Hidden in the centre of the Earth stands the Tree of life, each fruit of which holds a life of something in the universe. But a deadly enemy is digging its way towards the Tree and the only people who know and can stop him are two magicians, three elves, two children, a Ruzniel and the mysterious people who guard the Tree.
But they will not be enough to defeat this enemy. They will need more than magic. They will need determination, fearlessness and a lot of luck.
Artwork by John-Thomas Pryor
Paperback. 132 pages.
£4.50 Amazon UK
$7.00 Barnes&Noble US
Widely available online and from your local book store: ISBN 978-1-908867-0-63
EXTRACT: Chapter One
Wipple Comes To Earth
In the corner of the bottom left hand page of the bound, ancient book of magic there is a small piece of green mist. Big enough to slip your little finger into if you want to follow a Ruzniel on his unexpected journey and find out who and what he is. Careful though for your finger will soon be followed by your wrist. Your arm. The irresistible force is pulling gently, as your feet lift from the floor with no sense of being dragged upwards.
Where are you going?
Focus your eyes. A strip of silver floating beside you reflects your face. The sound of water cascading over boulders fills your ears. There is a slow dullness filtering through your body as you painlessly cross the universe. Is this space travel? This floating through the fresh breeze with the ease of a yacht on a calm, fine day. The rich smell of cut grass fills your nose.
Grass! Green and still filled with the sparkles of morning dew. It is a meadow? No. A verge by a pathway. A steep verge by a well-kept pathway. Wipple, a Ruzniel, a people who have been personal companions to magicians since time-out-of-mind, looks about him at the thin, winding path, the trees and sky. He closes his eyes and counts to ten hoping to open them and once more see the familiar room with his magician, Midrak, muttering to himself. He opens his eyes once more only to see the grass and the clouds above his head like a gaggle of geese clustered near the bright sun. The first rays of the sun play at his feet. This is for real. His home has vanished. Midrak, the magician he works for, is nowhere to be seen.
His stomach is turning over. His thoughts are in a muddle. He has little idea of what has happened or of where he is but he knows he is alone. A terrible feeling if you are not used to it. In fact it’s just about the worst thing in the worlds.
Wipple doesn’t feel like playing in this unknown world.
“MIDRAK!” he cries, in his first fit of solitude.
As he tries to stand he trips over his trouser bottoms and rolls down the verge. Of all Ruzniel, Wipple is a little dim, a little fat and very much afraid.
“Pull yourself together,” he demands of himself. “He isn’t here but he’ll be coming. There isn’t anything to be frightened of but he may be a while. In the meantime I must stay safe and hide. That’s it, hide. You never know what sort of people are about. They might find me a tasty morsel.
What a terrible thought. I must hide. Where? Not the trees you can’t hide behind a tree unless the thing you are hiding from is standing in front of it. And I don’t know where the thing I’m hiding from is standing. So, hide under the ground. I shall dig a hole! Now choose a spot!”
Wipple sets to work. He is so intent upon digging that he doesn’t notice one of the inhabitants on this new world walk up and stop. She surveys Wipple for a moment and finally decides he isn’t harmful. She moves closer and watches with growing amusement.
The plumpish figure, still talking to himself, is the oddest person she has ever seen. She is so taken with him that she just stands there looking in amazement as Wipple struggles to dig his way out of sight. At last he appears pleased with his work and scoops a last handful of earth with his filthy hands. He turns to throw it away and catches sight of his audience. Frozen in the attitude of a discus thrower he turns white, cries, steps back and falls into his hole. Zariel runs up to him and looks down at the sprawling figure.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologises, “If I’d known for a single second that I’d startle you so much I wouldn’t have watched you. Honestly.”
“Goahoa,” replies Wipple, as he tries to spit the soil out of his mouth.
Zariel reaches down, grasps what appears to be the end of an arm and tugs. Wipple is half-heaved, half-pulled from his predicament with a strength he finds surprising.
“You know, you’re very dirty and you do look rather funny.”
The mud-stained, wide-eyes creature stares at her,
“You aren’t the first to think so.” He stiffens with pain, “I think I’ve broken something.”
Zariel spends several minutes with Wipple probing his back to find the offending bone which Wipple is sure is clean in two. Apart from a tender spot as the base of his spine there isn’t anything wrong.
“Mind you,” says Zariel with authority, “You can’t walk far if it’s a pulled muscle. You need to rest a bit.”
“That’s alright, I’ll stay here.”
“But you’d be much more comfortable where I’m going. There’s a warm fire, a hot drink, a soft chair and someone who’ll be able to tell you exactly what’s wrong with your back and how long it will take to heal.”
“That’s very kind of you but I … well I don’t … that is ….” He stops and looks at her. Touching his nose as one conspirator to another he responds,
“I don’t think I ought to travel at all until Midrak gets here.”
“Why not?” whispers Zariel convinced that Wipple is the oddest, oddest person she has ever met.
“Well I don’t want to be taken prisoner and eaten before he has a chance to find me,” Wipple responds.
“How do you know there are such practices here?”
“It stands to reason there are always weird creatures on alien planets.”
“Oh, Really? Well I can assure you, sir, that unless you come with me it will be the worse for you!”
These words are not at all in keeping with Zariel’s better nature but she has decided that Wipple should be taught a lesson in manners. She is outraged as his suggestion that she or someone she knows might be a cannibal.
“Wh … what?” gasps Wipple, his fears bubbling up inside him. He mutters to himself and hangs his head,
“I’m a prisoner I suppose?”
Zariel smiles at the power of this strange man’s imagination.
“One of my relatives,” she adds for affect, “is hiding behind those trees up there and he enjoys feasting off Midrak’s friends.”
“I’m not at all tasty,” whines Wipple forgetting he mentioned Midrak and thinking the game is up and wherever he is, they know everything about him.
“If you don’t move he’ll find that out for himself … afterwards.”
“Midrak won’t be at all pleased.”
“Do you think that worries us in the slightest?”
“He’s a magician.”
“Good for him,” she responds trying not to show her curiosity, “Do you think we don’t know a thing or two about spells? I can tell you we take a dim view of a magician who loses his friends.”
“Another Ruzniel might blame him but not I. He didn’t push me, I fell. Perhaps if he were a fully fledged magician he might have helped me in time but he isn’t quick with his reflexes yet.”
“What is a Ruzniel?” asks Zariel as they begin to walk along.
“I am,” reveals Wipple, thinking too hard about what it will feel like to be boiled and eaten.
“My family have been helpers to magicians for thirty-three generations. Although it doesn’t look as if there will be a thirty-fourth.”
“Quite so,” agrees Zariel beginning to feel very uncomfortable about her threat. A cow coughs gravely behind a hedge. Wipple looks up and stares at her.
“Is that …”
“Yes,” says Zariel not wishing to reveal the truth until they arrive at her house. “Probably collecting wood,” she adds.
“Wood?” Wipple swallows heavily and shakes, “I didn’t suppose you ate raw meat.”
The tarmac road they come to is empty of traffic and Zariel runs across it quickly, as frightened of being seen as Wipple.
“Would you be kind enough to leave my bones out where Midrak might find them? I wouldn’t want him to waste time looking for me.”
“I’ll think about it,” she answers grateful that they are nearly there and she can reveal the truth. After all Zariel doesn’t really mean to frighten Wipple and she is sorry she has managed to do so to such good effect.
Through an open field and under a plough they go, eventually arriving at a small house in front of an old, large oak tree. An upturned boat is set on the lawn and a young person is looking at it. Testing the joins between the wooden sections of the hull. Togin looks up and sees Zariel,
“It isn’t a big job,” he reveals as she walks up.
“Well of all the …” cries a voice behind him.
It is Pikafet, Zariel’s father, whose house they are standing by and who is looking at Wipple. The look of complete astonishment on his face dispels the worried expression he has worn all morning.
“Do you know him?” asks Zariel.
“You are a Ruzniel?” Pikafet asks Wipple ignoring her.
“Yes,” answers Wipple sure he must be considered a prized delicacy to this elf. He wonders how these two people fit into the meal and if one of them might be the cook.
“How do you come to be here?” asks Pikafet.
“I found him digging a hole trying to hide himself and muttering about Midrak, a magician.”
“Is your magician nearby?” asks Pikafet.
“I hope so even if it’s too late,” moans Wipple.
“Too late? Then you know? But of course you would,” nods Pikafet.
“Know what?” asks Togin who can’t stand mysteries.
“Of what has been troubling me all morning,” responds Pikafet.
“Nothing of the sort,” answers Zariel. “He thinks we’re going to eat him.”
Pikafet and Togin glance at each other, and then Pikafet shakes his head,
“Then you know nothing about the Tree-of-Life?”
“Not me,” reveals Wipple. “Midrak might, you’ll have to ask him when he gets here.”
“I don’t know either,” points out Togin leaving his boat and walking over, “but I’m all ears.”
“It must be meant. It must be,” Pikafet decides.
“What are you talking about?” demands Togin.
“Come, everyone. Inside. There’s much to do. I hope Midrak isn’t too long.”
As they march into the house Togin almost explodes with suspense.
“Of all the confounding, confusing, mysterious things,” he says.
Or he might have said,
“I’m hungry and want to eat.”
When they speak under their breath it is hard to understand what elves are saying.