Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Wishteria

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the wisteria covered arbors, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


TWILIGHT PEEKED through the woody vines that dipped and climbed the terrace arbor, caressing clusters of violet blooms that dripped honey into the humid air.

I closed my eyes and filled my lungs with the sweet scents of spring. A brazen breeze snatched at my wild copper curls, entangling them amongst the sticky fingers trailing from the trellis.

“Need some help with that?” a familiar voice chuckled behind me.

Apparently I did. The curious creepers continued to wind through my hair, making their way around my shoulders to wrap around my arms. “What are they…doing?” I giggled, slapping at a tendril that tickled my ear.

“Trying to steal you away,” Seok whispered, his fingers grazing the tender flesh of my neck as he worked to free me. Every brush of his hand sent my heart spiraling. “They must like you, Anise. I’ve never seen them quite so…animated.”

The wile wisteria snaked away from Seok’s reach, ensnaring me tighter in an effort to pull me from his grip.

“Whoa!” I screeched, as the vines swiftly swung me off the ground. The lavender ceiling parted seconds before the powerful plant lifted me through the top of the arbor.

“Hold on!” I heard Seok shout moments before his footsteps pounded away.

The sneaky thief loosened its hold, gently dropping me on top of the trellis. My frustration was swallowed by the stunning view. The fading light was brushed with radiant red and glistening gold that slipped silently into the horizon.

A panting Seok leaned over the South Terrace wall above me. “Are you hurt?” he asked in alarm, his chiseled features blurring into the shadows.

“No. I’m…fine,” I stood, gingerly, testing my weight on the planks.

“Reach for my hand. I’ll pull you up,” Seok urged.

I couldn’t see a foot in front of me, much less find his hand. “It’s too dark,” I sighed, stumbling over a gap in the latticework. “I wish I could see where I’m going, before I break my neck,” I muttered under my breath.

The blanket of blossoms surrounding me began to glow. A wave of violet light washed across the entire arbor like a thousand fireflies. I picked my way through the pulsing plants, marveling at their luminous beauty.

I looked up to find Seok grinning. “That’s why they call it Wishteria,” he reasoned, basking in this newfound knowledge. “Now would be a good time to wish yourself down.”

© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary



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Spirit of the Blue Swallow

Feather Ball created by Visionary Glass Arts

In honor of my dear friend, Michelle Wallace of Writer-in-Transit, I’ve created a special tribute to the spirit of Ubuntu–a humanist ideal hailing from South Africa which, roughly translated, means “human kindness”, a beautiful idea embodying the essence of connection, community, and mutual compassion.

We live in a more interconnected world. Each of us is capable of using our skills and gifts for the greater good of humanity.

I invite you to discover the many amazing tributes of my fellow writers listed here.

Joining me in this collaborative journey is German artist, MikroMatique, also known as the brilliant cinematic composer, Sandro Schmidt, whose breathtaking music is beyond inspiring.

Featured inspirational track ▶ Tears of Angels


The sky is ablaze with angry red streaks that claw their way across the horizon, casting the solitary structure and the surrounding bones of Baobab trees in shadows that shift with the sleeping sun.

Our salvation hovers in the space between solid and specter.

The metal rhino screeches to a halt, its armored plates slipping and sliding along the massive body. Steam rises from its snout, curling up a pair of formidable horns to collide with clouds of chalk that coat the glass.  The automaton driver snaps open the steel jaws of the carriage, jolting me from the velvet seat.

My trembling grip on Chipo’s fingers tighten, his small hand steady and sure, ignorant of the peril awaiting him. I couldn’t bear to tell him. He followed me blindly, never questioning the frantic actions dragging us halfway across the thirsty grasslands. I’ve enough fear for the both of us.

Crisp air creeps under my threadbare coat, nipping at skin laced with sweat. I pull at the leather straps near my brother’s neck, willing the fading warmth to wrap around his frail frame. He tilts his head and smiles up at me, his eyes, one a glowing amber, the other a vibrant blue, reflect an unfailing trust.

He was an unexpected gift, one we guarded fiercely for seven years. He was safe, until the day our baba and mai were killed. We were sent across the valley to my father’s brother, whose drive to drink drove his debt beyond the reach of two extra mouths. Within a week, our guardian gloated over the generous roora offered for my hand by a powerful clan near the Zambezi river.

My brother was to be sold into a life of servitude stretching far across the valley towards the east mountains–his fate left to the cruel devices of a society that will deem him damaged by the strange silence and ceaseless calm that surrounds him. They will poke and prod and pierce until his secret spills from his blood.

There is no hope for an imperfect boy in a perfect world.

So we stole away in the steel cage of the General’s son, chasing the breath of a chance to a place steeped in magic and mystery.

I edge closer to the timber and iron door, the promise of heat seeping from beneath. The slice of light grows wider with unseen hands, tendrils of sweetly-scented smoke beckoning us forward. A massive fire roars in the center of the spherical room, its flames glinting off iron rivers that run along a network of intricate symbols carved into the rough serpentine walls.

I call out into the cavernous room, my voice swallowed by a sea of glass chimes. Chipo tugs at my sleeve, his chin tilting towards the sky, eyes wide with wonder.

My gaze is drawn to the vaulted timber ceiling where hundreds of clear orbs wink in the firelight. They float above us in all manner of shapes and sizes, their centers swimming with soft, spirited colors.

“What is this place?” I ask, more to myself.

“The place where dreams are born,” a deep voice answers.

I snap my head forward to find a woman standing near the fire pit, swathed in sheer emerald robes embroidered with glowing gold that reflects the warmth of her crinkled eyes. Her ebony skin is crisscrossed with the lines of a long life.

“Where dreams are protected,” another figure appears, taking the shape of a beautiful woman near the age of our mother, her flawless features resembling sculpted Shona stone. The shimmering scarlet of her dress flickers as if made of fire.

“Where dreams take flight,” a young girl whispers from the shadows, materializing near the growing flames. The light dances on rounded caramel cheeks dusted with freckles and glints off a gossamer gown that swirls about her ankles in vivid shades of liquid indigo.

I pull Chipo behind me and back up slowly towards the door.

“No need to fear us. We mean you no harm,” the older woman offers. “Quite the opposite, in fact. I am Rutendo,  the guardian of Faith. “ She gestures towards the motherly figure. “This is Rudo, guardian of Love.”

The young ethereal girl steps forward. “And I’m Tariro, keeper of—”

“Hope,” I mumble, my mind trying to wrap around an astonishing truth . “The legends are true.” Chipo ducks under my arm to stand beside me.

“There’s a grain of truth in many myths, Mudiwa,” Rutendo smiles warmly.

“How–how do you know me?”

“We know all our children, beloved.” Rudo glances upward, sweeping her open palm towards the glittering glass.

“What are they?” I ask, following her gaze.

“They’re the hopes and dreams of every living child,” Tariro breathes reverently.

“Each feather represents the spirit behind the dream,” Rutendo says affectionately.

“Some are collective hopes—their spirits joined together to achieve a common dream,” Rudo adds, plucking a rounded ball from the air. Four multicolored feathers swirled within its crystal walls.

Like the hopes of a family, I think to myself. The broken dreams of my parents dig into the fresh wounds of their loss. I can’t do this alone. I can’t save Chipo without them.

“What troubles you so, child?” Rudo asks gently.

“My brother. He’s…a natural born. Unmodified. Unaltered,” I bite back the anxiety of long buried secrets. “My parents never reported him, or his…imperfections. Interactions with others is difficult for him. He rarely speaks…even to me. But he can sense things no one else can. See and hear beyond our capabilities, even with our genetically perfected pedigree,” I snort. “He has a gift. But our society wouldn’t take the time to understand it. Without our protection, he’ll be labeled an outcast…or worse.”

I glance at my brother, balancing precariously on a wooden stool to graze the glinting glass balls with his fingertips. A laugh escapes his lips that’s more magical a sound than the enchanting chimes falling around us.

“Other hopes belong to a single spirit, and it is up to them alone, to see it fly.” Tariro cradles a long, translucent orb in her cupped hands. Inside floats a solitary feather painted a lustrous, metallic blue. “This is a feather of the Blue Swallow—a rare and magical bird wiped from the skies over a century ago. They were the closest creatures to the divine. The swiftest flyers of the land, soaring into the sky above all others, delivering messages to the Great Spirit. They are a guide to those who are conscious dreamers, capable of greatness,” she glances lovingly at Chipo, “however misunderstood.”

Chipo hops down from the stool and walks over to Tariro, cocking his head at the fragile feather in her grasp. He brushes the glass with his fingers, a strange, knowing smile lifting his lips.

Tariro places the Blue Swallow feather into his hand. “It belongs to an extraordinary spirit. One just as rare, just as magical, who swims in the tears of angels and whispers in the ear of the divine.”

Chipo walks over to face me, the gleaming swallow feather held between us. He tilts his head and brushes away the salty rivulets running down my face. “Don’t worry, Mudiwa. I can do it,” he whispers, “I can fly.”

He opens up his palm and smiles as his hopes and dreams float back to the sky in a cascade of chimes and a child’s laughter.

© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary