Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Here is an excerpt of the story

by Terofil Alexander Gizelbach

from Enchantments: The Many Facets of Magic
Click here to read more story excerpts!


“Once, long ago--
I floated in green seas beneath a cloudy sky--
towering columns that shadowed my swim
and blew to me the scent of distant rain.
But that was once.
Long ago....”



The coracle drifted in a lake of molten gold; the dip of Bogatyr’s paddle trailed fire in the gloaming light. Scarred, grim-faced, dusty, sweat stained his leather jerkin as he stroked. His biceps bulged, his neck veined, his tanned forearms rippled. He worked diligently and with purpose, sculling his craft towards the setting sun; for a storm, he judged, would strike near midnight, long ere he reached the port-haven of Innis-Frith.

Glancing up from his paddling, Bogatyr searched the sky. Wide, pearlescent, touched with pink and blue, it swept above in rainbow like an oyster’s inner shell. The water, placid with stillness that comes only before a heavy rain, lapped against mountains flat, gray, and backlit by the sinking sun. The air, scented with metal and must, was cool; a freeze, hastened by a withering of leaves, lingered just beyond. And despite his urgency, Bogatyr’s face softened. He pulled his oar from the lake, and paused to admire the beauty of the oncoming night. He breathed, silently and deeply filling his lungs.

A fine time to pass, he thought, staring longingly past the golden light bands that shimmered across the water’s surface, and into the lake’s blue-green depths beyond. For an instant, recalling the massacre of his kinsmen, he was still. His calm was the sky’s calm, his stillness the lake’s stillness, his thoughts the dark blue currents flowing beneath.

Turning with a sigh, he lowered his oar and sculled again.


She rose from the black fathoms that lay at the lake’s heart, her face a pale lovely oval that grew ever lovelier as she swam towards the surface. She came from the cold quiet places—her eyes the ice-blue of the deeps, her naked skin the first faint flush of sunset, her hair a fanning blonde wave.

Gazing from sapphire depths, she smiled at him—almost sadly, it seemed: her lips red, enticing; eyes gentle, beguiling. Entranced, Bogatyr sucked in his breath, forgetting in his wonderment to exhale.

Laughing silently, she kicked her smooth legs and flickered again for the deeps, stringing the lake with bubbles streams that eddied in multicolored ribbons.

Bending over the water, Bogatyr rubbed his eyes; the coracle listed dangerously close to its surface as he strained to see. But she was gone, flashed away by a stray dance of dying light—a gleam of fading whiteness, a spear point dropping.

Bewitched, Bogatyr peered into the depths.

But saw only his reflection, wavering in nightfall.


Black-clouded, wind-torn, and brooding, the storm swept over Bogatyr as he plied the midnight waters of Dannish Toon. In the flash of lightening he saw the shore, distant, unreachable—a dark wall lashed by rain. The gale’s fury grew, wailed. The lake trembled and heaved. Swells battered the coracle’s thin leather strips until the reeds binding the hides creaked against the strain, and the seams, sewn with gut, threatened to snap.

Digging his oar into the spray, Bogatyr battled the raging crests with a savagery that equaled the ferocity of the storm, cursing the foam-capped mountains that rose and rolled beneath him like a serpent’s back, snapping the craft upwards then down again.

Water, black as liquid onyx, washed into the coracle, lapped his ankles; waves crashed nearby. The fragile vessel, wallowing in the swells, listed sideways into a trough, spun like a leaf in a whirlpool.

In desperation, Bogatyr worked his paddle to turn the bow into the onrushing waves. But the current was strong, and a second wave, huge and black, roared over him, smashing the leather bowl into flotsam, and sweeping Bogatyr into the froth.

Riding the water-mountains as they flung him skyward, he shouted into the gale. Dragged into a trough, water flooded his throat, causing him to choke. Loosened by his struggles, his sword slipped from his scabbard. He floundered amidst the wreckage; thrashed his limbs against his mail’s downward pull. He looked again to the land, towards the black unattainable shoreline. Felt himself slipping into the depths; cursed the waters as they closed over his head...

Then darkness, like the lake...

Overwhelmed him.



THE storm’s fury faded from Bogatyr’s mind even as it faded from the sky; the darkness that had been cast upon him was dispelled—and, opening his eyes, he beheld her.

Water reached to the sky and the stars; clouds floated beyond, shimmering as if reflected from a mirror. She drifted just above like a spirit, a nymph; her blonde hair forming halos that danced in the moonlight. And Bogatyr thought her beautiful, naked, and wild; she of blue eyes—eyes like sea-light, flecked with a shell’s iridescent flash.

She smiled, her teeth like fine pearls in the half-moon beauty of her mouth. He returned her smile—and his gaze became a stare, such that, enraptured, he forgot the need to breathe. He floated unknowing and uncaring of the hours, entranced and suspended in the embryonic fluid of the lake’s belly. The water slipped in and out of his lungs easily.

So this is what it’s like to die, he thought at last, feeling the caress, the quiet, the cold of the lake currents upon his skin.

“Who are you?” he asked, his voice betraying his wonder.

She laughed, and the sound, magnified by the water, was like a bell chiming. “I am Annwyn, Queen of the Gwraged Annwn, whom you may know as the ‘Lake People.’”

“Then I am dead... or mad...”

“Nay, Bogatyr,” she laughed again. “You most certainly are not dead, though I cannot speak as to your sanity. As for your presence here, ‘tis my magic that brought you, and it will sustain you for as long as you swim the waters of Dannish-Toon. But you must never leave; nay, here you must remain—”

“Annwyn... how is it that you know my name?” he asked, trying to understand.

She smiled, her face softening from a laugh, her nose wrinkling from the joy that brightened her blue eyes. “The mortals called to you at Tannis Forth when you launched your craft, and I’ve followed in your wake ever since. Coracles—while sturdy, beautiful vessels—have not the strength to match blows with a storm. I found you, took you.”

“But you spared my life. Why?”

She pursed her lips, pretended to frown—though her eyes flashed mischievously.

“Because you please me, why else?” She said, sighing with mock exasperation. “Now, no more questions will I answer ‘till we reach Gwrageth Anoon—if you can keep up!”

Turning in a moonlight flash, with a flirtatious toss of her head, she lashed her dainty feet against the current, and slid gracefully through the water.

Pausing only long enough to see if he followed.



“Behold Gwarageth Anoon,” Annwyn whispered as the midnight waters deepened. “City of the Drowned, Keep of the Damned...”

Bogatyr swam clumsily to her side and peered below. Night spilled into fathoms, plunging against the green-gold-white of a distant blaze. The glow, he saw, was from the moon’s dying, a reflection of filtered rays—and it gleamed like exposed bone from abandoned walls, silted mazes, and the turrets that had crumbled into ooze. Flowing in the currents, moonbeams swirled the ruins, light that lived and died on a cloud’s passing, as the city had once lived with air and died with the coming of the waves. Kelp swayed in a watery breeze, fronds waving over commons that in ancient times had been green with grass and alive with throngs of men. Shelled creatures skittered on spindly legs and gaped from blank windows. Trout schools flashed, silver rivers running in silent, empty streets.

“Where are they? Your people—these ‘Gwraged Annwn?’”

“Gone these many years,” she said. “And I, but a Lady in Waiting, am now Queen of Gwarageth Anoon by default. We sinned, you see, in the eyes of the great god, Daethath. Vexed by our blasphemous words and deeds, he blew his stormy breath upon the lake, rising it from its bed, swallowing the town and all who dwelled within…

“Yet, as part of our curse, we lived on—until...”

She paused, shaking her head. Her hair swirled before her face like a pale shroud, retreated again with a flick of her hand. “But enough talk,” she said. “My tales will wait. First, you rest, yes, and dream. Then all I will tell—”

“I would know these things ere I slumber,” he demanded, taking her arm firmly.

“Very well,” she said, casting an anxious glance at what Bogatyr took to be the palace, now a ruinous pile. “Once, my people were many. They filled the streets with their numbers like schools of fish, and Gwarageth Anoon was not the lifeless tomb you see now. But as the years passed, a change fell over the hearts of my people. Sickening of their endless existence beneath the waves, they longed for sunshine, craved to feel the wind upon their faces. At first, many tried to escape, but all who breached the surface drowned—the life choked out of them by the very air they used to breathe.”

She turned and studied him, worry lines wrinkling about her eyes. “So you see,” she said, “you will die if ever you part from Dannish Toon..."

*     *     *

Paradise or Hell? Bogatyr is only beginning to wonder...

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.


Home - About - FAQ - Submission Guidelines - Press Room - Contact

Copyright © 2014 Epic Saga Publishing