NZ Forest Native Birds
Silvranja of the Silver Forest

Silvranja of the Silver Forest can now be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format, for which you don’t even need a Kindle. The is available for desktop and laptop computers: Mac Windows and is even available for iPad and iPhone.

Silvranja of the Silver Forest
can be found here.

This is the manuscript that was short-listed for the Tom Fitzgibbon Memorial Award in 1998 and which inspired this type of nonsensical critique when I put out feelers to join an on-line critique group.



PART I:                                                               1  

Silvranja shifted uncomfortably on the huge bed of her ancestors’ bones. The resulting clatter, amplified by the vastness of the surrounding cavern, made her start. After the forest’s tranquillity she simply couldn’t adapt to an environment where the least movement made so much noise.

     In the light from the hovering, ever-present tongues of fire she gazed around the great cemetery the Chief Piksenlord of the little race of Piksenvolk had created for her kind so long ago, leaving two Piksenflames to guard the sacred place. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t see the walls. To think the Piksenvolk had gathered every dead one of her kind they could find and brought it here!

      The light from the flames caught the smooth surface of one of the bones Silvranja had displaced. Straight, sharply pointed and about sixty centimetres long, it flashed silver light into her eyes as it settled into a new position.

     Possession of that beautiful bone was the main reason for the plight of her species. To Silvranja’s knowledge she and her mother Argent were the sole survivors. The only other of whom she’d heard, Albishadewe, had never been seen, so clearly he was just a legend. Argent seemed convinced that if she could only find Albishadewe their kind could recover from certain extinction.

     Silvranja raised her head and sighed, longing for her mother. Whatever had possessed Argent to risk unimaginable dangermaybe even deathin seeking a myth?

     She sighed again, striving to repress images of what could be happening to Argent. There was no point worrying about something beyond her control. Also, she mustn’t dwell on the calamity that had driven her mother to bring her here. It simply gave her nightmares. However, being cut off from sunlight, fresh grass and room to exercise, couldn’t possibly be good for such as she; even a wild horse’s offspring enjoyed a measure of security at its mother’s side.

     Except, unlike wild horses, her kind hadn’t been safe for countless generations on Lazaronia’s grasslands. The silver-ivory hunters had forced them to adapt to grazing the protective expanses of the Silver Forest’s boundaries many centuries ago.

     Silvranja’s mind envisaged the silver-backed canopy that gave the vast Forest of Argentsiana its popular namefor silver beeches grew nowhere else in Lazaronia. If only she and Argent could return, could experience again the forest’s living magic!

     However, it would be ages before she saw her birthplace outside her dreamsif she ever didfor an evil power that had been trying for countless centuries to breach the defences of its sacred trees had finally succeeded. Silvranja had been present. Shuddering at the memory, she lowered her head and wearily closed her eyes.

     And within moments of sleep claiming her, the dreams crowded in …


To Silvranja, revelling in the Silver Forest’s endless sense of enchantment as she foraged at Argent’s side, it was just another ideal early summer day. However, although accustomed to a high-strung mother, she soon noticed Argent was nervier than usual, continually staring over the grassy plains and hills once browsed by their forebears, ears and nose twitching.

     Silvranja copied her mother’s uneasy behaviour. However, she couldn’t see, hear or smell anything amiss. Of course, humans had abandoned noisy horseback to hunt her species aeons ago. Also, they could now disguise their pungent aroma. Therefore, if they succeeded in penetrating the forest’s defensive spell they would strike with silent, odourless cunning.

     So why did Argent keep sniffing the air?

     “What’s wrong?” Like all her kind, Silvranja communicated in mind pictures.

      Argent had no chance to answer. An enormous black shadow swooped overhead, darkening the forest canopy. A wyvern! The mere closeness of one of the alien two-legged dragons that had helped to all but wipe out Lazaronia’s own species was enough to make Silvranja as jittery as her mother. Never before had a wyvern managed to fly so low over the forest, nearly clipping the treetops.

     But the threat passed. With the shadow gone the forest’s silver dappling returned.

     Silvranja and Argent dropped their gaze in reliefonly to receive a greater fright. On the forest’s fringe, against a massive silver beech trunk, stood a man. His robesof red and blue merging to purple, elaborately embroidered in silver and gold and encrusted with jewelsgave Silvranja the impression he might be a king or emperor.

     And then she saw, with further shock, that he was the living image of King Lazarone the Third. Although Silvranja had never seen him, Argent had relayed vivid images to her of what he looked like.

     But the King was dead.

     Moving to protect Silvranja, Argent faced the man, who responded by raising his hands, palms out. Although Silvranja still sensed her mother’s tension, her own instantly slackened. He obviously meant no harm. Besides, if he was King Lazarone he must be a spirit. The forest would surely welcome King Lazarone’s ghost.

     As though to confirm the figure was indeed an apparition, it started to waver and blur as if about to fade.

     However, the intruder’s open-palmed gestures clearly hadn’t convinced Argent, who lowered her head. Silvranja could hardly believe the message she now transmitted: “Get out or I’ll attack.”

     By now the man’s form was so badly distorted that he looked like shapeless, unevenly dyed garments flapping on a clothesline and trying to imitate a living being by filling themselves with air. At Argent’s threat he shot out both hands, fingers pointingfingers gaunter than a skeleton’s.

     From those threadlike fingers purple lightning blasted, lighting up the forest for acres around. Instinct made Silvranja and Argent leap away. But the bolt sped over their heads. They stopped and turned in surprisejust as an ominous crack sounded from above. With Argent thrusting Silvranja ahead to protect her, they both fled, pursued by the tearing groans and shrieks of a slaughtered forest giant. Seconds later the silver beech crashed exactly where they had stood.

     Silvranja received the eerie perception of a rage beyond the experience or grasp of mortalstowering, perhaps even deadly, but now strangely powerlessas though the death throes behind were those of a god hewn down in treachery.

     This time neither of them dared glance back.

     Hours afterwards, they stopped running. Trembling all over, their sides heaving, they looked aroundto find themselves in such a dense part of the forest that little light reached the floor. In fear they looked back the way they had come.

     “At least he hasn’t followed,” Silvranja sent.

     Argent sniffed the air. “Yes. But was it his own choice rather than because of an outside force? For that was Ignarius, the late King Lazarone’s twin. Two thousand years ago Lazarone the First, known as the Godking, was murdered by his twin brother, also called Ignarius. Some say the first Ignarius lives again in this one.”

     Silvranja shivered. “Is it true this Ignarius also killed his brother?”

     Argent’s eyes darkened with grief. “It was one of our kindQuicksilver, said to have sired the elusive and legendary Albishadewewho killed Lazarone the Third. But all creatures except humans know Ignarius bewitched Quicksilver into believing it was Ignarius rather than the King on his back. Quicksilver, hopelessly deranged by Ignarius’s spell, threw his rider and savaged the fallen King. Ignarius shot Quicksilver and claimed he was Lazarone and that it was Ignarius who’d been killed, but couldn’t fool Queen Esmeralda.” Argent paused, sighing heavily. “Since then we’ve been hounded more mercilessly than we ever were by the silver-ivory hunters. Esmeralda, I suppose, has had enough trouble keeping her rightful place as Regent until her daughter comes of age to worry about creatures like us.”

     Silvranja was puzzled.. “If Ignarius is so great a sorcerer that he can resurrect himself, why did he break up like an ill-formed ghost?”

     “Because at the moment that’s exactly what he is. It’s said the Goddess Lazaria had the bats carry him to a place of eternal sleep, but he managed to send his spirit out on the wind to later reunite with his body and release it. The Goddess, unable to make his spirit return immediately to his body so the bats could carry them both to eternal sleep, swept the spirit out into space to the farthest corner of the farthest galaxy. Even so, it’s only a matter of time before body and spirit reunite. When that happens I hate to think how powerful Ignarius will become.”

     Dry leaves gave forth uneasy, papery sighs under Silvranja’s hooves. “Can he reach us here?”

     Silvranja sensed the anxiety she hadn’t intended projecting was responsible for the pause before Argent replied. “I imagine so. Eventually. But we can’t wait to find out. Besides, if we stay here we’ll have to live entirely on fallen leaves, which isn’t healthy. So tonight I must leave you to seek the help of the Piksenvolk.”

     They browsed the forest floor until twilight, when they rested in a hollow between some gigantic exposed silver beech roots. The forest turned darker as the minutes passed until it looked as if everything was painted black, but with frequent furtive noises all around they couldn’t sleep.

     The moon had been risen some time before it was high enough to filter its light through the canopy. Then it was as though the underside of the silver leaves turned to face the moon, catching and reflecting downward every scrap of moonlight. The stealthy rustlings increased. Silvranja and Argent stared at the astonishing number of creatures revealed. Silvranja saw a large bird with a long beak foraging the forest floor. Then the huge golden eyes of a small animal with glossy black fur attracted her attention as it ran up a tree and started munching on the leaves. Neither took any notice of her. Indeed, all the nocturnal inhabitants of the deep forest went about their business as if the two strangers from the borders didn’t exist.

     Argent moved out of the hollow. “Give me two hours, then follow as fast as you can. When you reach the border we should be waiting. If we aren’t, come back here.”

     She moved off like a silvery shadow. For the first time in her life Silvranja found herself alone. Later she wasn’t sure which was the more nerve-rackingthe two-hour wait or the journey through a forest where it was as though every rustle masked the predatory approach of the sorcerer Ignarius.

     However, she reached the forest’s outskirts in safety. But no one was there. Unwilling to return to the depths of the forest, she scanned the moon-silvered emptiness of the plains with increasing anxiety. It was the sudden dimming of the moon that warned her of something approaching from above. She had turned to flee when her mother’s reassurance reached hera mental image of two four-legged dragons outlined against the moon, their backs swarming with the little people of Piksenville. Argent swung in a net hanging from the mouth of the silvery-white dragon Flare the Fearless, and the blue-black dragon Flame the Tame carried an empty net.

     In no time at all the dragons had landed and Silvranja was inside the empty net, its handles gripped in Flame’s mouth. She waited for the drumbeat sound of dragons’ wings. But it didn’t come. Instead, one moment she was lying on the ground and the next she was in the air, twisting and swinging so crazily she felt sick. However, the net gradually settled down and Silvranja accustomed herself to its gentle sway.

     She soon began to feel safe againso safe she drifted off to sleep …


Silvranja woke with a start to the loud rattle of bones. Groggily she struggled upright, balancing with difficulty on some of the larger bones. For some reason the resulting clatter was louder than the one that had woken her, its din making her ears shrink. She sighed, wanting only to escape her misery in sleep. However, it would be unfair not to help the Piksenvolk to untangle the net they had used to bring her here.

     However, there wasn’t any net. And a quick glance around confirmed she was alone. Abruptly she realised she’d been reliving the past in a dream again, and the clatter that woke her hadn’t come from beneath her. She peered past the light of the Piksenflames to the cavern’s far end. Was there a pale hump barely visible against the ivory and silver bones? She blinked to clear her vision. But the hump remained.

     Overwhelming fear swamped her. Something was grievously wrong.

     “Mother?” As well as an enquiring mind-picture, Silvranja used her voice to nicker as a wild foal would. The cavern mimicked her in soft, tentative echoes.

     However, it wasn’t Argent who answered. Indeed, at first there was only silence. Then seconds later three of the Piksenvolk rose from beyond the hump and floated towards her. From their robes Silvranja knew they were all Piksenlords. Her alarm deepened as she recognised the entire team of PiksenhealersBlaëwen the Blue, Malva the Mauve and Rhodonia the Rosefor only in dire emergencies would all three leave Piksenville.

     Not until they were hovering near Silvranja’s face did their leader speak. By that time she knew from their own faces what Blaëwen had to say, her voice choked with grief.

      “I’m sorry. She’s dead. There was nothing we could do. As well as poisoned arrows Ignarius used a spell to neutralise our antidote.”

© L A Barker Enterprises
All rights reserved

Did you enjoy this extract? Even if you didn’t I would like to hear from you.
Email your comments on
Silvranja of the Silver Forest, or any other stories on this site.

And now, if you haven't already been there, go to
Fitzgibbon Award

to read all about the big prize this novel nearly won.

Further extract from Silvranja of the Silver Forest

Home Page | Site Map | Blurbs for The Earthlight Quest | The Obsidian Quest

© L A Barker Enterprises
All rights reserved