Today, I am featuring Fantasy author Richie Earl for a guest post. You can read more of his exciting work below.
Is this curse thing a load of old infertile bullocks, you might be entitled to ask? Myths, legends, fairytales, folklore; there can be no, or very little, truth in all that nonsense. But then again, throughout time there have been stories of Giants, Banshees, Cyclops, Minotaur, Phoenix and Griffins, to name but a few.
When I was a young lad; well I’m still a young lad, but what I mean is that a long time ago, Finndragon’s Curse really did happen. I can just about remember the day that the majestic Castell y Mynydd was completed. It was a glorious summer’s day and the smiling sun shone down and blessed all of the people in the Kingdom of Morgannwg. The wonderful Welsh realm had been ruled by King Dafydd, who was widely known as The Defiant due to the way that he had been able to repel all would be attackers from the other side of what today is called Offa’s Dyke, for many years. Now that King Offa had a cheek trying to claim that he’d constructed the whole of the dyke.
For two centuries before that, Dafydd’s magician Finndragon had raised an earthen barrier which protected the whole of Morgannwg from attacks from the east. And I should know because I, Gwayne, was there on that most amazing day to watch the mighty wizard lift his hands to the sky. I looked on in wonder as he strained every sinew in his body and made the ground shake violently, knocking everyone, save Finndragon himself, to the ground. Then the earth sprang up before my very eyes. That was the day I knew that I too would one day become a mighty wizard! Offa may have continued that dyke to the north and the south, but a large section was already there many years before him thanks to the great Finndragon.
Morgannwg was well protected and so were the people who dwelt in and around the almighty castle. Soon after, I got my wish to be a wizard, well an apprentice wizard; you have to start somewhere, don’t you? I was taken on by Myrddin, who was still quite young himself, but I soon came to realise that he too was a very powerful maker of magic. It was with great excitement that I began my apprenticeship; I expected to be performing all manner of wonderful enchantments, but alas, all that I was allowed to do for almost two years was collect ingredients for Myrddin’s spells. It was absolutely awful, I can tell you!
OK, there must have been some good times, but all I remember is the dirty, smelly jobs that I had to do. If you’ve never stood behind a cow in calf, who’s about to give birth, then you probably don’t know what I mean. And if you’ve never had to scrape bat dung from the floor of a cave, then you would find it hard to place yourself in my shoes.
But I loyally followed all of Myrddin’s orders, with the promise that he would soon start my tuition in magic and wizardry. It was about that time that Finndragon got banished from Morgannwg and Myrddin got the job of Court Wizard. I couldn’t believe my luck; here was I, Gwayne, apprentice to the King’s wizard. I only had to bide my time, obey my master and one day…. yes one day it would all be mine.
I have to admit that I hardly paid any attention to that old curse; you know the one where Finndragon warned that unless his exile was lifted, he would sink the Kingdom of Morgannwg into the earth and it would be set upon by monsters and demons until the end of time and never be seen again. I was just so excited that I would be living in the palace with Myrddin and our beloved King Dafydd.
But that no good Myrddin had no intention of taking me into the palace with him. He made me look after his dwelling and all of his lotions and potions whilst he lived it up with the nobles and the gentry. He may have occasionally given me a little instruction in the art of wizardry, but I was not progressing as well as I’d hoped.
More than once I told him I’d had enough and no longer wanted to be his apprentice, but he wouldn’t let me go, threatening to turn me into all manner of unmentionable and unimaginable creatures.
You may wonder as to what exactly makes a wizard. Truly great wizards, such as Finndragon, are born with magic coursing through their veins, whilst others have to learn the art over a very long period from their master. It would take even great wizards many years to attain the incredible power of one such as Finndragon, who is probably the greatest that there has ever been. It is said that although he was an old man, he had been able to cast a spell on himself in his later years which virtually stopped the march of time for him. Thus he had now lived at least five lifetimes. Unfortunately I fall into the latter category and I now had no master, (oh, I haven’t told you about that yet. Don’t worry, I’ll get around to it soon enough) but I had at least learnt from Myrddin that there are four main aspects to creating a spell:
1) You need a good book of spells. Every wizard has at least one book of spells. Sometimes a book is passed down from a master wizard to his apprentice, but I had been left with Myrddin’s as he had no time to collect his belongings before fleeing (be patient and I will get around to it, promise).
2) A good stock of ingredients for the potions and lotions required to perform a spell are essential. A wizard may take a lifetime gathering all the necessary items to be able to cast any number of spells. Again I was fortunate enough to have been left with everything that had once been Myrddin’s.
3) A successful wizard must be able to express the relevant spell in a tone suitable for that spell, taking great care to pronounce each word clearly. Alas I had not had anywhere near enough tuition in this important aspect of spell casting. Myrddin had told me on more than one occasion, that a spell spoken in the wrong tone could lead to all manner of unexpected and unwanted results. I was to learn at first hand, and on many occasions, how easy it is to get a spell totally wrong just by using the wrong quality of voice.
4) Most importantly, a wizard has to be able to harness the many spirits which are always around us, but are never seen. Spirits that most people will never even know exist. There are good spirits, bad spirits and even mischievous spirits who take a great delight in having fun with a novice wizard. At least Myrddin had helped me to channel my will onto these spirits by giving me what looked like a plain small pebble. I was very surprised at how much importance he placed upon the simple stone. “When casting a spell it is essential that you focus all of your power into the stone,” he had told me during my third and last lesson before he decamped. “Always keep the stone about your person and never let anyone else know you have it!” So I threaded a thin leather strap through a small hole that seemed ready made for such a purpose and hung it around my neck. The strap was long enough to let the stone fall below my tunic and remain out of sight. Unfortunately he didn’t explain exactly why this stone was required. It was only when I first tried to cast spells that I realised that this was no ordinary stone, as it started to pulsate and began to glow a bright red colour. This was repeated every time I tried to use my magic, but glowing different colours each time.
I’ll never forget that day when the curse of Finndragon befell Castell y Mynydd and all of the Kingdom of Morgannwg, even if I live another fifteen hundred years. I had been serving as apprentice wizard to Myrddin for just over a year and he was still filling my time with the most unpleasant tasks, whilst neglecting my tuition in the arts of magic making.
That entire sunny day had been spent scrabbling around at the bottom of the large, filthy duck pond, trying to gather the roots of the countless reeds that adorned the pond. Apart from being dirty, the water was very cold, particularly at the bottom which, in the middle, was about twice as deep as I am tall. The task was especially difficult as I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. And of all the days to have such a duty, it had to be right in the middle of the Feast of August when everyone else in the kingdom were having so much fun at King Dafydd’s castle.
Of course I tried to get out of it in the first place, “I can’t swim!” I objected, but Myrddin was having none of my excuses.
“You won’t need to swim boy, just crawl along the bottom and pull out the roots, but be careful not to damage them as I need them intact for my spells!” he had shouted violently at me.
I don’t know why, but I don’t think that Myrddin liked me very much. Nevertheless I continued to plead my case, “The water is very deep, so I won’t be able to get to the bottom!”
“Do you think I’d not thought of that, you idiot. You can tie this sack around your waist; I’ve weighed it down with heavy stones. There’s plenty of room in there for the roots too!”
“But I will surely drown if I am weighed down, then what use will I be to you, Master?”
By the look on his face I could see that Myrddin had just about lost his patience with me and the next words he hurled at me were streaked with malice. “I am Myrddin, the mighty wizard to King Dafydd, the ruler of the most powerful kingdom in Wales!” He spat out each syllable, covering me in tiny beads of his rotten saliva.
“Don’t you think that I would have a spell suitable for such a task?”
With that he swirled an arm around his head and then swung it in my direction. I felt nothing at first, but then a strange sensation came over me. My chest seemed to tighten and try as I might, I could not get any breath into my aching lungs. I could feel my eyes starting to bulge and put my hands to my throat, vainly hoping that it would somehow help. Myrddin stood there laughing and passers-by stopped to see what the fuss was about. In any other circumstance I would probably have felt embarrassed, but at this moment the only emotion I had was one of sheer panic.
Myrddin continued to laugh as he tied the heavy sack around my waist and I sensed a blackness creeping up on me as my eyes became heavy. The crowd slowly disappeared from the edges of my vision and now all I could see was Myrddin as he started to push me towards the pond. I could barely stand and I staggered, stumbled and then fell to my knees on the water’s edge. I knew with a dreadful certainty at that moment that I was about to die, it felt as if I were drowning on dry land.
Then just as it seemed that I could last no longer, Myrddin kicked me in the small of my back and sent me sprawling into the muddy water. “You must fill the bag with roots and only then will the spell wear off!” he half laughed, half shouted.
I splashed head first into the pond, still gasping for air and my lungs quickly filled with the stagnant, slimy disgusting water. The revolting taste in my mouth was surpassed by the vile aroma that assaulted my nasal passages. But then the most amazing thing happened; gradually I realised that the suffocating feeling was slipping away and I could actually breathe. After a couple of minutes of being half submerged, my head cleared and the pain left my chest. I pushed my head up and out of the water and struggled to get to my feet due to the weight of the still attached sack. My head had barely been out of the water for a few seconds when the awful feeling of suffocation returned.
“You are a complete fool, Gwayne,” Myrddin roared with laughter. “Get back into the pond and you will be able to breathe water. Fill the sack and you must get out quickly, because you will once again need air.”
So I had little choice other than to do as my master ordered. I didn’t know how long I had been down there, but I must have spent many hours clawing at the muddy bottom, pulling out the reeds by their roots, but always being careful not to damage them. When the bag was nearly full, I tried to find my way to the shallower water near the edge of the pond. I popped my head out quickly and was surprised to find that it was night-time; the brilliant sunshine having been replaced by a brightly glowing full moon. I resumed my task and ripped up the last few reeds needed to fill the sack. Myrddin was right, for as soon as it was full I was overcome by a new feeling of drowning, a true feeling as I was actually drowning now.
I stood tall and scrambled frantically out of the water. Coughing violently for several minutes, I tried to clear the filth from my respiratory tract, before my breathing returned to normal, much to my relief. I was now lying on my back besides the pond thinking that as long as I live, nothing as awful or frightening could ever befall me again, but then a terrible storm came up from nowhere. Suddenly everything was in pitch darkness except for Castell y Mynydd, which was illuminated by a single shaft of moonlight. Every fire and light within the castle was extinguished by the howling wind and the lashing rain. The waters in the pond began to bubble and boil and the ground began to shake.
I saw Myrddin rushing by, saving himself by turning into a hawk as he ran and flew away (see, I told you that I’d get around to it) before the kingdom sank into the earth. Everything began to spin around violently in the same way as water gets sucked into a whirlpool. Then a mountain rose up above the spot where the kingdom had been just a minute before. Orange flames sprang up suddenly, dimly illuminating the whole of the land.
The whole world changed that day and has been the same ever since. Fifteen hundred years spent in the largest cave imaginable, waiting and hoping for someone to break Finndragon’s Curse. And I still have a large sack full of the roots of all those filthy reeds!
So here was I, left high and dry, in a land plunged into the bowels of the earth. King Dafydd soon sought me out, hopeful that I may have learnt enough from Myrddin to be of some service to him. He quickly realised that I would be of no use and I was left to my own devices. For centuries I tried to teach myself the craft of magic, but without even the slightest encouragement of a wholly successful spell, until one day I was visited by a peculiar group of children. Ah, but that’s another story, a true story, not a legend.
Well that’s The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse for you; believe it to be a myth if you will. But beware, because Finndragon still lives and his demons persecute us all, and we are only just beneath your very feet!
Kindle Countdown Promotion – up to 67% discount.
The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse is on offer 15th-21st April.
Return to Finndragon’s Den is on offer 21st-28th April.
Available to purchase from:
Amazon – for kindle
The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse: http://viewBook.at/FinndragonsCurse
Return to Finndragon’s Den: http://viewBook.at/ReturntoFinndragonsDen
Lulu Publishing – paperback: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/finndragon
One Thousand Worlds in One Thousand Words blog: http://onethousandworlds.blogspot.co.uk/
Tales of Finndragon Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/finndragonscurse
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6523833.Richie_Earl
Twitter (@finndragons): https://twitter.com/finndragons
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/gXeh-pzIHSI
Richie Earl is the writer of fantastical fantasy adventures. Earl’s first series, Tales of Finndragon, is a two part adventure which started life as a bedtime story for his three children, who nagged him so much that he finally agreed to write a book. Only one book was intended, but Earl came to realise that a second was required.
Earl was offered a publishing contract from a small Welsh press, but after much deliberation and discussion with the publisher, decided not to accept the offer. This proved to be a shrewd move, as he later discovered the press was struggling to meet the costs of publishing and have since moved its business solely into the field of printing.
Earl is currently working on two projects, a young adult paranormal mystery and another fantasy adventure, which may turn into a trilogy.