Suddenly the terrain changed, and Golden felt herself descending. Cautiously, she made her way down into the valley. The hot sun beat down on her, and she fanned herself with her hand.
Everywhere she looked, there were hills upon hills of layered earth with alternating layers of black coal, red clay, and dirt that appeared white with fossils from prehistoric times. In some places, the layered hills formed long ridges that spread out for miles. In other spots, the layers formed an isolated hill, ranging in size from a small mound to a massive elevated plateau. The rest of the valley surrounding these majestic formations alternated between grassy expanses and shallow sandy and/or rocky patches, often intersected by meandering streams.
- Excerpt from Dagger of Urachadh: Attack from the Underworld, p. 31.
One of the most amazing places we visited was the Valley of 1000 Devils in the East Block of Grasslands National Park [1,2]. The badlands landscape is absolutely amazing. There is also a parkway that visitors can drive right around the badlands and stop any of the many pull-offs to enjoy the view and have a picnic lunch . I never realized that we had such breathtaking places to visit in Saskatchewan until I started writing my book. The pivotal scene in the beginning of my book when Golden is rescued by Button occurs in the Valley of 1000 Devils and this sets the stage for the beginning of their beautiful friendship and many adventures.
Karen E. Mosier
1. Jenn Smith Nelson and Doug O’Neill. 2019. Big Muddy Badlands and Castle Butte. Grasslands National Park. P. 120-122. Firefly Books.
2. Robin and Arlene Karpan. 2017. The Great Saskatchewan BUCKET LIST. The Baddest of Them All Killdeer Badlands. P. 32-25. Parkland Publishing.
3. Parks Canada. Grasslands National Park. Valley of 1000 Devils Route. https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/sk/grasslands/activ/experiences/randonee-hiking/arriere-pays-backcountry/dvls
4. Parks Canada. Grasslands National Park. Badlands Parkway – East Block. https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/sk/grasslands/activ/experiences/badlands
Golden struggled to stand up, dripping and coated in mud and sand.
A strange voice behind her boomed, “Ye are lucky that I came by this way. Why did ye come out to this desolate valley all by yourself, unarmed, and without food, drink, or a cloak? Are ye mad? Do ye have a death wish?
Reaching a safe distance several yards away from the quicksand, Golden collapsed on the ground, shaking uncontrollably and breathing heavily.
She looked in the direction of the voice. She saw a man—no, it was a boy, about eleven years of age, her age. The stranger was tall, broad-shouldered, muscular, and deeply tanned, most likely from working long hours in the sun. He looked bigger than most boys his age and more confident, too. His appearance was pleasant, with long, medium-brown hair tied back in a ponytail, green eyes with brown flecks in them, a small button nose, long, thin lips, and a round chin. He wore a beige tunic, with a brown woven belt, a long, black cloak, and a roughly made pair of leather sandals. On his right bicep, she could see a marking, like a tattoo, with an outline of the hills on it. Over his right shoulder, he carried a leather wineskin and a leather bag. On the right side of his belt was a sheath holding a small dagger. Golden guessed that meant he must be left-handed. Golden gaped at him.
Excerpt from Dagger of Urachadh: Attack from the Underworld, p. 34.
I will never forget my first day in school in a new town without any friends. It was August 29, 1971. At the end of the day, a blonde girl came up to me in the coat room. She said that she liked my red hair and she wanted to know if I would be her best friend. I thought that would be a great idea so I nodded my head. Bertha Moorman (nee Balman) has been my best friend ever since.
Bertha was her Dad’s right hand man. Clarence Balman was the town’s maintenance worker. He didn’t have a son until later in his life so Bertha stepped into help. She blew the typical stereotype - that girls are weaker than boys and they are just supposed to play with dolls and learn how to cook to get married some day - right out of the water. There wasn’t anything that she couldn’t do. She helped her Dad lift heavy cans of garbage, shoveled gravel and asphalt to fix the potholes and helped scrapped the ice at the hockey rink in between periods to name a few things. She was physically strong like a man, but she had all the essential qualities that made her a woman to be reckoned with and I was so proud of her. She never lost her confidence and strong work ethic. She has had a successful career in the insurance industry for the last 36 years and is still go strong in this position. The character Button is based on her life.
Bertha has been such a good friend to me over the years. She has been such a strong female role model in my life. I am so blessed to have her in my life and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. She is my best friend forever!
Karen E. Mosier
Golden walked the afternoon away. It was time to look for a good place to make camp for the night. In the distance, a large object loomed. As she got closer, she saw it was a butte, roughly shaped like a castle, a massive, towering structure of sandstone and clay that seemed to rise out of the ground from nowhere. It had a flattened top. As she got closer, she saw that the eroded slopes teemed with plants. Wildflowers were everywhere. As she walked around the massive butte, she could see that it was pockmarked with many small caves.
“This is spectacular!” Golden shouted out loud.
She decided to make camp at the base of this enormous structure. In no time, she had gathered some firewood and cleared a spot to spend the night. Wearily, she rested by the flickering fire. She nibbled on another biscuit, trying to make it last, then washed it down with more tea.
Golden watched the sun set. Its light enveloped the butte behind her, giving it a rich, reddishcopper hue. The warmth of its glow seemed to strengthen and permeate her soul. Golden took it as a good omen.
- Excerpt from Dagger of Urachadh: Attack from the Underworld, p. 167.
One of the funnest things about writing this book was driving around Saskatchewan and actually visiting all the exciting places highlighted in my story line. One such place was Castle Butte. It looked deceivingly small until we got up close and only then could you tell how massive this rock formation is. Standing in front of it, my partner Dean looked very small in comparison. This amazing sight was definitely worth the drive to see it!
Karen E. Mosier
1. Robin and Arlene Karpan. 2017. The Great Saskatchewan BUCKET LIST. Seeing Red Castle Butte Sunrise. P. 36-39. Parkland Publishing.
2. Robin and Arlene Karpan. 2018. Saskatchewan’s Best Scenic Drives. Castle Quest: Willow Bunch to the Big Muddy Badlands. P. 40-44. Parkland Publishing.
3. Jenn Smith Nelson and Doug O’Neill. 2019. Big Muddy Badlands and Castle Butte. P. 104-105. Firefly Books.
Then he spoke. “Your tale is almost unbelievable, but I feel compelled to help ye. I have no answers for your questions, but I think I know someone who might. We have to find the Ancient Wizard.”
Golden felt a surge of hope. “Who is the Ancient Wizard?”
“His name is Alasdair, and he dwells in the Darach realm. He is spry for an old fellow. The people say he is known to walk ten miles in a day without effort. Legend has it he is more than seven hundred and fifty years old.”
“The Great Wizard wanders throughout the land, but sometimes he is a bit absent-minded,” Button continued. “Some people think the reason he has lived so long is that he accidentally stumbled across the fountain of youth in his travels. No one knows for sure if he has a permanent dwelling or not. At least, no one had seen it.”
“What does he look like?” Golden asked, intrigued.
“I have only seen the Ancient Wizard a couple of times. He never changes. He is tall and slim and appears youthful. Rather than the grey hair you would expect in someone so aged, he has red hair down to his shoulders and a long red moustache and beard. He typically wears a dark-green tunic, a green hooded cloak, and soft brown leather boots. He always carries a tall walking staff. It is carved out of a single piece of oak and stained to a dark walnut colour, and has a large oval amethyst set into the tip.”
Excerpt from Dagger of Urachadh: Attack from the Underworld, p. 83-85.
Many years ago, I was asked at a job interview “Who has inspired you in your life and why?” The person that immediately came to my mind was my Great Uncle Leon Mosier. He worked hard all his life. An avid conversationalist and storyteller, he was friendly and kind to everyone that he met no matter what their nationality. Uncle Leon had done it all from working on the farm to selling cars to fixing tractors to driving the canteen truck in World War II. He was an amazing man. Many times I visited him and he always said that if I worked hard I would have something someday. He was immensely proud of me when years later I graduated, got a job working at the university, and got myself financially back on my feet again.
He died on November 22, 2020. He was a special great uncle to me. We both had the same birthday so this made me feel like we had a special bond. I still miss him, but every year on my birthday I remember him and his words of encouragement that spurred me on to success.
Karen E. Mosier
Golden had been trudging hour after hour up and down the steep grassy terrain, walking around ponds or small streams as need be. The sun was high in the sky. “I have walked the morning away,” she said out loud, and sighed wearily.
She topped a rise and suddenly saw in the distance a massive mountain range. A steep peak towered over the landscape near the end of the range. It gave her a goal. I’ll climb to the top to see if I can spot a road or farmhouse and find someone to help me! she thought.
It was a steep climb. It took her a long time to make it to the top. As she caught her breath, she looked at the beautiful panoramic view around her. She could see for miles.
The stone beneath her feet looked like limestone. She was standing on one of a series of ridges and peaks. Peeking over the edge, she saw spectacular cliffs and breathtaking peaks and a river meandering slowly through a lush green valley. Across the way, parallel with her mountaintop perch, rose another set of darker rock formations, lower and light grey in colour. A soaring falcon cried out overhead as it left its nest high up in the crevice of a boulder.
- Excerpt from Dagger of Urachadh: Attack from the Underworld, p. 16-17.
When I first started writing my book I had no idea of all the interesting places to visit in Saskatchewan. One such place is Jones Peak near Ravenscrag. It is an impressive site that resembles the badlands with colourful layers of sediment exposed in places. Specifically, “The highest point along Ravencrag road is Jones Peak” . You get an amazing view of the Frenchman river. The steep climb is definitely worth the effort! The moment that I saw all the spectacular beauty surrounding me, I knew I would have to feature Jones Peak in my book.
Karen E. Mosier
1. Robin and Arlene Karpan. 2017. The Great Saskatchewan BUCKET LIST. Guardian of the Whitemud Jones Peak. P. 21-23. Parkland Publishing.