Rubbing the dust from his eyes, Bartholomew Borax III glanced up at the crumbling arch. A few bricks overhead loosened and teetered. “Alex, watch out!” he cried shoving his best friend out of the way.
Alex fell against a wrought iron post. The mass of bricks plummeted downward as the curly-headed fifteen-year-old bounced off the gaslight. He landed on all fours panting and the bricks crashed onto the path with a tremendous boom. Choking dust swirled, darkening the afternoon sky.
Bartholomew knelt at his side. “You okay?”
Coughing, Alex gave him a thumbs-up.
The ground rumbled again, and long jagged cracks appeared. They widened and muddy heads emerged from the splintered soil.
Alex gasped. “Shadow Swine?”
Bartholomew pulled his friend to his feet and backed up. “Lions! Help us!”
With a roar, the carved lions overhead leaped off their coat of arms perch and vaulted over to the boys. They bowed their stony heads and faced the emerging army.
“It won’t be enough,” Alex said.
Bartholomew turned his head right and left. True art? True art? What can I create here?
He had only been in this unfamiliar place for scant minutes so didn’t know the lay of the land. But after multiple journeys into the mystical Artania, the blonde boy had learned that if he could work paint, clay, or wood, the Creation Magic would do the rest. He and his fellow Deliverer Alex had made amazing things these past five years. From swords to skateboards and dragons to great snakes they had wrought weapons and comrades in this long war against the Shadow Swine.
But still Sickhert’s army returned. Ever stronger. With new tricks and powers.
The lion on the right snarled at an approaching Shadow Swine. Alex grabbed Bartholomew by the collar. “We have to do something.”
Bartholomew felt dry leaves crunch under foot and stepped back. He kicked at a pile. Then he saw them fluttering through the air and wondered. It just might work. He closed his eyes and focused on the image. Scooping up a handful, he turned to Alex. “Remember Subterranea? They battled well.”
“Of course. I should have thought of that.” Bending down, Alex brushed away more leaves exposing the moist soil below. He plunged his hands into the clay and formed them into a mound.
Bartholomew plopped some leaves onto Alex’s s pile. Then more and more.
The two boys molded the materials into an animal shape. Without a word, they both knew where to place their hands. They scooped, pulled, and smoothed as if their minds were one. Hands tugged and pressed, sculpting faster and faster. A leg appeared. Then another. Paws. A larger-than-life head. Soon, they were moving at the speed of light.
One final pinch, and the sculpture shimmered. Fur sprouted all over its body. Two silvery eyes looked up at them. Bartholomew sat back on his haunches and smiled. “Glorious.”
He had but a microsecond to admire the work before the Swiney was upon them. With a long swipe of his battle axe, the pig-nosed creature tossed the first stone lion aside. He raised an arm to attack the second when the newly sculpted wolf lowered its head and butt him in the gut.
The Swiney toppled over.
“More!” Alex scooped up a fresh handful of mud and the boys repeated their sculpting performance, this time faster than the speed of light. Within seconds half a dozen wolves were growling and snapping at the jack-booted army.
For a moment all was silence. Then as if a great unmute button had just been pressed; a cacophonous roar filled the air. Wolves ripped into the hunchbacked Swineys. One stone lion leapt at a tall Shadow Swine, knocking the monster on its back. The second feline hurdled toward a dog Mudlark with red glowing eyes, one ear completely gone and the other in jagged shreds. The black lab’s contorted face was scarred and twisted as if raking claws had hollowed out great swaths of skin.
Two snarling wolves closed in on a spike wielding Swiney. The monster swung once. Twice. Three times. The newly formed canines dodged and snapped at his heels. Then the larger wolf clamped down on the Shadow Swine’s trench coat. He stumbled.
Bartholomew had just dug up a handful of soil to form a sword when he felt the vibration. His hand began to shimmer. Shaking his head, he glanced over at Alex who appeared to be filled with sparkling glitter. He shrugged at his best friend.
And Artania faded from view.
The excerpt above is from the first chapter of my upcoming novel, Artania V: Persistence of Memory. The scene takes place at the Arc de Triumf in Barcelona in the early 1900’s. Of course, since it’s Artania all of the sculptures in and around the arch are alive.
About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry, Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets. Laurie Woodward is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJo: The Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net