The key of ban, p.1
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       The Key of Ban, p.1

           James Harshfield
The Key of Ban

  The Key of Ban

  James B. Harshfield

  Copyright 2011 James B. Harshfield

  Cover illustration and book design by Mark Kashino

  Text illustrations by Mary Blackeye

  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the author.

  ~ ~


  With a twist of his nose, a look of disbelief and a sly smile, Bob Fahringer edited with gusto. Bob, thanks for your help.

  The keen insights of Ann Fenley added enrichment and realism to the book. The world is a better place because of her caring and gentle presence.

  A special thanks to Miriam Depew, Barbara, my wife, and the many people assisting in this project.

  With pride I display the artwork of Mary Blackeye. Her talents add a special enchantment to the book.

  ~ ~


  With love I dedicate this book to the heart of my life, my family: Barbara, Mark, Yeung, Amber, Greg, Lara, Janet, Tom, Tonya, Christopher, Halona, and the mysterious K. & E.

  * * *

  ~ ~

  Table of Contents

  Part I Voices from the Outlast


  Lost Valley

  The Black Mist

  The Visitors

  The Council

  The Pass of Doom

  Finding Topple

  The Escape


  Healing and Beyond

  Welcome Home

  Now What?

  A Time of Healing

  The Village


  Brad, Ingrid, and Starhood

  Journey to the Monastery

  The Monastery

  Part II Cries from Neverly

  The West Tower

  The East Tower


  Planning Stages

  The Journey Begins

  Return to Grandy

  Unpleasant Welcome

  On the Road to Neverly


  Under the Palace

  The Room of Magic

  Return to the West Tower

  Topple and Cando

  Back into the Tunnel

  Final Plans

  Let It Begin

  Escape from Neverly


  Night Visitor

  The Bowl of Doom

  The Homekeep

  The Journey to Rockham

  Topple and Associates

  Dark Storm Clouds

  A Reunion




  ~ ~

  ~ PART 1 ~


  ~ ~


  Hurricane-strength winds blew down the narrow canyon blasting Coaldon’s face with punishing gusts. Sheets of rain pounded him with unrelenting force. The uninterrupted rumble of thunder and the flashing of lightning created the illusion of a war being waged against the walls of the narrow canyon. The unnatural intensity of the storm caused Coaldon to feel disoriented. The tempest seemed more like an unpleasant dream than a natural occurrence.

  At first, he thought the storm would pass without interrupting his plans for a quiet stroll. Yet, the growing intensity of the cloud-burst created an inescapable reality. This was not a simple everyday incident, but the once-in-a-lifetime event of epic proportions.

  He decided to escape from the canyon when the flow of water in the stream began to grow. With long steps he followed an animal path down the edge of the stream. He became concerned when he heard the distant rumble of water rushing down the gorge. The torrent of water raced faster and higher. He struggled to stay ahead of the rising surge of churning water. The rain had turned the normally shallow stream into a raging river.

  With longer and longer strides he raced down the uneven floor of the canyon. A roaring sound drew his attention to a disturbance behind him. He turned just in time to see a wall of water towering above him. With a violent flick, the rolling water washed him off his feet and carried him down stream. Floating helplessly, he was uncertain if he would ever see his grandparents again. He felt like a tiny branch caught in a flood of fate rushing toward fulfillment.

  As if it were meant to be, Coaldon was tossed into a grove of small trees. Groping, he used a branch to pull himself to higher ground. With all his strength, he clawed his way up the steep rocky canyon wall. He struggled to stay ahead of the rising torrent of water. Gasping for breath, he finally pulled himself onto a ledge above the devastating flood.

  The pounding force of the wind battered him with flying debris. If he was to survive, it would be necessary to find shelter. Seeking protection, he crawled under an over-hanging ledge on the face of a cliff. From the safety of his vantage point, he watched the flood devastate the landscape. The shelter provided him with the opportunity to regain a sense of security. With a smile, he reflected, “At times nature has the ability to be more than enough and to demonstrate a boisterous, energetic personality.”

  The unbelievable turmoil of the flood heightened his sense of reality. His brush with death triggered a surge of memories to flow freely through his mind. He vividly remembered walking through the beauty of the Outlast. His responsibilities were light and peace was a faithful companion. He suddenly understood that he had lived a protected life under the guidance of his grandparents. The isolation of the farm provided a barrier between him and the influences of the outside world.

  In three months he would be 18 years old, the traditional age for the transition into adulthood. He thought about what it would be like to leave the wilderness farm and be on his own. Yet, how would a half elf be accepted? He was told by his grandparents that only two half elves were known to live in the Empire. Would he be rejected or accepted?

  Ideas continued to rattle around his head in unceasing circles of repetition. These images were then reduced to a single picture of an unending road extending before him. Coaldon saw himself standing in front of the farm house looking down the road. To his discomfort the peace and protection of the cabin melted away. He found himself standing alone with black, threatening clouds blanketing the distant horizon. His active mind associated the image of the flood with his future journey in life. He knew that life could be peaceful and secure. Other times it could be violent and unpredictable. His elfin senses detected a disturbance in his future. He thought, “Maybe this storm is a message to me. Is it possible that my peaceful life on the farm will soon be washed away?”

  ~ ~


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