(This is a new story that I wrote this year. If you should decide to read it, I would love to hear back from each of you what you think. If all goes well, I plan to turn this into a longer work, such as a novel or feature-length screenplay. I call it a modern fairy tale…)
“Kukushka,” the babushka said. “In Russia that is what they call the woman who leaves her child for someone else to nurture.”
Alexei had heard the taunt for as far back as he could remember. “You are nothing more than the son of a cuckoo.”
Now, the remnants of the last spring rain trickled from the tattered gray sky, splattering against the picture window where he stood. A pair of cheap binoculars pressed to his eyes. The whitewater rumble of the creek made the dense forest feel like the wilderness though the orphanage stood near a suburb outside of Kiev. The bright magenta foliage of a lilac tree showed stark against the otherwise drab landscape. While in the distance, a clap of thunder boomed as the storm moved toward where he stood.
He adjusted the binocular’s focus as he studied the bird that measured over a foot long from its yellow-black bill, rust-brown upper parts and black bars running across drooped wings to its raised tail. Perched on the branch of a pine tree near the water’s edge, the bird’s golden eyes darted this way and that on the lookout for the magpie in whose nest she had recently laid a single, speckled-drab egg.
Knotted breath caught in his throat as the vagrant bird from the old world hopped to a higher branch and then flew toward the forest canopy. Her haunting, “cuckoo,” seemed closed in, as if trapped in a glass container. Lid screwed on tight. It made his stomach hurt and his hands tremble as memories of the neighborhood park he frequented with his last host family flooded his mind…
Kneeling on ripped-jean-covered-knees, he sketched black, yellow and red images on the park sidewalk. From the corner of his eye, he noticed the tallish woman. Dressed in a black cloak over gray slacks, she stood within a tiny copse of trees a short distance away. He knew she watched him from beneath the black hood that covered her rust-red hair.
It wasn’t the first time he had seen her.
When he looked again, she hovered close. Her golden gaze swept over his narrow shoulders, focused on his masterpiece.
“It is very good.” Her deep voice lacked emotion. “You will be a famous artist someday.”
When she said this, he smiled up at her. Their gazes caught in the gentle breeze that blew between them.
Pleased, he made a small adjustment to the drawing, the red chalk biting into the concrete as icy fingertips lightly stroked his hair. Startled, he looked over to find the space empty beside him. He shivered as the cool breeze suddenly turned cold.
“Goodbye my little kukushka,” The wind seemed to whisper in his ear.
Legend of the Tengu Prince — Finally Available on Amazon.com!
also in e-book at Smashwords
(Use this coupon code UT96N until May 15 to buy the e-book for $.99, regular price $4.99!)
Fantasy Action Adventure set in feudal Japan.
During a time of civil war, Karasu Hinata is born the son of a powerful warlord. When he is still a child, his family castle is taken by a rival clan. His father and mother are murdered right before his eyes.
Barely escaping with his life, he is spirited away by the king of the tengu. The shape-shifting raven leads him to the hidden mountain retreat of a sect of mystic warriors. Mountain priests who practice the magic of Shugendo.
Ten years have passed. The time has come for Karasu to leave the mystic’s protective lair and face his demons in the world beyond. But the fiend that haunts his nightmares is also the one that shattered his life. More than a bad dream, it wants him dead.
In Legend of the Tengu Prince, nothing is as it seems. Shape-shifting creatures, both good and evil, populate the magical world of feudal Japan. And a young man will pay the ultimate price for a deadly rival spawned in the mists time. This riveting first volume of a epic fantasy adventure will leave you stunned and begging for more.