For today's story snippet, I'm excited to feature Jamin Still's Tales of Hiberia: The Awakening, a lovely fantasy collection that blends beautiful artwork with fantastic tales. Without further ado, here's what Jamin has shared with us:
The twelve stories contained in The Tales of Hibaria: The Awakening introduce the reader to the world of Hibaria and the Islands. It is a world of magic and mystery, of dragons and sea serpents, a world where the Sky Lords - the Constellations - can take physical form and walk the land. It is a world in which an ancient evil, long imprisoned, threatens to break free.
The central characters in these stories are children and young adults who grapple with fear and sorrow, loss and longing, and who are given the opportunity to choose courage and hope. Their individual stories weave together to begin to tell a larger narrative. This collection lays the groundwork for further stories in the world of Hibaria.
This full-color volume is as much a book of stories as it is an art book: it is brimming with richly painted illustrations, numerous supplemental sketches, and finely detailed maps.
Visit jaminstill.com to learn more about the world of Hibaria.
FIRST STORY: THE MENDING
The boy searched among the rocks and sandbars of the peninsula, his clear green eyes flitting from one object to another. He occasionally stooped to pick up a shell or a feather or a wind-carved piece of wood, but he released these things almost as soon as he had touched them. He was not sure what he was looking for, but he knew he had not found it yet. He kept searching.
Almegorin was ten years old. Earlier that summer he had found a fisherman’s float, a green sphere of blown glass that looked like it had been made in Werth. The float was cool and smooth to the touch, and when the tiny bubbles embedded in the glass had caught the evening light, Almegorin had almost thought he could hear the distant cries of gulls and the keening of an unfelt wind. When, with both hands, he had lifted the float out of the sand, he thought he could feel the tug of the deep currents that had brought the glass so far south. The thing had a story and Almegorin felt as though, if he only listened carefully enough, he would be able to hear it.
The boy had taken the fisherman’s float home, exultant, and placed it on the table beside his bed.
Since then he had come to this beach whenever he could. He came to look for other treasures woven with stories, other objects that told him their tales. He searched with anticipation, with barely suppressed excitement, longing to hold these things in his hands and learn the secrets of the world.
The sun sank low in the west, reflecting off the water, painting the sky gold and red and purple. It would be dark soon. Almegorin turned and began the long walk back to Hull. He sighed. There was work to be done tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and while he enjoyed his work, it would be another week before he would be able to hunt again.
At the broken tree Almegorin paused. He would be late, but… he scrambled up its twisted trunk, pulling himself up from branch to branch, until he was far above the ground. The sea spread out before him, sparkling gray and huge and mysterious, and the coastline curved away to the north, like the sweeping wing of a bird. Past the inlet was the village, its lights, like distant fireflies, beginning to appear in the dusk. He would be late, yes, but the view never failed to fill him with wonder. High above, the stars began to appear, twinkling in the expanse as they began their dance across the darkness.
As the sun slipped beneath the sea, the boy dropped to the ground beside the broken tree. His hand brushed a stone, half-buried in the wet sand. He dug it out. It was the size of an egg and smooth as glass. The stone was like nothing he had ever seen before, held before, and it was clear as purest light and somehow it seemed to hold the world within itself. It glowed a faint blue in the fading light and made his fingers tingle and his heart beat a little faster. With shaking hands, he carefully tucked it into his pocket.
That night Almegorin dreamt. In his dreams he sailed the seas and he knew the waters – every current, every wave, every eddy – and he knew all the ships that had passed over them, all the storms that had raged across them. He knew the creatures that swam below the surface, that lurked beyond sight in the darkness below. He saw what they had seen and he knew their stories.
In his dreams, Almegorin walked the Islands and he knew them. He knew the rocks and trees and streams, he knew every hill and valley and coastline. He knew the birds and animals and insects, and he saw what they had seen and he knew their stories.
He saw ancient cities and towns long forgotten, kingdoms and empires long crumbled. He saw Augrind, the Emperor of the Night, rise to power and he saw the building of the Hourglass. He saw Augrind’s reign in the blink of an eye, and he saw the horrors of the Great War, and he saw Augrind’s fall.
He saw the Sky Lords imprison the Emperor of the Night in the Rift.
He saw the Black Horizon and knew what lay over its edge.
High in the mountains, Almegorin stood before the ancient Augur Tree and he knew every contour of its massive trunk, every twist of its thousand branches, every vein of its countless leaves, and he knew what, over the centuries, it had seen.
He knew all these things and he knew their stories and he knew how they had come to be.
When Almegorin awoke, he discovered that he was clutching the stone. When he awoke, he remembered what he had dreamt.
That morning he did not put the stone on the table with his other treasures. Instead, Almegorin placed it in his pocket. In the shop he worked silently beside his father, carefully copying maps of different parts of Rorus. Several parties of foreigners were due to arrive by the end of the week, foreigners who did not know these lands or these waters, but who had recently been granted trading and hunting rights. They needed maps and Almegorin’s father, the only cartographer on the island of Hilder, was happy to comply. But the drawing of maps was slow and meticulous work, and there was much yet to do. Despite this, despite the urgency of what needed to be done, Almegorin found himself staring out the window at the sea, his feather quill forgotten beside the half-finished map. Instead, his hand was wrapped around the stone in his pocket.
“Where is your mind, Almegorin?” asked his father. His question was firm but gentle, as his eyes searched his son’s face.
“I … out there,” the boy finally said. “I’m sorry.” He shook himself and resumed his work on the map, but his mind was far away, out in the vast, vast world.
That night Almegorin could not sleep. He glanced at the fisherman’s float on the table beside his bed. To think that he had once considered Werth far away! The world was so much bigger than he had imagined. So much had happened that he had not known about, that he could not have possibly known about. And this place, the village of Hull on the island of Hilder … was so small. His mind was full, almost to bursting, with all the stories of the world.
The stone shone like starlight in his hand. Finally, wearily, he got up, put on his shoes, and slipped out of the house.
His feet made no sound as he walked through the streets of the village. Past the last house, he angled toward the gray water and came to the top of a small cliff that overlooked the sea. Below him were the boats, waiting, summoning him. He would go and see the world, see all the places he now knew existed. He would go and live the stories, and he would not look back.
Almegorin took a deep breath and stepped toward the boats. Before him the water was still.
And then it was not. The inky blackness swirled and rippled and the boats bobbed and a creature rose silently from the depths, dripping and glistening in the moonlight. It was a massive serpent with shimmering scales, and it looked down at Almegorin with a piercing blue eye. The boy took a step back and swallowed.
“You do not sleep, child of the earth, though it is night,” said the serpent, and its other eye, Almegorin observed, was glaucous and unseeing. It looked for all the world like an enormous pearl. The creature stared at him and tilted its head and added quietly, “You do not know what you are about to do.”
The boy shook his head. “I do know. The world is so big and this place is so small, and there is so much to see. I am going.”
“That is true. The world is a vast thing and this is but a small part of it. But while there will come a time for you to leave these shores and strike out into the world, that time is not now.”
“Why?” asked Almegorin.
“What you possess,” said the creature, looking at Almegorin’s hand, “has made you think that you are ready, but you are not. What you hold in your hand is a powerful thing and it has given you knowledge that you should not have. It is not yours, and if you keep it, you will be undone.”
Almegorin looked at the stone in his hand. And then he looked at the creature and saw the hole in its belly, a hole the size and shape of an egg. The stone suddenly grew warm in his palm and seemed to pulse with a low light. He looked down at it.
“It is yours?” asked the boy.
“It has been lost for longer than you can imagine, but, yes, it is mine.”
Almegorin hesitated and then said, “But I want it to be mine.”
The creature nodded. “Who wouldn’t? But as I said, if you keep it, you will be undone. It is, after all, a star, and you are a child of the earth.”
At these words Almegorin’s eyes widened and he looked up and down the length of the serpent. Stones similar to the one in his hand were interspersed amongst the scales. And the creature’s eye that the boy had thought looked like a pearl …
“You’re a Sky Lord,” he finally said. “Though not one I’m familiar with.” The boy glanced up at the night sky, filled with the glittering constellations.
“I have been absent from the heavens for a long time now; you would not know me. I have been searching for what you hold in your hand for centuries.”
Almegorin looked at the star in his hand, looked at the thing that had borne witness to the creation of the world and that had told him all the stories it had seen. “Will I forget them?” he asked as he held out the stone. It rose gently from his hand and began to pulse with light. “The stories?”
“Most of them,” said the Sky Lord. “Your small mind was not made to contain so much. A few will remain, however. Consider them a gift.”
“Thank you,” said Almegorin. “Will I still want to go?” he added, looking at the boats.
The stone slid into place and the Sky Lord shimmered in the starlight. “For now you will not,” the creature said, “though the seed of that desire grows in you as it does in many young people, and it will eventually bear fruit. But it will bear fruit in the right time. For now you will once again be content.
“But I have seen that when the time does come, child of the earth, and you do go from this place, there is something you are uniquely equipped to do. Would you like to know what it is I ask of you?”
“Trouble is coming to Hibaria and the Islands. Disaster, great difficulty, perhaps war. I can sense it in the waters and in the air. Augrind stirs in the world of dreams, perhaps in the waking world as well. I would have you gather the stories of this time, so that what transpires is not lost to the children of the earth.”
The boy took a deep breath. “I will do it,” he said.
“This is to be your life’s work,” said the Sky Lord. And without another word the creature rose from the water, whole once more. The sea serpent, blue and green and silver, soared into the night sky and slowly faded from view. Soon, the boy could see only a line of seven points of light. The line moved sinuously through the night, across the vastness of the heavens, until it came to rest amongst a cluster of stars in the north, a cluster so dim that Almegorin had never noticed it before. The line of light coiled and flexed and merged with the grouping of dim stars. There was a flash, almost imperceptible, and the stars grew bright.
“It’s time we both were home, I guess,” said Almegorin, and he turned away from the sea and walked silently back to the village.
It's no secret that I'm drawn to beautiful books, and when I encountered The Tales of Hiberia by Jamin Still, the striking images immediately caught my attention. I'm thrilled that he's shared some pictures and an excerpt from his collection of fantasy stories with us, and I encourage you to check out his books and art at www.jaminstill.com. If you wish to purchase Tales of Hiberia: The Awakening, you can do so here.