#Fairies, #Myths, & #Magic Author Spotlight Guest Posts – “The Charcoal Nomads,” by Richard Ankers
Welcome to my Author Spotlight Guest Posts
I have started a new feature on my blog, called Author Spotlight – Guest Posts. As you can see from the image above, I am looking for themed posts about fairies, myths, and magic. If you are an interested author and would like to be featured on my blog, please click HERE to find out more. ~Colleen~
Today’s guest author and poet is Richard Ankers. He was one of the first poets I followed a few years back when I started blogging. He writes haunting poetry that leaves you wanting more. Here’s a sample:
Only the dragon’s breath stirs
©2017 Richard Ankers
In addition, Richard is a prolific short story writer, and his blog, Richardankers.com is filled with magical stories that will transport to places you never imagined. It is a great honor to have Richard share one of his short stories written especially for you! Meet my friend and author, Richard Ankers.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Colleen for inviting me to write a story for her blog. I don’t like to jibber-jabber on about myself, so hopefully, my writing will do my talking for me. I hope you enjoy it. We all need a little magical fantasy in our lives. Please feel free to connect and do take a look at The Eternals Series if you like a bit of Dark Fantasy and enjoy my work.
Thanks Again, Richard
The Charcoal Nomads
by Richard Mark Ankers
Our parents called them the Charcoal Nomads, as had theirs, and theirs before that. A bustling caravan of mysterious folk, they’d slide into our small town at midnight, always midnight, stay awhile, then slide away.
Like all things containing an element of the unknown, shade and shadow, their presence held a certain allure. Forewarnings heralded forth like divine covenants from our parent’s mouths, but they did nothing to assuage our curiosity only fuel it. I would lie in bed and picture the steepled caravans with their minarets and towers, more gigantic tents than mobile homes. I’d imagine the horses – jet-black stallions clad in each nomad’s colours marching beneath the storms that signalled their arrival. And, of course, I imagined the young ones, those mysterious, concealed children. Did they dream as I? Did they wish for more as they travelled a world I’d only imagined? The Charcoal Nomads, those who had revealed themselves to just one man, became my obsession.
A Judge Roberts, lawman and sole landowner of Shadowmoor was the sole citizen brave enough to have challenged the night tribe. He’d clashed with the nomads over road tolls, although others wished him not. One tar-pit midnight, he’d headed out beyond the woods on his favourite jet-black mare intent on confrontation; neither came back. In such ways are legends made.
Imaginations were marvellous gifts for children to revel in and I was no less a delver into the magical worlds of self than any other. In truth, I like so many in our town had little choice in the matter. We called Shadowmoor a town when it was really a village. I think it was to boost our own self-esteem, make us feel more significant. Our home was so far from anywhere else that we couldn’t claim to live in the middle of nowhere because we’d never found its edge. But the Charcoal Nomads had, and I wanted to know what they knew. What child wouldn’t? I wished to know the storm and feel the winds, waft at fog and swim the monsoon. I lusted for the world beyond our woods, for different horizons. It consumed me.
And so, I laid my plans. I was a very thorough child when it came to such things especially for a ten-year-old. I took notes of every known detail of the nomadic ones and collated my findings into usable information. The day, time, and site of their arrival was always the same: arrive on a Friday midnight and leave by the Sunday same; the grasslands just beyond the northern woods, their semi-permanent berth. The one uncertain factor was the month. This varied for some reason. The answer came in a flash of perfect night.
I’d snuck out of bed, drawn back my curtains to filter in what light there was, and spread my notes across the top of my patchwork mattress. One by one, I placed the sheets in an order resembling some kind of child’s logic and studied them. At least I tried to as a large cloud that obliterated the moon cut my musings short. All went dark in my small room, and it hit me like a stone to the temple: the night of their arrival had to be black as pitch. There could be no other reason, so haphazard was the nomads’ comings and goings. And so, it was I prepared for a dark and stormy, Friday midnight.
The nomads almost caught me off guard when the thunder came. Old Mister Jeffers from the local store had furrowed his brows and warned of a “Big ‘Un” waiting just around the corner. He couldn’t have been more right. The sound of distant rumbling drew me from under the duvet like a carrot would a rabbit. At first, I suspected it the rain, which had fallen for hours, to have swelled the riverbanks and sent a surge downriver. The townsfolk had erected an embankment of less than understated enormity for just such an occasion. But the shush that follows the rumbling never occurred, so I listened on. If I’d had any doubts, the fork lightning that stunned my eyes confirmed it. There was one hell of a storm coming. It was under the pitch-black of that volatile Friday midnight that the rattle of caravan wheels crept into my life.
The maroons and indigos, viridians and rusts, rolled past the trees at the end of the road unseen. If one of the nomadic folk hadn’t looked my way as lightning lit up the night, I should have missed them altogether. The milk-white visage of a nomad child pierced the darkness: I couldn’t have dreamed them better.
The breath I’d held caught in my throat, and I thought I might never breathe again. When I did, it was in gasps of panic. I shot off the bed and climbed into my jeans, the used socks I should have laundered, tee shirt, and winter jacket. My wooden box of tactical supplies sat packed and ready, as it always was, the metal handle I’d screwed to its lid fitting snug in my hand. I left my prepared goodbye note laid on my pillow and bade my family farewell: I was good to go.
Incessant rain saturated the oak branch which ran to my bedroom window making for a difficult descent but descend I did. The second my feet touched the floor, I was off. The shoes I’d kept aside for just such an emergency were chosen with great care: speed; comfort; colour, in that order, if only I’d considered waterproofing. By the end of the street, I was soaking. By the time I’d sliced through the semi-jungle, which led to the fields beyond, I was waterlogged. Each extra step squelched with unreserved disdain for my hoped for silent tracking; I sounded like a duck with attitude. However, there was nothing I could do about it, so sped on after the caravans.
Much to my relief, they were not far ahead. As soon as I broke through a copse of birch trees, the full majesty of the procession struck me.
Image credit: Pixabay.com
Like everyone who lived in Shadowmoor, I’d seen the nomads camp during the day when the residents within those tribal confines slept. I’d marvelled at the colours, the craftsmanship, the mystique, pointed and grinned with friends, but nothing could have prepared me for the caravan in motion. A small city of wheeled buildings, the procession wove its way along the muddied road that bypassed our town. Flags of unknown heraldry whipped in the heightening winds like silk scarves on a washing line. I recognised some of the emblems, an eagle here, a wolf there, but most of the embroidered creatures were beyond my imaginings. Horned beasts of irregular shaping and others with elongated wings flapped in a breeze meant just for they. I so wanted to be part of their world of magic and adventure. I craved it.
Clammy fingers tightened around the box’s handle, my breaths shortened, and like a peregrine on the hunt, I flew after them. I slipped and tripped, staggered and wove my way after the Charcoal Nomads never quite closing the gap. I thought that odd but didn’t appreciate why until the pasture land we raced through met the woods beyond the town boundaries. Only then did I realise they had no intention of stopping.
A panic set upon me in those moments of lucidity; the caravan always stopped? But, in truth, it made no difference because despite loving my mama and papa very much, I hated Shadowmoor. Life was banal in the extreme. Of the few things of interest in the area like the wild river and deep woods, I’d already long had my fill: I would follow the nomads wherever they led.
Smiling, the rainwater plopping from my upturned lips, I congratulated myself on my monumental decision, the most important in my ten years of life. As if to agree, a small, white face peered from behind a velvet drape of the last trundling home, possibly the same as before, then waved. Dumbstruck, I waved back. I didn’t know what else to do! When the child’s tiny hand beckoned me on, I clutched my wooden box tight to my chest and ran like the wind. I sprinted harder and faster than ever in my young life. Mud displaced by my charging footsteps reared into the air like chocolate horses, so quick did I move. The child, wide-eyed and staring, urged me on. And I closed the distance between us even though I thought it impossible. In fact, I grew so close to the caravan’s wide-backed rump that for the first time I saw its occupant’s features: her features, ruby eyed and spectral. I screamed as she hid from a blazing fork of golden light; the light, they could not stop for the light. The air sizzled with the violent energy of the night; I was so scared. Then a second bolt struck closer still, and everything went dark.
It felt like my brain had rattled loose inside my head, a ball in a box. Where was my box? I panicked in the pitch-black, arms flailing, but my most treasured item rested on my chest like a brick, and I grasped at it as though a lifejacket. It eased my mind, centred my world, and I breathed again in deep, deep breaths. My joy was short-lived, as a judder shot through me like a fall from a tree and set me to gasping. Much to my shame, I cried myself to sleep.
I awoke to a cool hand resting on my forehead. Had it all been a dream? Was I waking in my own bed from an adventure turned nightmare where all was not as it seemed? The alabaster face I opened my eyes to said not. I was in a caravan of ghosts.
Image credit: Pixabay.com
Of course, I was not amongst ghosts, far from it. I’d been collected from the roadside where the lightning strike deposited me, washed and tended to by the Charcoal Nomads, those of the milk-white skin and ruby eyes. I was later to discover this made those travellers of the night albinos, not that it meant much to a young boy such as myself. To me it suggested exotic, not weird, entrancing, not scary, it raised the stakes in my Shadowmoor departure and filled my nights with wonder.
The family of the little girl who’d waved took me in. They claimed it their honour and duty. The girl’s name was Alunia, a beautiful name for a beautiful child. Alunia taught me of her kind, of their aversion to sunlight and even greater aversion to the ones they called the statics: us. I think they pitied us in our shallow existences. They could not understand why we remained in one place with so much world to see. I had to agree because the world by night was so much more wonderful than the world by day although I suspected a certain degree of magic played its part.
I came to the decision the Charcoal Nomads, those that travelled night’s byways, practised magic because I never saw the day again. They alluded to sunlight many times, but when not asleep, because they did that a lot, the nomads lived in perpetual darkness. Alunia said they had to because the sun hurt their eyes and their skins more so. She said they would make camp when the night skies were sure to remain shielded in obsidian for at least two full nights and not before. Only then would they leave their homes to hunt and trade and play.
I never once left Alunia’s home, not that I wanted to. From the outside, the caravan had appeared large, from the inside it was palatial. We would run up the staircase and laugh at the other family members who flung themselves to one side at our speeding passage for generations of her kind lived in each home. We would run up the flights of rocking stairs until we reached the highest window of the highest tower to stare out across the universe. And that’s just what we did. The world of trees and woods, pastures and towns was not the landscape the nomads travelled, but instead the stars. Those people of the milk-white veneer travelled on roads unseen to the statics and Alunia told many times of her surprise at my seeing them too. But I did. Oh, how I did in all their glittering majesty. I knew then I could never go home; I could never have explained it.
We travelled for what I presumed weeks but could have been years. I learned by day, Alunia was my tutor in chief and Judge Roberts her assistant, the judge not quite as lost to humanity as first thought. The adventurer in him had won out, and he shared his tales of the forever with a grin and a wink.
Universal geography and mapping the roads between worlds replaced normal subjects like maths and writing. I revelled in every second of my education. Alunia would refer to this and that, then laugh out loud at my quizzical expressions, tiny hands covering her lips so as not to embarrass her guest. I didn’t care, she could have laughed forever, and I would have treasured every moment.
If I asked when the caravan would stop, she’d say soon. Alunia claimed a once in a lifetime opportunity for her kin was close. She spoke of the shores at the end of time with such reverence I needn’t have questioned her words. Alunia meant every one. “The surf of infinity,” she would whisper. I couldn’t wait.
We heard it first, the ocean at the end of existence. Onyx waves crashed over our consciences like an opera over our souls. When Alunia’s parents opened the door of their home to a crescendo of cosmic exuberance and filtered starlight, it all made sense. My revelation came in the gentle twinkling of an ebony universe.
There, where all began, and all ended, the Charcoal Nomads could stand in the wan light of eternity without feeling pain. There, where all remained constant, where weather played no part and season bore no effect, they were free of their ruby infirmity. And they cherished it. And they understood it. And so did I.
Image credit: Pixabay.com
Buy The Eternals: http://mybook.to/TheEternals
Buy Hunter Hunted: http://mybook.to/HunterHunted
Buy Into Eternity: http://mybook.to/IntoEternity
Read a sample of The Eternals, Book one in the Eternal Series by clicking below.
For an Eternal, eternity should’ve meant forever.
The Eternals, they are a breed apart. Born to immortality, neither human nor vampire, a dying sun is set to end their race where no other could. It is to this ultimatum that Jean, the last Eternal lord, is born.
Jean accepts the end once preached by his deceased parents, where others won’t, their arrogance furthering his melancholy. He would fight for the future where, they, the Hierarchy, would waltz into nothingness.
Everything changes for Jean when he commits the cardinal sin. His bite takes the life of Princess Chantelle of The New Europa Alliance whose sister will come to enthrall him. It is a deed Jean thinks has passed unnoticed. It has not. When the Britannian dandy, Sir Walter Merryweather, informs him of this, Jean runs.
Aided and abetted by the irksome Merryweather, Jean stumbles from manipulated mishap into age-old conspiracies and beyond. With the sun’s clock ticking, Jean must find time where there is none to reconcile his sordid past with the promise of new love.
Meet Author, Richard Ankers
Richard M. Ankers was born in rural Yorkshire, England. After winning an Authonomy Gold Medal, Richard began to publish the writings he had squirrelled away for many years.
Author of The Eternals Trilogy, a dark fantasy extravaganza, Richard has had work published in both anthologies and many magazines and sites of repute.
There will never be enough hours in his lifetime to put all the words he wishes down on paper.
For more information Richard blogs at www.richardankers.com and also on Twitter @Richard_Ankers.
From Richard’s blog:
“As for me, what can I say? I was a Company Director in retail until finally plucking up the courage to show people the writing I’d spent years shyly stashing away. Joining HarperCollins’ Authonomy site was the jolt I needed to realise people liked what I wrote. Winning a gold medal there for my book The Snow Lily, was an even greater boost. I am lucky to have had short stories published on such reputable sites as DailyScienceFiction and appeared in anthologies by Third Flatiron Publishing and Leap Books. I have recently published, Into Eternity, the climax to The Eternals Series, a Dark Fantasy/ Science Fiction extravaganza published books by the good people at Creativia.
I won’t give too much away, but you’ve never before seen a future like that of The Eternals. My hobbies: I love reading, writing, running, all sport, and walking through beautiful scenery. If I lived in view of a mountain with a stream running through the bottom of my garden, I would probably never resurface.
My motivation: When I realised I could no longer be happy unless writing, I resigned from my job to do so. I gave up all that I was to become everything that I could be. Regardless of success, I will never have made a better decision in my life. I’d rather be a happy pauper than a wealthy zombie.
Never give up on your dreams and never let anyone tell you you’re not good enough. You can be.
❤ CONNECT WITH RICHARD ANKERS ❤
Wordpress Blog: https://richardankers.com
Amazon Author: http://author.to/RichardAnkers
Facebook Author: https://www.facebook.com/richardmankers
Creativia Landing Page: http://www.creativia.org/yorkshire-author-richard-m-ankers.html
Thanks for stopping by. Make sure and share your comments about Richard’s story. See you next week.