Sample Chapter – Chapter One – The Rise of the Pirate King

The Rise of the Pirate King 

Paul R. Wonning

Book 1 – Fall of Sylvanhaven

Looming Disaster

The Rise of the Pirate King 

Bees hummed as they gathered nectar from fragrant wildflowers and the cadence of birdsong filled the sunny meadow. A family picnicked in this meadow, nestled near the hemline of the forest, unaware that danger lurked nearby. A small boy wandered among the wildflowers, gathering blossoms to make a bouquet for his mother. There were blue flowers, white flowers and flowers of many other colors. It would be a wonderful bouquet and the boy could not wait to see his mother’s smile when he gave it to her.
A gruesome scream punctuated the golden air. He turned towards the awful sound. Before his terrified eyes, he saw a narl fling itself on his mother, ripping her throat with its sharp, canine teeth. Another jumped upon his father, killing him before he could draw his knife. The boy cried out as the narls surrounded him.

Tarque drew himself from the memory. After all these years, he still envisioned the scene. His parents were dead, eaten by narls. A peaceful, happy time had ended in sorrow and death. His last memory was of a vortex of air lifting him high in the air, away from the snarling, snapping jaws. His world evaporated into darkness.
His steed cantered down the road to Vintown. As he entered the capital city of Sylvanhaven, he sensed the excitement in the air. Workers busied themselves erecting tents. Colorful banners flew from poles along the streets. Shouts filled the city as the people prepared for the festival. Aromas of pastries, sweet meats and other culinary delights filled the air. The parallel between his memory and the state of the kingdom was apt. Peace and prosperity reigned here in the most powerful of the Six Kingdoms. The people were happy and gay, unaware of the calamity that gathered beyond the horizon.
Seven days. He had seven days. He had to convince the King to change the festival. If he could not, then catastrophe would ride through the kingdom like a knight through a potter’s shop.
He rode his horse along the wharf. Ships from all over the Six Kingdoms lined the docks. Dock workers loaded and unloaded cargo. The sound of prosperity rang in the air, and the people were happy. He could see the King’s Docks from his vantage on an overlook along the wharves. Crews were outfitting six ships in port for their next voyage. Banners and flags flew from the newest ship, the Queen Sand. After the Festival, the ships would form a flotilla that would visit each of the capitals of the other five kingdoms. The purpose was to introduce the Crown Prince to the other kingdoms. All the other nations feared Sylvanhaven’s might.
He turned his path, following the Road of the Crystalcrest along the River Fleet, which led him to the palace of the King. As he entered the Courtyard of the Crystal, he looked with scorn on the heresy. The Fountain of Arii stood in the center of the plaza in front of the palace. Water brought by aqueduct from upstream gushed over the glistening crystal and fell in a cascade to the white basin below, forming a pool. A sparkling stream exited this pool and made its way back to the River Fleet. Workers toiled in the sun, erecting the platform from which King Bern Vin would oversee the festivities.
This was the source of the calamity. The kingdom had strayed from the Covenant upon which it rested. The Kings had become proud and shunned the old ways. As the people strayed, Arii’s power waned. His protection would soon fail and the creature would escape.
He turned and looked again on the clear, cold waters of the River Fleet. The river sprang from the real Crystalcrest, the abode of Arii, near the crest of the Crystalline Mountains. The river coursed through the heart of the kingdom, blessing it with Arii’s presence. This road, the Avenue of the Kings, followed the course of the river to its source on Crystalcrest. It led through many cities and hamlets that drew their strength from the traffic along the river.
In seven days the Crown Prince would turn ten, the Age of Awakening. He would be of age for the Quest of the Covenant. Dedication of the children to the service of Arii took place during the Quest on their tenth birthdays. This year it would be a special occasion because Crown Prince Bearl would take part.
In the old days, the Festival took place at the true Crystalcrest. Arii looked into the hearts of the children and saw their potential. He inscribed there their life’s work, assigning it by the desires of their heart and their natural talents. Then that evil wizard wormed his way into the heart of Karo, the father of King Bern Vin, and the Quest of the Covenant ended.
Tarque recalled his last audience with Arii. He was growing weaker as the people drifted away. The strength of the creature he held captive grew stronger. If the Prince attained the Age of Awakening and did not come to Arii, then Arii’s power would fail. When his power failed, then Gwaum would escape. The kingdom would fall.
Tarque turned his horse to look again at the Palace. His audience with the King would be this afternoon. He was not optimistic about his success. The king was obstinate and proud. He had warned him many times in the past. This was the last warning. If he failed, in seven days Arii would pass from this realm. The monster would awaken. The Kingdom of Sylvanhaven would fall.
What would happen to the other five kingdoms was anyone’s guess. The power of Sylvanhaven was all that kept the peace. Without that power, Tarque feared that the Six Kingdoms would descend into chaos. It would be a terrible time like that which preceded the Covenant. That was what he was working to prevent.
He wheeled his horse around, spurred him to a canter. It was time to secure his quarters, eat and prepare for his audience with the King. Tarque soon arrived at his destination, the Crystalcrest Inn. He dismounted and gave the reins to the livery boy who came out to greet him.
“I will need the horse in four hours,” he instructed the lad.
At that, Tarque climbed the steps and entered the inn. People eating their noontime meal crowded the inn. Tarque caught the innkeeper’s eye.
“Ah, Tarque, you have arrived. I received your yuhma bird with its message. I have readied your quarters.”
“Thank you, Darel,” said Tarque. “I need to prepare for my audience this afternoon. I will have a light lunch, and then retire to my room to clean up and dress.”
“I will have fresh washing water in the bowl, some soap and clean linen. Do you want to eat now?”
“Yes, I will have some soup and cheese.”
“You may dine in my private room. I know you will want privacy to rest after your long journey.”
“Thank you.”
Tarque followed Darel through the door at the back of the room, sat down at the plain wooden table. He looked out the window. The alley that passed beneath the window appeared dark and abandoned, matching his mood.
A plump middle-aged woman soon appeared with a bowl of soup, a plate of cheese and a glass of dark ale. Tarque ate in silence and washed the meal down with the ale. He arose and climbed the stairs to his quarters. The cooing of birds met him as he opened the door. His eyes lit on his yuhma birds, which were in a cage near the window.
He walked over to the cage and said, “Ah, my little beauties. I see you are awaiting me.”
He opened the cage and withdrew one of the birds. He scooped up some grain that was in a bucket near the cage. He allowed the bird to feed from his palm while he stroked its feathers. Then he walked to the window, opened it and released the bird.
“Fly away, my friend. Fly home. I will return in a couple of days to tend you and your friends.”
He watched the bird fly away. Yuhma birds were one of his specialties. The great wizard Nerza first perfected the art of using the birds.. They served as messengers between him and the few remaining followers of Arii. There was always one here, with Darel. The innkeeper used it to communicate with Tarque in his faraway home on the mountain. Tarque had others around the kingdom. They helped him maintain contact with the small, and dwindling, adherents of the followers of Arii. Rockheads the people referred to them, with derision, in reference to the pendant adherents wore. A small piece of the Crystalcrest of Arii affixed to a chain worn on a necklace hid them from the King’s Crystal Eye that he used to watch the people of his kingdom. The Rockheads only wore this adornment during the Quest, but the name stuck as word of it spread.
Devised by Tarque’s predecessor, Aron, at the cost of his life, the charm’s magic was all that had kept Gwaum at bay. Even that seemed now to be failing.
Tarque removed his dusty traveling clothes. He washed himself at the washing stand and toweled himself dry. He gazed at himself in the mirror. His face was still unlined, and his black hair still jet-black, with only flecks of gray. He thought of that time in Niru, almost twenty years ago, and the girl who was with him. They had accomplished much in that silver-lined time long ago. Then he had to leave. He wondered what happened to her.
He laid down on the bed to rest. His thoughts dwelled on the state of the kingdom, and he worried about his audience with the King. The Kings of Sylvanhaven had become proud and arrogant, forgetting the source of their power. King Bern Vin was the latest, and the most arrogant of the line that dated from Bearl, the first King. It seemed fitting that the King named the Crown Prince, destined to be the last of the line, Bearl, after this first heroic King.
The sun’s shadows shifted to reveal the passing of the noontime to early afternoon. Tarque arose from the bed, pulled his dress robe from the bag. He shook it, pulled it on and tied the sash. He left the room and descended to the street. The livery boy saw him come down the steps and darted out the door ahead of the old wizard. He appeared in a few moments with the horse.
Tarque placed a copper coin into his dirty hand and said, “Thank you lad. I will be returning later.”
“Thank you, Sir,” said the boy, with a grateful look at the copper coin in his hand, and then at the wizard who rode away.

Tarque arrived at the palace and nodded to the guards. They allowed him to enter. A page appeared.
“I am Tarque, and I have an audience scheduled with the King,” Tarque said.
The page nodded, intoning, “He is expecting you, Guardian. Follow me.”
Tarque followed the page down a long, curtained hall. At the end of the hall were two massive wooden doors. Elaborate candelabras stood on either side of the door, guards beside them. One of the guards inspected Tarque’s face.
“Your staff, please,” the guard said.
“Be careful with it. It does not like unfamiliar hands.”
The guard took it, his eye catching the golden star that shone bright on the handle of Tarque’s staff. Fear flickered across his face as he placed the staff in a golden bucket near the wall. He then opened one of the doors. Tarque walked into the throne room. King Bern Vin sat on his throne and watched him approach, his face portraying the boredom he felt.
Tarque walked toward the king, stopped and bowed.
“Greetings, King Vin.”
“Greetings, Tarque. What dire news do you bring me today?”
Tarque took a deep breath, looked into the eyes of the King, and said, “Again I bring you warning, King Bern Vin. The power of Arii grows weaker. The Quest of the Covenant has dwindled; those in his service are few. His ability to protect the Kingdom is flagging.”
“You speak of old legends and tales, Wizard Priest. We are strong. No power can oppose us.”
“There are ancient powers that dwell in this land,” answered Tarque. “These powers are such that your knights cannot defeat. Arii has been holding these evil powers at bay. But his strength wanes.”
“You have warned of these dangers,” replied the King. “Your predecessor Aron carped about them, also. My father Karo grew weary of his maledictions, as I grow tired of yours. The dangers you speak of have never occurred.”
The wizard drew himself up to his full height.
“Your son, Bearl, is ten years old next week. It is time that the Prince took the Quest of the Covenant. He is of age, Sire.”
“You mean the trek to that forsaken rock on that faraway mountain?”
“Yes, Sire. The Prince must take up the old ways. It is the only way to avert disaster.”
“Nonsense,” said Bern. “The festivities are all planned. No child has taken that Quest in many years. His dedication will take place at the Fountain as planned.”
“You went to Crystalcrest when you were ten. You felt the presence of Arii.”
The King smiled.
“Yes, I did go on that worthless trek. This Arii you speak of, he did not appear to me. That is why my father instituted this ceremony. He sensed that Arii did not touch me. Thus, his power has waned. This ceremony is closer to the capital and brings commerce to the merchants of the city.”
“Your artificial ceremony at your imitation shrine will not suffice. He must travel to the Crystalcrest of Arii at the source of the River Fleet. He must dedicate himself to Arii. This is the only way to save the Kingdom.”
“No,” snarled the King. “I want to hear no more of your prattle about ancient gods or nonexistent ghosts who threaten my kingdom. The time of your magic is gone, Wizard. Go back to your mountain lair and worship your god. We have our ships and knights. No one can threaten us. It is now the Age of Men. Your time has passed. There are few wizards of your kind left, and they grow fewer by the year.”
Thus dismissed, Tarque left the audience with the King with a sour taste on his tongue. He knew beforehand that his plea would be in vain, but he had to try. On the way out, he saw Aeoric, the captain of the King’s guard. For a brief instant, their eyes met. Aeoric guessed the turmoil in Tarque’s eyes. But he said nothing as Tarque passed on his way back out to the street.
As he exited the palace, he paused to look over the square in front of the palace. It was already busy with preparations for the festival.
His eyes rested on the Fountain. King Karo Vin, the father of the current king, constructed it under the direction of that other wizard. That wizard had caused great harm before Tarque and the girl had stopped him. His eye wandered to the great tower that rose above the plaza. It was still there, inside that tower, awaiting the rise of its creator. But Tarque had greater immediate problems.
Many of the people in the outlying communities still adhered to the old ways, at great risk. The King kept a watchful eye and persecuted any he caught going to the mountain with their children. The numbers of adherents was small and getting smaller as the years passed. His predecessor Aron had managed to shepherd a small group of Sylvanhaveners into maintaining the Quest. However, the numbers were never large and not enough. Arii needed the King and all the people or his power would fail. And if Arii failed, then danger reigned.
Tarque’s mind settled on the one fact uttered by the King. His kind was getting fewer. Few Wizards of the Golden Star remained. Such was the state of things. There were other, lesser wizards and witches scattered around the Six Kingdoms. His mind lit on another Order, the Order of Solaun. He had seen one of these women lurking behind the throne. So, King Bern Vin was under the influence of one of these. The Kingdom had fallen far since the days of Bearl and the first kings.
He rode back to the Crystalcrest Inn, dismounted and handed the reins to Resh, the groom. He entered the inn. It was late afternoon. The evening crowd had not started to gather, so it was easy to find a table near the back of the great room. A small fire crackled in the fireplace, providing warmth to the room.
Darel saw him enter and soon appeared with two glasses of ale. He placed one in front of Tarque and sat down. He took a drink of the frothy liquid and sat down.
“I take it that you were not successful,” he noted, seeing the displeasure on Tarque’s face.
Tarque picked up the glass, took a healthy pull at the amber liquid, and said, “I have failed. There is no hope.”
“What will you do now?”
Tarque’s eyes wandered around the great room.
“I must confer again with Arii. You must contact the Rockheads here and tell them to get ready to flee. When the storm arises, it will flood the Kingdom. There will be little time.”
“Where shall we flee? The other kingdoms will not welcome the Sylvanhaveners. The will not want us.”
“I do not know, Darel. Tomorrow I will arise early and hasten back to the Mountain. I will talk to Quinn at Bridgetown, and warn him of the impending disaster. I will send word to you after consulting with Arii.”
“I will contact the followers,” said Darel.
“You must also contact Aeoric. He must save the Prince.”
“The Prince? Why must you save him? He is a spoiled brat.”
“The Prince is the heir of the Covenant between Arii and the heirs of Bearl. If there is to be hope of defeating Gwaum, it lies with the boy.”
“I will send word to my cousin Aeoric. He is the only Rockhead in the King’s court.”
“I will dine early tonight, Darel. Then I will retire to my quarters and rest. Tomorrow I will depart before the sun rises. I must get to Bridgetown by midday.”
“Most of the followers are there.”
“Yes, but they are few.”
“And they are getting fewer.”
Tarque drained the mug of ale, placed it back on the table and stood. “I will take a walk, now,” he said. “When I return, I will dine. Then I will go to bed.”
“I will have a plate of food ready for you.”
Tarque stood up. “Thank you, Darel. You always anticipate my needs.”
“We have been friends for a long time, Tarque.”
Their eyes met. “We will soon be in exile, my friend. Hard times are coming.”
At that, Tarque left the table and walked into the street. Available in multiple ebook formats and softbound

Sample Chapter – Legend of the Wizard Tarque – Epic Fantasy Series – Aron’s Fear

Legend of the Wizard Tarque

Part I – Glade of DeathChapter OneAron’s Fear

The wizard Aron stood on the summit of Crystalcrest and gazed at the valley of the River Fleet. The vast green valley stretched out to the horizon as it followed the river that carved it.. Dark figures moved along the road that followed the river’s course as it wound its way along of the Crystalline Mountains on its way to the sea. The last of the pilgrims were departing and he would again soon taste the flavor of loneliness. Each year the crowds came here bringing with them their ten-year-old children as they completed the Quest of the Covenant. Then each year they departed, leaving Aron, the Guardian of the Covenant, to his solitude.
Crystalcrest glimmered in the setting sun behind him. Arii, his task complete, had vanished back into its recesses. The royal standard came into view far below him. This had been a special Quest, as Prince Karo Vin, son of King Theros Vin, had turned ten.
His thoughts centered on the boy, Prince Karo, the reminder of his problem. Aron was getting old. He had not married and had no son. There was no heir to the post of Guardian of Covenant. His mind shifted to his nephew, Bernall. The boy was now almost five. It was time to begin his training. But Bernall was far away and the boy’s mother, Cyndi, would not allow him to train the boy.
His brother, Mikal, had deferred to his wife, and the boy remained unaware of his heritage and calling. He and Mikal descended from a long line of wizards, though the skill did not manifest itself in Mikal. Aron had felt the boy’s power. He knew that his essence was that of a great wizard. The legends of their family lore told of a descent from Arii himself that dated to the time of the fall of Gwaum, many generations ago. According to family legend, the stone cottage, Stone Haven, of Aron’s boyhood, had been in the family for many generations. Legend said that it had been the dwelling of Arii’s mentor and uncle, the great wizard Nerza.
He turned as a slight sound tickled the evening air. Arii had reappeared, the silver mist of his presence shimmering in the golden sun.
“Something is troubling you, Aron?”
Aron bowed his head, and then directed his gaze at Arii. “Yes, Arii. I am worried.”
“You have no heir, Aron. Is that your concern?”
“Yes, Arii. There is no one to take my place. In not so many years, I will join the other Guardians in the place of rest. I will leave you unattended.”
“Do not fear, an heir will come to you, Aron.”
“How is that to be, Arii? I have no wife. I have no issue.”
“You have a nephew.”
“But Cyndi and Mikal will not allow me to train him.”
The silver mist swirled in the setting sun, creating an iridescent halo in its fading light.
“A time of trouble is coming to Sylvanhaven, Aron. I looked into the soul of Prince Karo Someone has poisoned him against me. I could not take a part of his essence,” said Arii.
“How is that possible, Arii.”
“That I do not know, Aron. I know only that some wizard is at work in Vintown.”
“Who could it be, Arii?”
The mist swirled, reflecting the sun in a dazzling array of iridescence. “There is only one wizard that would dare to challenge me.”
Aron’s mind roved over the possibilities with no wizard coming to mind. “Who would that be, Arii.”
The name stirred Aron’s interest as Arii said, “Gault.”
“Gault? No one has heard of him of for many years. Many think that he is just a legend.”
“He is not a legend, Aron. He still lives. He is the same Gault that your ancestor Aris battled so many years ago.”
“He would not dare challenge your power. To weaken you is disaster. Gwaum will awaken.”
“He thinks he knows how to control Gwaum. He does not know Gwaum’s power as I do.”
Aron allowed this thought to simmer in his mind as Arii continued, “You must travel to Vintown and visit the king.”
“You want me to stop Gault?”
“I fear it is too late for that. If it truly is he, his presence has already poisoned the royal household. If it is not he then we must discover who it is that dares to meddle with the Covenant.”
“It has been too long since I visited Vintown. I will leave tomorrow.”
“The more haste, the better, Aron. There are other things happening that will need your attention.”
Aron gazed at the silvery mist and asked,”What are these things, Arii?”
“They will reveal themselves to you as needed. There are powerful forces at work, Aron. You have much work ahead of you.”
At this the silver mist spun, forming a vortex that descended into a crevice in the Crystalcrest. Aron’s audience with Arii was at an end.

As twilight encompassed his mountain home, Aron completed his evening tasks. The feeding of his yuhma birds gave him great satisfaction. The magic of the birds took many years to master, but the rewards were great. He enhanced their homing characteristics with his magic. They enabled him to maintain a communication network around the Six Kingdoms. With a special incantation, he could set a bird aloft and it would find any person that Aron knew. It surprised him that his network of friends in Vintown had not alerted him that there was a problem at the palace.
If he was going to Vintown then he must inform Hale, the proprietor of the Wharf Side Inn that he was coming so he could prepare his quarters. He went in his cottage and wrote a short note. After returning to the cage of yuhma birds, he tied the rolled up note to one of the bird’s legs and sent the bird aloft. The bird cooed, circled, and then flew off to the east, into the gathering darkness.
He walked the short distance to the stable. He patted the flank of his favorite horse as she fed at the trough. Again, he glanced eastward towards Vintown on the coast of the Great Sea. It was a four-day ride on a horse. But this special breed, enhanced by breeding and magic, could make the journey in two days. His ancestor, Aris, had begun the work of breeding this special horse. They were especially sensitive to the spell of the wind that propelled them along. Their special qualities made them able to gallop for long periods under the influence of this spell.
The horses had their limits, of course, as all magic had limits. If pressed too hard for too long a period, the horses would die of exhaustion.
However, these horses had rested well. He could make Bridgetown by tomorrow night. After resting in the stables and satisfying their immense hunger, they would be ready for the next day’s ride. He would be at Vintown by evening of the second day.
The possibility of Gault at the palace troubled him. No tale of Gault had emerged for many years. He had seized control of the Grand Council, many thought by murdering Grand Wizard Annos. No one had ever proved the charge.
Aris had known that Gault was seeking immortality. Zerena, of the Order of Solaun, had achieved this.
He remembered Zerena from his dealings in Niru, the Hidden City. She was old. Many said she had known and been the lover of his ancestor Aris. If so, she would be quite old. Aron did not think she looked old at all. She appeared to be in her mid twenties with luxuriant golden hair and penetrating blue eyes.
She was the head of her own order, the Order of Solaun, which had become a powerful Order on Six Kingdoms. She had managed to get it represented on the Council. The women of that order used magic to maintain their youth. They worked to maintain the peace by becoming consorts and mistresses of kings and princes. They used the powerful lure of sex to influence their lovers.
Aron was not sure if it was their influence, or the power of Sylvanhaven that suppressed the warfare among the Six Kingdoms. Maybe it was both. Nothing was ever simple.
His thoughts returned to Gault. If it was he, then he had returned from obscurity and somehow discovered the secret of immortality. His ancestor Aris had driven Gault from power.
It could not be Gault. Of that he was certain.
The encompassing darkness interrupted his thoughts. He glanced towards his dark cottage. He would take his evening repast and sleep. He must get up early tomorrow and begin his journey.

Quest of the Wizard – Wizard of the Golden Star Series – Sample Chapter 1 – Death in the Forest

Quest of the Wizard – Wizard of the Golden Star Series – Sample Chapter 1 – Death in the Forest

Quest of the WizardPaul R. WonningBook 1 – The Wizard of the Golden StarDeath in the Forest

Quest of the Wizard

Death moved relentlessly through the forest, making little sound as it crept along, hunger biting at its innards. Emerging into a clearing, the creature’s eyes swept the meadow beyond. A cottage lay at forest’s edge. A thin curl of smoke wafted from the chimney. The creature sensed the smell it sought. Humans. He would feed.

The afternoon sun caressed the land with its golden rays. Beneath its watching eyes, a boy gathered red berries at the forest’s edge. His pail was almost half-full when he heard his mother’s call.
“Arii. Arii honey, it is time to come home. Your father is here and dinner is ready.”
Arii paused and looked in his bucket. The berries’ fragrance nibbled at his nose. His mother made some of the best red berry pie in the valley. He glanced back at the cottage that stood at the edge of the meadow where he was gathering berries. He saw his mother looking for him, her hand shading her eyes as she scanned the meadow. When she sighted him, she waved and then she went back inside.
It took a full bucket of red berries for a pie. He did not have enough. He looked back at the berry patch. Fresh red berries glistened in the sun, inviting him to pick more. Overhead, he could hear the chatter of birds as they awaited his departure so they could resume their feast on the delectable fruit. Just a bit further on he could see a large clump of berries. That clump would finish his bucket. It would take just a few minutes more and he would have enough.
He worked his way further into the patch, the thorns tearing his clothes and scratching his bare arms and legs. He regretted not listening to his mother’s warnings to wear thicker clothing. But the weather was warm and he did not want to get hot and sweaty.
He reached the clump and filled his bucket. Arii was happy. The bucket was full. He turned to walk back to his home. The sound of crashing trees in the forest behind his home swept across the meadow. Arii watched in terror as a huge oak fell, smashing the cottage. His feet froze to the ground as a huge red monster stepped from the forest. A single, hungry fiery red eye bored into his eyes as the creature stood towering over the meadow. He could see his mother, holding his baby sister, wriggle through a window, escaping the ruined cottage. His father followed. He looked up and saw the creature. He interposed himself between the monster and his family.
A huge red hand reached down and grabbed at the man, who turned to flee. He was too late, and the hand clasped him. Arii could hear the crunching of his father’s rib cage as death cut short his scream. Blood flowed from his mouth. The monster raised the man, and with a single gulp, swallowed him. His mother backed away. Her foot caught on a log. She tripped. The monster caught her by the foot, and picked her up.
With upturned maw, he dangled the screaming woman over his head, the baby dangling from the terrified woman’s hand.. The baby slipped from her grip and fell into the black, gaping mouth. The woman followed her child an instant later.
Terror froze Arii’s breath and chilled his heart. The monster belched. He then looked at Arii. A smile played across Gwaum’s face. One more small morsel would finish his meal. He began striding towards him.
Arii dropped his bucket of red berries. The bucket spilled, and the red berries stained the boy’s bare feet. He backed up, slowly at first. Then he turned and ran. He could hear the giant feet of the monster thumping hard on the ground behind him. He ran faster and faster. He reached the trees and fled deep into the forest. The thumping behind him stopped, but Arii ran harder, flung on by his fear.
On and on he ran, until exhausted, he fell at the edge of a small stream. A huge log lay in front of him, dead and hollow. He crept into the log. The rotting wood was dank in his nose as it flaked away. White grubs, exposed from the disturbance, wriggled and burrowed deeper into the wood.
The sun fell. Darkness descended and the night sounds began. Narls howled in the distance. Arii pulled himself deeper into the log, tears of grief and fear falling from his eyes. Exhaustion crept upon him and he finally fell asleep.

Morning dawned in the tiny hamlet of Jarna. Nerza awoke to the chirping of birds in the garden behind his stone cottage. A few people still clung to this village, so far from the Road of Terror. As the sleep left his eyes, Nerza sat up.
The dream had left him unsettled. He had seen a vision of terror drifting through the mists of his sleeping mind. His sister’s face had appeared, her eyes filled with horror. Then it had disappeared, followed by the image of the infant she held in her arms.
Worry ate at Nerza. His sister, her husband and two young children dwelt in a cottage in a protected valley near Jarna. The horror that he saw in his dream he knew well. Hoping it was a vision of the future, he dressed quickly. He would have to hasten if he were to save them.
He ate a sparse, hurried breakfast of hard cheese and bread to satisfy his hunger. He took his snow-white staff with the golden star on the tip of the hilt and walked off down the road. By noon, he reached the small stream that marked the valley. He followed the footpath upstream. His path soon reached the clearing and meadow that marked his sister’s cottage. He stopped horrorstruck, as he saw the crushed cottage. He walked towards it. A bloodstain marked the ground near the cottage. The monster had fed.
Hot tears of grief filled his eyes and sobs burst from his throat. He fell to the ground and beat it with his fists. Finally he stood. Something glinting in the sun at the edge of the meadow caught his eye. He walked towards it.
As he neared it, he could see that it was a metal pail lying on its side, its contents of red berries strewn across the path. He picked it up. He looked towards the forest. Broken branches and trampled wildflowers marked the path of someone fleeing into the forest.
He could see the larger footprints of the monster, which trailed towards the woods.  They appeared to follow someone who had escaped into the forest.
Nerza strode towards the woods. He noted that the huge footsteps stopped, then turned back into the meadow. Who ever it was that escaped was too small a morsel for a monster who had just fed on two adults and a baby.
Perhaps Arii had escaped. The boy loved red berries. Maybe the boy had picked red berries in the meadow and escaped into the woods when the creature appeared. Nerza stepped into the wood. He could see that disturbed leaves on the forest floor, marking the passage of someone.
He noted the distance between the footprints. A child had fled this way. Hope arose in his breast.
Nerza paused and studied the terrain before him. It was summer, and the early spring flowers had faded. The leaf litter from the previous fall was rotting, turning to the mould that would nourish the soil. Tracking the boy would require more woodcraft than wizard craft. Nerza’s father had been a hunter and had imparted these skills, long unused, to Nerza when he was a boy.
He continued his trek through the wood, with an occasional pause to peruse the signs left by the fleeing boy. The trail ended near the brook downstream from his earlier path. Nerza again paused and looked upstream. Then he looked downstream. He crossed the brook and searched for the trail, with no success. It had vanished. He returned to the spot where the trail stopped. Again, he studied the stream. The boy had apparently followed the stream. Arii despaired. What if he had passed the boy earlier, and had not seen or heard him. Which way did he go?
“Arii,” Nerza called. “Arii, are you here?”
A pall of silence hung over the forest.
A huge log by the stream’s bank beckoned him to sit and rest. Nerza sat down to think. Silence surrounded him as he sat, deep in thought.
He became aware of a slight sound. He pricked up his ears. The sound seemed to flow around him. What was it and where was it coming from?
He stood up and glanced at the log. Was the log talking to him?
He walked to the end and saw that it was hollow. The log was big, as was the opening. It was big enough to hide a small child. He withdrew the wand from the handle of the staff. Calling the power of fire, the wizard used the wand to ignite the tip of a wooden limb that lay on the ground nearby. He picked up the flaming brand and held it near the opening, peering inside. At first, in the flickering light he could see nothing. But he heard what sounded like a whimper of fear. Peering closer, he could see a small face reflected back at him.
“Arii? It is your Uncle Nerza. Is that you? Come out, boy. Do not be afraid. You are safe, now.”
The whimpering stopped, and the boy crawled out, covered with the decaying wood of the tree and leaf fragments. A wriggling grub lay on his shoulder. Clothing torn and stained, he bore the dank smell of decaying wood. Nerza brushed the grub off.
“Uncle Nerza. Oh, Uncle Nerza.”
The boy grasped the wizard around the shoulders. His sobs filled the forest. His tears stained Nerza’s shoulders. He held the boy for a long time, trying to comfort him.
The boy, his voice thick with sorrow and fear, said, “Oh, Uncle Nerza, it was horrible. The monster broke our house. He killed momma and papa.”
“I know, Arii. I saw your house. I tracked you through the forest. I hoped against hope that you escaped and were safe.”
“We will never be safe, Uncle Nerza. Not as long as that horrible monster lives.”
His sobs returned.
Finally, Nerza pushed the boy away and studied his face.
“You will come to live with me now, Arii. You will come with me to Jarna.”
“Will the monster come there, too? Will he eat us there?”
Nerza shook his head. “I have protected my house with a magic spell. Gwaum cannot see my house. He will pass us by.”
“Why didn’t you protect my house, Uncle?”
“I wanted to, Arii. Your father did not like wizards. He would not let me place any kind of spell. He thought the valley was safe.”
“But it wasn’t, Uncle. The monster found us. He killed them and ate them.”
“Yes, the monster did horrible things, Arii.”
Nerza stood. He took Arii’s hand and said, “It is time to go, Arii. We will go to my home. You will be safe there.”
He and Arii strode through the forest. Nerza took a different path. He followed the stream to its junction with the larger stream, and this he followed to the road. Then, holding Arii’s hand, they walked to his stone cottage near Jarna. In less than a day, Nerza’s role as uncle had changed to parent of a young, growing boy. He hoped that he was equal to the task.

Sample Chapter – Home Electric Systems – Circuit Breakers

Sample Chapter

Home Electric Systems

Circuit Breakers

Below the main circuit breaker in the panel you will find the branch circuit breakers. Each circuit breaker controls one circuit in the home. The electrician that installed the electrical system will have placed labels by each breaker identifying the circuit, or appliance, that the breaker controls. The dryer, water heater, water pump and heating system usually have their own circuit. Other circuits may be labeled “Kitchen,” Living Room,” “Bathroom,” etc. The breaker acts like an electrical switch. Turning it “off,” will shut off all the power in that circuit. The circuit breaker is designed to detect power overloads, short circuits and other electrical malfunctions in the home. The most common reason for a circuit breaker to trip to the off position is an overload. If you are using a vacuum cleaner or some other appliance on a circuit and the circuit breaker trips, you have probably overloaded the circuit. Move the appliances plug to another circuit, go to the circuit panel, note the one in the “Off,” position. Simply flip it to the “On,” position. If it continues to trip, you may have an electrical problem. Leave it turned off and call an electrician. Circuit breakers are available in different amp classifications. The higher the number, the more amps it will handle before tripping. You can turn off the power to any circuit in the home by flipping the appropriate circuit breaker to the “Off,” position. To turn back on, simply flip the breaker back to ,”On.”
Some circuit breaker sizes you may see on your panel include:
15 amp breakers
20 amp breakers
40 amp breakers
50 amp breakers
60 amp breakers
100 amp breakers
200 amp breakers
15 and 20 amp breakers are the most common. Most homes will not have circuit breakers rated at higher than 40 amp, unless it is the main circuit breaker, which commonly is 200 amp.

Sample Chapter – Alaska Chronicles – Day Two

Sample Chapter

Alaska Chronicles

Day Two

The day dawned bright and beautiful, though rather cool. We were sort of “jet lagged” out, and overslept. I felt like something the dogs had been rolling in. However, we were in Alaska, the first day of eleven days of playing tourist.
The Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, as I mentioned earlier, is a first class establishment. We were on the ninth floor with a magnificent view of the city. The lower floor, at street level, contains a half dozen or so small gift stores. We had browsed some of these the evening before. Princess Cruise Line staffs a small office here. Our first stop the previous evening was to get information as about our departure time today and other things we needed to know.
After breakfast at the Sandwich Deck, we again strolled around Anchorage. As our tour bus was leaving at 11:00 AM, we didn’t have a lot of time to do much. So we just walked a couple of streets that we had missed the night before and retraced our route to Resolution Park. The weather was clear this morning and Mt. McKinley, about 110 miles distant, was barely visible to the north of Anchorage.
By 10:30, the cruise line had collected our luggage. We went downstairs to the lobby to await the tour bus for our trip to the Alaskan Heritage Center. The bus showed up on time and we boarded. It was perhaps a twenty-minute ride to the center. This is a interesting museum. It contains many exhibits of native Alaskan culture, from the homes the natives lived in, the clothes they wore, and much more. The most fascinating thing to me was the construction of the kayak. The wooden structure of this watercraft fits together intricately. It was custom-built for the hunter who would be using it. After building the frame, the ladies of the tribe covered it with sealskin that had to be fitted and sewn exactly right. Too loose, and it would slide out of place. Too tight and it would crush the wooden framework of the kayak as it dried. The engineering and craftsmanship, which went into constructing one of these craft, was intriguing.
After two hours of touring the Cultural Center, our bus driver took us back to the Captain Cook. We had just barely enough time to eat lunch at the Sandwich Deck. We boarded another bus for the journey out to the Kenai Princess Lodge, scheduled to leave at 1:30.

Brian would be our bus driver for this trek, a chatty fellow who regaled us with stories and Alaskan lore on our bus ride. Our route would follow Alaska Highway 1, the Seward Highway, southeast along the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet. The Turnagain Arm would be on our right on the first part of the journey, the mountainous Chugach National Forest on our right. Glaciers glinted in the sunlight on the crests of mountains, and in some of the higher valleys between them. Aspen formed thickets near the highway, good moose habitat, the driver said. In addition, we did catch a glimpse of one, head barely above the vegetation as we passed by.

As the road reached the end of the Arm, it turned first south, then northeast. Then it finally heads southwest as it reached into the Kenai Peninsula, towards our goal. The distance traveled was approximately 100 miles. The mountains were now on both sides of the road, as we left the Turnagain Arm behind us. More heavily forested, the land displayed a rugged beauty and isolation I could never have imagined before. There were no houses, towns, or villages. There were just the mountains, forest, and glaciers.
We stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Refuge that operates a display area of wild animals along the highway. There are large fenced in areas here for elk, black tailed deer, bison, caribou, moose, and black bears. Most of these animals are orphans raised by humans. They would not survive if released into the wild. I still felt sorry for them, caged behind the fences. The driver drove the bus to one end of the loop drive, and allowed some of us to walk back to the Visitor Center, about ¼ mile. Lynne, I, and a few others exited the bus to stretch our legs and see the animals up closer than the bus would allow.

It was windy, but the walk back allowed our first real panorama of the wild Alaskan countryside. Glaciated mountains surrounded us with blue sky and golden sun overhead.
After about a half hour, we reentered the bus and Brian was ready to start rolling again. We waited for the remaining passengers to board. The lady in front of us on the bus had lowered the blind on the window, blocking my view. Since she had not returned, I took the opportunity to raise the blind so I could see out. Once under way, she lost no time in lowering the blind again. The passengers on the other side had lowered theirs as well. So here we were, riding through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever been in and the blinds were down on the windows! I just as well had been riding in a barrel. I concluded that while touring by bus freed me from the chore of driving, I would not be doing much of it in the future.
As I mentioned, Brian the bus driver kept up a constant monologue. He talks about Alaskan culture, politics, landmarks and points of interest that we were passing.
Tidbits included:
The name Turnagain Arm originated because of the glacial silt that collects on the bottom of the inlet. This causes the water to be quite shallow. The bottom of the channel shifts and changes constantly. Boats in the inlet are forced to “turn again” as they encounter the silt and have to change direction. The inlet not charted and probably unchartable. Because of this, you don’t see many boats in the inlet.
Election is hard for an Alaskan politician without a photo of himself or herself holding a gun. Thus, the petite Lisa Murkowski publicized a photo with her holding a double-barreled shotgun during her Senate campaign. It got her elected.
The glaciers absorb the copper in the soil in an oxidized form. This causes the green color of the glacial rivers and streams. The glaciers melt and the resulting runoff has a unique patina color. The water is safe to drink, and Brian asserted that he has drunk it many times.
Moose like to live in their food. Therefore, they are usually hard to spot as they hunker down in thickets of small alder and birch.
Anchorage continues to grow in population. The number of schoolchildren in Alaskan public schools declines. This is because of the increasing popularity of private schools and home schooling. The school enrollment has declined by about thirty percent in the last decade. Funding for the public schools has almost doubled.
We arrived at our destination, the Kenai Princess Lodge near Coopers Landing around 4:30 PM. We boarded a shuttle bus at the lodge and transported to our cabin further up the mountain. We were in room 1110, a spacious room that included a bedroom, sitting room, large bathroom and a porch. The porch afforded a great view of the surrounding mountains. A wood stove resided in the sitting room, and an ample supply of birch firewood waited burning in the firebox outside the cabin. Birch and fir trees surrounded the cabin, creating a secluded atmosphere. A walk around the grounds provides spectacular vistas of the surrounding mountains.

There is also a short nature hike here which can either be one half mile, or one mile, depending on which loop is taken. We never got around to hiking this trail due to our short stay here.
We settled into our room and did minimal unpacking, as we would be here only two nights. We strolled around the grounds, and walked down to the Kenai River. There is a short loop trail here that features three overlooks to the river. We spotted salmon in the water as they were making their way up river to spawn. The river has a rich patina color. It is beautiful as it tumbles and cascades over submerged rocks on its way to Cooks Inlet at Anchorage, about 35 miles away.
We returned to the lodge, climbing the steep hill. The lodge provides a shuttle that will take you up and down the hill to this beautiful and relaxing spot. There is a small shelter at the base of the hill with a
telephone in it for people to call to the lodge for a shuttle if an unexpected shower strands them. You may use this service also if you can’t make it back up the hill. It is a fairly long and taxing hike back up the hill.

The lodge features two restaurants. Due to the isolated nature of the hotel, these are the only dining choices available for bus tourists without a vehicle. The Eagles Crest, which has an exclusive, pricey menu, and the Rafter’s Lounge. The Rafters Lounge has more reasonably priced fare with a more “sports bar” type atmosphere. The food is good, and the service from the staff is adequate. There is a deck available for dining which overlooks the Kenai River with mountains in the background. It is a restful spot to dine.
There is a gift shop on the grounds of the Lodge that we browsed in after dinner. The gift shop abounds with nice merchandise of all kinds. This ranges from from t-shirts and hats to magnets, locally made items, and many other unique wares.

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Sample Chapter – Indiana’s Role in the Civil War – Civil War Memorial Grave 1865

Sample Chapter

Indiana’s Role in the Civil War

Civil War Memorial Grave 1865

Visitors to Magnet, Indiana will find this historical marker honoring the deaths of ten soldiers of the 70th Ohio Infantry that died when the boiler exploded on the steamboat steamboat they were riding in back to their homes in Ohio.

Title of Marker:
Civil War Memorial Grave 1865
CR 36 next to Ohio River and right before paved road turns to gravel, 0.5 mile south of Magnet. (Perry County, Indiana)
Installed by:
Erected by Indiana Civil War Centennial Commission, 1965
Marker ID #:
Marker Text:
On August 21, 1865, the steamer, U.S.S. Argosy, (Number 3), was caught in a storm, blown aground and her boilers exploded. Ten fatalities occurred among Union soldiers returning home from war service. They were buried in a mass grave one half mile from Magnet (Rono) where memorial markers perpetuate this burial ground.

Brief History
Tragedy befell the soldiers of the 70th Ohio Infantry as they returned from their duty during the Civil War aboard the U.S.S. Argosy 3 when a storm blew them against a rock near Magnet, Indiana. Ten of the soldiers died in the tragedy.
U.S.S. Argosy, (Number 3)
The US Navy had three ships named Argosy during the Civil War. Built in 1862, U.S.S. Argosy #1 was a stern-wheeler that the US Navy purchased and converted into supply ship and gunboat. By coincidence, it was the U.S.S. Argosy #1 that picked the survivors up after the tragedy involving U.S.S. Argosy # 3. U.S.S. Argosy #2 was constructed in 1863 and sold to the Navy the same year. The Confederates captured this ship in May 1864. U.S.S. Argosy #3, built in 1864, was not a regular government ship. It was a shipping boat that the military had requisitioned temporarily to transport returning troops home.
70th Ohio Infantry
Under the command of Colonel Joseph R. Cockerill, the 70th Ohio mustered into service on October 14, 1861 at Union Ohio. The regiment had extensive service in Kentucky, Tennessee and lastly, in Arkansas. The regiment mustered out on August 14, 1865 at Little Rock, Arkansas. They were transported to Cairo, Illinois. 300 of the soldiers boarded the U.S.S. Argosy #3. At Magnet, Indiana, they would have a terrible interruption to their long, weary journey.
Magnet, Indiana
A man named Dodson founded a woodyard on the banks of the Ohio River at a place he called Dodson’s Landing. Dodson sold his woodyard to Jesse Martin, who renamed the spot Martin’s Landing. When residents chose a name for the village in 1848, they named it Rono, after Martin’s dog. The United States Postal Department changed this name to Magnet in 1899. The town is about half way between Owensboro and Louisville, Kentucky. It is about six miles east of Indiana State Road 66. To get there, turn east on Ultra Road. After about a quarter of a mile, turn right on Parks Road (CR 35). Parks Road runs into Magnet. To get to the marker, turn left on East Buzzard’s Roost Road (County Road 36). Turn right just before the paved road turns to gravel road.
The Accident
The boat had rounded a turn in the river called Ox Bow Bend when a thunderstorm blew up. Many of the soldiers took shelter from the blowing wind and rain in the boiler-room. The storm blew the boat against a submerged rock ledge. The rock tore the steam pipes apart, scalding many of the soldiers. The boat nearly capsized and many of the soldiers jumped overboard. After the boat righted and the officers restored order, they took roll. Eight men were missing and presumed drowned in the Ohio River. Two men died of their burns. The U.S.S. Argosy # 1 transported the survivors to Louisville. There, another ship, the Captain Lytle, continued the journey of the 70th Ohio back to Ohio. After repairs, the U.S.S. Argosy # 3 returned to service.

Sample Chapter – Westernmost Naval Battle of the Revolution

Guide to Indiana’s Historic Sites – West Central Edition

Sample Chapter

Title of Marker:
Westernmost Naval Battle of the Revolution
0.7 mile south of junction of SR 58 & US 41, between Old US 41/Earl J. Abe Rogers Road & new US 41, Carlisle. (Sullivan County, Indiana)
Installed by:
Erected by the Sullivan County Historical Society 1985
Marker ID #: 
Marker Text: 
On 25 February 1779 Col. George Rogers Clark captured Ft. Sackville at Vincennes from the British. About 6 miles west at Pointe Coupee on the Wabash River on 2 March 1779 Capt. Leonard Helm commanding 3 boats and 50 volunteers from Vincennes captured a reinforcement fleet of 7 boats carrying 40 soldiers and valuable supplies and Indian trade goods. This small naval battle completed destruction of British military strength in the Wabash Valley.
Brief History by the Author
Colonel George Rogers Clark captured Vincennes from the British garrison that held it in July 1778. Clark left Captain Leonard Helm in charge of a militia force to hold the town. Clark departed with his main force to capture Cahokia and Caskaskia near the Mississippi River. After Clark departed most of the militia under Helm deserted, leaving Captain Helm with only a handful of men. Hearing that Vincennes was now in the hands of the Americans, British Lieutenant-Governor Henry Hamilton left Detroit and moved against Vincennes to recapture it. He succeeded in taking the post, making Helm and the remainder of his soldiers captives. Fur trader Francis Vigo visited the fort after Hamilton had captured it. Hamilton took him prisoner, and then released him after Vigo would not aid the Americans during his return trip. To honor the promise, Vigo returned to St. Louis. After his return, Vigo traveled to Kaskaskia, a distance of fifty miles, to inform Clark that the British held Vincennes.
Recapturing Vincennes
Clark responded by leading his 170 men through 180 miles of flooded countryside in eighteen days. In a surprise attack, Clark took Vincennes. Helm took an active part in the negotiations.
The Naval Battle
Clark learned that a shipment of supplies was due to come down the Wabash from Detroit. He dispatched Captain Leonard Helm with three boats and fifty men. The American force encountered the enemy at night by discerning the fires of the enemy in the darkness. Helm’s men surrounded the British flotilla and captured it without firing a shot. The British supplies became American supplies. British power in the Western theatre was broken.

Preview Chapter – Short History of Roads and Highways – Thomas MacDonald

Preview Chapter 
Short History of Roads and Highways

Thomas MacDonald
The son of John and Sarah Elizabeth Harris MacDonald was native to Leadville, Colorado. During his childhood he received his education at elementary and high school at public schools in Montezuma, Iowa after his family moved to Iowa. His father owned lumber and grain dealerships, which required transportation of grain and lumber on horse drawn wooden wagons. The poor state of the roads, which were impassable for much of the year, disgusted him. He attended college Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts. He studied road building and became involved in the Good Roads movement after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1904. He married he married Elizabeth Dunham in 1907. The couple would have two children. He received appointment as the Assistant in Charge of Good Roads Investigation in Iowa that year. He became Iowa’s head civil engineer in 1913 and played an instrumental role in the passage of the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916. Congress appointed him as the head of the Bureau of Public Roads on July 1, 1919. He would remain at the head of the bureau until his retirement in 1953. During his tenure he was the chief architect of the highway system in the United States. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 was his innovation. He supervised the construction of 3.5 million miles of highways and helped lay the foundation for Eisenhower’s U.S. Interstate Highway System

Sample Chapter – Short History of Roads and Highways – Charles Brady King

Sample Chapter
Short History of Roads and Highways
Charles Brady King (February 2, 1868 – June 22, 1957) The son of John Haskell and Matilda C. Davenport King, Charles was native to Angel Island, California. His father had served as a general during the American Civil War. When John retired from the Army in 1882, the family moved to Detroit, where Matilda’s family lived. King attended Trinity College in Port Hope, Ontario for two years, after which he enrolled in the Cascadilla School in Ithaca, New York. In 1887 he entered Cornell University until his father passed away in 1888. After his father’s death, he returned to Detroit. He took a job at a railroad car manufacturing company, the Michigan Car Company. He attended the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 to exhibit the pneumatic hammer and brake beam that he had invented for use on railroad cars. During the exhibition, he saw a horseless carriage built by Gottlieb Daimler. He was inspired to build his own horseless carriage.
First Car in Detroit
In his spare time, King designed and built what many think is the first car in Detroit. King spent the next few years building the car and tested it in private from 1895 until he officially unveiled it on March 6, 1896. It was during this time that he helped organize the first automobile club in the United States, the American Motor League. He drove the car in a circuit around downtown Detroit, which many feel was the first horseless carriage in Detroit and possibly the state of Michigan.
Joined Early Automobile Companies
King joined the Olds Motor Works sometime around 1900, but only stayed there for a short time. He next joined the Northern Manufacturing Company, where he designed many of the cars manufactured by that company. He started his own automobile company, the King Motor Car Company, in 1910. Always the innovator, King designed the first American car with left hand steering and the first practical V-8 engine. He left the company in 1912.
Other Endeavors
In addition to being an innovative automobile designer and manufacturer, King was also a poet, architect, painter, musician and yachtsman. He founded the forerunner of the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, an organization called the Automobile Old Timers in 1939. Henry Ford, who had witnessed King’s first ride in 1896, received help from King when he built his first horseless carriage. He also mentored Ransom E. Olds and other early automobile manufacturers. He helped design and build a yacht, the Lady Frances, which featured many new innovations. His other inventions included jackhammer, the lubricated pulley system, and the car steering gear.

Sample Chapter – Short History of Railroads – Railway switch patented by Charles Fox

Sample Chapter 
Short History of Railroads 
Railway switch patented by Charles Fox
1832 – Railway switch patented by Charles Fox
Before the railway switch, railroads used a device called wagon turnplates or a sliding rail.
Sliding Rail
This device resembled the modern turntable used to turn locomotives around or move them to different tracks in a train yard. In the sliding rail, the track was mounted to a circular wheel that rotated around the center of the device. The wheel’s diameter was governed by the length of the wagon used on the railroad, or tramway. To switch the device, the horses pulled the wagon onto the turnplate and unhitched. A tramway employee then had to rotate the turnplate so the rails matched that of the track he wanted to switch it to. Then the horses were hitched and the wagon could move along the new route. This was a cumbersome process that limited wagon size to that of the diameter of the turnplate and limited the weight on the wagon. Mr. Fox’s invention changed this.
The Rail Switch
The rail switch, or railway points, employed a set of linked, tapering rails that are synchronized in movement. These moving rails can be moved into one of two positions, one that allows the train to go straight or another position that turns the train onto a divergent set of rails. In the days before electrically powered switches, a railroad employee still had to manually operate the switch; however the train remained moving as it crossed the switch. The rail switch could accommodate any length of locomotive or rolling stock. As railroads switched over from horse drawn wagons to steam driven locomotives the rail switch proved a much more versatile mechanism for switching engines. The turnplate survives, with many improvements, as a means of moving locomotives around in a train yard or turning an engine around.