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Karielle and The Return of Magic
By Jo Ann Gilbert Stover
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Jo Ann Gilbert Stover
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe first thing Karielle noticed was the pungent smell of pine. Mingled with it was the woodsy scent of fallen leaves and soil. A slight breeze pulled at tendrils of her long, white hair. A small thought entered her mind that she would now have to braid it again.
Kari opened her eyes. She hadn't been aware they were closed. All around her, trees grew tall and straight. Immediately she knew where they were. This was the Haldenar Forest.
Turning, she watched as Jasper, standing a few feet away, opened his eyes also and smiled at her before taking in his surroundings.
"We are just outside the walls of the Keep." He said.
"Yes. I can feel the magical barrier set so long ago. I must dispel it so that we can enter the compound."
"This is strange, Kari," Jasper was looking about himself now. "In my former life I had no magic, but when you mentioned the barrier just now, I could feel it too."
"Don't you remember Ethra telling you that when we returned here you would also be gifted with some magical abilities?"
Jasper was reaching out his hands as if searching for something. "I remember, but now that I have the tangible evidence, it is strange to me."
Kari grinned at her husband as she commented, "Be careful whenever you use that power, my love. It can be quite tricky until you become adept. Now, wait while I search for the lock placed on the barrier. It should be right around here someplace."
Jasper and Kari walked out of the edge of the trees into bright sunlight. Turning to the right, the couple walked several paces until she could detect the barrier.
Kari reached out her hand and ran it along the threads of magic that made the barrier wall. As she touched the strands, a soft musical sound filled the air. "Ah, here it is."
Only her trained eye could decipher the difference in the air surrounding the magic that had protected Hawke's Reach for at least two hundred years. The barrier was a strange thing. Although it surrounded the entire area encompassing Hawke's Reach, anyone coming near would not have been able to detect anything. They would not have seen the tall, imposing castle spread over a vast area, or of the grounds surrounding it. They would not have detected the stone wall encompassing it or the huge number of cottages within those walls. Nor would they have been able to see the barracks, smithy, stables, gardens, and all the other edifices that stood within.
If they had approached the barrier, there would have been a slight evidence of something different. The intruder might have felt slightly strange, as if a hand was holding them from going further. A thought would have gently entered their mind that they should turn back, or change their direction to the right or left. In their mind it might have seemed as if they had come upon a mountain or impassable grove of trees. After all, they would have been traveling through Haldenar Forest. Whatever the sensation, anyone other than those gifted with the magical ability to penetrate the barrier, would have passed right by it and not known what lay beyond.
Small animals, birds and the like, would have been able to fly over or go through since they would pose no problem to the area, but larger animals and humans would have been gently turned away.
Karielle, now touching the found spot, caused a slight shimmer to appear. Even the music changed its tune. Smiling now, Kari made a slight turn to the left with one finger of her right hand, then using her left hand, traced along an invisible line for about the space of one's arm. Pushing, she felt the barrier give and break apart.
"There!" she motioned for Jasper to come to her. "The doorway is open for us to enter. "It will close around us again once we're through so that no one else will be able to penetrate the magic, but I might change it once we're sure of things."
Jasper followed his wife as they came through the doorway and there, before them, stood the huge castle wall. The small gate that led to the kitchens was just a short distance and it was to this gate the couple moved.
Looking upward, Kari saw how ivy had grown to cover nearly all the stone of the Keep. There had been no human habitation since the last descendant had left over two hundred years previously. The castle had become too large for the last family of Hawke's and the barrier had been placed to keep anyone else from disturbing it.
Silence permeated everything. "It's a bit unnerving, my love." Jasper commented as he walked to the small gate, released the latch and walked through it to the kitchen gardens, now barren except for weeds and hardy herbs grown wild. "I'm so used to there being a bustling community of people all around, soldiers going to, from, or walking their posts, servants going to and fro, the smith hammering iron at his forge, and animals everywhere. To see no one about or hearing the sounds of everyday normal life is so strange."
The door to the lower kitchen was slightly ajar and it was here the couple entered the Keep's lowest level. This was the former storage area where crocks of meats, bins of fruits and vegetables, kegs of wines, ciders, and ales, and bales of grain had once been stored. The crocks and kegs still stood, lined up as they had always been, but were now quite empty.
It was strange that, even after so many years had passed, that Kari thought she could still smell the scent of winter apples and the pungency of other vegetables and wines.
A small set of steps led to the upper kitchen and as Kari and Jasper entered, there, spread before their eyes were the grills, the fire pits, the long work tables. The pots and skillets were still hanging from long metal hooks as if waiting for the cooks to pull them down for making stews, frying fish, boiling vegetables. The two large ovens that had brought forth many loaves of crusty bread, wonderful pies and meat tarts sat, cold and fireless, blackened doorways were all that hinted at what they had once been used for.
Jasper felt a slight sensation within his stomach and grinned. "Well, I'm sorry there isn't anyone preparing a meal right now. Being mortal again has my gastric juices awakening."
"Oh, you!" Kari laughed. "You're just imagining things. We were told we wouldn't feel hunger for quite some time. In fact, we probably don't have to eat at all to sustain ourselves, if we don't want to."
"But I so enjoyed eating all those delicious meals prepared by Tesler." Jasper whined. Why, can't you just taste those sugary apple tarts and those luscious fresh strawberries swimming in clotted cream?"
Kari hadn't heard him this time as she had walked across the kitchen and into the large dining hall beyond.
From there, she went into the main entrance hall where the huge wooden front door had so often welcomed guests.
The halls were so very quiet. Footsteps echoed on the stone floors in the emptiness. Jasper stepped forward and took one of Karielle's hands in his.
"It is so different from the past," Jasper almost whispered as he and Karielle entered the main hall of Hawke's Reach. To Kari, it was a step back in Time.
The tapestries, protected by magic, hung from the walls, still bright and beautiful. Pictures of the Hawke ancestry hung along the walls of the stairways going upward, stern faces or smiling, depending upon the original artist's whim. Those of Karielle's father, Karielle herself, Jasper, their two children as well as all the Hawke's who had descended from them were watching from their respective frames as if in anticipation for what would be happening next. The hand worked furniture lined the edges of the rooms, their surfaces glistening from long years of polishing. Back in the dining room, the long dining table with chairs neatly tucked around it, graced the large dining hall as if in anticipation of a gathering of favored guests and family.
There was no Hannah, the housekeeper, of course, to greet them. No Rolgrin coming out from his study, pipe in hand, no Tesler or Bella cooking up something delicious to eat from the kitchens. The Keep was silent except for the couple's footsteps echoing eerily on the stone floors.
At the foot of the winding stairway that led to the sleeping suites above, Kari stopped. Rubbing the well worn banister with the palm of her hand, she sighed. "My ghost would wander these halls after I left mortality," she whispered. "I missed you and the children so, but found it hard to leave all this behind until you and Ethra came for me. Oh Jasper, what is all this about? Must we always be summoned when our Earth can't take care of itself? We were happy in our new world, weren't we?"
Jasper pulled his wife close to his broad, muscular chest, held her tightly and breathed into her thick, beautiful hair. "My love, we were chosen for a special reason. You were always the gifted one and I was meant only to love you. When one is gifted in such a way, much is expected of them. Look at it this way, we have been given a quest. Let us accept our lot graciously and see what fortune awaits us. For one thing," he said, looking around them, "We will have to find servants for the Keep once again."
Kari leaned against him and ran her fingers over his arm. "We won't need servants, Jasper. Everything we'll need you or I can bring forth with magic. When we're hungry, I'll put food on the table. If we want to change our appearance, all we'll have to do is think what we want to be. This isn't like when we were mortals, my husband. Our bodies are changed. Yes, we will eat when or if it's necessary to help sustain us while here on this plane, especially when we are in the presence of others, but we must maintain secrecy here at Hawke's Reach. No one must know it is again occupied."
Jasper sighed. "This coming back will take a great deal of getting used to, I'm afraid. I wonder if our cache of coin is still behind the same hidden wall? For that matter, I wonder what coin is being used in this time frame? Come, I'll race you up the stairs."
Picking up her long skirts, Kari laughed, "I'll beat you like I always did, even in long skirts."
"Oh, ho!" Jasper roared as he quickly took two steps at a time and was soon far above her on the steps. "You just think you were faster than me. I always used to let you win."
At the top of the stairs, the couple stood giggling for a moment, not even breathless. In former times, both would have had to hang on to the banister to catch their breath before moving down the long hallway to their suite. This time, however, they looked at the hand-woven carpeting, the silent faces gazing from framed pictures, the small tables holding vases, now devoid of flowers, or candlesticks, still holding thick yellowed candles.
There were no laughing children running to greet them, no bustling servants carrying freshly pressed sheets or laundered towels, only silence.
The décor in each room had been changed, of course, to the tastes and desires of the tenants who had lived and slept in them over the years. The room that had once been Sarah's still must have belonged to a girl in the end. Ruffles ran along the curtained bedposts and windows. The colors were soft pinks and whites. Rolly's room had apparently been last used by an older person. The colors were tans and deep browns. A strong smell of tobacco still hovered in the air. The coverlet on the bed was plain, yet durable, denoting someone not caring much about appearances as long as things were serviceable.
Kari noticed a small book lying upon a table near the fireplace. Picking it up, she read, 'The Raising of Hawks and Other Birds of Prey For Hunting."
"Well," she said as she showed the book to Jasper. "It seems someone was still interested in the aviary."
"I will go out to check the cages eventually," Jasper quipped. "I doubt there are still any birds there, but it will be interesting to see how things have fared. I also want to see what condition the barracks and weapons sheds are in."
When the couple got to the suite of rooms they had shared for so many years, they were surprised to see everything much as it had been. It was almost as if the room had been made into a shrine. Had no one used these suites over the years? It certainly seemed so.
The small library of books Kari had always enjoyed reading when resting, was still on the shelves along one wall. The large blue and green quilt with the crest of Hawke's Reach embroidered in the center lay quietly across the broad curtained bed. The curtains had been pulled back as if the bed were waiting for Kari and Jasper to just crawl into it.
"Look, Kari," Jasper had crossed the room and opened the large amore where they had kept their clothing. Kari's dresses were still hanging there. Everything was fresh as if newly sewn. Jasper's side had his jackets and the shelves contained neatly folded trousers and shirts. Drawers held stockings and undergarments.
"I don't understand," Kari said as she ran her fingers over a shawl she had especially loved. "Nothing has aged one bit. It's as if all our things were magically preserved along with the Keep."
"It does look that way, doesn't it?" Jasper renewed his search.
Moving along the wall to another small table, Jasper moved it to one side and pulled back the tapestry hanging there. Pressing a wooden carving depicting a grinning gargoyle, he watched as the wall silently slid open revealing a small room. Just inside and sitting upon a sturdy table sat a large, plain wooden chest with a metal lock hanging from it. Jasper pressed a hidden button at the back of the table and a small drawer opened to present the key to the chest lock.
"Well, I guess no one ever discovered our secret little hidden room." Jasper chuckled. Opening the chest, the couple gazed upon a very large accumulation of coin, jewels, and right on top, an ornate dagger, such as one would wear to a dress affair. It had been presented to Jasper by Rolgrin, Kari's father, to award him for his bravery at the destruction of the evil towers.
Just behind the small table and hanging from a peg on the wall, Jasper lifted up the ornately worked leather sheath that held his beloved sword. Pulling it from its covering, the blade glimmered brightly as if just polished. Jasper had always taken excellent care of all his weapons. It was a matter of extreme pride with him. Standing against the wall just below the sword was his mighty battle axe and next to it, the long staff with a long, sharp blade fastened at one end.
After returning his sword to its sheath and placing it on a table within their room, he went back to the chest. Taking several of the coins and placing them in a pocket, Jasper replaced the lock then exited the tiny room and slid the panel back in place. When the small table had been once again put in front of the tapestry, no one would have ever known what rested behind it.
By the time the couple had totally inspected the interior of the Keep and then some of the grounds outside, night had cast its shadows over the land. There was no sense in venturing outside of Hawke's Reach until the following day, so Kari and Jasper retired to the rooms they had occupied for so many years to reminisce.
Chapter TwoWith the morning, the couple arose early to watch the sun rise over the horizon and begin filtering through the trees of Haldenar Forest. Kari delighted in listening to the sleepy calls of awakening birds. She listened to the small chitterlings, grunts and scolding of all the small animals as they searched for their morning meals. Far away she just barely heard the call of a wolf as it bid the moon farewell. A small ache entered her heart as she recalled her beloved wolf friends, Worg, Mist and Tanglefoot. They had never said goodbye to her so long ago. They had just simply vanished into the forest and into her past. Perhaps it had been best that way, she thought. She had always hated goodbyes. It was always better to remember loved ones as they had been while with you.
"I miss you, dear friends," she whispered to the morning breeze. Jasper gave her shoulder a squeeze in quiet response. He knew who she was thinking of.
It was decided that today Kari and Jasper would make a visit to the magic school and hospice first before venturing into the city of Rolgrin. The school was one of the main reasons they were back, was it not? Kari was most anxious to see just what was being taught there.
It was also decided, by Kari, of course, that the couple would take on the appearance of a middle aged couple dressed in simple garb. They didn't want to draw too much attention to themselves. For the traveling, Kari cloaked them both in a vapor of invisibility. All she had to do then, was imagine the small woods near the edge of the school and they were there.
"Whew!" Jasper held on to Kari for a few moments appearing to suffer a bit of vertigo. In reality, he was amazed. "That was an experience I knew you were able to do, but to be a part of it is another matter."
Excerpted from Karielle and The Return of Magic by Jo Ann Gilbert Stover Copyright © 2013 by Jo Ann Gilbert Stover. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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