Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Ten

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Ten

~~~~~~~~~~

As Jonathan pondered the greater issue of having to outwit and slay the dragon, Sammy paid close attention to the fact that the bow wave had somehow gotten the raft moving again.  The process of being freed to float again caused the raft to slowly spin in circles as it found its way back into the current, before finally stabilizing in the flow of water moving them downstream.  Sammy nudged Jonathan to roust him from his thoughts, and once he was aware of what was happening, he realized they were now facing upstream as the raft continued moving downstream.  Once the two of them moved to face downstream with the direction of the current, Jonathan had an opportunity to turn his attention to what had just happened to the raft.

After a moment of reflection, he realized the raft must have been grounded on a shallow sandbar, not visible in the dense fog just below the river’s water level.  His hope was that the bow wave had shoved the raft closer to the north shore of the River Myuthall, to allow them to exit the raft at the proper time once they reached the coastline of the Sea of Tollvar.  Jonathan used the long pole to easily reach the river bottom now, and gently pushed the raft to the left, or towards the north shore – finding the water to be quite a bit shallower in this spot of the river than earlier.  The river was only about three feet deep here, and Jonathan realized they were probably close to the north shore already.  The shallow sandbar most likely had been the dividing point between the deeper channel in the middle of the river, and a series of similar sandbars in shallower waters along the riverbank.

The sounds of seagulls alerted both of them to the possibility that the Sea of Tollvar wasn’t far away at this point, and that the raft had reached a tidal area of sandbars and mudflats near the mouth of the river.  It was possible that it was now low tide, and in a few hours the mouth of the river could deepen significantly as the tide came in, so Jonathan though it best they exit the raft now in shallow waters and safely land themselves ashore.  Knowing their scents had been masked by the raft’s enchantment, and visibility by the dense fog that seemed to be sticking around, Jonathan decided it best if they walk at the river’s edge in the shallowest waters to help mask the trail of their scents and footprints, along with the dragon’s ability to feel the impact of their footsteps from far away.

After pushing the raft as far towards the shallow water of the coastline as he could with the pole before the raft became stuck again, Jonathan took both the bag of provisions, and Sammy into his arms.  He stepped off the raft towards the north shore in water that was only knee-deep, and after going only a short distance, he began seeing marsh reeds and feeling firm ground underfoot.  Looking back a short way towards where the raft had been grounded along the shore, Jonathan realized it was gone, and must have returned itself to Myullar Wood to regain the essence of where it belonged.  He continued to hug the edge of the river towards the coastline with Sammy and provisions in hand through ankle-deep water, trying not so splash or slosh with each step he took.

It wasn’t long before Jonathan realized they had reached the coastline of the Sea of Tollvar, as the sound of breaking waves grew louder and louder in front of them.  Jonathan hoped the sound of the waves would help mask their own movements, and as long as the dense fog remained along the seashore, he hoped their scents wouldn’t travel far towards the dragon’s nose – wherever it was.  He sat Sammy down in the shallowest water and readjusted the bag of provisions for easier carrying, with the plan to hug the water’s edge up the coastline to the north until reaching the Fortress of Skulvarr Fell.

This approach seemed to be the safest way to travel towards the fortress, and they couldn’t possibly miss finding it.  With any luck at all, the dragon wouldn’t suspect their approach along the seashore, and instead focus on the inland area between the River Myuthall and the fortress.  Jonathan wasn’t going to allow themselves to be caught in open terrain with nowhere to hide, and instead chose to blend into the breaking waves along the sea – and if needed, wade out to hide from the dragon among the waves…

(End of Book Two, Chapter Five)

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Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Nine

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Nine

~~~~~~~~~~

How could they be stuck in the middle of the river, when just a few minutes earlier the water had been too deep to push off from the river bottom with Jonathan’s long pole?  After sitting tight for a couple of minutes to consider this new predicament, Jonathan went from corner to corner of the raft on hands and knees, trying to assess what the holdup was.  All Jonathan could see in the thick fog, however, was water at each edge of the raft, giving him no clues as to the reason they stopped floating down the river.  Sensing he couldn’t do anything until the fog lifted, Jonathan sat down in the middle of the small square raft again beside Sammy.

No sooner had he sat down beside Sammy, Jonathan felt the raft tip suddenly from the side that should have been facing towards the middle of the river and the south riverbank, almost causing the raft to flip over and dump them into the water!  It was like a bow wave from a high speed boat had moved downstream at great speeds from a very close distance away, taking the two of them completely by surprise and almost upsetting the raft.  They had no idea what might have caused such a bow wave to travel downstream at great speeds, and for now they were more concerned about staying on the raft than to ponder the reason for it.

Once Jonathan realized they were both safe and still had the bag of provisions with them, he set about to ponder what possibly could have happened in that moment.  It wasn’t long before he realized it must have been the dragon swimming downstream with the current at great speeds like a crocodile!  The fortunate thing was in the dense fog, and through Miylla’s enchantment cloaking their scents on the raft, the beast hadn’t noticed them.  Jonathan shuddered to think how close they came to the dragon running right into them!  There must have been a reason for the dragon rushing downstream, and Jonathan could only think that somehow the beast knew where they were, and was determined to hunt them down!

It was a very close call, Jonathan realized, and one they couldn’t afford to repeat anytime soon.  They’d have to be very careful going forward now, because they might not receive another chance in the future.  The problem now was that the creature was on the loose in the same area they were traveling through, and may even be going to the fortress of Skulvarr Fell – the same destination they were traveling to.  This complicated everything, as Jonathan had hoped to arrive at the fortress before the dragon, so they could get into position within the corridors of the fortress’ outer seawall to establish a plan for fooling and slaying the beast.

As Jonathan considered this change in plans, he realized they had already fooled the dragon on two separate occasions now, once after striking its tail and escaping, and now by hiding in the fog as the beast swam right past them at high speeds.  If this really was the case, perhaps the prophecy was capable of being fulfilled, and they really could succeed in their quest.  However, the most difficult challenge lay ahead of them, as Jonathan still had no idea of how to slay a creature that was over 100 feet long.  As he pondered the prophecy and the quest that remained in front of them, Jonathan didn’t even realize that the raft was once again floating freely down the river – but Sammy had…

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Eight

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Eight

~~~~~~~~~~

The fog had an insidious way of closing in around them, so gradually that Jonathan didn’t even notice the fact until he found they couldn’t see anything around them.  The fog bank had actually engulfed them rather quickly, in fact, but his practicing with the Light Sword had distracted Jonathan to the point of not noticing anything around them – not even the two crows that had been circling high above them since the break of dawn, and now departed upriver to an unknown destination.  Jonathan was taking notice of his surroundings now, but it was too late to plan how to deal with a fog shrouded river, and much too late to notice the crows that had been circling overhead.  If he had, Jonathan would have considered the fact that the dragon could have already been given their current position…

As it was, Jonathan felt prepared if they were to encounter the beast unexpectedly, or as prepared as a young boy and his dog could be, in light of the circumstances.  His immediate task was to figure out a way to determine how to know when they arrived at the coastline of the Sea of Tollvar in time to exit the raft, and not to be swept out to sea with the current.  If he really understood the position they were in, he’d rather be focusing on how to elude the creature that would shortly be in hot pursuit, knowing exactly where they were and where they were going.  However, sometimes not knowing what the future holds is actually a blessing, for had they known of the dragon’s pending arrival, they wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on much of anything at all.

Jonathan was well aware of the potential of being carried out to sea by the river, and not being able to leave the raft in time to head towards the Fortress of Skulvarr Fell.  He decided to use the pole to help move the raft towards the left or north shore of the River Myuthall, but when he tried to push off the bottom of the river he found it was too deep to reach!  Now they were in a real predicament, as they couldn’t see anything beyond the edge of the raft, and had no way of guiding the raft towards the shoreline.  The only way he knew where the north bank of the river was, was by watching the current at the edge of the raft and then going perpendicular to the left of the direction the water was flowing – but he had no way of moving the raft in that direction at all.

There was a real possibility at this point that the raft would be carried by the river’s current out into the Sea of Tollvar, and there wasn’t a thing they could do about it!  He had no way of knowing how far they were from the coastline at this point, and didn’t want to try to swim for the shore, as that would be a hopeless proposition in the fog and the swift current.  The one thing he didn’t know anything about was the island fortress of the Island of Tyull, although Arrydor had mentioned it in passing to him at the cottage of Tywyn or Hidden Place ages ago, but Jonathan didn’t remember anything about it now.  If he had, or known anything more about it, he would have been more than scared of missing the coastline – he would be terrified of being swept out to sea towards Tyull…

In that moment of realizing they were in a tough spot in the middle of the River Myuthall with no way to steer the raft towards shore, there was a sudden but cushioned thud that stopped the raft’s forward momentum so suddenly they were both almost thrown off the raft.  If it wasn’t one thing, it was another, thought Jonathan, and in this case the best thing they could do was to stay where they were on the raft for now, until they determined a better way forward – as they still couldn’t see a single thing around them…

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Seven

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Seven

~~~~~~~~~~

It was a saying his grandfather used to say all the time, David Alexander Spencer that is, that brought Jonathan’s thoughts into focus at this critical time.  Gramps used to always say, “It’s showtime, Jonathan, rise to the occasion or don’t even try – the show’s gotta’ go on, with or without you.”  Jonathan remembered fondly at how Grandpa Spencer loved to inspire him to do more, and be more.  Jonathan would even amaze himself in those times, following Gramps’ instructions and getting more done in a short period of time than seemed possible.

If there ever was a ‘showtime,’ this was it.  Dawn had broken and everything was bathed in the early morning sunshine, and Jonathan needed to be on guard for anything unexpected to happen – like an encounter with a terrible dragon over 100 feet long!  He needed to get his game face on, and prepare a response to the dragon’s sudden attack if it came, so he drew out his Light Sword and was shocked to see that it was glistening with what looked like electric voltage running up and down the length of the blade – signifying the presence of evil lurking nearby.

Looking all around them, there was no sign of the presence of the beast other than the indications from his Light Sword.  There could be other hideous things in the area as well, thought Jonathan, so he had to prepare for anything that might happen.  If attacked by the dragon, he realized he had at best one shot of diverting an attack from the creature, and he needed to have a plan prepared to be able to spring into action spontaneously, and not have to first think about it first.  The Light Sword had cut through the tip of the dragon’s tail hadn’t it?  The Sword of Light was his only hope of turning back the beast…

Jonathan’s plan was to strike at the most tender spot on the dragon that was within reach.  He’d heard that to defend oneself against sharks and alligators, the best option was to hit them as hard as possible on the tip of their snouts – so he’d adopt the same strategy against the terrible dinosaur lizard, but with his Light Sword, not his fist.  He practiced thrusting, jabbing and slicing motions with his Light Sword while seated on the raft, all the while paying close attention to everything around him.  Sammy remained relaxed, watching the actions of his master with amusement, knowing all along the best plan for defeating a dragon was a swift and well placed bite from man’s best friend – and he didn’t even have to practice.

All this time there were two events taking place around them that had escaped Jonathan’s notice.  First of all, there were two black crows circling high above the river, so high that Jonathan wasn’t even aware they were there.  If he had, he would have been concerned immediately, because the presence of crows observing them was always bad news, and could only mean they’re acting on behalf of darker things – like a dragon for starters.  Secondly, Jonathan hadn’t even noticed he’d lost sight of the riverbanks, as the ‘milk bowl’ effect of poor visibility had slowly closed in around them.

Unbeknownst to him, they’d run into a bank of thick fog lying between them and the coastline of the Sea of Tollvar.  This was both good news and bad news.  The good news was they were completely hidden from view from anything farther away than about 20 feet, which included the riverbanks.  In fact the crows above them were disappearing from view slowly but surely as well, if Jonathan had only noticed.  The bad news was they couldn’t see anything either, and had lost sight of the riverbanks as Jonathan was only now noticing.  This also meant they had no idea when they arrived at the coastline of the Sea of Tollvar, and when to get off the raft.

If they missed the coastline and didn’t get off the raft, the river’s current would take them straight out into the Sea of Tollvar with no hopes of turning back!  If that happened, they could find themselves drifting out to sea towards the island fortress of the Island of Tyull – a fate worse than encountering a dragon…

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Six

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Six

~~~~~~~~~~

It was discouraging to Jonathan that he didn’t have all the right answers, but how could he honestly be expected to have them?  After all, he wasn’t even nine years old yet, but that shouldn’t make any difference though, because he was the one leading this expedition.  As the leader, he should know what to do, shouldn’t he?  He always wanted to be an adventurer and already had a good number of adventures under his belt – first with his dog Trooper and now with the young pup Sammy – but it was very clear now that adventuring was a dangerous business.  He was the one responsible for their safety as the leader, and he was the one who always kept getting them involved in these undertakings, often with little planning or foresight.  Now they were mired in a life-and-death struggle against a deadly foe, and he couldn’t find the answers he needed to keep them both safe…

Safety was an illusion, he now realized, for it never really existed on any of their excursions.  Hadn’t he fallen into Stoney Creek before, and almost drowned before finally scrambling onto the riverbank, shocked by the bone chilling numbness of the icy cold water?  Wasn’t he the one who fell from the tree after the branch snapped, stranding himself on the far side of Stoney Creek at the start of their first adventure to Myllanthar?  Wasn’t he very fortunate to be eventually reunited with his best friend Sammy after falling into Stoney Creek and being swept away in the rapids?  Weren’t the crows always attacking them for seemingly no reason, causing Sammy to fall off that leaning tree trunk in the first place?  Hadn’t there been many such episodes in their past where they were lucky to escape close calls before?

It was becoming clear to Jonathan that adventuring was serious business, and not for the faint of heart.  If he really wanted to lead adventures, he’d have to be the one responsible for making correct decisions, and in this case he was standing by the decision he’d made to continue floating the River Myuthall all the way to the coast of the Sea of Tollvar without stopping.  It was the right choice, and he was going to make it work, dragon or no dragon.  Jonathan sensed that somehow he’d changed in this moment of deciding to take his responsibilities of leading adventures seriously, almost like he’d grown-up on the raft and become someone he hadn’t been before.  It was more than a newfound sense of confidence, more than taking a new approach towards adventuring – it was like he was now the adventurer he had always wanted to be – and he would rise to the occasion, because there was no other choice at this point.

The river water itself was the first thing Jonathan noticed, and shortly after that, he could just manage to see a few bushes and trees alongside the riverbanks.  Soon afterwards, a glint of sunshine was visible on the leaves of a single tree growing beside the river – and it was then that he realized dawn had arrived.  Jonathan surmised that they had long ago left the forest of Myullar Wood behind them, and that the landscape appeared to have flattened out and taken on the appearance of rural agricultural fields.  The more he could see and identify along the sides of the river, the more he realized that they, too, were now visible on the raft in the middle of the river!

For the first time he realized the River Myuthall wasn’t that large, at least at this point – perhaps seventy-five feet across – with a current that seemed to be flowing faster than he had earlier considered, although he had no idea of knowing how far away from the coastline they were.  At the same time, he realized that dawn had broken and the sun was beginning its climb into the sky to highlight their vulnerability while floating the river, and he was perplexed that while he could just see the details on either side of the river across from them, he couldn’t see anything clearly when looking downstream.  It seemed to be an illusion of sorts, like being in a ‘milk bowl’ and only seeing what was nearby and not anything in the distance in front of them.  How could they now avoid the dragon if it hunted them down unexpectedly – because if it did, it would be too late…

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Five

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan had no way of knowing how long he and Sammy had been floating the River Myuthall, as all he knew was that it had been dark in Myullar Wood when they first started out.  He anticipated the arriving dawn to begin showing itself at any moment, but the minutes continued to tick by in complete darkness.  If it was indeed twenty miles from The King’s Preserve to the coastline of the Sea of Tollvar, and if the river flowed at the rate of just three miles per hour, then it would take under seven hours to reach the sea – but he had no idea if any of the figures were close to being accurate.  Regardless, he thought there would be at least be an hour or two they’d have to float the river during daylight hours.

Once dawn broke, it would be dangerous for them to remain visible on the river, but they had little choice at this point, for Jonathan had made the decision to try to reach the coast of the Sea of Tollvar and the Fortress of Skulvarr Fell as quickly as possible – risking the chance of encountering the beast along the way in the process.  They needed to reach Skulvarr Fell’s armory and enter the passageways within the outer seawall of the ancient fortress as soon as possible, in order to set up a base camp in the quarters areas within the walls where the troops lived generations ago.  It was only once their base camp was established, that he could begin the process of fooling and slaying the beast.

Sammy had remained very still ever since the brief encounter with the dragon during the storm, and Jonathan thought he may have been overwhelmed with seeing the creature and taking a stand to protect his master from the beast.  In reality, Sammy was simply conserving his energy as he understood how dangerous this adventure was turning out, and that he would have to be ready to defend Jonathan as needed in the coming days.  The encounter with the dragon did indeed overwhelm the pup, as Sammy had never seen or heard anything as terrible as the creature, but even Sammy knew there was no turning back.  Sammy knew Jonathan, and he knew the history of their adventures together, but nothing in their combined experience had prepared Jonathan’s best friend to deal with a dragon that was over 100 feet long!

As Jonathan pondered the length of the nighttime darkness, he also wondered what else he could do to help protect the two of them if they were to suddenly encounter the beast prior to reaching the Sea of Tollvar.  No matter how he sifted through the various possibilities, he couldn’t come up with a defensive approach to take if the creature surprised them along the way – hopefully it was a scenario they wouldn’t have to face, because it was not defensible.  While deep in thought and feeling totally inadequate as the leader of this adventure – realizing he couldn’t possibly have all the answers of how to deal with a dangerous dragon on the loose – the first rays of dawn quietly broke the edge of the horizon…

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Four

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Four

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan pondered the word safety, especially in terms of having a very angry dragon on the loose that was now hunting for him.  Jonathan forced himself to smile when thinking about having an angry dragon chasing after him, because in acting spontaneously to wound the beast, he had done exactly what Gramps had recommended he do.  It was one thing to make the beast angry by inflicting a little flesh wound, especially when lizards are meant to lose their tails from time to time, but how in the heck was he to fool and slay the creature?

How he got away with it was quite another story, because it was more than dumb luck.  Miylla must have sent the thunder, lightning and wind storm at exactly the right time – which was only now letting up – because without it, he couldn’t have gotten away.  Cloaking their scents on the raft with her enchantment was a great help as well, because he remembered being told that the dragon’s sense of smell was one of its most powerful senses.

There really wasn’t any safety to be found in Myllanthar now, at least not for the two of them.  The enchantments worked earlier, but nothing could be counted on going forward, especially with the sunrise only a short time away.  He still didn’t know what to do: race as fast as possible with the current to reach the Sea of Tollvar and the Fortress of Skulvarr Fell, or hide along the riverbank during the day and only travel at night?  Jonathan was the leader of this expedition and the choice was his to make, but he couldn’t be sure of the right decision to make.  Decisions once made can’t be unmade, and a perfect solution probably didn’t exist, but in the end he would have to choose.

Jonathan pondered the thought for some time, all the while floating the current with Sammy on the raft and waiting for the first hints of sunrise to appear.  Finally he decided on reaching the sea as fast as possible, for if the dragon only hesitated or delayed long enough in the chase, they’d reach the relative safety of the fortress in time.  He realized they may be jumping right out of the frying pan and into the fire of the underground world below Myllanthar, but the known danger of the beast outweighed the unknown danger of whatever creatures lingered underground.  He had his Light Sword with him after all, and it was their only insurance against such things, but it was better than having nothing at all.

If he lost his bet against the creature and it followed the river sooner than expected, then he’d have to deal with that outcome once it happened.  If that were the case, perhaps there’d still be time to hide along the riverbank, but there were few other positive options he could think of in that situation – every other possibility he foresaw meant the dragon would win.  For now, all Jonathan could hope for was that the heavy overcast skies would dim and block the sunrise long enough to conceal them from sight a few minutes longer – for a few extra minutes, may make all the difference in the world…

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Three

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

There was no time to think, only to act, as Jonathan drew his Light Sword in the middle of the deluge and slashed down on the dragon’s tail as the raft collided with it.  The Light Sword shone brightly in the presence of the evil beast, and its light was bright enough for Jonathan to see it slice straight through the tail about five feet from the tip.  Immediately the dragon bellowed and flailed its tail like a whip in anger, and thrashed about in the trees and underbrush along the east side of the River Myuthall.  Jonathan quickly sheathed his sword plunging the raft into darkness again, and hoped the current would carry them far away from the threat of retaliation by the wounded creature.

Even Jonathan was surprised at having struck the dragon, because he hadn’t taken the time to pause and think about it before acting.  There was no analysis of options, nor consideration of potential outcomes in the matter, simply the instinctual decision to act in the moment the opportunity presented itself to him.  It was a different situation now, though, as the raft floated downstream in the dark away from the sounds of the dragon angrily thrashing in the undergrowth and splashing in the river, for the outcome was uncertain at best.

The fact the dragon hadn’t pounced on them yet was due to the darkness, the driving rain storm, and the enchantments of the raft cloaking their scents – but the sounds of the creature sloshing through the river were still too close for comfort for Jonathan.  Sammy did his best to stay clear and not fall off the raft during the peak of the action, but was now facing upstream at the edge of the raft ready to defend his master.  Jonathan reached out and quietly pulled Sammy back to him, holding him close so they wouldn’t get separated in the aftermath of dealing with the dragon.

As the moments ticked away, it was clear to Jonathan that the beast couldn’t find them on the raft, and probably didn’t have an idea of what struck it.  As the sounds of the dragon’s fury quieted down in the distance, he knew not to count it out, for the beast was likely to come back to find them with a vengeance.  The only question now was if the rainstorm would continue, and if so, would it obscure the sunrise enough for them to put a good distance between the raft and the creature, and let them float on towards the Sea of Tollvar in relative safety.

Jonathan realized there was no safety to be found when dealing with a dragon, but at the same time he understood that his best security was found in putting miles between them and the beast.  All he could do was hope to remain undetected, as their first encounter with the beast had been totally unexpected, and he didn’t want to be surprised like that again.  Next time he wanted to be the one calling the shots – if there was to be another time – for he didn’t know how many opportunities he had left, and wanted the next one to be the one that took down the dragon…

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Two

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

Worried that the dragon was roaming away from Castle Penmaryll, Jonathan indicated to Sammy the need for quiet by softly touching his muzzle.  He knew the darkness and enchantments of the raft cloaked them from the dragon both visually and by masking their scents, but any sounds they made would give their position on the river away.  The current around them made swirling sounds as it flowed over and around boulders, along the river banks, and pushed against low hanging branches dipping into the water.

Jonathan couldn’t help but think the dragon left his perch atop the southeast tower of the castle because he sensed they were now floating the river towards the Sea of Tollvar, because nothing else moved across this portion of Myllanthar.  In fact, his impression was that even the animals and birds had left the area as well, as he couldn’t remember seeing anything living at all outside Myullar Wood since their return.  He’d only seen Gramps and Miylla in Myullar Wood, and listened to birdsong of course, but the Wood was the exception, rather than the rule.

If the dragon was roaming around, it would of course stumble upon them sooner rather than later, for that was the way their luck had been running ever since returning to Myllanthar.  The sun would rise in a few hours, and they’d only be halfway to the sea at that point, sensing the river’s current was only ambling along – not fast enough as far as Jonathan was concerned.  Being discovered on a small raft in the middle of the river at dawn by the beast wasn’t his idea of a good time, and he tried to think of a way to conceal themselves once the sun broke the horizon.

Perhaps they could pile branches over them on the raft, appearing to be a floating island instead of a raft, a boy and a dog.  Another idea was to shelter during daylight along the riverbank under bushes and trees hanging out over the river, or to actually enter the river and hold on to the raft’s side to escape notice.  Nothing seemed to be the ideal solution as Jonathan pondered their options, while being carried downstream through the darkness by the current.

Sammy seemed to have alerted to something, as Jonathan listened to him sniffing the air with a sense of urgency.  Nothing could be seen in the pitch darkness surrounding them, but soon they felt a cold wind stirring from behind them, carrying with it the scent of air laced with moisture.  A split of lightning and crack of thunder in that moment took them both by complete surprise and frightened them to the core, so much so, they almost fell off the raft into the darkness of the river.

A few seconds later the deluge began, with wind-driven rain pelting them from behind.  It felt like a tropical monsoon rainstorm to Jonathan, or the type of intense rainstorm that spawned tornadoes back in Southern Ohio.  As he formulated that thought, another bolt of lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating a long thick tail on the surface of the water crossing in front of them, from left to right…

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel) – Book Two, Chapter Five, Part One – Challenges

Jonathan’s Return (An Adventure Novel)

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

Book Two, Chapter Five, Part One – Challenges

~~~~~~~~~~

“Challenges are by definition difficult and sometimes dangerous, for the path ahead is often obscured from view and the direction towards our future unknowable.  It is into this uncertain environment that we all travel at times, not knowing what lies ahead or how to achieve our goals, reminding ourselves of how small and insignificant we really are.  Yet, it is during this uncertainty in testing and trying times, that clarity and opportunity are often borne out of necessity…” – Mark D. Jones

~~~~~~~~~~

The raft was quickly shrouded in darkness as the lights in Myullar Wood dimmed and went out, leaving Jonathan and Sammy all alone with their thoughts while silently floating with the current of the River Myuthall.  All Jonathan could think of was that they were floating through darkness into the unknown, searching for a dragon that was more likely to find them, than for them, to find it.  Clutching the long pole that would give him some semblance of control of the raft while floating the river, he couldn’t resist the comparison to how little, if any, control he had of anything else at the moment.

The river passed within sight of Castle Penmaryll in what would have been daylight, but in the darkness it was all but obscured except for when the moon was not covered by passing clouds.  While leaning back against the bag of provisions in the center of the square raft with Sammy lying beside him, Jonathan happened to catch a glimpse of Castle Penmaryll highlighted in moonlight.  He sighed for a moment at the sight of the castle’s profile with the sentiment of wishing he was there now under different conditions, reflecting on his pleasant stay with King Dijia at the end of his previous adventure to Myllanthar.

It was then that he noticed the main tower of the King’s Residence in the southeast corner closest to the river didn’t seem right, for the tower’s conical roof was missing, replaced by an uneven and rounded shape.  Refocusing his vision on the tower while it was still in sight, Jonathan tried to reconcile what he was now seeing with how he knew the tower should appear.  Suddenly he had his answer, as the rounded top of the tower moved, raising higher into the night sky than logic could explain, until it was like a cobra lifting its head to sense the air with its flickering tongue – and in the next moment, the shape was gone!

It was now clear to Jonathan exactly what he witnessed mere moments before.  The dragon had been sitting atop the tower of the King’s Residence of Castle Penmaryll – and it was now gone!  In the beast’s absence, the tower’s conical roof was clearly missing, as were much of its parapet and nearby ramparts.  Jonathan couldn’t believe what he saw, clear evidence that what Gramps had been telling him was indeed true – and now Jonathan had seen it with his very own eyes!

Just as quickly as the castle had been bathed in moonlight, it was now gone from sight as clouds again obscured the moon.  It was then as Jonathan blinked his eyes in a moment of disbelief at all he had seen, that another thought came racing into his mind.  If the dragon had just left Castle Penmaryll, where was it now, and to where was it heading…