Lavender has the ability to see life and death in all its forms. It is a gift that led to her exile alongside sister Marigold. The two journey through an alternate Arctic encountering various characters and creatures along the way. Because of her persecution, Lavender's story had to be told. Marigold begins this story as lead narrator, but quickly hands the pen to the various characters and creatures, who narrate their encounter of the sisters. Together it forms an epic for an alternate Canada, as told by a prince, and orphan, a fugitive bog man, Feathermen, and many others. The mythological story of Ancient Canada may be unlike anything you've read in 1,000 years.
From Chapter 9, The Commandant's Encounter
We followed the footsteps, and in heavy green armor, which served no camouflage of function in the open marsh towards which we ran. With the weight of the armor and its momentum in stride, it wasn’t long before we realized we were shifting direction just slightly, but frequently. And as three men in the sand, we did not travel swiftly or at equal paces. The changes in direction of the presumed objectives’ footsteps, and therefore ours, did serve to our fatigue but also to my own fear. Were, or are they running from us? And was there a purpose to these shifts? I commanded more to Lyell than to Ellard, as Lyell had stridden ahead and Ellard behind, “Men, follow the footsteps exactly! Do not negotiate a direct path!” In this I considered, but did not have the breath to explain in the moment, the possibility of becoming stuck in sinking, unproven silt.
Before long the landscaped flattened and broadened further, and the footing dampened. We were in the pure marsh, and nearly to the sea. Focused heavily on following Lyell, and ensuring we both followed the obvious tracks, I nearly neglected to raise my neck to consider spotting our objectives. Once I finally considered this, it was not two evils I spotted on the horizon; in the distance, the deep distance, was a tremendous object. At first I took it for a mountain, and quite out of place resting on smooth, wet silt.
“The girls, sir!” yelled Ellard from behind, noticing with keen eyesight two objects in motion. Had they not been moving, they perhaps would have remained hidden by the dark object on the horizon, even though they were between the spectacle and us.
They were several hundred paces yet ahead of us, and appeared to be staggering with occasional slight changes in direction, explaining the footsteps we followed. The adjustments I did not understand, but their coarse trend was proceeding to the object, which was for them another several hundred paces as well. My two men and I proceeded to lumber through the marsh, and with us all breathing too heavily to speak, I relied on a soldier’s sense to instruct them onward.
We perhaps gained some ground on the girls, but it was clear they would reach the object before we would, even Lyell. As I got closer it appeared not to be made of rock or wood, and was certainly not a fortress or a design of human architecture.
“It’s moving!” noticed Lyell, using as few words as possible, and on the exhale.
And it was. It was rising, and beneath it, what appeared to be six pillars or thick trees straightened into legs. And a mouth, an opening, an enormous mouth… one which comprised the entire height and width of its right side. It did not open evenly from the middle such as some creatures, but rather its large jaw, even disproportionately large for its size, creased from the top and opened toward the soil. With jaw fully extended, the mouth was dark and cavernous, at least from what I was able to see in my one opportunity still a hundred paces away. I did not see its mouth open but that once. The objectives were present for that opening, and on the jaw’s threshold. For our first time in view of them, they were no longer running… still out of our reach, but within swallowing distance of the creature. The creature did not lunge for them, rather awaited their decision. They stared at it while we gained strides of ground on them. They looked back at us, perhaps fifty paces now at Lyell, our closest man, and they attempted to run left. They stopped quickly, tried another direction, stopped, and ran towards the creature’s open jaw. They stopped in front of the jaw, but only briefly, with Lyell now twenty paces behind. I watched as they then stepped inside the beast carefully.
It collapsed its jaw shut consuming the objectives but showed no further sign of chew, grind, or swallow. The objectives had disappeared inside the creature, and in the moment I did not have the time to decide if that determined our assignment a success or failure. It relieved its six legs of its massive weight as it rested again on its belly. When it did we all instantly broke stride, breathing heavily, leaning over in the marsh with our hands on our knees as if new soldiers in initial training, just finishing our first terrain run in full equipment.
The creature did not move or take notice of us. Only twenty paces away we recollected together. Its size astonished as it reminded us that we were tempting fate simply being so close to something that had just consumed two others of our species.
“We were to retrieve the eyes of the gifted evil,” I informed.
“They’re dead,” said Ellard. “We all saw, with our common eyes.”
“Yes but the creature isn’t moving, sir,” said Lyell. “Perhaps we can still retrieve her head.”
“Wait a moment,” I instructed, staring at the inhaling and exhaling creature from such an incredibly close distance, our existence still unknown to it in spite of our voices. “Do not move quite yet.” I allowed us three to regain our breath in preparation for our next maneuver. Of course I was also studying the creature, but did not observe much other than a few legs and a closed jaw on an incredible reddish-black core, at least that color in the dawn light. The original architect of the largest wooden boat operated by the Canadian military may have been the only other human to see this creature and survive. Contour lines, corrugated they seemed, formed its hull. No step or other segment to its abdomen that I could see. This led me to believe the creature swam submerged in the water and not buoyant on the surface. Its skin was more smooth than scaled, and appeared damp. I watched it labor as it breathed but it was so featureless that I was unable to locate a nostril or spiracle. It was not amorphous; it held its elliptical shape, but my eye was brought to the region of detail: its legs. There were six and not four. If its jaw was its front, which I am still uncertain, then its front was to our right and we observed it broadside, facing its right flank. We therefore saw its three right appendages as it rested on its hull. I studied the detail of its closest leg to my position, its front right, although it was partially tucked under its weight, claws facing forward. Perhaps they were not terribly large in proportion to its size, but each clawnail was easily longer than one of our swords. The peculiarity, however, was that the same appendage on its trailing edge appeared finlike. It was long and broad and if the creature was moving in the opposite direction, through the water with the jaw trailing, these fins could serve its motion as the claws either steered or simply dangled.
Once I passed my first break in focus on the creature, although for less than a second, I considered the mission and realized the objectives were almost certainly dead. Perhaps through a technicality they were not killed by the authority of my sword, but however they perished was a great relief regardless. Yet as the creature ignored us, and as I saw no ocular adaptation for what I began to believe was a blind, seaborne creature that beached itself ashore to die, I felt encouraged to finish our mission. “Men, advance carefully. Take its legs first,” I commanded. “I’ll attempt to occupy its attention, if I can find a set of eyes.”
Lyell began walking as Ellard began protesting, “Are they not dead, sir? Why instead do we not watch for several moments to be confident they have suffocated, then return to York?”
“Because we are not to return to York without the gifted objective’s eyes. And they are inside the creature. Now advance slowly.”
To my surprise he did not protest further. I suppose he saw that the end of our mission was in sight. Lyell advanced on the front right appendage, Ellard on the middle right, and I positioned to face its huge jaw. Still I saw no eye of the creature. With nervous sight on each other, we set into our positions. Able to speak casually without alarming the beast I instructed, “Strike your swords into its claw on my command, understood?”
“Yes sir,” they responded.
I waited for them to draw their swords, raise them above their heads, and yelled, “NOW!”
They drove their blades, piercing the flesh of its claws: an attack met by a low-registered screech. The beast, now alarmed and aware of our presence, became startled and vocal with a terrible bellow that not only deafened us, but rattled our armor, and even vibrated our bones. Ellard fell backward away from the creature as Lyell, more committed to his strike, continued to drive and twist his sword into his assigned claw.
A seventh appendage emerged from directly opposite its jaw, coming from the distant end of its huge body, far from where I stood. What I could not officially determine as its rear was where this whip-like, tentacle-like, tail-like adaptation emerged. It had been entirely tucked beneath the hull, buried in the silt, but now was pulled over top its deck and was long enough to reach the Canadian soldier of its desire.
At first appearing to be a tail, it lashed its own newly afflicted side. It defended itself where it was attacked, and with incredible force struck Lyell to the ground. Ellard, already apart from the creature by enough separation to survive, stepped back further with his mortality intact.
“Ellard, pull Lyell away!” I yelled. He approached to comply, but the creature continued to strike its own front right claw, with Lyell’s committed sword buried in its flesh. It lashed several times as Ellard disobediently but wisely backed away, and each time struck on or near Lyell’s body within his armor.
The appendage opened a lid, a lens I could say, and revealed the long-awaited eye. It was one eye only, and it looked from above and overtop its body. It stared briefly at Ellard and at me, then turned towards the sea while its entire body pivoted. Its jaw now faced Ellard, but the creature was retreating into the water. It escaped evenly, without favoring a single foot. The swords had done nothing. By some grace or mercy, or simple rule of nature, the creature spared Ellard and me and slipped amphibiously into the depths of the sea, fins forward and presumably already in use.
“Lyell,” said Ellard.
We approached where he lay, motionless within his armor. His heart no longer beat by our test. The force had killed him.
“Take a moment, then we will strip his armor,” I said, knowing the metal was crushed and ruined. For this reason, stripping it from our fallen friend would be quite difficult. But with all threats below the sea, we could grieve briefly before we began our next chore. “When that is done, toss him over your back. We must carry him home.”
Author Bio & Links
Clinton Festa began his writing career as a 'Lunatic,' writing for the campus humor magazine the Cornell Lunatic. Since his undergraduate days, he has also been a cartoonist, a circulation editor, and written numerous online humor articles.
On the serious side, Clinton has authored many technical courses to promote aviation safety. As a pilot with over 3,500 flight hours, his seminars have earned him the FAA's 'Representative of the Year' award in 2010 for the Greensboro, North Carolina district.
Clinton began writing his first novel, Ancient Canada, while working as both a corporate pilot and the chief pilot for an air cargo company. He drew on various sources, from ancient literature to conversations with his wife. The novel best classifies as fantasy fiction, specifically an epic drama, with a revolving narrator much like Canterbury Tales. But Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Ancient Canada. Much like the characters' journey through their known world, Clinton wrote his tale of mythology over several years as his aviation career took him to various states and Canadian provinces.
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