Aphelion Issue 257, Volume 24
December 2020 / January 2021
 
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The Wizard and Sorceress of Crater Lake

by Bruce Rowe




The wizard, Goran, stood at the tower window of his bedroom stretching his arms out as he yawned and greeted the cool morning air wafting into the room. Inhaling through his nose, he could smell fire burning. He turned toward the fireplace but only ash lay in a heap on the hearth. That was the only fire burning last night. It must be coming from outside, he thought. Walking over to the bed where his beloved Selene the Sorceress was asleep, he eased himself down on the edge and gently roused her awake. "My dearest, I must go out and see what is amiss in the forest. I smell smoke but I don’t know from whence it comes. It may be no more than a traveler’s campfire. I just want to make sure it doesn’t pose any danger to us and our woods."

Selene opened her eyes and saw Goran peering down at her. She rubbed her eyes. "If you must. Remember, it is your turn to make breakfast, so don’t be too late."

"I remember," he said with a smile, and then rose, slipped into his cloak, and headed out the door.

Selene closed her eyes and went back to sleep.


*****



Four magicians, with Captain Blyth guiding the way, proceeded quietly down the hallway of the stone tower toward the bedroom where Selene slept. Hearing the footfalls of the wizard, they flattened themselves against the wall and watched as Goran headed down the stairway.

Reaching the bedroom door, Blyth turned to the four magicians. "Ready yourselves. When I open the door, weave your magic over her to keep her sleeping and do so quickly while I tie her up with this enchanted rope. Not even her great powers will be enough to loosen or break it."

"Are you sure the wizard Goran will be preoccupied long enough, and will not return too soon? Together they could overtake us all," asked the magician that was nearest the captain. At his waist, he cupped a blue shimmering orb that beamed through his fingers ready to work his magic on her.

A sly grin stretched across Blyth’s lips, "He’s busying himself fighting off faeries in the west glade that have begun plaguing the borders of his castle with evil mischief. With the lie I told Meeka, the queen of the faes, she assured me that he’ll have his hands full. Giving us enough time to complete our task and make certain our escape." He placed his hand on the doorknob and nodded to the magicians. "Now!"

Bursting through the door, the three of the magicians quickly cast their magic over Selene, keeping her in slumber as Captain Blyth looped the rope around her, securing her arms and hands.

With Selene secured, Captain Blyth signaled to the fourth magician with the cupped orb in his hands.

The orb encompassed them, lifting them from the stone floor and carried them out the window, and to the eastern forest where The Phantom lay hidden amongst the broad oaks and lofty cedars.

Once aboard, using a normal rope, Captain Blyth tied Selene to the oak beam that jutted from the bow of the ship. With the Sorceress secured, all four magicians turned their magic toward the sails. The massive canvases billowed out and the ship rose from the soil to sailed above the trees.

Selene awoke. Aware of her predicament, she struggled to release herself, but felt the dark magic of the rope fighting against her. She looked down at the hull of the ship and saw its name, The Phantom.

“Blyth!’ she said under her breath.

She struggled once more but to no avail Closing her eyes, she concentrated. Deep within herself, she summoned an enchantment that turned her into part of the oak beam. ‘Now we’ll see what use I’ll be to the Thief of Magic.’


*****



In the glade, the wizard stood under a white, translucent dome constructed of magic, twirling his staff this way and that, speaking ancient words that created sparks of lightning from its tip which pierced the dome wall, knocking back the faeries that were trying to penetrate it with arrows. "Meeka, what is the meaning of this incursion?" Goran yelled at the faerie commander.

"You have broken our accord to let us live in peace, and have set fire to our forest," came her answer.

"Foolishness! Selene and I have always respected your kind and your forest; otherwise, I would be killing your warriors rather than knocking them senseless. Who has told you of this false madness?"

"We know Selene has always respected us. She walks through our forest singing to us in the early mornings while dew still lies upon the grass. You, however, have never had much to do with us. That is why the man that told us of your evil deeds was so convincing. He even set his ship down in the eastern forest so as not to disturb ours," Meeka said as she loosed an arrow at Goran, only to watch it bounce off the dome.

“What was the name of the man and his ship," Goran asked as he zapped another fae into the forest beyond.

"Captain Blyth. I believe his ship is simply called The Phantom, as if any of this should matter.”

"It matters greatly!" the wizard almost yelled. "Captain Blyth is the Thief of Magic and his story was a ruse, but for what I do not know."

Suddenly, an entrancing voice came cascading from above singing a song of sadness, a song of rescue.

"Until now," the wizard said looking to the sky at the ship as it faded into the night. "His lies have caused you to act foolishly and now he has taken my beloved Selene." He released his magic from the dome and prepared to fly after the ship.

Before another arrow loosed from a bow, Meeka yelled commanding her warriors to cease their firing. She flew down in front of the wizard and knelt on one knee. "I beg forgiveness, Lord Goran. I have acted too hastily. We will help in whatever way we can in rescuing your beloved and our sovereign."

Goran knelt down and placed his hand upon her bowed head. "And I promise if we succeed, you will live out your days in beauty and peace never to be disturbed by anyone ever again."


*****



After passing through one universe after another, the captain and his crew had reached the Milky Way. The Phantom sailed with billowed sails through the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, thrust along by a magical wind. It rocked side to side avoiding the large boulders that lazily rolled through the emptiness of the dark empyrean.

The wizard Goran and his swarm of faeries were a half league behind, navigating the same path as the ship. He chanted ancient verses under his breath that brought forth bolts of lightning which blasted from the end of his staff, exploding the rudder of the massive ship piece by splintered piece.

Assured that her beloved Goran was in pursuit, Selene continued her siren’s song of sadness.

Another spear of lightning from the wizard’s staff struck the ship so violently that it caused the stern to slam against the last asteroid that rolled on the fringe of the belt, blowing apart a hole large enough for a man to enter in the right side of the broad hull..

“Make ready the cannons!’ Blyth shouted. Two chase guns rolled out of the stern of the ship and fired grapeshot at the wizard.

The wizard evaded all but one iron ball that knocked his staff from his hands, splintering it into small shards and sawdust. Three faeries met their demise colliding with the other iron balls from the grapeshot.

"What are we to do, captain?" one of the magicians shouted above the noise of the cannon fire. "Even without his staff, the wizard is gaining on us. And our collective magic cannot equal his."

The captain waved the magician off.

“I have not spent the last five years earning the title, Thief of Magic, to have some wizard thwart my plan of possessing the greatest sorceress this side of Orion the Great Hunter!” Captain Blyth yelled back.

As the ship flew past Mars, the captain looked over the railing with his spyglass and spotted the next planet. On earth, he saw through the powerful lenses, a capacious snow-capped mountain once called Mt. Mazama. "There!” he said pointing to a mountain. “Have the helmsman put us down on that peak."

At the cranking of the wheel—what good it did without the rudder—and pushing forward on a lever, the fore, main, and mizzen masts tilted forward, and the ship began its descent.

Nearing the mountain, Captain Blyth spotted what appeared to be a hollow at its peak. ‘An auspicious find,’ he thought. “Set her down in that bowl at the top!” he yelled at the helmsman.

The ship leveled, then lowered perfectly into the bunker.

As the anchor dropped along the side, the four magicians released their magic from the sails and hurriedly wove a protective dome over the ship to prevent the wizard and his faeries from overtaking them.


*****



Reaching the mountain, Goran called for a halt to his warriors. He quickly surveyed the ship under the blue transparent dome that flashed thin lines of lightning from the bottom of one side and snaked upward across the top and down the other side. He could no longer hear the distressing song of his beloved. He took his faeries to the bottom of the mountain where he fashioned a castle for himself and Selene to dwell in once her rescue was complete. He then knelt and placed his hands in the snow. Closing his eyes, he fell into a deep trance peering past the surface of the mountain and into its very core. After a moment, Goran opened his eyes and rose up.

"Meeka," the wizard called to the commander of the faeries, “take your warriors to the top of the mountain, keep watch over the ship, and keep your bows drawn. I’ve discovered the mountains weakness.”

"As is your will, Goran," the fae said. She then directed the troop to the top of the mountain and hovering there, they kept watch over the ship with bows drawn.

At the bottom of the mountain, the wizard began to fly around its base. He increased his velocity as he moved up the heap in increments of ten feet snow spraying outward behind him from the airstream. As he neared the middle, the men in the ship felt a rumbling and began to tremble and scurry to and fro on the deck in a mass confusion of fear. It was as if the great mountain was breathing, heaving outward, and then retracting.

Selene smiled knowing her true love was nearing her rescue.

"Steady mates," called out Blyth to his crew. "The old sorcerer can’t touch us as long as we are under the magicians’ protection."

The bowsman straighten from peering over the side of the ship. "Captain Blyth, if we tarry here much longer, we’ll be torched to cinder. A red glow is growing beneath us, sir. I believe he has conjured a dragon."

The captain glanced over the railing of the ship and, seeing the red glow increasing at a rapid rate, yelled, "Cut the anchor and full sails…NOW!"

The four magicians, in near exhaustion, released their magic from the dome and refocused their concentration back onto the sails. The sails billowed and the ship rose awkwardly out of the bunker as the mountain violently shook with great slabs of snow descending rapidly downward uprooting cedars and pines. At the disappearing of the dome, the faeries began losing arrows at the deckhands and magicians. The instant a sailor would ready a cannon; they met their end in an array of arrows. Meeka took out two of the magicians in quick succession, slowing the ship’s escape from the mountain as one by one the sails fell lifeless.

Finishing his flight, the wizard flew upward with his hands extended outward as though lifting something heavy to join the faeries. At that moment, a copious pillar of lava exploded from the top of the great mountain, tearing through the bow of the ship, torching it at one end, and sending it hurling into the forest. Hearing the cries of his beloved Serene, he soared after her, navigating through the large glowing lava boulders that were being spewed across the night sky.

Catching her above the tree line, he quickly extinguished the flame near her feet with a breath of frost, and gently set her on the ground.

"Don’t depart from me, my love," spoke the wizard in a trembling voice. "I cannot finish this without you. Your powers far exceed my own."

Serene opened her oaken eyes as tears of sap rolled down from their corners. "My dearest Goran, I can’t be much help with my arms bound to this oaken beam. But I can endow you with my powers and together put an end to the evil of Captain Blyth and then you can release me from this oak."

"Then we will finish it together," said Goran.

The wizard picked her up and stood the beam on its charred end, and together they looked upon the mountain. He held her with one arm as he extended the other. He could feel her powers seeping into his mind then down through his arm. Together they spoke an enchantment of implosion and pulled the pillar of lava back into the core of the mountain. In mere seconds, the great mountain growled and crumbled into itself with a mighty sound.

With the magic that once filled the sails now gone, the lofty ship plummeted downward along with the rubble of the mountain. Goran focused their powers on the ship, turning it, the dead crew members, and Captain Blyth, into erosion resistant lava so as never to take flight again, and securing them along the shore of the lake that was now forming from the melting snow.

With their task fulfilled, Meeka led the remainder of the faerie’s and joined the wizard and his beloved in the forest. As to the bodies of the magicians, the faeries watched as the wizard brought them up from the lake, and using volcanic gases and ash that burst forth from deep within the earth, he transformed them into 100’ tall pinnacles, which still stand to this day but far removed from the lake.

With exhaustion overtaking him, and the magic Selene gave him weakened, Goran, holding Selene in his arms, collapsed to the ground. The faeries gathered round about them in quiet reverence.

"It is done," Serene said, looking up to the wizard.

"Yes, but I cannot leave you in such a state, my love," he said as he laid her gently on the ground. Rising up, Goran stood over her and with the last of her magic; he released her from the oak bow.

Keeping his promise to Meeka, Goran began transforming the faeries, (which are usually evil, horrid, and mischievous creatures into beautiful), into beautiful butterflies. Meeka gazed sadly at the wizard as though to say ‘Farewell’ then, with what appeared to be a mist of gold dust, turned into a beautiful bright orange butterfly. For a moment, they fluttered above the wizard Golan and the sorceress Serene, then dispersed into the forest to live out their lives in peace, undisturbed.

Serene tried to stand but found it difficult to move her legs. "I don’t feel right, my love. I feel a stiffness moving through my body. I do not feel the rebirth of magic in my heart as I did in our universe."

"I feel it as well. Unlike our universe that is filled with magic, I fear we have traveled to a place that no longer believes in magic," he answered as he picked her up in his arms.

"Then we can no longer be as we once were. Lay me upon that rock and stay near until I am no more," Selene said as she pointed to a boulder.

The wizard laid her on the large rock and gave her one last kiss. Feeling her lips turn to stone he wept bitterly then turned toward the lake.

In his sorrow, the wizard found within his heart the power to fly high above the lake where the peak of Mt. Mazama once stood. With a resounding cry that echoed beyond the southeast ridge of the mountain, and to the ears of the Klamath Indians that had settled there, he flew directly into its depths. He twisted and writhed in pain and agony as he descended toward the bottom. There, he allowed the lava to embrace his feet. As the lava cool in the icy waters, he closed his eyes and envisioned the sun now beaming down turning the water into a sapphire jewel. Desiring one last look at his beloved, he pulled upward with all his might and the last of his magic and, bringing the lava with him, broke the water’s surface until creating a large island 755 feet tall. From there he could see the sun, the sapphire color of the lake, but most of all, his beloved from across the lake. Exhausted through grief and his magic depleted, Goran gave in to the stiffness that now overtook his body and became a part of the uppermost peak of the island.


THE END



1. To this day, thousands of California tortoiseshell butterflies take wing over the park - feeding on wild lilac and drinking nectar from a variety of flowers. If it were not for the swiftness of their flight, there’d be a good chance that you could see a remnant of what was once a fae.


2. To admire Selene’s fading beauty, take the 0.7-mile trail, aptly named, Lady of the Woods and you’ll find her located directly behind the Steel Visitor’s Center and the Park Headquarters. Blending almost perfectly into a subalpine forest of mountain hemlock, she lays naked on her right side with her right foot behind her left knee, and left arm bowed near her face.


3. As to the Phantom ship, if visitors look upon it today from the location of Sun Notch, it resembles a small 16 story tall island nestled against the shore.


4. The four magicians that were transformed into 100’ pinnacles are abandoned and alone forever in a valley with only the low-lying clouds that pass by in the early mornings, or the occasional visitor willing to make the 6-mile drive from Rim Rock to keep them company.


5. The castle created as living quarters for Goran and Selene has since turned to a golden orange pumice rock formation that still stands along the eastern ridge of the lake, decaying and vacant.


6. From any location along the rim of the lake, one can easily see the island appropriately called, Wizard Island. If you are one of the fortunate few that accidentally stands in perfect alignment between Wizard Island and The Lady of the Woods, you can still feel the vibrations of magic at work, the magic of Love.




2020 Bruce Rowe

Bio: Bruce short stories published at Spillwords.com, Dastaanworld.com and Cafelit.com. ‘The Rider’, was nominated Publication of the Month at Spillwords in October 2018. ‘Grandfather’s Clock’ was a featured piece at Spillwords. ‘The Lonely Traveler’ received a special mention at Cafelit. He has been nominated twice as Author of the month at Spillwords. His poem, Twiggy Thin, is published in Clarendon House Publication’s, Poetica. His story, Hair of the Dog, is published in Zombie Works Publication, Monsterthology 2. He presently lives in Oceanside California where he spends his time writing, body surfing and playing guitar.

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