This is the Q'ntana of The MoonQuest, a land where "once upon at time" is a forbidden phrase and fact the only legal tender...a land whose moon is so saddened by the silence that her tears have extinguished her light...a land where fear rules and storytelling spells death...
Imagine it...if you dare...
First published in 2007, Mark David Gerson's The MoonQuest has won multiple awards for both fantasy and visionary fiction and is now on its way to the big screen in a production based on his screenplay and produced by Anvil Springs Entertainment. It's the first book/movie in a trilogy, The Q'ntana Trilogy.
Dreams and storytelling are, not surprisingly, important elements in a story where both are outlawed. When Toshar, the story's reluctant hero, is sent out on his MoonQuest, for example, he's given no concrete goal or direction, other than to journey northward to the mysterious place of the moon's rising and to let his dreams and stories guide him there. They do, often mystically merging into the journey itself.
In this excerpt, Toshar has fearlessly stood up to his nemesis, Bo'Rà K'n. Immediately afterward, he collapses into a feverish coma...and has a dream...
Wetness touched my lips and dribbled down my chin. Coolness bathed my face. I tried to open my mouth to speak, my eyes to see. They wouldn’t obey. “What are you saying?” I wanted to ask. But I couldn’t feel my tongue in my mouth.
My mouth. I can’t feel my mouth! A flash of panic and then...I feel nothing... hear nothing...know nothing...
I’m falling...sinking...floating...breathing cool, damp air. Now, no air...no sound...no light. Everything is black...dark...empty.
And then, something. The faintest riffle of air. A light, feather touch. It’s there, then gone. There again, enfolding me, cushioning me...embracing me. Am I still falling? Everything is so dark...impenetrably dark. Everything? No, nothing.
And then, something. A distant flicker. It wavers and gutters as it draws closer, grows larger. A hand cups the flame from behind. The light is nearly upon me, dancing atop a yellow taper. No, gold. No, blue. No, red. The colors dance as the flame pirouettes. Now the taper is white, as white as the halo of hair behind it, as white as the robe emerging from shadow.
“Do you know me, Toshar?” a woman’s voice issues gently from the flame. Toshar. I know that name from...from somewhere. Where? “Do you know me?” the flame repeats, now in a man’s voice, equally gentle.
“You are fire,” I say. “But who is Toshar?”
“Who is Toshar?” The voice is male and female, neither and both.
“I can’t remember. Does it matter?”
“You are Toshar.” The hand falls away and, with it, the shadow, revealing an ancient face etched with wrinkles. Candle flames dance in eyes as black as the blackness that surrounds us. It’s a woman, long white hair flowing freely over her naked breasts. No, a man, his chest buried under a snowy beard. The face is male and female, neither and both. “You are Toshar MoonQuester. I am Toshar Ko’lar. We are one, you and I. One out of time.”
It makes no sense, yet I understand in a way that surpasses understanding. I reach out to touch the apparition, but there is nothing to reach out with. I have no body.
“What am I?” I whisper. “Where am I?”
“You are here and not here, everywhere and nowhere. You are dream, you are reality. You are light, you are dark. This place, too, is all that...and none of it.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“You will...in time. Why have you summoned me, MoonQuester?”
“I, summoned you?”
“Forgive me. I forget. It was so long ago.”
“This encounter, this marriage of past, present and future into the eternal now.”
“You confuse me.”
“Do you remember nothing? Nothing of Q’ntana? Nothing of M’nor? Nothing of Bo’Rá K’n?”
Memory’s door opens a crack. I pull it shut with a cry of pain.
“Was it truly that bad?” he asks, more to himself than to me, as his image begins to dissolve.
“Where are you going?” I cry.
“If you do not know yourself in me...”
“...then do you know me?” Holding the candle is a wrinkled crone, leaning on a walking stick. Behind her, beyond an archway and through a misty, fluttering light, sits a steaming teapot atop a three-legged table.
“Come,” she says. She releases the candle, which hovers in the air unassisted, and extends her hand to me. I see another hand -- mine? -- take it and follow her across the threshold. “Perhaps some tea will reawaken your self-fullness.”
“Come,” she says, “sit on your favorite pillow and drink from your favorite mug.”
I cup my hand around the familiar piece of clay. Its green chevron shimmers luminously against my skin. I raise the mug and feel the steam bathe my eyes. As the sweet heat touches my lips and slides down my throat, I remember. I remember it all.
“Oh, Grandmother. I’m so frightened.”
“I know, child.” Her voice is the cool evening breeze that sweeps away a scorching summer day.
“But why? Why did I feel no fear then only to feel it now?” I start to tremble.
Eulisha refills my mug. “Drink this,” she says. “It will restore the balance.” Her eyes never leave me. “Do you understand yet who greeted you when you reached this world between worlds?” I shake my head. “You will be Elderbard, son of my son. What you saw was you, in the time to come.”
“But she...I mean he...that is, both...I mean, which?”
Eulisha’s smile fails to ease my confusion. “He and she,” she explains. “A union of all the qualities, masculine and feminine, resides in the truest of bards.”
“Will I...I mean, how...?”
“No,” she laughs, “you will not appear that way to the world, no more than do I.” Her voice grows serious. “Look at me closely. Look at me with the eyes of a bard, with the eyes of Toshar, Elderbard-to-be.”
I shut my eyes and reopen them. As I stare through the violet of Eulisha’s eyes, her face shifts subtly — a masculine jaw, firmer mouth, cheeks sprinkled with the salt-and-pepper stubble of a day’s growth. It lasts only an instant, then the familiar features return. There is so little difference, and yet...
“And yet we are one, as will you be when your time comes.” She gazes at me, her eyes boring through skin, bone and blood, then smiles. “And come it does. You ask why you fear once the fearful has passed.”
She lifts her mug and takes a first sip of tea. “Know first, child, that you needn’t understand everything, that mystery is among life’s greatest gifts.” Setting her cup on the table, she takes my hands in hers. They are like velour -- soft, smooth, warm. “You fear your strength. You fear your power. You fear your fearlessness. You fear the future because you cannot see where it will lead and you fear what you cannot imagine.
“You have glimpsed what may lie ahead. But you are only now building the foundation of that future. If you continue to build, stone by heavy stone, you and that Elderbard will meet again. If you continue to follow the path that is yours alone to follow, you will be that sage, the greatest sage in the time of Q’ntana’s greatest king, under the gaze of a grateful moon. If not... If not, then who can say?” She gestures to the door. “It is time for you to return to your friends. They worry and there is much traveling before you reach The Mir. Much traveling...”
As I stand, Eulisha’s image fades. “Wait,” I cry. I reach out but my hand passes through her as through a cloud. “What of my fear? I’m still frightened.”
Only the candle and Eulisha’s voice remain. “Walk with your fear. Walk through your fear. Walk on...into the promise.”
The candle recedes and darkness returns. Everything is black...dark... empty...
And then, something. Voices. Familiar voices. “...breathing regularly again...skin cooler...” “...more water...raise his head...” “...hear me?...” “...speak...Toshar...one word...?” Slowly, black turns gray turns cloudy and the mist dissipates. Leaves. A thick curtain of leaves, framing a face that peers anxiously into mine.
“Ro’an?” A hand pressed down on my shoulder as I tried to sit up. It was another dream. It had to be.
(c) 2008 Mark David Gerson. All rights reserved.
Read the complete, award-winning novel in hard copy or ebook form.
Photos #1 + #2 by Mark David Gerson
Mark David Gerson is a screenwriter, award-winning author and creator of The Q'ntana Trilogy of fantasy novels and films.
The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy, the first book in the trilogy, has won multiple national and regional awards, as has his book on writing and creativity, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. Both books, and his The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers CD, are available on his website and on Amazon. Ebooks are also available on Kindle and Kobo and via Apple's iBook Store; the CD is downloadable from CDbaby.
The MoonQuest, the first feature film in The Q'ntana Trilogy, will be in theaters in 2012.
As a creativity coach and writing-workshop facilitator for nearly 20 years, Mark David has guided writers and non-writers alike to connect with their innate wisdom, open to their creative power and express themselves with ease. Mark David is also a script analyst and consultant.
Mark David is currently working on a memoir and on The StarQuest and The SunQuest, the book and screenplay sequels to The MoonQuest.
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