Exploring stories of untold beginnings has always appealed to me as a writer. The Merlin Saga began after I wondered about the early life of the man who became the wise and powerful old wizard we know so well from the tales of Arthurian legend. And instead of focusing solely on the mystery of the magical island’s disappearance, my recent Atlantis Saga begins by imagining what may have happened to trigger its creation.
With this in mind, I recently invited fans of my books to dig deep into their imaginations and write their own origin stories for any character from one of my books. The results were simply fantastic! Of course, I knew my fans were a talented bunch, but their creativity and enthusiasm for these characters and their stories was a joy to read. And now that the contest is complete, it is my great pleasure to share some of the winning stories with you.
The loyal and fierce Trouble is one of the companions of Merlin who is most beloved by fans of The Merlin Saga. Alexandra L. shared this entry outlining the early life of Merlin’s feathered companion who first appears in Book 1, The Lost Years:
As the life of Druma Wood began a semi-silent vigil for the farewell of the day, a new life was welcomed. Eywak’s trained eye watched unblinkingly as the small life made the first dent on the shell. The blue bill struggled valiantly, as if determined not to spend another anxious moment away from this splendid world. At last, the fledgling emerged from the shell, everything in perfect condition.
After naming her youngest Rywan, which in the language of wind meant ‘true spirit,’ Eywak turned to his shell and read. She shuffled her wings nervously. Along the inside of the shell were the lines of a short yet very defined life, it spoke of fierceness, and a loyalty that never faltered even in dire moments. Through time, his troublesome nature would deem him another name. The falling sun and shell spoke of all things that were yet to pass.
But for now, he was just a young hatchling catching his first sunset learning to listen to the wind. And like all young hatchlings….he was hungry.
Being the youngest of his clutch of fledglings had its advantages such as being guaranteed the warmest spot under their mother’s wing each night. It also had its disadvantages. Whenever his parents set out to bring food or scout the area, Rywan was left unprotected, and being the smallest of the trio, became the main source of entertainment. The older fledglings chased him around in their small nest and pretend he was prey. Rywan, already feisty by nature, learned to channel his warrior spirit or faced being sat on and pecked until his parents returned, which had happened one too many times.
Now, feeling quite bold at three weeks old, Rywan screeched a particularly rude phrase at the eldest fledgling that would have gotten him pecked by his mother and earned an approving chirp from his father. Shocked, the elder of the trio screeched back, and so they engaged, until Rywan charged. He jumped, flapping his wings eagerly, ready to land on the edge of the nest.
Except something curious happened.
The world suddenly became a blur of colors. He was falling! Branches swayed, trying to slow the little ones fall until….thump! A dazed fledgling, otherwise unharmed, landed on pile of vivid green leaves. Feeling even smaller than he ever had before, Rywan chirped quietly, but all that answered back was the swaying of the mighty branches around him. He continued chirping anxiously until he heard a scuttle. A pair of beady eyes surveyed the scrawny looking bird. Not enough for a meal, but a snack would do.
As the creature slinked from the foliage, Rywan’s heart fluttered. This looked like a rat that had once come near their nest. His mother constantly warned the fledglings about the dangers of rats, only to quickly reassure them that she’d keep them safe. But she was not here now. No one was here. Rywan, very much alone and helpless, froze with fear as the rodent approached.
Then, the wind blew softly through the forest floor. Rywan’s screeched with fierce determination; the spirit of the wind gave him courage. As the rat leaped, Rywan leapt higher knocking the rat with the wings he had yet to fully master. The rat, now annoyed at losing the prospect of an easy meal, attacked only to be met by Rywan’s claws. A matter of minutes seemed like an eternity to the little warrior before two familiar screeches resounded through the battlefield. In a blur, his mother finished off the enemy while his father struggled to carry his youngest back up to the safe nest.
Throughout the evening, while his mother kept chirping about his troublesome nature, Rywan felt like a seasoned warrior. Never again was he prey to his other nest mates for he had learned that size was certainly no measure for all the great things his young life could accomplish. That and he would never pass up an opportunity to challenge a rat.
The following summer, Druma Wood was a place of pure poetic motion. The land swayed with illuminating shades of vivid greens and yellows, and the sky danced on blue, violet, and orange wings. On one peaceful day, the wind called to Rywan and set him on course to the silvery edge of the Druma Wood. This would be a journey far greater than any, where a destined meeting would take place, and a series of magical adventures, awaited.
You might remember Bumblewy as the desperately un-funny jester who appears in Book 2 of The Merlin Saga; Bryan B. tells a story of what may have happened before he encountered the wizard:
The streets of Caer Neithan jingled with festivities as Bumbelwy ambled along on his not-so-merry way. Sure, the Town of Bards always bustled with music and song, but today proved to be different. Today was the first day of Summer. Bards from all over came to Caer Neithan for this special occasion, multiplying the usual melodies and rhythms tenfold.
It only gave Bumbelwy a headache.
He never cared much for how shiny the bells were on his hat, or how many balls he could juggle at once. He wanted something grander than those foolish things! He wanted to captivate his audience with laughter! Keep them on the edge of their seats, waiting for the punchlines and the rhymes. And after the show, they would make their way home and remember his words, and the wisdom he’d injected into his wits.
Oh, to inspire the masses with laughter!
His fellow bards and jesters sneered at his idea. When his neighbors complained that he scared the birds away with his voice, he would only retort, “I blew them away with a magical performance!”
Nothing could stop him from attaining his goal of becoming a great bard. Nay, the greatest bard!
This goal had brought him out of hiding on the high holiday of cheer and festivities. He sought an audience.
At the town square, Bumbelwy managed to squeeze in between two jesters throwing balls to one another. Under an arch of a blur of red and blue balls, Bumbelwy crafted his stage.
He ran his fingers down his lute, plucking at the strings. Not completely in tune, but close enough for him. When he cleared his throat, he almost choked on his own saliva.
“Here ye! Here ye!” he wailed. “All be joyful and have some cheer! The jester is here!”
One person clapped. Once. Or perhaps they swatted at a fly. No matter, Bumbelwy took no notice. He lifted his lute. Dramatic pause. Then, the story began.
Oh, little flower
No one has watered you for days,
Your pastel pink has gone to gray.
Why have they forgotten, why do you think?
Could it be, in truth, that you stink?
The last note lingered, resonating under the incessant pattering of the juggler’s balls. Bumbelwy’s eyes remained shut as he basked in the overwhelming rush of emotions of his song. Such profundity! Such humor! The wave of laughter, oohs, and ahhs, was only a moment away, he was sure of it.
The onlookers shuffled their feet. One of them coughed.
Something struck Bumbelwy upside the head, and he almost lost his balance. A red juggling ball slapped the dirt near his left foot.
“Sorry, it slipped,” the juggler muttered as he retrieved his ball. He added hesitantly, “Um, I don’t think they liked that one, sir.”
Indeed, it appeared so. He only received blank stares and a rotting tomato that was fortunately horribly misaimed.
Disheartened, Bumbelwy only slumped away.
Did no one like his stories? It seemed hardly a likely possibility. Surely there was some merit deep down in his stories!
“You!” a voice cried out. Bumbelwy glanced to see a bard leaning in the doorway of the inn. He did a double take when he realized who had spoken to him.
“Taliesin?” Bumbelwy blushed. The most famous of all bards in the land. The man had so many stories, it was said that he had stolen from a witch a magical potion that gave him the ability to see into the past and future.
“Bumbelwy, don’t be disheartened by the audiences. They are always hard to please,” Taliesin told him.
“Too true, too true, too true,” Bumbelwy muttered. “Would you tell me something, Mister Bard?”
Taliesin shrugged. “I can tell you many somethings.”
“You can see the future . . . will I make a single person laugh in my life?” Taliesin simply cleared his throat and recited a mysterious verse:
I have been a sword in the grasp of a hand,
I have been a friend that you’ll need,
I have been a worm in a cave,
And you . . . well . . .
Taliesin took a step forward and placed a hand on Bumbelwy’s shoulder. “You shall see.” With that, Taliesin vanished into the inn, leaving Bumbelwy without an answer.
“What does that mean?” Bumbelwy asked himself. “You shall see.” See what?
He may have left him without an answer, but what Taliesin gave him was worth more. He had left him with inspiration.
“Or . . . was that a warning?” Bumbelwy mused as he headed home.
If you’re a fan of The Merlin Saga, you’ll know Rhia is a major character who first appears in Book 1, and who continues to be a main character from Fincayra to Avalon. In her story, Hannah S. imagines the answer to a fundamental mystery: How did Rhia become separated from her family, and what first drew her to Druma Wood and her home in the great tree Arbassa?
The game had gone horribly wrong somehow! They were only playing hide and seek, though they were nearer the woods than Mother would have liked. But how was that any different than playing in a large castle where one could still easily get lost?
Little Rhiannon sat huddled behind a bush, her lip beginning to quiver as tears simultaneously welled in her eyes. It was getting dark, and she hadn’t heard or seen anyone come near her. Where was that brother of hers? Rhiannon’s thoughts then turned to her mother–oh, how she wanted her now! Immediately, the idea came to go looking for her lost family. Summoning all the courage she could muster, Rhiannon stood up and walked a few cautious steps from her hiding place. Her blue-gray eyes darted in every direction, and saw nothing but trees and darkness.
Suddenly feeling very alone, Rhiannon whimpered. Shadowy figures seemed to loom all around her, and the mysterious noises of the night now reached her ear. Uttering a small cry of fright, the child dashed away as fast as her little feet could carry her. She had no concept of where she was going, but she hoped desperately to see the end of the forest and a clearing toward home. On and on she ran, her tight curls bouncing wildly, only to finally collapse in a pile of leaves. Tears now streamed down Rhiannon’s cheeks, and if anything, her sobs drowned out any other noise she might have heard. Within minutes, she fell asleep from emotional and physical exhaustion.
It was daytime when Rhiannon awoke, though the dense trees of the Druma Wood hardly let in any sunlight. Rubbing her reddened eyes, Rhiannon once again surveyed her surroundings. It all looked exactly the same to her, with one exception. Before her stood a mighty oak tree that could have held three smaller trees in its trunk! A canopy of branches extended beyond and over the little girl, as if they were welcoming and open arms. Gaping slightly (a habit of which Mother wouldn’t approve), Rhiannon stood erect before the tree and widened her arms as well. With arms raised she studied this immense oak, and as she did, a sense of peace and safety overwhelmed her.
A soft breeze suddenly rustled the tree’s leaves, and as Rhiannon listened, she heard a sound–no a voice–within the wind. It said, “Arbaasssaaa…Arbaasssaaa…“
Rhiannon smiled. Something inside told her the tree was speaking to her, even introducing itself. She pointed to herself and responded. “Rhiannon.”
Silence. Disappointed, Rhiannon dropped her arms and hung her head; even her curls seemed to droop! But just as she was losing hope, the breeze blew again and she once more heard the voice, only this time it said, “Rhiiiaaa…Rhiiiaaa…“
Rhia laughed, the sound ringing like bells throughout the Druma Wood. She opened her arms once more and cried, “Arbassa!”
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading just some of the deeply thoughtful and creative submissions from your fellow fans — my next blog entry will share even more. Stay tuned!