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Valley of the Raven
cover design 2006 Kurt Ozinga.


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Valley of the Raven

YA magic realism

Ken Ramirez


Chapter Two


"You boys be careful now."

"We will, Mom."

"Ty, do you have the cell phone in case something goes wrong?"

"Yeah, I have it. Nothin' is gonna go wrong, Mom."

"You can never be too careful. If one of those bikes breakdown it's a long walk back home. God forbid one of you gets yourselves hurt."

Mrs. Dettin didn't worry much, but when it came to motorcycles she couldn't help herself. It took a lot of convincing from her three boys, and her husband, that the kids would be all right as long as they stayed to the dirt trails that were all over the surrounding mountains.

"Just stay off of the public roads."

"We will, Mom." Ty smiled at his mom. She was pretty—for a mom. Her blue eyes gave him the once over to make sure he was paying attention. "We'll be okay. We always are."

She rubbed the back of her hand across her forehead, as if trying to erase the worry lines generated by being a mother of two boys who were constantly falling out of this, getting hit by that, cutting open something, or breaking things that weren't even supposed to be breakable. She blew at her bangs, getting them out of her rubbing way.

"And don't let anything happen to your brother."

Banging his brother Seth on the top of his helmet, Ty laughed. "Gee, Mom…and here Tanner and I were going to run him off a cliff…a big, huge cliff…"

"Right onto a pile of jagged rocks!" Tanner, his riding pants hanging mid-way on his butt, chimed in on the fun.

"Don't mess with me, you two!" Mrs. Dettin's lips drew tight and her eyes flickered just a hint of flame. "You bring my baby back in one piece…and Tanner William White, you pull those pants up proper. No one is going to want to be picking gravel out of your lily-white behind if you happen to take a spill!"

"Yes, Mrs. Dettin. We'll see to it that your baby comes back in one piece."

"Mom! Do you have to be calling me 'your baby' in front of the guys? I'm twelve now! Geesh, can't you give me a break?" Seth snapped his visor down and leaned into the throttle, drowning out anything more his mom could say.

Both Tanner and Ty gave Mrs. Dettin the "Thumbs Up" before they followed Seth onto the dirt trail that led from their house into the wilderness.

* * *

Six Hills was a great place to live. The small community was originally part of the California Sierra Gold Country in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. During the gold rush years the miners cut thousands of roads all over the wilderness in search of gold and the timber it took to fuel the mining equipment. Old logging roads nearly overgrown with trees and brush had become favorite touring trails for motorcycles, bicycles, and horseback riders.

It was great fun to investigate the various trails to see where they led. Sometimes they emerged upon abandoned cabins or mine claims long forgotten. The boys often found old bottles and relics of the past that they would take into the local antique dealers and sell for a few dollars. Ty once found an old metal lock box containing some newspapers from the 1880's, brown faded pictures of old miners, and a small pouch in which four gold nuggets lay nestled for the past hundred years. The Six Hill's Museum paid him three hundred dollars for that find, setting it on display for everyone to see.

As are most spring days in the Gold Country, the weather for riding dirt bikes was perfect. A nice cool morning that would be sure to heat up as the sun rose higher in the sky.

Cedar, fir, black oak, and pine towered along the sides of the trail, spectators to the passing motorcycles, while overhead the light blue sky grew deeper and richer in the darkest of blues as it stretched toward the heavens.

A myriad of small streams tripped and bubbled over polished stones that crossed the rider's trail; the result of snow melt from the higher mountains working their way down to larger streams that would eventually join one of the many rivers in the Six Hills basin. Each time the boys cut across the small tributaries their bikes would send up a spray of the crystal clear water, each droplet refracting a rainbow of color in the morning light.

Meadows, lush with purple lupines, yellow buttercups, and golden poppies, punctuated the forest, providing havens for a wide assortment of birds and grazing deer. Occasionally, the boys will happen upon a black bear or a gray fox meandering along a meadow's edge. Seth once claimed he even saw a mountain lion watching them from a rocky perch.

Yellow shafts of early morning sunlight filtered through the branches of the trees creating spotlights along the shadowed trails—patterns of light and dark streaked across the arms and faces of the three boys as they rode their way deeper into the foothills.

Each time the boys went for a ride they took turns assuming the lead. Today it was Seth's turn. A smaller version of Ty, Seth liked to stand up on his footrest pegs as he rode, often exaggerating his leans on the turns, letting the bike lay over as much as it could without succumbing to the force of gravity. His quick turns and sudden changes in speed almost always caught Ty and Tanner off guard—which of course was the sought after result whenever Seth leads—and today was no different!

Seth leaned into the throttle, popped a wheelie on a long straight section of the trail, and then, as soon as his front tire hit the trail, he cut an immediate right onto a virtually grown-over trail he had spotted the last time they were out.

Seeing Seth with his front wheel in the air was an automatic challenge to the two older boys, who promptly responded to the call of "manhood" by lifting their own front ends into the air with an acceleration of two-stroke engine pops. Unable to react as quickly as Seth, they remained up in the air past the point where Seth had turned off.

The two bikers planted a foot on the trail and gunned the throttle, turning the bikes around.

"Ha! That little weasel!" shouted Ty over the sound of the engines. "How In the world did he ever see that trail?"

Tanner flipped up his visor and spat out a mouthful of dust mixed with saliva. "Beats me! I never noticed it before—we've only been on this trail here a couple of times as it is. I wonder where it leads?"

"Only one way to find out!"

Ty's back tire kicked up a little gravel as he twisted the throttle and turned onto the trail in pursuit of his brother. The dense vegetation along the sides and overhead of the trail whipped Ty's arms and legs. Several sharp cracks sounded as larger branches whacked his helmet as he unsuccessfully tried to dip and dodge all the obstacles in front of him.

He had learned, the hard way, the importance of wearing his leathers and helmet when riding. It wasn't long ago that he thought he could just take a quick ride near the house…no need for the protective gear—he'd thought.

Mrs. Dettin knew what she was talking about earlier when she mentioned picking gravel out of Tanner's lily-white behind. Ty had been away from the house for just a few minutes when he hit a patch of loose gravel that made him go into a slide—he had gravel in his hands, calves, and forearms—and to make matters worse, he had knocked himself out.

The doctor in the emergency room shined a flashlight in his eyes and proclaimed,

"Concussion! What we have here is swelling of the brain and a human piece of sandpaper! Now! Maybe now you're going to be a believer and do as your mama tells you, Ty—and wear your dog-gone protective gear!

"Bikers, skaters, and snowboarders, you kids are my bread and butter! I'm building a new house on your broken bones and brain damages!"

Yeah! Ty was a believer all right, and the last few loud cracks alongside of the helmet, on this blasted trail Seth picked, reconfirmed his belief system. It was hard to tell where the trail was exactly, for all the vegetation. The fact that it was mostly very tall weeds, and very small cedar trees, indicated that the trail was still beneath his wheels.

The path gave way to a small clearing where Seth sat waiting on his bike between several dilapidated wooden structures. The buildings, overgrown by vines and bushes, sat silent—staring. The open doorways looked like mouths leading into the darkness of forgotten times. A ghost town! Well, not really a town, just several shacks and what looked like an old barn.

The sound of the motorbikes ceased, leaving a sudden eerie calm.


The call of a raven made each of the boys jump as it swooped from the barn roof, gliding over the structures and disappearing beyond in the trees. The cawing sound grew fainter and fainter as the black bird drifted away.

"Way cool, Seth! How did you know about the trail?" Tanner, pulling off his gloves and unsnapping his helmet, walked over to Seth who stood alongside his bike.

Seth set his own helmet on his bike seat and scratched the top of his head.

"Last time we were here, or out back there on the main trail," he said pointing behind them, "I was following you two when this big black bird, like the one that was just here, flew between me and Ty above this trail. I just figured it would be cool to check it out."

"It's a raven," said Ty, staring at the peak of the barn roof where the bird had just flown.

"A what?" Seth asked.

"A raven! It's bigger than a crow—with a thicker beak that has a slight bend to it."

Tanner, loosening the belt around his riding pants, joined the two brothers. "How do you know so much about birds, Ty?"

Brushing away the dust and dead bugs from his cheeks, Ty winked at Tanner. "Nature shows! I learn more from nature shows than I do in Mrs. Lukken's old science class!"

"That's for sure! Yesterday in class she made us read for the entire period on the amazing world of fungi." Tanner wiggled his fingers in the air while trying to fake a look of excitement on his face.

"What's fungi?" Seth asked with a puzzled expression.

Ty pointed to some mushrooms growing off of the logs making up the walls of one of the buildings sitting in a well-shaded spot.

"That's fungi, Seth, mushrooms, molds and mildews. They decompose dead things."

"Yeah! The book said that if there weren't any fungi in our world we would be over our heads in leaves and grass trimmings—and stuff like that." Wrinkling his nose and scrunching up his face, Tanner made a look of disgust and continued, "You know that white fuzzy stuff that grows on dog poop?"

Seth nodded.

"Well that's mold too…so we'd be up over our heads in animal poop too…along with the leaves and grass trimmings and such."

"That's just wrong! So I guess fungi is a good thing," said Seth while poking at a mushroom.

"Not entirely, there are some that can kill ya quicker and slicker than snot, and there's a black mold, they call it, that gets in people's houses and offices and stuff…and it will slowly kill you. I think it makes all your hair fall out and then you bleed from every orifice."

Seth pulled his finger away from the mushroom. "What's an orifice?"

"It's a hole. Like nostrils and your mouth—you know! Holes!" Tanner, flaring his nostril and opening and closing his mouth, pointed to his open maw. "Rike iss, Sethhh."

Walking over to the closest building, a weather beaten shack made of roughly milled boards covered with a rusty tin roof, Ty stuck his head in and took a look around and then looked over his shoulder at Tanner and Seth.

"Why don't you two bring your 'holes' over here and see if we can find anything."

It took a minute for their eyes to adjust to the darkness inside the shack.

Walking over to a filthy, dust covered window, Ty used his sleeve to wipe away the grime–allowing a bit more light to flood into the room.

"Check this window out, you guys. The glass has bubbles in it and it's kind of wavy."

Seth, running his finger over the glass could feel the bumps created by the trapped bubbles.

"What's that mean? Having bubbles in the glass?"

Rubbing the side of his nose, Ty thought for a second before he spoke.

"It means that this place is really old—like over a hundred years at least. It has something to do with the way they made glass way back then." He tapped the top and bottom of the window. The resulting sounds very different from each other. "See, it's thinner at the top."

"Look at this old rusty stove." Tanner, on the darker side of the shack, reached for the only remaining burner cover of an ancient cast iron, wood-burning oven and lifted it.

"AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH!!" Something leapt out of one of the other burner openings onto Tanner's chest.

"GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!" yelled the small freckled-faced boy as he jumped around the dilapidated wooden shack with his hands raised in the air. His silver dollar sized eyes stared down at a huge grizzled colored rat clinging to his jersey. The nine-inch long rodent's beady eyes bulged back at Tanner with an equal amount of fear.


Both Seth and Ty let out whoops of their own in response to the whoops Tanner was making as they bounced up and down in place, their eyes locked on the hairy demon clinging to their friend's chest.

The rat squealed a blood curdling squeal, and Tanner, with his short arms stretched out as far away from his body as possible—keeping his hands clear of any potential needle-sharp rat teeth that he was dead certain were about to sink into his flesh at any moment—backed up to wall with a resounding thud. His abrupt slam into the frail building caused the structure to sway, releasing a shower of dust and a panicked flurry of bats from the overhead rafters.

After several seconds of pure pandemonium, Ty finally ran over and swatted the beast from Tanner's chest. The harried rat, landing on the floor with a fleshy splat, sat up on it's hind legs and squeaked irritably before it scurried across the room to the safety of the open door, disappearing into the woods beyond the shack.

Seth, bursting into a fit of laughter, pointed at Tanner. "Man, that was the funniest thing I ever saw. You should have seen the look on your face… and the way you were jumping all over the place."

"Shut-up, Seth! You'd have been screaming too if you had some rabid beast trying to bite you in the juggler vein!" Tanner shot back.

"He wasn't trying to bite you, Tanner. Poor thing was more scared than you were," laughed Ty.

"Oh, sure, Ty, stick up for the rodent!" Tanner shivered one last time as he spoke. "Come on, let's get back to lookin' around. Did you bring the flashlights with you, Seth?"

"Yeah. They're back on my bike, I'll go get them," he chuckled, "I suppose you want to light up any orifice you come across before you start pokin' around in it."

"Just get the flashlights before I start poking you," snarled Tanner.





Author Bio

Ken Ramirez is a twenty-three-year resident of Nevada City, California, a Victorian mining community nestled in the majestic Sierra foothills. Ken is a high school science teacher and Alpine ski coach. He is also the author of the popular YA fantasy series, The Naida's Quest Trilogy.

TTB title: Valley of the Raven




Valley of the Raven Copyright © 2006. Ken Ramirez. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.


Format: PDF, HTML, Palm, Print
    Payment Method
PayPal -or- Credit Card -or- Fictionwise
List Price: $5.50 USD

Format: Trade Paperback
    Available now at
Amazon;;  Barnes & Noble  Borders;  Bookstores
List Price: $18.95 trade paperback


  Author News

Valley of the Raven by Ken Ramirez has been accorded the LiFE Award: Literature For Environment.



"Mr. Ramirez incorporates surprising, yet believable twists in his characters, all the while subtly sharing life lessons about responsibility, stewardship of the land, respect for people of all nationalities, and following one’s destiny.

"I highly recommend Valley of the Raven to readers of all ages. It will quench a deep universal thirst for adventure and heroism."
Reviewed by Aaron Lazar, author of Tremolo: cry of the loon.




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