2016 Reissue Cover

Alsa is a young woman with a problem: her home town is about to be attacked by a coalition of unfriendly neighbors. The seeds of the solution lie within her, she believes, in the form of an untutored talent for wizardry. But she needs to learn how to use the talent, so she goes to the local wizard, who (of course) lives in a castle high on the side of a mountain, accessible only by a bridge that appears to be made solely of light, and guarded by a dragon.

She crosses the bridge with trepidation but survives, only to encounter the guard dragon, a creature that turns out to be not at all what she expects. But then Alsa finds that a lot of things on the wizard's mountain are not as she anticipates, including the wizard himself. The bargain she has to make with him for the lessons is a shock to her, and the training itself bears no resemblence to what she anticipated. Alsa has a lot of adapting to do and not much time for it.

It will take every bit of her intelligence, courage and compassion to master the magic, her home's enemies, the dragon and the wizard himself.

"The rainbow bridge is one you cross in faith, believing that there is substance beneath the glitter to hold you up and carry you across the chasm."
-- Wizard Korlen














Wizard's Bridge

ImaJinn Books
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0975965306; Formats: ebook, trade paperback
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The creature surged into view from behind the stone walls of the castle. Its long neck wove a graceful curve as it reared up, while sunlight glinted off its scales. Alsa ducked behind a nearby stone, then poked up her head to stare at it in frank admiration, despite the inadequacy of her cover, and with full knowledge that the dragon would likely char her on the spot.

It must have extraordinary hearing to detect her approach from such a distance. She'd tried to keep her movements quiet and thought she'd succeeded. Wrong.

"Little human!"

The dragon's harsh, grinding voice boiled like a volcano. Its giant eyes trained on her. Gleams of colored light whirled in the depths of slitted pupils.

Its sudden laugh had both the crack and rumble of thunder. "Little human, what do you here?" it asked. "We have visitors so rarely."

Alsa risked poking her head out from behind the rock again. "I'm not surprised. Your hospitality is legendary."

The blast that followed was probably the dragon equivalent of a chuckle. "Did you come to look at me? Your people seem to enjoy the challenge. I hear that in the town they say it's good luck to have looked on the dragon and lived. Since few do survive, I suppose it can be rightly said they are lucky."

"I've come to consult with your master."

"Master?" A puff of steam billowed from outraged nostrils stretched wide open.

"Perhaps I phrased that badly. I wish to talk to the wizard. Would you grant your permission?"

The mountain shook as the dragon bellowed its amusement. "Of course not. But thank you for asking."

"Even if-"

"I haven't had a good laugh for some time," the dragon went on, ignoring her incipient plea. "Perhaps I'll let you get as far as the castle door, if you care to make the attempt. Perhaps. Have you the courage to risk it, little mortal?"

Alsa abandoned the dubious protection of the stone, stood up and moved into an open area. "Yes."

"Then walk. You've had no trouble finding the path so far."

"It's well enough marked."

"The wizard may not like commerce with your people, but he still has need of food and supplies."

"You'll let me go on?"

"I said 'perhaps.' Take your chances."

"I will then." Alsa said it with more confidence than she felt, hoping dragons weren't as good at reading human emotions as they were at hearing human footsteps. She began to walk up the path toward the castle. And the dragon.

"I like the ones with spirit the best." The dragon, it appeared, was in a chatty mood. "There haven't been many over the years. Plenty come to look, but mostly they turn and run the other way when they see me. Or sometimes when I loose the first blast of flame."

The dragon reared back and made a sound like a giant sneeze. A sheet of fire poured from its mouth. The flame singed grass and trees directly behind her. Alsa kept moving, trying to ignore it, though the stench--a combination of sulfur and burning wood--made her gag, and the heat warmed her cloak more than felt quite safe.

"What did those poor trees ever do to you?" she asked.

The dragon nodded its head to one side, the dragon equivalent of a shrug, she supposed. "The woods need to be cleared out periodically. Encourages new growth. You're braver than most. That sent the last three who dared the path running for cover."

"Have you lived here long?" Perhaps if she kept the dragon talking, he'd forget about frying her.

"What is long? A hundred or so cycles of seasons. I confess the last few cycles have begun to feel rather meaningless. I mean, we're born, we grow up, we flame a few people, consort with a wizard or two, and we die. What's the point of it all?"

"You're making me cry. Perhaps if you tried planting trees rather than blasting them, you might find a clue."

"Do you think so? I've never been much for gardening. I tend to trample things."

"Your size. I suppose that does make it difficult."

"Extremely. So, tell me why you're so eager to see the wizard."

"I have a deal to offer him."

"Oh, ho! Perhaps I will let you get there. The last person who wanted to make a deal still has a nest in a corner of the chimney." He paused and one eye half-closed. "Unless that was the one caught in the trap in the pantry last week. Oh well."

Alsa refused to consider the implied threat. "I think I can offer something he wants."

"And how would you know what a great wizard wants?"

"I've heard enough talk."

"In your puny town. What do they know about a powerful wizard?"

"There are a few who've had... rather close contact with him."

Apparently the dragon knew what she referred to. It grew quiet for a moment, then loosed another hot, foul-smelling blast of fiery gas that cleared a new path through the trees, passing no more than three feet from where she walked.

Alsa didn't stop, didn't even pause in the process of picking her way around rocks in the path. "You've really got to do something about that breath problem," she muttered, low, though, since she didn't see any use in offending the creature.

For the last hundred yards or so, the path rose steeply to the castle door. Rocks littered the way in such abundance, it became more a stone staircase than path, except they tended to roll out from underfoot or wobble when stepped on, making for chancy purchase. Alsa fell once, scraping a knee, but got up and continued, taking more care with her steps. She had no more attention to spare for banter with the dragon.

When she reached an immense wooden door, she stopped and looked up. The dragon still watched her. Its huge head and neck were off slightly to her left and almost directly above, so she had to lean well back to see it. "Thanks for lighting the way for me," she offered.

Steam hissed from its nostrils and its body rocked a little. A strange gurgling noise-another chuckle-issued from its throat before it responded: "The pleasure was all mine, I'm sure. Best of luck, little human. You'll need it."

The dragon gathered itself, flapped enormous wings and launched itself into the sky. The backwash of air almost knocked her down the hill again. Alsa had to grab a nearby sapling and cling to it until the whirlwind passed and the sinewy, gleaming body of the dragon disappeared somewhere behind the castle.

Eppie 2000 Winner
Fantasy Category

Prism 2000 2nd Place


"Ms. McCullough creates a wonderful fantasy world full of imagery and original ideas. I only wish there had been more time to develop this wonderful story – there were things I wanted to know more about! I was particularly enraptured with the idea of “feeling” the carrot. Never a more humorously serious lesson have I seen given than that! Well done! I will be keeping an eye on Ms. McCullough for new books, for she has a truly astounding way of writing and wrapping reality into her work to give it a new spin!"
-- Cimorene for Enchanting Reviews

"This compelling fairy-tale is a thoroughly entertaining read. Don't miss THE RAINBOW BRIDGE."
-- Jane Toombs, Scribe's World

"Karen McCullough has penned a charming tale filled with exquisite characters and a spell-binding setting. Querellin's dragon is a welcome bit of comedic relief and the trials and tribulations of the main characters is heartwarming. THE RAINBOW BRIDGE is an enchanting read."
-- Jennifer MacBride, CompuServe Romance Reviews

"This is a heart-satisfying book, with an appealing heroine, a majestically wounded hero, a charming dragon, and a happy ending that will send you digging for the tissue box."
-- Katriena Knights, Escape to Romance

"Love, longing, and grief form patterns that shift throughout the tale as the Rainbow Bridge shifts under the feet of those who dare to cross it. I might even wax whimsical and say that this story has its head in the clouds and its feet on the ground. From the first breath-taking moments until the last exquisite sentence in which the most important rule of wizardry is revealed, THE RAINBOW BRIDGE is a familiar, strange, glorious, memorable experience."
-- Ilene Sirocca, The Running River Reader™


"..shows insight and depth in the depictions of the psychological aftermath of great trauma. Death is not easy, and guilt is a fiercer enemy than any invader. Only the power of love can turn one's focus from a destructive, backward-obsessing gaze to a hopeful vision of a better future. All in all, THE RAINBOW BRIDGE was a light and enjoyable read."
-- Jennifer Dunne, Science Fiction Romance Magazine