Illuminated Manuscripts Anthology
are the only true magicians in the world. They create worlds with words, and
in the case of fantasy, they bring magic into our lives. Because of writers
we can converse with dragons, follow a quest for the sake of good, and find
love lost through the centuries.
The Illuminated Manuscripts Anthology is a
collection of ten wondrous and magical tales ranging from epic to
contemporary and from fairy tale to historical fantasy. Within this
collection you will find pretty tales, dark tales and stories that might
have you looking for magic in your own world.
The anthology includes both new and established
authors, each with a wonderful touch for making fantasy seem real. These
enchanting tales lead you into worlds filled with dangerous creatures,
enchanted swords, and powers used for both good and evil -- and love lost
and found. Come and take a walk down the paths where these stories lead, and
enjoy the adventures you find along the way -- but do be careful. Magic is
Excerpts from the openings of all ten stories:
Hell Forge By Darwin A. Garrison
Marsh waited with his back against a scorched
sandstone boulder. His cloak shielded him from the noonday sun, but his
nose still wrinkled as the scent of brimstone wafted by with every breeze.
He cursed the heat of the day, the brimstone, and the delay, but he had no
choice. He had to deal with his pursuer now, in a place of his choosing.
A scrabbling in the loose rock on the trail behind
the boulder brought him back from his reverie. He held his breath, and
waited to see what would enter the pass.
A figure moved from shadow into light and Marsh’
eyes narrowed as he estimated the threat. Could this filthy, shambling
wreck possibly be the child he had first seen following him from the ruins
of Dunfeld three days ago, or was it some spawn of the Forge sent to hunt
him? He kept still, confident in the enchantment of his cloak.
The figure lowered itself to the ground and
examined the trail carefully, its ragged clothing flopping forward as it
bent down. A portion of the creature’s back was bared, revealing fair skin,
the welts of burns, and the ridges of its spine.
Then it collapsed on the trail and sobbed.
"Gone…he’s gone…" came a choked girl’s voice from
the huddled pile of rags. The sobs continued for a handful of seconds
before a coughing fit set in.
The Northwatch By Cheryl Peugh
“Tell me, little man, why should I not freeze you
where you stand and add you to my collection?”
Kien peered around the edge of her hood, her feet
slipping a little on the ice-covered ramp to the barbican. She could see
nothing and her heart leaped into her mouth.
"Many creatures have dared the Northwatch only to
be frozen to pillars of ice for their trouble," the voice’s elusive owner
said. "Why should I spare you?"
"Only you can decide that," Kien said, swaying on
her feet. Having won this far, a bone-tired feeling gripped her limbs so
that she could not have fled had she desired. The voice sounded powerful and
as if it originated in the thin air above her. Male, she thought. The voice
Something huge and unseen sighed, frosting the ice
in front of Kien, plastering her furs to her and causing her to grip her
sword-hilt so tightly her fingers ached.
"A woman. It has been long and long since a woman
tried to best me. The last one’s frozen corpse lies somewhere to the right
of where you stand."
Destiny’s Choice By Kate Paulk
"Ow!" Gem slapped at her behind. The biting
insects seemed to think she was delicious.
She sighed and rubbed at the sore spot. She was
supposed to be in a meditation trance but everything in the glade conspired
to distract her. In two days she’d barely managed to slip into a trance,
much less keep it up for long enough to call her Companion.
This was Gem’s third Companion Quest, and her
last. After three failed quests, she would be outcaste, banished from
Eilithia. Only if she found her Companion would her adult life begin.
She didn’t want to think about Elder Patritson’s
assertions that she would fail again. He was a dirty old man anyway, pawing
every girl he could -- and more. His Companion rarely came near him any
more. Although it was unseemly for a mere girl to judge an Elder, Gem
couldn’t help thinking that Patritson’s Companion was dying of a broken
heart. The Elder was so wrapped up in himself he probably wouldn’t even
notice poor Torren’s death.
Gem’s thoughts drifted as they always did when she
was supposed to be concentrating. What would it be? The King and Queen were
still young, so a lion was unlikely. A dog or cat, for domestic life, would
probably be her lot, but... Her stomach tightened and tears burned behind
her closed eyes. What if nothing came?
She’d always wanted to explore the world beyond
the ordered lands of Eilithia, but not as an outcaste... Not alone. And not
with Elder Patritson pretending to be sorry she was outcaste.
"Why don’t you just tell the old fool to keep his
hands where they belong?"
The Miller’s Daughter by Deborah Millitello
The first time I saw her, she was covered in flour
from the top of her golden hair to the tip of her dark leather boots.
That’s when I fell in love with the miller’s daughter.
She skipped along the edge of a stream to a pool
and a tiny waterfall that tumbled into it. Stripping down to her chemise,
she waded into the pool and stood under the cascading water. Flour changed
into white mud plastered to her. She rubbed her face, scrubbed her hair
until the flour became only a spreading circle of white on the pool.
Her hair shimmered like molten gold. Water
splashed over her like liquid diamonds. She moved with the grace of a
flowing chain of silver. My heart pounded wildly in my chest.
Suddenly, her eyes looked right at me and grew
wide. She gasped and smiled. “Who are you?” she asked.
“Just a friend,” I said.
She sloshed through the water until she reached
the end of the pool. “I’ve never seen anyone like you before,” she said as
she squeezed water from her hair. She sat down beside me and rung out the
skirt of her chemise. “You’re no bigger than I am.”
My mouth felt dry. I had to swallow and lick my
lips before I could speak. “I’m a dwarf, a mountain dwarf.”
A Dragon’s Tale By Fred S. Dubson
The morning sunlight peeked through the thin
curtains that hung over the windows of Annasha’s bedroom. Small bits of
dust floated in the air and danced in the sun’s light. She awoke with a deep
yawn, and the stretched her tiny arms before getting up to look outside.
From her window, she could see almost the entire
small city and the nesting place of the dragon eggs. Overhead she could see
the Dragon Riders flying about and wished she could be up there with them
and to feel a dragon of her own under her, to command it the way the riders
"Soon,” she said out loud and then looked to see
if anyone was around to hear her.
She heard the other kids out in the courtyard
laughing and carrying on and knew that she was going to be late if she
didn’t hurry and get dressed. Walking over to a small shelf by the bed, she
pulled down one of the robes that marked her as an apprentice. The long
white and gold garment was far too large for her small body, and she tied a
bit of rope around her waist to hold up the hem and pulled back the sleeves
so she could help with her chores without them getting in the way.
Annasha was small for her age and the other
children picked on her and called her a runt or a squirt. She hated to be
called anything but her given name and often got into fights. The
headmaster’s son, Bauklic, was worse than the others, bullying everyone
until they cried. No matter what he did to the other children they would not
say a word, for fear they would lose the chance to care for one of the
dragon eggs and bond with a hatchling.
Fox Fire By Sarah A. Hoyt
When I was six and just starting to read, my
grandmother gave me a book of Chinese fairytales, unearthed somewhere in her
endless round of used book stores and rare book stalls at the local flea
It was a faded book, printed at the end of the
nineteenth century, illustrated with magnificent color plates that the
passing of years and the rubbing of eager little hands had faded and coated
in a yellowish patina. For some reason, this made the illustrations all the
more alluring, like looking into another, long forgotten world.
My favorite one was a picture of a beautiful,
sad-eyed lady, around whose neck a fox tail curled — not like a stole, but
like something that was part of her.
The accompanying story told of a fox fairy — a fox
who could change form and become an infinitely alluring human girl. Most of
these fox girls, so the story said, were cunning devils, feeding from the
life force of the men foolish enough to love them. But this one fox spirit
was pure and fell in love with a human. Alas, she could not escape her
magical nature, and was killed by hunting dogs, leaving her lover to mourn.
The idea of something bad by nature struggling to
be good, and the sadness in the face staring at me from the page, fascinated
Thirty years later, though I’d long lost the book,
I remembered the story, and the other stories in that book — the magical
legends of animals who could be humans and then animals again. I think,
ridiculous as it may sound, this was what made me grasp the opportunity to
go to China as a reporter, as soon as it opened in the late seventies.
Dragon Fire By Marilyn Peake
Stars burned holes in the black cloak of night.
The moon, like a thin sliver of glass, carved a crescent shape into the
thick, dark fabric. Smoke floated lazily from chimneys, then bled out
across the valley. The wind whispered into the night.
Within the huts, most of the villagers slept,
though occasionally a baby’s cry pierced the silence.
“Move! Move! Move!” Redford quietly ordered as
he waved his right hand, motioning for his men to run. “Be careful where
you step! Quiet!”
The men traveled swiftly through the forest like
rats swarming across riverbanks at night. They came in four groups, raced
from one edge of the forest to the other, then slipped seamlessly into a
field. They ran with padded feet through long grass. Their boots flattened
wildflowers and released puffs of perfume into the cold night air.
Chelsea woke to the sound of her baby son’s
hunger. She groaned with fatigue, then sat up, rubbed the sleep out of her
eyes and threw her long, blonde hair over her shoulders. She reached into
the cradle next to the bed she shared with her husband and lifted out their
tiny, squalling son.
“There, there, little one.”
As she nursed her three-week old infant, Chelsea
looked around the two-room wooden hut. Her four-year-old twins, Ada and
Ashley, slept on mattresses stuffed with straw, their blonde curls tumbling
onto their pillows in the shape of haloes. In deep repose, the twins looked
like angels. During the day it was not the description of “angels” that
came to mind. Chelsea looked at the mantel where her favorite statue had
stood for years before Ashley had grabbed it and thrown it against the
The small flames and burning embers in the
fireplace now sparked and crackled. From beneath the logs oozed a soft red
glow. Shadows danced throughout the room, jumping up and down the walls and
across the ceiling. Chelsea decided that, after she fed baby Hunter, she
would next feed more wood to the fire.
The Minstrel By Lee Barwood
The last echoes of harp and voice died away on the
still air, drifting as so many motes of dust in the dark, cluttered attic.
After a long silence, the singer sighed and brushed the silver strings with
an open hand. A ghost of melody whispered into the darkness under the
ancient beams, and he thought fleetingly, longingly, of the color and tumult
that had filled the royal halls in which he had once sung – the
conversations, the camaraderie, the smells of cooking and ale and rushes on
the floor and the glow of fire and flash of gems on silk and velvet robes.
Treachery had brought him here, to sing and play
alone each night in the deserted attics of Leyden Hall for what might well
be eternity. Sometimes, despite his resolve to put it from his mind, Hugh
remembered it all.
He had loved Eleanor so; gazing into the shadows,
he saw again in his mind’s eye her golden hair, her ice-blue eyes – as cold,
he learned later, as her heart – her delicate pale hands plying needle and
silk. He remembered her laugh – then he had thought it beautiful, but now in
his memory it tinkled like shards of broken glass. Odd how hindsight changes
things, he thought, not for the first time.
And then there was Richard. Ah, Richard:
companion of his journeys, friend of his heart, beloved of the lady he loved
– and in the end, betrayer. Richard it was who had taken him to the witch –
a white witch only, he said – to cast the spell that would win Eleanor’s
heart for Hugh. But, Hugh acknowledged, perhaps he had deserved betrayal; he
had been so blind that he had seen neither his friend’s love for the lady
nor the danger lurking in Richard’s eyes as he outlined his plan.
The Sword of Power By Carol Hightshoe
The Sword of Power is given to heal and unify –
not to hack and divide.
“Have you heard?” a soft, melodic male voice
asked, startling Viviane out of her meditations.
The High Priestess of Avalon composed herself then
stood and faced the speaker. “I have,” she said, studying her visitor. He
was an older man dressed in a tattered brown traveling cloak. In the shadows
of his hood, his sharp blue eyes sparkled with the strength of his soul. His
name was Talisen, but he was more properly called by his title: Merlin. As
the Chief Druid of Breton, his position was almost equal to her own.
Viviane gestured to the stone benches that ringed
the meditation grove. The Merlin nodded, took a seat on the nearest bench
and pushed his hood back revealing his lined face, graying hair and beard.
She sat next to him.
“We both knew Uther was not the one. Yet you gave
him the sword anyway,” Viviane said.
“The land needed a king and the sword accepted
Uther. Healing has begun.”
“Only to be stopped now; at the time of his death.
He has no acknowledged heir –- only a bastard son whom the dukes will
probably not accept. If he is able to claim his father’s throne, he may be
the one. Until that time though, the land is again without a king.”
“There is another problem. The sword is missing.”
The Merlin looked in the direction of the Goddess’ Well.
The Gift of the Nile By Lazette Gifford
They had twice brushed the area clean, but Kem
could still feel the grit of sand beneath her bare toes. It inevitably
drifted into the open areas near the Nile where the breezes carried sand and
dust everywhere. It made the work dangerous as she and Femi danced. Leaps
could end in slides and twisted limbs if they slipped. The Dance of Isis
Mourning was difficult enough without the treacherous sand, and if this
hadn’t been The Goddess’s natal day Kem would have been tempted to perform
something less strenuous. However, the days between the year were unlucky
enough as the five Gods -- whose days they celebrated -- watched the
festivals so carefully. One didn’t dare stint on work before those
unforgiving eyes, nor by chary in offerings or prayers.
She listened as Neferu’s harp notes slowed toward
the end of the dance. She rattled her sistra in counterpoint, slower and
slower, to the last mournful notes and difficult movements. Kem dug her
toes into the rough surface as best she could and began to lean backward --
back and back until the fingers of her left hand brushed against the hard
ground while the right hand still held the sistra upward and shook it in
time with the notes. Kem felt sand again, but she put her palm down flat,
lifted one leg carefully in time to the beat, and then the other -- bringing
them slowly over as she balanced on one hand. She glimpsed Femi in the same
position, their timing as perfect as ever. Slowly down again and her legs
spreading in a perfect split so that her left foot reached back and met
Femi’s right foot with her own right leg stretched out before her, all in a
perfect line. She lowered her head, braided hair falling all around her
face. A last shake of the sistras, a last note of the harp and her head
touched her knee, the timing perfect.