Wednesday, November 30, 2016

MIKRO MAKES WORDCOUNT! 2016 NANOWRIMO WINNER!




Mikro is overbooked this semester. While Nanowrimo is a favorite activity here, we didn't even register him till after Thanksgiving, so I set a short wordcount that I thought would be challenging but doable in a couple of days... He did it! With much cajoling and a bit of collaboration (I helped, especially with the songs...), he finished another chapter of Enewan's Quest.



You can read the other installments at this link and this link.

ENEWAN's QUEST, Installment 4.

Copyright 2016, Mikro Coyne. All rights reserved.

DAY 2:

At sunrise, I met with the rest of my new team. Benaret is unusually tall, like her grandmother Binarim. Although she is fairly young, she is known as a formidable swordswoman. She carries three swords of different length on her back, and daggers in her boots. She seems eager to embark on our quest. Shiran, a stocky older warrior, is known for his stealth and his skill with the Sakarran, a three bladed throwing weapon. Retenotar, the third warrior, is slim and agile, and is known as the best archer in the Netarpa clan. We gathered for breakfast at the Hall of Sedenka, so that my master could help brief us on the journey ahead.

“You have all probably noticed that our Home Tree is looking sickly. You are going to help cure it by going on this quest to gather ingredients for a potion from the Realms of the Living, and from the Lower Realm.” Sedenka announced. “Enewan is fated to lead you on this quest. Rotonaka will accompany you and give advice and support,” he continued.

“Shaman Sedenka, why is the Kuru Dupal ailing?” asked Shiran.

Sedenka rose and faced the group. “That is a tale that began a long time ago,” he began. “You know that at the end of the Age of Chieftans, the Elerastapok overthrew the Evil Chieftan Seraivin. That great victory was not without cost, however. Seraivan’s last act as Chieftan was to summon from the Realm of the Damned a Fire Serpent, which has been corrupting the Kuru with its venom ever since. The poison is slow, but enough has flowed into the Kuru that it will die unless a healing potion is administered. You will gather the nine ingredients. The first is right here, in Netarpa. It is water from the sacred well of Netalian, which lies deep below the roots of the Kuru in the Temple of the Sacred Well.”

“Master,” I asked, “How are we to get past the Fire Serpent to reach the well?”

“Use your knowledge, Enewan. What would make the Seprent sleep?”

I pondered this for a moment. “Cold, Master?”

“Yes, young one. And for that, you shall need tarran.“

“But—“

“It is time for you to complete your apprenticeship and create tarran of your own.”

“This child?!?” Rotonaka scoffed. “He is not ready.”

“The sacred map says otherwise!” Sedenka snapped. “The Elerastapok has spoken!”
Rotonaka glared, but fell silent.

“Master, I do not know how to create tarran.”

“I will help you, Enewan. This is the first great task of your quest, which you alone must fulfill.”

“The rest of you should get ready for our departure,” I ordered, trying to sound confident. “Gather provisions and trade goods, then return here to meet me this evening.” The warriors left immediately, already discussing what to pack. Rotonaka lingered.

“This knowledge is not for you, Rotanaka,” declared Sedenka. “You too must go and make ready for the journey.”

Rotonaka left, muttering under his breath.

“That one is trouble.” Sedenka warned. “But you must forget that for now and concentrate on the task at hand. Join me in the workshop,” he invited.

We passed through the heavy doors that separated Sedenka’s laboratory from the rest of his home. He opened a large chest and removed a cloth bundle. Unwrapping it, he handed me a cone of amber colored wood, which glowed like a crystal. “I have begun the preparations, but you must finish this. You must bond with the heart wood of the Kuru, from which all tarran are made, to make this your own. You must hold this and meditate on the history of the Kuru, and seek the blessing of Netalian. I will leave you to it.”

I closed my eyes, stroking the smooth surface of my future tarran, and remembered the stories I had been told from the time of first understanding:

In earliest times, the Qwerastafay were nomads, wandering the vast jungle in search of their True Homes. The people split into seven groups, led by seven chosen ones, who we call the Tree Spirits, and set off to find their Home Trees. Our people, the Netarpa, followed Netalian in this quest. As I remembered the tale of the founding, a song filled my head and I began to sing:

At the dawning of creation
Seven trees for seven nations
Made by Anazuli, wise
She gave each a creature in disguise
Gave Tree Spirits map and key
So that they could plainly see
Which one of many by its mark
Points the way through jungle dark
To proper leaf and proper bark
She let Netalian plainly see
Kuru Dupal is our Home Tree
As Tarran I ask now guide me.


The wood in my hands began to glow, and as I finished my song it seemed to grow warm. I could feel it changing, reshaping itself, as if it were absorbing the song, and singing it back to me. The smooth surface of the cone now bore the image of the Netarpaxylotyl, a small salamander found throughout Netarpa, which migrates through the jungle during mating season. This is the guide Anazuli sent, whose white and grey hide resembles the bark of Kuru Dupal, and whose green markings are the perfect image of its leaves. It is said that Netalian followed the creature through the jungle until he found its home territory, and the largest, oldest tree therein, the Kuru Dupal, which became our Home Tree.

Astonished, I called out for my Master. Sedenka, roused from sleep, came and examined the wonderous object and proclaimed it a new tarran. He helped me to camouflage it as the head of a walking staff, so that it would be less noticeable in my travels. I am to practice using it as a focus point to accomplish the few spells I have learned already. Sedenka had me practice one spell in particular: the spell to summon the winter ice. It took me far longer than it would have taken my Master, but I managed to coat the chamber in a light dusting of snow crystals. My Master smiled. “I wish I had time to teach you more that might be of use, but there is no time. You must return with the potion before the seasons turn, or the Kuru Dupal may not survive,” he said. “And now it is time to gather your companions and collect the first ingredient.”

More time had passed than I knew. When we looked outside, dusk had fallen and the team had already gathered. The three warriors sat around a lantern , while Rotonaka paced nervously.

“It’s about time!” he exclaimed. “All that time for a walking stick?”

Sedenka scowled. “Give the fool a demonstration, boy!” he whispered to me.

I pointed my tarran in Rotonaka’s direction and sang the spell for winter ice. A plump snowball appeared over Rotanaka’s head and crashed down on him. “Impudent child!” he snarled, brushing snow out of his fur.

“I trust your doubts have been settled,” Sedenka chortled. Benaret and Shiran exchanged a glance, which I could not interpret. Retenotar covered his mouth as if stifling a yawn, but I knew he was trying not to laugh. Rotonaka shook with anger, but he said nothing for a change.

Sedenka handed me a fur wrapped parcel. “This is the map. You must guard it carefully, for it is the key to your journey.” He lowered his voice so only I could hear. “Keep it away from Rotanaka, who has ambitions above his abilities. Do not trust that one.”

“Thank you, Master Sedenka, for everything.”

“Not Master any longer, Enewan. You are an apprentice no more. And now, I leave you to your quest. You know the way to the Temple of the Sacred Well, and you know what must be done to reach it.”

“Yes, Mas—Shaman Sedenka.”

“Netalian be with you. Farewell.”

I could not help looking back as we boarded the gondolas that would carry us down to the jungle floor. I was leaving everything I had ever known. And I was responsible for the life or death not just of this small band of travelers, but of the Kuru Dupal and all of my clan. Maybe Rotonaka was not so far off. It seemed a lot for someone my age to handle.

When we touched down on the soft mossy floor of the jungle, we walked around the Home Tree, looking for a tunnel under the roots. The tunnel led down at a fairly steep angle, and was pierced in places by roots that had grown through it. Near the surface, they were healthy and robust, but as we descended, we noticed that the roots were shrunken and smelled of rot.

“The sickness!” Benaret exclaimed.

“Disgusting!” complained Rotonaka, wiping some root slime from his cloak. The odor of rot clung to him.

“Quiet!” I cautioned. “We do not want the Fire Serpent to hear us coming.”

The first clue that we were close was an enormous tube of shed skin lying on the tunnel floor. The size of it was daunting. Even the warriors looked worried. It was clear that the Fire Serpent was no ordinary snake.

I decided not to wait any longer. I unwrapped the tarran slung over my shoulder and began to chant.

Mother Anazuli’s Tears
Take the form of all our fears
Harden into winter frost
Freeze enemies or we’re lost
Let us live all our days
Giving Anazuli praise.


Almost immediately I could see a cloud of my breath in the suddenly frigid tunnel. It had worked. But I had no idea how long it would last. I urged the others onward. Soon the tunnel opened up into a larger chamber. One long main root came down from the center like a large column. Around it twined the monsterous Fire Serpent, which was not a snake at all. It was a lindworm—a wingless dragon with a long serpentine body and two underdeveloped limbs.

Benaret wanted to chop its head off while it slumbered in cold induced stupor, but I was not sure what its blood would do to my winter ice. Better to get what we came for and leave before the beast awakened. That proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. The Winter Ice spell had also frozen the sacred well. Retenotar had to climb down to the water’s level and chip out a cup full of ice. As soon as he climbed back up, we retreated towards the surface. Shiran and I exchanged concerned looks as the roof of the tunnel began to drip.

“Make haste!’ I ordered. We began to run.

We had just reached the surface when we heard the Fire Serpent roar. My blood ran as cold as the magic ice when I realized how narrowly we had escaped.

In the safety of the lower branches of the Home Tree, we poured the sacred water into a bottle and corked it. One ingredient down. Eight to go.

Although it was late, we loaded our provisions on a cart and set out into the jungle. We had a lot of ground to cover before reaching the next ingredient. I checked the map to be sure we were heading in the right direction. Shiran drove the team of Skraels. Benaret and Retenotar took turns scouting ahead or watching from the back of the cart for any dangers. Rotonaka lounged atop the baggage and snored loudly.
We stopped for the night when it became clear that we could not stay awake much longer. Since he had the benefit of napping along the way, Rotonaka was assigned the first watch.

Before I laid down to sleep, I looked at the map one last time. Tomorrow, we would be entering Salanaen territory, in search of the second ingredient: 6 tail feathers from the anora, spectacularly plumed bird that hunts prey. Since Netarpa is on good terms with the Salaneans, I hoped that the only danger we would face would be from the anora. I wrapped the map up and stuffed it in my bedroll before rolling over to sleep.


Friday, August 26, 2016

2016 Not Back To School Interview with Mikro



Q: What is your favorite subject?
A: Um, there's a lot. Robotics, Paleontology, Geography, Biology, Evolutionary Biology!

Q: What are you best at?
A: Science, especially Paleontology.

Q: I need to get better at __________.
A: Handwriting, note taking, typing, writing essays.



Q: What's the best thing about being a homeschooler?
A: Getting to study what I want and learning at my own pace.

Q: What's the worst thing?
A: No summer break.




Q: What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?
A: I stand by last year's answer: I want to be a paleontologist, or evolutionary biologist. I also want to do robotics and cartography. I want to be a professor, because I like to lecture, and I would love to work at AMNH someday.

Q: This year I want to learn about ________.
A: Paleontology (of course), astronomy and exoplanets, geography, cartography, history, military history, the Etruscans, Foundations of Eastern Civilization, World War I, robotics, engineering, space exploration, science fiction, fractals, geometry, special effects and animation.




Q: I want to do more _________.
A: Creative Writing. Field trips, especially to AMNH to finish our detailed evolution study.

Q: I want to do less _________.
A: Workbook stuff.

Q: Who is your best friend?
A: Koby.


Q:I want to go on a field trip to __________.
A: Washington DC (and the NASM), Philadelphia and Boston. Also, some day I want to visit a battleship.

Q: I want to go on vacation to __________.
A. Ireland, Germany, Mongolia, Iceland and the U.K.



Q. The most fun or best thing I did last school year was:
A. Competed in the National History Bee and the US Geography Olympiad and went to Chicago for the Nationals. Visited the Chicago museums, especially the Field Museum of Natural History (I saw Sue, the T. Rex and loved the Evolving Planet exhibit), the Museum of Science and Industry (the U-505 was cool!), the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium (need more time there) and the Art Institute. I also got to see the ISS from our hotel balcony! I liked the hotel, too!













Homeschooling a teen...

Looks a lot like deulling laptops, sometimes! (And I wish I could play banjo well enough to make some appropriate musical accompaniment happen!)

Friday, August 19, 2016

This is the Song that Never Ends: Homeschooling Year Round

Sometimes I feel really jealous of the people who are blogging about their first day of homeschooling for the new academic year. We don't have a first day, or a last for the preceding year. We just keep going. There's no break, and little in the way of brand new books, since we have been at it all along, and are usually already in the middle of things by the time the August/September postings about the new school year start. We are oddities even among homeschoolers, it seems.

Technically, here in NY, the 2015-16 school year ended on June 30, and the new one started on July 1st. We've been quietly clicking along the whole while.

Seventh grade, so far, has been pretty productive. There is a lot going on here.

History/Social Studies:
We are covering the Renaissance through the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions, and we will go further if we finish early. (We will also do other eras and topics as Mikro prepares to participate again in the History Bee, and we will cover topics in U.S. History and Government as well.) Current events, especially politics, has become a passion. (I think I owe that to his friend Koby, a self-proclaimed "political junkie.") He watches election coverage daily, and we are always talking about news stories. Mikro has already read a bunch of nonfiction books on the Renaissance and some key figures from the period, as well as fiction set during that time. He's also going to be taking a high school level class in Geography with his favorite professor, and American Musicals Project classes on the American Revolution and World War II at the New York Historical Society.We are continuing our Great Courses history binge, trying to finish up Foundations of Western Civilization, and Great Minds of the Medieval World. I am learning about people that my Ivy League education never touched upon. I love the fact that homeschooling isn't just for the kid. I learn something new all the time!

Science this year is a combination of invertebrate biology, botany, astronomy and an introduction to chemistry (non-organic to start with). We are using high school and college texts, regents books, more popular mainstream science books, together with the Great Courses and Discovery Streaming Education. We are also covering the history of science from about 1100 to 1700. Mikro has read biographies of Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton over the summer. He also enjoyed our trip to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago back in June, and is happy to be able to say that he has now seen the ISS from NYC, Westchester County and Chicago. We are hoping to take a trip sometime this school year to a place where he will be able to see the Milky Way. There's far too much light pollution in our neck of the woods...

Math: We are still struggling with memorization of math facts. He understands the concepts flawlessly, but he is slow computationally because he is using his own algorithms to calculate multiplication facts that he doesn't have perfect recall of yet... He likes complex math, and hates arithmetic. He wants to dive into algebra, and we have put our toes in the water, but I really need to get him faster on his facts since this is a mandatory testing year for us, and he is really anxious in time pressure situations. We are working through the Life of Fred series, and I hope to be in the Algebra book by the second half of the year...

ELA: I have him doing worksheets for grammar. His spelling is as good as mine. He reads at a college level. His writing is amazing, but only if I act as scribe. If he has to type or hand write, he balks after a paragraph or so. I would love for him to be ready to type his own Nanowrimo effort this year...

My left handed dysgraphic teen has got to work on his penmanship and keyboarding. I watched him struggle on the standardized test he took in June-- not with knowledge or understanding-- but with being able to write math equations down fast enough. So this is the year of No Fun Mom demanding worksheets, something I have never done before. He has a 3 inch thick "7th Grade Super Yearbook" that has worksheets for math, ELA, social studies and science, and I am making him do it, not for the underlying subject areas so much as for the handwriting practice. He has worked too hard to be tripped up by something as mundane as the mechanics of getting things from brain to paper, and I am going to push him on it, even though it violates my preferences, and his, because college is looming ever closer, and I am NOT repeating the experience as his scribe. No way, no how. So I feel the clock ticking on this, and it's time for us both to get serious about it.

Study skills: a big focus this year. I need him taking good notes, writing outlines, and getting a better handle on managing his time. I am not a substitute for a planner and a watch. We are going to use the Everyday Guide to Study Skills, and some workbooks. And I am constantly supplementing with tales of my own bad decisions and how they haunted me in my college days. Being a gifted kid who never learned to study before walking into an Ivy League school and getting a rude awakening in the utility of those skills is not something I want him to follow in my footsteps on. Not that I'm sure he's Ivy bound. He wants a career in evolutionary biology and/or paleontology, so he will be applying to the places with the strongest departments in those areas, whether state or private. Either way, he will not go unprepared. Not on my watch!

State of the Mikro Address:

Wow, he's changing. He's a teenager, and his body and his personality are in flux. The occasionally deep voice emanating from his lanky, skinny body still surprises me. He's all legs and elbows. He reminds me of a great blue heron. Gangly, but fast. The eyerolls and attitude have also been installed in Mikro 1.13. It seems like a bigger adjustment for me than for him sometimes. Who is this tall, sometimes stinky, sometimes surly, young man that has replaced my sweet, cute, little boy? Time will tell. He's growing up, and I am confronting the idea that, before I know it, he will be out on his own. That fact is guiding our homeschooling, as well as life in general. I can't wait to see who he becomes. He's a great kid. I think he'll be a really good man.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Inside the Collections: Paleontology and the Big Bone Room



Mikro, Kev and I have been in the Big Bone Room shown in the video above! We took a Behind the Scenes in Paleontology tour at AMNH when Mikro was about 4 years old. We were lucky to get in back then, because there is a minimum age (10) requirement that we didn't know about. Kev had to agree to carry Mikro (until he pointed out photos of Roy Chapman Andrews and started identifying fossils, at which point they let him down and answered a slew of questions!)

This year's tour was completely different, and involved the preparator's lab (which was also on the first tour, but had different fossils), and invertebrate paleontology and microfossils. (The first tour we saw vertebrates (mammals and fish) as well as the Big Bone Room.

I highly recommend this event for anyone with a paleontology obsessed kid like Mikro!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Marching Dinosaurs - Animated Size Comparison

Mikro loved this video. I am amazed at his rapid fire identifications of the creatures strolling past. Wish this came as a screensaver!


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mental Math and a Free Trial

Great Courses Plus is running a free month promotion.  I encourage everyone to check it out.  There is an amazing  banquet of knowledge available.  Right now, Mikro and I are doing Secrets of Mental Math.  I wish I had access to this while I was in school.  Simple and practical tips!  Highly recommended! 

(And to make the Nanny State happy: I have no financial stake in this.  I just think it is worth sharing!)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mikro Meets His Word Count Goal & Wins Nanowrimo Again!


For the fifth year in a row, Mikro made word count and "won" Nanowrimo. Which is more than his mother can say! (Although he does benefit from a shorter, age appropriate word count goal-- he does not write 50,000 words (what he does is more like a short story really).)

This year he chose to write another installment of Enewan's Quest. It may take a few more Nanowrimos, but eventually he will have an honest to goodness full length fantasy novel. It's really coming along. His mama, queen of half finished manuscripts, is proud of him!

Read the earlier installments here.

Enewan's Quest, Installment 3: Copyright 2015, Mikro Coyne.


DAY EIGHT:

“What did you eat for breakfast today, Rotanaka?” I asked, almost dropping the litter. “You weigh more than a murkotos!”

“Same thing as you did, and be careful. If you talk to me like that you will reveal yourself. You are supposed to be a servant, not a shaman,” he whispered.

I bit my tongue as we approached the Kuru of the Tinao clan. As we came nearer, I could see two huge statues of their Tree Spirit, Tinarii. They were clothed in grey robes and flanked the main gates. They had the head and feet of birds. From beneath them, a long line of wagons pulled by skraels filed towards the main gate.

“It must be market day,” Retenotar said.

After several hours of waiting for our turn to enter, we finally reached the main gate. We put down the litter and Rotanaka handed me a scroll. I unrolled it and read it to the soldiers at the gate: “The Elder Rotanaka of the Netarpa Clan requests a council with the Tinao Elerastapok. He also requests that his escorts be quartered with the Tinao shaman until the council is concluded. As this is a diplomatic mission, we will leave our weapons with the gate garrison and enter the Kuru unarmed.”

Without looking back, I knew that Beneret was scowling at the thought of leaving her sword behind, and Retenotar did not seem happy at the prospect either, but they both handed over their weapons. One of the Tinao soldiers ran into the tree city and disappeared from view for a good ten or twenty minutes, leaving us waiting for a response. When he finally returned, he announced: “Your council shall be granted, but you must speak with the Chief as well.” This was one of the reasons our clan hates the Tinao. They added an Elerastapok, but their chief still retains most of the power over their clan.

The soldier continued, “As for the rest of you, you will stay with the shaman until your Elder’s council is completed. None of you may go into public areas or into the homes of any of our Nobles. If you wish to visit our Temples, then the Shaman must escort you.” With that, he nodded his head to one of the guards, who used a winch to open the gate and allow us entry.

Two of the soldiers escorted Rotanaka to the Palace, while we were brought under guard to the Shaman’s house. The guard bowed his head to the Shaman and then left.

“Thank you, oh Great Shaman Eifos, for your hospitality.” I said. “I am Enewan, appretince Shaman to Sedenka of the Netarpa Clan. My master has told me of your great powers. While we await our Elder’s return, I would like to learn more of TInao culture and beliefs. Will you be my guide so I may understand your people better?”

“You understand that because you are outsiders I cannot reveal to you the greatest of our mysteries, but I will be happy to show you the Great Temple of Tinarii.”

“I am honored, oh wise one.”

Eifos called his servants and haughtily commanded that food and drink be brought for Beneret and Retenotar. This is another thing we Netarpans dislike about the Tinao—they treat their Chief and Nobles like they are so much better than ordinary folk, whom they treat with disrespect. I did not like the tone that Eifos took with his servants, but I said nothing. My plan called for flattering the Shaman in hopes that he would reveal something that would lead me to the next unknown ingredient for my potion.

I followed Eifos to the Great Temple of Tinarii, the Tree Spirit of the Tinao Clan. The building was carved out of the huge roots of the Tinao Kuru Ta’Rashkin. It was an impressive work of architecture, but I worry for the structural stability of the tree. At the main entrance, there were golden statues of Tinarii as well as all the great chieftans of the Tinao clan, including one that was under construction. All the statues had been enchanted so that it seemed like their eyes followed you as you moved around the Temple. Eifos noticed my staring at them and announced, “I am quite proud of them. They are a work of my own design.”

“Quite impressive! I have never seen anything like them! You are clearly a talented shaman.” I flattered.

“Why, thank you,” Eifos purred, puffing out his chest. He ate up the compliments.

We entered the main chamber of the Temple. It had a domed ceiling covered in a huge painting that showed Tinarii carrying the souls of dead warriors to the Upper Realm. She wore earthy colored robes and had a head like a bird, and wings to go with it. She was armed with a sword, a dagger and a sling. The landscape was a jungle, lush with foliage, and in the background, a small creature with six limbs, two of which were wings, crouched in a tree above a flowing fountain. It had gleaming white fur and long ears. I had never seen anything like it before, and had no idea what to call it.

I had to leave off studying it when Eifos called my attention to the Altar. It was surrounded by pillars, from which artifacts were hung. I will only mention a few here, because there were many. One was the sword which the Great Chief Tinar used to cut off the head of the dragon Ithros. Another was the helm which the great general Athakaroi wore during the Ten Winters War. It was said to be enchanted to protect its wearer by causing arrows to miss their mark. There was the rope which the Great Chief Tamaskaru used to hang the rebel Anterrisi. Many lesser artifacts also decorated the columns, but these were the most impressive.

It took several hours to tour the Grand Temple, and Eifos was happy to tell me the legends of his people while we walked through it. I heard the tales of Tinar and Athakaroi, and then Eifos reached farther back to the of the Tinao clan, and told me the tales of Tinarii.

Tinarii and the Kuru Ta’Rashkin
In the early days of the world, when Hanuapi and Anazuli created everything we know, Anazuli created the Tree People, and Hanuapi in his rage sent his power into the Seven Chosen Ones, creating the Tree Spirits of the Seven Clans, the newly powerful Tree Spirits wandered the jungle, seeking the perfect home for their people. But they were lost. The jungle covered the Realm of the Living, and they did not know where the people should settle. Anazuli sent a messenger from the Upper Realm to guide Tinarii to the Home Tree, and to guide the Tinao in praising Anazuli as the Creator. Yllor the Messenger taught Tinarii the Song of Worship and Tinarii taught the people. It is said that the Kuru Ta’Rashkin will never die so long as the song is remembered.

“Tell me more of Yllor,” I asked. But Eifos refused, because it was not a matter for outsiders to know. I let it go, hoping to learn more later.

Back at Eifos’ house, the Shaman ordered a grand banquet for his guests. Rotanaka returned, having spent an entire afternoon haranguing the Chief and Tinao Elerastapok about the sad state of trade relations between our clans. Rotanaka, who is no merchant, and not much of a diplomat, was doomed to fail, which was the plan. His request for council was a distraction that allowed me to gain access to Eifos. The banquet featured Tinao delicacies like roast tagu and illyra nectar. As Eifos was about to serve dessert, I asked for a moment.

“In order to thank you for your gracious hospitality today, Great Shaman Eifos, we poor travelers would like to gift you with a special treat from our own land. You may have heard of telna fruit. It is sweeter than even illyra nectar and we are pleased to offer it to you as a fit conclusion to this wonderful meal.”

I nodded to Beneret, who retrieved a tray of telna fruit from our baggage and set it before Eifos. Eifos was only too happy to sample this rare luxury. He carved the fruit and had his servants distribute it, keeping the largest portion for himself. What is little known among the Tinao, who almost never encounter Telna fruit, is that, while it does not affect the Netarpa, who are quite used to it, it can have an effect like strong wine on those who are not accustomed to it. The large portion that Eifos consumed was enough to relax him and get him talking, perhaps more freely than he otherwise would have. As we compared the best delicacies of Netarpan and Tinaorite cuisine, he let slip the fact that there was a special treat, reserved only for the Tinao noble classes, which had marvelous properties. Anyone who ate it was restored to health.

“What is this amazing substance?” I asked.

“You will never taste it, as you are not Tinao, but it is made from the breath of the Messenger Yllor Whitefur.”

That had to be it! Our missing ingredient. But where was I to find this Yllor Whitefur? As Eifos began serenading us with Tinao folk songs, I sat, thinking.

I had just remembered the painting at the temple when I caught a verse of Eifos’ song:

Sent by Anazuli
Her Messenger spoke truly
Yllor Whitefur of the Mountain
Perched above the sacred fountain
Sent Tinarii to the Home Tree
All praise to Anazuli be!


Yes! The winged creature with white fur in the temple painting must be Yllor the Mesenger, and his breath must be our missing ingredient. How do you collect breath, I wondered, as Eifos slumped forward and began to snore.

I yawned, pretending to be as tired as our host. “Excuse me, but it seems your Master and I are quite exhausted. Perhaps it is time for us all to retire to our beds.” I suggested to Eifos’ servants. They assisted their Master to his bedchamber and our party climbed the stairs to the guest room we were to share for the night.

Rotanaka wanted to discuss the day’s events, and find out what I had learned, but knowing the servants were still awake and might be listening, I refused to tell him. Whether the servants were loyal to Eifos or not, they would certainly be more loyal to their clan than a bunch of strangers. Better to wait until we left the city to discuss our plans.

“Go to sleep, Rotanaka, and we will discuss it in the morning. We have a long hike ahead of us, so better to rest while we can.”

DAY NINE:

Oof! Last night’s banquet has made Rotanaka even heavier. We were all happy to leave the Tinao city behind, and even more happy to dislodge our heavy burden. We hid the litter in the dense jungle and headed toward the mountains, where we hoped to find Yllor the Messenger and the Sacred Fountain.

Onward we hiked for several hours until we reached the foothills of the mountains. Rotanaka grumbled, as usual. We stopped for a drink of water from a mountain stream. I filled Retenotar and Beneret in on the plan. It seemed to make sense to follow the stream, in hopes that it would lead to the Sacred Fountain. I expected it to be under guard, so I told our warriors to go ahead of us and try to circle around and approach the guards from behind. “Don’t kill them. We don’t want to start a war.”

“We can use the blow gun and fire sleeper darts. That will just knock them out for awhile.”

“Good. Do it.”

Retenotar and Beneret disappeared into the trees. Rotanaka and I walked on as quietly as possible, listening for their signal. A short while later, we heard the distinctive call of the Akisra bird, a Netarpan species that is not native to these lands, and we knew that Beneret and Retenotar had succeeded in their mission. We followed the bird calls to the sacred spring, where we found our warriors standing over two unconscious Tinaorite soldiers.




Sunday, November 29, 2015

Enewan's Quest-- Parts 1 and 2


Here are the first 2 installments of Mikro's fantasy novel, Enewan's Quest. Copyright 2013-2015, Mikro Coyne.


THE JOURNAL OF ENEWAN, APPRENTICE SHAMAN OF THE NETARPA CLAN OF THE QWERASTAFAY.

I, Enewan, make this record of the sacred quest of the Netarpa Clan of the Qwerastafay for a potion to heal the Kuru Dupal, our sacred home tree, which suffers greatly and may die from the venom of the Fire Serpent set upon it by Seraivin, the last Evil Chieftan of our people, who was deposed by the Elerastapok, our Council of Elders, for his crimes. I have been chosen to lead an expedition to collect the ingredients needed and to make the potion which will counteract the venom.


DAY ONE:

Today was an eventful day. It started with a semi-public meeting of the 125th Elerastapok. The shaman Sedenka ( who is also my mentor ) was summoned to this meeting . I got to carry his tarran, his books, his potions, and a cylindrical package.

“These tarran are so heavy,” I complained. “What do they do anyway?”

“The tarran concentrate magikal energy,” he replied. “Without them, even the simplest spells would be impossible.”

“But I’ve seen you do spells without tarran!” I shouted.

“That is because I have trained with them so long that they remember my spirit and will do my biding even when we are apart. When you complete your training, it may be so for you as well.”

We lapsed into silence for the rest of our climb up the tree to the House of Elders. It is the largest residence, all the way at the top of the tree. Even though I have been an apprentice shaman for over a year, it still takes my breath away when I come upon the House of Elders. It is carved from the living wood of the Kuru Dupal, which has been polished to a gleaming white.

We approached the door, where we were stopped by the crossed spears of the two guards stationed there.

My master,, the Shaman Sedenka, recited his full title and stated that he had business with the Elerastapok. The guards stood aside and permitted us to enter. We bowed our heads in respect as we passed through the doors.

I was amazed by the beauty of the interior of the House of Elders, which I had never seen before. Usually mere apprentices are not allowed inside. An escort lead us to the meeting room, where the Elders had gathered.

Lenaratan, who has a wooden leg from the knee down, was the most seior of the Elders. Binarim, the unusually tall female Elder, was second eldest, and Rotonaka was the youngest, and most junior Elder.

“Ah, Sedenka, have you have brought it?” asked Lenaratan.

Sedenka reaching for the cylindrical case I was carrying for him. “Yes, I have it here,” he said.

“Good. Then let us see it!” Lenaratan commanded.

Sedenka opened the case and removed a scroll of bark, and unrolled it carefully, setting it down on the table. The elders crowded around it and touched it, reverently. From my spot behind Sedenka, I could see that iIt was a peculiar looking map, and its contents appeared to change depending on who touched it. Finally, it settled down into a stable formation of glowing dots.

In the center of the map, were seven great trees, the seven home trees of the seven clans of the Qwerastafay. Above them, hovered two spheres, representing the Upper and Middle Realms of the spirits. Below was another sphere, for the lower ream of the damned.


Sedenka pointed at each glowing dot in turn. These are the things we need to heal the Kuru Dupal. There are nine ingredients to the potion, and 8 are in the Realm of the Living. One is in the Lower Realm.

“Anyone who can read a map can see that,” scoffed Rotonaka.

“Maybe so, but what can you see when you hold it? Sedenka asked.

Rotonaka picked up the map. The dot pattern shifted and several disappeared. “It’s not the same!” he said.

“No, it wouldn’t be. This quest is not your destiny, Rotonaka. My vision was clear. It is Enewan who must lead our people to a solution.”

What? Did I hear that correctly, I wondered. Surely my master did not mean to put the future of our people into the hands of one as young as I.

“Enewan!?! Surely you jest! This child? What proof do we have that Enewan-- You would send this child—“ Rotanaka sputtered.

“Silence, Rotanaka. Sedenka sees true visions. You will not question his wisdom. If it is Enewan he says must do this thing, then it is Enewan we send.”

“Thank you, Lenaratan. I am honored by your faith in me. Enewan, come here and touch the map and settle the doubts of others.”

As if in a dream, I walked forward and lifted the map. It did not change.

The Council appointed three warriors to be my companions: Benaret, Shiran and Retenotar. Roanaka would not hear of permitting us to go without an advisor with more experience than a boy like me, and pushed his way onto our team.

(Days 2 and 3 will be added here...)

DAY FOUR

"Are you sure, Enewan? This doesn’t seem right." Retenotar said to me.

"Yes, I'm sure, Retenotar. Trust me." I paused, looking at the barren field surrounding our group. The only signs of life were a lot of iridescent blurs darting around the area. "Benaret, go get the bowl. Rotonaka, you will get the rest of the parts to build the trap. Don’t forget the honey. Shiran, you are going to build the trap. And I shall collect the ingredient."

We set to work immediately. In a matter of hours, the trap was set. (It would have been ready earlier if Rotonaka hadn’t gotten stung by a swarm of Pekeronian wasps…) It took the form of a bowl full of honey with a piece of bark balanced on the rim. If a serpon should land on the bark to eat some honey, its own weight would cause the bark to drop in to the bowl, thus trapping the serpon.

Now all we had to do was wait.

After five minutes we caught a serpon. One landed on the piece of bark carefully placed on the rim of the bowl. As planned, the bark tilted down and dropped the serpon, face first into the bowl. We rushed foward and Benaret pulled the serpon out of the bowl.

The serpon looked a lot like a Qwerastifay infant, but some of the features were different, like, for example, the eyes were smaller and differently shaped; it had five fingers on each hand and it had two birdlike wings in between its shoulder blades. It started yelling in serponish and I didn’t need a translator to know it wasn’t happy.
Benaret handed me the serpon and I was about to pluck the feathers when it made a high pitched shrieking noise. The iridescent blurs froze and you could see the now still serpons’ bodies attached to each set of iridescent wings.

Suddenly, the serpons howled and attacked as one. They used every trick they could, clawing, dive bombing, biting, scratching, yelling, in an effort to get us to release their brethren, but I held on to the struggling serpon.
I finally managed to pull three flight feathers from one of its wings. Then I let the serpon go. It flew away as fast as it could, and the others followed it, once they saw that it was free.

I carefully placed the feathers in my sack, with the other ingredients we had managed to collect: the sacred water from the well of Natalian, and 6 tail feathers from the Anora.

Six more to go.

We continued on or way, until we saw a large silhouette of a tree in the distance. This was the Pekeronian Kuru, the home tree of the Pekere clan, who we were currently on friendly terms with. We proceeded to the Kuru and asked to meet with the Pekeronian Elders.

Rotonaka and I met with the Elders in their ceremonial chambers. I told them of our quest and asked for their help. We needed a boat and supplies for our next mission. The Pekeronian Elders, satisfied with our gift of Natarpan telna fruit, a delicacy to them, since it did not grow in their territory, agreed to give us what we asked for. They also gave us beds for the night.

DAY FIVE

We left the Pekeronian Kuru this morning. We trudged on and on,for what must have been hours, until Rotonaka started complaining.

"Can we stop now? Because I’m tired and I’m hungry and I’m thirsty and I feel faint and I need to pee and I-"

"Fine. We will stop. Just SHUT UP!!!" I yelled, ignoring Rotonaka's muttering, I found the perfect spot under a tree. Once everyone had finished eating, I asked Retenotar to scout ahead and see how far the lake was.

Perhaps I should endeavor to tell you what ingredient we were after today. You see, off the shores of the Eastern Sea, there lives a sea monster, named Makatharu. Makatharu's teeth have a powerful poison in them, which will counteract the venom of the fire serpent . So now you are probably wondering: why are you looking for a sea monster in a lake? The lake connects to a river which connects to the Eastern Sea. Once a year, on the first day of spring, Makatharu comes up the river into the lake, for reasons no one knows. I knew we would find him there today.
Retenotar rushed back to our camp below the tree, panting for breath. “The lake is just a couple miles north of here. We can make it there by noon, if we leave now.”

We packed up our things and Benaret and Shiran once again took the boat upon their backs. We resumed walking.
The sun was at its zenith when we reached the lake. Shiran and Benaret put down the boat and got to work assembling it. It looked similar to a canoe, only larger and wider and heavier. Inside the boat was a mast and a sail, trapezoidal in shape. We worked together to push the boat into the water, then jumped in before it could float away. Because there was little wind, we took up the oars and paddled out to the center of the lake.


(Day 5 part 2 and day 6 will be added here.)

DAY SEVEN:


The ground began to shake. I backed up and watched in horror as a horrible thing burst forth from the earth. The thing was long and thin. It had black scales and large red eyes and sixteen black spines emerging from its neck.

"It is murkotos!" Rotonaka shouted.

"What?" I yelled back. Then I remembered: the murkotosalerochoenall (murkotos for short) is a creature that burrows. It moves aboveground just like the way it moves undveground. It slithers.

"Scatter!" I yelled, and not a moment too soon. A second later it lunged, sinking its fangs into the ground where Retenotar had been a moment before. Shiran climbed up a tree and then he threw himself at the murkotos. His chest was slashed by the first spine and impaled by the second. The creature shook its head and flung his body at a tree.

Beneret was swallowed by the monster and we thought that was the end of her until the blade of her sword poked out of the monster's chest and she cut her way out. Pieces of the monster’s heart went flying everywhere.


We took Shiran's body with us. We carried him for several miles until we found a place to camp for the night. I sent Benaret into the woods to find firewood and to take her mind off the loss of Shiran. Beneret was an orphan and Shiran had been like a second father to her.

Rotonaka set the pyre on fire and I said the blessings:

“May Anazuli bless your journey to the Upper Realm. May Netalian guide you safely to your rest. May our ancestors welcome your spirit home.” I threw three crystals of salt into the fire, followed by three silver coins. The silver coins were a tribute to Netalian for guiding Shiran’s spirit, and the salt is a gift to Grovehstahr, the Guardian of the Upper Realm, for allowing them entry to his territory.

We stood watching in silence as Shiran's body went up in flames. After Shiran's remains had burned to ash, Rotonaka tried to lighten the mood by telling a tale. He said: "The world didn’t always exist, so I am going to tell you how it was created"


THE TALE OF HANUAPI AND ANAZULI

"In the beginning, there was nothing. And then, there was a seed. From the seed sprouted a humongous vine. The vine grew four main sections: The lower realm or hell, the upper realm, or heaven, the middle realm (purgatory) and the realm of the living.

The realm of the living was barren and desolate, covered with dry brown grass. Then one day, a part of the ground rose up. It appeared as though there was a spear sticking out of the earth, and it kept coming out, out, out until it exploded.

Inside the spear of rock was a god called Hanuapi. The god was lonely, so he created a wife for himself. He and his wife, Anazuli, still thought there was something missing, so they decided to create animals such as the crow, the eagle, the ant, the aye aye and thousands of other tropical creatures.

In order to give the animals a home, the God and Goddess created a large jungle. But there was still something missing.

When the god said: “Come forth my friends and come and praise your creators,” the animals came forth but they could not praise their creators. They bellowed, they hooted, they brayed… but they could not praise their creators.

Hanuapi got angry. He wanted to destroy all he had created and start over. But his wife managed to calm him down. She planted seven large trees in the center of the rain forest. And she came up with an idea to create a creature that would praise them. So she created the first of the Tree People, we who are called the Qwerastifay.

The first tree people she created were in her own image, meaning they were female. However the females did not have mates and were not immortal and they started to die out.

So next, she created several males and sent them down to help them. Hanuapi got angry when he saw his wife’s creation. She had not told him about it and he had not had a chance to add anything to it. So he got angry and summoned all his strength and stuck it into seven chosen people from the seven different tree clans of the Qwerastifay, and he put a seventh of all his strength into each of them. Having been greatly weakened, he burned to ash.

The seven chosen ones were the tree spirits, and they were the gods that the tree people worshipped as the go betweens between them and the female god Anazuli. Since then, the female god has retreated into the upper realm and now the tree spirits act as full gods.

On bad days when Anazuli mourns the loss of her husband, which happens often, her tears fall into the realm of the living, but they are not salty. They are sweet and fit to drink. Thus the tree people have water to survive.


And now, my friends, it is time for us to take our rest. Tomorrow, our quest continues and we will need our full strength.”

“Quite so, Rotonaka. You have anticipated my orders exactly,: I said, taking command, since I am the appointed leader for this journey.

I waited until the others retired before settling down in my bed of leaves. By the light of my lantern, in which burned the sap of the sacred Kuru Tree, our Home Tree, I got out the magic map and examined it. It showed me the ingredients that I had already found and those that I still needed to find:

Sacred water from the well of Netalian? Check. That one was easy-- the well of Netalian lies directly below the Great Temple at Kuru. Next, a tooth from the giant sea monster Makatharu. Check. Six flight feathers from the wing of the flying anora? Check . Three flight feathers from the wing of the dimminutive serpon? Check. Five scales from the head of the Murkotos. Check, though those were the most costly so far, since we lost Shiran in obtaining them. Five of the nine ingredients of the potion were already ours, and in just seven days. What remained before us was to collect the final four ingredients: three we knew, and one was a mystery. Had our map not been torn by Rotonaka in his attempts to usurp my authority, we would know what the final ingredient was and where exactly it was to be found. We do know it is in the territory of the Tinao Clan, who are the arch enemies of our people, the Netarpa Clan.





Sunday, November 22, 2015

Geo Bee Prep Project: State Fossils

For our first homeschool group Geo Bee prep meeting, Mikro did a project on state fossils.

Here are some of the cards he made. Can you guess which state's fossil each is? (Answers below...)




Here are a few of the resources Mikro is using to study for the Bee...


Have you guessed the state fossils? Here are the answers, in the same order as the cards above.