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Happenstance LITERARY

MAY 1, 2013

A Musing...

“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.”

- Jill Churchill

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Happenstance Literary

Next issue: On or about May 15, 2013 Submission deadline, Sunday, May 11, 2013 No exceptions Creative Prompt: Transitions

Q&A with Joanne Sprenger, author of “Trail Guide to the Las Vegas Area,” a hiker and camper’s guide to safe travels and happy trails.

In this issue: Page 3 • The Long Haul Page 4 • Writers’ Block Q&A: Joanne Sprenger Page 5 • Book Review: Amity and Sorrow Page 6 • Transition Sharon Vander Meer

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Page 6 • Mother’s Day Quotes Page 7 • Aurelia Alan M. Guy

The Changeling King Episode 4

Page 8 • Poetry Rosanne Sterne Alan M. Guy

The King and a valiant and hardy true love join forces against the evils of the forest and retrieve the first orb.

Page 9 • The Changeling King By Sergio Hartshorne

Book Review: Amity and Sorrow, by Peggy Riley. A moving tale of girls enthrall to a manipulative community. Can they overcome the only thing they’ve ever known? Page 5

Happenstance May 1, 2013 Happenstance Publishing Sharon Vander Meer For permission to use content contact:

Cover image: Roses for Mom from Some interior images from

Page 12 • Hopeful Stream Photo

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Subscription: $12 annually Free to contributing writers Mail check to Sharon Vander Meer Happenstance Publishing PO Box 187 Las Vegas, NM 87701 Subscribe online at Happenstance Literary All rights reserved by Happenstance Publishing in Las Vegas, N.M. Reproduction of contents in any fashion without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. Happenstance Publishing is not responsible or liable for the loss of any unsolicited materials or incorrect dates or incorrect information in articles. Opinions expressed within the pages (or web posting) of Happenstance Literary do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the magazine. Bylined articles and editorial content represent the views of their authors. For permission to reprint any part of a bylined article, contact the author. Copyright 2013

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Happenstance Literary

Call for Submissions These creative prompts are suggestions, not fences to corral the writing muse. May: Transitions (Graduation, Marriage, Birth, Death) June: Traditions July: Summer Celebrations August: School Days September: Autumn Leaves October: Spirits and Ghosties November: Fabulous Food December: Winter Celebrations Submission deadlines: One week prior to the publication date, which is typically on the 1st and the 15th of each month.

Writer’s Guidelines: 1. Must be original work. 2. Grammar, punctuation and spelling must be correct. 3. Maximum length 1,500 words. 4. Acceptable genres and styles: poetry, humor, essay, memoir, short story, photo essay, feature articles, travel, social commentary, food, wine and dining, book reviews, fiction, non-fiction, mystery, romance and sci-fi/fantasy. 5. Submission does not guarantee publication. 6. Submit work to: If you have specific questions about the submission process, please e-mail Compensation not paid at this time.

The long haul T

here is a loose editorial plan for Happenstance, more loose than plan. The intent is to inspire creative thinking, not squelch originality. I have my moments when I wonder just how successful a magazine of this type can be, especially when I live in an area where high tech isn’t the norm. Not that most people don’t have computers, but for many of these folks the devices are necessary evils, not everyday tools. For a long time I lived under the delusion that all people check their e-mails daily at the minimum, and jump with great anticipation on mine in particular. Not true. Most check e-mail every two or three days, if that. Some have dual accounts with spouses who may or may not think my e-mail about Happenstance is of sufficient interest to share. There is also the little matter of nichifying Happenstance. I know, it’s not a real word, but everyone wants to know, “ who is your audience? What is your niche?” I would hope it is anyone who wants to read short fiction, poetry and nonfiction by creative writers in a variety of genres, and that covers a lot of territory. In truth the magazine is a work in progress, and since its production is sandwiched in between other things I’m doing, it doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. Too often after it has already been published, I find careless errors, most often in things I’ve written. It’s an absolute fact that self-editing is the bane of author entrepreneurs. I’ve had my share of naysayers who don’t believe what I’m doing will gain the traction necessary to make it truly successful. I suppose that depends on what success constitutes. I don’t expect to make a lot of money doing this (without paid advertising), so financial success is not a marker for me. I do want to pay writers at some point, so income is necessary for me to make that happen. I do want to contract with a web-savvy individual or company to help me get past all the technical barriers caused by my own tech ignorance. Money is necessary for that to happen. That’s why I’m charging for subscriptions, but it’s going to a take a lot (!) of $12 subscribers to get where I need to be. With that in mind I’m in the process of soliciting sponsors. For more information about that see page 11 of this issue. Right now I want to generate enough income to hire a web designer who can also help me make Happenstance an app accessible on phones and other digital devices. I have a lovely site I created, but it requires an enormous amount of time to update and maintain, which is also why it suffers from neglect. Nor is it interactive, and I want it to be. Where was I? Oh, right. Sponsors. If you are interested in being a sponsor of Happenstance, please give me a call at 505 617-0839. There are definite benefits. I also welcome comments and input about the type of content you would like to see in the magazine. Let me hear from you. E-mail me at –Sharon

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Happenstance Literary

Q&A with author Joanne Sprenger: Trail Guide to the Las Vegas Area


rail Guide to the Las Vegas Area, by Joanne M. Sprenger is a small volume packed full of essential information about hiking generally and the trails around Las Vegas in particular. She throws in a little history, personal anecdotes and photos. At $9.95 it’s a bargain for anyone planning on hiking and camping, and priceless in terms of the helpful hints and trail information. Joanne grew up in Wisconsin where she said there was a lot of private land and not as much opportunity to hike as in New Mexico. After college she taught at Cassville, Wis., on the banks of the Mississippi where she met and married George Sprenger, who taught Chemistry at Cassville. Joanne taught physical education and an English class for two years. The couple moved around a few times, she said, and landed in Las Vegas, where she taught at Highlands for 25 years. H. This is a second edition of Trail Guide to the Las Vegas Area. What’s different and why did you decide to do another one? JS. I decided to do a second edition of the Trail Guide I had printed in 1987 as those 2,000 copies were almost gone. There were also some changes I needed to make. For example, just after the first edition came off the press, the State Highway Department changed the number of Hwy 3 through Las Vegas to Hwy 518. H. Give a brief description of the book. JS. The second edition left out the wildflowers and Chapter 3 on cross country skiing, which I had in the first edition. One lists information on precautions, such as hypothermia and hyperthermia, dehydration, altitude sickness, lightning, blisters, how to find appropriate maps, etc. Chapter Two lists a number of trails and directions on how to find the trail head, difficulty, length of trail, elevation change, and GPS coordinates at the trail head. H. Who is the target audience? JS. The target readers are those seeking information on finding the trails as well as staying safe in the mountains. George and I used to lead week long trips in the Pecos Wilderness for backpackers from the east coast to west coast. One year on the final day of a hike, a gentleman from California died, and local search and rescue volunteers came up with a packhorse from Gascon Ranch to bring down Karl’s body. Although I had two physicians on that trip, no one expected an aneurysm on the aorta would suddenly turn into an emergency. Also, treasure hunters who come from lower elevations will be unprepared for this environment. We’ve already had one mission over at Bandelier National Monument for a woman from out of state who survived a cold, wet night out, unprepared for the weather. However, the subject of a search could be someone who knows the area who has an ac-

cident on a horse or many other problems that can arise. Sometimes the weather – such as heavy fog – can cause problems to even people who know the area. H. Why is it important to leave the environment as you found it, such as not picking wildflowers? JS. I was at a Forest Service meeting several years ago when a woman asked, “Why have all the flowers disappeared? When I was young we used to pick arms full of flowers.” It may be that the flowers she had been talking about reproduced by seed. Let’s leave the flowers, camping area, the way we found it for the next group to enjoy. No one enjoys camping in a garbage dump. Clean up your campsite before you leave. It’s easy to put that candy wrapper in your pocket for later disposal instead of throwing it along the trail. H. What is the most important thing every hiker should do before starting out, and why? JS. One of the most important things you should do before starting out is to inform someone who knows you where you plan to go and when to expect you back. In other words, someone who can be counted on to sound the alarm if you are seriously overdue. They should know your plans, have a description of your vehicle and license number, who you’re going with, and other information, which can help a search and rescue team know where to start. H. You talk about modern technology. Why is it important to not put too much reliance on devices? JS. Some of the electronic aids we’ve come to depend upon may be lost or left behind, even a compass. Cell phone signals may not be able to reach a tower, especially if you’re in the bottom of a deep canyon. Batteries may not last. A Global Positioning System could have several things go wrong. The batteries may go dead, you may be under such thick vegetation that the signal can’t reach that overhead satellite, some people may not know how to use it properly or have a map along or they may lose that GPS. There are personal locater beacons on the market, such as the SPOT, which also depend on satellites. These can be programmed to send a preprogrammed signal if an emergency comes up. They have some of the same weaknesses as the others, but they have also saved lives. If you become dependent on something which is suddenly not available, there is more of a tendency to panic. H. What is the best way to let people know where you are if you have an accident? JS. One of the best ways to get help if you’ve had an accident is to travel with a small group of friends. If you are in a group of –MORE ON PAGE 5–

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Happenstance Literary

Book Review: Amity and Sorrow Amity and Sorrow By Peggy Riley Little, Brown and Company Price: $25.99


he fire that sets this story in motion flames through “Amity and Sorrow” in every cleverly crafted scene. It is a dark story about sisters who grew up in what might be considered by some a cult atmosphere. In desperation, their mother Amaranth, snatches them away terrified by escalating threats from outside and unsettling changes from within. Their flight is interrupted when in utter exhaustion she crashes her car into a tree. Miraculously none of the three are seriously injured, and are rescued by a farmer who reluctantly and with bad grace, befriends them. The story travels back and forth from the uncertain present into a disturbing past. Amity and Sorrow are bound together by more than the strap that links them and keeps Sorrow from running back to the only home she has ever known, despite threats that await her.

“Amity and Sorrow” follows Amaranth, whose trust has been betrayed by the man she believes loves only her, and looks at the “perfect” world created by this man who through polygamy takes advantage of the broken and shattered lives of women with no place to go. His two daughters are caught in the middle with no understanding of what life outside the community is like. There is a touch of mysticism, harsh lessons in how religion can corrupt and be corrupted, and a wrenching coming-of-age story. The strict and structured world as Amity and Sorrow knew it is nothing like the farm where their mother insists they take refuge. There is more at work in the lives of these girls than their mother knows. Her only hope of saving them is to keep them away from the man who is their father. Their multiple layers of conservative clothing, prim aprons and cap-covered hair cannot protect them from what lies ahead. This is a fascinating tale of a mother’s love, renewal, and the power of the mind to create what it will. Amity and Sorrow are at the mercy of a dangerous past they can relate to and a future they fear. Riley’s scenes are gripping and visual, and her character development is powerful. Author Peggy Riley is a writer and playwright who lives on the North Kent Coast. “Amity and Sorrow” is her first novel. —By Sharon Vander Meer

Writer’s Block Continued four, for example, one person could stay with the injured person while the other two go for help, or if two are needed to provide assistance, only one would be available to go for help. While I have violated this rule on occasion, I have been fortunate so far. H. What are the most common problems beginning hikers experience? JS. I would guess that the most common problem beginning hikers experience would be blisters. H. What about experienced hikers? JS. I would guess that this would be weather related. Weather in these mountains can change quickly. As I mentioned in the book, George and I have been backpacking at 11,000 feet elevation two separate 4th of Julys and awakened to a white environment. The snow or hail quickly evaporated after the sun came out, but people who are not prepared for “winter” conditions in July could find themselves in trouble. H. You’ve walked many trails. What got you started? JS. This is a tough one. I think I’ve always enjoyed the quiet of the woods as well as the expectation that there will be some wildlife. One time George and I were canoeing in northern Wisconsin and came upon a family of otters who had a muddy embankment where they continued to slide down into the lake and then climbe back up for another turn. We sat and watched them having fun for

quite awhile. Another time we were driving near Pendaries and spotted a mother bear sitting in a small meadow while her two cubs rolled down the hillside to join her. Many years ago George and I were backpacking up Pecos Canyon near the headwaters of the Pecos River. We stopped to rest and kept hearing this loud noise. I finally recovered enough to sit up and look up the hillside behind us to discover a herd of elk a short distance away. If you’ve ever been fortunate to hear an elk bugle, or a loon in the evening on a lake in northern Minnesota, you know what I mean. H. What trails have been the most challenging? Enjoyable? JS. Hermit’s Peak is challenging if you try to go too quickly. Enjoyable? Probably Porvenir Canyon Trail 247. They both have the same parking area up Gallinas Canyon. H. Where can readers get a copy of Trail Guide to the Las Vegas Area? JS. The Trail Guide is available at several locations in the Las Vegas area: (Listed alphabetically) Chamber of Commerce, Furniture and More, 519 6th Street, KOA Campground, LaCueva Horticulture (Raspberry Farm), Laguna Vista Quick Stop, Las Vegas Museum Gift Shop, Mallette’s Feed, Midway Grocery in Sapello, Semilla Natural Foods, Tito’s Gallery, Tome on the Range, and War Dancer on the west side of the Plaza.

Happenstance Literary


May 1, 2013, Page 6

Transition: Good or Bad, the Choice is Yours

ransition takes many forms. Birth, marriage, death, graduation, job changes, illness, sudden wealth, sudden poverty – all of these alter our lives. When horrific circumstances occur we can crumble under the weight or find ways to cope and move on. What transition is for you will be different from what it is for me. I read an article in “Reader’s Digest” about a couple whose daughter was murdered at age 16. It took nearly 10 years for the perpetrator to be caught, and that was after he had taken the lives of several more people, brutally stabbing them to death, as was the method of killing of the couple’s daughter. The parents of the first victim of this multiple murderer continue to keep her bedroom in their house exactly as it was the night she died. Their lives are caught in the past. They seem unable to transition away from this life-altering event. In the same circumstances, how would you or I react? My friend Cindy Charlton has gone through two major lifealtering events, (in addition to the passing of both her parents). One event took three of her limbs, the other took her husband. At some point in both of these circumstances Cindy decided she would be a survivor. Whether it was an angel on her shoulder or internal fortitude (more likely an equal portion of both), she elected to not be crushed by circumstances beyond her control. Today she is a motivational speaker, writer, advocate for the disabled, mom and volunteer. Her transitions have made her stronger. In the same circumstances, how would you or I have managed? When my older brother died not long after he turned twenty

I was sure the world had ended. For months I would see a young man walking toward me and think, “There he is! I knew he wasn’t gone.” I would approach the young man and realize quickly that it wasn’t my brother. He didn’t even look like my brother, not really. It was like losing Don all over again. I dreamed about him. Found myself talking to him. Prayed for his death to be a cosmic trick. I have one of the few letters he sent me while he was in college. It’s not a long letter, but when I come across it and read it, I’m filled up with sorrow that I can’t talk to him and tell him how much I loved him and love him still. Have I transitioned away from his loss? For the most part I have, but at times I grieve for not having my brother – my big brother – be part of my life. I didn’t say transitions were easy. We’re coming up on graduation. Talk about a transition. Graduates at every level are facing major changes, including the little kindergartners moving into first grade. Are they ready for a more structured environment? What pressures do they feel? Will they be bullied or feel they belong? Will they be in the presence of teachers who will encourage and nurture their talents? This may well be the biggest transition a child makes in life, a defining event that sets the stage for the future. Transitions do indeed come in many forms. The thing is, for the most part we can determine where the transition will lead. That’s the beauty of transition, the outcome is not predetermined; the outcome is up to us. –By Sharon Vander Meer

Happy Mother’s Day Here are a few of the ways people have put into words what being a mom means to them.

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. - Abraham Lincoln

Mother - that was the bank where we deposited all our hurts and worries. -T. DeWitt Talmage

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. -Honore de Balzac

A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest. - Irish Proverb

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs... since the payment is pure love.

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. - George Washington When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. - Sophia Loren God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers. - Jewish Proverb

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. - Mark Twain A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. -Victor Hugo My mother was a personal friend of God’s. They had ongoing conversations. -Della Reese Of all the roles I’ve played, none has been as fulfilling as being a mother. -Annette Funicello

-Mildred B. Vermont

An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest. -Spanish Proverb A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. - By Tenneva Jordan A mother understands what a child does not say. – Jewish proverb

Happenstance Literary


Aurelia: Golden

urelia was a morose person. Too often she was sorrowful, negative, and melancholy, clearly showing it on her face the way a mime expresses himself. Her mother, who spoke little if any English, died when she was about two, leaving her father with Aurelia and four older siblings. The father, as an itinerant sundries peddler, was often gone from home. Needing assistance back in the 1910s to care for and help raise these five children while he worked his horse and wagon on the road, he took a second wife, also an emigrant. Adding to the angst of a child already traumatized by the family’s events, her playmates could not pronounce Aurelia correctly. They called her Rilly, which became Lilly, which, as she grew older, then became Lillian. Aurelia means Golden. Regrettably for Aurelia, her brother, and three sisters, the new stepmother not only fit the mold of the classic evil person familiar in fairy tales, she created new levels. A stepsister born to this lady became the core of her attention. As might be expected, a mind set within the older sibling group toward this new baby, although not described as dislike, was never affectionate. I don’t know what life was like day to day in those years and in that family circle. It does speak for itself that the eldest, the only brother, and much loved Sammy (who was occasionally a substitute father figure), eventually left, moving far away to Rutland, VT. From then on he was gone from their lives, except for intermittent letters. I do know Aurelia worshiped him. Perhaps this was another chink in her armor. Then the two eldest sisters married in their late teens to first cousins from within this small ethnic community, essentially to escape from that family dynamic. None of the original siblings could bring themselves to identify this stepmother as Mom, Mother, or any other phrase of similar familiarity. Instead she was called Tanta, Yiddish for aunt. Aurelia, being the second youngest and closest to the stepsister’s age, was also closest emotionally, playing with her, helping to care for her, being a sister to her. This stepsister, Rivka, became a timid lady, an introvert. I suppose if your siblings don’t care that much about you, you wouldn’t want to create waves growing up with them. Possibly because of this lack of a strong self-image, she married a weak, Casper Milquetoast-like simple bookkeeper who died much too young, leaving her with two little girls to raise alone. Within this family dysfunction the two older sisters, who still lived in the same small upstate New York city, remained somewhat emotionally distant from Rivka, whereas Aurelia, having the stronger childhood ties, was the forever helping older sister, often with hand-me-downs and other necessities. She felt badly for her, and cared for her, feeling perhaps responsible for her. It was another sad burden of life Aurelia either chose, or had foisted upon her as a youngster. When Aurelia was about 20, old enough to leave, she was invited to join her next nearest sibling, already established in New York City. There she found work, shared a place to live, and while working as a secretary, met the man who would become her husband in 1932. The Great Depression was at its peak, and New York was one of the most expensive place to live. The remedy was to relocate to upstate New York, to more familiar and less costly living conditions, to her only other support group.

May 1, 2013, Page 7

Her husband had not been educated beyond eighth grade, so throughout the nearly 60 years of their marriage, although always provided for, she never hoped for the financial successes her older sisters had found through their marriages. Deep down there was some subtle jealousy of them, as her life required her to work out of the home for most of her life, and they did not. She often referred to those two sisters’ husbands, also her first cousins don’t forget, as her “rich brothers-in-law,” but she never referred to those sisters as “my rich sisters.” They were, after all, her sisters who just got lucky and married up. Aurelia was able to take time out from working to raise two boys until they could be left alone after school, then returned to the labor force, while these well-to-do sisters lived, well, better. Not wishing to misrepresent or over sensationalize the difficult life described, Aurelia did not live in poverty, nor was she physically or mentally abused. Life was just tough. Usually seeing the negative side of situations, she was a worrier – glass half full maybe, even one-third full. She never took risks, never borrowed money, and only bought items or repaired broken ones when the money was there. Imagine her doing the wash in the cellar in an old tub with a washboard until her washer with the hand wringer on top got fixed, and canning foods every season. A mortgage was out of the question. That was borrowing money. Paying rent for the bottom flat of a two family house for over 40 years to the “rich brother-in-law,” seemed okay. The worrier worried. She found solace and security in the assumed knowledge that her older sister would never let her be homeless. Ultimately retiring to South Florida, at age 64, she finally did borrow to buy a condo. Not from a bank though. Oh no. She borrowed from one of her generous sisters. The light bulb went on one year when she learned that the condo she’d bought for $20,000 was worth $43,000 two years later. She said, “If I had known that could happen, I would have bought a house years ago instead of paying rent.” Coming from the Great Depression probably contributed to that mind set and to some extent some of that subtle jealousy. Aurelia found an escape in her later adult years. She discovered she could act, which she did in local theater, about once or twice a year. This required a totally different schedule for rehearsals in the evenings, learning makeup, memorizing lines, and interaction with people not ordinarily from her everyday life. Being someone else, even for a short time, was her therapy. She was so happy doing that. It was an escape from her own identity. She didn’t even have the use of her real name. The insufficient familial love from childhood most certainly set the example, or lack of it, contributing to her inability to be demonstrative as a hugging, kissing mother, although her children never lacked for anything a lower middle class family could supply, nor love. Golden Aurelia. Rilly, Lilly, Lillian. I simply called her “Mom”. It is very difficult to write about one’s parent. Her influence on me runs deep, but my brother and I felt especially secure in the knowledge that we were loved completely. —By Alan M. Guy

Happenstance Literary

May 1, 2013, Page 8

Poetry Again Again I see him balanced on thin fingers in frozen grass, polishing pink granite to a gloss, chamois cloth, azure liquid spray and dust blowing over planted red plastic geraniums, droplets scattering. Is this love? -the scar of hope and caring extending beyond the limits of life, beyond the smell of wet earth, to an imagined future reunion? He rubs her headstone resolutely, wanting to push it over, resenting the finite body and death’s sturdy interference with his soundless attempts to resurrect a woman whose heart has stopped.

The Cobwebs of My Mind Coming or going? I don’t know. Did I or didn’t I? Can’t remember. Inside or outside? Which way does it go? Up or down? August or September. I can’t seem to keep it straight in my head. Is Harry alive, or is he dead? Who won the last major football game? Does the victorious team even have a name? I guess it must be that I’m getting on. Half my cerebral cells are gone. My mind must be foggy, it wont even retain Whether today we had snow, or did it rain?

Thinking of death in particular

three grief haikus i as days stretch longer and harbinger jaybirds caw this time of leaving

Not at the end but at the beginning: decline

ii dust settles old cells on her nightstand as body is turned to white ash

Patience and exertion between two poles, both and none – Wild elephants flailing in the pocket of decay. As in classic texts and writings of luminaries, the oracle fingers your open face. Chalk-white zinc cornices and red tuck-pointed brick walls melt and crumble. While the body’s foundation still stands, words and strange visages of ancestors arrive, seeking, Holding the crescent moon in their tinted hands and no good answers.

iii while soft winds bustle and trees prepare to burst green my time of grieving —Rosanne Sterne is an award-winning poet, watercolorist and flutist whose poetry has been widely published in literary journals including Artisan, Journal of Poetry Therapy, Long Island Quarterly, Progenitor, and Santa Fe Literary Review. Her collection of poetry, “Dancing in the Gaps,” is available at online retailers. For more information about the author go to the Colorado Poets web site at www.coloradopoetscenter. org.

Inch worms and spiders, crawling about; Their wormholes and cobwebs have cut it all out. The memories are gone. Did I take my Viagra? Oh, so I did. It’s like the starch called Niagara! Dark and dusky, empty and bland Only echoes are heard when I pound with my hand. The cranium I carry on top of my shoulders Has lost all it’s colorful memory folders. —Alan M. Guy has submitted a number of pieces to Happenstance, mostly memoir. He is a retired dentist who lives in Florida with his wife. His interest in writing has grown in recent years, but a variety of other activities keep him occupied as well. He and his wife enjoy traveling and have visited 70 countries, “...with 10 more on the horizon.” He is working on a mystery novel, which he hopes to publish by the end of the year. He continues to work in dentistry part time, when he isn’t painting, writing or seeing the world. He and Anita have three children and five grandsons.

Happenstance Literary

May 1, 2013, Page 9

The Changeling King: Episode 4 To Fight a Witch


he Changeling King rowed the boat slowly. It was a tightly caulked canoe, carrying no one save the King himself. As he neared a jetty by a swamp hut, skillfully thatched so the rain didn’t come in, he sang this song: I’m an old hand, and ‘tis time I make my stand. I have battled many’s a year, throwing men off the gunwales to clear. Oh, it’s twenty miles from Jiernsaw, it’s forty to Gehenna and but one step to Megiddo. . .” He tied the boat off as he docked. Moving in a quick, decisive fashion, he was in through the door like a swamp rabbit darting down into a burrow. Cat-quick, he stalked. The room’s only inhabitant was a ghost-pale woman of about twenty years, or at least that was the King’s best estimate. It was impolite to ask a woman her age, and this was no ordinary woman. Kila could be testy this early in the morning. And it was early. In other parts of the world farm boys were being shaken awake by their fathers and kings were being killed, for assassins know no normal hours. However, Kila’s hut was, for the King, at least, the safest place in the world. Kila was an old lover of his, and like all witches who were young, could appear in almost any guise to suit her fancy. Today she was a red head. The King bantered easily with one of the five most dangerous people in the world. “I hope you didn’t change your hair just for me, my love.” “I did. I knew you were coming. Don’t I always know?” “Yes, Kila, you do. But I just wanted to be certain of the reason for you appearing to be so beautiful today.” “Flatterer,” she said, not unkindly. “And you, oh my time traveling lover, what brings you to my shores?” “I have a problem.” He sighed with weariness overflowing. “Of course you do, don’t you always?” She kissed him then, a quick, hard peck on the lips. He wished immediately that she hadn’t stopped so soon. But his business was of a dark, drear nature, and even Kila’s kisses couldn’t change his low mood. Sensing this, Kila got right to the point. “Tell me,” she said. “It’s a Swamp Blight,” the King replied. Kila spat. “I’ve killed them before,” she said without a hint of false modesty. “What makes this one so dangerous? Usually it’s all I can do to find time to breathe, with the way you kiss me.” “She has a legion of lizard men for one. For two, she is said to have a spell of anti-magic cast over her entire domain.” “Pah, we’ll sort her out together you and I. It’ll be just like old times.” The second kiss was begun by the King. As Kila began undressing him, his passion soon was kindled to a fire that would have drowned most women in its intensity. Kila merely basked in its warmth. ****** “Announce us please, Shenk.” The King and Kila were moving out to survey their army on its march. Using a voice honed by years of bar room conversations, Shenk eagerly obliged.

“His Lordship the King of Many Colors and the Witch Woman Kila!” The army cheered. Over two months of intensive training under Shenk, the King and Kila, they were a spirited unit of the sort that would quickly earn nicknames on the battlefield lauding their exploits. Each component was a crack unit in its own right. Together they would be damned hard to stop. Seeing them there, arrayed in their vast hordes, the King felt a surge of hope. Kila studied no spell books and recited no incantations, as some mages did, but she was the most feared woman in the land for good reason. She was that powerful. None who crossed her had lived to tell, but that in and of itself was not the reason the King loved her so fiercely. He loved her for the kind heart veiled under the mantle of awesome strength. He loved her for the way she laughed, and the way she smiled. He loved her for her quick wit and easy going conversation. She always had a kind word for the troops. For all that she was powerful, she was compassionate. Kila often visited the troops injured in training accidents, and she once worked a spell to save a man who was accidentally impaled by a comrade’s spear when his horse fell, spooked by a passing dog. The healing was a minor miracle in its own right. The fashion it came about was just as miraculous. The other, lesser healers had already given up on him by the time the King and Kila arrived. “What’s your name, soldier?” she’d asked. The man was clearly able to answer her. He’d been calling for a priest in a loud voice. “Johnny, ma’am.” He was no older than fifteen winters and scared out of his mind by the pain and the thought of dying without being able to give a confession. Kila was quick to calm him. “You won’t die, on my oath you will not,” she’d said fervently. Kila had closed her eyes then. A wash of warm orange light poured from her hands onto the man’s massive, arterial leg wound She stayed like that for several long minutes, wincing at the pain she then shared. The most powerful healers worked through simple empathy, augmented by vast power. She’d screamed and cried out: “Finneas! Hold my hand!” Finneas was the name the King had given her the first time they met. The light had changed colors, turning to a dark umber. The King felt his form melt until it was indistinct. She had sucked the magic right out of him to fuel her spirit. Then it was over. The soldier lived. It wasn’t until later, in their shared tent, that the King sensed just how much the experience had drained her. “I almost lost him, Finneas. There at the end. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been there. My savior,” she purred as she kissed him. The King shushed her and kissed her eye-lids closed. He held her in his arms until dawn. The King and Kila oversaw the setting up of the camp outside the walls of the Swamp Blight’s fortress. The fearsome snake women glared at the lizard men on the walls, savoring their fear of the petrifying glare, which the snake women could only use at very short range.

May 1, 2013, Page 10

Happenstance Literary The giants would be on their flank if the army was not careful about setting up camp, so the King and Kila saw to it that they were. Kila’s role was to bring down the Swamp Blight’s net of anti-magic. She was clever in her approach and subtle in her guile. “There!” she said. After she paused to suck in a sharp breath, she explained further. “I can bring it down at any moment,” she said to the King, whispering into his ear. “Wait,” he said “Wait for the catapults to soften up the defenses.” The catapults were being busily assembled by the legion of Dwarves. Everywhere there were short, squat figures hammering, stretching rope and checking the angles of the catapult arms. Another team of Dwarves was busy with a battering ram. This was a diversion. The King wanted to keep Kila’s powers a secret for the time being. The Dwarven general Sip’pak sauntered up to the King’s horses to report. “The lads’ll have the first of the catapults finished any moment now. Be there aught else needs doing?” “Yes,” the King said “I’ve got a raiding party to lead. We’ll take out the Giants while you and the boys get to work on the walls. Kila, you stay here and try to keep out of sight. Wait for my signal.” The King showed off a tiny mirror he held in his left hand. “Three flashes and then you knock that door down for the boys and girls to get in.” The King took three hundred of the Snake Women with him to take on about five hundred Giants. A pity they had the enemy so badly outnumbered.

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The King transformed into a Claw-Terror, a rare species of Dragon known for its ferocity. As he led the raid, he thought about how stupid Giants were. No small blessing that. The slaughter was quick. The King buzz-sawed through the thickest knot of Giants in a very short time. Everywhere he looked he saw Giants being turned to stone or shot down by the short lances the Snake Women carried. He scythed through a last group of them, and then it was done. He turned back into a man and signaled Kila. Immediately, the ground started shaking. The shaking got worse by a series of slow increments. Then the shaking focused at the gatehouse. The gate suddenly exploded in a crimson fireball as the Dwarves dove for cover. Kila picked out the Swamp Blight on the battlements and sent her a sleeping spell so strong it knocked her three feet backwards into the air. Given that her back had been turned to the attackers, the old crone flew off the wall and landed right at Kila’s feet. Kila was quick to finish the dangerous creature off. She used a spike of ice to impale the Swamp Blight. From out of a pouch Shinja carried spilled an orb about one foot in diameter. It was a pure, lime green. The first of the stones was theirs. The Dwarves and the Snake Women the King hadn’t taken with him made quick work of the lizard men. The victorious army celebrated into the wee hours of the morning. Kila and the King saw to the mop up, including the extermination of the vicious Saw-Dust Spiders. This was accomplished by Kila leveling the queen’s lair on top of the highest tower and burning it afterwards. — By Sergio Hartshorne

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