Beyond the Attic

Here’s one I made earlier…. found this in my files, written before my last child was thought of, so pre 2012 sometime, maybe 2008, I made lots of edits to it after with the last in 2015 and sent it places where it sat ignored and possibly just as well. At any rate I would change much of it now, I am a different person and writer since then but it won’t be edited by me, I’m writing other things, so here it is, free to inspire others to create some art or a game. Social Media apps changed a lot since too since it was written, some are extinct. To my children on International Women’s Day 2023.

Prologue

“We are lost” she sobbed. “We are that” answered John. John and Margaret Byrne had been wandering around in circles for hours now. This woods just didn’t seem to end. What a nightmare! They were lost in a never ending forest with the sun quickly disappearing through the heavy canopy above them and all they had set out to do was go for a drive and talk things through. They were fighting all the time. It had to stop. John had asked Margaret to go for a drive because he always talked better while driving, looking out the window rather than at the person. He didn’t want to see her face as he told her he thought they should call it a day.

They went for a drive to a lake that they used to visit before they were married – off the main road down a dirt-track. John wondered why he had taken that road. This just made it harder. The memories of them laughing and giggling, of Margaret’s long auburn hair flowing down her slim back, her smiling brown eyes and the feeling of love came flooding back as he drove nearer to the lake.

Margaret was silent for most of the journey as he talked which he found very disturbing as she was never silent, always complaining and always interrupting. Today, she just let him talk. He talked of how disappointed he was in himself and his job and them. He felt they might be better off without each other and how it wasn’t good for the kids to see them fighting all the time.

Margaret didn’t know what to say. She was fed up with the rows, the no money and the drudgery of her life, working in a rubbish job, cleaning, cooking, washing, taking care of everyone. She had started and stopped writing her books so many times. It was like something or someone was trying to stop her writing. She often wondered were the characters running amok in her book world growing up without her. She supposed she had really been blaming John all these years and because she had never actually finished one of her books she was afraid to mention it to him that she yearned to return to her writing. He looked worn out and tired. He had been such a strong, handsome man when they met. His piercing blue eyes and chiseled features drew her to him the day they met. He made her laugh. An achievement as she was a serious girl.

When John was spent talking they drove in silence and he had found himself on this road to their lake and he didn’t know what to do. He just kept recalling the times there and how much he loved Margaret and he looked over at her and could see by her wistful smiles that she felt it too. No, it was best they gave up, she could go back to her books that he knew she wanted to finish and he could, he could… What could he do? He still had to work and he didn’t want to leave his family. Both Margaret and John were just about to speak and suggest they give it another go when a big cat had jumped out in front of them and when swerving to avoid it they had hit a tree.

They had woken up in this woods and were wandering in it ever since. They talked like they hadn’t talked in years, they cried, they laughed. They shouted and screamed and they walked but they couldn’t find a way out of the woods.

They were getting very tired when John spotted the big cat again and he ran after it with Margaret following. The cat disappeared as they reached a clearing which was furnished with two beds, a dressing table, a sink and a table with the reminents of a huge breakfast on it. How bizarre!

“That bed looks like Marks bed” said Margaret as John wandered over to the table to see if there was anything they could eat on it. John started and went over to the bed. He picked up the pillow and smelled it and started to cry while Margaret stood there in shock. This was all very strange and John never cried.

“Luke, Luke” called Margaret.
“Why are you calling Luke?”
“They must be here. Is that Mark humming?”
“Luke, Luke” John joined in.
“Jane, Luke, Mark”. No answer. They sat on the bed not knowing what to do.

Margaret thought she heard laughter and tipped John on the shoulder.
“Listen, it sounds like Mark and I hear a baby too.”
John stopped crying and listened. They looked at each other and they both ran towards the laughing. They arrived just in time to see their little red headed,frecklefaced impish eight year old with a baby in his arms and a beautiful tall exotic woman disappear before their eyes.

“Mark!” shouted Margaret
Mark turned around before disappearing and said
“ So there you are Mammy. Wait til I tell the others I have found you!” and then he was gone. John and Margaret were in shock. This was getting stranger and stranger and who was that woman! Where had she taken their son?

John and Margaret looked at each other in disbelief.
“You did see and hear him, didn’t you?” asked Margaret.
“Yes, but who was that woman with the baby and where did he go? Can we both have hallucinated?”
“It wasn’t an hallucination. Look at where we are now. This is really strange. Maybe we’re dreaming. We did get hit by a tree. Are we dead?”Margaret slapped John hard on the face. “Ouch, what did you do that for?” “Not dead so.” John glared at Margaret and went to grab her but she ran and he ran. They ran around the beds, the anger disappearing with each lap until finally collapsing in laughter on top of each other on a bed. “This is Jane’s bed!” exclaimed Margaret and jumped up as if she had been bitten.

“He said he was going to tell the others. They must be here too. Let’s look for them.”
They are not here John, they are wherever he was heading. I wish I was there too. I don’t understand. I am so afraid for them.”
“Me too, hey what’s happening?”
Mist had descended as Margaret finished her wish and while they were talking they found themselves on top of a mountain facing an horrendous looking creature.
“I’ve been expecting you. Where is it?”
“Where is what?” said Margaret. She was too shocked to notice she was speaking to a monster and hadn’t screeched when she saw it. She normally screeched at mice.
John looked at her incredulously.
“Margaret you are talking to a monster.”
“What? Oh yes. Aaaaargh” her screech was deafening and could be heard for miles.

Chapter 1

Mark and his brother Luke had waited at the school gates for what seemed like hours for their mother. Where was she? Their mother was usually standing at the gate waiting for them, glowering at them for dawdling, pushing the smallest one roughly towards the car muttering under her breath.
“Why does it always have to be you that’s the last one?”
“Can’t you see I’m in a hurry.”
“So much to do”.
Where was she now?

They waited and waited but there was still no sign of her.
“We’d better start walking I guess” said Luke running his hands through his blond hair. Mark ran out the gate and down the path, his fiery red hair glowing in the sunshine. They were like chalk and cheese these brothers. Luke shouted after him.
“Will you slow down? Watch the road. You’ll fall!”.
Luke wondered did she say she’d be late? He didn’t remember. Maybe he should have listened better this morning but she was ranting as usual, pushing Mark out the door. Luke was always ready on time. He preferred to walk to school on his own because then he didn’t have to listen to her and Mark.

They arrived at the house to the dog leaping around them in excitement. He was a good-humoured, crossbred brown and white spaniel with sheepdog with the unusual markings of what appeared to be brown spectacles over his eyes in his otherwise white face.
” Hiya Specs, who’s a good dog then?”. “MAM, MAM, where are you?” No answer.
How strange Luke thought. Her car is here. She must be inside. She can’t be with Dad as he is at work and anyway it is hardly likely they would go anywhere together these days. Luke went and rooted out the hidden house key from under the misplaced stone in the flowerbed where no one would ever find it thought Luke. “Duh!” “Duh what?” asked Mark absentmindedly as he rolled around with the dog. “Nothing. Shut Up.” Luke opened the door and marched in.

“Hello, Hello, HELLO MAM !” Still no answer.
“You look upstairs. I’ll check downstairs and in the garden. Her car is here”.
They searched to no avail. There wasn’t a sign of their mother and no note. This was just not like her at all. She was always there for them even when they didn’t want her to be!
The breakfast things were still on the table. She must have been in a hurry wherever she went. She was always in a hurry. Luke made them banana sandwiches and he sat down to do his homework.
“Do your homework Mark.”
“Later, I’m going outside to play with the dog”.
Luke finished his homework and went outside with his light saber.
“Lets play with the light sabers Mark”.
“Ok, I’m a sith!! Beware!!”.

The school bus pulled up at the gate and Jane got off waving and smiling at her friends on the bus. She crossed the road, flicking her long auburn hair and walked into the house ignoring the boys cries of “Hello”.
“Mam, you have no idea how much I have to do and I have my piano lesson at 7.”
“Mam. MAM!!!” No answer.
She went back out to the lads. “Where’s Mam? “.
“Dunno” “We had to walk home.”
“I’m ringing her. Where the hell is she? Why’s her car here?”
Jane rang her Mams mobile. It didn’t even go to message minder. Switched off.
“For God’s sake!!!”
Jane rang her Dads mobile, message minder… ” Ahhh”
“Dad where’s Mam? I need to get to piano. God. We have such hopeless parents. They forget everything.”

Jane put pasta on the cooker to boil, well somebody has to feed everyone she thought. She went off to practice her music. The boys came in and switched on the television. ” Turn that down, I’m practicing”. ” We’re hungry”. ” Pity about ye. I’ve pasta on. It’ll be ready in a bit. Set the table”. When the pasta was cooked. Jane took out a bottle of ketchup and handed it around as the boys groaned at her. “What!! I don’t know what to cook. Mam didn’t leave anything out. Get it in ya!”. They ate and walked away from the table. Luke checked the time. Dad should be home soon. He rang his mobile. Message minder. ” What the hell!! “.

Time passed. Music lessons were missed. The homework was done, supper was eaten and the boys headed to bed.
“Say your own prayers. I’m busy” said Jane from the computer.
“Busy on Bebo” muttered Luke.
“Goodnight. Tell Mam we were really worried when she gets in.”

Alice her aunt rang. ” Hi Jane. Been trying to get your mam all day, is she there? “
“No” Dad isn’t home yet either and he isn’t answering his phone.”
“Probably working late. Did you leave him a message?”
“Yeah. Tons. I’m worried about Mam. This is so not like her. Her car is here. How is that?”
“Hmmm. Are you ok or will I send Amy over to stay with you?”
“Ah no, I’m grand. We’re all fed, the boys are in bed and I’m heading to bed soon. They’ll both probably come in soon enough. Maybe she told me what was on and I can’t remember. Some course or something maybe…Goodnight Alice.”
“Night Jane, keep me posted and if you want us to come over…”
“Nah its ok. I’m used to babysitting.”

This is getting weirder and weirder thought Jane. And Dad isn’t home…. God did they have a fight. Has he killed her? Has she killed him? Have they ran away from us? Has somebody kidnapped them? Stop it Jane you are being silly. They’ll be in soon. Should I ring the police? Oh I’ll go to bed they’ll probably roll in the door together all happy and merry. She often wondered who was the adult in her house.

Chapter 2

Jane lay awake worrying while Mark slept soundly. Luke drifted in and out of sleep dreaming vividly.
Voices calling from the dark. Is that Mam? Dad? Where are you? How can I find you? They are so far away.
Who is that shadow over there? Why is he asking me to follow? Where is he going? I can’t catch him. So far away.
Jane playing the harp in a flowing gown. Why is she dressed like that ? She looks like a princess or goddess or something.
Mark swinging his light saber around running around and around the dining room table. He looks so small. I need to protect him. He trusts everyone too much.
Why are they not looking for Mam and Dad? Have to do it on my own.

“Luke, Luke wake up” Luke woke to Jane shaking the life out of him..
“Its 7am. They never came home. I have to ring the police. We have to find Mam and Dad. This is crazy.”
Luke jumped down from the top bunk and Jane and He went downstairs. Mark slept soundly. Jane rang 999.
“Hello. I’d like to report two missing persons. My Mam and Dad are missing. Nobody has seen them since yesterday. We’re really worried. I’m scared.”
” Slow down miss and start from the beginning. When did you last see them?”

Jane rang her aunt Alice who immediately got into her car and drove over. The police were also on the way over to the house. They arrived at the same time. Luke and Mark were sitting in their pyjamas eating cereal. Luke looking anxiously from guard to Jane to Alice, Mark swinging his legs humming to himself. Alice was whispering with Jane. Luke was extremely worried. What had happened to his parents? Were they ok? Were they hurt? Who would take care of them. He looked over at Mark. Mark was blissfully unaware, curiously looking at the strangers who had taken over the house.
” So are we not going to school then? ” When nobody answered Mark he ran off to play the Wii. Luke went upstairs and dressed and went out to walk the dog. Nobody noticed him and nobody noticed him return an hour later.

Relations and neighbours started filling the house. So many people. The police were talking to everyone individually. The day went by fast as the same questions are asked over and over and nobody seemed to be making any effort to go find the children’s parents. Lunch and Dinner passed. Their aunt Alice put out food automatically for them and never noticed the nearly full plates being left on the ground for the dog. Evening came and still no news of their parents. Why was that policeman rooting in mam’s writing desk? “Leave that alone. No one gets to touch that!” Luke shouted. Jane looked over, noticing him for the first time in a while. She strolled over and shut the desk in front of the policeman, took the key out and walked away, staring at him all the time. The policeman angry but with little to say stormed out of the room.
“Luke, pack a bag for you and Mark. We’re going to stay with Alice tonight.”
“Ok”.

Luke went upstairs and started packing. How much do I pack? Will they be back tonight? Will they ever be back? Who will mind the animals?
The cat was purring around his legs. She was a beautiful cat. Mainly white with red and black patches and the softest fur. He absentmindedly picked her up and sat down on the bed petting her.

“Luke, Luke” .
“Mam, is that you? Where are you?”
“Luke, Luke”
” Dad? I can hear you. Where are you?”.
He opened the attic door in his room. Whats that light at the end of the passage?. Mark wandered in to the room, humming loudly.
“Mark get Jane. Quietly tell her to come up here, quickly now.”
Mark bounded loudly down the stairs and roared “Jane. Jane. Luke needs you” .
” God can he never do what he’s asked?”

Jane stomped up the stairs.
“Can he not even pack a stupid bag without looking for help. God where are they?” “What do you want Luke?”
Mark came running up behind her.
“Ssshhh, Come here. Look in here”.
They went over and popped their heads in. ” What’s that light?”
“I dunno. And I heard Mam and Dad calling me from in here”.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Come on we have to check”.
“Ok”.
Luke walked in first. Jane followed, dragging Mark by the hand. The cat wandered in after them and the door closed. The light at the end grew brighter and brighter and they all heard their parents calling.
“Jane, Luke, Mark”.
They moved as fast as they could towards the light. There was a bright flash and they all fell to the ground.

Alice heard a bang from upstairs and went up to investigate. Specs was scratching at the attic door.
“What’s the matter boy?” said Alice as she opened the door.
She screamed. A policeman bounded up the stairs two steps at a time. Alice just stood there pointing in at the three lifeless bodies in front of her while the policeman called an ambulance and pulled the children out of the attic onto the bedroom floor. He instructed Alice to get help from downstairs as he then began CPR on Jane. More police and ambulance men came up the stairs and Alice watched as the bedroom changed from a normal boys messy room to a makeshift emergency room. While the children appeared to be breathing they never woke.

Later on Alice sat in the hospital room with the children. What is happening here? Why won’t they wake up? They had eaten. She saw to that. Where are their parents gone? Part of her was not in the slightest surprised as her sister was living in her own world, starting and never finishing books, absently referring to her characters in conversations as if they were real while not noticing the children wearing odd socks, staring into space in the middle of a conversation, worrying about saving the world and unable to cope with ‘the drudgery’ that she called normal life. She couldn’t just get on with it like the rest of us. Always looking for ‘a better way’. As for that husband of hers, he was another that lived in his own head, obsessing about history events long past. She wouldn’t be surprised if they were off on one of their quests around the country looking for ancient dwellings or tombs and completely forgetting their responsibilities. She chided herself then as she knew they were loving parents and that while she would never understand them they did love their children and their children loved them. That was probably what was holding them together in this miserable recession. So many families had broken up because of it and she knew John and Margaret were struggling. But where had they gone? As for her nephews and nieces, they were so like their parents she worried about them. Thankfully Jane seemed to have abandoned the incessant fairy talk and obsession with witches and wizards and was entering the real world since secondary school but the boys and their knights and dragons and what not and encyclopaedic knowledge of their subjects of interest, Egypt, Legends was embarrassing. Why couldn’t they play football like everybody else instead of chasing each other around the garden with lit up sticks? She looked at their peaceful comatose bodies and promised herself to play a bigger part in their lives when this was all over, when they wake up, if they wake up!

Chapter 3

Mark jumped up. How did they get into this forest? They were in the attic a minute ago. He shook Luke and Jane.
“Wake up. Wake up. Where are we? I can’t hear Mam or Dad anymore? Where are they? Where has the attic gone?”.
The cat sat watching them quietly, almost knowingly, as they stretched themselves awake. “Ouch. What was that for? shouted Luke.
“Just checking it isn’t a dream” said Jane.
“Why didn’t you pinch yourself so?”
” Didn’t want to hurt myself.”
Luke ran at her and jumped on her and they rolled in the moss.
“Ahem. We need to move on now. No time to waste.” said the cat.
Mark looked over, grinning from ear to ear. “Whoaa. This is better than Narnia. Our own cat is speaking!! Hello Puss. How’s it going?”
“Actually, my name is Manaar. I wish you could have been a bit more imaginative in your naming of me. I don’t appreciate being called Puss.”
“Sorry, but we didn’t know.” said Jane. ” OMG, I’m talking to a cat!!”
She pinched herself. “Ouch”.
“Thought you didn’t want to hurt yourself” said Luke.
Mark sniggered. Of all three, he seemed to be the less put out by this experience.
“So, Manaar.” He rolled the vowels on his tongue examining them as he spoke. “What’s next? Have we an adventure to go on?” he said with delight.
“You could say that. A quest of sorts. Unfortunately it will not be like Supermario. You do not have many lives just the one and there are many dangers. Fortunately, you have me.”

Luke looked at the cat and wondered how in the world a cat would be of any great help.
“You’d be surprised” said Manaar. “Where we are going I will be the best help you could get.”.
Luke looked at the cat in amazement. How did the cat hear what he was thinking?
“That’s not my only talent you know”.
Jane looked over at Luke and grinned. “Ooh the cat’s in your head!”
“Tell me what he thinks of Gillian” she said to Manaar.
“It seems he likes her. However, we are not here to amuse ourselves. We must get on with our quest.”
“Can you hear the others thoughts too?” asked Luke.
“No. I am your guide and am therefore linked to you only.”
“What about us? Do we not have any guides?” asked Mark pouting as he crossed his arms and looked like he was about to blow a fuse.
” You my dear are not ready yet. This is Luke’s task. You have some journey to go before you are ready.”
“What about me?” said Jane.
“Darling Jane, you need time to remember”.
“Now we must sleep as we have long and difficult times ahead.”
Manaar stretched herself and lay down on the moss and went to sleep. The children looked at her and at each other.
” And how are we to sleep here?” asked Jane. “In the middle of a forest with no bed, blankets or anything and who knows what nasty creatures are here. This is a nightmare! I want to go home. I wish I had my own bed”.
She looked around her and to her amazement her own bed was there in front of her. “Cool” said Mark. Never one to miss a trick he figured out what had happened immediately. “I wish I had my own bed too and a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows for everyone (he always thought of the others, whatever else Mark was he was kind and shared) and……. I wish I could hear Mammy’s voice reading me a story”.
He whispered the last bit as he didn’t want his brother and sister to see just how lonely he was. His bed appeared and a table with three hot chocolates on it and an iPod. The iPod was playing. It was his mother reading “The little Prince”. Oh how he loved that story.

“If this is a Wishing Wood, I WISH THIS ALL NEVER HAPPENED!” shouted Luke into the air at no one in particular. Manaar jumped and landed on Luke. “There was no need for that. You are always waking me out of my slumber. You cannot wish it all never happened. Firstly it is over, it happened and secondly your parents made it happen and are still creating it. You just answered their call for help to find them. Now let me sleep, there’s a good lad.” She jumped back down and settled herself again in the moss. Luke went very quiet and Mark placed a Hot Chocolate in his hand. The children wandered over to the table and sat down drinking quietly.

Luke and Mark climbed into bed together. “Why did you not wish for your bed Luke?”
“Thought you might want me to sleep with you tonight Mark”said Luke as he put his arms around his younger brother and watched him drift off to sleep.
He looked across at Jane. She was brushing her hair at a dressing table while a sink and her toothbrush appeared beside her.
” Jane, remember what Daddy says..Be careful what you wish for. It might just happen.. ” said Luke.
She glared at him and stuck out her tongue. He grinned at her and closed his eyes.

Jane cleaned her make up off, washed her teeth and went to bed eventually, about an hour after the boys had fallen asleep. She looked around the woods and wondered to herself why she wasn’t scared in a dark woods and why she wasn’t as surprised as she should be. If she told anyone this when she got home they would think she was crazy. When she got home. “Will we get home?”. Manaar opened her eyes, stretched and walked slowly over to Jane’s bed. She jumped up on the bed and made herself comfortable beside Jane and went to sleep. Jane rubbed the cat and smiled and closed her eyes. She couldn’t believe how tired she was.

Chapter 4

Luke woke early the next morning. He loosened Mark’s grip on his arm and slid out from beneath his sleeping brother who looked particularly small today. He wandered over to look at his sister sleeping peacefully and for a split second felt all was well with the world until he remembered they were in a woods in the middle of nowhere with their parents missing in action and accompanied by a talking cat. Where was that cat anyway? She was nowhere to be seen.

His tummy let a rumble and he remembered he could wish for food so he wished for a big breakfast for all of them and table and chairs appeared with plates of sausages, eggs, beans, rashers and potato bread steaming sitting on top of the table. Each plate had more of what each child preferred. Glasses of juice and a pot of tea were also on the table. Mark woke up, grabbed his new iPod, shoved it in his pocket, ran to the table and sat down. Jane stretched slowly and went over to the table. Manaar, who seemed to have grown during the night to the size of an eleven year old boy, strolled in from the woods, sat up at the table with a plate of rashers and sausages too. Nobody noticed or if they did they didn’t say anything.

They ate in silence. Manaar coughed and then spoke to the children.
“Your father and mother have lost their way. It is your quest to find them and guide them back to the right path. I have been sent to bring you on the first step of the journey. We are to journey to the temple of Bast. Luke and I will lead and Jane and Mark will follow.” Jane was not happy. ” Why should Luke lead. I am the eldest. I should lead.”
” As I said last night Jane. Your task at this time is to remember. This is a quest for Luke. He will need your support but ultimately this is his task.”
Mark sulked and stuck his tongue out at the big cat thinking she wouldn’t see him.
“Mark, you have much to learn at this time. You need to listen and learn for a bit.”
Mark continued sulking with his arms folded. Manaar ignored him.
” Have you heard of Bast?”
Luke, who had a great interest in ancient Egypt along with Star Wars, Harry Potter, Ancient Celtic Warrior tales and Dragons, he loved Dragons, spoke up.
” Bast is a feline goddess. The protector of Ra.”
“What’s a feline?” asked Mark.
“I am” said Manaar as she transformed in front of their eyes into a being that was part cat part human.
“Neat” said Mark. Luke groaned. Jane stared in disbelief.
“It’s rude to stare” said Manaar.
” The cat can look at the queen” retorted Jane. They all laughed.
“Enough” said Manaar when they appeared to have no intention of stopping and Mark’s snorts were getting unbearable for the feline. “We have a journey to make so when you are quite ready we will be off.”
A grey mist descended and just as their eyes were adjusting to it, it lifted again to reveal that they were no longer in the woods but in the desert. This is really getting freaky thought Jane. I must be still dreaming. She pinched herself hard on the arm.
“Ouch”. Manaar looked over at her.
“Still don’t believe it Jane?, It’s your age. You will soon adjust”.
Mark ran off up the biggest sand dune as fast as he could, slipping down as fast as he went up, laughing and chuckling to himself as he rolled down the hill. He was as carefree as ever, seemingly having forgotten why they were stuck out in the desert.
Luke was walking silently beside Manaar.
“Where are we? ” he thought.
“Don’t you recognise it Luke? We are in Egypt. We have to get council from the goddess Bast to help us find your parents. You are going to have to be clever and wise Luke.” “No pressure, eh?” thought Luke. Manaar and Luke continued to converse silently through their thoughts while Jane slowly followed them bewildered and Mark bounded on ahead.

Chapter 5

They seemed to have traveled for miles and Mark had ceased bounding in front of the others over an hour ago. He was now dragging behind whinging.
“Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Argh I am so tired. I am going to die.”
“Well, certainly you’ll die Mark” said Manaar.
“That’s the only thing you can be certain of, but your time is not now, you have miles to go before you sleep!! Hee hee.”
“You are not a bit funny you know” said Jane.
“As funny as you all are, I am” said Manaar. ” Listening to your wit for years I am”.
Luke responded with “Oh the force is with you alright!! Seriously though Manaar we need to rest and eat. Time to stop for a while”
“Well you only had to say. As this is your quest, we had to wait for you to decide when to stop you know.”
Mark who couldn’t bear the fact that even out of his own world Luke was getting picked first shouted “Argh” again and ran at the feline/girl with his fist in the air.
Manaar pounced on him and held him down.
“You really need to manage your temper Mark. Your fuse is way too short. Get a longer one.”
She sat on his tummy and started to groom herself slowly while he struggled to get out from under her. Eventually he calmed down.
“There now” said Manaar as she stretched herself and stood up. “Let’s eat.”.
” Let’s eat what?” said Jane.” I have tried wishing for pizza and it hasn’t arrived”.
” No, your wishes don’t work here, only in the in between woods. I was thinking of eating over there with those Bedouin I am sure if you ask nicely they will share.”
The children turned and looked at a caravan approaching them. Where had it come from?

Luke walked up to the leader and under Manaar’s instructions greeted him, asking for water and food. While he thought he was speaking English his words were deconstructing in the air before him and reappearing in the language of the Bedouin before him. He wondered if everyone else could see this happening or was it just him until he spotted Mark who had appeared by his side reaching for words and moving the letters around. The Bedouin leader was about to pull his saber sword out of its sheath when Manaar quickly pulled Mark down and sat on him again and the words reformed as they were intended. Luke glared at Mark.

Once introductions were over and pleasantries dealt wit the leader, Yosef invited them to join their caravan as they were on their way to the temple too. He said an Oasis was just over the next dune and they would camp there for the night. The children could camp with them. The children found it strange that the Bedouin didn’t seem at all surprised to see three European children with a catwoman out in the desert. Luke looked over at Manaar.
” Well you have been expected for such a long time I suppose.” she thought.
Luke looked at her startled. This was getting weirder and weirder

The caravan stopped at the Oasis and the children pitched in with the others in getting the camp ready and the food cooked. Manaar watched them in amusement. They found it very difficult to help out at home with their parents and yet here they were automatically helping. Surprises never cease. Luke glared at her. Hmmm seems he was getting too good at reading her thoughts.
“Well”, she thought. “Its true isn’t it. Think about it.”
” I know” said Luke “It’s just its so easy to just let them do everything”.
“What are you talking about?” said Jane. Luke hadn’t realised he had spoken out loud.
“I was thinking about Mam and Dad “
“Oh” said Jane.
” I am so worried about them” said Mark. “Will we ever see them again?”
The other two were startled at this, Mark always seemed to be in his own little world, oblivious to all that was going on around him and so far had just seemed to be enjoying this adventure. It seems he had been aware all along. How often did he just pretend to not notice things?
“It’s a self-protection thing” thought Manaar.
“I see that now” thought Luke. “I just thought he was a twit.”
” Explains why you are so impatient with him” thought Manaar. Luke glared at her again. She smiled, knowing he would mull over her words as he always did when someone said something he wasn’t completely happy to hear. He liked to understand and thought things through more than most at his age.

The rest of the evening passed very pleasantly. They ate in the largest tent with the tribe all sitting in a circle. The food was laid out on spotless shining metal plates on the carpet and everyone used the flat bread to scoop it up. It was really quite delicious. Yosef spoke with Luke about the temple and the goddess Bast. He instructed him on how to approach the temple and how to speak to her. The children slept together in one of the tents after talking to each other in whispers about the tribe and their way of life. It all seemed so peaceful and happy yet there were very few of the comforts of home there. In the morning they helped with breakfast and tidying up the camp and they went with the caravan to find the temple of Bast.

Chapter 6

The journey with the Bedouin was a pleasant one. They were friendly, kind and happy people. Jane was constantly being amazed at how happy they were with so little. Oh they weren’t living in the past. They had Ipods and smartphones but they were content moving in a caravan, living in tents, not having wardrobes of clothes or shoes and no pizzas!!

Mark just loved the camels. Now they were his type of animal. They were huge, bumpy and smelly, stubborn and rude. They farted and spat all the time with no one giving out to them. He especially enjoyed riding on them. Beats walking in sand and the one he was riding seemed to have taken a shine to him. He kept licking him. If his parents were here with him this would be heaven. He really missed his mothers hugs and kisses and he would have loved to have shared his camel ride with his dad. His dad would just love this just like him. He missed them so much, but he didn’t want to think about it so he put his arms around the camels neck and let him lick him again.

Luke was watching Mark all this time. If he hadn’t heard him last night he would have thought that Mark was as usual his blissfully unaware of everyone around him self but he knew better now and he had noticed his young brother holding back his tears. He wanted to hug him. He was glad that Mark’s camel was so friendly.
His one, on the other hand, was doing his best to get him off and he farted the smelliest farts ever. It was really quite disgusting. Luke decided he would never complain about his fathers farts again now that he had smelled this toxic potion.
“Wow” he thought. ” I forgot why I was here for a moment”.

“That’s alright you know Luke” said Manaar. “It is ok to enjoy the moment. Worrying never added a day to your life. We will deal with things as they come, together.”
Luke smiled. He didn’t think he would but he liked having this connection with Manaar. He had felt it disturbing at first and it still was a bit but it made him feel less lonely and gave him confidence to keep going. He still didn’t know quite what this quest was but he trusted the cat that he had frequently voiced his worries and upsets to while he pet her at home. She had always been a comfort to him.
“Nice to know” thought Manaar. Luke shot her an angry look.
“Maybe you could try not listening to my thoughts all the time” he said. She laughed.
“That’s my boy” she thought as he glared at her yet again.

Although they traveled for many hours, because of the company it passed quickly for the children. They soon saw the Nile in front of them and the caravan followed its course to the temple.
“Can you believe we are seeing the Nile, Luke? ” said Mark. He knew how much Luke loved everything about Egypt, especially all the stories about the Nile. Luke was amazed but he didn’t reply as he was staring at the city and temple they were approaching.

It appeared to be on an island with two separate wide channels approaching it from the Nile and running round it. The channels were overshadowed by trees. The temple was in the centre of the city with the city looking down on it. A stone wall with carvings was surrounding it and large trees were around a huge shrine with the image of the goddess Bast on it. He looked over at Manaar. The image was just like her. Manaar smiled.

The group moved slowly. All the nattering and chatting had ceased and everyone walked reverently towards the Temple. There were cats of all sizes, breeds and colours walking serenely around the place, ignoring the caravan as if it were as small and insignificant as a trail of worker ants out gathering for their queen. Cats lay sprawled out in the sunshine, licking themselves, purring and stretching. “Cat heaven” said Mark. “Indeed” said Manaar.

Luke was getting nervous. He didn’t know what to expect. Manaar exchanged looks with him.
“You will be fine. Just say and do what your heart tells you to. Remember always to be true to yourself and stop worrying about what others think.”
That hit a nerve with the boy. He was a sensitive lad and was always aware of how others perceived him, of doing the expected thing.
His mother was always telling him to “Stop worrying. That’s my job. I’m the parent. You need to just “Be” for now”. Easier said than done.

They had arrived at the Temple entrance without him even noticing it and everyone had stopped. What were they all staring at? He followed their gaze and gasped. There in front of him on the Throne was the most enormous black cat with shiny silky fur and blazing green eyes staring straight at him.

But that was not what had made him gasp. Everyone was staring at the painted murals on the wall. They stretched right around the room and started with three children lifeless in what appeared to be an attic, a forest with beds in it and children eating at a table, a tent with a group of people eating and three children in the midst of them, a caravan moving through the desert with the same three children. The children looked exactly like them.

The older girl appeared to be about fifteen with long brown hair and piercing blue eyes. The younger boy of about eight had wiry red hair and freckles and the older boy was Luke, an eleven year old boy with blond hair and translucent white skin with the same piercing eyes as his siblings. This was not even what had made him gasp although it was disturbing.

It was the final picture, the one behind the throne, of Luke flying through the air on a Dragon with a spear in his hand, going straight into the path of the most enormous three-headed scale monsterlike creature you could ever imagine.

Chapter 7

The silence was deafening. The group began to get very uncomfortable. Mark started to fidget first, moving from foot to foot and biting his nails. The Feline snarled at Mark and jumped down from the throne changing as she jumped into a tall beautiful dark-skinned woman. She reached the boy so fast he hadn’t time to blink. She slapped his hand down from his mouth.
“Stop biting your nails” she snarled at him.
He gasped and stood staring at her for the longest silent non-moving moment of his life.

Jane was examining the pictures on the walls. She couldn’t believe the accuracy of the depiction of their last actions but she was more interested in the future ones. The pictures of the events that hadn’t happened yet were changing, fading and becoming clearer as they looked around .

The beautiful woman turned away from Mark and stood in front of the group.
“I am Bast, Goddess protector and avenger, Eye of Ra. Welcome to my home.”
Manaar bowed down in front of the Goddess and signaled to the others to do the same which they quickly did, Mark being the first to react.
“Oh honourable Goddess we request your help in finding the parents of these children, they are lost” said Manaar.
“Indeed” said the Goddess “They have been lost for quite some time if you ask me.”
She laughed and the children all looked at each other in astonishment. How could she laugh? Their parents were gone, maybe dead, they were on their own in a strange land and the person/thing that was supposed to help them was laughing at them! Jane shouted at the Goddess.
“It’s not funny! Are you going to help us or not? Are we wasting our time?”
Manaar let out a gasp. She couldn’t believe the child would be so disrespectful to a powerful Goddess. This wasn’t going at all well.

Bast looked at Jane and walked around her, studying her.
“Feisty aren’t we?”she said. “That’s what I like. No ‘Yes’ women wanted here. Yes I suppose it seemed heartless to you that I laughed at your predicament. Really I wasn’t trying to make fun of you. I meant that your parents have lost their way in life a long time ago. In fact this is possibly the best thing ever to have happened to them because we can now bring them back on the right path.”
The children were very puzzled by this but said nothing as the Goddess was quite frightening and Jane was still shivering after her own outburst. What was she thinking. This Goddess could have killed them all.

Luke spoke to the Goddess, much more reverently than his sister had
“Your highness” he said, bowing to the Goddess, “please can you help us find our parents and please could you explain to us what is going on in those pictures and why are they changing and why am I on a dragon fighting a huge beast in the last one?”
Bast crossed over to Luke and walked around him examining him.
“ You are puny aren’t you? This will be difficult.”
Luke found it difficult to not react to her as Jane did earlier. He clenched his fists. She turned and walked slowly back to her throne and sat down.

“ Well now, I better explain.” she said. “ As you can see from the pictures, the past is as it is, it is over. No point thinking about it. The future is as it will be, no point thinking about that either” she said as she lifted her hand and pointed at the picture behind her head. “ Now the present is where we are at and what we do now is very important.”
Jane was staring at the picture behind the Goddess.
“ Are you saying that no matter what path we take Luke has to fight that beast?”
“My dearest Jane, we all have to fight our beast”.

“No!! I won’t allow it” said Jane. “ He is my little brother, I won’t let him go. We will find help to save our parents somewhere else”.
“Impossible” roared the woman changing back into the enormous cat and landing in front of Jane. She paced up and down in front of the girl.
“You are very obstinate. I think I will change you into a cat and keep you here to serve me. That would teach you manners.”
Jane shivered. The cat changed back into a woman
“He must do it. It is his destiny. That beast has your parents and it also has the book. We need the book back or the world will not survive and then nobody will worry about your parents.”
“What book?” asked Luke.
“The manuscript you mother has with her. We need it”
“I don’t understand” said Luke. “What manuscript?”
“You will.” said the Goddess.
“No! No! No!” said Jane. “He can’t go. I won’t allow it. I will go. It’s too dangerous.” “Take her away” roared the Goddess and two cats strolled forward, transformed into soldiers and grabbed Jane kicking and screaming. Mark screamed and ran at the Goddess.
“You can go too!!” she yelled and he was dragged off after Jane.

Luke and Manaar looked at each other and squirmed. “Well you may squirm” said the Goddess. “This is not the way I imagined it!”.
“What do we do, your Majesty?” said Manaar.
“Well first this puny one must get some power. We must bring him to the Pyramid.”
“Yes, your Majesty” said Manaar and went to bring Luke with her. “I’m not going anywhere” snarled Luke. “Where have you taken my brother and sister? How do I know you are not just going to kill them and me and eat us for supper?” Manaar gasped and Luke heard her thinking – Oh oh, you’re in for it now. Bast does not take kindly to being questioned. Your brother and sister are safer here than coming with us, they will be fed and minded and you won’t have the problem of watching out for them on our quest. Luke was about to reply in his own thoughts when Bast interrupted their silent conversation.
“Good question, excellent. Loyalty will stand to you, a great quality when it is placed correctly. You’re siblings are a bit too volatile for this adventure but don’t worry they will be safe and if it is any consolation I don’t eat Humans. Have a look on the wall there to see them if you don’t believe me.”

Luke looked over at an image of his sister and brother. They were locked in a cell alright but it was not as he had imagined a prison to be. They had everything they could want and they were safe. He looked over at Manaar and said. “Let’s get on with it. I trust this Pyramid won’t be my final resting place.” “Wit as well” said Bast before Manaar could answer. “No, you have to earn the right to have a Pyramid as your tomb. Off you go now. I have some grooming to do.” Manaar and Luke wandered off with Manaar reassuring her friend that everything would work out. Yosef and some of his men requested to join Luke on his quest and Bast agreed. They waited for his return.

Chapter 8

Manaar and Luke set off for the Pyramid together in silence. Luke was thinking about Dragons and Monsters and wondering how he ever had actually thought that flying on a dragon and fighting monsters would be fun. How ridiculous was he? He most certainly wasn’t looking forward to it now. Manaar laughed. “Its all fun and games, til someone loses an eye eh Luke?” Luke’s father always said that when one or other of them came in crying from a battle wound from one of their many war games. “Were you eavesdropping all the time then?” asked Luke. “ Not eavesdropping, observing and learning” said Manaar sulking. “I thought you slept most of the time. Not sure if I should trust you at all.” “I’m sorry you feel that way but there is little we can do about it now. You are here now and we have to work at getting your parents. Who else are you going to trust here?” “I guess I have no choice. Lead on.” The silence returned.

They entered the Pyramid and Manaar brought Luke to the centre of it and lay him on the Altar. He put a gold Torc necklace on him with a crystal in the centre of it. “ What is this for?” “ We are going to charge you up like a Duracell Bunny” said Manaar, her witty humour unfortunately returning. “It is vital that you get the energy of the pyramid so that you can fight your battle Luke, now sleep.” Luke snorted, “Like I can sleep now, yeah right” as he closed his eyes and snored while Manaar watched over him. The blue light that glowed from the crystal grew brighter and brighter. Manaar could see the web of lines connecting the light and the pyramid but then Manaar is a cat.

While Luke slept, he dreamt. He dreamed of Bast instructing him on his quest. He looked at a map with her and as she talked each place revealed itself to him in and the perils that awaited him were made known. All the while he sensed the presence of someone watching over him and urging him to listen and watch intently. He felt he knew this presence, had felt it before. He did as he was urged. He listened and watched as Bast outlined all that he had to do, where to go and who to trust. All the while Manaar watched over him.

When Luke awoke he felt full of energy and ready to walk ten thousand miles if needed. He remembered dreaming of Bast and feeling that stranger was with him again but he really couldn’t remember what the dream was about. He just knew that he had to head north west out of Africa, up through Spain to the Pyrenees where he would then find something he was looking for but he didn’t know what. He also knew that if they went to the woods again they would get there faster. He looked at Manaar. “Yes, we will go to the woods. Yosef and his men are coming too.”

Yosef, and his warrior men, for that’s how they now looked to Luke, were waiting for him. They had gathered all the supplies they could in the short time Luke had been gone and were ready for action. Manaar instructed all of them to close their eyes and of course when they opened them they were yet again in the wood. Luke was not surprised. He was getting used to everything being like a crazy dream or fantasy movie. The other men were amazed. “ We heard of this but no matter how we tried we could not get here” said Yosef. “Too much trying, makes hard work” said Manaar. “ Now ask for what you need for the journey to the mountains and you will receive”. They did as instructed and packed their supplies and were just about to ask when they could leave for the mountains when Manaar said “ Now we eat and sleep.” Luke could not believe his ears. “ We can’t, we have to go, my family are imprisoned and in danger and I need to get this over and done with and get home”. “ You can’t go anywhere until I say” said Manaar and she stretched out, transformed into her domestic feline shape again, chased and killed an unsuspecting rabbit nearby, ate and went to sleep.

Luke couldn’t believe it. Yosef had asked for food in the meantime and called him over to join them. “ We have an arduous journey and dangerous battle ahead. Eat and be strong” he instructed Luke. Luke could do nothing but obey.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I mean prison, Mark and Jane paced up and down their opulent cell in silence. Jane was thinking of her brother Luke and what was before him. She worried for him. Why could she not do it instead of him. Of course she was still finding it extremely difficult to believe anything that was happening and was secretly waiting to wake up from this nightmare.
She heard her mother’s voice saying “Don’t forget the magic of childhood darling in your eagerness to grow up, plenty of time for the worries of adult life, enjoy the freedom of play while you can”. God that had always irritated her. She wasn’t a child anymore, games were silly and she couldn’t wait until she could leave home, own her own place, get a job, get a life! She moaned.
“Are you ok, Jane?” said Mark.
“Oh, just thinking about Mam”.
“Yeah, I know” said Mark. “ I wish she was here, she’d know what to do, she always does.”
“God, that must be hard, always being the one with the answers, what a weight. I never thought about it before” said Jane.
“Oh, Mam doesn’t mind. She loves us” said Mark matter of factly. “I think I know how to get out”
“ How, Oh My God, How?” said Jane.
“ Well, you see that statue over there”
“Yeah, so”
“Well, that’s Isis. She is a very powerful goddess, is a mother and the goddess of children and nature and magic.”
“Looks a bit like Mary and the baby Jesus” said Jane, examining the statue that she hadn’t even noticed earlier. “Anyway, how is spouting your knowledge of Egyptian Goddesses going to get us out?”
“ She’s a mam! She knows everything! We just have to ask her.”
“ You are unbelievable Mark! Grow up! Such nonsense!”
“No, you are unbelievable, we heard mam and dads voices, collapsed in a cupboard, woke up in a forest where we could get whatever we asked for, traveled to Egypt, talked to cats and still you don’t believe in magic! You are unbelievable Jane, what happened to you? You were the one who used to get us to write to the fairies and search for their houses and leave things out for them”
Jane looked in amazement at Mark. How did he remember that? He was only little when she did that. Oh that was such fun. Why did she stop? Oh yeah. “They stopped writing back” she said.
“Maybe they were busy with other little children.” said Mark. “You always want everything for yourself”
“ Shut up, you are so annoying, I hate you” said Jane and she stormed off to the other side of the room.
“That is not a nice thing to say to your brother, young lady ” said a voice not unlike her mothers but with a funny accent and an air of authority that frightened her.
She turned around and saw the statue stand up. “Hush baby” she said as she rocked her infant in her arms. “The bold children have stopped fighting now and are ready to listen”.
“I wasn’t fighting” said Mark grumpily.
The Goddess ignored him and talked to Jane. “ Apologise to your brother. Words said in anger can cause great damage.”
Jane looked at the now animated statute in disbelief but did exactly as she was told.
“I’m sorry, Mark, I didn’t mean it, I’m just so worried and I don’t know what to do”
“ That’s ok, Jane, you don’t have to know, we have the ultimate Mam here now to help” said Mark cheerfully.
Isis leaned over and pulled the door off the hinges. She had the strength of an army. She picked Mark up and kissed him. “ You are a funny little creature” she said. “ I enjoy watching you, you will be a great warrior yet”.
Mark blushed but he was quite happy to have a cuddle, he missed his mother’s cuddles.
“So now, tell me everything and we will find a solution” said Isis.
“Well, we have to get out of here and find our brother and help him” said Jane.
“Ok, tell me it all from the start.”
Jane began and as she told the story she started to believe it herself and stopped waiting for the dream to end. She now had a purpose. They had to find Luke and help him and they had the best help they could ever ask for right beside them. She felt stronger and calmer.

Chapter 9

When Luke awoke he found Yosef standing over at him staring in amazement. Luke stretched himself and stood up and shook himself. He heard a fluttering and felt a huge weight on his back. He put his hand back and felt behind him. He felt the softness of feathers, lots of feathers. Had Manaar put a blanket of feathers on his back while he slept? Did she kill a big bird and stick it to his back? What was going on? Why were all the men staring at him? He turned around and glimpsed what appeared to be wings turning around after him. Ah here, what kind of a joke is this?

Manaar was waking from her slumber slowly when she jumped up and screeched in the most high-pitched cat wail any of them had ever heard. “What have you done?” she said.
“So it wasn’t her that did it” thought Luke. “No, why on earth would I turn you into a bird? I might decide to eat you in your sleep!”

“He is not a bird” said Yosef. “ He is an Angel”.
All the men knelt down and praised the heavens while Luke looked on bemused and Manaar snorted and went into the fits laughing. “Some Angel, if you knew what his thoughts are like I do!!” “ So Luke, what were you dreaming of? It must have been a vivid one because the woods has manifested these wings on you.”
Luke couldn’t believe his ears. “Wings?” “Oh my God I am a freak like you”
“How rude, Thanks very much” said Manaar “ See, that is not how an Angel would talk!! He is no Angel”

The men were not convinced but they stood up at any rate and each and every one of them circled Luke and felt his wings. Some tugged them to try taking them off. “Ouch! Let go!” said Luke. “Sorry, just checking they are real” said Ramon. Luke looked at him warily. He had noticed him in the camp before yet never spoken to him. He seemed different to the others and he was. Ramon knew the mountains well. He was from them. He had left them behind many years ago and found himself a new home with Yosef. He was the only one other than Manaar that had any idea of what was in store for them. “ If they are they will be useful where we are going. You will be able to fly ahead as we climb the mountains.”

“I can’t fly” said Luke. “How do you know if you don’t try? Go on try before I chase you down and gobble you up” laughed Manaar. Luke imagined spreading his wings and taking off and to his surprise as he imagined it, it happened. He flew up into the air at such a great speed that he frightened himself and started to fall down faster than he went up. “Steady your wings, steady yourself and Fly boy Fly!” shouted Yosef. Luke listened and steadied himself and flew around and up and down and within half an hour was confident enough to try a loop, which wasn’t a really good idea as he found himself tumbling down again very fast. “ Steady, Steady” shouted the men as they watched in amazement as he steadied himself and swooped down towards them. He landed with a plomp on his bottom and Manaar laughed. “Need to perfect your landing technique!” Luke laughed, which was unusual for him as he didn’t take kindly to any kind of criticism. “ I can’t believe this! I was dreaming of flying all night and now I can!” “Yes Luke” said Manaar “You asked and received alright! Ok enough playing around, let’s have breakfast and Luke can tell us what Bast has asked of us and we will listen to Ramon about what we have ahead of us in the Basque country.

Luke was a bit put out that he couldn’t continue playing with his new wings but then he remembered his family and he quickly sat down at the table that appeared filled with a wonderful breakfast feast that would be at home in any expensive holiday resort. There was everything you could ask for from croissants to bacon and freshly squeezed orange juice to pipping hot tea. The men quickly joined him and Manaar signaled to him to speak.

“Ok, all that I know is that we have to go to the Pyrenees, into the Basque countryside where we will find a cave in which there is a book written in the language of the Garden of Eden. We have to get that book to Bast. No, Manaar this is not the manuscript Bast spoke of in the temple. This book is more ancient than that one but will reveal what we have to do next so no this is not just a simple journey to find one book.!” The others were used to Luke speaking out loud to Manaar as if in a private conversation but it was still a bit disturbing and if this wasn’t the manuscript where else and what else did they have to do?
“ I can draw a map to the cave if I had a pen and paper” A pen and paper duly appeared on the table and Luke started drawing. Manaar looked over at Ramon who was looking decidedly uncomfortable. “Is everything alright, Ramon?” she said. Luke concentrating on his drawing didn’t see the fear in Ramon’s eyes, which was just as well really.

“I have heard of that cave. It is in very dangerous countryside. Many people have been lost there never to be heard of or seen again. There are stories of an evil cave-dwelling spirit that goes by the name of Aatxe who is a shape-shifter. He is often seen in the form of a man but he is also seen as a young red bull and he is a very angry spirit. They say he has been looking for the book Luke speaks of for a very long time and searches all the caves every night for it. He has not yet found it so I don’t know how we will be expected to find it in a few days. He gets angry with people coming into the area and well, we don’t know what happens them. I have also heard that the cave in which the book is found there is a dragon guarding it, This will not be a simple quest”

Luke had finished drawing his map while Ramon had been talking of Aatxe so he looked up and listened intently to the story. When Ramon had finished and all the men were digesting this information, having stopped digesting their food, Luke spoke up. “We will find this book, we will get this book and we will bring it to Bast. Unlike Aatxe, we have a map, we have a magic cat, strong warrior men and a flying boy. We also have good on our side as we search for it for others and not for our own use.” Manaar was amazed, as indeed was Luke himself, he didn’t know where this courage and wisdom was coming from. Yosef and his men cheered. Manaar announced that it was time to go and the grey mist appeared instantly and disappeared as quickly to reveal them at the foot of a very large mountain.

It was an early summer morning, so it wasn’t very hot as yet. Ramon suggested they travel as far as they could before the hot temperatures of noon descended on them and they could find a spot to siesta. Luke, Ramon, Manaar and Yosef studied the map and the area they were in. Ramon was first to announce he knew the way and although the others weren’t quite sure they followed him onwards and upwards through the mountain vegetation. In the early morning light the mountains were inviting but Luke imagined they could be very frightening places to be in the dark of the night.

They had started the journey in good spirits, talking and laughing and enjoying the views so different to their last location. The greens and browns were beautiful and calming and the flowers whose fragrance drifted in and out of their path were beautiful and striking in their vibrant red, yellow, pink colours. After three hours trekking the conversations waned and they stopped noticing the beauty around and were rather all thinking of how much longer they had to trek and should they suggest a stop but everyone knew they had to keep going until the midday sun was at its hottest and then it would be wise to stop in a shaded spot so they trekked on.

Luke had some relief from the trek trying out his new aviation skills but he was still quite clumsy at his descents landing in briars and bushes and on one occasion he landed upside down in a large tree dangling for what seemed an age to him before the others noticed and Ramon climbed up to set him free.

As Ramon untangled Luke’s wings from the branches Luke noticed that he was very quiet, he almost looked guilty of something. “Are you alright, Ramon?” he asked. “Oh Luke I have done a terrible thing. I have led you all on the wrong path because I am afraid to go to the cave. I thought if I led you away, we would be safe and you would give up this terrifying quest.” Luke, who was still dangling upside down at this stage, roared in anger. Yosef shouted up “ Be patient , we will get you out!” Luke struggled to grab at Ramon and fell downwards fast landing on his arm and everyone heard the loud crunch. Luke cried out in pain and Manaar ran to his side to evaluate the damage done. “ Well you’ve done it now young man” she said. “Broken arm, that won’t fix easily up here miles from any hospital, see what happens when you have no patience.” The cat didn’t mean to be nasty she was just worried and anxious for Luke. Luke didn’t bother replying but Manaar heard his thoughts and looked at Ramon who was hiding behind the tree. “ You, you did this! Because of your treachery this has happened. You are responsible so you must deal with the consequences. You will now have to be his arm, you will carry his sword, you will fight his battles. Tell your leader and comrades what you have done.”

Yosef and his men were stunned into silence at the revelation. They wanted to punish him but Manaar said he already had his punishment in the guilt he felt and there was no point anyone else getting hurt over this. Ramon would have to face the fear he was avoiding and now would have to guard Luke as well. That was enough of a lesson.

Yosef bandaged Luke’s arm with a splint and gave him some herbal painkillers that he found growing nearby. “Lucky you have wings!” he said. Luke remained quiet. He was annoyed at Ramon for his treachery but more annoyed with himself for his angry reaction that led to this injury and now he would not be able to fight if the men needed him.

Luke flew into the air to get their bearings and quickly reevaluated where they were and led the men on the correct path and they all went on in silence. By midday they had made great distance so they rested and ate and the silence continued. Ramon hid in the background, ashamed of his cowardice.

They carried on once the midday sun had waned and Manaar walked beside Ramon. She talked to him of his fears. “Fear is imaginary” she said. “You do not know what we face so you fear it. That will not help. We can only deal with what we face when we face it and giving it the power over you will paralyze you.” Ramon listened to the wise Feline and gained strength from her words. Luke flew overhead, looking down at his guide and the traitor and wondered what they could have to talk about. He didn’t know who to trust anymore.

They arrived at their destination around 4pm. Yosef wanted to run right in and get it over with. Luke stopped him. “No, we must do this quietly. The shape shifter will be sleeping still as darkness hasn’t fallen so we might be able to get in and get the book before he wakes.” “Clever boy” said Manaar smiling.

They crept into the cave and Luke led the way with Ramon by his side, whether he wanted him or not. They didn’t speak but concentrated on their tasks, Luke on finding the book and Ramon on protecting Luke.

Luke concentrated on remembering his dream and where the book was located in it. He led the party silently through the dark cave, lit only by the torches the men carried. The further in they went the louder the silence seemed and it got colder and damper as they descended. Manaar signaled everyone to stop as she heard something. A ball of fur ran by her and she grabbed for its tail but the rat got away. She was not impressed, Luke sniggered. Manaar lifted her paw to hit him, he swerved to get away and tripped over a rock.

The rock roared. Yosef shone his light on it and they found themselves looking straight at the ugliest beast they had ever seen, not a man but not a bull, something in between with red fiery eyes and big claw like hands. Ramon, who was carrying a sword of sorts, ran at it before it could get to Luke and struck it in the arm with his sword. The beast chased Ramon down into the cave, while the rest of the group followed in pursuit. Manaar quickly got to the front of the group and grabbed the beast by its tail. It shook her off but at least it gave Ramon time to react. He hit the beast over the head with a rock and it fell to the ground.

“Well, that’s him out for a while” said Manaar. “Bind him up so he can’t come after us and lets get that book and get out of here. Funny how he had reached the right cave today.” “ Yeah, really funny!” said Luke. They tied up the beast and then examined the different passages. They all looked at Luke for guidance. “ We need to go this way” he said pointing right and they all trekked on. “It is close, I can feel it” said Luke as they entered a cavern which was not as dark as the rest of the cave, it glowed with a blue light but nobody commented on it so Luke wasn’t sure if it was only him that saw it. “It is in here.”
“There is nothing in here except this glowing rock” said Yosef. “ I can’t see any book”. “ I don’t suppose it would be just sitting in the cave all this time” said Manaar sarcastically. “I mean it is from the beginning if time so if it was just lying around someone or something” she looked back to where they had left the sleeping monster, “ would have found it.”
“And it would have disintegrated” said Ramon.
“Shush” said Luke. “We have to be silent and feel it, it is here.”
They went silent. The men were uncomfortable with the silence, shifting from one foot to the other and looking backwards, while Manaar appeared quite relaxed. Luke just remained still and calm as if listening.

After what seemed an eternity to the men, Luke walked slowly over to the right hand wall of the cave and began tracing a spiral on it, starting from the outside in in big swooping circles getting smaller. The men were amazed as they saw it appear on the wall before them. “ How did he do that?” one whispered. “Its the wings” said another. “He is an Angel” said another. Manaar just smiled.

The spiral went inwards slowly to the centre and when he reached the centre Luke pushed on the wall and a passageway appeared before them. At the end of the passageway there was a brilliant light. “Come on, let’s go” said Luke and ran on. Manaar was at the back of the group and shouted to Luke “Should we not close it again?” For some reason Luke didn’t hear her.

When they reached the light, they saw the most beautiful garden in front of them. Quite an impossible garden really. It had orange and lemon trees beside old English fragrant roses, daisies and buttercups with tropical orchids growing happily together. The colour and fragrance was amazing. The birds sang, the Sun shone, the animals, for there were many, were lying side by side at the lake, lions beside rabbits and zebras beside wolves. It really was the stuff of dreams.

Luke walked bravely towards the Lion, well he had read all the Narnia Chronicles so he knew not to be afraid! The rest of the group stayed well back. Luke spoke to the Lion. “Excuse me please but we are looking for a book written in the language of The Garden of Eden. Can you help us at all?” The lion didn’t respond, just continued licking his fur.
Manaar came up to Luke and said “I think he is just a normal cat.”.
“Not that normal” said Ramon. “He isn’t chasing any of the other beasts”.
“I think he is waiting, just like the rest of them.”
“For what?”
“I don’t know. They just seem to be all waiting.” said Manaar.
“Well, I can’t wait any longer” said Luke and he took flight searching for the book that he felt was very close now. The rest sat down with the animals and waited.

They didn’t know how long they waited. Time seemed to stand still for them all and they were content to just wait. Luke flew around the garden searching. He descended when he felt the biggest pull and this time landed expertly on the ground. He could feel that he was near but he could see nothing but never ending beautiful garden before him. He sat down and cleared his mind for a moment and tried to feel it. He got up and walked towards a tree. Of course, an Apple Tree! Sitting under the tree was what appeared to him to be an Angel. “ I thought there would be two of you” said Luke. “There was and there will be” said the Angel. They talked for a time and at the end of the discussion Luke turned around and let the Angel take his wings in exchange for a book and he walked away with it in his unbroken arm. He walked back to the lake and said to the men. “It is done.” They all got up and walked with him, nobody commented on the fact that he no longer had wings and he didn’t speak any more as they walked.

While the group headed back through the passageway with the Book held tightly in Luke’s arm, happily chatting and looking forward to presenting their find to Bast, nobody noticed the bull shape of Aatxe moving through the garden towards the sleeping animals. Well, no-one other than Manaar.

When they left the passage, Luke carefully retraced the spiral in the space that had been a wall and it sealed the way. He still didn’t speak and his somber mood descended on the party that were with him. They continued down the mountain in a sad silence, when perhaps they should have been euphoric.

Chapter 10

Isis and her Infant led Mark and Jane from the prison and they made their way to the Temple of Bast.
“I don’t think she will be happy to see us out” said Jane.
“She has no authority over you now that you are under my protection” said Isis.
“You know nothing” said Mark to his older sister who gave him a punch on his arm.
“There is no need for that Mark. Why would Jane know of the rankings of the Egyptian Gods? Just because you have an interest in something and know all about it that does not make another person stupid. You need to be more tolerant and understanding and hold your council.” Jane smirked and stuck her tongue out at her younger brother.
“And you, young lady, behave yourself and stop picking on your brothers.”
“Why did you say brothers?” said Jane. “Luke isn’t even here. That’s who we are looking for.”
“Oh I have seen you.” said Isis.
“God, you are just like my mother.” said Jane.
“Thank you for your reverence in your address and I would hope your mother is like me.”
the Goddess laughed and her infant chuckled.
They went into the Temple of Bast and Isis sauntered up to the Feline who stepped down from her throne to let the Goddess sit. “So, do we have any news?” she asked.
“Well, he has the book but he had a very difficult choice to make in getting it and he has also broken his arm.” said Bast. “I have been watching them on their journey. They have also let an unwanted into the garden.”
“What have you let happen my brother?” shouted Jane at the Cat Goddess. She had been listening intently.
“Still no manners, I see” said Bast to Isis and they continued to chat while ignoring the children.
Jane snorted and grabbed Mark so they could wander and look at the pictures to see if they could see Luke in them and see him they did. They saw him with wings flying through the air. They gasped, he looked like an Angel, a powerful Angel. They then saw him falling from a tree and then coming out of a cave with no wings looking so much older, wiser and unhappy even though he had the book under his good arm. “He must be in pain.” said Jane.
“He misses his wings.” said Mark.
“Probably both” said Isis from behind them. “Let’s go and join him. We think he may need you.”
The grey mist descended and they now found themselves in the forest.
“Hmm” said Isis. “ I thought we would meet here but they aren’t here, Let’s try again.”
So again the mist descended and they were back in Egypt

Meanwhile, Luke and his army, for that’s what they now called themselves, arrived where they had left and Manaar suggested they rest so the next quest might come to them in their dreams.
“I already know it” said Luke, “I was told in the garden, Let’s go.” So, the mist descended again and just as they left, his Siblings arrived. They glimpsed each other in passing but could not reach each other. “Luke” said Jane. “Mark, Jane” said Luke as he vanished.
“Oh dear, it’s been a long time since this happened.”said Isis. “This could take a while to settle and it is exhausting for you no doubt. We shall have to rest here for a bit.”
The children had to agree as with each journey they were weaker and weaker.
Isis summoned beds for them and watched over them while they slept.

Luke and his not so merry men, in the meantime, had arrived in Iran, circa the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE, that is a very, very, very long time ago.

Chapter 11

The reluctant explorers now found themselves at the bottom of Savalan, a most magnificent volcanic mountain believed to be the place of meditation of the man Luke had to talk to. There is a belief that when all snow of Savalan is melted the end of time will come but as our group had arrived there quite a long time ago they at least didn’t have to worry about that outcome.

They had plenty of other things to worry about as Luke had broken his silence during their brief stint in the In-Between Woods and explained that they were going back to an ancient and dangerous time because the person he must speak with who must read from the Book they had just located was up this mountain. He also informed them that their trial would not be over at that as there were instructions in the Book. The men were nervous as Luke was no longer winged and still had a broken arm though he didn’t complain of it. His sombre mood had had a huge effect on them all and would they just be going from one trial to another forever and ever? When would it end? They busied themselves in erecting the large tent they had brought and lighting the fire to prepare their meal.

Although Luke was not speaking, Manaar could still hear his thoughts and she brought him for a walk while the men set up camp.
“You had no choice. Your family await and you are still young.”
“Didn’t I? He was waiting for me.”
“Time means nothing. He will wait. You have a life to live. A wonderful life is ahead of you. You are an amazing boy.”
“Nice, but you are biased. You have always loved me.”
“You have always been kind to me. While I was in my domestic form you took great care of me.”
Manaar unexpectedly turned and hugged the boy and he wept for a loss he couldn’t really comprehend. Manaar just waited patiently for the tears to subside and then said.
“Now brave one lets go back to camp for the night and go find this Holy Man in the morning”.
They returned to the camp, ate a light supper prepared by Yosef and lay down for the night.

Well, they thought they were settling for the night. They were only a short while sleeping when Manaar jumped up, tipped Luke on the arm to wake him up and then tensed herself and pounced at a figure in the doorway of the tent knocking the man who had been staring in at the group over on top of their sleeping watchman.

“Hey” he shouted and jumped up, looking bewildered and then ashamed to find a stranger in their midst while he had slept. Manaar was sitting astride the chest of the man who was lying on the ground staring in disbelief at the Feline. She questioned him in his own language. Her talents are never-ending, thought Luke.

“Thank you” said Manaar to Luke and then returned to the intruder. She questioned, he answered. She abruptly stood up and held out her hand to help the man up and ordered the ever so humbled watchman to make some tea and went to sit at the fire with the man. Luke wandered after her and asked “Friend, I take it?”
“Definitely not Foe but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t brought trouble” she said and continued talking to the man while ignoring the rest of the now fully awake party.

She then told them what their “Welcome” guest had been telling her, while he nodded and smiled and frowned at the right places as if he understood everything she said which of course he did as Manaar ensured everyone understood her in their own language. He and his Nomad tribe were camped not far from here but had been attacked by what could only be described in our words as Goblins. “Ah now” said Luke. “This is getting ridiculous!” “That’s funny, coming from a boy who grew wings and then lost them again!” said Manaar, the Goddess Feline. She pinched him and he yelped.

“What was that for?”
“Just bringing you here and now again. It is what it is and we have to deal with it.”

“This is Polmon everybody. His tribe are camped very near to here and were minding their own business when a young princess came to them and they took her in and she joined in their meal and slept in their tent. While they slept they were attacked by small angry ugly men who grabbed the princess and some of their own children and left before they could even attempt to stop them. It was as if they were paralyzed and could only watch. The princess looked straight at Polmon and told him “Go get Luke” pointing this way so here he is.

“That is just weird! Why would a princess from this neck of the woods even know my name?” said Luke.
“Why indeed! I think we have a quest within a quest here Luke” said Manaar “The mountain must wait, and we must go.”

Luke was torn between helping this man Polmon and his family and a princess and ignoring them and heading up the mountain to help his own family. The group just sat and waited while he decided. He sat and worked out his plan and then announced that they must help these people. He left two of the men, Jorge and Paulo, at the camp and the rest followed him in the direction of the path of the Goblins, towards the forest and away from the mountain and his family.

In the forest, Jane dreamt that Luke was calling her and Isis instructed her to go to his aid and she would mind Mark. He entertained her Infant and she enjoyed his company she said. Jane knew he would be quite safe with her, she didn’t really want to leave her side herself. She felt protected by the Goddess who although quite stern was really rather loving.

Jane heard Luke again and woke up, no longer in the woods but in a camp at the bottom of a mountain surrounded by strange individuals in costume and not speaking any language she recognised. She was startled and noticed they were also as surprised as she was. They started talking to each other in raised voices as if they were arguing over what to do with this strange girl that had just appeared in their midst. She watched them closely as she knew instinctively not to make any sudden movements or attempt to speak as they would probably attack her.

The leader of the tribe came forward and spoke to Jane who of course had no idea what he said. She just smiled at him and bowed in reverence to his obvious important station in the tribe. He smiled, picked her up and kissed her on both cheeks. Then he brought her into the main tent in the centre of the camp while the rest of his tribe followed him babbling amongst themselves.

Jane was worried. She hoped they would be friendly as he had smiled but maybe he was laughing at her predicament. She had heard of tribes where young girls of her age and younger were married off or given away to old men and she was terrified that this Chief would just take her and keep her as a wife or slave or something or maybe even sacrifice her to their gods!! Why had Isis let her just land here? So much for trusting her. Where was Luke?

She need not have worried. The tribe were fascinated by this fair-skinned blue-eyed girl that appeared before them. They chattered amongst themselves as to where she had come from and who she was. The chief ordered people around. The tent was made ready for festivities, food was prepared and a bed was made up for Jane while she just looked on in bewilderment at their warmth and generosity to a complete stranger and slowly began to thaw out as she realised there was no alternate motive to their kindness. They were just kind.

She wandered over to where the women were preparing food and gestured that she would like to help and they looked at each other but they let her join in and she really enjoyed the process of preparing for a feast, although she wasn’t hungry. All she seemed to be doing was eating and sleeping and well…. living in a dream. She wondered where Luke was, where her parents were, was Mark ok now she had left him. She couldn’t do anything about any of it so she just let the thoughts pass and watched her hands work on peeling the vegetables.

Once the feast was ready, the Chief stood up and made a toast which Jane didn’t understand but knew it was for her so she smiled around at everyone and they began to eat. She watched them use the flat bread to pick up the food and she copied them. She never tasted anything so good before. The spices and sweetness melted in her mouth. She ate so much she needed to lie down and sleep it off and it seemed so did everyone else so they all went to bed. Jane felt comfortable and safe and nodded off in no time. For someone who never wanted to camp she was very happy in this one.

They were fast asleep when the Goblin Army came in. The leader, the most evil looking of all of them, seemed to put a spell on the adults in the tent so that they could not move a muscle. They could just look on in terror and bewilderment as the angry little men grabbed the children and Jane, kicking and screaming and headed for the woods. Jane managed to scream out “Go get Luke, go get Luke” over and over and for some reason never to be explained, Polmon understood her.

The paralysis stayed with the adults for what seemed like an age but was really about an hour, enough time for Goblins on horseback to get very far away with their children. Polmon got up first and went over to his chief and told him he was going to get Luke as the princess had instructed and his chief let him go while he gathered his men to go after the Goblins. They knew where they were heading. Everyone knew the Goblin Army was in the Dark Forest and that if they didn’t get their children before the next night they too would be Goblins, lost forever as the Goblin leader worked his dark magic on them.

Chapter 12

Luke, Yosef, Ramon, Manaar, Polmon and the other men made their way in the dark towards the forest. They had to go past Polmon’s camp on the way so they stopped for a moment while Polmon explained to the women and old men there how he had found Luke and they were going to follow the chief to get the children and the princess. The oldest man there, who everyone respected and listened to as he had lived long and knew much more than they did, spoke to Manaar about Luke.
Luke looked on, wondering what they were talking about and impatiently waiting to leave and get this over and done with so he could go help his family. The elder pointed at Luke’s eyes and appearance as he talked to Manaar. He recognised the similarities between Luke and their “Princess” that had appeared. Manaar put her hand on Luke’s shoulder and said “ From what I can gather in what he is saying, the princess is Jane”.
“What? How? She is in Egypt in a cell, perfectly safe with Mark!”
“Apparently not” said Manaar. “ Looks like your decision to do this Good Deed for these people is helping you too. We must go quickly. I have been told that the children and Jane will become Goblins if they are there still by tomorrow night so we do not have much time.”
“We never do!” said Luke not at all surprised at this revelation as it was no stranger than anything else that had happened to him since he went through the attic door.
They made their way to the forest discussing how they would get the children. They knew they would have to be clever as these Goblins had some strange powers if they could paralysis people and transform children. They were really up against an unknown entity here. Luke wished Mark was here. Mark read so much about this type of thing that he would surely have a plan. What a crazy thought! Wishing his crazy little brother was here to help him! Mad.
Yosef, Ramon and Luke discussed how they would have to sneak in and steal the children back as they couldn’t really fight the magic. Manaar translated for Polmon who disagreed with the men and explained all he knew about the Goblins and their ways.
“We cannot sneak up on them. They are the experts in that and will know already that we are coming. It is better to go in directly and try and bargain with them. They like to think they are cleverer than anyone else and will be delighted to enter into a contest or gamble for the children and Jane.” said Polmon.
“We can’t gamble with Jane’s life!” said Luke. “I won’t do it!”
“Ok, Luke, let’s think this through step by step, first things first. We want to save Jane and the children so we are not going to put them in more danger. These Goblins think they are cleverer than us, that is their weakness, they are arrogant and silly and we will use this weakness against them. We must seem sillier to them while tricking them into giving us the children. You are wise beyond your years Luke. You will figure this out before we get there.”
While she was talking, one of the women from the tribe came over and examined Luke’s arm. She undid his bandages and put more herbal paste on it and a new splint. Luke was concentrating so much on what Manaar was saying to him that he never noticed and felt no pain as the woman massaged his arm and set his bones. He was also pondering what Polmon has said about the children changing into goblins. Did that mean the goblins were children? Maybe they were angry because they wanted to be children again and not goblins and where did they come from? Were they missing from families worried about them too? The evil all seemed to come from their leader. Luke had alot of thinking and planning to do before they reached the forest.
When Mark woke to find Jane gone he was not impressed. He leapt out of bed and looked everywhere for her and then screamed at the top of his voice
“Where is Jane? Why am I still here with you? Why has she gone off on an adventure and left me here?”
Isis laughed and said to Mark.
“Mark dearest, calm down, you have many adventures before you, let Jane have hers. Play a while here with the baby and I.”
Mark snorted. Calm down. Why should he calm down? Why was he always the one left behind while the others got to do everything? He was really fed up being treated like a baby. He kicked the bed really hard and yelped in pain, jumping around holding his foot in his hands while he hopped, mad as hell.

“That’s why you are left behind Mark” said Isis. “Alot of growing up to do for you. Now, no more toddler tantrums please. Play with the baby while I see if I can get us to your sister and brother.

Isis started to sway from side to side and conjure up a mist around her while Mark and the baby looked on. The baby laughed as if he was used to this and enjoyed the dancing swirling mist moving around his mother. Mark was mesmerized as pictures formed in the mist around the Goddess. He could see Luke and Manaar with the men at the edge of a forest, a dark and unwelcoming one, completely not like this one. It looked terrifying. He was silently glad he wasn’t there!

Then he spotted Jane in a cage surrounded by frightened children wailing while horrible ugly little men poked at them with sticks and threw rotten tomatoes at them. Oh poor Jane! She hated tomatoes. She seemed to be trying to calm all the children by singing to them. She did that for him when he was smaller too. He missed that. They hardly talked at all now only to growl at each other.

Isis stopped swaying and the mist subsided.
“Well now, we know where they are and what they are doing. Let’s eat.”
“What?” shouted Mark. “Are we not going to go to help them?”
“No, they seem to have everything under control. We will eat and then meet up with them later. I want to chat to you about that little temper of yours that is getting you into so much trouble all the time and how you can better manage your energy. We will join them shortly.”

“They didn’t much look like they had everything under control” muttered Mark as he sat down reluctantly at the table Isis provided. The smell of the sausages eased his pain and he tucked in.

Chapter 13

Luke and his motley crew arrived at the forest and heard lots of laughter and shouting, screaming and crying and it took all of Luke’s willpower not to run straight in towards the camp. Polmon was hopping in anger too as he heard his children, nieces and nephews being tormented by the goblins. Manaar held him back.
“Ok” said Luke. “We will walk straight into the camp and I am going to talk to the Leader and you all will just follow my lead. I cannot tell you any more than that because we cannot let him know what we are up to. Please just trust me.”
The men, at this stage, trusted in Luke completely as despite his young age he was a very wise and thoughtful person and had succeeded in all that he set out to do so far despite everything so they nodded and followed him into the Goblins camp.
The wailing and crying got louder as they approached the camp and they could hear the cackling and sneering of the goblins at the little children while the Goblin leader roared with evil laughter. The men were very angry. It took them all their might to refrain from just running in and slaying all around them.
The camp went silent as they entered and Luke walked straight up to the leader, walking tall and straight and looking very brave. The leader was a bit taken aback at this as normally everyone shuddered and shook when they met him. He was hideous, covered in warts and boils and with a pong that would outpong even the smelliest of teenage boys socks.
“ Give me the children.” said Luke.
“Or what?” sniggered the leader.
“Or I will just take them and kill you all”
The men looked at each other in alarm. Was this his plan? The goblin’s collapsed in laughter and the leader guffawed loudly. Luke noticed out of the corner of his eye that there were a group of men in another cage at the end of the camp tied up. They must be the fathers from Polmon’s camp. He gestured with his eyes to Yosef to look over.
“I would like to see you try! Ok I like your style young man. Tell you what, let’s wager for them. You win, you get them all. I win, I get them all and get to kill your men and keep you too as a pet!”
The men looked at each other again. How clever of Luke but then again they might die! They looked over at Luke who now didn’t look at any of them as he would not be distracted from his task.
“Ok. But I decide the wager as you have decided the stake.”
“No problem. I win everytime” said the Goblin leader smugly.
“Don’t Luke” shouted Jane.
“I must, Jane” said Luke.
The leader looked over at Jane and back at Luke and smiled.
“Ah, I see now why you are here. I will take great pleasure in changing her first while you watch.”
“ Ok, I challenge you to a game of chess.” said Luke. “The winner takes all.”
The goblin clapped his hands and a chessboard appeared.
“My favourite!” He laughed. The men and Yosef looked at each other in horror. How was Luke going to beat this monster at chess. Manaar just smiled. She knew how good Luke was at Chess and strategy games. She had watched him for years. As long as he didn’t panic he was in with a chance. She hoped the Goblin’s arrogance would lead him to make some mistakes that Luke could use against him.
Luke and he sat down and the game began. The goblins turned back to their task of hassling the children who wailed in fear and Jane turned to them picking up the smallest one and sang lullabies to calm them down. Some of the goblins leaving down their sticks and rotten tomatoes moved closer to the cage to listen while their Leader was distracted. Jane didn’t notice as she sang in her sweet pure voice while rocking the toddler.
Manaar and the men moved over beside the children while the game was on. Yosef made his way quietly to the cage with the men in it. The Goblin leader and Luke were oblivious to all that went on around them as they played. Luke had hoped this would happen as he knew the men would avail of the opportunity. He also hoped he was as good at chess as he thought he was. He had lost games before but always because he had lost his concentration for a moment. There were never such high stakes to battle for so he was determined this would not be one of those games.
The Goblin leader was sniggering at the beginning of the game, convinced he would beat this young whippersnapper in no time but his confidence waned as the game went on and he realised his young opponent was an equal at this game. He started getting angry which played in Luke’s favour as his concentration slipped and Luke captured pawns, rook, a knight and in no time was able to say “Check”. The leader was fuming now but determined not to let this young brat beat him.
Jane kept singing and some of the children slipped off to sleep and the goblins too. The men were amazed at what they saw next. One after another the goblins began to change before their eyes into sleeping children. They sighed and groaned and moaned and whimpered and transformed before them.
Manaar made her way over to the cage and opened the door. One of the remaining goblins stirred in his sleep but as Jane sang he too turned over putting his thumb in his mouth and turning into a little five year old boy. Jane looked up as Manaar opened the door and stopped singing. The goblins stirred. The feline gestured at her to keep singing as she guided the sleeping children out of the cage. Jane looked around at all the children outside the cage and wondered where they had come from and where were all the goblins but she kept singing as instructed and realised as she saw one transform that it was her music that was changing them. She gasped a little too loudly as the Goblin leader looked up and over and roared in anger tossing the chess game to the floor just as Luke said “Checkmate”.
He lunged over at Luke but was stopped in his tracks as Ramon, who had never left Luke’s side after the fall from the tree, lunged his sword into the Goblin who then lashed at Ramon with his sword piercing him straight through his heart. Luke grabbed Ramon’s sword with his good arm and cut off the Goblins head who disappeared in an puff of smoke before their eyes so that they were all left wondering had he existed at all. At this stage all of the goblins had transformed into children who were standing bewildered looking around them wondering where they were and what was going on. Some of the younger ones were weeping.
The men went over to the children and comforted them. One man from Yosef’s group let out a cry of joy as he picked up his own little boy who had wandered off some years ago and he had been searching ever since. He had joined Yosef’s tribe because they were nomads and thought he might find him this way. They hugged and kissed while Luke cradled his dying friend Ramon in his arms.
“Don’t cry. I am fine with this. It is my time. I have done what I was supposed to do. I protected you while you were injured. You are now better. You will be fine. Thank you for teaching me courage my friend.” said Ramon as he slipped off quietly with a smile on his face. Luke cradled him in his arms weeping quietly not noticing he was holding him in his broken arm.
Jane came over to Luke and held him. They didn’t speak and just hugged while the men gathered up the children to make their way back to camp.
The morning sun lit up the journey on the way back and they felt some heat enter their bodies but the mood was low as although Ramon had on occasion let them down he was much loved by the party and they would miss him terribly. Jane walked quietly with her arms wrapped around her brother as they made their way back to Polmon’s camp. The children were skipping and laughing with delight at being free which lightened the mood somewhat. “Life goes on” thought Luke bewildered. He felt as if a part of him had died with Ramon, having had his silent companionship beside him since the fall. His heart was hurting and yet he felt stronger. Maybe Ramon was with him, in him, giving him courage to carry on.
They reached the camp in no time and saw the delighted mothers running to them. The children whooped in delight and jumped into their mothers arms. The other children who used to be goblins stood back a bit but the mothers just grabbed them and hugged them and brought them all inside the main tent where they had food and drink ready for them.
After burying Ramon and saying some prayers over his grave, Luke, Manaar, Yosef and Jane were getting ready to go back to their camp when one of Yosef’s men approached and said that they were staying. They wanted to go with this tribe and bring all the children back safely to their parents. As it was a noble cause Yosef could not refuse them so the four went back to their camp at the foot of the mountains without their men.

Chapter 14

Manaar was listening to the siblings talking quietly on the way back to the mountain and she smiled to herself.
“You are different” said Jane to Luke.
“No I’m not. I am just me. You are different”
“No. I am the same as always” said Jane
“Well, then I see you now” said Luke.
“Me too.”
About time, she thought. Makes a hell of a change from the squabbling that usually goes on with those pair.

“ I am going with you” said Jane.
“Ok” said Luke. Jane was shocked. She expected a “no” but he just kept surprising her lately.
“So, where is this book?”
“In that tent, Jorge has been guarding it.”
Jane and Luke went into the tent where Jorge was sitting asleep on a cushion with a book in his arms. “Poor fellow” said Luke. “He has been there all night”
They woke him up and Luke took the book to show Jane. Jorge was reluctant to give it over as there was something about it that made you want to stay near it but nature called so he left them alone in the tent and went out.

“It’s beautiful”
“Yeah but its gobbledegook”
“Is it really from the Garden of Eden?”
“Is anything really what it seems here? It’s all like a great big dream.”
“Yeah, but we are all in it so it can’t be a dream unless we are dreaming together and you broke your arm and that was real.”
“Yeah but its fixed now. That couldn’t really happen.”
“Maybe we are years here rather than days.”
“Well, if we are itself we need to go up that mountain get the book read and go find Mam and Dad.”
“And get Mark from the woods. I left him there with Isis”
“Yeah, and Mark. The Isis?” Jane just smiled.

Manaar came into the tent and suggested they get ready for their journey. By her calculations the guru’s cave was three days travel. They would need food, water and warm clothing as it was cold up the mountain at night.
“Brilliant” said Jane.

Jorge joined Manaar, Jane and Luke and Yosef while his remaining tribesman Paulo stayed behind to watch over the camp.

They began their journey in a jovial manner as the sun was shining and they were full of hope. They had survived thus far, well most of them. Jane admired the scenery and sang as she walked which pleased the rest of them as she was a wonderful singer. The book seemed to bring happiness to them just by it being with them. No wonder Jorge wanted to hold on to it thought Luke.

They had been walking along a pathway made by some animals at the side of the river when they came to a full stop. There seemed no way upwards except to go through the river which was flowing quite fast. Jane stopped singing and they all abruptly stopped.
“Is it time for a break?” said Luke. He had been in deep thought, holding the book close to his heart as he walked and was almost in a trance. Jorge looked over at him knowingly and gently took the book from his hands.

“ Ah” said Luke, “An obstacle.” “Well lets cross this bridge now we have come to it.”
“There is no bridge” said Jane.
“I know, I was just being funny.”
“Not funny” said Jane.
“Ok, well let’s build our bridge. We only need a little one its not that far across or deep.”
said Luke, all alert and ready for action again.
“It’s flowing fast though” said Jane “ We might fall in and be swept away!”
“Positive thoughts, Jane” said Luke.
“Positive thoughts won’t build a bridge”
“Well negative ones certainly wont!”

While the siblings continued their ‘discussion’, Manaar, Yosef and Jorge had been busy pulling a large log across to the edge of the river and were now pushing it across to the other side. The log had reached the other side by the time the children were finished and they looked at the others in amazement as they tied ropes around their waists and joined themselves together in a human/feline chain. The children were slightly embarrassed.

“Great idea, Luke and wise words too Jane” said Manaar “ but sometimes a little more action and less talk required, are you coming?”

The children tied the rope around their waists too and the group began to slowly make their way across the log to the other side. Luke and Jane bringing up the rear might not have been the best idea as they were slightly annoyed at each other still and poked at each other resulting in Jane losing her footing. Jorge reached to steady her and loosened his grip on the book in the process. The book slid from his arms and fell.

They all stopped and watched as it floated down the river until it got caught in a bush further down.

“That was your fault!” said Jane.
“I didn’t stumble, you did” said Luke. .
“Enough!” snarled the Feline “ keep crossing and then we will try and recover the book.”
They all silently went across the log and Manaar grabbed a big branch and tried to dislodge the book. She was irritated at the siblings behaviour.
“One step forward, two steps back with them.” she hissed.

Jane and Luke both overheard her and were ashamed. They had both been so anxious to be heard that they hadn’t listened and Manaar and the men just did what had to be done while they squabbled and then they had channeled their embarrassment into annoyance at each other, just like they did at home. So much for changing!

“Sorry” they both said in unison. Yosef patted them both on the heads and went to help Manaar.

It took a while but they eventually dislodged the book and retrieved it from the river, continuing on their journey. None of them noticed a page of the book silently floating down the river. They quietly continued their journey upwards, only Jorge seemed blissfully happy at this stage as he had the book.

“We will soon have to camp and it will be colder here than it was at the foot of the mountain” said Manaar “ so we will need to light a fire to keep warm and get our tent up quickly.” “Yes Manaar” said the siblings afraid to say anything else at this time as they could see that her tail was still wagging.

They reached a clearing, gathered their firewood, set up camp and settled for the night.
As they all shared a tent in order to keep each other warm they were all in proximity to the book and so their mood brightened and they ate and drank and chatted merrily until their weariness overcame them and they slept.

They slept until Jane woke Luke shaking him.
“Can you hear that?”
“What, what? I was sleeping. What do you want?”
“Can you hear that singing? Its coming nearer.”
They sat up and listened and waited.

Chapter 15

Mark ate his sausages and played with the baby while Isis seemed to be having a conversation with an invisible source. Nothing surprised Mark at this stage and he was happy to have the relative normality of playing with a God Infant.

“Even if this was a God Infant” thought Mark “ He would try the patience of a saint!” as the baby knocked over his Lego tower again. Mark was availing of the power of the in between wood to manifest his favourite toys. Mark built, the baby knocked it down, Mark rebuilt. This went on for quite a while before Mark noticed that Isis had finished her conversation and was watching them smiling.

“Your patience has improved” she said.
“Ah, he’s just a baby” said Mark.
“Yes but you have shown great anger before over little upsets and now you are being very patient. It would be good if you could remember how you have done this for future Red Rage moments.”
“That’s what Mam calls it – Red Rage moments” Mark said. “She is always telling me to try and calm myself when its coming. Says she has them too and is still learning so I mustn’t be worried. I miss her.”

“Yes of course you do. Will we go now and find your brother and sister and see if we can help them in anyway?”

“Yes please.”

He lifted the baby and stood up and just as they were being surrounded by the grey mist he was getting so used to, he heard his mother.

“Mark!” shouted Margaret
Mark turned around before disappearing and said
“ So there you are Mammy. Wait til I tell the others I have found you!” and then they disappeared and he, the Infant and Isis found themselves on a mountainside on a path by a river.

“ Look, what’s that floating in the river? said Mark as he ran to the edge and grabbed a piece of paper before it disappeared.

Isis was impressed by his quick reaction, considering he had just seen his mother disappear but he was always a quick reaction action sort of boy. That was why she was so fond of him. He had so much potential. All he needed was a challenge.

Mark tried reading the paper but it was in a script he couldn’t understand. He handed it to Isis who carefully blew on it to dry it, rolled it and put it under her headpiece.

“Well done Mark, you may have saved us all.”
“It’s just a piece of paper. Hey, My parents are in the in between woods. Can’t we just go and get them now.?”

“No, We must join Luke and Jane. Your parents are safe where they are. We can join them later.”

“But why not now? We have found them. Can’t we just bring them home?”

“This is bigger than that now Mark. We must go.”

“Bigger than that!” Mark found himself getting irritated at this. He just wanted his parents and to go home and it was bigger than that. Then he looked at the Infant smiling at him and remembered to breathe, calm down and let go.

“Ok, let’s go and find Luke and Jane” he said. Isis smiled and they walked up the path up the mountain.

They walked for hours and rested a while and walked again. Night fell and Isis lighted up their pathway with her staff and carried the boy and baby as they slept. She sang sweet lullabies to them as she walked and they smiled, wrapped around each other.

She approached the tent in front of her and opened it gently. Jane ran to her laughing as Luke looked on in amazement at this beautiful tall creature carrying his little brother and a baby into the midst of them.

“Mark!”
Mark woke up and laughed. He woke the baby, who cried and woke the sleeping men in the tent. Isis sat down and nursed her child quietly and watched the siblings greet each other as if they hadn’t seen each other in months.

“Jane, Luke!” He jumped out of Isis’s arms and ran to Luke as Jane hugged the Goddess. he hugged his big brother, not a normal occurrence and indeed his brother’s reaction was most certainly not a normal reaction as he hugged him back and lifted him into the air.
“Mark! Mark! You look different. Calmer!”
“So do you. Madder ! “ snorted Mark. Luke laughed and gave him a gentle punch. Mark did the same and in no time the pair were rolling around the floor, wrestling and laughing.

“Ah, lads!” said Jane. “Come on! You will knock down the tent!”.
They abruptly stopped and Mark said. “Any food? I am ravenous!”
“Of course you are!” said Luke and threw him a roll and some cheese.
They sat down and chatted and then settled again for the night, although it was harder to sleep now they were so excited to have found each other again and with Mark seeing their parents alive and well, they could hardly wait for morning.

The next morning over breakfast Mark begged Isis again for them to just go back and find their parents and forget this journey and book and all that rubbish as they knew where their parents were now.

Isis listened and then replied quietly to the boy while everyone listened in awe of this marvelous giantess of a woman “I understand your urgency Mark, you miss your parents. We cannot go back however as this journey has now begun and must be completed. Your parents are no longer there anyway as they have moved on to where they wanted to go.”

“What does that mean?” asked Jane. “Where they wanted to go? Where did they want to go? They are still alive aren’t they? What are you talking about?”

“Why could you not finish the journey instead of us?” asked Luke “ You could if you wanted to, you are a Goddess are you not?”

Manaar could not believe her charges would talk to the Goddess in this manner and got up and bowed before Isis saying.

“Forgive them your highness, they are but children, they do not mean to be disrespectful, they just miss their parents and home. Please do not punish them.”

“Thank you Manaar for your respect. Do not worry on their behalf. I am not as caught up in those rules as your Mistress is nor do I have her temper. I am foremost a mother and if I cannot be patient and understanding with these children as with all my children then I am not a good example of one.”

“Child, I am not a child” muttered Jane.
“Well you are a better example of patience and understanding than our own mother” said Mark who was nearly always the one at the receiving end of her anger for his impulsiveness and his own quick temper.
“Sorry, we were rude” said Luke.

“Jane, you are always your mother’s child.”
Mark, your mother, and your father are doing the best job they can possibly do and are still learning as all humans are still learning and perhaps you could ease up on testing their patience.”
“Luke, thank you and it is ok. I understand. It cannot be easy for you knowing what faces you at the end of this quest, but know now that many of the pictures have changed due to all of your actions and bravery. Know this. You no longer will be facing it alone. We are all with you even if you cannot physically see us. I have other children to attend to and will be gone by morning but I will stay with you today. Now we must go and get this book read.”

They finished their meal, dismantled their tent and continued their journey upwards along the pathway. The second day of their ascent was uneventful in that there were no interruptions but they chatted, laughed, admired the scenery, watched the wildlife and enjoyed each others company so much so that when they settled for the night it was rather like a holiday camping trip rather than a journey into unknown perils. Jane spent a lot of the night conversing with Isis and playing with the baby and then Isis and her Infant left.

They woke on the third day refreshed from their unbroken sleep and ready for action and started on their final stage of their journey to the Guru at the top of the mountain.

In varying degrees and at different times they pondered on their quest and its possible outcomes leading to a quiet pensive morning getting ready for their journey which when they finally started was uneventful until lunchtime.

Chapter 16

At lunchtime, Mark was the first to complain of hunger, which was unsurprising as he had traveled twice the journey as everyone else through running ahead and coming back to the group. He eventually wore the rest of them down and they picked a nice spot to sit and rest and eat the fine food that Jorge had packed for them. He was turning out to be quite the asset to have with them.

The excitement was beginning to rise and indeed the relief that nothing had happened on their journey thus far to thwart their course, so the chatter and laughter began.

It was at a particularly loud guffaw from Yosef when a stranger appeared in their midst. I say appeared because none of the jovial party noticed him arrive so perhaps he just walked there, who knows?

“I am hungry. I am thirsty. I am tired. I have been alone for a long time.”

“Oh sit down, sit down” said Mark and handed him his sandwich while he rooted in the bag for another. The others didn’t quite react the way Mark did. The men were very suspicious, Jane was slightly afraid and jumped when she saw him. It was easy to see why as he wasn’t the prettiest of men, in fact he was more like a humansize ogre. His head was too big and his features were crooked. His speech was slurred and he smelled revolting. It also surprised them that he spoke English to them here on this mountain. Luke watched for the men’s reactions first and when he saw them holding their swords he did likewise and stood back to observe this man/creature. Mark continued to dance attendance on him, getting him water to drink and laugh and joke with him as if he knew him and was expecting him and because he was at ease with him the rest of the party relaxed and listened to the two laughing. Mark always had a way of making people feel at ease in his company. It amazed his brother and sister no end.

Luke asked the stranger where he had come from and why was he here tired and hungry and alone on the mountain.
“ Most people do not want to be near me as I revolt them so I left.”
Jane felt ashamed at her earlier reaction and Luke wondered too if he would have went to his sword if the man was a handsome youth.
“I am sorry I wasn’t friendlier” said Luke.
“Me too” said Jane.
“I understand, I am used to it. Where are you going?”
“We were told there was a wise man on the mountain who could read our book for us so we are on our way to him”.
“ I will join you. I have been here a long time. I know the way.”
None of them thought to ask him his name, what village he came from and where did he learn English because Mark had acted so normal with the stranger they felt at ease.

A deafening screech resounded in the valley.
“That sounded like Mam!” shouted Mark. “That was Mam!”
Luke had been packing up the lunch stuff with Yosef, Jane and Jorge. Manaar stretched herself from her sleep. She always slept after eating. Luke looked over at Mark who had been sitting conversing with the stranger, while they worked. It did sound like Mam’s screech, her frightened, I have seen a mouse one, not the angry who let that dirty dog traipse through the sitting room one.

“Its coming from up the mountain!Let’s go!” he shouted and made a run for it.
“That’s where we are going anyway” said Manaar sleepily.
The stranger looked at Manaar and laughed.
“I think he means lets go now! Come on everybody we have work to do.”
Manaar was a bit put out at this stranger taking charge but as Luke was already halfway up the mountain and the others didn’t seem to care either way she stretched herself and bounded up the mountain after her charge.

Jane and the rest followed as quickly as possible with Mark staying close to the stranger.

Luke looked at Manaar as she zoomed by him as fast as lightening and wished he still had his wings. He was going too slow to get to his parents on time. They really must be in awful trouble. He kept running, he looked behind and the others were way behind him at this stage. “Help me!” He shouted to nobody in particular as he ran and ran and stopped dead in his tracks with Manaar standing quietly over a sleeping dragon puzzling what to do next.

The dragon was right in front of the path and hadn’t woken as yet so Manaar was looking for a way to sneak around when they heard Luke’s parents shouting again, much louder and nearer and the dragon stirred, looked straight into Manaar’s eyes and put its big green clawed foot on her tail keeping her immobile. Luke gasped. Manaar looked over at him. What was he to do? The dragon spotted him and roared. Luke heard the others coming. He shouted to them “Go another way! Go another way! Now!!”

Jane heard the roar and then Luke and hesitated. He must be in trouble. She had to go to him. The stranger put his hand on her shoulder and said “No, we must do as he says! Come on, I know another route up. He has Manaar. They will be fine.”
Jane did not want to leave his brother but she heard him again.
“ Go another way. Get Mam and Dad. Go another way”
She followed the stranger and Mark and the rest were right behind her looking back at where Luke and Manaar had gone, wondering, worrying.
“We will go back for them when we get your parents, Jane” said Yosef. “They are brave and strong. They will be fine.”

Jane couldn’t think about it now or she would go mad. She had to keep going to get her parents. Mark looked very relaxed with the stranger and not worried at all which calmed her a bit but she didn’t know why. In fact as she looked at Mark and saw him he looked different, more mature, peaceful, knowing. She couldn’t put her finger on it but he had changed a lot during this time. Isis and this stranger seemed to have a connection with him that no-one ever seemed to have before. She had noticed him last light sitting with the stranger silently staring into the fire as if they were watching a movie together. They had sat for ages silently, just staring. That is not the Mark she knew. Oh she couldn’t think about that either. She had to just get up this mountain to her parents. What she would do there when she got there she really didn’t know but that would be dealt with then.

They journeyed on. Jane listening for noise from above from her parents and noise from below from her brother. She jumped each time she heard anything and moved faster. The group were quietly following at a great pace, each person lost in their own thoughts.

John and Margaret were standing back to back as the beast circled them, sniffing them, growling under its stinky breath mouth “Where is it? I smell it, I can’t see it. It’s in the air.” He glared into Margaret’s eyes with his raging red eyes staring unblinkingly at her “Where is it?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about. Where is what?”
“Your book. Where is it? It must be destroyed.”
“My book? What book? My bible? My favourite poetry book? My diary? I don’t understand. What book?”
“Clever. I nearly believe you but I can smell it in the air. It is dangerous. It reveals too much. It must be destroyed. Why did you write it? You could have let us be, let us get on with it without anyone knowing but no you decided to reveal us.”
“I don’t understand. I haven’t written any book.”
“Liar” said the beast as he circled them and his tail wrapped around their necks tightly. “Liar. You have. I can smell it. Do you want me to make you give it to me?” He tightened his grip on her husbands neck and Margaret screamed at him.
“Stop. Stop. I am telling the truth. I haven’t written any book. I have started many but I haven’t any finished, published book. You must be mistaking me for someone else.”
“Hmmm” said the beast. “Not finished. Interesting. Yet I know it is done. We must be meeting before our time. This changes things.” He sat down, releasing the two bewildered souls.
“How?” whispered John. “How does it change things?”
“Well, I get to tell my side of the story don’t I? So it changes things and will change the book and well everything.”
The beast went up to Margaret, his appearance changing as he approached her. His grotesquely large features softening to ruggedly handsome ones, his dark wolfine hair that covered his scaly body changing to soft black hair on his head as his skin became smooth and a black sexy fitted suit appeared on his body, his red fearsome eyes transforming to beautiful deep brown eyes, his tail disappeared, his hooves changed to feet. Margaret was mesmerised and John as he watched her was overcome with jealousy.
“Don’t listen to him Margaret, don’t listen to him. He’s evil. He’s..” John never finished his sentence as he was struck by the beast as he walked past him to Margaret and he fell to the ground. Margaret didn’t notice, she was so taken with this handsome stranger she didn’t notice anything but him.

Chapter 17

Luke was assessing the situation with Manaar held captive by this dragon and his parents held captive by something he didn’t know, see or hear. In fact, he hadn’t heard anything from above for quiet a while. He stared at the dragon who hadn’t moved since grabbing the feline’s tail. He couldn’t understand why it hadn’t just killed them both by now. It could easily have as it was huge and they didn’t stand a chance and yet it just sat there holding onto Manaar and staring at Luke.

Manaar looked at Luke. “Well do something.” she thought.
“What exactly can I do?” thought Luke.
“Nothing, you are stuck aren’t you boy? ” thought the dragon and they both stared at it.
The dragon stretched itself up to its full gigantic size, letting Manaar go as it shook out its large leathery wings and swished its tail. “So, Manaar and Luke, what will you do? I have every advantage, size, strength and I know what you are going to do before you. Best if you just sit down while I decide what to do with you.”
They sat. What else could they do.

“Well now, this could go either way couldn’t it?” said the Dragon, more to himself than to his captives. “I’m hungry, but you are scrawny”
“I know and understand your mission, perhaps better than you do and its a worthy one but it might be the end of me so maybe I should stop it.”
“I’ll make a deal with you that’s what I’ll do, though I don’t have to, I could just end it here.”
Luke and Manaar just watched in bewilderment as the Dragon fought with himself over what to do with them. They were surprised that this magnificent looking powerful creature was dealing with a moral dilemma.

“Why are you surprised?” said the dragon in his rich deep baritone voice. “I have morals. I am not all bad. Just because I look fierce everyone thinks the worst of me.” He sighed and sat down with a crash that lifted the two in the air and landed them in front of his nose.
“I could eat you or burn you into cinders right now and it all would be over but I won’t as I always knew I wouldn’t. Ok. You must promise me that I will be remembered as the great heavenly creature I am and not the monster I have been portrayed as in the past.”
“Ok” said Luke. “I’m not sure how but we will certainly tell that you let us go and that you …. em… have… morals ?”

The Dragon growled at him. “No, no. In the book. I must be revealed as a creature of light in the book.”
“I really don’t know what you are talking about.” said Luke. “Is the book not already written and whatever is in it is in it? We are on our way to get that message revealed to us now are we not?”
“I do” said Manaar and she revealed her thoughts to Luke with the Dragon eavesdropping.
“Yes, yes, in the book.” said the Dragon. “Now let’s go.”
Luke just looked at the two in bewilderment. Manaar had revealed an important book that was to be written by his mother it seemed.
“Hey, did you know about this all along? What is the other book for?”
“Bast wants that so while we were on a quest anyway….”
Luke glared at the feline and the Dragon chuckled.
“See, Luke, we all have our devious and selfish side. I am not the only monster here!”
Manaar hissed at him and said “Well, come on if you’re coming.”
“Well hop on my back this is the quickest way and of course the way it was meant to be is it not?” said the Dragon.
They climbed on his back and Luke was bewildered at all that had happened. It really was quite strange, choppy, jumpy and dreamlike. This thought flew away from him as quick as it came when the Dragon took to the air towards the mountain and whatever beast was to meet them there.

Jane, Mark and the others looked up when they heard the swooshing noise above them and they saw Luke and Manaar on a dragon.
“Not far now” shouted Luke. “I can see them, but there is no beast just Mam talking to some man and Dad seems to be sleeping… or”
He didn’t finish his sentence but they knew what he meant and they ran as fast as their feet could carry them, despite their tiredness. Mark rushed by Jane with such speed she couldn’t grab him as he went.
“Mark, wait for me. Don’t go on alone. Wait” shouted Jane.
“He will be fine” said their companion. “He knows what to do.”
Jane ran and ran, trying to catch her brother before something awful happened him.
She saw the Dragon descending with Luke and Manaar and then she couldn’t see them anymore so she ran in their direction as fast as her feet could carry her.

Chapter 18

Luke, Manaar and the Dragon arrived at the plateau to find Luke’s mother sitting staring lovingly at some strange man, a handsome man but a stranger none the less. She appeared to be totally absorbed in whatever he was telling her while her husband lay bleeding and still on the ground.
“Oh my God, is he dead?” shouted Luke as he leapt from the Dragon before he had fully descended so he tumbled on the ground rolling towards his father.
The man looked over annoyed at Luke for interrupting him, taking his eyes off Margaret for enough time for her to wake briefly from whatever kind of dark magic spell she seemed to be under and she jumped from her place and ran to John’s side.
“What is going on Mother? Who is that man? Where is the monster I heard? Why is Dad not moving?”
Luke was very angry at his bewildered mother who didn’t seem to know what was going on around her at all. She kept mumbling under her breathe
“Have to change my story, his side has to be told”

Luke ignored his mother and tended to his father while Manaar and the Dragon circled the man. Luke didn’t notice him changing form behind him as he tried to resuscitate his dad. The man grew in stature and darkened and transformed into an enormous three-headed scaly monsterlike creature much larger than the Dragon.

John woke and screamed which made Luke turn to find the creature bearing down on Manaar and the Dragon who were backing over towards him. His mother never lifted her eyes up, she just kept mumbling about the story and how it should be told.
“It will never be told Mother unless we get out of here!” shouted Luke as he slapped her on the face. He wasn’t quite sure why he had done it but that’s what they did in Movies isn’t it and well what was this only a dreamlike movie!

His mother stopped and glared at him and then took in her surroundings. She grabbed her husband and pulled him to safety as Luke jumped on the Dragons back.
“I think I am meant to have a sword by now!” said Luke to noone in particular “ but I left it behind me in the Dragons lair!”
“ Here you go” said Mark who had just arrived with the rest following him and he threw the sword up to his brother.
“How?”
“No need to ask how, just ask and you shall receive!” laughed Mark as he and the rest of the group ran at the beast from below and Luke and the Dragon rose into the air to attack from above. Manaar grew in stature and jumped at the middle head, clawing with all her strength.
They all fought hard except for Mark’s quiet stranger who went over to his mother and spoke gently to her, staring into her eyes and holding his hands over her head and she swooned into a sleep. He then tended to their father who he prayed over and moved his hands over, up and down until John stood up looking many years younger and ready to help his children and their friends.

None of the others saw this but the beast. It went to grab Margaret as she slept with its Left Head as Luke attacked its right and Manaar was brutally clawing its middle one.
The gentle stranger grew in stature and his appearance changed from gentle grotesque ogre like being to angry tall beautiful man as he stood over Margaret and shouted at the beast.
“Enough! Be gone!”
Just as he said this Luke pierced the beast in the chest and he screamed and transformed again into the ruggedly handsome man and then into a grotesque wolfine type demon with hooves and tail and he collapsed.

Everyone stopped and stared at the stranger whom they had hardly noticed before. They had left him to Mark happily ignoring him.
“You are he!” said Jane “You are the guru we were meant to find up the mountain. You have been with us all this time and we never knew.”
“I knew” said Mark.
“But you never said” said Luke.
“ Well , things had to happen the way they did, didn’t they? Anyway, I liked talking to him on my own. First person that ever really listened to me.”
“Mark!” said the stranger.
“So, what does the book say?”
“Not here!. We must leave this place and return to Egypt.
“I don’t really want to” said Jane. “We have our parents, We know now the book had nothing to do with getting them and well…. can’t Manaar bring it?
“We are all going to go to Egypt, Jane. We will finish what you have started.”
“ Well I don’t know either” said Luke. “Bast kinda tricked us into doing something for her while we were looking for our parents.”
“She also sent you Manaar to protect you on your journey.”
“Yeah”
“Well I’m game” said Mark. “Let’s continue this adventure.”
The stranger smiled at Mark. “Yes Mark. Your journey has just begun. Enjoy it for what it is the outcome will take care of itself.”
“So, how do we get back to Egypt from here?” asked Jane.
“We will go through that” said Manaar, who up to now had been quietly licking her wounds and observing the interaction. They all looked at where she was pointing and for the first time noticed the waterfall.
“Was that there all along?” asked Luke.
“I never noticed it.” said Mark.
“Well it’s there now” said Jane.
“Was it there waiting to be noticed or is it there now because you noticed it?” asked the stranger.
The Dragon guffawed and went over to Margaret lifting her gently on his back and the party headed over to the waterfall and into the cave behind it.

When they had all gone and everything was quiet the beast that they had left for dead arose and looked around him.
“Egypt it is.” he growled and disappeared.

Chapter 19

Luke walked alongside the dragon holding his mothers hand, his anger at her interaction with the demon long subsided as he knew she had been mesmerised by some sort of dark magic. Jane and Mark were reluctant to approach the dragon as he appeared fearsome even if he was on their side so they walked either side of their father and told him all about their adventure. He told them what had happened to them and they quietly pondered how much it resembled a story their mother had been writing for what seemed forever whenever she had a moment to herself.

They traveled quiet a distance and Yosef lit lamps as they went deeper into the cave and the darkness descended on them. Margaret shivered with the cold and came out of her trance like state looking over at the stranger and smiling. He smiled at her and quietly spoke to Jane and Mark so that they braved the dragon and went back to their mother to embrace.

Mark having got this near the dragon got braver and climbed up on him putting his mother’s arms around him which stopped her shivering. They talked about the adventure and her books and she promised to finish them when they got home.
“Do you know then how this ends?” said Mark.
“Well, there are many possibilities. I write and it changes.”
“Interesting…. But you can make it end well.”
“I suppose. I will have to go whatever path it leads me though.”
“The Dragon wants to be remembered as a noble beast.” said Luke.
“Less of the Beast.” said the Dragon.
“Well he has done nothing but good since I met him.” said Margaret laughing.
“ I am going to leave you now, my good deed is done” said the dragon as he slid them off his back gently. He went off back the way they came as they watched him go wondering if it had all really happened. Luke felt quite lonely but he also felt sure he would meet him again.

“How does a cave bring us to Egypt?” asked Jane quietly.
“Funny question really when you consider how we have traveled everywhere else.” said Mark.
“Look, that’s where we go.” said Manaar and they all followed her.
She led them through an opening into a forest.
Margaret groaned. “Is this the same forest? Hey wait, are you the same cat?”
Manaar ignored her and they all entered the forest.
“Ok we must find the clearing and think of Egypt.” said Manaar “This way.”
They all followed her to the clearing noticing all the items they had wished there still sitting there, beds, dressing tables.
“Food glorious food!” said Mark as he grabbed a still hot sausage from the table.

They joined hands and concentrated on Bast and her temple. Everything went misty and they felt whoosy. They felt warm sand under their feet and sun on their faces as they opened their eyes to find themselves in the middle of the desert with nothing to see for miles around.

“Who did this?” hissed Manaar.
“Sorry” said Yosef. “ I was thinking of my tribe and I think we may be where they last were. They should only be a day or two away from here. Now which direction?”
Everybody groaned.

As they walk it dawned on them that all their provisions and more importantly their water was back on the mountain. Jorge was the only one who had had the foresight to refill his flask before they had ran after the children’s parents. As he realised this, it also occurred to the rest of the party.

Manaar and The Guru stopped and took a look around at their group. They could see the bad thoughts rising in all of their minds. Handy skill don’t you think? They stopped and watched and listened.

Jorge was calculating how many days it would last if he shared it and how long it might last if he didn’t but then how would he hide it. Margaret and John were thinking of overcoming Jorge and keeping the water for their children. All of the children were wondering how to get it away from Jorge as they were overcome with thirst from the moment they had realised they had no water. Yosef was watching Jorge wondering if he would share it or should he take it off him and if he got it would he share it and then his guilt set in for thinking like that and for also getting them into this situation in the first place.

“ Ok, enough of that!” said Manaar. “Give it to the Guru and let him be in charge of sharing. I am going to find water as I am not in danger of thirst like the rest of you” and she left.
“Interesting choice” said Yosef. “We really still know nothing about him and he deceived us earlier by not revealing himself.”
“It wasn’t his time to reveal himself” said Mark. “I think he must be the one to carry it too. Let’s vote on it.”
“Why should I? asked Jorge.” I am the one who remembered to bring it. I should carry it and I should decide how much everyone gets.”
“The children need the water” said Margaret.
“We all need the water!” said Yosef.
“Our children need the water” said John.

“Ok” said the Guru. “Before this desert madness sets in on us all, let’s sit. How long do you think we have until we reach your camp Yosef?”
“Two days maximum, I would say but that is a guess. I don’t really know.”
“And any idea where Manaar will find water?”
“No”
They all went silent.
“Right well lets add two more days to that, so we have four days before we find water. Jorge, how much water have you got?”
“Not a lot, enough for a day and a half I would say for all of us, if we take small sips every few hours. We will be dehydrated in no time.”
“I see.” He closed his eyes.
They watched him and waited and waited and eventually Yosef said
“Ok, Jorge give everyone a drink please”
The guru opened his eyes.
“Yes, everyone get a drink now, then we walk, then we stop, then we drink, then we walk, then we stop, then we drink and Yosef will go on with the water and reach his camp while we wait and Yosef will come back from his camp on a camel with lots of water and then we drink, then we walk, then we drink, then we walk.”
“But we will have no water!” said Jorge.
“We will die before he gets back” said Jane.
“Why should he be the one getting the water on his own?”said Luke.
“He is the only one that may know the way and will need the water to keep walking.” said the Guru.

Nobody liked it but nobody knew what else to do. So they drank and they walked and they stopped and they drank and they walked and they stopped and they drank and Yosef left them with what was left of the water. It was dark by now and very cold. They huddled together and slept while Yosef walked and drank and tried not to think about the next day.

They woke in the blistering heat, thirsty and weak and the Guru told them to huddle under his cloak and wait. Yosef kept walking, drank his last drop of water and kept walking. He walked all day and they huddled all day under the cloak hiding from the heat. By dusk Yosef was wilting and not sure if he would get to the camp while they were nodding off. The cold woke them up and they huddled again. The children were very weak at this stage and Jorge wondered would they last another day.

Yosef lay down to rest for a bit before he started off again into the night and then he spotted the smoke up ahead from a camp fire so he hurried to get to it before dawn and the heat came back to finish him off. He reached the camp before dawn and collapsed at the opening of the first tent to be found by his sister. She gave him water and tried to make sense of his gibberish talk of dragons and monsters and goblins and thirsty children then she put him to bed.

When Yosef awoke it was nightfall.
“Oh no, the children, they will not last much longer!”
“What children?” said his sister. Yosef jumped up and ran around gathering water flasks and reining up camels while his sister looked on bewildered. She insisted on waking his brother and some of the other men and once he explained they mounted the camels and went with him in the direction of the group.

Meanwhile the children had not woken in quite a while and John and Margaret were wilting fast. Jorge and the Guru wondered about how long they would last once the blistering heat started when Manaar with Bast and a group from the temple and Yosef with his group arrived at the same time from different directions with water.

Chapter 20

Manaar and Yosef and his party gathered around the thirsty group and quenched their thirst. They dripped it slowly on the parched lips of the sleeping children and rubbed it in their skin. John and Margaret gulped it down and then tended to their children while Jorge and the Guru sipped theirs quietly waiting for the aching tiredness to pass.

It took some time for the children to come round and Yosef and Jorge agreed that they needed to get them back to his camp to recuperate. Bast, Manaar and the Guru had wandered off, in deep discussion, already in the direction of the camp while the humans were deciding to move. The children were put on camels alongside their parents and they made their way back to the camp where the shade of the tents and comfort of home cooked food brought them back their strength in no time.

That evening while everyone sat around the meal, the Guru opened the book and read from it. He read of the beginning of time when there was nothing through the beginning of life and transformation of life to the way it is now and although he was speaking of millenia the time flew and his words created visions of tiny particles and atoms and fish and fish like creatures leaving the sea, dinosaurs and monsters and beautiful creatures and his words danced in the air as he described the continual battle of good and evil writing the history of the world. Each person could see it differently as his words took on different meanings to them all. Fairies and wolves and dragons and angels and demons flitted in and out of their minds as they listened and when he lifted his head and stopped reading they all were mesmerised by his beauty and light.

He looked around them all and touched them each individually and said quietly,
“Think good thoughts. Speak good words. Do good deeds” and he handed the book to Bast and wandered off into the desert. The silence was filled with golden music as they watched him walk for what seemed like forever and no time at all. Bast then broke the silence as she looked round at the group and spoke.

“Thank you for bringing this book to me. I and mine will protect it now and you are free to return. Take heed of your callings and be prepared.” She and Manaar then left the party and wandered off in the opposite direction to the Guru and the mortals were left looking at each other astounded.

“I’m sorry” said John as he hugged his wife. “Me too” she said as she returned his embrace. “Things will be different now.”

Yosef stood up and suggested they all go and rest and an overwhelming tiredness came over them all at once so they all agreed and entered the tents to sleep.

Epilogue

Alice froze when she saw the two gurneys going by her in the corridor. John and Margaret were on them not moving. She ran after them screaming at the doctor.
“That’s my sister. What is happening here? Why is she not moving? What is going on?”

A nurse pulled her aside and spoke gently to her.
“They were found at a woods off the beaten track where they crashed into a tree and were both flung out of the car. They would never have been found if it wasn’t for the big cat that ran across the path of the lorry driver. He swerved to avoid it, ended up in the ditch and then noticed their car. All their vital signs are fine but they just won’t wake up. It is very strange as we have had three similar cases this day only they are children who just collapsed, funnily around the same time. Don’t worry. They are alive and we are doing our best to get to the bottom of this. They will be up and talking to you in no time.”

“They are their children” whispered Alice.
“What, sorry, who are whose children?”
“The children you speak of are theirs.” said Alice as she pointed in the direction her sister had been taken.
The nurse couldn’t believe her ears. “Wait here. I will be back” and she ran after the gurneys.

Luke was the first to wake up. He sat up straight in his bed and announced he was starving. He didn’t seem particularly surprised or put out that he was in a hospital and not a tent in the middle of the desert. Nothing much surprised him now. He looked over at his siblings in the other beds and told them to wake up which they did.
“Right. Let’s find Mam and Dad” said Jane as she went to get out of the bed and collapsed on the floor. A nurse came running to help her shouting out “They’re awake. They’re awake.”

Doctors and nurses and their family ran into the room amazed. These children had been in a deep trance like sleep for quite a few weeks and their parents were also in comas in the adjoining rooms. The children insisted on being brought to their parents so they were wheeled out in wheelchairs and put beside their parents. Luke insisted they be left alone and then called his parents quietly.
“Mam, Dad, wake up. We’re home.”

John woke first and they had a longer while to wait for Margaret while they sat around her holding her hands. None of them spoke of their adventures to the doctors or family. They just waited.

Mark was asleep with his hand holding his mothers when she sat up straight and said
“ Quickly, I have a book to write and I must do it fast as the beast is on his way to Egypt to retrieve the book of life from Bast. You have to go and stop him and you have to go on your own as John has to guard me from the powers that are trying to stop me write it . Oh Lord, who let that monster into the garden?”
The children groaned and then looked at each other. Nothing was ever going to be the same again.

The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne – a retelling

Everybody knows what a great warrior king Fionn MacCumhaill was and if they don’t they should find out but not from me today they won’t!

I’m going to tell you how like many a man he got a bit cantankerous and stubborn as he aged and being a King, for perhaps too long, his pride caused heartache and mayhem to all and to two young lovers in particular. No one should remain in power too long, if you remember nothing from this story, remember that. 

The story goes that old Fionn lost his wife Maigneis and the grief he had was so great that his aging band of Fianna thought they better do something about it and rather than listening to him or telling him to cry and let it all out these old men came up with the bright idea of replacing the love of his life with a young girl called Gráinne.

Of course that wasn’t going to end well he being ancient and she being young but that was their solution.  

Gráinne was the daughter of High King Cormac mac Airt and a worthy match in all the men’s eyes but not in Gráinne’s.

At their betrothal feast which went on for days and nights as was the custom Gráinne noticed the handsome warrior Diarmuid whose “lovespot” in the middle of his forehead made him irresistible to all.

Gráinne was trained in the art of magic and potions so when she got the chance she slipped a sleeping potion in the drinks of all but Diarmuid and tried to get him to run away with her.

Now Diarmaid was a loyal warrior of the Fianna and loved Fionn so he refused at first but she was oh so beautiful and a little bit scary, she threatened him with a geis (a curse) which all at that time were wary of and so he went and they hid in a forest across the River Shannon.

When the men all woke up with a pain in their heads and a grumpiness no one could endure Fionn noticed the pair were missing and he immediately made everyone get up and out and pursue the runaways all over Ireland.

We know they went all over because there are many a Dolmen on this fair land named Leaba Diarmaid agus Gráinne (the bed of Diarmaid and Gráinne).

Indeed there is one over the road in Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford, near Leebeen Lough, a mighty fine one you should visit it. Some say it’s a portal to the Otherworld

There is a rock now called “Granny’s Rock” out the Tromra Road 500 metres from Knights and Conquest Heritage Centre, Granard town, that is another Leaba Diarmaid agus Gráinne.

So, Diarmaid and Gráinne moved around Ireland with Fionn following. They were helped by many because all knew Fionn would not be kind if he found them and everyone loved Diarmaid, must be the spot in the middle of the forehead.

Even some of the Fianna helped and also Aengus Óg, who we met in an earlier tale (Midir and Etain). Aengus Óg wasn’t too Óg at this stage but a name sticks. He had been Diarmuid’s foster father, and loved the lad and being the God of Love, loved Gráinne too. 

Aengus hid Gráinne in his cloak of invisibility while Diarmuid lept over the pursuers’ heads so they say.

At first Diarmuid refused to be with Gráinne out of respect for Fionn and kept telling her he would be taking her back to marry Fionn and she teased him for that but he eventually  fell in love with her and they were together a long long time hiding on Fionn, they even crossed over to Scotland a while.

After a time Gráinne found out she was having a child and had a craving for rowan berries from the magic Rowan tree guarded by the one eyed giant Searbhán;  Searbhán was friendly at first but he got angry and refused to give up the berries so Diarmuid fought him. Searbhán’s magic protected him from Diarmuid’s weapons, but Diarmuid eventually won by turning the giant’s own iron club against him.

After many other adventures, Diarmuid’s foster father Aengus negotiated peace with Fionn and the lovers settled in Keshcorran, County Sligo where they had five children. Fionn married Gráinne’s sister and all was forgiven. I’m not sure how the sister felt as no one tells her story and what happened next makes you wonder did Fionn really ever forgive.

One day Fionn organised a boar hunt near Benbulbin and Diarmuid joined in even though when he was a little boy a geis was put on him that he would be killed by a boar. He may have been lovely but he was certainly foolish.

The boar wounded him fatally and the only one who could heal him was Fionn. Fionn had the power to heal by letting the dying man drink water from his hands, but he let the water slip through his fingers twice. Oscar, Fionn’s grandson threatened Fionn so he went to the well again but when he returned it was too late, poor Diarmuid was dead.

There are different stories about Gráinne after Diarmaid has died, we like to think Aengus took Diarmuid’s body to his home at Brú na Bóinne and while some say Gráinne grieved until she died, others say that she made her children swear revenge on Fionn and a more peaceful end says she married Fionn eventually and there was peace between the clans.

AGS 2018

I couldn’t decide on Diarmaid or Diarmuid so you must put up with both.

Sleeping Beauty and Climate Change

(Image : Sweet Dreams by Mary Smyth Art, https://www.facebook.com/marysmythlongford/, https://www.behance.net/marysmyth )

What if….. everyone has interpreted Sleeping Beauty wrong and it was about climate change all along? Hear me out, this came on a walk on Brí Leith so it must be true.😂 Midir! 🤔😂

What if Sleeping Beauty walking towards the spinning wheel pricking her finger is all of us sleepwalking into climate change?

What if Maleficent is Capitalism wooing us towards our demise? We know it is wrong, we all do but we want the shiny thing, we believe the lies, we are mesmerised, we are under the spell of sell, sell, sell, buy, buy, buy, take, take, take, profit, profit, profit and it is so strong we can’t fight it.

What if the fairies who change the spell to 100 years sleep instead of death are representatives of nature trying to save the planet? Flora, Fauna and Merryweather….. ahem!

What if 100 years is all it will take to correct the wrongs we did and save the planet and all we need to do is go to sleep… as in “stop”, just “stop”? Stop over farming and let the land rewild, stop over fishing and give the ocean a rest, stop over producing and produce and buy local in small communities, stop over travelling and stay where we are or go in a slower, more environmentally stable manner, stop exploiting nature and people and be a community that cooperates instead of competes. This paragraph could keep going but my train of thought is racing by and I need to catch the next carriage.

What if the briars were a reminder to let Nature do the work and just stay away from her while she does it because you’ll get hurt or maybe dead so just let her enclose you and keep you safe and warm while you “stop”?

Briars regenerate the land.

What if when the 100 years are up we will be fine as long as we all sleep (“stop”) and as long as the right way of being gets through the briars to wake us up and work with us to create a better world for us and our people?

What if they knew this? The Grimm Brothers, in the middle of the century of the industrial revolution and they thought about it and didn’t want others to figure it out…. just yet… so they twisted the tale to make it about women and men and oh dear me, here we go on another century of Patriarchy and more intense Capitalism.

What if they knew? Walt Disney, at the beginning of the age of cinema and wrong messages and people falling asleep in front of a screen, lapping it up as “Gospel”, “The American Dream”, “the innocent child”, ” the evil witch”. There’s only two types of women right? Innocent and waiting to be rescued and led or evil bitches tearing the innocent one to shreds. Nothing to see here, carry on buying and selling and taking and raping the world and her people. Look, there’s a shiny thing! Ignore the message that was just “Stop!”

What if they knew? The 1%, bankers and capitalists all, those who tore at the land that was never theirs and plundered her essence, those that murdered her people with war, famine, slavery, every brutality they could think of because they knew and didn’t care and just keep wanting more for themselves.

What if they know it takes 100 years for her to recover and they’re setting their own up to be on top again to start the ball rolling again while we all walk mesmerised to prick our finger on the spinning wheel and sleep? What if the race to space was just a distraction to stop us looking over there at the real rulers in the banks?

What if all of them are going to be ready to sit it out on the land they are grabbing? They are grabbing more than enough to sustain them and theirs, on their islands they purchased. They will slow down behind their walls of briar and wait for the rest of the planet to recover and instead of saving us all, the people, they’re leaving us outside the walls of their kitchen gardens and hunting grounds to die of famine and war and whatever horrors are to come.

Are we going to be left outside the wall or do we tear it down and create a better way before it is too late? We do know there is only a small kingdom of the few behind the wall right? They’ve no intention of letting us by their dragon no matter how successful we think we are in this imaginary world we live in.

This happened before, it will happen again. Empires fall, leave destruction behind, small groups of people survive and others who have been planning all along for the next “pyramid” scheme begin more brutal than before, each time grabbing more, in the end it is a pyramid scheme within a pyramid scheme within a pyramid scheme and the percentage at the top gets smaller and smaller until eventually it will be one who most likely will declare themselves a god and off we go again… as I did on another train of thought…. for another day, let’s dismantle Cinderella next..

The message Nature is giving is clear to me and to many, we need to stop and let her breathe, give her time without us “doing”, and she will be alright but it is up to us whether we will be. If we don’t stop, she’ll take us down and make us stop, virus, plague, not so merry weather, diseases in the flora and fauna we need to survive. It doesn’t matter, it will happen. This planet needs to live and if we continue to destroy we will be destroyed in the end so just “Stop”.

This is what happens when you walk on Brí Leith with family and the forest trys to take you and yours. 🤔😉 Midir destroys the fairytale on you. ❤💚🌹🦋

When will it all stop?

My baby girl cried herself to sleep last night. I held her as she spoke of all her fears and her observations of the the world we live in.

She sobbed as she talked of how we are killing each other and the world and kept asking

“What is wrong with us?”

She talked of how we hurt each other, animals, the rivers land and sea, the very air we breathe, the little babies dying, she talked of all the hunger in the greed.

“When will it all stop?”

“Will it only end when humans have destroyed everything and everyone? The world must hate us so much. We hurt her so much. She is in so much pain. It hurts so much.”

Her sob hurt me.

“This is why God doesn’t answer any prayers anymore, because we are just horrible.”

I held her tighter.

I let her download all her fears, her thoughts onto my shoulder which is already aching from the weight of all my other babies’ fears and mine.

She spoke and sobbed for over half an hour of her short 9 year old life. She spoke of all the horrors of the world that I didn’t even know she knew about.

I whispered to her of the things we must be grateful for. I talked of flowers and the chicks, our demon cat and loyal dog who snored at our feet. Our family, the sun, the moon, the stars, the perfume of our roses, the tiny things living in the garden, ice-cream, stories of leprechauns and fairies.

“I want to meet a fairy. We probably killed them too along with unicorns and dragons. We probably killed them all. Why can’t our leprechaun do something? He wants to do good, he sees it all too, but his hands are tied, they don’t let him, they won’t let him do the good he wants to do!”

I didn’t know who she spoke of and then I realised she meant our president. “Don’t call him that, that’s not nice he wouldn’t like that.”

“How do you know? He really is a Leprechaun, he’s where he is to do something about it. He really wants to help, but his hands are tiny” She looked down at her own.

I let that be. She needs some magic, we all do and if thinking he’s a Leprechaun who might do something with his tiny hands then…I let it be.

I told her there are so many good people in the world, that the good outweigh the bad, there are more of us, all the while wondering was I right…

Today I saw a tweet about babies washed up on the beach because their families were trying to get them out of the hell they were living in and bring them somewhere safe but the somewhere safe didn’t want them so the babies drowned and I don’t think I was right…

Why did that not stop the last time we saw a baby washed up on the beach? Was the image of him in his red and blue not enough?

Why are there more?

“What is wrong with us?”

I think my baby girl who sobbed herself to sleep is right and I don’t know how to make it better. My heart is broken.

“When will it all stop?” 💔

Before the Monsters came

Image by https://www.facebook.com/marysmythlongford/ and can be purchased here: https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/shop/p/quirkytalescoverart?rq=art

This was written for a children’s story competition. An author decided the shortlist and then children voted for their favourite. It came 3rd. What was more special was on the day a 5yr old came up to me and whispered “I voted for yours, I know it is about Climate Change, it is so important, I like the ending.” ❤ That’s enough for me.❤ It is included in an anthology by other Longford writers that you can buy here: https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/shop/p/quirkytalesbook?rq=quirky%20tales

Once upon a time, before the monsters came, we lived in peace and all were happy. Plants grew, flowers bloomed and filled the air with perfume. Food was growing everywhere and no one went hungry. Animals, big and small, lived side by side and all was good.

The monsters came in flying machines from the sky and landed everywhere, all over the small round planet we live on. No one knew they were monsters because they looked harmless enough with their two wobbly legs and two skinny arms and big smiling faces. Their shiny ships were beautiful and reflected back the sun and we could see ourselves in them too which made us laugh.

The curious little monkeys wandered over first to examine these creatures. They were always brave but stupid. The monkeys followed them into their ship and everyone waited patiently for them to return but they didn’t. If they did, they were so changed, that we, their friends, no longer knew them. They were bigger and they were angry. No one had seen anger before and didn’t know what it was but we all suddenly felt fear and some ran while others hid. Others looked on, not knowing what to do as no one had ran or hid before in fright. All was joy and fun in this world before the monsters came.

The monkeys ran after those that had fled in fear and chased them, shouting and screaming, making big loud noises that no one liked and the elephants raised their trunks and blew hard to cover it up with their own sound. The noises grew and the fear grew and the monsters stood in their flying machines looking out at the chaos they had created and they were very pleased with themselves. Now that everyone was looking at the monkeys they could take the gold and silver from the world and all the precious jewels that sparkled in the waters for themselves, they even sucked the black oil from the ground. No one noticed, no one cared because the monkeys were chasing them all.

A monkey caught a cat and bit her on the back and the cat released her claws she used to climb the trees and scraped the monkey. Their anger grew and others joined the fight and then the first creature in this world blew out like a candle but its spirit stayed to watch the show and I’m here still. A wolf howled at the sky and the sun hid behind the moon. Everything went dark. Nothing would ever be the same again because the monsters came.

The plants closed up their leaves and hid their food and animal began to eat animal and the monsters laughed as they took what they wanted and left this world to do the same on other planets. Some monsters stayed and ruled over all the creatures and the plants that had remained. The plants and creatures changed to fit this darker, scary world where winds blew strong now that there were no sparkles to distract them from their racing flight. The monsters built themselves houses, towns and cities around the planet and continued to take and never give.

Our planet vomited up lava because no longer was the gold and silver in her belly keeping her tummy cool from all the heat of her warm coal. Sometimes she trembled in rage at the memory of the beauty she had been and cracks grew across her skin and swallowed up whoever happened to be passing by. The blissful life her creatures and plants had lived had changed because the monsters came.

But just as the monsters changed our world, our world changed the monsters too. Not all, but many of them noticed how the plants gave generously of their fruit and healed their wounds when they were hurt. More noticed how despite the fear and anger they had brought that creatures still approached and gave them love. Some monsters saw how the beauty of our world could make them smile and love and feel the Joy that once was everywhere before they came. They felt sorrow and regret and cried and asked our planet to forgive them for the pain and she gave them singing birds and butterflies, daffodils and roses, bees and beetles too. She showed the monsters all the good that they can do within this world, how to give instead of take and love instead of hate, how to fix instead of break and the monsters learned and so can you.

Mide of Tuatha

This is a story I wrote for an anthology, full of other lovely works by local Longford writers. You can get it here: https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/shop/p/homemadebook

Here is a video we did through Scéalta Beo with Creative Ireland – Longford: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=934428363634274

Mide was curled up on her father’s lap, at the campfire in the middle of their enclosure. She was listening to her elders talking of the ancestors, their great feats and desperate defeats. She loved hearing the stories of how the people that created their home, their Crannóg, first came to this area on foot, from over the mythical hills of Brí Leith carrying all that they could with them. They wanted to start afresh in these lakes far from the fires and fighting. 

They left in the night after spending months of preparation, gathering seeds, making food that would last the journey and beyond until the seeds had been planted, grown and harvested in their new home. They cured meat, made butter, made clothing, learned and taught each other skills they would need. In truth they had been preparing for many years before they left as they knew that their world was changing rapidly and in order to keep their people, their families and community safe, they would need to leave their ancient home and start anew elsewhere. 

They had scouted far and wide and were happy that somewhere safe and secluded, somewhere hard to get to was found. They headed off under nightfall to this place to sit out the madness and emerge when all had settled again and was right with the world.

Mide snuggled into the sheepskin rug her father had gently put around her while the stories were told as they were every night, since the beginning, of how her people walked quietly through the bog and over the hills to this lake, a lake that others thought too still and full of death. The stories of stillness and death would keep them safe here when the hunger and desperation hit harder in the world. 

Her people had found new life in this lake, not much at first but life and therefore hope. The lake was rebirthing as the goddess Etain rebirthed in the ancient stories of Brí Leith and so they knew it would serve well as their new home. They fueled the stories of stillness and darkness in whispers to the others so that the many would not come this far and they would be safe, at least for a time. Desperate times brought out the primal tribal feelings of protecting your own. Even with this they had taken in other families and people deserted by their own as deep down they were a kind and caring clan. They also sought out strong and fit people trained in the skills of protection and battle if the need occurred.

Some of their clan had spent time creating the group of manmades islands that had become their home by building up the mounds of mud within the lake and once they were completed they then began the building of the huts and fencing all around. They took their time over the naming of their new home and after much debate agreed to call it Tuatha, which meant, in simple terms  the people, the tribe, the community but their ancient language was never ‘in simple terms’ and so Tuatha meant much more – it is a sense of place, something they needed more now than ever before.

They built their logboats and created a secret path for those who might be on the shoreline needing to get back inside the enclosure quickly. When crossing on the underwater stepping stones it looked as if they walked on water. It was Godlike, Mide was told by her father.

When all the community arrived at the shoreline they began to take the animals over first to the large natural island further in the lake. It was a difficult task, they had to go in two boats each side and get the animals to swim along between them, one by one until they reached the other side. The island, which was hidden from the shoreline, would do their livestock.  They hadn’t brought many, the rest they had bartered with others for items they knew to be needed while the others thought they were quite mad getting rid of the only treasure worth having anymore.

Once they had established themselves in their Crannógs and everyone was assigned their tasks they settled into life and many forgot the destruction they had left behind them. The days blended into each other. Each night at the campfire the Elders told the stories of the past so that no important lesson or skill was forgotten and read from the few ancient manuscripts they had managed to save from destruction. They taught the young to read the symbols and all the knowledge of the past at the evening gatherings. They lived there peacefully together doing their daily tasks, growing their seeds on the island, farming the land and gathering what grew there. 

Every so often a brave one went out to find out if calmness had been restored on the shores and the family waited, worried and excited to find out what news they brought back. Some never came back and they were mourned and stories were told of their lives and added to the nightly learnings. When they did get back everyone watched to see were they followed for days and weeks later. They rarely brought good news. The hardest time for Mide was when her mother didn’t return but hearing her story every night made her feel like she was there with her and her father and she liked to sleep dreaming of her smile.

The first brave scout that came back told of war and dying, of diseases and hunger, many areas of silence. Gradually they told of slow new growth but not enough for all the many needing food. 

They brought strange tales of magnificent structures made by the old people, of strange instruments found and brought some home with them. Some of the elders knew what they were for and taught the clan to use them. The elders waited excitedly for each return to see what treasures returned. Mide, her father and all the new generation were just curious and at times thought most of it was pointless rather than useful.

The last came back so long after they left that people weren’t sure if they really were their kin, but they knew the way and the path across the water so they surely were. If doubt lingered about them no one said as no one wanted to send another being away. There were too few now. 

They hoped in time they would find more communities like their own to trade, learn new skills from and share their knowledge. They hoped that those that had survived had learned the lesson well how cooperation rather than competition was the natural way and working with Mother Earth would serve them better than against. The biggest lesson they all learned every night from the elders was not to casually destroy Mother Earth for she will fight back and she will win.

Mide slowly drifted off to sleep, dreaming of her mother, warm and safe within the strong arms of her father. The large egg she was fiddling with fell out of her hands, rolled towards the fire and suddenly began to crack. The family looked on in bewilderment as a furry robot creature hatched out of the plastic shell making sounds they hadn’t heard before. Was this instrument for communicating like the many slim black boxes they had found but didn’t work? They had taken them apart to use whatever they could from inside. One reached out to do the same to this when Mide woke and grabbed it.

“No don’t break it! This is mine!”

A Journey

Mary jumped on the bus, hood up, head down, hand clasping her bag. The bus driver didn’t give her a second look as she sat down and visualised her plan of action. Inevitably it wouldn’t work out well for her but while she still had time to change her mind she knew she wouldn’t. Her life had taken a complete change of direction but maybe this had always been her destination. She sat back, calm and relaxed, thinking of the events that had paved this road before her.

As a small child, Mary had imagined her future as a successful businesswoman, millionaire. She may have a child or two but no more. She definitely wouldn’t have a litter like her tired mother. A strange ambition for a seven year old when all her friends were dressing up as Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. She was always a realist and never believed in fairy tales.

It wasn’t that she didn’t respect her mothers choices. She seemed to be happy enough in her motherhood and part-time job. She couldn’t have continued in her original, time demanding career if she wanted to give time to her children she was always heard saying though Mary didn’t remember her spending more time with her than any of her friends parents had with them. Mary had noticed the wistful regret of maybe a different life in her mothers words so she planned her own life journey from an early age and no one was going to divert her from it.

She only read biographies, history and “real” books, no fantasy nonsense for her, She noted down all the steps her idols had taken, the sacrifices of these successful women. Women who used their brains and not only survived, but excelled in this man’s world. She played sport to win and keep fit. She was a winner and would always be a winner. She had few friends, she only wanted to mix with driven people, fools need not apply, She was an old head on young shoulders her teachers commented, her school report was always excellent.

Boys did not distract her, though with her long golden locks, sea blue eyes and natural deep red lips she had many admirers. She kept her distance. She knew from watching her mother that often the man’s dreams come first. She came top of the class, top of the country, in her leaving cert. She got her first choice and a scholarship.

The day her journey veered off the path into the murky woods of uncertainty she had followed a ruthless, intelligent and charming wolf. She wasn’t prepared because she had never read a fairy-tale in her life, never read anything but facts, statistics and measureable truths. That day, Mary was sitting in her lecture listening intently to the words of Professor Whyte. She knew all about the famous economist Professor Whyte, she had read all of his papers. She had watched his programmes and read his autobiography.

Perhaps it was because she already knew the economic premise he was discussing, having read on ahead, that she had time to admire his fit body, sparkling eyes and inviting smile. Having never given herself a moment to wander down the rabbit hole of infatuation before she hardly noticed she was slipping into that inviting mossy darkness as she doodled his features on her page. He, however, had been scanning the new recruits, innocent first years, preferably loners. He was looking for new blood, having discarded his last just before she went in for her finals.

Mary was staring into his eyes ready to leap in and drown. She was already beginning to justify in her mind her sudden daydreaming episode, something she never did and scorned openly in secondary school.

“I know this already, I’ll study it later, I’ll snap out of this enchantment shortly and get back to my schedule.”

She had a schedule, a timetable showing her productive plan for every minute of her waking day. Dr. Whyte was about to change all that.

All the rest of her class moved out and on to the next lecture as she lingered on doodling and dreaming of the handsome prince before her and he stayed back, slowly gathering his books and his lunch. He stopped, looked at her and tossed a juicy red apple which she caught and sat holding it, like a rabbit paralysed, staring into his headlights. He smiled, walking out the door.

“ Bye Dr. Whyte, thanks for the apple.”

“ No problem Miss..”

“Mary, Mary Malone.”

“ Ah, Mary, not Molly then? Call me Phil, I’m not into titles. See you soon.”

Mary found herself bumping into Dr. Whyte, Phil, regularly. She had him for lectures twice a week and a tutorial but he seemed to be everywhere she looked. It was unnerving, especially as she had only allowed herself to daydream that one day and now thoughts of him kept interrupting when and as often as they wanted. She found she liked him more and more each day which was not on her plan.

Phil was liking this chase, he thought it was going to be an easy one that first day but this rabbit was resisting, more harelike the way she bounded off as soon as she saw him. He was getting under her skin. She was difficult to pin down, she didn’t attend the usual student haunts and seemed to socialise with her classmates only during and in between class.

“Ah, Mary, how are you?”

He was leaning up against a doorway in the corridor as she was scurrying along to get to class.

“Stop a bit and chat, you are well on time as usual. I’ve been worrying about you, I worry about all my students. You need to live a little, let down your hair, go out with your friends, go to The Yellow Brick, that’s where everyone hangs out I’m told, I go on occasion myself, might even venture there tonight. Funny, normally, I’m telling students to do the opposite.”

He laughed. She stopped and looked at him.

“What do you mean? I’m fine. I don’t really enjoy that sort of thing, I’m just here to learn.”

“It’s not all about books Mary, You seem like an ambitious sort, you need to learn to network, be at the right events, socialise, it’s how we humans work I’m afraid, even if you don’t like it.”

He hit her right between the eyes, she was doing something wrong, not moving in the right direction to her dream, yes she was top of her class, had been since day one but she knew he was right. Sooner or later she had to play the game, be seen at the right places, rub shoulders with the people of influence and she hadn’t ventured out once.

I’ve been so busy.”

“Yes, busy, busy, top of the class. I’ve been watching your progress and well done but you know what they say, all work and no play.”

“I play camogie, that’s a team sport.”

He laughed,

“ And do you enjoy it? ”

“Yes, yes, I’ve always loved camogie. I score a lot, I like winning. We won a lot, my school team.”

“Yes, you like winning, how about you sign up for something social, eh Mary? Tick that box too. “

and off he went knowing he had upset her. He had the measure of this little rabbit, he had met many like her before.

Irritated, she wandered into her lecture not thinking of anything but his words.

‘He makes me seem so superficial and calculating, I’m not like that at all, I’m just focused and that’s a good thing.’

She watched others laughing and joking together making plans for the evening despite a paper being due next week. How could they leave so much to chance? Even later as she studied she couldn’t let it go and in the end she pushed her chair back from her desk and stood up. She changed her clothes, brushed her hair and put some make up on, not a lot as she only had a minimal amount in the first place. Then she went to prove to him and to herself that she could have some fun, throw caution to the wind just like everybody else. She promised herself she would be home by midnight at the latest as she had so much work to do.

He smiled his charming smile when he saw her enter the pub and then he ignored her and continued his conversation while she squirmed and wondered what she was doing here. When he felt she had enough and might flee he approached his little rabbit and saved her from herself.

“Well, this is a surprise, I thought you thought pubs were a pointless exercise”

“I thought I might relax, socialise a bit,”

“Yes, you are doing great at that over here in the corner on your own.”

He laughed,

“Here, let me buy you a drink, you can join us, its not all tutors, there are some of your kind with us too, students I mean not social butterflies”

He snorted at his own joke and directed her to the table. He introduced her and wandered to the bar.

She never was so giddy or frisky, she usually only drank to be polite and only ever one but this night’s partying lasted longer than she intended, she wasn’t sure what was in that concoction she had been drinking, it was sweet but very intoxicating. Against her better judgement, she had none by the end of the night, she went with Phil to his office to discuss some paper he was working on. She had agreed enthusiastically, delighted he thought she was clever enough. One thing led to another and they slept together that night and many more to come and soon her every spare moment was in his company. They did discuss his paper and she won many arguments on it and he even seemed so grateful for her input that she spent more time on his work than her own. As her grades fell his work flowered and bloomed.

She got through first year reasonably near the top. She held her own in second year and third but in her final year she was waking up to the manipulation she had willingly allowed happen. His work had been exceptional during her time with him and much of it was hers but no recognition would come her way. She overheard a lecturer comment one day how Phil always worked better with a muse and it irritated her no end. He was distancing himself from her, saying she should spread her wings, she shouldn’t want to be tied down to him. Before, he had made plans for life with her. She noticed he was spending more and more time around the first years, more than he had in years, in fact since her first year.

It was the day she saw him propped up against a doorway, greeting a young girl in the way he greeted her before, that she remembered the girl who had been staring at her and him the way she was now staring at the scene unfolding before her. That day she changed the course of her journey forever.

She descended from the bus, made her way to the door and knocked. Phil opened it and smiled.

“I’ve written a letter to the Dean and I’ve contributions from many more young women you manipulated along with evidence of their work that you claimed as your own. He should get it this morning, round about now. My journey to hell has ended, but yours is only starting.”

She opened her bag, took out the gun and pulled the trigger. He stood in horror as her young frame fell to the ground before him, her white hood slowly changing to crimson. The phone rang.

This reminded me of Edna O’Brien’s writing in its portrayal of the harsh realities of being a young woman in an environment ruled by a powerful man; the ending was unexpected but unforgettable!” Judge’s comment in ICA Short Story Competition, 4th overall, 1st HIGHLY COMMENDED.