The Yoshinatu River was flowing vigorously gleaming in the noonday sun. The river was crystal clear. You could see every fish and creature swimming lazily in the pure waters. A bass weaved among some rushes growing near the water’s edge. Minnows darted by the water’s edge. A big red fish that must have been six feet long swam straight down the river. It had two deep blue stripes running the length of its body. As it passed Shannon noticed several red dots following the big fish. Then as she noticed the dots squiggling she saw what they were; they were baby fishes following their mom. They would swim up beside her and then chase each other in circles around her, but they never ventured to far.

            “Today is the perfect day. Just one more mile and we’ll reach the prize. Nothing can dampen my spirit today!” spoke Rothgauer in exaltation.

            Just then, a wave that had risen surreptitiously behind the wizard, crashed over him.

            “Except maybe Wish Wash. Wish Wash could possibly dampen my spirits, and also my whole body.”  Corrected Rothgauer dripping with water.

            The little sprite zoomed overhead snickering as she went. Then a whole group of watery hands rose from the river surface applauding the exploits of Wish Wash. Finally blasts of “water” works started exploding forth from the water. Each blast shot forth into the air and exploded just like fireworks, except without all the color and heat. A fine mist wafted down on them all.

            “I think she’s proud of herself, Huh?” giggled Shalila.

            They ran ahead up the river. They had started out walking but Rothgauer could not contain his excitement and what better place to run than a mountain where you don’t get tired.

            The last mile flew by like a breeze. The Yoshinatu River was so beautiful. Trees of all kinds grew near the river. Some so laden with fruit that their boughs were touching the ground. There were so many animals along the river. For some reason they weren’t skittish or scared. Deer drunk from the cool water of the river with fawns in tow. A bear was climbing a nearby tree reaching for some brilliant yellow fruit. The whole area was alive with aroma from all the fruits. Clusters of grapes hung from vines high in the trees. Big full round cherry trees were dotted with thousands of bright red cherries. Blueberry bushes growing beside the river, leaned over the clear waters, with an occasional ripe berry falling off into the current. Birds of all shape and sizes lingered in the trees calling to one another while other birds hopped along the ground eating small berries. Shannon even noticed a leopard lounging in a far away tree, with his tail swishing below him.

            Finally, they could see the headwaters of the Yoshinatu River. A large spring the size of an enormous lake surged from the earth. The water was crystal blue. Every thirty of so feet apart all around the perimeter of the spring were what must be the white willows. They lived up to their name. Their trunks were scaly like an enormous live oak but they were pure white. Their white branches ended in beautiful long willow leaves, which shone silver in the sun.  The whole grove of white willows danced in a strong wind. They could hear their leaves rustling in the wind, singing as an inviting chorus.

            They all walked mesmerized towards the willows. Suddenly a deep rumbling was heard. The noise was so loud it drowned out the rushing of the white willows. The ground beneath them shook. Their teeth vibrated from the commotion.

            “What is that?!” asked Shannon.

            “It feels like an earthquake!” said Shalila.

            Just then the ground behind them broke up. Not like a rip but like a burrow of some great beast. The burrow jetted towards them. They didn’t have time to get out of the way before it tore right under them. They were thrown in all directions.

            Then about twenty yards in front of them, the beast ripped forth from the ground. Great clods of stone and dirt were up heaved. The land was showered with sand and pebbles. The beast soared into the sky, spreading great dirty wings. It rose and spiraled in the sky and then descended back to the ground with a mighty thump.

            They all rose to their feet. The beast stood there in front of them snorting and glaring at them through thin slits of eyes. Then like a dog it shook itself free from all the dirt covering its body.

            The traveler’s laughed.

            “Why are you laughing?” came a high nasally voice.

            “Sorry,” chuckled Rothgauer, “it’s just pink isn’t a very intimidating color.

            “It’s very pretty though!” said Shalila.

            “Pink is scary!” said the dragon, “watch.”

            The dragon crept up behind a deer drinking water from the spring and tapped in on the shoulder. The deer turned and upon seeing the pink dragon, fell down on its back and started snorting, kicking it’s hooves in the air.

            “Well, maybe he just remembered a funny joke.” said the dragon as he eyed the deer curiously.

            “Yea, the one about the pink dragon…” said Shannon as she burst out laughing.

            The dragon walked over to a nearby tree and sat against it with its head drooping. The travelers felt a tinge of guilt about picking on the dragon.  So they walked over to him and tried comforting him.

            “Well, I did remember there was that…that…pink clown that used to scare me when I was little.” consoled Shannon. “Thinking about him made me sleep with my head under the covers.

“And I remember the inside of a tiger’s mouth that almost bit me. That’s a scary time to see pink!” added Rothgauer.

            “I remember my aunt Malasha who wore this hideous pink dress one time. That dress still gives me nightmares.” said Shalila. “We used to laugh at her behind her back all the time,” said Shalila kind of to herself. Rothgauer elbowed her. “But it was more like laughing out of fear.” tacked on Shalila.

            “So you see pink can be a pretty fearsome color.” said Shannon as she patted the dragon on the back.

            “Well, I did scare the mess out of this squirrel one time!” said the dragon with a little enthusiasm. “Of course, I did just accidentally step on him.”

            “What’s your name?” asked Rothgauer, changing the subject.

            “Bibbly.” stated the pink beast.

            They all exchanged glances.

            “Well, Bibbly, my name is Rothgauer. This is my niece Shalila and this is our friend Shannon. I’m really a human wizard and we’ve come here to retrieve some fellum from the white willows.”

            “I know how you feel Bibbly.”

            “How do you know how I feel? I’m a male dragon who’s pink. Dragon’s are supposed to be fearsome and all I have going for me is my ferocious name.”

            “What name is that?” asked Rothgauer without thinking. Then he realized himself and added, “oh yes, Bibbly is quiet the ferocious name! Why I don’t think I heard anyone with a name quite like that one before.” said Rothgauer with a forced grin.

            “But I do know how you feel. Why just look at me! I’m a baboon. But really I’m a wizard who experimented with the wrong fellum. Wizards are usually respected and feared, but all I’ve got since I became a monkey is laughter.”

            “Well, I guess you do have a point!” said Bibbly with a smile coming to his face. “I wouldn’t be afraid of a silly goofy-looking monkey, even though you are a wizard.”

            “Well, let’s not stretch things too far, my new friend. monkey yes, but I’m still rather…rather…okay, see I know exactly how you feel…I’m not goofy looking am I?” asked Rothgauer to Shannon and Shalila. They both shook their head as saying no, but curiously neither one of them would look into his eyes while they were nodding no.

            “So what kind of dragon are you?” inquired Rothgauer. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dragon who can move underground.”

            “I’m a sand dragon.” replied Bibbly.

            “That’s really cool!” exclaim Shannon and Shalila.

            “You think so?” asked Bibbly pleadingly.

            “Definitely! You can fly and you can move underground faster than anything I’ve ever heard off.” said Rothgauer. “That’s amazing!”

            “Do you breath fire too?” asked Shannon.

            “No, I never been able to do that.” said Bibbly sounding dejected again. “All I can do is this”

            With that he opened his great mouth and spewed a stream of dirt and stones. It was so powerful it knocked down a couple of the trees in the forest.

            “That is awesome!” spoke Rothgauer in a whisper. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve seen a lot of things. I’m a fairly well-traveled wizard, but I’ve never seen a dragon spew sand and stone, before, not even with fellum! That’s quite a gift you have there Bibbly.”

            “So why did you try to intimidate us?” asked Shannon.

            “Well, I’m the watcher of the wood. Well not the watcher. He’s out on vacation, but I’m his fill in. I just started working here last week.” said Bibbly

            “So what does the watcher of the wood do?” asked the wizard.

            “Well, years ago, they discovered that white willow had many magical properties. Mainly, it mends magically made maladies. Try saying that three times fast. But they also discovered it possesses a few properties that can be used for very evil purposes. I’ve heard that if bits of willow are crushed with the heartwood of live oaks, it creates a noxious weed with a life of its own but no soul.”

            “The only way to get live oak heart wood is to kill a live oak, though. “gasped Rothgauer.

            “I know” said the dragon with a frown.

            So they started the post of watcher of the wood, to guard this grove of white willows. Normally a centaur named Ralik Nymsha is the watcher of the wood. But everybody needs a break. I applied for the job years ago, but apparently a centaur with a nasty disposition is a better candidate. He doesn‘t even wash his hands after he goes to the bath room.”

            “So how did you get to be the fill in?” asked Shannon?

            “Well, I was the second best choice! Well after Ugala the archen, and Grog the ogre, and Valree the banshee and all those others. But they all live in the same town of Reinholt and the whole town got the flu last week.”

            “So can I go get a leaf from one of the willows, Bibbly?” asked Rothgauer.

            “You have to eat a piece of beech fellum that makes you answer the very next question you are asked 100% truthfully.  Then I ask your name again. Then I got to check my list of bad wizards. As long as you’re not on the list you can help yourself to all the willow you want. If you want to cut any trees down, however, you have to go to the woods edge and get younger trees, because the ones growing around the spring are the elder trees. They’ve grown around this spring since time began.”

            Rothgauer’s name was not on the list so he ran, took out a garment from his pack and scrambled up one of the willows. He was running so fast that the girls couldn’t keep up. When they got to the base of the tree there was an 89 year old 6’4” black wizard beaming down at them.



“Uncle Rothgauer! You’re you again!” screamed Shalila.

            Rothgauer looked around hesitantly. “The only thing is that when I scrambled up this tree I was a monkey.” he fidgeted and squirmed. He inched his way along the limb, swaying precariously. He grabbed hold of the willow trunk.

            “Bibbly is coming, Rothgauer. Maybe you should let him help you down.” suggested Shannon.

            “Yea, that’s a really good idea!” put in Shalila, as she watched her uncle, teeter dangerously.”

            “Nonsense, girls! I’m perfectly capable of climbing down a tree.” huffed the wizard.

            “Yea, like fifty years ago.” murmured Shalila with a smile. Shannon giggled.





            “IN…” PLOP.






            “In another couple weeks the giants of Elrillion visit the white willows. You can see them approaching from miles away.” stated Bibbly.

            “Wow, real live giants? How big are they?” asked Shannon.

            “They’re big! They probably stand twenty feet taller than many of the trees.” said Bibbly.

            “Do they come to collect white willow fellum?” inquired Shannon.

            “No, they come to swim in the springs. It’s one of the largest springs in Manora. Whereas the willow heals mainly magical related maladies, the spring for some reason heals all physical maladies. So they come here carrying their sick and injured, and after they are all healed, they spend the next several days just having fun.”

            Shalila and Rothgauer came over to join Shannon and Bibbly.

            “Now that you’re back to being yourself, are we heading back for your house, Rothgauer?” asked Shannon.

            “Well, as long as we made it all this way, I wanted to see if you girls wanted to see Stratus.” said Rothgauer.

            “What’s Stratus?” asked the girls and Bibbly.

            “Why Stratus is the cloud land.” stated the wizard.   “There is a cloud that always hangs just to the east of the springs. It never moves, and it is substantial. You can walk on it. It must be a mile or so wide.”

            “Nobody knows exactly what happened to make it so. The mighty Norsa trees grow right up through it and some believe they impart magic to the clouds. Others believe that evaporated water from the spring is imbued with magic from deep within the earth, and that is what makes the cloud substantial. Others believe, it just is. They believe that the Song made it that way since time began. Nobody knows for sure.” said Rothgauer.

            “Wow, I would love to see Stratus!” blurted Shannon.

            “Me, too!” said Shalila.

            “Me, three!” exclaimed Bibbly.

            They all turned to look at the exuberant dragon.

            “Will you still be able to watch the woods from up there?” asked Shannon.

            “Yes, us dragons have very good eyesight. Why when I’m up that far in the air, I can see for miles around.” said the pink dragon.

            In moments, all four travelers were seated on Bibbly’s back. His great wings unfurled and they took off into the sky.

            Soon they were soaring high in the sky. The sun was shining against their backs. Up ahead to the east mighty Norsa trees did indeed grow straight up through the clouds. A thick fluffy cumulus cloud hovered amidst the trees. It was a sight to see even if the cloud were not enchanted. It appeared as though the cloud itself had sprouted trees from all the tree tops that shot up from below. Bibbly lighted on the cloud. It was not firm like the ground yet it wasn’t soft either. His feet sunk in a couple inches. He kept picking his feet up and then setting them back down as if trying to find firmer ground. Once his brain realized that he wasn’t going to sink he finally settled down.

            The passengers slowly scrambled down. Bibbly picked up his feet and noticed that bits of cloud were sticking to them. He eyed it curiously then stuck it to his mouth.

            “Yum! This clouds tastes good.” exclaimed the dragon.

            “If you think the cloud tastes good you should try the cloud fruits that grow here.” said Rothgauer.

            “Cloud fruits? What’s that?” asked Shannon.

            “Cloud fruits are about the size of an apple but they are fluffy. They grow on vines that mysteriously come up here and there all along the cloud. The vines themselves look like many other vines you would see in Manora but they produce cloud fruit.” said Rothgauer.

            “Wow how many kinds of plants grow in the cloud?” asked Shannon.

            “Lots! Every year a few more kinds of plants start appearing here.” said Rothgauer. “Just look around.”

            The patch of cloud that they had landed on was bare but all around a variety of plants were growing right in the cloud itself. In some places you couldn’t even see the cloud at all from all the plants. Everything seemed to be flowering. Mixed in with the white of the cloud was purple lavender swaying in the breeze, red poppies on tall stalks, clumps of yellow flag irises, blue bearded irises poked up their heads, yellowed eyed shasta daisies dotted the landscape, towering sunflowers stood sentinel in front of dark evergreens. On many sides of the clouds vines cascaded down and dangled in the sky. The Norsa trees that grew up through the cloud stood sometimes forty to fifty feet tall. A few other small evergreens had sprouted right in the cloud. There were blue-green spruces, and some chartreuse junipers, and some dark green firs.

            They walked in amongst the vegetation. Ferns brushed against their legs. The smell of lavender and fir drifted lazily through the air. The ground rose and fell beneath them just like hills and in some places like mountains.  Birds darted back and forth between the trees.

            As they walked they came upon a rather unusual valley. Everything was extremely colorful. The trees ranged from purple, yellow, and even plaid. There was a squirrel with pin stripes and a bald eagle with a yellow head and blue body. This one fir had orange needles and a jet black trunk.

            “What happened here?” asked Shannon.

            “I…um…I’m…not sure.” stammered Rothgauer.

            Just then they saw a vibrant whirlwind of color. It looked like a whirlwind had attacked a rainbow, and they were still fighting it out. The spinning mass of color was slowly winding its way through the valley. Everything in front of it was normal (well as normal as you can get on a walkable cloud) and everything behind it was a myriad of extreme color.

            “It looks as if whatever the rainbow whirlwind touches it changes its color.” said Rothgauer.

            In a flash Wish Wash who had been teasing an aquamarine bunny shot past everyone else and went straight into the whirlwind. She came out green. She giggled and soared around the others.

            “Neat, Wish Wash!” said Shalila. “You look like a liquid emerald.”

            “Wow!” exclaimed Bibbly I can finally be rid of this pink!”

            Shalila turned to Shannon. “Race ya!”

            The girls took off down the hill and in a moment were enveloped by color. Although the rainbow whirlwind looked like it would be made of actual wind, it turned out that it was solely a mass of spinning colors. The racing colors rushed right through the girl’s bodies. They were being permeated by color. All round them was a vortex of shades and hues.

            When they stepped out they took one look at each other and started to giggle. Shannon had purple eyes and fuchsia hair. Her skin was now the color of limes. Her shirt had changed to beige and her blue jeans to yellow. Shalila had orange eyes that faded to yellow pupils, and midnight blue skin. Her clothes had all changed to teal. When they smiled they both discovered that they had turquoise teeth.

            “I wonder if this means I won’t have to brush my teeth anymore?” giggled Shannon.

            “Wanna do it again?” asked Shalila.

            Shannon nodded and they both hopped in again. This time they were joined by Rothgauer and Bibbly. Just as Rothgauer stepped in a ball of water hit him on the back of the head. All the water that splashed off turned into hundreds of different colors as it shot through the swirling rainbow. He turned and gave Wish Wash a dirty look. The now green sprite disappeared behind some bushes.

            When they all stepped out Rothgauer was purple, Shannon was orange, Shalila was deep red, and Bibbly was pink. They all laughed at themselves and when they saw that Bibbly had only turned a different shade of pink they encouraged him to try again. This time he came out…pink. He tried five more times and each time only changed a shade of pink.

            “I’m sorry Bibbly!” said Shalila.

            “What do you mean? I love this new color I was so tired of being pink.”

            “But you are still…” began Shannon.

            “Now I’m salmon!” interrupted Bibbly with excitement.

            “But salmon is still…”began Shannon again, but Bibbly didn’t give her time to finish again, he was off dancing and celebrating his new color.

            “People will think twice before they mess with a salmon dragon!” said Bibbly

            The girls just looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and they all laughed.

            After they left the multi-colored valley they walked on deeper into the cloud. Bibbly had left them to go back to his watch of the willows. He wanted to try out his new intimidating color on sojourners. As they walked further in, the cloud began to grow darker and more ominous. The patches of cloud that they could see were turning deep grey.

            “I’ve never been on top of a storm before.” said Shalila.

            Up ahead a swirling mist of dark cloud was roiling up from Stratus. Lightning was flashing in the swirling haze.  A dark figure was concealed in the mist, illuminated by the bursts of light. A man stepped out. Lightning snaked out from his feet with each step he took. The bolts sizzled through the cloud. His skin was the colors of storm clouds. Its colors seemed to shift as if it were a cloud caught in a gale. His eyes were pure energy. His irises glowed like electricity. His hair was the color of night. It was wild and rose with the wind. His lips stood out a murky blue against the color of his gray skin.



Chapter 21 – Strom

June 9, 2011

The foreboding figure strode toward them. His eyes blazed wildly. The daylight seemed to be shadowed by his presence. As he neared, a violent wind enveloped them.  The cloud lit up under his feet as the lightning shot forth from his steps.

            Rothgauer stepped out in front of the children. Then he was swept up in a strong embrace from the stormy figure.

            “Strom! It’s been too long! I should have expected to see you up here on the clouds.” said Rothgauer.

            “Rothgauer you old wizard, it’s so good to see you!” said Strom. “What brings you to the mount, Old Friend?”

            “It’s a long story…and I’m sure you don’t have the time for…” began the wizard.

            “He turned himself into a baboon and had to come here to get some white willow fellum.” blurted Shalila.

            “That was actually very concise, not long at all.” stated Strom with a smile.

            “Thank you Shalila.” mumbled Rothgauer.

            “Don’t worry about it Rothgauer.” reassured Strom. “Everyone turns themselves into a monkey sometime.” he winked at the girls.

            “Thanks…” said Rothgauer flatly.

            “Wish Wash, my favorite sprite. I trust that you’ve been good as always. And it looks like you‘ve had a run in with a rainbow whirlwind.” said Strom with a gentle smile.

            Wish Wash flew excitedly around the god. Then perched on his shoulder and began chattering in his ear.

            “What’s this? Rothgauer’s been abusing you? I never…” said Strom as he eyed Rothgauer. “Just when you think you know someone. And he always seemed like such a nice wizard. Tut tut.”

            Wish Wash smiled mischievously down at Rothgauer.

            “Shalila! My how you have grown! The last time that I saw you, you were only five years old. Are you still making up words?”” asked Strom.

            “Well, they’re only made up until I say them. Then they’re real.” stated Shalila.

            Strom reached down and enveloped Shalila in a bear hug.

            “This must be Shannon.” said Strom.

            “But how did you know?” asked Shannon.

            “The Song told me. You are the reason that I came here today. The Song sent me to take you to him. It’s time for you to go home.” said Strom.

            “The Song! It’s been only a week or so since I last saw Him, but it feels like forever.” Shannon beamed. “Going home…I have missed my mom and dad and my grandma and Cory, but now I’ll have new friends to miss.” said Shannon as she turned to look at Rothgauer, Shalila and Wish Wash. This has been such a lovely adventure.”

            She ran and hugged Rothgauer. “Thank you so much for taking me on this trip with you. Thank you for everything! You don’t smell nearly as bad as when you were a baboon.”

            “Thanks…I think” smiled Rothgauer with a big grin. A tear trickled down Rothgauer’s cheek. “I already can’t wait to see you again, Shannon.”

                        Then Shalila was embraced in a hug. “I’m gonna miss you so much Shalila! I’ll ask the Song if you can come to my world with me sometime.”

            “Wow that would be awesome! beamed Shalila.

            Finally Shannon came to Wish Wash who was now hovering in the air next to Shalila. “Wish Wash…” but before Shannon could say anymore the sprite had flown and threw her tiny arms around Shannon’s neck. “I’m gonna miss you too.”

            Finally, Shannon turned back to Strom. “I’m ready.”

            “Now do try to keep your uncle out of trouble, Shalila,” said Strom. “Of course I would have paid to see him a day ago.” chuckled Strom. “Wish Wash, keep em on their toes.”

            “Don’t encourage her.” retorted Rothgauer eying the sprite. Shalila giggled.

            They all embraced Shannon in one last hug and then she and Strom walked away. As they were walking, a ball of water splattered Strom in the back of the head. They turned and Wish Wash was smiling mischievously at them and then she took off. Strom grinned and then shot a flash of lightning. The sprite was vaporized and a little orb disappeared into the cloud. Strom turned and smiled at the now wide-eyed Shannon. “Some things just never get old.” said Strom with some relish.

            Rothgauer and Shalila were still standing there watching Shannon and Strom go. Shannon kept turning around and waving farewell to them until they finally disappeared over the cloudy horizon.

            “So how are we going to get off the cloud?” asked Shannon.

            “Why my chariot of course.” replied Strom

            Up ahead a chariot made of storm clouds rested. It was tied to two beasts that looked like strong horses. Only they were made of wind. Shannon could only see them because the winds that they were made off were constantly churning. Whatever debris that were near them were swept up into their violent maelstrom.

            “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this!” exclaimed Shannon.

            “These are my steeds, Vortex and Turbulence. They have pulled my chariot since my brewing.” said Strom.

            “Brewing?…you mean like apple cider?” questioned Shannon.

            “No,” Strom laughed, “brewing as in a storm is brewing. I call my beginning my brewing as you call your beginning your birth.”

            “So do you have a brewday, like I have a birthday? I just had a birthday and I turned eight.”

            “Wow, you are almost all grown up. I do have a brewday; I was brewed up on Sumstar, that’s the first month in our calendar year, the second. Only one day after time began.” stated Strom

            “Gosh! You must be a million trillion years old.” blurted Shannon.

            “Uh no,” smiled Strom, “closer to about six thousand years. Much the same as your world, earth, from what the Song tells me.”

            “So you’re six thousand years old! I’m pretty sure that’s older than my mom and dad! I think that they’re only like four thousand or so.” said Shannon matter-of-factly.

            “I’m sure they’d be glad to hear It.” chuckled Strom.

            Strom stepped up on the cloudy chariot. As he did lightning shot through it illuminating the semblance of an ornate metal chariot. The chariot seemed to respond to Strom’s presence. Vortex and Turbulence reared up and roared a thunderous neigh.

            “Are you sure this thing’s safe?” inquired Shannon looking doubtfully at the cloudy conveyance.

            “Of course it’s safe. Why I’ve only lost about three passengers over the years…well three and a half, there was that gnome…Oh yeah then there was that ice troll, but he was kind of clumsy anyway.” said Strom pensively.

            Shannon stood there looking at him with her mouth agape. Strom looked to her as if asking ‘well, are you getting on?’.

            “No, I’m only kidding Shannon…” said the Strom.

            “Relief washed across Shannon’s face and then she got on.”

            “It was only two passengers that fell off.” said Strom with a mischievous smile playing across his murky blue lips as he looked straight ahead.

            Shannon just stared at him.

            As soon as Shannon grasped a pair of reigns and Strom had placed his hand upon her back, the steeds thundered off.

            In moments Raitham was disappearing below them. Shannon could just make out two dark figures waving at her from the cloud. Shannon gave a longing look back. Then soon Rothgauer and Shalila had completely disappeared from view.

            The world flashed before Shannon’s eyes. Everything seemed so tiny. Even the mighty Norsa trees looked like broccoli from up here. In moments Mount Paladriel was gone from view. Shannon had thought that Pahroon moved fast but Strom’s chariot moved like lightning. Woods and rivers and villages blurred beneath them.

            “So Rothgauer said that you were a god.” said Shannon. “Is that why you’ve been around since time started?”

            “Yes, I am a god. We are some of the only creatures that have existed since the song wrote this world into existence.” replied Strom.

            “So how many gods are there?” asked Shannon.

            “I don’t know…the song never told us how many of us there was. Personally, I know 306 other gods quiet well, and I’ve heard of many more. There is Panthera the goddess of felines, Hassa Hassa Moky Kally Doki (or maybe Faylork) the god of funny names…”

            “You’ve got to be kidding.” said Shannon. “The god of funny names?”

            “Actually, I’m not kidding. And the funny thing is… he’s a very serious being. Then there is Roshala the god of beasts, Suva the goddess of art, and Loe the goddess of tears,”

            “Goddess of tears?” inquired Shannon.

            “Yes, she comforts those who mourn. She is very kind and sweet and lends the beauty of her nature to those sad of heart. Then there is Sammo the god of light, Rah Isha the goddess of the dance…I really like her. You should see her dance. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful, even the wildest violent storm doesn’t compare. She twirls and sashays so elegantly and you should hear her laugh, why even the thunderclouds can’t be gray when she laughs. Ahhh…” Strom got quiet with a far off look in her eyes.

            “I think you like her. Is she your girlfriend?” rang Shannon.

            “She is…the only thing is she doesn’t know it yet.” winked Strom.

            “Where was I? Oh yes! Telling you about the other gods. There is Plib the god of slacking.” continued Strom.

            “That’s my kind of god? Is he currently looking for any followers at the moment?” giggled Shannon.

            “Then there is Maran the goddess of rivers, and Solpy her brother the god of fire, then Mersalah the god of plants.”

            “So how does it work out when you have a god of beasts and then another goddess of felines?” asked Shannon.

            “Well, we god’s are often subservient to others. Panthera answers to Rashala. Maran the goddess of rivers answers to Oneesha the goddess of water, who in turn answers to Ruwa the goddess of liquids and so on.”

            “So what kind of god are you?” asked Shannon.

            “I am the god of storms.” stated Strom.

            “Storms, I don’t like storms very much.” said Shannon.

            “You don’t like storms very much? Storms are amazing! To be embraced by the strong wind caressing your body; to be kissed by raindrops; to be dazzled by flashing lightning and comforted by the strong thunder.”

            “How is thunder comforting? It scares me.?” asked Shannon.

            “Thunder comforts by its sheer strength. You are reminded that this is something bigger than you. It’s reassuring knowing that you’re not the center of the story. It’s comforting knowing that all doesn’t depend on you alone. It’s engaging being reminded of the bigger world beyond ourselves. It’s like the old saying about not being able to see the forest from the trees. When the thunder crackles you can see the whole wood instead of the few trees that surround you.” spoke Strom.

            “What about lightning? It kills people all the time.” added Shannon.

            “Ah yes, well don’t tigers kill occasionally. Their danger adds to their allure. House cats are cute but tigers are awe inspiring. Lightning is splendorous but you mustn’t run about in it, with a metal rod in your hand. Because of its power you must respect it. All that, doesn’t take away from its beauty and strength. A house cat comforts by its warm fuzziness, while a tiger comforts by its wild strength. You must enjoy it from a safe distance. Some things aren’t meant to be enjoyed too close, but they are still made to be enjoyed nonetheless”

            “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel the same about storms as you do, Strom.” said Shannon.

            “I thought that you might say that.” replied Strom


Up ahead monstrous storm clouds blotted out the sky. Behind them they could see the translucent gray of sunshine trying to penetrate the steely clouds. The forests that had been stretching out below them had given way to the shoreline.        

            Vortex and Turbulence landed the stormy chariot in the white crystalline sands. Strom bounded down and held out his arms. He gazed up admiringly at the cloudy carnage. Shannon eyed him like he was crazy.

            “Um…I think we had better get somewhere…” started Shannon, but before she could finish the rain started to come.”Out of the weather.” she finished.

            Strom didn’t hear her or either wasn’t paying attention. He still held his arms out letting the rain play across his upturned face. His electric eyes sizzled with laughter as they beheld the onslaught of the crashing rain.

            Shannon, giving up trying to get his attention, simply walked over and tugged on his robe.

            “Excuse me…excuse me could we get out of the rain?” inquired Shannon.

            “Get out of the rain, but why?” asked Strom puzzled.

            “Because it’s wet.” said Shannon simply.

            “I know! Isn’t it glorious!” beamed Strom.

            “I…um…well…after you get over the cold part of it…its kinda nice…I guess.” stammered Shannon with rain drop careening down her cheeks. “I’ve always been told to get out of the rain, not to stay in it.” Shannon looked up with one eye kind of squenched.

            “No, my girl, you must not escape the rain you must dance in the rain.” said Strom as he began to twirl with a broad smile on his gray face.

            Shannon still looked hesitant but started to move about some. She picked up her legs and put them back down.

            Strom looked down at her. “That’s not dancing. That’s more like stumbling in place.” he laughed, not in a demeaning way but in an endearing way. “Try this he said as he began to jumping up and down. Shannon took a small leap then a small smile hinted at the corners of her mouth. Then she jumped again a little bit higher. Then again and again. Finally, she was jumping as high as her little legs would lift her, and the hint of a smile had revealed itself to be a full blown smile.

            “Very good” encouraged Strom, “now twirl as well.”

            Shannon jumped and spun and twirled and laughed as the rain bathed her in its wild fury. Soon she and Strom were holding hands and laughing as they danced across the shore line. Then he took her up in his strong arms and spun her around holding her close.

            Lightning danced across the darkening sky. It snaked its way among the storm clouds. Shannon gasped as the thunder vibrated the world.

            “Do not fear little one, today you are with the god of storms. There is nothing to be feared in this storm. There is only wild and unfettered goodness.” Strom brushed the wet hair from her eyes.

            Shannon beamed at him as she licked the rain drops from her lips. “Now would you believe that I can move faster than the lightning itself.”

            Shannon shook her head, no, teasingly.

            Then with Shannon still in his arms, Strom shot up into the sky. They were moving so fast that the rain drops looked as if they were standing still. They passed the raindrops in midair. In a flash they were stopped in the middle of the great thunderheads.

            Down below them the sea was raging. The ocean was a frothy mass of intensity. The waves must have been at least fifteen feet tall. The strained sunlight sparkled on their crests, as they beat against the shore. 

            Another bolt of lightning tore across the sky. “Watch this!” said Strom. Before the bolt had vanished Strom headed straight for it. Once again the rain seemed to come to a halt in midair. The raging waves below looked frozen in time. In a flash they were upon the still stretching bolt of lightning. They raced right beside it watching it fork and vein. Shannon could have reached out and touched it, it was so close. Then Strom sped up even faster and trailed back along the now frozen bolt weaving in and out of its grasp. He sped away from it while Shannon watched it barely creeping through the stormy sky.

Shannon was awed, amazed and thought she might have wet her pants. Good thing it was raining. Then they sped back across the sky dodging rain drops. Strom’s hair was if you can believe it, even more wild and unruly. The speed at which they were moving didn’t make it flat but it was still untamed.

            They sped down among the waves diving in between their watery embrace. They were still moving so fast that nothing seemed to have moved a bit except for the lightning that was still barely creeping. Finally they slowed down to a normal pace and as they slowed everything gradually resumed time.

            Shannon hadn’t noticed until then that there had been no sound while they were speeding through the air. But as they slowed back down the crashing of the waves became loud and boisterous once again. The lightning sped across the expanse and disappeared followed by a loud crack of thunder. Even the air seemed to shudder from the thunder’s rage.

            Strom held Shannon below him while they paralled the ocean. She held out her arm as if she was flying. He sped her over the large waves only feet from their surface. The mist from the choppy waters kissed her face. They soared through the waves and through the rain.


            Shannon gazed up at Strom with the wind blowing so violently across his face. He looked so wild, as he enjoyed every drop of rain that splattered against his skin. His lips were held wide apart in a laugh that Shannon could hardly hear from the crashing waves, pounding rain and splintering thunder. Then at times he would close his eyes and soak in each gust of wind that assailed his body.

            Finally, he sat Shannon down in an alcove of a cliff. He ignited a pile of driftwood that jumped to life warming up the whole cave. In no time Shannon was dry, falling asleep in Strom’s lap while the thunder rocked her to sleep.




Shannon woke to find herself lying on a bed of thick straw. Drops of water still fell lazily from the mouth of the cave. The sun was just extending its rays out for a morning stretch. The horizon was a pink haze backdrop against the brilliant shimmer of the blue ocean, and Gulls were effortlessly riding the morning breeze.

            Shannon sat up, took a stretch herself and idly surveyed her surroundings. She walked to the mouth of the alcove. Instantly she stepped back. The alcove was hundreds of feet above the crashing surf. There looked to be nothing but the sheer cliff wall completely surrounding the alcove. A twinge of panic welled up in her heart. She called out, “Strom…Strom…Strom!”, but there was no answer.

            Then as Strom’s name ceased echoing off the cavern’s walls, a sweet and succulent melody drifted, barely audible, up from far below. The enticing refrain called from somewhere down and around the cliff wall. Shannon stepped to the edge, not feeling quite so scared as before. The song was comfortingly familiar. It was the same melody, that wove itself through her essence as she held the sword, Ariathana, and it was the same one that called to her weeks ago from the other side of a waterfall. Yet at the same time it was new and totally different. Longing began to swell in Shannon’s heart as she looked for some way to get down to the source of the rapturous melody. ‘Maybe Strom will be back soon’, thought Shannon. Then as she looked down toward the sea, Shannon noticed a flat rock surface hanging out of the sheer cliff wall. Shannon did a double take and saw that it was a stone stair way connected to the cliff wall. “I didn’t see that just a moment ago.” Shannon whispered to herself. The stony stair case jutted out only a few feet below where she was standing and it wrapped around and out of sight around the cliff.

            Shannon hesitated for a brief moment until the sound of the song once again filled her ears. Then she gently lowered herself onto the stairs. At first she sat on the step and skidded her bottom along until she dropped to the next step. Then as she got braver, she halfway stood, leaning heavily against the cliff wall, taking one small step at a time. As she descended, the roar of the ocean rose from the pounding surf. Although the roar constantly grew louder, the song always swelled a small notch higher.

            Finally as the spray from the waves were wetting the great stone stairs, the stairs reached the side of the cliff and gently curved around to face the shore. The stairs slowly descended until they passed the shore line and disappeared into a large field. The field was smothered in wildflowers of every imaginable color. Shannon gasped in amazement. She stood still for an eternity taking in the gorgeous field before her. Hues and shades of every color spread out before her, enchanted ever more by the sweet perfume of the beckoning melody.

            There hunched over in the middle of the field was a wizened old man. All Shannon could see was a bent man dressed in rags-for-robes hobbling along with a staff in hand. A tinge of disappointment stole over her young heart. She was hoping that she was nearing the Song wandering around the field, but instead it was somebody else. Maybe the Song had beckoned her here to meet the old man. A smile crept back across her face as she entered the field of wildflowers. Soft blue bellflowers brushed against her legs. Drifts of purple, and scarlet and white phlox weaved themselves in amongst all the other flowers in this carpet of colors. Black-eyed susans shouted out for attention with their bright yellow petals. The smell of hyacinths cascaded on the wind. Wild tulips held their petals open as if to greet the day. The old man hobbled behind a huge stand of sunflowers. The sunflowers stood at least twelve feet tall with blossoms the size of basketballs. Some veronicas swayed at Shannon’s feet as she entered what was like a forest of sunflowers. Morning glories raced up the tall stalks of the outermost sunflowers. Faint echoes of yellow played on Shannon’s head as the sun shone through the rich golden petals. The stand of sunflowers must have been at least fifty feet thick and Shannon couldn’t see how long it was on her right. Shannon caught just a glimpse of the old man on the other side as she was making her way through the monstrous flower stalks. As she pushed through the leafy giants, a golden rain fell round her, as fully ripened petals tumbled to the earth. Shannon giggled as the fallen petals landed on her arms and on her head. The ground beneath the giant sunflowers was littered with the bright yellow petals.

            Finally Shannon approached the other side of the forest of sunflowers. By this time Shannon was covered in petals. The old man Shannon had been following lay only ten feet away. Shannon stayed behind several of the large sunflowers stalks because she got to thinking that she didn’t know anything of this old man. Shannon hadn’t even seen his face as it was obscured from the sides by a full silver beard. He had a floppy pointy hat much like a wizard’s hat also concealing most of his face as he shuffled through the vibrant wildflowers. His hat and his clothes all were of the same color, like a tired brown, that once had been full and rich, but now was struggling to keep up appearance of being brown at all. Shannon watched him for a moment shuffling around. Her heart beat fifty miles per hour as she almost cleared her throat to call out to the man. A quiver of music ran up from Shannon’s hip as she remembered, Ariathana. And after all he was only an old man. She had already faced some incredible enemies and to top it all off the Song had led her here.

            Shannon cleared her throat and called, “Excuse me, sir.” The man still staggered along as though he had not heard her voice. So she stepped out from the sunflowers and called yet again, “Excuse me, sir.” The old man stopped and for a moment only stood there. Then extremely slowly he turned his ancient head slightly so that Shannon could see some of his cheek and nose poking out.

            Shannon cautiously stepped a few more steps forward. “Excuse me, sir.” Shannon repeated, “But I’m looking for someone and was hoping that you might point me in the right direction.”

            The old man still didn’t speak but turned evermore so slightly so that Shannon could see a small glimpse of a deep blue eye, whose pure color seemed out of place with the old man’s dirty rags and hat. Then he turned back until Shannon could only see his back.

            “Who would you be looking for?” crackled a strained voice.

            “I’m looking… for…the Song” Shannon stammered still feeling quite intimidated.

            “The Song…” wheezed the wizened old man. “Yes, I know of many songs…What song are you looking for, I may just know it. There was this song I used to know like the back of my hand. Let’s see…my girlfriend hit me in the leg, and my dog chewed my shoes, and a dragon ate my mom…” sang (in the loose sense of the word) the old man.

            “I mean, the Song, not just any song” interrupted Shannon.

            “But I’m just getting to the best part deary…but I’ve still got my piano, so I’m okay, anyway,” finished the man and then he trailed off humming to himself.

            “I’m talking about the one they call the Song.” added Shannon, feeling a little exasperated.

            “Oh yeah, Him, yea I know him pretty well, but don’t you want to hear the second verse of me song. It’s about the piano getting sat on by an ogre but…”

            “No, thank you,” interrupted Shannon politely (as politely as you can when you’re interrupting someone).            

            “Suit yourself. Gosh I like that song! It’s kinda one of those songs that you sing when…who are you?!” quizzed the old man as though he forgot he was talking to Shannon and then saw someone standing near. He had turned so Shannon could see his one of his blue eyes.

            “You look like a giant canary” blurted the man.

            Shannon raised her eyebrows, and then realized she was covered in yellow flower petals. She shook off the petals while she asked again about the Song.”

            “Song, why of course I know the Song. Who do you think you’re talking to, I know most everybody. Let’s see there’s tough beard and Arden and…and…and tough beard…”

            “You already said him.” said Shannon.


            “Tough beard. You already said him.”

            “Him?…Tough Beard’s a woman, anyway why do want to see this Song fellow?” asked the man.

            “Well, he’s my friend.” said Shannon softly.

            “Friend, huh? I had a friend once, or was that a possum…how do you tell the difference anyway? Oh yeah, friends don’t normally get into your trash… I think. Although there was that one guy…” mumbled the old man.

            “Nevermind,” said Shannon feeling the conversation was quite hopeless.

            “Oh yeah, by jiminy, friends are those people who are there when you need them, kinda like my old staff here.” Said the old man as though he had just discovered gold or the wheel.

            “Well, maybe He and I aren’t friends at all then, cause he didn’t come when I needed him when I was lost in the woods.” said Shannon dolefully.

            “Are you sure deary? Things aren’t always what they seem ya know. The Song always looks out for those He loves.” said the man tenderly.

            Shannon looked at him more closely and rather quizzically, because he was actually making sense.

            “It could be that the Song did hear you when you cried out for help. It could even be possible that he propelled you forward to avoid a big foot. It could even be probable that the slope you came to in the night was not slope at all but a deep gorge. It might even be that the song held up each of your feet as you ran down what you thought was a slope. It could be that each step you took over that gorge was placed carefully in the palms of a certain One who cares more deeply for you than for all the trees and animals and planets and moons and sun and stars. It could be that was the reason the forest titan didn’t follow you any further. It could be that the Song may have whispered directions to your lost heart when you were alone in the woods so that you would find the only bridge for miles back across the gorge you had mysteriously crossed earlier. It could be that you weren’t alone as you felt. Then there was the inexplicable appearance of the fire birds who are seen only a handful of times each generation. It’s crazy how they comforted you with their presence and then somehow alerted you to the danger surrounding you. Also it’s puzzling how they helped you fight off some hungry ogres so that you could escape. Then there’s the odd occurrence of a strong tower that’s never been seen in that clearing before. It could have been a shack but instead it was tower strong enough to keep you safe. And finally what about the dark fierce creature that sent even enormous Cyclops running in absolute terror. I don’t think any of the remaining pieces of those evil creatures will try to harm a hair on your head again.”

            Shannon’s eyes had grown wide and her mouth agape.

            “How…What…Huh?”was all Shannon could mutter.

            With a flash the old man reached and cast his rags into the morning and at that instant all the colorful petals of the wildflowers began to flicker. The petals were no longer petals at all, but a myriad of colorful wings. Shannon was enveloped in a field of butterflies.


Shannon watched as the one-time flowers were now fluttering around her in an ocean of butterflies. There standing in front of her with a silver beard, deep blue eyes and a smile that would wake the morning, was the Song. Underneath the rags He was wearing, was a splendid blue robe with gold trim. Shannon gasped with delight and then ran to his open arms. He picked her up and swung her around. His presence was like a breeze on a warm summer day.

“Hello deary,” the song croaked in the voice of the old man.

“You tricked me!” squeeled Shannon with a twinkle in her eyes.

“I told you that you never know what form I’ll take,” laughed the song with a voice full of time.

“Do you have  a form that is the actual you?” inquired Shannon.

“I do have one form, though those who have seen it, have all described it differently.

“Huh?” Shannon mumbled.

“All my forms show a piece of me and none have shown all of me. Imagine having an empty glass. Then imagine filling it with water from an ocean. There is still immeasurable amounts of water in the ocean that won’t fit in the glass. That’s kind of how it is when you see me. Imagine you being the glass and me being the ocean of water. Each time you see me it’s like I fill your glass, yet there is still much of me to see.”

“Can I see all of you now?” asked Shannon with longing.

“Not now my love, it would be like trying to squeeze the depths of the entire ocean into that one single glass. The glass would shatter.” Replied the Song.

“Oh,” said Shannon a little scared.

“No worries, I would never fill your glass with more than it could handle. But one day I will give you a bigger glass.” Smiled the song with longing in his eyes as well.

“Come, Shannon, let run!” blurted the Song.

With that He took Shannon’s hand and off they ran through the field of wild flowers and butterflies. Everywhere a tapestry of butterflies was whirling around them, as they ran and leapt and played. With each flower that had become a butterfly a few minutes later a new bud would form and blossom and then it too would mature into another butterfly. You should have seen all the colors of butterflies. There was no color left out. Some were even magical and left a sparkling trail of light. Some had wings that looked made of glass and shimmered like diamonds. One even had wings of fire. Most were the normal kind and intoxicatingly beautiful. There was also a few that changed color every few seconds. One minute they looked like a spicebush swallowtail and the next a monarch.  You should have seen the size of the golden yellow and ebony black butterflies that originated from the massive sunflowers, Butterflies the size of basketballs.

Now that the song had revealed Himself to Shannon again, the air was filled with the aroma of his melody, sweet intoxicating, inviting and unforgettable. Butterflies brushed Shannon’s face in a shower of fluttering wings. The Song chased Shannon round the field and through the sunflowers. Each time he caught her they would fall down in a tickle war, which much to Shannon’s surprise and delight the Song was extremely ticklish. Of course He soon discovered her secret tickle spot, her belly. Then they would get up and run again feeling the wind’s kiss upon their faces.

After Shannon and the song got through with a particular bout of wrestling, They both lay down in the lush wildflowers and gazed up at the clear blue sky. Shannon lay with her head on his outstretched arm nestled up beside him. Shannon felt that no safer place existed than the song’s embrace. They lay there and watched the clouds roll by and seeing what shapes they could find. Shannon found a dragon and a fish which she insisted was a piranha, while the song pointed out a castle and a great bird.

“Where do you live Song?” asked Shannon.

“I am from the land beyond and my home is with my father, Musik.” Replied the Song.

“ Is it far from here?” asked Shannon.

“Well, that’s a difficult answer. To some who don’t know me it is very far indeed. It’s unreachable using their own means. To others who know me and have known me it’s always very close.”

“Can I come some day. I would love to be with you forever.” Shannon asked dreamily.

“Of course! That’s the plan. All those in tune with me will live with me one day! The land beyond is a most glorious place. The air, and everything really, is without pollution. Everything is rich and full there. Sorrow, sickness, and death are not allowed there. They couldn’t come if they wanted to. Everything is as it should be there, wildly safe, furiously serene. Comfort and adventure are always at your fingertips. Once there, love itself flows through your veins. Not some kind of wishy washy wimpy thing that some describe as love, but the real thing, fiery, undiluted and wildly free. It’s a world without limits and possibilities, one rich with deep and ancient magic. It’s a world that cannot fully dawn upon your heart until you experience it personally, and yet in other ways it’s always in the heart of those caught up with me. You just  can’t fully describe it or get your hands on it…yet.”

“It’s hard to believe there is a place more beautiful than Manora.” Said Shannon.

“The land beyond  compared to Manora would be as pure diamonds, and sea breezes, and the sweetest fruits, and the most fun and loving relationship compared to dirt.” Exclaimed the Song with echoes of sheer joy.

“I can’t wait to see it!” exclaimed Shannon.

“I can’t wait to show it to you, but for now I think… that… you can’t catch me!” said the Song as he jumped up and ran away.

“Hey!” Shannon shouted with a smile, “What happened to giving a heads up?”

Shannon raced behind the song as he dashed through the field and off into the nearby woods. As he entered the woods his robes shrunk down to swimming trunks and as Shannon followed, her clothes shrunk down to a swim suit. A stream was flowing within a few yards of the wood line and the song dive bombed into in. Shannon leapt into the stream after him. They swam and splashed each other and laughed. The water felt so cool and refreshing rushing against her skin.

Then the song splashed Shannon and this time it felt heavy. When she wiped her eyes she noticed that they were not in the wood by the field of wildflowers anymore. Great solitary mountains were dotted all around among a sea of green. They apparently were on one of those mountains looking out over many others. Instead of a simple running stream a great waterfall crashed behind her. They were back in the enchanted wood where her adventure had began.

After seeing the surprise on Shannon’s face the song began laughing. Shannon dunked him and then climbed out of the water. The Song resurfaced and climbed up as well.

“What is this place, anyway?” asked Shannon.

“This place is Eatha (EE-tha). It’s simply magical.

“Is this Manora, too? Asked Shannon.

“No, this is it’s own world. This part of Eatha is called Roash (Row-Ash). Roash is a land of gateways. As you already know the waterfalls here take you to different locations in Manora. The necklace you wore contains mists of some of the waterfalls here. So when you put the necklace on, the mists take you to their home. “ said the Song.

“What would have happened if I had walked backwards from the waterfall I first appeared in?” asked Shannon.

“Good question. All the waterfalls whose mist the sapphire contains can summon you when you place the necklace on. That’s why you started near the waterfall, but if you had walked backwards you would’ve came to a different place in Manora just like all the gateways hidden behind the waterfalls. You just happened to appear between the waterfall and the portal this time. Next time you might appear straight in a waterfall or in the pool in front of it.” Answered the Song.

“So how am I going to get home? I don’t have to have the necklace.  It didn’t come with me.” Asked shannon

“No, the necklace is still hanging in time in midair where you were when you touched the sapphire. The way to get back to the sapphire is to stand in any of the waterfalls whose mist is contained in the gem.” Said the Song.

            “How many waterfall’s mists are there in .the sapphire?” asked Shannon.


            “So next time I come here I could come through any of those fifteen waterfalls?” inquired Shannon.

            “Pretty much, although three of the fifteen are unlikely. Because those three waterfalls are special.” Said the Song.

            “What’s special about them?” asked Shannon.

            “Well…those are the only three waterfalls, that aren’t in Roash?”

            “Where do they take you? Is it to some other land in Eatha?” asked Shannon with excitement.

            “That will have to remain a secret…for now.” Said the Song with a smile and a wink.

            “But…but…” stammered Shannon.

            “Well, while, ‘but…but…’ is a very good reason for me telling you a secret of the ages now, I’m afraid I’ll still have to refrain. “ said the Song.

            “But what will I do if I end up in one of those places?” asked Shannon.

            “Well the adventure will present itself, my curious one. Speaking of adventures, your grandmother said that you would be on this adventure until Adventure releases you… I release you. “

With that the Song bent down and hugged Shannon. Warmth spread through her entire body like warm water flowing over you when you shower. Shannon felt laughter and love echo through her being. When she opened her eyes the Song was gone and she was standing in front of the waterfall from where she had entered Roash of Eatha.

            A tinge of sadness eked into her heart because the Song was gone. Whenever she was with Him she felt truly at home. It was like all the best and brightest moments of her life was but a smile compared to unending happiness and delight. It wasn’t that the Song’s presence dimished all those good moments but actually enriched them by comparison.

            She looked at the waterfall. Then the thought of her grandmother, and mom and dad…and Cory flooded in on her and she plunged into the waterfall.


Chapter 25 – Home

May 20, 2011

Shannon was standing in her room again with her finger against the star sapphire. Everything was as she had left it. She hoped that her parents haven’t been too worried about her. She had been gone for weeks.

She opened her door and ran to her parent’s door. She could hear her parent’s snoring from inside (of course, they would have insisted that they never snore). She had kind of expected to find her parents in a frantic frenzy overturning every rock to find her, but instead her parents were snoring away.

She ran out of the house and knocked on Cory’s door. At least he would be desperately searching for her. She knocked and knocked. Finally, a sleepy Cory answered the door rubbing his eyes.

“Hey Shannon. What’s up?” he asked groggily.

“You haven’t been wondering where I’ve been?” asked Shannon a little pitifully.

“Well, I thought that you said you and your parents were staying home last night.” Replied Cory still wiping the sleep from his eyes.

“Wha?” stammered Shannon. “I’ve been gone for weeks. I…”

“What are you talking about? I just saw you yesterday at your birthday party?” replied Cory.

“Birthday party?” stammered Shannon.

“Yea, you know that thing were you eat lots of cake and everybody brings you presents. At least the ones you invite back next year anyway.” Grinned cory.

“But I’ve been away on an adventure somewhere else for weeks.”  stated Shannon.

“How’d you go on an adventure?” asked Cory.

“Well, my grandma gave me a star sapphire necklace for my birthday. And she told me not to touch it unless I wanted to go on an adventure and I touched it and I went to this land called Manora, and there was talking live oaks because that’s how they got their name and I met a wizard named Rothgauer who accidently turned himself into a monkey and he had a niece named Shalila, and we went swimming with mermaids, and got to meet fairies, and we flew with the archens, and I met the most wonderful being ever, named the Song, and being with him is the best thing in the whole wide world, and I met a sprite named Wish-Wash who saved our lives, and a dragon named Pahroon, and some gods, well not like god here, but anyway, and did you know they had a god of silly names, and I rode on a stormy chariot and met another dragon except he was pink, and we walked on this land made of clouds, and there was this dreamy wood, and the song and I were in a field of wildflowers that kept changing to beautiful butterflies, and, and…”

Cory just stood there with his mouth hanging open… He believed her.

“How…what…can I come with you?” asked Cory.

“That would be so cool!” said Shannon. “I would love to show you everything. Next time I decide to go I’ll come get you first. “

“Are you sure that my birthday party was just yesterday? I really was gone for weeks!” asked Shannon.

“It was definitely yesterday.” answered Cory.

“Wow! So that’s why mom and dad aren’t worried out of their minds.” said Shannon with relief.

For the next while Shannon and Cory talked of her wonderful adventure in Manora. Cory drunk in every word. Finally, Shannon said. “I’ve got to find my grandma!”

“Yea, I bet she had all kinds of cool adventures in Manora before she gave you the necklace.” said Cory.

Then they both ran over to Shannon’s house. They walked in and went into the kitchen. Shannon’s grandma was sitting there looking out the window with a far off look on her gentle face. When she heard the kids come in she got up and swept Shannon up in a hug.

“Did you enjoy your adventure, sunshine girl?” asked Grandma

“How did…” stuttered Shannon.

“As curious as you are, I knew you’d barely make it through the night without trying on the necklace.” stated Gramdma

Shannon blushed and gave a sheepish grin. “It was wonderful grandma! I still can’t believe you gave me the necklace. If I was you I would never let it go!”

“Well, you see…I’m not exactly a spring chicken anymore…I’m not even a summer chicken…” Grandma chuckled to herself. “and I wanted you to have it. I’ve enjoyed it for many, many a year. Ever since I was a little girl growing up on the farm in jasper, I would sneak away from my chores and touch the necklace. I used it countless times over my life. Now I want you to enjoy many wonderful adventures.”

“Thank you so much grandma!” said Shannon with a full heart as she gave her grandma a big hug.

“How did you find the necklace?” asked Cory.

“Well the truth is…it found me., Cory. You see one day after I got home from school, I must’ve been about six or seven. I finished my daily chores of feeding the animals and cleaning up after some of em’. My dad, your great grand dad, Shannon, was a stern man. On his way home from work he stopped at the chicken coop and he thought that I gave the chickens a little too much feed. Well, when he got home, he yelled at me a lot and spanked me pretty bad. Of course, I was upset and ran up to my room. When I got upstairs to my room, I was rummaging through my drawers trying to find my journal, which is what I did when I was upset. When I opened the drawer this old wooden box was sitting there on top of my clothes. I opened it and you know the rest of that story.”

“Wow, I wonder how it got in the drawer?” said Cory.

“Now my dear tell me all about you adventure!” said Grandma while she scrambled around the kitchen making up some breakfast for her and the kids. Shannon told her every detail, while her grandma and Cory listened intently. Shannon could see that same far off look in her grandma’s eyes reappear when she told of her adventures with the Song.

Finally when Shannon had finished her story and the three of them had had their fill of bacon, eggs, grits, sausage and toast, and oh yeah milk…you can’t forget the milk,  Grandma said, “why that is a most wonderful tale my dear. I do so love seeing the fairies! And those mischevious sprites! Mount Paladriel is grand isnt’ it! I only made it there twice, but how ever many times you go, it’s not enough. You, my granddaughter, slayed some vicious beasts. I knew you had that bedrock of courage. I would love to see Ariathana. I heard of the great sword Ariathana on many quests. She is woven straight from the song itself, from the tapestry of magic.”

“Tapestry of magic?” quizzed Shannon.

“Oh yea, the Song wove 5 ancient tapestries eons ago before time began; The tapestry of light, The tapestry of fire, the tapestry of time, the tapestry of water, and the tapestry of magic.

They are all hidden in various parts of Manora. The tapestry of fire is the only one I saw. It is kept hidden deep underground and far below the mountains of shadow. It is a great rich tapestry where each thread is a wisp of flame. It looked like a living entity. The fiery threads seemed to possess a certain knowing that you perceived when you looked at it.”

“Wow! Tell us of your adventures in Manora, Grandma!”

“I’d hoped you ask about those, my love. Well I’ll begin with my first one…” began Grandma.

Shannon’s grandma began her wonderful tale of discovering manora. She told of adventures under the sea with the mermaids and nerieds. She told of traveling far underground with a rock nymph named, Mical. She told them of her encounters with many of the gods. She told them of how she defeated a wraithlike beast named Ethor (EE-thor) with a single arrow. She told them of an archen named, Valolve, who she spoke of with affection and much blushing. She told them of grand palaces that would take your breath away. and what she loved most to tell were her adventures with the Song.


            Light seeped through the blinds in the window as brilliant tendrils from another world. Shannon lay there fast asleep. Her blonde hair fell gently away from her eyes.

            She awoke and realizing what day it was a smile beamed across her face. Today was her birthday. Today she would be a woman. Today she would be …eight. She threw off the covers and dashed into the living room. Her father greeted her with a smile and a big hug.

“It’s my birthday, father!”

“Are you sure? I though you only got one of these every 10 years.” he teased.

“Oh, Dad” she kissed his cheek and ran out the back door. She ran and yelled “Cory”

Cory was her neighbor who lived just behind her on the other side of the fence. They had grown up together and were very good friends.

“What is it?” asked Cory.

“Are you coming over? Today is my birthday!” asked Shannon.

“Wait, let me go get your present!” yelled Cory as he ran inside.

Shannon ran back in as well and hugged her mom who had not fully recovered from sleep yet. Then she ran back to her father.

“Honey, did you get the license number of that drive-by hugger. Just when you thought it was safe to walk around your own kitchen.” Shannon’s mom said.

“How much longer till my party” asked Shannon with anticipation.

“Oh about 500 years” said her father.

“That’s not funny dad. I’ve waited a whole year since my last birthday. Do you know what waiting like that can do to a kid my age?”

Her father smiled and said “ Well I guess it is only about 2 hours away now? Does that give you some relief?”

“You’ll never know just how much” said Shannon.

Shannon and Cory spent the next two hours together playing. Finally, her other friends started arriving.

            Hope, Cory’s sister, showed up carrying a large gift bag. Shannon’s eyes got big. Samuel and Brianna’s mom dropped them off carrying a gift that was wrapped in pink and purple polka-dotted paper. Nelson came in with a gift that looked like it had been wrapped by a tornado. Alicia brought a prettily wrapped box with tons of bright bows all over it. Shannon wasn’t sure if there was a present in all those bows or not.

            All the kids had fun and Shannon was about to explode with anticipation from all her gifts. After what seemed like the 50th game of pin the tale on the donkey(though it was scarcely the second), Shannon whined, “Now can I please open the presents?”

            Cory ran and got his gift and ran back to Shannon “Open mine first Shannon!”

            Shannon did not have to be told twice. She ripped into the present. She beamed “Thank you, cory” she eyed the ring with pure joy and gave him a big hug. He had bought the ring weeks ago by saving up his allowance for ten weeks. It was gold with a small opal upon it’s face. It was hard to tell whether the ring sparkled more or Shannon.

            Shannon continued through each of her other presents. She got a cool stuffed bear named “Ralph” from Hope. Nelson had given her a neat looking art kit. Samuel and Brianna had bought her a new monopoly game. Alicia had given her a very pretty hair bow. She thanked each of them. All of their attention was quickly diverted from the gifts as Shannon’s mom, Mrs. Quick brought out a large cake loaded with pink candles. They all ran over as she sat it down. Pretty soon they were all engorged on yellow cake with sweet vanilla icing.

            Soon after the cake frenzy the children’s parents arrived. After all the children had gone home. Mr. Quick swept Shannon up in his strong arms and kissed her on the cheek. “Well, My Princess, it appears as though you’ve had another fine birthday. Your friends are so nice. That sure is a nice ring that Cory bought you.”  Shannon smiled.

As they were walking into the living room Shannon noticed a big package in the middle of the room. She grinned up at her dad and ran at the package full force. It was a new bike. It was sparkly red. It had pink and purple streamers coming out of the handlebars. “Thank you so much mom and dad!” Shannon squealed. She was about to board the bike as a flash of silver caught her eye. It was her grandma. She was seated on the sofa, just smiling at her granddaughter. “Grandma” this was the best surprise of all. She ran into her grandma’s welcome arms. Quickly she was met by the warmth of her grandma. “There’s my girl. You wouldn’t think that I would miss my love’ s birthday would you?”

“Of Course not grandma. Are you in town long?”

“Well, you might say that.” said Shannon’s grandma.

“Grandma is going to live with us for a while.” said Mrs. Quick.

“Really Grandma!? How Exciting!” exclaimed Shannon.

“I’ve grown tired of living by myself. Not when I could stay with my Sunshine girl.” said grandma.

            Later that evening grandma was tucking Shannon into bed. She sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled out a very old wooden box from her pocket.

“What is that grandma?” inquired Shannon.

“It’s your birthday present from me of course.” Shannon’s eyes lit up again,

            “What’s in it?”

            “It’s a  trinket I’ve held onto for many a year, my dear, and  I want you to have it now.”

Shannon opened the lid to the little wooden box. It creaked slightly as she opened it. Inside  was a necklace. It was beautiful and elegant. It was about an inch wide all the way around and was constructed of antique gold filigree. A large Star sapphire was set in the middle, surrounded by small emeralds.

“Wow, It’s lovely. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my whole entire life!” said Shannon.

            “Then you must never have looked in a mirror, honey.” replied grandma with a gentle smile. “Compared to you this old thing is  junk metal.”

            She stroked Shannon’s hair from in front of her eyes. A smile played across Shannon’s face and she rushed to hug her grandma. 

            “I love you, grandma!” whispered Shannon.

            Shannon sat back up and gazed at the jewelry. then she moved to touch the sparkling necklace. Grandma gently gave her hand a pull in the opposite direction. “Not yet dear. This is a very special necklace. you must never touch the sapphire unless you want to have an adventure. Once you touch it, you are taken on an adventure from which you cannot return until Adventure releases you.”

             Grandma reached and closed the lid and placed the box on Shannon’s dresser. Shannon looked delighted but confused.  Grandma kissed her upon the forehead and turned out her light