Ghost Horse Hollow ... because a Fantasy should last a lifetime!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

THE HOLLY KING, a Family Holiday Tale #8

Our holiday tale continues with the conclusion of
The scene unfolds in the MacKennon homestead one hundred years in the future ...

Wildlife is an important part of the overall design for the Ghost Horse Hollow fantasy.
 The homesteaders interact each day with the creatures of the forest and fields.

The farmer knew that this was his cue to join his wife for a private talk beyond the listening ears of the kitchen crew. Yet something made him hesitate to turn around. It was the bobcat, Chotah Ru, whose striped, stub tale and dark ear tufts distinguished him from any ordinary house cat. He was actually a cross between a bright orange tabby and a wandering wildcat. The result was a pumpkin-colored mouse terror weighing nearly thirty pounds, with powerful back legs and large, round, fuzzy paws. The bobcat wanted attention. With a stretch of his spotted belly, he reach up to pat at a dangling fringe on Jake’s jacket, and then playfully climbed the Plow Man’s back as if it were a convenient post. He draped himself over one shoulder and licked the farmer’s rough cheek.

“Cat, get off a’ me!” Jake complained as he caught a whiff of the bobcat’s fur. The feline leapt onto the dinner table. The smell of pine bark and fresh dirt indicated that Chotah Ru had been roaming the woods and that he only come home for a bowl of warm goat’s milk. Chotah Ru half-heartedly snarled at Pelbert, sending the crow into a fluttering fit. The two enemies exchanged a few choice comments before Morning Sky swiped the orange troublemaker off the table. The Medicine Woman gave her bird a morsel of stale bread from her lap and continued sorting her beans.

“Trouble follows the wind this night,” Lyla murmured softly, as if to no one in particular. Jake checked his response, since Morning Sky was known for her accurate gift of prophecy. He felt rooted to the kitchen floor, unable to move his feet in any direction, and a chill came over his heart.

The Ghost Horses love to gallop home in the evening from the fields.
 Eli MacKennon is an incredible horse trainer and trick rider.
Imagine a movie actor bringing him to life!

The sound of hooves pounding up Gravel Cart Road pulled the farmer out of his motionless stance. He reached the front door in two seconds and looked out to see Eli MacKennon, Jake’s striking nephew, slide down a dark colt’s back before the animal had skidded to a complete halt. The horse playfully reared up several times and spun sideways. He then lowered his massive head and bumped affectionately against the young man’s chest. Eli gently fondled the colt’s soft lips and simply pointed to the barn, where White Hand was attending to the other horses. The smoky-black equine with two white rear socks and a star, cantered away without hesitation—such was Cousin Eli’s exceptional gift with horses. Jake knew for sure that Ravenwood had never been ridden before that very day.

“Well, I’d a‘ never thought it, Eli. When did you break that horse?” Jake called to the nineteen-year-old boy with the bronze ponytail and dimpled jaw.

“Aww … sometime ’tween milkin‘ and cleanin‘ the Farrow’s cider press,” came the reply. “He weren’t no trouble once I had a talkin‘ with him. He’s special. Besides, Uncle Jake, you done trained these Mountain Horses so good on the ground, all a feller need do is get on ’em and ride.” Eli, wiry and compact, jumped onto the porch, skipping every one of Lady Hannah’s freshly scrubbed steps. The MacKennons agreed that Jake’s nephew could get away with practically anything, due to his white-toothed grin and fetching appearance.

“Hey, you ol‘ cat,” Eli crooned.

Chotah Ru tossed himself into the teenager’s curved, sinewy arms. “Catch yourself a Miss Bobcat today?” Eli flipped Rufus over for a tummy massage.

“Eli MacKennon, every horse is special to you,” Hannah said as she stepped to Jake’s side and put her arm around her husband’s shoulders. “Why, you have a way with critters.” She smiled, noting that the wildcat’s soft paddy-toes were waving upside down with pleasure.

“I just let ’em be what the Creator made them to be, that’s all—like this worthless cat.” Eli scruffled the bobcat’s soft underbelly. Chotah Ru angrily sprang to the porch railing, where he proceeded to arch his back and sharpen his claws. “A man shouldn’t break horses,” Eli continued thoughtfully. “He has to understand their way of seein‘ things an‘ kinda go from there. A trainer’s got to stay within the laws of Nature, and teach his mount not to be afraid of nothin‘.”

Training a stallion takes time and patience.
Here is Ellevar's Ivory Steed, the Ghost Horse foundation stallion.

“Then your horse will fall in love with you and do everything you say … kinda like a good woman,” Jake said, nodding to Hannah, who popped him on the seat of his pants. She led the way to the supper table without saying another word. Eli and Jake’s eyes danced with mischief. They were MacKennons and proud of it. The men were not highly educated, but they were extremely intelligent and intuitive. They spoke without the formal pronunciation that Hannah and her daughter Panther had received from years of study with Queen Titrimia and Sir Finnias Glowgold. Language skills were not Eli and Jake’s specialty, but equine expertise was well within their grasp, as was the ability to sculpt wood.

Hannah looked back in time to see Aaron Ray pass through the garden gate. Its eight-foot posts, carved in the shape of two hooded gnomes, leaned over the metalworker as he passed by. Cousin Eli had sculpted the gnome on Aaron’s right, and Uncle Jake had carved the figure on the left. Both Jake and Eli were blessed with the family gift of finding faces and figures in logs and driftwood. The farm was decorated with all sorts of garden sculptures and unique furniture, like the heavy chairs that stood at either end of the dining room table. Jake had selected two hounds to top the knobs at the back of his chair and had carved two ponies with sweeping manes above Hannah’s opposite seat. The men’s dryad inheritance was visible in every sculpture. Eli and Jake were, after all, descendants of Prince Ellevar himself. Wood turned easily in their hands, and the inner spirit of the trees emerged through their steady, patient craftsmanship.

“I’d best go ring the dinner bell,” Hannah announced. “Seems like each dish is just about ready. I think we got something for every member of this hungry crew.”

Rarely was anyone late for supper in Ghost Horse Hollow. Hannah MacKennon believed that good cooking maintained good spirits, and that meant good health for everyone. She lovingly served favorite dishes and mouth-watering recipes to suit the eclectic tastes of her family. Some folks preferred vegetables, while others favored wild game, hunted with honor and respect. Gracie loved fruit and muffins, but White Hand ate only meat, nuts, roots, and herbs. Aaron Ray was very fond of cornbread and gravy. Jake and Hannah ate quite moderately. Eli, on the other hand, ate everything in sight. Of course, the fairies wanted nothing but sweets and pickles. It was difficult providing for them all, but Hannah thought it her duty to keep a bountiful kitchen. Supper was laid out on the table now, and it was high time for their country dinner.

“Has anyone seen Panther?” she asked innocently.

“In the parlor with Addie, I do believe,” Alma responded, still stirring her dumplings.

Hannah nodded and hung up her white apron on a peg. In the midst of the peaceful, bustling kitchen, Lady MacKennon had no idea what lay in store for her family that very evening and what terrifying changes the rising moon would bring.

Ghost Horse Hollow is an imaginary realm in the Appalachian Wilderness.
THE HOLLY KING begins in the late autumn woodlands,
 which are filled with hardwood trees and cold, mountain streams.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

THE HOLLY KING, a Family Holiday Tale #7

Chapter III of THE HOLLY KING continues at the homestead of Jake & Hannah MacKennon in the Appalachian Wilderness one hundred years in the future. We welcome you to our holiday blog ...

Ghost Horse Hollow is an imaginary world
based on real places in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee

By the time the farmer had crossed the Third Troll Bridge and had reached the bottom of the steps leading to the MacKennon’s inviting front porch, Hannah had opened the screen door for her husband. She already knew that something was amiss. Perhaps he had given his secret away by subtle changes in his confident stride. She sure looked pretty in her homemade, calico patchwork dress and white cotton apron. Her expressive hands were dusty with flour from kneading her famous buttermilk biscuits.

“How’s the best cook and baker in the whole territory?” Jake asked casually.

“Don’t carry on so,” Hannah MacKennon replied with a touch of modesty in her voice.

“Now, woman, everybody says so.”

“That’s just because my success in the kitchen is due to the fairies helping me around the stove by day and sleeping in the pantry at night. The winged folk guard all our herbs, eggs, spices, cakes, pickles and pies, jams and jellies, cookies and candies from the night critters that want to steal them. You know as well as I do that one hungry raccoon can do a world of damage in a well-stocked pantry.”

“Well, I reckon we better let the dogs in at night to help guard the larder,” MacKennon prodded his lovely wife.

“Not gonna happen, Mr. Plow Man. Dogs are not permitted anywhere near my fairy pantry.”

One of the dogs that you will meet in Ghost Horse Hollow is named "Mountain"
He is loyal, smart, and brave. Eight dogs guard the Mackennon homestead,
two for each side of the wrap-around porch.

Jake smiled with the smile of man that had lost this particular argument long ago. He topped the front porch steps with a lighthearted leap. It was good to be home. Hannah followed her husband into the spacious, warm kitchen with its pine-board floor and massive, creek-rock hearth. A long, wooden table with matching benches anchored the center of the room’s mouth-watering activities. Three other ladies assisted Jake’s wife with food preparation on the farm. Every meal was a magic meal.

At the head of the dinner table sat Jonas White Hand’s older sister, Lyla Morning Sky. She was calmly shelling speckled beans. A soft wool shawl hung over her elbows and peasant blouse. Lyla’s indigo, turquoise, and crimson skirt brushed the floor. She gave the farmer one of her looks that seemed to understand all of his potential mysteries and hidden fears; for Morning Sky was a genuine Medicine Woman, instructed in the old ways by her tribal grandmothers and other sacred teachers.

“Close the door! Close the door!” demanded a shiny crow perched on Morning Sky’s right shoulder. The black-beaked creature was more than her pet. The fairies referred to him as Lyla’s familiar, an animal sacred to her heart and destined to share her visions. The Native woman called her crow “Pelbert,” after the name of a seed company that had caught her fancy. Pelbert bobbed his head up and down, greeting Jake with a cackle and a whistle.

“I thought we were gonna cook that bird for supper. Things sure would be a lot quieter around here,” MacKennon joked while he stole a fresh bean from one of Morning’s Sky’s piles.

"Alma is fixing dumplings instead," Lyla remarked dryly, without looking up from her work station, "I suggest you steal a bite from her pot to snack on, instead of my beans.”

Hannah and the ladies of Ghost Horse Hollow are famous for their magic meals.
Visit the Fairy Cookery on our website for recipes:

Jake glanced over to the polished iron cook-stove, with its handy bread-warming shelf, and nodded at Miss Alma Barder. Missy, as some folks called her, was even older than Morning Sky, who was pushing sixty. Lyla’s dark, thick braids could have belonged to a much younger woman. Like her brother, Jonas White Hand, she aged very slowly in appearance. Alma Barder, on the other hand, was nearly seventy-two, with a white bun atop her head and a wrinkled smile. She claimed to be hard of hearing, but Jake found that Alma did not miss much.

Alma’s life centered on romance. When men-folk were visiting, Missy Barder loved to laugh and carry on. She was a well-known flirt who had never married. She had taught in a one-room school in the Eastern Woodlands since her sixteenth birthday. Alma truthfully claimed that she had helped to raise a thousand children—or youngins, as she lovingly called them—before retiring and coming to live with the MacKennons. Jake and Hannah had taken her in willingly, so charming was Alma’s disposition. The only drawback was the old lady’s tendency to dabble in love potions for animals and humans alike. The well-meaning schoolmarm often confused the important ingredients. This led to disastrous results, such as the mule falling in love with the cat, or the billy goat following Lady Hannah around the farm for several days. As Jake surveyed the kitchen, Alma smiled warmly and waved a messy spoon at the farmer.

A deep sigh could be heard coming from the third of Hannah’s kitchen helpers, who was working to the left of the big stove. Gracie Farrow’s slender form, disguised in a smartly pressed black dress, was bent over the kitchen sink. She was scrubbing crockery bowls, wooden platters, and an assortment of tin cups with a sad, but determined, look on her face.

Jake recalled that the teenager’s fiancĂ© had been killed that very summer in a barn fire. The tragedy started after Gracie’s father, John Farrow, had stored freshly mowed hay in the loft of his barn. An ugly rumor circled about that he had not allowed the grass to dry thoroughly in the sun before tossing it in his loft. Everyone said the damp hay started decomposing and suddenly burst into flames when the temperature of the compressed grass reached a critical point. Darren Carter, just twenty-two years of age, had died trying to save the Farrow’s livestock from the fire, as did Gracie’s father. The milk cows had made it out of the collapsing structure in the nick of time, but the two men had perished in the smoking wreckage. Jake always felt that Azastra, the Summer Fairy Princess, was to blame. The fire had foul play written all over it, because Darren and John were very careful farmers. They would never have stored damp hay in a confined space. Jake also knew that Azastra, selfish to the core, enjoyed playing with fire.

Hannah insisted on taking the girl in, for Gracie was barely seventeen and had no living relatives, except one uncle that Hannah disapproved of mightily. Jake’s wife considered Hank Farrow to be a drunken fool. Such a pretty, vulnerable young lady as Miss Gracie had no business living in her uncle’s rundown hunting shack in the backwoods, Hannah had said.

The Fairy Lore of Ghost Horse Hollow was inspired by Celtic mythology.
Miss Gracie is a child of a Silkie, a Seal Maiden from the British Isles.

“Evening, Miss Gracie,” Jake spoke politely, a little unsure of how to address the mournful teen. Gracie smiled briefly in the farmer’s direction and continued with her task of lifting a pot of boiling water off the stove and pouring it into the sink along with shavings of lavender dish soap. Her rich auburn hair, fine complexion, and wide, earth-colored eyes would, indeed, have made her a target for an isolated drunk.

The fairies whispered that Gracie was probably a child of a Silkie, a seal maiden from the Ancient Isles across the sea. These mysterious ocean-women had large, kind eyes that were filled with longing. Perhaps Gracie would one day return to a faraway home beneath the frothy waves. Jake, in any case, had fully supported Hannah’s generous offer, for the Farrow’s family homestead was adjacent to Ghost Horse Hollow. Jake had always thought very highly of his neighbors and was happy to help others in their time of need.

“Here, girl, let me give you a hand with that hot water,” MacKennon offered with a quick step in Gracie’s direction.

The homesteaders grow and raise their own food with the help of the Starlight and Moonlight Fairies.
The MacKennons are organic gardeners with a love for the Earth.

“Aw, you and your wife have already done plenty for me and my kin,” Miss Farrow replied, “and you know I like to do for myself when ere I can.” She shooed Jake away with a toss of bubbles.

MacKennon knew it was best not to insist. It would only lead to more protests, and it was true that the homesteaders had done all they could to ease Gracie’s burden. Miss Farrow had inherited her father’s apple orchards and bee fields after the fire. John Farrow’s last will and testament had specifically denied Hank Farrow from receiving any control of the land. There had been bad blood between the two brothers since childhood. Jake and Hannah were left to manage the Farrow’s estate as well as Ghost Horse Hollow, since Gracie could not possibly work the four-hundred-acre inheritance by herself.

“I made your favorite peach pie, Jake,” Hannah interrupted MacKennon’s recollections. “There’s cornbread in the oven and a deer roast, soup beans, and apple dumplings. Lyla cooked up a mess of turnip greens, and Gracie fried up plenty of catfish in the cast-iron skillet. Wash up now. Where is everybody? I’ll go ring the dinner bell again.” Hannah scooted out the front door to the porch, barely pausing for a sweet kiss from the man she both loved and admired.

Hannah's famous Chocolate Cake with Coffee Mocha Glaze
Food is important on a magical farm!

We hope you enjoyed the 7th Installment of THE HOLLY KING for the holidays. For gift items relating to Ghost Horse Hollow, please visit our website and scroll down to our handy craft boutique with products from We hope these shopping ideas will bring cheer to your hearth and home!
 Drop in tomorrow for the conclusion of
Chapter III : Meet the MacKennons!

Monday, November 28, 2011

THE HOLLY KING, a Family Holiday Tale #6

Our adventure continues in the Appalachian Wilderness
 one hundred years in the future
with the sixth installment of THE HOLLY KING ...

These two Ghost Horse mares were sleeping in the morning light.
Readers will meet Titrimia's Starshield on the left in this installment!

Chapter III : Meet the MacKennons

Black Bottom watched the three men climb the gentle slope to the front porch of the MacKennon home. The rooster was royally perched atop the weather vane above the largest barn. There were three structures in the Hollow devoted to horses, creatures that Black Bottom found tiresome at best. One barn sheltered the mares and their newborn foals. It stood relatively close to the two-story farmhouse. A second facility held the farm’s three stallions, Ellevar’s Ivory Steed, Achelon’s Bay Moon, and a high-stepping three-year-old named Ravenwood.

The MacKennons had constructed a larger building, suitable for hay storage, between the mare barn and the stallion barn. The hay barn also contained a tack room for saddles, halters, bridles, blankets, and grooming supplies. The ladies of the farm used fairy creams and shampoos on the horses, which accounted for the animals’ extremely lengthy tails and healthy manes. Several jars on the grooming shelves were marked Sparkle Spritz. This mysterious supply had been a gift from the Frost Fairy, who had intended the spritz to be used for decorating hooves. The MacKennons, rather unexpectedly, discovered that the fairy product had a tendency to float a horse a few inches off the ground, which made riding a bit difficult.

The dairy goat barn and the old tobacco barn were located slightly downhill from the farmhouse. The goats had pleaded for privacy. They weren’t overly fond of the horses, either. They preferred to huddle in one large group, rub their horns against their sides, and chew their cuds. The horses, for the most part, found the goats intolerable, although once in a great while, a billy goat and a lonely stallion could be seen grazing together.

Goats are an important part of the MacKennon homestead.
This little billy goat is only three months old.

Black Bottom loved his high vantage point, even if the wind did occasionally twirl the weather vane around and around. The metal decoration was in the shape of a galloping horse. Black Bottom was most displeased when Lady MacKennon had selected a horse silhouette to preside over the Hollow instead of that of a rooster. He felt that perching on the horse’s copper head made his opinion well-known.

Directly below the weather vane, the farm’s buff-colored doves gathered for their evening breadcrumbs. The small birds cooed, pecked, and strutted about in amorous circles. They took to flight when a black cat with one white paw slinked out of the barn. The doves instinctively formed a flying diamond and swerved back and forth over the nearby corn fields. They landed once more beside their crumbly dinner just as the tomcat disappeared into the greenhouse. With trembling whiskers, Minky Mitten hungrily watched the doves from behind the lemon-glass windowpanes.

The character of Minky Mitten was based on a real cat with that same name.
Notice his white toes!

Black Bottom noted that the Ghost Horse mares were waiting impatiently at the Meadow Gate. It was time for their evening grain. Eleven elegant noses were pointing in the same direction. The lead mare, Gwydia’s Stardust Serenade, stood first in line. She was responsible for the safety and well-being of all the other mares and their foals. She dominated the other herd members, much as the rooster presided over his hens. Black Bottom admired her leadership, but avoided Gwydia’s large hooves whenever possible.

The stallions ate separately in their own paddocks. The MacKennons fed every horse quite well, for the family’s survival was dependent upon the strength and health of their equine friends. Mountain Horses were highly sought-after for their ability to negotiate rough trails, drag heavy logs out of the woods, and pull iron plows through tough, stony fields. Besides, the Mountain Horses could rock a rider gently in the saddle for hours on end. They moved smoothly over the land with a flowing action that was instinctive from birth. The result was a comfortable traveling motion that enabled a rider to hold a cup of fairy brew in one hand without spilling a precious drop. The MacKennons went the extra mile by taking the horses’ natural ability to a state of well-trained perfection. As Jake always said, a good Mountain Horse should cross a field like a swan gliding over the water.

Black Bottom thought the horses were spoiled. There they waited, accustomed to receiving oats, field corn, and high-quality hay at sunset. The mares tossed their heads, snorted, and nipped at each other’s flanks. Gwydia’s Stardust Serenade voiced her usual deep, demanding neigh.

Gwydia's Stardust Serenade in the Cherokee Mountains

“Disgusting,” the rooster clucked into the restless wind. The breeze responded by spinning the weather vane in rapid circles. Black Bottom attempted to crow in defiance, but was altogether too dizzy. He puffed out his breast feathers to regain his balance, fell off the roof, and landed on a horse’s rump.

Jake’s graceful mount, Titrimia’s Starshield, reared and blew angrily through her nose. She gave Black Bottom one big buck, which sent the rooster sailing through the air. The blue-eyed mare pranced over toward the farmer with her tail set high, just as MacKennon and his two companions approached the meadow’s split-rail fence. Black Bottom let out a confused cluck-cluck and crashed head-first into the duck pond. The water fowl quacked in protest and splashed over to their rocky island. Was it not shameful? How many times had that ridiculous rooster flown into their territory by mistake? Black Bottom emerged, looking thin and wet, and made his way grumpily over to the hen house. For once, he did not stop to see if anyone was admiring his tail feathers.

Jake laughed aloud and reached out lovingly to stroke Starshield’s silky neck. She was a cremello, like most of the horses in the Hollow. Their creamy-white coats and light blue eyes had inspired MacKennon to choose a name for his herd. One awesome night, while standing in a starlit pasture, the farmer whistled softly, and the cremello mares had come galloping toward him. As the low-lying mist drifted and tumbled over their thundering hooves, the horses set in motion a spellbinding memory that could not easily be forgotten. The imagery of that moment sparked the magic that played throughout the Hollow. It was a magic brought on by friendship and love, loyalty and beauty, lost in a fragment of time, but eternal in the mind of the soul. The Ghost Horse name was born in that instant.

Titrimia’s Starshield breathed deeply into Jake’s own nostrils as the farmer bent toward his favorite mare. Their ritual, horsey greeting established trust. A sense of warm familiarity passed between man and animal, offering both reassurance and peace. An intelligent conversation had occurred without words. MacKennon knew that true communication was an emotional process as well an exchange of words. He never needed to explain this to a horse, but found that most humans had forgotten that tidbit of wisdom.

“We ride tonight, my friend. Tell the others to be ready,” the farmer said quietly.

The mare flipped her tail and stamped. She and Jake understood one another. The farmer had raised Titrimia’s Starshield on bottles of fresh goat’s milk when the filly’s mother could not produce enough nourishment for her foal. The farmer always claimed that the sweet milk had made the long-legged mare as sure-footed as any goat when it came to climbing up and down the country hills.

Cade's Cove in the Appalachian Mountains is similar to Ghost Horse Hollow

“I’ll take the milking tonight, Jake,” Aaron Ray interrupted. “You’ll be needing to talk with Hannah. Tell her … I’ll be in directly.”

“I’ll see to the horses,” White Hand broke in.

MacKennon’s friends turned willingly to their chores. Jake realized that they did not want to confront his wife. Hannah Rose MacKennon had a powerful way about her that was charming, but formidable. She was also one of the most beautiful women that Jake had ever known. With her cascading, golden hair and dazzling, cornflower-blue eyes, Hannah made it difficult for a man to concentrate on what he was saying. He was just bound to lose any argument with her. The fact that she was part-mermaid, part-fairy, and part-human did not make things any easier. Hannah could read a man’s thoughts like another woman could read a recipe book. Jake nodded to the men and slowly turned up the stone pathway toward home.

Thanks for visiting this blog!
We hope you are enjoying the tale of THE HOLLY KING.
Next installment we shall meet the beautiful and unusual
Lady Hannah MacKennon,
 part fairy, part waterfall mermaid, and part human!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

THE HOLLY KING, a Family Holiday Tale #5

Our story continues for the holidays with the second half of
Chapter II from THE HOLLY KING ...

Wood carving is a special feature in the magic realm of Ghost Horse Hollow.
 Farmer Jake MacKennon is the son of a Dryad Prince named Lord Ellevar.
 In this selection you will meet two more wonderful characters.

The farmer walked around the corner of the barn to witness two sizeable fellows in mid-swing, standing ten feet apart. They were steadily reducing a large pile of oak logs to handy sticks of firewood, which were destined to feed several cast-iron stoves and stone hearths in the nearby farm buildings. More logs lay ready for use along the barn’s outer walls, protected by the overhanging tin roof. The homesteaders consumed many loads of firewood in the winter, so Jake had decided to recycle the dead trees in the woodlands. There were plenty of fallen logs to choose from, due to the occasional raging thunderstorm. The Earth’s weather was improving but had yet to return to normal. By harvesting the trunks on the ground, the dryad’s son avoided offending any of his living relatives.

“Evenin‘, boys,” the farmer called to his men. “Fine batch of wood you’ve got stacked there.”

As the primary caretaker of Ghost Horse Hollow, Jake praised every individual for his or her contribution to the upkeep of the place. His friends, Aaron Ray and Jonas White Hand, paused to wipe their brows. They scooped water into their cupped hands from a metal spigot before continuing their unofficial contest. Water droplets mixed with salty sweat dripped down their chins. These muscled farmhands would be hard-pressed to finish a second load of wood before Lady MacKennon rang the dinner bell.

Jake leaned his walking stick against the side of the barn, removed his outer jacket, and grabbed a third axe. As he turned his shoulders to a rough log, the farmer realized that he would have to apply himself, if he wanted to keep up with his two stout companions.

To MacKennon’s right stood Aaron Ray, whose chest was as round as the water barrel itself. At six-foot-six, Aaron was a formidable opponent in a fistfight or country brawl. Jake had found him, barely alive, washed up on the bleak, southern shores of the Muddy Jaygon. With his short, clipped hair, MacKennon had rightly guessed that Aaron Ray had been a leader in some sort of military gang in the ruined city on the far side of the river. He certainly had the scars to prove it.

Aaron’s ancestors had once been slaves on rich plantations in the Caribbean Islands long, long ago. The strong man walked tall, never forgetting his costly heritage; consequently, he could not abide prejudice or cruelty of any sort. The MacKennons had taken Aaron in as a member of their close family and had encouraged the fugitive to learn a highly respectable trade. Over time, Aaron had become invaluable to the homesteaders, because an inventive metalworker was nearly impossible to replace after the Time of Great Change.

“It’s about time you showed up for work,” Aaron chuckled.

“I heard your awful singing down by the creek and had to come put an end to it. You’re gonna kill those two dogs of yours with that ruckus,” Jake countered with a grin.

MacKennon knew full well that it was Aaron’s voice that had fashioned the work song. He was very fond of making up tunes and playing a battered, twelve-string guitar most evenings on the front porch. The homestead’s metalworker was accustomed to charming all the ladies with his sweet melodies and lively dance tunes. Aaron Ray could make donkeys bray and dogs howl right along with his music, particularly his two large Blue Tick hounds, Bugle and Belle. The dogs, ever at Aaron’s side, slouched against the tobacco barn in the lingering light, watching the kindling fall from the stumps with their chocolate-colored eyes.

Jonas White Hand is Jake's closest friend and advisor, along with Aaron Ray.

To MacKennon’s left, an equally tall man applied his strength to the task of splitting wood. Jonas White Hand’s axe sliced through a massive oak log like a table knife slicing through a stick of soft butter. His rhythmic swings resembled those of a warrior beating a drum, for Jonas was of Native descent. He wore elk-hide clothing with sliced bone buttons, which he had fashioned himself. His double-bladed knife was handcrafted, as well, from fine river flint. It had a rugged, deer-antler handle. What Jake appreciated the most about Jonas was his friend’s honesty. Though White Hand spoke very quietly, the sinewy man was not shy. He simply preferred to listen. His silence made some folks feel uneasy. Jonas was comfortable with himself, and that state of mind was all that concerned the Native warrior.

Unlike Aaron Ray, dogs did not choose to follow White Hand about the farm or into the woods. Jonas hunted alone. Occasionally, a black wolf with yellow eyes would visit him, like a whisper out of the forest. White Hand referred to Nightwolf as his teacher. Her enormous paw prints were unmistakable in the frosts of late March, when she made her early spring appearance beneath the willows of Crescent Moon Lake. Nightwolf never wore a collar. She was a free spirit, as wild as the wind.

“Rest a spell, I’ll take it from here,” MacKennon offered.

“Just getting started,” White Hand protested as he joined the fun. “You are too skinny and weak, like a sapling.”

“Listen, old man, you better let Jake have a go at it,” Aaron Ray taunted the Native warrior, never breaking his swing.

“Him? Let the Plow Man try to match my pace. I am younger than I look. The years have been unkind.”

Actually, the other men thought that Jonas appeared much younger than his fifty-five years. Only his hands, tough as leather, indicated his many decades of service to others and hard-earned wisdom. Outdoor living and a clear conscience had blessed White Hand with ageless form. His inner strength he attributed to the Creature Teachers and his devotion to walking a good pathway in life. Jonas wore two Red-tailed hawk feathers in his thick, black braid, which dropped to his waist, as a reminder to himself to stay on what he called the Good Red Road. The feathers had been a gift from Nightwolf. They represented both male and female instincts held in perfect balance, since the feathers had been shed from the left and right wings of a noble bird.

“Watch this axe fly,” MacKennon played along as he set up his first hunk of wood on a convenient stump.


Jake hacked the log clean in two. Looking over his shoulder, the farmer noticed his friend’s eyes filled with laughter. White Hand leaned his weight into his next blow and the chunk of oak before him divided neatly into four sticks of firewood. Jonas silently tapped a small doeskin pouch hanging at the base of his throat, reminding Jake that true power came from a man’s connection to all things.

“I’m just warmin’ up!” the farmer protested, recalling the first, and only, time he had glimpsed the sacred objects in White Hand’s Medicine bag. Jake had given Jonas an eagle talon that he had found on a rocky ledge on the side of Grandfather Mountain. The farmer remembered that the two friends had been deer-hunting on a cool October morning several years back. White Hand had briefly removed his Medicine bag to add the eagle claw to its contents. A scrap of buffalo hide, a wolf tooth, and a piece of torn red cloth, as well as tobacco and sage, had lain in White Hand’s outstretched palm. There were other items, but MacKennon knew better than to pry into Jonas’s spiritual path. Jake had tremendous respect for the Native warrior, for White Hand was not only the finest tracker and bow-hunter in all the Fairylands, but was also Jake’s closest advisor.

The mountain stream where Jake MacKennon met with Old Spit.
(Scroll down to #2 installment to meet the Coyote King's messenger.)

With a few more swings of his axe, the Plow Man decided to break the news to his trusted co-workers. “Gentlemen, the Coyote King has summoned me to the Dead Oak Tree this very evenin‘.” Jake drew in a deep breath and held it. To his left and right, axes hovered in mid-swing. “I dare not refuse. Tormac will be there,” the farmer continued flatly. MacKennon exhaled and waited.

“The Coyote King brings trouble to all. He should be playing tricks and making us laugh at ourselves so that harmony might be shared. Instead, this leader is greedy, like a hungry termite. He takes more than his share of the kill,” White Hand responded with his eyes on Jake.

The three men sank their axes into the logs before them as the wind rushed past the black walnut tree under which they stood. Gnarled, bare branches rattled and clawed at the darkening sky, while a mass of decaying leaves, rotten walnut husks, and bits of bark swirled upward from the ground. Bending down on one knee, White Hand read the omen that was scattered before the men of Ghost Horse Hollow.

“One day soon, the coyote pack will turn against their king,” Jonas warned.

“Jake, you’re going to need us tonight,” Aaron Ray commented as he sat down on his chopping stump. The big man placed his axe across his knees and rolled the long handle back and forth, toying with the sharp blade as it reflected the sunset’s brilliant light. Aaron waited patiently for MacKennon to speak.

“I won’t ask either of you to risk your life for me,” the farmer returned. “I’ll be takin‘ Panther. She can handle Tormac, and she can understand his strange speech.” Jake looked down at his boots. He was not sure how this decision would go over on the farm. Everyone loved his daughter. She was like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or perhaps the rainbow itself, always bringing hope to any situation. No one would care to see her in any danger. Still, she was the only one in Ghost Horse Hollow who could speak, read, and write Ancient Fairy Scroll. Like her mother before her, Panther MacKennon had agreed to complete a seven-year apprenticeship with Lady Titrimia, the Starlight Fairy Queen. Hannah’s childhood studies, unfortunately, had been interrupted by her disapproving family. Lady MacKennon had finished only four years of the rigorous training in the forest. Panther, however, had but one year to go before she graduated from fairy school.

Jake frowned, disappointed with himself for not being able to think of another option. His daughter was about to face Tormac, the most feared of all the Starlight Fairy offspring. The wily prince would be sure to use the Ancient Fairy Scroll at the meeting tonight, just to confuse and annoy MacKennon. Panther was the only member of the family who had the ability to translate their conversation—go, she must!

“Then we will be there,” Aaron said as he spun toward the farmer. “We won’t let the two of you face that mangy fur-tail alone. Ain’t that right, White Hand?” Jonas gave the farmer one of his piercing looks, like a falcon over a wheat field before it dives. Jake knew immediately that it was pointless to argue with his two allies. Besides, he welcomed their company and protection.

“All right, but it’ll be a bad job. Bring your axes,” MacKennon concluded. White Hand hefted his chopping tool and threw it cleanly, end over end, toward the side of the barn. With a swift thunk, it cracked a long board from top to bottom.

The Coyote King is part wolf and part coyote.
He is a powerful member of the Woodland Keepers.

“The Coyote King will hear the Ancestors laughing in his ears before the dawn star rises,” White Hand declared simply, as was his custom.

Ding-a-ding, ding!

The iron dinner bell rang across the late November fields and neatly tended gardens, calling the workers to their evening meal. The three men rinsed their hands in the cold water from the spigot, before heading for the farmhouse on the next hill across from the old barn. Jake wondered how he was going to tell his wife about taking their slender daughter to face Tormac. Somehow, Hannah must be persuaded to let Panther go. The future of Ghost Horse Hollow—indeed the very lives of the homesteaders—hung upon her decision.

Hope you enjoyed the conclusion of Chapter II : A Terrible Decision. In the next installment of THE HOLLY KING, we shall meet some of the real Ghost Horses in the story and Jake's unusual wife Hannah ...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

THE HOLLY KING, a Family Holiday Tale, #4

The Appalachian Wilderness is full of mountain streams and autumn colors.
Our story continues with the second chapter of THE HOLLY KING ...

Chapter II : A Terrible Decision

The farmer sheathed his knife carefully and hurried up the tumbling stream bed. It was almost dark, and he found himself wishing that he were not alone. With lengthy strides, Jake moved like a buck deer traveling at top speed. He hardly tipped a creek rock, so accurate was his balance on the balls of his feet.

MacKennon headed for an enormous, crisply scented evergreen tree whose dripping branches and textured bark reminded Jake of his forest ancestry. His father, Prince Ellevar, had been a royal hemlock dryad with a passion for taking human form. The prince had fallen deeply in love with a beautiful horsewoman, Gabriella MacKennon, who bore three sons to the delighted dryad father. Gabriella proudly gave each boy her own last name to keep her connection to Prince Ellevar a secret. Jake was the second son of their magically forbidden marriage. Desperate to hide her children from the Judge Lore, Gatekeeper of the Dark Laws of Time, Gabriella had scattered her sons to three distinct territories: the Northern Lakes, the Eastern Woodlands, and the Southern Seas.

Jake had grown up with the loggers and mountain farmers of the untamed woods. He had also inherited his mother’s passion for riding and training horses. Winton MacKennon, the eldest brother, had become a master carpenter alongside the boat builders of the northern shores, and young Gabriel was rumored to be the navigator aboard a merchant vessel that sailed the southern waters. The three boys’ only communication since childhood had consisted of brief, infrequent letters. They longed to see one another again, but travel across the remote territories was risky, due to thieves and wandering rogues.

Trees are an important element in the magical realm of Ghost Horse Hollow

Jake MacKennon always hesitated beside this giant hemlock to listen to the wisdom of the forest and to mourn the loss of his father. The Judge Lore had sentenced Prince Ellevar to death for mingling so intimately with a human. The dryad’s tree had been burned, and the remaining stump uprooted from the ashen ground. Since that tragic day, so many fairy folk had fallen in love with wingless, human creatures—simply known as the Two-leggeds—that the Judge Lore had reluctantly altered his pronouncement. Love between a human and a magic forest dweller was still greatly discouraged, but no longer punishable by death. Prince Ellevar and Gabriella had paid a great price to advance this law, for the horsewoman had also perished, following a mysterious plunge over Triad Falls.

MacKennon held still. He quieted his heart and lungs. A redheaded woodpecker hammered at a knothole in the canopy above. A gray squirrel scolded in response. Gradually, the farmer thought he heard angry voices coming from below the rushing stream. Perhaps it was Blinkie Joe, the one-eyed opossum, snarling at Three Toe, the black bear? They were arguing about something. It sounded like a cooking pot. Jake drew his fingers through his shoulder-length, dark auburn hair and secured it with a strip of leather. The bear and the opossum would have to settle their own dispute. These two forest critters were always trying to prove which one was the better hand at making a tasty stew. Jake knew this was not the time to pacify their petty rivalry. Tormac was on the warpath, and a terrible decision had to be made.

The farmer climbed to the top of a steep, mossy bank, and rapidly made for Gravel Cart Road. Wet, crumbling leaves silenced his footfalls as he strode beneath the towering hardwood trees on either side of the winding lane. Sunbeams streaming through the hefty trunks broke the passing of his shadow, like a rhythmic painting of light and dark. Jake remembered that the woodlands had returned to their original size and density after the Time of Great Change. Large paper factories were no longer in operation. All the woodland folk were consequently flourishing—especially the fairies, who spent much of their time awakening and blessing the thriving trees. The fairies’ long period of neglect and near extinction had come to a happy end.

The Fairies had divided into two clans: The Starlight and the Moonlight

The magic folk delighted in the renewal of their power. They had divided into two clans: the Starlight Fairies, who specialized in protecting and nourishing living plants, and the Moonlight Fairies, who managed death and decay, necessary parts of the cycle of Nature. Lord Achelon of the Glades and Lady Titrimia were the Starlight Fairy King and Queen. They encouraged the growth of trees, vines, ferns, and flowers. Lord Thrace-rak of the Doomed and Lady Vipress were the Moonlight Fairy King and Queen. Mushrooms, moss, roots, and thorns were their charges, which explained why the Moonlight Fairies were often seen near graves and tombs.

Tolerant and shrewd, the MacKennons had made friends in both fairy clans; only lately, the Moonlight Fairies had begun mutating. They were becoming more horrid in appearance and more aggressive. Certain members of Thrace-rak’s Court were keeping to themselves in remote cemeteries and deserted farms. The Moonlight Lord had even allowed his proud ambassador, Milden-der-mog, to establish trade agreements with several unsavory characters. One such dangerous trader was reported to be General Zuye Drang. She was a ruthless warrior who ran slaves up and down the Muddy Jaygon River. Perhaps, like the Autumn Fairy Prince, the Moonlight Fairies had begun experimenting with forbidden brews? Clearly, their returning powers were too intoxicating for some of the fairies from both clans to control. The survivors in Ghost Horse Hollow had better keep their wits about them, Jake mused as he hurried along. His thoughts centered on encouraging the homesteaders to rely on their true allies, like the honest animals and the light-hearted magic folk. Sir Finnias Glowgold quickly came to mind. He was an ancient soul, full of wisdom, though a bit of a know-it-all.

With a sense of relief, the farmer reached the stretch of Gravel Cart Road which wound slowly uphill toward what had once been a large tobacco barn. Only a few bundles of the brown leaves remained hanging inside the wooden structure from rickety tiers, like shriveling, musty fingers. The remainder of Jake’s annual crop had already been removed from their drying sticks. Hundreds of these bluntly pointed stakes, some four feet in length, lay stacked in an open, dry stall awaiting next year’s harvest. MacKennon noted that the barn’s faded red paint had peeled completely away in several places, and that the door hinges squeaked with age. Inside the three-story barn, a maze of poles and rafters intersected to support its high-pitched, rusty tin roof.

The Old Tobacco Barn in Ghost Horse Hollow

After the Time of Great Change, with its devastating storms and polar shifts, Jake had elected to fill the barn with dried sunflowers and corn for his stock animals instead of tobacco. Food was precious, and electricity a forgotten luxury. All modern communication and transportation devices were no longer a part of daily life. The MacKennons knew that storing crops for personal use was imperative, since farmers were isolated and less mobile. Fossil fuels were a thing of the past. Humans lucky enough to survive Earth’s troubled transitions had reverted to working with horses, harnesses, and simple hand tools; consequently, the storage barn also housed several old-fashioned wagons. One flatbed hay hauler was parked in a corner, piled high with neatly split logs and bundles of kindling.

At present, the sound of two men splitting firewood could be heard coming from the far side of the barn. The surrounding hills echoed with the pounding blows of the workers’ hickory-handled axes. Powerful thumps reverberated two or three times across the nearby duck pond, while a mellow, baritone voice could be heard chanting a work cadence to ease the men’s hard labor:

When the Sun don’t shine, and the rain falls down,

Dig a little deeper in the well.

When the world seems dark, and you wear a frown,

Dig a little deeper in the well.

Dig a little deeper in the well, boys!

Dig a little deeper in the well.

We appreciate your following the magic in Ghost Horse Hollow as our Family Adventure unfolds for the Holidays!
Next installment introduces two new characters!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

THE HOLLY KING, A Family Holiday Tale #3

Our story continues in the Appalachian Wilderness in the magical realm of Ghost Horse Hollow...

Farmer Jake MacKennon is an expert bowman, tracker, and knife fighter.
You will meet him in this installment of THE HOLLY KING.

Black Bottom pecked at a crumb and tilted his beak to the sky. The rooster had been eagerly awaiting the mare’s late afternoon neigh, for the dangers of dusk were at hand. Already the sun was slanting through the wire fence that surrounded his scratching yard, spattering the ground with purple, hexagonal shadows. Black Bottom paused in mid-strut to admire his home.

The chicken coop was nicely decorated with wooden nest boxes and a tin feeding trough. Fresh water trickled into a clay basin from an overflowing rain barrel. There were three windows facing east, north, and south. All were neatly trimmed with rosy, buttermilk paint from an old-fashioned recipe. Black Bottom did not wish to look westward, where the Moonlight Fairies played inside a murky graveyard. It was altogether too frightening! Besides, a window to the west would have disturbed his laying hens, and they were very particular about their nesting.

The rooster dunked his red comb into the sparkling basin and turned his head sideways to better view himself in the surface of the water. With his jade and ebony tail feathers fluttering softly behind him and his bright yellow toes extended with pride, Black Bottom was indeed a magnificent bird. The hens admired him greatly. After all, not every barnyard fowl had been accidently dusted with Sprinkle-Up Spray, while still in the lowly egg stage. The magic powder had lead to the hatching of an exceptionally large rooster with an enormous ego. To everyone’s dismay, Sprinkle-Up Spray had also blessed Black Bottom with the gift of gab. As the rooster matured, he discovered that he loved to crow and chatter; unfortunately, Black Bottom never knew when to stop talking.

All the hens were finally accounted for, even Speckled Fluffy, who was always the last of the rooster’s feathered beauties to retire for the evening. Mrs. Clack Klutz, a rather nearsighted chicken, had already stumbled in. Black Bottom heard her bonk into the nest boxes, followed by several loud squawks. With a disapproving shake of his comb, the rooster flung water droplets across the pebble-strewn yard. There were wild dogs running loose in the misty hills and lonely meadows! It was best for his hen harem to huddle safely together before sundown. Black Bottom crowed mightily and looked around for his farmer.

“Where is the Plow Man?” the rooster clucked to a nearby barn swallow.

“I just spotted him two pine ridges away down near the Blue Hole,” the swallow replied with a tuck and flutter of her wing. “He was looking for something in the creek. Intent, he was.”

“Humph! Fairy nonsense, no doubt,” Black Bottom grumbled aloud. He strode back into the chicken coup, knowing full well that the master of Ghost Horse Hollow would not be able to tend to the rooster’s needs for some time.

The Babbling Brook Fairy in Ghost Horse Hollow looks a bit like this famous illustration.
She loves lemon grass tea with honey and watercress snacks.

The barn swallow’s report was true. Jake MacKennon, affectionately known as the Plow Man to all the woodland folk, was searching for his wife’s missing buttons and silver thimbles alongside the Blue Hole. Here, a mountain stream gurgled into a glassy, fathomless pool. In this shady bend of the meandering waters, fairies gathered at night to sip acorn ale. The winged-ones were fond of spinning tall tales and passing gossip back and forth. The farmer bent low over the mossy shallows, deeply occupied with his task; for several sprites had used Lady MacKennon’s silver thimbles for their drinking cups and her shiny brass buttons for their serving dishes during last night’s party. It was not the first time Hannah’s sewing trinkets had gone missing.

“Looky here!” said Jake impatiently. His musical, country accent pleased the wee folk. The Plow Man appeared to be addressing a green stone, which served as an entranceway into a luxurious, miniature lily garden. Hidden behind a tumbling cascade, the garden was formed by a sudden drop in the mountain stream. A small triangular window twinkled off to one side, where clover curtains secreted a shy hostess within her watery home. MacKennon detected the sugary scent of honey and violets coming from a crystal teapot. Wedged into a nearby crevice, the pot was no larger than the tip of the man’s thumb. “You’ve got no right to borrow my wife’s best sewin‘ gear. Hannah will be needin‘ them things soon. Now hand ’em right up to me, or I’ll stir these waters with my cane,” warned the broad-backed woodsman.

There was no reply. MacKennon sighed with exasperation and swished the creek vigorously with his walnut hiking stick. The carved, hooded wizard at the top of the staff looked annoyed.

“I ain’t got time to stand ’round in this here pool. The shadows are stretchin‘! I’ve got many a goat to milk before supper,” MacKennon added hotly.

From behind the slippery entrance came a tiny tapping, followed by a light tinkling. Three silver thimbles and two brass buttons rolled outward and spun to a plop on a flat rock beside Jake’s outstretched hand.

“Thanky kindly,” he responded with a nod. “There’ll be spearmint tea and sunflower cupcakes on the back porch for the fairy folk tomorrow afternoon, as usual. Good evenin‘, Miss Babbling Brook Fairy.”

A sharp complaint was heard over the flowing waters.

“No, I’ll see to it that the white cat is safely inside the kitchen door. I know that Dillydally is a troublemaker for your kind.” Jake spat sideways and wiped a calloused hand across his square jaw. “I suppose that fat feline could just sit on a mouse, and it would surrender,” he grinned. The fairy hostess chuckled in reply. There was a hiccup, and a colorful bubble emerged from beneath her emerald doorway.

The farmer straightened up slowly, his leather riding boots still straddling the foaming waters. MacKennon was well over six feet in height and very muscular, like a trim workhorse. Jake wore buckskin britches, a tan, homespun shirt, and a fringed leather jacket that had been lovingly pieced together by his wife, Hannah Rose. A battered felt hat shaded his brow. Stepping to one side, the farmer felt a wicked breeze spill down his jacket collar and clutch at his spine. Three harsh crow caws rang through the woodland canopy as MacKennon raised his penetrating, brown eyes to the thorny bank above the Blue Hole.

“So, the great Plow Man has lost his buttons,” a thin coyote snickered, as it emerged from the underbrush. The scruffy-tailed creature howled with laughter until he snorted through his wet nose and had to cough. Losing his balance, the coyote rolled clumsily down the embankment. He shook the sandy soil out of his ears and wheezed through his broken teeth.

“What do you want, Ol‘ Spit?” Jake asked casually while reaching for the long knife at his belt. “This ain’t your territory, not ’til dark, no ways. You know the agreement. Now git.”

The animal licked his slate gray lips and whined at the sight of the keen-edged weapon. MacKennon had quite a reputation as an accurate knife thrower, a skill he had learned from his maternal grandfather. Chief Arrowhawk had been a direct descendent from a northern tribe of the First Nations. A well-respected elder, Arrowhawk had taught his grandson to hunt, fish, and fight in the ways of old. To this day, MacKennon had never lost a close tussle with an enemy, seen or unseen, especially when knives were drawn.

Old Spit the Coyote is treacherous indeed!

“Pardon, pardon, pardon me, O Two-legged Seed-planter. I am only carrying out my master’s orders to deliver a message.” Old Spit circled his own tail and crouched low. His body trembled slightly, but his brittle eyes never wavered.

“What message?” Jake tested the sharpness of his knife blade on the fringe of his jacket. His grandfather had taught him to keep his weapons clean and ready. “The Coyote King would do well to remember that I’ll have no dealings with him.”

“My master is well aware of your aversion to his proposals,” Old Spit replied, coughing nervously. “Nonetheless, you should meet with him tonight under the Dead Oak Tree, north of Ghost Horse Hollow. It is urgent.” The mangy-looking animal seemed quite pleased with himself. With a twisted snarl, Old Spit added a bit of alarming news: “Tormac will be there as well.”

“The Autumn Fairy Prince?” Jake’s brow wrinkled with concern. He knew the seasonal prince for the fall months of the calendar year was mischievous and even malicious at times. His twin sister, the Autumn Fairy Princess, with her flaming hair and golden slippers, was the exact opposite of her brother. Aradia was warm and generous. She was like a glorious afternoon in Indian summer, a precious, warm interval in mid-autumn when the world was azure blue and bronze. Aradia and Tormac avoided each other in the Time of Falling Leaves. Jake wondered to himself how two such different children could have come from the same parents, the King and Queen of the Starlight Fairies. Then again, all eight of their offspring were individual and unpredictable. Besides, it was true that Tormac had begun drinking Sprinkle-Up Spray mixed with some forbidden blend of elderberry wine and herbal tinctures. The now seven-foot-tall swordsman, with powerful wings and a hot temper, was not to be taken lightly.

“What’s this all about?” Jake felt it best to press Old Spit for more information.

“At midnight, when the moon clears the Third Hill of Dendoran, be there, and you will find out for yourself. I can say no more,” the coyote teased MacKennon.

Old Spit sprang away with remarkable speed, vanishing behind a close growth of sumac trees. The dark, crimson berries stained his fur as he fled through the brushwood. Again, a crow cried three times, announcing Old Spit’s hasty departure. Even the dark, solitary bird was frightened by the coyote’s message. Her black wings whacked through the branches, scattering the sour fruit to the ground. She was warning the farmer, in the wordless language known to all creatures of the wild, that danger was very near.

“Whatever this means for Ghost Horse Hollow, I must go tonight,” Jake murmured to himself. “An alliance between Tormac and the Coyote King spells certain trouble for us all.” The Plow Man shook his head. There was just one person on the farmstead that knew how to speak Tormac’s tricky fairy tongue. Too bad she was only fourteen.

I hope you are enjoying THE HOLLY KING! You are most welcome to share this free blog book with all your friends on the Internet. Just use the handy share icons on the right scroll of this page.

 Next installment:

Chapter II in which Farmer Jake MacKennon makes a life changing decision.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

THE HOLLY KING, A Family Holiday Tale #2

Crescent Moon Lake in Ghost Horse Hollow

Our story begins in the Appalachian Wilderness one hundred years in the future ...

Chapter I : Coyote Crossing

Enchantment is a tricky thing, even annoying at times, especially when a fairy wand is jabbing you in the forehead.


“Ouch! You’re hurting me!” Genevieve MacKennon bristled, while keeping her eyes obediently shut.

Plink! Ploink! Thwink!

“Concentrate, Miss Genevieve. Use your mind to see, not your eyes. No peeking as I circle around your head.”

“Sir Finnias Glowgold, you are the best magical tutor a girl could ask for, not to mention a superior Household Light Fairy, but must you keep poking me with your dogwood twig?”

“I am trying to teach you a very important skill. Wind-sight is hardly a beginner’s subject. Now, tell me what you see, what you feel, while traveling outside your body. Don’t look down right away! One fairy apprentice threw up the first time I taught her this lesson, but that was long, long ago and far away from these blue mountains,” Glowgold trailed off regretfully.

“Oh, ALL RIGHT! But please stop calling me ‘Miss Genevieve.’ Everyone in Ghost Horse Hollow calls me Panther—except for you and Black Bottom the Rooster, who hates cats.”

The girl stood blindly before the window, with her muddy, calf-hugging riding boots planted on the floor. With the stance of an athlete, she focused on the only sound in the room: the steady thrum, thrum, thrumming of a four-inch pair of wings alongside her head. Having aced her latest exams with her usual attention to detail, this fourteen-year-old now faced a very different kind of test, should she possessed the courage to continue. Sir Finnias was stretching her boundaries beyond the family homestead, but Panther was ready for the future.

“I have no idea why the Starlight Fairy Queen assigned you such a ridiculously ferocious totem in her ceremony under the sycamore trees,” Glowgold rattled on. “I certainly would have chosen a more ladylike guardian.”

“I like the nickname Panther, and everyone else does too!” The girl with the dark honey hair opened her hazel eyes and glared at her mentor.

“Don’t look at me like that. You grow more and more like your mother every day, full of independent notions and rebellion. I shall always refer to you as Miss Genevieve.” Glowgold dismissed the girl’s protest by dusting off his gilded waistcoat and adjusting his wavy powdered wig. “As I was saying,” he continued briskly, “Wind-sight requires utmost mental control. Once more, if you please, from the beginning. Close your eyes and tell me what you see!”

Dink! Dink! Zwink!

Sir Finnias Glowgold tapped his student’s brow with his wand, as if he were conducting an orchestra. The girl instantly began an inward journey that took her high above Ghost Horse Hollow. Below, the autumn meadows opened out in blissful tones of pumpkin, crimson, and bronze, flecked with silver shadows and transparent ribbons of light.

“Those shimmering objects must be ponds and streams!” she cried aloud.

“You are too high, much too high,” complained the Household Light Fairy. Panther thought Glowgold sounded very far away, as if she were hearing a bird cry on the far horizon. “Move your gaze downward to something familiar. See if you can identify Crescent Moon Lake. That should be easy enough.”

Panther gazed intently within her inner landscape, feeling herself floating slowly toward a glistening expanse of water shaped like a crescent moon. Pearl-colored swans with jet black beaks floated in and out of the overhanging willows along the shores of a tranquil, mountain lake. A creamy colt with faint dapples and four white socks cantered along its stony banks, playing with his own reflection. The colt’s watchful mother-mare stood to one side with her head held high and her pale amber mane and tail wafting in the late afternoon breeze. Crumpled maple leaves dotted the shoreline, strewn with acorns and faded yellow stems.

Ellyon Elestial as Panther MacKennon

“I see it!” the girl murmured. “The images are becoming clearer and clearer, like someone wiping off a foggy mirror!”

“Ah, there you have it. My goodness, Miss Genevieve, you really are the most remarkable student that I have ever had the privilege of instructing,” Glowgold remarked excitedly. “Settle in to the spirit of the exercise and let the scene before you unfold, just like a grand story. Wind-sight will guide you through the present and into the future. But beware, not everything in the world is wholesome or good. There is something dark coming through the woods as we speak. Perhaps it would be best for us to discontinue our lesson. Come along with me to the parlor. Your baby sister is downstairs expecting her afternoon music lesson. We must not keep Miss Adeline waiting.”

“But…but we were just getting started! I don’t want to quit now!”

“Come away from the window at once. Open your eyes and desist! There is a disturbance in the Fairylands, making its way southwards. I cannot touch the shadow with my own mind, but I sense that it will reach its destination soon, very soon. You could not have possibly developed the skill to see that far in just one session.”

Panther MacKennon blinked. It was best not to contend with Sir Finnias when he was being so irritable and stubborn. The girl reached across her reading nook to close her second story bedroom window. The antique lace curtains fluttered in protest. Panther was obliged to take a few deep breaths to steady her nerves and re-enter physical reality. She glanced at her tutor’s retreating wings and sparkling dust trail as the Household Light Fairy flitted into the adjacent hallway. Glowgold had glimpsed something …or someone… that he did not want Panther to know about; otherwise, he would never have ended an enchantment so abruptly. She had seen the blue-eyed colt and his proud dam near Crescent Moon Lake, as well as Black Bottom the Rooster strutting about with his hens. Nothing seemed amiss.

“I’ll be along in a minute! I just have to get a sweater out of my wardrobe!” Panther called from beside her canopy bed. The girl cracked open the window once more and closed her eyes. Wind-sight made her a bit light-headed and swimmy. Glowgold’s tiny wand had awakened a powerful gift deep within the girl’s psyche. She could feel a new capability sweeping through her senses like the rumbling of a drum. Something was indeed moving through the forest, something larger than a fox, but smaller than a wolf. It had worn, yellow teeth and slanting eyes, and it was headed straight toward a tall, lightly bearded man dressed in buckskin clothing.

“Come along, Miss Genevieve!” Glowgold beckoned from the top of the stairs.

“On my way!” Panther grabbed her lilac-colored sweater out of nearby wardrobe and glanced in the oval mirror beside her door. She reached for two delicate, ivory combs before pinning up her braids. “Why is an old coyote hunting for my father? And why is Sir Finnias being so secretive?” Panther thought aloud. As the girl hurried out of her bedroom, with its home-stitched quilts and carved willow-wood furniture, she heard the protective mare whinnying loudly in the distance, like a battle cry over the pastures and hayfields. The eldest MacKennon daughter sighed with relief, knowing the sure-footed Ghost Horses would help to keep the farmstead safe. Still, Panther was certain an unwholesome creature was fast approaching Jake MacKennon and that her life would never be the same again.

Hensley's Ginger as the Mother Mare in this Installment of THE HOLLY KING

Visit our blog tomorrow for the next installment of THE HOLLY KING! Thanks for sharing this holiday treat with your friends on the Internet!

Monday, November 21, 2011

THE HOLLY KING, A Family Holiday Tale #1



The Opening Gallop

Through Fairy Halls an’ Woodland Dells

There reigned a Herald King,

Who played upon a silver flute

In a giant’s magic ring.

He called to life the leaf an’ blade

Of grass an’ twig an’ flower.

O’ how he loved his pretty queen

Of royal mermaid power!

Come hear the tale upon the hearth

An’ stir the pot ‘til ‘morrow,

For ye be welcome, Babes of Men,

From labor, toil, an’ sorrow…

To wander through the Fairylands

An’ memorize Her gate,

A journey way to starry fields

Which blessed a kinsman’s fate.

He journeyed far, he journeyed wide

Through the land so fair.

An’ there he raised a goodly herd

Of stallion and of mare.

He held the Earth, ‘en from his birth

More precious than be gold,

And though his eyes were young as Spring

His crown was a thousand years old!

His Queen she bore a sword and spear,

A warrior princess, she!

They guarded all the lands they loved

An’ kept their creatures free.

An’ hand an’ hand, beneath the Moon

An’ the starlight glow,

They rode the wind, again an’ again

In sunlight an’ in snow.

So hear ye well this tale of hope

An’ breathless, daring deeds,

For who’d not wish to ride the back

Of Ellevar’s Ivory Steed?

An’ share the Lore with every youth

In the hour of their need,

That they might keep the Earth we love

From slavery an’ from greed.

The time has come to change our hearts,

Let courage lead the way!

The world must walk the Good Red Road

In beauty from day… to… day!

Ellevar's Ivory Steed
THE HOLLY KING is filled with real Ghost Horses!