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The Land of the Wand

Volume 1 of The Lost Myths Saga



©Copyright 2006 by

Fire Mountain Press

ISBN#: 1-929374-43-7

Authors:

Debora Hill

Sandra Brandenburg


Publication by Fire Mountain Press  ©2006
http://www.firemountainpress.com/
Visit the Authors at: http://www.lostmythsink.com/



All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information and storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.



PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Prologue Introduction To:

The Land of the Wand


Prologue - Evan Stone

"Oh, Mr. Stone, Robot Miracles was so good! I just had to have your latest."

"Thank you. But I didn’t write Robot Miracles."

"You didn’t?" She made play with thickly mascaraed lashes against childishly round cheeks. Clearly, Evan Stone was the answer to a teen-aged dream. "I’m sure your book is wonderful, too." But not, she thought, as wonderful as you. He was distinguished in his expensive new outfit, tall, dark and handsome with deep-set eyes that almost appeared to be made-up. She would carry this vision of the perfect author for years.

He smiled back at her, signing her book:

Tina - perhaps this will switch your allegiance from science fiction to fantasy - Evan Stone

She blushed. "Oh dear. Fantasy. I’m such an idiot."

Privately, he agreed, but kids had a right. "Not at all."

Her hand found it’s way to his tweed jacket. The one he’d bought to make his agent happy. ‘So glad you’ve given up the mountain man look,’ she said. `Now you look like an author.’ Tina was still hanging onto his coat.

Evan pretended to drop his pen and bent away from the child to pick it up. "Excuse me, young lady, but there are some other folks waiting."

For two weeks now he’d been promoting Faith By Default and was heartily sick of book stores, the tweed jacket, and horny women. The only woman to interest him during the entire tour was Valaura Bennet. He’d recognized the name almost at once. She was an architect, one of many to work on the Illinois Center where he was now standing, as well as several truly outstanding homes. He’d read an article about them in Sunrise Magazine. But there’d been no pictures of her, just the buildings.

Her presence at the book store was a pleasant surprise. Tall and spare rather than slender, with dark blonde hair and clear, calm sherry brown eyes, he’d liked her at once. She was attired in a crisp business suit, but even her sensible shoes were not able to disguise a pair of very lovely legs. Not one of his heroines, but perhaps an efficient evil sorceress. Was she as cool and collected as she seemed? It was gratifying to find her an ardent fan of his books, only of his books, and she the only woman to intrigue him in months. He’d been plagued by amorous fans for two weeks, and was rather tired of women. Everyone wanted to bed the author, with the notable exception of Valaura Bennet. She’d politely turned down his invitation to lunch, taking her book from him as she left. Then he grinned at himself. Perverse as he was, if she’d fallen in his lap would he have wanted her? At 3 PM he finished for the day, and decided to stroll around the center.

The place was overwhelming. Most noticeable was the clever use of light and air. Something he’d seen in Ms. Bennet’s other designs. The thought of her nagged at him. Perhaps he could turn her into a wronged woman, a servant valiantly defending her mistress. And he - her loyal champion - who would at last, win the hand of the royal maiden she guarded. The sweet princess would bring joy to his life, which had previously known only battle. Not quite right, but she was interesting and he would find a way to characterize her.

Wandering into an import store, he looked for something special to liven up his little mountain cabin. He’d bought it when his first book was published. This was his weekend getaway, a run-down cabin in the Rockies, with a million dollar view. The merchandise in the shop was run-of-the-mill, and when he was back outside he bought some popcorn - unbuttered. He patted the five pounds that had recently accumulated at his waist, though why he worried he couldn’t imagine. There wasn’t anyone to care. Evan thought of himself as one of his own heroes and was unsure why, at the age of thirty-eight, he found himself without a partner.

A clerk stopped him at the entrance of a gift shop. "I’m sorry sir, but no food or drinks are allowed in here."

"Very well. Would you toss this for me?" He gave her the popcorn, smiling. Her answering smile seemed to suggest she’d roll over and play dead if only he’d ask. Bored as he was, he began to look around the shop and found several things to quicken his interest. A few minutes browsing turned up one item in particular. He asked the simpering shop girl to get it down from the wall for him.

It was a splendid silver wand overlaid with delicate gold filigree. A natural crystal was imbedded at the end. It was warm to his touch. At first perfectly clear, the crystal now seemed the palest of pinks. "The company that makes them says they have magical properties, sir." She giggled. It took a charming woman, in his opinion, to giggle attractively. Unfortunately the clerk wasn’t such a woman. She turned to wait on someone else while he held the crystal to the light to study its clarity.

He smiled gently. This was the beginning of a new book. "A wand to bring magic; magic to fill the rest of my life." His head began to swim, and the gentle pink light became a blinding glare.

Prologue - Marshall Storme

Marshall Storme was wandering aimlessly when he came across the Illinois Center. He had hours before he was due at The Rosemont Horizon, and decided to look for a bookstore. He wanted Evan Stone’s new novel, and all the copies had been sold at the shop he went to in Cleveland, two days before. He rode one of the escalators upward, gazing around at the huge atrium of the center. He wondered idly how many shops were in the galleria, but didn’t notice the women who stared at him. Marshall was more than handsome -- at 25, he was breathtaking, and held the promise of an even more outstanding beauty as he aged.

As he stepped off the escalator and started down the balcony, along the line of shops, he caught his reflection in the window of a jewelry store, and smiled wryly. He was an outward cliché of rock’n’roll success. Well over six feet tall, with a mane of golden-blond hair reaching to his shoulders, his blue eyes were large and expressive, reflective of the intelligence behind them for those who bothered to look. Few did that, however. Girls saw his long legs in their black leather pants; his narrow waist and broad shoulders in a silk shirt and leather jacket. To them he was a body; to the industry executives, promoters and the manager of his band, Stockholm, he was a husky voice with carrying power and a wide range.

One day, Marshall was hoping to meet a woman for whom he would be more. Not a model or actress -- they seemed to gravitate toward rock singers, but his own succession of cover girls and starlets had been far less than satisfactory. When this tour was over, he’d go back to Sweden and find a real girl--one who didn’t wear leather miniskirts or head straight for the guy with the blow.

He didn’t see the girls coming towards him until it was too late . . . until he had walked right by a record store with Stockholm’s new album in the window, and a poster of him, as big as life -- without even seeing them. Not that he would have run if he had seen the girls; he never ran. As a star, he felt grateful to have fans; they were the price he paid, the dues. He managed to smile as they approached.

One held a small notebook, and smiled tentatively in response to Marshall. She held it out in front of her like an offering to a god. "Hello." Her voice was shaking. "Are you Marshall Storme?"

He glanced back at the display in the window. "I guess there wouldn’t be much point in denying it. Would you like an autograph?"

"Please."

Marshall turned again to the shop window. "Come into this store. Maybe they’ll let us have a poster or photo -- or would you rather have me autograph your notebook?"

"Oh, no -- I’ll buy an album if you want. I already have all four of them at home."

"No need to buy another one then, is there? Let’s see what we can do."

Twenty minutes later Marshall emerged from the store, having signed albums for all the employees as well as the two fans and four other shoppers. He was still looking for a bookstore, and found one another level up. Evan Stone’s current book, Faith by Default, hadn’t yet been released in paperback. Marshall bought a hardback copy and left the shop with it under his arm, the cover with its purple and black swirl facing outward.

Before leaving the center for the Rosemont, Marshall decided to find a cafe that served cappuccino and have a look at his book. It was on another escalator that he saw the girl. She was a few years younger than he. She looked tired, and poor. The cotton sundress she was wearing was far from new, and her flat canvas shoes were faded and well-worn. But she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and he’d seen some world-class beauties. She wore no makeup; her startling aqua-blue eyes were large and almond-shaped, tilting up at the corners. Her mouth was generous without being too large, and her cheekbones were high and prominent. Her golden-blond hair hung in luxuriant waves down her back, held in place by two combs.

As he was going down the escalator, she was coming up. She turned and smiled at him when she realized he was staring at her, but he sensed she wasn’t really seeing him. It wasn’t until he reached the bottom that he decided to go after her and ask her to have cappuccino with him. Lunch, he amended; realizing she was probably too poor to buy food in the expensive shopping center. When he got to the top again, she was nowhere in sight. With a sigh, he headed back down.

Later, he couldn’t remember very well why he went into the gift shop. It looked expensive, and his mother’s birthday was the following month, but he had already decided to buy her a diamond watch; so that couldn’t have been the reason. It was a very intriguing shop, however, with unusual items; most of which didn’t appear to have any useful purpose.

The wand was hanging on the wall in what appeared to be silver or platinum brackets, ornately carved. The wand itself had a silver shaft and a filigree basket of gold, shaped like an exotic flower, holding a natural, unpolished crystal in the end. Marshall moved through the shop without noticing the objects around him, drawn to the glittering wand by a power beyond his control.

He lifted it from the brackets, and the heaviness told him the shaft was solid silver. The thing must be an expensive toy indeed. He stared down at it, studying the intricacies of the filigree, and wondered where the wand had come from; who had made it and what it was for. As he stared, the crystal in the end began to glow and cloud. It changed from white to aqua blue--the color of the eyes of the girl on the escalator. It was cold; colder than the metal from which it was crafted, cold as the wind that swept through Stockholm in January -- the icy wind he had missed during this year of solid touring.

He was beginning to feel strange, as if the cold from the wand was spreading through his body. The room around him was starting to shimmer and fade, and he tried to release his hold on the silver shaft. He felt himself falling to the floor, and heard the wand hit somewhere nearby.

Prologue - Valaura Bennet

Her nose was decidedly Roman, and her chin ... well, there wasn’t any need to stick it out. Nature had done that for her. She stared at her reflection in the ladies room mirror, cataloguing her faults but failing to notice her clear, warm complexion; or even the sensuous fullness of her lips as she applied a clear gloss to them. She knew the blunt-cut hairstyle didn’t flatter her, but nothing ever had, and it was easy to take care of, anyway.

So what had prompted Evan Stone to ask her out to lunch? It was flattering to know he was a fan of her work, but he’d been too smugly assured of her answer when he issued the invitation. It had pleased her to refuse. She was regretting it now -- that sort of opportunity didn’t come her way too often. Not that there’d been time, really. This was a working trip. She sighed -- let the cats worry over spilled milk. She hadn’t time. Her respite was over. The world was waiting outside the Ladies’ Room door...

Secretary # 1; "Could you discuss the type of paint needed for use around the heating ducts with the maintenance foreman?"

"Again?" Valaura was ready for this one. She had a neatly prepared sheet detailing what kind of paint to use, where to buy it, how to apply it, and what it should cost. She handed over two copies and kept one for her records.

Secretary # 2; "Your office referred a message. Something about enlarging the master bath for someone called Barry Brown."

"That man changes his mind more often than I change my underwear." She smiled to herself. He could have a bath to rival the Taj Mahal, or his walk-in closet. Not both. Not without enlarging the house, which he couldn’t afford. "Thanks for telling me. I’ll call him."

Secretary #3; "Your mother called."

"Beset and besieged." Which cryptic reply had to satisfy the poor girl. Valaura finished her business with the office, and borrowed their phone for her calls. It was a toss-up as to whether it was harder to soothe Barry or listen to her mother’s litany of small details. Once out in the center again, she took a deep breath. Her mother just wanted to know how she was - What she’d be doing this evening - Didn’t she hate being alone in a big city like Chicago - When was she coming home? - Would she mind calling her sister; something about Denise’s birthday - Little Denise has done so well in her ice-skating class, it really helped her trim down - Could she find something for her mother to give the child? - She had such good taste, and whatever she picked would be sure to be wonderful - But not too expensive, mind you - Betty’s been so upset, so perhaps a word from her would help? - Oh, yes - Fred called - He’s lost, rattling around all alone in that big apartment - and he can’t find anything - Mightn’t she reconsider - He needed her so...

Valaura strode quickly, if aimlessly, through the center. They all needed her, but just now she didn’t need them. Her long strides began to use up the irritation she felt, and soon she found herself outside the store where Evan Stone had signed her book;

Valaura -- I do hope you like this. Your own craftsmanship makes me honor your opinion. Love, Evan

She patted her briefcase, which held the book. A most satisfying thing for her favorite author to have written. What would it have felt like to have been irresponsible? To have ignored her appointments, the thousand details that nibbled at her life -- and gone to lunch with him? Oh, well; she’d recently freed herself from an eight-year entanglement with a helpless man. They hadn’t been together for fourteen months now, and he only called her mother about once a week, which was a big improvement over the daily calls he’d been making in the beginning. The last thing she needed was more involvement. Besides, Evan Stone was no longer in the bookstore.

Her pace slowed, and she began to look about her. There was that little gift shop. Perhaps they’d have something for Denise. She was looking at a delicate porcelain figurine of a young girl on ice skates when she felt the pull. Not certain why, she turned around to look at the wand in its’ ornate display. She asked to see it immediately. It cost the earth, of course. Not suitable for Denise but just the thing to whisk away her own cares and woes. As she stroked the sparkling crystal, it seemed to pick up a faint wheat color. She smiled, and imagined herself in one of Evan Stone’s carefully constructed fantasies. Vague visions filled her head, and the shop seemed to fade ...

Prologue - Lillian Curtis

Lillian was tired, and it was barely her lunch hour that day. She couldn’t remember when she hadn’t been tired; she was twenty-two years old, and would gladly have exchanged the drudgery of her life for an afterlife, if only she could have been certain there was one -- and that it wouldn’t be worse. But the grueling fanaticism of her religious upbringing had left Lillian with a nagging fear of suicide -- she wasn’t certain there was a god, but she was sure that if there was, he’d have to be pretty miserable to have created a world like the one she had been forced to grow up in. After two years in Chicago, Lillian was still caught in the trap of grinding poverty she had left her parents’ farm in order to escape. When she took the job at Burger World, it was supposed to be a temporary measure until she found something better. But nothing ever came along, despite Lillian’s beauty. She was too small to be a model, and because of her parents’ strange views about public education, she was largely self-educated. Without a high school diploma, there was little chance for a better job.

What she was doing at the Illinois Center on that afternoon in June, Lillian had no reasonable idea. It was certain she couldn’t afford anything in the center, unless it was a cup of coffee. But she liked to wander through the balconies and look in the windows of the shops she didn’t have the courage to enter.

She left Burger World a few minutes before she passed Marshall Storme on the escalator. She didn’t recognize him, and wouldn’t have believed he was the lead singer of Stockholm if someone had told her. She had been a fan of the band since their first video hit MTV, and despite her weariness, she would be at The Rosemont Horizon that night for their concert, wearing the only new dress she’d bought that year. Lillian Curtis might worship Marshall Storme from afar, but the thought that he could go by her on an escalator would have seemed ridiculous to her -- in Lillian’s world, stars lived on a cloud somewhere in a murky Nirvana. They never rode escalators, and they certainly never smiled at girls in three-year-old cotton dresses who worked at Burger World.

Lillian barely noticed Marshall. She’d had enough problems with men in her young life, and didn’t want any more. Mickey was enough trouble all on his own -- Lilly kept wondering why she stuck by him. In the six months she had been seeing him, Mickey had gone from bad to worse. Now he was unemployed and running with a gang of street toughs who scraped a living by stealing cars and mugging people. She knew he’d land in jail -- he was too inept to make a good thief.

The future seemed singularly grim, and Lilly knew she should make an effort to change her life. But she never seemed to have any energy left over -- between Mickey and Burger World, it was all she could do to get through each day intact. She stopped to look at silk dresses in the window of a designer showroom, knowing she would never own one. It was then that Marshall Storme’s smiling face penetrated her over-burdened consciousness, and she realized she had seen that face before. . . many times before.

By the time she had run back and up the escalator, he was gone. She wasn’t even sure, now, that she had ever seen him. Maybe she had been fantasizing the whole encounter because she was going to his concert that night. She started back towards the ground floor, and on the way she passed the record store Marshall had gone into with the two girls.

She stood staring at the poster of Stockholm, and realized that Marshall must have been on the escalator -- he had been far too concrete to have been an illusion. Even more depressed than usual, Lilly walked along the balcony.

The gift shop was irresistible; she only stopped for a moment, knowing she would be late if she didn’t hurry. But the windows of the shop held the most beautiful things Lilly had ever seen; they were so unusual, and looked so very expensive. She entered the shop as if against her will -- she was certain the woman at the black lacquer counter was watching her closely because she was contemptuous of Lillian’s shabby clothes and thought the girl might try to steal something. Lillian was careful not to touch anything, afraid that one of the fragile sculptures or concoctions would shatter easily.

The wand was hanging on the wall; Lilly was drawn to the clear crystal embedded in the end. She was afraid to pick it up, but reached out and touched the crystal with one finger. The room was filled with an intense, brilliant light -- Lilly narrowed her eyes and raised her hand to shield them, but she could no longer see the wand or the shop. When she reached out again, the wall was no longer there -- nothing but the blinding, white light. She stepped through the wall into the brilliance.

 



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