe slipped gracefully out of the river mouth.  To their left the mighty cascade thundered onto the rocks.  It seemed alive and joyous with silver water droplets frolicking and sparkling in the early morning sun.

  “Don’t steer too close Pynch”, Sage sang over her shoulder.  “Someday I will ride down these falls in a canoe”, he shouted back.  Sage laughed at the ludicrous boast.  “It had better not be in Uncle Farley’s canoe” she quipped.

They skirted across the front of the curtain of water and spray, carefully avoiding the cross currents and whirlpools that threatened to pull them too close.  Angling further out into the centre of the cove, they landed on a rocky outcropping.  Three magnificent water-glass mermaids towered over them.  They scampered up onto the grass circle at the feet of the blue-green statues and lay on their backs looking up.

“I love how the light shimmers and dances over the mermaids – it is like an aqua-marine light show”, breathed Sage.  “I like it too … Pynch said studiously …”but only because they have big boobs …aaaarrrrgh”. 
 He threw up his arms to fend off the rain of blows from Sage.  She had jumped him and was punching away screeching “take it back … take it back  … you … you …pervert”.  Screaming with laughter the kids rolled and wrestled and teased and giggled till they were out of breath.  Resting for a few minutes, Sage’s gaze was drawn to the towering lighthouse on the south west corner of nearby Elf Harbour. “I want to go up there.”
“We are not to leave the sim”, Pynch shook his finger righteously.  “I’ll tell your mom that you like the mermaid’s boobs”, teased Sage.  “Guys are supposed to.”

Pynch grimaced, and thought for a moment,“I will take you up the lighthouse, if you will go with me to the fort”.  “No way” Sage said, “Lord Pericat is too scary.  Mom says he was a fearsome pirate and he will feed us to the sharks if he ever catches us. “Naaaaaa, that’s baloney.  He was the manager of a fae underwear store.  They fired him for spending too much time in the stock room”.  They laughed until their sides hurt at the silly thought.  “Lets go!”  Pynch cried and clamored down the rock and into the canoe. Sage followed a little worried about what she had got herself into.

Chapter Three – The Lighthouse

They eased into the bay and approached the sim line cautiously.  “You will probably end up naked when we go over the border,” he called from the back of the boat, “so close your eyes … ha ha ha ha.”
In the front of the canoe, Sage felt a cold queasy shudder when she crossed.  She couldn’t help but look down to make sure she was still fully dressed.  She glanced back at Pynch and burst into hysterics.  “I said you were a pervert and I was right!” she sang out, laughing even harder.  Pynch looked down and the prim hair he had gotten for his 12th birthday was firmly attached to his crotch.   “Dang it …” and he hurriedly corrected the hair situation.  “It’s not funny you know,” he pouted.  Sage still giggled.

They landed and climbed the steep bank to the lighthouse.  The door was ajar and they pried it open.  Up and around and up and around the stairs they went.  They paused twice to catch their breath and finally stepped out onto the light deck.  They each gave a little gasp when they saw the beauty of Farhaven to the South and Mystica to the Southwest .

From the lighthouse, the mighty Farhaven falls seemed to sparkle with diamonds and the blue green mermaids dancing in the mists before it, seemed alive.  Exotic Mystica with its towering spires and beautiful homes, appeared serene.  Its colorful shops were hazy in the distance.  Along the North shore near Stonehenge they could see a couple out walking in the early morning hand in hand.
“I bet he kisses her when he reaches the stone circle” Sage said wisely.  “No way – it’s a bet!” claimed Pynch, “Just wait” said Sage.

They watched the couple for about 10 minutes and yet again the wisdom of feminine prevailed.  The man stopped in the shadow of the mystical stones and took the girl in his arms.  He kissed her quite thoroughly indeed.   “He loves her” nodded Sage with satisfaction.  “He does not …” retorted Pynch, “He just wants…” and wisely shut up seeing Sage shaking her small balled-up fist at him.  “Ok you win – he loves her – sheeeesh”.

They took one last look at the stunning Southern view then moved around the platform to the North.  They could see the forest and dense underbrush and just over the trees in the distance, the top of the fort located dead centre in Elf Harbour.  Sage felt a vague unease looking at the fort, but shook it off.  Pynch said “There it is – race ya” and dashed for the tower door.  They ran down the stairs yelling and laughing and stopping when they got too dizzy.  They burst out into the sunshine and charged down the grass bank to the canoe.  “I know the way”, said Pynch starting to paddle before Sage even was seated.  “We shouldn’t go to the fort”, she whined, “lets go home”.  “A deal is a deal” Pynch stated laughingly.  Sage grimaced and joined in paddling.

Like young people everywhere, sometimes they forgot very simple but very important things.  It wasn’t so much being careless as being carefree.  Neither youngster looked at their mini maps.  If they had, they likely would have given second thought to this leg of their journey.  For in the fort, there were four green dots clustered ominously in the centre.
 
 Chapter Four – Jade The Apprentice

The sim North of Elf Harbour is Ceilidh – a wonderful emerald green landscape of hills, rolling meadows, trees and a few cozy homes.  One of its great attractions is the brilliantly conceived puzzle game Harps Quest.  On this day the sim was empty but for one young fae.  Jade was an apprentice Guardian about half way through her training.  On this day, she was more than a little discouraged.  Her mentor seemed hard and mean.  He expected so much from her.  She did drill after drill until she wanted to scream.  She wondered if her friends were right in saying she was too young and the Guardians wouldn’t give her a fair shake because of her age and slight stature.  Maybe they are trying to make me quit, she thought.

She had taken this morning off and was half heartedly trying to make some progress on the Harp Quest.  As required in her training, she routinely checked her mini-map.  She did make note of the curious 4 dots in the fort.  Checking her events listing she saw nothing was scheduled.  And she could see the 2 dots that she later determined were the children working their way along the coast and turning into the river.  It must be a practice session someone was holding she decided.  A dark thought flashed through her mind.  It might be apprentices practicing and they hadn’t included her – but she dismissed that thought with a grimace.  “Silly! I am being silly. Besides I think I am going to quit anyway”

Still, she started walking towards the South side of the sim, figuring she might was well look for pieces of the puzzle there as here.
 
 Chapter Five: – The Fort

Sage reached up and grabbed Pynch’s hand and pulled her up a steep rock face very near the fort entrance.  After 20 minutes or so of easy paddling, they had drawn the canoe up on shore hiding it in the bushes.  They worked their way up the hills and through the woods for the half hour it took to get to the fort.  Now hot and sweating in the warming sun, they paused to catch their breath. 
Sage was sorry she hadn’t left her bow and quiver in the boat – the string cut into her shoulder and the arrows rubbed against her back.  But Pynch had been adamant she bring it – besides he had said – they have a target range there.

They dusted themselves off and then with complete disregard of caution, they ran to the fort entrance.  With shouts of glee, laughter and screaming like banshee raiders, they threw open the door and dashed inside.  Ten running steps inside Sage and Pynch pulled to a skidding stop. 

Four tall black shrouded figures were staring at them from across the fort in total amazement.  Two held scimitar lances, one had a huge long bow in his hand and the other’s hands were hidden in his garments.
Shocked silence in the fort.   “Shade Warriors” said Pynch in a strangled whisper.  He drew his sword.  He was amazed to see it glowing with an unearthly blue light.  Only in the presence of great evil did an elven sword glow and this one was pulsing brightly with an inner blue light.

Sage’s heart sank to her feet and she was surprised to discover she had unconsciously taken her bow in hand and had an arrow notched already.  Neither youngster had seen a Shade before but they were legendary killers of the first order and were reputed to eat their victims.
Utter stillness except for the harsh sound of their breath.  It may have only been 2 or 3 seconds but it seemed like an eternity.  Pynch was about to whisper let’s run for it when the Shade with bow in one smooth move pulled an arrow from his quiver and fired.  The arrow screamed between Sage and Pynch and exploded on the wall behind them severing the rope holding the door weight.  The fort door slammed tight with a great bang.

The instant his arrow was loosed, instinctively Sage drew and fired too.  Her small but needle sharp elven arrow sang it’s elven song, and struck the bow man sinking deep into his shoulder.  He let out an unearthly shriek and grabbing the arrow yanked it out and cast it aside.  Dark blood began to stain his cloak.  The weaponless Shade gestured and the other three spread apart eyeing Sage and her bow with her small but potentially deadly stingers.  Obviously he was the leader. 
“You have come for breakfast my pretties” … the Shade hissed. “And breakfast you shall be”.
Sage sent an arrow singing at his head but he was too far.  He gestured and the arrow exploded in a blue flash inches from his face.  “Shielded” muttered Pynch stepping forward sword poised.  “You stay back”.
 
 Sage ignored him and loosed two more arrows with lightening speed but the Shades were far enough away they stepped aside or dodged them.  “Run for help “she cried, I can hold them off.    “We would never make it” Pynch said under his breath.

Chapter Six: – The Arrow Song

When fired with deadly intent, an elven arrow sings.  Its Arrow Song is as old as the ages and enduring as the elven culture.  It is the song of warning.  It is the song of war.  It is the song of rescue, and it is the song of life – depending on whose side you were on.

Jade was doddling along the South shore of Ceilidh half heartedly seeking clues to the Harps Quest when she heard the Arrow’s Song.  Then another – then two more in quick succession.  It could only mean one thing – elves in serious trouble.  “Arrow Songs-Elf Harbour” – she tapped into Guardian Group chat.

She leapt into the air and flew as hard and fast as she could towards the fort.   Her glance at the mini map showed four figures spread out near the middle of the fort and two tight together against the South wall.  She drew her bow and checked her sword in flight praying “Blessed Dark Maiden, please send help” – she tried to swallow her fear, then flew faster.”

Flying at full speed toward the fort she saw the youngsters close together, backs to the wall and the four Shades spread out and moving in.  She screamed an elven battle cry to divert their attention and dove down over the North fort wall at full tilt.  With a flash, a silver dome winked into existence enclosing the figures the in the fort.  She hammered against it.  Instead of bursting through, Jade was dashed to the ground.  She was inside the fort but outside the opaque dome.

“Shield” Jade knew instinctively.  Though on the ground and winded she rezzed a cube – selected sit, then pulled her self through the shield gasping for breath but bow in hand.  The Shades were half way to Sage and Pynch.  Sage was down to her last arrow.  She moved her fully drawn bow back and forth trying to keep all four Shades at bay.  The bowman’s left arm hung useless, but with his good hand he pulled a silver “rang” flying stick from beneath his shroud.  The Shade furthest from the bowman feinted a charge with lance held high.  Sage swing and fired.  At the same instant the bowman threw the flying stick low and hard.  Sages arrow missed by inches as the charging Shade reversed and jumped back.  But the bowman’s aim was true.  Sage barely moved her bow back in time to block the flying rang from caving her head in.  Her bow was shattered and she was pounded to the ground by the impact.

The two Shades with lances now surged forward confidently, one much closer than the other.  Pynch pulled Sage behind him – crouched and sword ready.  At that same moment Jade pulled through the shield, and loosed an arrow at the leading Shade.  The arrow sang fast and true sinking deep into his chest.  He went down to his knees a short distance from the children.  The last thing he saw was the flash of Pynch’s blue blade as it took him full in the throat nearly severing his head.  The second charging Shade now realizing Jade was a threat, turned in time to see her second arrow, and ducked low saving his miserable life.

Seeing the Shade off balance Pynch sprang forward and swung his sword.  It was barely turned aside by the Shade’s lance.  The Shade skittered back dismayed by the likely possibility of catching an arrow from Jade or being sliced by Pynch’s blue pulsing blade.

The weaponless Shade leader gestured.  Crack! Jade was instantly caged. She fired a third and a fourth arrow in quick succession but they shattered into a thousand pieces against the inside wall of the cage.  She tried a cage sit but it was rejected.  Sitting back down on the cube she selected it and tried to drag it outside the cage but the cube moved slower than molasses and the cage followed keeping her imprisoned.

“Oh nooooo, I am trapped.” she thought wanting to scream.  She madly punched in the Guardian channel, “help – children – Shades”.  She was helpless without full Guardian weapons.

Out side the cage she could see the three Shades now stalking Pynch who was bravely standing over the fallen Sage.  Swinging their long scimitar spears they confidently closed in.  Pynch executed a classic spin and slash attack but they were ready for him.  One Shade caught the sword stroke on the handle of his lance deflecting it away.  The other swung his lance.  Pynch ducked inside the blade but was hit on the side of the head by the shaft.  Pynch’s sword went flying and he tumbled on top of Sage.

The Shade’s stood over the terrified youngsters triumphantly.  The leader walked up.  Glancing at his dead comrade said “Spike the little bastards”. The Shade with the remaining lance lifted it high over his head to impale the cowering youngsters – “two for one” he chuckled in bad elven.

Chapter Seven: – The Guardians

Jade was standing in the cage transfixed in horror and when the Shade raised his lance. She did the only thing she could think of.  She rezzed a large cube outside the cage and pushed it 20 meters right on top of the children.  At the same instant the Shades lance descended.  The blade buried in the cube and the shaft shattered. 

This would only give them a few seconds reprieve she knew – the youngsters would quickly suffocate.

The Shade Leader roared in amusement and yelled at Jade “Doing the killing for us are you?  They will die soon enough – and you will have killed them.  Now it is your turn”.  He turned to walk towards her.
Jade , arrows gone, pulled her short sword.  She stood to face him, expecting the cage to be removed.  She assumed combat position ready to go down swinging.  But there was a loud “whumpfff”.  She blinked.  Sunlight streamed in, no longer dimmed by the shield and her cage had vaporized too.  Jade looked up.  Guardians!  She saw three – no four Guardians, one on each wall of the fort! 

The Shades roared in anger and then in dismay.  In an instant, they were immobilized by translucent beams coming from the outstretched arms of three of the Guardians.  Jade ran towards the cube over the children.  She selected and deleted it as fast as she could, praying they were still alive.  They were!  Both were gasping for air and choking.  She lifted Sage under one arm and grabbed Pynch by the back of his collar.  With strength borne of need, she pulled them out from under the frozen but screaming Shades and over to a knoll.  She collapsed on the grass and started tending to Sage and Pynch.  Seeing the youngsters were starting to breath okay, Jade looked back to see what was happening.

“We can’t boot them!” cried one Guardian.  “Their shields are too strong – just hold them tight for a couple of minutes” said an authoritive Guardian calmly.  Jade recognized him as the fearsome Lord Pericat.

With a mighty crack and brilliant flash just above the fort, a beautiful fae materialized astride a snow white unicorn. 

“It’s her” whimpered Sage now catching her breath.  Jade looked down at Sage questioningly.  “From my dream – from my mirror”.  Sage started in open-mouthed fascination. “It’s the Queen”, said Jade softly pulling the children closer. “I think we are safe.”

The unicorn reared in the air, and descended gently to the ground not far from the twisting helpless Shades.  The Fae Queen looked brilliantly angry and called out something in a singsong language Jade or the youngsters had not heard before.  The Shades shrieked desperately trying to break free of the Guardian bonds.  Then stretching her arm towards them, a thousand fireflies seemed to spring forth and spinning madly enveloped the Shades.  Screaming in agony, their skin grew black then burst into flame.  The flames grew and grew and consumed them entirely.  The fire and particles boiled high into the sky.

Chapter Eight: The Fae Queen

Sage and Pynch buried their heads against Jade sobbing and shaking.  She sat holding them, eyes wide and unblinking – her focus fixed.  Tears were unashamedly streaming down her face.  The Fae Queen dismounted and strode directly to the knoll where Jade and the youngsters were huddled.  She had seen enough war to know shock and its dangers and quickly knelt before them.  She swirled her silken white cape and it encompassed them in a soft yielding tent.

  Sitting, she took Sage from Jade and held her on her lap, The Fae Queen pulled Pynch and Jade close and hugged all three tightly.  She whispered in a silken voice that it was over – they were safe – it would be all right.  She began to croon in a low singsong voice.  The language was unknown, but the images were unmistakable.  Peace and love, flowers and trees, mothers and fathers, animals and birds were all in the song.  A sense of calm and contentment descended aver them all and the fear and horror began to recede.

Nearly asleep, Sage saw a movement as if something were burrowing under the cape.  Entranced by the Fae Queen’s song, she watched perplexedly as a beautiful brown rabbit, so like the one in her dream, wedged it’s way inside the cape.  He sat bright eyed, nose and ears twitching, staring at Jade.  She smiled.  The rabbit sat up and raised its paws.  Sage gasped – he had pink pads – he was the rabbit from her dream and she could swear he was trying to wave at her.  She turned to say something to the others but glancing back saw he had disappeared.  Maybe she didn’t see it really she thought.

“Your parents are here now” the Fae Queen said softly.  Pynch gave a worried little moan.  “I have been in touch with them.  They know all that has happened and do not fear.  I have decreed you have been punished enough.  Your bravery and willingness to sacrifice to save each other is an inspiration to us all.  I am proud of you.”  The youngsters reassured, she spun open the silken cloak and Sage and Pynch rushed to their parents.  There was much hugging and kissing and more grateful tears. 

The Queen stood and placed her arm around Jade’s shoulder.  She called out for the Guardians and the now gathering onlookers to come close as she wanted to speak.

“On this day, Apprentice Jade, performed a heroic service to the people of our kingdom.  She bravely faced overwhelming odds and saved two of our precious children.  I thank you Jade, on behalf of each and everyone of us.”  She paused for the cheers to subside, “Furthermore, I hereby appoint you as my personal “Protector of the Children”, and full Guardian from this day forth.”  Again the cheers and Jade flushed with embarrassment as the Queen gave her a royal hug.   The people and other Guardians and others pressed close to congratulate and thank the totally overwhelmed Jade, who was desperately trying not to start crying again. 

Shortly after, Pynch and his parents started to leave.  Pynch turned and shouted to Sage, “I am going to be a Guardian one day”, making an “Ok” sign with his fingers. Sage laughed delightfully, and called back, “Oh yeah?  Well I am going to be the Elven Queen.  You will be working for me!  So there!”  Pynch laughed as did all who heard.

Later, when Sage’s mom and dad were walking with her towards home, Sage said, “Mom, Dad, I want to ask a favour.”   “What is it darling ?” “I don’t want to be called by a nickname anymore – Sage is a little girl’s name. I want to use my real name from now on”.  “Well then so we shall.” said her father happily, “and honey, I don’t doubt that you will be an elven queen one day, and bring great honour to the Wishbringer name. 

And so it was that the young girl affectionately called Sage, was ever after called Forcythia Wishbringer.

Epilogue

It is said in elven lands that the seeds of your future are sown within you at birth.  How they are awakened and how they are nurtured determines what you will be and what you achieve.  On this day those seeds were undoubtedly awakened by the Arrow Song.

Jade Winthorpe went on to become the youngest High Guardian ever and great warrior.  She founded the Temple of the Dark Maiden.  Craving action, she left the lands for long periods to fight in noble wars in other lands, indeed, other worlds.  Her occasional visits home meet with much rejoicing.

Pynchon Oakwood’s seed was a dark seed and over time he grew discomforted in the peaceful elven lands.  He fell into the company of troublesome drow and dark elves of a similar bent.  In time he became a fierce and legendary mercenary general, much feared by fantasy folk, especially orcs and trolls.  But if one of his army so much as harmed a hair on the head of a fae or an elf, they paid with their life.

And indeed, Forcythia Wishbringer became the Elven Queen.  She is often seen astride her unicorn galloping through the meadows of Elf Circle.  And she fiercely protects the hundreds of strange brown bunnies with pink pads on their paws that live in ElvenMoor.  But you should know this: the Arrow Song still lives in her heart, and when it sounds anywhere in the elven lands – she rides.

Farley Crabgrass

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