Read the Prologue to Our First Graphic Novel!

We are so excited (and maybe a little nervous) to share this prologue with you from the first book in our new graphic novel series, Charting Stars. This series will be a set of illustrated graphic style novels with an educational … Continue reading

Charting Stars Update and MORE ART!

Our first book in the Charting Stars series is completed, back from the editor and now I am drawing, drawing, drawing and DRAWING some more. ;P (Actually it’s my favourite thing to do so it’s not so bad – ha … Continue reading

Lelas and Cyprus – A Historical Tale From the Nine Realms

Have you heard of those who reside in the sea? No? Well, then I’ll tell you. There live in the oceans a wondrous people, the Erilene, mysterious and beautiful. Often mistaken for glistening sunlight against the waves, they live out … Continue reading

Charting Stars Book Cover Idea and Concept Art

Guess what!? First book is written and headed to the editor! YES!!! Then after that it’s draw, draw, and draw some more! Thought you all might enjoy seeing the edited version of our 1st book cover idea (not set in stone thought – this cover may certainly change), also attached are a few more concept illustrations. In the near future we are also going to share the prologue of our first book, some related short stories set within Charting Star’s Nine Realms and even some free Charting Stars colouring pages! So stick with us!!!

A Christmas Treasure

We all wanted to wish you the MERRIEST Christmas ever and how better to do that than with a story and some illustrations! The art was a created by Micheline Ryckman and the story by Erin Kleveland. We hope you enjoy this and that your holiday season is full of goodness and joy! taliaantiques_small

Talia took a small step back to clear away the light fog her breath had left against the window pane, ignoring how her woolen gloves were beginning to grow considerably more damp with this ritual. Leaning forward, her nose nearly brushed against the frosty glass as she peered inside the vintage shop, affirming that there was nothing new in the displays at this time. She had been to these stores nearly every weekend since the end of October, remembering from years past how the vintage shops and antique stores always began showing off their new merchandise for the Christmas season.

She stepped away from the window with a disappointed sigh, rearranging the folds of her colorful scarf to hide her nose from the biting wind whipping through the narrow streets, small drifts of snow gathering in the alleyways and corners of the buildings. Talia knew exactly where she was, how many blocks she had to walk to reach the next shop, and who owned every one of the stores, but today had proven that there was not much in the way of novelty items to dream after. Regardless, she enjoyed spending her Saturdays this way.

Hopping from shop to shop, the girl found herself looking up at the last of them, an old two-story building that housed both a plethora of antique pieces and the shopkeeper’s family on the second floor. Talia could tell upon first glance alone that there was nothing new to be shown today, but she pushed through the heavy oak door anyway, needing the few minutes of warmth to get feeling back into her fingers and the tips of her ears before making the trek homeward.

The high-pitched chiming of a bell above her head alerted the man in the back of the shop that a customer had arrived, the proprietor putting aside what he was doing to see who the newcomer was.

“Oh, Talia! Afternoon to you.”

“Afternoon, Mr. Gamond. How goes it?”

The man shook his head with a small chuckle as he let his hands slip idly into the pockets of his working apron. “If you’re asking if I have anything new today, I’m afraid to say I don’t. Been a bit slower these past weeks.”

Talia feigned a look of disappointment, having already known that this was the case, her mouth returning to its natural smile as she quickly reassured him. “That’s okay. Though I do hope things get better for you, the closer it gets to Christmas and all.”

“Oh, I’ve no doubt of it.” The man took a moment to go back to where he had been rearranging clocks and other timepieces, returning to the front of the shop with a few gathered up to place in the window display as he spoke over his shoulder. “Your hands look rather empty there, Talia. No luck anywhere else? You know…Promise you won’t say it was me who told you so, but there’s another area you might try.”

“I already know about the new shopping mall, Mr. Gamond.”

The man gave a low laugh as he moved to hunt through the drawers of the desk he used as a register counter, finally pulling free what he was after. Carefully unfolding the many layers of the paper, the shopkeeper motioned for Talia to come closer as he pointed over the illustrated streets and roadways of a detailed map. “The mall is an exciting add-on for the younger folk, but for someone like you, I think you’ll be very interested in looking through the new antique district not but a mile farther south.”

Talia leaned over the desk to get a better idea of where this place was that the man was speaking of, nodding slowly to show that she understood as she smiled in obvious excitement. “More shops like this one?”

“Indeed. I’ve met a few of the owners and I think you’ll do well to poke around there a bit. Might find whatever it is you’ve been looking for.”

The girl fixed her scarf one more time as she hurriedly thanked the proprietor for his help, returning to brave the cold, filled with newfound determination and a sense of adventure. snowglobe_small

Following the directions the shopkeeper had given her, Talia found herself constantly looking between street signs and her feet, trying not to get lost or wander onto a treacherous patch of ice. Nearly an hour passed before she caught sight of a sign hanging over a small shop, the mode of advertisement affirming that it was an antique store. Moving as quickly as her numb feet would allow, Talia crossed the road and smiled in relief upon realizing that the entire length of the street was littered with similar shops.

Moving from one store to the next, Talia searched carefully through the wares. The hours rolled on, yet she left each shop empty handed. Overhead, the clouded sky was growing dark. About to call it quits, Talia was prepared to turn back when a certain shop, smaller in size than the others, made her stop to take a second look. Clearing away the frost from a patch of the window, Talia’s eyes went wide in wonder upon seeing the treasure displayed within. There, sitting rather unobtrusively atop a polished tea-table, was a snow globe.

The leftover clatter of a handful of old jingle bells were all that announced her, the girl taking a moment to look around the well lit room she now found herself standing in.

“Evening, Miss!”

Startled for a moment by the voice calling out to her, Talia was glad for the cold to disguise the blush rising to her cheeks as a young man, no more than a few years older than her, poked his head out from around a corner.

“Give me one moment and I’ll be right out.” The young man emerged from behind a grandfather clock he was tinkering with, wiping the grease and oil from his hands onto a well used apron. “The name’s Jamie, Jamie Clark. I’d shake your hand, but…”

Talia removed her soaked gloves in an attempt to warm herself as she gave a small laugh. “Talia Benson. Pleased to meet you.”

“Have you been in here before? I don’t remember seeing you, but my dad may have been running the store.”

“No, this is my first time. I was just browsing the shops when I saw the snow globe in your window.”

Following her to the display, Jamie nodded in recognition, a look resembling respect gleaming in his eyes. “We’ve had this piece for a while, well, since before we opened this place. People are usually in here for clocks and furniture, not little nicknacks like this. You can hold it, you know. I trust you not to throw it against a wall.”

Talia set her gloves and scarf aside as she took the cool glass of the dome into her hands. It was heavier than she had expected, but far more beautiful up close. The base was fashioned of simple brass, the metal delicately curling upward to hold the globe in place. Talia gave it a gentle shake, finding herself smiling in wonder as the small imitations of snow flew about the confines of the glass. All of that was beautiful, but it was the globe itself which truly made her stop to stare. Intricate details were etched into the glass which, at first glance, looked almost like cracks and flaws in the structure. Talia knew better. They were constellations.

She suddenly realized how long she had been standing there, turning to look up at the young man running the shop with a sense of surety. “How much for this?”

After searching through an old registry for the price, Talia readily agreed, taking a few minutes to count out the odds and ends of what money she had brought.

Returning Talia’s change, Jamie offered, “This is a Christmas present, am I right? Now I may not look it, but I can wrap a pretty professional looking gift. Save you the trouble at no extra charge. How about it?”

After carefully looking over the options, Talia chose a deep blue wrapping paper with small gold stripes, the young man finishing off the present with a glittery ribbon to match.

“And who should I make the card out to?”

Talia thought for a moment before giving a resolved nod. “Merry Christmas Mom, love your little star gazer.”

Her scarf and gloves donned once more, Talia left the shop with her new treasure tucked carefully beneath her arm, finally ready to make the journey back home.taliachristmas_small

Talia shivered as the cold persisted past the layers of sweaters and coats that had managed to keep her warm until now. The streets, cheery and spirited an hour ago, no longer seemed to give off that friendly glow. The girl pulled her scarf up to guard her cheeks against the biting wind, her eyes searching over the signs marking every street corner. Nothing was familiar. She could not recall being here.

Everything was fine, she would find her way back. She couldn’t be that far off, could she? Talia’s efforts to keep her thoughts collected and calm were beginning to fail her.

She continued walking, one foot in front of the other, what was left of her fragile confidence shattered upon turning the next corner. The street ended. Lost. She was most definitely lost.

Completely overwhelmed, Talia turned to lean her back against the brick wall that had cut her off, releasing a quivering breath in defeat as she clung to the wrapped box in her arms. It was late, it was dark, only a handful of dim street lamps to distinguish one shape from another as a few unwilling tears stung the corners of Talia’s eyes. She could ask for directions, but where? Every house was quiet, each shop closed for the night.

The girl nearly jumped out of her skin as something warm brushed against her leg, her nerves quickly put to right upon seeing who the culprit was. Giving a small laugh at her own surprise, Talia slowly moved to kneel on the frozen ground, her hand reaching out to the cat lazily circling her. “Hey there, little one. You lost too?”

The tabby purred softly with back arched to meet Talia’s hand, its eyes slowly opening to reveal an iridescent green.

Moving to sit against the wall, Talia ignored how cold the pavement was beneath her, gently urging the cat to sit in her lap as she tucked her package safely beneath her coat. “Good kitty,” was all she could manage to say at first, her mind growing more at ease with every pass of her hand over the small animal. Tipping her head back, the girl let the worry and confusion clouding her thoughts gradually dissipate, a smile dawning over her lips as she caught sight of the stars freckling the night sky. “I love winter. It has my favorite constellations. You see? There’s Orion, and that one is Cassiopeia, and if we could see farther Northeast, the Big Dipper would be there.”

Stars. Sitting forward to get a better view, Talia’s anxious thoughts slipped away upon realizing how she had gotten turned around. She knew every distinguishable star by name, their cycles through the seasons, and even how to tell direction by them.

“I’ve been going the wrong way. I…I’m facing East. I need to be going North.”

Carefully moving the cat back to the sidewalk, Talia forced her cold legs to support her, making certain that the gift was secured beneath her arm before setting out to find a crossroad.  Talia’s relief was enough to push her onward as she slowly began to recognize the names printed on street signs and stores. The girl hardly noticed the new flurry of snow drifting from the gathering clouds, a sort of lightness finding its way into her step as home finally came into view.

Shaking the snow from her shoes and the ends of her scarf, Talia found herself smiling incredulously at the feeling of a gentle nudge against her tired legs. “You silly. Followed me home, did you? Guess we both needed the company. Thanks for getting me back.”

Warmth spread over Talia’s face as she pushed the front door open. The low sound of Christmas music from a radio and the rich smell of her mother’s gingerbread instantly met her senses.

Glancing back down at the tabby sitting contentedly by her feet, the girl leaned down to gently scratch behind its ears as she whispered, “Wait right here, okay?”

Talia let only a few minutes pass before returning, a small bowl of tuna in hand. No longer wearing her heavy coat or gloves, the girl shivered as she stepped out onto the porch. “Kitty? You still there? I have food. Kitty?”

She waited, but her calls were only answered by the whispers of wind passing over the house, no cat in sight. Disappointed, but not surprised, Talia shook her head with a small chuckle, knowing her mom would find it odd that a mystery cat had helped her home.

Leaning against the door once it had been secured behind her, the girl couldn’t help but smile upon seeing her mother’s present beneath their tree. It had been a crazy day, but worth every moment. It was a perfect gift. A perfect gift for a perfect Christmas.

 

Concept Illustrations for New Graphic Novel Series

It is amazing how much time it takes to create a new world, write scenes, pull it all together into cohesive illustrations and then edit, edit more and finally print. These things are what we are currently working on here at Whimsical for our upcoming graphic novel series. For me, the between times are full of practicing, and more practicing! As an illustrator it helps me to look ahead and come up with ideas and visual concepts for the series, it especially helps me grind the character designs into my drawing memory. I thought it might be fun to share with you some of the concept drawings I’ve come up with in the past few months around this new world (more to be announced in 2017), I hope you enjoy these! (Oh and if you’d like to see more on a daily basis be sure to follow me on Instagram –> @whimsicalillustration )

Oh and coming up shortly we’ll be posting an illustrated Christmas story special – another opportunity for you to get to know of these characters a little bit more!

New Graphic Novel Series in Development!

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We are excited to announce that Whimsical is in the beginning stages of developing a new series of graphic style novels! These novels will be aimed towards pre-teen and teen ages (as well as those who are just young at heart). The novels will be constructed in a half graphic / half traditional novel style. Our hope is to provide the illustrated graphic novel excitement but still emphasize and encourage kids to read. The more they read the text that corresponds to the illustrations, the more depth they’ll receive about the story. We want kids to love reading and our hope is that this style of novel will encourage this! We promise to give you more concrete information on all the details of this project in 2017.

But to whet your appetite my co-creator, Erin Kleveland and I have been having fun drafting and creating the characters for this new series. Attached below are the preliminary character sketches  – we hope you enjoy! 😀

Pssst… if you’d like to follow along with us on a more daily level be sure to come join Whimsical on Instagram —> @whimsicalillustration

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Drew, master magician and changeling child, don’t let her innocent and seemingly youthful appearance deceive you. She has seen far more years than anyone would guess, her reputation as a skilled handler of magic paving the way for her to be allied with vast and powerful kingdoms. When the plagues of war broke out through all the land, Drew was called upon by many to prove her usefulness in battle, entire armies rising or falling in a single night at her hand. But when the battles had ceased to be waged and the kingdoms had begun to heal, the great magician was nowhere to be found. Some thought her dead, others believed her to be deep in hiding from the countless enemies she had made, but only a few knew the truth. For reasons unknown to most, the Witch of the Nine Realms, as she had been since called, had decided upon a simpler life to suit her, not in hiding, but simply distancing herself from the troublesome kingdoms who would seek to use her again for her power and power alone. Few would even be able to distinguish her in a crowd, Drew’s nearly permanent form being that of an ordinary white cat, clear of scrutiny and prying eyes so that she might live the remainder of her life in the way she would so choose.

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Jarrett has been an orphan for as long as he can remember, fending for himself on the streets of a kingdom in the middle of the nine realms. With his charismatic wit and easy-going outlook on life, no one would be the wiser to the hardships his lowly beginnings have afforded him. He will do any and everything to remain feeling useful, putting his street-smarts to use for just about any honest job that will pay in cash. With Jarrett’s personality, he has often found himself making friends with relative ease, his loyalty towards those he puts his trust in nearly unshakable once put into place. In comparison to most of his friendships, his closest attachment is with his squirrel companion, QB, the two having spent years together traveling the realm, going wherever they please, making friends and bonds in any place they find themselves. But despite his vast freedoms, Jarrett has never felt wholly complete, making his way over the world as if in search of what he is missing without the faintest idea of what that “something” could possibly be.

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Calystra, daughter of the air thrown back to the earth, one can instantly recognize how greatly she differs from Jora. Though born of the same race, Calystra has never shared the sentiments of her kinsman towards humans, seeing those who live upon the earth as lesser beings, undeserving of the protection her people have always freely offered. Her pride and avarice had long gone unchecked, those leading above her holding firmly to the hope that she would one day shake off such notions, but time alone was enough to force their hand. Upon Calystra’s demands to be granted the star promised her from birth, the council’s attempts to explain how ill-prepared she was for such rights to be granted were met by the girl’s attempts to forcibly acquire what she believed to already be hers. Her punishment was severe. Banished to the earth she despised so poignantly, her powers nearly all stripped from her, the wings Calystra had always been so proud of could no longer bring her higher than the treetops, forcing her into as much of a mortal form as could be done to a child of the air. Wallowing in bitterness and her desire for recompense, most days of Calystra’s confinement to the forests and mountains are greatly spent in idle mischief and the caring of her adopted twin foxes Toss and Lear, simply biding her time until the day her plans for revenge can be realized.

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Born of a race quickly receding into legend, Jora belongs to the company of those who take to the air, keepers of the stars and caretakers to all that their light shines upon. Her years are unknown to most, even to those closest to her, Jora’s wisdom and understanding of the world and those which lie beyond the nine realms only a small testament to her disguised age. Just as most of her angelic kind, she is graced by majestic wings which carry her to the sky and across the kingdoms, allowing her to better oversee the care of the people she has long sworn to protect. She does everything with reason and careful thought, her abilities, though more powerful than many can truly understand, never put into use without thought of the price there will always be to pay. Jora’s wise counsel and extensive knowledge have long distinguished her as a leader among her race, but it is her patience and unending compassion which truly set her apart as capable to guide the worlds into harmony and peace.

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Upon first glance, Talia is the sort of girl that anyone would consider rather ordinary. Her childhood was a happy one, Talia’s every spare moment spent scribbling over any paper she could get her hands on, the years that followed only furthering her love for expressing her vast imagination through art. Paint or pencil, charcoal or marker, if Talia could think it, she could create it. But of anything she loved to portray, her greatest love was for the night sky. Stars had always fascinated her, Talia’s insatiable curiosity for them earning her the nickname “little star gazer” from her mother. They were a tight-knit pair, Talia and her mother, especially considering that they were all the family each other had. Being a single parent, raising Talia had been an adventure, but never an unwelcome one. Her mother sacrificed a lot for their little family, working hard to put Talia through college. It was a sacrifice that was not about to go overlooked. Talia was determined to perfect her artistic endeavors, hoping that her efforts would someday come to fruition to offer up the life she had always dreamed of for herself and for her mother. But no one, not even Talia herself, could yet understand just how truly extraordinary this ordinary girl was or the incredible destiny that would soon unfold to change her life forever.

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Sebastian, prince and heir to his father’s throne in one of the center-most of the nine realms, Bash is a credit to his kingdom. His fierce loyalty, courageous heart, and determined spirit inspire many in their anticipation of the day he will ascend the throne. Trained in the sword from youth, Bash also showed great interest in the bow, his hands clearly skilled in any weapon he so chooses. Despite his father’s discouragement of pursuing archery, the prince spends a majority of every day perfecting the craft through hunting and competition. Well educated, a proficient leader, and adept warrior, though seamlessly able to appear perfectly content, Bash’s happiness is simply the mask he wears. Years of experience has taught him to play the dutiful son and prince rather well, but those closest to him know how greatly he longs after a more normal life, the peasant life.

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In a time when most animals are seen only for their ability to be useful to their human friends and masters, a lowly squirrel like QB would easily be overlooked. Playful but a bit aloof at times, friendly yet always wary, QB’s unparalleled loyalty was tried and proven true when his undiscovered potential caught the eye of Jora. It was during the age of bloodshed, a time when the Realms were inundated in the seemingly endless plagues of war. Jora saw a purpose in QB, his inconspicuous presence proving vital to the secretive messages the winged guardian passed between her allies at his hand. Once the fighting had come to an end, Jora did not wish to lose the friendship of her companion, placing him in the path of a young man named Jarrett. She had plans for this street-smart orphan, knowing perfectly how well he and QB would be able to work together. Having felt that he never truly fit in anywhere, QB found new joy for life in his travels with Jarrett, the two sharing many mishaps and trivial adventures together. The two are nearly inseparable now, for theirs is a friendship destined for greatness, the kind one would not expect of those starting from the humblest of origins.

marenreference_smallMaren, a warrior by blood and by trade, her fierce determination makes her a dangerous enemy, but a loyal ally. Born in the southern-most lands of the nine realms, she was raised to be a leader and an example to her people like her father before her, but it was not to last. Sent away by the very villages she called home, Maren is determined to regain the respect of her people, working as the eyes, ears, and hands of Jora wherever she is most needed. Even though her skills in a fight should never be underestimated, Maren’s strength lies just as much in her vast knowledge of the realms as it does in any of her physical accomplishments. With both mind and body at work, she is not one to be trifled with.

Illustrated Story Board Exploration!

My friend Erin Kleveland (@treasureplanetjimxzara ) and I have been having a little story time fun lately. I created some character designs and concepts on my  Instagram account (@whimsicalillustration) and Erin has whipped up some wonderful stories around them! (I’m deeply grateful to her for all her talent with words!) Thought it might be fun to share what we’ve come up with thus far in terms of text and images – we’d love your feedback on this little idea so please comment below –>>>

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A little illustrated intro here to Jarrett and QB – this is your chance to see them up close!

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The rhythmic step of Jarrett’s boots on the hardened earth paused for a moment as the young man turned his eyes upward to peer through the brief break in the line of seemingly endless trees. There it was. The ocean. He had only ever seen it a handful of times, but the way the golden rays of evening sun now danced on its rippling surface was a sight he had never taken the time to watch. It was breathtaking.

The nearly unnoticeable weight of the companion balancing atop his shoulder now disappeared entirely as the squirrel leapt from his perch to scurry to the top of the closest tree, his little furry head just partly distinguishable once it made its way into the open air again.

Shading his eyes from the sun’s piercing last light, Jarrett let his voice carry up to his friend, hoping that the response he received would be a welcome one. “QB? Are we getting close?”

The squirrel seemed to search the horizon for a brief moment of silence, the reprieve soon broken by his enthusiastic chattering as he came running back down the tree to meet his friend. The creature scrambled over Jarrett’s shoulder to rest atop the young man’s head, attempting to point him in the right direction before leaning slightly upside down to let Jarrett see him nod in eager confirmation.

“Thanks buddy. I’d have never made it this far if I took this trip alone, I know that for sure. Didn’t realize how far out Jora really was. And QB? Thanks for coming. I needed the moral support with this first one. N-Not that I’m afraid of her or anything. She’s just…tall. Really tall.”

The squirrel gave a small chirping chuckle as he moved back down to rest on Jarrett’s other shoulder, knowing full well why they were traveling to spend time with Jora first.

QB’s introduction of Jarrett to his other friends, all girls mind you, hadn’t exactly panned out as he had imagined. Between a few of them nearly tripping over each other at the mere sight of him and another seemingly perturbed in contrast, Jora had been the only one to truly keep her composure through the brief encounter. QB had been, in truth, more than relieved when Jora invited him and Jarrett to spend a day with her, the idea of getting to know the girls one at a time a welcome solution to how the previous event had turned out.

“Woah.”

The trees now completely cleared from the path, Jarrett found himself shaking his head a little to regain coherent thought before giving a low whistle in approval. “Well then…A castle.”

The thought had never occurred to him, but there it was, a castle of the purest white marble gleaming in the evening’s last bursts of light. The brilliant white against the ocean’s crystal background, it really was a sight to behold. But with each steady step, Jarrett could feel his chest tightening in anxious uncertainty the closer they came to the cliffside on which the structure stood.

The setting sun was all but a memory now as the darkness of early night overtook the canopy above the travelers, the castle just ahead of them seeming to glow of its own accord as its luminescence shone forth in ever direction as if to welcome them to its gates.

The young man tread carefully over the perfectly paved stones beneath his feet, each step ringing out to echo into the silence around them before stopping to stand face to face with the ominously large pair of doors looming magnificently above him.

Tilting his head back to see the full extent of the castle’s face, the nervousness that had been building up inside him all the while was given momentary relief as his eyes worked their way back down to the bottom of the doors. There, carved into the base of the entrance was an inscription, the words giving him a strange sense of courage as he released the last of his nerves with a small nod to his companion beside him.

Peace and Wisdom Reign Here.

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“Woah.” For a moment, Jarrett could only stand in place as the magnificent double doors before him slowly opened up on silent hinges with hardly a knock to urge them forward. White. Pure, glorious, white. It was not the overwhelming color of a hospital hallway, but the soft hue of moonlight which colored every surface he could see. It wasn’t until he received a few questioning taps from QB that Jarrett found the composure to make his way inside, curious as to where their winged hostess was.

“Hello?” Nothing but the subdued echoes of his own voice replied. “Jora?” Turning his head to receive confirmation from his companion, Jarrett found some relief in how calm and silently cheerful QB seemed to be, realizing that his own instinct of intimidation was probably all for nothing.

Intrigue quickly snuffed out any other feeling of discomfort as several unique items filling the entryway pulled at the young man’s attention, making him unaware of the angelic figure who now stood just at his back.

“It means ‘harmony’.”

Jarrett about jumped out of his skin as the soothingly rich voice of a woman spoke from very close behind him, forcing the poor squirrel perched atop his shoulder to grab at the young man’s hair to keep from being completely flung from his seat.

Jarrett was quick to take a step back upon realizing the close proximity in which they were standing, unable to hide the stunned confusion in his dark eyes as he looked up at the pale-haired woman he’d met only once before, his single word sounding fumbled even to his own ears. “W-What?”

The angelic woman smiled sweetly as she folded her snow-white wings behind her, nodding once more toward the unique inscription above the mantled fireplace. “Harmony. An ancient script long forgotten by most, aside from those of us who still take to the air. It is said to bring the true intentions of what is written if done so in its forgotten text.”

“Ah.” Jarrett didn’t know what else to say at first, feeling only a little less than completely lost as he glanced back at the mantle. “Very cool. Neat place you got here, Jora. Bit of a trick to get to.”

Finding his simplistic answers endearing, Jora’s smile brightened all the more as she carefully reached her hand out to QB, letting the small creature nuzzle playfully in the palm of her hand before motioning toward a well-lit hallway nearby. “I do apologize for that, but I have made up the dining room for your complete recovery in the respect of all good things to eat. Unless, of course, you’d like to see the rest of the castle first?”

Receiving an excited nod in confirmation from his squirrel companion, Jarrett relayed the reply up to their hostess as he opened an arm with theatrical flourish. “Lead the way!”

<<<>>>

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Jarrett released a heavy breath as he leaned more heavily against the white marble railing, his eyes never leaving the star-kissed sky as he waited for any sign of movement. “How high does she need to go?”

Merely glancing down at his furry friend for an answer, QB simply shrugged his little shoulders before continuing his distracted scuttling along the balcony rail.

Turning his gaze upward once more, Jarrett’s mind began to wander over the events of the evening, pondering everything that Jora had shown him. There was so much he didn’t know before, or at least, had never taken the time to really think through. Despite the monolith of knowledge that had been heaped upon him in those short hours, he somehow felt lighter, more at peace than he had when he first arrived. But the young man was only allowed a few more moments of reflection before the excited chattering of his companion brought his attention back to the here and now.

Sure enough, there was Jora flying down toward them, actually more gliding than flying before she lightly touched down on the smooth balcony floor. For the effort flying must take, Jarrett was surprised to see how perfectly composed the angelic woman still seamed, not even a heavy breath to confirm to him that she had expended any energy at all.

“I have returned with your gift, as promised.”

Jarrett quickly shook his head to convey how undeserving he truly did feel. “Jora really, you’ve given me more tonight than I could ever repay. I should be giving you stuff.”

The woman’s quiet laugh rang like a clear bell as she extended her closed hand toward him, waiting until he finally surrendered his own hand before opening hers.

For a stunned moment, Jarrett had to turn away, wholly unprepared for the white-blue light which suddenly met his eyes. As soon as he could understand what he was holding, the young man found himself speechless once more, a state he’d often found himself in that evening. “Woah. This…This is the real deal? This is a star’s heart?”

“Only just a piece. To hold the entire heart of a star would require more power than even I possess.”

Jora’s hand was soft to the touch as she carefully closed Jarrett’s hand around the small bottle which held the shining star.

“May it bring you clarity and light as you walk through this dark world. I hope that it will remind you of all we’ve spoke of this night, for I am truly glad that you came, and I would hope you feel this also.”

“Oh definitely. No, I had a great time. I think QB did too, didn’t ya buddy?”

“Be mindful of your step as you leave this place. Your journey here was eventful, yet I’d hope the road home would prove smoother for you.”

“Trust me, we hope so too, but thanks for the warning. Come on QB. I think it’s time we started back. Thanks again, Jora. I’ll stop by if I’m ever in the neighborhood.”

“Peace be with you, Jarrett. May next we meet come swiftly.”

(To be continued…)

Story by Erin Kleveland – Illustrations & Character concepts by Micheline Ryckman