This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The Dragon and the Dove
The Dragon and the Dove
Written By: C. Jones
Book Editor: Asa McCormick
AuthorHouse™ 1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403 www.authorhouse.com Phone: 1-800-839-8640
© 2013 by C. Jones. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.
Published by AuthorHouse 04/03/2013 ISBN: 978-1-4817-3103-4 (sc) ISBN: 978-1-4817-3102-7 (e)
Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only. Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock. This book is printed on acid-free paper. Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.
To my Mom, Nancy Strategier for believing. To Makena Jones, The reason I was napping. To my loving husband and family for their strength and support through this new endeavor.
Scraping the ground, the bucket shoved the limb gingerly towards the mountain of bodies. The first of the line started dropping into the ten-foot hole straight to the bottom. Jack was relieved his backhoe was so loud. The thought of hearing all those bodies hitting the bottom or hitting each other made his stomach lurch. Jack felt a wave of nausea as he stopped the backhoe and jumped to the ground. He made it about four feet when he bent over and vomited. With his stomach empty he sat on the ground and put his head in his hands. Ryan walked over to Jack with a cup of water and slapped him on the shoulder. “You alright, man?” Ryan asked quietly. “Now I am. There are just so many of them. I can’t believe this. I can’t believe what we are doing. This is insane.” Jack said sorrowfully. He got up off of the ground and walked over to the backhoe, silently climbed aboard and continued on into the night. Ryan and Jack worked in shifts taking time to sleep, or try to sleep. The forest was quiet, a few rustlings could be heard, but it seemed like the animals and night life were all in hiding. Jack and Ryan felt very alone in their work and in their world. Morning found Ryan on backhoe duty and Jack waking up after a restless two hour nap. Ryan finished filling the grave site and walked over to Jack. “You know, there are more bodies about 200 yards in both directions. I don’t know if we have enough fuel to keep doing this,” Ryan said with concern.
“Yeah, you’re right.” Jack said, stretching to view both directions, “let’s get in the truck and drive a ways to see exactly what our situation is, because so far we’ve only surveyed this area, but who knows, maybe this is an isolated incident. A weird one, but I mean we don’t know for sure.” Ryan gladly jumped in the truck, happy to be changing activities. Jack grabbed the water jug and his hat and climbed into the driver’s seat. The truck started right up, reminding Jack of his fuel supplies in the stock cellar at home. Jack pulled out onto the scorched soil with caution. The truck handled just fine so Jack accelerated slowly. They were just right outside of the rich green tree line of the forest. On one side of them was their forest home and on the other side was desolate, black, burnt ground as far as the eye could see. Sure enough, in front of them was another group of bodies lining the ground like a border between two very different worlds. Jack kept driving trying not to look at the horror outside the truck. Ryan was looking hard out his window to try to find any sign of life in the scorched mounds, but so far found nothing. They drove in silence, their own minds wondering, searching for possibilities, some explanation for the devastation around them. In contrast, their forest was looking incredibly alive and healthy. Maybe because of all the death the forest was more inviting than usual. Jack spoke unexpectedly, “This is the same scene for miles. We’ve gone what, eight or ten miles? Should we keep going?” “Well, it’s looking like we’re making a slow arc. Let’s keep going because we should come to Rayburn Rd. soon, then I guess . . . I don’t know . . . something’s got to give here. Unless everything outside of the woods is gone we should see something eventually. Right?” Ryan replied with a questioning look.
2 | C. Jones
They drove on, waiting for something, anything. An hour later Ryan spoke, “Hey, you know, we’re making a big circle. I’d say we are about, what? A twenty mile radius from the house, judging where these forest roads are marked. Cause, Rayburn Rd. comes out about ten miles from the house and Forest Road 252 comes out about twenty-five miles from the house. Yeah! We’ve made almost a complete circle!” “Holy shit! Ryan, have you noticed, the bodies are in clumps coming in from the direction of the closest towns?” “If that’s the case, then it looks like our patch of forest is all that exists for hundreds of miles. That’s impossible!” Ryan declared. The two men looked at each other in utter shock. They drove quietly for about ten minutes until Jack broke the silence. “We’ve got to get back to the house. I didn’t realize how late it was. Cherie must be worried sick. I told her we’d be back for breakfast and it’s almost 4:30.” Looking at his watch Jack glanced at Ryan waiting for a response. “Well, there’re too many bodies to bury them all, so we might as well go home for the night and go get the gear in the morning, then we can at least cover the graves with soil. I would feel okay with that since we can’t bury them all.” Jack nodded in agreement. They knew all the roads so well they hurried home as the sun started to settle in the evening sky. Their bellies were rumbling by the time they pulled into the driveway. The headlights gleamed through the windows on the house. The lights inside were dim and warm. Instantly the aroma of grilled pork chops, roasted potatoes and roasted tomatoes topped with blue cheese dressing enveloped the two weary men. Jack and Ryan melted into the blanket of comfort and for a moment forgot about their day. Cherie’s cooking was incredible, one of Jacks favorite things. The men walked through the entry, took off their boots and
The Dragon and The Dove | 3
“You okay?” Then she looked over at Ryan. we’d be down too. “If it wasn’t for the solar power we put on the house. Nicole and Jared were tucked soundly into their beds and Rogue settled under the table at the feet of the three uncertain adults. “I’ll get you fresh towels. I’ll take the upstairs. Rogue was the first for the new attention.” she said. Cherie had opened two bottles of wine.” “Yeah. I have those generators in the stock cellar. Jones . Other than small talk and listening to the twins ramble on about their day. you can take the downstairs. She could tell Jack had a lot on his mind. “Have you checked the Internet?” Ryan looked at Cherie. For awhile they drank their wine in silence just being with their thoughts. “Dinner is almost on the table. “Yes.proceeded in for their greeting. “You both look exhausted. When she realized everything was okay she said. knowing full well they would need a third before the three of them would call it a night. You must be starving. you have time for showers if you want.” With concern she approached Jack and touched his cheek. Ryan. The table was cleared. Nothing. Cherie and the kids were waiting for them at the table when they came in refreshed. I’m sure we’ll 4 | C.” He kissed Cherie and they walked off. let’s hit the showers. Cherie stepped around the corner from the kitchen with a worried look on her face. Jack and Ryan focused on their meal and were pretty quiet. “Well. so I think we will be fine until this situation is fixed.” Cherie looked at Jack.” Cherie called after them.
“I’m tired. Ryan went out to the guest house as Jack and Cherie climbed the stairs.hear from someone out there soon.” Jack’s eyes could barely stay open. The only soul stirring was right outside the tree line taking deep. Their eyes were closed as soon as their heads hit the pillows. I’m ready. silent breaths. The three sat in silence for quite awhile.” Jack was not reassured by his words. Waving good night. That wine has me relaxed. neither was Cherie or Ryan. The forest was still. The Dragon and The Dove | 5 .
Jack gave Ryan a disgruntled look. the works. coffee. “Hey. crazy mixed up dreams that go unremembered and the aroma of bacon. four year old voice. sit and let me get you some coffee. and started eating with gusto. “Wow.” Jared flapped his paper cut out wing around in the air. muffins.” Cherie said smiling at Jack. “What’s the plan today?” Ryan asked with a mouth full of eggs. Cherie and Ryan were at the table with coffee. Jack threw on some sweats and dragged himself down the stairs to the kitchen. Nicole and Jared were on the kitchen floor cutting colored craft paper. sausage. “You two are very creative today. You know my brain doesn’t engage until after my first transfusion of coffee. “Hi honey. eggs. that’s impressive. closed his eyes and let out a big sigh.” Cherie chimed in. “Dad. “My dragon’s gonna fire your dove!” 6 | . Jack sipped his coffee. complete with swollen eyes. He opened his eyes. “I’m making a fire blowing dragon!” Jared said in a ferocious.Chapter 2 Morning came quickly.” Jack said with raised eyebrows. let me wake up first.” Nicole said proudly. look at my dragon wing.” Cherie brought him his cup and plate. He hadn’t realized how famished he was. “I’m making a dove. dished up his plate. Jack slumped in a chair rubbing his eyes.
and all their camping gear lay untouched by the nearest tree. Time passed and the blue truck approached the tree line. don’t worry about it. really. my dove can fly really.” Ryan said. “Naw. the backhoe was parked and ready to finish the job it had started. Ryan thought to himself. breathing the fresh clean air and enjoying the surroundings. “Okay. Ryan stood still studying the atmosphere. His mind weighed heavy with his own family. Ryan loaded the camp gear into the back of the truck.” Jack said. It was so different than what he was used to. distractedly. Birds. The air smelled musty and the cloud coverage was dark and fiery. I have a lot to think about. It didn’t take long for Jack to push large amounts of dirt around to pack the holes using the powerful machine.” The twins ran off yelling at each other. Ryan thought to himself. The Dragon and The Dove | 7 . as he jumped down from the big machine. I could use the time. Once they reached the scorched earth both were relieved to see everything was as they had left it.“Na uh. I’ll finish packing the dirt!” Jack said as he jumped onto the backhoe and got to work. slow ride home. “I’ll flip you for it. sunny and clear. He reached into his pocket for a quarter. Anxiety seemed to weigh heavily upon them as the two men looked nervously at each other not knowing what to expect. After breakfast the guys started out towards the dig site. The humongous graves were undisturbed. These clouds moved in quick. Jack and Ryan sipped their coffee and drove along quietly. I’ll drive it home. You would never know. The sky through the tree canopy was bright. chipmunks and squirrels scampered leisurely around the forest as if nothing ever happened. He positioned the backhoe on the dirt road for the long. really fast!” “Not fast enough for my fire blowing dragon.
Jack tried not to focus in on any of the mangled faces. “Oh my god!” Jack’s mind was trying to rationalize the event that was about to take place. He could see out in the distance. He decreased the gas and scanned the area. lifeless and empty. With force he pulled and then pushed the body aside. staring at a pile of about six bodies. That’s when he slammed on the brakes and stayed as still as he could. Jack traveled on slowly. can’t be.Jack understood what Ryan was talking about and slapped him on the back. His heart beat faster. “Okay. Jack’s stomach turned as he reached down and pulled a heavy set man off the mound and let him roll to the ground. Nothing but dirt and ash.” Jack replied as he turned to walk towards the truck. damn it!” Jack got out of his truck and raced over to where he saw the movement. There were about forty in this group.” he called back to Ryan. He didn’t want to recognize anyone. a small town about 10 miles away. . even the clouds looked angry. he grabbed his sleeping bag and ran over to the pile of bodies. I’ll see you back at the house. “Okay! Okay!” Jack said before he sprang into action. “I’m going to take another look around. 8 | C. He saw it again. his mind went blank. not a speck of green. Jack grabbed the next body. “Ryan . Jones . . Out of the corner of his eye there was movement so subtle Jack had to look again. Bolting back to the truck. and then another. It was much easier to think of them as things instead of individual people. It all looked the same. he thought. and then another. Jack slowed down as he came upon the first body. a boy in his teens. Ryan! Too far. a view he wished never existed. There were more bodies coming from the direction of Logan. No way. Jack wanted to see the other half of the circle. Frozen stiff—Jack didn’t know what to do. He pulled the truck out of the tree line onto the scorched earth and headed in the opposite direction. Ryan waved and the two men parted.
Once he regained his composure Jack ran around the bodies looking for anyone that could still be breathing. and a few of the old timers that frequented the bar his dad would take him into when he was little. She was in and out of consciousness. the taxidermist. “Oh shit!” Jack said. Jack wasn’t sure how to move her. he thought. moaning from the excruciating pain. She passed out as soon as she was in the cab. Jack had to get a hold of himself. what about the ones we buried? What if some of them were still alive? The world started to spin. He studied the faces looking for any signs of life. Then he saw Ryan’s dad. Robbins’ body up and threw him up and over his shoulder. He laid out the sleeping bag and as carefully and gentle as possible he picked her up and laid her on her stomach. Jack thought as the memories came flooding into his mind. trying to be clinical and unemotional. Oh my god! This is to real.Jack stood there staring in horror at a woman slowly moving. He wrapped her up then ran to the truck and grabbed Ryan’s sleeping bag. this one he put on the back seat of the cab for cushion. People he knew ever since he was a kid. He ran back to the truck and picked up the tarp. Her back was so burnt he put her on her stomach. trying to crawl out from under the pile she thought was still burying her. she always went on hunting trips with the group. like Daryl. He focused. but he also knew if she had any chance at all he had to act quickly. Jack let out a big sigh. the body burnt and almost unrecognizable. He saw Georgia. Feeling uneasy. He ignored the blood and pus that covered his arms and shirt from moving her and ran to carry her to the truck. He would sit on the bar stool with his cherry cokes and listen to all their stories. He wrapped Mr. her skin was charred and her hair was singed. The clothes she had left were burnt to her back and thighs. What if there were more alive. He had to hold onto the side of the truck for support. Satisfied that no one else was alive he started The Dragon and The Dove | 9 . but he saw people he recognized. he knew he had to get her back to the house. carried him to the truck and laid him in the back.
I brought his body here for a proper burial. The two men carried the unconscious woman up the stairs to the guest room above the garage. getting up off the floor. I’ll be right back. I hope. Ryan handed Jack a hot cup of coffee. Cherie looked up into Jack’s eyes. “Hi Hon” Cherie said. Robbins. “I’ll be right back guys. . . “I didn’t think I would beat you home. alive. Jones .” “Oh my god. help me get her in the house. She’s alive. she’ll know what to do. On that long. Ryan doesn’t know yet. “We have to get Cherie. “Okay.” He let her register the news. “I found a woman. “Cherie there is a lot of dead people . jolting Ryan out of his shock.” Cherie said.” Ryan hollered. “Yeah. “She is in the guest house and she’s burnt real bad. I don’t want to alarm the kids.” Ryan stared in shock as Jack hurried to open the cab doors. They put her gently on the bed. Actually let’s take her to the guest house.” Cherie said. I’m gonna go get Cherie.” she told the kids. Let’s take her in the back door. Ready for news. Together she and Jack walked into the laundry room. “And another thing. She’s so burned. Cherie was on the living room floor with the kids playing board games.home. It took Cherie a minute to regain her composure and refocus on the immediate 10 | C. especially Mr. lonely ride home Jack mourned everyone he knew in Logan.” Jack raced over to the house.” Jack paused. I found a woman. walking out of the barn to meet the pickup. trying to control her emotions and stop the tears that threatened. slow. I found Ryan’s dad. “Ryan! Help me!!” Jack yelled. Let’s keep her in this bag so she doesn’t get the chills. preparing herself with a list in her head.
I tried to give her ice chips. as he tenderly checked her pulse on her neck. . I’ll need antiseptic. She knows! He realized. fight . His mind called out to her “Please stay with us. Jack knew Ryan wanted to be alone. man. so he continued on up to the guest house. She’s in and out—she’s burnt bad. wash clothes and anything else I can think of.” Cherie yelled as she hurried down the hallway. grabbed a hand full and went to the woman’s side.” Ryan just raised his hand. The muscles in her face twitched as she fell still. He wanted to hold her hand but her burns were too severe. He put an ice chip up to her shriveled lips. He went directly to the freezer and popped ice out of the tray on the counter. But what was Mr. who knows anything. pulling back the sleeping bag so Cherie could see her back. Crap. The Dragon and The Dove | 11 .” Just then Cherie came through the door. “I’ll be right there. “I don’t know. his head stayed down. You are the only one who knows. . She knows.problem. .” Jack said. Please survive this. Jack slowly walked over and quietly whispered. . but stopped short to see Ryan in the back of the truck kneeling over the tarp. Jack thought. Jack shot out the back door on his way to the guest house. okay . “Good Lord! How is she?” Cherie asked breathlessly. He let out a big sigh of relief and walked to the kitchen to empty the melting ice from his cupped hand. Jack felt Ryan’s pain and remembered his own pain looking over his father after he lost the battle to liver failure. “Okay. “I’m so sorry. Standing there feeling helpless. Robbins’ battle? What was he running from? What conquered him? Jack looked over at the woman. warm water. fight. she had just fallen unconscious again.” She rambled to herself. He went over to her side. he thought. . When he opened the door he heard the woman moaning. Please stay.
He was incredibly proud of his wife but watching her painstakingly peel each burnt layer from the unconscious woman’s back was starting to get to him. He needed some air. Their chattering became audible. Jack opened the door only to discover the chatter was actually sibling rivalry. Jack stopped at the kitchen for a cold glass of water. Jack proceeded to walk down the steps to the driveway. Try to feed her more ice chips if she wakes. . “I’m gonna start by peeling her clothes off her skin. When Jack entered the house it was very quiet. Jack could see her wheels turning. “Jack. it felt good. and then I guess I’ll swab her skin with antiseptic ointment.” Cherie sat down on the chair across from the woman and stared. An unfinished game of Chutes and Ladders was scattered on the living room floor. He noticed how fresh and clean and crisp the air was. and then went down the hallway to the kids’ playroom. he was silent.” Jack prepared himself with a deep breath. Jack was amazed how steadily she grasped the burnt fiber with the tweezers and with the other hand gently held the skin to keep it from tearing. They had finished their paper projects and were wildly flying around the room. Let me think. Jared’s dragon was bright blue with red spots and orange wings. When he stepped outside he took a big deep breath. Rogue didn’t even greet him. Cherie found her tweezers and put them in a glass and filled it with alcohol. “Yeah. “Ready?” Cherie asked. okay?” Jack nodded. Cherie worked for about a half hour when she thought about the kids. “Alright. Let me think . She had the hands if a surgeon. mmmmm.“Oh shit. Cherie put on some plastic gloves from the first aid kit and reached for her tweezers. 12 | C. if I can. Jones . .” she said after a few minutes. Ryan was no longer at the truck. Jack figured he needed alone time. She washed her hands and sprayed them with peroxide. would you go check on the twins?” Jack was happy to go and check.
“Yep. How about “The Labyrinth?” Jack asked dramatically. “Hey you two!” “Dad! Did you go on a hike today?” Jared questioned. “But don’t let her put sugar in it. daddy?” “Well yeah. “No it isn’t.” Jack opened the movie cabinet. “Can I make popcorn?” she added. that it was hard not to be impatient with them. actually.” Jack replied.” The Dragon and The Dove | 13 . “Let’s compromise. “Can I go? I want to show my dragon around.” Jared declared. What movie should I put in?” Jack tried hard to be present with the kids but he was in a hurry. Why don’t we get a movie started for the two of you?” Jack changed the subject. “Fantasia!” hollered Nicole. “Sure. huh. Both kids jumped on the couch. “Little Foot! Little Foot! Little Foot!” yelled Jared.Nicole’s dove was winter white with translucent glitter trailing behind it as it gracefully soared through the air. “Okay. kinda. this morning. cuz that’s gross. “Yeah!” Nicole yelled. There was so much going on all around him.” “We’ll see.
Are you going to be all right? Use the intercom if you need anything. He vaguely remembered parts. Jones . transfixed.” Jack and Rogue stopped by the kitchen for a soda and a banana. who so desperately wanted to go with him. Dad. sit in the middle. “Oh. “Okay. He wiped a little drool from his mouth. “How about “Cars?” Jack exclaimed. but dozing off felt so good. 14 | C. hopping Cherie was okay. “Okay. Jack put “Cars” in the DVD as fast as he could. Jack opened the door and started to say. Jack felt like he could sleep forever. what’s next? I have to go help your mother clean the guest house. Dad.” the kids said in unison. what do you want to watch next?” “Dad. getting up to change the DVD.” offered Jared. hey kids. yeah. good boy! You can go with me. you were snoring.” Jared squealed.“Yeah.” Nicole said. “Yeah. disappointed. Do you want “Little Foot” or “Spiderman”. huh?” Jack asked. Good?” “Good.” Jack said matter-of-factly. “Yeah!” the twins yelled. He was greeted by Rogue. A minute turned into an hour and a half nap. you were asleep. Jack felt relived and started out of the room. “Only for a minute. “Oh yeah. come on. rubbed his eyes and remembered Cherie. I’m going to the guest house to help your mom. Jack woke up to the last song on the movie. I have work to do. The movie started and the twins jumped in their seats. patting the cushion. They left the house and jogged over to the guesthouse.
we just have to keep our heads. “Yeah. I think she is in shock.” Cherie said. Out on the porch Ryan looked at Jack. desperately longing for an answer. Jack followed. but look. “I know.” Jack replied.” Cherie concluded. The woman was on her stomach. but I managed to get all the burnt fibers off her skin and I think it helped. maybe there’s help out there.” Jack added quickly “we just have to keep calm—We’ll see what this woman knows. Jack felt better.” “Shhh. . She had put ointment and bandages on the woman’s back and had her eating soup. “Is she talking?” Jack whispered. who had his hands over his face. Jack looked over at Ryan. Jack could see all the work Cherie had done. “Not yet. she needs time. she is eating. you okay man?” Jack asked. I know it’s hard to keep them occupied. I’ve thought of that too. okay?” The Dragon and The Dove | 15 . she seemed comfortable and receptive. Ryan was sitting on the chair in the far corner. “Ryan. “They’re fine. “Thanks for spending time with them. “How are the kids?” Cherie asked. Cherie was feeding the stranger spoons full of chicken broth.” Ryan mumbled as he got up to walk out the door. kind of like us. Jack felt useless. like he had wasted time by napping.“I’m so sorry I . just a little guilty. proud of her work. .” Cherie interrupted. what about all those people we buried?” What if some of them were alive too?” Ryan asked. “THIS IS TOO MUCH!—Everything I know is gone and if this woman is alive.
“Yeah. Jack forgot Rogue was trailing behind him. are you okay?” Ryan pushed all the emotion he was feeling away and said. I’m good. Rogue broke away and started to jump around in a playful challenge.” he said. When they entered the guest house Cherie put her hand up.” Ryan scratched Rogue behind his ears and turned back toward the guest house. Cher. so will we. I just have to find where I put it. She used this signal when the twins were babies and she finally got them to sleep.” Cherie said. let’s go. I still have that baby monitor I used for the kids—remember? That thing was good. really.” “Should one of us stay with her?” Jack inquired. Jack knelt down and held Rogue by the sides of his big. I think we should go back to the house and let her rest.” Jack said proudly. “She’s gone to sleep. “Yeah. exhausted. Rottweiler head. “No. Cherie walked over to Jack and Ryan. They all started out the door and down the steps. square. Jack knew this was the signal to be quite.” Jack called as he took off running with Rogue on his heels. “You are such a great dog. 16 | C. Rogue waited for them at the bottom.” Ryan agreed. Their foreheads resting together. Jones . I’ll dig it up and use it tonight.” Cherie’s mind was rummaging through her bedroom closet as the four of them crossed the lawn to the kitchen. “No. “I’ll race you back to the guest house. I could hear them breath. “That’s a really great idea.“Yeah. I’m good. I think she’ll sleep better that way. Jack sighed.
“First thing in the morning. Ryan. Ryan chuckled. “Hey! Where did my spear go?” Jared crawled into the dining room. The memory of Ryan’s first elk flashed in his mind. “My Nanath is getting away!” “Your what?” Ryan asked. franticly looking around the floor.Cherie headed straight for the bedroom. but I will. “I got it!” Cherie burst in proudly holding a top of the line baby monitor. I’ll be right back. I’m sure I’ll wake up. “Sure. you won’t. I’ll wake up.” Ryan said. “I can put this next to the bed tonight. Jack went to the fridge and grabbed sodas for him and Ryan as they settled at the table. The Dragon and The Dove | 17 . “I’ll take the couch tonight. “Yes. The boys were thirteen.” Ryan waited for a reply. Ryan’s dad took the boys up on Old Jones’ Hill where he had tracked a herd and Ryan made his first kill. Jack understood. Ryan looked up just as a chopstick whizzed past his head.” Cherie answered smugly. You need to get the best sleep you can. I think is best.” Cherie walked briskly through the Kitchen and out the back door. unconvinced. if she has any problems I can hear it. “When?” he asked.” “Oh no. “I want to put my dad up on Old Jones’ Hill. take the empty bedroom. not making eye contact. I’m going to take the monitor up there and then I’ll make up some dinner. not taking his eyes off his soda can.” Jack said quietly.” “Are you sure?” Jack asked.
” Jack scolded. .” he said. “You’re not going to charge the dog. you know . “I’m not a Nanath. there has been so much going on that I forgot. She’s comfortable.” he whispered. “Go.“My Nanath.” They both rolled around wrestling. pointing at Rogue who was climbing on the couch to settle in for an evening nap. What do you guys want for dinner?” “Umm . Cherie walked into the kitchen.” Jared said. “Oh my God. “Charge! Charge over there. Ryan wants to go early tomorrow morning to take his dad up on Old Jones’ Hill.” he said breathlessly.” Jack informed her guiltily. Jared managed to get hold of his chopsticks and jump on Ryan’s back. “Hey!” he yelled.” laughed Jack.” Cherie paused and wiped a tear from her eye. “Stop. Jared bent down hanging his head by Ryan’s ear. Stop. and tickled Jared. pointing to Rogue with his chopsticks.” Ryan joked. and she’s asleep. “Charge!” Ryan lifted up onto his hands and knees. Ryan turned his attention down the hallway and they rode off into the boy’s room to start a game with little green plastic army men. Stop!” Jared choked out-of-his-gut laughs. Ryan plucked the chopstick off of the floor and flung it back at Jared.” he said. annoyed. I put the monitor in our room. “You’re my Nanath. “I don’t think he’s going far. I don’t know. I think this will work. Jones . Jack looked 18 | C. I’m a hunter. If she wakes I can help her. Ryan jumped off his chair and tackled the small boy. “Okay. “Charge!” he yelled. “Uncle Ryan. . . Ryan smiled and started to give the boy a horsy ride. “It’s over there. Well as comfortable as she can be. Is he okay? Should I say something? Oh God. .
up at her. Jack stood up and held her by the shoulders.” He set her at the table. what’s happened?” She started to sob and Jack held her in his arms and hugged her close.” Jack brought the glass to her and sat down next to her with his hand on her shoulder. “What about our families . . . .” Cherie had to steady herself. “Jack. “I’ll get you a glass of water. The Dragon and The Dove | 19 . “You okay? Here. My sister and . sit down. .
“What?” Ryan looked out in the same direction.” Ryan tapped Jack’s shoulder to follow him to the truck. as he started to dig.” Jack said. The moon was still high and bright. each grabbed a shovel. came early. black coffee. . “This is good. maybe you are right. The two men met in the kitchen for strong. Old Jones’ Hill offered a great vantage point.” Ryan finally said. Jack and Ryan could see for miles. but he couldn’t help to look back.Chapter 3 4:00 a. “I just thought I saw something far out there jump . “Whoa! Did you see that?” Jack froze. Jack threw down his shovel and followed Ryan. staring out into the distance. jump up into the air. both having their thoughts about the day’s events. “Oh well. Jack rested his sore arms on the end of his shovel and stared out over the vast landscape of burnt nothingness. Ryan jumped in the truck and the two of them lifted 20 | . Ryan knew exactly the spot for his father’s long rest.m. The feel of fall was in the air and light frosty dew dusted the pastures. He saw nothing. When they reached the top of Old Jones’ Hill.” “Huh. Jack and Ryan drove out of the driveway in silence. . They had gone down a good five feet. Jack picked up pace to Ryan’s shoveling and the two worked nonstop into the morning.” Ryan said. must have been your eyes playing tricks on you. The morning was crisp and cool. “Right here. grabbing the latch to lower his tail gate.
and then came back.” Jack said.Mr. I saw it again!” Jack said excitedly. Jacked picked up his shovel and when the two men were packing the ground Jack said.” “Yeah. he ran over to the edge of the hill to get a better look. walking fast. Ryan. Let’s lower him down easy. With tears streaming down his cheeks. “I saw it again! There is something out there.” Jack wandered off down the side of the hill where Ryan could not see him. Ryan took an arrowhead out of his pocket and laid it down on his father’s body. He stared out looking for whatever it was he had seen. I got him.” Jack dropped Ryan’s dad on the ground to point. Ryan jumped down and as they carried the body to the gravesite. Could be a small airplane. They set the body in the grave still wrapped in the blue tarp. He searched the sky and the surrounding land and came up empty. “I’m really sorry. Jack kept looking out in the distance. “There! There! I saw it again. feeling so insensitive. Whatever it was. Robbins out of the back. Jack didn’t know how long he had been sitting there. He picked up his shovel and started to fill in his father’s grave. it flew out of his sight and did not return. Too big to be a bird. “I’m sorry. okay. Something caught his eye far off in the sky soaring very high. “Well. Can I have a moment?” “Oh sure. The Dragon and The Dove | 21 . What could that be? Maybe a glider? That would be an awfully big bird. Ryan stood holding his father waiting for Jack to come back and help him. I know. trying to figure out what could be out there. Jack waited for another glimpse. Jack wondered.” Jack leaned his shovel on a tree. here. okay?” Ryan said with sorrow in his eyes. “Let me know when you are ready. let’s bury my dad and then we’ll scope it out.
.” Peaking Ryan’s interest “Holy shit! What could it be? What was it?” “I have no idea. his dragon dangling from his little fist. but earlier I know I saw something flying. and Jack always trusted his gut feeling. “Well. sausage and syrup permeated the air.” Jack said. The smell of bacon. Something didn’t feel right.” Jack kept his eyes out in the distance.m. let’s eat breakfast.” he said joyously. Jared stomped up to Jack with an accusatory look on his face. this is cool! That means that there’s help out there. you said I could go hike with you!” he said with furrowed brows. Look at what your mom made for us. Thanks Mom. It was 8:30 a. It was dark and you were asleep. . right?” Ryan asked excitedly. “I . It could have been a small plane or a glider. sitting on the ground next to Jack. feeling uneasy. by the time Jack and Ryan pulled into the driveway.” Jack replied. “Come on. We better get back to the house.“Anything out there?” Ryan asked. As soon as they stepped foot on the front porch.” the kids repeated. He bent down to pick up Jared and carried him to the kitchen table. Jack ignored Ryan for a moment. Jones . I don’t know. “Not now. 22 | C. Cherie looked over her shoulder as she was buttering toast. Ryan’s stomach growled. “I went really early. I don’t know. When they walked through the doorway. “Dad. “Thanks Mom.
very welcome. Cherie looked in through the tiny decorative window on the door. “Oh shit!” she said.” Jack looked and winced. “Oh.” he said. They all enjoyed the morning feast. you want to stay with the kids?” Jack yelled. Jack knelt down by Cherie. They put her on the bed on her stomach. It’s like her burns are worse. The Dragon and The Dove | 23 . surprised. “The explosion could have had chemicals in it. Ryan plopped on the couch and settled in for a nap. as she sprinted out the door. She must have been trying to crawl to the door. The three adults sipped their coffee. Jack could see the woman had fallen to the floor. When they finished eating. When Cherie and Jack reached the guest house. she was still sleeping. Jack look at this.” “Yeah.” she said.” Jack said. “It hurts. what does the blinking light mean?” Ryan pointed to the baby monitor. Cherie looked back. as he ran out the door behind Cherie. “God. The woman was in pain and shock. like her skin is being eaten or something.” she gasped. if she knows anything. I think that’s good. Cherie told the kids to get out of their pjs and into some play clothes. They sat in silence for a moment. “Hey. Cherie peeked under her bandages. but it would be nice to know what happened. She flung open the door and ran in dropping to her knees. Cherie spoke first. noticing his insensitivity. “Let’s get her to the bed. “Hey. “I checked on her earlier this morning.” the woman moaned.“You’re very.” Cherie said.
but she coughed and sputtered. Cherie covered the body with a blanket and the two of them walked out of the guest house into the clear. . The woman laid her head down and closed her eyes. dry as sandpaper. . Jack couldn’t believe it. It’s all gone . this hurts to much. radiating warmth. on fire . . The two of them took a deep breath and walked silently down the steps. .” Jack asked. She cried out in pain as tears streamed down Cherie’s face.“What happened. Cherie tried to get her to drink. “Are you serious?” Jack’s throat developed a big lump and he swallowed hard. 24 | C. . The sun shone brightly on Jack’s and Cherie’s faces. blown away . “Everything is gone . . .” the woman whispered. “She’s not sleeping. cool fall air. through her lips.” Cherie said under her breath. Jones . “Can I get you anything?” Cherie interrupted. .
real bad. I brought the spotting scope. Jack and Ryan loaded the body into the back of the truck then headed off for yet another burial. “You know. a grassy little clearing shinning in the rays of the sun.” That uneasy feeling crept back into Jack and visions of the woman in agony flooded his mind.” Ryan replied. Her burns were bad. there’s that nice little clearing. “Oh yeah. The men grabbed shovels and started digging. I just don’t get a good feeling.Chapter 4 Cherie kissed Jack and then went to distract the kids with another craft session. “I didn’t tell Cherie.” Ryan mumbled. She’s upset enough.” Jack said with a sigh. Ryan was anxious. I’m just hoping for the best. anything?” “Just that everything is gone.” “Yeah.” Jack said.” Ryan suggested. I didn’t want her worried. I know. Rivers Path was at the edge of their forest. let’s do it. after seeing whatever that was out there. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Jack made an immediate left and the two made their way through the woods. “Let’s take her to the edge of the forest by Rivers Path. good thinking and then we can go explore a little. “So what did she say. | 25 . “Okay. and then trying to keep the kids busy on top of it. Like something was eating her skin. “Yeah. blown away and on fire. That’s all she said.
” Ryan said awestruck. “The sky looks like this just outside of the forest!” Jack exclaimed. “See. When they were done. and found a place to settle down. I knew something didn’t feel right. stunned. Jack took out the spotting scope he used for hunting and set it up on a tripod. “Cool!” Ryan accepted a big roast beef sandwich and cold soda. Wolfing their food. scorched and desolate. This is just weird.” “Sure. “Cherie made us lunch today. but I think it was.” Jack said.The two men finished digging and lay the unknown woman to rest. Jack spoke up. see how dark and dirty it looks. They both looked behind them at the bright blue sunny sky. “The forest is bright and sunny and clear and clean. the sky was angry. . that way we have cover. “It was real early in the morning. They walked over to the tree line. thinking. like a big storm is brewing. who was noticing the same thing. Look out there. Jones . “Was it like this when we were up on Old Jones’ Hill?” Jack thought for a moment. He started to look around. shocked.” Jack offered. the clouds were dark and threatening. It’s been like this for the past few days. but it stops at the tree line. and then looked at Ryan.” Ryan said.” 26 | C. After covering the grave and packing the dirt. He wasn’t sure Jack had seen anything at all. the men ate in silence . “How is that possible?’ Ryan asked Jack. see if we can spot anything. . Everything looked the same. Jack thought for a moment. Jack walked over to the truck and pulled out an ice cooler. “I think we should stay just inside the trees and take turns with the scope. about forty yards.
to scared to move. This is just crazy. “Oh shit! Mmm . then quickly stood up. About thirty yards down he could see a large number of The Dragon and The Dove | 27 . stunned. something that knew he was alive. He scanned the whole area. There were blood spots and smears everywhere and Ryan spotted bone fragments. “I don’t have a clue. I want to know what’s going on. this is blood! The bodies are gone! This is blood!” Jack and Ryan stood petrified.” Jack said. The terrain was the same. “Alright. “Okay.” he started to walk. “What are these spots?” Jack bent down and put his hand in the soil. Ryan. but saw nothing. Jack folded up his scope and caught up with Ryan. “Oh my god. . . Let’s get back under cover quick!” Both of them ran into the forest and took cover in the brush. “Let’s go check things out. burnt and desolate. “The bodies . eyes wide open slowly looking around. They were standing in the middle of a feeding ground.” Ryan volunteered. I’ll catch up with you. Neither one could put his finger on what had changed. I want to see this. . looking out toward the desolate terrain. “I’ll go.” Ryan said with a whole new determination.” Jack announced. We should get the rifle. . They ventured outside the trees and hiked along the forest edge. He couldn’t help but feel something was out there. what could eat that much?” Ryan exclaimed.Jack sat silent. He started to look through the scope again. I’m going to walk the tree line and use the scope.” Ryan turned and ran back towards the truck. “I want to hike this area. They were surrounded by the evidence. Ryan stood up. shaking his head. but something was different. Jack carefully walked along the forest edge.
He picked up his pace and worked his way closer to the bodies. Jones . A huge low flying object swooped over his head and disappeared up into the clouds so fast Jack couldn’t make it out. Jack jumped back “Jeez!” he shouted. Stunned. When he was about ten yards out he scoped the area again. Jack turned around and walked into the trees without blinking. . . concerned. Iridescent glitter was floating around in the air and Jack realized the fire ball was a white bird.” Ryan said. The flame was dying out so he could get a better look. Jack stopped and scoped the area. He decided to venture out further for a better view. Instantly Jack’s instincts forced him to duck. “Are you okay man? You look kinda pale. Jack almost felt relieved.bodies scattered around. what are you doing? It could be dangerous out here. a blazing dove crashed at his feet with iridescent glitter? Ryan came jogging out of the woods. Standing out in the open. he took the scope out of his jacket and scanned the whole area from ground to sky. Some of the bird feathers were still intact and the body still retained its shape. “Something really big came down from the sky and flew right over my head so fast 28 | C. Everything looked still. Looking up with eyes wide.” Jack was speechless. “Jack. His hands flew up into the air and he had to fumble with his scope in order not to drop it. Ryan followed as Jack walked all the way back to the truck and sat down on the tail gate. Jack looked at Ryan and spoke slowly. He could hear the rumbling in the clouds overhead. he saw a flaming ball of fire blaze out of the clouds straight for him and crash at his feet. He saw absolutely nothing. his wide eyes staring at Ryan. As he put the scope safely into his pocket he looked down at the ground. Maybe the predator was full. “Shit!” Jack stood up straight. Jack was confused . Everything was quiet.
. Ryan had a quick glimpse of something bright blue swirl in the thunderous clouds. This is insane. Ryan directed Jack to the passenger seat of the truck.I never saw what it was. “Uh. Jack didn’t move and Ryan thought it best to let him be. it was dark and full of motion.” Ryan looked up at the sunny sky.” After prying the scope out of Jack’s hands. This time bright orange sliced through the dark cloud and then disappeared. It flew up into the clouds .” Jack was breathing fast. I don’t know what it was. . but outside the forest surrounding them.” Ryan grunted. Looking over in the direction they just came from. When they made their destination. “What clouds?” “The clouds out there! Where everything is weird!” Jack shrieked. Jack had leaned his head back and closed his eyes. . okay?” Jack was in shock. I can’t. and I . There! He saw it again. He positioned the scope so he could easily maneuver and see the whole area. his heart racing. I can’t believe it . . and glitter everywhere. his mind frozen in time. blue and perfect. just calm down. . He sat motionless waiting for more. “This is insane. man. The Dragon and The Dove | 29 . They sat in silence while Ryan drove to the top of Old Jones’ Hill. . He directed the scope to the sky and waited. “Glitter?” Ryan was very worried now. “Relax. . . Above him it was crystal clear. The first thing Ryan noticed was the sky. He took the scope and climbed in the back of the truck. Ryan parked in a cluster of brush to stay out of direct sight. “Oh my god! A blazing bird was hurled at me! It landed at my feet. On fire .
Its massive neck muscles were throbbing. but he was able to regain his composure as Jack asked. a blur raced down the lens. 30 | C. nothing happening. Right before his very eyes he saw a limp and lifeless body fly up over the treetops and then straight down again. . The dragon shook his head like Rogue when Ryan plays tug-of-war with his rope toy. Even though Old Jones’ Hill was the highest point in their immediate territory. wiping off his face. it still wasn’t very high. The anticipation sat in his stomach like a rock.It felt like an eternity . blood and bits of flesh spraying all around. Ryan couldn’t believe what he had seen. bright blue dragon with red spots and brilliant orange wings was flying loop-de-loops with a body in its mouth. Ryan focused in on the dragon’s strong head and neck. Ryan felt his stomach lurch. The body was flopping like a rag doll. He put his eye up to the scope and before he realized it. An enormous. higher this time but before it could disappear in the trees a massive beast caught it between jaws full of humongous razor sharp teeth and took its snack for a ride. He grabbed the spotting scope and jumped over the side. The dragon was facing the lens and Ryan had a perfect view of the next dramatic event. Ryan froze with disbelief. Ryan adjusted his seating for more comfort without taking his eyes off the clouds. so he focused the scope in for the distance and watched and waited. The body flew up again. stay in the truck. He was a little dizzy. Ryan couldn’t see over the tree tops to the landing spot of whatever that was. . He bent over the side of the truck bed just as the dragon clamped its powerful jaws on his prize and flew out of sight. This dragon was playing with its food. His mind was grasping for reality. Jones . are you okay?” “Yeah.” Ryan said. Ryan steadied himself. “Ooh. The dragon hovered with its graceful wings treading air. He jolted up to see it with his own eyes.
“Fine!” Jack said. Got It?” Ryan was real concerned about Jack. puzzled. I’m telling you. “What about you?” Ryan asked Jack.He slid into the driver’s seat and started the truck. “I can’t tell you. Tell me what is going on!” Jack exclaimed. I have to show you. The big red and black reptile eyes flashed in the The Dragon and The Dove | 31 . “Because I have to show you something. “Yeah. Jack fell right into synch. Ryan knew exactly where he was going and how he was going to execute the hunt. It had an incredible set of crepe wings. sure. “What? What is it? I’m ready. The two men huddled close and before they could make it to the tree line. lined with veins. It stood about twenty-five feet high with a shimmering.” Ryan looked at Jack. Jack stopped Ryan by grabbing his shoulder and Ryan saw the fear in Jack’s eyes. and was complete with hooked tips. Out in front of them about thirty feet was a monstrous dragon. annoyed. The two men raced down the hill in anticipated silence. fiery orange. bright blue body intertwined with patches of ruby red scales. the sound of bone crushing was detected. Jack found a good view and froze. He blinked and looked at Ryan for confirmation. Ryan signaled for a quite stalk. but you have to be ready Man. okay?” Ryan demanded. but you have to be ready. you are not going to believe what you are seeing and you have to hold it together. When they reached their destination they left the truck without making a sound.” “Yes it can and it is. Ryan nodded his head forward and they proceeded to a heavily brushed area for good cover. muscular. When they settled. Ryan took a deep breath and nodded. I mean it can’t be any worse than that bird from the heavens.
When the dragon had its fill. Jack and Ryan couldn’t move. then its legs. “Yeah. unsure of his thought patterns. The enormous creature stretched its neck. “Wow. scared.” Jack murmured quietly. Good news though. I hope you’re right. so we can come up with a plan. . there was an incredible display of fire power. 32 | C. and in one powerful yet graceful swoop. When all was still they looked at each other. . that dragon . it spread its wings.” Jack hesitated after he said the word. and get our heads on straight. With their adrenalin pumping they walked back to the truck in utter disbelief at what they had just witnessed. They sat watching the unbelievable creature feast outside the forest. waiting for an explanation. the dragon shot straight up into the air and disappeared into the stormy clouds. We should head back to the house.” Jack commented. . yet excited at the same time. “should be busy for awhile before it has to come into the forest for food. and with smoke trailing its nostrils.sun. “Where would something like that come from? I’m stumped. Jack jumped into the driver’s seat. “Yeah. The drive was quite for awhile. then Jack spoke. make sure everything is alright. As soon as it was done. How is this possible and what else is there?” Jack continued to drive. put its nose to the sky and blew a fire torch that not only warmed the surrounding area but also looked to be two stories high. Each of them speechless. I guess you were right. Ryan just shrugged his shoulders in bewilderment and looked out his window. Jones .” Ryan planned. it sure could be worse. The men held their gaze waiting for more. Aside from a fantasy picture book I didn’t think those things existed.
what is it?” he asked gingerly. . We’re all going stir crazy cooped up in the house like this. . “Mm . he . . Cherie was making dinner and was absorbed in a cookbook with flour all over her hands. then proceeded to wash her hands. . Jack bent down to pick her up. . “Baby. . it’s dead!” she sobbed as Jack and Ryan walked into the kitchen. . .” “Well. . “OK. . what’s wrong with Nic?” Cherie kissed Jack then kissed Nicole on her little wet cheek. look!” she pointed to the corner of the hardwood floor by the fireplace. . Jared . I think you guys should take the kids on a hike or something. . “Jared messed with her dove. . unsure. . . . mm . hi honey! Ooh.” Ryan replied. my dove . Between breaths she said “J . these two have been at each other all day. Let’s just wait . .” Jack said. “Daddy!” she wailed and gripped his leg. He held her and she sobbed on his shoulder. “Daddy!” she wailed again. he . J .The sun was sinking below the horizon when the blue truck pulled into the drive. Ok Cher?” Jack shot Cherie a look and she understood. “Nothing. . she’ll freak out. . I think maybe just out in the yard is fine for now. She put her head on his shoulder and continued to cry. it . He The Dragon and The Dove | 33 . Let’s just wait. “What do we tell Cherie?” Ryan asked. . There was a little white crumpled piece of paper surrounded by translucent glitter. “Oh. They walked in the front door and were greeted first by Rogue and second by Nicole screaming with tears rolling down her cheeks. “Oh yeah.
“Perfect. “My dragon did it. Ryan walked off to settle in the living room and give Rogue his much needed attention.” Jared stated. “Great. Jones .” Ryan exclaimed sarcastically. “Should I start Nic a bath?” Jack started to walk away. “Did you have anything to do with your sister’s paper bird. how did it get crushed in the corner?” Jack asked. trying to be as normal as anyone could be after a day like his. What’s for dinner?” Jack said. An all too familiar image came to Jack and he couldn’t help but look at Ryan to see if he had any reaction. and then looked away sheepishly. We’ll do some outdoor activities in the yard or on the porch. How’s that?” Cherie complied.” looking at Jack. 34 | C. who was not amused. which Jack reluctantly picked at. but Ryan was already dozing on the couch. He ran after it and burned it up with his FIRE!” Jared shared dramatically. “my favorite.” Cherie replied with a southern accent. Jack stopped him. that’s good. preoccupied with her dinner creation. Jared came running down the hallway with his paper dragon flapping in the air. Jared?” “No.” Cherie said. When dinner. “Well.wasn’t comfortable just yet venturing too far out with the kids. “Good ol’ southern fried chicken. “Okay. “Sure. was over.
So Hon. “where we had that picnic last month.” She leaned in to kiss Jack. go get your teeth brushed. They are just so cranky and miserable.” “Right. “It went fine. I’ll lock up. Your mom is brushing Nic’s teeth right now. who was crashed on the couch.” “I’ll wait for you then. Jack looked over at Ryan. tell your dragon that was not very nice and it upset your sister. “Oh my god.” she continued on. It’s getting late.” Jack picked up Jared and whisked him off to his room. We buried her in that beautiful little clearing. let’s get these two to bed.“Well.” Cherie said quietly. “I’m going with you. he jumped with a start to a shrill scream coming from the bathroom. “Well Hon. “Jack. The Dragon and The Dove | 35 . Jack waited until she was finished. After closing up the house. trying to comfort the boy while Cherie took care of Nicole.” Cherie said. Go. how did this morning go? That poor woman. I’m heading up to bed. I’m so happy to put them to bed.” he paused. He went running in to find Nicole standing on a crumpled dragon and Jared screaming bloody murder.” Cherie said when they met in the living room. thinking about the conversation he just had with his son. “They have just been so irritable today. the two of them held hands and walked upstairs together. Just as he was relaxing. exhausted. gosh what a day. “OK! OK!” Cherie yelled.” Jack sat back in the big cushion chair and closed his eyes.
” Ryan joked. scrambled eggs. trying unsuccessfully to go back to sleep. Jack brushed him out of his face and put an arm around the big dog. Jack had his fill of bacon. He sat back in his chair feeling recharged. The rich aroma of coffee found its way into the bedroom and Jack had to get up. I’ll be outside. “Hey Cher. “Sure. Ryan and I have to go check things out today. toast. sleepyhead.” Cherie said cheerfully. sleepyhead. sleepyhead. “I’m going to get the truck loaded with supplies. “So.” Jared mimicked. have some breakfast before it’s all gone.” “That’s fine.” He kissed her and joined Ryan in the front yard.Chapter 5 Jack awoke with Rogue’s cold nose smashed against his cheek. that helps. Finally alive he jogged down the stairs into the kitchen. “What do we need to kill a dragon?” “You’re just quite the comedian lately. He went straight for the shower. “Yeah. The loving dog nuzzled his neck and climbed into bed cuddling Jack and licking his face. and then laughed. 36 | . “Sleepyhead. pancakes and coffee.” Ryan started.” Jack accused. Should I pack you some food?” Cherie wanted to ask questions but she knew the kids were in earshot.” Jack replied. “Sit.
I don’t know . I don’t know I just have to see it again. this is all so crazy. Cherie came out with their cooler packed. me too. I just want to make sure. They sat for a while watching the thunderous clouds in the sky.” she said. the squirrels and chipmunks were busy.” Ryan said. a good number of the bodies were gone. I don’t know how else to be.” Jack looked at Ryan. They slowly worked their way to the tree line. and once again in the forest.“Well come on. When they reached their destination both men were nervous. concerned.” “I guess we see where it sleeps. “It’s been so hard not telling her. let’s go. The sun was shining brightly above the trees but outside the forest boundary it was cloudy. . see if I see any planes or any emergency vehicles or something. Jack started to The Dragon and The Dove | 37 . The scope was passed back and forth between them and still they saw nothing. Jack turned to her “Sure honey. Should we go over where we saw it last?” “Yeah.” He kissed her and jumped in the driver’s seat. “Yeah. Cher. There was nothing unusual to see.” Ryan sighed. We’ll be here.” Ryan confirmed. but they were patient and persistent and sat awhile longer. As they expected. “I love you too. she sensed their uneasiness. but everything felt still. . “I think it’s for the best though. I love you.” “Ok. stormy and dark. “Everything alright?” she asked. He waved as he drove off. you ready?” “As ready as I’ll ever be. Jack and Ryan found a spot to settle and scope out the area.
As far as he could see the earth was dead. Jack looked at him. its dead as a door nail. “You’re right. They maneuvered the truck through the trees and the brush out past the tree line into the open. “Keep it running. it would be close enough for Ryan to see. 38 | C. “Maybe it’s asleep. “Here. “Is it dead?” Jack questioned. “Okay. Until he saw it. figuring that if anything were to show above.scope the horizon. It was way out but he knew what it was. let’s go. we’ll take the guns. The dragon was lying out in the burnt terrain still as he could be. The two of them got up and hurried to the truck.” Jack looked at Ryan.” Ryan suggested. “Ryan I got it!” he whispered. knowing full well that they were going to go.” Ryan gave in without much of a fight.” Jack was trying to talk Ryan into venturing out into the open. When. and everything had turned to ash. With the scope he could see it clear as day.” Jack announced “Why wouldn’t it sleep in the forest? No. reaching for the scope. It’s not every day you are up close to a dragon.” Ryan gave the scope back to Jack. “I don’t know.” Ryan said defensively. they were within fifteen feet of the dragon Jack stopped the truck. He started on his right and panned the landscape. It’s probably dead. let me see. let’s go. Come on. Jack accelerated and they drove straight out to the still creature. “Let’s go closer. “You never know.” Ryan said. This is too weird. Who knows what else is out there?” Ryan said. something that big would blow the dust around with its breathing. Jones . It’s not moving at all and it looks all crumpled up.
The two of them stood in awe of such a masterpiece.” Jack reached out his hand and touched it. “What is it?” Jack screeched. it could come back to life. Jack felt hidden thoughts pulling at him to open the doors and reveal answers. Clearly bones were broken by the way it laid. you never know. Its tongue was sticking out of its mouth and lay swollen on the dirt.” Jack said. It did look as if it was crumpled. The wings were strong yet delicate. Jack and Ryan looked at each other as they recognized the sound coming straight towards them. pointing to the possibility. Ryan turned around and Jack walked out from behind the dragon to see a large animal in a stir of dust charging them. They were pushed sideways. harder than any metal.” Ryan got in the last word as they opened the doors.” Jack said confidently. “Get in the truck!” Ryan yelled. quickly pulling his arm back. I think it’s a him. Jack put the truck in gear a little too late and the animal struck the tail end with a huge impact. Nothing happened. “Where did something like this come from?” Ryan questioned. By the way. The scales were shining and slick. He waited. “I’m telling you its dead. “Wow. Cautiously they walked closer and the closer they got they could see the damage. Jack hit the gas and they spun out The Dragon and The Dove | 39 . “Looks like the crash killed him. it took a moment to register. Its wings had been snapped like twigs. quite a crash. They ran for the truck as the creature closed in. The two men started to walk around the dragon looking at its’ brilliance. They were so immersed in the exploration of the magical creature that when a rumbling was heard in the distance. but he just couldn’t do it. “Ha ha. boo!” Jack teased.“Yeah.
They were breathing heavy waiting . Jack followed. .” Ryan slowly eased out of the truck as quietly as possible. Jack navigated the truck over bumps and turns until Ryan said. there it is!” Ryan pulled the scope out of his jacket pocket and put it up to his eye. . Jack searched for an opening in the trees where he could easily out maneuver the beast if at all possible. I think so. “Yeah. The dusty blue truck slid on in the small opening. They both expected something to come crashing through at any moment. Jones .” Jack said. “It looks like some kind of weird wooly mammoth.” Jack slowed down and pulled behind some brush. taking their time.” Ryan looked at Jack. “We’re okay. 40 | C. keeping up a good pace. The animal was chasing them. “I don’t know some kind of huge bull or elephant or something. Their hearts were racing and their hands were shaking. . Jack and Ryan hunted the area looking for any signs of the large animal. Ryan looked back. “Hey. The beast was the size of a very large elephant.” There was so much dust Ryan couldn’t make out it out. “Hey. “Let’s go see. They stalked through the brush.but he got the truck under control.” Ryan gave the scope to Jack. it’s not following us anymore. grabbing the rifles out of the back. out of breath. It had black matted fur and four large white tusks. breathlessly. They made it to the tree line finding nothing. waiting . “What is it?” Jack asked. Reaching the tree line so far away seemed impossible. The two of them crouched behind the brush looking out into the vast nothingness. He spotted a likely entrance and slammed on the brakes. who was not taking his eyes off the trees behind them. . waiting. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and looked at Ryan.
It wouldn’t even touch the bushes.” Jack observed. “Why doesn’t it come into the forest to eat the grass?” Jack said. The mammoth just sniffed the ground for food. The stone made a faint sound as it bounced on the ground. Ryan couldn’t help himself. “Stay still. The beast turned on a dime and searched for the cause.” Ryan answered. knowing they were going to be trampled to death because of him. only coming so close. bringing the scope down from his face. Ryan and Jack looked at each other in disbelief. The mammoth could have The Dragon and The Dove | 41 . but he couldn’t do it for long and finally let out a loud gasp.” The mammoth came closer. He froze. Nothing happened. The beast turned and started to walk in their direction. “Hey!!” he yelled. The only things between them were the thin bushes. The animal didn’t notice any of the commotion and didn’t bat an eye in their direction. They waited and watched. Ryan slowly reached down and picked up a small stone and tossed it over and behind the mammoth. Ryan raised his eyebrows. “I don’t think so. it would charge. and the odor of the huge animal was overwhelming.” Ryan replied. Ryan grabbed Jack’s arm and they bolted out of their hiding spot to a large pine tree and peered around to see if there was any reaction.“It’s just standing out there. They could hear the creature’s large nostrils sniffing the ground searching for food. “Maybe you spoke too soon. “Can it see us?” Jack asked. Jack bent down and picked up a rock the size of a softball and pitched it into the bush they were just hiding behind. chipping another rock and shaking the bush. The mammoth worked its way within feet of the frightened men. It made a loud noise. Jack was trying to hold his breath. He slowly looked at Ryan. feeling a little uncomfortable. The men froze. The mammoth continued to browse the area.
” Jack pointed up at their clear blue sky. “This is really weird. The dragon never came in here. flew over here. but the mammoth didn’t flinch. Jack simply walked back into the forest and the mammoth stopped. “Just watch. The large beast quickly turned and ran after him. I don’t know . Ryan took a step to follow. “Where did these creatures come from?” Jack continued. The blast made his ears ring. Jones . unsure of himself. so if it’s out there he can see it but if it’s in here he can’t?” Ryan asked.” Ryan replied. “No. Jack and Ryan walked to meet each other. As he stepped out into the open the mammoth started to charge him. so he stepped back into the trees and the mammoth stopped. before stepping out of the tree line. Ryan took his 7mag rifle and shot it into the air. “And I thought it was because of all of the food out there. “I don’t think he can hear you. either. “This is crazy. but he never once. did you think of that?” Jack questioned.” Jack gave the scope over to Ryan and started to walk along the tree line. Jack threw a rock against a tree inside the tree line and the mammoth again didn’t notice. 42 | C. “Ok. .” Ryan yelled. “It’s like we’re safe in here or something.” Ryan walked out from behind the tree and started to jump up and down. Ryan started to yell while he jumped up and down and still nothing. “What’s going on here?” Ryan threw another big rock outside the tree line and the mammoth charged it. that I saw. wait there.” Jack yelled. Jack walked back out of the forest and the mammoth charged. The animal ignored him.” When Jack was twenty yards down he looked at Ryan and then walked out of the trees. The mammoth stopped. “He can’t see me anymore. here hold this. “I guess. . .cared less. He stayed out longer this time and when the mammoth was ten feet away he stepped back into the trees.” Jack said.
excitedly.” Ryan said matter of factly.” Jack took the scope out and looked through it.” Ryan put the scope up to his eye. “Sure. Its 2:00 o’clock. That’s absurd. “Wow. How does this happen?” “I don’t know but there is nothing else out there and what is out there just happens to be what the kids are dreaming up. No way! No way. you can. we should have time to make it back by dark. let’s go.” Ryan said shaking his head. they jumped in the truck and took the road to Black Wolf Peak. After Ryan loaded the rifles and Jack secured the scope. “How else would you explain it? We better keep the kids out of craft class for awhile until we figure this out. Why don’t we go up to Old Jones’ Hill and scope things out?” Ryan suggested. “I just want to make sure nothing else is out there. “I don’t see anything else out there. It must be hot out there. “I have a better idea. Looks like a mirage. The Dragon and The Dove | 43 . It’s hotter because there aren’t any trees.” Jack gave Ryan a questioning look.“That’s what I was wondering” Ryan hesitated before continuing. you can see the heat waves shimmer. That dragon is a real piece of work.” All Jack saw out in the distance was the dead dragon.” “Let me see. From there we can see for miles in all directions.” Ryan said. Let’s drive up Black Wolf Peak. “Wow. unless you want to eat mammoth meat there’s really no reason to hang around.” Jack replied. “Nicole made a dove and Jared made a dragon with the same colors as this one. The hidden thoughts revealed themselves and Jack added.” “Cool. “I know this has nothing to do with it but Jared was pretending to hunt a mammoth and then all of a sudden there’s one right here.
44 | . Ryan took out the scope while Jack stretched. He climbed the old lookout tower and set the scope up on the tripod to keep it steady. The first thing he noticed was the sky. and had hunted it. “A hot cup of coffee sure would be nice. Cherie and the kids loved it at the top. “It looks as if we’re all that’s left—just the dead dragon and the mammoth out there—that poor mammoth is just wandering around trying to graze in the dirt and dust.Chapter 6 Jack and Ryan knew Black Wolf Peak. “Kinda sad. had camped it.” Jack commented as he pulled his flannel jacket on. was the only life on earth. the fresh air filled his lungs. It was as if the forest. He settled on the large platform that had been set up just in case a helicopter needed to land. They were up so high a slight curvature of the earth could be seen. the wind currents being stronger at the top of the mountain. Jack took a deep breath. Jack climbed the metal stairs to join Ryan. From the top of the mountain he had a clear view for miles. He looked up and let it out. The destruction out past the forest went on as far as the eye could see.” Ryan said.” Jack replied. The aroma of chamomile and lemongrass filled the air in the spring and the fall was exceptionally beautiful with the changing colors and the crisp winter air slowly moving in. They had climbed it. and all it encompassed. The view of the greenery was magnificent. From here he could see that there was a very distinct pattern of storm clouds over everything but their forest.
. “Hey! I see people! They’re . I wonder if they know anything. pointing in the scopes direction.“Hey. It looked like they were heading towards your house. It . “They might not know anything even happened. As the sun started to slowly ease behind the tree tops. Jack got his bearings and was silent for a moment.” Ryan said.” Ryan replied.” Jack said as he stood up. hey. . . “I see ’em. right there on that road. . “They’re probably still on the road. looking a Ryan. “They had to have felt the blast just like we did. “There.” Ryan interrupted Jack. The Dragon and The Dove | 45 . When they reached the road they last saw the hikers on. They might need help. The two men climbed off the platform and jumped into the truck.” Ryan got up so Jack could see. I can see your house. A new thought occurred to him. it should be I paid enough for it. This is a good scope.” Jack said full of energy. let’s head down and talk to ’em. they went behind some trees.” “I want to see!” “Yeah.” he said pointing. walking. “Oh yeah. It looks like they have packs on.” Ryan said. “Well. I never thought there could be anyone out camping or hiking when all this happened. Jack accelerated some.” he said.” Ryan remarked. “Oh. there. the blue truck made its way along the bumpy dirt road with dust trailing behind it. Jack slowed down just in case the hikers were off to the side in the trees.
“Wow. they can’t get enough of that one. After Jack dished up his plate with Cherie’s wonderful meatloaf. Jack cradled Nicole and Ryan jumped up to carry Jared to his room. “Hi baby. Jack and Ryan crossed in front of the big screen TV that was half way through a movie. This place was a mess. Nicole proceeded to fall asleep on Cherie. “Mmmmm. Cherie smiled. Jones . “Hey honey.” Jack whispered.After a long drive searching for the strangers. “Hi dad and Uncle Ryan. Oh my god.” Cherie said as she stopped the movie.” they replied with full mouths. “Are you guys ok? You act like you haven’t eaten in years.” “Just hungry.” Nicole said quietly without moving. Today we were making a labyrinth all over the living room. the men decided to drive home with their empty stomachs. After they were snuggly tucked in the men returned to the table and focused on their food without a sound. you guys are hungry.” Jack said stopping to take a drink. “The kids love these old movies. When Jack and Ryan walked through the door they were greeted by Rogue and a couple of sleepy kids cuddled in their mother’s arms. “Dinner is on the table. Jared had just fallen asleep. to no avail.” Cherie looked over at the table. Honey?” Cherie nodded and started to adjust.” Cherie nodded towards the kitchen. He pushed his plate away. mashed potatoes and green beans with garlic he turned toward her and whispered “Do you want me to carry one of ’em to bed. I played “Splash” and they absolutely love “The Labyrinth”. do we have any wine?” 46 | C.
“I want to go with you.” Ryan said with tears in his eyes. “How could this be . Cherie curled up in the cushy chair and covered her legs with a blanket.” Ryan agreed. She wiped her tears away and said.“Sure. we’re obviously talking about creatures that have never existed before now that we know of. I won’t!” Cherie shook her head and pressed her fingers on the bridge of her nose as if releasing the unwanted information. yeah you are probably right. When she started making connections between events concerning the kids she started to cry. “I haven’t said anything because I didn’t want to worry you. I want to see what’s out there. “Honey. They talked into the night.” Jack offered. Jack.” Cherie replied. . how could this be a coincidence? How could this be? It’s impossible! There has to be some other explanation.” He waited for her response.” Jack started. go ahead. It wouldn’t have done you or the kids any good.” Cherie said putting the movie away. I mean my dad was just buried and I haven’t even had time to clear my head. They each settled in the living room with their wine. let me grab a bottle.” Cherie took a sip of wine. put his silverware on it and took it to the sink.” “Good idea. The Dragon and The Dove | 47 . . I can’t believe this. “I actually just want to take a day off. She walked into the pantry and walked out with a bottle of Merlot and three glasses. Cherie couldn’t believe her ears. “Maybe the kids just unconsciously know stuff ahead of time. Ryan finished his plate. “Whatever it is. grabbing Jack’s plate on the way.” Cherie’s guard went up and she shifted slightly in her chair. Ryan had a feeling Jack was preparing himself to share the adventures over the past couple days with Cherie. “we have to tell you what’s been going on. “Okay. and returned with the bottle opener.
“I’m scared Jack . Jack got off the couch. not at all. Okay?” “Yeah.” Cherie’s eyes started to glisten with tears. . put his arm around her and let her cry in his arms as long as she needed. everything will look better in the morning. . .” he said and he walked out. grabbed the bottle of wine. He filled their glasses.“That’s fine. We are all he’s got now. Jones . but let’s all sleep in tomorrow. “No. 48 | C.” Cherie agreed. “I feel so bad for Ryan. Is that cool? I’m going to crash in the guest house.” Ryan stood to leave. what does all of this mean?” “Let’s get some sleep honey. Cherie turned to Jack. Jack helped her up and they walked up the stairs together with Rogue in tow. and snuggled in the big chair with her. He even shed a few tears along with her. After he left. I’m scared for the kids . . Would you mind hanging out with the kids?” Jack asked. “Good night. Finally she looked up at Jack.
“Didn’t you watch this movie yesterday?” Jack asked “Yep” Jared replied. “Hey you guys. “No.” “You’re not still sleeping.” Jack urged. The music got louder as he came down the stairs. I wanna watch. “Yeah. He could see the kids dancing around the living room singing along with the movie. we’re still sleeping.” She pulled on Jack to follow her around the house. “Are they watching that movie again? This is the third time and maybe they could turn the volume up a little higher next time. that’s too loud. Dad. “Hey. Jack shook his head and wandered into the kitchen to start some coffee.” she said sarcastically. Jack followed.” Jack replied. | 49 . “I guess I’ll get breakfast started. “Dance with me. He put on his socks to keep his feet warm and walked out of the bedroom in his sweat pants. no kidding. Cherie came up behind him and started scratching his back.” Jared flopped down on a pillow and Nicole joined him.” Cherie opened the refrigerator. The first thing he did was turn down the volume. let’s make breakfast.Chapter 7 Jack awoke to the sound of David Bowie singing in their living room.” Nicole grabbed Jack’s hand. Daddy. his favorite thing.
Jones . the table had been set for another culinary event. already dressed in jeans. Jared was talking with his mouth full about going through the maze with a sword and Nicole was explaining how she is the princess in the labyrinth. you’re ready to go. Taking the hint. Rogue was lying on floor near the kids to catch any prizes that made it to his domain. By the time Jack returned.Jack turned around to Cherie. Everyone was happy to sit down and enjoy the meal together.” Jack said in surprise. Let’s head out soon. the kids were blasting the movie. “Wow. “Remember the “Little Foot” series? I think the kids watched it so much the tapes finally melted. “Are you guys partying down here?” “Sorry. 50 | C. hiking boots and sweater.” as he walked out of the room. turning to Jack. as she pulled out the bacon. bacon. Cherie had set out fruit blintzes.” Cherie said.” Cherie laughed. Jack and the kids loved fruit blintzes. “Well. toast. “Oh my god. Nothing like early eighties early in the morning.” she said.” Jack chuckled. be right back. Jack managed to pour a cup of coffee before the machine was done brewing as Ryan walked in the back kitchen door. Along with eggs. “I almost have breakfast ready. Jack said “I’ll hit the shower.” Jack said with a giggle. juice and muffins. “Are they watching that movie again?” Ryan asked. I really want to get out there. I remember all too well.
Did you hear me?” Jack asked loudly to catch their attention. Jack made sure the rifle was secured in the bed of the truck then climbed in. “Wow! You’re right Jack. Cherie got out of the truck and stretched. Jack and Cherie walked out the back door and over to the truck. “Oh. and if we want to hurry down to the tree line it’s not far. okay. kids. It’s a good view with the scope. They took off out of the driveway and out of sight. Jack and Ryan cleaned the table and the kids were dragging Rogue off to the living room to play.” Cherie said.After breakfast Cherie. When she opened her eyes and looked around she was surprised. “Thanks.” Ryan joked. Cherie kissed Jack and then jumped in the passenger seat. Don’t get eaten by any dinosaurs or sharks. Nicole. Cherie shot him a look and Jack laughed. let’s go.” Cherie said excitedly. “So where are we headed?” “Old Jones’s Hill.” Ryan walked into the living room and flopped on the couch. “Hey Jared. When they reached the top. it’s felt like forever since I’ve been out away from the house. “Well. we’ll be back. “Have fun. Mom and I are going to go out together for awhile. the sky The Dragon and The Dove | 51 . “Don’t mention it. Ryan.” She closed her eyes and stretched her arms towards the sky.” “Oh. “Yes!” they both yelled to him. They drove quietly sipping coffee when Cherie broke the silence.” Cherie replied and continued to sip her coffee.
Jack. . there is absolutely nothing out there. “That’s the beast we were telling you about that put the dent in the truck. He focused in as close as he could. Cherie jumped in and Jack peeled out and sped down the hill. . then he saw it. Jack had a quick thought and panned the scope over to the mammoth.” “Oh.” Jack’s mind was searching for a reasonable explanation. “It’s gone. Jack looked through the scope in the direction where the dragon was last seen. . . 52 | C. “Hurry. or yeah. Does it look like its fading?” Cherie looked though the scope. this is crazy . . . blurry. “What’s gone?’ Cherie questioned. let’s go down and get a better look. “Look over at that mammoth. It’s beautiful above us but out there .is so strange. come here quick!” Cherie ran over to where Jack had the scope. Ooh look! What’s that?” she asked.” “You’re kidding! It’s huge!” Cherie replied.” Jack jumped up and grabbed the scope. The ground was imprinted by the creatures’ crash but there was no sign of the dragon. Okay. look closer .” “I swear it was dead and now it’s gone. “It looks weird like . “The dragon. . Jack pointed the scope and viewed the mammoth. It wasn’t heat fumes they thought they saw! The creature was fading! “Cherie. Oh my god. It’s kind of spooky. pointing.” He jumped in the truck and started it up. look at that.” Jack muttered under his breath. . like it’s fading away. Jones .
look at the vine on the ground out there.” she said nervously. so. Jack!” Cherie said alarmed. Jack looked away from the vine and turned the scope on the mammoth. “Oh wow!” Cherie focused in on the vine. Jack stood up and slowly walked out from the bush. . Hey. . but slow enough that Jack had to focus on what he was seeing. about five yards from the beast. Jack had an idea and yelled at the top of his voice. Out from the trees new foliage was growing rapidly. Dark green foliage was slowly creeping its way from the woods fast enough that Jack was watching it grow. . stepping on the strange new greenery. He stared and could tell the mammoth had very low energy.When they reached the clearing Jack got out and directed Cherie to follow him to the tree line. It had grown out about ten feet from the tree line. “It’s disappearing. Cherie huddled close to him. Unsure of his footing.” Jack pointed. STAY HERE!—No matter what!” Cherie took the scope. . He walked until he was close. this is impossible. he walked out with caution. . “Honey. He watched The Dragon and The Dove | 53 . The mammoth was facing the opposite direction and did not see Jack in the open. “It wasn’t there yesterday and watch close.” Cherie replied. it’s growing . . It was like a ghost. . you can see it grow!” Jack looked at Cherie. “Yeah. “It’s moving . Jack continued to venture out. Before he could look through the scope he noticed something different that wasn’t visible from the hill because of the trees. He set up in the same bush that gave him protection before. hold this and stay here. . I want to try something . at this rate . “Okay.
Jack ran just like last time. they’re climbing on top of each other. The mammoth was running full tilt but was only going the speed of a fast walk for Jack. “What do you mean?” Cherie asked. The mammoth was getting closer. Jack and Cherie stood there in disbelief. She pointed to the vines. The only movement was in the vines as they creped themselves out further. Cherie could feel his fear. “Look. It was like it was in slow motion. He stepped on the vines that were crawling up to meet him. The two of them stood completely still staring at each other in utter shock. The vines were growing as if up a fence. pointing to their left and right. The vines were growing out on all sides of them. As the mammoth got closer Jack ran ahead and waited again. Cherie broke eye contact and focused out past Jack. Jones . “What?” Jack asked. “The vines. She walked out and knelt down. Jack followed her and bent down beside her to see what caught her interest. The mammoth was gone. not knowing what to do next.” Jack said. Jack realized what had happened as he let his breath out. 54 | C. When he was far ahead he stopped and watched. and Jack sat next to her.” Cherie sat down to watch.the mammoth slowly move its head and turn to charge Jack. he trampled the vines as he faded even more. it’s like a little wall. stood still and braced himself for the impact as the mammoth ran right through him and vanished. leaving two huge footprints on the delicate new growth.” Jack stood up. The tiny wall was now about five inches tall and it was growing thicker as it was growing higher. “It’s not safe out here. Jack held his breath.” she said. “This is incredible.
“The mammoth. The Dragon and The Dove | 55 . They stood right inside the woods and Jack felt secure. walking along the wall. He had to stand on a large rock because the wall was now reaching four feet. The wall was now almost over her head. Jack looked out into the vast emptiness and saw nothing new. They slowly walked out of the trees. Cherie could not take her eyes off the vines working their way into a wall. it’s kinda the way things have been going. “Just a guess. this thing is about three feet thick. “Hey. Walking on the strange carpet. “Wait.” Jack said surprised as he stood on his toes. this is amazing. Cherie and Jack made their way up to the wall. I don’t know why but the creatures couldn’t see it or hear anything inside it. “I can’t tell.” Cherie pulled a little digital camera out of her pocket. what’s it doing on the other side?” she asked. He viewed the area through the scope. okay. I guess we can go out. it trampled the vine but never entered the forest. The foliage had created a wall that was now two feet high.” Jack grabbed Cherie’s hand and started to slowly walk back into the trees.” Jack replied. Cherie touched it and felt it moving under her fingertips. unsure of their surroundings. The forest is safe. “That’s incredible!” she said in awe. trying to see around. let’s get some pictures. “Um.” Jack said. “I bet this thing goes all the way around the forest. “Why do you say that?” Cherie asked.” Cherie said. The dragon never entered the forest either. “Let’s find an opening.” He lowered the scope and looked around cautiously.” Jack said as he took the lens cap off. “Come on Jack! Let’s go back out there. let me scope it out first.
we can’t go in there. At least up there we can see a bigger picture. . “Where!” Cherie asked. 56 | C. “What?” Cherie asked breathlessly.” Jack turned to walk back. “Alright. Jones . “the kids. I found something. .“Well.” Cherie snapped a few more pictures before putting the camera back in her pocket and running to keep up with Jack. you go that way and I’ll go this way and maybe we’ll find a break.” Jack said firmly. “A labyrinth?” Jack questioned.” “Let’s go. who knows what’s in there. “Yeah!” Cherie said in disbelief.” Cherie suggested. Inside they could see the foliage continue making walls and openings and pathways.” Jack said. looking at Jack. “Ok. “Oh my god! Do you know what this looks like?” Cherie asked. but I’m not letting you out of my sight. “Hey. He waited until she caught up to him. Who knows if we’ll ever come out . I want to see this.” Jack called. “Black Wolf Peak. “Well. Cherie kept walking. She looked where Jack was pointing at an opening the size of a door. She glanced over at Jack who was doing the same in the opposite direction. “I know who knows.” Cherie said. running her hand along the vines.” Jack said in alarm.
The labyrinth had been noticeable through the trees on the way up the mountain.” Jack replied.” Cherie thought about it a moment. just overcast with smooth clouds “That tornado won’t come here. it has to end somewhere. Jack viewed the labyrinth through the scope and watched the progress. That’s weird. | 57 . will it?” Cherie asked in a worried voice. that takes me back to my collage days. The sky above the forest was calm. Wait!” Jack was looking far out on the horizon. continuing to view the scene. so a labyrinth is basically building itself in our backyard. “Ok. “I think every culture and time period has had some kind of a labyrinth. whipping up the sand. I haven’t seen any activity out that far this whole time. “Where is this going?” Cherie asked. They got out of the truck and looked around. What does that mean? What is a labyrinth? Where do they come from?” “Oh gosh. “I don’t know .” said Jack. Jack grabbed his jacket and Cherie buttoned up her sweater.Chapter 8 By the time they made it up to the top of Black Wolf Peak. . the labyrinth surrounded the forest and had quickly covered the ground with a maze of paths. they could feel the drop in the temperature. “There’s some kind of tornado way out there. . He put the scope in his lap and looked at Cherie. Jack was right.” she paused. He saw a small tornado string down from the dark clouds. “It doesn’t seem like anything comes here. Cherie and Jack climbed to the top of the platform and looked out with the scope. Let’s see.
“Well. “Wanna sandwich?” Jack asked as he opened the chest and reached in for a sandwich and soda. I don’t know what else to do. blue cooler. “No. After a couple of hours the labyrinth had created the beginnings of a beautifully intricate maze pattern. The labyrinth continued to build all around the forest.” Cherie said. She was still looking through the scope mesmerized. Jack guessed it to be six feet high by now and he could see a second and third row developing. go ahead. He brought it up to where Cherie was sitting.” she said. watching all the rapid growth from the top of the mountain. There’s more than one structure.” Jack admitted. and the small primitive city was building from the ground up with the help of the twisting wind. observing. 58 | C. Both sat speechless.“I recall spiritual purposes the choices one has through the journey of life and meditation purposes. with the scope held up to her face. it’s building fast and that is not a tornado.” Jack said. They sat in silence. “This is crazy.” Jack climber down the ladder and walked to the truck to retrieve the big. “We could sit up here all day and watch this grow. continuing to view the land. Jack stood up and looked all around them. looking through the scope again. handing the scope to Cherie. Jones . “You’re right! Where is this coming from?” Cherie said. Cherie finally put the scope down and had lunch with Jack. “It looks like some type of building is going up out there!” Jack said surprised. it looks like some kind of small city going up out there. Honey. Are you hungry? I’m going to grab the cooler.
When she got back.” Jack didn’t know what else to say. okay. “Yep. its water! There’s a river out there twisting through that city!” Jack exclaimed. but that’s some kind of intelligence. Cherie had already started a very accurate sketch of the elaborate maze. you’re more artistic then I am. looking at Jack with that face that says ‘You know I’m right’. Jack handed her the scope and she found the river. I have an idea. let me see the scope. she handed him the scope. They were up there most of the day and the labyrinth was almost complete. but without the scope couldn’t see anything. And I don’t know for sure what’s going on down there.” He said holding out his hand for the scope. Well. “Yeah. climbed down off the platform. “I don’t know. Look . “There’s just crazy stuff out there.“Ooh. obviously there is a world out there. . We can’t just never ever go out there. look at that. . “I’m just sketching the way to the city. We’re stocked up on supplies pretty good but not forever. “You’re kidding!” Cherie squinted her eyes. The Dragon and The Dove | 59 .” Jack said worried.” Cherie said excitedly. Do you have a pen and some paper?” Cherie asked Jack. curious as to what he had spotted.” Jack reached over to Cherie. A city is building itself right before our very eyes. Jack. Cherie jumped up. “In the truck.” Cherie pointed out toward the rising city. Jack hated that face. she had a scrap of paper and a pen. “Wow. and ran down to the truck. but if we make a map then we can explore it and then find our way back. Hey. “If we copy the maze we can go in and find our way out again. this is like some old Roman city with a little old Mayan influence.” “I know. we can’t just ignore it and go on with our lives in the forest.
it has a water system. right?” She waited for a response.” Jack looked at Cherie as she looked up and out. Very eclectic.” “Almost. Jones . Jack looked through his scope at the sky. The little city was between six and ten miles from the forest. and fountains.” After packing up the cooler the two of them settled in for the long ride home. but could be an all day hike going through the maze.” Jack said.” Cherie exclaimed proudly. “Are you almost done. Honey? I’m ready to head home. it takes awhile from here and we’ll get home after dark. “Really?” “Yeah.” She didn’t stop sketching. bringing the scope back to his eyes. The knot in his stomach tightened the more he thought about it. the sun had set behind the tumultuous clouds and the darkness was settling in. “And trees and bushes.This thing is huge. “It’s still hard to see with that wind or tornado thing going on. I don’t want to draw the whole thing. let’s go home. Jack was formulating distance in his head for the adventure that awaited him. It’s cold up here. just what we need to get to the city. “Done.” Jack said as he continued to spy on the city. and the structures remind me of Egyptian architecture and there seems to be a little Roman and Spanish influence. hey. “Yeah. 60 | C. Very smart. the landscapers are here honey. right. “This city is amazing. “Okay.” Jack said impressed. I think I see a coliseum down there. He took a deep breath and turned to Cherie. but this is the fastest I’ve ever seen anything built.” Jack said with the scope stuck to his eye.
Ryan’s sock foot was sticking out. “Shhhh. The unknown was waiting for him. they’ve been busy.” Jared put his fingers to his lips. complete with a tinfoil crown. He tip-toed over all the toys and pillows.” Jack said loudly. “Looks like you’ve been having fun. Jared wore a cape and carried his toy sword. He pushed the feeling away because he knew what he had to do. shaking her head. “Where is Uncle Ryan?” Jack asked concerned. Jack and Cherie looked at each other proceeding to work their way through the demolished living room into the hallway and down to Nicole’s room. The Dragon and The Dove | 61 . When Jack and Cherie walked in the front door they were confronted by a huge mess of blankets and couch cushions and pillows and anything else the crew could get their hands on. “What’s going on here?” she asked Rogue as she scratched his head. They walked to the next room and stood silently in the doorway. Cherie reached down and untangled the sheet. At the end of the hall was a sheet held up by a stool.Something was tugging at Jack. From one of the back bedrooms little tiny voices could be heard. Rogue came running down the hallway making a bigger mess dragging a sheet that had twisted around his back leg. he was uncomfortable about what the next day could bring. Tomorrow was set. On the way they passed Jared’s room where they paused briefly to observe the devastation. Nicole was wearing the fairy costume she had last year for Halloween and the tiara she got from a birthday party. “Well. “Mom. that he didn’t have a choice. Jared jumped at the sound of his father’s voice.” Nicole ran to her mother and Jared ran to hug his father.” Cherie said to Jack.
He rubbed it then looked at Jack and Cherie. “Your what?” Jack didn’t understand. Thank god.” Jared responded. Dad. “The Labyrinth”? You watched that movie again?” “It played three times today.” Nicole said adjusting her crown. “So what is all of this” Jack asked with his arms out. “You know.” Ryan stood up with a sheet draped over his shoulder. “Yeah. you’re home.” Jared confirmed Jack kicked his foot and Ryan shot straight up. I’ll be in the kitchen. “Well. “Did you guys use every sheet we own?” Cherie asked looking around “Yeah. those two wore me out.” His left eye was stuck shut. you get this mess picked up. Dad. “Our golden city is waiting for us.” Ryan interjected. “Hey.“Is he asleep?” Jack questioned. “Whoa. Jack turned to the kids. “He’s tired. like the movie. 62 | C. I’m a king!” Jared shouted.” Cherie walked off to start dinner. as Nicole and Jared looked at each other. “It’s our labith.” Nicole said slowly.” two voices replied quietly. Jones . I have to figure out some quick dinner. Jack recalled the movie rolling credits when he and Cherie walked into the house.
Cherie made a map of the labyrinth and she’s making us explore it first thing tomorrow morning. I’m dead serious.” Ryan said waiting for Jack to let him off the hook.“And what are you?” Jack smiled. . the dragon disappeared . . “I’m the royal guard. there is a huge labyrinth growing right now. kids. looking a Ryan. . . it grew right before our eyes . “You’re kidding. “No. “You’re pulling my leg. . “Well . . start picking it up. The Dragon and The Dove | 63 . . So sleep up. .” Jack waited for a reaction. “Well.” Jack said. the mammoth charged me but disappeared before it hit me . . That’s all really.” Jack got up and walked in the house leaving Ryan to ponder the new information. very fast .” Ryan said smugly. “So what’s up? Anything exciting?” Ryan asked as he plopped down in a patio chair. I have to talk to Uncle Ryan. He put his hand on Ryan’s shoulder and Ryan led the way out to the back porch. and I spotted a small tornado that is building a small city a few miles from the tree line. .” Ryan said with a smile.
“Cherie packed us a cooler of food and soda. “Well. this should be a blast. The morning was brisk and Jack appreciated Cherie for nagging him the night before to pack his daypack with supplies. He tried to feel the excitement that Ryan was feeling. Ryan quickly gathered his things. some waterproof matches. Jack was wandering around in his head and Ryan was sipping his hot coffee and enjoying a square of Cherie’s warm crumbly coffee cake. but to his surprise. I got my jacket. a flashlight.Chapter 9 It was before sunrise. but it was a sliver and gave little light. Was it because Jack has a family and Ryan is alone or is it simply that Jack knows something that Ryan doesn’t know? “Alright.” Jack said as they drove out of the driveway. Ryan met him at the door. if it’s everything you say it is. you’ ready to go. Dread flooded over Jack. I packed my hunting knife.” Ryan said excitedly. let’s go. . The drive was dark and quiet.” Jack said with his eyebrows raised. some extra socks.” Ryan looked at Jack. but just couldn’t find anything but fear. shut the door and caught up with Jack. . 64 | . Shiny jeweled eyes would glisten out in the trees as the head lights would catch reflections of little creatures utilizing the darkness. and a bottle of water. “Wow. The moon was still out. “Hey. what else .” Jack turned to walk to the truck with little patience. uh. He was walking across the yard to the guesthouse expecting to find Ryan snoring.
Clean. Jack sipped his coffee and took some deep breaths. Ryan handed the scope over to Jack. The city was magnificent.” He turned to Jack. even at sunrise. let’s check it out. Ryan stood up. Jack could see a lot had taken place throughout the night. and Ryan was right. regardless. There are people? He thought. “I don’t know what we’re going to encounter in that maze. his security blanket. “Somehow the kids did this. knowing Ryan would ask. They drove to the top of the mountain just as the sun was peeking over the horizon.” he said. Jack followed him to the truck. I brought the guns. reluctant to get out of the truck. “Holy shit!” Ryan yelled out. jumped out. They drove down the mountain and Jack had to express his concerns to Ryan. He put the scope back up to his eye. “That’s incredible!” he said. “Let’s go. Jack had to take a moment to let the information sink in. and walked over to the edge to settle down.” he said. Jack felt his excitement level begin to rise. beautiful and big. “There’s a whole working city here. Ryan was studying the maze. The Dragon and The Dove | 65 . He walked over to where Ryan was sitting and joined him. When Jack parked.” Jack looked for Ryan’s reaction. From the top of the mountain the people in the city looked like ants. Jack ignored Ryan. Jack was annoyed by Ryan’s nonchalance. turning to walk to the truck. Ryan grabbed the scope. The city was finished and thriving. Jack focused in on the city. “We should go up here first and scope it out. He didn’t want to be reminded of the kids’ role in this fiasco.” That prompted Jack to get out of the truck.Jack broke the silence as he took the road up to Black Wolf Peak. Three times the size when he and Cherie had left it.
blended shades of green and a strong.m. The labyrinth was incredible. This is the adventure of a life time Jack. “You ready?” Jack asked after taking a deep breath. Just don’t worry. Jack looked close and could see the tiny vines growing and reaching. Who gets to do this? Us that’s who! I’ll get your back and you get mine. They turned and walked to the tree line.” Ryan said with a smile. They knew each other better than anyone and had their ways of comforting each other in trying times. What he didn’t know was that behind them the tiny vines were reaching out to create a wall closing off the entrance. The sun was rising and Jack guessed it to be around 6:00 a. “Good thinking.” Ryan made Jack feel better. Both men felt stronger as they pulled into the clearing. taking the next right. 66 | C. it won’t do us any good.” Jack teased.” Jack started walking confidently and Ryan followed. Deal?” Ryan held out his hand and Jack grabbed it in a firm handshake. exotic fragrance. that’s what it is. With the map Jack felt like he knew exactly where to go. The labyrinth had beautiful. Jones . They sat a moment observing the area. It gave Jack the creeps as he pulled the folded map out of his pocket. We will deal with whatever we have to deal with. I see you have the 50 cal. handing Ryan a colt 45.” Ryan said opening the door. Look. “Let’s just go at this like an adventure.“Good idea. He stepped out and gathered his gear. The opening was the width of a door and the two men entered. The men holstered and strapped on their weapons. “It looks like we follow this path. Jack parked. Jack did the same. “Yep. “I’m a better shot. All that was visible was a huge green wall standing what seemed to be fifteen feet tall. gathering nerves and clearing their heads. don’t worry. you know. keeping the 50 caliber Desert Eagle for himself.
Ryan had a questioning look on his face.” Jack said. looking at Ryan with uncertainty. they’re huge! What are they? Wolf?” Ryan exclaimed in surprise. “Well. He finally stopped and looked at the map with Jack. Cherie must have made a mistake.” The Dragon and The Dove | 67 . Silently he pointed behind Jack. just for peace of mind. just like it had been doing all night. which way do we go next?” Ryan asked. “Let’s keep going. They proceeded to go left and the labyrinth proceeded to change and transform its pathways. . satisfied. “Okay. Jack looked up from the map confused. “Okay. Ryan met up with Jack.The labyrinth created illusions. He looked back at the map. The men quickened their pace looking for the next path. “Hey. A doorway came up on their right and they automatically took it.” Jack replied.” Jack said. we go left next. Jack stopped to take a look. “Okay.” Both men put their hands on the leafy wall and started walking in opposite directions trying to feel any indentations. “Umm . so if she got that one wrong. Jack turned to look and there was an opening. I guess we go left. so Jack and Ryan could only see a doorway when they were right in front of it. we didn’t miss it. Ryan kept walking with his hands on the wall searching for an opening. “Oh. looking up at Ryan.” Ryan said. I guess we keep walking.” Jack said. “We take another right. look at these tracks. there should be a door close by. It just isn’t here. “Whoa!” Jack put his hand on his gun. not taking his eyes off the map. “Okay.” Jack commented. .
It lowered its head. Ryan walked up to it and scratched its head. The puppy was right on their heels. Before they could reach for their guns a huge. When they turned the corner to go back the way they came. I don’t see this area on the map at all. Jack sat down on a bench and set the map down. put its butt in the air and barked in a playful manner. When they were almost to the other end Ryan stopped unexpectedly and Jack ran into his back. “Okay. Jones . waiting for Ryan to respond.” Jack said sarcastically. it’s a girl. Something was breathing right around the corner. looking up at Ryan. searching for a pathway to the left. “Now. Jack and Ryan instinctively turned and ran full speed. causing the puppy to lay down for more. The two men stood up and looked at their new playmate.” Ryan started walking. Jack listened. “Great. smothering them with fur and dust. then.They proceeded with a little more caution. “Well. The canine jumped to its feet and faced the men wagging its tail ready to play. “Which way do we go?” Jack asked. fluffy golden retriever puppy jumped out at them and yapped.” Jack answered. “Here are the huge tracks again. they stepped into a round space with three benches and three pathways. let’s take that one. so we won’t 68 | C. They found themselves at one end of a long pathway. When they came upon it and walked through the opening.” he said.” Ryan was pointing down to the ground. Ryan turned with his finger to his lips. Ryan looked at Jack. “Right. light brown. “Right or left or middle?” Ryan asked. Jack and Ryan slammed into a barrier with the huge puppy squishing them further into the soft labyrinth wall. The puppy was approximately nine feet high. Jack followed. so they felt confident enough to walk briskly.
“Well. He called the puppy to him and the two walked off together.” Jack said as he was slammed into the leafy wall. The puppy let out a huge yawn and started to stretch her limbs in the tiny space.” Ryan stopped scratching and the enormous puppy stood up. Let’s just go. . it’s the labyrinth. “Good dog.” Jack laughed. Ryan was laughing uncontrollably. So funny!” Jack said. . I guess we just pick one. “Well. patting the puppy on her shoulder. leaving Jack to recover. “Funny. isn’t it?” Jack asked. “Probably. “That worr . He was still scratching her head.” Ryan said. we don’t have a choice now. The men walked in front of her and she happily followed. The tongue disappeared and Jack was left with his head soaked with puppy spit.” Ryan said.” looking down at thin huge canine lying in their way. They came to another open spot with three benches and three pathways. We’re going to have to crawl over this thing. But I wonder where the mommy is!” “Forget that. catching up. There was a giant tongue smothering his face complete with puppy breath. The trio continued to walk through the maze.” Jack said. good dog. “We need a really big ball. “Let’s go.get peed on. it’s changing. That’s good to know. Jack and Ryan looked at each other. these vines are alive! Cherie didn’t mess up. “This thing is going to follow us.” Jack and Ryan looked at each other considering the seriousness of the situation. Ryan. . Jack and Ryan were in her way as she plopped down The Dragon and The Dove | 69 . Where’s the path? We just came this way and now it’s a dead end. Ryan responded.
The puppy closed her eyes and stretched out as far as she could and fell into a deep sleep. isn’t it?” Jack agreed. I was thinking if this maze is changing it could take forever to get through. She knocked over two benches and blocked two of the pathways on her way down. 70 | C. “Let’s ditch her. pinks and every color in between. let’s take that one. pointing to the only pathway available to them. Halfway through a long straightaway. concerned.” Jack said to Ryan. The colors were magnificent vibrant blues.” Jack said. randomly choosing directions. “So. exotic flowers started blooming right before their eyes. beautiful.” Ryan shivered. “Okay. He stopped to observe the walls. “Well. Jones . greens. “It’s weird. The tiny vines were still creeping and crawling up and over and around each other. “Eww. oranges. The fragrance engulfed the two men as they stared in amazement at their surroundings.for a nap. we’re in it now. They continued walking. bright.” Ryan said as he slowly walked out the chosen path with Jack following.” Ryan responded.
He looked at both men straight in the eyes. | 71 . didn’t know that was your house.” Jack was annoyed as he walked off. For a few seconds Jack and Ryan made themselves dizzy. “Yeah. The swarm stopped. Suddenly all the bugs swarmed together and hovered a safe distance above them.” Jack said dryly. Jack felt a hard poke on his nose. They were flying and buzzing everywhere all at once. “They’re following us. this is ridiculous. but maybe they can guide us. a large bug shot out of the flower.” Jack kept walking.” Ryan offered. twisting and turning while trying to swat at the bugs. As Jack backed away confused.” Ryan said. with his tiny little finger and his tiny little voice. this is the kid’s imagination. They gasped when they realized these creatures weren’t bugs. looking back. As soon as the screaming stopped. Jack stopped. “Sorry. looking back at the swarm following them.Chapter 10 Jack bent over and put his nose into a bright blue flower. “You should know better than that!” he scolded. This one happened to be a boy. In an instant. “I just want to get to the city. Let’s go. The two men watched as one bug slowly floated down to eye level. “Wait. Jack turned to Ryan. what seemed like a thousand bugs erupted out of the flowers. “So what?” Jack said. “I would never shove my fat face in your house!” he admonished. this isn’t even real. A paralyzing scream pierced Jack’s and Ryan’s ears. Ryan took big steps to catch up. but tiny people with sparkly little wings.
“Hey!” Jack called, and started walking back towards them. Two of the little people flew to meet him. “Hey what? You wanna go, big boy? Huh? We’ll fight you. You wanna go? I’ll take you on. You’re not that big,” one said, with his fists up. “The bigger they are the harder they fall,” said the other, with furrowed brows. “NO! I don’t wanna GO!” Jack said as if that was the stupidest thing he ever heard. “I was hoping you could lead us to the city.” The little people looked at each other, turned around and floated quietly in the direction they came. “Hey, I just asked you a question.” Jack said. They ignored him. Jack thought for a moment. “Yeah, I wanna fight!” He yelled and put up his fists. The two little people turned and flew at Jack like a blur. They were in his face with fists ready. “But only if you show me to the city,” Jack said, trying to focus with little people in his eyes. The little flies looked at each other. “Okay,” the mouthy one said, accepting the gig. “Stay here,” he commanded. The two little guys flew to the group to talk, and when they were satisfied, they flew back to Jack. “Let’s go, we’re burning daylight.” The two little people flew ahead. Jack and Ryan had to hurry to keep up. They were practically running. They turned left here and right there and right here and left there. “How do they know where to go so easily?” Jack asked Ryan quietly. “Because we are a part of this great masterpiece!” the little one called back.
72 | C. Jones
Surprised, Jack whispered “How did they hear me?” Ryan shrugged “Because we are a part of this great masterpiece!” The little one called back a little louder this time with annoyance in his voice. Jack and Ryan were silent for awhile, eagerly following their leaders. After jogging what felt like four miles straight, the two little people stopped abruptly. When Jack and Ryan caught up to them, they buzzed nervously around Jack’s and Ryan’s ears with their fingers up to their lips. “What is it?” Ryan whispered. “Shhhh . . . something BIG!” The bigger little person said with huge eyes and using his arms to make a big sweeping motion. The four of them stayed perfectly still and silent. Waiting . . . waiting . . . “Hide!” the little people whispered in a panic and were gone in a flash. Jack and Ryan had nowhere to hide. They stood frozen with fear. When it walked around the corner Jack and Ryan knew in a heartbeat they had entered the twilight zone. A steel tiger covered with shiny armor plates stopped and faced the men with cold, steel eyes. They knew that if they turned and ran they wouldn’t last a minute against this new predator. The men felt cornered and slowly reached for their guns. Before they could pull their pieces from their holsters the tiger lunged at them, knocking them flat on their backs. Winded, Jack and Ryan scrambled to their feet pulling out their weapons. The tiger waited in a stalking position for another opportunity. Jack immediately fired, his bullets ricocheting off the body armor with sparks flying, leaving the tiger unaffected. Ryan shot second with the same results. “He’s bullet proof!” Jack yelled in panic. The tiger growled deeply. He opened his mouth and threw back his head, showing off his five inch fangs. Swatting the air with his heavy paws, his
The Dragon and The Dove | 73
razor sharp claws sparkled. Jack and Ryan had no idea what to do. That’s when the tiger lunged again, and in mid air was slammed to the ground. The dust blew up all around him. As he tried to get up on all fours, he was lifted up in mid-air and was slammed to the ground with incredible force again. With a squeal of pain he was able to get up and balance himself. He shook his head, turned and ran off. The two little people were buzzing around right where the tiger had stood. “Where did you two come from?” Ryan questioned. “We were there,” the little one said, pointing into the live wall, “until you tough guys needed help. Who do you think did the body slam?” “Yeah!” The two little bugs hollered and hooted, doing a little dance like they just made a touchdown, then they high fived each other. “You did that?” Jack asked in surprise. “You see anyone else here, wise guy?” The little one said. Jack and Ryan look at each other, impressed. “So, do you guys have names?” Ryan questioned. “Ooh . . . we’re worthy now,” the bigger one said, looking at the little one. “Okay, forget it, let’s just go,” Jack said, annoyed. “What? No thank-yous for saving your pathetic, overgrown lives?” The little one remarked. “What do you mean? We could have handled the situation,” Jack replied.
“Right! Before or after being reduced to tiger meat?” The two little people laughed. “Okay! Thank you for saving our pathetic lives,” Ryan said looking at Jack. “So, what are your names?” he continued. “I’m Spar,” the little one said, “and this in Gunther.” “Alright, I’m Ryan and this is Jack,” Ryan said. “Can we go now?” Jack interjected. “Who peed in his cornflakes?” Spar said. Ryan chuckled. The crew continued on their journey, grateful that the last few hours had been uneventful. They came to an open area with a bench and decided to stop for a rest and a bit to eat. Jack and Ryan pulled out Cherie’s gourmet, roast beef sandwiches, soda and the rest of the coffeecake. Spar and Gunther sat on the bench and pulled out tiny, little lunches and all four nourished themselves. “So why do you guys want to go to the Golden Palace so bad? You don’t belong there. Where do you belong, anyway?” Spar questioned with his mouth full of food. “Our world seems to have been destroyed. So I guess we just want to know what’s out here,” Ryan said sadly. “Where is your world?” Gunther questioned quietly. “What’s left of it you mean? It’s right outside of this labyrinth. Our little piece of forest,” Jack said before filling his mouth with a big bite of sandwich. “What about your families?” Gunther asked in a sympathetic voice.
The Dragon and The Dove | 75
“Well, Jack’s wife and kids are fine but all we can figure is that we’re all that’s left,” Ryan said. “That’s so sad,” Gunther whispered, almost in tears. “So, you live in the flowers?” Ryan asked, trying to lighten the mood. “We move from flower to flower. We’re gypsies, always traveling,” Spar said, full of himself, throwing a chunk of bee pollen into his mouth. Jack rolled his eyes. “We should pack up and head out soon,” Jack suggested. “Good idea, let’s reload,” Ryan said. The group prepared to go. It was around noon and if the clouds had not been so dark and angry the sun would be shining directly above the foursome. Jack and Ryan quietly followed their tour guides, anxious to reach the city. “Maybe we can get a hot meal when we get there.” Ryan was always thinking of food. “I just want to be discrete and check it out,” Jack replied. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, we don’t know what to expect,” Ryan agreed. “Hey, how close are we, guys?” Ryan shouted. “Not far, I can see the city, but it’s hard to say because of the labyrinth. We could twist and turn for days,” Spar called back to them. Spar and Gunther were flying high above the maze so the trip was going relatively fast. Even though the two guides could see the changes to the living corridors, they were unable to foresee the next event. As Spar and Gunther flew around the next corner carrying on a conversation, they were snatched out of mid-air. Jack and Ryan were both startled by
76 | C. Jones
the sudden movement and the loud, shrill screams echoing from Spar and Gunther. “Whoa, what was that” Jack looked at Ryan, ready to spring into action. “I don’t know, something around the corner,” Ryan whispered with eyes wide open. Both men crept slowly towards the pathway, reaching for their guns. The echoing screams could still be heard. Jack and Ryan cautiously peeked around the corner to see an oversized toad dressed in a sparkly, purple jester suite with gold frills around the neck. The toad wore purple pointy booties and a purple, gold, and green jester hat complete with bells. They slowly pulled their heads back out of view of the big fat toad. Jack looked at Ryan. “Nicole got that toad for Christmas last year, hers is stuffed, and it sits on her bed.” “You’re right, but this one’s real. What do we do?” Ryan asked. “Well, we’re too big, it won’t try to eat us, but Spar and Gunther are in big trouble,” Jack mumbled. “Maybe we can hold its mouth open and they can fly out,” Ryan suggested. Jack looked at Ryan. Not knowing what else to do, he nodded. They counted to three and stepped around the corner. Startled, the fat toad stepped back, then sat down and looked at the two strangers. Jack and Ryan were trying to figure out how they were going to carry out their plan when the toad made a deep growl and started twitching uncomfortably. It opened its mouth and stuck out its tongue, not as a way to retrieve food but as if it was choking. The toad squirmed like it was in pain, making low guttural noises. It looked like it was wrestling with a hair ball. The
The Dragon and The Dove | 77
toad nearly fell over when Spar and Gunther shot out a high speed from the mouth along with slime and saliva. The toad stood up, shook its head, focused, and then slowly hopped off in the opposite direction looking quite ill, wanting nothing to do with the meal that got away. “Wow! That was quite a show!” Ryan laughed at the two little guys drenched in spit sitting in the dirt with disgusted looks on their faces. “We were going to come and get you,” Jack said, with a smile. “Yeah, right. That toad would have stomped you two wimps. How do I get this sludge off? Spar asked with a scowl on his face. Gunther looked up helplessly at Jack and Ryan wiping the goo off his head. “Here I have a water bottle,” Ryan said digging into his pack. He pulled out his water bottle, filled the cap and put it on the ground so Spar and Gunther could wash off. “Should we turn around?” Jack asked jokingly. “We’re not getting naked!” Spar yelled disgustedly. Jack and Ryan laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks. When Spar and Gunther had cleaned themselves up, the group continued on, in a closer bunch this time. “So, have you two been to this city?” Jack questioned, Spar and Gunther looked at each other. “Yes,” Gunther said quietly. “Well? What’s it like?” Jack said prying. “Just like any other city, I guess,” Gunther answered.
78 | C. Jones
“Except . . . ,” Spar started, and then stopped. “Except what?” Ryan asked. “Well, ever since I can remember the city has been a little ummm . . . uneasy,” Spar explained. “What do you mean . . . why?” Jack urged. “I don’t know exactly. I guess they lost something, something real important,” “What?” Jack asked. “We don’t know. We stay out of the city. It’s too dangerous. They’re angry. In fact, we’re leading you to the city but that’s as far as we go. After that you’re on your own,” Spar looked at Jack and Ryan making sure they understood him. “Hmmm . . . I wonder what they lost,” Jack muttered under his breath. He had that uneasy feeling stirring in his gut again. “Shhh . . . can you hear that? We’re close,” Spar said. Jack and Ryan listened intently. It was very faint, but they could hear the hustle and bustle of movement. Jack and Ryan felt the excitement of life, people, and civilization. They all quickened their pace. Just as they thought the maze was never going to end, the four of them took a pathway that opened into the city.
The Dragon and The Dove
Jack and Ryan stopped in amazement. Spar and Gunther hovered above them and the four observed an incredible sight. The city was magnificent; there were courtyards, fountains, flowers, streams and statues. Jack and Ryan saw merchants tending to their displays and customers. They were selling meats, cheeses, prepared foods, spices, fabric, ribbons, incense, live animals, wines, and exotic fruits. It was amazing. Jack looked closer and noticed they were trading goods. They weren’t using money. They were using the barter system. Jack had the feeling of going back in time. After Jack pointed out this observation to Ryan, Ryan pointed out to Jack that they had not been spotted yet. They were standing just inside an archway of the maze and no one had seen them. Jack looked around for cover that would be useful as soon as they stepped out of the labyrinth. Ryan caught Jack’s thought and started looking as well. “There!” Jack pointed to a small alleyway between two bright white buildings. “Okay, good, let’s go straight there,” Ryan said. Both men looked up at Spar and Gunther. “Thank you for getting us here,” Jack said to his little friends. “Good luck,” Gunther replied with tears in his eyes. “You guys should be okay, right?” Ryan asked concerned. “Watch out for toads,” he added.
“Okay, let’s go,” Jack said, as if they were about to jump out of an airplane with one parachute. Jack and Ryan stepped out of the labyrinth onto the dirt courtyard and walked straight toward their hiding spot. Instantly people started to turn and stare at them. They looked out of place in hiking boots, jeans and jackets. Jack was wearing his baseball cap and the two of them carried backpacks. The people surrounding them were wearing colorful robes and hats. Not one was wearing pants. The people would look and then go on with their business. “Everyone is checking us out.” Ryan whispered. “Yeah, but they don’t seem to be scared or alarmed,” Jack whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “but, maybe we should try and blend in.” Just then two large men with staffs appeared. “Your presence is requested in the palace,” one of the men said in a deep voice. The men turned to walk away, expecting Jack and Ryan to follow. Jack looked at Ryan. Feeling like little kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar they walked out to follow the men. They looked around in wonderment as they traveled through the magnificent city. The people looked happy and healthy. Kids were playing all around. The smells of wonderful foods permeated the air. The sounds of a flute player could be heard off in the distance. It looked like a great place to be. In one tree they passed were beautiful, exotic looking birds. Jack was sure they didn’t exist anywhere outside this city. The warnings from Spar and Gunther seemed to be a little dramatic. The only thing odd or out of place were the angry clouds above. They were led up the steps of a brilliant gold building. Jack and Ryan were in awe. The architecture was similar to the Mayan structures they had seen on a trip down into Mexico; only this one looked to be pure gold. After climbing what seemed to be hundreds of steps, they reached two huge,
The Dragon and The Dove | 81
carved, golden doors. The two large guards pulled the doors open with their massive arms. Jack and Ryan entered, then waited for their escorts to close the vault and take the lead. The hallway was lit by torches placed on the walls. Faint drawings could be seen etched into the stone. “I feel like Indiana Jones,” Ryan whispered. The two large men opened another set of golden doors to reveal a huge room. The room was filled with a brilliant light. Both Jack and Ryan up their hands to cover their eyes giving them a chance to adjust. After a few seconds Jack lowered his hands to look around. He was looking at walls made of gold with intricate designs encrusted with jewels. Next to him, Ryan was looking up at the high ceiling. He pointed to the beautiful open archways that let sunlight flood into the room. “I’m finally glad for the cloud cover. Otherwise we would have been blinded for good,” he said quietly. On the north end of the room two large gold thrones sat elevated on massive stone slabs. The seats were covered with brightly colored plush pillows. On the wall, behind and above the thrones, hung two large tapestries. Ryan and Jack were led to the front of the room. The two large men stripped them of their weapons, packs and jackets then walked off to stand in front of the doors. Jack and Ryan stood there looking at each other wondering what they should do. “I feel like we did something wrong,” Jack whispered “Me too, Look at this place,” Ryan said looking around. “Look at all the je . . . ,” Ryan was interrupted by a beautiful woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere. She was as brilliant as the room she stood in. Her presence demanded attention as she stood between the thrones. “Where have you come from?” she asked the startled men.
“Uh . . . the forest beyond the labyrinth,” Jack spoke up. He could see disbelief in her eyes. “And is that where you are keeping them?” she asked coldly, as if they knew what she was talking about. Jack and Ryan look at each other puzzled. “Keeping what?” Ryan asked. She looked at them with a raised eyebrow. With a snap of her finger a secret door in the wall opened up and two men were pushed out into the room with their hands tied behind their backs. They looked as though they had been beaten up very badly. One man looked older with a stocky build and the other was younger, shorter and slender, both looked in great shape despite the torture. “The hikers!” Ryan said in surprise. “Maybe you should all have a moment to chat. We really want back what is ours,” the woman said with steel in her voice. Everyone could feel the unspoken threat. The two strangers walked over very slowly, one was limping. Jack and Ryan rushed to help them. They sat down on the floor, Jack and Ryan knelt down with them. “You were hiking in the woods,” Ryan said. “We were looking for you. After the explosion and all of the dead bodies we saw you out there with that dragon and the mammoth, but by the time we hiked over where you were you were gone, so we continued to look for any signs of your camp. We just couldn’t find anything,” the older man said out of breath. Both had tears in their eyes. The younger man picked up where his partner left off. “This is crazy. We don’t know what’s going on, but we found the maze and ended up here.” He looked over at his captors . . .
The Dragon and The Dove | 83
I don’t know what they’re talking about.” The man sounded desperate. You have until the night after next to bring them to us!” she demanded. Jones .” Jack looked up at the mysterious woman. “That’s what I’m going to continue to do until we get what’s rightfully ours. We could not have taken anything. none of us have ever been here before. “Escort him back to where he came.” Jack pleaded. The woman turned and walked back up the steps with her knife leaving a trail of blood. grabbed the head of the older man. She let go of him as he slumped to the floor. The two large guards were joined by two more as they positioned themselves around the prisoners. she sliced his throat. She took a large knife from her gown and from behind. examining the head wounds. Jack. They didn’t know what to say. “What? What? I don’t know what to bring you! What do you want?” Jack was pleading for an answer. but maybe we could help you. “These men need help. The woman snapped her fingers. pointing to Jack. “WE NEED HELP! WE NEED WHAT’S OUR’S BROUGHT BACK TO US!” the woman’s voice boomed. “Please help us or we are going to die here.” She turned to the guards. “Please understand. but they don’t believe us.” Ryan said. The dead man was laying face down with blood pooling out from under his chest.“They think we stole something. Ryan and the remaining hiker were in shock. She stepped down to the bottom floor and glided over to the huddled men. “WHY THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT?” Jack yelled in horror. Two guards walked behind her and pulled on the two huge tapestries until they gave and fell 84 | C. and lifting his chin up.
Jack gathered his thoughts turned and followed the pathway. . The guards stood there motionless. Dragging Jack they walked briskly towards the golden doors.to the ground. The Dragon and The Dove | 85 . “And you are going to bring them to us or he dies and he dies. Jack’s face was pale searching for Ryan’s explanation. his feet were lifted off the ground. expressionless. He walked in and turned around watching the guard’s blank faces fill with surprise.” She was pointing down at Ryan and the remaining hiker. Having landed on his knees. They were the king and queen .” she said matter-of-factly. they dropped him to the ground they stood and waited. . You want my children?” he stammered. After awhile they got bored and left. “Hey! The door is over here!” Jack shouted. . revealing portraits of the King and Queen.” Ryan expected Jack to know what he was talking about. The guards grabbed up Jack so fast and hard. “The kids! We played Labyrinth and Golden Palace all day. . “I want our King and Queen. Continuing out to where Jack and Ryan first appeared in the city. Jack stood paralyzed as he looked up at the paintings of his children. He tried to side step to the pathway but the guards wouldn’t let him out of their space. . Jack!” Jack turned to face Ryan. “This is the Golden Palace. Jack slowly stood erect and faced his captors with a blank face. pointing to his left. “Jack . . “You . Even though they seemed oblivious. Jack knew they expected him to leave but the opening to the labyrinth was four feet to the left. remember?” Jack looked at the woman in disbelief. they backed off so Jack could walk over to the opening.
” a voice said in his ear. The more Jack tried to free himself the harder it got. He tried to lift his foot only to feel the suction of the mud pulling him down deeper. “Quicksand? No way!” By the time Jack stopped struggling he was up to his waist. When his shoulders were unearthed Spar and Gunther flew in front of his face. his beloved wife and Ryan flashed in his mind. All he wanted was to see Cherie and the kids. Jack was randomly choosing rights and lefts. “You didn’t think we were going to let you muddy the place up did you?’ Spar said sarcastically. 86 | . He struggled to get out again only to be sucked down further faster.” He yelled at the top of his lungs in desperation.” His boots were clumped with the stuff. “Ouch!” Jack struggled to see what was going on. His eyes quickly welled up with tears. “Ugh. hoping his little bug friends would show up. Jack stopped moving and even though it hurt he endured the pain because he could feel he was being lifted slowly out of the mud. you’re making it worse. The mud was up to his chin and he thought all was lost. His arms were now pinned under the heavy mud and Jack had no idea how he was going to get out. “No way! This can’t be right!” The faces of his babies. All he could picture in his mind was Ryan’s execution. “Stop moving. He felt like he had been traveling for hours when he stepped in a mud puddle. “Ouugh. he felt something clamp onto his ears and pull. and he knew that if he was ever to see Ryan again he had to hurry. He started walking as fast as he could while he called for Spar and Gunther. Tears streaming down his cheeks.Chapter 12 Jack felt like he was in a nightmare and couldn’t wake up.
just get me out of here. “Oh. “What do you mean? Your children have created this whole world? That’s ridiculous!” Spar was offended. flinging mud in the air. “I’m sorry. “Thank you. but I can do it myself.” Spar joked. “Oh you won’t believe it . shaking him to let some of the mud drop off. “Okay! Okay! You can let me down now. it’s true. “So where is Ryan and what happened?” Spar asked. you heard me. and then the three of them were on the pathway again. .“I’m happy to see you guys. but we have to get this mud off. I got mud in my ear. Spar and Gunther came under a barrage of mud clots. okay?” Spar and Gunther flew him to dry ground and set him down gently.” Jack stopped. Spar and Gunther understood. “Yeah. Spar and Gunther panicked. . They held Jack dangling in the air. Jack took off his shirt and shook it vigorously.” Jack said sincerely. annoyed. Spar and Gunther each grabbed a muddy shoulder and pulled with all their strength. You’re just going to have to deal with it.” Spar rationalized.” Jack told the story. . . they waited for Jack to finish grooming himself. But first I have to get back to my forest as soon as possible. “Well. The Dragon and The Dove | 87 . . what did you say? I couldn’t hear you. so you two fly above and guide me out of here fast or Ryan . Fleeing the area.” Jack snapped back with a smile on his face.” Jack said.
he felt more secure and actually enjoyed flying. When they had stopped for the break. They attached on to Jack’s shirt and away they went. Jack nodded. “Don’t worry: I really need you guys when I return. Spar and Gunther chose a clear spot in the labyrinth that looked safe.” Spar yelled back. He advised his partners where to land.“Let’s go!” Spar yelled. so are you ready? We need to hurry. He could see the forest in the distance and looking down he could see all kinds of creatures inhabiting the labyrinth. “Whoa! Wait. not to mention that poor hiker who has nothing to do with any of this. “Jack. When they touched down Gunther had tears in his eyes as Jack prepared to leave. just as long as your shirt doesn’t rip. It was kind disturbing. comforting him. the trio sat on the ground to relax a moment. Okay?” Jack said. They started to descend. they were half way there. Jack could see the truck in the clearing. “You don’t have to believe it.” Jack said.” Gunther hollered in Jack’s ear. “Sure. only it’s stuffed. Gunther was shaking his head in disbelief. Both little guys grabbed Jack by the shoulders of his shirt and flew above the maze towards the forest. When they landed. alarmed. Jones . Spar and Gunther looked at each other. “And I don’t have time to try to convince you. Once Jack relaxed a little. we have to land and take a break.” Spar said rebelliously.” Jack said starting to get up. “I still won’t believe your children created our world out of thin air. The rest of the flight went fairly quickly. Ryan’s life is in our hands. then got up themselves. 88 | C. is this safe?” Jack yelled. but that fat toad almost had you two for lunch is the same toad that sits on my daughter’s bed. but I will tell you this.
sighed and started to walk around the house to the backyard. The afternoon was relatively warm. The Dragon and The Dove | 89 . “Hi Dad!” Nicole followed. Jack ran out of the maze straight for the truck. the sun was shining. patted him on the back. So much has happened. Everything okay?” she inquired. He opened his eyes to look at Cherie. Jack walked up the steps. Rogue came running from around the backyard. He tried to clear his mind and relax his breathing before walking into the house.Gunther’s eyes lit up. the events of the past few days were swirling around in his head. Jared was jumping around with his cape and sword. Jack turned to look up on the deck where Cherie was sitting with a book and a glass of iced tea. Sure enough.” he said quietly. “You’re back so soon. who was patiently waiting for him to relax so he could fill her in on the day’s events. bouncing all around and whining for Jack’s attention. That always made Jack feel secure. happy to see his family safe. “Would you like some?” Cherie said referring to the ice tea. and it was a beautiful day. “Hi Dad!” Jared yelled. They were playing Golden Palace on the wooden play-set Jack had built them last summer. and then plopped into a patio chair. and cradling Rogue’s head in his arms. pressed his forehead against Rouge’s and closed his eyes. They continued to play. “Okay. When Jack pulled into the drive. His mind was on autopilot as he sped home. greeting Jack with excited bursts of energy. Jack knelt down. He scratched Rogue behind the ears. he found Nicole wearing her fairy costume and her head was adorned with a sparkling crown. He nodded and she poured him a glass. He kissed Cherie. He took a deep breath and prepared to meet his family. He couldn’t wait to see Cherie and the kid. He put his head back and rubbed his eyes.
guess who the king and queen are of this golden palace?” 90 | C. “Wow. . tell me.” He closed his eyes again.” Jack stopped to take a sip of his tea. Jones . . “Okay. then said “Okay.” he said calmly. stalked by a tiger made of metal. We were accosted by a huge puppy.“No. literally. And then she pulls down these huge tapestries and there are these enormous paintings of Nicole and Jared!” Jack waited for her response. She takes out a knife and kills this poor guy then she starts yelling at me to bring her what is theirs.” Cherie said. This woman walks out demanding we give her back what we took and we have no idea what she’s talking about. “Then we came to the city where we were forced to a golden palace. ran smack into that stuffed toad that sits on Nicole’s bed. what?” she stuttered. Cherie put her book down. only this one was alive. setting it on the table. where do I begin? We entered the labyrinth to discover that it’s constantly changing routes. it seems that the little city we watched go up is actually “THE” Golden Palace that the kids have been playing . so the map did us no good. go ahead.” She looked at Jack. She has her servants bring out the two hikers I told you about and they were beat up pretty bad.” Jack paused to sip his tea looking at Cherie who was staring back with huge eyes. We were brought to the front of a throne room where there were two big thrones made of gold. rubbing the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb. I’m ready. took a long sip of her ice tea. “Well. ready for more. “Yeah. . by two huge guards. . “In fact you’re not going to believe how messed up everything is. “W . that they are playing right now in fact.
“Jack. They will kill both men if I don’t bring the kids back with me.” Cherie pleaded with tears welling up in her eyes.” he responded.” “They have Ryan?” Cherie questioned. “I’m going to go pack.” she told Jack. it’s going to be okay. listening to their laughter. “As soon as possible. “Cherie.” he said and Cherie knew they had to go for Ryan.” Jack paused “we have to go. Cherie sat silent watching her babies playing in the grass.” Jack said with a sigh as he lay his head back on his chair and closed his eyes.Cherie was speechless. Cherie broke out of her gaze and stood up. “What about Ryan?” Jack replied. The Dragon and The Dove | 91 . I had to come back alone.” Jack and Cherie looked out in the grass to see Nicole and Jared running around with Rogue playing the game. giving Jack a disappointed look. “Pack light. “We’re stuck in their imaginations. The woman in the palace will kill Ryan if I don’t bring the kids to them.” He sat silently while they both soaked in the information. and still doing it. “They’ve been playing Golden Palace for days .” Cherie rationalized. ““Yeah. please. . Nicole had her stuffed toad and Jared was wielding his sword in the air. “No! We can’t take the kids in there. “When should we leave?” she asked wiping tears off her face. the kids are in control of this whole thing anyway. .
right?” “Oh yeah. “If you want to get the kids ready.” Cherie said. “The kids still fit.” Cherie said. 92 | C. “Hey. stuffing the backpack in the holder underneath. Jack came out the front door and down the steps. Jack shoved Rogue’s leash under the stroller and threw on a flannel jacket. Jones .When Cherie returned she had a stuffed backpack. I’ll lock up the house. Jack felt as if he was no longer in control of his life. we just stopped using it because they started walking. They were all excited to be going for a drive.” Jack said as he disappeared into the kitchen shutting and locking doors. a jacket for her and jackets for the kids. The kids each got a window seat and Rogue sat in the middle. Jack came around the corner with a double stroller Cherie used when the kids were little. Cherie managed to round up the kids and the dog and get everyone in the truck. good idea. He picked up the stroller and set it in the back of the truck. He jumped in the driver’s seat and sped off into the forest.
Jack looked over at Cherie. “Now stay behind me. When they jumped out of the truck. Nicole and Jared immediately started to run around enjoying the outdoors. When he set the stroller down she leaned in for a kiss. Jack and Cherie were so consumed in their thoughts the kids were just background noise.” Cherie said. He kissed her then held her for quite some time. Cherie called the kids over to the stroller to get them settled. He didn’t want to alarm Cherie so he did it quietly. let’s go. When he and Rogue were in he looked around scrutinizing everything. He | 93 . “Yeah. Jack called Rogue to him and fit him with his collar. Hon?” he asked. okay?” he gently ordered.Chapter 13 The kids jabbered all the way to the clearing. Cherie walked over to where Jack was lifting the stroller out of the truck. Jack had no idea what to expect in this crazy maze. Jack knew she needed to feel security from him before venturing forward. He grabbed it while he was locking up the house. When Jack and Cherie felt strong they broke away. She was busy with the kids. Jack grabbed Rogue’s leash close to his neck to keep the large dog close by. Jack cautiously walked through the entrance of the labyrinth. He walked Rogue over to Cherie and the kids.” she responded. and also check out what’s behind us periodically. “You ready. so he pulled out his handgun and double checked it before securing it in his jacket pocket. “Okay. trusting Jack. He looked up at her. She gave them baggies of little crackers and spill proof cups with juice.
The family continued on their journey with Jack prepared for anything. looking in the vines of the wall. Stopping for a snack. Rogue’s hackles were spiked. Jack was on guard while Cherie pulled out some string cheese sticks for the kids and some water and a chew for Rogue. He shushed everyone and listened intently. That’s when Jack heard a faint noise. buzz . She could feel his stress. He was really counting on their help getting Cherie and the kids through the maze. looking up at his mom he said “Buzz .felt Cherie and the kids behind him the kids were quietly whispering and giggling. Rogue’s nose was working overtime. Jack kept expecting Spar and Gunther to show up at any minute. “Spar! Gunther!” Jack looked around in the air. The buzzing grew louder. But what? No matter which direction he chose the noise was closing in on him and his anxiety grew. The labyrinth took an almost immediate right. A faint buzzing could be heard in the distance. They continued on.” He had a frightened look on his face. Jones . Jack knew something was coming . . Jack motioned to continue on and chose a pathway guiding them left. Jack put his hand up to signal Cherie to stop and wait so he could check out what was around the corner. . Jack motioned Cherie to stop while he stood listening and wondering what to do. . just a long pathway. shushing the kids every once in awhile. “Spar! Gunther!” Jack whispered. He cussed under his breath and looked back at Cherie. Nothing. . it was still dark and stormy. . Jack was starting to worry. . The sky above the labyrinth hadn’t changed. Jack waited without results. a questioning look on her face. Jack signaled for Cherie to follow. Randomly choosing pathways the group traveled for about an hour. buzz. 94 | C. Cherie watched Jack with her eyes wide. The kids were focused on their snacks but Rogue was alert. watching Jack’s every move. a low rumble could be heard deep in his chest. Jared started to whine. He mouthed the words ‘It’s okay’ and gave a reassuring nod. Jack continued on.
Jack! Bees!” Cherie called out. Jared’s eyes started to tear as he stared at the two tiny people. “Bees. these aren’t bees. turning to look at Jack. Rogue sat silent but alert.Buzz. I don’t know what I would have done. “Remember two summers ago when he was stung by those bees on the porch?” “Oh yeah. as she stood up.” Jack concluded. Jared started screaming. guys. . The Dragon and The Dove | 95 . okay. barking and growling at the unwanted visitors. “Oh Hon. Nicole started whining and Rogue lunged. I thought you guys were never going to show. The bees tumbled in every direction. “Who are you talking to?” Cherie asked. Cherie thought to herself. “I don’t know . Thank you. He had nothing to defend them with except the extra handgun he had tucked in his pocket. puzzled. he thinks you’re bees. .” Jack said. They were gone. Cherie stood in horror at the sight. Daddy!” Nicole exclaimed. All Jack could do was stare at the bees the size of large pumpkins. this is Spar and Gunther. and then it occurred to her. He slowly moved his hand. amazed. kneeling down to comfort the kids. “Oh!” Cherie said. “Little fairies. now I know. “Oh honey.” Jack introduced his family. buzz. then flew up and far out of sight. they are fairies. Jack was confused. You did that. “What happened?” Cherie asked.” Cherie couldn’t believe what she just said. Just then two huge bees floated around the corner. reaching for the firearm when the bees started violently cutting through the air. relieved.
Everyone felt better.” 96 | C. “We have to fly you over. looking back to check on Cherie and the kids. “No.” Jack replied.” “What?” Jack stood still. “Well .” Spar sighed. If Jared is scared of bees then the children’s fears must be here too.“Well. . pointing to the ground. “See What? I can’t see anything but the ground. Spar and Gunther were whispering to each other. Nicole was in awe. Spar and Gunther flew down to the stroller and landed on Nicole’s knee. and she started to giggle. Jack spoke up first. we better get going. They quietly ventured on until Spar held up his tiny hand and said “Halt.” Before Jack could object. Pointing to the ground he said. it’s too big to cross. Jack couldn’t help but think about what Cherie had said. “See that right there?” Jack strained to see what Spar was talking about. We’ll just fly in so he can see us up close. . not a problem. “Hey. Jack kept his thought to himself.” Spar hesitated as he flew next to Jack’s head. After a few minutes both kids were giggling while Spar and Gunther flew in the air doing tricks and joking around. “If you stand just right you can see it. Jared examined the two and began to relax.” Spar waited.” Spar and Gunther took the lead and the group continued on silently. Jack strained. Jones . “What is it?” Jack said insistently.
“How are we going to get all of us over?” Just then Spar flew to her. we’ll be okay. “Shall we?” Gunther nodded. The stroller rose into the air and traveled towards Jack. enjoying the display of power. .” Spar announced.” he said. we call ’em black holes cause you can’t see ’em till it’s too late. annoyed. Cherie’s jaw dropped. let go of the stroller and yelled out “No!” “Keep your shirt on lady. zip up your jacket.” Jack was gently set down on the other side of the hole. He flew over to Gunther.” Jack hoped to reassure. you’re going for a ride. fly us over. You can’t see that from the ground” “Yeah. Spar and Gunther flew Jack up and over a huge hole. “We are a lot bigger than those bees. and Jared started to whimper.” Spar said confidently. The stroller landed smoothly before Jack’s feet. enormous. The Dragon and The Dove | 97 . The kids were squealing.” Spar said as he cracked his knuckles. Spar took Rogue’s leash from Jack and walked him over to Cherie. “Please hold this for a moment. Cherie startled. they both took a hold of Jack’s shoulders and gently lifted him off the ground. “They are very strong honey. “Jack!” Cherie called. “Okay honey. its deep. “I see it!” Jack yelled. the two of them whispered to each other then darted under the stroller and lifted it into the air. “It’s a hole.“What are you talking about . and chattering during the flight. .” Cherie said skeptically. Rogue barked. “One at a time.” Cherie said.” Spar called back. we got it. Gunther joined them. Nicole laughed. “Nobody knows how deep they go.
“Uh. we can’t just stand here. Jack looked at Cherie with anguish in his eyes. “Spar! Gunther!” Jack yelled. “What do we do?” “I don’t know . and walked him over to the black hole. “Good boy!” Jack called over to him. Spar cussed like a sailor and flew down after them. She felt for Jack with all her heart as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Jack!” Cherie grabbed Jack’s arm as he lunged toward the hole. Jack stopped. Jack wanted to go to the edge of the black hole and look in but the illusion prevented him from seeing the edge. Cherie turned to the kids and quietly told them to quit fussing over the fairies. Only from overhead could the hole be seen. I’m ready. He can’t be gone. . When they were over the black hole Rogue barked and twisted. Spar was holding his collar and Gunther lifted under his ribcage. Cherie didn’t know what to do.” Cherie said as she took Rouge’s leash and tied it to some vines. Rogue and Gunther plummeted down in the deep hole. They both got a good grip. That is the best dog I’ve ever had. he was panicked. untied his leash. Jack gasped and Cherie turned from the kids to see Rogue disappear. In the background she could hear the twins arguing over who gets to take Spar and who gets to take Gunther home. Spar and Gunther returned to Rogue. Jones .“Hold on.” Rogue sat patiently as Cherie was lifted up and over to her waiting family. Spar lost his grip and Gunther lost his balance. Rogue started to rise into the air. “Spar! Gunther!” There was no answer.” Jack turned and yelled again. Jack fell to his knees and put his head in his hands. “Okay. 98 | C. .
” Jack stood up. Jack had his authoritative voice again. wiped his face with the sleeve of his jacket and turned to lead the way. he said. Rogue wagged his cropped tail. clapping their hands excitedly. The little people cheered and waved. “I thought you were a goner. “Wow!” Cherie said aloud.” Jack cried as he buried his face in Rogue’s neck. avoiding the question.” Spar said. “Rogue!” Cherie gasped. Are they always like that?” “On occasion. The Dragon and The Dove | 99 . Whining he lay at Cherie’s feet and rolled on his back hoping for a belly scratch. The kids were going wild with laughter. “Alright.“Jack. I’m so glad to see you. Spar whistled and more little fairies flew out to meet them. Jack stood and picked up Rogue’s leash.” she couldn’t bear to finish the thought. They traveled for quite some time before passing a large grove of exquisite and fragrant flowers. “Oh. Running over he fell to his knees and hugged his big dog.” he said as he nuzzled Rogue one more time. Rogue shot out of the black hole with Spar and Gunther holding on to him with all of their might. . pointing and cheering. Thank God. you’re right. Rogue sailed over to where she stood and was placed gently on the ground. Thank you guys. Some of them threw flower petals and Cherie felt like she was in a parade. “I know. “That was fun. Jack heard Cherie and turned to see his pal safe and sound. The kids were once again being entertained by Spar and Gunther. I thought I would never see you again. As Cherie turned the stroller to follow Jack. . let’s go get Uncle Ryan. she couldn’t help but look back one last time.” she said softly. “I’m sorry about Rogue but Ryan . When Jack’s heartbeats returned to normal.” Cherie felt better.
They let the kids stretch their legs before continuing. “Jack. “How about sandwiches? Is anyone hungry?” Nobody took her up on her offer. Everyone looked up. Jared stood up on his bench and put his sword in the air. who were oblivious to what was just said. They immediately claimed a bench and climbed up. Jack looked around cautiously while Cherie unbuckled the kids from the stroller. Jumping off her bench.” Cherie answered. in need of a nap. “We’re almost there!” Spar called back. “Remember?” Jack 100 | C. Jack looked at Cherie and Cherie looked at her children. flattening out her dress. He looked at the gray clouds. he came back down to whisper in Spar’s ear. “Where’s the sun?” he asked anyone who was listening. “We’re going to the Golden Palace. but he knew they weren’t out of the woods yet. Nicole sat on her bench like a queen. He led the group to another round space with three small benches and three pathways. “The Royal Vision says that the great light will be uncovered when things are put right. is there anywhere we can take a break so the kids can run around a little?” Cherie called ahead. They had been walking for a few hours and the kids were getting restless. Jack felt relieved.” Spar called back to her as Gunther pointed to the left. up here. straightening the wrinkles and crossing her ankles.” Nicole said annoyed.” Gunther said quietly. Jones . “Yeah. “Behind the clouds. she put her arm around her brother’s shoulders. “Where are we going?” Jared asked.After Gunther flew up high.
Jack remembered the time they found a green garden snake in the grass last spring.and Cherie stared at their children. The kids let out bloodcurdling screams and Rogue bounced around barking. Spar and Gunther flew over near Jack’s head. Suddenly. They’re just running from something. Everyone took their places and proceeded in Spar and Gunther’s direction. Sure enough. terrifying them. Spar and Gunther slowed down and looked back at Jack and Cherie. That’s when he realized the thumping vibration must be what they were running from. hoping he was having the same realization. long green snakes the width of Cherie’s slender forearm came slithering towards them by the hundreds. Gunther had a worried look on his face and Spar looked ready for anything. from a pathway to the right. Jack nodded and held up his hand as if trying to identify the source. The screaming children never let up. Later that night Jack and Cherie couldn’t help but laugh at reliving the snake story. “Jack. The Dragon and The Dove | 101 . just like the ones passing by. “We’re just playing. Nicole felt their eyes on her as she looked up.” she said matter-of-factly. “It’s okay! These snakes are harmless. but the stick broke and the snake flew at the twins. His eyes grew wide as he looked at Spar. More snakes came around the corner of the pathway in a never-ending stream. Amazingly the drove of snakes slithered past their feet without hesitation and kept on going. do you feel that?” Cherie asked. Rogue chased down the snake carrying it off into the woods. Jack remembered how bad he felt as he carried the twins into the house and explained to Cherie what happened. a thumping vibration could be felt through the ground. He recalled grabbing a stick to flick the snake out of the grassy backyard. After they left the resting place.” Jack yelled over the screaming kids. trying to avoid contact. She led Jared to the stroller and they climbed in ready to finish the journey.
It’s big . bloody. Jack and Cherie froze. high-pitched scream pierced the air. stopping them in their tracks. “Hurry! Let’s go!” Jack snapped. Spar had dodged a hunk of flesh and Rogue had blood speckling his fur. Blood and guts spewed out. raining down on Jack.“What the hell is that?” Spar whispered. “Where?” Spar yelled. “I don’t know what that is. showing huge. The creature roared. “I was hoping you guys could tell me. Jones . Everyone was in a panic. Spar flew straight up and flew right back down again. Cherie. Just then an earth shattering roar could be heard for miles. the kids continued screaming. . and Spar and Gunther buzzed around in a frenzy. Rogue continued barking. The kids were screaming louder. Jack saw their chance and grabbed Cherie’s shoulder to get her attention. . it’s real big. Suddenly a sharp. He pointed under and through the creature’s 102 | C.” he nodded.” The path where the snakes had poured in was clearing out making it easier to run and push the stroller. razor sharp teeth and a mouth full of mangled snakes. The snakes were thinning out and the thumping was closing in on them. and the stroller. They flew up to its head on either side right into its ears. Spar and Gunther were delivering the powerful noise that rendered the dinosaur totally confused. Rogue was barking harder and both Jack and Cherie went chalk-white and were too petrified to move.” Immediately. but before they could make it past the opening a large Tyrannosaurus Rex stepped in their way. “Let’s get passed those snakes and take the path up ahead on the left. Fly up. maybe you can see.
She hugged and kissed and held her kids a moment longer. who were keeping watch around the corner. so it continued to lumber forward in search food.” She leaned in the stroller and had her arms cradling their tiny heads against her chest. who where whining and whimpering.legs as an escape. He walked over to them. “Hey. Jack looked back at Spar and Gunther. Jack stood peering around the corner. “Let’s get the heck out of here. they kept running until the pathway to the left appeared and they disappeared around the corner. The three of them watched as the large creature regained awareness and looked around. Spar and Gunther took the lead.” Spar said smugly.” Cherie interjected. They ran for it. we’re ready. “It’s heading in the other direction. shhh. When they were through. Jack let out a huge sigh of relief and turned to walk over to the stroller. It tried to turn but its massive girth restricted its movements in the labyrinth. you have to try to be quite for Mommy now. The dinosaur was in too much pain to notice what was happening on the ground. waiting for Spar and Gunther to join them. without turning to face Jack.” she said. Cherie was breathing hard trying to comfort the kids. “Thank God!” Cherie said with tears streaming down her cheeks.” Jack told Cherie. shhh.” Jack said gratefully. . Jack and Rogue fell in behind The Dragon and The Dove | 103 . “Again. You just saved our butts. . Shhh . “Shhh . He thrust Rogue’s leash in her hands and took control of the stroller. The screaming stopped almost immediately and Spar and Gunther flew quickly to meet up with Jack. good thinking guys. . “Okay. choosing her words carefully. .
Instead of the traditional white with black splotches. Jack felt secure with Spar and Gunther on guard.” Jack teased. “Okay. You don’t look like much.” Spar said as he returned. “but there is something close to the entrance coming our way. what is it?” Jack asked impatiently.Cherie and the kids this time. Cherie checked on the twins. their little eyelids heavy. to 104 | C. Jones . “We’re close to the city. They were sleeping soundly as they rounded the immediate left. Right there in the middle of the path stood a cow grazing on the leafy vines. Jack was relieved as he told Spar and Gunther that it was okay. “I don’t know. leading the way. The group continued on with Spar being the first to break the silence. “Who knows. “Yeah.” Spar said as he flew up higher and farther ahead. “Do you hear that?” Jack strained to listen. hearing nothing. I’m going to fly above. we’re almost there. “Well. Everyone was quietly in shock trying to absorb what had just happened.” Spar quipped. this cow was chocolate brown with black splotches. Spar and Gunther cautiously took the next right turn that led to a short pathway. Jack went back to his place in front of Cherie and the kids just to be safe.” he concluded. I guess we keep going and find out. The children fell silent. Cherie couldn’t help but think of the story she read the twins about the chocolate milk cow. exhausted. Look at you.” Spar answered. “Does it look like trouble?” Jack asked.” “Well. I guess you’re right. Gunther stayed with the group. As they continued down the path a rustling could be heard in the vines of the labyrinth. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
she laughed to herself. trying not to wake the kids. looking around. The Dragon and The Dove | 105 . When they looked dry. embarrassed.keep going. she couldn’t stop herself from bending down and looking at the udders. When Cherie squeezed by the cow. feeling ridiculous. A chocolate milk cow! She thought.
“Ryan could be getting the crap beat out of him as we speak. “Sure looks that way.” Jack replied.” Cherie said sadly. “I’ve never seen anything like this. “Our kids did this?” she said as if under a spell. you ready? We had better get this over with. “Shouldn’t we wait until after their naps?” she asked. She walked over to the stroller and pushed it up to the City entrance. Cherie’s mouth dropped open as they got closer to the entrance. entranced.” Jack said.Chapter 14 They took the last right turn leading into the city. Cherie parked the stroller and walked up to the edge of the labyrinth. “We’ll walk out and they will take us to the Palace where they’re keeping Ryan. Other than that I don’t know. clean and impeccable. okay. trying to stall. She was amazed.” Cherie looked back at the twins nestled in the stroller. “They can’t see us until we step through. “What’s going to happen?” she asked.” Jack said.” Cherie turned to Jack with a worried look. watching the motion of the city. Again the city was vibrant and alive. we better go. “Well Honey. 106 | . It’s beautiful!” Cherie said. he was still in awe. “Okay. and even through Jack had seen this before.
Spar’s words echoed in his mind. “Good luck.” Jack said. This time there The Dragon and The Dove | 107 . . good dog.” Cherie responded with a smile. just stay calm.” Spar said dramatically. you’re going to need it”. Cherie and Jack were surrounded. The people were dropping to their knees and bowing their heads. I’m scared Jack. “Of course. “Just holler if you need us. “We’re not going to be gone forever.” Gunther added quietly with sadness in his voice.” he said boldly. The courtyard was filling up with more and more people dropping to their knees. They walked to the middle of the enormous courtyard. At that moment he saw the all too familiar guards walking his way. He flew up to Cherie and lightly touched her cheek.” Spar said. and then looked at Jack. People everywhere had stopped what they were doing to turn and look at them then the most unexpected thing happened.” Cherie’s voice trembled. “Good-by.” Jack said. “Good luck. . Spar patted Rogue on the head. They both remained sound asleep.Jack looked at Spar and Gunther. “It’s okay. “Jack. and Jack wondered if he was doing the right thing. Jack held a firm grip on Rogue’s leash close to his collar. Jack and Cherie stepped into the City. we’ll stay here where we belong. “Can I give the twins a kiss?” he asked her with big eyes. Then he thought of Ryan. You’re going to need it. Jack looked around. Spar and Gunther looked at each other. unsure of himself. “Are you guys coming?” “Oh no. Gunther floated down to the children and gave them each a soft kiss on the cheek. everyone is staring at us .
108 | C.were six of them.” Jack and Cherie turned to follow. The guards carrying the empty litter set it to the side and pulled open the heavy. so they fell in behind the silent crowd as they headed off to the palace. “They need their sleep. Before Cherie could protest the guards disappeared behind a hidden door in the wall. she snapped her fingers. As she looked out over the bowed heads. When they entered the throne room Cherie gasped and steadied herself on Jack’s shoulder. she placed her finger to her lips and a silence so complete fell over the crowd that not even a whisper was heard. while looking directly at Jack and Cherie. Even Rogue had remained quiet whole the time. each carrying a crown encrusted with sparkling gems.” he moaned when he saw the woman with the attitude approach. smiling with tears in her eyes she said. The woman in charge stood at the front of the room and quietly said. cuddling them tenderly. Tears welled in her eyes as she stared at the two lifelike portraits of Nicole and Jared hanging over their thrones. Oh. The guards started walking through the courtyard toward the Golden Palace. Cherie was relieved to be one of those few.” Without taking her eyes off them. adorned with two golden thrones. the mysterious woman following with her servants in tow. “Oh my God. As she gazed down at Jared and Nicole. Jack and Cherie felt very odd. Four were carrying a royal litter on their shoulders. Jack’s heart felt like it fell to the ground. She kept a close eye on the two guards carrying her babies. They climbed the massive steps leading to the huge golden doors. and two women hurried to her side. Cherie started to protest but Jack squeezed her hand to stop her. No one paid them the slightest attention.” She turned to look at the guards. they are angels. solid doors to allow only a select few inside. “Take them to their private sleeping chambers. Jones . She quietly gave the guards a command and they each scooped up a child in their massive arms. “You brought them.
“I’m not going anywhere without my children!” Cherie responded as she marched towards the hidden doors. We have our King and Queen so we are no longer in need of your services. Just as Cherie was getting ready to unleash hell the same door in the wall opened and Ryan and the hiker were shoved out. “THOSE ARE MY CHILDREN!” she shrieked. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she looked around the room at the expressions on the faces of the servants and guards. “Now if Nicole and Jared are the King and Queen of this lovely city. You are free to go. and the hiker.” the woman said as she lifted her hand in dismissal with a stern look on her face. “And who are you anyway?” The woman was annoyed.“Wait!” Cherie yelled. “Thank God. I’m okay. Are you guys okay?” Ryan and the hiker walked over to where Jack and Cherie stood. “We were just going to discuss the issue. Ryan. Their blindfolds were removed along with their hand restraints. “Guards! Please show them out of the city!” As four guards closed in on Jack.” Jack said shaking his head. wait. “Where are they going?” Cherie could feel the fury building in her chest. yeah. wait. What about the kids? Where are they? Are they okay?” His concern showed in his face. we got here as soon as we could. “Yeah. “Wait. He rubbed his eyes and said. “Ryan!” Jack yelled. Cherie opened her mouth to speak only to be spoken to. looking at the woman in charge. one more moved towards Cherie. She knew Jack was right but was hoping to override the The Dragon and The Dove | 109 . shouldn’t they be the ones who decide whether we stay or go?” Before she could answer Jack added.
. here .formality. The guards continued to move towards the doorway.” Jared said with a big grin on his face. Before they reached the golden doors Nicole and Jared came running out of the hidden corridor. With her jaw clenched she replied.” she added with disgust. They were wearing the same jewel encrusted crowns that were painted in their portraits. “Oh. and please do not return. “Your Majesties. “I am The Royal Guidance.” Nicole said referring to her crown. You do not belong here.” Jared looked around. “Yeah. The Royal Guidance was thinking quickly to gain control of the situation. Dad. The kids pulled away. While you had them captive I have been in charge and while they are unable to make this correction I shall do it!” Proud of herself she continued. “Nicole! Jared!” “This is not right. “Look at mine. I love you. Jack. the hiker and Cherie struggled against their massive force. “Take them away. where is it?” Two servants entered the room with two huge ice cream sundaes. Mom. The mysterious woman ignored their pleas. “Mom. “And we got ice cream. here are your rightful seats. “Hey. Jones . When the King and Queen are unable to make corrections then I take over.” Jack yelled. hugging them tight. “Yeah. .” Nicole added. She dropped to her knees. Look Mom.” 110 | C. “NO!” Cherie screamed. Ryan. LOOK!” Cherie broke away from the guard’s hold and ran to meet them. Are you okay?” she asked.
She would never have let the kids have huge ice cream sundaes. “So now what?” she finished.” Cherie said with exaggeration. “Mmmm.” Cherie looked back at the The Royal Guidance. Jack and Ryan walked over to join Cherie. Ryan and the hiker sat on the stone steps leading up to the children’s thrones.” Nicole said pointing to the hiker. Uncle Ryan. The servants were waiting by the thrones with the sundaes. Cherie could feel the cold hard stare from The Royal Guidance standing behind her. who was as perplexed as everyone else. share with me. The kids looked at them. we do. Cherie spoke. “So what’s the plan? We are not leaving without our children and you won’t let us leave with your King and Queen . She climbed the stone steps and sat on the arm of Jared’s throne and let him feed her a big messy bite dripping with hot fudge. .” commanded Cherie right back. “Dad. When the servants brought ice cream for everyone. Zeroing in on the sundaes.” The Dragon and The Dove | 111 . Jack.The room became quiet. especially before dinner. The atmosphere was tense. Jack realized what Cherie was up to. My bed is huge and there is a princess table where we can dress-up.” “You want one Mom? Do ya?” Nicole looked at the servants.” The Royal Guidance commanded to her servants. That looks good. “Fix their rooms. “My room will be with the King and Queen. The kids looked to see who was talking. “Yeah. .” Cherie spoke up looking directly at The Royal Guidance. do you want some?” Jared offered. Jumping in their seats. “Yeah! Mommy. “Mommy wants one and Daddy and Uncle Ryan and that guy. they ran up the steps to the thrones. they dove into the ice cream.
. “Well. They smiled with messy faces. you and Uncle Ryan share with me.” Jack looked over to the hiker and held out his hand for a shake. . now you can relax. After Jack left. My room has swords and we can fight. I’m sorry. I’m Jack and this is my wife Cherie. still pumped up. she was trying to get rid of us and there is no way that’s going to happen!” Cherie said. The hiker stood up to receive Jack’s handshake. Kevin took his seat unsure of what else to do. “They brought us food. “They 112 | C. “Wow.” he said pointing to the kids.” The Royal Guidance said to the staff. “Hi. “Very well then. Honey! You really stood your ground. .” he said as he acknowledged Cherie and the kids. “Fine. they just blindfolded us and led us to . Jack returned her glance with a wink. it was the best.” She walked down to the floor.“No. Dad. “How did they treat you?” Cherie asked Ryan. “This is your King and Queen. gave her shoulders a squeeze then continued. “Looks like that’s settled. I guess the dungeon where they had been keeping Kevin and .” he quickly changed the subject. “Well.” Cherie concluded. turned towards Nicole and Jared. This has just been unbelievable. Thanks for the sundae. take care of them. My name’s Kevin.” Jared chimed in. I’m impressed!” Jack said as he stood up to walk over to Cherie.” he looked at Cherie. bowed and swiftly left the room. “Oh. Jones . I apologize too. “Now that we have bought some time we have to figure out what we’re going to do. Queen Nicole and King Jared.” He kissed her on the cheek. . looking to Jack for reassurance. share with me.
” The woman standing beside her bowed.” Cherie said looking at Jack. well I like that. take their baths.” she nodded to Cherie. do their studies. with a good feeling about Marina and Brianna. “No. but Nicole protested loudly. They took the corridor behind the hidden doors. Cherie held The Dragon and The Dove | 113 . I don’t wanna go. “The instructors are waiting.” The servant girl quickly left the room. I wanna ride the horses. please!” One of the servants pointed to another younger servant girl and commanded. please.” Jack tried to talk quietly so the guards and servants couldn’t hear. annoyed. I wait on the children exclusively with Brianna. “So what do we do now?” Jack looked at the kids who were busily scarfing down their prize sundaes. I’m thinking we are going to have to play along until we can get out of here. “You don’t know how to ride horses!” The female servant interjected. They climbed down the steps and danced around together. The horses please.” she said.give you a run for your money. “I don’t know. Good food. eat proper food and such. Cherie panicked. “Get the King’s and Queen’s horses ready.” “Who are you?” Cherie asked. “We make sure they are taken care of. The kids jumped up putting their sundae cups on the floor.” he concluded. “My name is Marina. gesturing for the group to follow them. “I guess we could go see the horses before dinner. “Oh. The guards stood at attention while Marina and Brianna took the lead.
Jones .Nicole’s and Jared’s hands. Ryan and Kevin came close behind. Ryan looked back to find four large guards completing the group. 114 | C. Jack followed with Rogue’s leash held close to his thigh.
Marina held out her hand to display the royal animals. I don’t wanna.Chapter 15 The corridors were made of cold dark stone. speaking quietly and gently to Nicole.” she said. “GO!” The young man. They both squealed. She steadied herself in the beautifully crafted saddle. Jared’s grip loosened on Cherie’s leg and a smile played on his face as he stood and watched.” she directed to the young instructors holding the reigns. I do. Across the courtyard there were two men holding the reigns to two of the most magnificent young horses. “I want the girl horse. “Horses!” Nicole screamed and started bouncing around. I do!” Nicole chanted. . then said. “Mmm . walked the horse out into the courtyard. The two men walked the horses over to the group. with rears in his eyes. looking down at Nicole and Jared.” he whispered. Nicole with excitement and Jared with fear. He slid an arm around Cherie’s leg and hugged tight. Jack could see other corridors breaking off the main one. “These are yours. then the one on the left stooped down to pick her up and set her on the horse. “I do. Both men bowed. Jared looked up at Cherie. | 115 . with torches for lighting on the walls. holding the reigns. Marina and Brianna led them to a hidden door that opened smoothly onto a bright grassy courtyard. When Rogue spotted the horses he let out a soft bark and wagged his butt. Rogue had a burst of energy so Jack gave him some slack on his leash. Cherie sensed his fear and put her hand reassuringly on his head. . Jared’s eyes were opened wide staring at what to him were enormous beasts.
” They all looked up. . Vision . “What did the fairy say . I’ll meet up with you guys when Nic is finished. when everything is put right again the great light would be uncovered.” Cherie recalled. is this where his children are supposed to be? Is this where they were to stay and live? That just seems so ridiculous. “Yeah. something about when everything is right the light would shine. “Yeah. “Dad. “Weird. Jones . None of this is real.” Jared took a hold of Jack’s and Ryan’s hands. Yeah. Jack looked over and watched Nicole riding her horse while her trainer held the reigns. His servants broke away and followed along with Marina taking the lead. the clouds are gone. Come on. she almost jumped off her horse on her own. What else are they capable of creating? Jack felt a tugging on his pant leg. Jack? Jack?” Jack did not respond.” Jack replied.” Jared yelled back to Kevin. I want to show you our room. “Hey hon. As Nicole rode by. “Honey. Then it hit him! This IS real! Whether they made it up or not. . how about we go see your room?” Nicole got so excited.“Jack. the kids just made all of this up. Her trainer caught her just in time and set her safely to the ground. the see all or the . She ran over to Cherie grabbing her hand. “Come on. . . and if everything has been set right. .” Ryan said looking up at the sky. . He wondered why having the clouds disperse made him feel better. THIS IS REAL! Then another question slithered into his mind. Cherie yelled to her. let’s go!” 116 | C. Remember.” Cherie grabbed Rogue’s leash. “The sun is shining.
Brianna opened a large wooden carved door to reveal an enormous room beautifully decorated in Cherie’s and Nicole’s taste. The windows were. “Mom. bigger than any Cherie had ever seen before. The two guards trailed behind. giving the women space but not letting them out of sight. covered with what looked like diamonds and emeralds. There was a huge bed. and accessories. She took down a gorgeous gown in an emerald green. and the room smelled fragrant with all of the foliage. “Look Mom. shoes.” Cherie said under her breath. She held The Dragon and The Dove | 117 .” That statement peaked Cherie’s interest. incredibly large with pink and rose colored curtains blowing in the breeze. she didn’t want to get to far away from the men. There was a huge mirror with two pink satin chairs. Nicole quickly jumped down and opened a door next to the vanity. Nicole climbed onto her chair and started pointing out all of the beautiful crowns. Cherie felt being followed everywhere by servants was a little creepy. Cherie looked around to see fresh flowers everywhere. Cherie was relieved to be going to the rooms.” Nicole disappeared into the room filled with gowns. There was a swing fastened to the ceiling attached to ropes that had live vines curling down to the large wooden seat big enough for two to sit.Brianna quickly walked over to take the lead. combs and fragrant oils and lotions. of course. look!” Nicole pulled Cherie’s hand and ran over to the hand carved vanity set made for two. with huge carved posts holding up a draping canopy of gauzy curtains adorned with ribbons and fresh flowers. “Wow. but found it too confusing and lost track. “Mom. there’re princess dresses for me and you. She had two servants in tow while Brianna led the way into the palace and through the corridors. Cherie tried to memorize the paths taken to get to their room. Blooming flowers intertwined with the vines. tiaras. The floor was made of marble with a pink hue.
huh?” Nicole asked Brianna. “Tell her this is all ours. Brianna. “It’s mine.” Cherie looked to Brianna. they’re all mine. . Watching Nicole put on her gown. I don’t know if we should do that. Brianna walked into the dressing room toward Nicole and started assisting her with the dress.” Brianna responded in perfect English with a slight accent. . 118 | C.” Cherie whispered. look at that one!” Nicole said. . holding up a perfect baby blue gown. She felt flush as she turned to sit on one of the two stools in the dressing room. Mommy!” Nicole said. pointing to any one of a hundred or so gowns hanging up. I need to see your father. Confused. Get a dress for dinner. Honey. for that matter. This is a dream come true for a little girl . “Please summon Sir Jack. she hung the dress back up. “Wait. “Look. . Momma. Oooh. the realization hit her that this was very real and that they might not see home for a very long time.” she said quietly. it looked like a perfect fit.” As if on cue. out of control. this whole palace is yours. The kids aren’t going to want to go home. Cherie felt very awkward. . “I . Your Highness. Even for a big girl.it up to her body. honey.” She threw the dress on a chair and started to get undressed. “Thank you. Looking at the shoes. Jones . “See. Cherie’s thoughts made her feel trapped and helpless . and then look for shoes to match. she could tell they were also her size. who immediately called one of her servants. . she couldn’t help but notice Nicole’s excitement. Mommy. “Of course.
We are the parents. and where is our say so. “You okay?” Jack asked quietly. We’re never going home!” Cherie started crying uncontrollably. no matter what. Cherie always loved the positive side of her The Dragon and The Dove | 119 . Jack just held her in his arms trying not to panic. Another door opened. “Well. all of this! All of this is for us. Right now we don’t have a choice. then Jack walked through. yet we are at the mercy of our four year olds. Jack. we have to play along until we can figure out what to do next. it’s incredible. What I think is most important is that we guide and steer the kids in the best direction possible. “Look honey. The kids are never going to want to leave this. Look at this place. but it’s real and it’s what’s happening. The Queen ran over to the four beautifully carved mirrors. and then twirled to admire the perfect outfit from every angle. I’ve been thinking about this too. Relieved.” She pulled him by the hand into the dressing room. They can have anything they want. this is crazy. You should see Jared’s room. Cherie turned and hurried over to him for a tight huge.Nicole found the perfect shoes. We have to get out of here. When she calmed down he sat her on a stool. Cherie just assumed it to be a different closet. Jack. twirled and walked out of the dressing room.” Jack said as he wiped Cherie’s tears. “You’re sorry! I’m the one who made you and Ryan explore all of this. Jack.” Jack said quietly. “These are for me.” Cherie sniffed. I think that’s our only option right now. I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. “Our closet has a chandelier and look at all of these gowns!” She pulled one off of the rack. And yes. Cherie and Brianna followed. I’m so sorry. “I don’t know. this is apparently what we are supposed to be doing or we wouldn’t be here.
here. In the back ground she could 120 | C.” Nicole said as she tried to wiggle out of her gown.” Brianna said. that’s all. “What’s wrong. When she resurfaced and took a deep breath. but it’s time to get ready for dinner. Mommy?” Nicole asked. We’ll know what to do. pointing to a new room Cherie had not seen before. Cherie put her head under the water and let the warmth and the silence consume her. “Excuse me My Lady.” “Okay. she found the two servants at the edge of the tub waiting to wash her hair. “I just miss our home. She undressed and slipped into the soothing water. remembering Jack’s reassuring words. “Ooooh. she jumped in and splashed around. In her ear Jack whispered. Jones . When Nicole had her gown off. they walked out of the dressing room together. She wiped her face. but that made her feel uncomfortable so she dismissed the servants and took care of herself. The tub was large enough for at least fifteen people without any crowding.” she said. Cherie put her head back and surrendered. Cherie could see the steam rising from the hot water and smell the lilac oil. and holding hands. stood up.” Cherie answered. sweetie. Cherie couldn’t help but enjoy her daughter’s laughter. Brianna immediately helped her undress. okay Honey?” They hugged.husband. trusting him. The other two servants started to help Cherie. They parted and Cherie followed Brianna. “I’ll go get ready with the guys. “Just play along and have fun. concerned. After the servants finished with her hair. Nicole and the two servants into the biggest bathroom she had ever seen. Cherie closed her eyes and enjoyed the most magnificent facial of her life. There is a bath drawn for you.
” She pulled out a matching gown. When she looked in the mirror she was amazed. Cherie held the dress up to her body. Cherie admired herself as she was being pampered. we’re going to go fix my hair.hear Nicole finishing up and Brianna helping her out of the tub. Momma. you look so pretty!” Nicole delicately lifted the bottom of the dress and floated it up and down. Her skin was all supple and dewy. “Thank you. The Dragon and The Dove | 121 . admiring the crown tucked in the curls on top of her head. their entourage following. “Lady Cherie.” Cherie said. Cherie and the Queen headed for the dressing room.” Brianna said.” Cherie said. Cherie let the two servant girls lead her to the vanity table. As if in a dream. “You wear that one and I’ll wear this one. “Which one Momma. the two of them finished getting dressed. It took Brianna and both servants to help. “I don’t know. full of excitement. as she left the room. After Nicole found matching shoes. under the spell of her massage. doing a little dance with her feet. “What shoes should we wear?” Cherie asked Nicole. they match!” Cherie said. Rose and Noel wrapped her hair in another plush towel. as she ran out of the bathroom. It had sheer capped sleeves that fell off the shoulders with a train made of sparkly. “Wow. soft fabric. Rose and Noel will assist you with anything you want. “Ooooh. “Momma. Cherie was helped out of the deep tub and wrapped in a warm soft towel. sheer.” Nicole asked. watching as she bounced around. as she pulled out a midnight blue dress adorned with diamonds. looking at the fancy footwear. they’re all so beautiful. then draped a flowing silk robe over her shoulders. When they were finished with hair and makeup. As if hypnotized.” Nicole said.
gesturing for Nicole to sit in her throne and Cherie to sit next to her in the elegant chair that had been brought in especially for her use. “How about after dinner tonight?” Cherie concluded. Cherie whispered back. as she started to walk toward the door. Nicole turned around and eyed the bed. obviously for the King and Queen.” she said quietly. “When you are ready.Putting on corsets and undergarments. sides of beef. just waiting for festivities to begin. pies and pastries. salads. “Let’s jump on the bed. We’re ready. Everything was steaming hot or cooling in a bed of ice. Cherie couldn’t believe her eyes or her nose.” “They’ll just fix it again. Jones . I will escort you to the dining room. 122 | C. “But we’ll mess up our hair. Long tables were covered with massive amounts of food. that Nicole was starting to understand how things worked around here.” Brianna said before positioning herself near the door. but when they had finished the ordeal the two of them stood in front of the mirror admiring themselves and each other. Cherie saw whole roasted turkeys. A special table had been set at the front of the room below the raised thrones with two distinct chairs. then motioned for Cherie to bend down so she could whisper in her ear. referring to her servants. Brianna guided them through the corridors. “Okay. chickens. Cherie was confused and feeling out of place.” Nicole said. The smells were heavenly. Brianna led Cherie and Nicole up to the thrones. but not until Brianna opened the doors into the throne room did Cherie recall the path they had already traveled. exotic fruits. Cherie could tell by that conservation. Cherie tried to find some familiarity.” Nicole responded.
Jack and the kids took their seats. and looked the part. “You don’t look so bad yourself. he opened his robe to reveal his outfit. may I present to you. your personal Royal Vision. “Honey. Jack and Cherie praised both the children.” Jared repeated with a huge grin on his face. and their four male servants. Kevin.” He held out a foot to show off his leather sandals and his shin guards. Mama! I’m a warrior. Jack looked at Cherie in amazement. Jack and Rogue up to their seats. “I’m a warrior.” He kissed her gently. They were followed by a large group of servants who stood along the wall. A hidden door opened in the wall and musicians walked into the room to set up in a far corner. “And look at my warrior dog. disappointed. you look incredible. look at me. Nicole jumped off her throne. telling them how wonderful they looked. Jack’s head carried a golden leaf crown. He carried a sword in a leather sheath attached just under his golden chest plate.” said the booming.” Cherie responded. Marina led Jared.” Rogue wore a plate of armor covering his chest and back. “Your Majesties. “Look. Before Jared sat down. while Jared had a large golden crown with beautiful jewels.” he said. all too familiar voice coming The Dragon and The Dove | 123 . “Well. “Dad said I should leave my helmet in the room. A large gong by the front was struck and the guards opened the large golden doors. I’m a Queen!” She preened. Ryan and Kevin were seated at the main table while Cherie. They had all been pampered. Jack holding Rogue’s leash. Ryan. Cherie couldn’t help but notice how wonderful Jack smelled of sage and sandalwood. All three men were in long robes made of rich silk with golden sashes and leather sandals.Just then the corridor doors opened and in walked Marina followed by Jared.
Jack and the kids were escorted to their table. They all watched as a thin. clapped his hands and said. one girl and one boy about the age and size of the King and Queen. Kayla and Toren smiled before they preformed their wobbly little bows. The King and Queen started to get ancy and before the introductions were over Jared blurted out. “Music!” In seconds music filled the air and everyone began to relax and enjoy the evening. stood and took his seat at a side table. the Royal this. “May I present Kayla and Toren. “I live to serve you. Next walked in two children. “I’m hungry. giggled. under the table with a huge plate of meaty bones. Next came the Royal Dressmaker. I wanna eat!” Instantly the activity changed.” He then bowed his head. He knelt on the floor looking to Nicole and Jared. the Royal Gardner. Cherie. escorted by two servants.” The two kids walked up. He said quietly. middle aged man slowly walked across the large room. Jack stepped out on a limb. the Royal that and on and on and on. both sets of children started smiling and little waves from little hands went back and forth. the Royal Baker. 124 | C. Sitting at their respective tables. As soon as the King and Queen were seated. the Royal Chef. the banquet was in full swing. Cherie and Jack looked back to see the Royal Guidance behind them announcing the staff. The room started filling up and after awhile Cherie and Jack lost track of all the people that were being introduced. All the people waiting for an introduction were told to go in and find their seats.from behind the thrones. Even Rogue was in doggy heaven. They straightened up. and then were ushered to their seats. your Royal Playmates. Jones .
“You’re right. “I haven’t either. wondering where I am? I don’t know. I guess. Everything has happened so fast we haven’t even gotten a chance to explain anything to the guy. Is that cool?” “Yeah. The music changed The Dragon and The Dove | 125 .” Ryan continued to eat off of his pile of food. I just have to get out of here. We were kept apart in the dungeon when you were gone. “Hey man. . what the hell is this? And how can that bitch just kill my best friend like that. .” Jack concluded.” Jack said. I’m still alive. Jack nodded. I just . they’ll probably escort you. I mean this is not okay to me. I still don’t know what to think of all of this. Marina had the two male servants escort Kevin to his room. looking at Ryan. are you okay?” Jack asked sympathetically. who barely touched his food. I don’t know. At least we kinda know what’s going on. . “We better talk to him tonight and try to explain things.” Cherie called Marina over and whispered in her ear. “Oh. I mean. both male and female. . What if my family is still alive.” Jack said. looking over to Kevin.” Ryan said with his mouth full of prime rib. that poor guy.“This is so cool. Two of the guards followed. I just want to go back to the room to think and sort out my head. “I don’t care. It was about then that a troupe of beautiful dancers. who were enjoying their food and playing cheers with their goblets. entered the room. “Umm .” Her eyes pointed to the kids. I’m not okay with this. Just thrown into all of this.
Cherie and Jack carried the kids to their rooms following Marina and Brianna with straggling servants and guards following. Cherie asked Marina why the guards have to follow. the children started rubbing their eyes and nodding their heads. “I think we should call it a night. there was a parade of wild.” Cherie said. looking at Jack. Cherie had to request something else for the kids to drink after interfering with the wine splashing into their goblets. I’m gonna stay.” Cherie said. “Oh my goodness. He had his eye on a group of young women across the room. As the night wore on. Cherie summoned Marina and Brianna. Some happened to be extinct or endangered in the world they just came from. Marina informed her that in their arms are the City’s most prize possessions and they will use whatever means needed to protect them.” Ryan said. the King and Queen owned an incredible array of exotic animals. she looked over at the table where the Royal Playmates were seated. alert yet keeping calm. Jones . She was nice about it. “Hey. The wine flowed freely and was some of the best they had ever tasted. but it was just so matter-of-fact. Assuming they were poured wine. After the dancers. I’ll see you later. To Cherie’s amazement. Cherie and Jack were surprised at Marina’s response. everyone seemed fine with it.and the troupe put on an incredible show. as he accepted more wine. “If we’re going to stay awhile. When they entered Nicole’s room Jack gave Cherie a kiss and whispered. Rogue stood at attention ready to protect. exotic animals that belonged to the kids. the sleeping arrangements have to change. if that means using the entire army it will be done. looking to Jack with her eyes wide open in concern as two large lions with silky manes were lead by. Surprised.” 126 | C.
preparing him for the night. The Dragon and The Dove | 127 .Cherie blushed and said. She was out as soon as her head hit the pillows. looking forward to a peaceful night’s sleep. “I love you. Cherie went into the dressing room and Brianna assisted in getting her ready for bed. Instantly Rose and Noel attended to undressing the sound asleep Queen. At the same time Jack put Jared in his bed where his attendants unstrapped all of the little gladiator leather. Jack noticed Kevin was sound asleep in his bed so Jack retired.” Cherie carried Nicole to her side of the bed as Jack left the room. Cherie was exhausted and looked forward to her first night in the Golden Palace.
“I wanna go . . my sister.” “But how do we explain all this?” Jack said. . . “Oh . where would you go?” 128 | . “What are you really going to do? What if there is a world going on out there and they just don’t know we’re still alive? My Mom and my Dad. The sunrise was exquisite and the temperature was perfect. There were scrumptious pastries and fruits on display on the table next to him. “I don’t know how to explain this place! It’s like a big joke and we don’t know it. .” Kevin said. He reached for his second croissant when Kevin asked. Kevin explained that he and David had been on a two week camping and backpacking trip when they discovered the devastation. He hesitated. looking at his tea cup. He looked up at Jack. my girlfriend.” Jack searched for a reply. they’re probably worried sick. understanding how crazy it all seems. I wanna go see if my family is out there. Jack put on the plush robe lying at the foot of the bed and joined Kevin out in the fresh morning air. “Well. They sat awhile enjoying the silence watching the city wake up.” Kevin waited for Jack’s response. but at the same time understood Kevin’s longing for answers. . like Candid Camera or something. looking worried. They quietly shared their stories. Jack actually looked forward to his day in this splendid place.Chapter 16 Jack awoke to Jared sleeping. Jack was shocked. Jack tried to explain the week’s events as gently as possible. Ryan and Rogue snoring and Kevin sitting out on the veranda with a cup of hot tea.
“We made it through that crazy maze.” Kevin hoped his sales pitch worked and waited for Jack’s input. “If I could take a horse.” Both Jack and Kevin turned to look at the field. I’ll see what I can do. “You know. that’s assuming they’ll let any of us leave.” Jared said before taking a big messy bite.” a tiny voice said as Jared climbed up into his Daddy’s lap.” Jack turned to find Rogue stretching next to his chair. Jack poured him a cup of juice. Kevin was slightly offended. Jack helped him as he grabbed a big pastry with plump cherries oozing in the folds of buttery flakes. I think I can handle it alone. A second later Ryan could be heard yelling and Jared could be heard squealing with laughter. I would go out past the city towards Langford. “Ugh. If that’s what you really want. Yeah. “Wow. Mischievous eyes lit up as Jared climbed off Jack’s lap and ran off. His little hand reached out for the big tray. His eyes grew big as he spied the pastries. “Hey good boy!” Jack pulled Rogue in for some scratching. “I like it here.” “Well.” “Yeah.Kevin had thought about it all morning. “Go jump on Uncle Ryan. “Alone?” was all Jack could say.” Kevin confirmed. this city is actually quite large.” Ryan said as the room lightened. I think it’s a good idea. See what’s left. “Look! Army guys!” Jared said. “Hi Dad. pointing out toward a far off field full of soldiers in formation. Rogue got up and The Dragon and The Dove | 129 . it didn’t seem that big from the hilltop in the forest. Dad. there are hundreds of ’em.” Jack whispered to Jared. I could pack enough food and water for a few days.
” “This is so weird. “Are you kidding?’ We can’t go anywhere alone. uh .” Cherie said. Momma. We’ve been busy. . “Well. Again the girls look beautiful and refreshed from last night. “We’ve had breakfast and a bath. They’re waiting for you in the corridor. are you?” Jack asked. noticing the pajama attire. Their escorts met them in the hallway and off they went like royalty. 130 | C. we’re going for a walk while you guys .” “And look at my dress. There was a knock on the door. are up here. “I know. Our people are waiting outside. see you in a little while. We got our hair done as well. if you need anything. crinkling her nose.” “You’re not going alone.” “Well.” Cherie said. as she and Nicole entered the room. “Hope everyone’s dressed. as he gave them both a kiss. “Beautiful.” she pointed to the main door.” “Okay. Princess. . “How’d you sleep?’ Jack asked his ladies. “Let’s take Rogue.” Cherie said.” The girls took Rogue and walked out. Jack noticed how comfortable they looked and he didn’t seem to mind. . . “Wonderful!” Cherie said. twirling for Jack.ran in to join the fun. “so are yours. Jack immediately got up to open the door for Cherie and Nicole. Jones . concerned.” Jack said.” Nicole said.
The servants followed.When the heavy golden doors were opened for them. happy and just strangely perfect people. “Look at everyone.” Nicole looked away and continued to wave as if she were in a parade. Even the city was perfect. It didn’t take long before they were stepping in. like she was in a strange dream. They were hoisted up on the shoulders of four incredibly large muscled men. “Momma. bright. people would stop what they were doing and quietly bow or curtsey. “Aren’t you just pretending. only Cherie wasn’t enjoying it like she was earlier. It was a beautiful morning. cheerful. They continued through the city.” Nicole looked at her mother directly in the eyes. Honey. to wait. this is real. She looked around and saw nothing but perfection. These are my people. Cherie and Nicole were instructed. She really felt the need to get The Dragon and The Dove | 131 . I’m a real Queen now. Cherie felt a little uneasy. Bright white paint on the walls as if a fresh coat was applied over night. their eyes had to adjust to the sunlight. Sunny. Momma. Nicole had never spoken to her like that before and Cherie had the feeling she had been politely put in her place. Rogue sat in the middle. Brianna walked on the right side. walking on the sides and behind. and not a cloud in the sky. As they traveled through the city.” Cherie said. Cherie looked for anything out of place and found nothing. taking their seats. they bow. Cherie noticed how beautiful everyone was.” “Yes. as she waived to some of her people. They think you’re the Queen. As the guards hurried to fetch the royal litter. ready to answer any questions the Royals may have. “Nope.” Nicole said. politely. “Cause I am. Honey?” Cherie fished. No trash anywhere.
“I want to see the Market. The only thing you need to worry about is your daughter. I want to see the whole city. I was getting worried. a picnic!” Jared chimed in.” Jack said. For the first time ever she felt a little intimidated by her daughter.” Jack laughed at the comment. It scares me. but Cherie kept a very serious look on her face. “I’m serious. Cherie sat back deep in thought. “Jack. I don’t think it’s going to fit through the Golden Palace doors. She knows her power here and is determined to use it. quietly. everything. “Oh. “Marina! Brianna! I’m ready for lunch. A picnic! Yeah!” “Yeah. loud enough for her staff to hear. “Her head is getting to big. “You two have been gone half of the day. They both jumped around with Rogue in tow. as the kids played with Rogue in the courtyard grass. “The King and Queen were submitting their orders. this place is incredible!” Cherie exclaimed. Let’s eat out here. who obviously held all of the control. “Should we get back to see Dad?” Cherie suggested. “So you see what I mean?” Cherie looked a Jack. Jones .back to Jack for comfort and clear her thoughts. Just then she was interrupted by Nicole clapping her hands and using her most regal voice.” Nicole said.” she said.” “What’s wrong?” Jack asked. we were fine.” Cherie waited for a response.” 132 | C. We may never leave because of her. concerned.
We’ll have a Knighting Ceremony and everything. This will work. Jack. Cherie looked up at Jack then out at the children.” Cherie concluded.” Cherie said. He wants to take a horse and some gear and go out past the city toward Langford to see if he can find any civilization and send back help. Nicole looked up and pointed to the cherry tree. feeling overwhelmed again. Jack. Jack. I want a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and a cherry?” Jared piped in. “Ooh. She walked over to a chair under the big. What if there is something out there? We can have the kids knight him and send him out with a couple guards. We need as much control as possible. It didn’t take long for an entourage of servants to parade out of a back door of the Golden Palace. “I’ll have pastrami and swiss on rye with a chocolate milkshake. shaking her head. choosing his words carefully. “Well. and we’ll have them Knight Ryan to give him a little power.” Jack studied Cherie’s face trying to gage her reaction. “I talked to Kevin this morning. Okay. We’ll talk it over with the kids when they bring lunch.“What do you want for lunch?” Nicole directed the question to Jack and Cherie. heading straight for Nicole and Jared.” Jack said. good! This is coming together. pouring onto the grass. the kids will just play along. “That’s a great idea. and let’s make you in charge of the army. The kids continued to play around while Jack joined Cherie. I feel good about this. Jack nodded in agreement. “I’ll take a chair. this might make you feel better.” Jack said. They both turned to watch the kids play with Rogue. blossoming cherry tree. The procession walked toward The Dragon and The Dove | 133 .
Jack. I’m just in time for lunch. “I hate to say it. with a milkshake mustache. 134 | C.” Ryan said. red and white checkered table cloth was laid to rest in the shady grass. His mouth was to full of pizza to say anything. looking as content as could be. Mom and Dad. “So. This is heaven. with a huge grin on his face. disappearing into the darkness of the corridor behind the inconspicuous door. “Wow! Is that for me?” Jared pulled it back and shook his head. Milkshakes. but I really love it here.” The kids looked up from their food to acknowledge him. Rogue started in on a juicy bone. looking at Nicole and Jared. then walked back to the Palace. you can do that thing where they kneel and you touch them on the shoulder with your sword. As Cherie. Jones . where they started setting up the picnic. gourmet burgers. “Hey. “Yeah! Uncle Ryan is a knight! Knight! Knight!” Jared sang in a song. anything they want at anytime. “Hey!” Cherie said. platters of fresh fruit and cheese and many big fluffy pillows. the servants waited for Marina’s signal. kiddos.Jack and Cherie. Numerous baskets of food were set down along with fine china. as he reached for a wine goblet. He sat to join them. this is incredible. Jack caught himself thinking. We can have a party and. When the picnic was set up.” Jared said. pizzas and jugs of wine were arranged along with a fragrant bouquet of flowers. “Let’s make Uncle Ryan and Kevin knights. all they have to do is ask. Cherie filled it full of wine then filled one for herself. Jack turned to see Ryan walking across the courtyard toward them. and the children settled on the blanket. Jared.” Ryan said. How could anyone ask for more.” Jared’s eyes lit up. “Me too. A large silky. A large bone was set aside for the royal dog. Jared held up his milkshake showing Ryan.
his warrior dog. that was pretty good. she was finished and running over to Brianna and Marina to order her party. proud of herself. “Right now?” Jared reached for his sword.” he turned to Cherie. “How about at dinner?” Cherie suggested. “You better tell Marina and Brianna after you eat. getting in on the fun.” Jack said to Cherie.” Cherie blushed. “You can make Daddy Commander of the Whole Army. anyway. So we need to get as much power as we can. Great idea. The next step is to get them to give me control of the army.” Ryan said. what’s that about?” Ryan asked. “Looks like you’ve been busy wooing the ladies. since Nicole and Jared seem to be in control of this whole world we need to get a handle on it. you two have been busy. We can’t leave the kids and this City is not going to let us take them and go home.” Cherie said.” Nicole nodded and in no time at all. Jack waited until Jared jumped up to run around with Rogue. and. he is the only one who can go. “Wow.” the twins agreed. Mamma?” Nicole asked. “Hey.“A Party for Uncle Ryan! What do I get to do. The Dragon and The Dove | 135 . Cherie turned back to Nicole. “Yeah. making Ryan blush.” Cherie said with excitement. Cherie looked at Jack. so they can get started on the party. “Cherie and I were talking earlier. “she’s brilliant. “Okay. and the way we see it.” Jack finished his sandwich and let the information soak in. “Well. It’s also going to help us get Kevin out of here to search for civilization and possibly send back help. He wants to go. Jack looked at Ryan.
so I can have a prime rib sandwich?” Ryan tested. “If that’s what you want.” he concluded. but now I’m starving. and watched the kids.” Ryan said. They agreed with whatever the Queen and King said or did. “What would you like?” “Prime rib sandwich with steak fries. you know. Soon after. followed by a big gulp of wine.” Jack said.” Cherie called Brianna over and repeated Ryan’s order. Nicole was again talking with Mariana. How do I get some of this grub?” Ryan asked. watched the kids play. “I ate breakfast in the room this morning. two familiar children.” Cherie confirmed. Ryan poured another full goblet of wine.” Cherie sighed. “Humph. “Okay. but she did notice Kayla and Toren would do whatever Nicole and Jared wanted. I never want to leave. and in no time had his custom. this place is heaven. Jack looked at Ryan. man.” “Okay. “Watch now. as he took a monstrous bite of his sandwich. were escorted out to the grass. enjoyed small talk with Cherie and Jack. side of ranch dressing and auju. they all seemed to play well together. turned and walked away. she’ll tell someone and they’ll go make it. and they did just that. “Yes.” Ryan said. Brianna bowed. Cherie watched curiously. made to order. gourmet meal set down right in front of him. anything you want. Cherie wondered what kind of relationship could be created from this. the King’s and Queen’s Royal Playmates.“Well. “You just summon a servant over and tell ’em what you want. after all Kayla’s and Toren’s job 136 | C. It took no time at all before they were all running around playing crazy games only four-year-olds could think of. Jones .
“It has been brought to my attention that we are to have a Knighting Ceremony tonight. “What can I do for you?” she said coldly.” Cherie said loosely. “I guess so.” Cherie said in awe. Cherie stood up and the two women retreated to the chairs out of earshot of everyone else. “Wow! That’s impressive. not just Nicole and just Jared. She glanced over at Jack. She longed to know what had become of them. it seems to me that King Jared and Queen Nicole get whatever they wish instantly. with very capable people. “We already have knights. During those sessions her children were just ordinary kids playing with other ordinary kids. Cherie thought about her home in the forest. Even though the kids had no one but each other to play with at home.” The Royal Guidance shifted in her seat then smoothed her dress.is to play with Queen Nicole and King Jared. “Is there a problem?” “Well. who looked happy goofing off while Ryan scarfed down his lunch. No one got to be king and queen all the time. serious face. may I have a word?” Cherie looked back to see the Royal Guidance with her stern. they were always invited to play dates with friends in town.” alleged The Royal Guidance. Not only that. What I mean to say is every position in the Royal Court is spoken for. but sometimes the peasants did revolt. Her thoughts were interrupted by a voice behind her. yes. Everyone here at the Golden Palace is given their position when they are born. Cherie looked her directly in the eye. People whose only mission in life is to serve their King and Queen and serve them well. “My Lady.” The Royal Guidance concluded. “Well. and to have Ryan and Kevin knighted The Dragon and The Dove | 137 . Cherie’s thoughts moved from her children to her friends and family.
” Gwendolyn stood and walked to the Palace. Cherie and Nicole were wearing matching 138 | C. My name is Gwendolyn.” She said smugly. as Cherie walked off. Cherie walked over to the picnic site. “I would be more than pleased if you left. I suggest you get used to working with me and do whatever needs to be done to create the best Knighting Ceremony this Palace has ever seen.” Jack said. Cherie was able to have some alone time to coach the kids on the upcoming ceremony. Other than the King and Queen. After Nicole and Jared took deep. The Royal Party arrived together. unless. pampered and dressed.” She looked down at Jack. The Royal Guidance looked sternly at Cherie. The evening came quickly. none of you belong here. “Oh. dressed impeccably. Cherie said with a cold hard stare. Please excuse me. The ceremony was set up to be held on the front steps of the Golden Palace. dinner was just about to be served. “C’mon. “So what was that all about. let’s head in for some quite time. I prefer you use my name. you would like us all to go back where we came from?” Cherie added with a smile. that was just our conversation about how things are going to be.” The Royal Guidance took a deep breath and said.” Jack asked. You don’t know our ways or our customs. sound naps.” “Good idea. By the time everyone was groomed. Jones . of course. “Fine.” The ball was back in Cherie’s court. Proud of herself. “So if that’s out of the question. “There is only one way we are leaving and that’s with our children. “I’m taking them in for a nap.tonight in a ceremony is what they wish. “Nicole! Jared!” Cherie called.
The Dragon and The Dove | 139 . “Arise.” Jared said quietly. It’s not every day you get to dress like Roman Royalty.gowns done in a rose chiffon. Please give respect to King Jared. The guys were loving it. The Royal Family. stepped out to stand in their places. swords. “These are my Knights!” He raised his little hands and the crowd cheered. holding his sword in the air. Rogue was even dressed in his warrior dog garb.” he yelled.” All at once the whole place bowed their heads. “Okay Kevin. He repeated the procedure and then announced. “I am your King.” Jared continued to yell. Cherie and Jack looked at each other as the heavy doors were opened reveling a massive amount of people filling the courtyard. Cherie and Jack were holding back their laughter while Ryan knelt before his King. Uncle Ryan. As everyone obeyed. sandals. The group stopped and waited for the doors to be opened for them. Honey. I’m knighting my Uncle Ryan.” he yelled. The party was led through a corridor which opened up just inside the doors to the Palace. please get on your knees.” Jared said still yelling.The massive crowd that seemed to go for miles instantly hushed. and capes pinned at the shoulders. The men were in dramatic outfits complete with golden chest plates. The whole army was strategically placed to control any distractions. Just outside the sound of trumpets went off startling Rogue. “I’m making you a knight. “ARISE. “Louder. to Cherie’s and Jack’s relief. his eyes lit up as he exercised his power. King Jared will be performing a Knighting Ceremony. “We have all been called here for a very special occasion. with their court. and announced with a very powerful voice. He then slapped Ryan on the shoulders with his sword. get on your knees. Remember?” Cherie encouraged. Gwendolyn stepped up.
Nicole stepped away and Gwendolyn moved up quickly to announce the celebration. 140 | C. Jones . Jack. .Nicole pushed Jared off the platform and screamed. Large vats of wine were wheeled in for everyone in the City. . what Mom?” Cherie whispered in her ear. . . “Commander of our whole Royal Army!” Nicole screamed out to the crowd. Gwendolyn stood up in shock as the masses cheered. “I would like to say that my Dad . When the crowd hushed she yelled. The Royal Family was guided into the throne room for dinner.” she said looking back to Cherie and Jack. where everyone partied once again into the night. Music started and the crowd began to dance and flowers were thrown up into the air. “Is the . “SILENCE! SILENCE!” with her hands in the air.
yet another dark mysterious corridor. to a large intricately carved wooden door. “It won’t take long.” “Oh. Who would he like to see first?” Jack asked. with a smile on her face. “Is this something we have to do.” Cherie stood up to take their hands and follow Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn stepped on the veranda. The walls were lined with lots of | 141 . where Kevin and the Royal Family was seated. “Excuse me. letting their stomachs settle. They were led through. the aroma of flowers blooming. The air was smoky with the smell of incense and sage. that will be fun!” Cherie said. The Royal Vision is requesting your individual presence in his chamber for your readings. well in that case I guess we better do this. Cherie held the children’s hands and trailed behind Gwendolyn into the spooky. “Well.Chapter 17 After a leisurely morning of birds singing. Jack looked at Ryan and Kevin with a not-so-thrilled look on his face. It’s for the good of the King and the Queen. Naturally. “Oh. The door opened as they approached.” Gwendolyn responded. and an exquisite breakfast. “The King and Queen. trying to pass a secret message. looking at Cherie. yet intriguing chamber. let’s go kids. because me and Ryan and Kevin have some important work to do?” Jack said.” Gwendolyn said.
. the Royal Vision grimaced. waiting .” He gestured to big fluffy chairs. The Royal Vision sat across from them tucking his feet up under his thighs. He extended his arms and held out his hands. tall man stepped out from the shadows. A thin. is everything alright?” she asked politely. These are two perfect children you have brought forth into this world. My Lady. .” He closed his eyes and again viewed his secret movie.” Jared said in a small voice. even hanging from the ceiling. “May I please read you?” “Sure . “I need your permission to read you. stammered. and his 142 | C. She felt fear shiver down her spine. he looked as if he were watching a movie in his head. “K. He sat with his back straight and closed his eyes.” He bowed his head. He turned to Cherie and said with a shaky voice. you are remarkable. .” Nicole repeated just as quietly.” he said in a soft voice. He looked at Nicole and Jared with his dark blue eyes. “My King! My Queen! Just to be in your presence is a blessing. “K. Everyone sat silent . . his body tightened and his breathing accelerated. “But of course. “Why. Jones . Bless you. Candles were burning everywhere. thank you. The children shifted around in their chairs. . The window shutter was cracked open allowing fresh air and sunlight to stream in. To her. .books and there was a fire burning in the fireplace under a bubbling cauldron. The kids looked up to Cherie for her nod. “Please have a seat. The Royal Vision opened his eyes wide and looked around as if he had just arrived. This time his face was relaxed. Cherie sat watching him closely.” Cherie said.
She led them to the chamber and shoved Jack through the mysterious doors. “But first I need to read the others. . They were talking and laughing and having a good time. uh . you know .” Cherie replied. “Sure. When he opened his eyes he looked at Cherie. “Never mind. . She instructed Ryan and Kevin to wait with her.” Cherie replied. . Gwendolyn was waiting for them outside.” Gwendolyn said. alone. as if he had forgotten his manners. “What do you mean?” “Well. The Dragon and The Dove | 143 .” His eyes would not fall on the King and Queen. . he just seemed like he saw a ghost or something.” Cherie sighed. Ten minutes later Jack walked out. if that’s permissible.breathing slow and steady. . . “I will guide you to the Royal Vision now. concerned. she was happy to see they were still on the veranda. Kevin and Ryan stood to follow.” she said. It’s nothing. I would like to confer with you. “Gwendolyn. “I have seen enough. so I will see you out and I will meet with you later . if you don’t mind. She held the children’s hands and guided them out of the chamber door. is he always so . . remembering he wanted to meet with her later. He must have something to say that he doesn’t want the kids to hear. dramatic?” Gwendolyn stopped and turned around looking Cherie in the eyes and said.” “He always seems like that. after Cherie and the kids moved past her. “I’ll show you back. . My Lady?” he asked. Didn’t he tell you what he saw?” “No. She let Gwendolyn lead her back to the boy’s room. Jack.
” a voice in the shadows repeated.” The Royal Vision stood and walked toward the door. You must be ready to give your life without question. Ryan followed. it’s your defense skills that need to be honed. “You are a very important man with many difficult choices ahead of you. yours and the ones you love. “Please have a seat. “You must become skilled with a sword.” Ryan said under his breath. It’s a matter of life and death. You have natural riding abilities. The Royal Vision sat across from Ryan and crossed his legs underneath him. “Here goes.” said Kevin.” The Royal Vision looked directly into Ryan’s eyes.” Ryan said. Your protection is needed. Your loyalty and commitment well be challenged. as Kevin walked forward. okay. “Your heart is true and strong.” Jack said. Ryan stepped through the door with a sigh of relief. He heard the Royal Vision’s voice from a shadowy corner in the room. “Please have a seat. as he went through the door.“It’s nothing. Kevin took the same chair that Jack and Ryan had used. here goes. Jones . You must be able to absorb 144 | C.” His eyes opened. The Royal Vision adjusted his posture. Joining in this journey will give you the truth you desire. closing his eyes.” Ryan whispered as he walked through the doors. as Ryan pushed himself away from the wall.” “Oh. You must overcome and master the stillness of your mind. “I guess it’s your turn. “You have come from afar. dude. sat straight up and closed his eyes. The need for instant gratification is your weakness. confused by his words. “Well.
. . The Dragon and The Dove | 145 .” Kevin jabbered as he stood up and quickly walked out. Sure enough. “Okay. “Well. Cherie assured her they were fine and that sending lunch up was enough. . . startling Kevin. When Kevin stepped into the hallway. physic stuff. anxiously. “Um . what did he tell you?” she insisted. Cherie rushed up to Jack. You know for defense. she could see Ryan was in a daze of thought and Kevin was in a whirlwind of confusion. uh .” The Royal Vision opened his eyes and learned forward into the light. “How about you?” He looked over at Jack. well what happened?” Cherie asked. looking directly at Ryan.” Ryan disclosed. She kissed him. You must believe what you find. When they walked into the room. and then looked at Ryan and Kevin to see if they had been told anything. . Gwendolyn gave a slight bow and politely excused herself. The intensity in his eyes glowed red for a moment. you know .the truth. he found Jack.” She directed the men to the veranda to sit around the table. Right now you believe in nothing. but Jack looked oblivious. “Well . Ryan and Gwendolyn waiting for him. all with expectant looks on their faces. a whole bunch of. Life and death and all of that kinda stuff. They all turned and once again the three men followed Gwendolyn down the corridor. “Here. but that will soon change. You must be strong or fear will consume you like a mighty fire destroying everything in its path. let’s go sit down. . looking at all their faces. . He told me I needed to learn how to use a sword really good. . He just shrugged his shoulders and averted his eyes. Gwendolyn asked if anyone was in need of anything. thank you. Kevin could see his thin gaunt face. searching his face for any signs of shock or disbelief.
Well.” she said with a smile.” Kevin said. she’s right. 146 | C. . “Somebody has to do the bossing. .“Umm . not like that. and with a puzzled look on his face. he said a lot of stuff about truth and choices and.” she finished. she called in the two guards. We have no idea how long you will be gone so pack accordingly. “I really need to go. “I . I don’t really know what to take ’cept my pack. I think that’s were one of the guards could help you.” Cherie replied.” he looked at the others waiting for a response.” he paused. referring to Ryan’s reading. . just closed his eyes. Oh. ya know. did these funny faces then led me out. she walked back to the veranda patting Kevin on the shoulders as she passed.” Cherie suggested. he stood up to go pack. “Oh. whatever.” Jack said. “Sir Kevin is going on a journey and I need the two of you to ride with him in service. Jones . “my family. .” he hesitated. and opening the door.” Ryan confirmed. I need to go find . sure. and send up replacements for the door. said. “Sure. walked across the room. Horses and supplies need to be prepared. They all looked at Kevin. he didn’t tell me anything. “Well. I can’t stay here. . “Wow! You’re taking very well to this lifestyle.” Jack commented as she sat in her chair. um. but I think you should take two of those guards with you. .” Dismissing the guards. “Okay. As Kevin put a few things on the bed he turned back to the veranda. “Who knows what’s out there. he didn’t say much. With relief on his face. She stood up swiftly. like we discussed. “Yeah. I want to leave today.
” Kevin said. I guess I’m ready. with a kiss on the cheek. “What is it.” Cherie said as she started dishing up plates for the kids. holding out his hand. ready to eat. and his guards. food had been packed. Cherie walked over to embrace Kevin. with curiosity in her voice. The horses had been saddled.Just then the doors opened and half a dozen servants walked in with lunch. They set the table with the beautiful lunch Cherie had ordered. The kids each took chairs. “Well. rode off towards the south end of the City. but I really miss playing in the kitchen.” said Kevin. with his appetite shinning in his eyes. “Be safe.” He took a dramatic bow before mounting his horse. giving Kevin a firm handshake. “Good luck.” Cherie said. man. The Dragon and The Dove | 147 . swords sharpened and the two guards were standing by. With one final wave Kevin. “Farewell Your Majesties. “I truly hope you find what you’re looking for. They all sat down with full plates and thoroughly enjoyed their lunch together. Kevin looked to his King and Queen.” Ryan said. “I better eat before I go. giving him a long warm hug. Gwendolyn?” Cherie asked. Kevin walked over to sit down with the kids hanging off him. so after lunch the group walked out to the stables.” Jack said. I mean the food here is out of this world. “You know what I really miss? I really miss cooking. After Kevin’s send off the group was walking back to the palace when Gwendolyn came running out onto the grassy courtyard to meet Cherie. The guards sent word that the envoy was ready to travel.
here. desire and ability to create on such a grand scale as our King and Queen. You adults have long since lost the belief.” He grabbed Cherie’s hand and led her to her seat.” Jack looked across the courtyard where Kayla and Toren were being escorted in the King’s and Queen’s direction. “Come here quickly. They want to play with their playmates anyway. bringing their thoughts to life so easily. I have never experienced the power your children have. “The kids will be fine.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. She kissed Jack and turned to follow Gwendolyn. He sat across from her and held both her hands in his. what about the kids?” Cherie looked at Jack. Cherie’s heart raced with excitement. here come sit with me. Honey.“It’s the Royal Vision. “Oh. Nicole and Jared have harnessed all of the power in the vast space left by the devastation for their own creations.” the Royal Vision said. I just couldn’t wait . My Lady. “I don’t even know how to begin with what I saw. “I come from a long line of Royal Visions. When Cherie entered she heard a familiar voice. Cherie was intrigued. She was dying to find out what the Royal Vision had to tell her. out of breath. The two women rushed into the Golden Palace straight to the Royal Vision’s chamber. opening his eyes to reveal a warm amber glow. he is requesting your presence. Thank you for your promptness. . All born in this very magnificent City. She had enormous trust for this powerful man. . I called you here to warn you. my dear. My Lady. looking directly into her eyes. The world is theirs to mold like clay however they 148 | C. “Well. “Your children are masterful creators.” Gwendolyn said. okay.” Cherie said nervously. In your world they are the last of the children. Jones .
I can’t make sense of it. . I can only tell you what I see. Tears started to well up in her eyes. those are my babies. The Royal Vision put his arm around her shoulders The Dragon and The Dove | 149 . We will all do our best to keep our King and Queen safe. My Lady. I don’t want to believe . Listen to your children. She noticed the amber glow had disappeared.” His hand rose to brush a tear off Cherie’s cheek. but this is just crazy. I hold this City very dear to my heart. except for Jack. . . He leaned forward to look into Cherie’s eyes. . When they are awake. I will not let anything interfere. “It’s up to you.wish. and I will speak to him next. how am I going to know it now?” She looked to the Royal Vision to save her. “This is so hard to believe . I would do anything to protect them from danger .” He sat. .” Cherie started to cry. still holding Cherie’s hands. Magic. . depending on how my children play a game or how they dream. .” His reassurance calmed her. if you will. They are limitless . every word that passes through their lips. “This is too much responsibility.” He stopped to wave his hands in the air. We have to work together to anticipate their every whim. “You are not alone. “We just have to be very aware that anything is possible. . . This way I will be able to see and hear everything that the children had imagined. You and I are the only ones who know. My Lady. even though . They will need guidance. waiting for her to speak. The danger here is that there are no boundaries or rules. wiping away her tears as she stood up from her set. even though I know it’s true. And that all of these people here in the City could be harmed. Remember they are creating the world we live in at every moment. I had no idea any of this was happening when the kids were playing in the living room. when they are singing a song. What you are saying is that my children could be that very danger. when they are sleeping. I mean. Let’s keep it that way. I have instructed Gwendolyn to bring Kayla and Toren to me after every play session so I can scan their minds. . Cherie nodded.
to walk her out. “Farewell my child,” he said, closing the door behind her. Cherie walked out of the palace onto the grassy courtyard. The sun was warm on her face. She took a deep breath and continued to walk in Jack’s direction. When she was next to Jack she gave him a kiss, and then informed him of his upcoming meeting with the Royal Vision. Jack moaned, walking off with Gwendolyn in the lead. Cherie noticed Ryan off in the distance talking with some young ladies that had caught his attention the day before. She sat in the grass watching the children play. Escaping from playtime, Rogue sat next to her, waiting for her loving hands to massage his thick neck. He laid down putting his head in her lap. “Oh Rogue, you good boy, what are we going to do?” His big puppy eyes looked up sensing the worry in her voice. Cherie focused on the children’s game. From what she could make out, they were playing a family of bunny rabbits; the kids were even nibbling the grass. Harmless, she thought to herself.
Out of nowhere, a thought hit her like a ton of bricks. She immediately looked around for Brianna. Cherie spotted her with another serving girl. Summoning her over, Brianna knelt down. “What is it, My Lady?” “Tomorrow is the King and Queen’s Birthday! I can’t believe I almost forgot. We have to have a party.” Surprised, Brianna said, “We must start preparing now, My Lady.” “We will need a cake, and games for the kids to play, and entertainers. What else?” Cherie looked to Brianna for ideas. “What about a big dinner, a feast?” “Oh yes! What should I start doing first?” “Oh no My Lady! You need to do nothing. I will do everything for you, if you approve, of course,” Brianna said, asking permission. “Oh . . . well I guess that’s okay,” Cherie said, a little disappointed. She was used to planning the kid’s parties in the past and she always loved it. “Of course . . . of course, what was I thinking? I wouldn’t know where to start. I’m sure you will do a great job. Thank you, Brianna.” Cherie gave her blessing and Brianna ran off to put things in motion. Cherie sat for moment thinking about what had just happened.
She turned toward Jack as he plopped down beside her. “Royalty is kinda boring,” he said, as he leaned in to give her a kiss. “Do you realize it’s the kids fifth birthday tomorrow?” she asked. “Really?” Jack looked puzzled. “Yeah, I almost forgot. Brianna is planning the party right now.” Cherie said, sadly. “Oh Honey, just relax and enjoy. Soon you’ll be back home running around doing all your stuff. And hey, they’ll never be able to plan a party like you do. Where would they ever find a Jumping Castle? Remember last year? We had so much fun with that thing.” Cherie smiled and they both watched the memories flash through their minds. “Do you think we will ever be back home again?” Cherie asked. “I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if I’m sleeping and I’m going to wake up and wonder down the stairs smelling bacon, and waffles, and your wonderful coffee.” She leaned into his body and felt comfort in his arms. They sat and watched the kids play for a while. “Hey, I have an idea, let’s go horseback riding and check out the area. Just you and me. We haven’t spent any alone time together at all for quite some time,” Jack said, hopefully. “But . . . wait, what did the Royal Vision tell you?” she asked. “Oh Honey, he said he would scan the playmates every time after they play, so you and I can run off just for a little bit . . .
152 | C. Jones
come on, I miss you,” he said in a soft voice Cherie couldn’t resist. “Okay, just for a little while.” She confirmed, standing up looking for Marina. She immediately came running over anticipating Cherie’s summons. “Marina, would you please keep a close eye on the children? We are going to do a little horseback riding.” Cherie looked at Jack, smiling with excitement. “Of course My Lady.” Marina summoned another servant who came over quickly. She quietly gave him orders and he ran off toward the stables. “Would you like refreshment after your ride, My Lady?” “That would be splendid!” Jack said, hamming up his royal attitude. Laughing, Cherie looked at Marina, “You do a wonderful job, Marina. I’ll leave it up to you.” “Very well.” Marina curtsied as Jack and Cherie held hands and walked off to the stables. Cherie looked back at the children. They were so involved with the game that they didn’t even notice Mom and Dad leave. When they reached the stables a young groom was assisting the stable master with the second saddle. As Jack and Cherie entered the stables, both men hurried to bow, saying in unison, “Your Highnesses, your Royal Steeds are ready.” The animals were huge and magnificent. “Oh Jack! Look at them, they’re perfect!” she squealed, as she walked over to the horses. The young groom approached caring wooden steps and held out his hand to her. She smiled her thanks. Cherie walked
The Dragon and The Dove | 153
up the steep steps pulling up her dress to mount the horse as if she were wearing jeans. The groom’s eyes big with surprise and his face pink with embarrassment looked at his master. The stable master nervously waved to the groom to remove the steps, breaking his trance. Jack watched with amusement as he approached his horse. The stable master quickly clasped his hands together and hoisted Jack into his saddle. Cherie sat scratching her horse’s neck, whispering into his ear. “Are you ready, Love?” Jack said with a sparkle in his eye. “Yep,” she said, taking the lead. They walked their horses out of the stable doors and ventured out to explore the land surrounding the City. They rode beyond the City’s buildings, passing acres upon acres of bountiful gardens. The lush vegetation gave off fresh earthy aromas. The City was equipped with a vast irrigation system pulled off of the river that Jack and Cherie spied from the top of Black Wolf Peak. “Jack, this place is incredible! Look at all of this food,” Cherie said. “Enough to feed an army and then some,” Jack replied. They rode slowly, at a leisurely pace. They watched a gardener shooing away some rabbits trying to steal leafy green lettuce, and a little later they saw a sheep herder with his large flock grazing on the lush, grassy hills. “You know, I think our City is still growing. I don’t remember seeing all this from the top of the peak,” Cherie said as she held out her hand to display all of the land beyond the City. “Yeah, let’s ride out and see how far it goes . . . I’ll race ya!” Jack yelled as he took off at a full gallop. Before Cherie could decide, her horse took off following Jack, but her gut didn’t feel very good about the direction they were headed. Never
154 | C. Jones
the less, Cherie tried to give Jack a run for his money hoping there would be no end to the lush green grass. There it was along the horizon. The dark, churning clouds and the unmistakable muddy color of the scorched earth, rushing to meet them. Dread hit Cherie’s heart and a lump rose in her throat. The closer they got the more her head spun with anxiety. Jack noticed the horizon as well, and rode all the faster, egger to use his scope. As they drew closer to the edge of their new comfortable world, Jack slowed his horse so Cherie could catch up with him. As Cherie came closer, Jack turned to her. “I brought my spotting scope. I wanna take a look.” As he turned to retrieve his scope out of his backpack, Cherie edged up to where the new grass met the dark earth. Cherie squinted and strained her eyes as she took in the desolate view. “Oh, oh, oh! I see something, Jack look, hurry, look way out there. What is it?” Jack rushed to unpack the scope to see what Cherie was pointing at. When he focused in on the object in the far distance, his jaw almost dropped to the ground. “No way!” “What!” “No way!” “What? What? WHAT?” Cherie raised her voice. “I think its Kevin and the two soldiers we sent with him. Here” Jack inched his horse closer to her’s and handed her the scope. It took a moment for Cherie to zero in on her targets, but when she did she was horrified. They were so far out it was hard to tell if it was them or not, but Cherie could make out three men tied to stakes in the middle of nowhere.
The Dragon and The Dove | 155
“Are they alive?” Cherie asked, with tears in her eyes. She handed Jack the scope. “We have to go back to the palace for help, now!” Jack said ignoring Cherie’s question. He turned on a dime and raced back to the palace with Cherie riding close behind. The horses were foaming and drenched with sweat by the time they reached the palace. As soon as they entered the stables, Jack was off his mount. “WE NEED SOLDIERS NOW!” He commanded in a panic. The stable master whispered in the groom’s ear and he immediately ran off. Jack assumed the boy ran off to gather soldiers. Looking at the stable master he gathered his thoughts. “Ryan. I need Ryan. I’ll be right back,” Jack told the old man as he sprinted out of the stable. The stable master turned his attention to Cherie, who was trying, unsuccessfully to dismount the massive beast, owing to her heavy gown. He fetched the steps offering her his hand. Cherie stopped, looked the man in the eye and let out a big sigh. “Thank you. What is your name?” she asked. “Arrol,” he answered. “Well, thank you, Arrol,” Cherie said warmly. He helped her down. “My Lady, may I ask what’s happening?” “Oh yeah, Sir Kevin and the two soldiers are out there,” She answered, pointing in the direction they had just come, “and they need our help. I hope we’re not too late.” Jack was running full out when he entered the courtyard franticly looking for Ryan. Where is he? He thought. Rushing through the palace he ran up to his quarters.
156 | C. Jones
Bursting through the doors he started yelling Ryan’s name. Ryan didn’t answer, but Brianna hurried from the dressing room when she heard the disturbance. “Have you seen Ryan? I need Ryan right now, it’s important!” “Yes, he . . . he went down to the market. I’m surprised you didn’t pass each other in the corridor,” she answered. Jack turned and ran out. When Jack reached the market, he spotted Ryan flirting with the attractive young lady at the fruit stand. “Ryan! Ryan!” he ran over yelling. “Hey, we have to go! It’s Kevin, he’s out there, and we need to help him!” Jack turned and headed to the stables. Ryan ran to catch up. “Hey, slow down. What are you talking about?” Ryan asked, out of breath. Jack looked at Ryan and impatiently explained. “Cherie and I took horses out to the end of the City and we saw him and the soldiers with the scope.” Jack stopped to look at Ryan. “Out there . . . .” Jack stared at Ryan. “Oh . . . out there!” The light bulb went on. Feeling uneasy Ryan continued to walk quickly beside Jack. From across the courtyard they could see the soldiers on horses lining up in formation. “Whoa! How many of these men are going?” Ryan asked. “I don’t know, I just yelled for soldiers and then ran to find you. How many should we take? Ryan thought a moment. “Maybe ten or so. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s out there.” “Me either. Let’s take twenty.” Jack nodded with authority.
The Dragon and The Dove | 157
As the two men approached, the soldiers stiffened their postures in respect. Jack and Ryan’s horses were ushered out to them by the groom. Cherie came rushing out a few seconds later and enveloped Jack in a crushing embrace. “Okay you two, be careful and let me know as soon as you get back.” She kissed Jack and hugged Ryan. Jack and Ryan mounted their steeds. The groom handed them their swords, then fastened the shields on the saddles. The Commander of the Royal Army had no idea how to lead a real army, so he just said, “Let’s go!” Riding in the direction towards Kevin, he heard the sound of 21 horses behind him. He couldn’t help but feel powerful. The small army soon reached the edge of the lush green land. Ryan walked his horse up next to Jack’s. Handing the scope to Ryan, Jack pointed out to the figures in the distance. Ryan steadied his horse to peer into the scope. “Oh shit!!” He looked at Jack. “Let’s go get ’em!” He handed Jack the scope to repack then yelled, “CHARGE!!” taking Jack by surprise. Ryan’s horse bolted off with the army in tow. Jack’s horse kept up with Ryan as if on autopilot. Jack fell into an easy rhythm with his mount. As his army raced full speed out into the unprotected land, the adrenalin ran high. It felt like an instant and they were there. Jack knew he would be feeling the pain tomorrow. Until this morning, it had been years since he had ridden a horse. Ryan was the first to arrive. He flew off his horse with such agility Jack was quite impressed. Kevin was badly beaten and tied to a stake by what looked like leather from the reigns of his horse. The two soldiers were tied up the same way. There was a mass amount of blood everywhere and the smell was atrocious. The sweet, metallic odor made Jack’s stomach lurch. Swallowing hard, he jumped off his horse to join the rescue.
Ryan hollered out orders, commanding some soldiers to circle and watch for a possible attack and others to help bring down the injured men. Ryan instructed the men be laid out on the ground and be given water immediately. Jack walked up to Ryan. Shaking his head, he said, “Look at all of this blood. Where did it come from?” Ryan assessed the surroundings. “I have no idea,” scanning the sky. “But we had better get back to the palace. These men need medical attention.” The soldiers put together the stretchers that would carry the unconscious men to safety. Very carefully they were carried home between horses, suspended in midair. Jack and Ryan were in awe of the soldier’s skills and abilities. The ride home seemed like forever, the army had to proceed slowly to not injure the men more. Jack and Ryan were relieved upon entering the stables. The stables were full of people. Healers rushed to aid Sir Kevin and the two soldiers. Before Jack and Ryan realized it, they were standing alone. The soldiers had dismounted and returned to their posts, the stable boys had cared for the horses and had them in their proper places and the Healers had taken over the patients and whisked them out of sight. Jack and Ryan were the only ones left. “Wow, okay, I guess we should find Kevin and see if he’s alright,” Jack said to Ryan. “No need for that, Your Excellency. The Healers will take very good care of the men. You and Sir Ryan look in need of food and rest,” a voice said from the dark stables. Jack turned and saw Arrol, the stable master, step out of the shadow. Arrol continued, “Sirs, go to your chambers and rest, there is a big day tomorrow.” Jack realized how tired, dirty and hungry he was and knew Ryan was in the same state. Jack also knew he and Ryan couldn’t do anything for Kevin or the two soldiers. He nodded his agreement to the stable master, thanked him and slowly walked out of the stables.
The Dragon and The Dove | 159
Jack’s stomach was rumbling. He then remembered he had missed lunch and it was already evening. The sun was low in the sky, leaving a beautiful sunset in its wake. “What do we do about Kevin,” Ryan questioned. “I don’t know, wait I guess. I’m sure the doctors or I mean the Healers know what they are doing. They’ll let us know when he’s ready to see us. He was hurt pretty bad,” Jack replied. “Ya, you’re right. I’m beat,” Ryan said. “Oh hey, it’s the twin’s birthday tomorrow, so the palace is throwing a huge party.” “Nice!” Ryan replied. “We’ve been partying every since we got here. This place rocks.” As soon as they entered the Palace, two man servants rushed them up to their room. When they entered they saw Brianna patiently waiting for them to appear. “We must hurry and prepare for dinner,” she said. They could hear Jared in the back room giggling. Jack walked back to see the boy in the tube splashing around. “Dad! Dad, it’s my party tomorrow. You have to bring your sword, the big shining one in the closet. K Dad K?” “Okay, big guy. Finish your bath. Don’t worry, I’ll get ready.” When the servants were through assisting the men, they disappeared in a flash. Jack, Ryan and the boy King were left standing in the huge room all dressed up waiting for the next step. “Hey man, nice dress,” Ryan joked, looking at Jack. “It’s not a dress, it’s a robe. A Royal Robe. It looks more comfortable than your get up,” Jack said, pointing to Ryan’s armor plated shin guards.
160 | C. Jones
“It’s not a dress!” Jared stated defensively, “it’s a king’s robe and you have a knight’s armor on. I picked em out, Uncle Ryan!” “Sorry little dude. I have to give your dad a hard time. It’s my job,” Ryan said with a smile. Brianna cleared her throat to get their attention. “You three look perfect. It’s time to depart to the dining room. Are you ready?” When they entered the dining room, everyone stopped to look at them, and then they all bowed. The music changed while the King with his Captain of the Whole Army and his First Knight in tow found their seats. Jack looked around for Cherie and Nicole, unable to spot them. He couldn’t keep his mind from wondering to Kevin. He wanted desperately to know what happened. Jared wiggled around in his seat anxious for the night’s dinner. “I’m almost five, I’m almost five, I’m almost five,” Jared sang, turning to address Jack and Ryan. “I’m five tomorrow, that’s big, almost as big as you guys.” Jack broke from his trance to see the joy shining on his son’s face. “You sure are. I’m so proud of you. Have I told you that lately?” “No, but I been busy. I’m the King, Dad.” Jack smiled, putting his arm around the boy’s shoulders. The music changed again. The crowd turned toward the large side door that opened to display Nicole with Cherie behind her. They were both dressed as if in a fairytale. Jack met Cherie’s eyes with approval and amazement, her beauty was overwhelming. The crowd parted as the Queen and her party made their way through. When they were seated,
The Dragon and The Dove | 161
With her eyes still closed. With a glass of wine in hand. we just don’t know what. and turkeys. we were rushed to get ready for dinner. Once we got back.” Jack looked into Cherie’s eyes. they’re more like healers. He kissed her tenderly on the lips then turned his attention to the banquet set before them. she zeroed 162 | C. The wine was brought in and the feast began. the salads were creative and colorful. She always had a way of making him feel like everything would be okay. “I don’t know how he is yet. pheasants. “They’ll let us know what’s going on when it’s time. I haven’t seen Kevin since the Healers took him away. the vegetables fresh from the garden and the deserts delectable.” Cherie questioned. Right now we have to relax and enjoy dinner. Anyway. and Cherie closed her eyes. The tables were covered with beautiful fabrics to display an array of mouth watering foods. Honey. taking a deep breath. I’m sure they know what they’re doing. all three are hurt pretty bad. “Oh! We have a medical staff?” “Well.Cherie settled in turning to Jack. There were roasted chicken.” Cherie could see the stress in his eyes as she continued. “What happened? You guys were gone so long. she sat in a chair and stretched out her legs to rest her tired feet on the short cement enclosure surrounding the patio. They were attacked by something. Jones .” “Well. We haven’t any idea what happened. ducks. After the children were tucked in with full bellies and the evening had quieted down. Jack replied. All three are with the medical staff. the stars were bright. Cherie stepped out on the veranda for a moment to herself. How are they? Is Kevin okay?” After the barrage of questions. The night was silent. you know. and then letting it out with a contented sigh.
she stared at the floor as the hair on the back of her neck stood up on end. dig holes in the dirt and whatever else busy. but she knew that they didn’t want the rabbits to over run the place. rabbits and more rabbits. The courtyard was standing room only with rabbits. She stood with her mouth open. Slowly sitting back in her chair. they were pretending to be rabbits today with their playmates. she took a closer look. Cherie couldn’t move as she watched the little creatures eat grass and shrubbery. She didn’t know what to think. The Dragon and The Dove | 163 . Suddenly all of the rabbits froze. In the moonlight the grassy courtyard was alive and busy with tiny paws of bunny rabbits. That’s when it hit her. wanting this all too just be a dream. The kids did this. so she opened her eyes. . gulped her glass of wine and wandered helpless into bed. . She slowly peered over the edge and gasped. Cherie blinked her eyes. little fuzzy bunnies do. Cherie looked over to the pathway on the side wall. Cherie closed her eyes tightly. she thought. Confused. rabbits. In every corner. every inch .in on some chatter below her. stood up and silently stepped over to the edge of the veranda. every pathway. She opened her eyes. The palace staff was rushing out to the courtyard grabbing up confused scurrying rabbits and throwing them into bags as quite as possible. Curiosity got the best of her.
The three had breakfast in bed. Honey. the twins plopped down. She closed her eyes hoping the kids would crawl in with her and fall back asleep. “He went to Kevin. with one kid pinned down for tickling and one kid climbing on her back.” Jared said. between tickles after catching her breath. Dad. Jack walked over to sit on the bed. he hurt himself. she did manage to have a leisurely morning goofing off with her off spring.” Cherie mumbled. “Whatcha doing Dad. “Hey.” By the end of the song.” Nicole said. In spite of wanting more bed time. 164 | . happy birthday. wore their pajamas until noon. they were jumping in a circle on the huge bed holding hands. “Hey. “Happy birthday to me. That’s about the time Jack walked in.” Jared answered. When they saw her nestling into her pillow. “Where’s your father?” She asked with her morning voice.Chapter 19 Cherie woke the next morning with the twins jumping on her bed. they both started to sing.” Cherie said. draped over his mothers shoulder. Cherie squeezed her eyes shut. No such luck. Happy birthday to Nicole and Jared. “Oh. happy birthday to us. made up silly stories and wrestled around.
Cherie looked at Jack remembering what the Royal Vision had said about their imaginations. but nobody knows when they’ll wake up. The grounds were as pristine as usual. like a well executed ballet. I know. “I’ll never get used to this.” Nicole said sympatric ally. The heavy doors were opened and everyone went silent.” She walked back into the room to join Jack and the kids. Nothing . followed by an excited Brianna. The whole room stopped what they were doing and bowed in unison. “Their wounds are healing quickly.” she announced. she looked for any signs of the rabbits.“I went to check on Kevin and the soldiers this morning. It was quite amazing. Jack and Ryan were again in awe at the performance. When they were finished. “As soon as lunch is finished we must start preparing you for tonight’s festivities. Cherie. Once again the Royal Family was groomed from head to toe.” she continued. The main doors opened and lunch was brought in by servants. It seems they’re in a deep sleep. She was surprised.” “Ooooh. “Huh. .” Cherie whispered to Jack. Fairies. not one sign.” Jack whispered back. as Jared led the way to their seats like a professional.” Jared rolled his eyes. The Dragon and The Dove | 165 . Jared jumped off the bed. a process that took half the day. “Maybe the fairies can wake them up. grabbed Jack by the hand and pulled him towards the table. that’s so sad. Walking over to the railing. “That’s so dumb. The kids started jumping around with unbridled energy. “Yeah.” Jack explained to Cherie and the kids. Just then Cherie jumped off of the bed and ran straight to the veranda door. they were again escorted down to the elaborate celebration. with a proud note in her voice. .
Nicole and Jared oohed and ahhed. Waiting patiently you arrived completing our world. Cherie recognized his eyes glowing warm amber as if in a trance.” the Royal Vision said. difficult tricks. The wine was poured. The whole room gasped at once. soft shuffling could be heard as the mess was cleaned up. We exist only for you. the King and Queen were served juice and the lights went out. “it was on this day we were blessed with your birth.” A dull golden light started to spread out from the center of the room. We shall serve you till the end of our days. No one had ever seen anything like it.As soon as the Royal Family was seated. enormous room. laughing and happy with excitement. acrobatic dancers flowed into the room. Jack. and 166 | C. colorful. Hovering high above them was a man floating in thin air. “I’m right here. the music started and the crowd continued to their own tables. As the light grew brighter.” The Royal Vision bowed. There was so much going on that no one noticed the banquet preparations taking place before them. This time red sparkles were everywhere. The children were giggling and pointing out different. “It’s alright. Out of nowhere a flash of brilliant light. Please accept this nights events as our gifts of love and honor for you. like silver sparkling fireworks. Cherie and Ryan were entranced as ribbon dancers flew down from the ceiling doing daring tricks. The music slowed to a dramatic pace. “Good evening my beloved. Jack. We are ever so grateful to you. while beautiful birds of all types flew around the high. It was pitch black. Nicole and Jared started to whine as Cherie put her arm around their tiny backs. A startled servant dropped a dish and in the dark. he floated lower and crowed could identify him as the Royal Vision with his arms held open. exploded in the air. Cherie and Ryan were enjoying the show. looking at Nicole and Jared. The music continued softly as the ribbon dancers slowly created beautiful poses.” she whispered. There was another flash of light. When everyone was seated. Jones .
looking down at the plate in front of her. Jack and Ryan continued trying to debunk The Royal Vision’s tricks. “Can’t you just believe it to be magic?” “No way! It’s a trick. studying the ceiling for evidence of a harness.” Cherie said. Cherie said. When the show was over the Royal Vision suddenly exploded in an array of colored sparks. “Magic. referring to the little plate set before him. The man was gone! “How did he do it?” Jack gasped.” Ryan said.” Cherie responded. looking like a little boy told not to step in the mud. looking at the pate. “Oooh. it’s a wonderful spread for these tasty little crackers. like that one famous magician. What’s his name?” Ryan replied. The Dragon and The Dove | 167 . I guess you’re right. in culinary ecstasy. “Why can’t it just be magic?” Have you forgotten where you are and why?” Cherie rationalized. “Oooh.” She reached for what looked like hard cut crackers.” Nicole and Jared crinkled up their noses. Jack and Ryan were still staring at the ceiling. After swallowing a cracker loaded with pate. pate. “What’s this?” Jack said. The chefs are incredible.then with a wave of his hand he orchestrated one of the best magical light shows of all times. as the lights were turned up. Jack and Ryan were trying to detect the strings holding the man in the air. “Oh yeah. “What’s pate?” Nicole asked her mother. “I have to visit the kitchen.
Ryan lifted the plate up to his nose for a whiff of the strange stuff. There were huge meat pies. pate. “Ewe. With all the colorful. . The main courses were brought out and everyone filled their plates. the wine was pouring and everyone was having a great time. meant only 168 | C. depends.” Cherie said. Rabbit pot pies. who sat motionless. fried rabbit. . but she couldn’t quite place it until a plate of fried rabbit legs passed by her. . staring at the gravity defying acts. The show continued on.” he said with his mouth full. copying Cherie with his crackers.” Cherie said to the kids. Cherie knew the taste was familiar.” Ryan said pushing the little plate away. turning to Cherie. Making a silent inventory. The music grew faster as a large group of young men bounced in dancing and doing incredible acrobatics off of each other. . “What is pate made from?” Jack asked. “Well. talented distractions going on. scooping some up with a new cracker. she thought. “Umm. rabbit kabobs . She looked around and locked eyes with the Royal Vision. . and what looked to be Marsala dishes. And awesome pate I have to say. hearty meat stews. The next performance started. adding a small nod of his head. I don’t know about this. I’ll at least try it. she looked at all the dishes. rabbit in Marsala wine. Jones .“Umm . not bad. . “This is a great show. that’s where all the rabbits went.” Jack said. He was in his seat and for a moment Cherie wondered when he arrived. Cherie was the only one who really noticed what was for dinner. I’ll pass. Rabbits! That’s what kind of pate this is.” “Yeah. usually duck liver or goose liver. He gave a slight wave of his hand referring to the night’s dishes. “Umm .” He looked at Jack.
She then filled her plate and enjoyed dinner and the show. She looked over at the Royal Vision and smiled with a raised brow. and dancing. who was trying to seduce him with her big beautiful blue eyes. Legends and folklore surfaced about what could possibly be out there in the devastation and emptiness. Compulsively.for her. She found herself outside the Royal Vision’s chamber. There was singing. and crazy notions about what could have attacked Kevin. Cherie snuck away. and Ryan had a hard time paying any attention to anything but the pretty maiden on his lap. Leaving the children with a servant girl. she slipped into the darkness and the door closed behind her leaving an echo in the hallway. Jack listened as well as he could. Cherie looked at her beautiful children as they ate their dinner while watching the performers. and storytelling. considering his lack of focus. The door opened before she decided whether or not to knock or go back and join Jack and Ryan. while an exhausted King and Queen were tucked in to bed at a reasonable time. The Dragon and The Dove | 169 . Jack and Ryan had managed to drink enough wine to start arm wrestling competitions with a large group of equally inebriated locals. the party went on into the night. As usual.
the Royal Vision with his strong insight and Cherie with her motherly intuition. Cherie on the other hand was wide awake.” Cherie dramatically throws herself on the bed. 170 | . Ryan was a big boy and Jack’s pillow was calling. do you know where my children are?” Nicole and Jared giggled again trying to be quiet. she couldn’t help but feel as if somewhere down deep. The Royal Vision informed Cherie of the journey that lay ahead. including dinner and her powerful children. then to Cherie with a little smile. “Oh what will I do without my children? I guess I will sleep for a hundred years or until they find me and wake me up. .Chapter 20 It was early in the morning when Jack finally fell into bed. intrigued by the Royal Vision’s wise words. Giggling could be heard from underneath the enormous wooden frame. noticing the big garden swing hanging from the ceiling was slightly swaying. hoping not to wake the kids. Cherie looked towards the bed. she tip-toed into the large room. When Cherie was walking back to her room. Quietly opening the door. .” The servant girl caught onto the game. I wonder where the twins are?” she said loudly. He and Ryan had gotten separated somewhere during the celebration. The servant girl looked at the bed. Just then a servant girl walked out of the closet with a pile of clothes draped over her arm. slipping under the covers she sighed. that everything the Royal Vision has shared with her. She stayed until early sunrise. it was empty. but Jack didn’t care. she widened her smile and watched with curiosity. “Goodnight. she already knows. “Miss. “Hmm . Cherie looked at her and said. unsure what to do. They discussed the evening’s events. The two of them were becoming quite close.
Mom!” Jared announced. oh. let’s pretend that we are little fairies cause fairies are the only ones that can wake up anyone from sleep like this. Spur. they started to dance and sing. Cherie didn’t move. wake up!” Jared shook her with his little hands. . “My Lady. Cherie loved it. the servant girl interrupted. “I know.” Nicole said. Soon the fairy dance was over and Cherie felt little fairy breath on her face as she was kissed on her forehead. like out there?” she said.Jared slowly crawled out from under the bed. They climbed up onto the covers as quietly as they could.” Jared replied. “Here we are. yeah. moving to the clear spot on the bed. “Umm . “Spur? Do you mean Spar. She opened her eyes. “Yeah. Mom. proud of his name. Closing her eyes after her long night felt so good. .” She took Jared’s hand. I have play clothes out for the King The Dragon and The Dove | 171 . grabbed them both. we have to kiss her on her forehead. . Nicole grabbed the blankets and pulled them off of her mother’s face.” Nicole said. . “But first we have to do a fairy dance.” “K.” Nicole said. my fairy name is Fiona. When everyone was out of breath. giving them hugs and kisses on their smiling faces.” he said. with concern. “Um .” he said. “Oh. “What’s yours?” she asked Jared. pointing to her forehead. “Mom. first by Nicole then Jared. now wake up Mom. Spar. followed by Nicole. if only it lasted longer. So stand up. pointing to the window. “Okay.
she is a beauty.” He ignored the fact that Jack was in bed asleep. “Oh. My Lady?” What great service. “Oh. I’m sleeping!” Jack said annoyed. “Please do. “I don’t know. why?” Jack rolled over in bed. really. I don’t know. Ryan walked out onto the veranda. “Have they brought us any grub?” Ryan asked as his stomach rumbled. Go look. if that suits you. but she is an angel.” Jack replied. it’s a beautiful morning. “Oh. Yes.and Queen. please. They ran to the dressing room with the servant girl to get dressed.” “Uh huh. Jones .” Jack said.” “Yep. Have they had breakfast yet?” “No. that’s what I thought. He plopped down on his bed. half asleep. floating into a deep sleep. I can have it prepared in the courtyard. “I’ve just met an angel. then straight out to play. I can sleep.” Cherie helped the kids off the bed. “And I care. and what’s her name?” Jack questioned. Cherie thought to herself. Ryan sauntered into the guy’s room around noon. food!” Ryan called back to Jack. shall we take them out for a morning play session?” “That is the best idea. Cherie fell back into the soft pillows. 172 | C. “Yes! Hey dude.
Moaning Jack covered his head with his pillow. When they finished eating.” Jack sat down to the table for a wonderful mid-day feast. Jack found his way out of bed to the bathroom then to the veranda. “That just seems like a lot of trouble. “Alright. they got me through it fast last time. He lay in bed a little longer.” Jack replied. It could be more than we can handle. will you tell Cherie that Ryan and I are headed to the forest to the lookout. what if we go back to the forest to the Peak and scope out the area. Why don’t we take the army and go out there and kick some ass. Jack and Ryan burst into Cherie’s room expecting her to be out with the kids. She’ll The Dragon and The Dove | 173 . until the fresh smell of hot coffee found its way to his nostrils.” Ryan said. “Because we don’t know what we’re dealing with. We were able to see everything from there. “Ryan said. “Okay. doing nothing for as long as they could before getting ready for the journey. I just don’t want to have to go through that maze again.” Ryan said.” Jack suggested. Jack took a gulp of his coffee. “We’ll just call Spar and Gunther. “So what do you think of all those crazy stories last night?” Jack probed. “Hey. Be real. A servant girl was cleaning the bathroom when Jack poked his head in. but something attacked Kevin. I don’t know. I’m awake. The two of them savored sitting in the quite. man!” Jack rationalized. He knew Ryan was not going to let him sleep. “Well. “Hey. thinking about the hangover he wasn’t about to admit he had. then we’d know what we’re dealing with and we can check on the house.
‘Fairies are the only ones that can wake anyone from sleep like this. She blinked her eyes lightly a few times as her mind repeated the strange dream. She jumped out of bed looking for something to put on.’ She heard Nicole’s little voice echoing in her head. she ran towards Jack and Ryan as she turned the first corner. .” the servant girl said. Confused. as she peered into the room. The two of them left and headed for the labyrinth. incorporating Jack’s conversation into a vivid dream about Kevin with a fairy buzzing around his head. and ran out of the room.” Cherie said interrupting the poor startled girl. hoping to catch Jack and Ryan.” Jack said. “Yes.” she responded. Cherie opened her eyes slowly. Cherie stood still in horror trying to control her breathing. Running into the closet she grabbed the sweater and jeans she arrived in. Then the most unpleasant feeling hit her stomach when she remembered Jack telling her about the vines moving and changing the pathways. expecting the men to hear her. As fast as she could Cherie ran out of the Palace and through the courtyards in the direction of the labyrinth opening. he has gone to the forest. She felt like she had run the correct distance to where they had turned the corner. “Jack!!” she gasped.probably know what I’m talking about. “My Lady. . Jones . Cherie started to wake from her deep sleep. I don’t really know when we will be back. Part of her wanted to scream 174 | C. The room was very blurry. . “I know. sir. “Jack! Ryan!” Cherie yelled. Cherie ran faster to catch up with them. When she reached the maze. he said you would know . she slowed to a jog looking for the next opening. Fearlessly. she took a deep breath and walked through the opening. dressed as fast as she could.
Cherie thought. Spar and Gunther grabbed Ryan and the other two grabbed Jack. Two more little people appeared. Ryan looked at Jack. “Way too much to explain right now. Ryan. Gunther had put his tiny fingers up to his mouth and blew a loud shrill whistle. “They should be here any minute.” Jack said.” she said under her breath. Jack jumped. no. Jack said. “No.” “Yeah. Jackie Boy?’ Spar whispered loudly back in Jack’s ear. “Let’s go!” Spar shouted. the other part of her knew it might attract an unwanted visitor. I’ll just quietly go back. The Dragon and The Dove | 175 . “Why so serious?” Spar questioned. Spar and Gunther laughed. She slowly turned back the way she came. “Get ready. Gunther. Ryan.” Ryan said. “Come on you guys. “Did you hear someone yelling?” Jack stopped walking to listen. “What can I help ya with. “No? I think it’s just my mind playing tricks on me. Jack looked over and smiled.Jack’s name. “Spar. Can you get us to the forest?” Jack asked. “Uug! Don’t do that!!” Jack yelled out.” Jack replied. I know what you mean. We really need your help. Looking around. I don’t know what to expect in this crazy place. annoyed. as they were lifted into the air and carried over the top of the labyrinth. The labyrinth was quietly rearranging itself and Cherie was now caught. Ryan silently freaked out until he gained his flying legs. “No way!” Ryan shouted with a huge grin.” Jack said in a loud whisper.
Jack rolled his window down and took a deep breath of the fresh familiar air. The doorway between the forest and the labyrinth had changed so Jack and Ryan had to figure out where they were. “Ah ha! Got it.” he said. “Okay. Ryan pointed out into the distance.” Ryan said. both men eagerly jumped out. The two of them jumped in and Jack drove off into the forest. In no time they landed in front of an entrance to the forest.” Jack said.” he said. Jack unpacked the scope while Ryan found them a good place to perch with a good view of the area outside of the forest. When he brought the truck to a stop. holding a spare key in his hand. We have to go to our lookout and check on the house.” Jack said. “Hey! What’s all that out there?” Jack sat down next to him and focused in with his scope.They flew fast and low. you know. The two men took off into the forest. Jack’s and Ryan’s feet just barely cleared the vine walls. “It will never be the way it used to be. It was late afternoon and they were almost to the top of Black Wolf Peak. the way things used to be. Both wandering around in their own heads. Back to their stomping grounds. It took him a minute or two to make the adjustments. Jack felt under the truck near the driver’s side door. It felt good to be home. “I wanna be back home. . We shouldn’t be too long. out past that it looks like some cliffs and some rock formations have come 176 | C. Jones . with sorrow in his voice. Ryan had his window down. They drove along in silence. and then hike a little to get to the truck. Remembering how it was always cooler up here. When they reached it. pointing. I see the labyrinth and our city . . enjoying the wind on his face. and there’s where Kevin was found. “Thanks guys. He maneuvered onto the main dirt road. quietly. “Now. Jack reached for his windbreaker on the seat and slipped it on as they drove closer to the top.
Ryan caught up with Jack.” Jack concluded. “Well. jumping out of the truck and running over to the broken down fence. Jack snapped out of his fog and followed. Both of them were pale. . The front door was hanging on its hinges and all the windows were shattered.” Ryan said. with his own thoughts. “I don’t see anything. Jack suddenly slammed on the brakes. with the scope to his eye. The torn up ground was covered with blood. “Jack!! Come on!” he yelled. . each was involved. concentrating on the new terrain.” Jack said. in shock.” Jack was interrupted by Ryan.” Jack continued to scan the area. The Dragon and The Dove | 177 . as he finished with the scope. “There’s weird coloration in the dirt but I bet that’s just from these rock eruptions. Jack looked at Ryan. looking out to the right. Who could have . Turning to run to the barn he had to stop.straight out of the ground. . The men weren’t talking much on the drive down from the mountain. again. The two quietly walked into the house. had been crushed. Nothing was left except for the feathers stuck to the bloody grass. Jack’s cows were nowhere to be found. “Let’s get the guns and get the hell out of here!” Ryan said. I guess we should head down and have a look at the house. “There’s got to be something out there. “How? How did this happen?” Jack said.” Ryan mumbled. and they both immediately ran over to the chicken house. Jack handed the scope over to Ryan so he could have a look. feeling uneasy and not quite so comfortable in their favorite forest anymore. All the chicken were gone. forcing Ryan out of his happy place. It too. “The furniture looks like it’s been thrown around. Reaching the driveway. “Oh my god!! The cows!!” Jack shouted.
Some of the guns he had inherited from his dad and some he had added on his own over the years. Opening the safe. looking at the safe. yeah.When they got to the barn. “I just lost everything! Uhhh! Why is this happening! God Damn It!!” Jack sat silent for a moment. “Maybe we were scoping the wrong terrain.” he added. “We had better get under cover. The gun safe had been thrown out in the field. Jack had a large collection. We’ve been in the open for some time now. Ryan focused on driving.” “Open it! Open it!” Ryan urged. Jack and Ryan ran to where it had landed. “Go up to the Peak again. “Oh. “I don’t know! I don’t know!” Jack punched the glove box in front of him. 178 | C. “Obviously. “This thing weighs a ton.” Jack muttered. and as much ammo as possible. okay. Ryan jumped in the driver’s seat and started it up. trying to hurry Jack along. yeah. he thought to himself. Ryan’s adrenaline was starting to pump. pushing his foot on the accelerator.” Ryan instructed. He turned and climbed in the passenger side. Jack ran to get the truck while Ryan finished getting the guns from the safe. Now this is getting good. “Go get the truck. Somebody or something wants a war! I’ll give ’em a God Damn War!” Jack burned with fury. Cherie isn’t going to like this. they saw that everything here had been destroyed as well. happy home. “Who could have lifted this?” Jack said. shaking his head. Jack stood frozen in place.” Jack lamented. After loading all the firearms and ammo into the back of the truck. rifles. He put his face in his hands with a sigh. Jack loaded Ryan up with as many guns.” Jack said. “Uh. as he maneuvered the truck just inside the tree line. Jones . looking at what was once his warm.” Ryan commented. trying to recall the combination.
” Jack continued scoping as long as he could. continuing to scope. you know. He put his binoculars down and sighed. jumping up and walking over to the vehicle. With Ryan driving the little blue truck they made it to the labyrinth in no time. green maze. Jack whispered. but his impatience got the best of him. annoyed. They sat in silence for quite some time. you’re right. shrub and shadow. Securing the truck and walking over to the entrance to the big.” “Yeah. without changing his gaze. Jack and Ryan jumped out of the truck. “Just look for anything out of the ordinary. . and it’s getting dark. I don’t see anything .” Ryan replied. “I know. Jack closed his eyes and the voice inside his head screamed SPAR! GUNTHER! Within minutes Spar and Gunther were fluttering above their heads. Ryan tried to out scope Jack.” Ryan looked at him in wonder. with the scope to his eye. “Okay.” Ryan said. Jack put his scope away and got into the truck.” Ryan continued. . I want to try something. “Well. I know. “You’re not the only one who can spot stuff.” Jack said. Stepping into the labyrinth. carefully looking through every tree. Knowing Ryan was going crazy.” Jack said.” “What?” Jack said. “I’ll go start the truck. “Hey.The truck slid to a stop in the gravel at the top of Black Wolf Peak. Jack and Ryan couldn’t help but look out into the forest around them. we should head back soon. Both of them sat down and started to comb the area. The Dragon and The Dove | 179 . Jack with the scope and Ryan with a pair of binoculars.
” Ryan said. without taking his eyes off Jack. only next time not so loud. and I’ll snap his neck!” “No Vance.” Spar replied. “What? Are all you guys born with attitude?” Jack questioned. Eight little. young men. “What do you mean?” Ryan asked. giving Ryan the evil eye. Uncle Spar.” Spar said.” Jack explained proudly.” Young Vance unpuffed his chest and backed off. flexing their muscles.” he suggested.“Hey. okay?” Spar said. Jones . 180 | C. A little guy behind him was slamming his fist into his palm. with a blank face. “Say the word. flying in to challenge Ryan. Got it?” “Yes sir. “I called them with my mind. that was pretty good. “You’re going to fly them to the Palace. all puffed up. raising his fingers to his mouth for a shrill whistle. Uncle Spar?” one little guy said. “Listen. puzzled. Let’s fly everything over at once. “I’ve got a better idea. Instantly a tiny gang of little bugs flew in. complete with little attitudes were hovering above Jack’s and Ryan’s heads sizing them up. “You need some help with these guys. “Oh. is that all?” the little guy said. let’s rope up all the guns and these guys can fly them over before they fly us. “Ahhh. these are our friends and we are here to help them.
“Okay. with raised eyebrows. just remember lots of greenery. We’ll just stay right here and wait for you. . confused. clearly you can kick my ass. . skeptically. animals live here.“Okaaay. let’s go.” He turned to walk through and Ryan followed. squinting. “Don’t you see? Out there!” Ryan said. you can come with us if you want.” Ryan pointed to the doorway between the two worlds. . Jack looked at Ryan and spoke up. but you’re scared to go into the forest?” The Dragon and The Dove | 181 . Jack walked back through. “Right there. “Lots of green plants and trees and flowers.” Spar said nervously. The little winged people flew over to look. . Ready. then they actually can’t even see it.” holding his hands out to the vine walls. “Where?” Spar said. . “Oh no.” “Really?” Ryan said. “There is nothing there. Jack continued. Jack looked back.” Jack turned to the little group of men. looking at Ryan as if he were crazy.” Spar replied. just go through the doorway with us. “A forest is a lot like this. I think you’ll see it. “Yeah. kinda like this.” Jack suggested. he could see the little guys building up the courage.” Ryan said. “It’s just the forest. . I’ve heard that if someone has no idea about something . they have no idea what a forest is . so we’ll go out in the forest and get the guns ready . I don’t know what’s out there. “You know. “What’s the forest?” Gunther spoke up.
What do you say.” Jack looked at Spar with sincerity in his eyes.” Spar said with gusto. I’m so sorry. who were still in awe of their surroundings. “I just came back.” Ryan concluded. Gunther let out a little breath of surprise and put his hands to his mouth. “Okay boys! Let’s see what’s on the other side. Watching their tiny faces. but you guys can fly them over. pumping up the others. truly I am. “We did. patting Jack on the shoulder.” Gunther said with a soft voice. gathering some rope in his hands. “This is beautiful! Ryan. “I see it. “So this is where you live. “What are you going to do now?” Ryan looked at Spar. he could see the forest appearing before their very eyes.” Jack complained bitterly. see all these firearms and ammo? They’re too heavy for Jack and me to get through the maze. The little gang with wings buzzed past Jack’s face through the doorway into the forest.“What if we can’t get back?” Spar said to Jack with concern in his voice. guys?” Spar said. didn’t I? Just trust me. Uncle Spar!. “Yeah! We can do that. “That’s what we’re hoping you guys could help us with. offering to help. 182 | C. Jack.” Vance said with wide eyes. Something destroyed our home. “Oh. huh?” Spar said.” Spar said. We can bundle them up for you. “Yeah!” They all puffed up and started buzzing around Ryan. Jones .
Jack looked at Ryan. I’ll wait right here. or buzzed. thinking horses. It took the two of them to drag the bag out of the entrance way.” Ryan said. I don’t know. at the Palace entrance of the labyrinth. We could have some wine. good.” Spar said. “Spar and Gunther will be right back. Late for dinner is not an option. The Dragon and The Dove | 183 . “Oh no. with a chuckle.” Ryan chimed in. so Jack suggested he fly over first with Spar and Gunther. they all stood. It only took eight guys to carry the gun bag. the little guys tested the weight against their strength. looking around. they’re fast. guns. “It won’t take long. When everything and everyone was successfully delivered.” Jack said. Just give us a call. with all the help you’ve given us. everyone is comfortable now that they have their King and Queen. it’s the least we could do. we have to get back for dinner. “Uh.” Jack said. As soon as they were spotted. “Okay. “But thanks though.” The crew was set to carry out the plan. inviting the little guys in. as the others joined in. Your Majesties?” one man asked. Maybe another time. a handful of men hurried over and took the over the task. “Why don’t you guys come on in? The Palace is calm. you’ve never met our woman. “Yeah.” Ryan suggested. soldiers.After bundling the guns and ammo into a tarp and securing it with a rope.” Spar held up his hand in a salute and the little bugs flew out of sight. Where should we put all of these?” “How about the stables. “Where would you like it. sensing Ryan’s uneasiness.
184 | C. It was pretty cool. Jones . We’d better get back and let Cherie know the bad news. It just popped into my head. proud of himself.” Jack said. “I don’t know. how did you know to do that thing with your mind to call Spar and Gunther?” Ryan asked.“Alright. dreading the conversation. so I did it. “Hey. huh?” Jack said.
“Yes sir. “Ryan!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. as he raced out the door. saying hi and acknowledging people as they passed by. A servant girl walked out of the closet with fresh towels.” he said. “Stay with the kids!” he yelled. so Jack and Ryan headed straight into the Palace. his mind playing out events from earlier. this morning she ran out after you and Sir Ryan. “Have you seen Cherie?” Jack asked the girl. “Cherie!” he called. Didn’t she catch you?” Jack was puzzled. He burst into her bedroom. This morning? Jack thought.Chapter 21 It was close to dinner time. you didn’t. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. “I have to get her.” he said alarmed. “Don’t know.” Jared jumped on top of his dad.” Jack looked around frantically for Ryan when he busted out of the Palace doors. Ryan stepped out from behind a wall with the girl in his arms. out of breath. Jack looked around to catch the servant girl’s gaze. Jack continued up to the private quarters to find Cherie. you two. The kids were jumping on the bed. Ryan b-lined over to the pretty girl he met at the booth selling incense. “Oh Cherie. while Brianna was tending to their baths. Suddenly he shot up like a bullet. flopping down on the bed. “We played outside all day. She was the same one from this morning. where’s Mom?” he said. | 185 . “Hey. holding Jared back with a wrestling move.
Jack!” Ryan demanded. with food on his chin. Ryan kissed the girl goodbye. The four of them hurried through the maze. That noise you heard. I know it.” Gunther said in a reassuring voice.” Jack’s adrenalin was running high. Call the boys. it was her. and then sprinted after Jack. why don’t we fly. . it’s almost dark. annoyed. “That means she’s been in there all day . Jack closed his eyes and let out a big breath. she’s lost in here from this morning. wouldn’t that be quicker?” Jack asked. Gunther looked worried as he wiped his tiny hands on a bib he had tucked in his shirt. this place could kill her. let’s go!” Spar said. Fortunately. “Cherie!!” Jack kept running towards the labyrinth. Ryan stepped into the maze only a few paces behind Jack.” Ryan said. “You think she’s in here? Why?” Ryan said. buzzing off. “What’s the big idea?” Spar said. 186 | C. “Cherie . we have to find her. they had not run into anything scary yet. . “Hey. and now it’s almost dark. “We have to act fast. looking around. she said Cherie chased after us this morning and she hasn’t seen her since . This crazy place. trying to catch his breath. “The girl in our room. “Okay. turning here and turning there. .“Hey.” Jack was looking at Ryan helplessly. Jones . . “We’ll find her. . it swallowed her up. Jack and Ryan followed. what’s the problem?” he called back. . In no time Spar and Gunther were buzzing around their heads.
She had to slap her hand to her mouth to avoid waking the sleeping babe. Oh. I bust myself up. “Uh.” Gunther said. The large puppy found a spot to take a nap. Gunther and I are going to go around the corner and check it out. who were a few feet behind. he saw it wasn’t the dog that moved at all. “Uh. They were standing about four feet from the enormous fuzz ball. Jack couldn’t help but recall Cherie’s love of the garden and her passion for cooking. complimenting his best friend. “Okay. “What do we do now?” Ryan whispered. Spar flew close. it’s harmless. Gunther whispered into Spar’s ear.” “We’ve met that particular K-nine.” Ryan suggested. with his nose in the air. Spar said. “Get it? Flea! Ha. “Good. They continued on. she’s harmless. blocking the path.” Spar laughed. Spar The Dragon and The Dove | 187 . A moment later Spar and Gunther appeared waving Jack and Ryan to proceed.ha. Their presents stirred the pup. finding himself hilarious.“Gunther has an incredible nose for scent.” Spar said.ha. but there’s this monstrous baby dog that lives here.ha. When she realized the intruders were allies. stay here!” Jack and Ryan agreed. don’t be alarmed. her eyes widened. “Beautiful Cherie smells of garlic bulbs and olive branch with a hint of dark. Makes Rogue look like a flea. Is she sleeping?” Ryan said. A wave of emotion rushed over Jack. Flying over to Jack and Ryan. his eyes blinking away tears. soft moist soil. standing there helplessly. but when Jack looked closer. Gunther smells an animal.” Gunther said. huh. Cherie’s eyes slowly peered over her furry friend. nodding his head. let’s try to sneak by.
Cherie stopped and hugged Jack again. but he knew they should get out of earshot of the puppy. so it should work. but this stupid maze shut me off. Jones . Jack didn’t want to let her go. when I left. for their reactions.” Cherie said. They looked at each other. by the way. but . “It’s hard for you guys. When they were a safe distance. I thought I could catch up with you. looking into their eyes. “Get what?” Ryan asked.” Jack said.” Cherie looked at Jack and Ryan. The kids pretended it. oh. out of breath. Kevin was still unconscious. knowing full well Cherie hit the nail on the head.and Gunther flew over and gripped the shoulders of her sweater to lift her up and over the loveable pup that was blocking her way into Jack’s arms. yeah. “Listen. isn’t it? It’s hard for you to remember that you’re not in charge anymore. so they pretended to be fairies to wake me!” She waited. I was with Nicole and Jared this morning. “That’s what you ran after me for?” Jack said. . “Kevin! We need fairies. embarrassed. They just looked at her. . looking at all of her rescuers. Don’t you get it?” Cherie said with surprise. confused. That’s how we wake him. “Let’s get out of here. “Thank god you found me!” Cherie said. the kids and I were playing and I said the only thing that would wake me up would be their kisses and Nicole said the only way to wake up such a deep sleep would be fairies.” they said in unison. “No. huh?” Cherie said annoyed. “But wait! I followed you because I have news. They embraced. 188 | C. “Uh.
supporting up Spar. flying down the path. then we need fairies!” Jack said. then. giving in.” Cherie said gently. “Why? The Palace is a wonderful place. No. The Dragon and The Dove | 189 . He and Ryan turned and looked at Spar and Gunther. “We can’t go into the City.” Spar said.” Gunther said. The others followed without protest.” Spar said. “What? No way. “Let’s just get you back. Jack gave Cherie and Ryan a confident look and a wink of his eye.“If the kids say we need fairies.
who were stunned. “Oh. “What the! What’s the wise idea. helping Jack to his feet. Jack let out a groan of pain and Ryan gasped for air. only to be lifted off their feet into the air and slammed down onto the ground. With wide eyes. “It’s incredible. she ran over to the fallen men. “Well. fellas?” Spar scowled at them. Groaning. “Spar! Gunther! I’m right. 190 | . “Okay?” he said. The two of them then turned to help Ryan get up. no. Jack gave Ryan a look which Ryan read just in time. With a load thud. he was holding his back. still looking around. as he started to buzz around. “Well.” he continued. Cherie stood in disbelief as she watched the whole thing as if in slow motion.” Spar’s gaze landed on Jack.Chapter 22 They followed the two little fairies to the ever changing entrance into the Palace. they hurried through the opening to the courtyard. “I knew it! You’ve never been past the labyrinth!” Ryan and Cherie looked at each other. are you guys alright?” she said.” Spar said. Catching the little men in their palms.” Gunther said under his breath. have you?” Jack waited for them to snap out of it. Before Spar and Gunther turned around to say good bye. and then at the two little guys. huh? You’ve never been in here. but we’ve heard all the stories. is it as bad as they say?” Ryan asked. Jack swiped at Spar and Ryan swiped at Gunther. looking around in awe. “Uh. “It’s beautiful.
They stood staring for a moment. enticing them in further. . . I guess we had better get at it. I wanna see more . “It’s getting kinda late.” Cherie replied. “What?” Spar said. giving them permission. Gunther started giggling.” Gunther begged. “Oh. There were three beds. “What?” Spar said. one for each of the injured men.” Jack said. Cherie saw Gwendolyn walking out of the Palace doors and had her lead them to Kevin. even though he was in a trance following Cherie.” she said. go ahead. a little fairy dance and a kiss on the forehead. Cherie. Cherie dismissed the attendants. come on. Jack and Ryan crowded around Kevin. who were busy taking in their unfamiliar surroundings. “He looks dead. but they were all still unconscious. “Well. “Creepy. trailing behind the group. Kevin’s room glowed with candle light. .” Cherie said. and . . so what. . “Well. She looked at Spar and Gunther. As quiet as possible. When they were gone. “You know. “Why don’t you just come with us and maybe you could even help out a friend.” Spar started to say. “Go ahead. They had been bathed and their wounds had been tended to. do what you do . breaking the silence.“Hey. what?” he said again. do you want to see more?” Cherie asked. “Fine!” Spar said. let’s go with them.” Cherie said. The Dragon and The Dove | 191 . referring to Kevin.” She said. feeling Cherie’s eyes on him. .
Jones . “Because you screamed like a girl. . desperately.” “Well. He just isn’t talking yet. but heard nothing. Spar joined him. Spar and Gunther both felt really bad for the injured men.” Spar said. “Well. nervously. . . “Why don’t you ask girlie man here?” Spar said. “Just listen. Jack gave him a dirty look. Please. He listened a little longer “Oh. We don’t do little fairy dances and we don’t kiss dudes. “What now?” Spar asked. Spar concentrated. .” Spar was roaring with 192 | C. who didn’t hear you?” Spar responded.” Spar started to explain.” Gunther said. Maybe you could wake them up some other way . “How do we get him to talk?” Ryan questioned the group. “Well.” Gunther replied. looking for an exit. reluctant to put his ear on the man’s head. I hate to say it but I don’t hear anything.“Um . “Maybe he can scream us an answer. hurry. I’m ready to go now. “But maybe we can hear them!” Gunther said enthusiastically. that’s probably it then. “That’s just what the kids said. snickering. . I don’t know how we can wake them .” he said. “Wait!’” Cherie said. gesturing with his tiny hand. He buzzed over to Kevin and put his ear to Kevin’s forehead. I think you’re crazy. “Uh. how did you hear me?” Jack asked. “Spar! Come here.” Cherie concluded.” Cherie begged. .
Ryan stepped back to retrieve a chair and set between Kevin’s bed and the bed of a soldier. and listen.” Jack said. Ryan and Cherie couldn’t help but laugh along with him.” Cherie said with surprise. putting his hands in his lap. Gunther. but they wouldn’t go away. Gunther opened his eyes. looking at Ryan. Jack? You were able to communicate with Spar and Gunther in the labyrinth. He took a deep breath. applauding Spar’s comedy routine. then closed his eyes again. “What?” Cheri” she said. He could see the three men riding out past the City. relax. Unsure. then Ryan.” Ryan suggested. “I’m so glad you all find this so amusing. He looked over at Gunther.” Cherie urged. looking at Jack. that’s incredible.” Ryan informed her. “Gunther. “Jack. settled in his seat. waiting to hear the story.” He said calmly. “The thought just popped into my head. He tried to dismiss the visions in order to concentrate on listening. “Maybe you should try it with Kevin. puzzled. Jack started to see weird pictures behind his eyes. Ryan. so I tried it and it worked. like a movie.” Jack said quietly. Jack sat down.” “Why don’t you try it. It was like he was flying The Dragon and The Dove | 193 .laughter. Jack looked around to Cherie. and then closed his eyes.” Jack said. “but we have some work to do here. shrugging his shoulders. “Just close your eyes. Spar and Cherie were silent while Jack quieted his mind. who still held his ear to Kevin’s forehead. “He was calling out to them with his mind.
frozen in time and unable to move. with bulging eyes and large razor sharp teeth in mouths covered in blood. Jack had no idea where the wooden stakes came from. One of the soldiers cried out in pain holding his arm.up above them. where they were bound with leather straps from the saddles. Jack watched in shock as the horses were wrestled to the ground with ease. Watching intently. with eyes open wide with horror. It was hard to look away from the horrible creatures. foaming at their mouths. He couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. Jack and the three travelers watched as the creatures ripped the horses to pieces. He really wanted to open his eyes. and the saddles ripped off of their backs. Jack could tell Kevin and the soldiers were scared. Clods of dirt were flying through the air. Covered in blood. they pursued the men. but they were gone in an instant. Jones . and a huge cloud of dust made to hard for Kevin and the soldiers to see what was happening. Within seconds the men realized they could be next. The horses stopped in their tracks to rise up on their hind legs. and cruelly dragged them back to the scene of the slaughter. Kevin and the two soldiers were tied up and left there to die. they just seemed to appear out of nowhere. He was breathing heavy and he could feel the streams of sweat dripping down his back. The monsters walked off disappearing into the landscape. each catching one. It seemed like the horses screamed forever. the animals were devoured alive. the scene played out as if it were in slow motion. The horrible creatures were unnaturally fast. They had reptilian like skin and huge feet with claws. Jack opened his eyes. They looked at each other and started to rise from the ground to run. but he knew he had to get all the information he could. Right before them the ground opened up. as three large creatures shot out of the earth. All three of them were knocked out of their saddles onto the ground. He wiped the moisture from his forehead and looked around 194 | C. Crunching bones and tearing flesh.
but she knew Ryan was right. “Are you okay? Jack. too. . taking Cherie gently by the shoulders and looking into her eyes.” Ryan turned to walk towards the Palace.” Cherie said. hey. then you started breathing heavy. Cherie ran to catch up with Jack. “How long was I . It looks like you broke out in a heavy sweat. It went against her instincts to let Jack leave like that. he’ll tell us when he’s ready. The Dragon and The Dove | 195 . ?” Jack questioned. . “Just a couple of seconds. He was unconsciously rubbing his hands together.” Jack said as he rose from his chair and hurried out into the fresh air. “I . “Hey. you guys should just stay here for the night. “I’ve never seen him like that. okay?” Spar called out.” she concluded. unsure of what else to say. okay?” Ryan said. Jack sat there running through the events in his head. He’s really freaked out. . Cherie stopped to address the attendants. are you okay?” Cherie asked. instruction them to resume their duties. but Ryan stopped her before Jack turned out of sight. “Oh. He could feel his heart galloping in his chest. we’ll see you later. Cherie and Ryan followed Spar and Gunther as they buzzed out the door after Jack. Everything looked and felt surreal. . Jack took a deep breath and looked around. I gotta get outta here. unsure how to explain what he saw.at everyone. “I know.” Ryan suggested. Don’t worry. “He needs space. wondering what he had missed. “Did you hear something?” Gunther asked Jack.
“Ryan and I went to the forest this morning. Everything is just trashed. before you go in I have to tell you something and I don’t want the kids to hear. . Cherie saw the look passed between the two men and it worried her. Jones . but we gotta get home. out of breath.” Jack let out a big sigh. she leaned back against the 196 | C. . who was still in daze. . Unsteady on her feet. looking at Ryan for support. honey . wait.” Jack paused. Honey. the chickens.” Ryan said. it’s been destroyed. Her eyes were welling up with tears and she felt light headed and dizzy as she started to shake. Before Ryan and Cherie reached the Queen’s room. “Okay. with a gentle voice. “Wait!” he said. .” Ryan interjected. . nodded in agreement.” Jack said. The two little people quickly flew out of sight. “What?” she asked anxiously. “Come on. . . I don’t know how to tell you this. I guess we better get back inside and find the kids.” Spar said. “The house . The cows. Cherie. . Ryan and Cherie stopped. . .” “We wanted to get a good view from Black Wolf Peak. Cherie felt sick to her stomach. it’s . Jack ran down the hallway to catch them. “We also wanted to check on the house. trying to slow his breathing. eaten. The two of them walked to their quarters with a lot to think about. . .” Jack said. . gone .“Thanks. maybe grab a few things . “What . “Cherie. ? Tell me!” Cherie pleaded. .” Jack hesitated. You know you can call us anytime if you need us. “umm.
I think it’s the same thing that happened at our house. soon we could go home. I saw in my head. They come straight out of the earth. “Unless we can figure something else out. That’s what happened to Kevin.” “It’s not like it can get much worse. They were attacked and these. “I’m sorry. The Dragon and The Dove | 197 . so they each put out a hand on her shoulder as support. Cherie couldn’t talk.” Jack paused to take a deep breath. Jack and Ryan weren’t sure what they should do. Looking at both men.” Jack waited for a response.” he said. Then they bound Kevin and the soldiers to stakes that sprung up. I have some more news. “There are creatures living underground. Dreading what he had to say. “Okay. “NO.” over and over. she looked up. with hope in her eyes. leaving them to die. “No. When she couldn’t cry any more. kinda.” Jack muttered. Jack said.” shaking his head. “Uh. trying to keep calm. wiping her face dry on her sleeve. sharing her pain. tears were streaming down her face again.” Cherie quipped.wall and slowly slid to the floor.” Cherie looked at Jack.” she said. looking at the floor. She put her face in her hands crying uncontrollably. I’m afraid it is. all she could think of was NO! Until she was yelling. Jack took Cherie’s hand. Shaking her head. Ryan was just speechless. Ryan and Cherie both looked hard at Jack.” Ryan said. these things ripped the horses apart and ate them alive. like a movie. “Mmmm. what happened out there. NO. to numb to do anything else. The three of them sat quietly in the hallway. “I just thought. well. “Um. I feel better. I think these creatures ate our cows and chickens and destroyed our house. “Is this our life now? For good? Living under the rule of our five year old children?” Cherie said.
they walked into the room. “I’m going to sink in that tub with Nic. “Could we please have a private dinner? Just the three of us and the kids?” Cherie requested her eyes red and swollen.” Jack looked over at him.Shortly.” Jack said. . The three of them sat a moment longer. the dragon and the mammoth couldn’t see the forest. I’ll prepare dinner at once. standing up stretching his legs. . “I don’t know.” Brianna continued into the Queen’s quarters. Cherie and Ryan did the same. or what-ever-it-was that destroyed the house. “Ah.” Shaking her head. they could hear Nicole singing in the tub. home just in time. “Brianna. I shall start preparations for dinner. somewhat off limits or safe. ignoring Cherie’s puffy face. Cherie said. Brianna turned the corner walking in their direction. reaching for the door. “Right now I’m just too tired.” she said. ready to relax in warm water full of bubbles. so why did these creatures. Jones . “Hmm. “Well. 198 | C. As they entered. Jack gave her a soft kiss. “Yes?’ Brianna said.” Cherie said. “Of course. smiling down at her Mistress. too hungry and to snotty to think. “You know what I don’t get?” Ryan said.” Cherie said. They never entered it.” Ryan finished his thought. I thought the forest was .
with seating for six. The ambiance was so warm and inviting.” he replied. Everyone enjoyed dinner with light conversation. climbing in the large chair. The Dragon and The Dove | 199 . When the adults had a chance to rest and relax. I thought it was just a closet or something. plums and gold. funny stories. “Honey.” Jared said. fruity wine. “I had no idea! I’ve seen this door a dozen times and I never even wondered. homemade cheesy macaroni. as he and Ryan walked though the room to the adjoining King’s quarters.” she said. with a mouth full of food. a nice bottle of red.“Okay. “That’s Kevin’s chair.” Jared said. “Where is he? He’s going to miss the food. pointing to the empty seat next to her. we’ll meet you for dinner. “Nope. running her hand over the soft. fresh bread with soft butter. Cherie just wanted to melt. Her mouth started watering when she spied the table. and for Jack Ryan and Cherie. Brianna led them into the private hallway between the two royal rooms.” he said.” Cherie answered. The room was decorated in rich dark reds. “Oooh! I wonder what’s for desert. “Do you know what happened to Kevin?” Cherie asked. Behind a door was a beautiful dining room. warm. made just for him. sweet carrots in melted brown sugar and crisp salads with fresh vegetables. luxurious fabric of the high backed chairs. It was set with comfort food.” she said. Sweetie. pondering her next move. Cherie took a sip of her wine. referring to Jared. “Whose chair is that?” Nicole questioned. Cherie was caught by surprise.
“Are there any fairies living around here?” Cherie probed. Cherie glanced at Jack and Ryan to see if they were listening to the conversation. Jones . looking at Jack and Ryan. waiting for a reaction.” Nicole replied nodding her head. Cherie was silent for a moment wondering where to take this conversation and exactly what information she could reveal.” Nicole answered reaching for more bread. “Kevin fell down and now he is in a deep sleep.” Nicole asked. too bad we really aren’t fairies.” she said. she looked at her mother and continued. reaching for a second helping of pasta.” Cherie thought for a moment.“I do! I do!” Nicole spoke up. remember?” She said. “Really?” Cherie said. concerned. mmm. After she swallowed her big bit. “He went riding off on a horse. “Uh huh.” Nicole said. “Less traffic. pleased with herself. over in the flower garden.” “In the City?” Cherie hoped. giving her quiet permission to speak. Both kids shook their heads. “Oh. “Do you know where he is now?” Cherie continued. with a mouth full of carrots. “They live here. “Um. “Where is he? Mommy. Cherie looked at Nicole. 200 | C.” “They like it there. cause only fairies can wake him up. She could see Nicole’s brain working.” Jared added.
” Nicole said. When dinner was over. with a smile. “Sure.“Maybe we should go there tomorrow and see if they want to help us. The Dragon and The Dove | 201 . the exhausted Royal Family hit the sac and slept soundly.” Cherie suggested to the children.
Cherie shot them a look. Cherie bent down and kissed Jack on the head. She was much more comfortable in her jeans and T-shirt. it’s hard to get too excited over fairies that supposedly live in the garden. but Nicole insisted on dressing as her Royal self. “We’re going fairy hunting. “Hey. but to her surprise they were dressed and sitting on their veranda.” Ryan said in their defense. then headed over to the guys room. Luckily. “Yeah what? We have to eat.” “What?” Jack replied. . smiling. I mean. She and Nicole grabbed a quick bite of breakfast that was waiting for them on the patio. “Come on. Cherie expected to find them sleeping. . you know. Jared turned around with a mouth full of eggs and said. Cherie noticed the guys were eating rather leisurely. “Well Honey. when she walked through the bedroom to the open doors.” Jack and Ryan tried to hide their snickering. “That’s not funny.” Cherie called out to them. “But aren’t you curious? Let’s go.” she urged. Nicole didn’t hear her brother. I know our life is . eat up.” Cherie said. and let’s go. eating breakfast. She sat in a chair next to Jack and grabbed a warm buttery croissant to nibble. but it’s still hard to believe some of this 202 | . I’m glad to see you’re up. Nicole danced around the table singing about fairies.Chapter 23 The next morning Cherie was eager to get up and get ready to go. unusual.
The greenery was lush and very fragrant. and then said. Cherie had no idea a garden like this was possible. “See them? Aren’t they cute?” Nicole said. Impeccable care was lavished on everything. sincerely. Cherie thought about it. and everything was in bloom.” Nicole said. Cherie stood there trying to see what Nicole saw. pointing at a lilac bush. “Honey. I don’t see anything. Mommy. so we’ll go and meet you out there. to the marble statues. not even in her gardening magazines. feeling like children. and I just want to enjoy my breakfast . She knelt down and stared. Cherie stood up holding her pastry. I bet if we were going out to slay creatures you two wouldn’t stop to eat breakfast. the daffodils and irises were unreal. The roses were perfect. Jack and Ryan looked at each other. from the living plants. The flower garden was incredible. all at the same time. “Come on. but I’m excited. he knew she had a point. “They’re in here. “Well. Cherie started to wonder about this. Nicole and I are ready. “I know. this is magnificent!” Cherie exclaimed when she found her voice. There were flowers Cherie had never seen before. Cherie was speechless.” Cherie proceeded to walk out holding Nicole’s hand.” Jack looked at his wife. to the colored stone mosaics in the polished walkways.” Nicole said. The Dragon and The Dove | 203 . as she crouched next to Nicole.” Jack said. She looked around in wonder as she followed Nicole into the center of the huge garden. grabbing her hand and pulling her along. she didn’t see anything. I think it’s the only normal thing we have going on.” she said. “Oh Honey. smiling. “Um. .” “She said you would say that.stuff all the time.” Nicole reflected. .
“She says you’ll be fine. surprised.” Nicole explained.” Nicole replied. she was getting queasy and her head was beginning to spin.“Who?” Cherie asked. Without hesitation she popped the tiny flowers in her mouth and swallowed hard. When she opened them everything was blurry.” Nicole and Cherie sat down on the soft grass together. . Mom. wondering what she would tell the guys.” Nicole said. Mom. Instantly she noticed everything was bright and vibrant. Nicole tugged on her hand. regretting her actions. Cherie’s head felt light and her eyelids felt heavy. She gathered two blossoms then joined her mother. Slowly she looked around and started to focus. “Here.” Cherie responded. bright fuchsia flowers. “Okay then. the fairy.” Cherie had a feeling that Nicole was right. Jones . “Jingle . Mommy.” Nicole handed the little flowers to Cherie.” Cherie moaned. stood up and walked over to a vine with small. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. Cherie winced and put her hand on her stomach. The flowers and plants 204 | C. sympathetically. Jingle says you have to eat these. as if Cherie should know. Cherie closed her eyes and rubbed them with her fingers. that’s how you’ll see the fairies and their village. “Sit down with me. “No. Jingle says it’s okay. “I don’t think I should have done that. it just takes a minute. go ahead. .” Nicole nodded her head. “What if they’re poison?” “They are. “Oh!” Cherie said. Cherie lifted her eyebrows at this bit of information.
. . “Mommy. I’ve never counted the villages.” Cherie ventured closer as she studied the little sprites and their home. She turned in a slow circle. so . “I see. carrying jug of nectar and baskets of pollen or just chasing each other and having fun. pointing it out to Nicole. bursting with little fairies. like harvesting flowers. Cherie watched as the little fairies went on with their lives. “This is simply amazing. . look Mom. “Oh look. Cherie was looking at a beautiful. whisper. The Dragon and The Dove | 205 .” Nicole said. Occasionally the little sprites would look up at her. They were all busy doing things. my goodness.were glowing with color. “Allow me. “I know. She couldn’t believe how alive everything appeared.” Jingle said. “Mom!” Nicole yelled.” pointing at a little village built in the lilac bush. and then go on with their business. they have a tiny trail leading over to that bush. unsure.” she continued. The fairies had villages all throughout the garden. “Oh .” Cherie said. “Are you okay?” Cherie was enamored with the beauty surrounding her. . . little fairy hovering above Nicole’s shoulder. watching her mother discover new homes. colorful. “How many of them are there?” Cherie questioned. “Wow! The colors are so .” Cherie said. “See. all though. . We live all throughout the garden.” Cherie said in slow motion. Cherie’s mouth dropped open when she turned towards Nicole.” Jingle said to Nicole. Walking over to the lilac bush Nicole said. with a smile.” Nicole jumped up with Jingle by her side. Mom. “I feel weird. “There are hundreds of us.” Nicole said. there’s lots of them.
as they walked up to her. if you wanted you could crush our villages. Jingle nodded her heard. “Cher! Where are you?” Jack called out. Your children are such a blessing. Please excuse me. its okay. it would be my pleasure and privilege to perform the ritual for your friend. she could see brilliant colors surrounding their bodies. “Of course. “Oh no! What if they step on the villages?” she said to Jingle. Cherie and Nicole stood up. She raised her hand. As she looked at the guys. but you have the ability. even though we can see them. It’s like they’re not really there. “I have to tell them!” Cherie started to get up. “Jack!” she called.” Jingle said. “No! Cherie. You have to understand. Cherie could see Jack and Ryan following Jared through the garden. Jones . as she disappeared into the tiny village. 206 | C. “I can put that order in for you right now. Do you understand?” “So they would have to eat the flowers in order to see you just like I did?” Cherie questioned.” Jingle said. “You can see us. I was getting worried.” he said. we harvest plants and make potions for any ailment. “So can you wake unconscious men even though they can’t see you?” Cherie asked. “Where are you?” he hollered.” Jingle explained.“Cherie! Nicole!” Jack’s voice rose into the air. of course you wouldn’t. they can’t see us. The key is that they can’t see us. Cherie jumped. they are not of our world.” They turned in her direction. “We couldn’t find you. I will be back in a moment. “We’re over here.
” she said. “I’m ready to go now to help your friend.” Cherie looked around. I don’t think so. “Really. offering the tiny blooms.“Wow! Your colors!” she said with excitement. they’re great. “Yeah. Dad.” Nicole added. trying to convince them. . here she is!” Cherie said. then back to Cherie.” she continued. “No. pointing to the bushes. The Dragon and The Dove | 207 . Jared added. unconvinced. Sweetie?” Jack asked. as he started to move closer. “Look. Is that what you did. laughing into her hands. “Did you eat them?” he asked Nicole. holding out her hand. as if Jack should know how this works.” Jack looked to Ryan.” Cherie said. if you eat these. you can see the fairies too. “Yeah. They’re everywhere! Jack. Dad. everything is so .” Jack said. “And they’re going to help us help Kevin. “Dad. “Here you need to eat these. “Uh. this is what you have to do to see the fairies. Just then Jingle reappeared. we’re kids. Jingle will be right back. gleefully. we can already see them!” she said.’ “Maybe we should get you to bed. “I like Jingle. Jack looked at Ryan.” Jared said. .” Jingle said. “No silly. “colorful.” Nicole said.
and then moved on the last soldier.” Jack concluded. “I think Cherie is high off of those flowers. then leaned down and slowly kissed Kevin above the right eyebrow.” Ryan nodded as he listened. Let’s let them play it out. let’s go wake up Kevin. oh. looking up at his mother. and remembering everything.” Jingle said.” Jack said. She completed the ritual.” Jingle said. as she led the way out of the garden. This is one game I think is going too far. that’s great .” he whispered. “It is complete.” Cherie said. When they reached Kevin’s room. “Now for the others. Jingle hovered above Kevin’s forehead and started to dance as if in a trance.” Jack and Ryan looked at each other. Dad. who was behind them with Jared. . and they will remember everything.” Jingle moved over to one of the soldiers. Jingle. 208 | C. healthy. She waited until Jared and Cherie found spots to stand. I’m sure we’ll have to put her to bed. Nicole dismissed the Healers. standing at the head of the bed. then. “Okay. looking back at Cherie. “Hey. “Well. “Wow. come on over here. They will awake healthy and refreshed. Jingle finished her captivating dance. as she watched. you’re probably right. with a warm smile.” Nicole said. “Beautiful. refreshed. she’s out of it. “There it is done. Jared smiled. thinking everyone else was crazy.” she instructed. “I agree. Jared was talking and laughing with random fairies on the way out. “Yeah.” Cherie repeated for Jack’s and Ryan’s benefit.” Ryan finished. Jack walked next to Ryan. .“She’s ready. “Okay. Jones . we’re ready now.
I’m glad they’re gone. I see. In the other two beds. then she shot them her. rubbing his eyes.” Cherie made sure Jack and Ryan heard her. “Jack. Jack and Ryan turned to walk out. it shouldn’t be long now. then when you kissed them. . Jingle. don’t go. “Oh. Jingle did a dance and kissed them and now they will wake up. struggling to sit up. the kids and I are going to go with Jingle back to the garden. Nicole repeated what Jingle said like an interpreter. Cherie smiled at Jack as she let the kids pull her by the hands through the doorway. as they were walking towards the door. “When?” Ryan asked skeptically. “Jingle . I was curious.” Kevin said. where is the plant concoction you used to wake them with?’ Cherie said. please. wondering what everyone was staring at. The Dragon and The Dove | 209 . Jack and Ryan spun around in disbelief. “Well. I forgot . . “Good. the soldiers were awake and gazing at the people in the room.” Cherie said. hummm. you can’t see her.” Kevin said. oh yeah. Interesting. “When they are ready . . Jack and Ryan pulled up chairs to sit with the newly awakened men.” Jack said as if his time had been wasted. “Oh! Oh.” Jingle said. I’m ready to go. disappointed in the whole fiasco. so you ate the potion.” Cherie said smugly. it transferred over to wake them up. I-told-you-so. Well. So. Simple.” he continued. “Well. look. . I have a lot to tell you. . . Ryan.“What are you talking about?” Jack said. “While you guys talk.
. “No. We were riding out when these things popped out of the ground. I couldn’t see anything and it all happened so fast and when I realized what was really happening it was just . . . . Jones . why could those creatures enter the forest when the dragon couldn’t. trying to calm Kevin. I have to tell you now. “Somehow. . “You know what? A few things don’t add up. no. you don’t have to go further. “disgusting. we now know what destroyed the house. they .” Jack said. taking control of the conversation.” Jack felt sick to he’s stomach. “Now. right?” Ryan added. and I sure don’t want to tell you in front of Cherie and the kids. The horses just reared up.” Jack and Ryan waited for Kevin to begin. I explained it to Ryan and Cherie. but I tapped into your mind and I saw the whole thing. these things.” Ryan said.“Whoa! Hey buddy. like. . you’d better take it easy there. .” Jack and Ryan looked at each other. “They scared the horses and we were thrown. putting his hands out to restrain the once injured man.” “It’s okay. “You’re not going to believe it. but why haven’t we been attacked in here?” Jack questioned. “Well. It was exactly like you say it was. . we just have to figure out what to do. . but here goes. and why haven’t they attacked the city? There has to be more than three. I don’t know how. “There was so much dust and dirt. 210 | C. knowing now that what Jack saw was true and accurate.” Kevin’s face paled as he continued. The mammoth couldn’t either. they . I just don’t get it. .” Kevin’s heart was beating fast as he was reliving the moment. I’m fine. . concerned. It didn’t take long . .” Ryan said. there was so much blood everywhere . Kevin continued on.
like everything was the way it should be. “Well. . They passed Brianna in the corridor and Jack put in an order to feed three hungry men. I don’t know what those things were but I sure don’t want to see one again. where Brianna deposited large mugs of fresh. They even ordered lunch and had a picnic. the kids. Cherie felt energized. The guys sat at the table on the veranda. Cherie felt like a kid again. like everything was perfect. Jack and Ryan helped Kevin and the soldiers gather their things. Jack The Dragon and The Dove | 211 . man. wait up there.” Jack said. warm ale before leaving to order their lunch. Jack led the group up to the King’s quarters. Kevin sat up and flipped his covers back.” he said. They all walked out into the fresh air and bright sunshine. the joyous sounds. and the bright crisp colors. He kept the soldiers with them in order to keep the new information quite. Kevin broke the silence. It was as if they were never injured to begin with. The two guards were lying patiently. Cherie. After a healthy chug of the frothy hops. The last thing he needed was a Palace in a frenzy. You need to take it easy. “Whoa. that’s for sure. Cherie was enjoying her new found reality. awaiting orders. refreshed. this is crazy . okay. “I’m starving. She felt wonderful. None would ever guess that they had just come out of comas. “Man.” The men were silent. It was on the best day Cherie had had in a long time. you guys.” Jack said. . Maybe we should consult The Royal Vision?” Jack suggested. and Jingle leisurely walked through the city. reluctantly. let’s go. all the drama that was taking a toll on her was gone now. feeling like they were breaking the rules. to the garden.“I don’t know. They played in the garden all day. They were healthy and coherent.
“Good idea. . . and my gun safe was found out in the pasture. gesturing to the soldiers. .” Ryan said with a big smile. . .” Jack waited for Kevin’s reply. “Kev. So bottom line. “I would love a nice hot bath!” he said. “Oh.” Jack said. guns . We brought all the guns here. Those creatures must have destroyed it.” Ryan said. “How do you know?” Kevin asked. like it was just thrown out there or something . leaning back in his chair. . my house . 212 | C. lots of blood.” Kevin said.” Jack said. that was good. . . Jack and Ryan were amazed as they picked at some bread and cheese. . . “Alright. finishing his ale with heavy eyelids. the forest isn’t safe anymore.” Kevin replied. Brianna snapped her fingers and two male servants ran off to carry out the request. but no animals.” Jack finished quietly. “The cattle were eaten just like the horses . “I’m grabbing a nap. it’s torn apart. You two can come with me. I’m going to see the Royal Vision. “Well. . that’s what you would need to fight those monsters. . Jones . . Kevin and the two soldiers ate with gusto. Brianna entered with extra servants to carry all of the food. here’s the thing. Consider this home.was thinking of how to tell Kevin about the house and the devastation. “But the good news . washing his prime rib down with a fresh mug of ale. “Ryan and I went back to the forest to scope from the Peak and to check on the house . as he turned to leave.” he paused. see you later.
He turned towards the door.” “The injured ones?” the Royal Vision inquired. first because he was winked at from another man and second because he knew that wink had a hidden message about Jingle and her colony. “Oh.Chapter 24 Jack had quickly learned the layout of the Palace. . “What can I do for you.” the Royal Vision announced. thank you.” The Royal Vision winked at Jack. They are incredible creatures. I just ate with Kevin and the soldiers. | 213 . you know?” Jack asked. would you like to join me. Jack pushed it open the rest of the way. please come in. they woke up today. looking at Jack with compassion in his eyes. pardon me. “So . He was in the very back of his dark chamber brewing a concoction of some sort.” Hello?” “I’m here. I’m preparing my meal. I made enough?” “Oh. Slowly. happy to deliver the good news. “I’m so glad Jingle could help. The door creaked open just a bit. “You two wait out here for me. My Lord?” the Royal Vision said. He took a deep breath and said. then prepared his liquid meal. so it didn’t take them long to find themselves in front of the Royal Vision’s door. no. nervously he knocked hard on the thick oak. Jack was taken back.” Jack said. The Palace is a better place with them around. . “Yes.” Jack told the two soldiers. Jack crinkled his nose at the odor drifting in the air.
The Royal Vision sat across from Jack. “Something on your mind?” “Well. is it safe? I just don’t know. My blood pressure is probably off the charts. He felt the liquid warming his body as it 214 | C. . The Royal Vision walked out from behind his table. the same ones that destroyed my home.” “Um. What’s that? I mean what does that mean? I already have enough to deal with. not to mention my wife eating hallucinogenic flowers in the garden . . The forest isn’t safe . he inquired. I’m sure it will help calm your nerves. Sipping his potion. while gasping for air. It’s the details that are fuzzy.” Jack said. And I communicated with my mind . “Take a breath. just talk. By the time he handed it to Jack.” Jack put his face in his hands. Jack looked at him.” the Royal Vision instructed. I hate that.” Jack said. Jones . . he took a sip. Trusting the old gentleman again.“I know just about everything. Jack chose a chair and got comfortable. feeling an overwhelming trust. . I saw Kevin’s ordeal. suggesting the sitting area. like a movie in my head . “Shall we sit. Well. “Drink this. “Don’t think. . He was thinking how the idea of calling Spar and Gunther with his mind just popped into his head.” the Royal Vision said.” he offered. Jack was feeling better. embarrassed that he just vented like that. . but I don’t get it. I rely on you to bring them into focus. as he got up to pour Jack a potion. “Okay. “Whoooooowe!!!” was all Jack managed to say. so I’m not sure where to start. Kevin and the soldiers were attacked by hideous creatures. The thoughts just appear in my head. you already know everything. okay. Why? What makes it safe or not safe? Are we safe here? The Palace. after he swirled the liquid around the cup. . child. my stress level is skyrocketing. .
traveled down into his chest. I don’t know how long I have to stay here playing this charade . it’s horrible. . tell me Jack.” Jack nodded his head without looking up. I’m . you look defeated. and there is much more at work here than you. . my son. . . . “Oh. my house . . Watch your daughter. Everything is as it should be. you control nothing and until you are able to give that up. . “So. I’m just . Jack. I don’t know why I’m here . this frustration will continue. You see. I just don’t know. He looked at Jack for a few moments. Jack knew exactly what he meant and that he was right. I guess. a source that allows you to see and communicate. “What is this stuff? It’s. I’m just frustrated. my life has been destroyed. Also. “Just relax and enjoy. just keep your thinking clear. “Jack . . When the time is right everything will fall into place. You have tapped into a source. Your wife has a strong belief that allows her happiness.” he said. What can I help you with?” the Royal Vision asked. I’m tired. The Royal Vision quietly chuckled.” he concluded softly. . . I’m sure you didn’t find your way here for a taste of horrible stuff. . watching Jack repeat the same torturous routine. is an illusion .” the Royal Vision said. The Palace is safe. The Royal Vision nodded his head.” he said. . Jack. . Jack. . It means whatever you make it mean. eager to tempt another sip. This time he smiled when he was finished. my home . your wife did what she had to do to see Jingle. “Don’t think too much about what I said. Jack sat for a moment thinking about what just took place. “Cherie’s in the garden eating crazy flowers. Kevin’s been attacked. The Royal Vision sat there listening. seeing fairies. Much The Dragon and The Dove | 215 . . Jack felt the space to continue. You need to believe. your health is really very good. she will reveal the answers you desire. “Control.” The Royal Vision took a long sip of his of his liquid nutrition and looked at Jack. with eyes soft with tenderness. .
“Where have you been. please. you lover you. Brianna walked out of the huge closet with an arm full of fresh towels. some warm food and a warm bed. she was exhausted. 216 | C. The two boys began wrestling. unenthusiastically. Walking back Cherie felt the effects of her new awareness. She looked in the direction he came from and there.” Jack asked. I see. that would be fine.” The two men sat back and enjoyed the comfortable quite. When they reached their chambers. just surprise me. The sun was setting low in the sky. Jones . swaying gently as she sang her song.” Cherie answered. in the bushes. scratching him between his shoulder blades. holding up his glass. Cherie and Nicole stayed in their room. greeting them with a big slobbering tongue full of kisses.more. “Can I finish this. where Cherie collapsed on the bed and Nicole sat on the beautiful garden swing. Jack sat back relaxing his shoulders.” Cherie asked. was quite entertaining. “Oh. Jared and Nicole sang a song as they skipped through the courtyard. His butt wiggled as he wagged his cropped tail.” Cherie teased.” the Royal Vision explained. Jared immediately ran into his room to jump on Ryan. She was really missing her time in her own kitchen. The thought of a warm bath. sat a beautiful female Rottweiler. Cherie thought it best to head in for baths and dinner. “Oh. who was still napping. They said their goodbyes to Jingle and all their new found friends. “Shall I order to night’s dinner?” She asked Cherie. watching Rogue as he greeted his family. Rogue caught up. “Sure. sit as long as you like. The silence in here is golden.
oh. mmm. and then we had lunch and Jingle said I was the best dancer . “Good! This will be fun. “Incredible!” Cherie replied. “Wow. Rogue has a girlfriend. but it didn’t. chocolate cake like you used to make. right?” “No My Lady. “You were busy. but I didn’t want to.” Jack said. Nicole jumped off the swing and ran over to the bed to sit on Jack’s stomach. thinking the request quite unusual. “How was your day?” he asked. so I pushed him and he fell on his butt and cried like it hurt. yeah. “I would like to cook dinner for my family tomorrow. Mom sword fighted him. She left the fresh towels in the bathroom.” Nicole said. feeling much better. my two favorite girls. that does sound like fun. ending her longwinded monologue. Jingle brought her friends over. Mommy?” Nicole asked. and I found the best hiding place under these flowers and nobody could find me. “Hey. A second later Jack slowly walked in. There was a light tapping on the door. can we have chocolate cake for dessert.” Brianna answered slowly. instructed a servant to draw a bath.” He went over to the bed and flopped down. The Dragon and The Dove | 217 .” “And then Jared tried to sword fight with me. with a smile.“Oh. and then exited straight to the kitchen. and we played Hide and Seek. “Brianna!” Cherie sat up in bed. There shouldn’t be a problem with that. “We had so much fun! Daddy. I will make the arrangements for you now. she’s good!” Nicole said. unaware of Cherie’s feelings.” Cherie cried. . oh. he was just mad. giving Cherie a wink. .
Nicole. and guess what? I’m fixing dinner tomorrow night just like at home. disappointed. why don’t you go jump in the bath. Then he said some other stuff and I drank some stuff and that was about it. You know how I love to cook. “Getting back into the kitchen. that’s what I miss the most about you-know .” Cherie turned the attention back on herself. Cherie ignored the spooky remark and continued. our life. surprised.” Cherie asked.” Cherie said with excitement. . .” Jack said. “I saw the Royal Vision today. “Yeah.” He said. that’s great Honey.” “Oh!” Cherie replied. Jack was still looking a Nicole. “Please enlighten me. glancing at the servant standing by the door.” Nicole said. basically he said we need to keep an eye on Nicole and Jared and that they are the keys to why we’re here. quickly. “Huh. thinking about the Royal Vision’s words. Jack.” Jack concluded. 218 | C. “Yes we do. “I .“Well. “Yeah.” she said. “But we are home. . do we have dinner coming?” Jack asked Cherie as he tickled Nicole. I think it will be great for me to get back into the kitchen. Jones . Nicole kissed her daddy on the head. pretty much. Mommy.” Jack said.” Jack said absentmindedly.” “Well. “Is that all. . choosing her words carefully. jumped off the bed and disappeared into the bathroom. “Hey. I think it’s ready.
Ryan and Jared were on the floor wrestling. of all the places to be stuck. with a big smile. Jack shook his head. There was roast chicken. with a muffled voice as he was fighting his way out of a head lock. Jack sat down and looked out at the magnificent view.” Kevin said. jumping up to join Nicole.” Jack laid on the bed as Cherie walked out of the room. Jack chose to join Kevin instead of Ryan. and Kevin was on the veranda with a fresh mug of ale. he got off of the bed and meandered into the adjoining Kings quarters.” Jared said. deep breath.” Cherie said.” Jack answered as he walked out to the veranda. Dinner was served in their beautiful private dining room. I’ll go get ready for dinner. Because of all the dust out on the horizon. it could be worse. “This smells sooo good. You know.” Kevin said. “This isn’t all that bad. I guess you’re right.” Ryan said. sweetie. well. looking around at the inviting room. “Good.” Kevin said. The table was laid out with another wonderful feast. Love ya. I have to think on this for a while. leg of lamb. now. the sunset was ablaze of colors. “Hi son.” “Yeah. “Hi Dad. I think I’ll go take my bath. The Dragon and The Dove | 219 . Taking a big. an array of vegetables prepared different way. Jack? Do we try to conquer those beasts?” Kevin asked. watching the sunset. creamy churned butter. too. The two of them sat enjoying the beautiful show the horizon had to offer. prime rib. wine and more warm ale. “I don’t know. “So what do we do. He closed his eyes and listened to the silence.“Okay. “Wow! This is nice. man. fresh baked bread.
The last thing we need is the City freaking out by what happened. . looking sternly at Ryan. those ripe peaches I saw on the tree in the garden?” Cherie interrupted.” Ryan agreed. I had them order dinner and they’re eating out on the veranda.” Jack said.” Ryan added.” Nicole said excitedly. They said they were good. He looked at Cherie and asked her to pass the salad. “Mmmm. you have to wait until everyone else is finished. uh huh.” Nicole nodded with her mouth full of chicken. With forgiveness in her eyes. When we’re done with dinner I thought I’d walk them to their quarters and make an announcement. pointing to the side table covered with desserts.” Cherie said. she passed the salad. so they won’t be saying anything.” Nicole said to her mother.” Cherie said. Ryan got the point. “Nicole and Jared tried those peaches. “Oh. Jones . “Well. “So where are the two soldiers I traveled with?” Kevin asked. Everyone took their seats and started filling their plates. surprised Nicole asked.” “Yeah. I ate all my dinner. reaching for more gravy. “I think I should go with you. “Good idea. not taking her eyes off of Ryan. You know that all of our soldiers are sworn to secrecy.“Ohoo! Look Mommy. “I’m ready for dessert now. chocolate cake. . I don’t want to let them go yet.” So I think first thing tomorrow we should go out there and get those . Ryan stuffed his mouth and said. 220 | C. Without even thinking.
pausing while what he said sank in.” Ryan replied. You know. gathered their things. The two guards started to rise in salute.” Jack said. but we don’t want it to get out to the City. That would just create a panic we don’t need right now. .” Jack started to explain. Jack and Ryan were walking ahead of the soldiers. crossed her arms and watched as dinner continued. “Yeah it is. no. sit. Kevin settled in for the night and Jack and Ryan walked out onto the veranda. Cherie and the kids started getting ready for bed. “Wow! This is crazy!” Ryan said.” Jack said. Nicole gave them both annoyed looks. “So while we are with the soldiers I’m going to announce that you are in charge of them. did you hear me?” Jack asked. The soldiers finished eating. and then the four men left the Palace for the barracks. “Relax. you know.Yeah. flooded Ryan’s preoccupied mind. feeling the sting of Jack’s first remark. “This information is going to get out to the regiment. You know civilians. After dinner. because I’m the Commander of the Army and you’re just a knight. “We’re going to walk back with you. we should probably do things using relatively correct protocol. that’s great. Memories of those movies where the head knight gives the pre battle speech and yells ‘Victory is Ours’. Head Knight . your gonna get indigestion. Ryan took over. She sat back in her chair.” Jack waved his hand. all pumped up. “No. you know that. “Hey. “Yeah.” Jack said. is that cool with you?” Jack asked. as he pulled out a chair to join them.” he said confidently. The cool evening air felt good after the big meal. but got excited at the thought of being Head Knight. . as they charge the enemy. The Dragon and The Dove | 221 . Ryan thought for a moment.
“Men. “Oh. “Oh yeah. Jones . . . some were conversing with others. that’s twenty thousand soldiers in the city. some sleeping. The two men behind Jack and Ryan stiffened to attention as well. 222 | C.” Ryan said. As soon as Ryan and Jack appeared. Jack felt proud.” the soldier concluded. I think that’s a good size army for this City. and some dressing for their shift. he was in awe. there are also the soldiers that have families . This building is huge. “Excuse me Sir . .The men continued across the City to the enormous building housing the army. some reading. holds four thousand men and there are four other buildings like it surrounding the city. . For the first time since entering the City.” Ryan said. As they walked through the market place Jack noticed people stopping to bow in respect. “Wow! I haven’t seen this yet.” Jack said in surprise. Men were everywhere. he felt like he had purpose. the men jumped to attention. . they live in their homes. The first of four floors had rows upon rows of bunk beds. unsure.” how many men in this regiment?” “Uh. The four of them must have looked pretty official.” the soldier said. . He started walking a little taller. turning to the soldiers. more confident. When they entered the massive building housing part of his military. That’s good right?” Jack asked Ryan. each with its own foot locker. Sir . this building.
” she whispered.” he said. So you know that there are five huge buildings used to house The Dragon and The Dove | 223 . You know he is a good leader. I had no idea how large our army is. “Hey. I appointed Ryan to be in charge of the army as far as getting my instruction across. be it truth. Cherie creped out of bed. then onto the next building and on and on into the night. “So. but our City must not be alarmed by what happened.” Jack said.” Jack said. “Good evening. YES SIR!” The whole first floor responded like thunder. intimate embrace. “Hi. but I am here to silence you from the people in this city for protection. story or rumor. unaware of the roaring response “SIR.Jack felt the spotlight on him to speak. Cherie asked. You will follow all orders from him as if they came from the King himself. Hon. warm. looking at Jack. walking into the room. You may speak among yourselves. how did it go. At ease men. then straight ahead. theirs and yours. careful not to wake Nicole. They walked out to the veranda.” Jack paused. after a long. Jack poked his head in to see if Cherie was still awake. “I know that what took place out in the unknown terrain cannot be kept a secret. “I will be appointing some men to repeat these words to all soldiers not present.” he looked over to Ryan. “It went great. When they finally made it back to their rooms. “Is that clear?” he asked. Immediately Ryan took over. gentlemen. “Sir Ryan will be the man in charge. They continued to the next three floors.
” “We’re alone now. “Nope. A thought slammed into Jack’s head. We goofed off. huh. “I don’t know. “I didn’t realize how spiritual she is. Jared is sleeping with us. and you know. .” Cherie said. I think that’s important.” she said intrigued. I would love some time alone with you. “Me either . not to mention the ones that live at home with their families. Jones . “What if that’s it! That must be it! How long has she been doing that?” Jack asked. especially leading soldiers. Anyway. That’s just his thing. I instructed silence.” Jack said. running her hands up his back. how were things here?” he asked. I think that’s an intelligent idea.” Jack said. “Oh fine. We no longer share a bed. Nicole said her prayers and we crashed out. 224 | C.” Cherie said. “Yes. feeling guilty. .” Cherie replied. “Yeah.” Cherie whispered in Jack’s ear. we have been so busy. expecting a response. Ryan will make a great leader.” she mumbled. “Let’s talk to her at breakfast. I think you’re right. I’ve just noticed it since we’ve been here.the soldiers? Thousands of them. “So on a lighter note.” Jack said. “Tell me about it. Do you know she says prayers every night before she sleeps no matter how tired she is? Did you start her doing that?” she asked. by the way. right now I miss you.
“Who taught you that?” Cherie questioned. “So. “When she was here for Christmas?” Cherie asked.” Nicole said. Along with Jack and Cherie’s omelets with bacon. | 225 .” Jack began. Nicole had waffles with whipped cream and strawberries. smiling to herself. “Yep.” Nicole answered. nodding. Jared had pancakes and bacon. “Did you say your prayers?” Jack asked.Chapter 25 The family woke bright and early the next morning. “Oh yes. “Yep. trying to successfully cut a big bite from his soggy pancakes. remembering her mother’s last visit. “And you still do it?” Jack probed. just the four of them.” Nicole said.” Jared said. “Grandma Lil. exotic fruit. Warm sunshine streamed into the room. Cherie decided that morning to have a private family breakfast. there was an elaborate platter of fresh. The four of them were cuddled up in the gigantic bed.” Nicole answered. “did you two sleep good last night?” “Um humm.
“She said if I say my prayers every night.” she said. curious.” She looked at Cherie and Jack. When the kids finished playing in their whipped cream. then said. “That’s it. . “Grandma says you have to say what you want safe. “Is that the same prayer you would say at home at our old house?” Cherie asked. remembering Grandma Lil. They all finished breakfast quietly. Cherie and Jack looked at each other as if embarrassed that it could all be so simple. looking at Cherie and shrugging his shoulders. Cherie and Jack looked at each other realizing that they have no idea how to explain to the kids what has really happened. “So how do your prayers go? Can you tell us?” Jack asked.” Jack said. her eyes lit up with excitement. She was looking out over the vast City when she 226 | C. Cherie took her cup of coffee and sat out on the veranda. shrugging her shoulders.” she said. . Jones . ’cept I didn’t have a palace .“Uh huh. “Ya.” Nicole educated her parents. While Nicole played dress up in the huge closet.” Nicole said. licking the whipped cream off her fingers.” she said.” Nicole said.” she said. Jack and Cherie both thinking about Nicole. . “I would say thank you for keeping my forest safe. . “We should have Grandma Lil over soon. Rolling her eyes she continued. “Thank you for my Mommy and Daddy and Brother and Uncle Ryan and Rogue and Grandma Lil and Grandpa Paul and the fairies and thank you for keeping my Palace safe . . “Uh huh. no matter what. “That’s it. nodding her head. She swallowed her bite. Amen. . then I’ll always be safe . Jack and Jared ran off to their room to get ready for their day. as if they should know.
When she reached her destination. turning in the direction of the Palace. What he didn’t realize was that during all the times they sat on that spot enjoying the view. It was about five minutes before Rogue spotted his lady love. Jack had said it was big.” the Royal Vision’s voice echoed from inside. sensing her presence. “Nicole wants to play with her playmates. My Lady. She quietly stood in the doorway. Cherie slowly walked into his chambers giving her eyes a chance to adjust. getting up to get dressed. the enormous building housing the soldiers. and then he was off like a shot.” she said.” she sighed.” the girl replied with a casual curtsy. Cherie sat in the shade of a blossoming cherry tree with Rouge.” Cherie told Jack. When Cherie and Nicole were ready to go outside they stopped by the guy’s room to let them know they were leaving. “It won’t take long.” she said. Cherie called over one of the servant girls that had been appointed to them for the day. scratching his big Rottweiler head. so I’m going to walk her down to the courtyard. feeling a little foolish. “Humph. Cherie asked. “Come in my dear. the building was never there. Rogue sprang up from the bed and ran over to Nicole.saw it. Getting to her feet. Mommy. Kayla and Toren were brought out upon Nicole’s request. “Oh. the door slowly creaked open. “Would you mind watching the children for a moment?” “It is my duty to attend the Queen. The three of them started to play instantly. of course. When did that building go up? She thought to herself. “He wants to go to. They left the guy’s room and headed outside into the warm sunshine. The Dragon and The Dove | 227 .” Cherie said.
He watched her.” She took another sip of her drink. Cherie took a deep breath. honey . taking another sip. . “Well. . the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted. sipping their potion for quite some time.” she said. studying the colors that emanated from her body. He settled into his chair with his drink and a long smoking pipe. and then slowly opened her eyes. She stretched her neck twisting it to the right. “The colors are amazing. She took a sip of the warm liquid. . .” She looked around with lazy eyelids. “Ginger . He retrieved the pipe watching her closely and took a sip of his potion.” he said. “Mmmm. and the best massage. present to their environment. Both times a quite pop could be heard. here I made you a warm tonic. . . “Wow! I feel incredible. She felt as if she were in a trance. this is heaven. Cherie finally put her drink down. The Royal Vision just smiled. like I just had the best sleep . “Oh. Reaching out for the pipe she put it to her lips and pulled the sweet smoke into her lungs. this I must insist.” her throat purred. . . After a deep drag he offered her the pipe.” she continued. and what else . . Unbeknownst to her an array of colors surrounded her body and her eyes were glowing a beautiful lavender. handing her a mug that fit her hands perfectly. no. there is so much life in this room. thanks anyway. “Oh.” She looked at the Royal Vision. . stretched her arms 228 | C. isn’t it?” she asked. filling them to capacity. The two of them sat silent. “Mmmm. chocolate . I love this. Her eyes rolled back into her head and her eyelids slid shut.” she said.“Have a seat. Jones . Euphoria swept through her whole body. “This is how you feel all the time. I don’t smoke. silently answering her question. taking another sip of her concoction. then to the left.” His eyes seemed to burn right through her soul.
“It is that simple. not wanting to go any further. like a cat who caught a mouse. “You humans have a hard time believing that anything can be simple. . So much so that something so simple is so complex. for most humans the simplicity is the challenge.above her head. She sat dumbfounded. .” she said. contemplating. and in them she says thank you for keeping my Palace safe . She says her prayers every night.” she said. Thank you for keeping my forest safe . “Yes. watching her colors swirl around. Cherie sat speechless for a moment. For a moment she had forgotten why she had made her way to the chamber. settled in her chair then looked into the Royal Vision’s eyes. then receives” Why does it have to be so hard to understand?” he questioned. he replied.” the Royal Vision replied. “Yes what?” she said confused. savoring its richness. . “You know. . You make it so. “Who is God?” he asked. changing as she digested the new information. my child . relaxed. Who The Dragon and The Dove | 229 . . sipping her drink. looking up from her cup. “Nicole. “Do what?” he questioned. she prays at night. . and it’s that simple. my child. create all of this stuff.” Cherie looked at him with a blank stare. . “Oh yeah. Amused. When we lived in the forest she would say ‘my forest’. unsure. Can it really be that simple?” Cherie took another sip of her drink. Why can’t it just be that Nicole asks.” she said. “Was it not you and Jack who created our King and Queen . . “But I thought only God could do this. “So I ask you. your twins?” He looked directly into her eyes.” he said. “So tell me.
“It doesn’t look like anything has changed. There are challenges ahead. saddled up and rode far out past the Palace. looking at Cherie. It’s just as dark and dry out there as before. “It sure is desolate out there. .” he replied.” he said. my child.” “Yes.” he concluded. I assure you. well. I didn’t see them before and they’re too big to miss.” she said. “Not deliberately. waiting for the question. The three men were headed to the far edge of their land to scope the area for danger. Jones . Jack dismounted and unpacked the scope. Cherie quietly let her mind wander through the past events. “They were never needed before. .” He closed his eyes and took another sip. afraid to seriously consider this new taboo idea.” Cherie was searching. you know. Cherie took a big deep breath. my dear.” he replied. shielding his eyes from the sun.” Kevin commented. “So why now? Is Nicole planning something?” Cherie asked. “They’re new. “Somehow I feel you already know about these buildings. They stopped at the stables for horses. A new thought popped into her head and she had to ask. “I saw the buildings . alarmed. Ryan and Kevin walked Jared down to the courtyard to play with the other children. one of them. that houses the soldiers. the children create with their imaginations.is God?” Cherie was silent. “Just accept the simplicity. cuddling up in her chair where she wanted to stay forever. raising the scope to his eye. whatever they need will appear for them. Cherie paused to formulate what she would say next. When they arrived at the border. 230 | C. Jack.
“Well. .” Jack said. sticking his foot out in the dirt to tease Kevin and Jack. “Yeah. “I can’t believe you did that. . Ryan didn’t notice. man!!” Kevin exclaimed.” Kevin agreed. but he couldn’t move his leg. he rode back. . “You’re lucky. from those things popping out of the ground. “There’s nothing out here. scoping out the land.“Those color blotches are still out there. Ugh! Ryan hit the ground hard on this back. “I guess .” Jack said.” Ryan said. Ryan jumped off his horse. you better be careful. Hopefully. He knelt down to put his hand in the soil. but now there’re more of them. I’m thinking we should set a patrol out here for awhile. The Dragon and The Dove | 231 . He tried to get up. “Yeah.” Ryan said impatiently. “Those dark spots.” Kevin said. .” Jack said. We should just head back. steadying his horse. he was too busy goofing around. The horses started pawing nervously at the dirt and huffing hard through their nostrils. jeez.” Ryan shot back. Nothing happened. Kevin was still in the saddle trying to calm his horse. “Ooooh. its fresh dirt . Ryan looked back. Jumping back on his horse. just to make sure there’s nothing going on. Ryan gave his horse a swift kick and rode out to the other side. He took a couple of steps out in the dirt. We’re dealing with something we know nothing about. He stopped about twenty yards out and jumped off his horse. without taking the scope from his eye. “What? It’s no big deal. I think we need a patrol out here. disgusted. those things have moved on.
Jack and Kevin instinctively ran to Ryan’s aid. kicking the beast flat on the side of its huge head. sounding weary. as he rose quickly to his feet. When it was convinced it was alone. Breathing heavy he laid back looking at the sky. jumping off his horse. yanking Ryan’s ankle free. Looking close Jack and Ryan could see Kevin’s intestines protruding through the rips and between his fingers. “It can’t see us. The three of them clamored to the grass as fast as they could. Ryan flopped around like a rag doll taking heavy blows from the ground as he was slammed with great force. . “Agh!” he cried in pain. Jack grabbed Ryan’s left shoulder. ripping flesh. “Oh shit!” Jack said. Jones . “Uh. “Shit! Shit!” He stood in shock with fear etched on his face. Collapsing on the ground they froze watching the beast. It stumbled. Kevin went pale and passed out. Jack dropped the scope. uh. His leg was pinned at the ankle by a big knarly. Kevin ran to the edge of the grass and as if in slow motion the earth erupted like a volcano spraying dirt and rocks. Kevin had huge rips in his blood soaked shirt.” Kevin said. . the monster looked around unable to see the men. relieved. collapsing back to the ground. uh.” he said. as he clenched his abdomen. Jack and Ryan sat up to look.” Jack said. you guys. “Uh. Jack looked out at Ryan. Ryan turned pale as he tried to get up. it turned around and walked off.” 232 | C. Ryan swung his free leg. Shocked by the blow. out of breath. Kevin grabbed his right arm and the two of them pulled with all their strength. “This is bad. Then he went for Jack. “Uh . that’s when Jack and Kevin pulled with all the strength they had.“Ryan!” Kevin yelled. The beast swiped his razor sharp claw at Kevin. Ryan. Jack felt the warm blood trail down his chest. claw like hand. A massive beast exploded to the surface with Ryan’s ankle in his grasp. what do I do?” Jack yelled in panic.
. Jack managed to put a party of soldiers together in order to rescue Ryan and Kevin. she sat next to him and held his hand. a . . . In all of his panic.” Jack was shaking his head as if he still couldn’t believe what he saw. She gently guided him down the hall and into her chamber. it was . “Oh . . .” he replied. . Ryan got grabbed up and his ankle got torn up. .” he said in a monotone. Jack stood there. it was . so much blood . . Jack and Cherie almost ran each other over in the Palace corridor. . . . Half way down she saw the gash torn The Dragon and The Dove | 233 . his stomach. Ryan went out into the dirt . . Cherie started in unbutton his shirt. I don’t know. Kevin got hurt. looking at all the blood on his shirt. hurry!” Ryan screamed at Jack trying to break through his panic.Jack studdered. “What are you talking about? Where?” she said confused. tell me!” she yelled. . As soon as they were brought in the medical crew quickly rushed them away. He looked as if he were in a daze. . . . we told him not to. “Are you hurt?” Cherie asked. bring help . One of those things just jumped out of the ground. . She walked Jack over to the bed and sat him down. . “What? What? Jack. Jack mounted a horse and rode as fast as he could without falling off. “Jack is every one okay? What happened?” “We were attacked. grabbing his shoulders. alone again in a whirlwind. it got ripped open and his guts were spilling out through his fingers. “Ride fast for help . . murmuring calming sounds all the while. Immediately Cherie sensed tragedy. Once he became aware of his surroundings. His tears matched Cherie’s. so much . . “We rode out to the edge .
he also went in and out of weird dreams. he was out for another couple of hours. Jack opened his shirt to look down at the opening in his chest. It’s not that bad. .through his chest muscle. He led them to the veranda 234 | C. This time she had Jared join in. running her fingers along his forehead. but that did not stop the sun from streaming in the room bright and early. Jack swung open the large door to be greeted by servants with an array of food for breakfast. Jack suffered from fevers. “I’ll get something for this. “You’ve been out for hours. figuring two was better than one. Jingle said he would suffer from infection. He started feeling dizzy and light headed. she made sure prayers were said. His eyes rolled back in his head and his world went back as he passed out on the bed. He quietly sat. luckily the salve she gave Cherie would clear it up. She put them both to bed in Jared’s room. When he walked out. everything Cherie said didn’t have a chance to go in one ear and come out the other.” Cherie said. Jack sat on the bed with the event vividly replaying over and over in his head. bounced out of bed and headed to the bathroom. chills. . Honey. and vomiting. feeling his empty belly roll around then growl. It was still wet with blood. he threw the covers back.” She ran into the bathroom to get water and a cloth. Cherie make sure the kids were fed. quietly. but the wound had started to seal up. that way she could keep an eye on their father. Yawning and stretching his legs. bathed and ready for bed. and most importantly. there was a light knock at the door. Jack woke up before Cherie.” he said. Jack was still so groggy. “Just in time. The night was long. Cherie managed to get a few early morning hours of sleep. Jones . luckily only the top muscle has been torn. Closing his eyes felt soooo good. but. Meanwhile. I was able to go to the garden and Jingle gave me some salve for your chest .
biscuits. She pulled the bandage off. resting his feet on the foot stool while breakfast was set out. Sit. Settling in. A fresh cup of coffee was set down before him.where they began to set up.” Jack said with a big smile on his face. um .” he replied. One of the servant girls asked Jack what he would like on his plate.” Jack said with his mouth full.” he said. The plate was set before him and he dug in. Surprised. “So how’s your chest?” “What? Oh . “So. . hash browns. Cherie stepped out as he popped the last bit of a chocolate croissant in his mouth. “Let me take a look. steak. That’s incredible. with eyes wide. “Great. reaching for a plate. a little bit of everything. . he gazed out at the beautiful City. He looked back at the assortment. . have some breakfast before I eat it all. leaving a very light mark. Why were you guys out there in the first place?” The Dragon and The Dove | 235 . “Look at this! He looked at his chest to find the wound had completely closed. how are you feeling?” she asked. Taking a sip. she sipped her coffee. I’ve been waiting to ask you. “I can’t believe how your wound is completely healed. feeling his mouth begin to water. devouring eggs. okay I guess. she asked. a large glass of fresh squeezed juice and pastries. Jack settled into a chair and stretched his legs. “Jack!” she said. starting with a bouquet of fresh flowers.” Cherie requested. “Oh. bacon. “Hey.” she commented. She bent down to lift the gauze. “That explains why I feel so good. . looking down at his bandages.
” he retorted. so he ventured to ask. because of Nicole. I thought we were safe in here . “Because having soldiers out there is just working out of fear. “I don’t think we should just rely on the kids. I don’t think it’s that big deal. feeling the blood rush to her cheeks.” he argued. “Well. Jack could sense she was upset. that’s all!” Jack said. suggesting it’s that simple. Jones . you know. well. “Well then. we wanted to scope it out. “Why not? They got us here in the first place. “Honey. I guess you will have some dead soldiers. “Yes. you know.” Jack answered. “Okay. so what’s really got you so upset?” Cherie gave him a sharp look. Making sure she prays is just going to have to be priority. Having soldiers out there is just extra protection. we were thinking.” “But. maybe we should place some soldiers on the border. but we should still take precautions. “Why?” Cherie asked. see what’s going on out there. Obviously they’re pretty powerful.” Cherie said. “I don’t know.” she reminded him. What if Nicole misses a prayer?” “We make sure that she doesn’t. what if we miss it one night.” “But. If you really believed and 236 | C.” Cherie said. Why?” she asked. . She turned her attention to her plate of food. .“Oh.
“Maybe you’re right. Ryan. Kevin . stopping to speak with the first person he saw who dressed like a healer. he decided to excuse himself and go get dressed. all of you. taking the last gulp of his coffee. Knowing full well how Cherie would take his comment. he had to let his eye adjust. He asked a young woman. she thought to herself. I just feel like taking care of my family. Men feel a strong need to take care and keep their families safe.had faith our kids. something The Dragon and The Dove | 237 . “You can go in if you would like. how the men were doing. carrying what looked to be bloody towels. looking at the door behind him. then you would understand that we don’t need any other protection. Jack dressed and headed out the door to see Kevin and Ryan. He went to the same building Kevin occupied the day before. This is just your way of controlling things. The three of them enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together. If only he could understand that believing is the way to protect his family. it was so dim inside. “Maybe you should spend some more time with the Royal Vision. you guys just won’t let yourselves fully believe. She shrugged. so you do the believing and I’ll do the controlling and we should have a happy medium. trying to calm her nerves. . The room held the strong odor of blood mixed with a smell he couldn’t identify. don’t ya?” She turned to her coffee. She took a deep breath and blew it out realizing that she and Jack were just frustrated.” she added for a final sting. she realized that to an extent Jack was right. Cherie sat for a moment thinking about what Jack had just said. The kids walked out joining her for breakfast with little swollen eyes that were not quite awake yet. You. After entering.” she offered. Jack opened the door slowly. You just have to try to control it. She let it go. When objects began to appear out of the darkness he headed in. sipping slowly. . Remembering back to a book she once read.” Jack said.
“Yeah. hoping it would be sooner rather than later. he looked dead. . medically. Jack slowly peeled the wrappings back to see large gashes. Jack retrieved a chair. surprised.” Ryan replied. I don’t think people get sick around here very often . 238 | C. . it coulda been a dream. He couldn’t say anything good about Kevin so he changed the subject. . pulling it over between the two beds. “How’s Kevin?” “I don’t know. if ever.sweet. For all I know. careful not to wake either man. “Hey man.” Ryan whispered.” Ryan said quietly. standing up. He turned to Kevin and lifted the sheet to reveal the bandages around Kevin’s gut. but I kinda remember a lot of screaming last night.” Jack mumbled.” Ryan said. “Hey! It looks like they just pushed them back in and that’s it! He’s gonna die if something isn’t done soon. how do you feel? Are you okay?” Jack asked.” Jack said. He walked over to the two beds. The intestines were still visible protruding through the slashes. Jones .” Ryan finished. “Really?” Jack asked. to Jack. “Oh. “When do you think you’ll be out of here?” he asked. “Better than yesterday. “Oh man. beginning to panic. . They just seem like they don’t know what to do. but everything is so foggy. weakly. looking over at Kevin. “Hey. you know. that’s not good at all. I don’t think they really know what to do .” Jack said. He didn’t look good. Kevin got really messed up. I just woke up. He was pale and. “Uh. I don’t know.
Jingle popped into his head. She could help! I’ve got to get to her, he thought. “I gotta go, Ryan, get some more rest, I’ll be back.” Jack hurried out of there. He returned to the Royal Chambers to get Cherie, only to be informed that Cherie and the kids left without saying where they were going. Jack rushed out to the veranda where breakfast had been served. All that remained was the vase of fresh flowers. He stood there looking out over the City trying to spot Cherie. No luck. Jack ran out of the room then out of the Palace and headed towards the gardens. They’re probably out here playing, he thought to himself. He walked into the garden entrance expecting to see the kids running around with Jingle. All he saw was the beautiful flowers and lush plants. He followed the garden path until he was in what he thought to be the center. Standing there he looked around for anything that resembled a small flying creature. Walking over to some bushes, he lifted the leaves and peered into the greenery. “Jingle . . . Jingle,” he called out, embarrassed. “Oh, this is stupid!” he said, turning to find his way out. That’s when he spotted them; tiny purple flowers, like the ones Cherie ate. “No,” he said, shaking his head, feeling foolish wasting precious time. He started to follow the path out of there. Something nagging at him put a stop to his exit. He walked over to the bush, plucked a couple blooms and popped them into his mouth. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, he chewed and swallowed as quickly as possible. He stood still waiting for the effects . . . nothing happened. He looked around . . . everything looked the same. “Forget it!” he said, to no one. Jack started walking the path like a mad little three-year-old. The path turned out to be quite complex. Jack turned into a confused, mad, little three-year-old. After several twists and turns, Jack found a lush patch of grass and sat down with an upset stomach.
The Dragon and The Dove | 239
He didn’t feel so good. He had the urge to vomit, sweat was beading up on his forehead and he started feeling woozy. Jack lifted his head and looked out at the garden before him. Closing his eyes he licked his dry lips and wiped his brow. “Well, what do you want?” Jingle whispered in his ear. He opened his eyes to a world of vivid intense colors. “Whoa!” he said, looking at everything before him. “This is incredible! Look at that!” Jack said, pointing out to the distance. Then he looked at his hand, pulling it close. “Whoa, look at my hand,” Jack marveled. He brought both hands together a few times. “The colors! Is this real?” he asked Jingle, hovering around his head. “More real than you think,” she whispered sweetly. He followed his hand to his wrist, to his arm, and then focused in on the grass beneath him. His eyes followed the grass to a bush close by. He bent over on his elbow, peering into the bush, where he spotted the tiny working village of little people. “No way!” he said. “I shoulda tried this with Cherie. This is crazy.” Jack sat up and looked around for Jingle. She nodded, smiling. “So, Jack, why have you come here?” she asked. Jack sat a minute gathering his thoughts. “Ah!” he shouted, shifting to his knees. “It’s Kevin and Ryan. We need your help. Ryan is hurt bad. We were attacked; Kevin’s stomach is ripped open. I think Kevin has intestinal injuries,” he blurted out. “Okay, Jack, just relax, just sit down and I will get some remedies. We will go back together. Okay?” Jingle said in a soothing voice. She guided Jack to a quite spot to sit, then disappeared. Jack had no problem relaxing. He took a
240 | C. Jones
deep breath, closed his eyes and let the sun warm his face. Pictures began playing in his head. When Jingle reappeared, Jack was laying on his back fast asleep. She knew he was in a deep, wonderful place so she left him there to rest. She knew where to go. Jack felt so good lying there in the grass with the warm sun shining on him. He could feel the light breeze blow his hair, tickling his forehead. As he slowly gave in to consciousness, he could hear laughing children. His mind wondered back to the tiny villages he discovered, picturing the tiny, happy children running around. He was brought back to reality by the sounds of his own children close by. “Daddy, wake up. We have cookies. Wake up sleepy head,” the little voice said. Jared laid down in the crook of Jack’s arm. Nicole sat next to him holding a plate of cookies. The sun was bright and Jack had a hard time keeping his eyes open, so he squinted up at them. “What are you guys doing?” he said, still feeling the effects of those tiny lavender flowers. “Come to play,” Jared said to his father, as he bit of a chunk of soft cookie. “Hey, where’s your Mom?” Jack asked, lifting up on his elbow. “She’s on her way. Have you seen Jingle?” Nicole asked Jack. “Oh yeah, umm, my head is still cloudy.” Then Jack remembered as he jumped to his feet. “I have to go! You said your mom is coming, stay here till she shows up! Okay?” Jack walked quickly down the path where he ran into Cherie. “Hey Hon, I have to go, the kids are right over there,” he said, pointing behind him.
The Dragon and The Dove | 241
“Okay,” she said, as he passed by without stopping. Cherie turned to meet up with the kids. Jack clumsily found his way out of the garden, hurrying to see Kevin and Ryan. Jingle floated in a dark corner. She patiently waited and watched as the attendants tidied up the room before leaving. As the last person exited, she instantly raced over to Kevin, pulling a tiny vial from her belt. Jingle popped the top off with her tiny thumb, pursed her lips around the opening and inhaled, filling her belly then her lungs. Holding her breath, she hovered over Kevin landing on his chin. Pressing her lips against his, she blew deeply with such force Kevin’s body expanded and air whipped around the room, billowing the curtains and ruffling Ryan’s hair. She pulled away to look at him. Satisfied, she then flew over to Ryan, landing on his chest. Removing another tiny vial, Jingle dabbed something on her lips and flew up to his forehead. Closing her eyes, she lightly pressed her lips to his skin and counted to ten. Pulling away she hovered, studying the two men. Happy with her work, Jingle flew back to her enchanted garden. Jack franticly made his way out of the garden, cussing as he had to back track a few times. When he walked out into the courtyard he broke into a sprint. Out of breath, he tried to acknowledge the hellos and curtseys along the way. Stopping to catch his breath, he put his hands on his knees, looking around. He stood at the entrance of the medical building, facing the fact that he was out of shape. When Jack composed himself he stepped inside the darkened building . . . pausing to allow his eyes to adjust. When he could make out objects in the room he ventured in to see Ryan and Kevin. There wasn’t an attendant in sight, so he walked over to the two beds. Looking down at the two faces laying before him, he noticed that both men looked much healthier than they had before. They look well rested, he thought to himself.
242 | C. Jones
Ryan began to move slowly, taking a deep breath, he licked his lips and stretched his neck and let out a soft moan. Slowly opening his eyes, he looked at Jack and quietly said, “Hey.” “Hey yourself,” Jack said back. “How do you feel? You look much better,” Jack said with amazement in his voice. “I feel good,” Ryan said, feeling his body as he looked around. “Real good, actually. I had the most incredible dream . . . the most amazing creature I had ever seen. She was . . . an angel,” Ryan said, trying to relive the dream. “Humm, I’m hungry, in fact, I think I’m starving,” he said with a chuckle, starting to rise. “Oh no, maybe you should just lie there until Jingle gets here with you medication or a potion or whatever it is,” Jack cautioned. “I don’t need it, I feel great . . . I’m fine. Let’s go eat!” Ryan flipped off the sheet that was draped over him and looked around for his clothes. “Umm, okay,” Jack said, looking around for an attendant. No one seemed to be around. Ryan sensed Jack’s hesitation. “Look, I feel fine . . . let’s go.” Ryan jumped off his bed to prove it. He started to walk around looking for his clothes. “What do you think they did with my stuff?” he said, looking at Jack. Jack spotted a dresser on the far wall. He opened the drawers where he found Ryan’s uniform, washed and shined. “Here,” he said, tossing Ryan his clothes. After Ryan was dressed, the two men walked out into the bright sunlight, leaving Kevin to recover. Now that Jack
The Dragon and The Dove | 243
thought about it, he was quite hungry himself. The two of them headed straight for their room. Jack and Ryan ordered a feast including more of that great warm ale. “Where’s Cherie and the kids?” Ryan asked Jack. “Oh yeah. They must be in the garden; they spend a lot of time there lately. That reminds me, Jingle was going to mix up a remedy for you two . . .” Jack thought for a moment. I bet she went while I was sleeping, he mused to himself. “So what do we do next?” Ryan questioned. Jack knew what he was asking. He recalled Cherie’s argument from that morning. He didn’t want to say it, but he felt like the little devil on his left shoulder just punched out the little angel on his right shoulder. “I think we should go out there and get those bustards before they get us,” Jack blurted out, unable to believe what came out of his mouth. “Yep, I think you’re right, for a second there I thought maybe Cherie had gotten to you,” Ryan said, slapping Jack on the shoulder. Jack smiled. Feeling uneasy, he picked at the rest of his food. Cherie felt as if she were talking with one of her best girlfriends. Jingle listened intently, offering her advice from time to time. “Well, considering all that you have been through, I’m sure he feels strongly about protecting his family. He just might not be able to let go of his control. He might feel that that is all he has left,” Jingle said. “I know you’re right, he has lost his home, his animals . . . but so have I and I believe we are safe with the kids . . . why can’t he?” Cherie questioned. Jingle looked at Cherie, shrugging her shoulders. The both turned to watch the young King and Queen playing in the grass. Cherie sighed.
244 | C. Jones
That evening Jack felt the need to avoid Cherie. When she got back with the kids one of the servant girls gave her the message. ‘Jack and Ryan were checking the soldiers and would be back late, don’t wait up.’ Cherie felt a little sting. She knew he was avoiding her, but she was okay with it. They needed time apart . . . some real time apart. Cherie didn’t mind; she and the kids had a great evening together. Jack and Ryan, however, found a loud tavern where the ale was flowing freely.
The Dragon and The Dove
Jack woke with a pounding headache, a large black dog laying on his lifeless legs and a bright stream of sunlight shinning through the curtains onto his left eyelid. He moaned, rolled over, burrowing his head into the covers, kicking his legs until Rogue jumped onto the floor. Recognizing his surroundings as the King’s quarters, he easily fell back asleep. A few hours later Ryan burst into the room. “Jack! Jack wake up, Jack.” Ryan shook the bed. “Ugh . . . what? My head,” Jack moaned. “It’s Kevin! You’ve got to come now!” Ryan said, urgently. Jack shot up in bed. “What is it? Is everything okay?” he added. “No! Get up now . . . let’s go!” Ryan said, annoyed. He threw Jack’s shirt at him, hitting him square in the chest. “Okay, I’m up.” Jack jumped out of bed pulling his tee shirt on. Rogue was whining anxiously, bumping into Ryan’s legs, wanting comfort. The three of them raced out of the Palace, straight to Kevin. When they got to the darkened room, Kevin’s moans could be heard at the door. Jack glanced at Ryan. Ryan looked unaffected. Jack felt the fear rise up within his chest. He put his hand on Rogue’s head and proceeded into the room. The stink of infection was strong. Kevin was lying on his back in his bed. Two Healers were on either side of him with his
sheet pulled down exposing his wounds. When Jack focused in on Kevin’s abdomen, his empty stomach lurched. His head started spinning, threatening a total black out. Ryan grabbed Jack’s arm to help steady him as he experienced tunnel vision. The feeling left as fast as it had come. “I’m okay,” Jack said, embarrassed as he ran his hand over his wet forehead and through his hair. Jack swallowed hard, then looked again at Kevin. The man struggling on the bed looked nothing like the Kevin Jack knew. His eyes were sunken, his cheek bones were protruding and his skin was gray and sick looking. Jack could see Kevin’s muscles spasm and he could hear a low guttural, animal noises coming from the direction of the bed. Kevin was in a great deal of pain. His abdomen was open and swollen; the intestines were protruding. The infection was rotting the poor man’s gut. Jack couldn’t stop staring at the man that used to be Kevin. The grotesque face of the beast flashed into Jack’s mind. “I’ve got to get out of here,” Jack said. He rushed from the room before his stomach could erupt. Rogue happily followed. Jack embraced the fresh air, green grass and the warmth of the sunshine. After a few deep breaths, his head stopped spinning and his stomach settled down again. He sat down, encouraging Rogue to join him. Jack closed his eyes and hugged Rogue’s big head. “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Jack said to Rogue, scratching his faithful companion behind his ears, looking deep into Rogue’s eyes. Jack’s mind wandered off. Unwilling to dwell on Kevin, Jack still had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach that he was just too scared to explore. He was very relieved when Ryan walked out to meet him. Jumping up, Jack said, “So what now?” “Well, the Healers said he wouldn’t last through the night. So I’m thinking we arrange for a service tomorrow first thing and then go out here and kill those bastards.” Ryan’s rage
The Dragon and The Dove | 247
was making Jack feel uneasy, because he knew he had no choice. Cherie and the kids kept popping up in Jack’s mind. He closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “Yeah, I know,” he said, in a strained voice. “Okay, guys, I finally did it. I made it to the kitchen,” Cherie said, with a huge smile on her face. Blocking the door to their private dining room, she turned the knob. Opening the door flooded the small hallway with the once familiar odors of Cherie’s cooking. Jack took a deep breath taking in all the memories of their old life together. Closing his eyes, he saw himself walking in to front door of their warm, comfy home, being embraced not only by Rogue and the kids, but the wonderful smell of Cherie’s incredible cooking. It was such a safe feeling; leaving Jack with an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. Cherie led the group into the beautiful dining room decorated with delectable food. The kids hurried to their seats, Rogue found his way under the table and Jack and Ryan took their seats. “Okay, I had so much fun, so dig in, and I love you all,” Cherie said with tears filling her eyes. The family enjoyed the meal with gusto; prime rib with ajus, mashed potatoes, asparagus, crispy salad, and warm, fresh French bread. “Oh Babe, this is indescribable,” Jack said, scooping up a spoonful of mash potatoes. Cherie glowed with the praise. Rogue was busy under the table snatching up occasional morsels dropped the kids. The dinner was topped off with a favorite dessert; Cinnamon Coeur a La Crème with raspberry sauce. The cinnamon creams were in the shape of hearts. Nicole didn’t want to ruin hers, while the boys inhaled theirs asking for more. The evening was memorable in spite of the slight air of tension.
248 | C. Jones
All too soon the twins were in bed and Cherie, Jack and Ryan retired to the veranda with a couple bottles of wine. “Wow, just like old times, huh,” Cherie said, trying to lighten the feeling of discomfort. After they poured themselves the wine and settled in their chairs, Gwendolyn walked out through the billowy curtains. The three of them gave her their attention. “I . . . I hate to bother you,” she paused, “Sir Kevin . . . has . . . departed,” she finished, looking ill at ease. She curtsied, and then left as promptly as she had arrived. Cherie had tears streaming down her cheeks. Jack and Ryan were stunned into silence. The three sipped their wine in shock and sadness. Ryan stood up reaching for the bottle to fill the empty glasses. Cherie felt the courage to speak through her tears. Sniffing, then dabbing her nose with a napkin, she said quietly, “Please, please, don’t take us to war.” She closed her eyes as more tears flowed down her cheeks. Jack looked at Ryan. Ryan looked at Jack, then looked away, replying, “We have no other choice, look at what those things did to Kevin, to me. We can’t have that happen to anyone else. What if children wander out there?” He shook his head. “We have to,” he finished. “No we don’t. What you guys are thinking about in irreversible, if you do this our lives are going to be damaged forever,” Cherie replied. “We can’t just stay in the safe zone forever, Cherie. We can’t just box ourselves in, what if those things find a way in, what then?” Ryan asked. “If we just believe in the magic of the kids . . . and ourselves. I know we will be safe, I know it!” Cherie pleaded.
The Dragon and The Dove | 249
“I can’t believe . . . just . . . just look at Kevin! Where was the magic then . . . huh? He’s dead . . . gone forever! That’s what I believe . . . and I don’t want any of us to die, Cherie. We have no choice!” Ryan told her, looking over at Jack. Jack was looking up at the stars avoiding any eye contact. Cherie started crying harder, burying her face in the napkins in her hands. Ryan shook his head. “There is no easy way around this,” he concluded. Setting down his empty glass he walked into the room, disappearing into the darkness beyond the curtains swaying in the breeze. The silence was awkward. Cherie was wiping away tears shaking her head when she looked up at Jack. He felt her eyes on him and said, “He’s right, Honey.” “And so am I. You know Jack; you just have to believe it to see it, not the other way around! Why haven’t you gotten that yet?” Cherie got up and walked past him, leaving him alone on the veranda. Jack thought about what she said for a moment. He knew that she too, was right. He grabbed the remaining bottle of wine and pulled up a chair. He rested his feet up on another chair, laid his head back and studied the stars. For the first time in his life, he felt helpless.
leaving Ryan.” She said with irritation. The Royal Family was up front on the Palace steps where the ceremony took place. I want a party like this when I go. even Rogue donned richly embroidered finery that draped his back. The day had turned to evening and the Royal Children were yawning. Jack turned towards her. None of them knew what to expect during or after the ceremony. as she look at Ryan. All were dressed their parts. The only one having a good time is the one who has nothing much to live for.Chapter 27 The Royal Vision preformed a very moving. Jack. smugly. “Not really. either. rolling her eyes. who was | 251 . Cherie watched the King and Queen dancing in and out of the crowd.” she said. you know. spiritual and loving memorial service for Kevin.” Cherie said. Entertainers preformed. and lots of food. “Well. Your taking us into war stresses me out a little. When Kevin’s casket was taken away there was a huge feast. you don’t look like you’re having much fun. please?” he said softly. wine and ale was in constant supply. there was dancing and singing. He followed. he sure is enjoying himself.” Ryan said to Jack as he danced off with a young lady on one arm and a mug of ale in his hand. “Honey. “Wow. “And frankly. Everyone was celebrating life in Kevin’s honor. Cherie found Jack to let him know she was taking them to bed. can’t you just relax. The whole city attended.
. He stepped out and sank into the closest chair. Jack’s body jerked. listening to his quiet rhythmic breathing. Looking at Jared’s little sleeping face. After wrestling around. Jack immediately stepped out of bed heading straight for the open doors. .surrounded by woman. Jack. he 252 | C. This time Kevin’s face appeared in Jack’s mind.” he mumbled. Startling him. “Be quick. he was alone. Jack looked up at the clear night sky. He was lying next to Jared in a pool of sweat. Jack put his hands on the balcony wall in order to peer over. he opened his eyes.” Jack jolted in surprise. he studied everything in sight. Not a cloud to be found for miles. “I’m tired. Looking around he put his hand on his chest wiping away the sweat. Shaking his head. Jack snuck out of bed and walked over to the open veranda doors. Except for Jared. Jack. The rain had stopped. The curtains were blowing in the breeze. Jack. Looking out on the grassy courtyard. hot muscles. deep sleep. He figured everyone would sleep better to night this way. looking for the speaker. . The voice echoed in his head. There was a cool breeze and a warm light sprinkle of rain that felt refreshing to his dried. “Jeez. he shot straight up in bed. Jack and Jared fell into a deep. He sat back closing his eyes. He looked over at the veranda. Unable to recall his dreams. Jack had experienced this side of Cherie before so he kissed Nicole and guided Jared to their room. turning to walk out on the veranda. trouble is coming . Everything appeared to be dry. walked to the bed to sit down. “Jack. Ryan didn’t seem to mind. He would find his own way home.” he said.” Jack heard the voice again. Jones . Jack’s dreams were vivid. feeling confused and overwhelmed. Be quick. trouble . He lifted his hand looking at his palm. .
took a deep breath of his own. He crawled in on the other side of the bed, curling up with Jared. Every time he closed his eyes he saw Kevin’s face. Immediately he would open his eyes. I’m, just going to have to make it go away, he thought to himself. This time he closed his eyes, determined to keep them shut. Kevin’s face appeared, but Jack refused to open his eyes again. Carefully he studied Kevin’s horrific, contorted features; noticing the full, swollen brow bones, the sunken eyes and the head that looked bumped and bruised. Jack realized Kevin looked a lot like one of those creatures that attacked him! He frantically tried to remember what the voice had said to him, something about being quick . . . and trouble. Feeling exhausted, he thought to himself, I’m too tired for this . . . letting go, he was swiftly taken to another place full of dreams, sleeping until the sun peaked over the horizon. Jack tried to brush Jared away. The boy was leaning over his father’s face. Jack could feel the tiny puffs of breath on his cheek as he fought the awareness taking over him. “Ohh, go see if your mom and sister are awake, I bet they have breakfast over there,” he said, trying to entice Jared to go away. That’s when he remembered last night’s events. Leaning up on one elbow, Jack looked around the room for Ryan. “Where’s Uncle Ryan?” Jack asked Jared. “Damn,” he said, under his breath. “Let’s go see what’s for breakfast,” he suggested to Jared, as enthusiastically as he could. The two of them ventured into the girl’s room. “Yep, see I told you they would have breakfast,” Jack said. Nicole and Cherie were on the veranda quietly enjoying small pastries and tea. Nicole was holding her tea cup ever so gently. She rolled her eyes when she saw Jared step out and jump in a chair.
The Dragon and The Dove | 253
“Hi Mommy,” he said, leaning over for a kiss. “Good morning baby. How did you sleep?” she said, smiling and looking refreshed. “Great! Last night was sooo fun. Uncle Ryan’s still there. I wanna go back,” he said, excited, looking to fill his plate. Jack stood in the doorway, listening to the patter. He stepped out, put his hand on Cherie’s shoulder and bent down to kiss her on her cheek. “Good morning, Hon,” she said, indicating that she was at least speaking to him. He felt a little relieved, sitting in the chair across from her. Pouring some coffee, he said, “Crazy little rain shower we had last night, huh. Haven’t seen one of those since we’ve been here.” Jack fixed his coffee then looked at Cherie for a response. “What?” she asked puzzled. “Well, we had some rain. I walked out into rain last night.” Unsure, he said, “You know, I had some crazy dreams.” He shook his head, squinted his eyes unable to remember much. Cherie was still looking at him. He looked up, realizing the kids shouldn’t hear about Kevin, he changed the conversation. “Wow! This looks good.” Grabbing his plate, he started filling it with the bountiful breakfast set out before them. Cherie and Jack turned their attention to the kids. Pretending to listen, Nicole rambled on about how Queens should hold their tea cups and Jared interrupted about he and Rogue are going to slay a dragon. Cherie couldn’t help but wonder what was really going on with Jack and Jack couldn’t help but wonder if Cherie thought he was crazy.
254 | C. Jones
Before he could give it much thought, Ryan busted through the door yelling for Jack. “We’re out here!” Jack hollered back. “Jack! There’s been an attack! Jack, it happened!” Ryan said, out of breath. The smell of rotten alcohol followed Ryan out onto the veranda. “Come on! Jack, we gotta go!” Ryan turned to hurry back the way he came. Jack looked at Cherie. Both of them had the look of fear on their faces. “I’ll be right back, Hon. Stay here, I’ll be right back.” Jack disappeared, leaving her with the kids. Cherie swallowed her wild emotions, looking out over the beautiful City. “What?” Nicole asked. “What happened?” she asked again. Cherie was at a loss for words. “Well,” she said, searching for something safe to say. “Umm, somebody got hurt . . . so Dad and Uncle Ryan went to go help.” She looked at both of their faces, hoping that was good enough. Jared looked back at her. “Attack. Uncle Ryan said, ‘attack’. “Yeah, he sure did,” Cherie, said nodding her head. “I guess we’ll find out when Dad and Uncle Ryan get back,” she finished, satisfied. “I think it was one of the gogers, they attack,” Jared said, driving his cinnamon roll around the table like a car. Cherie was shocked, just couldn’t believe her ears. “O G R E,” Nicole corrected. “GOGERS,” Jared re-corrected. “That’s how he says it,” Nicole said, to Cherie, rolling her eyes.
The Dragon and The Dove | 255
“It’s my game,” he retorted, with a whine in his voice. “Game?” Cherie asked, looking to the kids. “Yeah, that’s all they would ever play,” Nicole, complained. “I’m the boss of the game,” Jared commented. “Only ’cuz Toren does whatever you say,” Nicole argued back. “And anyway the fairies don’t like it when you play it,” she continued. Jared just gave her a smirk. Cherie was listening intently, again shocked. I will never get used to this, she thought to herself. Gwendolyn and Brianna burst through the big heavy doors. “Come on, hurry, we must go,” Gwendolyn said, waving her arms to the children. “What is it? What’s going on?” Cherie asked, alarmed. “There has been an attack. We must go as quickly as we can,” Brianna said as discreetly as she could. She raced over to a wall, giving it a push. It opened up to a tunnel. Cherie stared with wide eyes wondering if she and the kids were ever alone. Gwendolyn led the way, while Brianna ushered Cherie and the kids through the once invisible doorway. “Where are we going?” Cherie asked, beginning to panic. “This is fun,” Jared said, with huge eyes and a big grin. They rushed through the maze of tunnels with hearts pounding, and then Gwendolyn stopped, listened, and waited. The wall opened and the Royal Vision appeared, with a large satchel hanging over his shoulder. “Hurry!” he said. Cherie could see the fear in his eyes.
256 | C. Jones
“What’s happening? I’ve got to know!” she demanded. The Royal Vision let Gwendolyn take the lead again, followed by the kids and Brianna. He stopped Cherie, letting the others get ahead, out of earshot. “Monstrous beasts have attacked the City. We are at war right now . . . I can feel the death . . . we have to get the children to safety!” “The gogers?” she asked. “We must go!” he replied, guiding the way. They ran through what seemed to be miles of underground passageways. “Wait,” Cherie finally said. “What about Jack and Ryan. How will they find us?” The Royal Vision looked back at her without stopping, then continued to look ahead. She knew what that meant. Tears were welling up in her eyes; she angrily wiped them away. The tunnel slowly sloped up, so they were able to pop out of a hole in the ground like rabbits. Brushing the dirt off the kids, Cherie looked around. “Hey, we’re in the forest.” she said, grateful to know her surroundings. The sky was dark and tumultuous, swirling and moving like a bubbly cauldron. “Okay, shouldn’t we wait here?” Cherie asked, hopefully. “No, we need to get as far away from the City as possible and find shelter,” The Royal Vision replied. Cherie was disappointed with that answer. “Well,” she said, looking around for any familiar markers to pinpoint exactly where they were. Off to her right, at a distance of about fifty yards, she spotted a splash of color, turquoise. “No way!” she said, with excitement. She started walking quickly in the direction of the color, with the group
The Dragon and The Dove | 257
in tow. Within seconds they were at Jack’s truck. “Yes! Yes!” she yelled, as she felt around for the keys. Nothing under the tire wells, or under the seat, or on the floor. Cherie started to panic, and then she saw them in the ignition. “Okay . . . okay, let’s go up to the Peak, we can see everything from up there.” The Royal Vision, Gwendolyn and Brianna just stood there staring at the big metal creature, while Cherie and the kids jumped in. Starting the engine made the unsuspecting guests jump with surprise. Cherie realized that they had no idea what they were supposed to do. She got out of the truck walking around to the passenger side to assist them into their seats. Gwendolyn, Brianna and Nicole sat in the back, while the Royal Vision, Jared and Cherie crammed into the front. With everyone secure Cherie raced through the trees headed for Black Wolf Peak. When Jack and Ryan left the Palace, they were met by waiting soldiers and led to the barracks on the far side of the City. Two casualties were lying on the beds. Jack had a hard time looking at the bloody, mangled bodies. “They’re dead,” Ryan said. “What happened?” Jack asked the soldier next to him. “Johan was there.” The soldier passed the question on to a young man sitting on the edge of an empty bed. The man was clearly in shock, he looked up as if in a daze. “Umm, I was riding out to relieve them and I saw these creatures just jump out of the earth. They were monsters,” the man stopped talking to choke back the emotions that over took him. “I . . . I . . . didn’t know what to . . . to do . . . I came back to get help and we were able to get them back here . . . but those things, they’re here,” he said, looking at Ryan and Jack with fear in his eyes.
258 | C. Jones
“Let’s get the soldiers out there, now!!” Ryan exclaimed. Jack heard Ryan’s words, but couldn’t do anything but stare at the dead men. Visions of Kevin’s face flashed before Jack’s eyes. There was something there; he just couldn’t put his finger on it. “Jack . . . Jack! Let’s go!” Ryan urged. Jack turned to walk out with Ryan, that’s when it hit him! Their faces, all three of them . . . their faces were mangled similar to those creatures. The dreams and hidden thoughts come flooding over Jack like a fifty foot wave crashing the beach. “Ryan!” Jack yelled, running to catch up. Ryan stopped at the stable doors. “Wait Ryan,” Jack said, out of breath. “What, Jack? We don’t have time, we have to go now,” Ryan said, impatiently. “No, wait, you don’t understand, those creatures are dangerous! Something happens.” Jack stopped to collect his thoughts. Ryan rolled his eyes. “Yeah, they kill you. Let’s go!” The first wave of soldiers was sent out. Ryan turned away to get his battle gear and horse. Before Jack could continue his explanation, Arrol brought him his horse. “Be strong, Your Highness,” the stable master said. Jack mounted, adjusting his weight to receive the shield and sword that was handed up to him. Ryan rode off, not waiting for Jack. “Wait!” Jack yelled, but Ryan left without him. “Hold on a minute.” Jack looked around. Catching Arrol’s attention, he called out, “Hey! Unpack those guns, I want one.” Jumping off his horse he ran over to help, understanding these men have no idea how to use the guns. “Forget it!” Jack grabbed the 30ot6 and a shotgun for Ryan. He left his shield and
The Dragon and The Dove | 259
sword, mounted his horse and rode of like a bat out of hell. Ryan was too far to catch, but Jack knew he had to. The terrain was flat. Jack could see the wave of soldiers riding out to the desolate plains; he could also make out Ryan riding alone. He gave his horse a kick and held on awkwardly, holding the guns, trying not to drop them or fall off himself. It seemed like forever, but soon he was within shouting distance from Ryan. Jack called out his name, but Ryan couldn’t hear him at first, then Ryan brought his horse to a screeching halt, finally hearing Jack, he looked back. Jack threw Ryan the shotgun and stopped next to him. “Good thinking,” Ryan said. They both looked ahead and that’s when they saw their army engulfed in dust clouds. It was a nightmare from hell. Horses were brought down by the dozens. Jack and Ryan could hear grown men screaming in fear and pain. It happened so fast it looked as though the whole army had been taken down. Jack and Ryan looked at each other like two little boys who didn’t want to play this game anymore. When the dust started to clear, the slaughter became visible, and a huge, vicious, mass of these hideous creatures was making its way towards the City. Jack and Ryan looked at each other, turned their horses around and rode out of there. They soon met up with more of their own army riding out to fight. “NO! NO! RETREAT! We’re not big enough, we need every man now!” Jack screamed. The large group rode back towards the City, with Jack and Ryan in the lead. Before they got close to the stables, the ground erupted with flying soil and grass, the dust making it hard to see, but everyone knew what was happening. When a beast could get close enough to pull Jack or Ryan’s horse down, it was shot dead. The bullets seemed to be stopping the creatures, but there just wasn’t enough ammo to help anyone not in the immediate area. The Royal Army was overwhelmed and
260 | C. Jones
being destroyed. Jack and Ryan had no choice but to turn their horses and race to the stables, warning as many people as possible. When they finally reached their destination, Ryan jumped off his horse and began shouting orders. Jack dismounted and pulled Arrol over to the guns. He gave a brief shooting lesson and began handing out guns and ammo to the men around him. When he was out of artillery he ran over to join Ryan. “Gwendolyn and Brianna were informed, they should be heading for the far side of the City towards the labyrinth,” Ryan said. “Oh thank God!” Jack replied. There was a commotion at the stable doors. A dozen men were pointing outside commenting on something. “Ah Sirs, I think you should take a look at this,” Arrol called back to Ryan and Jack. They looked at each other before walking over. The men moved aside so there was room to see. Out in the distance, soldiers could be seen making their way on foot. “Wait!” Jack ran over to his horse where he kept his pack and unloaded his scope. Taking the lens cap off, he focused in on the men hobbling into the City. “That’s not good,” he said, handing the scope to Ryan. “That’s it! That’s what I saw, Ryan. It happened to Kevin and the two soldiers, only they died before they could fully morph!” Jack waited for a reply. “Oh shit! Those soldiers are turning into creatures!” Ryan passed the scope around. “We don’t have enough guns, Ryan, and those things are too strong for hand to hand combat. We need to get the hell out of here, at least get the woman and children out,” Jack reasoned.
The Dragon and The Dove | 261
“We have to get the army up here. We have to do something!” Ryan tried to brainstorm. “It’s no use; our army will just end up their army. We all have to get out of here now! It’s safe in that crazy labyrinth.” Jack turned to his men. “As your Commander I order every one of you to get to the labyrinth for your own safety. Do it now! Good Luck!” Jack knew it was his last order. “Cherie and the kids! We gotta go, Ryan!” Jack turned to run out, his mind on his family, while Ryan sat unwilling to give up his post. “Ryan, are you coming?” Jack yelled, jolting him back to reality. “Yeah.” Ryan caught up with Jack and the two of them went to find Cherie and the King and Queen. Jack and Ryan flew through the corridors to the Queen’s quarters. Throwing open the heavy doors, Jack yelled at the top of his lungs, “CHER!” Looking around the room he could see the place had been abandoned. “Where . . .” Before Jack could finish, Ryan pointed out the open secret passage. “Oh, let’s go.” Jack ran for the door. “Wait, you better take this.” Ryan grabbed Jack’s riffle and followed. “It looks like its just straight through. Let’s go,” Jack said, with excitement in his voice. The two men carried their rifles and hurried through the dark tunnel. Ryan was almost too tall to fit through the low passageway however they made good time running through the tunnel. “Wow!” Jack said, out of breath, “This tunnel is long.” “I know,” Ryan replied, taking in large amounts of air himself.
“Shoot, where are they?” Jack said. He stopped running and bent over to rest his hands on his knees. Ryan was relieved that Jack had stopped. The two men took deep breaths to slow down their breathing. “Whew, ready?” Jack asked. “Yeah, let’s go,” Ryan answered, breathlessly. The two of them ran on at a much slower pace. The tunnel gradually began to slope up and the men had to hunch down. Within minutes they popped out of the ground. Looking around they were both surprised where they ended up. “We’re in the forest,” Ryan said with raised eyebrows. “Yeah. Wow! Hey, the truck should be right around here somewhere,” Jack said, scanning the area. He started to walk around in the direction where the two of them had abandoned the truck. “See, look, it was right here.” Jack was looking around in confusion. “Cherie must have it. She must have made it out,” he said, with hope in his voice. Ryan looked where Jack was pointing. “Those are pretty fresh,” Ryan stated, referring to the fresh tire tracks. “I wonder where she went. She knows about the house, she wouldn’t have gone there,” he said, shaking his head. “Where would she go?” Jack questioned, out loud to himself. He stared off into the distance, then suddenly, “I know! I would go to a place where I could see . . . you know, a lookout!” He gazed up at the peak. “I bet she’s up there . . . or on her way there.” he said. “She’s smart. Let’s go!” he added, enthusiastically. “Whoa! Wait a minute, are you suggesting we climb Black Wolf Peak? That’s at least eleven thousand feet. How about
The Dragon and The Dove | 263
we just wait at the bottom. She’s bound to come down soon,” Ryan said, hoping to save some of his energy. “Come on,” Jack urged. The two of them began the journey to the base of the Peak.
the death . . she walked back to the truck. eye closed. the army is growing.” She opened the truck door. let’s go.” he finished. He winced and shook his head. Cherie ran over to the spot where she drew the map. Gwendolyn and Brianna were weary of the strange machine traveling at top speed. these are the cheap ones. Squatting to her knees. . Cherie looked at the woman. we can’t go back . Our great City is lost forever . they were frightened. She lowered the binoculars and turned to look at the others. We can load up on supplies from the house. the destruction. he was at peace. we must get away. reaching under the seat she felt the binoculars. she peered through the lenses.” she instructed. his eyes still closed. . . painfully. “Nicole. “That’s pretty much what I saw.” she said. she went back to the lookout. They climbed out cautiously when the truck came to a stop. “Oh.” he said. cleaning off the lenses. Gwendolyn and Brianna were looking at her waiting for some kind of response. Jared. It was hard to see clearly from this distance. referring to the binoculars. Taking deep breaths. or any speed for that matter. laughing and giggling. “Oh. The Royal Vision. .Chapter 28 Cherie and her entourage made good time flying to the top of the Peak. Looking out unable to see clearly. and the Royal Vision was sitting on the ground with his legs crossed. “We better go. “Damn. Pulling them out. Nicole and Jared were over climbing on a big boulder. but Cherie could tell from the dust rising and the chaotic movements that mass destruction was taking place. . far away.” Cherie concluded. leaving | 265 . Cherie climbed in starting the truck up. sitting there in silence.
you’re not in trouble . . she had been trying to put this conversation off. be careful of your thoughts . just everyone in the City is. “Where are we going. . Jack ignored him. Okay. The truck had started to roll when she put on the brakes. 266 | C. “Ready?” he said.” the Royal Vision said.” Cherie was interrupted. turned and started up the big hill. “Do we have to? What goes up must come down. “Whatever anyone thinks about comes about. Nicole sulked. . I wanna go play with Jingle. . but I’m serious. Like this Palace you two thought up. The ride down the hill was swift and quiet. . So far everything you think. “Got it?” she finished. sternly. “You have to be careful what you think and play . no dragons . you know. . . . think of flowers and candy. . you two seem to be really good at making this stuff up. look. sad eyes. “Those gogers have destroyed the Palace. Ryan looked at the road winding steeply up hill. Cherie rolled her eyes. “Okay . Whatever you think about happens . . there I said it. he said.” she continued. . “It’s okay.the doors open.” She looked at Jared. competing for attention with clouds that were dark and threatening. dream or play has come true.” Cherie took a deep breath. Jack and Ryan had hiked in silence to the base of the Peak. no gogers or anything that can eat us. followed by Jared. be careful .” Cherie coached. Shaking his head no. because then we have to live it . The sun was high above them. The kids were silent. Okay?’ she said. .” in hopes of changing Jack’s mind. Jack turned to Ryan. looking up with their big. The three adults reluctantly crowded into the back seat. . . Jones . . “Well. Nicole climbed in next to her mother. . .
Instinctively they both jumped off the road and bolted into the tree line behind them. They looked at each other with adrenalin rushing through their bodies. . keeping perfectly still with a good view of the road. The impact startled everyone in the vehicle. Jack ran off the side of the road. Cherie gasped. Looking in the rear view mirror. hitting the passenger side of the truck. Ryan drove to The Dragon and The Dove | 267 . He moaned with a big sigh. Are the keys in it?” he asked. then jumped out leaving the door open. Ryan came running down the hill. Taking advantage of the hair pin turn. “Stay. Ryan jumped in the driver’s seat. while Cherie sat in the bed of the truck with Jack’s head in her lap. Jack listened intently. They jumped out from their hiding places and hit the road running. fully conscious of his rumbling stomach . She had been on these roads since she was a kid. Jack’s truck raced by. Nicole and Jared were excited to see Uncle Ryan and their daddy. watching the speeding. blue truck take the turn ahead. looking back for Cherie’s nod he backed up and loaded Jack in the back of the truck. kneeling down. . putting her hands gently on Jack. After hearing the collision. “Let’s get him in the back of the truck. “Jeez. expecting to cut Cherie off at the pass. Putting his hand on his rifle. Cherie was going too fast for them to catch. signaling Ryan to stop. I’ll get it. Ryan followed. stumbling down the hill.” Ryan suggested.Reluctantly. so the speed didn’t worry her until something ran out from the side of the road. It took both men by surprise. Nicole screamed as Cherie slammed on the brakes. That’s when Ryan noticed dust in the breeze blowing their way. where did you guys come from?” Cherie asked. The two of them trucked up the hill until Jack held up his hand. Cherie was an exceptional driver. He gingerly hiked down the same hill as Jack. Jack was lying in the road on his side holding his stomach with his legs pulled up. going in and out of consciousness. rushing in the direction of the truck. Ryan stopped running.
” Cherie replied. Jack squinted his eyes and looked around.” Jared snickered. hold up.” Ryan blurted out. pointing. dirt road was the driveway to their house. Cherie covered Jack with her body.” He passed Jared on the path when he heard Jack’s voice. “Let me go check it out first. “Oh my god. The truck doors opened and everyone stepped out.” Cherie said. What happened?” Jared said. “Jack . . laughing a little. The truck squealed to a stop. “You hit the truck. . annoyed.” Cherie said quietly. Jones .” she said. “Whoa. . “Wait for me.the house with his eyes alert for hidden dangers. 268 | C. her home. Cherie lifted her head. struggling to sit up. then shook his shoulder. under her breath.” Jack stood up and steadied himself to jump out of the back of the truck. “Those gogers is what happened. They destroyed our home. Tears flooded her eyes . “I didn’t know a person could run into a car. “Look at our house!” Nicole cried. wishing the next turn of the bumpy. “You scared me! You probably have a concussion. “Really?” Jack replied. Jack yelled. “Wait!” Ryan yelled. as he started walking up the flagstone path. you’re not going in there alone. . Jack. touching the knot on the side of his head. “What happened?” He said.
when he saw Jack turn it on.“You can’t. kitchen utensils. they managed to walk through the house to the back door. which surprisingly. Jack winced at the magnitude of the damage and soon had a pounding headache. Hoping the hallway closet was still in tacked.” Jack hit the ground on his feet. “Yes.” Ryan whispered. They entered the living room where a huge hole in the floor blocked their way. “Any signs of the creatures. he’s not going in there alone.” Cherie was interrupted. It’s pretty dark down here. stepping quite gracefully around debris to retrieve a small flashlight Cherie kept behind the tissue boxes.” Ryan suggested. Quickly. hung on its hinges. They stood looking at the damage. Catching up with Ryan. Jack walked over to the cellar door. clothes. the two of them disappeared into the disaster. All the big furniture had been tossed around and ripped to shreds. Jack returned to the house. and broken glass littered the floor throughout the rooms. There were holes in the walls between rooms. carefully. “I’m fine. stunned. looking around. “We need a flashlight. they didn’t explore. The place was trashed. The last time they had been at the house. pushing it open to reveal the interior. motioning for Ryan to lead the way. The Dragon and The Dove | 269 . Jack just nodded. Ryan listened for any noise. When they got to the cellar Ryan turned the door knob as gently as he could. “Wow!” Jack said. as if something had walked right through them. handed the flashlight to Ryan and followed him down. but heard nothing. “We better go out to the cellar and see if we still have fuel.” he whispered to Jack. The staircase had been ripped completely down. Papers.” Jack whispered.
. where three sealed 50gallon barrels of fuel sat waiting for Jack’s use. dark cellar.” Jack walked over. Cherie ran over to help.” Cherie hesitated.” Jack said. we still have gas . Ryan shined the light around the large cold room. accompanied by Gwendolyn and Brianna. I know. a long elegant hand on each of their shoulders. “Yeah. Ryan put the flashlight between his teeth. red plastic gas jugs. Ryan followed suit. “Is it bad?” she asked in a small voice. “Thank god. a sigh of relief could be heard from Cherie and the others.” Cherie hurried to help. . majestically surrounding the children with his robes. When Jack and Ryan surfaced from the deep.” Ryan observed. Waiting by the truck. When the task was accomplished each of them carried two heavy jugs.” Ryan replied. They reached the bottom of the steep concrete steps.” Jack’s eyes had finally adjusted to the dim light. Jack and Ryan rushed past them to unload the heavy jugs into the back of the truck. will ya? Thanks Hon. Gwendolyn and Brianna stood feeling useless. Jack pointed to the far right corner. picking up two large. Jack nodded to the truck. . . 270 | C.“Doesn’t look like it. Jones . there’s the fuel. “Over here. “Do you have gas cans? We can’t get those outta here. “Get the tailgate. picking up a garden hose and pulling out his pocket knife to cut a piece for siphoning. When they stepped out past the broken down porch. referring to the rest of the house. “There . not for fear of unknown dangers. The Royal Vision stood his ground. but because the jugs of gasoline were heavy. just as softly. relieved to see it where he always kept it. they hurried around the house. giving them enough light to find their way out.
wiped their tears then left them with the Royal Vision.” Jack replied. camping gear. I don’t know how long we have. it’s empty. I . . Cherie bolted into the house.” She let them cry on her shoulder “He’s tough. intrigued at their strange surroundings. I’m so sorry. toilet paper and some lavender. “Uh. I’m sure he’s fine. I don’t think anything is hiding in there.” Ryan rationalized. here’s peroxide. alcohol. the kit. good. “We gotta do this.” With that Cherie ran off to the bathroom.” Jack said. he’ll be here soon . oh. except for your garden variety raccoon. we need blankets and coats . .” “Mommy! Rogue! Where’s Rogue?” Nicole cried. I’m going to look for the first aid kit. Gwendolyn and Brianna each lugged a five-gallon jug of water out the front door. I . which is great for boo boos. lots and lots of water.” She headed into the kitchen.“It’s not good. She motioned for Gwendolyn and Brianna to follow her.” She followed Gwendolyn and Brianna. who were The Dragon and The Dove | 271 . “See those? Take them to the truck. “Good news though. Cherie stood up. we need the first aid kit and water. “Okay. Well. .” She knelt down hugging the kids. “They said. kissed the twins on their little foreheads. Cherie appeared with her arms full of stuff. I bet. . I’m going back in. Jared started to cry with her. She dropped her treasures on the tailgate.” he said. with the two women trailing behind her. than at Jack. . unsure of the words. Cherie looked at Ryan. . . “Where did Jack and Ryan go?” she asked the Royal Vision. ignoring the obstacles in her path. . Let’s get what we need. “I’m so sorry . . trying to sound convincing. wash clothes. . “So much has happened I lost track. while keeping his emotions to himself as he pushed the tears back.
I guess we can go help in the house. “Okay. this is crazy. he continued. Jack and Ryan exited the guesthouse. I know. Suddenly.” The kids were playing out in the grass. “So I think that’s the best bet. Devising a plan. wondering where she was going to put everything. they chatted as they neared the truck and heaved everything onto the tailgate.” Ryan asked.going back for two more jugs. following Jack’s gaze out beyond the pasture. . staring intently. . “And clothes. As she went into the house. Turning to look. oh jeez. looking worried.” Jack vented “I know. it is crazy. .” she exclaimed. . I mean we know what’s out there. “Yeah . just go as far as we can.” Jack said. “It just seems to be constant . trying to get the momentum back. “What’s wrong?” Ryan asked. as fast as we can. . I’m just tired. something in the corner of Jack’s eye caught his attention. “But we have no idea about that way. “Yeah. slapping Jack on the shoulder. Jones . When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep .” Ryan finished. pointing in the direction of the Palace. Looking around.” Ryan said. so what else do we need. “What?” Ryan said. when will this stop? When will everything be okay . . He froze. normal? I just want our life back. The Royal Vision sat watching. pointing in the opposite direction. Ryan looked over at Jack.” he concluded.” Jack said. annoyed “We just don’t know what’s out there on that side. Sure enough something 272 | C. . arms loaded with camping gear. “Well. . he saw movement out in the trees.” Jack said. observing them closely.
. “Rogue!” Jack yelled. “What? What?” Jack asked with urgency. “Those things. families dispersed. smiling. The kids came running over. Still attached to the collar. . she’s so pretty. . look!” Cherie said. . “Where?” the kids exclaimed. .was moving out there.” Jack and Ryan looked where she pointed. and the family . ready for action. .” She dropped the supplies in the truck and walked over.” he finished with tears in his eyes. He looked Jack in the eye. just look at her. she’s beautiful. . “Oh. Honey. flying up with fists ready to fight. Without taking their eyes off the movement. . “Those horrible beings just trashed the whole place. two creatures burst from the brush. “I knew he’d be back. Startling Jack. I hope they made it out safe. the labyrinth. look at her. both men crouched into a defensive position.” he paused. “Look. . . . waiting for his best friend to greet him. “Oh. . . was shaking his head. . “Whoa Boy!” Jack was ecstatic. Rogue jumped up on Jack nearly knocking him over. . . they’re The Dragon and The Dove | 273 . Spar woke with a start. running her hand over the female dog’s head. “What the . the tear made a perfect little pouch. With muscles tensed. . the city is destroyed . Excited to see Rogue and his friend. . The new dog sat enjoying the lavish attention from the child. “You guys . our homes gone . “Hey!” he said.” Cherie greeted Rogue. they moved slowly toward the children. Oh . Oh . everyone had to flee . .” he yelled. Tucked under Rogue’s collar between his shoulder blades was a tear in the fabric. gorgeous .” Nicole said. “I knew it!” Cherie hollered. . its Spar and Gunther . and he brought a friend.
” pointing to the Royal Vision. “THERE!!” Jack and Ryan both said at the same time. “How far are those creatures? How much time do we have?” Cherie asked. “We’d better go. confused. “No. It’s a good thing we found Rogue and hitched a ride.” Jared begged. I don’t know. signaling Rogue to jump up. . Anxiety swept through the group.” Jack directed. and you.” Cherie said. “But . Ryan. .” Spar answered dramatically. I’ll take the second shift.” indicating Brianna and Gwendolyn. they’re fast and they can travel underground.” Ryan directed.” Jack said.coming this way . . “I .” Spar had a strained smile on his face. “Sure! You two. looking forward to riding in back with his wife and dog. . you two ride in the back seat of the cab . . you don’t even know they’re there. The group each found their seats and Ryan pealed out of the driveway.” both kids pleaded unison. . “I wanna ride in back with Dad. “ride up front with me. do you want to drive first. tugging on his jeans. they destroy everything in their path. . Ah. the ride will be bumpy. 274 | C. Jones .” Jack announced to the group. feeling a panic attack coming on. “can sit in back with the kids. pounding the tailgate. “Let’s load up. “Where?” Cherie exclaimed. . They nodded while Cherie and Jack exchanged glances. . He’s the one who found you guys. “Please Dad.
Jack and Cherie watched as their once warm. The blue king cab pulled the heavy weight in to the tree line. secure home disappeared and they were engulfed by the forest. Jack and Cherie snuggled up against the back window (with Rogue and his mate bouncing around their limited space). The Dragon and The Dove | 275 .Spar and Gunther rested on the dashboard acting as little lookouts.
Cherie offered to take a watch. Cherie took advantage of the quite time to talk to Jared and Nicole. They had never experienced anything other than Palace life. corn. “No kidding. When the three of them were cuddled together and the twins were yawning. You know. Everyone jumped out of the truck and stretched. that’s a great idea. The newcomers sat in wonder at how things were done. “I just want to watch.” Jack explained. Jack and Spar were satisfied that nothing was out there.” she said. Camping was very foreign to them. but was turned down. since he was driving first in the morning. We’ll get this truck unpacked. slow. green beans and some chicken soup. She brought out baked beans. but focused on tomorrows drive out into the open.Chapter 29 By the time Ryan found the perfect campsite just inside the tree line. so she took the sleeping twins into the tent to help them fall asleep before the rest of the group joined them. He took charge. “Now. The tent was made to fit ten people comfortably. while Gunther stayed with the kids. desolate terrain and the tension was high. It had been a long. Cherie bedded down in one corner of the tent. pointing to the desolate landscape. That evening the conversation was light. in 276 | . the sun had begun to set. Jack fished out his scope. Everyone sat around a small camp while Cherie opened up cans of food. so they rejoined the group. listen to Mommy. pointing out what they needed for the night. setting up a comfortable viewing spot on the ground. make sure nothings out there. Spar joined him. Jack took the first sleepless watch.” Ryan replied. bumpy ride.
the men sat scoping out the dreaded terrain. nothing but burnt earth. . “Yeah. . whispering between themselves. I know. “I don’t see anything out there. I guess we had better move out then .” Jack said. closed her eyes and recalled the trip to Grandma Lil’s.” Ryan said. Jack and Ryan traded a silent vigil and all was still. “Shhh . Ryan woke Jack as soon as the sun peaked over the horizon. “Yes. with his eye to the scope. . . . He was reluctant to take their chances out there. . She was silent for a moment to listen to their little breath sounds. let’s go. the cool breeze. yep. . no telling how much time we have before those things catch up with us. . “Alright. Before waking the group. . The group slept surprisingly well throughout the night. even knowing they were better off going than staying. remember? Playing in the waves. . the smell of the salty water . Content that they were asleep. Okay? “Like baby kittens?” Nicole whispered. “I want you to think about happy things . it’s just the same thing as before. The two of them quietly packed up the truck leaving room for the tent and making a place for Ryan to catch some zzzz’s on the drive out.” “And baby Rogues. . . .a calm soothing voice.” Jack replied with a sigh. remember the time we went to the beach to visit Grandma Lil?—picture in your mind the waves . .” Jack said. now I want you two to close your eyes and picture baby puppies . The Dragon and The Dove | 277 .” Cherie replied.” Jared added loudly. she herself took a deep breath. the seashells. “Well. and picture rainbows with beautiful colors .
” Jack said. “MOMMY!” Nicole screamed. “What’s her name?” Nicole yelled.” she replied. let me drive a little while longer then we will stop for some lunch and you can run around. the drive had been uneventful. Cherie tapped on the back window. let’s get out and stretch our legs. . . They managed to wake everyone. causing Jack to stop immediately. . “Okay . nuzzling noses. slowly. The kids were already out calling Rogue to run around with them.standing up and wrapping the scope. The two dogs nestled down together.” he said. I just thought the kids might be hungry .” Jack stammered. 278 | C. The kids sat up front with Jack. “Mommy. . Jones . yeah. Cherie sat near the tailgate watching for anything unusual armed with a shotgun. who was patiently multitasking. . “What? What is it?!” Jack yelled. . “What’s her name?” Nicole asked again. what’s her name?” Cherie was busy looking for food. . okay. umm . well. “What?” Cherie yelled back. that’s all. “Alright. “Nothing. opening the truck doors. squirmy. . hold on . highly annoyed. “Oh. load up and head out within half an hour. Luckily. Ryan settled in the padded makeshift bed for a nap. uh. just scorched earth. looking around. Jack swallowed the lump in his throat and pressed on the accelerator. okay. He jumped out. not knowing what to do. The blue truck rolled out of the trees and out into the unknown. driving the truck and carrying on a light hearted conversation with his powerful five-year-olds. and whiney. After a few hours of driving Nicole and Jared started to get restless.
I’m trying to find lunch. “Well. “I don’t know. “What!” he blurted out. why don’t I fly back and check? If I go alone. I’ll be right back. “Okay. “DAD!” Nicole screamed. you guys figure it out. then it’s Jasmine. lifting the scope up to scan the area. I can be back to meet up with you in a jiffy. Startled. “Hey! Don’t go too far from the truck.” Jack cautioned.” she said. I can travel fast.” Spar said enthusiastically.” Spar held up kernel of corn. Ryan was sitting up rubbing his eyes. “That’s great.” he replied. “Don’t worry. hoping she didn’t sense his lack of interest. .” he concluded. what?” he said. . “Jasmine!” He said that’s his favorite flower and it smells so good and taste so good. “Gunther thought of a name.” Cherie continued digging through the back of the truck as the kids jibber-jabbered off with the dogs. “Really? Yeah. okay Jack. I’m taking this with me. stay close by.” Jack advised. I’m going.” Jack was thrilled at the idea. that would at least give us an idea of what we can expect. Hey. The Dragon and The Dove | 279 .“I don’t know . turning to finish scoping the area. Jack turned fast. before disappearing out of sight. tucking it into his tiny pouch. “Stay high. “Do you think those things are following us?’ Jack asked Spar.” she crinkled up her nose.
maybe we aren’t being followed. “Well. not believing his own words. responding to Cherie’s offering.” she said as she turned to join the kids. “Yeah.” Ryan said. “Anything going on?” “No. I don’t like peanut butter.Cherie retrieved half a jar of peanut butter and some stale crackers. Everyone had a moment to relax a bit. they need it more. and Gwendolyn and Brianna sat together trying to make light conversation. just give mine to the kids. as she started to spread the peanut butter with her pocket knife. They’re little. The break had been needed. who quietly stood together next to the truck. Spar took off to check it out . Jones . I hope something works out for us . “Okay. “Well. “Well. actually I did. “Naw. mine too. too. “Oh.” Jack said. “Did you get any sleep?” Jack asked. here’s breakfast and.” she said. She gave the kids each a cracker. lunch. “Lot’s of protein in this stuff.” Cherie tempted. their new security blanket. turning to look at Cherie approaching with crackers. . the Royal Vision sat and meditated. Gwendolyn and Brianna.” Ryan replied. Ryan jumped out of the back of the truck to join Jack. rubbing his eyes. “Yeah. really. . . I’m afraid.” Ryan said. who knows. then handed one each to the Royal Vision. The kids had the dogs running around chasing each other. we don’t have much food left. Spar will catch up with 280 | C. .” Jack said.” Ryan insisted. I’m fine. I guess we should go.
At first it was hard to make out. Cherie hustled the kids in the back seat with the Royal Vision. Cherie’s heart pounded. then behind them into the cab. Cherie sat behind the wheel. The two of them held their shotguns ready for anything . His mouth strained open in a silent scream. . Cherie drove as fast as she could without losing control. “Cher drive!” Jack ordered. . Her heart started slamming. .” she growled. Brianna and Gwendolyn jumped in front with Cherie. Clenching her teeth. “GO. Ryan grabbed a gas can to fill the tank. LET’S GO. alert and waiting. no. damn it . The truck slowed. looking at each other. GO!” he yelled. as Spar flew by. Cherie was forced to put on the brake. Jack kept an eye on the terrain behind them. then she looked at the gas gage. When Jack steadied himself. and then gave up. He hit the roof of the truck with a thud. . she focused on pushing on till eventually she felt the truck loose power. “OOOOOOOOO!!!” Jack heard. jumped out and took action. Jack got a glimpse of Spar’s face. . . . Nicole and Jared were scared and started to whimper. THEY’RE RIPPING UP CAMP.us . Jack and Ryan rushed over. “No . taking one more look through his scope. running for the truck. creating a tiny breeze. “GO! GO! GO! THEIR COMING!!!” he yelled. Keeping her foot on the gas pedal. Then it registered. calling Rogue and Jasmine. THEY’RE FAST. “Come The Dragon and The Dove | 281 . Jack and Ryan stood up. he lifted the scope up to his eye.” Jack said. no. “Oh shit!” she said under her breath. so let’s head out. The two of them jumped in the back of the truck. he tried to get a glimpse. Shaking around. throwing Ryan a shotgun. She started the engine and slammed the accelerator. it was so fast. Jack and Ryan felt it too. The Royal Vision put his arms around them and Gunther tried comforting them with gentle words. she tightened her grip on the steering wheel as if it gave the truck more power. . Everyone jumped up.
“No.” Jack said. .” she whispered to herself. “How far are they?” he asked Jack. “I’m almost done. then a half dozen. he was dead.” Jack explained. . “Done!” He pulled the empty gas can out. That’s our army out there. “Let’s go!” jumping in the back of the truck. He was turning into one of those things. Behind the creatures in the distance. Just like the army that’s following us. he saw what looked like a flood of black ants.” Ryan said slowly. . . . screwed on the cap. then a third. “I noticed when Kevin was on the table his face looked weird. The wind whipped his hair and carried his voice. with the scope aimed in the direction of the forest. shut the flap and said. He had to speak up in order for Ryan to hear him. threw it on the ground. tapping her foot with her eyes stuck on the rear view mirror. Jones . “About two and a half maybe three miles.” Jack said stunned.on . confused.” Ryan replied. come on . “What do you mean?” Ryan asked. Some beasts and some humans with mangled faces resembling the horrifying beast creatures. Jack rubbed his forehead. It’s bad. It was more than that. Ryan was still reeling from what just happened. “Yeah.” Jack paused. followed by a second. Ryan landed in the truck at the same time Jack saw the first beast burst out of the ground. Focusing in. he saw the army. Jack threw himself into the back of the truck as Cherie spun out speeding further into the dirt landscape. “I think we’re okay. 282 | C.
trying to stay positive. they can’t catch us if we just keep going. hopelessly.” “Your right. but he was really messed up. “Yeah. maybe there was too much infection or something. The two of them rode in silence without taking their eyes off of the tiny specks falling further and further behind them.” he said. Jack thought for a moment. The Dragon and The Dove | 283 . poor guy.” Ryan said. Spar appeared landing on the sleeping bag between the guys. didn’t she?” Ryan said. “Jingle!” “But she did her potion and kissy thing with him to. “Going where?” Jack said. “We’re making it.“Why are we okay?” Ryan asked. it was bad. sadly.
quietly. “Sand. Jack looked at Cherie. last night I did some visualization with the kids before they went to sleep . the same nothingness kept going and going. The three of them stood dumbfounded. 284 | .” she explained.” she said. It’s getting really sandy. “Don’t be surprised if . . “We have to keep driving.” Ryan relied.” Spar directed. “What’s going on?” Jack asked. you’d think we’re near the ocean. but she wanted to take a look at the ground. “Surprised if what?” he said. Jack and Ryan looked around confused. She slowed the truck to a stop. “Oh great!” Ryan said. . we were recalling the visit to Grandma Lil’s on the beach.” Cherie started to explain. seeing only their tire tracks. joined by Ryan and then Jack. when a seagull flew overhead. The four of them looked back. . The twins fell asleep and everyone else just let their eyes glaze over.Chapter 30 The drive was long and boring. as if she knew. Cherie stepped out of the truck. . dramatically. to not wake the kids. It felt like forever when the distinct smell of the salty sea air brought the group back to consciousness. . She focused her eyes further out. “Yeah. Cherie could feel the lag on the truck by the change from hard dirt to thick sand. Well. The dogs stood up curious at this new thing they couldn’t see. Not only was it a good time to stretch.
Jack could smell the air getting saltier. and focus on the now. Jack had no idea how long he’d been driving. As the blue truck traveled over the last hill top. Working from home at his computer. working in his garden. . and another seagull flew overhead. She took his shotgun and climbed in back. Before them was an ocean that wasn’t supposed to be there. The terrain had changed. okay. Jack noticed it wasn’t completely flat anymore. what more were they going to have to deal with? He was so exhausted. The kids were still sleeping. Small sandy hills started appearing. “Yeah. happy to be relieved from the task. let’s go . it was giving him a headache. we’ll figure it out as we go. e-mailing his work to the office. Now his life seemed to be a never-ending nightmare. I’ll drive. . Ryan and Cherie got out of the back and joined him. . Jack found himself longing for the days when his life was easy. The kids were still asleep and the three adults in the back seat were dozing. everywhere sand for miles. Looking in the rear view mirror. Soon the small hills turned into larger sand dunes. He decided to stop playing in his head. Looking ahead he saw nothing but sand .“He’s right. The last thing he wanted was to get stuck in the sand. . Hon?” Jack offered. He started paying more attention to his driving as the dunes became more plentiful. All three watched the vast. it seemed hours. What new and totally impossible obstacle were they going to have to face . Jack took off. it was all so simple and perfect. The Dragon and The Dove | 285 . . hunting with Ryan. So much has happened. and Jack couldn’t help but wonder what they could possibly be dreaming up now. . he could see Cherie and Ryan watching behind them. Confused he stopped the truck on the top of the small dune.” she said. sure. Jacks mouth dropped to the floorboard. camping with Cherie and the kids. He jumped out and stood by the front of the truck. leaving tracks in his wake.
followed by the Royal Vision and Brianna.” he finished. looking behind them. “Maybe Spar and Gunther should fly back. in astonishment at the sight he had never seen before. I don’t want it to get stuck in the sand. . Playing in the small braking waves they both stopped for a drink.” she said. complete with swells and waves and bits of seaweed floating in the foamy shallow surf. “A world of water. this should be Calton.” Spar said.” the Royal Vision said. “I heard. . Remember? A really big city?” Ryan said. I’ll be right back. then the both of them continued to play. “Yeah. then we can figure out a plan. she didn’t know what to say and little Spar had no clue. “Should we wake them?” Gwendolyn inquired.crystal blue ocean. what now?” Jack asked.” Spar winked and disappeared. “Leave Gunther sleeping. watching the two dogs with their weird behavior. “Oh man! There shouldn’t be an ocean here. they jumped out of the back of the truck and raced each other to the water’s edge. “Until then I’m going to the water. easier if we know what we’re up against. “Yeah. 286 | C.” Cherie replied. “Well. Jack and Ryan watched as the three walked down to the water as if in a daze. Rogue and Jasmine couldn’t take it any longer.” Jack replied. Cherie was silent . Jones . see if we’re being followed. he’s a big guy and needs lots of rest. as she walked off down the hill to join the dogs. so don’t go anywhere without me. Rogue started coughing and shaking his head and Jasmine started sneezing.” Ryan suggested. If my calculations are right. “I don’t want to take the truck any further. as she stepped from the truck. I know.
Before Jack reached them. puzzled. Ryan quickened his pace to catch up with Jack. Cherie turned to Jack holding out her hand.” he answered. Mom. “What?”. “Honey. “The dogs! They’re both floating!” Cherie bent down to taste the water. .” She pointed to the two dogs in the water. The Dragon and The Dove | 287 . spitting water out of his mouth.” he concluded. The kids were running down to see the water. check this out.” she asked. grabbed a tarp and ran back.“So what do we do if we’re being followed? Right or left?” Ryan asked. She threw the tarp out on the water like a blanket. falling in the shallow water on his hands and knees.” she said.” Cherie ran up to the truck. can I take a look with your scope. Cherie called out. With a thoughtful look on her face. Jared followed.” Nicole yelled. let out a big sigh and walked down to join the group.” Jack said. lots of salt. Everyone turned to look. She jumped in the water splashing around. salt . where it floated on top of the salty liquid. “Just like Grandma Lil’s. as he put the scope away and walked down to the others. “I’ll be right back. Jack and Ryan both said. sure. “I don’t think it matters which way we go. “Oh yeah. who quickened his pace to catch up with Cherie. . Cherie recalled pictures of vacationers floating on the heavy salted waters of the Dead Sea. peering through his scope in both directions. Ryan looked both ways. “There’s nothing either way. “hey you guys. “Yuk!” he said. as they looked out in the water. “Ugh.
. “Yep! I had a hunch . “LET’S GO! THEY’RE COMING . . Nicole waded over in thigh high water. . climbed onto the tarp. annoyed at the suspense. She helped her brother up by pulling on his arm. sitting with a smile on her face. hey. . if these things are still following us. disappointed. “Ouch. . untying them as fast as he could.” Ryan assured her. they’re not going to stop. grabbing the tent. “So what. and nothing. . excitedly. His hands flew to the straps. “What?” Ryan said. a feeling.’ she paused to focus on the horizon. after taking the scope and following her directions. “See?” “No way!” he exclaimed. maybe a few of ’em. . “I just had a feeling . you know the way things have been going. . . .” She pointed straight out and handed Jack the scope. . but we’ll run out of gas and then wha . “Well.“It’s no use we already looked both ways . . a big island . I just had a thought and there it is .” Jack explained. She ignored them and peered through the scope out to sea. I have an idea!” Jack handed the scope to Ryan and turned running up to the truck. . Spar’s voice could be heard before he could be seen. . . Half way up the hill.” Jared cried out. right there. He tucked the loosened bundle up under his 288 | C. Jack continued running up the hill as fast as the sand would allow. He reached the truck. . It’s not like we can all sail there on a tarp” Ryan said. THE WHOLE ARMY! GO! GO! GO!” Everyone panicked. Jones . “An Island .
Jack noticed how exhausted Rogue and Jasmine were getting. The sound of creaking metal. as if there was a charge of dynamite below the surface. trying to hold on to the hysterical twins. The truck took flight straight up into the air. Brianna and the Royal Vision.arm and ran down the hill. Jack and Ryan could feel the immense power of the two little men. When he finished. Jared and Nicole were screaming uncontrollably. PSSSST! Ryan looked back at the sound. trying to comfort them. Spar and Gunther each grabbed a corner. More gogers burst out of the sand with mutated army men appearing over the hill. Jack’s tent carried the terrified trio of Gwendolyn. Jack looked at his family as his muscles engaged and he ran faster than ever before. landing in the sand behind the hill it had been parked on seconds before. then another. waiting. The sand blew straight up. Ryan followed Jack’s actions. . as he reached the water. The frightened group stood watching . PSSST! Another one evaporated. one on the tarp and the other on the tent. he looked back at the shore in time to see the first goger step into the water. Instantly it burst into a cloud of steam. unable to take their eyes off the hideous creatures. “GO!” he screamed. “GET ON!” Grabbing the far corner of the tent he pulled as hard as he could while wading through the thick water. . trying to swim in the heavy water. A ground shaking rumble could be heard. .” she whispered. . PSSST! The Dragon and The Dove | 289 . Cherie covered their eyes with shaking hands. then another and another. shhh. spreading the tent out like the tarp. scared out of her mind. Jack looked back just in time to witness the explosion. Jack couldn’t help but look back. He stopped long enough to help the dogs up on the tent. The Royal Vision. the boom of the collision as a monster unearthed itself from under the truck was deafening. “Shhh . Brianna and Gwendolyn sat helpless. pulling the tarp with Cherie. an all too familiar noise for Jack.
“Ha! Ha!” Jared said. with visions of a cool. They watched. . The sandy beach got smaller and smaller. feeling the exhaustion of the last few days sweep over them. he collapsed in exhaustion. Ryan finally gave in and climbed onto the tarp. we got this. as beast after beast walked into the water only to evaporate. Cherie looked up to identify the noise. . looking over at Gunther.” Ryan bit his tongue.“YES!” Jack yelled. 290 | C. and then disappear. take a load off. and when he did. with a tear stained face.” he said. Jones . but everyone felt the same relief and knew exactly how Ryan felt. Sitting back on his elbows. too. the swells got smoother and smoother. The entire group began to relax. “Hey. tropical vacation. Jack drifted off to sleep . . . jump on . . looking over at the kids. Jack scrambled onboard the tent. . The water was chest high to the two men. . “Take that you ugly ba . who gave a big smile. looking up at the sky. he watched the enormous army flood over the hill to walk right into the water like mindless zombies. loosening her grip on the kids. Spar could feel how tired they were.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?