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The Talisman Matrix
Temporal Fugue And The Space Between: Book One
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-125-0
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Science Fiction
eBook Length: 708 Pages
Published: August 2013

From inside the flap

In an antique store in a city called New York on the world Terranova, a man and a woman discover a collection of extraordinary objects that open the way to worlds and adventures that they could never have imagined. Spanning time and space and alternating between the three worlds of an unusual universe that seems familiar in some ways but is very, very different, the tale expands to include a huge cast of characters, mortal and immortal, on three very different worlds.

The Talisman Matrix begins the Temporal Fugue and the Space Between cycle with the discovery of the first talismans in an antique store on the earth like world Terranova. The talismans are powerstones that allow a small group of Terranovans not only to transform themselves into spirit wolves but also to travel to Caoilte Dhu and Midhir, the other worlds of the Talisman Matrix. On Caoilte Dhu, called the Fairest World, they become involved with a group of singular individuals led by the bard Finn of the Long Road that is plunged into a quest to learn the origin of a dire threat to not only Caoilte Dhu but all of the worlds of the Talisman Matrix.

The Terranovans include J.T.Crowe who with the woman Lisa Aubrey first discovers the talisman stones. Crowe’s friend Gonzalez Smith, a half-breed Cherokee bartender in south Florida, is drawn into to strange adventure along with a huge cast of other characters from the world called Terranova. The shock to J.T. and Lisa that came with the powerstones diminished to almost nothing when Gonzalez Smith used the silver powerstone that transformed him into a partnership with the red-haired Tuatha de Danaan healer god Diancecht! In the process, the three learn that none of them is quite what they seem and that each has a past history that plays a major role in the tale as it unfolds.

Meanwhile, on Caoilte Dhu, the bard Finn of the Long Road is trapped into leading a quest to discover the reason why the barriers that had protected the Greenworlds of the Sidhe had been shattered by the actions of a curious yellow-eyed boy named Gral who served a mysterious and powerful mistress. In the quest, Finn and his companions soon learn that an even greater threat is looming over not only Caoilte Dhu but all of the worlds of the Talisman Matrix.

As the Terranovans and Finn’s companions who have named themselves The Greenworld Fellowship come together they learn that the threat is even greater than perceived – learning that in fact the gods and demons of the Talisman worlds are real and that they each have an agenda. The demons and their allies are bent on conquest. The Tuatha de Danaan, like the demons, have been exiled from the Fairest World in the interest of peace – but some of them want to return whatever the cost!

The Talisman Matrix (Excerpt)


*

"'Of the three worlds Terranova was so similar to Old Earth that it was as if someone had planted a seed' . . . the latest disingenuous in-joke making the rounds of our over-educated, oh-so-ambitious little band of not-so-brotherly sisters and brothers! Midhir and Caoilte Dhu? Well, that will be another tale!"

FLIGHT LOG ENTRY 10053: Marina D'Abruzzio -Lt.-Commander, TSFS ComTech/Chief Duty Officer, TFSS Redemption [Dispersal/insertion -minus7hr. 15sec.]

"Marina is right - which is probably why the admirals have decided that we must avoid Terranova unless absolutely necessary. Terranova's numbers are an obvious threat - although the hive cities are so similar to the world we are fleeing that they would be a convenient and familiar hiding place in an emergency. The machine-world is almost identical to the world we are fleeing. Too advanced. Too dangerous. I agree, of course, which shouldn't surprise anyone! But the advanced tech and the potential danger is only a secondary reason for me. Just look at the feedback from the orbital drone cams! Caoilte Dhu is BEAUTIFUL!"

FLIGHT LOG ENTRY 10054: D. B. Malachy, SJ - Chaplain-Lieutenant TSFS, TFSS Redemption [Dispersal/insertion -minus 6 hr. 45 min.]

"No, my friend Marina may well be correct, but it becomes increasingly obvious that we do NOT understand temporal fugue and the space between, not even partially, and we do not fully understand Hartmann's phase shift effect. I fear that Terranova and the homeworld are going to turn out more than just . . . alike."

FLIGHT LOG ENTRY 10059: Dr. Birgit Lundegard-Riley - Commodore, TSFS, Chief Astrophysicist, TFSS Redemption [Dispersal/insertion -minus 119 hr. 25 sec.]


Prologium

The old woman, in one form or another, had lived in the place called the Ramble for several hundred years. Most of the time had simply been spent in waiting. To pass the time, she had caused a picturesque cottage to appear next to the pleasant stream called the Gill. She further amused herself by furnishing the cottage in the style she thought of as "early wicked stepmother." Unseen by Indian hunters, early colonists and latter day lovers, she was content to be left to her own devices. For the most part, with an inhuman patience, she waited and planned . . . until events reached a cusp and it was time for the princess to disappear and time to take the boy and train him. The training augured that the long wait would soon end, and she was pleased. In the meantime, the boy's training proceeded well, occupying her time, until events moved to a meeting point. On the three worlds, people and events came together as prophesized and destiny prepared to act out its inexorable grand design. The beautiful witch, the girl with the inner hurt, the extraordinary boy, the reluctant and not-so-reluctant heroes, the child of sorrows, kings, queens, warriors and demons . . . all were coming together quite nicely. Would the leading actors in the drama be heroes? Anti-heroes? Or perchance a complex buffoon? It was still too early in the game to be certain, but the safe assumption was that the drama never failed to entertain. For the first time in a thousand years the old woman permitted a small smile to cross her aged face; and anyone watching would have gaped in disbelief as the raddled features transformed fleetingly into an incredible radiance.


***

Feet crossed at the ankles, faded Reeboks propped precariously on the porch railing, the limp figure in the rattan chair might have been mistaken for a disreputable oversized rag doll if it were not for the fact that occasionally a tanned hand would lift the brim of the old Yankee's cap so that the owner could lazily survey the length of the trail leading up through the yellow-brown tidal grass below the beach shack. Periodically, say every half hour, almost punctually on the half hour, the same hand would reach down to lift the empty bottle of Guinness, testing the emptiness in a wistful moment of optimism that was really an easygoing offer to let the Destiny of bottles-completely-empty to reverse its mean-spirited entropy. J.T.Crowe was in the process of enjoying his habitual-for-the-last-month late morning porch nap, field-testing, as it were, his new theory of total relaxation. It was not that J.T. was a naturally indolent individual; it was an unexpected pause, a waiting time where he had been marking time for the last month or two. And it was just that it was the time for his new ritual of the morning porch nap.

The empty stout bottle represented the traditional 'hair of the dog,' although at times he wondered if there might be a case that could be made for Guinness as the New Age Breakfast Food. Power bottle instead of power bar. Sprawled next to his feet the recumbent snoring German shepherd bitch named Cassie managed to look even more relaxed than her alleged master. Glancing down the beach trail from time to time was intended to give forewarning of the arrival of the young woman Crowe sometimes thought of as Doctor Dread. In the process, if forced to admit it, he was immensely pleased with the view of stuff like gently rippling beach grass, sunlight dancing on blue-green water and picturesque albeit demented seagulls hang-gliding over the waves.

Waiting so alertly, it was inevitable that the man in the Yankee's cap lapsed into that special dozing between-world of someone that was lucky enough to have a true visceral understanding of relaxation. Inevitably, of course, he fell soundly asleep. He woke again to the gentle rhythmic tapping of a fingernail on the gray cedar under his tennis shoes. Light gray eyes regarded him clinically from under the bent brim of an almost new black White Sox cap.

"You have to know that you're a tragedy, Crowe," observed the woman with the long pale blond ponytail hanging down from the back of the baseball cap. "The fashion police are going to arrest you and the psychs are going to shrink your head after they take out your liver to see if it's pickled. Children, even children . . . ," she paused thoughtfully, "children on their way home from Sunday School will stop and make faces and laugh at you because of your heinous moral example."

"Just tell me why your children are on the beach if it's Sunday and they're wearing their Sunday best. Shouldn't they be going straight home for ham and potatoes or grits or something?" the man asked reasonably. He focused on the general area of her almost aristocratic, not-quite aquiline nose and the generous pink lips, noting in passing the slight dusting of sun freckles across the nose, searching for a hint of a smile. "Ungrateful little beggars should be at home where they belong at the Sunday dinner table what with their mum slaving over a hot saute pan full of fois gras and sun-dried tomatoes and . . . ," he sallied.

"Enough. Enough, Crowe. It was OK ... not great . . . but OK, until you overdid it as usual with that egregious saute pan," she stated judiciously. The woman's lips still hadn't curved, but the man on the porch decided that her eyes were laughing. He liked the idea that eyes were capable of laughing in real life, not just crappy-retarded romantic fiction.

"You said 'egregious,' Lisa," he grinned. "God, that is so sexy! It makes me want to celebrate by ripping off our clothes and running down the beach just like in those cool TV commercials and making wild passionate love in the cold wet sand."

By now, the woman had rested both arms on the porch railing lowered her chin to the top of her hand to give Crowe a long thoughtful look. Finally, at least, a smile had appeared. Shaking her head pityingly, she bantered: "I suppose it's better than the usual sneaky looks at my legs or down the front of me . . . ." The young woman who was not quite a classic beauty looked rather awesome by any standard in acid green cut-offs, yellow and white stripped tank top and a pair of those complicated goddess sandals that laced most of the way up her calves.

"I'm hurt!" declaimed Crowe who was finally sitting upright, attempting to manage a pose of offended dignity. "I'm good at sneaky; you never would have noticed my sneaky looks. I may have been critiquing your post-hippie art deco fashion statement -- but I'd never stoop to sneaky cleavage scans."

The woman who called herself Lisa sniffed in disbelief. "Let's go talk in that doghouse you call home. Cassie is snoring louder than you do -- we'll never get anything resolved," she announced, abruptly climbing the porch stairs and opening the screen door into the beach shack.

Slouching to his feet, Crowe probably would have measured five-ten or five-eleven on a good day, but looked shorter because he clearly belonged in the number of those happy individuals who flunked posture and did not really give a damn. Deceptively relaxed, it took a second look to note the lean hard-muscled build that belied the man's true age. Casual observers, taking a closer look, would error guessing his age by as much as ten years or more younger.

The sartorial ensemble for the morning nap aside from the baseball cap included old jeans and a black Led Zeppelin 'Icarus' t-shirt. He did not wear a wristwatch but there were two strings of mismatched Mardi Gras beads and what are popularly known as hippie beads around his neck. A plain leather thong apparently supported something, an amulet or medicine bag, worn under the t-shirt. Moving towards the door, practicing an injured expression, a snapshot of the uneager in motion, he looked back enviously at the still supine German shepherd called Cassie and imagined he saw the black and tan tail beat a single smug wag farewell.

Inside, surveying the living room slash kitchen slash "great room" of his beloved abode of two years, Crowe saw that his guest had moved past the tastefully arranged lawn chairs, card table and Goodwill couch in the center of the room to stand beside the brand-new giant, gaudy, discount-priced waterbed and to stare thoughtfully at the one elegant piece of furniture in the room. The object in question was a finely crafted Spanish oak display cabinet with locking beveled glass door and sides and eleven spacious glass shelves and a polished mirror back. Fingers positioned over the light switch on the power cord beside the cabinet, it appeared the women had frozen in time. As Crowe, carefully and quietly so as not to disturb, stepped beside her she flashed a quick smile at him, then threw the switch and the cabinet exploded into light with a thousand reflections and a color wheel of reflected hues.

Displayed on the cabinet's eleven shelves were hundreds and hundreds of brightly painted toy soldiers of the expensive connoisseur-collector quality. Napoleonic infantry marched across the glass next to field artillery with gunners poised in firing positions. Horse artillery galloped by the last stand of the grenadiers of the Old Guard just above a shelf where the 27th Inniskillings formed the famous British square. Cavalry wheeled and maneuvered on every glassy plain: Polish Winged Hussars pursuing Turkish Janissaries; Dutch Red Lancers, on the emperor's command, clearing the pass in Spain: Ewart of the Scots Greys, once again slashing at a fusilier, reaching out to seize the eagle. Figures from the famous Britains and Mignot companies. Select pieces by Tradition and King & Country and Frontline and even the exquisite museum quality St. Petersburg Collection. Mostly, the figures were 'Napoleonic's," with some pieces from the 1683 siege of Vienna and a few other special exceptions, usually representing places where a gallant handful showed unconquerable resolve against overwhelming odds.

The woman who referred to Crowe's place as a doghouse was now kneeling before the display of past glory and lead heroes, pensively examining small figures on one of the lower shelves. Crowe followed the direction of her gaze, noting the front-row figures from the William Britains set of characters from the world of Middle Earth in J.R.R.Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, Aragorn and the Lady Galadriel, evil Orcs and Uruk-Hai, a menacing Balrog and a sinister Black Rider, as well as the wizard Gandalf and the golden dragon Smaug from the pages of The Hobbit.

But Crowe instantly realized that the young blond woman was not really interested in dragons or elves or hobbits. Instead she was studying a handful of markedly different figures toward the rear of the cabinet on the same shelf as the creations from Middle Earth.

"Is it locked?" she asked softly, glancing back at Crowe.

"Of course," he stated matter-of-factly.

"You sure?"

"Yeah," he replied without resentment.

"Key, please?" the woman murmured. Wordlessly the man in the Yankee cap handed her a small silver key that she accepted also without comment.

The figures to the rear of the Middle Earth shelf numbered eighteen in all. They all were smaller than the usual 54-mm toy soldier, possibly 34-mm. in size, probably no greater than 40 mm. Nine were a deep malachite shade, the forest green of a dark, dark forest. Seven were a dull silver-gray hue without any of the shiny look usually attributed to the bright metal. Two were a dull yellow.

At first look the figures appeared to blend well with the others. Anyone not paying careful attention would assume they were looking at just another row of toy soldiers. Closer examination caused the pieces to blur strangely, making it difficult to determine precisely just what the figures were. It took a concentrated effort of will and focus to actually see them for what they were -- and even then nine out of ten would probably walk away unsure of what they had seen.

Unpainted, they had a flat, non-reflective appearance. Almost, it appeared as if the little objects were lumps of natural ore or cosmic shrapnel from a meteor shower. Unlike the ordinary toy soldiers, the sculpting of the figures resembled primitive art, more like the Scythian or Celtic pieces that can be found in museums or expensive galleries -- at astronomical mortgage-the-children prices. But the list of differences from the Toy Soldier pattern did not end with the archaic sculpting.

Oddly enough, these smallest figures appeared very . . . heavy.

Too, it appeared, at least, that the flat surfaces went beyond non-reflective and almost absorbed light. Moreover, it was not as if the figures were blurred yet somehow it was difficult for the observed to get a clear mental picture of their appearance.

Strangest of all, none was reflected in the mirror back of the cabinet.

One of the pieces was surrounded by a nimbus of dark light, strangely emitting a muted ember glow.

Delicately, but not hesitantly, the long surgeon's finger reached out to lightly touch the figure. "Warmth," she reported. "Faint but definitely there. . . . Gentle warmth," she added.

"Who?" The question came immediately.

"Hard to tell. Like I said, it's faint. Tentative, almost," the woman replied considering.

"Possibly Diancecht or Aine Cli." speculated Crowe, bending to scrutinize the figure. Doubt and eagerness warred in his expression -- balance against a paramount need for closure.

"Or the Tooth Fairy . . . or Martin Bormann . . . or Elvis," she countered, closing the cabinet door and standing up. "You don't know anything either, Crowe."

"Lock it!" ordered Crowe, still looking at the cabinet. Absorbed.

Lisa smiled. Complied with his direction. Then, turning serious, the woman examined Crowe's features intently. The man was clearly concerned, obviously trying to grapple with a problem or problems.

"Well?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "That halo or nimbus appeared two days ago. Yesterday it grew. Now it's even more pronounced. Now you say it feels warm. It doesn't take genius to identify a progression . . . what it all means is a different can of worms."

"A cusp is coming," she spoke softly. She still searched his eyes, probed his mood. "Your 'progression' is not a circle, Goddess bless. It will come to an end, and then what?"

He shrugged expansively, smiling his most crooked smile at her. "Escape entropy," he philosophized. "Practice temporal fugue!"

The woman in the White Sox cap refused to be baited. She regarded Crowe thoughtfully. "I think we're going to need everything we've learned." She paused before continuing. "It's not a 'seeing,' but I'm positive the time is almost here and we are riding the cusp!"

Crowe nodded agreement, then grinned. "So then let's go eat crab and drink Guinness tonight. We may need all the strength we can get," he argued reasonably.

Lisa followed him to the door, laughing, swatting playfully at his back. At the door, both looked back at the cabinet and abruptly paused, then turned to look thoughtfully at each other. On the glass shelf, the nimbus of strange light around the little figure had started to flicker.