Title: The Shaman’s Carving
Author: Jordan Altman
Hosted by: Ultimate Fantasy Book Tours
Elia is tired of her life as a peasant, the young girl seeks adventure and fame. With her best friend, the Baron’s son, in tow, the children enter the forbidden ruins where a gift of magic awaits to be discovered. For hidden deep in the mysterious ancient city sits a totem, a magical carving that will change the lives of all those within the Barony of Riverhill forever. Yet, stalking the children lurks a creature with a dark purpose. A choice lays before Elia, to let sleeping dogs lie or to pursue the mystic arts of becoming a wizard in Shamanism.
Jordan Altman is a Geologist who has worked from the Land of the Midnight Sun to the Canadian Shield. Recently taking up creative writing, his adventures within reality are now being matched by those of his imagination.
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From Chapter 1
“I don’t think we should enter the ruins,” said Locrian with a quaver of fear in his voice. His squinting eyes peered beyond Elia, viewing a stone city overrun with the return of nature. “Maybe we should turn around?”
“Don’t be afraid. I’ll protect you.” Elia smirked at Locrian who was keeled over, gasping for air. He was the only overweight child in the village.
While waiting for her friend to recover from the climb, Elia gazed across the valley to her village and the high castle of their Liege Lord. “The Baron will be happy you got your exercise for the day, plus there’s the return trip too!”
“Don’t mention the hike back yet, I’d roll down the hill to the river if we tried now.” Locrian sat down on the dew-covered weeds then looked up to Elia. “My father won’t be happy if we enter the haunted ruins.”
“Then we won’t tell him, will we?” quipped Elia as she walked away from Locrian towards a crumbled wall of grey stone. The thrill of adventure made her excited, and a haunted city destroyed ages ago promised its fill. She unslung a burlap sack from her shoulder. Opening it, Elia plucked out a fistful of berries she collected along the way and tossed them into her mouth.
“Can’t we sit for a while?” moaned Locrian from behind. His lungs wheezed with every exhale.
Elia turned, brushing aside her oily hair in a futile effort as the bangs returned to drape over her dark brown eyes.
“You want to sit? After all those stories we’ve learnt about the haunted ruins; the monster, the siege, the ghost, and all you want to do is sit?” exclaimed Elia with a mouthful of berries.
“All those stories and you want to go in!” burst out Locrian.
Elia walked over to him and put out her arms for Locrian to reach. Once their hands interlocked, she heaved herself backwards, pulling the boy up to his feet while almost falling rearward herself. They had to stick together for neither had any other friends. Bullies in town would pick on Locrian for his weight and Elia for being more of a boy than a proper girl.
“Your beautiful clothes are all wet,” said Elia as she admired his well-tailored cloth over the tattered garbs of peasantry she wore.
“That’s more from the sweat than the dew,” said Locrian.
Elia led the way as Locrian followed. They glided their finger tips along the moist tips of the waist-high grass. Upon entering through a hole in the wall, one of many, they surveyed the ruins before them. The ancient city appeared to stretch out to eternity, though many of the crumbled structures laid hidden in the overgrowth of centuries.
“Wow, this place is a hundred times larger than your father’s castle and courtyard,” said Elia with awe. She always gazed at the ruins from afar, imagining how they appeared up close. Yet, now here, the ancient city had gone beyond surpassing her expectations. “It must have taken forever to build all of this!” Elia admired the limestone blocks. She tore at the vines, setting free the slabs of stone and the weathered masonry. Elia gasped at what appeared underfoot. “Look, even the ground is stone.”
Locrian looked down and kicked at the grass and dirt until the cobbles of the road emerged, weathered and broken. “What happened here?” he asked as much to himself as to Elia.
Elia paused, she looked around, no longer taking in the view, but inspecting it. “The stories I was taught say a monster sacked the city, perhaps a dragon. By the look of all the caved-in buildings, that might be true. Though, maybe not… Dragons can breathe out fire that melts rock. These ruins are all broken, not scorched.”
“Yep, and a big one too!” Elia played with Locrian’s fear. She knew he didn’t like monsters, and dragons were his least favourite.
“Well, the stories I’ve been told weren’t of what happened here long ago. I was taught about the dangers of entering the forbidden ruins. Ghosts and ghouls that will frighten me to death, creatures that will eat me alive, and plants that will poison me till I bloat and explode. Then if I somehow make it back unharmed, I’d risk my father’s wrath at being disobeyed.” Locrian looked back towards the direction of home. “Let’s go back, we’ve checked this place out. Now, we should return before anyone finds us missing.”
“We haven’t explored yet. Plus, if they never notice us when we’re there, no one will notice us missing.” She didn’t want to return. Home had misery but this place offered excitement. “I want to see more.” She then turned to Locrian. “You have your castle, all I have to visit is the wheat fields, and the pig pens. This is like a whole new world; it’s waiting for us to discover it. Let’s be explorers and see if we can find any treasures.”
Elia walked deeper into the foliage covered urban landscape, not looking back. She walked with determination and confidence. Any fear from the stories, which Elia had, she ignored as they were being outmatched by the prospect of adventure.
“Hey, wait up!”
The two children disappeared into the ruins where the only sound was a girl’s vocalised astonishment and a boy’s wheezing.
Elia grabbed hold of a vine and pulled herself up. As she climbed an old oak, Locrian stood at the base and watched.
“It’s not my castle,” said Locrian in a whisper.
“What’s that?” asked Elia from above. She loved climbing trees. When Elia sat at the top of a tree she always felt better about her life. She no longer was tied down to the world, a tree offered her a glimpse at freedom.
“You said, it’s my castle. It’s not. It’s more akin to a prison.”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic. I live in a shack, with two brothers and four sisters. Three of us eat one day, the others, the next. I sleep on a pile of hay that gives me a rash in the morning.” From the tree’s top, Elia saw more of the ruins. She spotted a large building with a dome further to their south.
“Sorry,” said Locrian as he lowered his head.
“Plus, one day you’ll be the Baron,” said Elia with emotion, trying to cheer him up. Sadness then draped over her. “One day, you’ll forget about me and marry a Lady. I’ll be nothing but a farmhand, working in the fields.”
“Me, a Baron?”
Elia knew Locrian didn’t like the prospect of succeeding his father. “Yep, and you’ll rule the whole village!”
“Well, when I become the Baron, I’ll Knight you!” he told Elia as she climbed down and returned to his side.
“A Knight!” she exclaimed with excitement. “Imagine, Sir Elia, Knight of the Barony of Riverhill!” With a grand smirk, she jumped up and snapped off a branch from the oak.
“I don’t think people would call you Sir Elia as you are a girl.”
“Do I get a sword?”
“Yes, of course you do.”
“Good! Then the people will call me whatever I want!” Elia’s smirk reappeared as she swiped at the tree’s trunk with her branch of a sword. “Come on, I saw somewhere I want to check out.”
They continued on through the ancient city, weaving their way through the overgrowth and slabs of grey stone. Elia sang a tune about an old knight who slew a giant as the sun shined in their eyes.
“Still a few hours till noon, but we should head back soon.” Locrian’s voice wavered with anxiety.
“After this last place I want to see, we’ll call it a day and return to the village.” Elia sang and skipped while attacking the air with her tree branch. “Maybe, we’ll find a real sword in the domed building.” At the prospect of steel in her hand, she quickened her pace while Locrian followed with hesitation.
Thick, green vines tangled their way up the structure, knotting over one another. The domed citadel sat in disrepair before them. Ten storeys tall was the building, with a diameter of 30 yards. An old elm grew from within, emerging through the dome, in a bloom of life.
“Let’s go in,” said Elia with excitement.
Before Locrian could protest, she grabbed his hand and pulled him through a pair of stone doors set ajar.
Inside, the brightness of the day faded away to an ominous grey. Illumination came from beams of light, pillars of the sun which shot through holes and cracks in the ceiling.
The vegetation was different than outside. There was no grass. Only a few fat weeds grew between the crags in the stone floor. Dendritic purple moss covered the rest of the ground while red mushrooms grew, some big enough to sit on.
“I don’t like it in here,” said Locrian. “One of my teachers taught me how poisonous some mushrooms can be, and these looked rather troublesome. Plus, it’s kind of dark in here.
“It’s kinda spooky, isn’t it?” Elia looked around at the shambled structure. The dank place was full of decay and shadows. “I love it!”
They passed through tight hallways, over piles of rubble and crawled through a constricted room where the roof had caved in. At last, they entered the main chamber with the grand dome overhead.
The area was massive, consisting the majority of the building. The chamber was colossal compared to the dining hall of the Baron’s castle. At the far end, an elm tree grew through the roof, creating shifting shadows.
The children walked in deeper, breathing in the stale air and smelling the strong scent of sour vegetation. Elia shivered at the temperature as the cooling interior and darkness created an illusion of night.
“This must have been the main administrative building of the city,” stated Locrian.
“What’s that mean?”
“It’s a place where the city rulers govern and hold meetings,” said Locrian.
“Ummm, okay.” Elia didn’t like the majority of subjects taught to Locrian. Only when he spoke of Sir Vuhtre’s weapons training did she ever perk up and pry every last morsel of information from him.
“What’s that?” asked Elia, seeing something small standing on the floor with a beam of light shining straight down upon it. It appeared to be a little statue or something similar.
“What’s what?” Locrian quickened his pace to form up beside Elia, wanting a look for himself but tripped over a vine that grabbed at his foot.
The sound of his fall reverberated inside the chamber. With the bouncing of the echoes went a cloud of bats that hung in the dome’s rafters. The flying rodents flew over their heads, screeching at them. Locrian screamed while Elia swatted at them with her branch. They swirled above them until finding a hole in the dome to escape into the bright daylight outside.
“I want to go home!” cried out Locrian as he tried to untangle himself from the vine that wrapped itself around his ankle.
“Okay, give me a moment, though.”
“Where are you going? Come on, let’s go!”
Elia left Locrian’s side and dashed over to the small object several yards away. She stood over it, then bent down and snatched it up. It felt like a wooden carving in her hands, but under the rush of Locrian’s nagging, she didn’t have the time to make out the sculpture’s appearance.
“What was that noise?” Locrian asked on the edge of tears.
Elia stuffed the carving into a pocket within her garments and stood silent, straining her ears. “I hear nothing, it’s only your imagination.”
“No, I heard something,” protested Locrian, demanding Elia stop and listen.
An irregular wind emerged from within the recess of the derelict building. The noise wheezed, like Locrian after a run, but also gargled as it resonated off the stone and vegetation.
Elia returned to Locrian’s side, shaking with him but refusing to budge as they listened to the unbalanced wind.
“It’s not the wind,” whispered Elia into Locrian’s ear. “It’s something breathing.”