Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

THE MIRRORS OF CASTAWAY TIME: Deep Phantasy Adventure--Here's an Excerpt

Here's an excerpt from the Prologue:

She was a tall, thin old woman, an ancient woman, a powerful crone with strong features on a dark, leathery face, and thick, wavy, gray hair that reached the floor behind her when she walked. On her heavily-veined wrists she wore silver bracelets, and on her long fingers were silver rings that set off the darkness of her skin and the strength of her intentions.

She was talking with a young man, a youth not far into the first longings of his manhood. They were seated at a broad wooden table in her overheated kitchen. There was the odor of many things on the warm air: spices and herbs, wood smoke, the smoke from the crone’s pipe, and the smell of baking bread. From the rafters hung bunches of garlic, onions, cloves, ginger root, cinnamon bark, and mold-covered cheeses. Sunlight coming through the uneven glass of a window moved in slow patterns of light and shadows across the table’s dark wood.

The crone--Mother Mar--puffed at her pipe while the youth sipped at a cup of tea, his eyes focused on the old woman’s face.
“They love each other?” the youth asked. His name was Sol and his voice crackled with a new, uncertain manliness.
“Yes. Eternally.”
“Of course. Throughout time.”
“Yet they have been in discord, then, these lovers, throughout Time.”
“Of course. That is the nature of love—and Time.”
“Forgive me, Mother Mar, but Time . . . I find it confusing.”
Mar laughed. “But not love?”
“Never mind, you are too young for that. You will find out soon enough. But as regards Time, picture the ocean-sea on a windless day. What do you see?”
“To me,” Sol said, “it always looks like a mirror that stretches out forever.”
“Good. And think of that still mirror as this.” She spread her long arms and gazed around the room. “Think of it as everything that is all around us.”
“The cosmos?”
“Yes. This kitchen, the world, the sky—everything.”
“And Time, then, is….?”
“…..when you throw a stone into the mirror-still water.”
Sol’s young face brightened and then immediately darkened again. He thought for a moment longer and said, “I don’t understand.”
Mar smiled. “When you throw in the rock, you disturb the surface of the water—our endless mirror that represents existence unperturbed. It is now troubled. Those small waves, those ripples, change the perfect stillness of the changeless--and that change is Time.”
Sol watched Mar’s lips as she spoke. They were full lips creased by vertical lines, and behind them, her teeth were worn and yellow from clutching her pipe. When she had finished, he looked into her eyes and then away toward the window, and then upwards at a bunch of fat, beeswax candles that also hung from the rafters. Then he said, “But I cause the ripples in the mirror-water by throwing a stone into it. What, Mother Mar, causes the ripples in the Universe that you say is Time?”
“Oh, dear boy, the Universe is full of vagrants.”
“Yes, yes. Homeless energies. They come, they go. They wander around nudging things this way or that way, disturbing exotic gravities, causing hearts to beat unreliably and good intentions to go astray. And so, when things are not going smoothly, it is called Time.”

Mother Mar sighed, blowing a pall of smoke into the ray of sunlight that was making its dust-laden way across the table. “And, alas, it seems things never go smoothly: the vagrant energies are always busy, busy, busy, and so the need for wizards and sorcerers, and magic, and Metacephalas--which, as you know, are small gods such as Sonoria, and Dag-gar, Scraps, and myself. We try to keep things straight by explaining the unexplainable. Only wizards and magicians and Metacephalas can do that.”
“But all Time cannot be the same, then,” Sol said, “for I can throw a small rock into the mirror-water or I can throw a big rock.”
“Ah, but aren’t you a smart one! Big ripples, small ripples, small waves, big waves, for every wave size there is a different Time-Energy. Pity the poor Universe! You grew up here in this pretty town called Eye o’ the Sea. You see the ocean every day and understand that the water-mirror is seldom truly still, and so it is with the Universe.”
Sol was thoughtful for a moment. The metronome inside Mar’s great kitchen timepiece tapped out moments with perfect regularity, resonating in the silence. “But,” he said after a while, “then the vagrant energies can even affect those whose job it is to keep the water-mirror smooth.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean Sonoria and Dag-gar, Time’s great lovers. You say they are Metacephalas, small gods, and so it must be their job to keep things straight. Yet it is their lovers’ spat that has caused the biggest ripple of all.”
“You are wise beyond your youth, Sol!” Mar said. “That is why you were chosen and why you have come to my kitchen every day these many seasons to learn the ancient songs, and the wisdoms, great and small, of healing and of life.” She sniffed the air. “I believe the bread is ready. I must set it out to cool. Before you leave, you will have a slice of it smeared with the butter I churned this morning.”
She set her pipe down on the table and stood up. Sol watched her move with careful steps across the room to one of two broad, cast-iron stoves. She pulled her hair back, stooped her long body, and, holding a thick cloth in either hand, opened the oven doors. The smell of the bread rushed out to fill the kitchen and Sol breathed it in. Mar took the four loaves out, one by one, and set them on the table within arm’s reach of the lad. Then she sat back down.
“Sol,” Mother Mar said, now reaching out and taking both of the youth’s hands in hers, “I’m afraid this is to be your last time coming to see me—at least for a while.”
Sol began to stammer, “But—but….”
Mar smiled. “It is time you were off, my boy,” she said. “Time for you to leave on your quest—The Quest! The one we have been preparing you for all this time.”
“Oh, but Mother Mar,” Sol said, “I’m sure I’m not ready. Not yet. Why, just last night, I remembered I’d forgotten one of the Songs of Healing, the one about the use of ginger root—the easiest one of all!”
Mar took her hands from Sol’s, reached out, and tentatively touched the top of one of the loaves of bread. Sol watched her do this, his face now growing red. She turned back to him.
“Silly boy,” she said, “you know them all and you know them well. You have a most wonderful memory for these things. What, for example, would you use the seeds of the Chaste Tree for?”
Without hesitation, Sol answered, “For women who have difficulty with their monthly cycles.”
“And,” she said, “Yellow Root?”
Again, without having to stop to think, Sol said, “A tea made from the root cures stomach ulcers, cramps, and sore throats.”
She stood up. “You see what I mean, dear Sol? Your knowledge is profound, your memory infallible. Now, wait here, I have something for you.”
She walked toward the open door of a cupboard, reached inside, and pulled out a large sack sewn together from strips of multicolored cloth and drawn together at the top with a leather string. She carried this sack across the kitchen, set it on the table in front of Sol, and sat down again.
She opened the sack and from it took a series of smaller cloth bags. She lifted each to her nose, nodded, and put them in a line across the table. “This is your pharmacy,” she said, her nod indicating he should pick one up.
Sol took a bag and sniffed at it. “Wormwood,” he said, “to stimulate appetite and expel worms.”
“Yes, of course. In each bag is something powerful that you know well—nightshade, powdered mushrooms, foxglove, willow bark, on and on, dried, powdered, crushed, whole leaves, and so forth. And a mortar and pestle, too.”
Sol looked from the bags to Mother Mar and back to the bags. “But…!”
“Now, you may take the Admiral if you wish,” Mar said.
Sol thought about the donkey called Admiral Penance, a dour, difficult, sulky beast with whom he was not on the best of terms. “If it’s all the same to you, Mother Mar, I’ll just walk and carry my kit under my robes.”

Mar smiled. “You never did learn to ride him, did you?”
Sol shook his head. “I can stay on his back only a few hundred paces before he throws me to the ground. In truth, I don’t think he cares much for me.”
“I will have some words with him about this,” Mar said. “I think we can arrange an understanding. And you will be able to bring so much more with you by way of medicines, food, and water. I’m afraid where you are going, you might not find much to sustain you.”
Sol sighed. “As you wish, Mother Mar.” And then, thinking about what she had said, he asked, “Where am I going, Mother Mar?”
“You must go wherever it is you need to go to find them—the lovers, Sonoria and Dag-gar. To the mountains and beyond, to the high Stratus Valley, perhaps,” she said. “As you know, that is where Sonoria, the Queen of the Thrangs, rules from the back of her great stallion, Spiritus. As for Dag-gar—who knows where that one is. He is, I’m afraid, a bit of a wanderer, a dark-souled Time Drifter. For the life of him, he can’t seem to settle down.
“You, dear Sol, have the impossible task of solving the riddle of their lovers’ spat, of finding the answers to the conflict between them, for it is the discord between these two small gods that has upset the applecart of the Universe. It is much more serious than you can imagine. If they cannot find harmony between them, I am afraid that those terrible vagrant energies will be loosed upon this fat, round world of ours. You must try to bring them back together, patch things up between them—that is the purpose of your journey, the quest for which we have prepared you for so long. You are to do nothing less than patch up the fabric of Time.”
Sol was speechless. He was beyond even stammering. He stared at the old woman, at the deep lines in her forehead, at her hair, and then at the antique, yellow-toothed smile that had spread across her face. Finally, he stood and walked to the window. He put his face close to the glass and looked out over Mother Mar’s small farm and out beyond it, past the overgrown garden, past the camel and the donkey grazing in the green pasture, to the town of Eye o’ the Sea and to its small, snug harbor. There he saw sailing ships, their masts and rigging etched against the sky, and the town itself with its rickety, wooden buildings, each painted a different bright color. “I don’t know anything about it,” he said.
“I’m sorry, dear,” Mar said, “but I didn’t hear you.”
Sol turned away from the window and looked across the kitchen at her. “About love. I don’t know anything about it.”
“By the time you are finished with the quest you will, my dear. You will certainly know all about it.”

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