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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Eleven

~~~~~~~~~~

The evening was full of discussions by the light of the oil lamp and the dimming embers of the fireplace, as Dijia and Jonathan described their journey in roundabout terms.  Both boys understood it was important to not say too much, but also to be truthful and forthcoming at the same time, which was a difficult balancing act considering their situation.  The story they told was roughly one of escaping from the riders, and their hopes of seeking refuge in the Kingdom of Pengarth after crossing the Tregarrons.

Daylla, meanwhile, was a wise woman who had seen many things in her life, and intuitively understood there was more to their story than the boys were letting on. Dijia, the exotic boy, was too well versed and displayed an air that spoke of nobility, while Jonathan was clearly not from anywhere in Myllanthar.  He had a simple, open book honesty about him that was unmistakably foreign to this land.  Together they were a mystery, and Daylla began to understand that their journey was far larger than they had openly revealed.

She talked of the riders, and how they had terrorized this area of the Tregarrons for the past year, and of the pain and suffering she had endured after losing her husband and sons.  What had once been a productive and beautiful valley was now a total ruin, where nothing worked as it had before.  The markets were all closed down, farms abandoned, people killed and missing, and even the wildlife was staying away. It was a chill wind indeed that blew through the land.

Dijia had to bite his tongue, for he wished he could promise her as King of Pengarth that he would destroy the riders who terrorized this land, but he couldn’t reveal his status without compromising the very promises he silently pledged to keep.  Daylla continued on with the story of how her husband had been forced by the riders to turn over most of his crop to them as payment for their protection, and when he refused, they killed him.  Her two sons were taken into slavery and hadn’t been heard of since, and Daylla feared the worse for them.

Left to fend for herself alone on the farm, she was too proud to give up her land and leave as so many others had already done.  If it hadn’t been for the occasional help of local farmers who did what they could to help her amidst their of own struggles, she wouldn’t have survived at all.  Now that winter was fast approaching, there was little hope for her survival until spring.

Looking at her two young visitors with a firm, steady resolve in her eye, Daylla said, “I will never give up!  Do you hear me?  I will not give up – as long as I have an ounce of strength left in my body I will fight back.  I want you boys to promise me the same thing right here and now, that you will not give up either!  You are the future of this land, boys, whether you realize it or not.  If you don’t fight the riders, then who will?”

Dijia was the first to speak in reply.  He didn’t want to speak as King of the Kingdom of Pengarth until he had successfully ascended to the throne, yet at the same time he needed to reassure Daylla that he would do all he could to defeat the riders, and return peace to the land.  “I promise you, Daylla, that Jonathan and I will do all that is possible, even at the cost of our lives, to defeat the riders and once again restore this land to peace and prosperity.  I give to you my oath of honor, that what I say is true, and that one day the rightful heir and King of Pengarth will protect this land.  I give you my promise!”

Then Jonathan added, “What Dijia says is true, Daylla.  He is my friend, and together we will do all that we can to help the people defeat the riders.  You can count on us.”

“You two boys are remarkable,” replied Daylla.  “There’s something bigger about you than your age, and I clearly understand if it’s not for me to know.  If you seek to travel through the high country of the Slejuv People and beyond to Pengarth, your horses are not a help to you for much longer.  The trail continues east for about two day’s journey on foot, and then it is impassible by horse.  I suggest you board your horses here on the farm until your return, for they will be well looked after here with me.”

“Thank you for your kindness, Daylla, but they are not our horses, as they came to us along the way.  We will give them to you to keep, and here are five gold pieces for your trouble, and to provide for yourself through the winter,” said Dijia, reaching into an inside pocket of his robe and handing the woman five bright, shining gold pieces reflected in the light of the oil lamp.  It was more money than Daylla had seen in her entire lifetime.

Staring at the gold pieces in her hand, and pressing her other hand to her breast, Daylla was shocked beyond speech.  The horses were a valuable gift on their own accord, but the gold was more value than she had ever seen before.  She may not know their full story, but Daylla was determined to do what she could to help these boys cross the mountains.

“Two young men not much older than my own grown sons stopped by recently, and asked about you two the other day.  I told them the truth, that I had no information about two boys traveling through this country, as that was before you arrived.  They said they were looking for you based on a common friendship – a man by the name of Gramps they said had sent them.”

Daylla leaned forward for emphasis as the light from the oil lamp flickered across her face, “They said their names were Siyth and Ruylan.  Their aim is to help you cross the Tregarrons and reach the City of Penmarth in the Kingdom of Pengarth.  I needed to know you two were the ones they spoke of before I shared that knowledge with you for safety sake.  They said they would be waiting for you at the Slejull Pass, about five days journey east of here.  That is the only pass into the high country of the Tregarrons and the Land of the Slejuv.”

Jonathan couldn’t contain himself saying, “Gramps, did you say Gramps sent them? I didn’t think I’d ever see or here of Gramps again, Daylla.  You’re right, Dijia – there’s always hope!”

(End of Chapter Seven)

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Ten

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan continued to reminisce about his family’s farm back in Ohio, where the name Spencer Farm was prominently signposted at the end of the driveway beside the mailbox.  It was a white, wood-framed farmhouse that his grandfather built many years ago.  A note stamped into the corner of the cement and stone foundation read ‘David Alexander Spencer – 1927.’

It was an old house, but Jonathan had always liked it.  The wood floors were slippery enough for him to slide in his socks after getting a running start from the kitchen out into the hallway.  His bedroom was on the first floor, just down the hallway from the kitchen, while his parent’s bedroom was upstairs along with a guest room and his father’s office for the farm.

The stairs creaked when anyone walked upstairs, and the attic under the roof was fun to play in.  There was a narrow, twisting staircase to get into the attic, and Jonathan always thought of it as a winding staircase inside the tower of a castle. From the small window at the end of the attic, he could see out to the main road and beyond to the next farm.

The basement was dark and damp, and his mother stored canned fruits and vegetables in the pantry beside the root cellar.  A large room on the other side of the cellar was once used to hold coal that was shoveled in through a chute from the outside.  Ever since his father bought an oil furnace they didn’t have to buy coal anymore.  His father always complained about the price of oil, and for that reason the house was never very warm in the winter.  Jonathan had to put a couple of extra blankets on his bed, and always wore a sweater and thick socks in the house during winter, because his father’s favorite saying was: ‘bundling up is cheaper than oil.’

“Come on, Jonathan – I said we have to go to the cottage.  Daylla is expecting us,” repeated Dijia.  By now he was well versed in Jonathan’s daydreaming and absent mindedness when things were in a lull, yet Dijia did have to give his friend credit for coming through when things got serious – he always seemed to rise to the occasion. So Dijia simply smiled and took it all in stride, knowing that Jonathan had been lost in his thoughts of home.

“I’m on my way, Dijia.  Can you believe all the stuff we’ve accumulated in our packs and bags since we began this journey?  I think we have to go through them tomorrow and lighten our loads.  The horses aren’t going to be able to cross the glaciers with us, or go under them if we’re lucky enough to find a way.  So eventually we’ll have to turn them loose and carry what we have ourselves.”

“Okay, Jonathan, we’ll sort everything out in the morning.  Let’s go see if we can help Daylla figure out something to eat for dinner – I’m starving!”

The boys and Sammy walked over to the cottage in the cool evening breeze, and found that Daylla had already made dinner for everyone.  She was stirring a pot of hot stew over a fire in the fireplace, and warming on a stone beside the fire was a fresh loaf of bread she had baked.  She ladled out bowls of hot stew and broke off chunks of bread for both of them, and set their meals on a rectangular wooden table with a number of stools around it.  In another bowl she had meat trimmings, bones and scraps from preparing the meal for Sammy, along with a bowl of water.

It was Jonathan, Dijia and Sammy’s first good meal in quite some time, and she encouraged them to eat their fill.  As darkness set upon the land outside the hut, they talked late into the evening by the light of a small oil lamp on the table, as the embers of the fireplace slowly died down.

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Nine

~~~~~~~~~~

“I’m afraid you’ve come too late to save me and my family, or to make my life any easier,” replied the woman.  “My name is Daylla, and my husband was killed by the riders last year for not doing their bidding, and our two sons were taken away and sold into slavery.  Our farm has fallen into shambles as I’m the only one left to take care of it, and I can’t keep up with it by myself.  You’ve come too late for me, but if I can assist you so fewer will suffer as I have in the future, then be my guests and I will help you as I can.”

The old woman, looking frail and weary standing before Dijia and Jonathan, then slipped out from under her shawl a long, thin knife that glistened in the setting sun. “Although it has been awhile, I’ve had reason to use this before.  You’re very lucky you didn’t try to surprise me.”

“Thank you, Daylla, for your kindness and generosity,” replied Jonathan, as Dijia turned to him and smiled – erasing any doubt as to his friend’s judgment.

Dijia added, “We will do our best to honor your late husband and sons, and do what we can to help restore your farm.  It may take some time, but we will not forget your kindness and generosity towards us in our time of great need.”

The two of them dismounted, and walked their horses over to the larger of the two outbuildings as the sun set behind the western hills.  The building was more of a stable, enclosed on three sides and open on the fourth, with a makeshift fence creating an enclosure to the adjacent field where the woman’s horse was pastured.

Dijia and Jonathan removed their horses’ saddles, halters and saddlebags, and groomed them prior to opening the gate so all three horses could move between the stable and pasture at will.

Hanging on the walls and from the cross beams of the stable, were various tools and implements covered in dust, that hadn’t been touched in ages.  It was obvious that the woman was unable to manage the farm’s upkeep on her own, and the situation would only get worse before it could ever get better, especially with winter fast approaching.  Only after ensuring there was plenty of fresh, clean water available for the horses, did they make their way towards the cottage.

Jonathan thought about his family’s farm back in Hampton, and wondered if he would ever see it again.  He knew his family’s farm was larger than most in the area, but there were others almost twice as large as his father’s – like the Philips Farm, two roads over, on the way towards Pleasant Hill.

His father had always had dairy cattle, for as long as Jonathan could remember.  At last count his father milked forty-five head, but this past spring there were plenty of calves born on the farm as well.  A year ago they kept twelve of the calves for the farm and sold the rest.  Jonathan tried to help with the milking every morning before school, but sometimes he and Sammy got distracted before they could be of much help to his father.

When he did manage to help out, he liked wearing his big rubber boots while mucking out the stalls and spreading fresh straw where needed.  The new automatic milkers were a great help to his father, who had been milking his herd by hand only a few years earlier, but there was always something else that needed doing as well.  The problem as Jonathan’s father saw it, was that his son was always too scatterbrained to be of much help, while Jonathan knew he was only distracted by the adventure of the moment calling his name.  It was who he was, and he couldn’t help himself.

Jonathan’s favorite part of the farm were the cows themselves, and each one had their own name.  His favorite was Lucy, the one cow that was mostly white with very few black markings.  Behind the milking barn was the corn field that seemed to stretch forever.  Jonathan and Sammy would walk the path that surrounded the field, and look for rabbits and go on adventures together.  By the end of July the corn would be nearly as tall as he was, and he’d walk between the rows and lose himself in his thoughts.

The summers were long and hot in Ohio, but even now autumn was arriving and the harvest would be underway.  Jonathan couldn’t believe he missed the entire last weeks of school and a summer’s worth of opportunity back in Hampton.  Sammy always ran through the fields and into the surrounding woods, only to unexpectedly surprise him when Jonathan least expected it.

It was deep in the woods beyond the cornfield where they crossed Stony Creek that day, and ever since that moment, their world had never been the same…

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Eight

~~~~~~~~~~

“You’re probably right, Jonathan, but we must remain cautious.  I’ll ride up to the house and you stay back at the edge of the wood beside the courtyard, to watch out for any signs of an ambush.”

As Dijia rode on ahead, and Jonathan positioned himself and Blaze where the cart path bordered the wood and open area that defined the homestead, it soon became clear that they had nothing to worry about, as a small, elderly woman walked out the door of the hut, and proceeded towards the smaller of the two outbuildings to feed her chickens.  Her shadow, etched upon the side of the small dwelling was larger than life in the last rays of the setting sun, portraying her situation better than words could ever describe.

She was a small, frail old woman, bent over and broken from many years of hard work trying to survive with little outside help.  The lines in her face and the painful look of her fingers and callused hands, mirrored the many hardships of her life.  Her dress was of a tattered, coarse material, that had been mended many times throughout the years, and she wore a scarf wrapped around her head and tied under her chin.  She gathered her shawl tightly around her shoulders against the breeze, which now carried a distinct evening chill to it.

Although she was clearly poor, there was no sign of pity in her actions, or lack of determination in her attitude.  She hadn’t yet noticed her two visitors, and as she made her way towards the shed, her shadow steadily followed until reaching the edge of the hut, before disappearing into the tall grass beside it.

Jonathan surveyed the entire scene from his position beside the wood for any potential signs of danger, blending nicely into the backdrop atop Blaze when viewed from any distance away.  He wanted to make sure there weren’t any riders hiding out in one of the outbuildings, setting them up for a surprise attack.  While Jonathan held Blaze steady with the reins, Sammy started to trot out into the courtyard, until Jonathan quietly commanded him to lie down, which he did.

Dijia continued approaching the homestead atop Nactar cautiously towards where the woman had gone to enter the shed.  From his vantage point, Jonathan realized that Dijia was an imposing sight for a young boy riding Nactar – a huge, black war horse, with packs slung over both sides behind the saddle, and Dijia wearing robes and a cloak, with his silver sword in hand balanced across the saddle.

Seeing Dijia approaching the outbuilding, Jonathan realized the old woman would mistake him for a rider, and either die of fright or rashly act out in fear.  Either way, it wasn’t the outcome they wanted, “Dijia, wait!” cried Jonathan, spurring Blaze forward into the courtyard.  “Stay where you are, and wait for me!  We’ll do this together!”

Jonathan’s shout had alerted the old woman, who now appeared beside the shed and saw them both for the first time.  She froze in fear at the sight of two riders on horseback, and Jonathan could see the look of terror in her eyes – while Dijia was clearly confused by Jonathan’s actions and his inability to follow directions – yet he held his position none the less.

Jonathan stopped Blaze alongside Dijia on Nactar, while Sammy came up beside them.  The woman took a few steps backwards as they maintained their position in the courtyard area, and Jonathan could see she didn’t want a confrontation, bowing her head while reciting a prayer that no harm would come to her or her farm.

“Excuse me, Ma’am, but we mean no harm to you,” said Jonathan calmly from atop Blaze.  “We are in need of assistance and rest.  My friend and I would appreciate it very much if we could spend the night here, and take care of our horses.”

She raised her head and looked long and hard at each of them, for such a sight they were.  Two young boys, carrying the arms and riding the horses of grown men, yet worn and ragged from so many days on the run themselves.

Dijia spoke up next, sitting straight in the saddle atop Nactar, and trying to show as much respect as possible.  “My Lady, we’re not the riders who terrorize this land.  We fight for free men everywhere, and seek your help in our quest to defeat these riders, and return this land to safety and security once more.  With your support, My Lady, we will accomplish this task and make life better for you and your family. May we have your aid and assistance in this hour of our need?”

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Seven

~~~~~~~~~~

Patty served Jonathan and his father their drinks, and shortly afterwards brought their breakfast to the counter, and in that moment all was well with the world.  Two eggs, sunny side up just like they always ordered – with hash browns on the house, compliments of Fred – along with bacon and toast, with a short stack of pancakes to follow, complete with real Ohio maple syrup.  This is what it means to be an ‘insider’ thought Jonathan, where everyone knows you by name, remembers what you like to order, and makes you feel like you belong – what wasn’t there to like?

“Jonathan, did you hear me?” asked Dijia turning around in his saddle to get his attention, but it hadn’t been easy with Jonathan immersed in his thoughts of Hampton.  “Jonathan, I said, I think there are people nearby, so we have to be careful.  Keep you sword at the ready!”

The sword.  Jonathan had tried to forget about swords and killing.  He used to love swords, that is until he had to kill a man.  Now he knew the harsh, cold reality of weapons, and didn’t like what he’d experienced only a short while ago.  He was disturbed inside, and his actions didn’t sit well in his conscience, yet at the same time he knew he had had no other choice to save Dijia and himself from certain death. ‘Why did life have to be this way?’ he thought.

Killing someone was such a terrible thing to do, no matter how one rationalized their actions, Jonathan pondered.  He was sure God wasn’t happy at the situation, and given the opportunity, he would have apologized to the man’s family, but he knew that wasn’t possible.  He also knew this was a different world than the one he knew back in Hampton, but it still didn’t make it any easier for him.  What Jonathan did know, though, is that he didn’t want to have to kill again if he could help it – but at the same time, he also knew that he would never break his vow to protect Dijia as a Knight of Pengarth.

“I’m on my guard, Dijia.  You keep close watch ahead and I’ll cover the rear.  We don’t want another ambush like the one that happened earlier to catch us off guard,” replied Jonathan, trying to keep his courage up in the face of an unknown enemy.

The cart path they rode along was now bringing them into an open area of small, rustic fields, each marked with crudely constructed, low walls of rocks cleared from the fields.  Along the walls of piled rocks grew any number of small bushes and trees, creating over time an unkempt hedgerow and windbreak of sorts, as nature took its course by default and happenstance.

This was obviously a very poor region, Jonathan realized, for nothing about these farmer’s fields looked anything like his father’s fields back home.  The ground was uneven, with boulders emerging from the soil that had been too large to remove by hand.  There were as many weeds in the fields as the thinly planted crops of barley and oats, critiqued Jonathan to himself.

Many of the fields looked as if they had been trampled underfoot or already harvested, while in spotty areas grain was still left standing on the shaft, as if being harvested piecemeal by hand.  Whoever worked these fields could learn a thing or two from his father, thought Jonathan – he’d have the fields ready in time for next year’s planting season by now.  Feeling the cool breeze blowing freely across the fields, however, reminded Jonathan that these people first needed to survive the winter before they could hope to plant the following spring.

Ahead were three small buildings clustered together along a row of trees at the edge of a little wood.  It was clear that two of the buildings were dilapidated sheds or small barns, while the third was a dwelling of sorts.  Everything looked old and beaten down, yet clearly still in use, in a pride-of-place sort of way – a combination of cobbled together thatch, old timbers, mud, brick and stone – all in a general state of disrepair, spelling poverty.  Yet at the same time, curtains hung in the cottage’s windows, and flowers were planted wherever possible around the dwelling – an attempt at creating a cottage garden out of sheer determination, hope and will.

In the dirt courtyard between the buildings, a handful of chickens scratched the dirt intently looking for something to eat.  An older horse grazed in a field beside one of the outbuildings, while a couple of goats rested in the last rays of the afternoon.  It was now late afternoon, and the sun was almost hidden behind rising hills to the west.  A dim light was visible in the darkened windows of the little hut, while a whisper thin trickle of smoke curled up from a rustic chimney that had long ago seen better days.

“I don’t think we have to worry about these folks, Dijia,” mentioned Jonathan after surveying the scene before them, and pulling up line abreast on Blaze beside Dijia on Nactar.  “It looks to me like they are simple, poor farmers who are barely getting by, and they may be willing to help us out.  I’m positive they’re not with the riders, and would probably like nothing better than to simply be able to feed their family and animals…”

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Six

~~~~~~~~~~

The boys quickly set out in haste towards the east and the highest realms of the Tregarron Mountains.  Dijia again took the lead position riding Nactar, while Jonathan followed closely behind on Blaze – while Sammy ran everywhere but on the trail, looking to see what he could uncover in the tall grasses.

After an hour or so, the boys slowed their pace to give their horses a chance to maintain their strength until nightfall.  It was well into the afternoon by now, and they themselves hadn’t had any refreshment of their own since morning.  It was important that they put distance between their pursuers, and at the same time, find a safe place to spend the night.  Hopefully, the archer was indeed Nierron’s last line of defense, and if so, they were free for the moment at least.

Jonathan didn’t feel good about having to kill the rider in order to save Dijia, but realized he had no other choice, as there wasn’t anything else he could have possibly done in that moment.  If he hadn’t done what he did, the two of them would have been bound and gagged, and taken to King Tucar where worse was undoubtedly awaiting them. There was little he could do to make himself feel better except for changing his thoughts, so he allowed this feeling of relative safety – and Blaze’s steady rhythm he felt in the saddle – to return his thoughts to Hampton once again.

Jonathan remembered driving with his father that day, just as the sun was coming up.  The fields were covered with snow, glistening like so many sparkling diamonds as the sun broke the horizon.  It was a very cold morning, the kind that freezes your breath in the air before you without having to think about it at first.  The air was completely still, and so crisp, clear and refreshing as he climbed into the truck’s cab with his father.

There would be time enough for shoveling once they returned from the garage cafe, and his mother waved to them out the front window while the truck backed down the driveway.  The snow had made little crunching noises under their boots while walking to the truck, and now the tires did the same thing as the pickup slowly backed out over an inch of fresh, dry powder.

As they drove down Highway 53 towards Hampton, the landscape was still in the early morning light.  The early morning farm report was on the radio, and the heater struggled to put out anything but cold air.  Jonathan’s father always wanted to hear the latest news and prices concerning farm goods, and analyze how they would affect the farm’s finances.  He always said to Jonathan that it’s a tough life being a farmer, but in the same breath added there wasn’t anything else in the whole world for him – he loved farming, it was in his blood – and all he ever wanted to do.

Jonathan put his face up against the side window, watching the fields as they drove past.  The pickup truck’s heater struggled to warm up and defrost the cab, so Jonathan rubbed his jacket sleeve across the glass of the door’s window to clear the fog and condensation to get a better view.  In the distance, he saw a deer running through a clearing before scampering to the edge of the forest to pause for a moment, before proceeding to look for something to eat in last autumn’s harvested corn field.

When they arrived at the station, his father pulled the pickup into the parking lot alongside three other cars at the cafe – a truck, a jeep and a station wagon.  It’s hard to keep vehicles clean during an Ohio winter, and like his father’s truck, they had the same frozen, dirty slush of winter caked underneath them.

Jonathan’s father carried the two smaller, front tractor tires into the garage, and spent a few minutes taking with Fred, the garage cafe’s owner.  Fred was a big, mountain of a man who wore blue coveralls that were always covered with oil – an occupational hazard, thought Jonathan – and wondered if they’d ever been clean.

The garage was a happy place, because Fred always laughed a lot.  After a few rounds of jokes, Fred slapped Jonathan’s father on the shoulder, shook hands, and then his father took Jonathan into the cafe for breakfast.

Jonathan liked coming early to the cafe with his father, because usually he didn’t get a chance to spend much time with his dad, so these were special occasions – guy time.  They pulled up a couple of stools to the counter and asked Patty for a cup of coffee, a hot chocolate, and two orange juices, along with two morning specials: two eggs, toast and bacon, with a short stack of pancakes and real Ohio maple syrup.

Jonathan liked it here.  The farm report was being broadcast over the radio behind the counter, and the folks were busy catching up on local news and each other.  It made Jonathan feel like he fit in, like he was one of the regulars and an insider.  Here the people all knew each other by first name, and the discussion always drifted off towards topics concerning the government and the world at large.

In between the quarterly farm report broadcasts each hour, the radio station played Country Music and everyone seemed to have a good time.  The minute wheat, soybean and corn futures were discussed though, you could hear a pin drop as everyone tried to catch the latest commodity price swings.  Everything depended on farm economics here in rural America.  Spring wasn’t far away in this corner of Ohio, and seed prices could make or break an entire planting season.

Another Country song filled the airwaves, and talk resumed about local Hampton politics and other topics near and dear to home.  Jonathan wasn’t sure about Country Music sometimes, as all the songs seemed to be sad – but all-in-all they were okay – because they simply told the stories of regular folks in rural America doing the hard work of growing food down on the farms, so that everyone else had something to eat…

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

As Jonathan stood there lost in his thoughts of Hampton, he looked down at Sammy and scratched him behind his ears saying, “Don’t worry, Sammy, we’ll be home soon enough.  After all, there’s always hope!”

Dijia called out frantically, “Duck, Jonathan!” – and in that moment a black feathered arrow flew past Jonathan’s ear as he began moving, not knowing what he was ducking from.

Dijia had shouted his warning to Jonathan and thrown himself to the ground the moment he saw the archer’s bow release its arrow towards them from a nearby grove of trees. Seeing that the boys were helpless to defend themselves from his arrows, the cloaked rider strung a second arrow and walked confidently towards them in plain sight, all the while keeping his half-cocked bow pointed in their direction.

“Lay your swords down, or you lose your lives here and now, Lads, and don’t make a false move or you die,” called the archer to them as he approached across the field. There was nothing they could do to defend themselves, so they followed the rider’s instructions and dropped their swords in the tall grass before them.  “The other swords you’re wearing as well – hurry now!  Release the swords in their sheathes and drop them alongside the others, and then put your hands out in front of you where I can see them at all times.”

Dijia and Jonathan did as they were directed, glancing towards each other with trepidation knowing there was nothing they could do.  They stood side by side as the rider approached them from behind, his arrow ready to release at the slightest provocation.  “Your eagles are helpless to protect you from me, for they’re out of sight, deserting you for good!  They may have taken care of the others, but they missed me – which means I get the entire reward to myself for your capture and return.  Don’t make a false move, either one of you.  King Tucar wants you alive, but he’ll accept delivery just as well if you’re dead, either way I’ll get my reward!”

The archer continued, “Two young boys and a squad of dead riders, yet I alone stand between you and freedom.  I’m Nierron’s last line of defense and hope of capturing you both!  We were right to think you’d try escaping over the Tregarrons, only to perish in the coming snow and cold.  No one can survive in those peaks, but that’s none of my concern. My orders are to capture and return you to Nierron dead or alive, and here you are delivered right into my hands!”

“You on the left, the pretending heir to the Kingdom of Pengarth – get on your knees with your hands behind you!”  Glaring at Jonathan the rider added, “Don’t move a muscle or I’ll kill you in a heartbeat…”

Laying down his bow beside him, the rider took a length of rope and began tying Dijia’s hands behind his back.  In a blur, Jonathan turned and thrust his right hand towards the rider’s neck, taking him by complete surprise, and causing him to keel over onto his knees and hit the ground – stone dead.  In Jonathan’s hand was a small knife covered in blood, which he then used to cut the initial knot in the rope binding Dijia’s hands, freeing him from his bond.

“I owe my life and my kingdom to you, Jonathan – thank you!  How were you able to have that knife in your hand?”

“I strapped the small knife we acquired in the hut the other day to the inside of my forearm under my cloak, with the handle at my wrist.  As the archer approached I slowly worked it into the base of my palm, and when he walked behind you I gripped it while keeping my hand out of his view.  I didn’t have a choice as a Knight of Pengarth once he began to tie your hands, Dijia – I was going to protect you, or die trying…”

“I’m forever in your debt and full of gratitude for your quick thinking, Jonathan! Let’s gather the silver swords and leave the others in the grass, we won’t have need of them anymore.  Sammy, go bring Blaze and Nactar over to us, for now we ride in haste towards the distant peaks…”

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Four

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan ducked and braced for impact from whatever was hurtling out of the sky, but amazingly there was no impact.  Instead, he felt Amroth’s tail feathers brush against the top of his head and the wind rushing by as the great eagle passed low directly above him at a high rate of speed. Amroth dropped two silver swords into the grass before reaching the boys, and then raced on low across the meadow towards two figures a stone’s throw away hiding in the grass.

In a moment, as the two cloaked figures tried to run, King Amroth’s talons grabbed them in mid-flight and picked them off their feet, before throwing them lifeless to the ground.  Other great golden eagles were in pursuit of a number of Nierron’s riders on horseback, clearly preventing the ambush that had awaited Dijia and Jonathan around the next turn in the cart path.  In a matter of minutes it was all over, as the eagles rose again on thermals to great heights while soaring on magnificent fifteen foot wingspans.

Jonathan quickly gathered his wits, dismounting in a hurry to look for the silver swords Amroth dropped in the tall grass nearby.  Dijia hadn’t seen the swords fall, or much of anything during the close encounter, as Nactar rose up in fright and both he and the horse had fallen over onto the path.  Luckily for Dijia, Nactar hadn’t fallen directly on him, and quickly scrambled back on his feet after his hindquarters struck the ground.

Dijia hadn’t been completely spared though, as he was thrown clear in the process, but was now dusting himself off and checking to make sure everything was in one piece – for both Nactar and himself.

“Are you okay, Dijia?” asked Jonathan frantically as he ran up to his friend carrying two silver swords, both looking as if they contained a flow of energy within them.

Dijia replied, “Yes, Jonathan, it appears so, and more importantly Nactar seems to have had only just a close call.  What happened a moment ago?  I didn’t see a thing, only felt the rush of a great wind and shrieks in the distance afterwards.”

“It was King Amroth and his eagles, Dijia – I know him because I was there one day when Gramps had a conference with him – the eagles saved us and delivered two silver swords to us in the process.  There were two riders approaching from over there in the grass,” pointed out Jonathan.  “Amroth flew low and took care of them, while other eagles attacked what must have been a raiding party nearby on horseback that was waiting to ambush us.  Here, take this sword and let’s look them over.”

The two boys held and examined the two identical swords, light to the touch and ornately made, and annotated with an unknown script running the length of their blades.  Each had an intricate hilt guard wrapping around the hilt to protect the user’s hand, cast like the rest of the sword in a fine, silvery metal – while the grip itself was wrapped in a fine, narrow length of glove leather.

“I know this work, Jonathan, or at least something that resembles it,” explained Dijia excitedly.  “My father had a ceremonial sword that was presented to him by an emissary from the north years ago after my father rescued sailors from a shipwreck on our shores, and provided them with a new vessel to sail home.  It was long before my time, but from the inscription on this blade, I’d say it was from Sylthar Wood as it resembles the script on my father’s sword.  I know all the other tongues in the north, but this isn’t one of them – I’ve never known anything of the mysterious Wood, so that’s why I think these swords were made there.”

“Look how light they feel in the hand, Dijia, yet from appearance alone they seem to have the manner of great strength within them.”

Supporting the blade while resting it flat across his free hand, Dijia examined the blade in close detail.  “Look, Jonathan, light flows within the metal, see how it dances before your eyes?  The inscription runs the length of the blade from tip to hilt, the same on both sides.  There’s a word written here that I do understand though, it’s the word ‘Light’ – these are magical swords, Jonathan – I’m sure they were crafted in Sylthar Wood.”

“I bet they were sent to us by Gramps, Dijia!  He must not have been able to deliver them himself, and gave them to King Amroth to find us – that’s the only answer. Hope remains after all!”

Dijia lifted his sword above his head and pointed it towards the sky.  In that moment a bright flash like a thin bolt of lightning left the sword’s tip and leapt into the sky, dissipating into an array of miniature slivers of raw energy.  Glancing towards Jonathan while lowering his sword again, Dijia said, “There’s always hope, Jonathan, never forget that…”

With that having been said, Jonathan’s thoughts quickly returned to Hampton and the farm – while Sammy looked up from Jonathan’s feet with knowing eyes…

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

Dijia was the picture of calm atop Nactar as he led Jonathan and Blaze down the cart path single file, yet he, too, kept his hand resting on the hilt of his sword, eyes alert and gazing out in front of him.  Sammy darted left and right of the path, hoping to find a rabbit or bird to flush out from hiding and chase.  Everything was a game to Sammy, but after all, he was still a puppy at heart.

Sammy was in a good mood as he played in the tall grasses and ran in and out of small patches of woods, stopping just for a moment to sniff the air before dashing off again in a new direction.  Jonathan began to relax somewhat, thinking that if Sammy was enjoying himself, there was little to concern themselves with at the moment.

It was apparent they would be above treeline soon, as the fields and meadows were opening up more and more, while the groves of trees kept to the low lying areas between hills where streams flowed down out of the mountains.

Dijia’s eyes, while keenly observant of his surroundings, often glanced down to his sword as well – as if measuring his reaction and response if threatened.  The surrounding hills were very pleasant, almost mesmerizing in the sunshine, despite the breeze.  One might wonder what the young boys were concerned about, knowing nothing of the circumstances of their journey.  Despite their concern, the travelers made steady progress winding up through the Tregarrons, that were in proportion mere foothills of the looming peaks ahead.

Jonathan let his thoughts wander back to Gramps and his cottage of Tywyn in Gladwr, and realized he had no knowledge of the outcome of that first encounter with Nierron’s riders.  The passage of time had been swift since then, and here it was quickly approaching the first days of autumn in Myllanthar.

His mind then recalled driving with his father down the highway just outside Hampton in their pickup truck.  It was a red Ford pickup that always seemed to have something in the back of it – bales of hay, pieces of timber, rolls of fencing, and whatever else his father needed to haul.

It was the very pickup truck that Sammy had jumped into and rode home with him in, and the beginning of their many adventures together. Jonathan, in fact, couldn’t remember many times when the bed of his father’s truck was ever empty.

He recalled the day from memory of driving to the gas station to get some tractor tires repaired.  It was an old station, but everyone seemed to hang out there in the adjacent cafe during the winter.  The coffee shop wasn’t much of anything really, just a place for maybe ten customers to hang out with a warm brew, enjoy a few donuts, and share the news of the day.

Jonathan’s father would go there early in the morning, and sometimes bring him along to have a hot chocolate and donuts with the locals.  In wintertime, a farmer could take the time to relax a bit, talk with his neighbors and chew the fat for awhile – and many of these odd jobs, like repairing tractor tires, were put off until the winter months just for that purpose.

During winter, everyone enjoyed the big wood stove not far from the counter which kept the place warm and cozy inside, while keeping the cold at bay outside the window panes.  There was a big corn field just behind the garage, and Jonathan liked to watch the pheasants as they walked through the fallow fields looking for kernels of corn left behind during the harvest.

A sudden loud shriek shocked and shattered Jonathan’s pleasant memories, startling the travelers with fright – causing Nactar and Blaze to rear up as both boys fought to regain control of their horses.  Another cry of “Kiieree, Kyryin” pierced the air as Jonathan and Dijia anxiously looked for the source of the ear shattering cry, while trying desperately to rein in their horses.

As Jonathan looked up while shielding his eyes from the sun, he caught two silver flashes of light that appeared to be coming directly at him – as he cowered in fear, defenseless from this attack from above…

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

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

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

Chapter Seven, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

The two boys were startled by the sudden commotion caused by the crow, and immediately realized its ominous intentions of spying on them and reporting all it saw and heard.  Knowing they had no time to lose, Dijia and Jonathan gathered their gear together and called to Sammy, Blaze and Nactar to rejoin them at once.  After securing their equipment bags behind the horses’ saddles, they mounted their steeds and rode on in an easterly direction towards their ultimate destination.

As they made their way through the forest following an overgrown trail, the path merged into a disused and seemingly abandoned lane.  Pausing to assess their surroundings before continuing, the boys saw that the lane was full of deep ruts that made it nearly impossible for a horse cart to now travel along it.  The middle of the cart path was just wide enough for a horse to walk carefully between the ruts, and clearly, no one had passed this way for some time.

Wary that other riders might still be in the area, Jonathan and Dijia dismounted to look for any type of prints, hoof or foot, that may have been left in the mud during the recent rains – which had since stopped – and found none.  Convinced the way was clear, and they were secure for at least the time being, they remounted their horses and continued single-file along the wagon path with Sammy out in front, followed by Dijia on Nactar, and Jonathan bringing up the rear on Blaze.

Jonathan didn’t trust the situation for a moment, and kept looking side to side and behind him, concerned that an attack by Nierron’s riders could suddenly come from any direction.  The trail clearly went in an easterly direction, but it was rather crude and had many twists and turns, and ups and downs along the way as it crossed over, around and through some very difficult terrain.

The area remained lightly forested, but patches of meadow were often interspersed between the trees, allowing the sun to filter through a thinning tree canopy and clearing skies above them.  Occasionally, the boys caught momentary glimpses of distant mountain peaks towering above the mountainous area they were currently traveling through.

Dijia explained, during a pause in their journey as they viewed the distant peaks from atop their horses, “Ahead is the very heart of the Tregarrons, Jonathan, where the Talgar and Elberron Ranges intersect from north and south.  It’s the home of the Slejuv People, and to where we now travel.  Beyond these high mountains lies the Kingdom of Pengarth and my people.  On the far side of my country along the shores of the Sea of Tollvar, is the City of Penmarth and Castle Penmaryll, the royal castle, which is our destination.”

Although the rain stopped earlier, the wind had now picked up, making it more difficult to cautiously listen for anyone approaching, for they could hear little more than the sounds of the wind.  The narrow lane began winding up through hills and higher terrain, staying wherever possible in the lowest areas, causing them to traverse many fast moving streams.  While Blaze and Nactar had few problems fording the streams, and keeping their footing crossing the rocky stream beds, Sammy often needed to be carried by Jonathan atop Blaze to ensure his safe crossing – as he proved to be skittish about entering a river again after his original misfortunes.

Rays of sunshine now regularly filtered through the trees, creating contrasting pencils of light steaming through the rapidly clearing forest, as the cart path climbed in elevation.  “Summer is short lived here in the mountains, and autumn will soon arrive across the northern lands.  See the mountains ahead are already dusted in snow between glaciers, and winter has begun in the high country,” explained Dijia.  “The way will soon prove difficult and very challenging.  Without the help of the Slejuv, we won’t survive for long in the highest peaks.  Our only hope is to receive their assistance, for without them, we’ll perish.”

Jonathan’s thoughts though, were filled with a growing concern for things closer at hand and more immediate in nature as he maintained his vigilance – turning and twisting in the saddle while fearing a surprise attack from any direction.  Although the air was cool, and pierced by a steady wind, Jonathan’s hand was damp with sweat. The threat of an impending attack caused him to grip, relax and re-grip the hilt of his sword time and time again, as uneasiness showed in his every mannerism…