The Ahava Order is the first book in Robery Przybylski’s series of the same name. This excerpt is reprinted with permission. Copyright (c) 2019 Robert Przybylski, published by Royal Hawaiian Press.
The Ahava Order
Winter life in Anad, a small village situated among forests, was running its usual course. Roe deer searched for food among plants in snow-covered fields, livestock heartily ate hay. For the Mage Azam and his wife, Eva the Enchantress, the day was going to turn out memorable. That morning, just as every morning, their son Zephyr was preparing food for the animals, while his father was getting ready to hunt for Amash—a horse-sized animal with everlasting white fur from the family of Great Wolves. Inhabiting numberous forests, the species hunts alone, pairs off and doesn’t form packs. Azam was about to choose a weapon when the village squire, Bolv, a squat man with a crop of curly hair on his head and a slightly red face—the effect of having consumed too much of his homemade liqueur from a centuries-old recipe— entered the armory.
“Greetings, Azam. I see you’re trying to choose the right weapon to bludgeon the cursed beast that’s been terrorizing my little herd of cows.”
“Greetings, Bolv. And I see you’ve already been wetting your whistle with the liqueur today. . .”
“You’re not wrong,” Bolv answered, sipping from a canteen, his big eyes fixed on Azam. “It’s for my nerves. Azam, you know our village is all. but wealthy, so when it comes to paying you for slaughtering this creature, will you accept payment in kind? I mean, two cows from the farmers and an ox from me. I’m sure you’ll find it useful for plowing. What do you think?
“Ahh, fine, I agree,” Azam replied with a smile on his face and added, “but throw in some of your fine homemade ambrosia [the liqueur made by Bolv’s granny].”
“Happy to. And when the hunt is over, you’re invited to feast with us. Varma’s preparing goat, and I’m sure you know what a great cook my lovely wife is. Oh, before I leave. . .here, it’s for you. Some of the beast’s fur. You’re a Mage, you’ll know what to do with it. I think it might be of some use to you.”
“My wife and I will be happy to dine with you, but now it’s time for me to get to work,” Azam replied while grabbing the Windspear. The spear was created by Azam’s grandfather, and it possessed a magical power—when darted, it never misses the target and it pierces through the air as fast as lightning. Thus armed, Azam went to look in on Zephyr.
“Hello, young Mage. How’s work going?”
“Good, thank you. I was just about to go to the barn to throw some fresh hay onto the wagon and fill up the hayracks for our animals, and I have also baskets with tidbits for our forest friends,” he replied.
“That’s great. Zephyr, I’d like you to do something for me: when you go to the field, take a bow or a crossbow from the armory—Amash is around here somewhere. It got a couple of Bolv’s cows yesterday. I’m going to hunt the beast, but it may take a while before I locate its breeding site.”
“I will, and it may happen that I’ll get the creature first,” Zephyr added, a smile on his face. “Well, Zephyr, you’d deprive me of a great pleasure. But I do have a surprise for you. Put down the pitchfork and come to the armory with me, you’ll learn something new today.”
“Great! How exciting,” Zephyr replied and tossed the fork he was holding into a bale of hay.
“Bolv gave me some of Amash’s fur, and I’ll show you how we can use it to locate the beast.”
He picked up an ornate silver egg-shaped object engraved with golden swallows among emerald leaves and laid it on the map of Amat.
“It’s beautiful. But what is it, father? I thought it’s one of mother’s trinkets.” “No, son, it is a locator. Now look how it works.”
Azam placed the animal’s fur inside it. Suddenly, the swallows became alive and flew out of the armory, singing loudly and hurrying across the sky in search of Amash.
“How marvelous, father,” Zephyr uttered.
“It’s magnificent, isn’t it? You know, it belonged to your great-grandfather. He got it while traveling around this land. Apparently, he stole it from one of the witches inhabiting the Az Mountains.”
The swallows returned after a quarter of an hour and flew into the map of the land, drawing a red line leading to Amash’s lair.
“Well, well, well. So this is where the beast’s been hiding—the Forest of Evergreen Oaks. About a half-day’s horseback ride from here,” said Azam. “Well, my son, I leave you with your mother and your duties, then. The hunt is on. But still, remember to take a weapon with you, we can’t be sure the female is in the lair too.”
“I’ll see you tonight, then.”
Zephyr remained in the armory to search for a weapon. He chose a semi-automatic crossbow and decided to take also a sword of fire, which—when struck—produces flames that entwine the attacker, scorching them or, if the impact is strong enough, setting them aflame. Thus armed, he left the armory, put the crossbow on the wagon and finished loading the hay. Meanwhile, traversing forest clearings, Azam headed for the lari of Amash. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining and snow crumbled under the horse’s hooves. Suddenly, Azam saw a head of a deer lying in the clearing, its antlers in a pool of blood. He dismounted and touched the blood. Still warm.
“Amash must be close,” he thought.
He left his horse on the edge of the forest, so as not to scare the animal away, took the Windspeaer, uttered a masking spell, and confidently, walked into the wilderness, looking for traces of blood. The bloody trail led to the lair. Azam saw bot hthe male and the female devouring the deer. He waited for the two animals to stand in one line so that he could kill them both with one move. He took a swing and, using all his strength, threw the spear at the male’s skull. The weapon pierced the beast’s head, along with the deer’s belly, and plunged into the female’s chest. Azam ran up to the gurgling female and threw a crushing spell at her. A purple orb emerged from his hand and hit the female’s head, tearing it apart. The hunt was successful. He pulled the spear out from the creature’s carcass, and suddenly realizing that nobody reasonable would say no to a skin like that, he set about skinning the animals. After burning the remains, overjoyed with his success, Azam jumped on his horse and acknowledged that it was time for a good meal. His thoughts ran to Varma’s delicacies and Bolv’s liqueur.
Zephyr filled up the hayracks and, disappointed that there would be no fight between him and Amash today, returned to the farm. As he was driving the wagon along a dirt road, Zephyr saw a flash in the winter sky, as if a star shone in the light. He stopped his horse and focused his eyes on the source of light.
“It can’t be,” he whispered.
“It’s a butterfly. How beautiful,” he thought. “But it’s winter, and butterflies don’t fly in winter. Something’s wrong here. Is mother playing a joke on me? Maybe she wants to be a little mischievous—instead of Amash’s corpse, I’ll bring home a butterfly. Ha-ha, when I get home, I’ll tell her I saw a butterfly in winter. We’ll see how she reacts.”
On his way to the farm, Zephyr saw the butterfly move towards him and shine gently from time to time. After reaching the farm, the boy jumped off the wagon and ran home to tell his mother about the “winter butterfly.”
“Mother, I just got back from the field. Would you like to know what I saw in the sky?”
“What was it, Zephyr?” Eva asked while putting sage and chamomile herbs into little linen bags. “A butterfly. . .ha-ha. Was it your magic?”
“No, my boy, it wasn’t. Maybe your father wanted to play a joke on you with this whole Amash hunt. You know what he’s like. Armed to the teeth and he comes back with a butterfly, ha-ha. Well, he should be back soon, and I’m sure he’ll quickly tell us all about both his bravery and the artistry of being Amat’s First Hunter.”
At that moment Eva smelled something burning.
“Oh no!” she screamed. “There goes the duck, it’s burnt. Zephyr, please open the window and, if you don’t mind, bring another duck. And pluck the feathers after you slaughter it, otherwise we’ll have nothing more than herb marinade for dinner.”
“Happy to,” Zephyr replied and opened the door. He went out into the yard, a hatchet in his hand. At that moment the same butterfly sat on the boy’s shoulder. Such was Zephyr’s amazement that the hatched fell out of his hand. Leaving it on the ground, the boy ran back into the house.
“Mother, this is the butterfly I told you about,” he said.
Eva put down the herbs and, not hiding her surprise, approached her son to take a closer look at the butterfly.
“Incredible,” she whispered. “So beautiful. But what is that on its body? A symbol? Zephyr, do not move, and I’ll go fetch a magnifying glass. Where have I put it. . .?”
“Calm yourself down, Eva,” she said to herself and became still for a moment. “Here it is.”
The magnifying glass was lying on the book of herbs and elixirs of “the Mountains and Great Swamps of the Land of Sabast.” Eva took it in her hand and said:
“Let’s take a closer look at you, shall we?”
The butterfly looked like the mourning cloak, but three times bigger. It had a silver body with an emerald green abdomen, black eyes, and silver antennae with green clubs on their ends. A symbol was clearly visible on its body: two letters—O and A—in a golden circle. Eva whispered:
“I can’t believe it, we’ve been met with such an honor. Zephyr, you were chosen by the Order of Achavites. I can’t believe it. . .” she added and sat in the chair. Zephyr, with a butterfly on his shoulder stood like a column of salt. “Mom, what exactly is this Order of Achavites?” At the same moment, Azam rode into the courtyard with Amascha’s rolled skins, and undisguised pride in his victory.
He got off his horse, removed his trophies and boldly headed home.
“Good morning, darling. Your Amat’s First Hunter has returned victorious from his hunt. Look at the beautiful skin I’ve brought back. . .Zephyr, what are you doing standing in the middle of the chamber with a butterfly on your shoulder?
“Apparently I was chosen by the Order of Achavites,” he answered confused.
Azam put the skin on the floor.
“Eva, our family will survive. I am honored, who would have thought? Eva, Zephyr, let’s leave the supper with Bolv for later. Son, please, sit down together with your butterfly guide.”
“Dad, can someone enlighten me at last and explain what this whole order is about?”
“Yes, of course. Let me calm down first. Eva, can you give us some of that tincture? There is a long night awaiting us, so it’s best for a stronger one. Especially as we have something to celebrate.”
“Yes, honey, with pleasure.”
They sat down at the table. Azam poured the tincture into the cups.
“Son, maybe I’ll start with the butterfly. As you already know, this is not just an ordinary butterfly but a Messenger of the Order. His name is Ajal and he’s been sent by an Archmage of the order to find his astral and molecular half, with which, thanks to the same molecules and ritual of connection, you will become one. You will become an Achavite. Thanks to such a combination, you will gain immortality, and your magic will be strengthened and take on the form of Ajal’s magic. Then, you will obtain indestructible armor, with the likeness of your Ajal, and wings, so you will change physically. On your chest, there will be a symbol same as the butterfly’s, and by touching it you will be have the choice to summon the armor. Your wings will be in the color of the mourner’s wings. They will be attached permanently, so you will have the ability to fly. Armor is atypical, beautiful and colorful like your butterfly, thin as Ajal’s wings. It adapts to your body perfectly, just like a second layer of skin. After transformation, your face will take on sharp shapes and your eyes will change color to sapphire. As for the color of your hair, it differs. For some Achavites the shade of hair changes and takes on the color of the wings. Others simply lose them all, but that’s a small detail. The transformation lasts one day.”
He poured everyone more of the tincture and continued.
“It’s an incredible honor, as the only one who can become an Achavite is the offspring of a Magician and a Sorceress. Having molecules and the astral half allows us to combine into one being, and more importantly, to symbiosis of magic. Your task will be to protect an area designated by the Archmage from evil. The Order offers you a high standard of living and, what I envy you sincerely, a magical education at a very high level, although it also comes with dangerous missions. I also know that Ajal will act as your scout, guide and messenger. You will always be together, inseparable. That is the knowledge I have on this matter. I am convinced that you will learn much more in the convent. This information I have about the order is thanks to a certain book called Brief Characteristics of Almat’s Orders and Brotherhoods written by the Mage Zurwa. It’s an interesting read, but a rather general narrative about convents or brotherhoods.”
“Well, my dear Zephyr, let’s have another drink. Eva, can we ask for some more liquor? Today we have a particularly joyous night. Zephyr, bring a little something from the cellar. I have enough of everything for today. I’m just too excited about what happened.” he said, and at the same moment Ajal sat down on Eva’s hand and affectionately touched her with his sensors.
Eva felt bliss and inner calm. The next day Azam prepared small gifts for Zephyr. Before leaving the house, he entered his room to wake him up. He noticed Ajal hovering in the air. “Such a beautiful sight”, he thought.
“Well then, it’s time to get up, my lazy boy, enough of the luxuries. Time to get ready for the trip” he said in a loud voice. Zephyr got out of bed, stretched and yawned.
“We’re coming” he answered, watching the happily hovering Ajal.
“Zephyr, Azam, come to the kitchen,” Eva shouted “breakfast is ready.”
Zephyr was the first at the table.
“How do you feel, son?”
“Thank you, mother. I’m really excited. Honestly, I can’t wait until I’m there.”
“I know, I know, son. We are so proud of you, and of ourselves a little bit, as well.
After breakfast Azam gave Zephyr two daggers of the wind (they are daggers, which—like a spear—flawlessly hit the opponent with the speed of the wind) and his favorite sword of fire.
“Here, son, this is for you. Let these weapons serve you best they can.” Eva prepared Zephyr a magical hooded cloak which protected against both evil magic—by reflecting spells—as well as against bad weather, as it was waterproof.
Azam looked at him and said:
“Well, well, a real warrior of the order. Zephyr, it’s about time.”
Ajal at the same time began to duplicate himself, taking the form of a whirlwind built of innumerable small butterflies, mourning cloaks, which covered Zephyr and carried him to the headquarters of the Order of Achavites.
The young man stood with both legs on the oak floor, and Ajal, with folded wings, sat on his shoulder. When he opened his eyes, he saw that he was amongst a crowd of young people, each of whom had their own Ajal – with differing colors and appearance of the wings. He also drew attention to appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye beautifully looking whirlwinds.
“We’re finally in the order,” he said.
Among the crowd of young Achavites there was both tension and excitement cause by the unknown. Zephyr looked at the walls. They showed various images of Ajals with their Achavites in full armament. He looked at these beautiful paintings with undisguised emotion. Suddenly, from the back of the room came a resonant but pleasant voice:
“Welcome, young adepts. We sincerely invite you to our Hall of Knowledge. Please, follow your Ajal, and don’t worry, they know the way by heart.” Zephyr followed his guide to the designated meeting place. It wasn’t far. Following his butterfly, he admired the paintings on the walls and beautiful ceilings made from white wood of magical birches. This was wood which never got old and smells of honey for all time, and after being cut down takes on the appearance of its bark: black and white.
The adepts found themselves in the hall, comfortably settled in designated places. With a whirlwind, the Ajal carried his Achavite into place. The room was in the shape of a semi-circle with a lectern on the front and emerald chairs which resembled eggs. It was made of white wood. The walls of the hall were decorated with paintings of the Knights of the Order of Achavites, along with their Ajals, during fights with witches and other dark creatures. Zephyr sat comfortably in his beautiful chair. In his mind, he praised its craftsmanship and comfort. Suddenly, a well-known whirlwind composed of innumerable Ajals appeared in the center of the hall. After a moment, he saw a beautiful woman with emerald leaves, and a sword at her waist. . .
Robert Przybylski was born in Września in Wielkopolska in 1980. He is a zodiacal Gemini also has a twin brother and an older sister. In high school, he wrote short literary forms that were published in school newsletters. He published in the Australian magazine The Big Issue, essays plus his own photographs. A positive response from the Australian publishing house encouraged the author to continue his creative work in the field of photography as well as developing himself in the field of writing. He worked in various places and in various professions, looking for his way.
He hopes he found it. He lives in a small Warmian village in Poland. He deals with the family renovation of an old farm. He writes and photographs the nature of Warmia and Mazury, which is an invariable mystery and inspiration for him. He has beloved dogs and cats. He enjoys outdoor work and sports activities.
Honors from Winning Writers, Inc.
You can purchase The Ahava Order on Amazon.