Welcome to the Valley, a liminal landscape that lies somewhere in the fringes of the world; a place with such secret magic that only the very observant can see it. Into this world comes the Lone family. To them, the magic of the Valley is not at first apparent, at least not to all. But the youngest son Lucifer is the most open to the river’s pulse. He converses with the trees and an angel named Azrael, all the while being taught by the midwife Mother True to hone his talents. Meanwhile, Lucifer’s older brother Uriel rejects the valley altogether and, with the help of his lover—a raft boy named Roman—flees the place only to be caught up in the corrupt big city world of a madame named Ute Dragal.
And so begins a tale of wonder and danger, filled with a cast of characters ranging from the strong to the stoic to the sinister, in a place where a dark power awaits them all. Venture again to the Valley in this prequel to Eric Arvin’s acclaimed epic The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men.
Lucifer woke to the daylight in a depression of soft earth, sided at every angle by swollen, moss-grown roots from the surrounding trees. The roots tangled in a ballet of need, of sustenance and assurance. They made a natural bed for the young boy and, he thought, quite a comfortable one.
Lucifer lay still for a while, listening to the birds in the limbs, feeling a presence of soul, feeling at once loved and comforted by the breezes and guarded over and shaded by the mighty arbors themselves. He didn’t remember falling asleep in the bed of roots, but then, one never remembers the precise moment that sleep sets in and the soul begins to wander. He recognized where he was, though. He knew the place well. It was the dense woods by the river, the orchard as some mistakenly called it, ever the watchful opponent to Lone Place. It was too copious a forest, and the trees too tall and round to be any kind of useful or profitable orchard. There might have been fruit trees there at one time, but no more. These were stalwart trees, only a few having any kind of affectation or ornamental guise such as flowers, and most of those were on the outer orchard fringes that opposed the big house. The trees of the orchard stretched downriver, though none could say how far. Certainly Lucifer had never been able to exact their acreage and he had played in them, walked in them, whispered with them, for all his young, curious life.
The little boy rose to his feet and stretched with a contented morning’s welcome sigh. He looked around him with boyish uncertainty. He had been walking the orchard forever, it seemed, yet he didn’t look to be making any progress in any particular direction. He tried to remember why he was in the orchard at all.
“I’m not much of a runaway, huh?” he questioned the trees around him. “I cain’t even find the way out of my own front yard.”
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