Welcome to the world of Evermore, a mystical place of Folklore, myth and legend. This is the first novel by Richard Cullern. I hope you enjoy it. 

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                                                       Chapter 1

 Out of the mist of time evolved a mystical land of beauty called Evermore. Its woodlands, meadows, marshlands, rivers and streams harmonised in peace and tranquility, changing only with the seasons. It was a place of perfection that held many mysteries and was destined to last forever. Evermores primeval beauty lay sheltered and protected by the vast range of mountains, valleys and gorges that surrounded it, called the seal of truth. Within this natural shield was an inexhaustible treasure of great mineral wealth. Precious stones and metals like, Emeralds of the deepest green varying to lighter hues. Rubies of the deepest red to transparnt shades of purple. Saphires of the deepest blue to azure. Diamonds, gold, silver, agates, iron, tin, coal the list was endless.

                                                       Chapter  2

Although other hunters, who lived outside Evermore, also used the track way to hunt deer, fox and badger, Ersatz hunted other quarry. Like the myths and legends of folklore that would give him power. Always at night when there was a full moon he would go marauding through the woodland looking for any sign of litttle folk or the mystical golden acorns of the big oak tree. Obsessed with the mystery surrounding the big oak he would offer huge rewards to anyone who could gratify his desire. The fact was that not everybody in it, or knew of anybody who had seen it..........

"Can you hear it?" said Brimen pricking up his large ears, looking all about him. "It can't be thunder, the night sky is too clear!" "I can hear something!" replied Gannon tilting his head in the direction of a rumble...........

Within seconds the whole place was spooked into a state of despair. The eyes of the forest opened wide as birds left their roosts, bats swarmed,trees screeched and animals ran about in all directions...............

                                                       Chapter 3

Brimen and his gang of hardy workers arrived at Stone bridge feeling relieved, safe and on time. They all gave out a joyous yell then rushed over to rub the lucky touchstone. A smooth, round, blue stone of turquoise that rested on a pedestal, placed in the middle of the wall at the entrance to the abbey. They thought it was lucky because they had seen pilgrims rubbing the stone, after crossing over the river, in the days before it was destroyed by Ersatz..............

Earlier on that morning, the time that they had spent recovering at the campfire - from their nightmarish chase - a plan was being hatched high up in Ersatz's tower. It would have a devastating effect on Evermore with frightening consequences...... 

And, so began the weaving of an evil plan, to be worked out and bought to conclusion in the underground Citadel. Inside this place of misery, Ersatz would sit for long hours scheming, with the two witches..........

                                                       Chapter 4

It was at the point when Ersatz had stirred from his evil reverie that the Oakmen arrived at Oak Village. The triumphal return was to have been a very special occasion with sideshows, stalls, jugglers, acrobats, music and dancing. It marked the beginning of celebrations that would last a few days. This time the Oakmens return to glory seemed to be dissapointing with an air of uneasiness greeting them.

"They've ransacked the village and kidnapped Smithy," he said through a swollen lip that had obviously been hit by something. "THEY! have kidnapped Smithy?" repeated Brimen noticing more than one beaten face in the crowd.............

"Gannon humoured him with a tactful. "It comes as no surprise to me, perhaps its a faulty sack."                               

"NO! said Olan determindly. "The wood is full of thieving Goblins and treacherous Gnomes," he then shook his fist..........

                                                       Chapter 5

While the Oakmen were sleeping off their fears of a trying day, D'rasnah was polishing the gold he stole and storing it in, what he thought, a safe hideaway. Convinced that he now had the power to get what he wanted, he took the idea to become human a step further. Plotting and scheming his next move with confidence he contacted Taz. Throughout the long night they wasted no time in fulfilling their evil plan to meet Ersatz. Now that moment had arrived.

Looking around the room, at all the grinning skulls neatly laid out, D'rasnah realised that he was caught up in something a lot deeper than he ever expected......................

Remembering that horrific night that enslaved them in Ersatz's Citadel gave them the chance to get revenge. "Merva dear, there is that horrible little D'rasnah, did you hear what he said about - another secret?"........................                                                                                        

                                                       Chapter 6

Gannon and Olan arrived early that morning at the lodge. Like over wound clock springs waiting for release, they were still tense with the events from the day before. After an orderly and quiet breakfast Brimen continued to discuss the looming threat to the peace and harmony of Evermore, searching for a solution he hoped would not be hard to find.

Taking the message from Gannon he read it out loud. 'Yu have lost Evermore. Sum of the gnomes have joyned us. signed D'rasnah'  Olan thumped the table in anger. "Who does he think he is, warning US like that?.........

Brimens eyes opened wide in disbelief, looking horrified he said. "It can't be the same one, ask Iffy? He checked it with me! He saw me lock it!"......................

"Like what?" stiffened Brimen, pushing his nose onto Olan's nose..........................

It had been a long, hard day, nothing but arguing, insults, accusations and rebuffs and still no nearer a solution.

                                                       Chapter 7

"Brimen!" came a whisper in the dark. "Wake up! Brimen, wake up!" urged Fairy Snoop." Sprite has sent me." Normally Brimen would have responded to any emergency, at any time concerning Sprite but after the trying day on his nerves he was reluctant to stir. He had found a restful and secure place that he did not want to leave.                 "Brimen wake up!" Snoop tugged at his large ears while the other fairies tickled his nostrils. "Come on! wake up!"

Poking his head out the covers Brimen blurted. "But it's my head he's after." Brimen had at last confessed...........

Without any warning Olan gripped the wooden bed tipping Brimen onto the floor............................

"There it is," whispered Fairy Snoop peering out from behind the trees. "See! the Ner-do Wells are crushing the ring and digging it up!" Huge clods of earth were being thrown about as the Goblins desecrated the site.

Suddenly a ball of flame cut through the darknessand landed at the bottom of hollow oak................ 

 

                                                       Chapter 8

Brimen yawned, rubbed his eyes, checked the time and then reluctantly got out of bed. Gannon and Olan soon followed. He moved wearily over to the calender and ticked off another day, then opened the window to dispel the smell and taste of the smoke still lurking in his lungs and on his soiled clothes..........................

"Do not leave the lodge today. I need to speak to you about an urgent matter - signed Monk the Elder.

"It's getting late perhaps Monk has forgotten." said Olan................................

Suddenly there was a soft, tap, tap, tap on the door. It definitely wasn't Monk because he never knocked. "Tut! tut! tut! who could that be?" moaned Olan stirring from his armchair...............................

There were many booby traps set around and about the lodge for such occasions as Lurkers uninvited visit. Prepared and ready Rooney was in total control.................................................

"And how am I going to reach everyone, when D'rasnah and Nescient rule most of the pathways through Evermore?" asked Olan fearing for his own safety..........................................

                                                       Chapter 9

At the heart of the yew wood stood the large ancient tree, circled by other yews. These stout boughs of redwood, covered in dense evergreen foliage enclosed a hallowed place. Whenever there were serious issues to discuss with all the other tribes, the meeting place was always held hear, at the sacred yew tree...............................

"We've heard rumours about witches," was one problem. "And what about Ersatz's phantom?" was another. The squabbling that then took place occupied everyones attention for a while and made it possible for...................

"Who let you into the meeting?" yelled Brimen at the goblin.......................

"So you want to hang me, eh!" came the challenge. "And you Brimen how do you feel?" A deathly silence fell as everyone turned round to look and see whom it was.................................................

It was always going to be a dangerous moment when Sprite appeared to defend truth. Owl, fearful for her safety hooted a deafening warning then swooped down and made a vicious attack on Nescient...............   

                                                        Chapter 10  

Days Later the humiliating defeat at the Yews became a paiful memory. It would not go away. All i all they concluded, they had fought a good fight. Brimen had every reason to be  proud, standing up for what he believed in. The chance to regroup and live to fight another day seemed a good compromise.

"And its not over yet," hooted Owl grimly from on top of the pendulum clock, his favourite perch. Everyone went queit as they pondered on Owl's remark................................

Brimen smirked and gave a sigh. "Mmmmm! he murmured showing an indifference to the animals present. "Olan, open the window, it smells stuffy," he said rudely...........................

"Right hear is my plan," said Brimen. "We need to get in touch with Ankra - the leader of the marshland Elves - and persuade him to support us...........................................

"Well! well, well, what have we got hear? came a mocking voice. It was D'rasnah and his bullies. "Squirell with golden acorns?" he said with great surprise. "Where did you get them?".....................................

"Now exactly, where is this Tump Island? demanded D'rasnah.

"But I must warn you," snuffled Brimen. "Not to go in by foot, it is too dangerous........................................... 

                                                       Chapter 11

"Master I have some very good news for you," said D'rasnah softly, from the door ajar. He crept quietly into the room where Ersatz was seated half aseep. The smell of vermin hung in the air as rats scurried from uneaten food on the table. "I have just caught Squirell with some golden acorns.................................

"Err! yes," replied the decietful little goblin, looking all around the room with dread expecting a demon to appear. His greedy eyes settled on an overturned flagon of wine...............................

"Well done little man," said Taz to D'rasnah when they had left the room. "The poison may take some time to work but by then you should have made my crown.........................................

The large, thick, heavy iron door to the chamber swung open momentarily giving a refreshing blast of cool air to the gasping tortured Smithy.......................................

D'rasnah left the room with the smell of burning coals filling the air, with the conviction that he would soon wear a crown of gold...................................................................

                                                          Chapter 12

Back at the lodge, Brimen was about to welcome Ankra and some of the elves to a meeting. He was desperate to discuss the next part of his plan. Brimen watched them arriving from the porch as they climbed the steps under stark orders. "UP! UP! UP!" barked Ankra in rhythm to each measured pace. Ankra and his elves were a very smart, very disciplined, and highly organised unit. They protected the marsh with military precision and were hardly ever seen or heard of unless trouble was expected..............................

"Of course! of course! said Ankra pulling his shoulders back and sticking out his chest. He was adament not to be seen as an easy target and started to lay down some ground rules.........................

They slowly trundled on feeling the worse was about to happen. "You could have rescued Smithy by now," Brimen muttered to Gannon in a sullen mood. "A whole lot SOONER!" thought Gannon. "If you had made up your mind, sooner............................................................

Strange Fairies? Secret path? thought Brimen. He did not like the sound of this and his heart began to pound inside his chest........................................... 

                                                         Chapter 13

It was to be some days before Brimen and his group had got together the equipment for the trek to Tump Island. During this lull, Gannon had wasted no time and was successful in getting the plans of the Citadel from Turncoat. He and Olan then set in motion their strategy to free Smithy. Olan, attacking from the east side and Smarty from the west kept the goblins preoccupied. Leaving Gannon and his gang to get to the Citadel without being detected, their entry made easier now that.......................................................

Ffelin, Ersatz's favourite Dwarf called softly to them. "Come back," he whispered. His short stocky frame held fast to the gate making retreat impossible.............................................

"Can we trust Turncoats plan," asked Gannon showing Ffelin the layout. "Probably," he said looking at it upside down, turning it round and round. "I can do so much to help, but the rest is up to you. Now, Ive got to go."

Straight ahead of them, the flickering torchlight, mounted on the walls, created a stifling scene of entombment. Through the dimness they could make out the large wooden door....................................

His hands, equally dirty, displayed long overgrown fingernails and were trembling. His haunted eyes glanced desperately through his fingers as he held up his hands to shield the glare of Fairy Glow.....................

                                                         Chapter 14

The early morning marshland had the uncanny feeling of a hidden presence. It was still quiet dark and eerily silent giving them all an awareness of being watched. 'What is this something that guards its interest?" thought Brimen, hearing peacocks plaintive cry carry from some distance. The inner sense of being observed, made worse by mist obscuring the area about them, had them all feeling isolated and extremely vulnerable........................................

"Stay on the path," he ordered quietly as he moved among them with his checklist of items. "There are still angry and dangerous fairy's about." Brimen knew only to well the familiar mischief in the tone of Monk's voice...........

"No! No! no," he responded abruptly. "His name is Kordi, he is a gunpowder fairy and the others are his naughty Imps." Monk let out a cheeky snigger and narrowed his eyes, watching the expressions on their shocked pale faces.......................................... 

Suddenly the peace was shattered. They felt a tremour as the ground shook beneath them. Moments later, a loud 'crack' of shot echoed in their ears. They looked up not knowing what it was....................................

"It's a dragon," shrieked Iffy. "It's from the land of Drone." This legendary land of horror they knew existed and were certain they had been bought into its presence as a punishment from Monk...............by its ............. 

                                                          Chapter 15

Monks, inner sense of superiority over the little folk was such that he deliberately forced a fast pace, expecting them to keep up. The fear and worry of being in a strange environment, he knew worried them. But in his eagerness to humiliate them he had ventured so far ahead that he was about to disappear from sight. The 'hidden mischief' was now in place and ready to take advantage of Monks abscence.............................

"What is it?" came the shocked response, sending them all, into a huddle for comfort. Mesmerised by its display they stared at it intently. "What is it?" repeated Iffy, trying to control his dread by gulping hard...........................

"Why, it's Kordi our gunpowder fairy," said Monk. "And the Imps, welcome!" He greeted them as truly old friends and then showed the most obvious false grin, trying hard to appease the tormentor. Monk boasted to the pack. "We are old pals, they daren't harm you while I'm around...........................................

"All right! You leave me no choice," warned Monk, finally snapping. He waggled his finger stabbing the digit in Kordis direction, threatening the worse...................................

Seeing the distraught state the Imps were in Ankra sped past the group. He appeared totally shocked to see how lifeless the Imps were. Waiving his batten in their direction, whilst shouting back at Monk, he roared. "What's been going on?"................................................................  

The reaction was not what Monk expected. "I shall have to issue, Memo No: 1 WD...you know?" was Ankras stern reply............................................... 

                                                            Chapter 16

While Ankra was continuing to discipline, much to the pleasure of Brimen, Olan was telling all and relating the events at the Citadel, about Gannons victory, Culjern's flight to freedom, the discovery of Merva and Derva - of which the Oakmen and Gnomes knew nothing. The third and even bigger mystery, the tale of the three stone seals.

"And, er! now I must Fly," he said hooting strongly.                                                                                       "Wait!" said Brimen holding him back forcibly. "Drasnah may have told Ersatz about it?"

Moments later Sprite appeared. "I must ask you all not to talk to Monk about his sisters or the seals. It is important to wait until after the present plan has been carried out, we must capture D'rasnah first," she said.

In a creek close by, overhung with alder, was a small boat yard where two small boats and a raft were permanently moored.Ankra became edgy as he walked out onto the gantry, his head jerking, moving about in an exagerated manner. Exasperated, his monocle fell from his eye. Running down the wooden steps to the moorings he gasped unbelievably. "Where are they? Where are they? he repeated...........................................

"A message?" asked D'rasnah feeling the stifling build up of pressure. "What about?" He now had only one thing on his mind and that was to escape this terror. "Drop the gang plank," he screamed. "Hurry!Hurry!Hurry!..........

Tapping Monk gently on the shoulder with his batton Ankra reminded him. "He's under strict orders, It's all done by timing, you know!"

He then turned round to glare at Ankra, intending to get revenge over the Kordi incident. "One thing is certain," he said. "D'rasnah, Nescient, Lurker and the rest had made a special plan for themselves to escape.......................                                                                                                                               

                                                          Chapter 17

It was to be months later before Monk the elder arranged to meet the Oakmen at the Grotto. Everything in Evermore had appeared to return to normal. There had been no real sightings of D'rasnah or any of the leading Goblins. No phantoms, no witches and no Ersatz, he seemed to be strangely quiet. Apart from rumours that Taz had been beheaded and that Darkwood had turned Brock Badger and some pixies into stone, nothing stirred. Strangely enough a huge part of Darkwood had recovered its former glory.......................

The oddest thing about the sisters was their fascination with the Oakmen. "You're our hero Brimen, you are so brave Gannon, Olan you are so sensible." while totally ignoring Ankra who just sat there with a sheepish grin.....

They all took their time to examine this rare piece that held such hidden power. "As you now know, on each of these seals are symblos that hold a key to coded messages..........................................

The two sisters who had gone sulkily quiet after being scorned by Monk began to fidget. Nudging each other and laughing they began to rummage through their tattered clothes until with great joy they produced something they had taken back from D'rasnah, and held it up. Dangling it in front of Ankra's monocle, they tried to hypnotise him...........................

The windows were thrown open and the good news shouted to the crowds below............................

END  

 

 

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