Worlds Apart by Stephen B. Pearl


A paranormal, modern fantasy, romance novel.


Rated NC17, adult - some explicit sexuality.


Published by Dark Dragon Publishing in trade paper back and e-book.


37 chapters + epilogue, 352 pages, ~116,000 words, ISBN-13: 978-0987972682, ISBN-13: 978-0987972699.


Location: UK - Bakewell, Peak District National Park, Derby, and Avebury, England.


Available from Dark Dragon Publishing.
Amazon on line booksellers, and the Kindle Amazon store.
Barnes and Noble
Indigo and Chapters on line, Canada
and can be ordered from your local book seller.

Worlds Apart book cover - paranormal romance novel

Worlds Apart book trailer book trailer.



Description


     Markus, a wizard from a parallel earth, travels to our world in a bid to stop a blight that is destroying his own. Here he meets Alcina, a Wiccan Priestess, who is in a custody battle over her son, Tim, against Carl, the boy's sire, who abandoned her when she was pregnant eight years ago. Carl has the backing of a dangerous religious cult in his bid to take custody.


     Can Markus help save the boy? Can Alcina help save a world and what of the growing attraction between them? Can love bridge the gap between people that are Worlds Apart.



Book Cover


     Alcina's world is falling apart. Driven into poverty by her husband's unrelenting pursuit of the custody of their son, Alcina does whatever she can to keep her son from ending up in the arms of a man who would like nothing better than to turn son against mother.


     Markus lost his parents in a horrific accident endemic across his world. Areas of chaotic magic grow like cancers, destroying anything and everything in its path. Through years of illegal research and experimentation, Markus believes he has found a cure for his world, but to do so, he must travel to another world before the authorities catch up with him.


     Desperate for a peaceful life with her son, Alcina turns to magic, imploring ancient deities. What she does not expect is a strangely dressed man, speaking an unknown language, suddenly appearing before her. Is this the savior the Gods have sent her?



Dedication


     This book, as always, is dedicated to my beloved wife, Joy. For you I would cross worlds.


     It is also dedicated to the millions of people who struggle with literacy handicaps every day. Ignore the words of those who mistake proper spelling for intelligence. What you have to say is more important than how you say it. You are smart and you are strong and there is more to most things than knowing the difference between hear and here. Creativity, logic, knowledge and understanding are all part of you. Never give up and know you are not alone.


     Finally, I dedicate this book to those who realize that tolerance and understanding are the only way. Let there be no more burnings, no more gas chambers, no more bombings. Let our faiths, no matter what they are, cause us to rise to be the best we can be and not be perverted into an excuse for our lowest nature. Let us all live in love. So, to love, in all its forms, I dedicate this book.



Worlds Apart Chapter 1

Worlds Apart Chapter 2 Reviews


Chapter 1
Call Thee the Lords and Ladies


     "Earth and Air and Fire and Sea.

     Round my circle let thee be.

     From the stars and from the Earth.

     Guard our circle's holy girth."


     Robed figures sang as they danced hand in hand within the stone circle, alternating man and woman, linked to form a ring. Three people stood within the ring of dancers beside a small fire. An altar occupied the eastern side of the ring. The Handmaiden, a plump, blonde, twenty-something woman, held a black binder and a candle lantern so that the High Priest and Priestess could read the script for the ritual. Candles representing the God and Goddess burned upon the altar sheltered by hurricane shades. The elemental tools rested on the altar; the dagger for fire, the chalice for water, the censer for air, and the salt-dish for earth. Each represented the forces of life and the nature of physical creation under the ruler ship of spirit.


     Alcina smiled as she danced about the circle. Her simple dark-blue robe swished against her lean, swimmer's body, while her shoulder-length chestnut hair tickled her neck. She felt the power rising; a joyous energy born from the love she shared with her coven-mates and her Gods. She knew the spell would work. It had to work. The alternative was too painful to contemplate.


     #


     In another universe, Markus stood upon the Silbury observation mound and looked at the full moon, and then out over the desolation that had once been the city of Avebury. The ruins glowed with an eerie red light. He imagined he could see movement in the ghostly streets. His gaze shifted towards the city's core, where the hulking stones of the Avebury energy node still stood, too powerful in its grandeur to be destroyed by the Chaotic Magics that polluted the region.


     In another universe, Markus stood upon the Silbury observation mound and looked at the full moon, and then out over the desolation that had once been the city of Avebury. The ruins glowed with an eerie red light. He imagined he could see movement in the ghostly streets. His gaze shifted towards the city's core, where the hulking stones of the Avebury energy node still stood, too powerful in its grandeur to be destroyed by the Chaotic Magics that polluted the region.


     "Once more with powers ready to battle we fly. To death or victory our foes defy." Markus whispered the quote. He could almost see the brave pilots rising on their carpets to fight off those who tried to invade the western Isle during the Second Mage War. "If only we'd learned our lesson then," he muttered. As if hearing him, the wind kicked up, making his purple robe flap against his broad-shouldered, well-muscled form.


     He inspected his magic circle, which formed a translucent, blue shell impenetrable to all but the strongest of malevolent entities. His gaze fell to his altar, which faced east, and then to the magical tools that lay upon it. Crook and flail to command and persuade the powers; the Ankh shaped rattle of the Sistrum for fire; Chalice for water; Winged Disk for air; and the Mirror of Hathor for earth. He had taken more than a little ribbing for his use of the Egyptian tools, but for forcing order onto the Chaotic Magics he studied, they were the best he had found.


     In addition to his tools, a clear quarts pyramid half as wide at its base as a man's hand sat on the altar. A harness of lead wires was wrapped about it connecting at their other end to what looked like a fishing reel mounted on a wooden ring.


     "No use in procrastinating." Markus lifted his hands to the sky and spoke in a clear, deep voice.


     "I invoke thee Lady Isis who is Aset, Goddess of sorcery, Wife of Osiris, template of the dutiful spouse, Mother of Horus and Bast, Goddess of motherhood. I, a tear of Ra and thy mortal child, do invoke thee to this circle that I may be strong and knowing in my rite this night. Hail and welcome!"


     Markus chuckled as his melancholy lifted to be replaced by a warm feeling that filled his heart. His mind focused and his sense of purpose became adamant.


     He spoke again. "Hail to thee Thoth, who is Tehuti God of wizardry, wise and knowing one, viceroy of Ra, teacher, healer, transformer. He who wrote the Pert Em Hru. I thy mortal child do invoke thee to this circle that my spells may be potent and my will unwavering in my rite this night. Hail and welcome."


     Markus's mind felt sharper; problems of intellect that moments before would have confused him were now clear. The world was a pattern of energies and forces interplaying to create beauty. The ruin below him was a scar on that beauty.


     Lying on the grass, he closed his eyes and let his breathing become deep and even. After a minute he felt his essence slip free of his flesh. He drifted up and looked where his body lay. His physical form seemed to sleep. He appraised himself. His brown hair was in a ponytail that draped over his shoulder and his face, which seemed reposed in sleep, was a bit too rugged to be truly handsome, but fair enough for anyone who wasn't on the stage. The Isis pendent that hung from a chain about his neck glowed with blue light, and a gold ring bearing the signet of Thoth glimmered purple on his right hand.


     Not bad, but I need to make sure I get my swim in. I'm getting a little podgy, he thought.


     Satisfied that his body was as safe as it could be, Markus turned to the altar and his astral form spoke. "I am Harakhti flying at the noon. I am Horus striking the serpent. I am Falcon soaring to the heavens to bring pearls of wisdom to the earth."


     Closing his eyes, Markus felt himself reshape, drawing energy from the earth and air. Opening his eyes, his arms had become wings and feathers covered him. Hopping onto the altar he took the wooden ring in his talons and flew. The wires pulled taut, lifting the crystal pyramid, and the hawk, with its burden, soared over the devastated city.


     #


     Alcina stood in the middle of the circle holding a short spear towards the sky, feeling the energies flow through her, her head became light from the effort.


     Around her the coven chanted, "Lugh, Danann, Justice, Lugh, Danann, Justice."


     "Hold!" intoned the High Priestess, moving to Alcina's side. The High Priestess wore a dark-green robe that made her grey-streaked, raven hair stand out in the firelight. Her body was fit and her large breasts mounded against her robe. The plastic framed bifocals she wore did little to detract from her handsome, angular features. At her command all other voices stilled.


     "The weapon of Lugh is prepared. Saille, do you stand ready to call your champion who will stand as Lugh to defend thee in thy need?" demanded the High Priest who stepped to Alcina's other side. He was in his late-middle years with a ragged mane of hair that had yet to surrender the last of its red to grey. The broadness of his shoulders didn't completely hide the thickening around his waist and his voice was deep and clear. The brown robe he wore was a little tattered at neck and sleeve, but that did nothing to detract from the air of dignity he carried.


     All those in the circle that ringed Alcina seemed to hold their breath. Eight daggers pointed at her, and she could feel the energy flowing from each of her conveners.


     "I stand ready." Alcina hardly recognized her own voice through the roar of power in her ears.


     "Then call your champion, Saille, daughter of the Tuatha De Danann," ordered the High Priestess.


     "I call thee, Lugh, thy weapon ready to manifest in a champion to aid in my extremity. One who will strike against those who seek to steal my son. One who will remove the veil of lies his father has woven about your children and our fair rites. Be they lawyer of eloquence fair, or knowledgeable judge with true sight, or other form unknown to me, send a champion that the thief that surrendered his rights when he departed shall be seen for all he is, and my son shall be safe. So mote it be!"


     "So mote it be!" echoed out from all in the circle.


     "Release the magic that the calling shall be complete," ordered the High Priest.


     Alcina threw the spear onto the fire. Its dry wooden shaft caught.


     The High Priestess restarted the chant and everyone joined in as the spear burnt. "Lugh, Danann, Justice, Now! Lugh, Danann, Justice, Now!"


     #


     Markus soared over the ruined city. His hawk eyes could see skeletons acting out the last few seconds of their long extinguished lives among the crumbling buildings and windswept streets. The energy of terror flowed from the place. Catching an updraft, he rose higher, skirting the edge of the chaotic zone. Here, in areas newly taken by the insane magics, life held on in twisted forms. A bird rocketed into the sky driving the wings on both its fore and hind limbs against the air. The mouth on its reptilian head gaped open revealing dagger-like teeth and its scaly tail whipped back and forth for balance. Markus, the wizard, knew it to be a beast long since lost to the passage of the ages. Markus, the hawk, saw a predator that, although it could not match him in the air, posed a threat from its size and ferocity.


     Markus rode the thermal up. The ancient bird tried to follow, rising above the Chaotic Magics that gave birth to it. The beast screeched as its reptilian sections began to wither. Desperate, it dove back into the globe of chaotic force.


     Topping the thermal, Markus flew over the ruined city encased in the Chaotic Zone. Nearing the trench that encircled the energy node Markus banked flying over the longer than a kilometre excavation. Despite being in the core of the Chaotic Zone, almost as a testament to the power of the Avebury node, grasses clung to life on the earthen mound that backed the trench. Markus twitched a wing feather and flew over the core of the node. Below him the ring of boulders, some weighing forty tons, contained and enhanced the magical energies. His gaze strayed to where two smaller circles of stone had been constructed within the larger one then to the serpent's tail, two paths leading from the main circle, each fourteen metres wide and two and a half kilometres long. The one leading to the southeast ended in another node.


     As always, Markus marvelled at the feat of engineering the circle represented. It had supplied power for its city and the surrounding area for nearly five thousand years.


     Using a talon, Markus hit the release on the fishing reel and watched as the crystal pyramid dipped into the powerful Chaotic Magics over the great circle of stones. The energies sparked and danced where they were penetrated, like a miniature electrical storm. A bolt of red energy struck the pyramid and coursed up the wires, stopping when it reached the wooden ring. The pyramid glowed with golden light.


     Driving hard with his wings Markus gained altitude and flew towards his unconscious body. A press of a talon on the reel's control caused his pyramid to pull in as he flew. The weathered skeletons below him continued their parody of life, looking up at their doom, helpless to stop the insanity that had gripped their world; trapped in a never-ending moment of terror. Some seemed to run towards the magic fallout shelters they had been told would keep them safe. A futile race repeated for eternity. The shelters hadn't worked.


     Minutes later, Markus lowered the now glowing, gold pyramid to his altar then he descended into his body and took on human, corporeal form.


     #


     "Hail and farewell," said the High Priestess dismissing the last of the elements.


      "Hail and farewell," echoed the conveners in their ring inside the circle of stones.


     "And a word before we merry part," said the High Priest. "Incense, candles, herbs and all that rot cost money. The hat is out for a reason." He gestured to a battered bowler that sat in a gap between two of the stones.


     "Also remember 'the earth is our mother, we must take care of her' shouldn't only be a chant. The protests may have kept them from putting a quarry under our nine lovely ladies." The High Priestess gestured at the nine waist-high boulders that formed the stone circle. "That doesn't mean that we are relieved of responsibility. Try to spend some time picking up garbage. Plant a tree or donate to an environmental charity. Show the Earth mother that you aren't just hot air and lip service. Now, merry meet and merry part and merry meet again."


     The coven broke into smaller groups chatting and laughing. Alcina moved to stand beside one of the marker stones at the circles edge and quietly enjoyed the night.


     "I think it worked." The High Priestess moved to Alcina's side. "Lady," Alcina smiled.


     "Lady!" The High Priestess rolled her eyes. "Rite's done, Alcina. I swear, between craft names, mundane names, and titles, it's a wonder we ever know what to call each other." A smile took the sting out of the words.


     Alcina chuckled, and then grew serious. "Do you really think it worked, Beth?"


     Beth squeezed the younger woman's arm. "Positive. Carl won't know what hit him."


     "I hope. I'd give him visitation if it wasn't for him going on to Tim that we're all a bunch of devil worshipers and that I'm going to burn in the Christian Hell. After that time I let Carl take Tim out for ice cream the poor little guy had nightmares for a week."


     "You're nicer than I am, especially after the way he ran out on you!" Beth spoke in a scathing tone, her face flushing red. "He may be Tim's sire, but he's no kind of a father!"


     "I hope the judge agrees with you. Carl's got a big time solicitor that his Church is paying for. Their tax-exempt status at work! Even Carl's parents think he's over the top, but they won't testify against their son." Alcina let her gaze fix on the glowing embers of the ritual fire in its brazier.


     Beth hugged the younger woman. Releasing Alcina, Beth fingered the jet necklace Alcina wore. "Saille, I really think you should start mixing in some of your amber again. You collected some lovely pieces when you were First Degree."


     Alcina looked nervous. "I'm just not ready right now. With all that's going on..."


     "I understand, but I really want another ribbon on my garter, and Garth's fiancé; is very keen to join the coven, but we're already at thirteen."


     "Grail could--"


     "Gerald? Oh, he's Third Degree, but he has no people skills. He would be a horrible High Priest if he didn't have a High Priestess who understood the human side of things to play mum to his group."


     "I concur," said a tall man in a black, hooded cloak carrying a staff. He seemed to materialize out of the shadow behind Alcina.


     "Goddess!" Alcina jumped. "Nix, don't do that!" She turned and glared at the man.


     He smiled at her, revealing very white teeth in a handsome, but unremarkable, face.


     Beth smiled. "What does my Summoner require?"


     The man pulled back his hood revealing short, black hair. "Actually, two things, Auntie Beth, M'Lady, Epona's daughter, Shadowmare, O horsy one of the--"


     "Watch it, you're not too old for Auntie Beth to put you over her knee, brat!"


     Nix's lean body shook with a chuckle. "If it wasn't a blood relationship, I'd love to take you up on that." He leered comically.


     "Learn to live with disappointment." Beth struck a provocative pose that hinted at a body that could still make men drive their cars up a tree.


     Alcina rolled her eyes at the antics. "If you don't need me, I've got to get back to Tim. The sitter has to be home by midnight."


     "I'll walk you to your car. We need to speak." Nix's voice lost all hint of humour and it was as if a black veil descended on him.


     Alcina swallowed noticeably. "I'll just change." Moving to a ruck-sack outside of the circle, she pulled out a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and underwear. Unselfconsciously, she stripped off her robe and began to dress.


     Nix turned to Beth and his voice took on a professional quality. "I have a stock tip that if you act quickly you and Phil could realize a twenty-five percent profit on your investment over the next month."


     "Have you spoken to Phil about it?" Beth glanced at the High Priest where he packed the ritual tools in a suitcase.


     "He's fine with me flipping the slow performers in your portfolio if you are."


     "Then do your magic and make us rich. Just out of curiosity, what's the company's name?"


     "Green Tree Environmental, they're about to get a huge clean up contract."


     Nix turned and watched as Alcina pulled on her street clothes. Her skin was painted red gold by the dying fire, and her half-an-orange-sized breasts made gentle curves on her chest surmounted by erect nipples, while her pubic hair was a neatly trimmed triangle. He sighed.


     "You should do something about that, Bill," said Beth.


     "The willow tree needs the light of day to flourish; I am of Pwyll's nature. I long for the things in the sunshine realm, but I know I am their end."


     "You're full of shit! You're afraid to go after her because she might say no," scolded Beth.


     A brief smile touched Bill's lips, and he fidgeted with the amber ring on his finger. "No, I know what I'm like. I'm controlling, I'm exacting and a perfectionist. I'd stifle Alcina the same way I did Catalan. I'd rather not lose another friend. I need a woman who will be happy to be just a wife and let me take the lead, someone to cook and clean and be a great hostess, and to service my needs."


     "At least you admit it. Good luck in finding her in this day and age." Beth turned to the circle where Phil gingerly tried to move the low, metal brazier the fire had been on. The hot coals from the ritual fire had been shovelled into a metal bucket. "Honey, let it cool first. We don't have to rush." Beth shot Bill a smile and moved to join her High Priest.


     "I'm ready," called Alcina as she finished lacing up her sneakers.


     Bill pulled up his hood and seemed to become a shadow that moved at Alcina's side as she walked along the moor to where she had left her car.


     After several minutes Alcina stopped. "Not that I mind having a bodyguard, but could you say something? This whole dark and brooding thing is creeping me out."


     "I'm sorry, I was thinking." Bill threw back his hood. "Alcina, you know I take my role as Summoner seriously."


     "I know that. We all appreciate you standing guard at the king stone, so what's up?" Alcina felt tension radiating off the man.


     "As Summoner, it is my duty to protect the coven and its members."


     "Yeah. Like I said, we're lucky to have you. You're a black belt in what? Two martial arts?"


     "Three, actually, but that's not what this is about. Keeping rowdies away from a ritual is easy, it's straightforward."


     "Okay, what then?" The full moon lit the moor with its deep ravines left by long defunct quarries. An owl hooted in a nearby wood.


     "Some of my firm's clients are, shall we say, on the fringe of legality. Certain activities generate capital that then has to be legitimized and..."


     "You deal with people laundering dirty money. You're a stock broker; I'd be surprised if you didn't."


     "Right, well. I know people who could deal with Carl... permanently. They owe me a favour. If you give the word..."


     Alcina went pale. "Bill, I..." She looked at the ground. "I want to say no, but if Carl wins the court case and steals Tim... I don't know. It's too soon. Maybe as a last resort, but... I don't think I could live with myself if I said yes, and what about the karma for both of us?"


     "Three times what you put into the life of another shall be revisited upon your own, but you didn't start this war. It could be viewed as self-defence." Bill grasped Alcina's shoulder reassuringly.


     "No, I didn't start it, but I pray to all the Gods we won't have to end it your way. Can you wait for an answer?" There were tears in Alcina's eyes.


     "Yes, I just want you to know the option exists." Bill pulled Alcina to him and held her as she trembled. He gently kissed her head. A long time later they separated and continued to her car. As they walked, Bill once more pulled up his hood and sank into his Nix persona.


     #


     Markus packed the last of his tools into his backpack, and then removed the glowing, crystal pyramid from its wire harness stowing it in a wooden box. Placing the box into a specially designed pocket on the pack, he inspected the wires. Where they had once been lead, they were now gold.


     "At least it helps with funding my research," he muttered as he spooled the gold wires into a ball and packed them away. Wisps of clouds scuttled across the moon as he retrieved a frayed carpet from just down the slope and unrolled it.


     Sitting on the carpet, Markus waved his hand over an intricate pattern of gold, silver and copper wires embroidered into it. The pattern glowed dully then slowly intensified.


     "If the chaotic region gets much larger, I'm going to have to hoof it up this hill. The walk might do me good." Markus snorted derisively.


     Markus touched part of the wire pattern. The carpet jerked up and hovered a meter off the ground.


     "Need to check the weave. Come on old girl; hold together, daddy can't afford to replace you right now." Markus stroked his finger over part of the wire pattern and the carpet sped down the slope away from the chaotic zone towards twinkling lights in the distance. The further from the chaotic zone it flew the steadier the ride became.


     Touching a palm-sized plate of quartz woven into the carpet Markus focused a thought.


     "And now the news." A man's voice vibrated out of the crystal.


     "A research mission to the New York chaotic zone ended in tragedy today. A team of alternative-life individuals working in the less chaotic border zone surrounding the region was overtaken by a random expansion of the chaotic energy field--"


     "Alternative-life! Just call them undead. Damn political correctness is wrecking a perfectly good language!" Markus rolled his eyes in disgust.


     "Wizard Francis McDowl of the University of New Avebury, who was heading the mission, said that the event was tragic but completely unpredictable and should not deter us in our efforts to bring order into the zones--"


     "Supercilious old fart! If you'd read my paper you would have known damn well when the zone would expand. You can't use regular spells to understand chaotic magic. You have to take it on its own terms. Blind, the whole bloody faculty!"


     "--Later on in our show, a Failford fish and chips shop receives government permission to serve plesiosaur and John Redcliffe, a sorcerer candidate studying medicine at New Avebury University, has developed a new technique for removing cataracts. Now the weather--"


     Markus gestured at the crystal and it went silent. Tracing parts of his carpet's wire pattern, he manoeuvred it onto a strip of cleared grass. Other carpets, most of them larger and in better condition than his, sped by. A group of university girls on a sleek German sports-rug pulled up behind him, and then passed, blowing him kisses and waving as they went by. He recognized two of them from his lecture group and smiled. Being a young Prof had both its temptations and its pleasures. At least one of them would be graduating in the spring.