Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Four, Part Five

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Four, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

Sammy seemed to understand Dijia’s request and immediately set out to show the boys where he had found the arrow of Nierron.  Jonathan and Dijia gathered up their bags of provisions and set out to follow Sammy as he led them deeper into the woods. They didn’t have far to travel to find out.  Just over a small knoll in the forest, was a valley with a creek that flowed in the same southeasterly direction as the creek where they had almost perished over the waterfall.  As they descended into the valley, they passed through a lush forest with many varieties of trees, ferns and open meadows filled with wildflowers.  The contrasting beauty of the woodlands and wildflowers versus the ugliness of the black and red arrow he held in his hand didn’t escape Jonathan’s notice.

Dijia grabbed Jonathan’s arm and stopped them both from going any farther, and made a quiet bird whistle to catch Sammy’s attention to pause as well.  Pointing through the woods to a clearing about a hundred yards in front of them, Dijia whispered, “See the small stone hut in the glade, Jonathan?  It’s a hunting outpost of Nierron.  The riders must use it as a shelter here in this corner of the kingdom.  We must be very cautious and make sure there are no riders anywhere in the area before approaching.”

They paused in the same spot for about five minutes while looking for any movement or activity around the hut, and once they were sure it was empty, they crept towards it slowly and cautiously.  The hut was crudely constructed of stone walls with a thatched roof of branches and reeds, and seemed to be vacant, as there was no noticeable sign that it had been recently used.  A small stack of firewood was piled up against the outside wall near a simple door made of planks that was left ajar.  A fire circle made of large river rocks was dug into the dirt a short distance from the front door, and some slender sticks that had been used as spits for cooking meat over the fire were resting beside it.  The last fire in the fire circle had burned completely down to ashes which were cold to the touch, indicating that the hut hadn’t been used recently – but the weather hadn’t yet disturbed the ashes – so there was no way to tell how recently the fire had been made.

Jonathan crept over to the hut and looked into the single window set into the stone wall.  It was little more than a small opening between stones, with a board that leaned up against the exterior wall to close it up when needed.  The was no sound or movement inside, so Jonathan motioned for Dijia to peer into the door.  Dijia saw that no one was inside, so after a cautious look back over their shoulders into the woods surrounding the glade, both boys entered the hut.  A quiver of eight black and red arrows matching the one Jonathan carried in his hand had spilled onto the earthen floor – no doubt where Sammy had found the arrow he was holding.  There were two sleeping areas of pine needles, moss and grasses arranged on the floor and a bow leaning up in the corner.  “Break all the arrows in half, Jonathan, so these can’t be used against anyone in the future” said Dijia, who then took out his knife and cut the bowstring to render to bow useless, while Jonathan broke the arrows over his knee.  A small sword and a knife lay on the floor beside the bow and Dijia picked up the sword for himself and handed the knife to Jonathan.  “Let’s leave here quickly, Jonathan – these weapons mean the riders are still in the area.  We can’t afford to be here when they return.”

Dijia strapped on the sword’s leather sheath and Jonathan tucked the knife into his belt underneath his cloak, and then they left through the door and hurried the short distance across the glade towards the woods where they had approached from. Sammy was nowhere to be seen as they hurried across the glade to the protection of the forest’s shadows.  Just as they reached the edge of the forest, two riders rode into the glade from another direction and called out, “Halt, in the name of Nierron!” and began charging towards them on horseback!

“Run, Jonathan!” cried Dijia, as they did their best to run deeper into the forest, but the two horsemen were on them in a moment! Turning to defend themselves, Dijia pulled out his sword and Jonathan fumbled to find his knife as the two riders stopped before them on horseback.  They wore hooded garments made of a course, green fabric with leather ponchos draped over them that were tied at the side, and matching tall leather boots.  Both riders had bows drawn with black and red arrows pointing at them in their hands and swords on their sides.  Abruptly, one of the riders relaxed his bow and let out an evil laugh that filled Jonathan and Dijia with dread and fear.  “It was two boys after all, just as I thought Stenkov – this is a prize indeed for taking to King Tucar!  We’ll be rewarded handsomely for our efforts!  They are more valuable to us alive than dead, so lower your bow and we’ll dismount and tie them up!”

As the riders began dismounting, Sammy charged the two horses from behind, barking and snarling under their hind legs, causing them both to rear in fright from this unseen threat to their flanks!  As the horses reared and kicked – whinnying madly and attempting to whirl around to face this threat – Sammy kept at it underneath them, barking and snarling as if he were ten times his size!  The two riders were caught completely off balance and unawares as they attempted to dismount, and the rider who gave the directions caught his boot in the stirrup and fell to the ground, breaking his neck in the fall.  The second rider fell clear of his horse to the ground and at once Dijia pierced him through the neck with his sword.  The horses bolted back into the glade, dislodging the one horseman’s boot from the stirrup when the saddle slipped under the horse’s belly.

“You saved the day, Sammy!” whispered Jonathan in Sammy’s ear as he hugged his dog for all he was worth and Dijia kissed Sammy on the forehead.  Jonathan then went to calm down the horses, while Dijia searched the riders for anything they could use – recovering two swords, three knives, a leather fire-making pouch containing a flint and soft tinder, and another small leather bag containing some food provisions to take with them.  He then broke all the arrows and cut the bowstrings as they had done earlier in the hut.  Dijia set aside one of the swords for Jonathan and placed the remaining sword, three knives and the small leather pouches into their original bag of provisions. Meanwhile, Jonathan calmed the horses down on the other side of the glade and adjusted their saddles, before leading them back to where Dijia was waiting.  One of the horses was a beautiful dark brown in color with a white blaze on her forehead and four distinctive white socks. The other horse was jet black with a single white star on his forehead.

“You can ride the black horse, Dijia, while I’ll ride Blaze, here.  We should make better time on horseback than on foot!”

“Yes, we will – I’ll call my horse Nactar, which means Night in our tongue – for he is black like the night!”

Dijia and Jonathan then tied their bags behind the horse’s saddles and began riding east across the valley to higher ground, following a seldom used path that led higher into the mountains ahead of them. Jonathan could see the silhouette of high mountains covered with glaciers in the distance and remembered what Gramps had said about tunnels under the snow.  He also remembered Gramps telling him to keep his heart pure, in order to ensure his passage back to Ohio. Jonathan tried to reconcile his words after having just watched two men die.  He realized that he and Dijia were left with no option, for the riders would have taken them as captives to King Tucar to face an even worse fate, no doubt.  Jonathan also knew that he was duty-bound as a Knight of Pengarth to protect Dijia with his life. Regardless, Jonathan could only ponder these questions of life and death, good verses evil, fortune and fate, duty and honor, light and darkness – as they quietly rode single-file through the most beautiful woodlands he had ever seen before…

(End of Chapter Four)

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Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Four, Part Four

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Four, Part Four

~~~~~~~~~~

It was unsettling to be floating in a river of darkness, freezing in the cold runoff of the earlier rainstorm that now filled this mountain stream to overflowing.  Yet, Jonathan clung with one hand to the large branch and to Sammy with the other, ensuring that they wouldn’t be separated from each other again as they once were.  Dijia had pulled himself up onto the other end of the timber sized branch, grasping it securely so as to not be pried away by the rapids.  The turbulence of the water in the dark of night under overcast skies, without even the faint glow of moonlight, created a chaotic nightmare of being consumed by a void of darkness.  Jonathan felt like they were riding a bucking bronco in a Wild West Rodeo in the dark – knowing that at any moment they would be kicked off and in for a hard landing.

Seconds turned into minutes within a fog of time, as Jonathan couldn’t even guess how long they had been immersed in the freezing water.  Unable to hold on much longer to either the branch or to Sammy due to his shaking and numbness, Jonathan knew they needed to quickly find a way out of the stream before this would be their undoing.  The choppy waters of the rapids around them began to grow louder, until it filled the air with the sounds of a distant roar. Jonathan felt an overhanging branch scrape against his left shoulder and realized they were very close to the left stream bank.  Hooking his right arm around the branch as well as Sammy for stability, Jonathan reached out with his left hand to try to catch another passing branch in the dark.  It was a long shot – like bobbing for apples while blindfolded at night.

The next passing hanging limb eluded Jonathan’s grasp, but he captured the third tightly in his hand, causing Dijia’s end of their floating branch to swing around in the current parallel to the shoreline.  They both found their footing in the rock-filled waters, and managed to grasp a hold of the stream bank and pull themselves and Sammy out of the water.  They were shaking uncontrollably in the chill of the night air, but remarkably they still had both the bag of provisions and Jonathan’s backpack with them.  The roar of the rapids was deafening now that they were out of the water, and they gathered themselves away from the water’s edge higher up on the bank before cautiously walking a few feet in the direction towards the sound of the thunderous roar. At least the sound of the water would mask their own movements in the darkness.

The overcast skies began to thin out from the morning’s thunderstorm, and for a moment the moon made a quick appearance overhead, illuminating the land around them in the soft glow of a silvery light.  Only then did they realize that the roar of the water was from a waterfall that was now only a stone’s throw in front of them! Had they continued any longer in the rapids, they would have all perished over its edge! The thought of how close they had come to disaster stopped them in their tracks and they decided to go no farther in the darkness, lest they stumble over some other unseen danger in the night.  The warmth of dawn’s light wasn’t far away now and the three of them huddled on the ground in a tight circle, hoping their shivers would cease by morning.

Dijia awoke in the early light of dawn to find Sammy already investigating the surrounding grasses, bushes and trees alongside the stream bank.  His shivers were gone, and while still damp in his robes, he wasn’t particularly cold.  He cautiously proceeded to the edge of the waterfall and saw that the swollen creek they had floated down the night before was some 50 feet wide at the waterfall’s edge, before plunging onto a bed of broken rocks far below.  From there, Dijia could see that the creek flowed in a southeasterly direction into the Kingdom of Dorrimar and surmised it must be the River Allonyl. Realizing just how close their narrow escape had actually been, Dijia quickly backtracked to where Jonathan slept in the tall grass.

Quietly shaking Jonathan’s shoulder to waken him, Dijia said, “Jonathan, we need to seek cover now that the dawn is here – we can’t remain out in the open any longer.”

Jonathan gathered up the bags and they retreated into the edge of the nearby forest, seeking protection from preying eyes in the depths of its shadows while pausing to reflect on what course they would take from here.

“Jonathan, I saw the waterfall this morning and it was fortunate that you grabbed the branch along stream bank when you did – for otherwise we would have perished over the falls.”

“Do you know where we are, Dijia?  I hope you do, because I don’t have any idea. What do we do now?”

“Yes, I have an idea.  This stream in the Tregarrons must be the headwaters of the River Allonyl, which flows southeast through the Kingdom of Dorrimar, through the Dorrimar Mountains and into the Bay of Ellberron at the City of Allonyl in the Kingdom of Ellberron.  We must continue east along the Tregarrons and seek help from the Slejuv People in the highest reaches of the mountains.  It is a long journey, but our only hope.  My father was friends with the Slejuv and they will help us to cross back over into my Kingdom of Pengarth. The border will be closed and closely watched by those who seek my demise, but the Slejuv have their ways – there is no other path for us to take.”

Sammy ran up to Jonathan and received the hug he was looking for, before going off again to explore deeper into the shadows of the forest.

“I hope the riders of Nierron will give up following us now, Dijia, thinking we plunged over the waterfall last night.”

“Don’t count on it, Jonathan – the riders return to King Tucar without us to their own peril.  They will never give up their search, for they must capture us dead or alive, or perish themselves.”

Jonathan thought back to his friends in school and how much he wanted to tell them about his adventure – but first he had to survive it – which meant taking better care of Dijia and cheering him up.  Only through Dijia could he ever hope to return to Hampton.  If something happened to Dijia, he would never see his friends, his parents or the Spencer Family Farm again. “Don’t worry, Dijia – we’ll find a way to get you home so you can be King – and then Sammy and I will find our way back home to Hampton.”

Dijia smiled and Jonathan’s words seemed to have already cheered him up.  “There is much for you to learn, Jonathan, for I am already King of the Kingdom of Pengarth. Once my father died I automatically became King, but I must return home to show the people that I’m still alive.  I fear they have been told that I, too, am dead – and that someone else has already seized power.  Tell me, Jonathan, of your land called Hampton – who is your king?”

“We don’t have a king, Dijia.  Hampton is just a little city in southern Ohio, and I live on a farm with my mom and dad.  We grow corn and wheat and have some cows and stuff – nothing very exciting.”

“No, king?  How can that be?  Who tells you what to do?  Your Hampton must be a lawless place of riders and outlaws that terrorize the people.”

“Not really – all the people decide who should be President and he goes on TV, talks a lot and runs the country I guess.  The Sheriff takes care of any troublemakers.”

“I don’t know your meaning of President, TV and Sheriff, for your land of Hampton is foreign to me.  I promise you, Jonathan, that when I am returned to the throne, I will find the path that leads back to your family’s farm.  I will tell your President about the great things you’ve done for me and for my people as a Knight of Pengarth!”

“I’m proud to be a Knight of Pengarth, Dijia, and I’ll do all I can to return you to your throne as King – but first, there is work for us to do here – for we haven’t eaten all day.  Let’s search these woods for nuts, berries and fruit that we can eat, and save our provisions for as long as we can.”

In spite of the extreme conditions they had found themselves in, they were surviving. Just knowing they were beating the odds was enough to boost their spirits while collecting anything they could find to eat. Dijia turned out to know all about the edible plants and roots of the area, and spent the morning teaching Jonathan how to identify them. In all, they found more than enough to eat their fill, which renewed their strength and determination to continue the journey.  King Tyijar had taught his son well, knowing the importance of preparing him to one day be king.  It was this knowledge and training that Dijia was now relying on and teaching Jonathan.  They both realized the urgency of the task ahead of them, and understood that they had to succeed at all costs – because failure wasn’t an option.

“Dijia, Gramps told me about caves in the mountains and paths under the snow – have you ever seen them?”

“No, Jonathan, but I know of them.  It is in these places the Slejuv People live – within the rock of the mountains themselves, in places no one else will go.  They are a mystery to me, but my father has told me of them.  It is our only hope – but there are also wild things in the dark.  It is a difficult way – the way of the Slejuv.  Without the Slejuv, these places are not possible to enter.”

Dijia turned to see Sammy emerging from deeper in the woods and carrying something in his mouth.  Jonathan turned around to see it, too, and recognized it at once as an arrow – similar to the one that was shot at them by the riders – a black shaft and feathers with a red band around the middle.  Sammy dropped it at Jonathan’s feet and Jonathan picked it up to show Dijia saying, “It’s just like the arrows the riders shot at Majeka and I in the river – it’s an arrow of Nierron!”

“We’re not alone, Jonathan – there’s bound to be more where this arrow came from. Show us where you found this, Sammy…”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Four, Part Three

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Four, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

Although tired from climbing up the slopes of Mount Rhayander to the Dorrimar Pass throughout the night, Jonathan couldn’t sleep during the raging daytime thunderstorm that was accompanied by occasional crashes of thunder and piercing flashes of lightning.  His thoughts returned to that first morning when he woke up in the thicket after having gotten lost on his Saturday morning adventure.  How quickly everything had happened since discovering he had wandered into this world of Myllanthar.  He reminded himself that he was on an adventure and simply found what he was looking for – an adventure indeed!  Yet, a nagging doubt in the back of his mind wouldn’t let him rest as he questioned himself over and over again – how would he ever find his way back home?

Getting lost hadn’t been part of Jonathan’s original plan, but then adventures seldom unfold as desired.  He reminded himself that adventures take on a mind of their own once underway, leading those who are searching to discover what they hadn’t realized they were looking for.  This, of course, wasn’t what Jonathan needed at the moment. He needed reassurance that there was a happy ending at the end of this journey – yet, it seemed outside his reach.  Nothing was the same as it once was, and his normal adventurous self-confidence was nowhere to be found, either.  However, giving up wasn’t an option that ever crossed Jonathan’s mind and he somehow had to find the inner-strength to continue on, that he had never needed before.

Sammy slept restlessly beside Jonathan with his head resting on his thigh – masking the disquiet and tension moving through his bones, too – fidgeting in his dreams and subconsciously grappling with the dark memories of his initial visit to Myllanthar. Sammy lifted his head for a moment to nuzzle and lick the scar on his rear leg, before returning to his unsettled dreams.  So little was known or understood about this new world they found themselves in and the single path that lay ahead was deeply obscured in a foggy mist of doubt and uncertainty.

Sleeping only a few feet away from him was a boy-king that Jonathan barely knew, who somehow seemed to hold the key to finding his way back home to Hampton, Ohio. Gramps had been adamant that Jonathan must purify his heart if he was to ever cross back over the boundary, and somehow it was this journey with Dijia that was to make that possible – but how?  Jonathan considered himself to be a regular, likable boy, who loved his dogs and adventures more than anything.  Oh, sure, his parents and school were important to him as well, but nothing captivated his interest like adventures and his dogs, Trooper and Sammy did.  His dogs had been his steady adventure companions ever since the very beginning.  Ol’ Trooper may be retired now, but he was Jonathan’s first partner in exploring the Spencer Family Farm together.

Jonathan sensed an inner self-confidence and authority in his new-found friend, Dijia, that was reassuring to Jonathan.  It was like Dijia was his guide who would somehow show him the way back home, despite the fact that Dijia didn’t know where Hampton, or Ohio was, for that matter. Somehow, Jonathan felt that Dijia was the one to show him the way and their quest would take him there.  Jonathan’s thoughts eventually morphed into dreams, and the same unsettled disquiet he had sensed in Sammy now overtook him, as well. Jonathan needed sleep to prepare himself for their upcoming journey, where the way ahead was fraught with danger and there was precious little they could do to protect themselves from it.  They were but pawns caught up in a swirling darkness that threatened to smother the land and people of Myllanthar – but even pawns are given the opportunity to play a role – and Jonathan, Dijia and Sammy all had their roles to play.

Somewhere in the depths of his dreams, Jonathan felt his ankle being shaken.  He awoke to find it was only Dijia stirring him from his troubled slumber.  The sun was setting behind distant mountain peaks and twilight would soon cloak the land in shadow as nightfall approached.  “The rain has stopped and we need to eat something before tonight’s journey, Jonathan.  Here, have a portion of the unleavened bread that Arrydor included in the bag of provisions and drink some water.  We’ll begin our quest as soon as we can be ready.”

Jonathan shared his bread with Sammy and remembered that he still had a few portions of dried meat with him, and shared them with Dijia and Sammy as well.  Soon they had gathered up everything from the cave that was useful to them, divvying between them what each was to carry, and cautiously departed the cave.  Moving away from the rock face and precarious cliff edge, Dijia led them in an eastward direction across solid ground, following a rocky ridge from Mount Rhayander to the next peak some distance away in the growing darkness.

Soon enough, they needed the Talspin’s ice-blue glow to illuminate their way and Jonathan attempted to shield the light from the sides and above so it was focused solely in front of them, hoping to avoid discovery from preying eyes.  Unbeknownst to them, the Rhayander were keeping constant vigil high above them – following their every move, with or without, the Talspin’s light to highlight them.  Yet, other watchful eyes were also masked within the darkness, constantly searching and probing the night for anything that might appear to be out of the ordinary.  Two young boys and a dog journeying through these parts were indeed out of the ordinary, and attracted more than passing interest.

A shrill horn broke the stillness of the evening, causing the three of them to freeze in their tracks.  While it sounded like the horn was still far off in the distance, it meant that Nierron’s riders must have tracked them after all!  They needed to do something quickly to avoid being captured, or worse.  The riders would have a harder time finding them in the darkness, but if they were aided by those who were cloaked within the shadows, it might go more quickly – they mustn’t delay!  Jonathan soon realized what they needed to do.

A short distance away was a raging stream, carrying runoff from the day’s torrential rainstorm down from higher terrain above them. Jonathan led them towards it while carrying Sammy, taking care to step on the surface of boulders and smooth rock surfaces as much as possible to avoid leaving tracks in the soft earth.  Dijia followed behind and soon they were at the water’s edge, taking care to remain quiet while searching for something that would help aid them in their escape. Soon they found what they were looking for – a large broken branch snagged on the shoreline.

Again, the horn sounded in the darkness, but this time it seemed closer to them, which meant the riders had gained ground on them and were closing in on their location. They had to act quickly – there wasn’t a second to spare!  Wading knee-deep into the stream, they pulled the thick branch into the current and walked it into deeper water. Jonathan placed Sammy on the middle of the branch, ensuring he was well-balanced and supported, and the two of them then pushed the branch into deeper water and quickly floated with it downstream – and away from their pursuers.

The horn sounded once more in the darkness and this time they also heard the faint sound of voices along with it, but just as quickly, the voices faded from earshot.  They had escaped the riders this time, but just barely!  Jonathan didn’t think the riders had observed their entry into the stream and hoped it would take them time to discover how they had gotten away – long enough to place a good distance between them. With the Talspin hidden under his cloak and shirt, they were surrounded by pitch darkness while floating in a freezing and turbulent stream to who knows where – but anywhere was better than being captured by the riders of Nierron.  The moon was hidden by overcast skies, which made the perfect backdrop for their escape, yet Dijia and Jonathan both understood they had only dodged the danger – for it was now to be their constant companion on their quest.

Jonathan wondered why so much effort was being placed on capturing two young boys and a dog.  He recalled that Dijia’s father, the King of Pengarth had been assassinated, and understood how Dijia was now by rights, king – but why the manhunt – unless it was to kill Dijia so a new king could be crowned!  Perhaps, King Tucar of the Kingdom of Nierron, wanted to rule both Nierron and Pengarth, which accounted for his riders having such an interest in capturing them!  Locking Dijia away in a castle’s dungeon or worse, would clear the way for such plans, and leave no one standing in the way.  If only Gramps could find a way to prevent such a crime, thought Jonathan – and bring justice to the land!

The Rhayander continued their watch from high above them in the night sky, as the swift current placed an ever greater distance between them and the riders who struggled to track them in the darkness, and discover their method of escape.  In the meantime, Arrydor was in fact working to bring justice to Myllanthar, having teamed Jonathan and Dijia together on their quest to regain the throne of Pengarth for Dijia. Yet, other plans, in other places, were also at work – an undercurrent of hope that moved quietly throughout the land  – a quiet ripple of determination to remove what had been for too long a stain and blemish on the Garden Oasis that was Myllanthar…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Four, Part Two

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Four, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

Losing Sammy for the second time was devastating to Jonathan’s spirits and in the stillness of the moment he felt a cool dampness in the breeze, signaling the beginnings of a mountain storm.  Jonathan pulled his cloak closer to his body and turned slightly to place the wind at his back, while drawing his hood tightly around his neck.  How could Sammy just dash off into the darkness like that?  Where did he go?  Was he alright? Jonathan sat there in disbelief, without answers to all the questions he had swirling through his mind.  He was lost – lost and alone in another world – far, far from home.  For all he knew, the Spencer Family Farm was on the moon at this point and there was no way for him to ever return home.

Now what was he going to do?  He didn’t dare take out the Talspin at this point to have a look around, because he was uncertain of what awaited him in the dark and didn’t want to highlight his position.  At the same time, the first hint of dawn was upon him now and it would soon reveal his position to anyone who might be watching – including the riders of Nierron.  Either way he was doomed.  His only choice it seemed was to wait a few minutes until his eyes adjusted to the first, faint rays of dawn and then quickly move somewhere out of sight to hide during the day.  There was no way he could risk looking for the cave in daylight and give away his position – and Dijia’s as well – someone he hadn’t even met yet.

The wind continued to picked up and Jonathan decided he couldn’t stay where he was any longer, and looked around in the darkness hoping to see anything in the dim light that would give him an indication of which direction he should go.  In the end he decided the mountain goat path was his only option and stood up to put on his backpack with the bag of provisions attached to it.  He froze in his tracks at the sound of something quickly approaching, defenseless to protect himself in the darkness with his backpack awkwardly hanging from one shoulder.  He needn’t have worried though and was relieved to find out that it was only Sammy jumping up against his legs!

Jonathan dropped to his knees and quietly whispered, “Where did you go, Sammy?” while holding Sammy’s head in his hands and hugging him. Sammy wagged his tail excitedly and grabbed Jonathan’s sleeve in his mouth and began pulling him up the mountain goat path. Jonathan stood up again and managed to put on his backpack, before following Sammy into the darkness – uncertain of what was awaiting him – but understanding that he didn’t have any other options at this point.  The faint light of predawn was just enough for him to see the path under his feet without using the Talspin, but everything else around him was still cloaked in the shadows of night.

The visibility slowly grew better with each passing moment and the sky above the eastern mountain peaks began to faintly glow off in the distance.  Jonathan became aware that the mountain goat path followed alongside the shoulder of Mount Rhayander and that they had reached the Dorrimar Pass during their long journey through the night.  The path transitioned into a treacherous ledge that clung to the side of the mountain and plunged into the darkness just to the left of his feet.  As Jonathan followed behind him, Sammy seemed to disappear into the side of the mountain itself. As he reached the point where Sammy disappeared, he discovered a small opening in the side of the rock face that was only a few feet high.  He carefully got down on his hands and knees so as to not lose his balance and cautiously crawled into the narrow sliver of an opening to where Sammy awaited him.

At that moment, the sunrise was just cresting the eastern mountain peaks behind him and Jonathan’s eyes needed to adjust to the dim light of the cave.  There was a candle burning in the cave somewhere in front of him, but Jonathan’s eyes couldn’t yet tell if it was three feet or thirty feet ahead in the distance.  As his eyes adjusted, he realized he was in a cave that was about 5 feet high, 15 feet deep and perhaps the same size in width.  A voice whispered from somewhere in the shadows of the cave, “Move and you’re dead!  Who are you? Who sent you here?”

Jonathan froze in place on his hands and feet, his hood draping down over his head and his backpack slipped off but one shoulder. Replying to the voice in the darkness he said, “My name is Jonathan and this is my dog, Sammy.  Gramps sent us to find a cave on the Dorrimar Pass where Dijia was waiting for us.”

“I know of no one by this name of Gramps.  By what other name is he known?”

“I call him Gramps after my Grandpa Spencer in Minnesota” said Jonathan to the ground under him, unable to move from the awkward and defenseless position he found himself in.  “He said his name is Arrydor, Illandor and Myllanthal – which name do you want?”

“Welcome, Jonathan and Sammy!  You are the ones I’ve been waiting for!  He is Arrydor to me.  Let me help you with your bags and move you away from the entrance of the cave.  I am Dijia – son of King Tyijar.  I am King of the Kingdom of Pengarth.”

Jonathan felt a hand grasping his backpack and sliding it off his shoulder. He cautiously raised his hood and threw it back over his shoulders, while crawling a few feet away from the cave’s entrance to sit upright. Sammy nuzzled up to Jonathan and lay down with his muzzle in his lap.  In the dim light of the early dawn, Jonathan now saw Dijia for the first time sitting across from him – a boy King – no older than he was, wearing the traditional robes of his people.  He wore a lightweight, light-colored silken garment resembling a flowing shirt and loose pants, with a series of robes in earth tones layered above it.  His outer robe was sandy-green in color, with an intricate edging of fine needlework and embroidery.  From his bronzed skin, dark eyes and black hair, to the embroidered leather moccasins he wore and the cloth he had wrapped around the top of his head – Dijia looked to Jonathan as one who had stepped out of a picture-book of exotic and far-away lands.

“It’s very nice to meet you, King Dijia!  I’m Jonathan from Hampton, Ohio.  I live on a farm and should be finishing second grade about now. I’m trying to get home, but Gramps said I first needed to help you.  He also said that I needed a pure heart if I was to ever cross back over the boundary and find my way home again.  Can you help me return to Ohio?”

“I know of no place called Hampton, second grade or Ohio, but farming I understand, Jonathan.  When my father was king, he made sure to help the farmers grow and harvest their crops in peace.  I, too, am on a journey to find my way home.  I was with my father on a trip of goodwill to make peace with King Tucar and the Kingdom of Nierron, when my father was killed by Nierron’s riders.  I escaped and fled over the Boundary Mountains of Nefyanll, and into the Wilderness of Nyllaythel where Arrydor rescued me and sent me here to wait for you.  It is my quest to take my rightful seat as the heir to my father’s throne and be crowned King of Pengarth – a royal title that is rightfully mine.  Will you help me honor my quest, Jonathan of Hampton?”

“I will, King Dijia.”

Dijia stood up in the cave and drew a long knife from under his robes and said, “Kneel before me, Jonathan of Hampton – and I will Knight you in the service of the King and people of the Kingdom of Pengarth!”

Jonathan knelt on both knees before Dijia and bowed his head.  Dijia took his knife and alternating between touching each of Jonathan’s shoulders with the flat part of the blade and resting it on top of Jonathan’s head said, “I, Dijia, the rightful and true King of the Kingdom, Land and People of Pengarth, do here by and forthwith proclaim to the Land of Myllanthar and to anyone concerned, that Jonathan of Hampton is now bound by duty and honor to uphold and protect his King above all else – to include his life – and to protect and defend the Kingdom of Pengarth from attack and dishonor.  This is your creed, Jonathan of Hampton, Knight of Pengarth.  Rise and go forth with the courage of all who have gone before you!”

Jonathan rose and looked Dijia in the eyes and said, “Thank you for the honor of being a Knight of Pengarth, King Dijia – I will serve and protect you and the Kingdom of Pengarth with my life and with my honor.”

“You may call me Dijia, Jonathan, for I have not yet been crowned. This is the aim of my quest – to be seated on the Throne of Pengarth and to help you return to Hampton. We must not fail or falter in this calling, for duty and honor will show us the way home.”

Just then a crack of thunder shook the very foundations of Mount Rhayander.  A few rocks broke free from the ceiling of the cave and torrential rains poured from the sky outside the cave’s entrance.  “We need to rest during the day and travel at night, Jonathan” said Dijia. We will need our rest.  I have prepared two beds of pine branches and moss in the back of the cave.  Sleep now, for danger awaits us tonight.”

Dijia blew out the candle and they settled down on their beds to sleep through the thunderstorm, unaware of the forces lining up to oppose them.  For one thing was certain, that darkness would soon seek them out – and find them…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Four, Part One – The Quest Begins

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Four, Part One – The Quest Begins

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“There’s a time for all things to come to pass and for the seasons of our lives to transition from spring into summer, autumn and  winter – yet, the timing of our lives remains a mystery to us – hidden from view behind life’s veil until each act and scene opens around us. However, for all of life’s uncertainties and for its unknowable nature, there’s a simplicity and pattern one can discern.  For just as nature tips her hand at the changing of every season, our lives make known to us each time a new season and transition has begun…”  – Mark D. Jones      

Twilight’s shadows quickly faded away under the overcast skies of nightfall and Jonathan found himself ill prepared for this impromptu journey he had only just begun. Everything had happened too quickly and despite the fact that Gramps had been preparing him for what was to come, he wasn’t ready to begin – it was all too much and too soon. There wasn’t even time to say a proper good bye to the old man who had safely shepherded him through Myllanthar up to this point, or for asking all the questions that were swirling through Jonathan’s mind.

Sammy was leading the way through the darkness and all Jonathan could do was follow the sounds of his movements – awkwardly trying to manage while clutching a bag in each hand.  He quickly lost all sense of direction in the dark and used the Talspin’s ice-blue light to avoid tree branches and obstacles on the ground, all the while trying to shield the light’s glow with a hand to avoid being seen by others in the dark.  Soon the slope of the terrain began to increase, as did the numbers of rocks and small boulders they had to make their way through.  Once they had traveled a good distance from Tywyn, Jonathan whispered for Sammy to stop so that he could get himself organized. Jonathan managed to tie the bag of provisions to the outside of the backpack and carry them both on his back, freeing his hands as they continued on through the darkness.

All Jonathan knew at this point was that Sammy had been told where to go and the route was to climb to the top of the Dorrimar Pass. Without the Talspin’s illumination, Jonathan couldn’t even see his hand in front of his face, yet the fact that he and Sammy were on this adventure together was something that began to give him comfort – just like old times.  They had often ventured together at night back on the Spencer Family Farm, but only through corn fields and around the house and barn. They even played fetch at night and Sammy was uncanny in his ability to find the sticks Jonathan threw in the dark. Perhaps it was for this reason that a sense of calm was beginning to return to him, after all, they were doing what they did best – adventuring!

The slope continued to increase and Jonathan was glad to have two free hands to balance himself on the rocks and boulders that were becoming ever more prevalent. The forest began thinning out and they found themselves in a rock chute or ravine made by rock slides cascading down from the heights of Mount Rhayander towering above them. Jonathan no longer concerned himself with shielding the Talspin’s glow as it hung from the chain around his neck while picking his way through the field of boulders.  He needed both hands free to keep his footing and balance, and the ice-blue glow only illuminated the area directly in front of him.  Sammy had an easier go of it and together they made slow and steady progress.  They couldn’t be concerned about an avalanche of rocks at this point and clearly the riders wouldn’t be able to follow them on horseback through this terrain.  Their trail would be hours old by morning and they weren’t leaving behind any footprints to track, so Jonathan began to feel that their escape from Tywyn had been successful.  Now all they had to do was reach the top of the Dorrimar Pass in the dark!

The ravine narrowed and deepened as Jonathan and Sammy continued climbing higher into the night.  They followed their way along the left side of the rock chute, resting within the shrubby vegetation that clung to the edges of the ravine as it grew steeper and more difficult to climb. Jonathan didn’t want to stop for the night or risk falling in the dark and it was slow going as the smaller rocks occasionally gave way under his feet.  They had no way of knowing how high they had climbed or how much higher they had yet to go, and needed to rest every few minutes within the sparse vegetation along the side of the rock chute.  It was on one of these rest breaks that the Talspin revealed a narrow, mountain goat path alongside the rock slope.

It was pretty clear to Jonathan that the Dorrimar Pass wasn’t much more than a natural dip within the Tregarron Mountains beside Mount Rhayander, and not a route anyone traveled north out of the Kingdom of Dorrimar – besides, Glandwr was a hidden valley and fiercely protected by the Rhayander.  Jonathan had earlier heard the cries of the Rhayander and the sound of distant fighting shortly after leaving Tywyn, but now all they heard was silence.  The terrain was becoming very steep and Jonathan realized they couldn’t safely continue climbing within the rocks for much longer, and decided to try the narrow goat path to see if it allowed them to make better progress.

Jonathan motioned for Sammy to follow him, as the Talspin’s glow was required to follow the narrow path and not lose their balance on the steep slope.  The rocky path was only about 6 inches wide and wound ever higher through the scrub vegetation that clung to the sides of the steep slopes.  They made better time following the path in the darkness, rather than climbing through the increasingly difficult rock slope.  Soon they passed over a ridge line and found themselves in a portion of relatively level terrain on the other side.  It was here they decided to take another break and chew on a piece of dried meat that Jonathan found in the bag of provisions.  The water bottle in his backpack was full and they both had a much needed drink and used the moment to lie down and rest.  Jonathan lay on his back and looked up through the darkness to see stars occasionally peeking through breaks in the passing clouds, but there was no moon to light their way.

Gramps had encouraged Jonathan to continue climbing the Dorrimar Pass through the night and that’s what Jonathan decided to do, despite his growing weariness. Hopefully, if they were able to find the cave by daybreak, they would be able to rest there with Dijia until it was time to keep going.  Dijia was a complete mystery to Jonathan – a boy his age that Gramps sent to a mountain cave to wait for him. It didn’t make any sense to Jonathan, but there was little time to focus on that while trying to make their way through the darkness.  Feeling refreshed from their break, Jonathan and Sammy set out again – and luckily enough for them, the path wasn’t as steep as it had been before.  They were still climbing uphill, but the gentler slope made it easier going, and there weren’t as many ledges to worry about falling off.

After a time, they reached another semi-level area and Jonathan decided they both needed another rest.  He had no idea how long they had traveled through the night and was beginning to feel concerned that the first light of dawn might find them out in the open with no cave in sight. The clouds were continuing to move across the night sky, revealing the occasional star between clouds and Jonathan could smell moisture in the cool, night breeze.  It seemed to him that a storm was moving in and he knew that weather in the mountains could be very unpredictable – even in late May.  Jonathan realized the rest of his class would be finishing up second grade within days and wondered how he would ever be able to start third grade with them in the fall.

Sammy’s ears suddenly perked up after hearing a sound ahead in the darkness and his attention was focused up the mountain goat path they were following.  Jonathan hid the Talspin so the light wouldn’t give them away and tried his best to understand what it was that Sammy had detected.  He, too, had heard something in the night, but had no indication of what it was or what direction it had come from. Perhaps the riders had found another way up the Dorrimar Pass and were waiting to ambush them at dawn, or an animal was watching them in the darkness – there was no way for him to know. Suddenly, Sammy jumped to his feet and bolted into the darkness and by the time Jonathan reached out to keep him still, Sammy was gone…