Now available, right here for $5.00 Australian (you can pay in Australian dollars via Paypal).
Buy The Start of Magic, and you are welcome to a free copy of any other of my titles. Read the list.
Click to see the cover.
|She was a tiny little fifteen-year-old, enslaved, raped, whipped. She didn't know that one day she'd become the War Leader of her people.|
The Mother's Sword (the complement to this book).
The Travels of First Horse (a trilogy in one volume).
The Making of a Forest Fighter (the award-winning sequel).
His Name Means 'Courage' (a free book from the series.
The Ehvelen Series
Discovery of the Ehvelen manuscripts
About the Author
An Excerpt from The Start of Magic Heather the Mother was the Ehvelen's greatest hero. She had been their War Leader for almost all of the thirty years of terrible warfare that transformed them from peaceful, forest-dwelling hunters into fearsome warriors, then scattered them throughout Asia, Europe and even beyond. Wherever they were, they lived in the wild places, protecting wilderness from the depredations of mankind. Because of the terrible experiences recounted in the five Stories of the Ehvelen, they always fought for the oppressed against the powerful.
But Heather knew none of this when she was fifteen. She was on the Hunt that should have qualified her and her four friends for adulthood. And then, what seemed to be two-headed giant monsters appeared, killed the boys and took the two girls away.
"This was the worst day in the history of the Ehvelen. In a way, it was the day when our history began, the day when the Mother started to forge us into Her sword against slavery, cruelty, exploitation. It was the first day when an Ehvel was murdered -- and the first day, ever, when an Ehvel killed a Giant."
Thus starts the FIRST STORY OF THE EHVELEN. They were short, had pointed ears and possessed wonderful abilities. Their memory is preserved in distorted form as Elves, Fairies, Leprechauns, Pixies, Dwarves, Gnomes, and perhaps surprisingly, Trolls and Djinns.
We remember them as magical creatures. This book explains where the magic came from: keen intelligence, the abilities of an Olympic gymnast, the training of a hunter.
THE FIRST STORY OF THE EHVELEN describes one year. THE START OF MAGIC is half the Story: Fifteen year old Heather suffered a terrible experience. Coming from a race of peaceful hunters who knew nothing of murder and cruelty, she saw her friends killed, then she was abducted, raped and made into a slave. Her captors, the Doshi, took her an inconceivable distance from her home, across the grassy plains. Before her capture, she was enclosed by the Forest, so at first even the scenery of wide open plains was a torture. And she was smaller than even many of the children, she could speak with no-one, and the customs were incomprehensible to her.
She survived many adventures and trials, and one year later, managed the impossible. She and her two friends needed to escape, otherwise her people back home in the forest would suffer a surprise attack from a great horde of savage warriors. But they knew that no slave had ever escaped the Doshi, and they had two tiny babies, and fourteen-year-old Clarystra was eight months pregnant.
You will love Heather, the way many generations of Ehvelen have loved her through the ages.
Lief Olesen managed to get a good handhold in a little crevice within the gray limestone, and hauled himself upwards. "Hey Colleen," he called down in his pleasant Danish accent, "There's a wide ledge here!" He scrambled onto the level surface, and at last had a chance to clean his glasses, which had been getting fogged up during the climb.
Colleen Little nimbly followed him, her tiny hands and feet almost dancing from hold to hold along the rough cliff face. She accepted Lief's hand and allowed him to pull her up. "Didn't see it from above either," she said.
It was the 12th of August, 1993, holidays at Dublin University, so the two friends were doing some climbing in County Clare. Colleen looked around with interest. The ledge was littered with many boulders of all sizes, and now in the morning, it was shaded by an overhang. Never one to stay still for any time, she wondered around while Lief coiled up the rope.
A darker shadow lurked behind that big boulder. She moved closer and shouted, "A cave! Hey Viking, a cave!"
"OK, little Elf, I've got a torch," he answered. "Get it out of my pack."
She went up behind him. He got down on his knees so she could reach, and she scrabbled around in his backpack until she located the torch. Then they went exploring.
Colleen could walk upright in the short passage, but Lief had to bend low. It led to an almost circular cavern, perhaps nine yards in diameter. The slightly domed roof was seven feet high at the edges. The torch showed the roof to be black with soot, and the walls were lined all around with regular ledges that just had to be man-made.
As they moved around, kicking at the dirt of ages covering the floor, the light glinted on metal. Colleen swooped, and stood with a dagger. The blade was rusty, but a rub emphasized the metallic sheen. And the handle was a work of art.
This was the start. Their discovery has led to a major archelogical exploration that has allowed Professor Patrick O'Loughlin of the National University of Ireland and his students to document the existence of an entire race whose memory has degenerated into myth. Colleen and Lief changed courses, and even Universities, and are now part of O'Loughlin's team.
The most important find was a golden box, full of manuscripts: an early Irish Bible with each sentence translated into a previously unknown language, 831 large parchment sheets closely covered in writing, and several supporting documents.
My friend Tony Beadle was the person who deciphered the Little People's language. I remember receiving his excited email, in which he suggested that I put in a tender for translating the main body of the find.
I did, and got the job, and it has changed my life.
I warn you: read the Stories of the Ehvelen, and they may change your life too!
Dr Bob Rich
Department of Mythology
University of Selfril Islands
Sometimes, Bob wishes that he wasn't a storyteller. These are the occasions when he would love to give up writing, and become just an ordinary person who can blot out his mind in front of a TV set, or do just one thing at a time. The worst is when some editor somewhere rejects his work. Then he gets all sad and depressed, and needs to do something to cheer up again.
And what's his solace?
Currently, he is working on two books: a science fiction story and a self-help book for people struggling with depression. He is also editing books for a steady stream of clients.
In addition, distressed people keep tracking him down so he can use his counseling skills and help them to climb out of their deep hole of anguish. Also, he is living the kind of self-reliant lifestyle that involves a thousand and one activities.
Being a psychologist, he is good at empathy: getting a good view through somebody else's eyes. That is the theme of his second short story collection. The one thing he finds hard to imagine is getting bored.
"That little she Devil killed my Eldest Son. I shall kill the other one!"
"No Meer. The other one is mine. Women must not kill."
"That one did!"
"Not Doshi woman. Man kills, woman obeys. The little one is mine. Now go."
Aram looked around in the gray light of dawn. One tent had collapsed, three others had great, black-edged holes. The golden girl had jumped into the river, but had not died. She swam like a fish, away from the helpless guards. And Aver was dead, unbelievably killed by a woman. He had been a fool, the Midget girls had showed fight yesterday. Only an idiot sleeps with a lioness without precautions. All the same, Aver had to be avenged, and no woman could be allowed to escape. Might give other slaves ideas. "Saleem!" Aram bellowed. "Send Saleem to me!"
A man on guard duty turned his horse and galloped over. Taller than Aram, he had broad shoulders, curly brown beard and a shock of brown hair. "Father, here I am," he called, jumping to the ground even before his horse stopped.
"Now you are the Eldest Son. Take a Month of men. Find the girl and bring her back. Find other Midgets, and kill them."
A broad grin of pride on his face, Saleem organized his patrol. He questioned the dawn guards, and estimated where the Midget girl should have reached shore. He led his men over the river, towed by their horses, then turned south. Dirom, a gray-haired warrior, preceded the rest on foot, carefully examining the ground. Although the best tracker, he had low status, having only daughters, no sons.
They slowly rode along the narrow stretch of marshy growths between the trees and the water. The horses were uncomfortable on the soft, uneven ground. Dirom's eyes scanned everywhere. A long way downstream, he suddenly said, "Ho. Here something climbed from the river." He pointed to the scuffed soil, slightly collapsed bank, and rubbed bark on a willow's root.
Saleem looked around. "It was dark. She was cold and wet and scared. She would want to go as fast as possible. Where, eh?"
Krand and Gardel, together as usual, found a deer trail, the only opening in the thick vegetation. Dirom went ahead, and his shout soon brought the others. He had found a broken twig, then a footprint on soft ground. The patrol set off at a steady pace.
"Ugh, I hate it here," somebody said. "You cannot see past your nose. How can Father Sun watch us, eh?"
"No talking!" Saleem snapped. "Enemies could be anywhere."
Time passed as they slowly made their way into the dark, constraining forest. Saleem's patrol steadily followed the girl's spoor, in single file along the narrow, randomly winding track. Gardel was in his preferred spot: the responsible position of rear guard. Krand was just in front of him.
He couldn't see Dirom because of the stifling closeness of the hostile-seeming forest, but heard the tracker suddenly say into the oppressive silence, "Ho, something has changed. See that branch, above my head, eh? The bark is scuffed. She climbed that tree."
"How could she, eh? She is tiny," Gardel heard Saleem object.
Like the men in front of him, Gardel had slipped to the ground -- there was no danger of his mount wandering off, the horses were as uncomfortable here as the men -- and forced his way through the bushes to the front.
Dirom had dismounted and was pointing out the signs: five running footprints, and a piece of bark dislodged on the branch. He cast about on foot, and soon shouted, "She has left the track, going more to the south."
Their way became much harder after this. Often the horses had to be led, and detours became necessary. Saleem called a halt at Noon and they ate. "Are we gaining on her, eh?" he asked the tracker.
"No, honored War Leader. She runs. As fast as we go, maybe faster. But we are men and Doshi. She is only a girl and must tire. But maybe she will find some help before we catch her."
"Good. Help means Midgets. Gives us a chance to kill some." Saleem grinned at the older man, then gave the order to start again.
They skirted a thick stand of bushes. Looking ahead at the men, Gardel could see that they felt as uncomfortable as he did, being out of Father Sun's sight. Dirom and Saleem simultaneously made satisfied little noises as they saw sunlight between the leaves ahead. They entered a clearing.
"Ho, honored Saleem," Krand exclaimed, "There is smoke!"
"And there also."
Lazy balls of smoke rose in several distant spots. They studied the sequences of smoke puffs. After a few breaths' thought, Saleem threw off much of his gear and climbed a tree. Ehvelen would have laughed at his clumsiness, but eventually he reached the top and looked around. Smoke balls rose in many places, but the nearest smoke was an unbroken column. He squinted up at Father Sun and muttered a prayer for wisdom. Climbing down proved to be a lot worse than climbing up. He lost skin off his knuckles and knees, but knew what to do by the time he reached the ground.
"Listen! The smoke is messages. The Midgets are talking with smoke. Nearby, that way, there is smoke with no message in it. Why, eh?" The others looked at him. "I shall tell you. The gold-haired Midget girl went to this place. They sent a message with smoke. Others answered, so they stopped."
Krand checked his bow, loosened his scimitar and asked, "So honored War Leader, there we go, eh?"
"Truly." They mounted, and rode at the best speed possible towards the smoke that sent no message.
Once more, Krand and Gardel were at the rear. The patrol rode fast, single file. Krand turned to speak to Gardel, to see his friend's riderless horse. "Gardel, where..." he started, when the impact of a weight swept him from the saddle. He hit the ground hard, with a hand holding him by the throat. An old woman's face grinned into his: wrinkled, with several teeth missing, a halo of gray hair around it. The woman's left hand clutched Krand's throat. Her right hand was descending towards his forehead. He knew it was coming fast, yet it seemed as if its descent was taking forever. The hand held a translucent, smooth white stone with yellow metallic lines within it. 'There is gold in that stone', was his last thought before everything went blank.
At the head of the column, Saleem saw light ahead, so knew they were near the clearing where the smoke must have come from. He drew his scimitar and urged his horse forward. Too late, he saw the horizontal line at the height of his chest. The tough liana swept him from the saddle before he could react. Hooves thudded into the ground, and he desperately rolled out of the way. His scimitar slipped out of his hand, but Dirom's horse was right over him, so he pulled arms and legs into his body and kept rolling. Then there were shouts and screams, confusion, hooves flailing, shapes plummeting from the trees. He tried to rise but something hit him a terrible blow in the kidney. He collapsed in agony to watch the end of his patrol helplessly.
And where was Gardel? Flat on the ground, on his face. His back hurt. He had been riding along at the tail of the patrol, frequently checking behind for any follower. Suddenly he felt a mighty blow between his shoulder blades, and found himself face down, pressed into the thick bed of soft, half-rotted leaves. In the instant of landing, a weight thumped onto him, knees pressed into his flanks as if he was a ridden horse, and frighteningly strong little hands wrenched his right arm up behind his back. The pressure forced his head even further into the leaves, so that he could hardly breathe.
His attacker spoke incomprehensibly, very softly. The voice sounded masculine, but high-pitched.
A bird whistled in the trees above, then, incredibly, a trill of birdsong came from the man sitting on Gardel. 'Is this a bird-man, eh'? the young Doshi thought in terror, visualizing a giant eagle on his back. But the hands holding him felt human, and had no talons.
Gardel heard the softest of thumps as something landed on the ground just beside his head, and a woman's laughing whisper sounded. Even spoken so softly, her voice reminded him of a lovely song. Another pair of strong little hands grasped the sides of his head. The man spoke a sharp, soft command, and suddenly Gardel found himself face up, with something furry forced against his mouth.
The man straddling him had a lined, weather-worn face, very pale, so white it seemed to glow in the shadow of the forest. He had no beard, but gray hair peeked out under his brown leather helmet. His left hand pressed on Gardel's chest. The right held something pointed and cold, presumably a dagger, touching Gardel's throat. The woman holding the furry thing over his mouth had shoulder-length hair cascading freely from under her helmet, and laughing blue eyes. The hair was brown, but with warm reddish tints. Gardel had never seen blue eyes until the two Midget women had been captured, although he had heard of Scythians with blue eyes. He couldn't keep his gaze from this one's. Her pale face was a beautiful oval, with arched brown eyebrows, and a straight little nose with a few tiny brown spots around it. He had never seen a face as lovely as hers. He couldn't estimate her age, but thought she might be twenty-five or more.
The Midget man said something. Gardel tore his gaze from the woman and looked at him. The little man held a finger to his lips, and the woman took the fur from Gardel's face. The man stood and stepped back. Gardel sat up, feeling like an old man. He slowly rolled onto hands and knees and stood up. He was not quite upright when the woman grabbed both his hands from behind, and tied them together with swift efficiency.
The dagger the man held had a brown sheen: it was bronze, not steel. He had reversed his grip, ready to throw it. Gardel had no doubt that the throw would be accurate, so he didn't resist. 'They could have killed me if they wanted to', he thought. 'For now, they want me alive. Maybe I can escape later. Slavery is less irreversible than being dead, truly.'
The woman turned him around. Her strength surprised him. After all, not only was she a woman, but also she was tiny. She was shorter than the man, and the top of his head barely reached Gardel's chest.
They marched him along the track of his comrades. Soon they caught up with a bizarre sight, a pair of legs walking in front of them, with the rest of the Midget hidden by a Doshi body draped across his shoulders, the way a man would carry a sheep. The Doshi's feet dragged on the ground to the Midget's left, his arms to the right. The Midget must have heard them, and turned. To Gardel's amazement, it was not a man, but an old woman with a face as wrinkled as a dried apple, and a halo of wispy white hair about her head. The Doshi hanging lifelessly across her shoulders was Krand. He had a bright red lump in the middle of his forehead, growing even as Gardel watched. To his relief, he saw that Krand was breathing. The little old woman gave a gap-toothed grin, and eased the weight to the ground. The three held a quick whispered conversation, in which rapid finger movements and facial gestures seemed to have a more important part than sounds.
The woman behind Gardel tugged on his tied arms, and he felt the pressure of a dagger point against the back of his neck. The man stepped around him and bent to examine Krand. He and the old woman quickly stripped the jacket from the unconscious Doshi, and eased it under him, crosswise. Holding a sleeve and the bottom hem each, they picked him up effortlessly and continued walking.
Soon they caught other Midgets in ones and twos, either carrying unconscious Doshi, or herding captives tied like him. Some of his comrades were gagged. All looked battered. 'Oi, they are good enemies'! Gardel thought. They passed over an area of churned-up ground, emerging into a sundrenched clearing. Gardel's eyes were drawn first to a pond, a lovely blue stretch of water with birds floating on it despite the busy crowd of Midgets and their captives. As far as he could see at a glance, all his comrades were there, tied up or unconscious.
Two tents stood to the west of the pond. They had vertical sides made from something like stones, with tall conical roofs of bark. The bigger one had the shape of an egg, with an arched doorway in the pointy part nearest the pond.
Before he could see more, the woman behind him suddenly kicked his feet out from under him. As he fell, someone looped a leather thong around his ankles. He landed on a bed of soft plants that smelled lovely, but this aroma was overlaid by the smell of sweat, fear and even urine coming from the men stacked around him. He had Saleem on one side, the unconscious Krand on the other. He turned to the War Leader, "Honored Saleem, at least we are still alive."
"Truly. I have counted. One Month of men, all here. But look," Saleem pointed with his chin.
Gardel squirmed around to follow the other's gaze. A group of Midgets had just killed Saleem's beautiful stallion and were skinning him. That animal had to be worth at least four shekels of gold.
"How can such good enemies be so stupid, eh?" Saleem asked.
Gardel thought a moment. "Maybe not stupid, honored War Leader, just ignorant. Would horses live in a forest, eh? They are animals of the Plains. So maybe Midgets do not know that horses have value."
Soon all the captives were secure, and the stallion's carcass roasted over a fire. Apart from a few guards, all the Midgets sat down in a circle. Gardel estimated that there were over two Months of them. Both men and women wore warriors' clothing: leather trousers and jackets, but with green spots on them. They had bronze daggers, and quivers of short, bronze-tipped spears. Gardel found it almost obscene to see women having weapons, even if only bronze ones. Also, oddly, none of the men had beards.
A snowy-haired old man stood. Talking stopped. He spoke, then a golden-haired girl arose. Gardel gasped: she was the escaped woman. She had a bruise closing her left eye, and something like a cloth wrapped around her neck, but otherwise looked fit and rested. She spoke to the others with passion, giving the Doshi looks like lightning bolts. 'Oi, I am glad she is not in charge', Gardel thought. She carried on a heated debate with a Grandmother, and surprisingly, the Midgets did not mind a young woman speaking to an older one as to an equal. The old man directed discussion. At least that was proper, when he spoke, others listened. "I do not know what they are saying," Gardel muttered to Saleem, "But I do hope the Grandmother wins."
"Truly," the War Leader answered. ...
home The Mother's Sword The Travels of First Horse The Making of a Forest Fighter Series Summary Free book from the series Bob's Reviews Editing Service