For more information regarding the fantasy series, The Tales of Tanglewood, please visit the website to learn more about Colin and the other characters in the 'wood, and to download a sample of the first few chapters of each book for free.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chapter Three, Part One

A short while later, their bellies full of roasted
fish washed down with sweetened water, they
had forgotten about the sprites and were
content to walk casually along the bank of Copper
Stream, still savoring the taste of the delicious fish that
lingered on their lips.

During the journey, Colin seemed to have also
forgotten about his parents. Somewhere deep inside
him, he knew there was something he must do, but it
was barely a murmur in his mind, which was loud and
alive with wonder and enjoyment, and frequently
distracted by the urge to scratch at the bites that
irritated his flesh.

At last, Ailfrid pointed to a hut made of wood and
stone, built up against a portion of the bank that sloped
steeply, reaching much higher than the boys. A door in
the hut opened as they approached, and Colin nearly
laughed when he saw the little man scrambling toward
them along the muddy bank.

Bairtlemead Muffingrow was a small, squat man,
barely taller than Colin and Ailfrid. A small set of
round glasses was perched upon a bulbous nose, set
neatly between two large, welcoming eyes of pale blue.

framed overhead by bushy gray eyebrows. His smile was
equally comforting, and long white tendrils of a thin
beard trailed from his chin, nearly to his waist.

Muffingrow’s body was hidden beneath a bundle of
robes, but two large, pudgy hands emerged from the
folds of his clothing to grab a hand each of Colin and
Ailfrid. He shook them both vigorously.

“Come in, come in! Ailfrid, always a pleasure to see
you. And you – hmm, there is mystery about you, isn’t

Muffingrow’s smile grew nearly as wide as his face,
and Colin would have feared being swallowed up by it,
had it not been so friendly. “Well, come in, won’t you,
and tell an old man why you’ve come to me today.”

They followed Muffingrow into the
hut, which Colin noticed was much
larger on the inside than it had first
appeared. A portion of the druid’s home
apparently extended into the steep embankment.

The second thing that Colin noticed was the myriad
aromas of the many dried branches of herbs that were suspended from the rafters. Indeed, it smelled as though the very essence of the forest were
contained within the walls of the druid’s home.

Muffingrow bade them sit at a small wooden table.

The chairs were also of wood, but had been fitted with
comfortable pillows of brown cloth. Inset into one wall
was a small fireplace with a happily crackling fire, and
near it, what appeared to be a second enclave, carved
directly into the rock, but with an earthen base.

A thick curtain divided another chamber from
Colin’s view. But all about him, he spied numerous
curiosities, most notably a tall bookshelf nearly
overflowing with all manner of jars and boxes and
containers. Many were labeled with the names of various
spices that Colin recognized, many others were either
not labeled or inscribed with strange runes that Colin
was at a loss to decipher.

Muffingrow stood in front of the boys. “Now,
before we talk, I see that you have had a little bug

Colin looked down at the many red bumps
decorating his arms and legs, and imagined his face must
look the same.

Ailfrid nodded. “This is Colin. The sprites sent a
nest of black ants after him.”

“Sprites, eh? Nasty little buggers. Well, I have a salve
that should take care of those bites.” Muffingrow
turned and scanned some of the shelves, then clapped
when he spied what he was looking for. He took down
a large jar that contained a dark, mud-like substance,
and offered it to Colin.

“Spread this over those bites, and they’ll be much
better tomorrow.”

Colin wasn’t certain he wanted to smear the foul
looking slime onto his body, but he felt he could trust
the druid. Unscrewing the lid, he smelled the contents
first, and was surprised to find it rather pleasant,
reminiscent of berries, and a hint of smoke and ash. He
cupped a small portion of the salve in his palm and
proceeded to apply it to the bites.

Muffingrow nodded his approval. “Good, good. Rub
it in.”

Colin did so, and was happy to discover that the
salve began to blend nicely with his own skin, almost as
if it were being infused beneath his flesh, while still
managing to conceal the bites.

“Now,” the old druid said. “To business. Ailfrid, I
see you’ve brought blackberries. I presume you want
some tea?”

Ailfrid nodded enthusiastically. “I most certainly
do!” He handed the clutch to Muffingrow, who took
them and placed them into a large black pot already
filled with water. The pot was set on a pivoting arm,
which allowed it to be moved over the fire. The druid
then proceeded to gather together a small batch of
additional ingredients. A handful of dark leaves from an
old tin, some dried herbs and spices, and what looked
like some dried berries of another sort all went into the
pot. Within seconds, the hut was filled with a savorysweet

Colin sniffed the air, breathing deep the scent of the
brewing tea, and found his nerves instantly relaxed.

Ailfrid was also enjoying the wonderful fragrance,
but then he turned his attention to the druid and more
serious matters.

“Bairtlemead, Colin followed the stones to

The druid seemed taken aback by this at first, and
peered at Colin over the rims of his glasses, and then
moved in for a closer look.

“At first I thought the sheehogue magic that separates
the ‘wood from the kynney deiney was weakening, but then
I thought…”

Muffingrow’s face brightened. “Ah, I follow your
reasoning, and you are correct, Ailfrid.”

Ailfrid seemed surprised. “I am?”

“Yes, most definitely. It’s the Blood of the Fey. Just look
at that skin, almost as fair as the soft snow that covers
the ‘wood in winter. And those fingers, thin and nimble
as an elf ’s. And hair as black as pitch. But the real proof
is in those eyes! They sparkle with an inner fire I’ve
rarely seen. Almost as if the light of Alastar were
contained within. Blood of the fey indeed. There is
much to this boy.”