The Land of the Wand: Sample Chapters

(Published March, 2006) 

The story

Four people in Chicago, one weekend in June, all go to the same gift shop in the Galleria and examine an ornamental crystal wand. Rock star Marshall Storme, fantasy author Evan Stone, architect Valaura Bennet and fast-food worker Lillian Curtis all look at the wand, though only Marshall and Valaura are seriously interested in purchasing it. They are all transported to a parallel dimension, a place where the myths of earth originated, and live as real, if unusual, beings.

Befriended by the Daemona, the four dimension travellers find themselves embroiled in a holy war with the savage Anjeles. Lead by the mad King Yahoo, the Anjeles are trying to wipe out the Daemona and their four brother-kings, Nicholas, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub and Lucifer. It is Lucifer, King of The Land of the Chalice and the Lightbearers, who is the nemesis of King Yahoo. But they have gone to war against the eldest brother, Nicholas, and the four travellers are caught right in the middle.

Marshall Storme and his friends resemble a prophecy laid down in The Pentacular, the Daemona book of wisdom. Marshall is The Savior, he who was sent to lead the Daemona into their holy war and liberate Paradiso, the mountain stronghold of the Anjeles. This is complicated by the fact that Marshall is a pacifist by nature, and believes war is wrong. But borne along on a tide of friendship, coercion and confusion, Marshall finds himself in the role of arbitrator.

This occurs when Sterling, prince of The Land of the Cup, falls in love with Ariel, daughter of Yahoo and a political prisoner. They throw everyone's plans into the dumpster when they become lovers and Ariel is pregnant. Since the Daemona only conceive children after the telepathic union of minds, it is made clear to everyone except her insane father that this is a match to be honored.

Marshall and Lillian Curtis become lovers first, creating more problems for themselves than are solved. Evan and Valaura begin as less than friends, and wind up in love, but again their circumstances make it all rather difficult. They do eventually get back to their own world through most drastic means, only to discover that no time has passed while they were gone, and they must now find their fellow-travellers in Chicago.

Sample Chapter: #22 - Marshall's Proposal

Marshall was more than a little exasperated with Sterling, who seemed to be refusing to concentrate that morning. "Sterling, old man ... I said C minor progression. What exactly do you call what you just played?"

Sterling stared down at the keyboard of the harpsichord, as if it could explain his error. "Hmmm ... a new minor progression?"

Evan laughed, from where he was tuning his new mandolin. "Let's hope not, lads -- that cacophony doesn't belong in anyone's repertoire."

"I'm not so sure." This from Marshall. "It would be well- suited to punk rock, don't you think?"

Sterling was intrigued. "Is that what you played, in your world, Marshall?"

"Certainly not! Heavy metal, twit. You know that."

"Didn't realize there was a difference."

Evan swore as one of the strings broke. "Most people wouldn't think there is. You'd have to be an aficionado of that fringe music."

"Fringe!" Marshall was more indignant by the moment. "I'll have you know Stockholm's last album went triple platinum. That means it sold three million copies," he added, before Sterling could ask.

Sterling looked stunned beyond belief. "You don't mean ... three million people bought the thing? What you said? How could there be three million people?"

"There are nine million in London alone. That's one city." Sterling's eyes were glazing over. He was incapable of coping with the thought of that many people. Marshall was studying him closely. "Sterling, have you noticed that your speech is becoming more like ours, and less like your people?"

"No, I can't say that I have. Your speech does seem simpler, somehow."

The door flew open and Lilly and Ariel entered. Lilly was wearing a long, white gossamer robe similar to the one Ariel wore, tied with a silver cord beneath the bust; the way Ariel's was tied with a gold cord. She pirouetted happily in the middle of the floor to show off the gown to her audience. "Look what Ariel made me! Isn't it beautiful?"

The three men grinned at her, and Marshall went to take her up in his arms. "It's wonderful, but it shows off too much of your charms, Lillikins. How can I ever concentrate on teaching this oaf music, with you around to distract me?"

Lilly giggled and kissed Marshall's ear. "I think you've lost your pupil anyway."

Marshall turned to see Sterling seated on the harpsichord bench with Ariel on his lap, her wings camouflaging them during their kiss. "Let's go walk down by the lake."

Evan put his new mandolin down carefully on a small table beside the harpsichord. "Lilly, where's Laura?"

"With Augustina. Trying to figure out where all the people are going to go, once they arrive."

"I thought they were going to battle the Anjeles."

Lilly tried to look severe. "I meant, where they'll all be camped, around the castle. There are so many, and they'll all have their equipment, retainers, animals ..."

Evan glanced up at her. "You say animals as if you don't know what they're going to be."

Lilly giggled. "I don't. Apparently not everyone rides horses, in this world."

Evan was intrigued. "Oh? What do they ride?"

"I don't know. I guess we won't find out until they get here. Elephants, maybe, like the East Indians."

"Let's hope not. Well," Evan said disconsolately, "Maybe if I hang around, Valaura will come out of her conference with Augustina long enough to say `hello' to me."

Marshall was sympathetic. "Poor old man, you haven't seen much of your lady of late, have you?"

"I'm not an old man, you disreputable boy," was the only answer Evan made, as he slouched towards the door, his hands in his pockets. He had abandoned his `court jester' costume during the days for a pair of pants he had coerced Brindle into making him, the closest thing he could get to corduroy slacks.

Marshall grinned down at Lilly, and took her hand. "The lake, you said? Sterling ... hey! Sterling!"

Sterling looked over at Marshall, quite obviously annoyed at being interrupted. "What is it? I'm sick of your silly cords and notes and such."

"You're getting a break from it -- Lilly and I are going down to the lake for awhile."

"Good; make it a few days."

"Do you want to be able to talk to Ariel or not? This is the only way."

"Oh, all right ... we'll see you when you get back." Sterling abruptly turned his attention away from Marshall and was absorbed in Ariel's cloud of white-blond hair. Lilly laughed and pulled Marshall behind her, in the direction of the terrace. From there, a flight of broad, stone steps led down to manicured lawns ... in the distance, the expanse of the lake could be seen.

Marshall and Lilly wandered slowly over the lawn, down to the edge of the lake. There they sat in Elaine's gazebo as the ducks gathered at the edge of the water, hoping for crumbs. Marshall gazed with an amazement that hadn't yet diminished at the multicolored feathers of the ducks. He wondered how one could be such a bright blue; yet bear ducklings that were green, purple, pink...

"Sorry, friends -- we forgot you, today. Had other things on our minds." Marshall pulled Lilly into his arms and buried his face in her hair. Lilly settled with a contented sigh. "Lillikins?"

"Yes, my lord?"

Marshall glanced down at her. Her eyes were twinkling. "Oh, little vixen ... will you marry me?"

Lilly stared up at him, her small, pink mouth round with astonishment. "What?"

"I'm asking you to marry me. `What' isn't exactly a flattering response, when voiced with such disbelief."

"Well," Lilly wrinkled her nose slightly, as if deep in thought. "I'd love to, of course ... but I wonder how it would be accomplished, here?"

"The same way it is at home, I presume," Marshall responded impatiently.

"Do you? Have you noticed that the Daemona never seem to have weddings? Are they actually married to one another?"

Marshall paused. "You know, you have a point there. I've never even heard one of them refer to a wife or husband ... except King Nicholas."

"Something else, sweetface. For such promiscuous people, they don't have many children. Yet, they don't seem to practice birth control in any form."

"Have personal experience of this, do you?"

"No, but you should," Lilly retorted.

Marshall flushed. "I think we'd better talk to Sterling about this. I want to marry you. But perhaps we'll have to wait until we get home."

"Yes, dear." Marshall's dream of finding his way back to Chicago seemed unreal to Lilly. For one thing, she didn't want to go back. There was nothing for her in her world except a job as a drudge in a greasy-spoon burger joint and a boyfriend who was probably already in jail. Here, she was a person of importance -- she had many friends, and ... she had Marshall to love her. She held no illusions about his staying with her once they returned to their own world -- rock stars don't marry girls who flip hamburgers for a living.

Marshall was looking down at her curiously. "Lilly, you do want to go back, don't you?"

She smiled. "I know how much you want to, Marsh. But we're doing a good thing, here. Would we ever have the opportunity to affect the world so much, in our world?"

"I don't know ... but I do want to go back. When all this is over, what will we do then?"

"I think there will be something ... but if you find the way back, I will, of course, go with you." Only to have my heart broken, she thought mournfully.

That seemed to satisfy him. "I'm definitely going to have to talk to Sterling about their marriage customs. If they have any, that is ..."

Lilly giggled and put her arms around Marshall, hugging him close to her. If he was only to be hers' for a little while, she was going to make the best of it.

* * *

"I don't understand you." Sterling frowned into his ale. "What does this mean, `marriage'?"

Marshall realized that Sterling really didn't understand him. This was going to be more difficult than he had imagined. "Well ... King Nicholas referred to Queen Elaine as his `wife'. Therefore, he was her husband. They were `married'." But I've never heard anyone else refer to his or her mate that way, in this place."

"Oh!" Comprehension entered Sterling's glazed eyes. Marshall wished he wouldn't drink so much. He seemed to be drowning his sorrows in his chased silver tankard over his inability to communicate with his beloved. "You're talking about a birthing contract. Only royalty need have them -- to insure the purity of the blood lines, you see."

"Then you would need one?"

"Yes, when a bride is chosen for me."

"Chosen? I thought you'd chosen your own!"

Sterling fixed his gaze on Marshall, and he suddenly seemed sober. "You mean my little love, Ariel ... I can't marry her, Marsh. They'd never allow it."

"Oh, lord. I thought you two star-crossed lovers were going to be my solution to end the war. Looks like you could start another one."

Sterling sighed and drained his tankard. "Do you mean that everyone in your world has permanent birthing contracts? Is ... what do you call it? `Married'?"

"No, not everyone. Only people who fall in love and want to spend their lives together. Have children."

"Oh, a blood oath. We do that here ... couples pledge themselves to one another; to love and live together, and only have one another's children."

Marshall restrained a chuckle. "Yes, I can see that would be important."

"Well, not to everyone, of course. But that's the reason people in my position have to sign a contract and go through a blood oath."

"How do you, uh ... select whose children you'll have? And whose you won't?"

Sterling wrinkled his forehead, as if he was trying to figure out the question. "I don't believe I understand you, friend."

"Let's say you were married to Ariel, but you had a concubine. How would you keep the girl from having your baby -- short of infanticide, I mean?"

"I don't have the slightest idea what that means. Surely you don't mean ... killing babies?"

Sterling was obviously horrified. Marshall said, "Well, it has been done."

"In your world, perhaps. Why on earth would two people go through the time and energy involved in having a baby, only to kill it? You mean enemies killed it -- in war, perhaps?"

"No, I mean the people who had the baby didn't want it. Really, Ster -- you're being very stupid, today."

Sterling flushed. "What you say makes no sense, so I'd say you're the stupid one! If they didn't want the baby, why did they have it?"

"An accident, of course."

"Accident! No one can have a baby by accident -- it has to be decided, by consensual agreement."

Suddenly, Marshall realized why it was that Sterling had been unable to understand what he was getting at. "Do you mean," he said slowly, disbelievingly, "that you only have babies here when both sexual partners decide they want to? That if they don't both want to, the woman won't conceive?"

"Of course. What other way is there? It takes great mental concentration ... most people can't do it until they're years older than I."

Marshall started to laugh, though he wondered just how these people had come to be so blessed. "I'm sorry, Ster -- it's just that, in my world, things are very different. Unfortunately for us."

"Different? How?"

"We don't have any way of controlling our breeding, except by outside sources. We call it `birth control'. Women have to take pills, or use devices to keep from becoming pregnant. Some people actually become sterilized so they won't have children. Sterilized means the sexual organs are rendered incapable of producing the eggs or sperm necessary to create a baby."

Sterling seemed stunned by this knowledge. "How is this possible? You have no control over your bodies?"

"I'm afraid not. Too many people leave the whole thing to chance; that's why there's so much overcrowding in our world. You seemed stunned that there were three million people to buy my last album, but that's nothing when compared to the population of a country. Even a small one. The United States, which is geographically in the same location as The Land of the Wand, has billions of people living in it."

"Billions ..." Sterling obviously couldn't grasp such a large number of people. "And many of them are born unwanted, as you stated?"

"Yes, a great many."

"Well," the boy said, "surely, when the woman discovered she was pregnant, she could force a miscarriage. Then the unwanted baby wouldn't be born."

"Do you mean force a miscarriage mentally? I told you, we don't have that kind of control over our bodies. There is a way -- it's called abortion. Unfortunately, a lot of people think women shouldn't have the right to abort a baby once it's conceived."

"Not have the right ... over her own body? What a strange world you come from."

"A lot of my people resemble the Anjeles in their beliefs."

This was too much for Sterling. "Are you so barbaric, then?"

"I guess I hadn't realized before, just how barbaric we are."

"And yet you seem to have so many things we don't. What Evan calls `technology'. How is it possible?"

"If I knew the answer to that, friend Sterling, I'd be more than a rock singer. I'd be a Messiah."